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review 2017-09-23 15:35
Thyme of Death
Thyme of Death - Susan Wittig Albert

I really thought I was going to love this book and series. This book is the first book in the series but it is the last one I´m reading. I just couldn´t get into it. It seemed silly to me but I think I have just gotten tired of cozy mysteries and need to read more serious mysteries. This book just had too many details that wouldn´t have happened in real people land. The main one for me was when the paramedics came to check on the lady that called 911 and didn´t speak to the dispatcher. They went rushing into the place and then decided they needed to try to resuscitate her. They had to go back out to their vehicle to get the equipment. They wouldn´t have gone in their without what they needed to save someone´s life. Then, China is walking around crime scenes and no one stops her. She is telling the paramedics and police about her theories about what happened and I´m picturing them all like goofy saying, ¨well okay!¨ I know what it is really like and none of that would have happened.

 

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review 2017-09-23 06:14
Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases by NisiOisin, original concept by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, translated by Andrew Cunningham
Death Note: Another Note - NisiOisiN

I’ll start this review off with a warning: the book assumes you’ve read (or watched) most of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. I’m going to be writing this review with the same assumption - there are major spoilers for the series from here on out.

Okay, so this book stars L and Naomi Misora. If you don’t remember who Misora is, she was the FBI agent who began investigating Kira after her fiance, FBI agent Raye Penber, was killed by him. The book’s narrator is Mello, who has decided to write down some of L’s cases after his death, starting with this one. You know, in between hunting down Kira or something.

Anyway, Misora is trying to decide whether to resign from the FBI after a particular event that got her suspended when she receives an email from her fiance that actually turns out to be from L. L wants her help with a case he’s currently working on: the Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, also known as the Wara Ningyo Murders or the L.A. Serial Locked Room Killings. There have have been three murders so far and, due to the murderer’s pattern, L believes there may yet be a fourth and even a fifth, unless he and Misora can find the killer first. L sends Misora to be his eyes and hands, although it’s not long before she’s joined by Rue Ryuzaki, a suspicious and strange private detective who has a habit of crawling around on all fours and eating disgustingly sweet snacks.

I went into this feeling somewhat hopeful. My one previous experience with NisiOisin’s writing was Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale, which I loathed, but this was a Death Note prequel starring one of my favorite characters from the series, L, so it was possible it would be better. I figured I’d be happy if NisiOisin delivered a competent mystery that stayed true to L as a character and didn’t include multi-page panty descriptions.

Panties showed up once but weren’t described in detail. L was okay, although he occasionally came across as a little pathetic. There was one part where he seemed to be fishing for compliments from Misora, and I found myself wondering how old he was in this story. I spent a good chunk of the book a little annoyed with him, because it seemed like he’d arranged for Misora to “help” him primarily so that he could get a chance to look cool around a pretty woman. Thankfully, the situation wasn’t quite what I thought it was, although that wasn’t revealed until fairly late in the book.

As for Naomi Misora… I don’t recall having any particular opinions about her when I read the original series and watched the anime, but NisiOisin managed to make me dislike her somewhat. Some of that might have been the translator’s fault - for example, Misora’s word choice when she came up with an idea that she realized wasn’t very good: “no, that was retarded” (124). But Misora’s rant when L asked her what she thought about Ryuzaki was definitely all on NisiOisin:

“‘Creepy and pathetic, and so suspicious that if I weren’t on leave, I’d move to arrest him the moment I laid eyes on him. If we divided everyone in the world into those that would be better off dead and those that wouldn’t, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be the former. Such a complete freak that it amazes me he hasn’t killed himself.’” (55-56)

I have a feeling that NisiOisin intended readers to find this humorous, Misora accidentally and very pointedly insulting L, but instead it made Misora seem horrible and cruel.

The mystery itself left me feeling torn. The puzzles the killer left behind were incredibly contrived, and I had trouble believing in the solutions Misora and Ryuzaki came up with, several of which relied heavily on what I felt were unfounded assumptions. Three murders didn’t give them much data to work with when trying to figure out the murderer’s patterns, and their justification for the date when the fourth murder would occur was, in my opinion, particularly weak.

According to Wikipedia, one of the things NisiOisin is known for is creating characters with extremely strange names. As amusing as it was, I wish he’d reined that tendency in here, because it made the characters seem like idiots. The police noted that each crime scene had Wara Ningyo dolls (similar to voodoo dolls?) nailed to the walls, that the murderer had painstakingly wiped away all fingerprints, and that they were all “locked room” murders, but they couldn’t find any similarities between the victims. The first victim was a 44-year-old male freelance writer named Believe Bridesmaid. The second was a 13-year-old girl named Quarter Queen. The third was a 26-year-old female bank clerk named Backyard Bottomslash. Although the characters considered the possible implications of the alliteration in the victims’ names, not a single person commented on how strange those names were and whether that strangeness might be part of the killer’s pattern.

The book’s pacing was terrible, and the tone should have been tense, considering there was only a short amount of time before the next murder, but NisiOisin kept peppering the story with awkward little jokes. My attention started to wander but was captured again when it was revealed that this case had a closer connection to L than I originally thought. The final revelations did take me by surprise, but I was also annoyed by them. It boggled my mind that a killer who was supposedly so smart couldn’t come up with a better way to beat L in a battle of wits. Even if he’d succeeded, he’d still have lost.

Not only would he have been dead, he’d never have been 100% sure that L couldn’t figure out what he’d done.

(spoiler show)


It was a quick read the offered a few nice tidbits for fans of Death Note in general and L in particular, but the tone and pacing could have been so much better, and the final revelations somehow managed to be both surprising and disappointing. I have one Death Note novel left, Death Note: L, Change the World, and I hope it turns out to be better than this one.

Extras:

Includes one page of color artwork by Takeshi Obata and a page of black-and-white artwork before each chapter.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-09-23 01:08
Reading progress update: I've read 176 out of 176 pages.
Death Note: Another Note - NisiOisiN

On the one hand, bravo to the author for tricking me so well. On the other hand, eh, I'm easily tricked, and the author's methods annoy me. That was one of the most aggravating "here's what actually happened and what the killer's plans were" I've read in a long time. And breathtakingly stupid on the killer's part. Was there no better way to beat L than

dousing himself in gasoline and lighting himself on fire

(spoiler show)

?

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review 2017-09-22 20:47
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death) - Nnedi Okorafor

This short, futuristic novel is essentially a power/revenge fantasy focused on the exploitation of people of African descent, especially in medical research. (Calling it a power fantasy isn’t necessarily a criticism; much of sci-fi and fantasy consists of power fantasies for white male nerds, so it seems only fair for others to get a cut of the action.) Despite a compelling start and socially relevant themes, however, this one flopped for me.

Phoenix lives in a future America in which powerful corporations perform medical experimentation on people, mostly black, who live locked up in mysterious Towers. She knows nothing else and is content until something awful happens to her best friend and love interest, at which point she starts to rebel and discovers the powers with which she was endowed. This is a prequel to a post-apocalyptic fantasy tale and has a frame story, so it’s no secret that somewhere along the way the world as we know it is destroyed, and most readers will guess how; nevertheless, this is your warning that this review will contain SPOILERS.

Okorafor sets the stage well, with an oppressive dystopian setting and a young protagonist struggling to make sense of it and survive. The first third of the book makes for compelling reading, with a fast-paced story full of danger set in a believable world. But as in the companion book, Who Fears Death, the protagonist becomes too powerful, leaching the story of dramatic tension. Once Phoenix learns that she can fly for days on end, die and regenerate as many times as necessary, and move through time and space in an instant and apparently without limit, the story no longer presents obstacles that really challenge her. She attacks one of the Towers alone and without planning and succeeds, so the long stretch toward the end spent preparing to attack another with a group seems unnecessary and anticlimactic (though from a narrative perspective, it allows some down time and for Phoenix to bond more with other characters).

The end also proved unsatisfying. Phoenix suddenly decides the world is irredeemable and that the goddess Ani – who, mind you, does not appear in the book – wants her to destroy it. This decision made little sense to me: after all, her lover is alive and needs rescuing, and while she did just discover that several powerful and corrupt men have used the Towers’ research to extend their lives indefinitely, there’s nothing stopping her from hunting them down individually. The connection to the writing of the Great Book and the world of Who Fears Death also seems strained, though I enjoyed the chapters of the frame story as an independent short story.

Meanwhile, the characterization is fairly simplistic; reviewers who have interpreted this as intentional due to Phoenix’s chronological age may well be correct, but I have my doubts, as the book portrays Phoenix as an adult woman in her intellectual capacity and ability to form relationships. Likewise, the writing style is simple and sometimes staccato, which suits the dystopian setting fine. The world has texture and is a conceivable outgrowth of our world, an important but often-overlooked element of a good dystopia. On the other hand, some details seem under-researched: the bizarre chapter in which, despite the secrecy in which these projects are shrouded, the only records of ongoing medical experiments turn out to be catalogued and housed in hard copy in the Library of Congress (which apparently will switch to Dewey Decimal in the future?) available for browsing by anyone with ID, has been thoroughly dissected in other reviews.

Overall, while this book has some interesting ideas, their execution proved to be a letdown. Not having thought much of Who Fears Death either, I’m ready to conclude that Okorafor’s work is not for me.

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text 2017-09-22 16:54
Reading progress update: I've read 134 out of 176 pages.
Death Note: Another Note - NisiOisiN

More odd names, as Misora and Ryuzaki try to figure out whether the killer's fourth victim is going to be a woman named Blackberry Brown or a man in the same building named Blues-harp Babysplit.

 

This whole book makes me think of one of those adventure games where you solve really weird puzzles by doing things like combining a rock, a doll, a coat hanger, and some duct tape in order to figure out that there's an important clue on a particular spot on the floorboards (not actually an example from the book, although they did just somehow figure out that the killer

turned an entire room into a picture of a clock, with the victim as the clock hands

(spoiler show)

). I take issue with the way Misora and Ryuzaki decided on the date when the next murder would occur.

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