Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nightwalker: A Review

Nightwalker (Dark Days #1)
Written by: Jocelynn Drake
Paperback: 370 pages
Publisher: Eos
Language: English
July 2008
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Dark Days Series

For centuries Mira has been a nightwalker--an unstoppable enforcer for a mysterious organization that manipulates earth-shaking events from the darkest shadows. But elemental mastery over fire sets her apart from others of her night-prowling breed . . . and may be all that prevents her doom.

The foe she now faces is human: the vampire hunter called Danaus, who has already destroyed so many undead. For Mira, the time has come to hunt . . . or be hunted.


+++++++++++++

At the beginning of the year I told myself I was not allowed to buy any new books until I went through at least one bin of To Be Read Books. That is right. I have bins. I have 5 of them to be exact with books I have yet to read. And if E and I move again I want that number to be 0, or maybe just 1. So I need to get a-cracking. Especially since there are some really great books coming out soon. While I don’t post a review on every single book I read, I do try to do the majority.

As I have gone through my TBR pile number one, I am realizing that I read a ton of urban fantasy and not a lot else. This is troubling for me. While I love my little niche genre, I just love to read period. I should branch out more. I say this because I think I might be getting bored with urban fantasy. I keep reading the same thing. It’s just different names and slightly different plots. I’m not seeing anything truly new and original. I am just looking for a bit more variety and a lot more substance. I want to be able to tell characters apart. I want to be able to tell authors apart. And by the gods…no more vampires or if you do please do something interesting with them.

Drake tried to be original with Nightwalker not only through her character of Mira, but the world as a whole. Mira is six hundred years old and change and the current enforcer of her territory in Savannah. She also has quite the reputation as she pyrokinetic and has earned the title Firestarter for good reason. When vampire hunter Danaus shows up in town, he also brings the nature with him. A few centuries ago these nature imprisoned and tortured Mira and while she doesn’t know the exact details, she knows that having them resurface is dangerous indeed. The naturi are seeking a way to break out of their supernatural prison and unlike previous attempts, they’re close to succeeding. If they are going to succeed both Mira and Danaus are going to have to work together. No problem, right?

Things I loved: Mira is an interesting character. Not exactly likable as she comes off fairly bitchy, arrogant and occasionally cruel. But as the story goes along you realize that she has some pretty layers. She suffers from some pretty deep PTSD from her time with the Naturi and it still haunts her. Thank you for making a character who goes through some fairly extreme events to have to deal with the aftermath. So often life and death situations happen in every book or story and the lead character throws it off like it was just another day at the office. Mira also cares about her bodyguards (though really doesn’t need them). She has vulnerability and she makes mistakes. Danaus tries to be his own character as well and begins as a vampire hating hunter and through his time with Mira realizes that not everything is so black and white. Plus I really do want to know more about him and who and what he really is. His budding romance with Mira is also nice because it wasn’t love at first sight as it happens so often of late. For once it might actually take some time so kudos there.

The Naturi (elemental) and Bori (demons and angels) are interesting races in the overall world building. Similar to the fae, the Naturi control elements and have been trying to escape imprisonment for some time. The Bori are all but absent though vampires side with the bori while werewolves would fall under the control of the Naturi. This is great stuff. Interesting and different. Which is why I was so disappointed when both the plot and the lead characters failed to be interesting and different, which brings us to….

Things I didn’t love so much: Oh look another strong woman who apparently has a small harem of men who love her, adore her, hate and love her at the same time, etc. Boring. Don’t go the Anita Blake route please. Have some female characters. Have a woman who doesn’t have a bevy of hot guys clamoring about her. Or I don’t know, how about one guy. It is just so Mary Sue and annoying as hell. What happened to having girlfriends or one lover. How about not everyone likes you? That would be interesting. Harem of guys not interesting.

It was extremely slow to start and the pacing was uneven. Whoa on the exposition. While it was still a fairly quick read, the pacing and narrative flaws that became fairly apparent with Mira’s point of view made it a little rollercoaster-y for me.

I hate that this is very obviously the first in a series. I have said it before but I miss one shots. I miss having a complete story in one book. Hell I will even take trilogies, but books that go 3 and more are quite often unsatisfying. I almost want to take away a happy bookmark just because of it. It is an incomplete story, but not enough of the good stuff for me to really invest in reading more which is unfortunate.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. While there were some decent attempts at originality, I fear that it was not enough. Plus I just cannot afford a new series.

Part of: A Series
Book One: Nightwalker
Book two: Dayhunter
Book Three: Dawnbreaker
Book Four: Pray for Dawn
Book Five: Wait for Dusk


Also Recommended: Storm Born by Richelle Mead, Ill Wind by Rachel Caine, Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire.

2.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Disappearing Nightly: A Review

Disappearing Nightly
Written by: Laura Resnick
Paperback: 408 pages
Publisher: Luna Books
Language: English
November 2006
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Esther Diamond Series #1

I'm not a heroine -- I just play one.

Also psychotics, vamps, orphans, hookers, housewives and -- on one memorable occasion -- a singing rutabaga. It was never my ambition to utilize my extensive dramatic training by playing a musical vegetable. However, as my agent is fond of pointing out, there are more actors in New York than there are people in most other cities. Translation: Beggars can't be choosers.

This explains how I wound up painting my body green and prancing around stage half-naked the night Golly Gee, the female lead in the off-broadway show "Sorcerer!" disappeared into thin air. Literally.

Now other performers are also vanishing, and a mysterious stranger is warning me: There is evil among us. But the producers want me to take over Golly's part.

Looks like I'm going to need a little magical help if I want to keep my starring role . . .


+++++++++++++

I have never been one for too much fluff. I am the girl who would rather watch an action movie or a horror film than watch a romantic comedy. I stay away from the beach reads and reality tv. I want substance. I want characters I like, instead of ones I despise. I want smart women who save themselves and by god I want some decent prose.

When I write reviews I always try to find something redeeming about a book. Not every book is going to inspire me or give me something I can relate to, but usually I can find a decent plot or maybe a character I like. Sometimes it’s some great dialogue. I hate to give up on a book. I love books. Someone put their heart into something and this is their imagination in paper form. Books smell nice. They feel nice and they take me on journeys and vacations.

But sometimes, just sometimes you just have to shake your head and wish you had a nice vacation from your “vacation”. Sometimes you want your 3 hours back. I know that I am not the only one out there who sometimes finds it really hard to get to the last page, who wants to write in the books with red pen, and who tries really hard to find one redeeming quality. This was one of those books.

Esther is a 20 something stage actress trying to make it big but failing as a wood nymph in a play called Sorcerer. Luckily she is the understudy to Golly Gee who character Virtue is the other lead. When Golly Gee disappears during one of the magic acts in the play, Esther becomes the new lead. Everything should be great right? Well it would be if it wasn’t for the warnings that she is next if she goes into the Crystal Cage just like Golly Gee. More magical acts across the city are also missing key performers. Also Evil is afoot.

Dr. Maximillian Zadok is a member of a secret society called Magnum Collegium. The Collegium keeps the supernatural community in check. With Esther’s help the two try to track down who is behind the disappearances and maybe just maybe Esther can keep her job.

Things I loved: I enjoyed the cover. I think that is why I picked it up in the first place. And you have to admit the cast of characters ranges from Drag Queens to Demons. The author also tried to do her best to bring something new to a genre that is full of vampires and werewolves. Unfortunately these are really the only things going for it. Which brings me to what I didn’t like.

Things I didn’t love so much: Esther is an idiot. Snarky = check, though mostly it comes off as bitchy. Delightfully spunky or a gal with moxie she is not. Clueless = check. I wanted to like her, really I did. Her mom keeps nagging for her to just settle down with nice boy and have lots of babies instead of continuing to struggle as an actress. Trust me I completely relate to that part, except sometimes it’s my father and he constantly thinks that every job I do is beneath me. But that is about all I relate to. Oh dear goddess, Esther is like a four year old after eating a giant pixistik, though to be honest so is everyone else including the supposedly smart ones like the Detective and Zadok. Their attention spans are about…ooh look a squirrel.

I didn’t buy the romance. Not sure what either one sees in the other. And the forced comedic scenes…egads. I just didn’t get it. A coffee joke is funny…not when it lasts 20 pages. A Quirky joke about your job also funny but again not when it lasts an entire chapter. It was all just so over the top.

Of course we have our dealbreaker…rape. It happens, but it should never be funny. And I felt like it was supposed to be the ironic guffaw (You see our villain wants all of the power so he conjures a demon to give him said awesomeness. But the demon expects payment, a pretty little virgin he can defile to his heart’s content. Esther realizes that our villain is a virgin and hands him over to the demon. Insert laugh track or happy little smirk since he got his just desserts). Nope not funny and neither was the rest of the book. Ergh. Seriously if I met Esther on the street I think I’d trip her. Put this way, far far away.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. If you are bored and have nothing else to do.There are much better Luna books out there.

Part of: A Series


Also Recommended: Storm Born by Richelle Mead, Ill Wind by Rachel Caine, Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, and Hard Magic by Laura Ann Gilman.

1.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

TUESDAY TRAILERS: Step Up - All In

I seriously cannot help but love the Step Up films. Sure they are formulaic, the acting is usually pretty bad, but boy do I love the dancing. Yeah Moose. Some of the entries are decent, others are not. I also really dig seeing all of my So You Think You Can Dance alums along with those from LXD. It makes a girl giddy. Also Step Up 3D was actually really decent in 3D. I know I cannot be the only one who might be a little happy that a new one is coming out this summer.


Summary: In the latest entry in the Step Up franchise, all-stars from previous installments come together in glittering Las Vegas, battling for a victory that could define their dreams and their careers.... Opens July 25, 2014.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon - A Review

Hawkeye Vol 1: My Life As A Weapon
Written by: Matt Fraction
Illustrated by: David Aja, Javier Pulido, Alan Davis
Trade: 136 pages
Publisher: Marvel
Language: English
March 2013
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

The breakout star of this summer's blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton - aka the self-made hero Hawkeye - fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he's out to prove himself as one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence - before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. You won't believe what is on The Tape! What is the Vagabond Code? Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe...and the darkest parts of Hawkeye's mind. Barton and Bishop mean double the Hawkeye and double the trouble...and stealing from the rich never looked so good.

COLLECTING: Hawkeye 1-5, Young Avengers Presents 6


+++++++++++++

What is it about archers? They are everywhere now from Katniss Everdeen to the Green Arrow and of course Hawkeye. And there really is something about Hawkeye. He’s not like the other Avengers. Hero yes. Superpowered? Not really. He is the one you can relate to. And I can certainly get all lusty after him especially when he looks like Jeremy Renner in the Marvel films.

Now I have always been a Marvel girl over DC (though you know I have tons of Vertigo love). I was a huge X-Men fan growing up and while I have read a decent amount of Avengers stuff over the years, I am not well versed in Clint Barton. This is where my friend Kristin comes in. This year for Emerald City Con she and her buds are going as Mad Men/Cocktail style Avengers. I was allotted to do Scarlet Witch, though was sorely tempted to do a fun gender swapped Quicksilver as I love the colors, but alas couldn’t quite swing the trip this year due to work obligations and that nagging lack of fundage problem as well. Kristin did a great classic Hawkeye costume and in an effort to learn even more about her cosplay character she picked up Matt Fraction’s Haweye. And then very nicely let me borrow it. After all Comic Book 101 this month’s genre was Superheroes so it worked in my favor.

I like Hawkeye. He’s a smart ass. He gets into trouble. But he’s also the guy who is hella good with a bow and arrow and also one of the good guys. As an Avenger he works with people far more powerful than he is, but he holds his own. You cannot help but like him even when he gets in way over his head. Fraction really plays this up and I dig it. It makes Clint even more relatable than he already was. The first panel shows him crashing out a high window and then falling into a hospital bed for six weeks while he recovers. You never really see that with the other White Hats.

This is about his down time when he’s not off saving the world with the Avengers. He tries to live a normal life, knock back a few beers with his neighbors on the rooftop of their apartment building, try to keep it low key. Of course with Clint that never really happens as he has a Russian Mafia slumlord who owns his building (oh the feels with pizza dog). Even when he is working for SHIELD he has to worry about pickpockets and a night at the Circus doesn’t exactly go as planned. It also features Kate Bishop who became the new Hawkeye after Clint had a minor case of death and I kind of adore her bunches including wanting to cosplay her something fierce. She is Clint’s protégé though does quite well on her own. They make a great little team and I love that he recognizes Kate’s mad bow skills.

Things I loved:I love that this is largely contained. No loose ends, instead I want more. I want more Clint and Katie. And I definitely want to read more Matt Fraction.

The humor is top notch from the snark filled comments from Clint, to other languages being formatted as “(Some Spanish-sounding stuff)!” or “(French Stuff).” My favorite would still have to be a naked Clint diving for cover and a classic Hawkeye head covering the naughty bits. Cute.

Let’s talk about the artwork. David Aja’s artwork in the first three issues is amazing and a nice throwback compared to the usual fare similar to Alan Davis’ artwork in the Young Avengers section of the book (which is nice don’t get me wrong but I kind of like the messiness of the first three issues). Love the framing, the layouts and the color choices. Kind of made me all warm and fuzzy and reminded me of old Batman comics I grew up with. I think it fits Clint Barton. It’s less polished and flashy…and yet perfect at the same time. Javier Pulido’s art is just as great but a bit more detailed over all.

Things I didn’t love so much: There really wasn’t anything that I didn’t like. The Young Avengers bit was not my favorite, but gave me more Kate Bishop which I did say I wanted. It was less light hearted than the rest of the volume and focused more on Kate than Clint. I want more though. Much much more Matt Fraction.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Buy. Buy.

Part of: A Series


Also Recommended: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Chew by John Layman

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

CarniePunk: A Review

Carnie Punk
Written by: Various Authors
Hardcover: 433 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
Language: English
July 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Anthology

A star-studded urban fantasy anthology featuring bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, and Kevin Hearne, whose stories explore the creepy, mysterious, and, yes, sometimes magical world of traveling carnivals.

The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?

And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.

Featuring stories grotesque and comical, outrageous and action-packed, Carniepunk is the first anthology to channel the energy and attitude of urban fantasy into the bizarre world of creaking machinery, twisted myths, and vivid new magic


+++++++++++++

As I have said before I love anthologies. I also love carnivals. There is something about the tents, the games, the hints of the dangerous and the unknown, cotton candy, corn dogs, and ferris wheels. I love going to the carnival and I love reading about it as well (Night Circus was a favorite). Same goes with watching it with shows like Carnival (cancelled far too early) and they just recently announced that next season’s American Horror Story will take place at the carnival. Whoo hoo.

So as I was going through my to be read pile I found CarniePunk waiting to be read. It had a great set of authors and thought I would make it my next little pretty to consume during my down times. I love the cover, dark and gritty promising that the stories within are going to be a few shades of dark (no light and fluffy here). I won’t go over all of the stories, but will point out some of the best and the worst for me.

Things I loved: Like most anthologies it has its strengths and its weaknesses. Some of the weaknesses are the stories that are little novellas of larger series and there is not enough time to truly flesh out these perhaps well-known characters to someone other than me and get onto your story and have it fulfill your needs for both plot and depth of character. While I truly love the extra little tales we get of some of our favorite characters, you have to have a knack for writing short stories and make them accessible to all, not just your own readers. You have to make me want to read more and that I get a sense of your series as a whole and the characters. The best anthologies for me are ones that are truly filled with short stories. Even if they do feature characters I know they can be a standalone and I don’t need a big novel to follow. The first story in the anthology did that for me.

“Painted Love” by Rob Thurman: I enjoy Rob a lot. She has great prose and I love her stories. This was no exception and the absolute perfect story to set the tone of the overall anthology. It preys on your fears of the carnival, the leering carnie who might actually be a sociopath in this case and those he preys on. Doodle follows him wherever he goes never interfering until the young man decides to go after a young girl and her older sister. Really loved this one, twists and all, want it to be made into a short film, and it made me fall for Rob all over again and thinking I need to pick up her new series. Seriously poodles and tentacles. Loved it.

“The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” by Kevin Hearne reminds me a bit of Harry Dresden, but there was enough there that I want to read the series. Granted it’s a bit formulaic with danger, bad guy, win…but I liked the writing style. Set in the Iron Druid series, Atticus heads to the carnival for some R&R, but of course nothing goes as planned and a simple Freak Show becomes so much more.

“The Sweeter the Juice” by Mark Henry gets a mention as it features a transgendered woman as the protagonist and begs the question what is a girl to do when all the SRS docs have been nom’d on during the Zombie Apocalypse? The story has everything from zombie babies to addiction and while completely eccentric and unique was interesting to read.

“The Werewife” by Jaye Wells just made me smile as twisted as it was. Annie is demanding, Brad has no spine. It doesn’t help things that the last time they went to the carnival Annie became a werewolf, so now Brad spends his time covering up the neighborhood pets in the backyard after Annie turns. While the villain may have been a little too one dimensional in her arrogance, I still kinda liked it.

“The Cold Girl” by Rachel Caine was another stand out story. "It took me two days to die. On the first night I met Madame Laida, and on the second night, I met the Cold Girl." Love that opening. Kiley is madly in love with her boyfriend, Jamie, but he’s been keeping some very dark secrets from her...secrets that can kill a girl at a carnival. It doesn’t help that the Cold Girl has chosen Kiley as well. Vampires are not sweet in this story. But then neither are survivors of abuse when they fight back.

“A Duet with Darkness” By Alison Pang while not the strongest story was a nice little touch in the anthology. Violinist Melanie St. James is synesthetic and has more power than she knows. Pride at a carnival with a very special instrument can produce very interesting and unexpected results. This is a neat little story and I like the small snippet of world building that I was allowed to peek at. It put the series on my radar so that has to say something.

“Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea” by Seanan McGuire is gorgeous. It’s not just about growing up, or secrets, or mother/daughter relationships. It’s a story of magic and for once the carnies weren’t the bad guys. Unrelated to the Toby series, this stands alone and has that sense of the carnival, full of magic. I loved Ada, her uncle, and her mother. So good.

Overall a good anthology, towards the last bit of the middle and the end it got very repetitive and the lead characters blended into one. The prose started to take a dip as well and while Seanan’s story was top notch and a way to close the whole anthology, by then I was getting a bit tired of the snarky heroine vs carnies because there is far more to a carnival if you are just willing to look and imagine.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. A fairly solid anthology with some great stories.

Part of: Standalone

Also Recommended: Other anthologies you may enjoy are Strange Brew edited by PN Elrod, Mean Streets edited by Jim Butcher, and Powers of Detection edited by Dana Stabenow

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Haunter: A Review

Haunter
Directed By: Vincenzo Natali
Written By:Brian King
Genre:HORROR
Rated: Not Available
Time: 97 min
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden, David Hewlett
Plot: In this reverse ghost story, teenager Lisa Johnson (Breslin) and her family died in 1986 under sinister circumstances but remain trapped in their house, unable to move on. Over a period of six "days," Lisa must reach out from beyond the grave to help her present-day, living counterpart, Olivia, avoid the same fate Lisa and her family suffered.

Comments: I enjoyed both Cube and Splice, two of the films Director Vincenzo Natali has done in the past. Netflix recommended the film and between the Director and the star (Abigail Breslin) I was intrigued. I can say I agree that it’s a bit of The Others crossed with Groundhog Day (as one apt reviewer put it). Except this would be utter Hell. Especially when you know the trick of it and everyone else is oblivious or at least unwilling to admit it out loud. It’s a fun spin on the ghost story where our heroine knows she is dead. Lisa has done the same thing for who knows how long: wake up to her brother on a walkie-talkie, do her chores, eat the same dinner, watch the family tune in for some Murder She Wrote and then repeat. When she knows that something is wrong and questions that is when her banal little version of Hell gets much much worse. Our ghost feels like she is being haunted not only by the world of the living, but by something darker. All Lisa wants is the cycle to stop. There has to be more to the afterlife than this. So she keeps searching for answers.

Enter Stephen McHattie as a creepy repairman, who warns Breslin not to try and contact the living or wake her family from their ghostly ignorance. There can be things much worse than reliving the same day. While not an amazing film chock full of scares, I did have to appreciate the new take on things. There are a few scares and McHattie just exudes evil, but overall it’s an understated film. But I was entertained me for a couple of hours and that has to say something.

Rent/Cinema?Available on Netflix, it was a nice little change and I was entertained for a couple of hours.

3/4 popcorns

Friday, April 4, 2014

Monuments Men: A Review

Monuments Men
Directed By: George Clooney
Written By: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Genre: DRAMA
Rated: PG-13
Time: 118 min
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban
Plot: While World War II rages on, a collection of art historians, architects, and art lovers struggle to protect and recover tens of thousands of the continent’s greatest art treasures looted by the Nazis. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section was a multinational group of mostly middle-aged museum officials, artists, architects and restorers who volunteered their services when it became clear that Hitler’s elaborate plot to steal famous paintings, sculptures and other masterpieces for his planned personal museum posed just as real a threat to art as the bombing of the continent.

Comments: When my dad and I first saw the trailer, he was very interested in seeing it. And being on my current WW II kick, it’s the movie we decided to go see this week. It’s a great film, but something was missing though I cannot tell you what to make it truly great. It has an amazing cast and the story is both funny and heartbreaking, but again…something was missing.

Based loosely on Robert Edsel’s book of the same name, the Monuments Men are on a race against time not only to find the priceless works before the Russians can (their form of reparations) or the Nazi’s can blow it up (Hitler’s Nero clause that said if I die, I want you to destroy everything). Clooney’s character Stokes makes a note that you can rebuild after war, but you cannot rebuild a civilization’s achievements once they have been destroyed. It just killed me to watch scenes where priceless art was thrown into the city street and burned as if it had no value. You cannot get Rembrandt to come back and redo his works of art. Once lost, they are gone forever. Is it worth one man’s life though?

It has its humorous moments. Bill Murray revisits his Stripes days in a scene with Basic Training and I delightfully mocked Matt Damon’s character’s horrible French just as every Frenchman did. It is a bit light on the character development, but the film itself moves at a decent pace and I didn’t find myself bored.

Rent/Cinema? Cinema. For a popcorn film, I was entertained. Not sure if I would buy it later this year, but I do not feel as if my money was wasted at all.

3/4 popcorns

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ghost Story: A Review

Ghost Story (Harry Dresden #13)
Written by: Jim Butcher
Hardcover: 481 pages
Publisher: Roc
Language: English
July 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Dresden Files

B When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...


+++++++++++++

Sometimes, very similar to the way Joey put The Shining in the freezer on Friends, I don’t want to handle the end of a book. If you put it in the freezer you don’t have to worry about it. Just freeze that moment in time and you are good. I felt that way about Changes. I was in shock. My mouth hung open. I think I have let out a little sob. And then I may or may have not thrown the book across the room like a petulant child.

You see Harry and I have been bibliophile buds for quite some time now. I first started reading Jim Butcher’s series after realizing my current crush, James Marsters, read the audio versions of the Harry Dresden Files. So we would sit down together and recount the snark filled adventures of my favorite wizard. I’ve defended him after people watched the TV version of his stories, but did not read the books and gave up on him (I’ve helped defend Katniss too). Harry is my urban fantasy hero and after 13 books and possibly a year or two after it had come out, I finally decided to take the series out of the freezer and try to continue. But I was so scared. How could you come back from Changes?

Harry is dead. Has been for six months and this is a bit problematic for our favorite Chicago Wizard in residence. He doesn’t have a clue who killed him, has no magic, and the world has become a lot darker because of Harry’s actions and his death. Chicago is not a great place to live really, but the heroes left are trying their best. Karrin Murphy, the Wolves, Father Murphy, Molly Carpenter, etc are coping, but it is a grim vision of a life without Harry Dresden. You see when you wipe out an entire group of Baddies and we mean completely wipe them out and not just in Chicago, there are a lot of baddies who are more than willing to rush into that power vacuum. The Red Court was bad. But things from the Never Never could be worse. A lot worse.

But the Powers that Be are giving Harry another a chance, so he is sent back to what is left of his Chicago to solve not only his own mystery, but save those he cares about. All without using his magical powers… And per usual Dresden fashion, not everything is as it seems. Including the details surrounding his death and return.

Things I loved: I will say that this fairly spoiler heavy for all things CHANGES so if you have not read the book, please stop now. While I will do my best not to spoiler anything major in GHOST STORY, well sometimes I cannot help myself. So be forewarned. No seriously stop reading unless you are okay with spoilers which E says quite a few people are actually okay with.

Ghost Story is the 13th installment and it has your usual Harry suspects: humor, snark, action with some big baddies, and Harry being the self-deprecating hero we have all grown to love. The prose is accessible and for the most part the pacing is decent and well balances (though there are a few more stumbles than usual). And I have to say this is one way to reboot or at least breathe new life into a longstanding series.

Harry is neither dead nor alive. Instead he is somewhere in between and acting very much like a ghost. For Harry this is devastating as he is unable to interact with the world as he used to including saving those he cares about. As much as Harry as unable to do a lot of physical things in this book we see how much the world has changed with his actions and with his death. The creatures and things that go bump are back in town now that Harry is gone. Everyone has changed, into something different, something that is trying to keep the city safe no matter what the cost. Karrin is cold and lethal as ever, Butters has grown, and…Molly. Molly does her best as the Ragged Woman, to create a thing for the bad guys to fear, but she is just the Grasshopper. Her Mr. Miyagi is gone. I kind of just wanted to hug Molly lots.

I love the ghosty physics. Reasons why Harry doesn’t sink into the ground or how different types of spirits exist and how much they are able to interact with the real world. I also like the essentially we are made up of memories and those memories have value and power, even more so when you know the trick of it all.

There are some truly great moments in this book that made me get all weepy eyed such as Mister’s reaction, Molly as a whole, and eben people like Karrin and Butters. I also dug the fairly big revelation about a major event in Harry’s past. While it does not directly affect the Ghost Story plotline, I do think it will become important in the future or at least come into further play.

Things I didn’t love so much: There are some stumbles in this volume and perhaps if I had read Changes and Ghost Story one after another like a Netflix binge on House of Cards I may have been forgiving. *Shrug* Harry spends a good time not only justifying his actions from Changes with the Red Court and everything else that it didn’t seem very authentic to Harry. While Harry is not an ass once he makes a decision he sticks with it.

I also hated that I knew the trick of it all (who murdered Harry and why) so early in the book and would have preferred to be a bit more clueless, just like Harry, and have it slowly unfurl instead of me waiting for Harry to catch up. The murder is force fed on you with a gigantic spoon.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. A worthy addition to the Dresden Files and an excellent way to breathe new life into the ongoing series.

Part of: The Dresden Files
Storm Front (Book One)
Fool Moon (Book Two)
Grave Peril (Book Three)
Summer Knight (Book Four)
Death Masks (Book Five)
Blood Rites (Book Six)
Dead Beat (Book Seven)
Proven Guilty (Book Eight)
White Night (Book Nine)
Small Favor (Book Ten)
Turn Coat (Book Eleven)

Also Recommended: The Felix Castor series by Mike Carey, the Sandman Slim novels by Richard Kadrey, Simon R Green’s John Taylor series, Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.

3.50 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

City of Thieves: A Review

City of Thieves
Written by: David Benioff
Paperback: 319 pages
Publisher: Plume
Language: English
March 2009
Genre: Fiction

From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men..


+++++++++++++

There is something about World War II literature that I really enjoy reading about. The fictional takes can be inspiring, heartbreaking, or funny as can the non-fictional contributions. Finn chose this book for this month’s book club. I knew about it a little as it apparently inspired the Last of Us videogame and I knew that David Benioff wrote the 25th hour and has been a screenwriter for Game of Thrones.

Set during the siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is on watch when he and his friends spy a frozen Nazi paratrooper falling from the sky. Caught looting the dead body after curfew Lev is thrown into prison fully expecting to be executed in the morning. With him in his cell is a handsome soldier accused of being a deserter named Kolya. They are brought before a high-ranking NKVD officer who makes them an offer they are in no position to refuse. Find a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake by the end of the week or no more ration cards.

Thus begins a coming-of-age story as the two young men embark on a futile quest to find a dozen eggs in a city that has been starving for a very long time, a city where there are no more childhood pets and the paste from books has been made into candy bars. Realizing they must venture outside the walls and into enemy territory the two men learn a lot about life, love, war, and growing up. It is funny and heartbreaking, poignant and absurd. This is Lev’s story.

Things I loved: The Siege of Leningrad was brutal. Though the Germans surrounded the city, they were never able to capture it. Of course this does not mean that its residents did not come out of the war unscathed. Millions of citizens and the soldiers hoping to protect it died from hunger, sickness, and the cold. So while ultimately a piece of fiction, Benioff asks you to imagine what it must have been like for Lev to live in his beloved Piter (short for St Petersburg) during the war. The streets weren’t safe as the NKVD roamed, but then again so did cannibals. And home wasn’t always safe either with the bomb raids. Bread was not much more than sawdust, my college diet of ramen noodles would have been a feast, and if you didn’t have a humor you may just break down and just go sit in a corner and wait for death. As much as there is humor in the book, it is far from light reading. Never forget that this is a World War II novel. There is heartbreak, there is horror, and there is despair. However, Benioff does a really good job at balancing both the serious and the lightheartedness. It’s a futile mission that the boys are on, but they don’t give up. My god the resilience of not just them, but Leningrad as a whole.

Kolya and Lev are two very different characters. Kolya is the charmer, the ladies’ man, who spends most of his time talking or thinking about sex (which got him into the trouble he is in), and sharing his experiences and life with Lev. Lev is quiet, angry, and always trying to prove something, but boy is he good at chess. Their banter is infectious though at times I felt like I was reading a WWII rumpus teen comedy. Granted with a lot of heavy moments thrown in between. It was hard to believe that these two were so cavalier in their conversations when right around the corner death awaits.

I liked Kolya. I know that some of the girls in our book club didn’t really care for him as they thought he was too cavalier, too much of a manipulative guy who really only did think about sex. I kept thinking about the situation and I feel like I understand Kolya. You either laugh and try to keep a decent attitude or you wind up like the kid in the chicken coop. Humor is his defensive mechanism, a way to make sure you don’t realize what your situation really is and go off screaming into the night. We do have moments with Kolya when we realize he is trying to be the rock for a lot of people. He whispers to his lovers making them forget, if but for a night, what the world is really like. He protects, He reflects, and he mourns (the dogs with the mines was particularly heartbreaking). Of course he does that all with snark and jokes.

I loved that despite the disaster upon disaster that they run into (reminders that it is indeed war), they keep going. You have to. The framework of the whole novel is great too. While I know that it is completely fictional I like that it opens up with a screenwriter named David wanting to know more about his grandfather’s childhood. ''A couple of things still don't make sense to me — '' Benioff persists after spending a week with his grandfather listening to his stories. ''You're a writer,'' answers his grandfather. ''Make it up.'' The next 250 pages of the book tell the story of “one week in 1942, the first week of the year, the week he met my grandmother, made his best friend, and killed two Germans.”

Things I didn’t love so much: Sometimes Kolya is such the ladies’ man and charmer that it a bit too larger than life and occasionally takes you out of the story, or at least it did for me.

Admittedly you might have to be in the right mood for the book as well. It does take place during WWII so understand that while there is humor, it can also be quite heavy.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Completely worth the read. Thank you Finn for the recommendation.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and the Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: A DAME TO KILL FOR

I really dug the first Sin City. It was gorgeous to look at and I think stayed true to the source material. Plus I am okay if some of the comic films don't necessarily involve caped crusaders. Are you as excited as I am?


Summary: Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller reunite to bring Miller's visually stunning "Sin City" graphic novels back to the screen in "Sin City: A Day to Kill For." Weaving together two of Miller's classic stories with new tales, the town's most hard boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more notorious inhabitants.... Opens August 22nd, 2014.