Monday, October 16, 2017
In a prior John Sandford book, Deadline (2014), Virgil Flowers went to Trippton, Minnesota to investigate the death of a journalist; he ended up arresting the murderous school board, as well as breaking up a dog theft ring. Now, in Deep Freeze, Sandford’s latest Flowers novel, Virgil returns to Trippton to find out who murdered the woman whose body was found in the frozen river.
I really enjoyed Deadline, as well as the Flowers book that followed, Escape Clause (2016). In my opinion, they are two more examples supporting my contention that the clever Sandford of old has returned. I am not so sure, however, about Deep Freeze.
As I have stated in prior reviews, I love Virgil Flowers. Deep Freeze is a typical Flowers book, with the usual Sandford humor. But, I was less than thrilled to join Virgil in Trippton once again. It is not as if Trippton is a big place that has enough area or facets to support a second book; Virgil simply returns to the same people and same Trippton that was so successful in Deadline. Been there; done that. It feels lazy. In addition, the plot itself is so-so – nothing particularly exciting or challenging. It also does not appear to live up to the billing in the official blurb.
Deadline and Escape Clause are both good reads that reflect the Sandford of old. But, Deep Freeze does not appear to advance Virgil’s series, professionally or personally. I still look forward to the next Virgil Flowers book, but Deep Freeze is a bit of a disappointment.
Monday, October 2, 2017
Although they had tried everything medically possible, sixteen year old Rose Johnson was dying of cancer. But, the man in the white lab coat assured Rose that he could save her. Her mother, father, and younger sister, Koren, begged her to let the man try. So, she did. And, he did. Sort of.
Although Rose’s body still died, Rose continued to live – cancer free – in Aaru, a virtual reality. In David Meredith’s young adult novel, Aaru, we learn about Rose’s adjustment to her cancer free life in cyberspace. We also follow the changes in Koren’s life as she becomes a spokesperson for Aaru and adjusts to life with Rose in Aaru.
I had reviewed an earlier book by Meredith, The Reflections of Queen Snow White, which I found to be clever and thoroughly enjoyed. Aaru is very different, however, and I have mixed feelings about this latest novel.
On the one hand, I found Rose and Koren to be somewhat off-putting. Both girls were teenagers; however, the characters acted – and reacted – in ways that, in my opinion, were not age appropriate. I did not find Koren, in particular, to be a very flattering character; in my opinion, she was simple, superficial, and juvenile. In addition, I was troubled by one of the other characters who was written with an accent. It seemed to me that the written portrayal of this accent was inconsistent. Throughout the book, I was never able to create a clear “picture” of this accent from the writing; every time I encountered this character, I felt like I tripped over the accent.
On the other hand, Meredith’s writing is very good. I tend to think that I have a fairly well developed vocabulary, but the writing in Aaru left me wishing I had a dictionary by my side while reading. Furthermore, the primary issues raised in the book – e.g., life after death and capturing and maintaining the essence of a person – are fascinating. The book is a good vehicle to encourage young adults to think about these interesting Philosophical questions.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD
Book One: The Sword of Summer
Rick Riordan has written young adult series about Greek mythology, Roman mythology, and the Egyptian gods. Now, he has added a new series about Norse mythology, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. In The Sword of Summer, book one of the new series, Magnus is a sixteen year old boy who has been living on the streets of Boston for two years, ever since his mother was killed in their apartment. By wolves.
But on this day, at the beginning of The Sword of Summer, Magnus’s life takes a decidedly left turn. It all starts when one of his homeless buddies tells him that a man and his daughter are looking for Magnus, handing out fliers with his picture on it. Although Magnus escapes detection by the pair, his life will never be the same. In fact, this day becomes the day that he dies.
I am extremely fond of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The only negative I found with Magnus Chase is that he reminds me very much of Percy. But, that can also be a positive, as Percy is an excellent character. And, of course, Norse mythology is very different from Greek mythology.
As with his prior series, the first installment in Riordan’s Magnus Chase trilogy is very well written. Riordan is funny and clever, and the book is action-packed and highly entertaining. It is also very educational – I knew little about the Norse gods before beginning the book. And, it is one of those books where you finish a chapter and immediately think “just one more”.
I look forward to working my way through the other two books in this trilogy.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS
Who killed Reagan Keating, a young nanny whose body was found in a garden in Notting Hill? This is the central question arising in Deborah Crombie’s seventeenth Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel, Garden of Lamentations. Nonetheless, it does not quite feel like Crombie’s heart is in this murder – and perhaps it is my heart that is not in it – but, that is okay.
Because Denis Childs is back.
And, the most interesting thing about Garden of Lamentations is Childs’ return. We finally get some answers to questions left hanging in a few of the previous books in the series. Crombie had left pieces in these prior books, and, in Garden of Lamentations, she begins pulling those pieces together for us.
Deborah Crombie is a wonderful author – one of my all time favorites. I have been through her Kincaid/James series numerous times, and each time, I marvel at how she continues to evolve and improve as a writer. Her ability to weave complex plotlines and to develop interesting, complex characters has grown. Crombie began as a good mystery writer, but has evolved into a first-rate novelist.
And, in my opinion, Garden of Lamentations is her best one yet!
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Barry Fairbrother – a 40 something member of the Pagford parish council – is dead. Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, is a character study of at least nine families, using reactions to Barry Fairbrother’s death as its genesis.
J.K. Rowling is a master at character development. I always admired the development of her characters in Harry Potter, and I have fallen in love with Cormoran Strike, the hero of the mystery series that she writes as Robert Galbraith. As I was experiencing Cormoran Strike withdraw, after finishing the last book published in that series, I decided to try Casual Vacancy, even though my recollection was that it had received a tepid reception when it was published.
Although Rowling’s trademark character development runs through Casual Vacancy, it differs from her other novels in that there is no mystery or adventure directing the plot. Perhaps because of this, at first I found Casual Vacancy to be slow – so slow, in fact, that it seemed exaggerated. But, it was not long before these characters hooked me and dragged me into their world.
Casual Vacancy is so dark – at first I wondered if Rowling exaggerated the darkness, intending it as a metaphor. But, I think instead that she has captured the true, dark side of humanity. In this book, we are confronted with Rowling’s insight into the side of people at which most of us do not want to look.
Casual Vacancy is a very interesting book involving small town living with big time issues. I came to admire these people. I loved the growth some characters showed and was saddened by the tragic events that unfolded. This is not an escapist book – but, it is a well written, fascinating character study.