Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan | Book Review

OracleofPhiladelphia 800
(Interesting cover... you don't find out until very late in the book why there's a flaming sword on the front.)

Book description from the publisher, Red Adept Publishing: "Carrie works at a diner in South Philadelphia, dispensing advice to humans and angels wise enough to seek her counsel. But there are some problems that even the best advice can’t solve.

Her latest supplicant, Sebastian, is unique among those who have sought her aid. He sold his soul to a demon in exchange for his sister’s life, but his heart remains pure.
Carrie has lived for millennia with the knowledge that her immortality is due to the suffering of others, and she cannot bear to see another good man damned when it is within her power to prevent it.
In order to renegotiate his contract, Carrie must travel into the depths of hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul."
This book was such a lovely surprise!  I've only read one other urban fantasy novel.  I loved Charming but I wasn't sure if that one book was going to be representative of the genre as a whole.  Guess what?  I think I can say now that I am most certainly an urban fantasy fan!  I couldn't put Oracle of Philadelphia down!  The publisher and author were so kind and sent me Oracle to read & review in the hopes that I might like it and want to read & review the sequel, Raising Chaos.  Let me tell you:  I didn't even wait until I had finished Oracle before I emailed the author and publisher, gushing prolifically about how fantastic the book was and begging "please please please can my blog be on the Raising Chaos blog tour?"   
Some things I loved about the book: 
  1. The characters and their depth.  I want to be friends with Carrie and Bedlam!  Mostly Carrie, because I think Bedlam could feel like a bit much after hanging out for awhile, but I think he'd be a ton of fun in small doses.  See what I mean about character depth?  Just one book into the series and I can tell that Bedlam could possibly be tiring, but I'm still drawn to his magnetic "lets everyone have fun together always" personality.  And Carrie:  so, so, so caring!  She even cares for/looks after Bedlam.  For millenia.  Carrie feels very "real" to me.  She's not perfect.  Even though she's lives thousands (millions?) of years, she still makes the occasional mistake.  She still thinks with her heart and not with her head sometimes.  And I don't know how Ms. Corrigan does this (I can't point to a particular quote from the book), but you can totally tell that Carrie isn't just "using" Madame Zarita as a cover; she really is interested in looking at all the pictures of Madame Zarita's latest grandbaby.  And you know she cares about Dwayne; even after the slight spoiler she still feels like she should open her diner so that Dwayne can earn a day's pay. 
  2. The writing.  It was most excellent.  Rich.  Does that make sense to ya'll?  The writing in Oracle was like a fantastic lavender creme brulee.  (For comparison, I'd say my own writing on this blog is about on par with Cheez Doodles.)  Ms. Corrigan used the word phonemes for pete's sake!  I love vocab-building books.  I'm totally trying to work "phoneme" into ordinary conversation right now.  It's also got this fantastic balance going between hilarity with Bedlam and seriousness in trying to save Sebastian.  Just as the book starts to feel really heavy, Bedlam swoops in to top his waffles with chopped jalapenos.
  3. The humanity of Gabriel, Michael, and Bedlam.  I'm a Christian, so I'm sorta familiar with the angels and demons and all that, but not too familiar.  I too always imagined angels to be these vaguely human beings with wings who glowed.  Much loftier than you or I.  In Oracle the angels stop by the diner to say hi and help do some dishes.  Mind. Blown.
  4. The Biblical backstories.  I loved these!  Every time Ms. Corrigan introduced a new character, she let Carrie reminisce on how they met.  Some of these were downright hilarious; some touched the heart.  Remember: it's all fiction and it's all for fun, so you're definitely not going to find these narratives in Biblical texts.  Did anyone else read Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore?  Bedlam and Biff could have been best friends.
  5. The character list at the beginning of the book.  Ms. Corrigan lists all the angels & demons & their main attributes & where they are in social standing.  Most helpful.  I looked at Raising Chaos, and the chart is there too.  Excellent.

Some things I didn't particularly care for about the book, but which will not at all impede me continuing to read and enjoy the series:
  1. The demons' demonosity (just made that word up) is really downplayed a lot.  I'm struggling with how to word this; how to say this.  I just expected them to be a lot more evil.  Like, I actually liked Bedlam for the most part.  And that made me feel just a little squeevy inside.  
  2. The bit in the second half of the book where Carrie goes a-questing.  I don't want to give anything away in the book because I really do think ya'll should go read it.  It's really good.  But there's a point where Carrie goes on a quest to help someone and it just gets a little bit predictable/repetitious.   Just a tiny bit.  I dealt with it by just continuing to read because it's a good book and I was hooked.  So you see, not really terribly bad, but still.  I could have done with just a little bit less quest.

So that's my take on Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan.  I devoured the book in just two days (impressive, considering I work full time) and am eager to start in on Raising Chaos!

I know this post is getting loooooooong, but just two more things.  First, I want to share a couple of book quotes.  I'm selling you the book here.

"I felt as though I had acquired a new puppy, one with the capacity to make the entire planet stop spinning on its axis.  "So... What do you have to do around here? Ooh, I know!  There's a great farm at the bottom of this mountain.  Have you ever tipped a cow?""  ~Carrie, looking back at the day she met Bedlam.  Bedlam asks her if she'd like to go cow-tipping.

""But I can't continue to do nothing."  I realized that I meant that about more than the situation with Sebastian--I meant it about my entire life.  I had spent millennium after millennium standing on the sidelines, doing nothing with my powers for fear of making the world a worse place or fear of losing my own comfort.  I needed to know that I believed in something, that I stood for anything other than being some kind of cosmic doormat."  ~Carrie, considering whether to help Sebastian.

"He grinned at me, and in that smile I saw the potential for mayhem that only the demon of chaos could create."  ~Carrie, describing Bedlam. 

Slight Spoiler: attack by literal hellhounds where she almost died

Second, if Oracle was a movie:
I kept picturing the author herself as Carrie; the producers would just need to dye her hair black.  (I did this with The Madman's Daughter and Her Dark Curiosity too: pictured the MC looking just like the author.)

No one but Jack Black could play Bedlam.

Gabriel has to be beautiful and good, so I'm going to go with young Leo.

Sebastian was much more difficult to cast.  I had to reach back to my childhood and grab Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

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