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I swoon over fictional men

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July 2017

‘Psycho’ Robert Bloch: GUEST REVIEW

It’s always lovely to play host to fellow writers, bloggers and bookworms here at I swoon over fictional men HQ and today I’m delighted to welcome Chauncey Rogers, who has written a review for Psycho. 

I recently reviewed Chauncey’s incredible book, Home To Roost (you can check out my review here) so it’s an honour to be able to share his thoughts on my blog today.

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Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can’t help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife.

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First off, thanks Jazz for letting me post my review here. You’ve been great, your reviews have been great, and it’s nice to get to add something to I Swoon Over Fictional Men.

Second, I’ve never seen the film adaptation of Psycho. Sorry Alfred Hitchcock! I’m sure it’s amazing, though. On that same note, I haven’t seen any of the Bates Motel series, either.

Third, if the grammatical ambiguities in the book’s blurb bothered you, then know that I’m right there with you. However, take comfort from the fact that there are no such issues in the novel itself.

And now, on to the review!

Psycho was perfectly enjoyable. Robert Bloch’s writing is very smooth and fast. That, taken with the fact that this is a short novel at just over 50,000 words, makes it read very much like watching a movie–or, rather, watching the movie. Hitchcock even said, “Psycho all came from Robert Bloch’s book.”

And really, I feel like that might be review enough. Alfred Hitchcock, the man known as “The Master of Suspense,” liked the book so much that his film adaptation is almost a scene-for-scene remake of the book. (And how would I know this, seeing as I haven’t seen the movie? I don’t. But that’s what other reviewers have said, and, given the feel and pacing of the novel itself, I believe them.)

For those who are big on the film, know that there are some differences: Norman Bates’s appearance, one of the character’s names, and the specific manner of one character’s death–and I do mean specific.

Now, I really did enjoy this book. However, I could imagine somebody who is a much harsher critic saying some of the following things:

1. The plot was predictable. (Probably not really true. More likely, this book just made such a splash when it first came out in 1959 that we’ve all encountered spoilers for the plot before.)

2. Characters were stereotypes. (This sentiment may be valid–the Private Investigator, for example, wears a fedora and smokes a bunch.)

3. There isn’t enough gore. (Anyone who whines about this last one really misunderstands the mentality and motivation of the story’s killer. They’re just wrong. Also, they’re forgetting that this book debuted in 1959.)

It’s a quick, smooth read, with a film (two, actually) and television series to its credit. It also starts off with a textbook McGuffin, for anyone excited by that term, and was inspired by the true story of the murderer Ed Gein, though I wouldn’t recommend reading up on him until after you’ve read Psycho.

If you like the movie Psycho and are wanting a bit more depth to appreciate, you should read the novel. If you’re watching Bates Motel, the same applies. If you like thrillers and haven’t read Psycho, you should. If you’re wondering whether or not you like thrillers, give Psycho a try and find out. You might like it.

Rating: 4 out of 5. (I would give it 5/5, but I factor in cost on Amazon, and they just bumped up the kindle price from around $5, which is what I bought it at, to closer to $10. Still good, but the price seems steep for being a shorter book.)

Song: The Avalanches’s “Frontier Psychiatrist

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This book is available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook format.

 

About Chauncey

 

Chauncey Rogers has been reading and writing since before he knew how to do either–he carried around a copy of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park until he could read it, a labor that lasted from the first grade through the third grade; and was known to write and illustrate lengthy, illegible stories about dragons and dinosaurs. After a two-year ministry service in Los Angeles, he attended and graduated from Brigham Young University with degrees in linguistics, history education, TESOL, and editing. While there, he met, fell in love with, and married his dream girl. After realizing that now was as good a time as any to chase a dream, Chauncey and his wife decided to pursue writing professionally.
His debut novel, Home To Roost, was released in March 2017. His second novel, Cleaving Souls, will be released this summer.
He has two children and a pet sheep. The sheep annoys him very much. The children, less.

Jazz’s interrogation 

What do you look for in a book?
Writing is predominant. I don’t care how good your plot, if the story is poorly told, I will not read it. After that, I want a story to move me, or give me something to think about. Genre does not matter as much to me, but the book must be reasonably family friendly.

Why do you read?
For entertainment, and to develop my own sense of good writing and writing style. I’ve often found what I read reflected in what I write.

If you could visit any fictional world, which would you visit and why?
If my resources were limited, Middle Earth. I’d love to see the Shire, Rivendell, and the Woodland Realm. Unfortunately, as a human I would belong better in Bree, Rohan, Gondor, or Laketown.
If I had more resources, I’d love to travel the Star Wars galaxy in my own ship, with the obligatory alien and droid sidekicks.

Buy your copy of Home To Roost today and be sure to check out Chauncey’s website!

 

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‘Sweet Oblivion’ has been published! (finally!)

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Okay, I have been insanely busy these past couple of weeks and one of the reasons behind this business is my debut poetry collection, Sweet Oblivion! I initially published it last week but the formatting was all wrong, so I had to start over. The formatting has been corrected (I couldn’t quite work out page breaks, but if anyone familiar with Smashwords knows how to successfully insert them, please let me know via Twitter or something!) and I’m pleased to show you guys the finished product.

It’s also available for free! You can download or view it online here.

So excited right now!

‘Flowers for Algernon’ Daniel Keyes

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The classic novel about a daring experiment in human intelligence Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a floor sweeper and the gentle butt of everyone’s jokes – until an experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns him into a genius. But then Algernon, the mouse whose triumphal experimental transformation preceded his, fades and dies, and Charlie has to face the possibility that his salvation was only temporary.

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Y’know, I’m ever so slightly concerned that the list creatively entitled ‘Jazz’s Top Reads of 2017’ is filled with books I wouldn’t have even considered reading if it hadn’t been for the recommendations of friends. Flowers for Algernon is one such book. It’s a relatively short novel, totaling a mere 216 pages, but, man, do those pages pack a punch! Flowers for Algernon is a book that has a number of important ideas lacing its words and these ideas are still relevant today, 58 years later (see, I can math!), making it something I recommend to all readers, regardless of preferred genre.

Flowers for Algernon is written from a first person perspective and our narrator is Charlie Gordon, a young man who chronicles his experiences through a written progress report which we, the readers, are reading. I found this method of narration extremely effective for a number of reasons. Firstly, the first few progress reports are written in a way that makes you truly feel as though you are reading the report entries of a man with an IQ of 68. The spelling is often incorrect, there’s no grammar and it’s difficult to understand. The latter point especially conveys the difficulties Charlie initially has with communicating with those around him and, as a result, a reader’s sympathy is immediately evoked. Furthermore, following Charlie’s operation, we see the quality of writing improving and it creates this sense that you and Charlie are one and the same almost, experiencing this often traumatic journey side-by-side and in real time. For me, this meant I connected to Charlie and this is what made it such an engaging and emotive read for me.

I found Flowers for Algernon to be an interesting exploration into the way in which people with mental and learning disabilities are treated in society. We need only look to recent cases of discrimination – such as a 2016 case in which a dyslexic Starbucks employee was left feeling suicidal after being given lesser duties due to difficulties with reading and writing – to see that this is still very much a problem in modern day society. Charlie is frequently talked about as though he’s just the result of an experiment and wasn’t a person in and of himself prior to his operation. He’s mocked, he’s patronised and often faced physical abuse as a child simply for being who he was. Why is Charlie treated like this when he’s a person with an IQ of 68, yet not when he’s a so-called ‘genius’? Can a person’s ill treatment be justified by their apparently low intelligence? No, of course not. Such treatment is immoral and inhumane and Flowers for Algernon seeks to make readers understand that. Each and every one of us is a person, regardless of our intelligence or ability.

Before his operation, Charlie is beyond excited to become smart and to be able to read and write like other people. This excitement makes later scenes all the more heartbreaking. Charlie truly believes he’ll be happier when he’s academically intelligent and the truth is, he’s simply not. At the beginning of the novel, although he has a low IQ, Charlie is kind, gentle and friendly to all he meets. After the operation, he becomes something other, something other than CharlieHe loses himself in the process and Charlie’s experience serves as a lesson to us all; sometimes – not all the time, admittedly – we don’t see what we have until we don’t have it anymore.

Flowers for Algernon is heartbreakingly beautiful and, as I said at the beginning of this review, has found its way onto my top reads of 2017 list.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Keaton Henson’s You don’t know how lucky you are (get the tissues ready, guys)

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

Why do we fear the dark? – a poem 

We fear the dark 

Because it’s the unknown 

And the unknown is full of possibility 


We fear possibility 

Because it’s about taking a chance 

When our path is illuminated by nothing more than a glimmer of hope 


We fear taking a chance 

Because there is no guarantee 

That we will escape the dark and its what ifs and empty possibilities. 

Inspired by a thought provoking prompt I saw on Instagram. Have you got any poems to share? If so, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to read them! 

Date Night with Gideon; Date Night feature, one off special!

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Be sure to check out my review for The Darkest Lie here

*hesitantly knocks on your front door* Be calm, be cool, be collec- *door swings open* Oh heeeeeeeeeeey…long time no see, right? *laughs nervously* So, erm, I swoon over fictional men HQ told me things didn’t work out with the other matchmaker? Everyone else is on call so they’ve sent me… *feels the intensity of your glare* Look, okay. I’m sorry about the whole Rydstrom thing…yeah, yeah. I’m sure you two would have made a great couple. Yeeeeeah, I can totally just see you going on weekend camping trips and eating the skinned carcasses of the animals he’d catch for dinner *flinches as you shout* Yeah, yeah, I get why you’re angry, I am a vegetarian after all so even I wouldn’t do that but how could I resist!? He’s a demon king for crying out loud! There’s not many people, men and women alike, who wouldn’t want to leap into his lap with one glance and give those horns a lick!

Anyway, if it makes you feel any better, we didn’t even make it onto a second date. He’s shacked up with Sabine, Queen of Illusions now so how about we brush our little quarrel over Rydstrom under the carpet and have a cup of tea? We both got one date out of him so that’s something, right?

*five minutes later* So, Gideon, hm? *sips tea* One of the Lords of the Underworld…they’re an interesting bunch of girls and guys, to say the least. Most of their significant others started off as their prisoners…

Anyway, he’s gonna be here in, like *checks phone* twenty so let’s get you set for what is quite possibly gonna be the most interesting date you’ve ever had. Date nights with Gideon will probably/definitely include:

  1. Gideon arriving and gazing at you with a big grin on his face while he tells you how awful you look and how your outfit doesn’t bring out the colour of your eyes.
  2. Going to a restaurant and Gideon telling the waiter everything he doesn’t want to eat.
  3. Choking on some food when Gideon announces that he wants to kill you.
  4. Gideon, alarmed, passing you his drink and assuring you it’s water and telling you to gulp it quickly.
  5. Spewing the drink everywhere when you realize it’s neat vodka (seriously, who the fuck drinks neat vodka?)
  6. Heading back to the fortress for a movie sesh.
  7. Gideon telling you that he doesn’t want to watch an action or horror and definitely wants to watch a sad drama.
  8. Being horrified when Gideon laughs hysterically when the dog in the movie dies.
  9. Gideon, smiling sweetly, waiting outside with you for your taxi and telling you how he doesn’t want to see you again.
  10. Being confused as you make your way home and wondering if all the Lords are that strange…
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You every time Gideon speaks

Have fun and don’t take anything to heart! He’s a sweet boy really!

 

Some poems 

In the run up to my poetry anthology’s release, I thought I’d share some new material I’ve been working on this past week or two 😁



Night readers VS. Day readers!

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Are you a night reader, or are you a day reader? 

I saw this awesome meme not so long ago that made reference to us folk that are neither ‘early birds’ nor ‘night owls’. We simply exist in limbo, floating around in the ether between these magical states of being. We are just ‘permanently exhausted pigeons’.

Basically, if you hadn’t guessed already, I’m both a night reader and a day reader. I have a naughty habit of going to bed really late and getting up really early (okay, like 8 or 9 if I’m not working, but that’s pretty early when you consider there’s another 15 or 16 hours of the day left to suffer!)

Are you, like me, a permanently exhausted pigeon wanting to make a lifestyle change? Do you want to be able to throw yourself into the arms of sleep at 9pm, to awaken seven hours later feeling refreshed and rejuvenated as you tackle that ever growing TBR pile? Or, does the night call out to you, imploring you stay and read it just one more chapter, breathing life and meaning into the emptiness of its existence? (Jeez, the night needs to cheer the fuck up)

Excellent, you’re in the right place! I’m going into a head-to-head battle with none other than…erm…myself! Who shall be crowned champion, Night Reader Jazz or Day Reader Jazz? Stay tuned, peeps, stay tuned…

Night reading

Pros

  • You can read uninterrupted for hours and hours and hours…and more hours, right until you see the sun peeking shyly above the horizon (I’d be pretty shy about making an appearance too if I had the audacity to wake people up at 4am in the summer. Ha, I’m not bitter at all).
  • There’s no guilt! The laundry has been done and the dishes have been washed, and even if they haven’t, who the hell does those things at 2am!? That’s right! There’s nothing and no one that requires your attention! (except me, love me and hold me and call me nice names *slaps self* Jazz!*
  • It’s a great way to unwind. Studies have shown that being exposed to the blue and white lights emanating from the screens of our smart phones and tablets prevents our bodies from producing a hormone known melatonin, which essentially tells our bodies that it’s time to go night night. Good old-fashioned paperbacks will guarantee you a good night’s sleep…if you ever make it to bed that is.

Cons

  • Dropping the book on your face if you snooze for even a microsecond. I recently dropped Charles Bukowski’s The Pleasures of the Damned on my face. One word: fucking ouch (that’s two, but what the hell)
  • “Just one more chapter,” you whisper to yourself, “I swear this will be the last chapter. I know I said that seven chapters ago…but just one more chapter.” I don’t need to elaborate. We’ve all suffered at work following a night of failing to follow through with our empty assurances of just one more chapter. 
  • When you do eventually make it to bed, it can be near enough impossible to switch your brain off after reading a particularly engaging or thrilling read. I once went to bed following a chapter in which these fantastical creatures were in the midst of an epic, bloody battle and I awoke a couple of hours later and distinctly remember saying in my sleep drunken state that “I must prepare my men for battle”. The book continues long after you’ve closed both its pages and your eyes.

Day reading

Pros

  • Daytime reading is a good lifestyle choice if you favor what I call ‘heavy literature’ (think Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy). I tried (that isn’t fair usage of that word, I gave up twenty pages in) to read the first The Lord of the Rings book as my bedtime book a few years back and I found myself constantly going back and rereading entire pages, simply because I couldn’t absorb the information when I was tired.
  • Sleep doesn’t beckon! Ha! You’ve already slept so you don’t need to fret about that solid eight hours!
  • Other people are actually awake. Have you ever reached an epic, shocking climax (haha, climax! *slaps self* Jazz! Get a grip, woman!*) in a book and have felt sick as the excitement/horror/other intense emotion pushes against your internal organs, wanting out, needing release (if this happens, be extra sure it’s not a case of impending volcanic diarrhea), only to find that there’s no one to gush or vent to? Well, that’s an issue completely eradicated with daytime reading…unless your friends live in different time zones.

Cons

  • Commitments. Ah that dreaded word oft associated with adulthood. Daytime reading can be difficult when you have to work and, oh god, socialize. 
  • It can be tempting to read while carrying out said commitments and this leads to reading on the bus or train and this also leads to having to close your book when you reach your stop. It’s an agony quite unlike any other, trust me.
  • Interruptions. Oh lord, the interruptions. When you read at night, you can almost 100% guarantee that the people you live with will either a) be asleep or b) engaging in some sort of other nocturnal activity (like watching Netflix, of course!) so the chances of being interrupted in the middle of an epic fight scene are greatly reduced.

So, guys, what’s the verdict? Which is better, night reading or day reading? I think I might just stick to being a permanently exhausted pigeon and indulge in both 😉 Sleep’s overrated! 

‘Neon Soul’ Alexandra Elle

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Alexandra Elle writes frankly about her experience as a young, single mother while she celebrates her triumph over adversity and promotes resilience and self-care in her readers. This book of all-new poems from the beloved author of Words From A Wanderer and Love In My Language is a quotable complement to her beautiful blog and Instagram account.

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So, I had some massive issues when it came to choosing my favourite poem from this wonderful collection…ahem, see below.

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And do you why? Well, the answer is simple; this is the best poetry collection I’ve read in a while. I saw it in my local bookstore last month but as it was nearing the end of the month, I figured it wise to treat myself to it after pay day. You know how it is. I left the bookstore and in the weeks that followed, I did many things and through it all, Neon Soul remained lodged in my mind. I had to read it!

Neon Soul outshines its contemporaries for many reasons and one of these reasons is the positivity and hope that runs like an unbreakable thread throughout the entirety of its 160 pages. As a poet myself, I know that a lot of poems are born out of hurt and heartache and while these two emotions are most definitely present within Neon Soul, it’s a unique collection in the sense that it addresses the fact that there is life after the events that cause these more negative emotions to surge to the surface of our psyche; it’s a collection that urges its readers to have faith in the fact that happiness isn’t an impossibility.

Neon Soul speaks directly to its readers; it comforts them, it praises them…it encourages them, as the following poem below demonstrates:

resilience 

look at you 

still standing 

after being 

knocked down

and thrown out

 

look at you

still growing 

after being 

picked and plucked 

and prodded out of 

your home

 

look at you

still dancing 

and singing 

after being 

defeated and 

disassembled 

 

look at you, love.

still here and hopeful

after it all.

Neon Soul, page 97

 

How can you not derive comfort from such words? Pain in all its forms is a part of life and sometimes we just need that gentle reminder that we both survived and thrived.

Neon Soul also includes ten poetry prompts for its readers, so not only is it a collection that showcases the breathtaking creativity of Alexandra Elle, it’s also a collection that encourages readers to tap into their creative side.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps from Hell’s Victory  (I like Two Steps from Hell, okay!? I know I use their music a lot, but they’re fantastic!)

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

A Cup of Tea and a Chinwag with Jazz; Episode 9, ‘Books that changed the world; part II’

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‘sup yo! In today’s episode, I’m continuing with my discussion of books that changed the world and this week, I’ve turned my attention towards books that tackle prejudice, focusing in particular on Holocaust literature. It’s perhaps an intense theme in comparison to the themes of previous episodes, but I hope people will find it interesting.

Check out the episode here and the bloopers here and here.

Join in on the discussion! 

 

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