Showing posts with label supernatural. Show all posts
Showing posts with label supernatural. Show all posts

Thursday, May 28, 2015

21 Down Volume 11 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 11
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

So the penultimate volume finds Mickey and Preston in my neck of the woods looking for the guy who even the church turned away, and debating who will be brave enough to approach the pit bulls to ask Lahana's dad where his son is. Pit bulls kill an American about every three weeks on average. Fifty percent of the time, it's their owner of a member of the owner's family. But I digress.

The guy who thinks he contained Alex, Mickey's daughter, turns out to be very mistaken. She breaks out and breaks him. She's dressed like Lelu from the Luc Besson movie The Fifth Element, and she wants all the locked-up kids to be set free.

This is also where we learn why Jack Lahana isn't welcome at church. Jack has some way special powers, but his powers beg the question: why is he such a pariah at church?

This volume was a wee bit confusion-infused. There was so much switching back and forth between people and time periods that it was really hard to keep a good grip on what exactly was being told here. But the guy getting eating by a giant monster at the back was cool. Although that may have been an ad for the Magic card game instead of a finale to this story....

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

21 Down Volume 10 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 10
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

This felt like a really short issue and not a while heck of a lot happened in terms of different events. There were really only three main thrusts to the story, but I liked the way the coloring alternated from dark muted hues to bright ones, and back again, while the text went the opposite way at the start, only to descend slowly into darkness as the story progressed.

It was dark in the cavern where Preston and Mickey took on the creature, but their vocal tone was light and at times, tender. This was followed by the blinding explosion of Mickey's daughter into the story, accompanied by dark prognostications. It became darker in hue again when we returned to the couple and even though they were doing something heroically good, their actions were overshadowed by darkness which was maintained even when the light of the church scene flooded in. And it was all downhill from there!

Making a hair-raising escape from the Monstrosity of bad thoughts, Mickey and Preston rescued the young child and the Champion returned her to her home. Meanwhile, Mickey's daughter is being held in what's believed to be a secure location. Yeah. That's what they believed.

At this point it was decided to introduce a couple of new characters. Well one now - the other is saved for the cliff-hanger ending. The first guy is the young Mr Lahana, and he's and has evidently done something so bad, even his preacher won't forgive him. Or is that hymn?

The second guy introduces himself to Mickey's daughter at the very end of this volume. And she doesn't like it one bit.

21 Down Volume 9 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 9
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

This volume nudges the story again. It used to be all about Preston and his power of reading dead flesh, but even as his power changes we learn more and more than he's not the only one.

Preston's instincts and visions have led him and Mickey to the circus where they meet Hank Champion - a legendary war hero from the Vietnam era. Presotn;s visions have led him to believe that Hank is the kidnapper of the missing girl they heard about in the diner in an earlier volume. He's not. It's much stranger than that.

Meanwhile (you knew there was going to be a meanwhile, right?), a couple of hikers out in the forest find a bunch of trees bunched-up together. It seems unnatural. It is unnatural. The girl wisely wants to leave well alone, but the guy wants to carve their initials into it. The tree has other ideas. Funnily enough, it's the same tree which was formed when Harmony turned twenty-one....

So now teaming up with the guy with the number nineteen on his shirt, Mickey and Peston follow him into an underground layer where there's more than one surprise waiting on them.

Yes, this one definitely kept the pace going and kept challenging our expectations, so both the script and the art work were fine. I am still enjoying this series and this marks three quarters of the way through it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

21 Down Volume 8 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 8
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!
21 Down Volume 8 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

In this volume, Mikey and Preston are traveling down to Texas to talk with yet another Genie who has come to light down there, but the story opens with a Hulk-like human rampaging through a city and this moronic guy from the government thinks they can cover this up. They're still not getting along. Despite the fact that he now knows that Mickey's fifteen-year-old daughter is being held prisoner and that this underlies, if not justifies Mickey's every action, Preston is still pissed off with her.

They stop at a diner where people are talking about a missing child, and then the clientèle all mysteriously head outside en masse. Preston and Mickey follow to discover that they've all gone to see a solar eclipse. This is nicely drawn by the artist, but he has the moon moving in the wrong direction! Instead of moving down and to the right as it's drawn here, it should be moving up and to the left. Unless, of course, the Earth's movement and/or the Moon's movement has changed radically. In this story, this could well have happened, I suppose...!

Preston changes his mind about moving on, at the last minute, and decides to stay in town to go to the circus. He's been seeing the number nineteen - the bill at the diner was nineteen dollars, their hotel room is number nineteen, and something he sees at the circus convinces him that he knows who kidnapped the missing child.

This volume was much better - the story picked up again, and things got really interesting. Plus the dynamic between Preston and Mickey is really engaging. it was nice to feel at home again with this story!

21 Down Volume 7 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 7
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!
21 Down Volume 7 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

This volume begins with Preston telling his dead brother Rob's partner exactly what went down when Rob died. He also has a brief and inexplicable flashback - the flashback itself makes no sense. It's purported purpose is to show how Preston got to be Rob's bitch. Like I said, it makes no sense.

Preston wakes up to find he's in a hotel room with Mickey, and he's pissed at her because now he can't go home - his apartment is evidently under surveillance because of her tangle with Agents Ishikawa and Sizemore. He walks out on Mickey and contacts his old friend Clyde from the tattoo parlor. Clyde arranges for him to visit his brother's corpse.

In touching his brother's skin, Preston finds himself not seeing events that led up to his death, but events immediately after it, in which Rob literally strolls off into the sunset and meets their dead parents. because that's everyone's ambition when they die - to go back and live with their parents! This was way too cheesy for me. And there's no precedent for it. Maybe he only sees the future event when he's personally witnessed the past one?

In an idea right out of John Cafferty's Just a Matter of Time (which he no doubt purloined from elsewhere), " take just one small grain of sand right into the palm of your hand...." Preston takes a bright sparkle from Rob's outstretched spiritual hand and suddenly he's a new man - one with a purpose. No, not a porpoise! That would be silly. A purpose. Yeah, he's now got the trite stuff!

Almost forty percent of this comic was advertising. This is another reason I don't like comics that much. Graphic novels tend to have a lot less space devoted to advertising. That said, I liked the story. It seemed like not much was happening in this volume, like the writer was drawing his breath, and as I understand it, this one marked the finale of the first 'season', but there was plenty of food for thought.

Why comics would have seasons or anything like seasons is a complete mystery to me, but this one left us with an interesting ending - not so much a cliff-hanger as a teaser for the next sequence. At this point I am still on-board with the series.

Monday, May 25, 2015

21 Down Volume 6 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 6
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Volume six sees the return of Agent Michelle "Mickey" Rinaldi to the cover, although not in a provocative pose! I thought that maybe the cover artist took a sensitivity course during the volume five hiatus, but I was wrong. Rinaldi comes roaring back on the cover of volume seven!

The story is a bit trope-ish and corny, as we get a huge info dump instead of some real action and drama. In the end it was the priest wotdunit. Preston kicks the living Jesus out of him, and the boy he was using is safely removed from the premises and taken to an ER.

Meanwhile, the belated arrival of Agents Ishikawa and Sizemore lends some fun and humor to the proceedings. I have to say that this volume was the weakest of the first half of this series (which actually ended with volume seven).

The art work was excellent and the interactions were realistic except for the info dump. Preston's change of character was too abrupt and dramatic to be believable, but while I was a bit disappointed here, it was still an okay story and a worthy read as part of the series to this point.

21 Down Volume 5 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 5
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!
21 Down Volume 5 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Volumes five and ten in this series are the only two which don't feature Agent Michelle Rinaldo on the cover. I have no idea why that is. Maybe the cover artist got embarrassed by his obsession with her provocative poses and leggy presence? Maybe not.

We left her and Preston Kills, the "Genie" guy making out in his apartment. This comic kicks off in the same place, but their swelling passion is interrupted by loud knocks on the door which initially are indistinguishable from gunshots. That's worth keeping in mind if you write comics! It turns out that it's not gunfire, but something just as disturbing to Preston: it's his brother Rob reporting to him about their aborted capture of the serial killer. The serial killer who spoke a few strange words and then took lead to the head. Rob obviously wants Preston to press the flesh once again, and see if they can figure out if there's more to learn about these killings.

While Mickey is taking a shower (yes, they were evidently going to have sex and be all stinky and sweaty before they began!), Preston sneaks out with Rob without telling Mickey where he's going, but once again telling Rob that this will be the last time he does this for him - like really the very, very last time this time.

Agents Ishikawa and Sizemore choose to arrive at Preston's apartment right after Mickey gets out of the shower, but she rolls right over them, literally, and arrives at the precinct just in time to see Preston and Ron leave for Rockland psychiatric institution. This is the clue which Preston got when he pressed the flesh. What he doesn't expect, however, is that Rob will lose control over himself - and especially over his gun, as soon as they set foot inside the building.

For me this was the first faux pas in the entire series so far. We have a cop entering a building and seeing dead bodies, and yet he fails to immediately turn around and call for back-up. This makes Rob look completely stupid and incompetent to boot. It also makes him seem callous since he has his kid brother with him who is not police and is unarmed. He never once considers his kid brother's safety.

That said I still recommend this series for the consistent plotting and art work, and for a great story overall.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

21 Down Volume 4 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 4
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Volume five begins with Preston taking his evidently disabled and aging friend Sam down to the beach for a walk (or in Sam's case, a wheel) in the pouring rain. He ends up telling him everything that's been going on. Disturbingly, Mickey Rinaldi shows up and asks if they're talking about her. Is she stalking Preston? Spying on him?

Meanwhile a homeless person reports the discovery of two dead bodies - females, found in a bed stitched together with a legend above them on the wall reading "I want to be judged". This harks back to volume one, where Preston entered info on a website with a name reminiscent of that same legend.

Preston and Mickey, having conveniently been out in the rain, now get to strip down to their underwear in Preston's apartment. She puts on one of his T-shirts, and suddenly, they are kissing up a storm - literally if the image is to be judged! What's she up to?

Again the story moves fast, offers suitably intriguing revelations and teasers, and the artwork is the same high caliber as always. The thing that bothers me about comics is that they're so short, and then you have to wait a month until the next edition comes out and you can continue the story. I am not a fan of series, either as novels or as comic books. This is, of course, the advantage of buying graphic novels, but even those, which used to be self-contained, now come in series. Another alternative is to do what I inadvertently did, which is to fail to discover this series until long after it was issued (like over a decade after!) and then being lucky enough to find all the editions you want when you do discover it. After four volumes I still recommend this!

21 Down Volume 3 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 3
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

This volume continues immediately after the end of the previous one. Mickey Rinaldi has taken Preston Kills to see a young woman rather inaptly named Harmony. She engenders such a powerful attraction in people, male and female, inducing them to curry her favor, that they will do whatever she wants. She's about to force Preston and Mickey to fight it out over her when Agent Rinaldi simply knocks her out and then sedates her.

They carry her off to a less public location, with Preston bitching about it all the way, and Rinaldi comes up with a sure-fire method to be able to talk to her without Harmony being able to exert any of her persuasive power over them. It's at this point, as they communicate inventively with the restrained girl, that we discover what it is that Mickey wanted with Preston. And it wasn't very nice of her. You may recall that I did describe her in my review of volume one, as rather morally ambivalent.

While Rinaldi is taking Kills and Harmony to the forest, we meet two more agents, both with the FBI. Ishikawa and Sizemore are trying to track down the "Genie's" (Genetically Enhanced Individuals) too, and neither they nor their boss are very happy about Rinaldi swooping in and taking off with the subject so efficiently.

Preston has two serious issues: a power which not only promises to terminate his life as soon as he turns 21, but which also forces him to relive the last moments of a murder victim's life if he touches their skin. This works for his brother who's a police officer, but it makes the character's life lousy and like Ella in Ella Enchanted, he most definitely does not want this 'gift'.

Neither does he want to be used by this woman who came into his life apparently for the sole purpose of having him be close by when another person who has this same curse (but a different power) dies. Mickey wants him to be able to experience the girl's last moments so he can describe what happens to her. Why does she die when she turns twenty one? What exactly happens? In this volume, we find out part of the answer.

I loved this story for its intelligence. The artwork is really good, the whole idea is nicely put together and well-executed, and the story doesn't stop to let you catch your breath. Overall, I rate this as a very worthy read and a really good story as part of this complete series! It's nice to see a comic book that's not just remarkable art, but which also sports a good story along with those pictures.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

21 Down Volume 2 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 2
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Preston Kills has a power which not only promises to terminate his life on the day he turns 21, it also curses him with reliving the last moments of a murder victim's life if he touches their skin. This is a boon to his brother, who's a police officer, but it makes the character feel wretched, and he doesn't want this in his life - a life which was threatened in volume one by the very murderer Preston was hoping his brother would take down.

Preston's life was saved by the very provocative Agent Mickey Rinaldi who fortunately, is more than just her looks. She walks with him along the ocean front and explains to him about the existence of Genies - Genetically Enhanced Individuals. It's her job to study them, but she doesn't tell Preston that she has ideas of her own about how this study can be undertaken.

This story is intelligent and moves at a pace. The artwork is really good, and the whole package is nicely put together. For me, Mickey Rinaldi borders dangerously on comic book trope, but in her favor, she's a lot more complex than way-too-many comic book characters turn out to be, and one of these facets is her, shall we say, relaxed morality. She sought out our main character not just for his having a special power, but for the specific power he has. What he doesn't know, but she does, is that there are other people like him but with other powers.

It's in this volume that Preston learns that he's not the only one who has both a power and a death sentence. Rinaldi explains these things to him during their walk on the beach. She's not only provocative in appearance, she also shows that she's the same way in her behavior as she takes off her shoes to wade in the ocean, and invites Preston to "Get wet with me". Preston's hilarious response to that is to say, "No thank you Mrs Robinson"! At this point Rinaldi whisks him away to meet someone, although Preston isn't very enthusiastic. She suggests that she maybe will let him get her drunk if he complies. He doesn't deem to be much of an incentive evidently.

Through Rinaldi, Preston meets a woman like him, but whose power is that of having people fawn over her. She's like the goddess of love, and everyone, including her own parents, will do anything to curry her favor and attention, even to the point of viciously fighting-off rivals. Hence the problem our two characters have in trying to get their hands on her: they want only too much to get their hands on her! They both begin to succumb to her power, and this comic ends!

Overall, I rate this as a very worthy read and a really good story. It's nice to see a comic book that's not just great art, but which also sports a good story along with those pictures.

21 Down Volume 1 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 1
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

I found this one in a comic book store (Austin's Tanglewood Village Shopping Center - the one on the left not the fancy new one on the right, which really isn't a comic book store) that’s a treasure trove of older comics, and which incidentally has a thriving week-end card-playing gathering.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, and some editions were missing, so I picked up only the first three (four and five were two of the missing editions) to begin with but after I read those I went around and picked up the rest of the series, which runs to twelve volumes. So this marks the first time I've read and reviewed a complete comic book series.

The main character, Preston Kills, has two problems, not least of which is that he’s going to die the day he turns 21. Why this is so, is a mystery, but it appears to be most definitely connected with the other problem, which is a power that he has, whereby he can relive the last moments of a murder victim’s life.

It so happens that his brother is a cop, who has the ambition of achieving the same success their father enjoyed as a detective, so his brother’s power is proving to be really useful. Of course, the main character doesn’t think so, since he has to suffer along with the victim every time he relives a murder; consequently, he’s constantly on the verge of refusing to do this any more.

Unfortunately, he really has no choice, as we discover. Preston works as an artist at a tattoo shop, and this guy who comes in there to have a web put on his hand starts giving off vibes which the main character hasn’t experienced before. He suddenly realizes that this guy is also a murderer and calls it in to his brother. The guy, with the rather clichéd name of Mad Dog Duggan, realizes how the police tracked him down, and as he's about to dispatch Preston, to his rescue comes the highly provocative woman on the cover, who knows way too much about our main character.

I loved this story. It was smart, fast moving, well portrayed, and neatly put together. Yeah, the woman is just a tad too much comic trope for my taste, but in her favor, she’s a lot more complex than way-too-many comic book characters turn out to be. She has an agenda in seeking out our main character of which we’re kept in ignorance until volumes two and three (I’m glad those were not missing from the comic book store’s collection!).

Overall, I rate this as a very worthy read and a really good story. the art work is pretty cool, but it’s nice to see a comic book that’s not just remarkable art, but also has a good story to tell in those pictures and interesting characters to unveil.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Demo Volume Two by Brian Wood

Title: Demo
Author: Brian Wood
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Art work by Becky Cloonan.
Lettering by Jared Fletcher.

This was different and a bit weird. It's volume two, but the stories are evidently unconnected, so you don't need to have read volume one before this one. The first two stories did nothing to sell this comic to me at all. There are six very short and unconnected stories in about 150 pages. Becky Cloonan's drawing is pretty decent - line drawing with some shading. There is no coloring, not even on the cover. I loved the way she rendered some stories, especially the third one titled Volume One Love Story (don't look for the titles to make sense!), wherein one of the characters is very reminiscent of the artist herself, and the fifth one, titled Stranded. These two were the only stories that I really enjoyed.

The first story concerned a San Francisco resident's prophetic dream of some accident occurring in a place she didn't know. Eventually, she discovers where the place is and goes there, and she gets an ending she doesn't expect, but her behavior in running off searching for a third party made no sense given the vision she'd dreamed.

Pangs is for fans of Jeffrey Dahmer and his ilk. I think. I can't say for certain! Volume One Love Story is about an inexplicably OCD woman who is magically able to give it all up, but there's no justification offered for how she came to be that way or how she was miraculously cured except for some magical deus ex post-it note solution. Waterbreather is a bit of a Man from Atlantis redux, but in reverse. Stranded is about time-travel (I think) and the miraculous if tardy undoing of past harms. The last story is about a very destructive relationship between two painfully-evident morons.

Brian Wood's story-telling was a bit suspect and patchy. Some of it made no sense or failed to go anywhere - at least, anywhere interesting. Some of it was so vague as to leave me wondering what the heck I'd just read, like the second story, Pangs (which was about the only one that did have a title which made sense, and which ironically was the one I liked least.

Becky Cloonan must love trees because she makes full use of the entire page - no wasted paper and gratuitous white space here, but the layout of the novel overall was poor. Yes, the chapters were labeled and the pages numbered, but there wasn't much of a transition between one story and another. There was a number, but no introductory page. This was strange because they'd put all the covers in the back of the book. I can't figure out why they didn't put the cover at the start of each story where it belonged.

I think maybe they were swept-up in the graphic trope of larding-up the back end-papers with extra art, and forgot about actually serving the reader. Some stories didn't even have the title, so I had to go back to the contents list each time to find the title for the story I was about to read.

As I mentioned, I really liked the third and the fifth, and I really didn't like the second and the last, which was titled Sad and Beautiful Life, and which incredibly seemed to be trying to justify co-dependent relationships. That's a no-no for me, but as with Pangs, the story was so vague as to be indecipherable. I had no idea what was really going on. Was this just an ordinary co-dependent relationship, or was there something supernatural happening between the couple like out of the movie Hancock? I have no idea. Given the fantasy and supernatural elements in the other stories, I'd guess there was something else going on, but it was never made clear what it was supposed to be.

As for the other two stories, the first, which as titled The Waking Life of Angels was okay. It was interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying, if very mildly amusing. The other one, titled Waterbreather was just odd, and neither really entertaining, nor really off-putting. If I'd read four good ones out of six, I would recommend this, but given that I only got two, I can't. You may find more to like, of course, and may dislike my favorites and enjoy ones I didn't get, but for me I can't recommend it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Woman in the Movie Star Dress by Praveen Asthana

Title: The Woman in the Movie Star Dress
Author: Praveen Asthana (no website found)
Publisher: Doublewood Press (no website found)
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Page 31 “Sachem Littlefeather” should be “Sacheen Littlefeather” née Marie Louise Cruz.
Page 46 “…dishy Kennedy’s…” should be “dishy Kennedys” (it’s a plural, not a possessive).
Page 164 “It’s OK darling” needs speech quotes around it.
Page 174 “…two young women in skirts so short she could tell one was a natural blonde and the other favored dilapidation…” I got a real laugh out of that! I assume the author meant “…two young women in skirts so short she could tell one was a natural blonde and the other favored depilation…”. Of course, I could be wrong and this could actually have been intended as a joke!
Page 179 Genevieve knows who Alla Nazimova is, on page 200, a day later, she does not!

With few exceptions, I normally avoid books which sport a favorable review from Jerk-Us Reviews on the cover. Since those guys rarely negatively review, their "reviews" are completely without value. This one I had requested not knowing Jerkus liked it, and it was just as well, since I liked it too! How weird is that?!

Having favorably reviewed Diana Mclellan’s non-fiction Sappho Goes to Hollywood in December 2014, this seemed like an interesting novel to me. This novelist does almost everything right. The prologue is chapter one, which I read (I wouldn’t have, had it actually been a prologue!), and I learned of Margaret Brooks who buys (from a guy named Mel - I have no idea if that delightful juxtaposition was purposeful not!) a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the movie Niagara which I haven’t seen, but which has to have one of the most boring plots imaginable fro what I read here. Margaret wants to be a femme fatale, and she already has a gun. She buys the dress.

Abruptly we’re in chapter two and it’s sixty years later, making the year around 2013 (Niagara came out in 1953), and we meet Genevieve (not her real name!) Nightcloud, who now works in the same store (but now in a different location) that Mel founded all those years ago with a dress he got from Joan Crawford. The author titles the chapters mostly after actors: Joan Crawford, Humphrey Bogart, Natalie Wood, Ava Gardner, and so on and adds a quote supposedly said by the actor.

Genvie grew-up watching old Paramount movies because her dad was one of the janitors at the studio and parked his kids in the screening room watching old movies while he worked. Genvie feels like she’s caught in the middle of too many things to be anything of one thing: she’s halfway between “plain and pretty, white and brown, sassy and shy” and she’s also stuck between being a modern girl and loving those old movies.

One day, right after a new consignment of clothes arrives, which contains that red dress, a woman comes into the store hauling a kid along with her – and she buys the dress. She wants to stand out at an event, she says, because her husband has a wandering eye….

Before the three girls in the store know it, a guy shows up asking about that very consignment, claiming he’s a relative and wants to retrieve a family heirloom, but the fierce Gretchen says all those things were sold, and she refuses to divulge any information about who may have bought what despite a large monetary inducement. Good for her! This doesn’t, however, prevent Genvie from taking a growing interest in that dress, and the woman who wore it: Margaret Brooks.

One serious complaint I would make if I took book blurbs seriously, is how utterly inaccurate this one is! We all know that book blurbs are hardly the most reliable source of information about a given novel, and that the author typically has nothing whatsoever to do with the particular one which their novel is saddle, but that said, the one for this novel is about as misleading as you can get! It begins:

“A young woman comes to Hollywood to escape her past.”

No, she’s already in Hollywood (near enough)! Has been since she was a kid!

“She finds work in a vintage clothing store that sells clothes used in the movies.”

No, her father finds her the job!

“One day she discovers a way to transfer human character through these vintage clothes, and she uses this ability to transform from a lonely, insecure young woman to a glamorous heart-breaker.”

No, she notices her character changing when she inappropriately ‘borrows’ various dresses from the store, and later surmises what is happening and takes advantage of it.

“But she also discovers that with the good comes the bad as character flaws are transferred too. She begins to worry: what if one of the vintage clothes she has sold to some unsuspecting customer had been previously worn by a deeply troubled soul? One day her fears become crystallized—intrigued by a man who comes asking about a beautiful scarlet dress she has recently sold, she looks into its history and discovers a secret that terrifies her.”

No. That latter part all takes place before she starts wondering why her clothes hang her…!
(Get it? Wire clothes hanger? Joan Crawford? Never mind!)

“So begins a quest to find the scarlet dress complicated by a budding romance and the threads of her past, which intervene like trip wires. Emotions run high, and in the background the quickening drumbeat of the race to find the scarlet dress, potent as a loose, loaded weapon.”

This last bit is the only part which is accurate, if a bit melodramatic!

I have to say that despite my liking of this story, I am really not at all fond of the main character. Genvie is way too focused on (you might say obsessed with) getting herself a man – like this will solve all her problems. There is no doubt that having a reliable partner is definitely a boon (yes, I shall have it no other way, I tell you!) to a person; indeed, fans of actuarial charts (if there be such a beast) will say it’s a life-saver, but such a wish should never make itself the be-all and end-all of your life. You’re not going to be of much use to anyone else if you’re not comfortable with yourself. Clearly Genvie doesn’t get this.

She also has no qualms about borrowing expensive outfits from the store without permission and going partying in them. These are not simply expensive dresses. They're used, but they were ‘used’ by movie legends such as Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor, and so on. Some of these dresses are pretty much what would be described as priceless (not that I’d hold them in such regard), but to Genvie, they’re simply tools to get what she wants, as is the peyote she stole from her dad, and she has no qualms, no guilt, no nothing about using them to get whatever she wants.

There’s a guy she meets in the story who makes a living out of murder memorabilia – objects and clothes owned by a murder victim or by the perp, especially if it was someone famous, or a famous crime. Genvie is very critical of this guy, yet she’s so very much like him, using what she calls the ‘chi’ of these clothes to get what she wants.

Worse than this is her profligacy when it comes to sex. I didn’t have a problem with her jumping into bed with a variety of partners, especially since (she thinks) it’s the outfits she wears which make her do these things. I did have a serious problem with her complete lack of birth control and disease prevention smarts.

Even if we assume that she’s on the pill or something (and nothing in this book actually even suggests that), while this would more than likely prevent pregnancy, it will do nothing to shield her from any sexual diseases. She’s actually not a very smart woman at all, and more often than not, she comes off as needy, scheming, and frankly, a royal bitch a lot of the time. On top of that she’s rather hypocritical. Not that she doesn’t have enough to contend with – a bitchy boss, a drunk father, and a violent brother.

I wouldn’t like Genvie were she a real person. Indeed, the only character I actually liked in it was Genvie’s colleague in the store: Gretchen. This business with the ‘chi’ and ‘transference’ of a person’s emotions, behaviors, and foibles via their clothing is absurd, of course. In a note at the beginning (which I almost didn't read, not being given to indulging in prefaces, introductions, etc.), the author mentions the Shroud of Turin at the start of the book – as though it’s real. It isn’t. It’s a demonstrated fake.

That said, this idea for the infusion of personality into old clothes makes a really great premise for a story. I had an idea of a somewhat similar nature for a children's story a while ago, although mine was not like this one in any of the details. I very much enjoyed the ambiguity which pervades this story, how some things are left open (is Genvie deluding herself about what's happening to her?), or which begin ambiguously, but later resolve in ways you don't necessarily expect.

So, to cut a long story (review) short, I highly recommend this novel. It’s very entertaining, well written and amusing. It’s also a bit scary, and rather gripping and unnerving even though you feel you know what’s coming (you don't!). The ending for me was a bit of a mess (like it was rushed to meet a deadline or the author wasn't sure how to tie off loose ends), but that said, it ended the right way when all was said and done.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

Title: The Witch of Napoli
Author: Michael Schmicker (no website found)
Publisher: Palladino Books (no website found)
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

A true cynic might say that the first problem with this novel is that it sports a recommendation from Kirkus on the front cover! Since Kirkus almost universally reviews novels not only positively but gushingly so, a Kirkus review is, for all practical purposes, quite worthless even assuming you buy into reviews written by people with whom you have no track record. Just when did Kirkus become "the authority" and why? And how?! Fortunately for this writer, I don't buy into Kirkus reviews; I made up my own mind as to whether this 'absorbs me from the first page'.

Actually, according to the numbering system used in this book, the first page isn't chapter one - it's the front cover! So no, I was not absorbed by the front cover sporting a review which tells me I'll be absorbed from the front cover! Chapter one begins on page eight, and this novel runs to page 276, but these 270-some pages of novel come in eighty-five chapters!

The 'about the author' page towards the back reveals that this author has written another work, which I personally also consider to be fiction, about people who supposedly have ESP. I don't believe in any of that crap because there's absolutely no evidence to support any of it, but I do love a good story about it. My hope was that this present work would at least offer that, but given that it was based on the life of demonstrated fraud "psychic" Eusapia Paladino (note the name of the publisher on my blog!), those hopes were stillborn, I'm sorry to report.

This is another first person PoV novel unfortunately, because you know writers of fiction suffer from the very pervasive delusion that it's illegal - if not a crime against nature - to write something in the third person! Few writers can successfully carry 1PoV because it ends up all "Me!" all the time, and it tends to be at best unrealistic and irritating, if not outright nauseating.

It's unfortunate that you can't pick an ebook off the shelf and peruse the first chapter since the book blurb never reveals person. Had I known this was 1PoV I would have put it back on the shelf, so I was in the position of going into it hoping that this author was one of the few, the precious few, the band of authors, who can write this person and make it readable. On the positive side, the author didn't do too badly there, and he does have the sense to make his prologue chapter one, so there was hope!

This novel is set at the turn of the 20th century up though the first world war and the narrator, Tomaso Labella (Thomas the beautiful?!), is telling us of Alessandra, supposedly a 'physical medium' whom he first met in 1899. She can, we're told, levitate objects and move them around, although no one has ever explained intelligently to me what the heck any of that has to do with contacting the dead! It remains a complete mystery, yet this is what physical mediums would have us believe!

There are some anachronisms in this novel, too. The author mentions that purported psychic Daniel Dunglas Home was "entertaining royals" but since he died in 1886, it was hardly likely he was entertaining anyone in 1899! Also we're told that when Alessandra was thirteen, her father was shot for supporting Garibaldi, which would have been roughly in 1872. It's hardly likely that people were being shot for being a supporter of Giuseppe Garibaldi when around that time he was being elected to the Italian parliament and was leading Italian troops with the support of the government...!

That aside, the story tells of a woman in her forties, who mesmerizes the much younger Tomaso for reasons which are really unexplained (in the portion I read, there was no "erotic" despite book blurb claims!). The book borrows from The Godfather movie and claims he was (metaphorically) hit by a lightning bolt. Alessandra has been in the medium business for some time, managed by a sadistic Mafia-style husband from who she is ineffectually planning to escape. She gets her chance when a purported scientist is won over by her abilities, and sponsors a tour. That was as far as I got.

The writing wasn't technically bad - no huge grammatical or spelling errors, for example - but it was uninspired and uninspiring. By one quarter the way through I had no interest whatsoever in the story or in any of the people in it. There was nothing really gripping or engrossing going on and the characters were neither outstanding nor endearing. I had no interest in continuing to read a novel which offered so little when there are other novels begging for my attention which promise much more.