Monday, November 28, 2011

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Title: Personal Demons
Author: Lisa Derochers
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 365
Rating: 3 Stars

I really wanted to give this 3.5 stars. Personal Demons started out really, really well and I was reading it super fast - always a good sign. I enjoyed Frannie and loved Luc. I'm a sucker for a leather jacket and a pierced eyebrow. ;p The fact that he registered emotions as scents was a little odd and could have been awkward in its obvious attempt to be 'different', but for the most part it worked.

Although, I've never thought of ginger as being particularly lustful.

Lisa Desrochers walked the fine line of being a book about religious themes without becoming a religious book and I appreciated that. The only character that ever preached at me was Frannie's younger sister Grace and she was supposed to be zealous, so it worked.

I kind of felt like the switches between Luc and Frannie's first person POV were cheating a little, but I really liked getting into both of their heads, so I let it slide.

The only problem I had with the book was Gabe. I understand why his character was important. There needed to be a player from Heaven in the mix, not only to give Luc a little competition, but to save Frannie. As much as I like the badboy, this was not a book where Hell was some misunderstood place for castoffs and outsiders. It was Hell in every sense of the word. Frannie did NOT belong there.

The issue comes with the fact that I never got a clear picture of Gabe's feelings for Frannie until I was told - by Luc - that yes, he was in love with her and yes, he'd risk his wings for her. That's all well and good and I was expecting as much, but having to be told something I should have been shown is never good. I think Ms. Derochers made a mistake with Gabe in one of two ways - either he shouldn't have really fallen for Frannie or she should have written from his POV as well.

I was hoping it would come out that while Gabe sincerely cared about Frannie and wanted her safe, the way he made her feel was all a ruse - that Gabe was pushing his power on her to woo her like Luc did to humans. Given the fact that we don't get a Gabe POV, I think this would have been the better way to go. In the sequel, Ms. Desrochers could have delved into Gabe's love for Frannie and surprised everybody with the fact that he really was in love with her.

Ms. Desrochers writing style was very accessible and easy to read. Personal Demons had quite a few references to Top 40 Pop which is fine, but it will date the book in a couple of years - it kind of already did - and I'm not sure that's worth the risk, so to speak.

While I'm not surprised there's a sequel, the book ends in a very satisfying way, so I'm curious where the next installment will take us. I'm assuming we'll learn more about how Frannie is supposed to use her Sway and how Luc deals with being human - a plot point I'm rather 'meh' about, but I'll deal with it as long as he doesn't lose his edge.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

Title: The Lodger
Author: Marie Belloc Lowndes
Publisher: Academy Chicago Publishers
Pages: 224
Rating: 4/5 Stars

I cannot believe how long it took me to read this. Really, it had nothing to do with the book and everything to do with other things occupying my attention.

I have an unhealthy fascination with true crime. I could watch Investigation Discovery 24/7 much to the dismay of my roommate - then again, she could watch Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty 24/7 with a healthy dose of Say Yes To The Dress thrown in there to torment me, so I'd say we're even - so it should come as no surprise that I'd be equally interested in reading what is considered to be the first true crime novel.

Written by a woman, no less.

I'm not a feminist in the strictest sense, but I love the fact that The Lodger was written by a woman. Considering the times Ms. Lowndes lived in, I find it wonderful that she was able to get this novel published.

The Lodger is a very obvious homage to the most notorious unsolved serial killer in London at the time - Jack the Ripper. Told mostly through the third person perspective of Mrs. Bunting - half of a married couple on the brink of financial disaster - The Lodger tells the story of The Avenger. A madman stalking the streets of London at night and savagely killing immoral women, specifically those who enjoy a little too much alcohol.

From the beginning, Ms. Lowndes leads the reader to suspect Mr. Sleuth, Mrs. Bunting's lodger who's serendipitous arrival saves the Bunting household from financial ruin, of being the perpetrator of The Avenger crimes. The point of the story is less who-dun-it and more psychological rollercoaster as we take the journey with Mrs. Bunting from mild suspicion to outright certainty that her savior is actually a psychotic killer. By the time the ending arrives - a marvelously open-ended conclusion - Mrs. Bunting is on the brink of complete emotional and physical breakdown.

Questions go unanswered in The Lodger: where did Mr. Sleuth get his money? What were his motivations? What experiments was he conducting in the second room he was renting from the Buntings? Still, I was not left unsatisfied. Perhaps it was from reading the entire book knowing Mr. Sleuth was the killer or perhaps it was my desire for Mrs. Bunting to get some relief from her emotional torment, but when Mr. Sleuth finally disappeared into the busy streets of London, I was simply glad to see him go. Mrs. Bunting wasn't the most likable character I'd ever read, but she was a good person and Ms. Lowndes did a marvelous job of making me understand her desperation and fear from the very first page.

From a technical standpoint, The Lodger did not feel as dated as I expected. I found it a very easy read, not bogged down by descriptions of the scenery or daily life as some pre-television/movie classics can be. Ms. Lowndes's pacing was also excellent, in my opinion, and she did not drag her story out unnecessarily. What's really commendable, though, is her characterization and using some truly horrific crimes as a framework for a psychological horror story.