The Alienist: By Caleb Carr. A Review. Book 8 of 52

“The defenders of decent society and the disciples of degeneracy are often the same people”

Such an apropos quote for the season we find ourselves in. Nonetheless, The Alienist by Caleb Carr is what I envision happens when Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes meets Poe’s… well anything by Edgar Allen Poe really. This may not be a good thing for all of you. I did find myself losing a little patience with the story. But, it was still a good read. I think that if one has the time and space to read it, they may enjoy it.

It is significantly difficult to provide some substantive review, while remaining spoiler free, on a mystery novel. Especially one of this ilk. I do feel that Carr did an amazing job of putting me, the reader, into turn of the (20th) century New York. Bordering on the overly descriptive (trust me, I am as shocked as the rest of you that those words just came from me) the narrative puts you in the moment. I just wish that it had been a little more like the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes, pulling no punches, and yielding no major clues until it should be nearly over.

But the story, the story was amazing. Enrapturing even.  Worth the read just for that in and of itself.

I am giving this book three out of five. stars Though there may be many that love it more, I am happy with that. Onto the next book in my 2018 Reading Challenge.

    A dad’s thoughts on what happened yesterday.

    It is not just a gun issue.

    It is not just a mental health issue.

    It is not just a faith issue.

    It is not just an immigration, rights, society, freedom, security, constitutional issue.

    It is not a love, hate, indifference, compassion, community, education issue.

    It is not just a family issue.

    It is all of these, and scores more. We’ve reached a state in our society that would newsbreaks of children being killed it becomes a headline and not a moment of sorrow . More and more frequently parents are having to worry about what’s going to happen with their child when they send them away from their home.

    As a dad, when I watch the news, I am terrified about the world that my children are growing up in. It is my job to raise them, it is my job to protect them. It is my job to teach them what is right. It is my job just show them love, compassion, understanding, and safety.

    As a dad, it is time that I voice the fact that all dads out there, in fact all parents, need to own this.

    As a dad, I need to do better. Not just for my children and their future. Look for yours as well.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Recovery of divergence

      So, on the heels of the realization from the previous post, that I had let my focus of fatherhood be consumed by my beautiful daughter’s medical condition, I am left staring at the chasm. Where I am standing is where I am now. Across the way is where I want to be. Between the two is a partially built, yet nearly forgotten bridge.

      There is an importance in what I have been doing as Cranio Dad. Bringing the perspective as a man, a father, that has knelt before God and screamed for Him to help his daughter. To transfer the pain that she must be feeling to himself, because as her dad he can take it. Who has journeyed to hell, stared the devil in the eyes, and watched him blink. Having watched my boys on their journey to manhood. Being perched on the precipice of social media, and social change, having spent so long screaming into the wind that my own words have fallen on my deaf ears. A recovery of divergence is needed. But, in my wake, I bring all that I have learned with me.

      Trust me, Cranio Dad is here to stay. I have worked too hard for far too long to change that up. If anything, it will help with what I see as the next phase.

      Getting to the “Other Side”

      Remember the analogy of the chasm and the bridge that I mentioned in the last post? Well, that bridge is this amazing group of dad bloggers that I am proud to call my friends. I see a sea of voices that are working hard to lift each other up, promote change, and look forward. It is an awesome group. For the entire time that I have been blogging my voice has been off to the side of what them. I keep hearing that I am ‘ridiculously micro-niched’. There have been moments of praise for some of the writing that I have done, and they expand it to their audience. These things have been a huge part of who I am, as a blogger. But now, it is time to bring my voice into the fray. Not to get lost in the sea of voices that already exists, but to bring my own, deep resonant voice, and particular viewpoint into the mix.

      In the coming days I will be announcing the step that I am taking to make this happen. Not intentionally stringing you all along. I am a dad with 3.5 kids, recovering from the worst sinus infection that I have had in years, and life is life. Bear with me, and keep your eyes open. You will not want to miss this.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Let the reading begin!

      In true form, I have begun the task that I set fourth for myself. For those that missed it, HERE I set a challenge to read a book a week. One day in, I am about 3/4 of the way done with “The Giver”. Now, I will not be saying anything about this book now. For that, you will have to wait until next week when I post my synopsis on our blog. I have also created a wishlist for the books that I am going to be reading this year. As I purchase books, they will be removed. The books are loaded in reverse order of the order that I will be reading them. If you feel like helping, please do. If you want to read along, that is a starting place for you as well.

      Anyway, back to indulging myself in the finer things in life.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Wishlist link (For those on other social media than our blog): http://a.co/0vBuT7E

      In the coming year…

      I know, you are most likely all TIRED of reading resolution after resolution. However, I wanted to document a challenge that I gave myself. See, not so long ago, in a land that seems far, far, away, I was an avid reader. How avid? It was a common occurrence for me to be working through three books, at once, all in a week or so. Yeah, that avid. I miss it. I miss reading. I miss what it does to my mind, and my way of thinking.

      So, the other day, I reached out on Facebook. I asked for 52 books that I have not read, first come first serve. All to get back into it. One book a week. That is my goal. Well, my friends responded rapidly. So, here is the list (below). These are the books, and the order that I will be reading them in, starting in just a few hours. Additionally, I will be posting a SHORT synopsis (300 words or less, directly correlated to the length and complexity of the topic(s) covered in the book) the week after reading it. I will most likely give each book a 1-10 rating and include a link to the book for any that are interested.

      I ask that you help keep me accountable on this. If you are not seeing a post on Monday or Tuesday, call me out on it. I miss reading, and I want my kids to see me entrenched with it as they are reaching their formative years of reading. 2017 was a wild ride, and I know that 2018 is going to be crazy. But, let’s all make the best of it. New year, new slate, new book… not just an empty page. May 2018 be amazing for all of you. If you are looking for me, my nose will be in a book.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

       

      Book Title Author Start Finish
      1 The Giver Lois Lowry 1/1/2018 1/6/2018
      2 Gathering Blue Lois Lowry 1/7/2018 1/13/2018
      3 Messenger Lois Lowry 1/14/2018 1/20/2018
      4 Son Lois Lowry 1/21/2018 1/27/2018
      5 Crash the Chatterbox Steven Furtick 1/28/2018 2/3/2018
      6 I Will Carry You Angie and Todd Smith 2/4/2018 2/10/2018
      7 The Goal Eliyahu Goldratt 2/11/2018 2/17/2018
      8 The Alienist Caleb Carr 2/18/2018 2/24/2018
      9 The Magician: Apprentice Raymond Fiest 2/25/2018 3/3/2018
      10 The Magician: Master Raymond Fiest 3/4/2018 3/10/2018
      11 Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger 3/11/2018 3/17/2018
      12 The Art of Learning Josh Waitzkin 3/18/2018 3/24/2018
      13 The Remains of the Day Kazup Ishiguro 3/25/2018 3/31/2018
      14 Appointment with Death Agatha Christie 4/1/2018 4/7/2018
      15 Jesus Land Julia Scheeres 4/8/2018 4/14/2018
      16 The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling Henry Fielding 4/15/2018 4/21/2018
      17 The Bone Clocks David C. Mitchell 4/22/2018 4/28/2018
      18 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Steven King 4/29/2018 5/5/2018
      19 The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chobosky 5/6/2018 5/12/2018
      20 The Sin of White Supremacy Jeannine Hill 5/13/2018 5/19/2018
      21 The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingslover 5/20/2018 5/26/2018
      22 A New Kind of Christian Brian McLaren 5/27/2018 6/2/2018
      23 The Last Arrow Erwin McGinnis 6/3/2018 6/9/2018
      24 Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides 6/10/2018 6/16/2018
      25 The Color of Magic Terry Prachett 6/17/2018 6/23/2018
      26 House of Leaves Mark Z. Danielewski 6/24/2018 6/30/2018
      27 Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith William T. Vollmann 7/1/2018 7/7/2018
      28 The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 7/8/2018 7/14/2018
      29 Dragon Teeth Michael Chriton 7/15/2018 7/21/2018
      30 Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut 7/22/2018 7/28/2018
      31 Contagious Jonah Berger 7/29/2018 8/4/2018
      32 Cryptonimicon Neal Stephenson 8/5/2018 8/11/2018
      33 Outlive Your Life Max Lucado 8/12/2018 8/18/2018
      34 Storm Front Jim Butcher 8/19/2018 8/25/2018
      35 1632 Eric Flint 8/26/2018 9/1/2018
      36 Inverted World Christopher Priest 9/2/2018 9/8/2018
      37 The Magicians Lev Grossman 9/9/2018 9/15/2018
      38 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Neil deGrasse Tyson 9/16/2018 9/22/2018
      39 Some Buried Caesar Rex Stout 9/23/2018 9/29/2018
      40 Invisible Cities Italo Calvino 9/30/2018 10/6/2018
      41 Jennifer Government Max Berry 10/7/2018 10/13/2018
      42 Liberty Defined Ron Paul 10/14/2018 10/20/2018
      43 The Heart Goes Last Margaret Atwood 10/21/2018 10/27/2018
      44 The Circus of the Earth and the Air Brooke Stevens 10/28/2018 11/3/2018
      45 The Three Body Problem Cixin Liu 11/4/2018 11/10/2018
      46 Boneshaker Cherie Priest 11/11/2018 11/17/2018
      47 Leave it to Jeeves PG Wodehouse 11/18/2018 11/24/2018
      48 Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea Guy Delisle 11/25/2018 12/1/2018
      49 The Stupidest Angel Christopher Moore 12/2/2018 12/8/2018
      50 At the Mountains of Madness HP Lovecraft 12/9/2018 12/15/2018
      51 Unholy Night Seth Grahame-Smith 12/16/2018 12/22/2018
      52 Prodigal Summer Barbara Kingslover 12/23/2018 12/29/2018

      An open letter to my beloved bride on the event of our seventh wedding anniversary

      My beloved,

      Well, here we are. Rounding out the seventh year of our marriage. My, oh my, look how far we have come. Last night, as we sat and tried to watch The Crown, while dealing with a very sick baby, there was a moment of pause. The TV volume was low, you were bundled up under a blanket, sleepily transfixed on the story. Salem, our beloved border collie, was asleep at your feet. From down the hall the sounds of our sleeping children filled the air. All stuffed up with the weather changes, the chorus of snoring was… beautiful.

      You had your hands cradling your stomach, gently holding our unborn fourth child. Had the propane not run out just the day before, there would have been a fire. That will be fixed today. Sorry about that. But that fire would have brought a warm orange glow under the trove of stocking that we hung yesterday. Who knew that so many socks would look that impressive on such a long mantle? Or that the little ceramic village that you have been collecting over the years would look so amazing? I am sure that you did. You have always had an eye for design.

      Perhaps there was something that you saw in me, seven years ago. For I can think of no real reason why I am so lucky to be your husband. I am always in awe of your love, support, compassion, and endearment. Even through the frustrating times that we have seen, you have been amazing. You have been steadfast in your desires for me to do my best. You have been my rock, and allowed me to be yours. Through everything, you have been the earthly embodiment of all things good and perfect for me, and our children.

      Yes, our children. The growing brood of independent, smart, witty, funny, laughing, stress-us-out extension of our love. Never before has there been such proof to be careful what one prays for. Regardless, even when you think that you are failing, you are excelling in ways that many others could not even come close too. In the rare time that we find ourselves taking a step back and evaluating our little ones, what do we see? A rambunctious group of defiant protesters? No. We see brilliant minds testing the limits of their existence, and reason, with the purest intentions of figuring out life. We see teamwork unhindered by ability. Above it all, we see compassion and joy. All that is good in them comes from the work, love, and patience that you pour into them. We are all better for it.  I never grow tired of exclaiming your accolades as a mother, teacher, and counselor.

      When we started this journey, there was us and a dog. We knew not what mountains or valleys we would have to transit to get here. Heck, we did not even know here was a place. But, it is where we are. It is still us and the dog, but now we have three amazing kids, and one more on the way. Countless seasons behind us,. All of the unknown, untamed, wilderness ahead of us. But that is the thing. No matter what lies ahead, we will tame it together. For seven years we have been side by side, hand-in-hand, walking through this life. Occasionally one of us standing in the gap (mostly me, it is what I do) but always moving forward.

      I am so happy that it is you. Over the last 2,557 days, I have found more than 10 times that number of new reasons that I love you. Every day, another reason (or a list of reasons) is added. So, here is to seven amazing years my love. And to an eternity more.

       

      Love,

      Your husband.

        It snowed last night.

        I woke to a white capped winter wonderland, and a list of things to do. I smirked as my thoughts drifted to all those local residents who probably saw this is the apocalypse. I have to admit I felt a little shame as I realize I was relying on other people’s fear of this weather. However, knowing that this meant that I would have decent travel, I got up, donned my flannel shirt and jeans, and got out the door.

        As I walked my car I looked back and saw my children, wide-eyed with excitement, faces pressed against the glass of our front window. Every part of me that is a dad uttered a small prayer that they keep the wonderment that is the season. That they hold fast to the childlike joy that is all things winter. Playing in the snow, building snowmen, hanging Christmas lights, all of it.


        The peace of the open road, the sound of Beethoven softly playing over the radio, these are the moments. In astute reflection I paused as the red light glared at me. This season is so much more than just a cold winter’s holiday.


        I am reaching a height of purpose that I could not even ink out from the base where I started. My home is full of love, passion, understanding, and joy. This more than warms the heart. My job satisfaction is at an all-time high, even as I face new beginnings with my promotion. My faith has been continuously reassured with every struggle and victory. This season is good.


        These thoughts are juxtaposed with the view out my windshield. This is the weather that begs for our melancholy. The deep, dark gray skies cascading against the cool white snow. The ceaseless creaking as the wind blows through the snow laden boughs above. The shocking silence as even nature seeks respite against the cold.


        The light turns green. As my car navigates the barren road every second brings a beauty that negates the misanthropic thralls of my mind. I smile as I accelerate. Feeling all of the parts of me coalesce; dad, husband, and a little bit of lumberjack muddled in, as I own the road.


        Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

        The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Three

        After working through the emotional distress of taking apart the beds that I had made, it was time to do something easier, but a little scary, electrical work. After taking exhaustive measurements of all the rooms in the house, we knew that there was no way we could have bunk beds AND a ceiling fan in the same room. Call it what you will, but we saw a trip to the ER as a very real reality if this was left as the décor.

        I grabbed a step stool, being tall has some perks, and took to disassembling the fan. This task, in and of itself was easy enough. But, it should be noted that I do NOT like playing with electrical work. Need a wall built or taken down, sure. Want the plumbing rerouted, on it. But electrical is the one thing that I have always been cautious of. I think that my dad put it best, and the fear of God into me about it when he told me; “Of all the things that you can do around the house, electrical is the one that will most surely kill you”.  I was eight.

        Regardless, the fan came down easy. As I removed the housing my nightmare began. A spaghetti monster of white encased electrical wires uncoiled like a serpent from the junction box in the ceiling. I was expecting two wires to be there, not six. So, I caught my breath, saying a few words that I most likely should not have, and began sorting it out. I had already turned off the light switch that ran the fan. But, I felt an all too familiar bite of my dear nemesis, 110 volts. With the power off at the switch, there were still live wires!

        I quickly had my beloved find and turn off the circuit to the kid’s room. Fun note, the breaker that runs the light and outlets in my kid’s room also runs one hall light, an outlet in the master, the light in the family room and the fan, but not the light portion of the fan, between the family room and the kitchen. Yeah, have fun with that. That allowed me to finish removing the fan, and install the new light. Anxious to get the beds together I stood in anticipation as my wife flipped the breaker for the room.

        I squinted my eyes as I was blinded and my ear picked up the electrical hum.

        There was light! I let out a sigh of relief as I walked over to the light switch (or should I say slider? Dimmer? sigh, whatever). It was in the off position. I did not think that this was important as I slid the switch to on. Boy was I wrong. There was a loud “POP”, the telltale make you cringe sound of working with electrical, from the light switch. The light stayed on, and there was a faint electrical odor in the air.

        Trust me folks, it spirals from here. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of this saga. Missed part one, or part two? Feel free to read them. Trust me, this ends in a flabbergasted mess.

        Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

        The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Two

        I did it. I clicked purchase on the beds. It was at that very moment that I started to feel that this was not the right option. Chalking it up to buyer’s remorse, I did my best to shuffle it off. Instead I focused what I long knew what was going to be the hardest part, taking apart the beds that I had built my children.

        Hovering around the mediocre level of carpentry, it is a passion more than it is a skill. However, I wanted to do something for my kids as they outgrew their toddler beds. I found plans, modified them to bring out aspects of each child, and I built them. They were not perfect, but they were perfect for them.  The joy and surprise on their faces when I put each one together filled my heart with joy.

        But the day had arrived, and I stood there, in the silent room, looking down at the beds. Stripped down to the naked wood that I had built them from. I could hear the kids down the hall, playing with the heavy box that had arrived. I knelt down and began to take the beds apart. Making it even more difficult was that I put these together without the intent of having to take them apart. So, not only did I just have unscrew some screws and bolts, but I had to take a circular saw to my children’s beds to get them out the door. There must have been some extra sawdust in the air.

        The beds were apart, and the project was underway.

        As the time came to take the beds out of the house Zoey and David walked into their room. They saw that their beds had been taken apart. “Bed not there anymore” are the words that ripped through my soul. Kati did an amazing job and changed the mood. She turned taking the parts of the bed out of the house into a game. The laughter and screams of joyful competition filled the house.

        But what would happen next would start the spiral of costs for this project.  Come back tomorrow for more. Missed part one? Read it here.

        Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.