Book Review: The Alienist

The Alienist

Caleb Carr

Random House

512 pages

It’s 1896, New York City, and teenage male prostitutes are being brutally killed by a serial killer.  The police commissioner at the time, Teddy Roosevelt (yes, THE Teddy Roosevelt) wants the crimes solved at all costs, and he secretly employs the help of Dr Lazlo Kreizler.  Kreizler is an alienist, which is a fancy name for a psychologist, and he is using his background to determine the criminal’s motives and history based on facts he can glean from the respective crime scenes.  Today, Kreizler would be called a criminal profiler, but back in 1896, there was no precedent, so his work had to be completed on the down low.

Kreizler enlisted the help of a Times journalist, John Schuyler Moore, as well as Roosevelt’s secretary Sara and two brother doctors, Marcus and Lucius.  The five rounded out a team that spent every waking minute poring over the cases and carefully constructing the traits of the perp.  As time wears on, they are in a frenzy attempting to find the killer before he strikes again.  Likewise, they are trying to protect themselves because they are being stalked as well.

The Alienist took me ten days to read.  Now, granted, it is a fairly long book but the mystery keeps you engaged throughout.  So I am not sure why it took me so long to finish the book.  I can only surmise that it was just bad timing, with too many distractions coming along.  In fact, there were at least two or three days where I didn’t have a chance to read a single word at all.  But I digress . . . on to my thoughts.

The Alienist was my very first RIP book and it was a great choice. Very atmospheric.  I loved the setting of New York City at the turn of the century.  Delmonico’s, a famous NYC restaurant, was mentioned frequently, and there were even some in depth descriptions of some NYC slums, so there was quite a bit involved.

As for the mystery aspect, it was different than that of most mysteries, in the sense that you know exactly what the detectives know.  They discover the identity of the madman about halfway through the book but then there is the matter of tracking him down and capturing him.  So there is no AHA moment at the end where you discover who the bad guy is–you’ve already uncovered that!

The Alienist is definitely a psychological thriller.  You really get into the mindset of the killer and you learn why he is driven to kill.  It is hard for most people to fathom, but laid out as it is in this book, there is no question as to why someone like this would need to kill.

I am glad I started off RIP with a bang, even if my reading took longer than I normally like.

Other Reviews:

A Little Bookish

BiblioFreak Blog

I purchased this book years ago, and it has languished on my shelves ever since.


The Sunday Salon, 9/18/2011

Wow, what an awesome week.  BBAW is something I look forward to every year, and I had a great time blogging and chatting with other bloggers about what we love: reading and blogging! Because of the hoopla that comes along with BBAW, I chose not to post any reviews this week. I do, however, have two reviews coming up this week: The Alienist and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

I was so happy to make a small dent in my RIP stack and trust me, I could continue to read RIP books for the rest of the month.  However, I have some other reading obligations so the RIP books have gone by the wayside for the time being.  It’s a tad bit disappointing, only because the weather has finally turned to fall! I broke out my footie pajamas and the winter blanket for our bed.  Despite the fact that it keeps my house on the chilly side, we have had our windows open 24/7 for the past week.

I am pretty sure the weather has also increased my caffeine consumption as well.  I just got a Kuerig coffee maker and I can’t stop using it!! I got peppermint mocha creamer (omg!!) and tons of different flavors of coffee, plus chai latte pods too! I keep trying to exercise my self control and limit how much I am drinking but it doesn’t always work.

As we speak, I am curled up in bed watching What Not to Wear with a cup of coffee as I blog but later on today I need to go to work.  What are your plans for today? How have you been doing on the RIP challenge?

Bookmarks Magazine, September/October 2011

As I leafed through my mail a few weeks ago (junk, junk and more junk!), I was thrilled to come across the new issue of Bookmarks!  I had promised myself I would clean the house, since it was my day off, so I had to put it aside, but man did I clean my butt off so that I could dive in!

As always, I checked off a lot of books that caught my eye and thus my TBR pile grew exponentially.
Here are some of the books that I found interesting.  Some of them were new to me and some of them I had heard of before but hadn’t gotten a copy or read yet.
Zone One, by Olson Whitehead.  This one is for my husband.  It is about a zombie pandemic.  Enough said!
Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier.  This one takes place in the Appalachians, with a woman taking custody of her dead sister’s twin children, described in the blurb as troubled.  It’s not a detailed description but it was enough to grab my interest!
Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. This has been on my list since it cam out.  My mom has a copy, so I may need to borrow it!
Low Life, by Luc Sante.  This was from a feature article about Ragtime New York and it’s accompanying literature.  This is a “social history [that] focuses on the immigrant underworld of old New York and is aided by black-and-white photographs . . . “
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, by Ron Hansen. This is about a real life crime from almost a century ago that inspired James Cain’s Double Indemnity.  This has been on my TBR list for a few months now!
Ten Thousand Saints, by Eleanor Henderson. A high school boy dies after he overdoses and his friend makes a complete turn around as a result, even accepting the dead boys child as his own.
Where She Went, by Gayle Forman. This one is pretty self explanatory! I must say, I am thrilled that Bookmarks is featuring a YA section now!
So those are the books that went immediately to my TBR list, or just reminded me that I already really wanted to read them.  There were a few other titles that I marked to look into, so it is possible some of those will make it to my TBR list too.
What books has Bookmarks inspired you to read or add to your TBR list?

BBAW Day 4

I admit, I skipped the prompt for yesterday.  I just didn’t feel like I had anything to add to the other fabulous posts.  I had fun reading everyone else’s posts though and I added a few tips to my mental list.  One thing is for sure, I need to be on the up and up with twitter.  I have always felt like it moves at such a fast pace that I just can’t keep up, so then I lose interest.  Does anyone have any tips on how to make twitter work for me?

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!

Book blogging has drastically changed the books I read.  It has encouraged me to branch out a little more and pick up  books that I would otherwise have ignored.  I value the opinions of the blogs I read, so if I see a blogger singing the praises of a book that I would generally dismiss, I instead add it to my wish list.

Here are some books that I doubt I would have ever read without the encouragement of bloggers.
























































That is just a smattering of the wonderful books I have read that I can attribute solely to book bloggers.  What books have you read due to the influence of other bloggers?

BBAW Day 2: Interviews

It’s day 2 of BBAW and we all know what that means . . . blogger interviews! I am always interested in getting to know bloggers on a more personal level, and I think the interviews really elicit that.

This year I was assigned a new to me blogger, Chachic, from Chachic’s Book Nook.  I perused her blog and immediately added her to my Google reader.

Chachic is a blogger from the Phillipines and she has made quite a presence in the blogging world. She is hands on when it comes to the blogging community and is especially involved in the Filipino blogging community.  She will be participating in the first Filipino Reader Conference, which commences tomorrow!

First off, give me the low down on your blog.  How did you get started on your book blog? What is the inspiration behind it?
I was already following other book blogs before I even decided to start my own. I started out as a lurker and then I thought it would be a good idea to comment on some of the posts and then got excited when the bloggers replied. I was surprised at how nice and friendly everyone was and I wanted to interact with more people who read the same kind of books that I do so I decided to start my own blog. I was thrilled to discover that there are others who understood how I feel about reading. It felt good to find kindred spirits.

Tell me a little bit about your literary tastes.  Which genres do you go for? Are there any genres you tend to stay away from?
I read all sorts of books recommended by fellow bloggers, that’s how I usually decide what books to get. I’ve realized that my reading tastes have changed because of this and I’ve started to read books from genres that I normally wouldn’t explore. But I keep coming back to epic fantasy and contemporary literature (both adult and young adult) and I feel like those two will always be my comfort genres. I’m also a big fan of fairy tale retellings. I also read a lot of young adult fiction although I shy away from paranormal YA.

I don’t know about you, but as a book blogger, I love hearing about other blogger’s favorite books EVER.  Spill about what books you can’t stop gushing about!
Oh so many! I actually have a list of favorites on my blog because it helps me keep track of what to recommend to other people. I think it’s safer to enumerate a couple of my favorite authors, I always recommend books written by Megan Whalen Turner, Robin McKinley, Sherwood Smith, Diana Wynne Jones, Sharon Shinn, Juliet Marillier, Ilona Andrews, Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth E. Wein, Eva Ibbotson, Sarra Manning and Melina Marchetta. I told you there were a lot of them. 😛 Like I said, I have a more comprehensive list on my blog so feel free to drop by, check it out and let me know if you’ve read some of the books. I love chatting about my favorites.

You are from the Philippines.  How does that affect your reading and blogging?  Do you tend to follow mostly Filipino blogs?
I think the biggest factor that affects my reading and blogging here in the Philippines is that we don’t have good public libraries. So all of the books that I read and review? They’re bought or borrowed from friends. Aside from that, there’s probably not much difference. We use English as the medium of instruction in schools so most US and UK books are readily available in local bookstores and what we can’t find here, we can just order online through Amazon or Book Depository.

As for the blogs that I follow, they’re a mixed bunch. I follow a lot of foreign bloggers because I feel like we have similar tastes in books and I get a lot of great recommendations from their blogs but I also follow Filipino book bloggers because I get to interact with them in person even if we don’t usually read the same books. There’s an active community of Filipino Book Bloggers and we have regular meet ups and discussions.

How do you make time for blogging?  Do you have a system in place?
I don’t have a fixed system in place. When I first started blogging, I made sure that I had daily posts and that I’d review all of the books that I read but this year, I’ve been more laidback. As much as I love blogging, it requires time and effort and sometimes, I don’t have the energy to post as much as I’d like. So I try not to pressure myself and just blog when I have free time, usually after work on weekdays or when I don’t have plans on weekends.

Thank you so much for allowing me to interview Chachic.  I am thrilled to have found your blog!

BBAW Day 1

First off, I just want to say I am thrilled that today marks the start of another BBAW. This is my third year participating (and I think the third year it has been in existence!) and every year I am happy to see how everyone comes together as a community and celebrates book blogging.

While the awards are a fun part of BBAW, they can never accurately represent the depth and breadth of diversity in the book blogging community. Today you are encouraged to highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience for you. They can be your mentors, a blogger that encouraged you to try a different kind of book, opened your eyes to a new issue, made you laugh when you needed it, or left the first comment you ever got on your blog. Stay positive and give back to the people who make the community work for you!

This is today’s prompt.  I have to say I am not that excited about it.  It feels a little overdone, because this is the third year I have done a prompt like this and while I appreciate what it is attempting, I feel like I would just be repeating myself.

However, I will go ahead and give brief shout outs to my favorite blogs.  Jill from Fizzy Thoughts always gives me a good laugh. I love the detailed and thoughtful reviews of Steph from Steph & Tony Investigate.  The laid back nature of Diane’s blog at Bibliophile by the Sea makes her another of my favorites.  Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness offers reviews of books that I don’t always see around the blogosphere, so I enjoy her blog for its originality.  I love the friendliness of Dana of Much Madness is Divinest Sense and man, that coffee in her banner always has me salivating! I just discovered Deborah of The Bookish Dame in the past few weeks and I have enjoyed reading her blog immensely.

So there you have it.  Obviously this in no way encompasses all the blogs I read and love! I am looking forward to discovering even more blogs as BBAW unfolds.