Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Trouble With Magic

The Trouble With Magic looked like a light, fluffy, magical mystery. That really appealed to me. I like my mysteries light but not overtly stupid. I sometimes like when they have a bit of a gimmick (see Knit One Kill Two). Unfortunately many of them are fairly insipid, thankfully that was not the case this time.

Maggie O'Neill lives in the same small town where she grew up. She's always been a bit of an outsider, not fitting in to school cliques, nor living her life the way her mother wants her to. At the start of the book she's in a boring job with a jerk for a boss and pretty miserable in general. A chance encounter in a rain storm brings her a new job in a store called Enchantments run by the town witch, Felicity. Unfortunately Felicity is soon accused of murdering her estranged sister so Maggie sets out to prove her innocent.

I loved, loved, loved this book. Silly? Sure. Fluffy? Absolutely, but fun and not insipid. The mystery was a bit meatier than you usually find in this kind of genre mystery and I wasn't sure who did it for quite awhile. I loved Maggie as a character as well as Felicity. The magical stuff totally appealed to that witchy side of me. This was the first challenge to my Off the Shelf challenge. I really wanted to run right out to buy the second title in the series.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Ah Dexter. I'd heard much about the Showtime series and it seemed to have just the kind of dark humor that appeals to me. Imagine a serial killer using his murderous urges for the good of mankind. It's a fascinating idea. Tisha had borrowed the book from another co-worker and then passed it along to me.

This is the first book in the series. It introduces Dexter who is a blood spatter expert working for the Miami PD. He also likes to kill people. I mean loves to. He experienced a horrible trauma as a toddler, which is only explained late in the book, and then taken in as a foster child by a cop and his family. As a teenager Dexter and his foster father go on a camping trip where the father explains that he knows Dexter is "different" but he believes he is a good person none the less and that he believes there may be a way to channel all that destructive energy. There we have the birth of a sociopath with a moral center.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I didn't dislike it and I did like Dexter a great deal. The author does some interesting things so make the monster more human even while Dexter himself views himself as something alien outside of the human race. The premise attempts to make us believe that Dexter himself may be committing the crimes but is completely unaware of it. I found myself skimming through entire pages. The solution is fairly cliched but somewhat interesting and leaves certain thoughts of nature vs. nurture swirling around in one's head. Tisha says the second one is much better. I may have to try it.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Looking Glass War

Completed 1/15/07

The Looking Glass war is an interesting take on the Alice in Wonderland story. In the end though I could not help but feel this was a very masculine take on it.

Alyss Heart is the princess of Wonderland. When her family is slaughtered by the Red Queen who wants the crown for herself, Alyss flees her kingdom and escapes to our world. Where she grows up. Of course in the end a princess must become queen and so Alyss returns to Wonderland to face her evil aunt.

This a very fast read, and a fun story. It takes an interesting tilt on the Alice in Wonderland story, making it a much darker more adventurous tale. I couldn't get over the feeling that something was missing however and when I reached the last quarter of the book I realized, it's a boy book. Both Rinaldo and Avery loved this book, but when I read it I think it was the lack of heart that I noticed. It was more about good over evil but not the interpersonal relationships of the people involved. I've decided this was not a flaw in the book it was exactly what it set out to be it's just made for those with a bit more testosterone flowing through their veins;)

All in all it was a fun adventure and I will certainly read the sequels it so obviously sets itself up for.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi

Completed 1/6/07

I love Marjane Satrapi's books. Her autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis and Persepolis 2 are an amazing use of the comic form. Her third graphic novel Embroderies is actually my favorite as it focuses on the women of her family and it so easy to see the threads that tie women together all over the world. I was greatly looking forward to her fourth graphic novel Chicken with Plums, sadly I was disappointed.

Chicken with Plums is Satrapi's take on a family legend. An uncle of hers, who died long before she was born, was a musician. It was said that he simply took to his bed and gave up living. Satrapi takes this story and creates a story around it to try explain why this man would do such a thing.

Frankly I never did understand. He seemed to have lost his muse it's true but he was not very likable so I didn't care very much about that. It seemed to me that he didn't lose his inspiration as much as he lost a crutch he used for it. Perhaps Satrapi has a difficult time understanding his motivations as well and that is why she felt a need to explore the situation. Unfortunately nothing in the story made me feel for this man, nor to understand his motivations.

If she was seeking to shed light on this odd event, she still left me in the dark.

Friday, January 5, 2007

School Days

School Days by Robert Parker

Started 1/2
Completed 1/5

I love me some Spencer novels. This was something like a snack however, not a meal. One of the things I love most about Spenser novels are his interactions with his compatriot Hawk and Susan Silverman his "inamorata", yet sadly they were both absent from this one.

Spenser is hired by a grandmother to investigate a shooting at a private high school. Her grandson has confessed to the crime but she refuses to believe he could have committed such a heinous act. Spenser of course sticks his nose in places he doesn't belong, knocks down doors, flirts with the ladies and generally pisses a lot of people off.

Things of course are not all they seem but even the biggest twist of the book feels like it was tossed in for shock value. It was interesting to see a character like Spenser trying to make sense of something that happens with a disturbingly increasing frequency in this country, but even Spenser can't really make sense of senseless murder.

I don't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy School Days. I always love spending time with Spenser, whether or not Hawk or Susan are with him. Robert Parker is one of my favorite storytellers and even his weak stories never fail to entertain.