Simply put, The Alienist is a like a long episode of CSI set in late 19th New York City. Someone is killing young male prostitutes. A psychologist (known then as an alienist) convinces then NYC police chief Teddy Roosevelt to let him assemble a task force of detectives (including one female secretary cum detective) and a Times reporter - who is the narrator of the story. Using what was then cutting edge forensic techniques and technology - like finger printing, psychological profiling, handwriting analysis, etc, etc - they gradually figure out who is committing these dastardly crimes. But even then they have to find and catch him! Along the way they deal with some of the poorest and most criminal of NYC's citizens.
This is a long book, and bogged down a little for me in the middle, but picked up very well in the last few hundreds pages. And it was a fascinating story all along.
When historian Fluke Kelso learns of the existence of a secret notebook belonging to Josef Stalin he is determined to track it down, whatever the consequences. From the violent political intrigue and decadence of modern Moscow he heads north - to the vast forests surrounding the White Sea port of Archangel, and a terrifying encounter with Russia's unburied past.
When Dave's best mate James goes on a year-long backpacking jaunt around the world, Dave finds himself alone in England with no one to party with but his best mate's girl Liz. Liz and Dave strike sparks off each other; and despite Liz's stated love for her boyfriend, she and Dave soon find themselves not quite having sex (think Bill Clinton's definition of not having sex). So, since they are getting along so well and have months to kill before James returns to England, they decide to travel through India together for three months. Liz is looking for spiritual enlightenment. Dave has other goals (he packs 200 condoms in his rucksack).
When they arrive in India, they find out that it's HOT. According to Dave he feels like a slab of meat cooking from the inside. Forging on, they rely on The Book (the Lonely Planet) as their guide and also on advice and companionship from travelers they meet along the way. Travelers such as Jeremy, whose own spiritual journey has been funded by wealthy parents. And Ranj, a British Indian who is running away from an arranged marriage. And Fee and Caz, two young women who have just returned from a total spiritual awakening experienced by washing lepers.
Stylistically, this book is a little like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy goes to India. Well, maybe the satire isn't quite as heavy as Hitchhikers Guide. Don't rely on this book to learn much about India, because Dave and Liz certainly don't. The humour can be crude and lewd at times. (Does it reflect badly upon me that I found myself howling with laughter at some of those times?) In sum, if you enjoy Christopher Moores books (and I do), then you are probably going to enjoy this book (and I did!).
First, a disclaimer. Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series is one of my favorite series. It's a fun blend of historical fiction, chick lit and historical romantic suspense. So I eagerly looked forward to Ms Willig's first foray into straight historical fiction (no humorous chick lit and no stereotypical historic romance scenes in this book) and purchased it at full price shortly after publication in 2013. I actually found it to be a bit of a slog and only got a third of the way into it ... and then just stopped. But not being willing to just give up on a book by one of my favorite authors and call this a DNF, I hung onto the book and recently decided to give The Ashford Affair another chance. And I'm so glad that I did ....
I found reading this novel much more enjoyable this time around. Don't know what the problem was the first time. Maybe I was expecting it to be like a Pink Carnation book. But the only resemblance between The Ashford Affair and the Pink Carnation novels is that they are all time-slip historicals and England is one of the settings of the books. That's it. And although there are key romance sub-plots in the Ashford Affair, it's not a romance novel. I once read a horrible historical mystery set in 1920s Kenya that led me to believe that life for the British aristocracy there was all bed-hopping extra-marital affairs and partying with copious amounts of alcohol and cocaine. The Ashford Affair gave me a much broader and I'm sure more accurate picture of life in Kenya in the 20s - delving more into the life on a coffee farm and the native population. And I found the relationship between Addie and her cousin Bea to be very real. Neither was all bad or all good. They were like sisters, and similar to most sisters they had a loving but complicated relationship.
I call Lauren Willig's first straight historical fiction novel a success! I don't think it ranks among the best in the time-slip historical genre (a few of those being Those Who Saved Us by Jenna Blum and the Labyrinth by Kate Mosse IMO), but it's very solid .. and I've put myself on the waitlist for her next historical novel - also of the time-slip genre.
If you've ever seen one of Zimmern's shows on the Travel Channel - Bizarre Foods and Bizarre World - then you already know the subject of this memoir. Zimmern is a foodie who believes in going to the "last stop on the subway". In other words, he believes the best food and the best times are to be found in the least touristy places in any country. He's a culinary anthropologist who also believes that sharing a cultures' food and food preparation is one of the best ways to get know them.
As I read this book, I played a game with myself called "Would I Eat That?". Here are some of my answers:
- Puffin: Yes, I think I would at least try it. There are 8 to 10 million puffin in Iceland, where it is apparently a popular dish.
- Samoan Giant Fruit Bats: No, definitely NO. These are roasted and eaten whole. Just scrape off the fur and dive in!
- Pressed Duck: Nope, no way, no how. I had heard of this classic dish, which Zimmern had in a very exclusive restaurant in Paris, but I didn't know what went into it and how it was prepared. That's explained in this book. I'm not going to repeat the process for you here, but I'll give you a hint: Vampires would probably like this dish.
- Exotic fruits from around the world: YES, lead me to them! Unfortunately, most of these fruits will never find their way to America and many are found in countries I'm unlikely to visit, so I'm unlikely to get the opportunity :-(
A lot of the fun in reading this book is going along with Zimmern as he goes along with natives of countries around the world to hunt, and fish and dive for their food. From climbing steep island cliffs in Iceland to hunt for puffin to diving Australia's Great Barrier Reef to hunt for giant rainbow crayfish (which are larger than most lobsters), these stories were some of the best parts of the book for me. I'm incredibly jealous of the people he gets to meet and the cultures and activities he gets to experience - especially the Kalahar Bushmen and their Trance Dance, which was literally an out-of-body experience for Zimmern.
There are a few chapters in which Zimmern visits one of his favorite foodie cities and goes from restaurant to restaurant rhapsodizing about the meals and the food. I found those chapters to be a little boring and would much rather read about his adventures. The other thing that brought the rating of this book down a little for me was the absence of pictures. There are only five pictures in the entire book, and obviously since all of these adventures were made into TV show episodes he had access to a whole lot more to illustrate the stories.
I've only seen a few episodes of Zimmern's Travel Channel shows, but now I'm going to be watching more because they sound like grand aventures. And I'm especially going to be watching for the episodes that were detailed in this book!
If I had to come up with one word to describe this fictional re-telling of the famous 1947 Black Dahlia murder, viseral would be it. This is far from an intellectual mystery/thriller. Rather, it hits you in the guts emotionally - time and time again.
I expected a story that just basically fleshed out the real murder and its investigation. I was sooooo wrong. I mostly listened to this book on audio, and almost gave up after the first two CD's because it was full - and I mean FULL - of boxing slang, 40's cop slang, and ethnic and sexual slurs - and we hadn't even gotten the to murder yet!
If I had paid attention to the tag line under the title of the book (by the author of LA Confidential), that would have been my clue to the dark and corrupt nature of this novel. I haven't read LA Confidential, but I've seen the movie. 'Nuff said. (And yes, I had totally forgotten that The Black Dahlia was also made into a movie a few years ago and have never seen it.)
But just as the fictional detectives were drawn into the investigation, I was drawn into it also. Almost compelled to keep reading and listening. And the plot was so intricate that I HAD to pay attention. The final solution to the mystery came as a complete shock - although it made total sense in retrospect.
So in sum, even though this book was totally out of the box for me, I recommend it. It's an excellent mystery/thriller.
Blood Hollow is the fourth book in the Cork O'Connor series. Every book I've read so far in this series has been great. Filled with the atmosphere of northern Minnesota and characters so real that could almost they step off the page. This book has been the best of the series, though. It's got secrets upon secrets upon secrets.
This book introduces another supernatural being to the Anita Blake stories -- fairies. And they aren't all sunshine and roses! While working with some small town Missouri police who do not appreciate Anita's interference, Anita has to deal with fairies and a master vampire who wants both her and Jean Claude dead.
The author uses historical records, Benjamin Franklin's letters (of which many survive) and Jane Franklin's letters (of which not very many survive) to illuminate Jane Franklin's life. Although she was close to her famous brother and admired him, Jane lived a very different life - one that was probably much more typical in colonial America. This book is a little dry and not a fast read, but I found quite a few fascinating tidbits and those kept me reading. Recommended for all of those who are interested in what life was really like in colonial America.
In Breaking Free, Beth Moore takes you on a journey to discovering true Christian freedom - the abundant life God intends for every believer - by identifying spiritual strongholds and removing obstacles that hinder you from enjoying all the benefits of a relationship with God.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon - 5*(rounded up from 4.75*)
A Breath of Snow and Ashes (ABOSAA) is the sixth book in the Outlander time travel/historic fiction/romance saga about the extraordinary lives of Claire and Jamie Fraser and their family.
By this time in the series Jamie and Claire are well settled into their home on Fraser's Ridge in the mountains of North Carolina in the years right before the Revolutionary War. Most of their immediate family lives on the Ridge also, and more Scottish settlers. Jamie is "Mac Dugh" - in many ways the laird of the Ridge community. But it's an uneasy leadership. Many of the settlers are Scottish lowlanders and Protestant (Presbyterian). Jamie is a Highlander and Roman Catholic.
Some readers of the series have said that the previous book (A Fiery Cross) is their least favorite because of the lack of action. But there is no lack of action in this book - especially in the back half when we have disappearing slaves, disappearing gold, murders and a trial for murder, kidnapping, the beginnings of the Revolutionary War, time travel and more. One of the best parts of the book for me was listening to Brianna recite the poem "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" (which she had learned in grade school), at the same time that the ride itself was happening. It sent a few chills down my back.
The only reason this book isn't rated a full 5* is that I occasionally find it overly conicidental that so many bad things can happen to one family. BUT I've had this problem with other historical fiction books (exp: The Illuminator), and for me these events in the Outlander series seem much more critical to the plot and make more sense than in the other examples I gave, so it only mildly detracts from the ultimate rating. Plus, there are plenty of good times and sometimes even LOL moments to lighten the mood.
Most of the mysteries in this book are wrapped up before the end but not all. I can't wait for the next book!
This is the best book in the series so far. There's a good mystery, and plenty of antiques and collectibles talk. But what really made his book for me were the characters. In this book we get ALL of the main characters of the series - Jane, her gay BFF since childhood Tim, her father Don and her irascible mother Nellie, Detective Oh and his wife Claire. Even Jane's son Nick and her husband Charley, who were only occasionally mentioned in previous books, play major roles in this one. They all became much more real in my mind and imagination. I hope we get to see more of all of these characters in coming books.
When Miss Marple develops arthritis, she travels to a resort in the Caribbean for some for some rest and relaxation. But while there one of her fellow guests dies. Miss Marple is convinced that the death was not a natural one. So she does what she does best and starts investigating. A Caribbean Mystery is one of Agatha Christie's later Miss Marple mysteries, and Miss Marple is beginning to show her age. In fact, in this story she uses her age to her advantage as she pretends to be an older woman who just likes to talk, but never really says anything important. All along, of course, she is listening and thinking.
I checked out some of the reviews of this book in Amazon, and some of those readers seem to think that as this was one of Agatha's later books, she had lost her touch a little and it wasn't as good. I disagree. Although I could have used a little more action and a little less talking (sometimes it seemed like they were talking in circles), I was very surprised at the end to find out who the murderer was. And to me, that is always one of the hallmarks of a good mystery.
This is one of the early books in the "Cat Who ... " series and has an important plot point - it's the book that tells you how the main character, Qwilleran, acquired Yum Yum, one of his two siamese cats.
Jennifer Cruisie is known mostly for writing light comedic romances. This is one of her earlier novels, and it sure fit that description! It's not a laugh out loud humor, more like a romantic comedy movie - or a romantic sit-com (with some steamy scenes that would never make it past the censors of any network except HBO or Showtime.). It wasn't all light though. Towards the end they managed to touch on some faily serious issues. And I totally loved all the scenes with the puppy. Even though I'm a cat person, that puppy melted my heart.