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Archive for January, 2011

Contest! Nook Giveaway!

A good friend of mine turned me on to this fantastic giveaway at bookalicio.us with a Nook Color as the grand prize! Head on over, check it out and enter to win!

There are eight second place prize packs available, featuring lots of good books so even one of those packs would be worth entering the contest.

The link to the blog is embedded above but here it is again, just in case: http://bklc.us/2y

Thanks to bookalicio.us for the awesome giveaway and good luck to all who enter!

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Storm Front, published nearly 11 years ago in April of 2000, is the first book of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, featuring  Harry Dresden of Chicago; devil-may-care wizard, rugged yet dashing gentlemen and ass-kicker extraordinaire.

From the author’s website (where sample chapters await your perusal):

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

From my thoughts, where spoilers may await your perusal:

This first installment of the series starts off with a bang and introduces us to Harry, of course, as well as Lieutenant Karrin Murphy of Chicago P.D.’s Special Investigations unit. Grisly murders: check. Damsel in distress client: check. Bad guy gunning for Harry: check!

I’m not trying to say that this book reads like a checklist. On the contrary, when I first read it I was wowed by the novelty of the story. Novelty to me, at least. I was immediately captivated by Harry, the unlikely hero who advertises his services as a wizard in the phone book and has to field crank calls as a matter of course. He doubts himself but still tries to do what’s right, and not just because there’s a Warden of the White Council waiting to lop off his head with a magical sword if he steps out of line.

No, not a checklist… my reason for checking off several aspects of the story was to point out that Butcher sets the scene early on for an edge of your seat read that packs a wallup of a punch. He also squeezes in a hell of a lot of information about Harry’s skills and indeed, his whole world, without making you feel like you’re slogging through lengthy information dumps.

Another tidbit that took me by surprise was that Harry really takes a beating throughout the course of this book. Oftentimes, the hero/protagonist eeks through the story with barely a skinned knee, but Harry… oh, poor Harry, just gets the crap beat out of him! And he feels his pains, he doesn’t just pop back upright like a Weeble Wobble and tarry forth to fight evil. Nay… he crawls and pukes and bleeds and has to get tucked into bed just like reg’lar folk do when they’re hurt as badly.

That really impressed me. That, and the way Butcher grabs the reader (or listener, in this case, though I have read the actual book) by the scruff of the neck and drags them right into the story. You almost feel as though you can hear the sizzling demon spit, feel the cold rain on your skin and see the flash of the lightning. I also have to say that I absolutely love the way Harry is so snarky and literally laughs in the face of danger. Fun to read but awesome to listen to.

James Marsters is the reader on this audio book, as on all of the others, and I noticed that his reading wasn’t quite as animated in this first book as he was in Side Jobs, which I recently finished. Not that I was bothered by it, but one thing I’m looking forward to as I re-listen to the entire series in preparation for the release of Book #13, Ghost Story (which sadly just got bumped back three months to a July release) is to see how Marsters changes his reading style a bit to add more emotion. Because I tell you, in the later books when he yells “Fuego!”… it really gives a girl shivers!

One of my fave lines from the book: “Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”

Wiser words were never spoken.

Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#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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For A Few Demons More is the fifth installment in Kim Harrison’s Hollows series about witch and independent runner, Rachel Morgan. Taking place a couple of months after the end of book #4, summer in Cincinnati finds Rachel as a bridesmaid in Trent Kalamack’s wedding?!

 

From Audible.com:

Despite dating one vampire and living with another, Rachel Morgan has always managed to stay just ahead of trouble…until now.

A fiendish serial killer stalks the Hollows, claiming victims across society, and the resulting terror ignites a vicious Inderland gang war. And while the ancient artifact Rachel is hiding may be the key to stopping the murderer, revealing it could also create a battle to the death among the numerous supernatural races that live in and around Cincinnati.

For every action has its price, and when the vampire master Piscary is set free and the demonic Algaliarept dares to walk openly under the sun, even Rachel Morgan can’t hide forever.

 

Rote spoiler warning!

I’m really rushing through these audio books, partly because I have SO many books on audio that I want to get to but also because I’ve been approved to read a galley of book #9 in the series, Pale Demon and I’m extremely anxious to refresh my memory of events in the later books of the series to date before I begin reading that.

This book has the usual antics by Rachel, her partners and her friends including Trent Kalamack begging her to attend his wedding as a bridesmaid/bodyguard because he wants her to rescue Stanley Saladin from his stint as Al’s familiar. Trent apparently blames Rachel for Lee’s imprisonment, though she had actually tried to keep Lee from being taken by appealing to his better nature, even though he didn’t seem to have one at the time.

We also see the Focus that Rachel kept Nick from stealing in the last book begin to wreak havoc on Rachel’s world by causing her alpha David, who’s holding onto the were artifact for Rachel, to accidentally turn women he’s slept with into werewolves. Damn. And as if that weren’t bad enough, we have Newt, the insane demon that Rachel met in book #3 after Al took Lee, traipsing across the lines and blaspheming the church to hunt for something of hers that she claims is in Rachel’s possession. Double damn.

So the scene is set for yet another face-paced adventure with demons , vampires, werewolves, pixies, elves and one very snarky witch.  Yes, I said demons as in plural. Not only is Al back -and Newt- but we meet Newt’s demon familiar, Minias. Newt and Minias have similar accents and for some reason, Gavin gives Al the same accent that she creates for the other demons, instead of the British accent used in the previous books. His character lacks something because of it and it’s difficult to think “Al” when hearing her read his parts, I keep thinking “Minias”.

That oddity aside, I still enjoy Gavin’s reading, especially the personality that she gives to Rachel. Here are some of my favorite Rachel quotes from this book: “I wasn’t often recognized and it was even more rare that I didn’t have to run away when I was.” and “Do you think I’m stupid? Don’t answer that!” Also, Jenks’ “Piss on my daisies, I knew there was something I liked about the little cookie maker!” was hilarious enough to make me laugh out loud.

The funny aside, there’s plenty of edge-of-your-seat action to be had during the course of this book and I’m ready to plow through (or fly through, rather) the rest of the series to get to Pale Demon, hopefully by next weekend!

One thing that I need to get off my chest about this book (the series, really but this book in particular) is the whole love=sex thing in regards to Ivy. It is possible for people to express love without having sex but when Ivy is talking about sharing blood with Rachel, she talks of them (love and sex, that is) as though they’re the same thing. For some reason, I couldn’t say exactly why, that really bugs me. That and the fact that everyone feels the need to continually admonish Rachel for not wanting sex with Ivy as though she owes it to her just because Ivy loves her. Again… love doesn’t equal sex! Aaand end rant. :o)

I really wasn’t looking forward to listening to The Outlaw Demon Wails on audio because Gigi Bermingham replaces the usual narrator, Marguerite Gavin so I bought the paperback and will read it, instead. This way I don’t need to worry about the mispronunciations and unfamiliar ‘voices’ that make me shake my head in resignation and/or gnash my teeth in irritation… I’ll get back to audio and Gavin in Book #7, White Witch, Black Curse.

By the way, there are excerpts from the books at the other end of most of these links I post, but you knew that, didn’t you?

 

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In my ongoing re-read of Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, I’ve just finished book #4, A Fistful of Charms. As mentioned in previous posts, beware of spoilers if you haven’t read this book/series. Consider yourself warned.

 

Here’s what Audible.com has to say about the book:

The evil night things that prowl Cincinnati despise witch and bounty-hunter Rachel Morgan. Her new reputation for the dark arts is turning human and undead heads alike with the intent to possess, bed, and kill her – not necessarily in that order.

Now a mortal lover who abandoned Rachel has returned, haunted by his secret past. And there are those who covet what Nick possesses – savage beasts willing to destroy the Hollows and everyone in it if necessary.

Forced to keep a low profile or eternally suffer the wrath of a vengeful demon, Rachel must nevertheless act quickly. For the pack is gathering for the first time in millennia to ravage and to rule. Suddenly, more than Rachel’s soul is at stake.

 

Be prepared for those aforementioned spoilers!

Despite enjoying much about this book, there were parts of it that I really didn’t care for. I loved Jenks being big. Really, really loved it! With that side plot alone, Harrison explored a wealth of ‘new’ material as Jenks learned to navigate this unfamiliar, smaller world. Every situation was a new experience for him and he went from not liking being big to stating near the end of the book that “Being big is good!”

Rachel was bad-assery incarnate in this book with her newfound skills at cooking up ‘charms’. She has to defend her alpha status as part of David’s pack, wrestle with her conscious over the means she uses to obtain a desired end and, oh yes… rescue Jenks’ son Jax and her ex-boyfriend, Nick. She and Jenks travel to northern Michigan to find Jax and Nick and land in a heap of trouble with some were packs. The run was full of action and adventure and was classic Rachel fun.

I have to say though, that I really didn’t enjoy the events that transpired once Ivy arrived. I do like Ivy… I feel for her character and I think she’s got some great lines but I didn’t care much for her in this book and I really didn’t like the change in her relationship with Rachel. Still, the book had enough ‘charm’ to keep me listening and indeed, I flew through this one.

Also, am I a sucker for feeling kind of sorry for Nick throughout most of this book? His raw grief when recalling how he thought Rachel was dead after the boat explosion in book #3 was touching, in my opinion. And while he proved to be a right ass by the end of the book, I still had a soft spot for him though I by no means was rooting for him where Rachel was concerned.

Despite missing Trent and yes, Al… I enjoyed this quick listen and look forward to the next installment! Next up: Book #5, For A Few Demons More.

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Beware spoilers. I try to keep major ones from slipping, but it’s difficult to talk about the story in a series such as this as it gets more involved and the plot deepens without letting a few tidbits slip. Consider yourself warned. ;o)

Book #3 of Kim Harrison’s best-selling Hollows series is Every Which Way But Dead and it takes place a mere three months after the end of Book #2, The Good, The Bad and The Undead. It’s winter in Cincinnati and the story starts off with a bang as Rachel stands in the snowy graveyard behind her and Ivy’s church, preparing to finagle her way out of the deal that the demon Algaliarept thinks she made with him.

The teaser from Audible.com:

Some days, you just can’t win. Witch and former bounty hunter Rachel Morgan has managed to escape her corrupt company, survive living with a vampire, start her own runner service, and face down a vampire master.

But her vampire roommate, Ivy, is off the wagon; her human boyfriend Nick is out of town indefinitely and doesn’t sound like he’s coming back, while the far-too-seductive vampire Kisten is looking way too tempting; and there’s a turf war erupting in Cincinnati’s underworld.

And there’s a greater evil still. To put the vampire master behind bars and save her family, Rachel made a desperate bargain. Now there’s hell to pay: literally. For if Rachel cannot stop him, the archdemon Algaliarept will pull her into the sorcerous ever-after to forfeit her soul as his slave. Forever.

I first listened to this series in its entirety before the release of Black Magic Sanction, about a year ago. Time has since blurred the events of each book into one long story in my mind. Thinking back on the whole story, I sometimes have difficulty determining which events had taken place in which book and listening to this book made me recall that it is one of my favorites. Despite my sad at the state of Rachel and Nick’s relationship as the story begins, I absolutely thrilled at the many adrenaline-fueled events of this book from Rachel’s date with Kisten to her plunge in the river with Trent.

We meet so many new characters in this book, it’s amazing. There’s Ceri, Al’s former familiar who has a great deal in common with Trent Kalamack and his crew; David Hue, the werewolf insurance adjuster; Ivy’s sister and father as well as Skimmer, her former roommate and lover; Stanley Saladan, yet another crime lord type who happens to be a former friend of Trent and has some very interesting traits, as does Rachel; Takata, the quirky yet wildly popular Inderlander musician; Ellasbeth, Trent’s snotty fiance; and finally, as though there aren’t enough bat-shit crazy people that Rachel has to worry about, an insane female demon, Newt.

All in all, that’s a whole bucketful of new faces, or in the case of the audio book, new voices to get to know which spices the story up a bit. Not that this story needed spicing, what with the ley line magic stuff, the demon magic stuff, the crime lord rivalry, a regrettable estrangement and a revelation about Rachel’s father, not to mention the emotional conflict that Rachel experiences with Nick and then Kisten… and dare I say, Trent? Oh, did I forget to mention the ooh-la-la, oh-so-racy scene that Marguerite Gavin reads so fantastically? Whew, there’s a good scene to rewind and listen to a few times!

Fast-paced and captivating, this third installment of the series is worth many an hour of fun, action-packed excitement and at this point in my re-listen, it’s my favorite. The main characters are developing immensely at this point and while the major plot point is wrapped up for the time as the book ends, there are continuing plot threads that will make you want to snatch the next book right off the shelf and begin reading it as soon as you close this book. So make sure you have it on hand, I know I do!

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Last night I finished listening to Book #2 of Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, The Good, The Bad and the Undead. This second installment of Rachel Morgan’s story finds Rachel again trying to nail Trent Kalamack, wealthy businessman and respected councilman. This time, it’s bigger than running drugs. This time, it’s for murder.

Run-down of the book from Audible.com:

Former bounty hunter Rachel Morgan has it pretty good. She has left the corrupt Inderland Runner Service and started her own independent service. She’s survived werewolves, shape-changing demons, bad-hair days, and sharing a church with her vampire roommate, Ivy. She even has a cute (if human) boyfriend – what more could a witch want?

But living with a reformed vampire isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, particularly when your roommate’s very bad ex-boyfriend wants her back and wouldn’t mind you in the process. And especially when he’s six feet of sheer supernatural seduction and you’ve got a demon mark that makes vampires literally hotter than hell.

To save herself and Ivy, Rachel must confront the vampire master – and the dark secrets she’s hidden even from herself.

I don’t know that this synopsis is very accurate (e.g., “demon mark” rather than “demon scar” making vamps “hotter than hell”) but it does touch on some of the highlights, including the whole master vampire confrontation (even though he’s not the “six feet of sheer supernatural seduction!” mentioned in Audible’s synopsis) and Rachel’s “dark secrets”. I enjoyed the glimpse of Rachel’s past, meeting her mom and learning about her forgotten connection to a certain character which, to keep this  relatively spoiler-free, makes their interactions very entertaining. These first books contain a lot of foreshadowing of the events in later books and this being my second time listening to the series, I’m enjoying those little hints quite a lot.

This second installment of the series also lets us get to know several of the secondary characters that we’ll come to see quite a lot as the series progresses. Nick Sparagmos, who helped Rachel escape from the rat fights in book #1, the aforementioned Trenton Kalamack, Detective Glenn of the FIB and Algaliarept, the demon who ‘saved’ Rachel after he attacked her in Dead Witch Walking and left her a demon mark for the favor.

Kim Harrison is great at writing characters that the reader both likes and despises at the same time. There are times that I hate one or another of the characters in these books yet I still like them, or vice versa.  For instance, Ivy has never been one of my favorites in the series but one of her scenes in this book moved me to tears. Also, Algaliarept is a demon. He enjoys killing people, or stealing their souls, and did I mention he’s a demon? He should be hated, feared even. Sure, okay. But he really makes me laugh! I know the writing must be good when something/someone you should absolutely loathe, leaves you chuckling instead of recoiling in horror.

While the writing is that good, I know that part of the reason I appreciate some of the more deplorable characters so much is the narration, which is again done by Marguerite Gavin. Despite the continued quirkiness of her reading, as I mentioned in my review of book #1, I love the voices she gives to each character. With the exception of book 6 which is narrated by a different reader, the life that’s added to the story by the narration is why I’d much rather listen to this series than read it.

I love to see Rachel exploring her talent, even though it might mean crossing a line she had previously set for herself. She’s starting to find that sometimes it’s okay to do something ‘bad’ if it’s for a good reason and while she’s still conflicted, I feel that is shows some maturity on her part. Back to my iPod and the next audio book. Might I add that the further I get in my re-listen of this series, the more excited I become for next month’s release of Pale Demon!

 

 


 

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The Way of Shadows is Book 1 of Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy. I had several friends recommend these books a couple of years ago and they’ve been on my TBR (to be read) shelf since. I’ve finally gotten around to them (I wanted to read this trilogy before starting Weeks’ first installment of  The Lightbringer series, The Black Prism which I hear was amazing!) and I’m glad to have done so.

Before I continue, a bit about Book 1:

The perfect killer has no friends. Only targets.

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art. And he is the city’s most accomplished artist, his talents required from alleyway to courtly boudoir.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned the hard way to judge people quickly — and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics — and cultivate a flair for death.

 

Admittedly, this book started off rather slow for me. I was more than a few chapters invested in the book before it really began to flow for me but then… then I was snared. So much so that I began writing this review before I had reached the halfway point in the book.

One reason I think it was difficult to dive right into this story was the deplorable situation in which the reader finds the first characters to be introduced. It was horrific, the lives of these street children who were forced into crime and so much more that no child should ever endure. It made me sick but it also made me care.

I realize that this is a fantasy series, and that bad things always happen to the protagonist for one reason or another. The fact that it’s not real, that Weeks made me feel so deeply for the characters and their situation so early in the book is in retrospect, quite the impressive feat. It generally takes some time for me to ‘bond’ with the characters in the books I read so my near immediate concern for Azoth and his friends, was a rare occurrence.

Still, even though I did care about these waifs and what was to become of them, my initial reading was sporadic and I found excuses to put the book down after a chapter, or half of a chapter, to go to bed early or watch some TV. It was obvious that my concern for those young characters was weighing on my mind  however, when after a time I would pick the book back up and continue. In no time, I was flying through the pages… eagerly, hungrily. I was hooked. Weeks had cast his line and after a few timid nibbles, I was caught.

I’ve just finished and am looking forward to picking up the next book in the trilogy, Shadow’s Edge. The last half of this first book was read in several large chunks because it was so difficult to put it down. I was anxious to learn of the fate of Kylar and all of his friends and so while the first half went slowly, the second went very quickly. I was even moved to tears by a certain exodus that featured not a single main character, it was so well written and full of emotion.

The magic system was interesting to me as was Cenaria’s cutthroat political scene. I was also struck by Kylar’s inner struggle with who he wished he could have been compared with who he had become… who he had chosen to become. Upon turning the last page, there was enough closure in some respects to make it a satisfying read but at the same time, there are enough loose ends to ensure that I’ll waste very little time before picking up the second installment in the trilogy. I just have to find out what happens next.

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