Archive for April 2009
It’s more difficult for me to write about a book I really liked. Sometimes, there is just no isolating the ingredients that made the read exceptional.
With The Ghost and the Femme Fatale, fourth in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series, I am at a loss as to what stands out.
Is it the chemistry between hard-boiled PI Jack Sheppard and gentle bookstore owner Penelope McClure? Is it the small-town whodunit elements, the cozy mystery, the race for the answers before more people are murdered? Or is it the fact that Jack is a ghost, dead since 1949, and that he is haunting Penelope’s shop as well as dreams?
In this installment, the Movie Town Theater is holding its first ever Film Noir, with special guest ‘50s femme fatale Hedda Geist. She has a dark past, which seems to have caught up with her—because the moment she steps onto the stage, she is almost killed by a massive speaker that fell off the roof.
Then other guests start to die. Penelope, who handles the book sales of these guests, wants to know why, and enlists Jack’s help, especially when she realizes the police are again on the wrong track.
Jack has a bad feeling about this. He was alive at the height of Hedda’s career and infamy. He suspects that the femme fatale may have had something to do with one of his unsolved cases. Combining real time investigation and dream travel, courtesy of Jack’s ghostly powers, they crack the case though.
Despite the murders and the killer’s murderous desire for revenge, I felt good reading this book. It may not be as edgy as other paranormal mysteries nor as riveting as the thrillers I’ve read but it is lighter, and fun.
I like the camaraderie between many of the townsfolk: they’re not all out to get each other, instead they band together to support Penelope and oust the killer in their midst. The activity room beside the bookstore serves as their unofficial club room.
Maybe, there is no one single ingredient that makes this series so likeable. It has a special appeal, you know… Ok, fine, I love> this series because Jack and Penelope having a crush on one another is just so darned cute I want to squeeze them!
The Haunted Bookshop series is very hard to find. Our big bookstores don’t carry the titles; I chanced upon the second book in one Booksale branch while a friend this title in another. One major reason I am giving in to the lure of credit cards is so that I can order the rest of the titles from Amazon.
The story is set in 19th century England and centers on a “fairy doctor” named Lydia. Her life takes a 180-degrees turn when she meets a legendary blue knight count named Edgar and his crew. He hires her as an adviser during his quest to obtain a treasured sword that was supposed to be handed down to him by his family.
I’m no jaded otaku. I’m a starved one who loved the romance and adventure of Earl and Fairy.
Shamelessly, I lapped everything up, my eyes glued to the screen for 12 episodes straight; I wasn’t just watching a new anime series, I was rediscovering an old love, one I knew could hold so much intensity and raw emotion in a few simple lines and fantastic action and sweet passion in the deft strokes of an animator.
The old techniques—big eyes, sweat drops, the cool-looking hero, the courageous but insecure heroine, and adorable sidekick; they’re all there, but I defy the tired fan’s (oxymoron alert, hehe) taunts of formulaic, girly, and shallow to offer my own fresh view, lighter and straightforward.
Lydia Carlton takes her gift seriously; she intends to be a professional fairy doctor so that humans and fairies will once again live together as one society. Edward Ashenbert is flirtatious but deadly serious about getting what he wants—and that’s to regain honor and place among England’s nobility; he also plans to fight the machinations of the Prince who killed his family and enslaved him when he was a child.
When their respective ambitions collided at the beginning, when Edward abducts Lydia and forces her to help him find the legendary Blue Earl Sword, more than sparks and a few slaps flew. This volatile chemistry lasted throughout the series, as Lydia, though attracted to Edward, wishes to keep their relationship strictly professional, while Edward, falling madly in love with Lydia, could not completely hide the fact that he is very good at manipulating people.
The plot isn’t cut and dried also. Edward isn’t exactly the true heir to the legendary sword and title. But his quest to become worthy, by protecting the Blue knight’s legacy and people, made for a more interesting story… He doesn’t have magical powers—he can’t even see fairies and he relies on his wits and charisma to win his fights, yet he seems to attract that pure loyalty that only true kings and queens could command.
His friend and servant, Raven, a human with the soul of a ravening sprite, guards him zealously and will lay down his life for him. Raven used to be simply a killing machine of the Prince… until Edward saw beyond the blood and befriended the person. From that act of kindness, Raven knew he has met his true master.
As enjoyable as the adventures and romance in this series were, they seem merely a prelude for the big fight. Who is this evil Prince? We just keep hearing about him. Will Lydia ever accept Edward? Kelpie, a aggressive man-eating fairy pursuing Lydia, isn’t helping any to speed the romance along. Gentle enough to Lydia, he keeps trying to abduct her though into the fairy world so he could protect her—and mate with her too, of course.
Yes, Earl and Fairy is very shojo. But then that’s because I identify with Lydia. But what’s stopping guys from relating to any of the male characters, who have enough heroism and villainy to keep secret angst and secret wishes occupied.
Voodoo murders are terrorizing New Orleans. Bookstore owner and horror writer Gabriel Knight investigates, hoping to gather juicy material for his new book. He soon realizes though that the case is personal—it may hold the key to a 300-year old family curse…
I heard the game was terrific. If you’re into atmospheric RPGs, story-driven and text heavy video games, Gabriel Knight: The Sins of the Fathers would be a fantastic play… All those puzzles to be solved, rooms you can wander in and out, useful items conveniently lying around, enigmatic characters…
The game would so grip you that you’d want to read the novelization. What a great tool to make more sense of Gabriel Knight, spell him out and have more of him…
Unfortunately, I haven’t played the game yet, though I wanted to—now I don’t care to. How can one enjoy a game in which all solutions to puzzles have already been spelled out, rather ridiculously at that, through a book?
Those rooms—not all are empty all the time… But because the lead character has to find things out, villains are often oblivious to his wandering around. Where sensible people would hightail out of a possible massacre, the characters here would approach blithely, with no clear plan how to get out, just because it’s important to see what’s happening (being uzi, you know).
And those objects lying randomly around—why not take them? Isn’t it obvious, the universe has a grand design in which a centuries-old rod gathering dust in a corner somewhere would prove to be the key to a secret Voodoo headquarters under a church someday? Pockets are designed to be bottomless, anyway.
So here’s my plan. I have the sequel on my TBR, The Beast Within; I won’t read it yet. I’ll try to get hold of the second game and play it first…. Because despite all the book’s shortcomings, these shortcomings may translate to awesome gameplay if I see the story unfold as a PC game.
Right, that’s what I’ll do. I may have found the book boring, but I know I will be more forgiving of illogical behavior and nonsensical plot development if these are what it takes to advance in the game. Also, I’d like to see more of Grace Nakimura, Gabriel’s research assistant. The series really should capitalize on a possible romantic relationship between self-centered but maturing Gabriel and fiercely intelligent but vulnerable Grace.
Book and game promised this, and I’m going to hold them to it.
All things scary come to those who wait.
I’m glad I waited, and fought off those yawns that almost made me change discs. Ghost Hunt (Gōsuto Hanto), a 25-episode anime based on a manga and light novel series called Akuryou Series by Fyumi Ono, dished out the chills slowly—but surely, turning the mood darker and the ghosts more terrifying with each ghost hunt case.
Good thing I’ve watched enough anime before to be patient enough with the rather lackluster beginning. The series starts with Mai and two other first year high school girls telling ghost stories to each other. They are interrupted twice by a mysterious male student and a classmate who warns them how their ghost stories are attracting spirits to the school.
While out walking, she decides to check out the old school building. There is a camera inside; she checks it out—but before she touches it a man stops her and ends up injuring himself. That man, unfortunately, is the assistant of the mysterious male student, Kasuya Shibuya, a paranormal investigator. To pay for the camera, Mai is forced to stand in for the injured assistant.
Eventually, Mai becomes a regular assistant, working part-time after school and during weekends for the Shibuya Psychic Research Center. She calls Shibuya “Naru” because she thinks he is narcissistic. In their investigations, various exorcists and spirit mediums help out.
By episode 6 on the second case, involving malevolent child-spirits and a Sadako-like creature buried in a well under the house, “lackluster” was replaced by “creepy;” by episode 16 on case 6, about a death curse that compels spirits to devour each other until they become one giant monster waiting to be hatched, “creepy” turns “really scary.”
Besides the terrific ghost stories, I also liked the cast of characters—though we get precious little backstory until the eighth case involving the ghost of a mass murderer wandering in a topsy-turvy mansion… Mai is practical but very alone. Naru is aloof yet he seems to truly care for his friends. Then there’s the brotherly ex-monk, the haughty miko, the snooty medium, the gentle priest, and the stern assistant.
We also have “Naru” of Mai’s dreamworld, to which she finds herself in more and more frequently, a sign of Mai’s awakening clairvoyant powers. The dream Naru is very different from the real Naru—he smiles and is very open about his concern over the dreaming Mai….
As mangas go, the story of the Shibuya Psychic Research Center will be a long way from being finished. The next anime season may also take a while, if ever, to materialize. I’m hoping that if I wait long enough, other things scary that weren’t in the first season would make much stronger cases in the next season, shaking more secrets out from Mai, Naru, and the other tight-lipped characters.