Publisher: Penguin

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NFBookClub: The Poisoner’s Handbook Discussion Part One

October 21, 2016 Book Review, Book Talk, reviews 2

NFBookClub: The Poisoner’s Handbook Discussion Part OneThe Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
Published by Penguin on February 18th, 2010
Genres: Narrative, Non-Fiction
Pages: 319
Source: Local Library
Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

 

My friend, Katie, over at DoingDeweyDecimal ,hosts a nonfiction read each month. For October, she appropriately chose The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. It reads like a modern-day thriller with a fast-pace and in-depth narrative. If you’re looking for a creepy nonfiction book you can’t go wrong with this one! Plus you learn so much about how forensic science is developed. I promise it’s not all dry!

I see poisoners—so calculating, so cold-blooded—as most like the villains of our horror stories. They’re closer to that lurking monster in the closet than some drug-impaired crazy with a gun. I don’t mean to dismiss the latter—both can achieve the same awful results. But the scarier killer is the one who thoughtfully plans his murder ahead, tricks a friend, wife, lover into swallowing something that will dissolve tissue, blister skin, twist the muscles with convulsions, knows all that will happen and does it anyway.

1. How are you liking the book (the organization by poison, the way the science is written, etc)?

This has been one of my most favorite non-fiction books to read. The personal anecdotes of the poisoners and the poisonees was fascinating. Wait, does that make me sound morbid?!?

There are a few spots where the author goes deep into the science and lost me, but those sections were few and far between. Reading The Poisoner’s Handbook inspired me to do a couple of fun experiments with my grandson, like create elephant/dinosaur toothpaste. Although the Little Monkey informed me dinosaurs do not brush their teeth – cheeky little devil, yes?

2. What’s your favorite fun fact or story so far?

Not sure I would call it a fun fact/story;  however, the ingenuity of the Medical Examiner, Charles Norris and Toxicologist, Alexander Gettler discovered the keys to unlocking this case. A large immigrant family initially presented with the mom and children with their hair falling out.  Soon, two of the children got deathly ill. Ultimately, several members of the family died.  The father was arrested and charged with murder as his mother-in-law and some of the children slowly recovered. Without Norris and Gettler’s experimentation and research, the culprit would never have been discovered. Hint: it was not the father.

3. Do you check out the citations in narrative nonfiction like this? If so, did you find the citations in this book satisfactory?

Absolutely! I’m a bit nerdy like that! The Jazz Age was such a pivotal era in history. Medical breakthroughs were happening almost daily.  Forensic science exploded during this period. Both Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler were at the forefront of forensic science, especially within the States. Once I finished the book I wanted to learn more about the men behind the book. The citations and Google helped me delve a little deeper.

4. Did you know anything about early forensic science before reading this book? Did anything surprise you?

I knew nothing at all about early forensic science. It’s fascinating to read how Norris and Gettler conducted incredible experiments to discover how someone died. Quite a few of the experiments were gross and had me cringing. The imagination of the two men at creating the tests to figure out how and which poisons affected the body were nothing short of genius.

[Tweet “Perfect Fall read with #NFBookClub and The Poisoner’s Handbook”]

To learn more about the author, Deborah Blum visit her WebsiteTwitter. Public Television did a PBS Special on The Poisoner’s Handbook along with providing an interactive comic book, teacher’s guide, and forensic science timeline. It’s a pretty cool resource for history and science buffs!

Are you interested in forensic science? A sucker for all the CSIs, Bones, Law & Order, etc? If so, then you will enjoy this book!

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four-stars

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Mini-Views of the Detective Helen Grace Series

June 3, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

m. j. arlidge series

 

Eeny Meeny begins with a most horrifying murder – a young couple is kidnapped, left in an abandoned empty diving pool with no way out and given a gun with a single bullet. The instructions left with the couple state that only one will make it out alive, the choice is theirs – to live, one of them must die.

It is quite possibly the creepiest, most terrifying concept for a thriller I’ve ever read.

Detective Helen Grace is on the case, along with her dedicated team. Helen has a tragic history that has left her with numerous scars, both on the inside and the outside. Her job is her life; no real friends and no family to speak of. Not only does Helen have to deal with a horrifying murder investigation, she’s got one reporter breathing down her neck and causing all kinds of trouble. {reminded me of a few news journalists I’ve seen on tv. . .}

The plot is fast paced, never a dull moment, even when there’s alleged down time. DI Helen Grace’s character is slowly revealed through her actions. The red herrings are spot on and reminiscent of Agatha Christie.

Towards the grand finale a couple of issues arose – all of a sudden Helen has a breakthrough but for the reader, it feels rushed, almost contrived. Don’t get me wrong, the denouement totally works, it just happened without warning. While the revelation of the killer is shocking, the confrontation is rushed. ugh! I want to talk to someone about this book!!! If you’ve read it and want to commiserate, please send me a tweet! Would love to discuss!

As a series beginning, Eeny Meeny introduces a writer of immense potential in the thriller genre.

side questions ~ for those familiar with the police in the UK – do the police typically only carry batons? then check out guns as necessary?

AND, if you’ve read this one – what happened to Louise?!?


[Tweet “Must-read new thriller series from U.K. author!”]

Pop Goes the Weasel is #2 in the DI Helen Grace series. {did I mention I read all 4 U.S. versions over Memorial Day weekend?!?} In this one, married men are turning up dead and with missing body parts. Said body part is then delivered to the home or office of the deceased {lovely, right!}.

Once again, Helen Grace and her team are on the case. It’s been a few months since the fall out from the serial killer in Eeny Meeny, and the team is slowly returning to normal. Helen has a new boss that butts heads with her every chance she gets. The dogged reporter from Eeny Meeny is back to once again wreak havoc on the investigation.

It’s fascinating to read a series back-to-back. The progression of writing skill is apparent. Arlidge continues to develop Helen’s character and that of her team through slow revelations and conflicts. While there has been a rash of books published in recent years that focus on psychological suspense, Arlidge’s Helen Grace series takes us back to the true thriller and police procedural. Pop Goes the Weasel is even better than Eeny Meeny and I wasn’t sure that was possible!

One caveat, it is important to read Eeny Meeny first as there are spoilers from the first book in Pop Goes the Weasel.  Reading this series is not for the faint of heart, but there are also no gratuitous gory violent scenes. The violence included is necessary for the development of the plot. If you enjoy a good who-done-it though, then definitely pick this series up!

Stay tuned for reviews of The Doll’s House and Liar Liar {to be released in the U.S. on June 7th}.

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three-stars

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Thoughts on Flight Patterns

May 24, 2016 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Thoughts on Flight PatternsFlight Patterns by Karen White
Published by NAL on May 24th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Southern
Pages: 416
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads

 

I’ve been a fan of Karen White’s books since Falling Home and After the Rain. She’s one of those authors that it doesn’t matter what the book is about, I’m going to buy it. My absolute favorite book of Karen White’s is On Folly Beach ~ that one was like immersing myself in dream, buying a used bookstore & living at the beach…

So about Flight Patterns. I’m not sure what went wrong with this one, but for me, I simply could not buy into the premise, the characters or even the setting. And setting is typically this author’s strong point!

What I did not love

  • Maisy. She was angry at the world, spiteful and simply not a nice person. It seemed like the author was trying to make a point with Maisy’s character and how our parents can affect us even into adulthood. I did not see any real growth in her character throughout the book. Even in the end she felt flat and one-dimensional to me – an angry, bitter person.
  • The progression of the book seemed stilted. It’s like the author threw every contrived scenario at the characters in order to create emotional drama and impact but instead, it didn’t flow with White’s typical immersive storytelling skill.
  • The novel felt too long and drawn out. We were told many, many times how Birdie was mentally unstable and Maisie was ‘justifiably’ angry and Georgia was responsible for everything.

[Tweet “The good and the bad with #flightpatterns”]

What I did enjoy

  • Becky, Maisy’s daughter. Such a sweetly drawn character who stole the show for me.
  • Many of the bee facts – fascinating!

When a hive is invaded by a wasp, the bees cluster around the intruder and fan their wings to make it 117 degrees, knowing that wasps cannot survive temperatures above 116. This is the ultimate act of survival, as the bees will die if the temperature reaches 118 degrees.

  • Nuggets of life truths sprinkled throughout the book:

When you let your hurt from the past control you, you are tied to it forever. You will never change your life until you learn to let go the things that once hurt you.

Because no one can hurt us as much as those we love the most.

Sometimes all we need to do to forgive our parents is to understand their own childhoods.

I”d honestly recommend one of Karen White’s earlier books over this one, especially On Folly Beach…have I mentioned how much I love that book?!?

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Book Review: A Week at the Lake

July 7, 2015 Book Review 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: A Week at the LakeA Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax
Published by Berkley Books, Penguin on June 23rd, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: complimentary review copy
Goodreads

 

Y’all know the only book I was able to read while on family vacation was Wendy Wax’s A Week at the Lake from this tongue-in-cheek confession.  The book came back from the beach a bit water-logged, though not quite as soaked as the book my daughter was reading.  She left a borrowed paperback in her beach chair. . .that was on the edge of the water. . .and a wave crashed ~ a large wave. . .you get the picture, right?  Her version includes something about me sitting in the chair next to hers. . .My defense? I bet you can guess ~ I was reading!

Long-time friends Emily, Mackenzie and Serena are to meet up at Emily’s lake house after a 5-year absence.  Since their college days they had an annual vacation tradition at Emily’s Grandmother’s historic Millionaires’ Row home on Lake George.  Emily is from a long line of actors.  She became favorite media gossip when, as a teenager, she divorced her famous parents.  Gifted clothing designer, Mackenzie, married her college sweetheart, but after 20 years of marriage, they seem to have hit a rough patch.  Serena is the famous sultry voice behind a popular animated television series {along the lines of the “Family Guy” or “The Simpsons”}.  Serena is a popular media darling as well with her long line of affairs.  The women have each suffered from their lack of connection for five years.

Favorite quote

Serena’s therapist tells her, “If you’re going to expend time and energy imagining scenarios, you really need to allow for the positive.”  Now that feels like great advice for anyone!

[Tweet “If you’re going to expend time & energy imagining scenarios, allow for the positive @wendy_wax “]

My thoughts

Set in New York City and Lake George, A Week at the Lake is a departure for Wax.  Most of her novels have been set in the south and evoke the particular landscape and feel of the South.  The descriptions of the old lake ‘house’ from Millionaires’ Row were breathtaking.  I was able to visualize the lake house.  Older homes and description is definitely Wendy Wax’s strong point.

Early on, I figured out what happened to distance the women, and why they went five years without communicating.  I can understand how time gets away from us all and we lose touch with friends, but it was clear that such was not the case for Emily, Mackenzie and Serena. My issue with A Week at the Lake is that I could not relate to any of the women nor their situations in the novel. My expectations based on the cover and the title had me thinking A Week at the Lake would be a perfect beach read.  I know, I know “never judge a book by its cover!”  The build-up to the reveal of why the five year distance lasted almost the entire novel ~ revealing the secret earlier along with the aftermath would probably have kept me better engaged.  Unfortunately, this one is a miss for me.  

Will I give Wendy Wax another try? Absolutely!  Her Ten Beach Road series is laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming and engaging.

How is your summer reading coming along? Any stand-outs?

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A Love Story to Books

November 2, 2014 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

A Love Story to BooksFirst Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett
Published by Viking on October 16th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy
Amazon
Goodreads

 

If you enjoy novels about the sheer love of books, from the slight musty smell to the feel of the paper and weight of the book, then this book is for you.  First Impressions felt like it was written by someone who truly understands and also shares the love and devotion to books, especially old books, libraries and the much-adored Jane Austen.

The narrative is split between two eras ~ the modern-day story focused on Sophie Collingwood and her search for the truth about her Uncle’s death while the historical aspect centered on Jane Austen and her friendship with Reverend Richard Mansfield.  The historical storyline felt much more developed than the modern-day.  The love story sub-plot in the modern-day arc felt rushed and underdeveloped.

The author does get major kudos for relaying his own passion and love for all things books ~ who else would know and understand the importance of book markers?

You know that every book tells a story, but every one of those bits of paper {bookmarks} tells a story, too.  I never kept a diary, you see.  My books and my bookmarks are my diary. {p. 245}

First Impressions is one of those books to be enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon while sitting by the fire drinking hot tea.  If you’re interested in typeface and how books were first created, Jane Austen and her friendship with Richard Mansfield, or old books and libraries in general then this should be a pleasurable read.

It is always fascinating to learn the different ways others keep track of their place in a book ~ Which do you use ~ bookmarks or earmarks?  

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