Friday, June 4, 2010
Review: What's A Ghoul To Do? by Victoria Laurie ★★★
I picked up this book on a whim at the thrift store after being drawn in by the cover. Well, no, I take that back, not the cover, but the little devious looking piggy-ghost on the bag the girl is holding. I just thought that it was adorable in a "Sure, come closer... yeah, closer... Mwahahahaha!" way.
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Anyway, so I picked it up on a whim, and was actually surprised by it. I liked it quite a bit. The premise and set up reminded me quite a lot of Charlaine Harris's "Grave Sight", only this was good. To be perfectly honest, once that connection clicked in my head, my initial thought was "Oh shizzle." But I gave it a fair chance, and was rewarded by something decently written, not creepy at all (at least in the sexual tension department - it did have a little bit of a creepy ghost factor, or maybe that was just because I was reading it at night by flashlight...) and amusing.
Speaking of... There was quite a bit of sexual tension here, minus the sibling aspect, and it made things interesting. M.J., the main character, was quite conflicted about her feelings for a certain "Dr. Delicious", and in a reasonable and believable way. She is not someone who does the whole social dating scene. She doesn't dress up, she's not girly and doesn't play games and is willing to wait for what she wants. She's self-reliant and sure of herself, for the most part, so her confidence doesn't feel fake or put-on or snotty. She just seems genuine and not Super-Tough-Independent-Girl.
I liked the interplay between M.J., Steven, and Gilley. They were quite humorous and fun. Plus M.J. had a parrot, which at first I thought was a silly gimmick, but was done well. Doc (the bird) was a character unto himself, and rather than being a one-time mention for quirkiness, or a single-use plot device, was counted and treated as a family member. You could tell that M.J. took her bird-parenting seriously, and that the others accepted the bird as a matter of course. Of course, that's not to say that Doc didn't help move certain things along, like a little awkwardness to break the ice between Steven and M.J. Speaking of Steven, I really enjoyed his broken English and the way that his vocabulary faux pas would lighten the mood or create the little misdirection needed to distract us from something important. Of course, if I'm writing about that, then it's kind of failed in the attempt of distracting me because I recognized it as distraction, but the characters didn't and the story still moved right along, so I'll count it as good.
This was definitely light and fun, but, at times, the writing seemed stiff and awkward to me. For instance, M.J. is supposed to be from the South, but the only southern characteristic she had was in her use of "honey" and "sweetie" and the too-much-used "my friend". I can't hear that phrase without thinking of John McCain now anyway, but it's just not a phrase that sounds natural to me... ever. It sounds forced and fake, even when it is not meant to be. M.J.'s guidance to the spirits she encountered was also stiff and kindergarten teacherish. I get that sometimes the communication between dimensions was hard to deal with, and that spirits can be reluctant to chat, but it just seemed a mite condescending to me at times.
I was a eensy bit disappointed with the mystery resolution. I'd wanted it to be one where I say "WOW! Who would have guessed that!" but rather it was a kind of "Yeah, that makes sense. What's on TV?" (Well, I would have said that, if I watch TV, but I don't really.)
I liked this, but it wasn't great. Funny, but not gut-busting funny, or the kind of funny that really lingers and makes you giggle at odd moments so as to make people look at you like you're crazy. But still amusing. I will read the next book in the series if I happen to stumble across it, because this was nice and light and fun, and the characters were interesting and entertaining, but I doubt it will become a favorite.
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