Archive for February, 2015

February 27th, 2015

Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist

by Gwen

orleans

 

To compliment my earlier review, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping, let’s turn the clock forward a bit from 1870 to the turn of the century and Empire of Sin.

Have you ever heard of Storyville in New Orleans? I had only because of my interest in WWI and had read a bit about how the War Department played a big part in making Storyville a thing of the past. Well, Gary Krist has taken on how it was before vice was “contained” in New Orleans, what happened when it was, and how it ended up just another interesting way to deal with vice that was abandoned. The best part is he does it in a way that isn’t all in your face with salacious specifics. It is so tasteful that you could be reading a story about how Detroit became the motor city, a subject much less objectionable.

Prostitution is/was, at the end of the day, a business and in the Victorian era and for a period after it was more or less seen as a needed thing that will-not-be-named in gentile company. So what is an up and coming city supposed to do? New Orleans decided that no longer would the pleasure palaces be scattered around the city willy nilly and while they didn’t think they could lick it entirely, the fine city leaders (some of them brothel owners themselves or at least backed by the owners) came up with the idea to corral it in one specific area. Genius right? Okay, perhaps not in today’s way of thinking, but it worked for many years for them.

There were murders, bumbling cops, paid off city and state leaders, a brothel owner in the State house, and even the aging Carrie Nation came by, set aside her ax, and had tea with a lady brothel owner. It was what it was and Krist’s take on it allows you to learn without feeling like you have to hide the book in last week’s New Yorker.

I said it last time and I’ll say it again, New Orleans has an amazing history of acceptance and in the South at that period of time, that is saying a heck of a lot. Read it…now.

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

February 22nd, 2015

The Paris Homicide Series by Frédérique Molay

by Gwen

 

Paris Homicide

I love the gritty psychologically driven Scandinavian crime novels and they led me to reach out for a broader view of European Crime.  Let me tell you, it isn’t all gritty, but that doesn’t mean you have Ms. Marple in the library sipping tea either.

Paris, oohhh, Paris, with the tragic history and all of those romantic spots…Just like any modern city, there are murders there too, fictional and otherwise. In comes, Frédérique Molay, and her creation, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky.

The three part (so far) Paris Homicide series has opened my eyes not only to real-life Paris, but to the interesting way that La Crim’ investigates murder. I say interesting, because the mechanisms and procedures are different from what we are used to here and that adds to the intrigue of the plots for non-native readers.

The plots kept me reading as well. The 7th Woman features a killer of women, Crossing the Line starts with a freaky message secreted away in an odd body part, and City of Blood plays havoc with modern art at the site of a former massive slaughter-house with is now Parc de La Villtte, a world-class cultural center.

Nico Sirsky is different in that he isn’t really some tragically flawed alcoholic with decades of self-imposed wreckage behind him. He has a past just like we all do, the same with sad events, but it doesn’t define him like many fictional crime fighters. He is a good compassionate guy, who is very good at his job, with a teenage son, and a relationship in bloom. He’s multi-dimensional not for his bad habits, but because one can relate to him.  He’s a shift from the norm and really a breath of fresh air because of that.

So, if you want to see more of Paris and how they fight crime, not be afraid of turning the lights out at night, and yet still want some murder in your reading….check out Frédérique Molay, and her work, The Paris Homicide Series.

Check out the review at The Bowed Bookshelf

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

February 6th, 2015

Reviews in Miniature

by Gwen

Coming Out of a Reading Fog

I read a lot, so much that it is pert near impossible to review everything…or even most…or even. Do you find yourself loving books so much that instead of reviewing what you just finished, you rush to start the next?Anyway, I want to hold myself more accountable to at least mentioning some of the books I blow though while avoiding life.

These books have me peering through the mists of time to mention.

Let Him Go

Let Him Go by Larry Watson

The writing style of this slightly different from the norm, very little in the way of identifying who is saying what and you have to immerse yourself in the characters to figure it out. No matter, immerse you will with a powerful story of letting go and sacrifice in the Dakota of yesterday.

George and Margaret lost their son. However, they are on a journey to get their grandson back. It will cost them in ways that they didn’t imagine. I may have cried.

 

 

Fetch

Fetch the Devil by Clint Richmond

A wealthy mother and daughter go on a trip across the country only to end up dead in the Chihiuahuan Dessert in 1938. Was it Nazi espionage or were they just in the wrong place and the wrong time?

Interesting true crime made more intriguing because it shows how worried we were, rightly so, about Nazi spies even before getting into the war. I liked it so much that it has been staring at me, waiting to be reviewed for months. Most books get ditched mighty quickly after reading here.

 

 

 

woman with a gun

Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin

Back in the day, pre-blogging, I loved Margolin. He was a safe author to pick up at airports or really quickly at the store. He never disappointed and this suspenseful mystery won’t let you down.

It’s been a decade since Kathy Moran took this enigmatic photo and discovered the subject’s husband murdered. So what’s the real story behind the photo and why are people still dying?

 

 

 

Vampire

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

Squeee a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! Yikes, more name dropping than the latest celebrity memoir!

The first book featured a whole new way to love Lincoln. This one was a fun lark that, while a fun lark, doesn’t break as much ground. (ha ha, breaking ground and vampires)

It was a guilty pleasure and I blew through it like a house on fire.

 

 

De Niro

De Niro: A Life by Shawn Levy

I hoped the book would give me more of an idea of what makes De Niro tick was more of a rehash of his roles and a view of De Niro from afar. While I understand the roles he actually has taken, there is no further glimpses into why he picks them really other than perhaps, having worked with them before…or never having done so.

To be fair, most bios of film actors fall into this trap.

 

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

 

 

I received De Niro: A Life from Blogging for Books for this review.

February 2nd, 2015

Tolstoy’s False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov by Alexandra Popoff

by Gwen

Tolstoy

When I was in school, I read The Death of Ivan Ilych and feel in love with Russian literature.  No, I think I fell in love with Russia in toto. How could one not with a beautiful and mysterious place with churches like the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood? Coolest.Name.Ever. My obsession led me to the first career goal I ever had, to work for the State Department in Russia. Then the wall came down and so did my enthusiasm. Anywho….

800px-Храм_Спаса_на_крови_7

As the years have gone on, I’ve devoured other Russian works and have never been disappointed. (even though I still have issues with the practice of patronymic naming) Strangely, I’ve never really read a thing about the authors themselves, until now.

Tolstoy was an idol in his time and he created a social movement that garnered a ton of followers called Tolstoyans.

“To speak of “Tolstoyism,” to seek guidance, to inquire about my solution of questions, is a great and gross error. There has not been, nor is there any “teaching” of mine. There exists only the one eternal universal teaching of the Truth, which for me, for us, is especially clearly expressed in the Gospels…I advised this young lady to live not by my conscience, as she wished, but by her own” Tolstoy- What is Religion?

The top follower was Vladimir Chertkov and his Machiavellianism ended up ruling over Tolstoy, his work, legacy, and even his death as you will learn in Tolstoy’s False Disciple.

I found the power that Chertkov wielded over a person that founded his own social movement astounding. Tolstoy was arguably the greatest Russian writer and thinker and yet he was led around by the nose by this chameleon-like  upstart. Frightening, to say the least.

The book gave me a better understanding of the times they lived in, a new appreciation of Tolstoy and his work, and knocked the pedestal that I had him on down a few feet. It was an awesome study in how a person’s character can be so powerful even when they have no new ideas of their own to offer.  Chertkov was a vile human being in my book, but in no way does this make the book vile. It may make you want to go back in time and smack poor Leo on the head though…

There is also a not-so-favorable review on The New Yorker.

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

Tags: