Susan Wittig Albert's Blog

September 16, 2019

Review of THE INSTITUTE, by Stephen King

The Institute The Institute by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Vintage King, who has created a clutch of brave, reader-friendly characters and a twisty plot that--while it set up its resolution in the first section--kept me wondering how they were going to work their way out.

The mantra for this book is stronger together and if you think that's a political statement, you're 100% right. (King also includes a swipe or two at Trump while he's at it.) I enjoyed this book. If you're a King fan, you will, too.



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Published on September 16, 2019 06:06

September 15, 2019

Back Home Again

    We’re back home in Texas after a cool couple of weeks in the southern Rockies of New Mexico. We love it there, with wonderful views of the clouds spilling over the mountains and cattle grazing in the valley below. It’s a long drive–almost 12 hours–but we have audio books to listen to and […]

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Published on September 15, 2019 06:53

September 5, 2019

Review of THE FIVE, by Hallie Rubenhold

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Exceptional research underpins this riveting study of the five victims of Jack the Ripper. These are well-told stories of women's lives in mid-to-late 1800s, converging in the Whitechapel slums of London in the summer and early autumn of 1888.

Rubenhold's book is a much-needed corrective, staying away from the murderer and the murders but focusing deeply and extensively on each of the five victims amd using the five to create a panoramic understanding of the lives of lower-class women during the years of Victoria's reign. She confronts and refutes the long-held view that all of the victims were prostitutes and that their sex work was responsible for their deaths. The women, she demonstrates, were homeless and destitute, often because they could not or would not conform to Victorian expectations of women as wives and mothers. Therefore, they (like nonconforming women of our own day) "deserved" what they got:
When a woman steps out of line and contravenes accepted norms of feminine behavior, whether on social media or on the Victorian street, there is a tacit understanding that someone must put her back in her place.
That someone is the Ripper, "the unfathomable, invincible male killer" who personifies the social belief that out-of-bounds women who can't or won't do as they're told must be destroyed. It is only through understanding that we can confront and change this destructive view, Rubenhold says, and return the victims to their full humanity:
It is only by bringing these women back to life that we can silence the Ripper and what he represents. By permitting them to speak, by attempting to understand their experiences and see their humanity, we can restore to them the respect and compassion to which they are entitled.
This book was specially interesting to me, because I used some of the same sources in Death at Whitechapel and Death at Glamis Castle which I wrote with husband Bill Albert. I was pulled into it and held there when I had other things to do. I've read almost all of the books written about the Ripper, and this is the best. Kudos to Rubenhold for pulling our attention from the criminal to the victims and making them real.





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Published on September 05, 2019 06:57

September 4, 2019

New Mexico Sunflowers

It’s late summer here in the New Mexico mountains, almost autumn, and the meadows are filled with the rich gold of sunflowers, accentuated by tall spires of mullein. We’ll be here another week or so, enjoying the warm days and crisp, cool nights–a big change from the uncomfortable heat and humidity back in Texas. The […]

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Published on September 04, 2019 10:03

September 3, 2019

Review of REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Reversal of Fortune: Inside the Von Bulow Case Reversal of Fortune: Inside the Von Bulow Case by Alan M. Dershowitz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I recently watched the movie (Reversal of Fortune, 1990) based on this book, and read the book to see how closely the film (starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close) matched the movie. I was also deeply interested in the way noted criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz described the famous trial of Claus von Bulow.

I wasn't disappointed. This is a fast-moving, expertly detailed, skillfully told courtroom drama.

Interesting passages:
A legal case is somewhat like a long unedited film containing thousands of frames, only a small portion of which ultimately appear on the screen as part of the finished product. The role of the legal system—police, prosecutor, defense lawyer, judge—is to edit the film for trial: to determine what is relevant for the jury to see, and what should end up on the cutting-room floor.
In a legal case, the memories of witnesses—particularly those with a stake in the outcome—tend to get better as time passes. Often their initial recollection of an event is hazy, because it’s not part of any coherent pattern of events or theory. While the theory begins to emerge, the memory begins to fit into it, losing some of the haze. As the trial approaches and the witnesses are coached and rehearsed, they tend to “remember” the event with even more clarity and less ambiguity. And eventually, what began as a hazy recollection becomes frozen into crystalline clarity. In the end, what is remembered is not even the event. It is the memory of repeating and clarifying the event through a process of enhanced certainty.




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Published on September 03, 2019 07:00

August 29, 2019

Review: Disappearing Ink, by Travis McDade

Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library (Kindle Single) Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library by Travis McDade

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you love books, use and respect libraries, and like to read true crime, you'll want to take a look at this fascinating story of a criminal whose life-long passion--rare books--lured him into a life of larceny. Professor Travis McDade, the author, is the curator of rare law books at the University of Illinois and a leading expert on the theft of rare books, maps, and manuscripts. He is also a member of the Mystery Writers of America, and his story is told with the consummate skill of an experienced crime-writer.

Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Libraryisn't exactly a thriller (there's no shoot-'em-up and the chase scenes are definitely slo-mo). But it is a detailed, meticulous study of a major crime and the failures of our justice system. I gobbled it down in a day and am reaching right now for another of McDade's books.



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Published on August 29, 2019 06:12

August 25, 2019

Review: Recursion, by Blake Crouch

Recursion Recursion by Blake Crouch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I was caught by the imaginative premise (false memories), held by the likable, relatable characters, and engaged by the excellent writing, especially in the first third of the book, when I was still trying to figure things out. But time-loops in fiction are notoriously difficult to handle without being repetitive. After the third lifetime, where I began to understand where this one was going, it got a little tedious. Still, there was enough catastrophic action and taut suspense to keep me turning the pages of this sci-fi thriller. Well-written, engaging. Recommended for readers looking for an entertaining sci-fi read and willing to suspend their disbelief for the duration. My first for this author. It won't be the last.



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Published on August 25, 2019 06:07

August 21, 2019

Summer Edition of "Home in the Hill Country"

Just posted the current eletter. Book news, family visits, the latest doings here at MeadowKnoll. It's been a busy summer!
https://susanalbert.com/home-in-the-h...
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Published on August 21, 2019 08:43

August 19, 2019

Review of THE GOWN, by Jennifer Robson

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jennifer Robson chose a winning topic for her fifth novel, a story about the creation of Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown and the transformative role it plays in the lives of three women: Ann Hughes, an embroiderer in the London workroom of designer Norman Hartnell; Ann’s co-worker, Miriam Dassin, a French emigre and Holocaust survivor; and Ann’s Canadian granddaughter, Heather who is bequeathed Ann's box of embroidered flowers and, cut loose from her job, sets out on a quest to understand their significance to her grandmother and herself. MORE (plus bonus feature): https://susanalbert.com/bookscapes-th...
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Published on August 19, 2019 06:14

August 17, 2019

Crowdsolving

Chase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders Chase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders by Billy Jensen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Still thinking how I feel about this book, which I just finished last night. Compelling reading, new-to-me material about the "citizen sleuth/citizen detective" movement, by the man who helped finish Michelle McNamara's posthumously-published I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer.

Valuable here: Jensen's documentation of the work of people involved with online "crowdsolving" (new word for me) and the "websleuths" community. As a writer of crime fiction, this is something I want to know more about. Like this: https://www.aetv.com/real-crime/citiz...

More later, as I do more reading/research and add more books to this particular shelf.



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Published on August 17, 2019 06:00

Susan Wittig Albert's Blog

Susan Wittig Albert
Some thoughts about reading and writing, from a writer's point of view, as well as posts from LifeScapes and BookScapes, my "other" blogs.
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