Monday, October 19, 2015

Jackaby by William Ritter

fpo  There's a blurb on the front cover of my copy of Jackaby that describes it as Sherlock Holmes crossed with the Buffy Slayer. Its two principle characters, R. F. Jackaby and Miss Abigail Rook are clearly inspired by Sherlock Holmes and there's enough of the supernatural thrown in to make the Buffy comparison fitting. Jackaby is the quirky detective who is always ten steps ahead of everyone else. His "Watson" is a young lady named Miss Rook. She has a thirst for adventure, having recently run away from home to chase dinosaurs and excitement. Miss Rook also has a talent noticing the ordinary and deducing details about a person or a situation, much like the legendary detective. Jackaby, in turn, has a talent for noticing the extraordinary. Of course, most of the townspeople think Jackaby is mad, or at least a little odd. It doesn't help that he has tendency to speak bluntly and without tact. Miss Rook is warned more than once against taking a job as Jackaby's assistant. But newly arrived in New Fiddleham and short on funds, Miss Rook can't afford to turn down the job. Even better, she finds she quite enjoys it! How could she not when her first mystery brings her fact to face with a banshee, a goblin, and other mystical creatures.

Jackaby was so much fun! It took just enough inspiration from Sherlock and then did something new with it. Hands down my favorite character is Miss Rook. I loved how independent and brave she is. Everyone, especially the men and even Jackaby, warn her that detective work is too much for the female temperament. Miss Rook makes it clear to them how she feels about that, standing her ground and proving herself to be more than capable of the job.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in historical mysteries with a paranormal twist. I know Mr. Ritter has written another book with these characters and a novella/short story. I hope there is more to come.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

Time for another read-a-thon. Last time I read a bunch of graphic novels. That will again be part of my strategy for this year.

First Book Finished: Fairest: Wide Awake

Fairest, Volume 1: Wide Awake

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona  Nimona shows up at the villainous Lord Blackheart's door, volunteering to be his new sidekick and help him defeat his arch nemesis Sir Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement. Adventure ensues. Bad guys end up having more good in them than bad. Good guys turn out to be less heroic than expected. There's friendship, science and a dragon!

There are so many things I liked about Nimona. The story surprised me, in a good way. The artwork perfectly matched the story. It was as funny and moving as the words were. Extra bonus for the lead heroine not being drawn with Barbie doll proportions. A plus for making her moody, kick-ass, independent, fearless, vengeful, loyal, and above all, a good friend.

If someone were to ask me who some of my favorite writers of mysteries or literary fiction are I could come up with a half dozen names pretty easily, maybe even a full dozen. I couldn't do the same if someone asked me to come up with a list of comic book or graphic novel authors. That's starting to change. This is the second comic book/graphic novel that I've read by Noelle Stevenson, the first being Lumberjanes. I am really enjoying her work. Can't wait to see what else she writes.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester

fpo  Brother and sister Jeremy and Jenna were sitting in their respective classrooms as they would on any other Tuesday. Then the principal came in and it stopped being a normal Tuesday. Jeremy and Jenna's mother is dead, they are told, and their father is the one who shot her.

When Dad Killed Mom is told from the perspectives of Jenna and Jeremy in alternating chapters. Jenna is 14, Jeremy a little younger. There is no question as to their father's guilt. He shot his wife in broad daylight in front of plenty of witnesses and admitted what he had done as soon as the police confronted him. Jeremy and Jenna are left to wonder why. Jeremy was closer to his mother. The two of them shared a talent for art and how the light changed the way something look. He automatically despises his father for what he's done. Jenna was a daddy's girl. She wants to believe there is some explanation, some mistake but even she has her doubts.

I'm still working out what to think about this book. It is a heavy subject but it wasn't the gut wrenching story I was expecting. On the one hand I'm grateful for that because I really wasn't looking forward to reading about a husband killing his wife and the children who are left to deal with the fallout. (The only reason I read this book at all was for book club.) On the other hand, I feel like I should have felt more reading this book but it didn't really make much of an impact. The kids wonder what's going to happen to them, where they're going to live, who will take care of them, how they are going to go back to school and their regular lives. They wonder why if their father was so mad at their mother he couldn't have just divorced her like a normal person. The kids move forward with their lives relatively calmly as adults flutter around them planning a funeral and preparing for a trial.

One interesting thing about this book is that the murder victim isn't made out to be a saint. It is clear that she was flawed and that despite that, she didn't deserve what happened to her. Both of the kids paint their mother as someone who cared about her art above anything else. Even Jeremy admits that what connected the two of them the most was art, that when it came to him his mother seemed mostly interested in what he was able to draw or paint. I also appreciated that the two kids never really buy their father's excuses for his actions. As much as she wants to give her father the benefit of doubt, even Jenna can't accept their mother's (alleged) infidelity as a justification for her murder.

This story was told from the point of the view of the children which was an interesting idea. This is not story I have seen from a kid's perspective before. Still, I can't help but wonder how different and more interesting this might have been had it been from an adult's perspective or at least a more mature teenager. The two parents, Rachel and Eric, had a complicated marriage. He was a psychologist and she an artist. They met when she went to him for counseling. They had two kids. Eric seemed to favor their daughter while Rachel favored their son. Eric was married once before and his ex-wife and current wife were best friends. Eric and his first wife had a daughter that died and she did not die of natural causes. These are seeds of what could be a great literary thriller. I wish I could read that book.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Silverfin by Charlie Higson

fpo I don't write fan fiction but if I did it would probably be origin stories of favorite characters. When a literary character performs amazing or seemingly impossible feats on the page it can be fun to imagine that character's backstory, how that person came to be what they are. That is essentially what Charlie Higson has done with his Young Bond series - provided an origin story for the famous super spy. Of course, Higson didn't invent Bond's backstory out of whole cloth. The basics were already there in the books (presumably - I've only read one of Ian Fleming's original novels so I couldn't say for sure) and the movies.

Silverfin reveals James as a young boy. Readers learn how his parents died and what young James's life was life before and after their deaths. As the book begins James is beginning his first year of boarding school at Eton. One of the things I loved about this book from the start is that the super spy wasn't a super kid. James is not the perfect student or the most popular. What he is, is smart, brave, adventurous, determined, and in possession of a moral compass.

This is James Bond so it can't just be an origin story. There must also be adventure and mystery. Higson does not disappoint. When James visits his aunt and uncle for the spring holidays, he learns that Alfie Kelly, a young boy from the village, has gone missing. He was last seen in the vicinity of the heavily guarded castle on the hill, Lord Hellebore's castle. Many in the village revere Lord Hellebore as he has showered the village with money. Others are skeptical of the extremely secretive Hellebore, wondering what is going on in that castle that requires such heavy security. Having met his bully of a son, James falls into the latter camp. And so begins Bond's first adventure.

I have to admit I didn't have high hopes for this book. I have read only one of the original Bond novels and didn't love it, which is why years later it is still only one. I picked this up in order to fulfill the "middle grade/YA adventure" category of one of my reading challenges and because a podcaster I enjoy listening to mentioned this as one of his favorite series growing up. I'm so glad I gave this a shot. It was so much fun, and dare I say, better than the actual Bond novel I read.