Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review: Styx and Stones

Styx And Stones (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries #7) Styx And Stones by Carola Dunn

My review

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
This installment of the Daisy Dalrymple series was much better than the last. Although the setup was a bit wierd (Daisy's brother-in-law asks her to help find who has been sending him letters accusing him of adultery), the whole story flowed much better than in the previous book, Dead in the Water. This book concentrates a lot of Daisy's relationship with Alec's daughter, Belinda, and those scenes add depth to both characters.

Overall, I think these books are just a little too short. If they were about fifty pages longer the mysteries would not have to be so simple (and wrapped up so quickly) and we would have more time to follow the Daisy/Alec relationship (although Dunn does a decent job of highlighting it already).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: Dead in the Water

Dead In The Water (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries #6) Dead In The Water by Carola Dunn

My review

Rating: 2 of 5 stars
I had read the earlier installments of this series several years ago, and I had always meant to read more. I finally got around to it, but this book was not really worth it. The mystery is not well constructed, and the ending is rushed (both figuratively and literally--for some reason we get a wierd foot-chase scene that was really out of place). What I found most distasteful was Daisy's attitude. She kept thinking unkind thoughts about the other characters, and then only sort of regretting her meanness. I didn't remember Daisy being so unlikeable before. Since these books are short, I will give them another chance. But they better bounce back quickly.

One note for me, since I've also been reading Robin Paige's Victorian Mysteries: these books take place only 30 years after Paige's, but here finger-printing and other methods of modern forensics are used regularly. In Paige's series the police look upon these methods with a lot of skepticism. The turnaround from distrust to acceptance of these techniques is interesting.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Movie Review: State of Play

I saw this on Saturday. Mike, being a big fan of journalism movies (All the President's Men, Good Night and Good Luck, His Girl Friday, Zodiac) wanted to check it out. I definitely enjoyed it (Russel Crowe, Helen Mirren, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams give great performances), but there was something lacking in the plotting. Mike described it as about 80% of the quality of Michael Clayton, and I would agree with that. It's not quite as amped up as Clayton, so you're not waiting for some one's car to blow up the entire time. Nor are the plot twists quite so twisty, and the ending just sort of putters out. The constant whining over the death of print newspapers is also a bit much, making the movie feel a little grumpy. Also, how in the world are we supposed to believe that Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck are close enough in age to have gone to college together? In real life about 8 years separate them, and Affleck has a perpetual twenty-something look to him. Overall, a tasty snack but not a full meal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Book Review: Death at Rottingdean

Death at Rottingdean (Robin Paige Victorian Mysteries, No. 5) Death at Rottingdean by Robin Paige

My review

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not a super-complicated mystery (I think of this series as similar to "The Closer" TV show: if something or someone pops up for no discernible reason, that means it's a clue to the killer). Nevertheless, there were several interesting passages detailing the birth of automatic handguns. This builds upon the authors' previous examinations of modern technology (including motor cars and forensic techniques) as it developed at the end of the Victorian Era. This aspect remains one of the most unique parts of this mystery series.

Also, the use of quotations from totally random sources abates somewhat relative to previous entries in this series. However, it doesn't go fully away.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Movie Review: Hellboy II

I finally got to see this on DVD. I remember thinking that Hellboy I was a decent movie, but not great. This one is a step up from that. It's much more fantasy-driven, dealing with a war between elves and humans. As such, del Toro (who both wrote and directed the movie) has created a visually interesting world full of mystical creatures. There is much less action occurring in the real world (the streets and subway tunnels of NYC) and way more in fantasy locales (the Troll Market, the elves' throne room). The major issue is that the characterisations are a little flat. Hellboy himself remains interesting (the movie deals a bit with his constant struggle to fit in with humans) but his comrades aren't. At one point a main character has to decide whether to save Hellboy's life, and her struggle did not seem nearly as emotional as it ought to have been.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Movie Review: Watchmen

Although I avidly read comics, I have never gotten into Alan Moore. I have read a couple things by him (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Killing Joke), but I have never managed to get through his iconic stuff: Watchmen, V for Vendetta, etc. So bear that in mind.

I found this movie interesting, but too long for what it was. There were some beautiful, eye catching sequences (particularly the opening credits), but these were also very drawn out. I wasn't that interested in the characters, so I wasn't willing to wade through so much flashback and slow unraveling of the mystery. Really, the opening credits were the best part of the movie, which raised expectations, only to fail to meet them.