Monday, March 30, 2015

Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart (Mystery Novel)

After reading Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart, I have once again put the Bryant and May Series by Christopher Fowler on the top of my list of favorite book series. The Bleeding Heart has the right blend of silliness and seriousness. It has a good mystery that had me holding my breath in places. It has good heart. And, of course, it contains arcane facts about London that Fowler is so good at uncovering.

The Invisible Code, the last book in the series, ended with a bit of foreboding. Bryant had found a new nemesis, Mr. Merry, a necromancer. In Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart, Mr. Merry menaces the somewhat fragile Bryant. But, first things first, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is under new jurisdiction, reporting to the City of London. They now report to Orion Banks, who unfortunately speaks little conversational English. She is, on the other hand, fluent in marketing and business jargon. (Fowler almost had me rolling on the floor laughing.) The Peculiar Crimes Unit must solve two mysteries: a man reportedly rising from the dead and the disappearance of the ravens from the Tower of London. In addition, Janice Longbright has finally risked her heart in love, with Jack Renfield. Janice’s attempt to befriend his teenage daughter results in unexpected consequences.

Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart has what I refer to as “good heart.” We finally find out Bryant’s backstory, why he became a police officer. We see Bryant in all his vulnerability and all his strength. While Longbright’s story is a secondary plotline, it is well developed, giving her the attention that she deserves and making us feel for her. Fowler develops the character of one of the victims so well that we feel his lost after his murder. With the addition of Banks, Fowler asks the question, “What role can the Peculiar Crimes Unit possibly play in a world where cyber and white collar crime are now the fares of the day?” The question made me look at my own place is this rapidly evolving world.

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart is a little—just a little— lighter on the occult and on Bryant’s usual shenanigans than in some of the earlier books in the series. In their place is some stronger character development. The novel was just the right blend for me, keeping me as a loyal fan of the series.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Blood of Angels (Science Fiction Novel)

The Blood of Angels is one of the most thought-provoking and controversial books that I have read in a long, long time. The novel was written by the Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo and translated into English by Lola Rogers. This short novel takes on such issues as Colony Collapse Catastrophe (Disorder), the meat industry, capitalism, and the funeral industry. The Blood of Angels contains numerous descriptions that made me feel vaguely nauseous. Parts of the plotline are incredibly sad. Yet, I actually enjoyed the book. It was well written. The main character and his son are characters whom I am glad that I met. I enjoyed learning about bees.

The main character in The Blood of Angels, the narrator, is the owner of a funeral home. But, his passion is raising bees. His grown son is a blogger, who is involved in a controversial animal rights group. The novel weaves between the blog posts and the narration. Bit by bit we learn that something tragic has happened to the son. In addition, the father thinks that he has found a portal into another world, one where the bees are healthy. Does the portal really exist or is it the result of grief and too much alcohol?

The Blood of Angels haunted me for days. How can you unread a book? It still makes me question my own values and behavior. Yes, I definitely recommend the book. But, in some people it will stir up thoughts that they have comfortably ignored.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Here (Graphic Novel)

Here by Richard McGuire is an amazing and masterful book. McGuire is able to convey ideas and feelings that he would not otherwise be able to communicate by pictures or words alone. The novel is poetic, almost musical, having a rhythm to it. After I finished the book, I felt the stillness I associate with listening to the last notes of a symphony. Even now, weeks later, when I think about the book I am mesmerized.

Here explores the idea of space and time. It takes place in a single location over billions of years, going from the distant past to the distant future. Most of the book takes place in one room of one house between 1907 and 2015. Most of the two page layouts contain scenes from multiple years juxtaposed. Storylines interweave. Ideas and experiences repeat yet contain their own unique qualities. The book contains numerous vignettes and stories, yet the overall experience is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here felt familiar, making me nod and think, “Yes, this is my story. Yes, I remember that.” In addition, I actually am one of those people who goes past a spot and remembers its history and wonders about its future. I am so grateful to know that I am not alone in that. I am so grateful for having experienced Here.