Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Taker by Alma Katsu

In The Taker, Dr. Luke Findley meets Lanore, a strange young woman who needs his help to escape after she murders a man. He's taken with her and helps her even though he's not quite sure why. He's even more drawn in after she slices herself open only to have the wound immediately heal itself. As they spend more time together, Lanore slowly tells Luke her story of love and that started about 200 years ago in Maine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the first in a planned trilogy. I admit that I had to start the book twice before finishing it. When I tried the first time, I loved what I was reading, but somehow got sidetracked, put the book down and didn't pick it up again. When I picked it up again several months later, I didn't remember anything I had read and had to start again at the beginning. I'm so glad I did because as much as I was enjoying the book the first time, I enjoyed it even more the second time.

The book was mostly historical fiction with a little supernatural fantasy thrown in. It started out in the present day with Lanore and Luke, but quickly jumped back in time to the early 1800s when Lanore was with Jonathan. It went back even further, to the mid-1300s, as she delved into Adair's (her keeper) beginnings. Through her, Luke learned all about Adair, Jonathan and their immortality.

The present day portions, written in the third person, were pretty good, but nothing really special. However, the story got really interesting with the historical parts, written in the first person. They were presented in such a way that it felt like Lanore was relating her story to Luke. In fact, several times she broke the narrative with a little aside so you knew that she was still conveying the details to him. It was brilliantly written. I loved it!!

The book contained such great characters. I loved Lanore (more so in the past than present), Adair, Jonathan and Alejandro, but didn't quite understand Uzra. She was ethereal and existed mostly on the outskirts of the story. Maybe I just didn't get to know her that well. Also, in the present day parts, I didn't really like Luke that much. He struck me as kind of wishy-washy.

I have read and enjoyed some historical fiction in the past, but very little of the supernatural stuff. The latter isn't really my cup of tea, so I was glad it didn't take centre stage in the story that often. Even so, those parts didn't stop me from really enjoying this book.

New words:
preternatural (page 22): going beyond nature/supernatural
incorporeal (page 93): spiritual
bacchanalia (page 137): ancient Roman festivities
cabochons (page 172): round gem
catamite (page 228): young partner of a gay man
swive (page 255): to have sex with somebody
interlocutor (page 308): a participant in a discussion
odalisque (page 311): enslaved woman in a harem
ignoble (page 334): dishonourable
quotidian (page 347): commonplace
chador (page 369): dark robe worn by Muslims
troth (page 378): solemn vow
arrondissement (page 404): area of a French city

Highly recommended. I'm really looking forward to the next book, The Reckoning; the second book in the series.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Alma Katsu's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

The Taker by Alma Katsu, Gallery Book (Simon & Schuster) ©2011. ISBN 9781439197059(ARC), 437p.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Let the Devil Sleep by John Verdon

In Let the Devil Sleep, Dave Gurney, a retired homicide detective, is asked to help a young woman with her documentary project about one particular serial killer, The Good Shepard, who was never caught. After a series of threats, Dave re-examines the case and is convinced the original investigators got it all wrong. Of course, this doesn't make him that popular with other law enforcement officials. As he digs deeper, he's convinced he's onto something and ends up putting himself in harm's way. If he's successful, he can prove he's right and catch a killer at the same time. All of this leads to a climatic ending that even Dave doesn't see coming.

I loved this book! It's my favourite one from Verdon so far. As much as I loved the first two, I loved this one even more. Each time I picked up the book, it sucked me backed into the story. It's a true thinking man's mystery. The story is intellectual, meticulous and so well thought out that no stone is left unturned. I'm in total awe of his writing and storytelling ability. I had goose bumps for much of the time I was reading the book. It's that good.

I have to admit that I took my time reading this one. On one hand, I wanted to pick up this book the moment it arrived and devour it in one or two sittings. On the other hand, I didn't want to start it at all because I knew it would over way too fast. I settled for somewhere in the middle with reading a few chapters a day and making it last.

I love the main protagonist, Dave Gurney, a retired NYPD homicide detective who just can't settle into retirement. Like Verdon with writing, Gurney is intellectual and meticulous in his investigations. He doesn't stop until he's gotten to the truth.

While I love Gurney and the things we learned about him this go-round, it's the other characters that made this book for me. Jack Hardwick, Gurney's investigative partner, is kind of a hard guy to like. He's abrasive and borders on abusive, but he helps Dave a great deal. He has access to loads of information and acts as a sounding board for Gurney's far-out suppositions. I got a much better sense of Madeline in this book. I previous books I didn't quite "get" her. She seemed aloof and off in her own world, doing her own thing. She and Dave seemed more like acquaintances than a married couple. In this one, though, she seemed different. Or maybe we just got to see more of her. Whatever it was, I liked it. There was another character who "emerged" in this book. That's Kyle, Dave's son from his first marriage. I'm glad we finally got to meet him. He's a good kid, who's very supportive and proud of his Dad. It's great that Dave got to see that.

I also loved Verdon's depiction of the TV station sensationalizing the news or serial killers. I'd like to think that it was purely fiction, but unfortunately it's not. There are a few real life TV stations (and various so-called news programs) that do this. It's pretty sad. I think I'll leave it at that.

As with John's other books, I marked a bunch of passages that I loved. However, out of context most of them didn't really have the impact they did when I was reading them within the story. Having said that, I feel that these two can stand alone.
Favourite quotes:
...Anger is like a buoy on the surface of the water. What you think you're angry about is only the tip of the issue. You have to follow the chain all the way down in order to discover what it's attached to, what's holding it in place. (page 84)
Gurney knew from experience how dangerously easy it is to overlook logical flaws in one's thinking. When the product of one's own mind is the subject, objectivity is an illusion. (page 421)
I read his first two books: Think of a Number (my review) and Shut Your Eyes Tight (my review). I'd highly recommend them both.

Highly recommended. I can't wait for his next book.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.

For more information about the author, please visit John Verdon's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

Let the Devil Sleep by John Verdon, Crown Publishers (Random House) ©2012. ISBN 9780307717924 (Hardcover), 449p.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Love Anthony tells the story of two women. Olivia has recently moved to a cottage in Nantucket after the death of her autistic son, Anthony and the break-up of her marriage. She is struggling to find meaning in her son's short life. Beth is also facing some changes in her life. She's recently discovered that her husband is cheating on her. With her three daughters, she must find a way to carry on and find herself again. A chance encounter between the two brings them some unexpected answers and the possibility of closure.

I adored this book. It's a little different from her first two books, but it's just as good. I loved how Genova presented the women's stories in alternating chapters. While the main focus is on the two women, the story also deals with autism and what it's like to be a parent of an autistic child.

I particularly loved Olivia's journals about how she and her husband, David, handled being Anthony's parents. It was incredibly sad, but quite the eye opener as well. It's amazing how different people handle things like this. I don't have children, but the story made me wonder about how my husband and I would have handled a child born with autism. I can't say for sure how we'd do, but my husband definitely has more patience and understanding than I do. I honestly don't think I would have had the patience needed to deal with any special needs child.

I also loved Beth's book entries, which takes the reader inside the mind of this particular autistic child, Anthony. They were all terrific, but I especially liked the one dealing with his three-piece french toast breakfast. I found it amazing that I could relate to some of his thoughts. I really like rules, repetition and routine.

Favourite quotes:
We have pills for headaches. We have antidepressants for sadness. We have God for believers. We have nothing for autism. (page 138)
She's still trying to understand the why of it all.... She feels like she's trying to smell with her eyes or hear with her nose, or even more impossible, like she's trying to cajole some part of her anatomy or being she's not even sure exists into becoming an antenna, a satellite dish capable of receiving wisdom from heaven. (page 205)
The [austism] spectrum is long and wide, and we're all on it. Once you believe this, it becomes easy to see how we're all connected. (from the Author's Note, page 306).
I've read Genova's two other books: Still Alice (my review) and Left Neglected (my review). I loved them both!

Highly recommended. I can't wait to see what Lisa has in store for us next.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova, Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2012. ISBN 9781439164686(Uncorrected Proof), 303p.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Curry Cuisine by Vivek Singh, Corinne Trange, David Thompson, Das Sreedharan, Mahmood Akbar and Sri Owen

Curry Cuisine presents curry recipes from around the world: India, Pakistan, South-East Asia, Thailand, and several outposts. It also offers information and history of the area as well as information about the ingredients used in that particular area of the world. The book also contains many large photographs.

I adore curries. However, my knowledge of them is limited. I had no idea so many existed, nor did I know that they came from so many different parts of the world. This book opened my eyes to so many possibilities. This is a terrific book!!

The book is organized into regional cuisines. There are sections for North India, South India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Maritime South-East (SE) Asia, Thailand, Mainland SE Asia and Outposts. Each section starts off with an introduction, followed by a section with a photograph, list, and explanation of the ingredients used in that area. This section is definitely one of my favourite parts of the book. Some of the ingredients used are either foreign to me or a little exotic, so seeing what they looks like or learning what they are before having to find them in a store, is invaluable.

The first time through the book, I read the introductions and looked at the ingredients all the while noting a few recipes I wanted to try. Mostly things I was familiar with. I also learned a lot. The second time through, I found a bunch more recipes for things I had enjoyed in the past and added those to the list. It seemed that every time I picked up the book, I either learned something new or found another recipe to try.

For the purposes of this review, I picked Chicken Tikka Masla (page 330) to try. It's from one of the outposts, Britain. I figured I might as well as start with something I sort of know. The chicken is marinated overnight in yogurt, lime juice and variety of spice and other ingredients. The creamy, spicy, tomato sauce is made the next day and combined with the cooked chicken. The process was a little long, but I think it was worth it. It didn't turn out perfect or exactly how I pictured, but it was pretty good nevertheless. The smell from the freshly roasted and grinded cumin and coriander seeds was heavenly. However, the whole dish was a bit too acidic and the chicken had a slightly odd texture. I used chicken breasts instead of thighs. That may have done it as I don't think breasts need as much tenderizing or marinating. Anyway, next time (and there will be a next time) I'll either use thighs or cut down on the marinating time and perhaps use a little less lime juice.

Other recipes I want to try are: Doubles (Bara and Curried Chickpeas), page 316, from the Caribbean; Khamiri Roti, page 146, from Pakistan; Murgh makhami (Old Delhi-style Chicken Curry), page 42, from Delhi and Punjab; and lots of others. They all sound delicious.

The table of contents is very detailed and lists all of the recipes in the section. However, page numbers are only given for major sections or countries within areas. That's okay, though, because the index is quite extensive and should help the reader find items in the book. The glossary is very limited and only covers some basics. However, there's a lot of explanations within the book itself, so this is too bad. It's still well-worth the read.

The book also contains a list of suppliers. Most are websites, but a few have actual brick and mortar locations. Unfortunately, these are mostly in New York City or California. I'm sure I can find most of these ingredients here, but it's good to know that online suppliers are available to fill in any gaps.

Highly recommended for curry lovers like me!

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Curry Cuisine by Vivek Singh, Corinne Trange, David Thompson, Das Sreedharan, Mahmood Akbar and Sri Owen, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2010. ISBN 9780756662073(Trade Paperback), 352p.