Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical RomanceTwo Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance by Adam Bertocci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's not too terribly much to say about this fairly quick, enjoyable read. It's The Big Lebowski as if written by William Shakespeare, with dozens of references to the Bard's plays woven in. I love Shakespeare and I love the Coen Brothers - I consider O Brother, Where Art Thou? my all-time favorite movie - so I had no reason to dislike this clever mash-up. It wasn't quite five-star spectacular along the lines of Shakespeare-inspired The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet, but it was a plainly enjoyable effort.

I saw this book on the blog, where people post pictures of their books next to their beers. I immediately went and purchased a copy from an indie bookseller with my own funds, and I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Friday, January 19, 2018

'Bonfire' by Krysten Ritter Review

BonfireBonfire by Krysten Ritter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Krysten Ritter's first novel is solid effort, a suspenseful tale involving environmental justice and the company that may or may not be poisoning the small Indiana town of Barrens, a town that loves the company slightly less than it loves Jesus but slightly more than it loves football. Our heroine is Abigail "Abby" Williams, part of a team of Chicago lawyers sent in to investigate the possibly pollution, but also a former Barrens resident herself. Abby's life has not been easy. She lost her mom to cancer and her father was abusive. The other girls at school bullied and tortured her, so Abby has worked hard to leave Barrens in her past.

Abby's childhood best frenemy Kaycee Mitchell hasn't been seen in Barrens since shortly after they graduated from high school. Although local legend holds that she escaped the small town for a more glamorous life, Abby suspects Kaycee's disappearance may be related to a rash of illnesses associated with the town's drinking water. To investigate, she much navigate reluctant small towners who are worried about their meager livelihoods, an estranged father who now seems more frail than frightening, and both locals and colleagues whose good faith can only be trusted so far.

In her quest to investigate the town's mysteries, in her traumatic past, and in her capacity to consume alcoholic beverages, Abby Williams may remind some of Ritter's fans of her Marvel/Netflix character Jessica Jones. Abby Williams may not have Jones' superhuman strength, but she is just Jessica Jones-like enough that Marvel fangirls will enjoy the read.

(Photo/Jana Lynn French/ Peabody, in New York City, New York on Wednesday, May 18, 2016)
Ritter is a talented writer. Her debut shows psychological insight, the ability to paint a picture in the reader's mind, and characters well-rounded enough that they don't devolve into Midwestern stereotypes (and as a Midwesterner living in Indianapolis, I appreciate this). The ending doesn't seem completely fresh and original compared to other stories in this suspense genre, but I was willing to forgive this because I genuinely cared about Abby and was wrapped up in what was going to happen to her. But I imagine if she decides to write another novel, the plot will unfold a little more smoothly.

One of the three blurbs on the back is by Ruth Ware, the English suspense fiction author whose novel In a Dark, Dark Wood I enjoyed so well. This book reminded me less of that novel, though, and more of Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Knoll's protagonist was also desperately trying to escape a nightmarish high school experience.

I first became aware of Krysten Ritter as an actress on one of my all-time favorite TV series, Veronica Mars. In my head I imagine her as the black-haired but cold-hearted beauty Charlotte Campbell in Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike novels. And yes, I love her in Jessica Jones and am eagerly awaiting its second season to appear on Netflix this March. So I read this while I'm waiting.

I purchased this book with my own funds from my local brick and mortar Barnes and Noble and was not obligated in any way to review it. My copy is signed by Ritter, but not personalized. I just bought it off the shelf that way. It's pretty cool.