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Archive for March, 2011

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Equations of Life

The Metrozone Series #1 (aka The Petrovitch Series)

Author: Simon Morden

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 4/01/2011

Length: 296 pages (Amazon states length of paperback to be 400 pages)

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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NetGalley’s summary:

SAMUIL PETROVITCH = A SURVIVOR. He survived the nuclear fallout in St. Petersburg and hid in the London Metrozone – the last city in England. He’s lived this long because he’s a man of rules and logic. For example, getting involved = a bad idea.

But when he stumbles into a kidnapping in progress, he acts without even thinking. Before he can stop himself, he’s saved the daughter of the most dangerous man in London. And clearly: SAVING THE GIRL = GETTING INVOLVED.

Now, the equation of Petrovitch’s life is looking increasingly complex: RUSSIAN MOBSTERS + YAKUZA + SOMETHING CALLED THE NEW MACHINE JIHAD = ONE DEAD PETROVITCH.

But Petrovitch has a plan. He always has a plan. He’s just not sure it’s a good one.


My thoughts, which might be considered somewhat spoilerish by some:

A quick blurb from Publisher’s Weekly before I get on with it:

In a dark near future, the U.S. has become a theocracy, Japan has been destroyed, and the U.K. has devolved into near-anarchy. Ph.D. student and Russian expatriate Samuil Petrovitch, living in the decaying London Metrozone, foils an attempt to kidnap a mysterious woman called Sonja and finds himself caught up in a war between Russian mobsters and a ruthless tycoon. As things escalate, Harry Chain, an enigmatic cop, and Madeleine, a sexy, violent nun, are also caught up in the war. Morden occasionally gets too cute and there are a few moments that border on deus ex machina, but Samuil’s mix of action and research makes him a fresh and engaging character, and the escalating scale of danger and violence moves the plot along briskly. Though pitched as the start of a trilogy, the book stands nicely alone.

I agree that it stands alone nicely. Wait… except for that whole cliffhanger at the end of the book thing! I had a couple of other upcoming releases in my reading queue that I intend to read before book 2 in this series, ‘Theories of Flight’ (which is due for a May 1 release), and I had to talk myself out of starting Theories as soon as I’d finished Equations. I restrained myself, however… mainly because I didn’t want any impressions of the beginning of book 2 to cloud my review of book 1. Which I am getting around to discussing, I promise. Still, I very much look forward to continuing Petrovitch’s story in the next book, which I have waiting for me on my e-reader. Calling my name… taunting me.

The covers of the books in this trilogy really caught my eye, and nearly gave me a headache. It’s just really hard not to stare at the covers, you know? All joking aside, the cover art combined with the story description were what prompted me to request the galleys of these books from Orbit. The publisher’s site has an interesting little article regarding the covers of the books in the trilogy and the cool factor helps with the headache-inducing factor. ;o)

And so we meet Samuil Petrovitch, twenty years after Armageddon. 22 year old Samuil is a refugee from Russia, living in the London Metrozone, the last city in post-Armageddon England. Young Sam is somewhat brilliant and is a post-grad working on some heavy-duty science, and doing it quite well. He generally keeps to himself though he has a certain air about him… he’s hiding from something and so he keeps his head low and minds his own business.

Until, that is, he foils a kidnapping and nearly dies in the process. Why would he risk himself, his health and his work to save a stranger? Especially when doing so not only put his health at risk but indebted him to a crime lord and placed him smack dab in the cross hairs of the Russian mafia! Neither situation is one that Sam wanted to find himself in and to complicate matters, the police are now hounding him.

Everybody wants to know why he saved the would-be kidnap victim and everyone thinks he has ulterior motives. So rather than sinking back into comfortable obscurity, Sam finds himself at the center of attention. When treachery strikes and the entire Metrozone is in danger of obliteration, Sam realizes that he’s the only one who can stop it, with the help of a seriously ass-kicking nun who may be the only person Sam can trust. Madeline saved Sam’s life when he rescued Sonja and ended up nearly dying in her church. Now they share a connection that will cause her to drop everything to help him save the girl once more, save his incredibly important work and hopefully, save the entire Metrozone. But will they be on time?

The whole concept of Armageddon and the world moving on afterward is fascinating to me. I enjoy apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books though they admittedly depress me from time to time. This book was in no way depressing and kept me interested straight through to the end where my first thought was, “What? That’s the end?! NOOO!!!” And then I remembered that  I have book 2 waiting for me and I stopped whimpering.

Morden sucked me right into the world of the Metrozone and kept dangling the carrot representing the story of Armageddon before my nose without letting me have more than a nibble at a time. So while the story and the way it played out were in themselves satisfying, I was definitely left wanting more and wanting it now. Probably more than Samuil’s fate, as I can make assumptions regarding that, I’m anxious for more back story. What happened to start Armageddon? What happened to Samuil in St. Petersburg that caused him to recreate himself as a refugee in the Metrozone? Will we get more of the history of this fascinating post-apocalyptic world? I certainly hope so. I’m definitely in for the whole series and will discuss the next books here as I read them.

 

Fave quotes:

“I’ve walked into someone’s private crusade. So what did they do to you? Kill your rookie partner, blow up your car, boil your pet rabbit?” ~Petrovitch to Detective Inspector Chain

‘He decided to put a brave face on the situation. It might be his last few minutes on the plant, but he was determined to go out with his middle finger extended in salute.’

“Good morning, this is Samuil Petrovitch. You might remember me from such incidents as hunted like a dog through the streets’ and ‘kissed by the boss’s daughter’.” ~Sam

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Death Masks

The Dresden Files, Book #5

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks

Length: 11 hrs and 21 mins

Release Date: 10/29/09

(novel released 08/05/2003 by Penguin USA & a 464 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: purchased from Audible.com

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Publisher’s Summary:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for.

A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards…

Professional hit men using Harry for target practice…

The missing Shroud of Turin…

A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified…

Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.

Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.

My thoughts… and beware, I think about spoilers quite a lot:

My thoughts begin with Harry’s thoughts. Rather, a specific thought that Harry has at the end of chapter 7  which sums up the action in the book thus far quite nicely, and sets the scene for the remainder of the book:

‘In this corner: one missing shroud; one impossibly and thoroughly dead corpse; one dedicated and deadly vampire warlord; three Holy Knights; twenty-nine fallen angels; and a partridge in a pear tree. And in the opposite corner: one tired, bruised, underpaid professional wizard, threatened by his allies and about to get dumped by his would-be girlfriend for John Q. Humdrum.’

In this fifth installment in Jim Butcher’s exceedingly popular Dresden Files series, we see not only the return of  Harry’s friend and Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, we also meet Shiro and Sanya, the other two Knights of the Cross and their respective swords, Fidelacchius and Esperacchius. Their introduction is just fantastic as they blend perfectly into the background before rescuing Harry from an attack by one of the Fallen… the Order of the Blackened Denarius.

Yes, ‘Fallen’ as in, ‘fallen angels’. These guys are wicked bad-asses who use coins, the very same coins Judas took as a bribe before hanging himself, mind… to lure mortals into enslavement and/or at best, indentured servitude. And they are exceedingly hard to kill. Oh yes, did I mention that they want Harry? Not to kill him, necessarily, but to join them. And if he won’t join, then yeah, to kill him. Fun times!

Of course, the ass-kicking Knights of the Cross beat down the fallen angel scene wasn’t the first excitement in the book… oh, no! we begin with Harry hanging at the Larry Fowler show where, before wreaking havoc on the set of the TV talk show with his magic, he has chats with some interesting characters including Duke Ortega of the Red Court of vampires who challenges Harry to a duel and Father Vincent, of the Vatican, who hires Harry to find a very, very precious religious artifact that was recently stolen. Stolen from Turin.

Not only is all of that happening, very nearly at once, but Murphy drags Harry to the morgue to meet Dr. Waldo Butters, a quirky,  polka-loving Medical Examiner who’s had a glimpse of the supernatural. Poor Dr. Butters was actually institutionalized for a time after identifying some remains from the burned out estate of Bianca, the Red Court vampire, as something other than human. Butters has a very interesting client in the morgue that Karrin wanted Harry to see… he seems to have died of every disease known to man. All at once. How’s that for the icing on the cake?

So yeah… Butcher starts this book out with a bang, baby! And the punches just… keep… coming! The audio is just 11 hours and 21 minutes long and what an action-packed 11 hours and 21 minutes it is.

Much to Harry’s chagrin, Michael and the other Knights try to get Harry to back off of the case. Back off and leave town. Or we’ll kind of make you back off. Gee, thanks guys! Harry is understandably none too happy about this development and he’s at a loss as to where to find the shroud so he calls an Oracle from the Never Never for a bit of advice.

It turns out that the Knights received part of a prophecy concerning Harry and the search for the shroud. Said prophecy segment stated that if Harry seeks the Shroud, he “will most assuredly perish”. The Knights, however, didn’t get the crucial part of the prophecy, the part which was kept from the Knights by their enemies  in order to restore the balance. So the Oracle divulges the really important bit that concerns the Knights themselves: “If you do not, they all die and this city with them”.

To find the shroud or not find the shroud… whatever will Harry do? No-brainer, this one. What else would he do? He gets a tip on the shroud’s whereabouts and plans to check it out which leads him to the thieves and a handy-dandy little trap. But of course, did we think it would be easy?

Waitjustaminute… did I mention Susan? Ahh, no, it would seem I overlooked that little tidbit earlier. Oopsie! Allow me to take a moment to bonk myself on the forehead and backpedal a wee bit. So yeah, guess what?! Susan’s in town!

Yes, that Susan… Susan Rodriguez. Harry’s former girlfriend who thought she’d crash a vamp party in book #3, Grave Peril and ended up drastically changed by Bianca of the Red Court. If she ever gives into her thirst for blood, which will cause her to kill her victim, she will become a full-fledged, card-carrying vampire of the Red Court. At the end of Grave Peril, she beat it out of Chicago after turning down Harry’s proposal of marriage/promise to find a cure. She left Chicago and broke Harry’s freakin’ heart. But now… she’s baa-aack! Popped into town to quit her job and clear out her personal belongings, says she. Also, maybe to torment Harry with her mere presence and/or break his heart yet again?

I’ve got to say, that Butcher’s portrayal of Harry in the scenes with Susan in this book is just heartwrenchingly beautiful… exquisitely painful… achingly bitter. Of course, I’ve read the series before and as I’ve mentioned, I’m re-listening to it in its entirety in preparation for the July release of book #13, Ghost Story. I mention this tidbit once more to point out that my knowledge of the events of book #12, Changes just makes the Harry/Susan scenes in this book all the more poignant and bittersweet. Those scenes are made all the more emotionally charged by the very nearly perfected reading of James Marsters. He just gets better and better with each book, in my not-so-humble opinion.

So, back to it after that little aberration into the tragedy that is ‘Harry and Susan’… We have Harry trying to find the shroud, Denarians trying to lure him into eternal slavery and/or kill him, a Red Court Vampire hoping to kill him in a fair-and-square duel -right, like a Red Court vampire can be trusted to do anything ‘fair-and-square’?!- and if all of that mess isn’t enough… damn, I guess we’re back to Susan and all of the emotional baggage she drags back into Harry’s life.

In all fairness, she is pretty damn important to Harry, now and in the future of the series. All in all, Butcher has put together some truly magnificent ingredients to create a perfect recipe for yet another edge-of-your-seat ride on the roller coaster that is Harry Dresden’s unusual life.

One last observation… yes, finally! Hey, you’ll be glad I mentioned it as it’s one of my favorite parts of the book! Of course I’m referring to the introduction of the Archive, who is assigned as a mediator in the duel between Harry and Ortega and who is NOT what Harry was expecting. Her character is superbly written… she’s one part little girl sweetness, one part scary powerful and one part sheer bad-assery.

Last, last comment. I promise. Along with Ivy, as Harry dubs her (“Archive. Ive… Ivy.”), we meet Kincaid. In this book, he’s been hired to protect the Archive and while Harry is unsure of him, Ivy says he can be trusted. After all, he’s paid through April. We’ll see more of the mercenary in later books but here he provides a nice counter to Ivy’s innocent wisdom. One last bit about Ivy: her reaction when she sees Mister is. just. priceless! “Thank you for letting me pet your kitty.” Very nice touch, Mr. Butcher.

Fave quotes:

“You don’t look very… Archive-esque.” ~Harry to Kincaid

‘My tongue dropped out of my mouth and flopped onto my shoes.’

“Chew and smile? At the same time? Do I look like Jackie Chan?” ~Harry to Susan

‘That’s what you get for trying to be a hero. You get to eat a 6-pack of 9mm bon bons.’ ~Harry

“Ye ole ‘join up or die’ ultimatum. Gee, no matter how many times I get it, that one never goes out of style.” ~Harry to Nicodemus

‘”I’m a disciple of the Tao of Peter Parker, obviously,” I said. I guess Nicodemus was a DC Comics fan because he didn’t get it.’ ~Harry

Susan: “So help me God, if  you quote Clint Eastwood at me I’m wrapping this car around a telephone pole.”  Harry: “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Susan: “You’ve really got class, Dresden.”  Harry:“Class oozes out of my  every orifice.”

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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The Raising

Author: Laura Kasischke

Format: galley (available for purchase in paperback)

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: 3/15/2011

Length: 360 pages (Amazon states length of paperback to be 496 pages)

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

The accident was tragic, yes. Bloody and horrific and claiming the life of a beautiful young sorority girl. NICOLE was a straight A student from a small town. Sweet-tempered, all-American, a former Girl Scout, and a virgin. But it was an accident. And that was last year. It’s fall again, a new semester, a fresh start.

CRAIG, who has not been charged with murder, is focusing on his classes, and also on avoiding Nicole’s sorority sisters, who seem to blame him for her death even though the police did not.

PERRY, Craig’s roommate, is working through his own grief (he grew up with Nicole, after all, and had known her since kindergarten) by auditing Professor Polson’s sociology class: Death, Dying, and the Undead.

MIRA has been so busy with her babies—two of them, twins, the most perfect boys you could imagine, but still a nearly impossible amount of work even with Clark’s help—that she can barely keep herself together to teach (Death, Dying and the Undead), let alone write the book she’ll need to publish for tenure.

And SHELLY, who was the first person at the scene of the accident, has given up calling the newspapers to tell them that, despite the “lake of blood” in which they keep reporting the victim was found, the girl Shelly saw that night was not bloody, and not dead.


My thoughts:

When I began reading this book, I had a difficult time getting a feel for it. It jumped from the present to the past with no indication as to when a particular section took place. I would sometimes have to read a sentence or three to get my bearings and realize what was going on. It kind of bugged, at first but I eventually got used to it. In fact, the further the story progressed, the more I came to realize that this was the only way Kasischke could have written this story… that the jumping back and forth was the only way for me, as the reader, to get to the big reveal when and how I was supposed to do so.

The story centers around several people at a mid-western university that have been affected, or will come to be affected, by the death of freshman student, Nicole the previous Spring. Her sorority sisters would blame her boyfriend, Craig for her “murder”, spreading the word throughout campus and to the newspapers that he was drunk and therefore solely responsible for her bloody, fiery death inside the car that Craig had been driving.

Craig, however, has absolutely no memory of that night and only knows he wasn’t intoxicated because the blood tests said he wasn’t. He has no idea what happened, other than what he was told: that he walked away from the accident, leaving Nicole to die. Despite the efforts by Nicole’s former sorority to have him either arrested for murder or banned from the university, he returns to campus for the fall term to continue his education. Despite counseling and his friend Perry’s support, Craig has a hard time adjusting. Then he starts having strange dreams, getting odd phone calls and receiving post cards from a dead girl.

Shelly, an older woman who works at the university is frustrated that her statements to the newspaper have gone ignored for months and that nobody seems to care that when she saw Nicole immediately after the accident, the girl was neither bloody, burned, in the car or even dead. She has no idea that her persistence in trying to get the paper to publish the truth has made her a target.

Meanwhile, Perry who was not only Nicole’s childhood friend but was also Craig’s roommate, struggles to cope with Nicole’s death and the reports from a couple of fellow students that they had seen her since she had died. Walking around campus, talking to them, having sex with them. And Perry has a picture of her. A picture taken at Nicole’s former sorority house… during a tree planting intended as a memorial to Nicole.

Wondering if he and the others who have seen her are losing their minds, Perry seeks answers in Professor Mira Polson’s seminar on Death, Dying and the Undead. He then decides to approach her about Nicole and tell the professor the whole unbelievable story. Perhaps she can help him to make sense of what’s been going on. Perhaps she can somehow help.

Mira thinks Perry’s story might just prove to be enough fodder for her next book, which upon being published would secure her tenure at the university. She’s been struggling for some time to attain those related goals while she fears losing her twin boys, just toddlers, as her marriage falls apart.

As we learn of Craig and Nicole’s back story and the events leading up to the night of the car accident, the events of the present begin to progress as information and suspicions are shared and conclusions are drawn. Improbable, horrific conclusions that nobody wants to face, although they have no choice, and which will change the course of all of their lives.

Once I was into this story, I could just not stop reading it. I stayed up late at night, put off chores and meals just to read one more chapter or find a stopping place that didn’t leave me rabid to keep going so I could find out what the hell was going on! I thought about it while I hurriedly showered and with still wet hair, grabbed portable food from the kitchen so that I could return to the couch, grab my laptop and resume reading.

This story captivated me. The characters moved me as they struggled with guilt and grief, confusion and frustration. They also infuriated me with their rash, irresponsible behavior. There’s nothing I wanted to do more as the story came to a close than to grab fistfuls of my favorite character’s shirt and shake him while imploring him not to do the incredibly irrational thing he was doing. Wanting to do so did about as much good as shouting at the stupid woman in the horror movie that you’re watching to not go outside, what are you doing? The bad guy/monster/killer/alien is out there! One of the saddest things in this story, to me, was the immediate and irreversible consequence of that incredibly irrational action. It was heartbreaking and it made me angry.

In fact, a lot about this story made me angry. Not at the author, mind… but at the people in the story who felt they could just play around with other people’s lives like they were all-powerful puppeteers who could make people dance with a twitch of their hand. I have to admit to guessing at the big reveal before it was made though I have a suspicion that it was Kasischke’s intent for this to happen. There was quite a bit of foreshadowing so it wasn’t especially difficult to figure out what had  actually happened that night but the mind instinctively tries to reject the knowledge that people could do such things… that people would do such things.

The end of this book was admittedly, not very satisfying though again, I think that was the author’s intent. There was no happy ending… life just went on. For the most part, anyway. Despite this, I recommend this book to anyone who likes a mystery… especially one tinged with the supernatural and a healthy dose of conspiratorial drama. I’m now interested in Kasischke’s other works!

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The Atomic Weight Of Secrets

or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black

The Young Inventor’s Guild, #1

Author: Eden Unger Bowditch

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover)

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Release Date: 3/15/2011

Length: 320 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had. But all that changed the day the men in black arrived.

They arrived to take twelve-year-old Jasper Modest and his six-year-old sister, Lucy he with his remarkable creations and she with her perfect memory from their London, England home to a place across the ocean they’d never seen before.

They arrived to take nine-year-old Wallace Banneker, last in a long line of Africa-descended scientists, from his chemistry, his father, and his New York home to a life he d never imagined.

Twelve-year-old Noah Canto-Sagas, already missing his world-famous and beloved mother, was taken from Toronto, Canada, carrying only his clothes, his violin, and his remarkable mind.

And thirteen-year-old Faye Vigyanveta, the genius daughter of India’s wealthiest and most accomplished scientists, was removed by force from her life of luxury.

From all across the world, they’ve been taken to mysterious Sole Manner Farm, and a beautiful but isolated schoolhouse in Dayton, Ohio, without a word from their parents as to why. Not even the wonderful schoolteacher they find there, Miss Brett, can explain it. She can give them love and care, but she can’t give them answers.

Things only get stranger from there. What is the book with no pages Jasper and Lucy find in their mother’s underwear drawer, and why do the men in black want it so badly?

How is it all the children have been taught the same bizarre poem and yet no other rhymes or stories their entire lives? And why haven’t their parents tried to contact them?

Whatever the reasons, to brash, impetuous Faye, the situation is clear: They and their parents have been kidnapped by these terrible men in black, and the only way they’re going to escape and rescue their parents is by completing the invention they didn’t even know they were all working on. An invention that will change the world forever.

But what if the men in black aren’t trying to harm the children? What if they’re trying to protect them? And if they’re trying to protect them, from what?


My thoughts:

What a very odd story. Very odd. Rather sad and rather confusing and rather unfulfilling, once the last page is turned.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. Because I did… very much. I’m just feeling a bit let down, like I didn’t get the big reveal I was expecting and quite looking forward to.

I’m left with questions that I was expecting answers to but didn’t get. Questions such as, what were the items that several of the parents took from their children before disappearing mysteriously and why did their parents need them so badly? What was The Strange Round Bird song all about and how did all of the children know it to the exclusion of any and all other lullabies or nursery rhymes? What was the polymer that Wallace was working on so diligently? Who are the men in black and what was this story all about?

Perhaps it’s all just a set-up for the rest of the series, I thought. Perhaps the big plot point was indeed, the children’s invention and maybe the majority of the story revolved around that one thing: the children handing their invention over to the brothers. Which, I ought to mention, was fantastically funny in a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” kind of way.

I also mentioned that this story was rather sad. As the summary of the book states, the children are all taken from their parents and thrust into a wholly unfamiliar situation with no explanation whatsoever. Their parents disappear with and the people into whose care the children are placed either don’t know what’s happening or won’t say. The children don’t know who to trust. They’re angry and scared, upset at their apparent abandonment while being half out of their minds with worry for their parents. Despite having absolutely brilliant minds, they’re still children and so naturally have trouble adjusting to a confusing and frightening situation… hence the sad.

I’m hoping that the second book in the series will reveal a few of the tibits that Bowditch left behind the curtain in this first installment. I’ll definitely check out the next book but there will have to be a bit more meat in the story to keep my interest and keep me reading.


Fave quotes:

‘It was precisely because of this strange black attire that Jasper knew this man was there to fetch them, and was not some nefarious stranger out to do them harm. Well, he might well be a nefarious stranger out to do them harm but, if so, he was their own personal nefarious stranger, and Jasper knew they had no choice but to follow.’ ~as reasoned by Jasper Modest

“Don’t ‘don’t’ me. Don’t you dare ‘I don’t’ me when you know I know you know you do, you know, I do, don’t you, hm?” ~Reginald Roderick Kattaning



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Green-Eyed Demon

Sabina Kane, Book #3

Author: Jaye Wells

Format: galley (available for purchase as mass-market paperback and audio book)

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 2/22/2011

Length: 299 Pages

Acquired: via the publisher

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Publisher’s summary:

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. Her sister has been kidnapped by her grandmother, the Dark Races are on the brink of war, and a mysterious order is manipulating everyone behind the scenes.

Working on information provided by an unlikely ally, Sabina and her trusty sidekicks–a sexy mage named Adam Lazarus and Giguhl, a Mischief demon–head to New Orleans to begin the hunt for her sister. Once there, they must contend with belligerent werewolves, magic-wielding vampires and–perhaps most frightening of all–humans.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about most, she must save herself from the ghosts of her past.

 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book much better than The Mage In Black! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that book, too… but this one had more going for it. The team is on unfamiliar ground in N’Awlins and it’s always fun to put characters in a new situation. We inevitably meet some new characters, some of whom ingratiate themselves with the reader rather quickly and who I didn’t have a problem trusting, which is saying something. Lastly, we have a mission, which is two-fold: rescue Maisie and then find and kill the evil grandmother. I’ve rather been looking forward to that since reading book #1, so I’m happy that it’s now become a priority!

So, the book opens with Team Awesome back in Los Angeles, preparing to kidnap one of the Dominae, which are essentially the three head vamps. Not Lavinia, Sabina’s grandmother and the Alpha Domina, but the weaker of the three. The kidnapping doesn’t quite go as planned but they grab their captive and flash on over to deliver her to the Faery Queen in hopes that an alliance can be made as well as to take instruction from Orpheus, the mage leader.

Finally, Sabina, Adam and Giguhl end up in New Orleans to hunt for Maisie in order to rescue her, as well as Lavinia in order to kill her. Enter Zenobia, voodoo shop owner and friend of Rhea, and Zen’s assistant Brooks. I liked both of these characters immediately and found them both to be strong additions to the story. They were also infinitely helpful to the Team as well as colorful and fun to read. We also meet a few other new faces when Zen sends Sabina to a butcher shop to find a blood source and to a local drag club to find an information source.

Things are rather frustrating for Sabina as she feels that she’s constantly on the defensive once in New Orleans. Lavinia finds her right away and with dismay, Sabina realizes that her grandmother has fed on a particular kidnapped mage’s blood and therefore can do magic. Not only does this seem unfair to me, it seems a bit far-fetched. Lavinia can flash herself about after having fed on a mage blood but Sabina, who trained for weeks with Rhea can only do her Cyclops-esque pew-pew trick to incinerate people? No lessons on healing or flashing herself about all bad-ass like the other mages can do? Yet her grandmother can do such things after having a Maisie snack? Hmmm…

So yeah, Sabina’s at a disadvantage from the get-go. Still, she carries on and blunders about a bit, anxious to both find her sister and avoid the affections of Adam. At every turn, it seems that their enemy is one step ahead of them and that reacting is all the Team is capable of doing.

Enter another new face, recreant mage and lead singer of rock band Necrospank 5000, Erron Zorn. His introduction is hilarious and really, I can’t do it justice here so I won’t even try. Suffice to say that he lends the team a hand and then later on, gives them some much-needed intel, info-dump style. I like this character a lot, though we don’t see much of him, sadly.

I had a hard time putting this book down… or putting my laptop down, rather… and was anxious to get back to it and find out what was going to happen, already! I was happy with the way Wells handled Sabina’s growing up thing, it didn’t feel forced and it didn’t feel fake. It felt just right and though she still had a few temper issues and thinking she could handle things on her own issues, she’s matured as a character and it’s good to see.

Had Sabina still been going on with her knee-jerk reactions from the first two books, there would have been much eye-rolling as I read. But she didn’t and there wasn’t. I feel that the pace of the story was good and there was enough humor to give me the occasional chuckle but not so much as to lessen the seriousness of the mission and the emotion of the story as the characters, namely Sabina, realized what was important to them and what they were willing to do to preserve it.

Bottom line, if you enjoy urban fantasy with punchy characters, I definitely recommend this series. Check the books out at Amazon.com, Audible.com or your fave local or internet book store.


Fave quotes:

‘I’ll give the faeries this: They know how to rock some landscaping.’

“Bael’s balls, can we get outta here already? This alley smells like Satan’s asshole.” ~Giguhl

“…did your cat just talk smack to me?” ~Brooks

‘Hollywood had been getting vampires wrong for decades-don’t get me started on the soulless undead thing… or the godsdamned sparkling.’

“We must never speak of this again.” ~Adam

‘I imagined the list in my head: 1. Perform voodoo ritual on evil owl. 2. Find out who sold us out to the anachronistic Caste vampires. 3. Make amends with lesbian werewolf. 4. Rescue twin. 5. Murder grandmother.’

‘Couldn’t blame him for his fear – no one ever expects zombies.’



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Summer Knight

The Dresden Files, Book #4

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp.

Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins

Release Date: 06/10/09

(novel released September 3, 2002 by Roc & a 371 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: received as a gift

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Publisher’s Summary:

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower.

The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.

And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him — and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name.

It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case.

No pressure or anything…

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My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

Wow, Harry Dresden is in baaad shape. His ex-girlfriend, reporter Susan Rodriguez left town months ago after the Red Court began to transform her and Harry has been working non-stop in an attempt to try to find a magical solution to her little vampire problem. To no avail. He’s depressed. He’s withdrawn. He’s figuratively, and literally, a damn mess.

To kick off the book, Billy (the werewolf we met in Fool Moon) gives Harry what-for about all of it… his appearance, his self-imposed exile, his lack of work or anything resembling income, his impending eviction from his home and office and his general bad attitude. Then someone tries to kill him. Several someones, in fact. And then it rains toads. Could Harry’s day get any worse? Why, yes… yes, it could.

It would seem that his debt to his godmother The Leanansidhe has been sold, to none other than Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie. And Mab wants Harry to do him a favor: find out who killed the Summer Knight and stole his power. Oh, and clear her name of the crimes in the process.

Harry isn’t interested. Until, that is, he learns that the White Council of wizards is going to throw him to the dogs… erm, to the Red Court of vampires if he doesn’t ensure the cooperation of the Winter Queen. So he actually has no choice but to do Mab’s bidding. No, really! He’ll be happy to help!

A lot happens in this book. A hell of a lot. Not only do we get to meet the Senior Council of wizards but we’re also introduced to Harry’s mentor, Ebenezer McCoy. We also get to meet the one and only Elaine, Harry’s first love and fellow apprentice to Justin DuMorne. Elaine, that Harry thought had betrayed him all those years ago. Elaine, that Harry thought had been dead. By his own hand.

As if that weren’t enough new characters to get to know, we’re introduced to a whole slew of faerie royalty. Winter queens and Summer queens are plotting and consorting and preparing for a war. A war which will tip the balance between Summer and Winter and which will not bode well for humankind.

We also meet a couple of changelings that the now-deceased Summer Knight had taken under his wing and they want to hire Harry to find their friend. Harry just doesn’t have the time. But he really needs the money so he takes that case, as well. Of course he does, where a damsel is in distress, there the wizard Dresden will be to lend a hand. And most likely get his ass kicked in the process.

So… not only does Harry have to solve the murder of the Summer Knight, he has to fend off vampire assassins and faerie assassins, he has to trust the girl who essentially betrayed him, he has to stop a war between beings so powerful that any of them could crush him on a whim and he has to keep his own kind, the wizards, from mollifying the vampires with his life.

I almost forgot… Morgan of the Grey Wardens reappears in this book and he’s as nutty, fanatical and infuriating as ever. Just another thing counting against Harry as he races against the clock to find out who the baddie is this go’round, stop the war and save the world.

In all fairness, I ought to mention what’s counting for Harry this go’round. Of course I mentioned Billy earlier and he and the Alphas are all for helping Harry out in this latest escapade. They’re pretty bad-ass, too. However, notable mention in the Wizard Assist category goes to Karrin Murphy of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations. Only she’s not acting in that capacity when we see her in this book. In fact, she’s in pretty crappy shape herself.

She’s still having major issues over what she endured at the hands of the Nightmare in the last book and to top it off, she’s facing some difficult to deal with personal issues. It’s the first we see of this side of Karrin and I’m pretty sure that this is the book in which I really, really start to like this character. It’s the first book in which she’s not all in-your-face-bitchy to Harry and that might be due in part to the fact that this is the first book in which Harry is completely and totally up front with her about everything. About the Red Court and the White Council… about his case with the Queen of Winter. About all of it.

To her credit, Karrin handles it all pretty well and then proceeds to kick ass against some pretty tough denizens of Faerie and kind of saves Harry’s bacon in the process. When Harry tells her, “When I asked myself who I could trust, I came up with a damn short list. You’re it.” …I admit that I got a bit choked up. Especially in light of the events at the end of book #12, Changes and what they mean for Karrin in book #13, Ghost Story, due to be released in July of this year. As much as I’m anticipating this next book in the series, I’m afraid that it will be one big sob-fest for me!

I believe I mentioned in my review of Grave Peril, book #3 of The Dresden Files, that James Marsters had finally fully realized his awesomeness as the voice of Harry Dresden. I was premature in that assessment. While Marsters’ reading of that book was indeed awesome, his reading of this book was downright fantastic. Likewise, his reading of the Winter/Summer battle was nothing short of incredible. Well done, Mr. Marsters… well done.

Next up in the Dresden Files re-listen is book #5, Death Masks though sadly, it’s on hold until I finish book #2 of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man’s Fear. Look for that review by the end of the week. Or maybe by the end of the weekend.

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Fave quotes:

‘No one does suave like me. If I was careful, maybe I could trip over something and complete the image.’

‘A faerie queen. A faerie queen was standing in my office. I was looking at a… faerie queen. Talking to a faerie queen. And she had me by the short hairs.’

‘Somewhere out there was a village I’d deprived of its idiot.’

‘I don’t have a muscular stomach. I’m not overlapping my belt or anything but I don’t have abs of steel. I don’t even have abs of bronze. Maybe abs of plastic.’

“That’s what I love about working with you, Dresden. The certainty.” ~Murphy

“Harry, that’s not a plan, that’s a Looney Tune.” ~Murphy

“Consider a haircut, you look like a dandelion.” ~Lea to Harry

“Unicorns. Very dangerous. You go first.” ~Harry to Elaine

“Hi,” I said. King of Wit, that’s me.

“I would have acted sooner but it would have been a fair fight, and I avoid them.” ~Maeve to Harry

“Not only ‘no’, but ‘hell no’.” ~Harry to Mab

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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Grave Peril

The Dresden Files, Book #3

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp.

Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins

Release Date: 06/10/09

(novel released September 5, 2001 by Roc & a 378 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: received as a gift


Publisher’s Summary

Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago area phone book.

But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble — and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone — or something — is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc.

But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself….

My thoughts… and beware, I think about spoilers quite a lot:

Aaaaand James Marsters has fully gotten the feel of Harry and is once again giving me goosebumps with his growls and snarls and such. *shiver*

Jim Butcher gives a little intro at the beginning of this audio book and it’s kind of cool to listen to. One thing he mentions, and I’m totally paraphrasing and kind of going from memory and from my impressions of what he said, is how a lot of people have commented on how this third book in the series really steps up the pace and kicks the series into gear. Having just finished reading it, I agree. Several things are set into play in this book that aren’t realized until the latest novel, Changes and wow, did I see a lot of foreshadowing in this book.

One problem I personally have with this series is that I didn’t pick it up until the release of Turn Coat and so in both of my previous read-throughs, I’ve read the first ten books one after the other so it’s rather been like reading one long book. Because of that, I have difficulty distinguishing the events of each book and placing them on a time line. Unless I’m immersed in the series as I am now, albeit only a quarter of the way through at the moment, I can’t recall off the top of my head which book had the dinosaur or which had Harry working with Marcone in the cave, etc. That’s one reason I’m keeping track of my thoughts on the books I’m reading, so I can recall who, what, why, when, where… and how.

The point of all my blathering is, once again, that I agree with Butcher’s statement about this book. It’s like books #1 & #2 were intros, prequels… just to give us a taste of Harry’s world. Because now… now it starts.

We get to meet Michael Carpenter, Knight of the Cross and frequent cohort through much of the rest of the series, immediately as the book opens. He and Harry are in the Blue Beetle, racing toward the hospital… erm, rather, driving as quickly as possible toward the hospital… to stop a ghost from killing the babies in the nursery. Intense.

During that scene, in which we get our first glimpse of the Nevernever, we also meet another new character, Harry’s actual faerie godmother, The Leanansidhe. Or Lea for short because she’s a nickname kind of gal! She’s a member of the Winter Court of Faerie and her character is also recurring. Much of the time when we see her, she’ll be trying to make Harry into one of her hellhounds, sorry… heckhounds, and Harry generally doesn’t care for her/is terrified of her.

Harry and Michael vanquish the ghost (though not before seeing that she’s been tortured into insanity), escape the evil godmother and to top off the evening, they both get arrested. At which time we meet Michael’s very pregnant wife, Charity. Charity isn’t happy about having to bail her husband out of jail… she doesn’t much like Harry. Big surprise. Not a lot of people like Harry. Poor Harry.

A short time later, when we first meet up with Karrin Murphy, head of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations Unit, she’s irritable as usual but this time, she has a damn good reason. A colleague has literally gone insane overnight and she has called Harry in to help. To fix it. And fix it now, dammit! Again, Harry has an infinite amount of patience with Murphy in these early books. She’s so quick to expect wonders/miracles from him and equally quick to blame him for anything and everything that I just wanna smack her.

Now, let me reiterate my love of her character… I can understand that her lack of understanding  of all things magical and supernatural makes her unreasonable but it still makes me wish Harry would turn her over his knee and paddle her behind ala Mat Cauthon and Joline Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Which was inspired.

Anyway, during this scene, Harry uses his second sight to see that the insane cop’s very soul is being tortured in the exact same way as the ghost that was after the babies. Upon removing the psychic barbed wire from the cop’s soul, Harry has the opportunity to see Murpy with his second sight: ‘Murphy, a guardian angel, coming through the door in a blaze of wrath.’ So. Cool. Listening to Marsters read that part gave me goosebumps!

Then the ‘Nightmare’, as Harry dubs it, goes after him in his dreams and stars and stones! It eats some of his magic. That’s not creepy. So the scene is set for another action-packed Dresden adventure. Harry’s been stripped of much of his magic yet he’s got to find and stop the Nightmare, figure out if it was summoned by the same person that’s stirring up the dead and causing so much ghost activity in the city and protect his friends because the Nightmare is after them, too. He’s also got to somehow recover Amoracchius, Michael’s magical sword… yes, there’s a magical sword. Of course there is, hello?! And Harry kind of lost it.  To his evil godmother. Oops. Last on Harry’s to-do list is to rescue the damsel in distress who asked for his help and was kidnapped by vampires of the Red Court. Easy peasy, right?

Harry and Michael attend a celebration at BiancatheRedCourtvampire’s mansion. Where we first meet ♫Thomas♪! Into the lion’s den they go and it doesn’t go well. Despite the disaster that the ball turned out to be, Harry pulls a few pretty slick tricks out of his bag near the end of the book. Bereft of much of his magic or no, he is pretty awesome. Finally, despite of… or perhaps because of the situation with Susan and the vampires, Harry is finally able, late though he may be, to admit to Susan how he feels about her. Something Michael had nagged him to do throughout the entire book. Better late than never, huh? The fact that it was too late was so very sad.

One last tidbit before I move on to the next book… is this perhaps a bit of book #13 foreshadowing from dream ghost Harry once the ‘Nightmare’ has been vanquished? “That’s the only bad thing about this gig as a ghost. Once you accomplish whatever it was that caused you to get created, you’re done.”

Fave quotes:

“Holy shit. Hellhounds.” “Harry, you know I hate it when you swear.” “You’re right. Sorry. Holy shit, heckhounds.” ~Harry & Michael

‘”Ow,” I complained. I keep my complaints succinct.’

‘The married thing. Sometimes I’d look at it and feel like someone from a Dickens novel, standing outside in the cold and staring in at Christmas dinner.’

“In the real world, the vampire eats you before you hit the record button.” ~Harry, to Susan

‘Hi God, it’s me, Harry. Please don’t turn me into a pillar of salt.’

“Don’t ‘yadda yadda’ the Lord, Harry. It’s disrespectful.” ~Michael to Harry

‘I slip into the archaic at dramatically appropriate moments. So sue me.’

“Let that be a lesson to you. Hands off the Fist of God.” ~Harry to vamp

‘I offered myself a hand up. So I took it.’

“What goes around, comes around and sometimes you get what’s coming around. And sometimes, you are what’s coming around.” ~Michael to Harry

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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