Saturday, August 20, 2011

Good Reads for Summer Part 2

I'm in the midst of reading a great mystery, but it's too soon to review it.  Believe me, it's a good one.

In the meantime, here are some more great Summer reads collected from my bookshelf...

1.  The Alienist, by Caleb Carr.  If you love Sherlock Holmes (or any Victorian-type mystery, for that matter), read 'The Alienist'.  Although it's set in 1896, Caleb Carr has given his story a very Sherlockian flavor.  In New York City, Theodore Roosevelt is the police commissioner and he is in a hurry to solve a horrible mystery.  He hires an old college friend, Dr. Lazlo Kreizler, to form a group capable of finding the city's first serial killer.  Kreizler is a psychiatrist, or rather an 'alienist', as he ministers to those with mental pathologies, those who are alienated from society.  With a secretary (who aspires to become a policewoman), young male servant, and newspaper reporter in tow, Dr. Kreizler sets out to find the elusive killer in the most logical way possible.  This is a harrowing story and not for the faint-of-heart.  Carr's follow-up, 'Angel of Darkness', is just so-so, but it still retains the same cast of characters.

2.  The Passage, by Justin Cronin.  I consider 'The Stand' to be Stephen King's masterpiece, and no other post-apocalyptic novel has really matched it...until now.  'The Passage' is at once a story mirroring the present era's sense of fatalism, and also what happens when we let the military retain it's secrets.  The story begins in present time, and a little girl, Amy, is abandoned by her mother and left to the care of nuns.  A secret experiment involving death-row inmates will have a tremendous impact on Amy's young life.  A girl with secrets and a power beyond all comprehension drives the story into the second act, which takes place one hundred years later.  It is a novel of survival, of love, of selflessness.  Although the 'bad guys' do horrible things, you cannot help but feel pity, and even love, for them.  Don't despair if you feel that the story is too 'big'; give it time.  It will grow on you.

3.  Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.  This is the first Neil Gaiman story I read, and I was instantly hooked.  Shortly thereafter, I read 'Bad Omens' (cowritten with Terry Pratchett), and his short-story collections.  After reading his Newberry award winner, 'The Graveyard Book', I had to go back to the beginning and reread 'Neverwhere'.  One thing I have to say about this is DO NOT watch the televised version from Great Britain!  I am waiting for the day that this strange, scary, and wonderful story will appear on screen in it's full glory...and with an unlimited budget for special effects (If you are a Doctor Who fan, I hope you watched Neil's TARDIS episode; this is Gaiman at his best, demonstrating his remarkable talent with sensitivity, verve, quirkiness, and much love thrown into the pot).  The core of 'Neverwhere' takes place in under-underground London.  Richard Mayhew leads the perfect life; perfect job, perfect fiancee.  But underneath it all, he is not entirely content.  Along comes Door, an injured young woman he finds on the street, the catalyst who sets Richard on a new life path.  This story is brim-full of mythology, good vs. evil, name it, it's in here.  'Neverwhere' is a joy, and I read it every year.

4.  The Alchemist, by Pablo Coelho.  Beautifully written story which teaches a simple lesson:  When you're searching for your heart's desire, take a look in your own backyard.

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