Archive for October 2009
I’m proud to say I finished the Japanese Literature Challenge with this one book! *claps* one challenge down, millions more to go oh well at least I managed to read books that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, so this sort of thing did open my eyes up to other genres out there.
Crossfire by Miyuki Miyabe is a police paranormal mystery which has one side; Chikako Ishizu and her colleagues in the police force and the other side; Junko Aoki and her quest for justice against cold hearted sadistic criminals who prey on innocent people. Junko has a very special gift of pyrokenesis (think of Stephen King’s Firestarter) and uses that against the criminals. It leaves no evidence except for charred bodies. Chikako is part of the arson squad and realizes this sort of case isn’t just normal arson. With the help of other detectives and very skeptical of paranormal theory she’s caught with trying to believe the impossible while chasing Junko who’s leaving a trail of bodies from place to place. However there’s another pair of eyes who are interested in Junko and want to recruit her to their cause.
This book was all right. I liked how they showed both sides of the story and both point of views. It was a nice even exchange between chapters and it went smooth for the most part. I have to admit though, although the beginning of the book really got me it just started to fall short and falls flat midway and I found myself wondering what’s going to happen next and how soon because to be honest, I was starting to get a little bored of the book. Not to mention besides the main characters, there were so many other secondary characters mentioned I was left wondering who this person was again and I had to either read back a few pages or commit to memory who they were. It got a little frustrating as they appeared for one chapter and wouldn’t come back until much much later. However, I found myself a little more intrigued bit by bit on how all these characters had to be connected somehow to each other and I was left guessing until the last moment. It was actually pretty well done despite these little flaws.
I really did try to like Chikako but just couldn’t do it. I was really trying to warm up to her but she was just flat. It just sort of seemed although she put the pieces together and helped solved the crime she really was just there for the ride. There wasn’t much personality to her I thought. Unlike Junko. I think she was the main focus in the book hence why she seemed to be the only real character in the book that developed well throughout the book. Junko went from someone who was angry and out for justice to someone who finally found closure and absolute closure.
The plot moved fairly smoothly although there were a bit of bumps and blips here with background information which was useful in some parts but in some other areas of the book it wasn’t really necessary. Then sometimes I felt the plot was just going in circles and very redundant. It was really starting to get old. At that point, I wished the plot would have moved more quickly instead of lingering and remaining stagnant. It also felt as if these moments were needed as a space filler. It nearly took the heart and the momentum of the plot because of these bumps.
Overall, it wasn’t so bad but it wasn’t so great either. It could have been better but the climactic ending did make up for it and as the story came to a close, it had a nice sense of completion. Would I recommend this? Well, that depends. Stick with Junko. She’s the more exciting arc in the plot than Chikako. Try and read through the unnecessary stuff but the underlying layers of the plot actually also make up for its shortfalls.
I give it a 6 out of 10.
Suggested by Jennysbooks:
Something I’ve been thinking about lately: “What words/phrases in a blurb make a book irresistible? What words/phrases will make you put the book back down immediately?”
- I don’t really know about the first question. Usually if it’s a quote that stands out I’d keep in mind of where it is and then go back to it and write it down in my book journal. However things that make me put the book down and cast it aside? usually it has something to do with body parts mashed together or getting kissed on, sighs and moans, or body fluids being exchanged. Then I just roll my eyes and the book goes into the donation chute at the library. Usually anything with an animal and “killed brutally” makes me put the book aside too. I like blood and gore, but not to my furry friends. People are ok though we got a billion of those to go around unless it’s mass extinction or zombie invasion..then we’re in big trouble. I’m straying from the topic aren’t I?
What’s your answer?
I can’t really remember how I came across Felix Castor. I think it was because I was looking for books that had the same line as Harry Dresden, and I stumbled with this one. I was in the mood for something dark and gritty anyway so this one was a good choice. Perfect for the spooky season too.
The Devil You Know by Mike Carey is the story of Felix Castor, an exorcist who’s dirt poor and lives (practically for free) with his good friend Pen (who’s name is Pamela but somehow she prefers to be called Pen). He gets rid of ghosts for a fee and when he accepts a job of eliminating a ghost in a museum it’s more than he bargained for. He finds himself a target and the only way to find out the real story is to figure out the story of the ghost he has to eliminate first. As he gets deeper into the bottom of this mystery, he faces more dangerous circumstances and instead of getting rid of the ghost, he attempts to help it first.
I can see the small similarities between the Harry Dresden series and this one. There are differences though. I found Felix Castor more dark and grittier than Dresden. It definitely more “noir” and having the setting taking place in London is perfect. London is so dark and wet most of the time and cold. I think the setting fits well and is described perfectly for this novel. The world here is much different than present day. The dead and ghosts are actually out and we’re aware that they are. Most of the time though, they actually don’t bother us except for a select few that have risen up to settle some differences. There is plenty of magic but it’s not in the way of Harry Potter it’s more darker and more realistic.
I have to admit, it took me a while to get into this book. It started off a little slow and I had to nearly force myself to get into it. Eventually it started picking up and I got more interested. It was especially interesting that although it’s paranormal in regards to ghosts and other creatures (there’s a loup garou but not what you usually think it would be..it’s different). There’s also an underlying realistic element in it as naturally the ghost is there with a reason and has a story to tell (ie; how she became a ghost) so real life comes into play just as much as the paranormal side does in this book. Which is good it’s a nice mixture and it’s done nicely so that the magic parts come naturally and it doesn’t seem so out of the ordinary, it actually feels like everyday life.
I think the other reason why it took me a while to get into it, is because in the beginning, Felix goes through a huge narration on explaining how he got to this point, and how he met certain characters and their background stories. He does this throughout the book and although the explanations are great and provides a nice depth to the novel, some of them are too detailed and rather long winded. Then I’m left wondering where did we leave off and what does this have to do with it? although the background information is nice, it should have been done in small specific paragraphs but not deviate entirely from the main plot. This could be a deterrent to some readers and those reading might feel like putting the book to the side and leave it for another day, but try and get through it. You’ll find it connects the dots in one way or another and it leaves the story more complete and more detailed.
As for characters I like Felix. He’s got wit and a dark sense of humor. I’m not sure if you could call him your typical detective in a noir book as although he does have an eye for the ladies I don’t think he really has much of a charm or is that charismatic. To me he’s more like a good guy friend who you’d have a drink with and just relax. He’s likable, don’t get me wrong and there are certainly parts in the book where I found myself laughing at him because of comments he’s made either towards others or towards himself but he’s lacking in something. He just falls short of standing out. I guess what I am trying to say is, it took me a while to warm up to him and even then although I like him, there’s no strong attachment or anything.
The plot is great and albeit for the slow start, putting the pieces together was a puzzle for me and it was fun trying to guess what it was. You’re left guessing what it is and in the end I was sort of right, but wrong as well. I had the wrong idea. It was well done with how the ends were all tied and no questions asked except in regards to Felix’ past and what will happen next (there are more books to this series). The ending was great and I’m curious as to what will happen. I will be reading the second book definitely however I’m hoping it won’t be as slow starting as this one.
Overall, it’s not a bad book! give it a try if you’re a fan of Harry Dresden but want something more realistic, more dark, and with more grit. You’ll find it’s actually quite good and well worth the wait.
I give it a 7 out of 10.
Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about note taking…
Do you take notes while reading – either for your reviews or for yourself? How/where do you make these notes (on the page, post-its, scrap paper, notebooks etc)?
- I don’t take notes at all. If I find some really great quote I memorize it and then go back to it when I review it. That’s it. No note taking here it would remind me too much of school and the books I was forced to read and nearly ruined my experiences with books.
I received the following this week:
Oh My Gods – Tera Childs (contest win)
Through the Triangle – C P Stewart (Bostick)
The Concubine’s Daughter – Pai Kit Fai
City of Thieves – David Benioff
The Killing Floor – Lee Child
High Stakes – Erin McCarthy
So what are your answers?
I’m very surprised I managed to finish two books even with three days of OT at work and the usual distractions. However because of the OT I’ve been more tired and been falling asleep while reading at night. So, today I’m going to focus only on two books because I have plans for later tonight (which I don’t want to go to, but have to)
The two books are:
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
The Devil You Know – Mike Carey
What are you guys reading today?
Thank you Barnes and Noble for letting me receive a copy of this book for the First Look Book Club! It was very much appreciated!
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, is rather unique. It has two mini plots which then merge into one through the novel. The first arc features the inhabitants of Franklin, Massacheusetts mainly Will Fitch and his wife Emma, and Iris James who works at the post office. The second arc is focused mainly on Frankie Bard, who’s in Europe. She works as a journalist covering the Blitz in England. The Postmistress focuses on one letter Iris decides to not send, which in turn brings the three women together and also brings the realization of war to their doorstep.
I have to admit, I had to force myself to get into it at first. The start of the book was rather slow and hard to get into. It really wasn’t until I hit the chapters that focused on Frankie that I suddenly got myself into the book and was more interested in it. Besides the slow start, I was left wondering what in the world these characters have to do with each other until certain events take place then the pieces fall in, slowly. To be honest, if it weren’t for Frankie and her experiences throughout Europe, I probably would have liked this book less. I found Frankie to be the most central part of this book and which brought all the characters together through her voice on the radio. The descriptions of the quiet town of Franklin and its’ inhabitants is nice and detailed enough to make it real. There is a big distinction between both Franklin and London and it’s written well enough that both places are realistic and well rounded out. I liked how Franklin is so far away from the war and in their own little world, oblivious to what is happening on the other side of the world, knowing there is no way of the war hitting home. Yet Frankie brings it to them through her voice and she does what she can to make sure all sides of the war is shown and that people get the truth of what’s happening. When she comes on the radio, you can almost “hear” her talk and it goes to show how powerful the use of radio was back then in the 40′s because it’s left to the listener’s imagination.
The most eye opening part in the book is when Frankie goes within Europe to interview refugees she finds along the way from Germany to France. This actually changes her outlook of the war and this is where you see a key development in her character. I also thought it was the most interesting part in this novel and felt just as helpless as she was towards these refugees. I also liked how Blake intertwined both plots to eventually make it into one towards the end of the novel by having the three main women featured in the novel to finally come together face to face. It went smoothly and without a bump, definitely a good job done by the author.
Aside from the slow start, I sort of didn’t understand Iris and her character. In the beginning I thought she was strange and not very likable at all. Honestly, I get the idea of why she would be part of the story in the first place, but she’s such a flat character and very uninteresting that I feel the author just placed her there just for placement and for necessity. She’s really just a secondary character, I think. However of all the characters, I really did like Frankie the best. She was such an free spirit and a forward thinking individual, definitely a woman that stood out during the 40′s!
Another thing, Frankie likes to say “Christ” a lot. For some reason I can’t see a woman swearing like that in the 40′s, it just seems unreal and odd. Also, there’s a part in the novel where Emma smokes and she’s pregnant. Now perhaps it wasn’t known that smoking during pregnancy is harmful for an unborn child so it was really strange and odd to read that. Then again, we have to remember, this book takes place in 1940, not in present day. It’s hard to remember that and it’s odd to read. Once you have it set in your mind about the major differences, then it gets easier.
Overall, a book that starts to grow with you, so don’t give up early on it. It does eventually get better.
I give it a 7 out of 10.
When it comes to highly popular and well liked books I always meet it with skepticism. I hate being disappointed. It’s like watching a movie only to find out it wasn’t that great (The Matrix Reloaded was a very fine example for me). So with The Hunger Games I was wondering what the hype was all about. Everywhere I saw, all the book blog reviews I keep on seeing very high grades. In fact I have yet to see a bad review on it. Suddenly I feel as if the Harry Potter craze is repeated all over again. Mind you, I came into the Harry Potter thing pretty late. When The Goblet of Fire was out I just started getting into it. I have yet to get into the Twilight thing. The Hunger Games caught my attention more than Twilight (besides, I am waiting for Breaking Dawn to hit paperback and then I’ll start reading it). So I decided to check it out from the local library (which has a rather long standing queue).
The Hunger Games by Suzanna Collins is a dystopian fiction novel that looks like it takes place in the future. There are twelve districts (there used to be 13 but that got obliterated when they wanted to rebel against the Capitol). From each of the twelve districts two people are chosen (a boy and a girl from the ages of 12 to 18) to participate in The Hunger Games. Which is something like a gladiator game mixed in with the reality TV show Survivor. There can only be one winner, with the reward being going back home alive, prestige in being a winner, and lots of perks for their own district. Here you meet the main character named Katniss, who survives by hunting and feeding her family which consists of her mother and her little sister. When her little sister’s name comes up when choosing participants in The Hunger Games, Katniss offers herself instead to go in her sister’s place. From then on, you follow Katniss as she fights her way through the games with her fellow district teammate, Peeta.
OMG. Now I know why people are raving about this book. It was GREAT! the closer I got to the ending of the book, the more excited I got and the more I wanted to just finish reading it and ignore all the distractions around me. Everything about it got my attention. The idea of the games where everybody fights to the death is just so macabre because its’ participants are the ages in their teens or a little bit younger. Just the idea of that fits wonderfully to the dystopian theme. Background information regarding how the world came to be like this is explained by Katniss herself as she’s the narrator through the novel. She explains how she loses her father in an accident, how after that she became the main supporter of her family, her strenuous relationship with her mother, and her loving protecting relationship with her little sister Prim.
Katniss is a strong character, having come from a hard background, The Hunger Games could have been an easy win for her (of course that’s not always the case) of course she goes through a lot of obstacles and still ends up being in a lose lose situation even up to the end. With her background being the way it is, she seems very hostile and hard to approach, even hard to like. That’s exactly how I felt about her in the beginning. Not to say I didn’t like her, it’s just her actions and her words made her very hard to like. I tended to gravitate toward Peeta more. What I really liked is the “relationship” between Peeta and Katniss. Peeta is such a strong, silent type character you can’t help but admire him. He is the exact opposite from Katniss yet I feel that they look great together. They are the perfect example of opposites attract. Towards the end though, Katniss seemed more likable and more approachable. She lost that hostility and replaced it with a maturity which seemed to have developed throughout the Games. It was really interesting to see her develop through the novel.
The plot was great and there’s no stop in the action which made the plot fly by faster and made you more engrossed into the book. It was very well written, and the characters in it were wonderfully created and well rounded. I loved Peeta and Katniss. The ending made me want to get out and get the second book, I was a little sad at the way it ended and yet the little girl in me wanted a rose colored ending which of course would not really be possible in a dystopian novel. What I really liked about the plot are the sudden twists that came with the Games. The sudden change in the rules, or even the way the game is played out varies from day to day for the contestants so the plot reflected those types of changes as well. You were relaxed one minute, the next minute there was a twist in the plot that left you wanting to scream. Even towards the end I was waiting for some sort of plot twist, I just couldn’t trust the way it ended.
Overall an excellent novel. I’m glad I’ve taken the time to take this out from the library and read it. I don’t regret it one bit and also I’m glad I listen to some of my fellow book bloggers and their reviews on this book.
I give it a 10 out of 10. I CAN’T WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON CATCHING FIRE!