Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde expertly delves into the Y.A. genre with the first book in his Chronicles of Kazam. Not only does Fforde put magic into this world (a popular Y.A. theme these days) but he also covers relevant issues for readers - preserving the environment, making ethical decisions, etc.

Like all Fforde series the world we find ourselves in here is an alternate version of today with enough similarity to our present to feel familiar even with significant differences. In this world, the ununited nations are at a time of relative peace having lost many during the Troll Wars. Magic is dwindling and once-great magicians have been relegated to rewiring homes without pulling the wires out of the walls. Jennifer Strange, at just 15-years-old, runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, a cross between a retirement community and a talent agency for magicians. Running Kazam complete occupies Strange's life until the premonition of the last dragon being slayed by a dragonslayer starts popping up everywhere.

From there, things pick up pretty quickly for Strange and life as she knows it gets even more complicated than it was before. When not fending off death threats, marriage proposals, and sponsorship deals Strange becomes the last dragonslayer faced with doing a job she doesn't feel right about. She simply doesn't want to have to kill anything let alone the very last dragon.

Then, there's the mysterious spike in magic and whispers among the magicians of Big Magic returning - a total game-changer.

As always with Fforde, the characters are all unique and interesting from their very names (Tiger Prawns is my favorite) down to their personalities. Nothing boring around here, but then how could things be boring with magic in the world and a dragon to battle? The best thing about all the characters is how human they feel. They're imperfect, confused, good-hearted, conniving; simply human. Magic hasn't transformed them into characters who rely solely on their power to achieve their goals. Decisions have to made and outcomes have to be worked for. Even the dragon feels human-like by the end.

I know I've been reading a lot of Y.A. fiction lately and a lot of Fforde as well, but I still must recommend this book. It was a great adventure and I look forward to the next installment as it slowly paddles its way across the 'Pond.'

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs

As a big fan of the TV Show, Bones, I decided I should read at least one book in the series that inspired the show. I watch the show because I like the characters so much and because of the science used to solve the crime each week. I knew there would be some differences between the show and the book but I didn't realize how many.

Let me first say that, like the show, the book was very clinical in its descriptions. Unfortunately, it takes a lot longer to muddle through a written, jargon-filled, clinical explanation than it does to watch it on TV. I found the technical explanations in the book got in the way of the action; you lose the momentum of the scene.

However, Reichs is good at the slow build necessary in a suspense novel. We meet Temperance Brennan working in Canada as a forensic anthropologist. Female bodies start coming in with enough similarities to put Brennan on the track of a potential serial killer, but the police don't believe her. In an effort to prove her hypothesis about the murders, Brennan starts investigating on her own, gets into trouble, and becomes a target for the killer herself. While some of the action is a little predictable, the book definitely got my heart racing in a few places.

It was really the characters that bothered me most and is the primary reason why I won't be delving into this series. Brennan in the show is actually a much better character than Brennan in the book. She's just too vulnerable in the book, too prone to emotional overload. I like the steadier version of the character we see on TV. Then, because the story takes place in Canada, there's no Booth. There's a Booth-esque character in that, of all the police, he's most inclined to listen to Brennan and she keeps checking out his butt so there's an attraction there too. More central in the story is Claudel - an extremely rude investigator whose prejudice against Brennan just doesn't match up to her high level of qualifications for the work she's doing. Claudel is too much of a hater.

Overall, this is a good, procedural crime suspense novel. It has all the components - murder, mystery, surprises, danger, etc. - so if you go into reading it with just a scientific interest in crime and no preconceived notions stemming from a TV show, you'll do just fine.