Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: Bedlam...Or Not

I received The Bedlam Detective as an uncorrected proof awhile ago. It became available for sale February 7, 2012.

The cover:

Written by Stephen Gallagher, this book has a great title and an interesting premise. Essentially, the title refers to Sebastian Becker, a former Pinkerton detective who is now barely making ends meet in a destitute section of London. His current job is to meet with rich people whose sanity has been questioned, reporting information to a superior who ultimately decides whether these rich people will be allowed to continue living on their own and making their own decisions, or placed in a cushy asylum.

While investigating a gentleman named Sir Owain in a small England town, Sebastian stumbles across the disappearance (which is ultimately discovered to be the murder) of two little girls. The little girls were violated on the moor in a manner that resembles the previous treatment of two little girls years before.

The story line is pretty interesting, but the writing is not. The author tried too hard to make the characters likable and full fleshed, and ultimately ended up adding many scenes and much information that was not necessary. I also felt as though the author tried to make the novel historically accurate, yet failed; the novel feels inauthentic.

I also did not like that Sebastian does a lot of investigating in the novel, but ultimately, I did not feel that the solution to the mystery was something the reader could figure out. There simply were not enough clues that were relevant to the murder itself.

Overall, I'm not sure what the author's intent in writing this novel was. It's not a horrible novel; it's just not very good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Born Wicked

I believe this book is now available to purchase, but I received Born Wicked, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, as an advanced reader copy. The book is by Jessica Spotswood, and along with a great title, has a girl who is potentially in her underclothing on the cover --

Born Wicked is a fiction that takes place in an alternate history. In this novel's world, the time is the late nineteenth century, the place is New England, and the problem is a world full of witches and rules. This review will have spoilers, so if you are interested in actually reading the novel, you can skip down to the last paragraph to read my summary.

The Cahill Witches are three sisters. This book primarily focused on the eldest sister, Kate -- I have a feeling the next couple of books will focus on the other sisters. They live in a world dominated by a religious order called the Brothers, men who make and enforce rules that essentially prevent women from having power, under the guise of seeking to protect everyone from witchcraft. According to the Brothers, women have two choices once they reach the age of 17 - they can get married, or they can join the Sisterhood.

The Sisterhood is supposed to be like a less educated, less powerful, overly pious female sect, but is apparently actually a good cover for witches.

Cate is almost 17, and so has to figure out if she wants to get hitched or join the Sisterhood. While pondering this life-long decision (which will ultimately get taken out of her hands, anyway), she is also investigating a prophecy that she finds out about near the beginning of the book. The prophecy indicates that she and her two sisters were foretold, and can either bring women & witches back into a powerful position, or can bring about death and horror which essentially sounds like the Burning Times in Europe.

Overall, I wasn't a huge fan of this novel. Like a lot of young adult fiction, I felt like there were some interesting ideas, but wasn't particularly fond of the manner in which those ideas were executed. The writing was not bad, it just wasn't of high caliber. And the ideas were okay, but I found some of them rather far-fetched (I'm not even talking about the witch stuff).

This novel had a lot of potential, which it did not live up to. I do not recommend reading it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Flash Fiction #1

Amber knew that her toaster had a secret life.

Ever since she had seen the Disney movie featuring the same appliance, Amber had realized that her toaster was a spy - leading a double life, wanting to communicate with the 7-year-old girl with the little blonde pigtails who encouraged her mother to make toast every morning, but unable.

The toaster had secrets. What kind of secrets, Amber could not be entirely sure, but that there were secrets the appliance was unable to divulge, Amber was positive.

The secret that Amber was most desperate to learn, however, was the toaster's name. Referring to the double agent residing in your house as "the toaster" felt too vague, too obscure. Surely, discovering the toaster's actual name was the first step towards an understanding, towards a friendship.

Every morning, as her toast was cooking, Amber would whisper: "Who are you?" to the toaster in the lowest voice possible, lest her mother hear her and begin her "imaginary friends are not real" speech.

One day, Amber discovered the patterns. Her toast would come out with blackened areas. Her mother thought the toaster was broken. Amber knew the truth. One day, the blackened areas formed a butterfly; the next, a pony.

Amber was so excited - the toaster had figured out how to communicate! Its' name would surely be apparent the next day (fish), or the day after that (circle), or the day after that (stapler)...

Then, one day, Amber's mother plopped two slices of bread in the toaster. "I don't know why you like burnt toast so much..." the woman muttered, walking out of the room to get dressed.

After a minute, the coils of the toaster lost their cherry red coloring. The toast remained in position.

Amber understood - the toaster was shy. It wanted to become friends, and reveal its' name to Amber, but it was scared at the same time.

But Amber knew how to retrieve toast. She had seen her mother handle this situation, and so she went to the drawer to the right of the sink. Opening the drawer, she retrieved a butter knife from its' innards, and headed over to the toaster. She stabbed the knife into the toaster, aiming for her bread, anxious to see name thereon inscribed.

Unfortunately for Amber, she lived in an old house. The wiring was not set up ideally, and those dark coils in the toaster were still quite active. Amber never discovered the name of the toaster that was thrown in the dumpster after the "accident." She woke up in a hospital room, and was shortly thereafter subjected to questioning to ascertain whether her mother was guilty of neglect.