This is a bit of a departure for me. Non-fiction, a mashup of history and true crime. It's New York in 1799/1800, when Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton teamed up to defend a man accused of murdering a young woman. (WHY CAN'T I GET AWAY FROM DEAD GIRL TOWN.) Though the book is ostensibly about this meeting of rivals, it's more a chronicle of what was New York's first big and sensational murder case and how the public reaction to it still echoes today.
Collins writes a hell of a crime story. Even though it played out more than two hundred years ago, the narrative was engaging and kept me interested throughout. The actual crime doesn't come in until surprisingly late in the book, but it's hardly noticeable because Collins sweeps you along in everyday detail of early 19th century New York. (I'm excited to spin off into looking up the dozens of passages and references I bookmarked for reading and writing reasons.) But, while the rivalry between Hamilton and Burr was electric in real life, and the book is framed as a rare occasion of their working in concert, very little of the story centers on that interaction. Still, as an example of historical true crime, the book is a satisfying and entertaining read. Recommended for anyone interested in both true crime and the early US.
Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins is available now from Crown. I received a copy for review from Blogging for Books....more
Juliet Chadwick is an expert art curator, employed by some of the top galleries in the country--under assumed identities that conceal her real calling as a thief. But when the gangsters to whom her incarcerated father owes money come knocking on her door, Juliet has to pull off a big money heist to save both their lives and her collection. Naturally, that heist involves conning a mega-wealthy man and his children, and accidentally falling in love with them along the way.
It was cute! Fast read, fun characters, even a little bit of art history knowledge drop. Conversations that sound like real people talking! The progression of the romance was a little hurried--and Juliet suffers from the all-too-common "oh no he wants someone else!!" confusion that always seems to beset romance heroines after initial bursts of "yesss, he wants my face on his face." The ending was more neatly wrapped up than I'd have liked, but Juliet was relatable, root-for-able, and charming, and Edward's kids are fantastic, especially the oldest, Cecilia. I am already lining up for more Cecilia. Write more Cecelia!
Stealing Marilyn Monroe by Sophie Warren will be available 14 April 2015 from Alloy Entertainment. I received an advance copy for review from NetGalley. ...more
Compilation of quotes, most found elsewhere and previously published. Nothing revelatory here if you're more than a casual fan but the pictures are grCompilation of quotes, most found elsewhere and previously published. Nothing revelatory here if you're more than a casual fan but the pictures are great. It's a good choice if you're looking for a coffee table book you'll flip through a few times....more
Before I tell you about Signal to Noise, go have a listen to this playlist of the songs and artists mentioned in the book. It's a wonderful mix of everything from jazz standards to treacly mid-80s Mexican pop. Perfect.
Now. The book. Signal to Noise is set in Mexico City in both 1988/89 and 2009. As a teenager, Meche is obsessed with music, a behavior she picked up from her father, an alcoholic failed musician and would-be writer. Her best friends are Sebastian, a tall and awkward bookworm, and Daniela, who dresses like a doll and would rather play with her Easy-Bake Oven. First Meche, then her friends, discover that they have the ability to do magic: hexes, glamours, and spells to get them what they've always dreamt of. But, as these things so often do, things go much differently than they hoped.
It's a sweet book that functions as a time capsule of sorts, though I found it hard to get into initially. Meche is our primary POV character and she's nothing but rough edges and defense mechanisms for most of the book. She's as angry and self-isolating at fifteen as she is at 35. I can picture her so vividly that I cringe in recognition of myself in both her vulnerability and arrogance. (Her musical taste, however, is impeccable.)
In fact, all of the kids in the book speak and act realistically, even separated from me by age and culture. Feeling like an outcast, feeling like you deserve better that what you get and better than you're treated, that's part and parcel of being a teenager, right? (Say yes, make teen!me feel better.) We know from the beginning of the novel that Meche's fallen out of touch with nearly everyone: her father, her friends, her family. It isn't until three-quarters of the way through the book that we find out why, though.
Going back to my initial disconnect with the book, part of what made the teenagers feel real--and makes the book such a great work--is how frustratingly opaque they are! Motivations, emotions, rationalizations; they're all far more obvious to the reader than to the characters. Meche only catches on to what that long-ago experience meant to her decades after the fact, and even then it takes Sebastian making explicit what it meant to him before she can.
Though it will probably be shelved as fantasy or magical realism, I think the best part of the book is how the magic feels incidental. The trio's ability to cast spells isn't anywhere near as important as their relationships to each other and their understanding of each other. But there's a thread of history of magic that runs through the book, that links Meche and her friends to an older tradition of ability in her family. It hints at a much larger world than the glimpses we see, and the book is stronger for it. I don't feel like I've been peering over someone's shoulder into a brand-new world. Instead it feels like Moreno-Garcia has peeled back a curtain that lets me see what's been hiding in this one all along.
Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia will be available 10 February 2015 from Solaris Books. I received an advance copy for review from NetGalley....more
Great and insightful analysis of the gossip/publicity engine that drives Hollywood and how it and its subjects collude and clash with each other. TherGreat and insightful analysis of the gossip/publicity engine that drives Hollywood and how it and its subjects collude and clash with each other. There's nothing particularly revelatory or salacious (Petersen isn't breaking any new secrets open) and some of the charm of her columns are lost in more academic language, but I just read the whole thing in less than 36 hours and wish there were more....more