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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Soul - Tobsha Learner I am a sucker for an intriguing cover. Let’s be honest here, the cover does play a large part in what attracts us to books. It doesn’t have to be “Ooo pretty!,” just eye-catching. Soul caught my eye several times at work when we still had it in stock at work, and I was intrigued enough to rescue it. Add to the fact that the back synopsis sounded at least halfway interesting (and the title felt like there was a hint of a reincarnation theme to it), and thus it found a new home on my shelves.(…yeah. Have I mentioned that a big part of my library-reread is to also clear off a tiny bit of room from my shelves. Because I need room, and I don’t need books that I don’t like taking up said room.)I’ve mentioned in a previous review that I don’t like a lot of mainstream literature. Specifically, “Rich White People Who Have Problems” literature. Soul is a prime example of that kind of book. I either hated or didn’t really care about any of the characters involved; there’s no plot to speak of, much less anything to intrigue me for nearly 450 pages; and the author likes to shove her own opinions in my face, particularly when said opinions don’t have anything to do with the story proper. This was also in our mystery section at work, which is a surprise to me, because there was a mystery in this book? There’s half-hearted attempts of adding a mystery in here at a few points, but the revelation is either obvious or flatly stated a few dozen pages later. Honestly, this feels more like Tobsha Learner sprouting off her feelings about “nature versus nurture” with her stance planted firmly in nature. Julia continually worries whether or not killing a man in self-defense means that she’s got it in her nature to kill, because that’s what her great-grandmother did to her great-grandfather! This is also centered around Julia’s genetics work, where she’s trying to find a genetic mutation to find a perfect soldier—people who can kill without feeling remorse for it. Okay. I am admittedly crap at chemistry, moreso genetics. However, bullshit. Julia justifies her killing a man by repeatedly saying it was self-defense and ignoring that she could have been having an adrenaline rush. There’s no prior history of violence between her or Lavinia. (Lavinia’s prologue where she stabs a stablehand aside. That opening felt more like a last minute addition to go “See! She commits violence without remorse!” ONCE. ONE TIME. Why isn’t Lavinia a cold, sociopathic hellion growing up? THAT WOULD HAVE MADE MORE SENSE.) Julia wants to repeatedly hurt her ex-husband for abandoning her? Really? That’s unheard of behavior?Also, how the fuck does Julia live in Los Angeles and not be recommended to a therapist for anything? Considering all that happens to her, the only person to suggest therapy is her ex, Klaus…but oh wait, he’s a cheating bastard so we can’t take any of his suggestions because they’ll just hurt her more. Lavinia, I understand why Lavinia wouldn’t be able to get anything resembling humane therapy, but there’s no excuse for Julia at all. I don’t know if that says more about her character or her friends. Nothing happens in this book. Lavinia’s scenes are nothing but her moping around about how her husband doesn’t love her anymore and she doesn’t want to be just a society wife because she’s educated and wants to put that to good use! There’s all this talk of whether or not Lavinia killed her husband, but it’s pretty much outright stated at the end of the book. You know what would have been better? If Lavinia’s story was told through her murder trial—that would have added a lot more mystery to it, instead of suffering through how much she hates running the household. Julia…oh Julia. How I loathe you. Yes, I do feel sorry for her, especially after she miscarries; but she manages to become so absolutely ridiculous that I couldn’t muster any further sympathy for her. (Again, HOW THE FUCK WAS SHE NOT DRAGGED TO THERAPY.) Let’s fantasize about killing my ex-husband! Let’s sleep with my only friend’s nineteen year old son and then hire him to do lab research! (His mother is completely clueless about this affair to boot.) The writing itself isn’t outright terrible, apart from a few prose cringers. The characterization and plotting…augh. I just didn’t get anything with Klaus—his leaving Julia at the beginning is supposed to be a shock, but the other scenes with him are so wildly opposing I didn’t understand what was going on. Gabriel, the aforementioned nineteen year old lover—he’s nineteen? What fucking nineteen year old acts like him? Not the fact that he’ll sleep with a woman his mother’s age (I actually didn’t have a problem with the age difference, aside from the fact that the relationship isn’t written as being believable), but his dialogue just doesn’t ring true. The Victorian-set scenes do have a bit of a leg up as being better, to the point where I really wished that this was just Lavinia’s story. Instead, Learner tries to shove as many parallels into the reader’s face between the two stories as she can without really using them to advance the storyline. (The most egregious is the revelation of an Army incident in Brazil that Julia stumbles across…involving the tribe that Colonel Huntington was “a member of.” Cue me rolling my eyes because of course it was. Subtly is not this book’s friend.)(Speaking of subtly and things that don’t have any bearing on the plot, Learner would like you to know her feelings on the outcome of California’s 2002 gubernatorial recall election. Because it’s repeatedly mentioned that Arnold Schw—excuse me, “The Candidate” as he’s annoyingly referred as – hates science and that the only reason he’s the frontrunner is because he’s famous and not to mention the image of manliness! WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING. Trust me, it’s not for setting.) There were several points when I was basically restructuring the book to make it interesting. As a historical thriller—had the focus been on the trial of Lavinia Huntington for the murder of her husband—that could have been a decent book. In fact, stretch the five pages of the trial into a whole book and then incorporate flashbacks of Lavinia’s marriage. Julia, we can just dispense of her completely. Or if you must, have Julia being the framing device: perhaps she’s doing family history research to distract her from all the other problems? Or maybe because her therapist suggests the parallels between the two women. (I know, I’m harping on it, but it’s a “head meet wall” point.) Alas, that book only exists in my head, and I seriously doubt that I would be interested in writing that story, even just as a writing exercise.As I mentioned above, this is now my go-to example for why I tend to stick to certain genres and categories because this exemplifies everything I hate about adult literature. Honestly, skip this book.