A food linguist, a stand-alone Nora, and a psychic

>> Thursday, August 09, 2018

TITLE: The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu
AUTHOR: Dan Jurafsky

This is a collection of articles on language relating to food. It's a mixed bag. There is a lot about etymology and word origins (Why do we "toast" someone or something when drinking? Are macaroons and macarons related, and do macaroni have anything to do with either of them?). This was ok, if not particularly captivating. I was much more interested in the chapter on the language used in menus and how it varies depending on the price point of the restaurant. That was actually quite fascinating, and there's a related chapter that looks at a similar thing in bags of crisps. I also liked the chapter on the phonetics of different foods and how different types of sounds suggest different qualities in the foods (crispy and crunchy? Soft and pillowy?).

As a book, this didn't really feel very cohesive, more a random collection of articles probably written for something else originally and just gathered together here. And the writing style was a bit variable as well. Some chapters feel quite narrative and flowed well, some felt pretty dry. Worth reading, but not that great.


TITLE: Whiskey Beach
AUTHOR: Nora Roberts

Eli Landon, a successful lawyer, has just had a nightmare being the main suspect in the murder of his soon-to-be ex wife, and has taken refuge at the family pile in Whiskey Beach. He wants to be left alone to lick his wounds, but Abra Walsh just keeps butting into his life. Abra is many things: housekeeper / yoga instructor / masseuse / general all-around nurturer, and she will help Eli heal, whether he's ready to come back to life or not.

The plot revolves around someone who is convinced that Eli did kill his wife and has literally got away with murder. This person is obsessed, and determined to make Eli pay, and the danger follows him from Boston to Whiskey Beach. At the same time, of course, there is the romance between Eli and Abra. The book is pretty well-balanced between the two elements, and I liked both. I was a bit unsure about Abra at the beginning, as she seems a bit too far towards the quirky end of the spectrum, but there's a nicely sensible baseline under the beads. Eli was fine. Not a particularly interesting hero, but solid enough.

And that's kind of the theme of the book, really. Competent, but not flashy. But a competent Nora Roberts book is still very enjoyable.


TITLE: Stealing Shadows
AUTHOR: Kay Hooper

Stealing Shadows has a premise that probably felt much fresher when it was published, back in the year 2000. Cassie Neill is a psychic. She spent many years helping police catch murderers, but after a case goes wrong, she exiles herself to a small town. And then she starts connecting with a killer there as well, and she's back doing what traumatised her in the first place.

It all feels pretty generic. The police at first don't believe her, the killer at some point focuses his attention on Cassie, etc. There's also a romance with a man on the law enforcement side (in this case, the DA, Ben Ryan). The mystery was ok, but unexciting, and same goes for the romance.

This is the first in a series (or rather, a series of connected trilogies) involving FBI agent Noah Bishop, clearly some sort of psychic himself, and his Special Crimes Unit. Not a lot of that in this particular book, just some hints, but I remember that playing a much larger role in later books (I read some soon after they came out).

MY GRADE: This was a C for me.


Barb in Maryland 9 August 2018 at 16:28  

Love your mini reviews!
'Whiskey Beach' is one of the few recent Nora's that I've actually bought after reading the library copy. I especially enjoyed the truth of what happened to the 'treasure'!
I read the three Shadow books when they first came out in paperback (one a month) way back in 2000. Yes, they did seem very fresh and different. Sucked me right in! I even have the third one ('Out of the Shadows', which is Bishop's story) on my keeper shelf. For a number of years I stuck with the series as it kept expanding until I just burned out. But I still remember the thrill of reading those first three. They must have struck an 'aha, let's jump on this' with various publishers, as the whole 'unit of psychically gifted investigators' concept proliferated like (I want to say 'crazy', but that would be just wrong, wouldn't it?) well, you know...

Rosario 11 August 2018 at 05:51  

Good, because I've got a fair few of these coming up, mostly for older books! :)

Oh, yeah, that was a really cool bit of the book. I wasn't that in love with this one, but I did like it, and I think it may be one of the recent ones that I'll reread. A few of the others I've maybe enjoyed more, but found aspects of the suspense a bit too disturbing.

I remember feeling that way about the other books in this series back when I read them. It would have been not quite after release, but definitely within a couple of years. I remember there being a lot of talk about them in the AAR forums, so it's not surprising that publishers then jumped on that bandwagon with both feet! PS -LOL!

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