Saturday, February 24, 2007

"May Day: A Murder-by-Month Mystery," by Jess Lourey

May Day follows former English major Mira James to a Minnesota small town when she agrees to house-sit during a friend's extended vacation. Newly employed at the local library and newspaper, Mira tries to acclimate to her surroundings. She's soon hot on the trail for truth after her new romance with a handsome archeologist abruptly ends with his murder.

Lourey writes with an amusing intimacy about this midwestern small town and its kooky inhabitants. Mira is a very likeable and hilarious character. How can I not relate to an English major turned part-time librarian stuck in a small town? Thank goodness I haven't found any hot dead guys in my reference section. But I thoroughly enjoyed this quick, very funny book.

4 stars

"Running with the Demon," by Terry Brooks

For some strange reason, I gave my dear blog readers the opportunity to suggest one book each for me to read this year. Tusk was the first to eagerly suggest a favorite, I assume, of his. So his was the first book I chose to read. And, incidentally, Running With the Demon is the first book in a trilogy.

Now, I'd like to start off by saying that, while I don't normally go for the fantasy novels, I have enjoyed a few. Unfortunately for me, this was not to be one of those few.

Nest Freemark is an adolescent girl who is by no means ordinary. She has magical powers (that she's not allowed to use), can see creatures no one else can, and is unaware that she's the rope in a crucial battle of tug-of-war between good (the Word) and evil (the Void). She's stalked by a Demon with a personal interest at stake. John Ross is a Knight of the Word who has come to protect her.

The story has everything you can think of: creepy shadow people called Feeders, an ancient evil monster, teenage love, magic, dysfunctional families, a steel mill strike. I guess there's a pretty good foundation for a decent story, but I was unmoved. Maybe if I hadn't been a Tolkien fan, I'd have liked it more. However, there were too many similarities to Lord of the Rings for me to appreciate Brooks' novel. Need some examples?

*LOTR had Ents, giant trees who can talk and walk and are crucial to the battle.
*Running had Pick, a 6-inch magical character made of twigs who can talk and walk and is crucial (at least in the first novel) to one of the battles.

*LOTR had the Elven Lady Galadriel, who showed Frodo visions of the past, present, and future.
*Running had the Lady, who chose John Ross to become a Knight of Word, and gave him the gift (or curse) of dreaming the future.

*LOTR had, obviously, the ring, which Frodo had to bear despite the toll it took upon him.
*Running had a sword that John Ross had to use as a staff or cane because becoming a Knight inflicted a limp upon him, so that he was never without his sword.

There were other things, but you get the idea. I read Amazon's review, along with those of readers, and they all seemed to love the book. Good for them, I guess. But once you've read Tolkien, nothing much compares.

3 stars