Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Doesn’t it have a lovely cover?

Unfortunately, it’s entirely inappropriate for the tone and style of the novel. I should have paid more attention to another edition’s comparison to Ocean’s Eleven, which is not my genre, and the comparison to Robin Hood at all is pushing it.

They should have stuck with this one:

burning city cover

Problem was, I hated Locke. Didn’t find him the least bit charming, and yet I don’t think I was supposed to see him as a sociopath, though I’m fairly sure he was. Surely Locke’s genius should have provided some consolation? Only it felt like an informed attribute: everyone’s always just so impressed by Locke, and we spend so much time going on about his various gambits (’cause he’s a genius), I just got bored.

You might ask: if you see so much of his planning, how can his intelligence be an informed attribute? Because I don’t remember any scenes of Locke working to figure it out. Have you ever watched Sherlock? Even the consulting detective himself has to stop and put all the clues together, but as I recall, most of Locke’s brilliance was recounted after the fact.

That could be unfair. Still, what with Locke-as-protagonist, and this terrible, terrible world, the novel felt too self-satisfied. It reveled in all the ugliness and gore.

But I didn’t care about anyone! All the side characters were one-dimensional, especially the significant ones—which is just as well, considering they amounted to nothing more than motivation fodder for Locke. Yes, there was a lot of graphic violence, but it didn’t serve the story. Now, I’m not opposed to violence or gore in books, but it was so over the top, I occasionally snorted in amusement before I could stop myself (which makes me feel like a terrible person).

I suppose I liked Doña Vorchenza and Sophia(?). Unfortunately, I can’t remember much about them.

There’s my real trouble right there. Because I didn’t like Locke, I kept putting the book down; every time I put the book down, I forgot what was going on, who was who, and why I should care. Also, related to that, the pacing felt choppy. I read this on my nook, and the segments were all really short, and—this can’t be faulted to the author—after every section break, the first paragraph was formatted in a larger font. It very much seemed to drag anything out.

I can see why others like this book: if you don’t despise Locke, you won’t be as distracted from the plot like I was, and there is a lot of it. I honestly can’t think of how to put the positives, but if this is your thing, please go and read it.

But if, like me, you saw the cover, but not Ocean’s Eleven, just know what you’re getting into, and be prepared for a long, digressing set-up and conventional plot.

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You are a Lying Liar who Lies!

 

Sorry to accuse, but I’m sure you can’t help it. You’re human, after all.

 

Unless you’re invading aliens, in which case you may as well skip this post, because it probably won’t help you out in your conquest, or even in translating humanity, at all.

 

Anyway, we’ve discovered the television in the living room can connect directly to Netflix, and I’ve been watching it much more often, and you know, I pay for it. So that’s good. It also gives me time to knit and I’ve nearly finished the back of my first top!

 

This time, my recommended tags include: Barack Obama, United States, Mitt Romney, Maryland, Stephanie Cutter, Joe Biden, People, and History.

 

 

I is amused.

 

Mostly because, though I am accusing everyone of being a liar, it’s in relation to the TV show Lie to Me, hence the reference to Netflix. It’s not a great show, honestly, but at least it’s fun to watch. Lie to Me has another Sherlock Holmes–style character, at least in that the character has been such an enduring influence on our culture. The idea is, he can automatically tell you’re lying because Science.

 

It seems to be about on the level of every other show using Science to solve crimes. Or Numb3rs. Yes, I like that show too. Sorry, scientists, the silly conclusions and far-reaching fantasy conclusions do not stop me from watching fake science crime dramas—at least I won’t watch the CSIs…except sometimes when they’re particularly funny.

 

Back to Lie to Me. It’s a little harder to talk about because, despite having seen six episodes, I don’t know any of the character names. Anyway, so you have the genius-jerk type character, his Girl Friday, the weird guy, the new girl, and the secretary. Secretary, her name is Heidi, hardly shows up, and the weird guy takes awhile to get screen-time during the set up, but now is a foil for the new girl. The new girl is fun, but surely can’t have decent relationships outside of work, even if we haven’t seen that at all, because she doesn’t seem very clearly with humanity, except for identifying emotions. I like Girl Friday, she’s got back story and fun quirks. Main character, as I said, is a typical genius jerk, snarky, ought to get sued for harassment, can quell any naysayer with just one quip. These shows never acknowledge how attached people are to their opinions whether or not they’re caught.

 

Hotch on Criminal Minds did it better though. Mostly because he’s not a jerk, but because calling out the lawyer in the courtroom played with concepts of hubris and poetic justice

 

 

Not that Lie to Me isn’t trying to do the same thing, but the main character is supposed to pull it off every episode, and it’s less impressive that way. Also, they telegraph the guilty party a lot, and you generally know the answer as soon as the character comes on-screen. The fun comes from seeing how they’ll tease out the truth. It is nice that just because they can see a lie, they can’t necessarily force the truth.

 

A little less inerrancy, perhaps, in drawing conclusions would be nice. The characters are always right when they interpret the ‘micro-expressions.’ I are aware that these things exist but it’s not a straightforward science and there are, or should be, more ways of going wrong.

 

No, instead they’re always right. And lying is bad regardless of situation or intent.

 

For instance, I recently read about a Japanese social construct tatemae. That particular website compared it to a ‘social reality:’ for instance, when you go through the grocery store checkout line and the clerk asks how you are, you say ‘fine,’ well, unless you’re particularly socially inept or just a selfish jerk. The article I read described tatemae as similar to the white lie, but without the Western connection toward a lie: in other words, a necessary truth for social life. When trying to find that article again, I also found another article that defined it as pretense and considered it problematic.

 

That second article does make a very good point on the social scale, but in discussing Lie to Me, I want to discuss the idea that whole-scale truth isn’t necessarily a good idea. For instance, there’s no need for the woman at the end of the first episode to admit she’s glad to have gotten another candidate fired, except to cause bad blood—as if the workplace needs any more of that.

 

Culturally, in the US anyway, I don’t think our problem is increased lying, but the lying is a symptom of our overall lack of..dare I call it ‘honor’. People don’t care about how their actions, for example, cheating, plagiarizer  lying, cause problems for others and are more willing to break social norms for personal gain. A consequence, I think, of our idealization of individualism. The problem comes down to lack of ethics, and not more lying. But I’m supposed to be talking about a television show where people have already started lying, and this fictional corporation has to determine the truth.

 

Which, is, in part, the reason for the awkward nature of the show. The main character apparently started this company, and every episode they’re hired to solve two problems, often criminally related. So they have no investment except to find the Truth. Conceivably, if the client doesn’t go alone with them, the human lie-detectors could just walk away. Also, I’m not sure how they’re paid.

 

I don’t know. Several how-to writer’s books insist the protagonist must have high personal stake in the plot, otherwise the reader will question why they don’t just quit when it gets hard. Aside from that not being a desirable trait, fictionally or otherwise, it’s a valid concern. Why shouldn’t the characters of Lie to Me not walk away?

 

Heh. It’s not a question that the show asks, and it definitely doesn’t support it. That’s just what happens when I go off on a tangent. It’s a fun show to watch though. As I knit more this winter, it’ll definitely be on in the background.

 

Review: The Cloud Sketcher

The Cloud SketcherThe Cloud Sketcher by Richard Rayner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t hate Esko, but I do find him distasteful. I don’t like his relationship with Katerina, because she’s just not there — as a character, she simply can’t support Esko’s obsession. Esko’s story is told in close, close third person, but all Rayner can do is repeat endlessly how fascinated by Katerina Esko is. But she has no particular quality of any kind that really seems interesting enough. And given the back story Rayner offers? It seems somewhat obscene. I should care about her, for that very reason. I hope that isn’t why she has such a back story, all for the plot point.

Is it because Rayner wants to show the horror of war? Just how bad things got? It feels unreal, though, it feels like a device. Katerina doesn’t really show any signs of being effected, or at least Esko can’t see them.

Perhaps that’s what the story is about. Creepy-stalker Esko’s obsesson with a woman who is ultimately shallow. Or whatever her true story, Esko can’t isn’t seeing her, he’s seeing this fantasy of wealth that he built as a poor abandoned child. Still, I’the text hasn’t really given me any reason to truly belive that, and I can’t quite figure out why.

It’s a ‘telling’ sort of book though, because Esko is a thoughtful, analytic guy, or I assume he must be, because that’s all he does: think at the audience and analysis every little thing unless he comes to an actual insight that might actually move the plot, such as it is, too soon. Esko’s narration also feels terribly passive, and yet he is a driving force in his own life. As reactive as his thoughts are, it reads like things happen to him instead.

Needless to say, I find this a very disappointing novel.

And I’m not sure architecture works in-text. On paper, in two dimensions, all that’s left is the visual, and at least Rayner doesn’t start giving dimensions. But there’s only so many ways to talk about buildings, and none of them are particularly visual, unless you are already familiar with the architecture. It might be easier for these digressions to be from the perspective of a character who doesn’t know architecture, because he or she could offer concrete detail, not knowing the jargon. But Esko only talks in jargon, and reminds the audience again and again about how awesome modern architecture is, but I don’t see it and I don’t care.

Rayner has also failed at giving me any particularly strong impression of early 1900s Finland, or 1920s New York. Sure there are props as he talks about the atmosphere, I can’t feel it, or sense it. Because when the character is just telling the reader how he feels, as opposed to what’s there giving him those feelings, it’s hard for a reader to get the same impression.

Still, I hope there’s something to tie all this together at the end. I’m okay with protagonists I don’t like, though usually because there is at least a side character who’s interesting: Esko has several, though Rayner keeps killing them off. But I love the idea behind this novel, Finnish history, architecture, even a character growing beyond obsessions. But it seems to be a story about fate, and a narrator too genre-savvy to even make the journey interesting.

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Fan is Short for Fanatic, You Know

Not that it’s inherently a bad thing, of course, given that I’m a fan of a great many things.  I often cross the line into obsession, just a little bit. That doesn’t mean I blame other people for liking things I don’t. And that the creators probably have a different agenda than I do.

For an example I didn’t plan on using, Hawaii 5-0 (the new one) has decided to jump genres from quasi-police drama to extreme Super Spies! (this choice I don’t get so much).

However, many fans are complaining about the season premier of NCIS because they blew up the building last season’s finale and then wrapped up a plot line taking at least three months in less than an hour. While I missed the potential for character development and hurt/comfort, the writers aren’t thinking about it from a fan’s perspective. I also wonder if they understand fan angst after such a dramatic event: like that TV show that shot a main character and made the entire season a dream. It’s kind of a cop-out.

In the case of NCIS, though, a lot of time wrapping up last season’s plot probably would distract and tedious for regular television watchers. If you don’t obsess over a show, how are you supposed to keep all the necessary back story straight? The generally episodic nature of NCIS probably explains much of its longevity (and lack of on-screen shipping—offend no one, engage everyone!).

Have you heard the term ‘shipping’? I could link you, but you may want to preserve your innocence.

English: Shipping dock in Hawaii

Not this kind of shipping [Shipping dock in Hawaii] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suffice to say, it’s the point where many fans start slipping the line to fanatic. People get passionate about which characters have relationships and who they have them with. I find the intensity odd, but since I read primarily non-relationship works (called ‘gen’), I don’t bother with it. More insidiously, some less than level-headed fans direct their attentions to just one character. Of course, they’re writing fan fictions, or participating on forums, and they are incapable of sympathetic reasoning toward any other character, cannot under any circumstances recognize on-show teasing, and refuse to recognize their character could possibly have any flaws.

Perhaps this explains Twilight. Despite all the flaws written into both Edward and Bella’s characters, when viewed objectively (snobbery, jealousy, possessiveness), because they are never explicitly stated in-text as flaws, and indeed, are written as virtues, people who enjoy the series can’t stand to hear that anyone dislikes what they  love.

Clearly there is a failure to teach critical thinking.

Just because I like McGee, for example, best of the characters on NCIS, doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that all his flaws are non-existent. Like all the characters, he suffers from inconsistencies  what with all the years and all its producers, NCIS isn’t a show built for canon purists.

But so many people can’t seem to accept this at all. They attack other fans, other fan-works and they can’t believe their prejudices aren’t supported by evidence: to the point where they can’t even participate in a reasonable discussion. For instance, NCIS takes little seriously, it’s a funny show. But Tony fans take every single joke as an assault on his character, regardless of whether the character takes any particular notice. I should also note this trend holds steady with any show, any character.

Fans can be the best at the ‘question anything’ mentality, coming up with wild theories to make sense of plot holes or reused actors playing different roles. Critical thinking begins with asking questions, but when fans find a pet theory and stop asking, it defeats the purpose. It’s not ‘thinking’ anymore, it’s delusion.

Review: The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

http://www.ferretbrain.com/articles/article-295

Dan says it pretty much exactly how I wish I could.

Update:

There may be spoilers?

I think the best way to respond to this book is by naming as many ways that I thought it could have been improved while reading it.

Firstly, this book is, in essence, structured through a frame narrative: We are introduced to an innkeeper, Kote, and several local villagers. They aren’t important (although two show up at the very, very end so you need to keep track anyway). Mysterious bad things show up that the incredulous locals do not believe in, but Kote goes out and slaughters the not-demons anyway, because he knows better. Unfortunately for Kote, a famed storyteller (or something) shows up and announces he knows of Kote’s secret past as Kvothe, the Hero who is so Heroic most people don’t believe he really existed, despite the fact that his heroics took place not even five years ago.

Don’t ask me.

So Kvothe gives in to the storyteller and agrees to tell his story. For some reason this skinny guy with no particular prowess or even equivalent intellectual power still outmaneuvers the hero. Well, the reason is otherwise we wouldn’t have the story, short of it being written entirely in first person. Turns out Kvothe was born a genius–a proper genius, not just smart, but literally brilliant–into some kind of travelling entertainment troupe. His parents loved him and he ended up with a tutor in magic who is put on a bus and as yet not heard from again. He gets a lot of page time for such an abrupt dismissal, but there you are. Then the parents and the rest of the troupe are murdered by the Chandrian, which is ostensibly Kvothe’s driving motive. Except the 11-year-old Kvothe instead runs away to the forest for a year, then to the city for three more.

At which point we reach a major theme of the novel which is, if you aren’t poor like Kvothe, you can never have any idea what it means to be poor like Kvothe. Though since this is a fiction book, I rather expect it to teach me what it means to be that poor, rather than simply insisting I don’t know what it’s like. Especially since Kvothe doesn’t particularly seem to suffer from being poor. Seriously, he’s an urchin in an urban medieval-type city, that should be awful.

Anyway, Kvothe finally decides not be be desperately poor anymore and goes to the magic school, where he is just so brilliant they let him, even though they have absolutely no reason too: no money, no recommendation. He’s just That Good. And he makes friends with a few other guys who are kinda at the bottom rung as well (maybe: they all get names and a bit of page-space, but not much and I kept forgetting who they were). And then he antagonizes the queen (king?) bee of the school, Ambrose, whose father is uber-rich and powerful and crushes anyone who doesn’t like his son because he has nothing better to do? Kvothe is supposed to be astute and good with people and a super genius–I have no idea why he couldn’t not be stupid about this or stand up to him in any other way: suffice to stay it’s a stupid conflict that really doesn’t match anything else and comes up too fast and lasts too long.

At this point the novel goes on: Kvothe is an incredible, transformative musician, great at magic of both types (I’m not sure what the difference is), builds perfect devices that even when illegal or ill-advised are still allowed, meets girls whole love him for no good reason and goes places and does things none of which made much impression. Go read Dan’s article again, he does a much better job overall. I’m just bored remembering it.

So how could this have worked?

1) It would have been awesome if Kote the badass innkeeper was 50-60 years old rather than his mid-twenties. For one thing, it would have been a lot more impressive, and make his world-weary ennui far more understandable and even heartbreaking. (Rothfuss handles his prose skillfully, if not his subject matter).

2) What if young Kvothe hadn’t been born a genius? A good third of his problematic characterization would have been solved right there!

2.5) Young Kvothe’s storyline would be far more effective it had taken place over, say, a minimum of twenty years. Again, because he’s not a genius, his school takes longer and he has to undergo actual struggle to learn proper magic–he could have still had a unusual flair for creative spellcasting or something that makes his work Better Than Yours, but he wouldn’t be infuriatingly precocious and get away with all that he does. He might have actually learned and grown while on the streets of the city, rather than unaccountably simply deciding he doesn’t want to be a street rat anymore. His school years (because it would have taken years) would mean he’d have to actually figure out how the system worked and how the master’s related to each other and what the back stories of the school and characters are before he could a) figure out how to manipulate it all to his advantage and b) without simply being told just because. Also, again: he’d have to expend actual effort.

3) There wouldn’t be the slightly skeevy romantic relationships. Kvothe isn’t supposed to know how to deal with women (although after living such a distrustful life on the streets during such a crucial point in his development, how does he know how to deal with people at all?), and yet, he’s got at least three who ‘admire’ him. There’s Denna, who’s his One True Love, which we know because he meets her first, at which point there’s nothing at all to indicate that they have chemistry, and they never do, but he finds her sexually exciting: very Nice Guy syndrome, no one else could treat her as well, they have conversations! etc. There’s the blonde (?) girl who’s a money-lender, who breaks her own lending rules for him just ’cause. And then there’s the psychologically damaged girl who lives under the school and for some reason will only trust Kvothe, because he plays the best music. But I can’t forget the one Ambrose is lusting after, but who has to look to Kvothe for protection because, despite being presented as perfectly competent (other than later setting herself on fire) won’t stand up to Ambrose’s father. She’s the damsel in distress. It’s exceedingly depressing.

Conclusion: If Kvothe wasn’t a genius the story would have had to take much longer and time-wise wouldn’t be so compressed. Old Kote would be old and a lot more impressive. And he wouldn’t be such a Stu that while reading I wouldn’t be twitching right out of my chair, which is so terribly undignified.

I have NO IDEA why I liked this book. None. But the prose was pretty. So the pacing must have been pretty good too, since never got so much of Kvothe that I couldn’t finish, which by any normal laws of the universe, shouldn’t have happened.

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Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Obviously I haven’t posted in a while. So, since I’m not writing much at all, I think for now I’ll just share reviews from my goodreads page, especially since this one got so long.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I was reading, this book didn’t earn more than two stars, and barely that, but after I set it down, I felt I should give it three. Why?

Well, first, this book is shelved under “Mystery” at the local library, and not YA. And I don’t think it’s meant to be young adult, despite the 11-year-old heroine. Yes, she’s young, but the story construction follows adult mystery series tropes pretty much by rote, and it simply doesn’t *feel* like a YA read. (Sorry, it’s been a few days since I read it, so I don’t know what I mean by that.)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is your straightforward mystery series start with a *twist*! Flavia, the main character, is 11 years old. And she loves chemistry.

That conceit convinced me to check it out. But the execution lost my suspension of disbelief. I wanted to believe: when Flavia’s sisters tell her that she was adopted and claim their mother brought baby pictures to the orphanage for reference, it was a genuine sibling prank. We told my youngest brother he was dropped off by aliens, but the orphanage story is good. However, that’s all we get in the sibling relationship department for more than 300 pages. While Flavia has exactly one instance of sisterly affection, it’s over in just a few pages. For a first person novel, Flavia has remarkably limited reflection or concern.

Which brings me to the main problem I had with this novel. Flavia sounds less like a girl fascinated by chemistry, and more like a sociopath. See, when I read “eleven-year-old Flavia, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison,” I thought she just liked the sciences. Instead, Bradley seems to have meant a child genius. Except, even for a genius, Flavia has few emotional reactions to anything. And as for a mystery-type story about a child sociopath? I Am Not A Serial Killer did it better. And yes, I think she’s a sociopath. She literally terrorizes her sister Daphne by shoving her around on the library ladder; when Daphne says “‘Sometimes you scare me,'” Flavia considers replying that she sometimes scares herself, but “then [she] remembered that silence can sometimes do more damage than words.” p 129. That she truly frightened her sister doesn’t bother her at all, especially since she can use it to her advantage. If she’d had even a momentary regret, ever…

Flavia does not read like a real child. Not because she’s too cynical (that could be done well), but because Bradley finds it necessary to keep reminding the reader at least every other page. If, after Flavia blew off her sister near the end, she still felt some vestige of affection, I might not have been so bother. This is a a series; maybe Bradley just doesn’t want to bother with actual character development.

It’s not just Flavia. Overall, the characters are weak. The supporting characters:

  • Father: distant, likes stamps
  • Harriet: dead mother (hopefully sequel bait, otherwise her presence in Flavia’s narration is far too intrusive)
  • Ophelia: oldest sister, attractive, plays piano
  • Daphne: middle sister, reads melodrama (therefore wants to be a writer & melodramatic), irrelevant
  • Various villagers: quirky and deliver plot points
  • Inspector Hewitt: required skeptical detective
  • Dogger: the faithful dog (only he’s supposed to be a person; his character really bothered me by the end)

To switch it up, let’s talk about the mystery. As I said, this fits perfectly well into the traditional model of the cozy mystery, or is at least a subset of that genre. I don’t read a lot of any particular genres, and it’s been a while since I read a lot of the mystery genre particularly. However, I’d say The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is fairly good mystery read. There isn’t really a lot of suspense, and the guilty party was pretty obvious as soon as he popped up, but Flavia does lots of nosing and poking around, as befits any amateur detective.

I’ve been complaining a lot, but that’s probably where this book earned the third star. If you are willing to accept Flavia’s character, you’ll probably find it an enjoyable read. I don’t want to sound like your undiscerning reader if you accept her, I’m just even more cynical than she is. 😉

But Flavia does have it too easy. No one objects to Flavia, whether they ought to or not, even whether they have reason or not. Any difficulty she might have with a witness is resolved with in a few paragraphs. Mary Stoker works at the inn where the victim stayed, and Flavia needs her help. Apparently someone “crept up behind her” at the inn, and it reads like an assault of some kind, and at any rate, Mary is uncomfortable with it, and Flavia tries to use it against her. Maryalso resents Flavia for class differences and her sister Ophelia. And there’s this passage:

I detected instantly that she didn’t like me. It’s a fact of life that a girl can tell in a flash if another girl likes her. …Between girls there is a silent and unending flow of invisible signals, like the high-frequency wireless messages between the shore and the ships at sea, and this secret flow of dots and dashes was signaling that Mary detested me (p 85).

But because Flavia is the main character, Mary just rolls over and offers the information she needs, risking her job to do so. Because Flavia is spunky.

(Also, because I am female, and Bradley is a middle-aged man, that block quote bothers me for other reasons.)

Back to Flavia’s lack of opposition. She’s allowed in the jail to see her father because she bullies Inspector Hewitt (who is by the way, otherwise the most convincing character, mostly because he tries to oppose Flavia). Her father gives in, and gives her a full account of his back story, because she can’t find it any other way (which is to say, Bradley can’t write around it, but I found the set up unconvincing). Dr. Kissing has that last piece of the puzzle Flavia needs to solve the mystery, but doesn’t approve of woman. He’s also in a nursing home. However, he knows all the circumstances (so Flavia doesn’t have to recap for him) and forgives her for being female because she insults her sister? I’m not sure why Bradley felt it necessary to make getting information so easy for Flavia, but I would much rather have read about her struggle to be a detective in an adult world, while actually being a child, not getting an automatic pass.

</spoiler>

Also, Flavia is something of a brat. Should you know her in real life, she’d be terribly unlikable, perhaps why I never warmed up to her, since I probably would have been her victim.

Which reminds me: Flavia considers herself a chemist. She’s such an awesome chemist that she never has any problems with her chemistry, such as blowing things up, or poisoning herself (at least, not by the time this novel takes place). But I thought I remembered something about how she didn’t like general reading. And she wasn’t supposed to know much about the village. Yet throughout the novel, Flavia constantly makes literary references of all sorts, and knows all kinds of village history, at least until she interacts with another character, and needs another clue for the scavenger hunt of a mystery.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie supposedly takes place 1950 at “Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home.” Despite that setting, Bradley included remarkably little atmosphere. His descriptions are serviceable, but failed to make me feel like I was there. Half the time, I forgot this wasn’t supposed to take place today.

One last note. First person can be an artificial point-of-view choice, especially in the past tense. Because the reader is in the head of the narrator, but the narrator has obviously already been through the experiences they’re narrating. So where’s the suspense? Usually, I’m willing enough to accept the premise, though I tend not to like first person in general. This novel has something of an odd first person premise: at times Flavia seems to be reflecting as her older self, but it’s also presented with immediacy (she doesn’t have the benefit of future knowledge).

This:

Was I jealous of Ophelia’s memories? Did I resent them? I don’t believe I did; it ran far deeper than that. In rather an odd way, I despised Ophelia’s memories of our mother (p 4).

versus this:

Ten o’clock had come and gone, and still I couldn’t sleep. Mostly, when the light’s out I’m a lump of lead, but tonight was different. I lay on my back, hands clasped behind my head, reviewing the day (p 22)

unless talking about her characterization. Bradley tends to use the discrepancy to characterize Flavia’s quirkiness, but it tends to stop the plot and it simply isn’t very vivid.

Overall, despite the difference in age, Flavia really is a fairly typical heroine of the series mystery. The mystery is traditional, and I think works well enough for its genre. If you like series mysteries on the more “cozy” side, you might like this. And I confess, it does have a nice title.

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Pretty Boys

But not always.

Samuel Vimes as he appears in The Pratchett Po...

Image via Wikipedia

Not all my favorite characters, television show or otherwise, are attractive.

Sam Vimes up there, of course, is not supposed to be attractive. Terry Pratchett builds incredible ensemble casts of the most awesome characters ever, but Vimes steals the show even when it isn’t his book. Particularly in Monstrous Regiment.

Old Stoneface Vimes happens to be the main character of the Guards series, which is something that is a little unusual for me. Most of my favorite anythings feature an ensemble casts, but especially those one television. NCIS: Los Angeles, Criminal Minds, Warehouse 13, even Supernatural counts, though especially for the first season or so Dean and Sam were practically one character.

Now, my favorite characters in those shows are often the geeky and/or goofy one. Spencer Reid (CM), Pete (Warehouse), sort of Sam (S). Now, Castiel from Supernatural, like Sam Vimes transcends his genre into something of a pinnacle of, of…well, coolness, at the very least.

“The Voice says I’m almost out of minutes”

or

Hooray, hooray, it’s a wonderful day, for I have found my cow!

 

Oct.31:

Image via Wikipedia

You know who fits this personal trope? Sherlock Holmes, from Sherlock. That has to be clarified to the BBC show, because in the 2009 movie, Watson definitely came out ahead. But, well, at least so far this season, I completely love Sherlock. While the dark curly hair definitely helps, it’s got to be his sheer obliviousness to, well, humanity; the intensity of his quirks, how they echo the original character; and his snark. I come from a sarcastic family, and all these British television shows make me want to live there.

So Benedict Cumberbatch has the best name I’ve ever heard, but is a little odd looking. His face is definitely dramatic—or maybe it’s just emphasized by the cinematography, which throws him into dramatic shadows at every possible opportunity.

And, rewatching the first episode (the only one I’ve seen) I must also say he (the actor) reminds me of Spock. Nimoy’s Spock. Who, considering that even in the original show, I would probably consider old—well, it is all relative! He’s definitely old now. But watching the original series of Star Trek, I confess I developed a bit of a crush. Only a little one, because he was old. Or seemed old.

Also, I’m just vulnerable to the smart types.

Going back to dear Sam Vimes, who does not consider himself intelligent at all, and really isn’t so much in the conventional IQ hierarchy of intelligence, but knows his city and its people. And has the best development of  any fictional character I’ve ever read—especially from a series character! Usually in long-lasting series, characters have to stay somewhat static so that the later books don’t leave the readers behind, so they know what to expect. Being that Pratchett writes satiric fantasy, I suppose the world has to develop

But I shouldn’t go on. Because I can. I love Terry Pratchett. If I had the stamina, I would totally have gone on to get my master’s and Ph.D. just to write a thesis and dissertation on his work. Because he is awesome.

Castiel (Supernatural)

(Castiel is played by Misha Collins, who is also awesome. In Supernatural‘s “The Rapture” he played two different Castiel’s. And overall, the character of Castiel (who is always an angel, but gets into different manifestations and alternate universes) and they are all so different, it’s amazing. Apparently his Twitter followers are called Misha’s minions. I am one. He is hilarious. And before I’d ever heard of him, I’d named my car Mesha…it’s fate! or I’m up too late.)