Book Reviews: Joss Whedon, Bruges, Orange County, and Spin

It’s the eclectic mix in the title that really sells it. . .

Joss Whedon
This biography was up for book of the year in this category, which is a bit of a surprise, not because it isn’t good enough, but because it has the same irreverent style as its namesake.
If you’re reading this because you’re a fan of the man—I think he’d like that rhyme—you will not be disappointed. There’s plenty of background on his growing-up years, his time in college where he learned about filmmaking, and his early years with his father in Hollywood. But where it really takes off, as should be expected, is with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, first his disappointment at how the movie was taken out of his control, then Buffy’s triumphant return, this time on TV. For those who are not particularly fans of his yet reading this anyway, there’s plenty of interesting tidbits from his time in Hollywood, all the way to Much Ado About Nothing and the preproduction of the semi-sequel to that blockbuster that is The Avengers, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There’s just a touch about this family life, a few mentions without being intrusive; since I’m not a person who follows such things, I didn’t even know he had kids.
And just because there’s nowhere else for me to put this, I’m gonna say right now that, after binging on Buffy the Vampire Slayer for about a month, what I thought the first time is confirmed: the best moment of the whole series is “Buffy Summers, Class Protector.”
5/5 (Or as Faith would say, “Five by five.”)

The Juan Doe Murders
After one chapter of this Noreen Ayres mystery I knew this was going to be rough and realistic—at least I wrote a note to that effect—but in the end it wasn’t nearly as gory as that beginning crime scene. And there’s quite a few more murders to investigate, in the not-usual-dead-body areas of Orange County, California.
I was well into the second chapter before realizing—or more likely being told—that the first-person protagonist is a woman, and it didn’t help that she was often referred to as Brandon, which is actually her surname. The twist here is that she’s not a detective, but rather a crime-scene specialist, though in no way does this come across like an episode of CSI. As one might expect from the title, the dead bodies are Hispanic, which leads to a somewhat different take than might be otherwise anticipated.
Halfway through her lover dies. . . or not. . . or maybe. This would have been a useless plotline, except that his son is part of the investigation. At the end she admits she didn’t do anything to really help the investigation, the violent ending having taken away the necessity of arrests and trials.
It wasn’t till I was reading the author blurb at the end that I found out this was the third in a series, but since it never occurred to me, that must mean it can be easily read without the others.

From Bruges with Love
I got fooled again; like a couple of previous books, I expected this mystery by Pieter Aspe to be new, but as it turned out this is merely the first English translation of a book first published in 1997. You wouldn’t think it would make that much of a difference, but it is at times jarring, such as a clue being found in a Betamax box, which was obsolete even then to the character, but you surely wouldn’t find one nowadays outside of a museum.
These Dutch—or Flemish—names make it difficult to keep track of; some “sound” the same when you read quickly, and for some strange reason it’s worse than German. As for the plot, there are some tangents that end up going nowhere, but since that’s common in police work it’s not too bad. There’s a final plot twist that doesn’t change much, other than the fate of a couple of characters. There is one subplot involving a young policewoman that didn’t seem worth putting in, other than to save her ass at the end.
But as someone who’s been to Bruges and enjoyed it, I was more than a little disappointed at the complete lack of description of the amazing places that draw tourists; there’s quite a bit on local restaurants and everyday places, which is as expected, but I don’t believe the word “canal” was used even once. A reason for that might be the few scenes that featured tourists, all of which have the main character exhibiting contemptuous thoughts toward them. On the other hand, this story seems to be far from the first in a long line, so maybe all that was covered before.

If you ever watched those press monkeys on TV and wondered what they really meant by all those long phrases of meaningless gibberish, this is the book for you. More funny than really educational, the book is in dictionary format, most of it spin-to-English, though there is a much smaller part that’s English-to-spin at the “end.” By far the best parts are the examples, like in the spelling bee when you say “use it I a sentence.” The new terms are substituted for their more usual counterparts in familiar clichés, some of which become incredibly hilarious. But despite the last half being just notes, it was still a long tough read, not at all what I expected. This dropped its grade a point.


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