Castle Librarian

Archive for September, 2015|Monthly archive page

The Girl with Ghost Eyes

In Book Review on September 12, 2015 at 4:45 am

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The Girl with Ghost Eyes
by M.H. Boroson
ISBN 978-1940456362

Set in Chinatown, San Francisco 1898 — people’s initial response to this might be “so… opium dens, and stuff?” No. This is not a historical fiction novel, or not JUST a historical fiction novel. It is an action packed, supernatural battle of good and evil.

The author describes himself as a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and kung fu movies. This might lead you to think that the main character of The Girl with the Ghost Eyes is a thinly veiled rewrite of Buffy with added martial arts combat, but no. Both Buffy and Li Lin are young women with supernatural powers who save the world … a lot. But, Li Lin and her story stand tall on their own.

I was pleasantly surprised that the story very quickly enters the supernatural realm. There is not a long “get to know the characters” build up at the beginning. We are plunged with Li Lin into a dangerous trip into the land of the dead.

We do get to know the characters and the complications of Li Lin’s life slowly over the course of the story. My favorite is Mr. Yanqiu, the ghost of Li Lin’s father’s eye, sent to rescue her. He is the best kind of companion who gives good, frank advice. Li Lin’s relationship with her father is complex due to mysteries of their past. Li Lin discovers a few clues to these mysteries along the way. By the end, however, the relationship is anything, but repaired. No happy ending wrapped up with a red ribbon here.

This is not just a young adult novel with a strong female character who kicks butt. We get an introduction to 19th century Chinese culture. Li Lin has to navigate not only the land of the dead, but the minefield of her own family and the crime based social structure of Chinatown.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more adventures of Li Lin and Mr. Yanqiu.

Disappointing Department 19

In Book Review on September 12, 2015 at 4:02 am

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Department 19

Will teen age boys like this? Yes. Will I donate it to my library? Yes. Will I recommend it? Unlikely. Is it good writing? No, most definitely, not.

It seems more like Mr. Hill was trying to write an action film. An action film that went on, and on, and on. It is a string of wild goose chases (and cliches). By page 275, I had figured out who the traitor was, but had to slog through 176 more pages for the reveal. Then, it was a Dr. Evil “blah, blah, blah” style explanation of how he had betrayed them and why repeating everything that the reader already knew.

I’m a bit surprised that it didn’t start with “It was a dark and stormy night…” It did have phases like “blood soaked room” and a three paragraph long description of a helicopter landing. There is a great deal of unnecessary description which I found tedious. Description was often lame. “Standing over Stevenson was a huge grey wolf, as large as a small car.” He seemed to think that the reader needed to know the gender and age of minor vampires at the moment they were staked. “The projectile flew high, tearing off the upper half of the head of a vampire man in his twenties.” How is that relevant information?

During the last 100 pages, I became convinced that Mr. Hill hadn’t read his own writing. During the discovery of the aftermath of the attack on the Russian base, he describes how the blood has soaked through the snow that has fallen since the attack, but the Director stumbles on the first corpse which is covered by snow which has somehow NOT been soaked with the blood of the corpse below it, even though the blood is pooled around the corpse. Which is it?

There was an interesting story hidden in there, but a serious editing would have helped. Unfortunately, it seems that editors at publishing houses don’t actually edit anything. A good story requires interesting ideas, but the execution should result in a pleasant reading experience. This was not pleasant.

However, teenage boys who like monsters, action and shoot-em-up plot lines will love this.