Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2-in-1: Nightwalker & The Elephant Keeper

1. Nightwalker by Heather Graham *

This was my first encounter with Ms. Graham's writing. All I knew about her was that she wrote in a few different genres, including romance and thriller. Nightwalker is a paranormal thriller, taking place in Las Vegas. Jessy Sparhawk, part Native American, cares for her beloved grandfather while living paycheck to paycheck. One day she decides to try her luck gambling as she is really desperate for money. When she's done playing the biggest shock is yet to come. A body of a dead man with a knife in his back falls right on Jessy. Private detective, Dillon Wolf, is accidentally right in the same place and he takes it upon himself to figure out what exactly happened, not realizing that Jessy will be playing an important role in the whole investigation. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she is a stunning woman. Where's the paranormal, you ask? Ha! Mr. Wolf is part Native American as well and he is also a nightwalker, a person who sees and is visited by ghosts. One of these ghosts will help him solve the mystery that turns out to be a lot more than just a dead body in a casino. And it's a mystery that will cost lives.

Thanks to Nightwalker I fell under Heather Graham's spell. It's a great thriller for cold winter days when you really don't feel like doing anything but curling up with an engaging story that will keep you occupied enough to forget about an ugly day outside. The author wove the plot so skillfully that I literally couldn't put the book away and as a result I read it in one day. Thank goodness I was sick in bed and had an excuse to do nothing but read. The thing that really got me to liking Ms. Graham's style was that the romance part was tasteful and that the character of Jessy was not predictable at all and for once I got a heroine who acted the way I imagine real life people act. No such cliches as saying 'no' when you mean 'yes', or being superficially coquettish. I have to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jessy and Dillon were such likable characters. Every element in Nightwalker was blended nicely (romance, thriller & paranormal) so I didn't feel overwhelmed or confused about what the story was really about. I am definitely stocking up more of Heather Graham's books for next year.

2. The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson **

I am usually not a big fan of books with animals as main characters. I decided to break away from this pattern and read The Elephant Keeper, especially that the description mentioned it to be 'a magical adventure'. The novel is set in 18th century England and the story is told by Tom Page, a keeper of two elephants he named Timothy and Jenny. By pure accident, Tom found himself to be their main caregiver since the day they arrived in England. The elephants were still pretty much babies and on the verge of dying. However, under the careful eye of Tom and his undivided attention, Timothy and Jenny survived. And Tom's life took an unexpected turn as he falls in love with the two animals and slowly but surely removes himself from the world of people.

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Well, it was okay in the beginning even though the style of writing (Tom's weird grammar with author's attempt to use the language as it may have been used in the times the story was set) took some getting used to. It also took me a while to get interested in the story of raising two elephants, the way Tom recounts his life as elephant keeper seemed emotionally distant to me and therefore I couldn't quite believe that he was all that devoted to Timothy and Jenny. But still, there was something in the story (probably the novelty of reading about elephants) that kept me going. Unfortunately, when I got about half-way through, the relationship between Tom Page and his female elephant, Jenny became just plain weird to me. I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who might want to read it but when a man starts talking to an animal and receives answers and the conversations take on an intimate character, and when that same man starts having sexually suggestive dreams featuring the animal I have to start questioning the sanity of the whole novel. Which by the way, was not pitched as a fantasy but historical fiction. I did finish The Elephant Keeper because when I am already half done with a book I go on until the end, but it left me feeling slightly put off.

* I received Nightwalker as an autographed copy from the author during the BEA'09 signing.

** I won The Elephant Keeper from Library Thing Early Reviewer program of which I am a member.