Monday, December 31, 2012

The Alienist (Caleb Carr)

As a huge fan of historical fiction, especially that which takes place in the late 1800s/early 1900s, it's hard to believe it's taken me this long to discover Caleb Carr.  He was recommended to me by my friends at Goodreads, and I am so glad that he was!  While The Alienist is not a quick read and took me a long while to get through, it is well worth it for those who love this time period.

John Moore, the narrator and a police reporter with The New York Times, is asked by his psychologist friend, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, to join in on an investigation.  A mass murderer is on the loose in New York City, one who focuses on wayward children.  Back then, psychology was just coming into the mainstream and much frowned upon, with those who practiced it sometimes called "alienists".  With the assistance of NYC police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, Kreizler puts together a very hush-hush group to investigate the killings and try to get into the murderer's brain before he strikes again.

While some reviews have said The Alienist is too wordy with too much dialogue, I found these chapters fascinating.  As the group talks through each aspect of the case, hoping it'll provide clues, the reader is witnessing the very beginning of this science becoming known to the public.  There were a few points where I wish Carr would have sped up the action, but in the end, it all makes for a very satisfying completion to one big puzzle.  So I may be a little late (19 years to be exact), but I look forward to reading the sequel, The Angel of Darkness.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

American Ghost (Janis Owens)

I’m going to start with a warning that if you’re looking for a spooky novel, American Ghost, by Janis Owens, is not it.  Many people on other sites have posted that they were under the assumption that this was a ghost story.  However, the type of ghost Owens writes about is not traditional but historical.

American Ghost takes place in the American South, but I wasn’t entirely sure in what time period until after the first few chapters.  Sam Lense is a college student who has come to Hendrix, Florida under false pretenses.  He tells the people he meets that he is researching Native American tribes of the area when really he is investigating an ancestor’s murder at the hands of Henry Kite.  Kite was executed for his crime long ago, along with most of his family, in such a heinous way, that the modern-day people of Hendrix do not wish to speak of it.  Sam meets Jolie Hoyt, who comes from a family that is very well-known for all the wrong reasons.  Did the Hoyt family have something to do with this lynching?  Sam soon realizes that digging into the secrets of Hendrix could be extremely dangerous.

Some readers have compared this book to The Help, but in my eyes, there is no comparison.  To me, the present-day characters in American Ghost were not fully fleshed out enough to the point where I cared enough to continue reading about them.  However, the historical aspect of the novel makes it worth reading and remembering that it wasn’t so long ago that this actually happened in America. 


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Uninvited (Liz Jensen)

Liz Jensen's The Uninvited is an extremely dark read that will have your heart palpitating at some points but will have you practically falling asleep at others.  What better way to begin a book than having a seven-year-old child putting a nail gun to her grandmother's neck?  Warm and fuzzy this novel is not.

Hesketh Lock is investigating cases of business sabotage followed by rash suicides.  Before going through their violent ends, the saboteurs insist that someone is inside them.  Children are also committing horrific acts to their parents and other adults.  Lock desperately tries to determine if there is some parallel here, even when things hit way too close to home.

At times, I couldn't stop reading The Uninvited, as Jensen lulls you into a state of contentment for awhile and then pulls the rug out from under you.  However, I wanted to like this book much more than I did.  After an unbelievably terrifying first page, the novel slows down drastically, and the ending is just too far-fetched for me.  However, if you're a fan of movies about creepy children (like Village of the Damned and Children of the Corn), this book might be right up your alley.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

I strongly suggest to author Gillian Flynn that she lock herself in a room with puppies, rainbows, apple pie, and other happy things.  The bestselling author of Sharp Objects and Dark Places has done it again with the enormously successful, grotesque (in a good way) Gone Girl.  When I say enormously successful, I was 895th on the library’s waiting list.  It’s the heartpounding account of a marriage gone bad, and like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away and always came racing back for more.

It's impossible to say much about Gone Girl without giving key parts of the plot away.  What I will say is that Flynn has created a mindboggling tale, which is dripping with suspense and twists you never see coming.  I felt a cloying sense of claustrophobia while reading Nick and Amy's story, but that didn't stop me from coming back to it night after night.  The key characters are realistic but over-the-top at the same time.

I apologize for this being short and sweet, but the less I say about this book the better, lest I give too much away.  But Gillian Flynn, seriously...puppies.