Read-it-if Review: Blur … and a Fi50 reminder!

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Afternoon all! Today I have a murder-mystery-paranormal-YA new release for you and a reminder for all the dauntless creators of teeny-tiny narrative.  So without further faffing about, let me remind those who would like to participate in this month’s Fiction in 50 challenge that the prompt for May is…..

what comes after button

To join in, simply create a piece of fiction in 50 words or less and link it up to the linky in my post on Monday.  We always welcome new players (with a no hazing policy too – bonus!) and veteran challengees alike.  If you’d like to know more about the challenge just click on the attractive image at the top of the post.  Also, we’re coming up to the end of the prompts for this six-month period, so if anyone has suggestions for prompts for the second half of the year, let me know and I’ll try to include them.

Now on to the review!  I received a digital copy of this title from the publishers via Netgalley – thanks!

Today’s tome is Blur by Steven James, a paranormal murder mystery for the YA market.  In Blur, we are introduced to Daniel Byers as he and father are attending the funeral of a girl from Daniel’s school.  Daniel didn’t know Emily Jackson very well – nor, it seemed, did anybody from Beldon High School – but he and his father think it only right that they attend Emily’s funeral, after she was found dead following an accidental drowning in the local lake.  While viewing Emily’s casket, Daniel has a terrifying vision in which Emily’s corpse comes to life and instructs him to find her glasses.  When Emily’s ghost appears to Daniel again later on, during an important football game, Daniel thinks he may just be going crazy, but tries to comply with Emily’s wishes.  As Daniel delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding Emily’s death, he, his friends Kyle and Nicole and maybe-love-interest Stacey, uncover some clues that may point to Emily’s drowning being murder.  But who would want to murder a girl that nobody really took any notice of?  And are the visions that Daniel is having all just in his head?

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Read it if:

* you think murder just isn’t murder unless it produces a good old-fashioned haunting in its wake

* you know something about, or care about, or enjoy reading about, American football

* you like a murder mystery in which it is nigh on impossible to guess the murderer before s/he is revealed in the course of the story

So….you know how a week or two ago I was waxing lyrical on how there should be more murder mysteries written for this age group? Well…I’m kind of rethinking that pronouncement after reading this one.  Normally, as regular readers of my musings will know, I love a good paranormal and I love a good murder mystery, so all signs pointed to me thoroughly enjoying this book, but my overall impression is one of a narrative that was trying too hard to be all things to all people. Allow me to explain.

There’s not a lot to complain about regarding the actual story itself – it’s readable, the story flows reasonably well and there are a few good red herrings dotted about to lure the reader astray.  If this was just a plain murder mystery, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more.  Where I feel it fell down was in the paranormal elements.  Now, I can’t say too much about certain bits of the paranormal stuff because it would lead to spoilers, but essentially I felt that Daniel’s visions (and his Rainman-esque ability to solve mathematical problems in a split-second) didn’t really fill any meaningful purpose in the story.  In all honesty, the same story could have been told using a different plot device to engage Daniel and his friends in Emily’s murder investigation, without having to resort to paranormal stuff that seemed tacked on.

Similarly, there is a bully character in the story who hangs out with a pair of cronies and generally appears to hassle Daniel at key points in the narrative.  Again, I couldn’t figure out why they were necessary.  Did James just put them in because every school needs a bully? I’m not sure.  But their appearances could easily have been dropped from the book with very little change occuring in the overall narrative flow.

Finally, I had a real problem with the ending of this story.  From my point of view, a GOOD murder mystery allows the reader to think that they’ve solved the mystery just before the reveal, before having the story turned on its head in a clever and unpredictable fashion, thereby offering a warm feeling of satisfaction in the author’s skill at wiley trickery.  Unfortunately, in Blur, this warm feeling of satisfaction is denied the reader (or at least it was for me) because there is no possible way that the killer could have been guessed beforehand.  You know why?

**And this is a tiny little SPOILER, so don’t read the next bit if you don’t want to know about it…just skip ahead to the next paragraph**  I’m glad you asked.  The killer could not have been guessed because s/he was barely mentioned in the preceding couple of hundred pages.  In fact, I had to read the reveal a few times to get it, because I was going, “Who? Where does s/he come into it??”  So instead of a warm feeling of satisfaction at the author’s wiley tricksiness, I was left scratching my head and thinking, “Well that was unexpected. And fairly stupid.”  So after the reveal I spent a bit of time pondering why James would have selected a killer that essentially had no motive for a crime that took an enormous amount of effort to engineer.  And I came up empty.  Disappointing really.

**SPOILERY BIT OVER**

I realise, after looking at reviews over at Goodreads that I’m fairly well in the minority here, given that most other readers seem to have loved this book, but I’m afraid it just didn’t cut it for me and I won’t be seeking out the next books in the trilogy.  To be perfectly honest, what tipped me right over the edge was an adult character’s use of the word “addicting” close to the end of the book.  I think, silly character, the word you are looking for is “addictive”.  I can tell you that as I was already slightly irritated by the shonky reveal, having a character unnecessarily verbing an adjective (as dictionary cat would say) was like being unexpectedly poked in the eye with a sharp stick.

Once again, plenty of others have greatly enjoyed this book, so don’t let my whinging put you off.  If you like murder mysteries with a ghostly twist, this could appeal to you.  Blur is due for release on May 27th.

OH! A favour please, my American readers: What on earth is a “Homecoming” game and why is it so important?  I have never bothered to question this event before, but now my curiosity has arisen.  Where are the students/teams/school supposed to have been, to warrant a homecoming? And why do you select monarchs of homecoming, when you are so staunchly proud of your independence?  Thank you in advance for this cultural education.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bruce Jumps on the Bandwagon…

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Hello again my lovelies….today, in a spirit of social interaction, I have decided to participate in The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday.  In case you haven’t heard of it, this is a weekly linky list based around a book-related top-ten list.  I won’t be participating every week, just when the topic takes my fancy.  This week’s topic is……(drumroll)…..

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors That I Read in 2012!

In no particular order…

Mark and Rowan Somerset

…are a pair from New Zealand (otherwise known as Hobbit-land), who have penned a fantastically funny and subversive pair of picture books: Baa Baa Smart Sheep and I Love Lemonade, which feature a turkey being outwitted, to his great detriment, by a sheep…..Can I interest you in some smart tablets anyone? No? What about a cookie?

Kirsty McKay…

…won me over with her feisty, feverish festival of fetid zombieflesh, Undead.  It’s pretty typical group-of-teens-running-away-from-mysterious-plague-that’s-turning-everyone-into-undead-monsters fare, but has some lovely comic moments to balance out the mandatory gory violence.  I’m looking forward to the sequel, Unfed.

Ben Aaronovitch…
…is the author of my latest “series to watch”, beginning with Rivers of London (Midnight Riot is the US title), the first of Constable Peter Grant’s magical policing adventures.  I have just loved all three of the books in this series so far (with a fourth coming next year…pre-ordering….NOW!).   Of course, since Mr Aaronovitch also writes for Doctor Who (the television show, not the Timelord), there was no question of me loving his work.

smart sheepundeadrivers of london

 Edward Gorey…

yes, I knowIt is tantamount to criminal that I have not discovered this genius of quirk and oddness earlier.

William Kuhn…

…author of Mrs Queen Takes the Train (and visitor to this very blog, no less!) has become a firm favourite due to his lovely, British, gently comic writing style.  And of course, he’s utterly polite.

AJ Jacobs…

…I have to thank The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhhhhh for putting me on to Mr Jacobs. In undertaking a number of personal experiments, including, but not limited to, following the Bible literally for an entire year and trying to finish reading the encyclopedia, he has endeared himself to the denizens of the shelf.  He also pens some extremely amusing anecdotes.

tiniesmrs queen  living biblically

 Leslie Patricelli…

…subject of one of Mad Martha’s Odes to an Author; her baby character is too cheeky for words. So I won’t go on about him.  Suffice to say, her work is well worth a look, particularly for those with mini-fleshlings in their dwelling.

Mike Shevdon…

…is another writer of a fantastic urban fantasy series: The Courts of the Feyre.  I stumbled across his work in a general browsing session and took a punt.  I’m happy to say the punt passed safely through the goal posts and I am now the proud guardian of all three books in the trilogy.  They sit neatly on my shelf…although the publishers changed the cover art between the second and third tomes, and admittedly, this makes the whole set look a little silly. Sigh.

Lee Battersby…

…along with the aforementioned Mr Shevdon, is one of Angry Robot’s stable of authors (stable? Is that the right term? Probably not. A bit too horsey really) and creator of The Corpse Rat King.  Isn’t that a cracking title? Doesn’t it make you wonder what on earth the book’s about? Well it did for me….and now I’ve pre-ordered its sequel, The Marching Dead. Only 105 days to go!

Michael Boccacino…

…yes, he of the cheese-like surname! I encountered his quite delightful, fantastical and scare-laden effort, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling earlier this year and couldn’t put it down.  Well, I could, but I didn’t want to.  I am definitely going to keep at least one eyeball out for any further efforts from this author.

no no yes yes    sixty one nails   corpse rat   charlottemarkham

Looking over this list, it appears I developed a penchant for creepiness, oddballity and general mayhem and subversion this year.  Will the trend continue into 2013? I will no doubt keep you posted!

Until next time,

Bruce