Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review--The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

    If The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie sounds familiar, it is... Tessa has already reviewed this book, giving Alan Bradley's mystery a glowing write up. I am with her on this one... if you are a fan of Agatha Christie and British settings, in general, then you will enjoy this light-hearted and clever whodunit.
   Though the author is American, he manages to craft a story that is decidedly British, in both the setting and the tone.
    Flavia de Luce is a girl to be reckoned with, and her intelligence and quick wit drive the story. Humor abounds, as do skilled twists and turns in this sophisticated mystery. Our heroine is not above the odd practical joke, and her freakish knowledge of poisons makes her slightly dangerous. Though only eleven, Miss Flavia jumps off the page as a mature, well-rounded character, who patrols the small village of Bishop's Lacey on her beloved bike, Gladys. Flanked by two sisters, Ophelia (Feely) and Daphne (Daffy), one a self-absorbed beauty, the other a bookish recluse, Flavia shines... and so does this first of what I hope will be many more entertaining puzzles.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review--A Discovery of Witches

    On first blush,  as I began A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, I feared a revival of Twilight, and I came close to fleeing in disgust. I didn't think I could face that kind of story again. But, my (now familiar, if you read my last post) 50 page rule still in effect, I stuck with it. Don't misunderstand; there are similarities, as clearly Ms. Harkness was eager to just on the paranormal romance bandwagon, but A Discovery of Witches succeeded in "sucking" me in (sorry, couldn't help it, what with the hot vampire and all).
    More sophisticated that Bella Swann's adventures, this tale strives to be mature and intellectual, and it helps that the heroine is a witch, not some teen girl who has no gumption of her own. Unfortunately, the author couldn't help but fall into the trap of a "damsel in distress" story, where the gorgeous, fiendishly smart vampire sweeps her off her feet in an overprotective manner to save the day.
    But, Diana, the witch with hidden powers beyond her imaginings, manages to hold her own, though she does turn to jelly at the sight of her blood-sucking paramour. Daemons, witches, and vampires, oh my... A Discovery of Witches was fun... simple, but fun, though this genre is clearly played out. All in all, I would call it a spring break beach book. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Two contrasting reviews--Bad book-vs-good book

    I don't know about you, but I have a book rule for myself... I make myself read at least 50 pages of a book before I am allowed to decide to set it aside. And even then, especially since starting this blog, I often force myself to complete a less-than-stellar read, since, frankly, bad reviews are fun to write. Also, paying attention to why I don't like a book, helps me to avoid those same pitfalls as I write my own stories.
    Occasionally, though, a book comes along that is simply so terrible that I can barely hold out for those first 50 pages. Contrastingly, from time to time, there is a book that I breeze through on a second reading, simply because I find it so enjoyable.
    Falling into the first category is the book, Altar of Bones, by Phillip Carter. This book was so dismal and so painful, that committing to those required 50 pages was a real feat. How this kind of book--for there are many more just like it--ever finds a publisher, I'll never know. This book ended up in our house as a forgotten artifact from someone's airplane trip, and I pity the poor soul who had only this book for entertainment while traveling. I hope the in-flight movie selection provided an option. Cheap, trashy, crude, and shallow, Altar of Bones deserves no further comments except that it ended up in the dumpster--and I do not throw away books lightly.
    The second book, the one that warranted a second reading from me, was The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This book, which you know, unless you are living under a rock, is about to hit Hollywood in a big way. Though not fine literature, the story is captivating on many levels, packing a punch and managing to carry a heavy moral message, all while being as entertaining as hell. I am a fan of dystopian novels, though the concept is rarely handled so well. Since, again, you'd have to be living under a rock to have not heard about this book, I am not going to say much more, except that you have one week to read it before the movie reviews reveal all the spoilers.
   That's all for now--off to tackle another the first 50 pages of another book... or two, come what may. I'll report back soon!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

         The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, is a delightful mystery featuring a perfectly precocious sleuth/mad scientist, Flavia De Luce. At only eleven, Flavia is a gifted chemist with a penchant for poison, who, it just so happens, is a fair hand at solving a mystery. Set in the 50’s, I liked the relaxed, old fashioned (and very British!) feel that this book had. There was also a bit of humor, which I appreciated. I really loved Flavia, who was absolutely wonderful. She was whip-smart, sharp-tongued, and just reckless enough to get into some sticky situations. I loved the dynamics between Flavia and her sisters. As for the mystery, while I developed a fairly accurate hunch early on in the book, it was still quite interesting, and kept me guessing on some points. It was very entertaining to follow Flavia as she raced all over the town on her bicycle, Gladys, looking for clues. Overall, I thought this was a fun, fast-paced read. I certainly breezed through it! If you like a good mystery with a charming young detective at its heart, then you will enjoy The sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.