Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: 2015Read
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-08-06 00:20
In Which Jim Butcher is Very Very Mean to Harry...
Changes - Jim Butcher

Remember when Harry Dresden used to be a P.I. wizard for hire and random Chicagoans would hire him to solve this or that unexplained problem in their life?  Yeah.  Me neither.  This book kind of puts the final nail in that coffin for good and forever and marks the beginning of a trilogy (at least) of books  which includes this one, Ghost Story and Cold Days.  In Changes everything falls apart (I mean everything), Ghost Story is all about reflection and lesson learning from the whole everything falling apart scenario, and Cold Days is taking the lessons learned and trying to come to grips with a new reality.  The Dresden Files series has always had a lot of through lines and connections between books but these three really seem to be more tightly bound - almost one story in three volumes so be prepared.


But back to Changes specifically.  In the first few pages it is revealed that Harry has a daughter with Susan Rodriguez that he doesn't know about.  And the little girl is in trouble.  You can imagine how well Harry responds to the news that he has a 6 or 7 year old daughter that Susan has hid from him and that the girl (Maggie) has been kidnapped by a Red Court Vampire.  He does not respond well at all. The rest of the plot involves Harry calling in all his allies and pulling out all the stops to save his child.  In the end, Harry must do things that will haunt him for a long time and make him question himself like never before.  Well as much as Harry does things like "question himself."


In this installment, Butcher seems to be aiming to accomplish a complete game changer.  He gives Harry a child but then strips him of almost everything else.  All those things we've come to associate with Harry are stripped away plus more.  It's done thoroughly and well.  Also if you are a Murphy fan she gets some great scenes and likely should receive the MVP award for the climax battle.  If you've missed Susan Rodriguez, you'll have fun catching up with her.  I only vaguely remembered her since I read books 1-10 long, long ago so I didn't really care about her in the least which made all of her and Dresden's emotional reunion, conflict and relationship drama just kind of annoying.


Which brings me to the point.  Did I enjoy this installment of the Dresden Files?  It was okay.  It had its spectacular moments.  The climactic battle scene is fantastic and I do appreciate overall what Butcher was doing to his character (aka being very very mean to him). I also like that this book has massive repercussions for the direction of the series which will be interesting to explore.


The problem is, I read the Dresden Files for non-stop action, goofy banter and generally the wild ride the books provide.  Sure I'm invested in Harry and many of his allies as characters and I enjoy the occasional more serious and emotional scene.  This book however dials the emo meter up to eleventy billion and my tolerance for that was particularly low while reading.  There was a lot of eye-rolling.  Mileage will most certainly vary regarding this complaint so it may not bother you at all.


I also felt like, probably because the stakes were dialed up so high in this one (at least for Dresden personally), that for the first time Harry came across as a Gary Stu.  It dials down later in the book and I haven't really been too bothered in the subsequent books but for the first part of this book it really grated on my nerves.  Every female in the book seems to be into him while he is all chivalrous and ridiculous...I will not sleep with you because you kept things from me, and I will not sleep with you because I met you when you were 8 and I will not sleep with you because...well I haven't really bothered to consider that possibility and your the only female I don't think about boobs first. 


Finally, I felt like the pacing was off in this one.  There was a big bad time deadline, as there always is in Dresden Files' books, but there seemed to be a lot of time for hanging around being dramatically emo about things.  It finally picks up and evens out in the second half of the book but the first part dragged for me along with the other problems mentioned above.


The audio was read by James Marsters and he is really perfect for reading these books.  He does a fantastic job and completely captures Dresden's voice and character.  I highly recommend the audio version of the book!


FINAL VERDICT:  A very up and down read for me.  I appreciate what Butcher was doing in this book and there are really some spectacular moments but the overall reading experience was just okay.



I have just a one thing to say that is pretty spoilery so if you don't want to know, look away!







I'm a fan of the idea of a Murphy and Dresden romance mostly because I adore Murphy and think Harry should too.  I like her more than Dresden in fact.  At the end of this book we get some movement towards the happy idea of Harry and Karrin together and then Harry promptly gets shot and killed.  It's a very convenient and certainly the most unusual way I've seen an author employ to draw things out.  And man does Butcher keep the drawing out going - I'm two books further along and things are still very unresolved and look to even be in massive doubt.  But more ranting about that in later reviews:)


Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-07-29 01:18
Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones

I was excited to read this book for a couple of reasons.  Reason one was that I had never read anything by Dianna Wynne Jones.  Shameful, I know, but at least I have corrected the deficiency!  The second reason, which drove my choice of Howl's Moving Castle is that I adore the Miyazaki film so much that I even own it.  More about the film later in the post.


Howl's Moving Castle takes place in a somewhat recognizable world that is just a little bit slanted.  Sophie is the eldest of three sisters and as such she is not expected to do much in the world.  She has so embraced this idea of her own insignificance that in many ways she has given up on life.  She makes hats in her family's haberdashery and doesn't even notice when her creations change people's lives.  One day, inexplicably, the Witch of the waste comes into the store and places a curse on Sophie, changing her into an old woman.  In a somewhat vague attempt to have the curse removed, Sophie runs into the countryside looking for the fearsome Wizard Howl and his moving castle.  She finds him and discovers that Howl is not exactly who she thinks he is and somewhat more surprisingly that she is also not who she thinks she is.


My favorite part about this weird tale is how Sophie slowly gets to know herself.  The change in her appearance - being in disguise - frees Sophie to be bolder and ironically truer to herself.  She has strong opinions and is rather forceful about expressing them, nagging the flibbertigibbet Howl into being more responsible and less self-absorbed. She's much braver as well, running across the countryside when she thinks her sister is in trouble and even going toe to toe with the King on Howl's behalf while at the beginning of the story she was almost too timid to visit her sister at a baker across town.  Her will is even strong enough to tame Calcifer, the fire demon that powers Howl's extraordinary home.  Sophie also succeeds, quite quickly, in turning the castle into a home, providing structure to the household and serving to balance Howl's unpredictable ways.


Howl is also fascinating.  He is playing a role that actually serves to conceal who he truly is.  He works out almost right away that Sophie is under a curse and isn't really old.  His dealings with the King that make him seem a coward are also a ruse that allow him to eventually defeat the Witch of the Waste.  It is impossible to know how to take him - his sister back home in Wales (!) despairs of him but he cares for his mundane family and does everything he can to protect her and his niece and nephew.


Basically, neither Howl nor Sophie are your typical romantic hero and heroine and for all that their story feels more sweet.  Because they do fall in love of course but it is so gradual, born out of getting to know one another.  Sophie denies it the longest as she gets crabbier and crabbier every time she thinks Howl is out wooing another woman.  Meanwhile Howl is slowly trying to give her everything he thinks she wants including becoming a better self. 


All that unique character stuff is also wrapped up with the wonderful imagination of Diana Wynne Jones.  Enchanted scarecrows with turnips for heads, enchanted dogs smitten with their mistresses, a castle that is really four things at once in four different locations and a fire demon that is really a falling star.  What Calcifer is and the nature of his contract with Howl is a mystery that runs throughout.


If I have any complaints it is that the story is at times a little confusing.  One example is that a connection to our world  - the mundane modern world where Howl comes from and where he is known as Howell - is thrown in with very little explanation about the how the connection between the two worlds works.  That's fine but it seemed like a confusing addition that didn't really add much to the story though perhaps it does in later books?


FINAL VERDICT:  An imaginative story of self-discovery that has adventure, romance and an unmistakeably unique quality to it.  Tells a rather classic tale in a lovely unique way.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-06-25 02:04
Nine rules for writing an awesome historical romance!
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake - Sarah MacLean

Romance is a huge hit or miss genre for me.  I really enjoy a good romance but I'm picky about what I find to be good.  So finding a new favorite romance author is always VERY exciting.  MacLean was brought to my attention by Rebecca Schinsky of Book Riot. While she and I's book tastes don't overlap terribly, she is an outspoken feminist and fan of literary fiction so I figured if she liked MacLean, I figured her books should be a decently written and feature heroines who wouldn't make me want to scrub my brain out.  I wasn't disappointed!


Calpurnia Hartwell is a well bred lady on the shelf at the age of 27.   She has always played it safe and by the rules but as her younger sister prepares to marry she starts to question what having a spotless reputation has done for her and what it is she really wants from her life.  She makes a list; a bucket list of sorts; of nine things she wants to experience and damn the consequences.  What does she really have to lose after all?  Number one on the list is to be kissed.  In a fit of boldness she decides to approach the man she's had a crush on for 10 years, ever since he'd been kind to her during a disastrous ball in her first season. The Marquess of Ralston has a rake's reputation so she figures he'll be obliging.  He is but he also exacts a price: he wants Callie to use her impeccable reputation to help launch his somewhat scandalous sister into society.  Thus the dance begins.


The most important part of a romance for me are the characters and that is definitely a strength of this book.  Callie is just a regular woman - nothing super special about her.  In fact, on the surface, she's quite dull as she's always followed society's rules and as such does her best at being invisible.  She's got low self esteem which I know may irritate some readers but I think it is a real problem amongst women (and men, really) and was likely especially bad in Regency Era England when women were not valued much.  The book does a good job showing how irrational and crippling it is.  While she is not stunningly beautiful (thank god), she's attractive enough and has a great personality and she shouldn't have had a problem finding a husband but her conviction that she is ugly convinces others she's not worth bothering with.  Her "bucket list" is her declaration of liberation - she finally decides that she matters and that she deserves to find pleasure in life.


Ralston is an alpha hero but I found him to be pretty laid back for his ilk.  He can be grumpy and controlling but mostly when things aren't going well.  Otherwise he's charming and has a live and let live attitude.  Most importantly, he always respects Callie and sympathizes with her desires to break free from her oh so proper life even if he find her exploits inconvenient.


I am a fan of the trope of a long-time unrequited crush which this romance employs to great success.  Callie and Ralston fit well together as a pair.  And the feminist credentials?  Many of the items on Callie's list are things that were major symbols of male privilege at the time; smoke a cigar, drink whiskey etc....  It explores how stifling a woman's existence likely was at the time and gently pokes at it without being strident.  It's kept light with a generous dose of humor and lots of romantic tension-based banter.


There was a thing or two I didn't love.  I don't love when a heroine is challenging the hero or she's irritated with him and he shuts her up/makes her forgive/forget everything with a make out session.  A little of this is fine but it happens a little too much in this book.  However even with this, it was a totally delightful read!


FINAL VERDICT:  An original heroine, in that she's pretty ordinary, and her journey to stop being what society expects of her makes for a really great romance! 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-06-22 00:54
Easily a favorite read of 2015!
Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

I am completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect of writing a review for this book.  It's probably fair to call it a modern classic and it's been reviewed many times by much smarter and more perceptive people than I.  What can I possibly add to the conversation that hasn't already been said about this book?  Undoubtedly nothing but I have thoughts and feelings that must be expressed so I'm ignoring wisdom and putting them out there regardless. Second problem is that with a book this good, nothing I say is even remotely adequate.  Hopefully my dithering is enough to convince you of this book's all around awesomeness. It will easily be on my top ten reads of the year list if not of all time.


I come to this book already a big fan of westerns and that predisposed me to love it but I'm not sure you need to have an inclination towards fiction set in the American frontier.  Lonesome Dove is really about people.  People who've had a very different life than I've had but who still managed to seem familiar.  Many of them are extraordinary though most of them are just incredibly ordinary.  The book is told from many different perspectives and their voices are all completely alive.  If you like inhabiting other people's skin, this book will be a satisfying and overwhelming buffet.


The plot is as winding as a cattle trail, which is mostly it's purpose. The overarching narrative is about the small Hat Creek Cattle Company nestled in the dry desert of south Texas deciding to be the first outfit to move cattle into Montana and establish a ranch there.  The Hat Creek company is owned and operated by two rather famous but retired Texas Rangers, Captain Woodrow Call and Captain Augustus McCrae, less formerly know as Call and Gus. 

The cattle drive is the main river of the narrative but it has several streams, the most substantial of which is the somewhat inept but earnest exploits of Sheriff July Johnson whose storyline intersects with Gus and Call's a few times.  It felt like McMurtry had this loose central line of a plot which he kept in mind but didn't tie himself to, allowing his writing to flow wherever it took him. While everything does flow there are times when the tributary you are floating in is quite small indeed.  We spend a a number of pages in the head of July's erstwhile wife before that line abruptly peters out. There are a couple of main perspective characters but we get inside almost all of the characters at least for brief periods.  This writing style would normally drive me crazy.  I tend to gravitate towards and most appreciate books (and series) that have been intricately planned out and cleverly plotted but with Lonesome Dove I was so entranced by every single thing and person that appeared that I wanted it to keep going forever.  No matter where McMurtry took me, it was exactly where I wanted to be and I found the book to be a compulsive listening experience.  I wanted it to be longer than it's 945 pages.


I think a key thing to know about the book is how funny it is.  The tone is so incredibly perfect; it's this balance between humor and tragedy, hope and philosophy, dysfunctionality and wisdom that it seems to capture the very essence of the human experience.  I know this probably sounds pretentious but the point is that the book is not at all pretentious.  It's warm and down to earth.  This book made me frequently laugh out loud or grin like a fool, often in public.  It also brought tears and sadder emotions but the brutality that was a very real part of life in that place and time was always kept in check by the ridiculous and the heroic.  Since I'm afraid I've made it sound all rambly and existential, I also need to point out that it's not that at all.  It's chock full of all the things people look for in a great story; adventure, gunfights, beautiful settings, suspense and romance.


The muse or choirmaster of the book, in my mind is Gus McCrae.  Gus very quickly and firmly became one of my favorite fictional characters of all time.  I don't want to describe him because I will not be able to do him justice but almost every single one of the sentences from this book that are worthy of taking special note of, and there are lots of them are either said by or about Gus.  He's got a wry and wicked sense of humor which has enabled him to experience many terrible things in his life and come out the other side at peace.


“If you want one thing too much it’s likely to be a disappointment. The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk—and feisty gentlemen.” - Gus McCrae

He's utterly unique and I adored him more with each page.  I could have read a 1000 pages more of him extemporaneously speaking.  His relationship with the taciturn and workaholic Call is also one of the more delightful and fantastic things in the book. It also has to be said that while Gus was certainly my favorite character, the book is loaded with fascinating people all of whom were worthwhile spending time with.


FINAL VERDICT: If you enjoy humor, character-driven fiction and compelling storytelling than you owe it to yourself to read this book as soon as you possibly can.  I can't imagine another book that could unseat this one as my favorite read of 2015.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-04-02 01:49
Witty and Unique Urban Fantasy
Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch

Original Publication Year: 2011

Genre(s): Urban Fantasy

Series: Peter Grant #2, Book 1 Review

Awards: None

Format: Audio (from Audible)

Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith


This was a series that I read last year that convinced me that I actually do enjoy Urban Fantasy.  It won me over with its mash-up of mystery/police procedural/ paranormal elements, its utterly charming characters and its witty humor.  This is the second book in the series and Peter gets sucked into his Dad’s world when Jazz musicians around London start dying mysteriously after gigs.   


This book has fewer deity diplomacy issues and focuses on the mystery of the musicians.  The solution to this mystery is very unique and creative.  The book also introduces some really interesting developments that were not resolved and likely will be recurring issues in future books.  We get a glimpse into the state of British wizardry before World War II either killed them all or drove them crazy, leaving Nightingale as last man standing.  I think this whole storyline has a lot of potential and it would be cool if it increases Nightingale’s role further. 


As per usual the characters are great.  Peter has a great voice and is this lovely mixture of idealism and honor and cynicism mostly directed at police bureaucracy and the stupidity of the human race.


“It’s a truism in policing that witnesses and statements are fine, but nothing beats empirical physical evidence. Actually it isn’t a truism because most policemen think the word ‘empirical’ is something to do with Darth Vader, but it damn well should be.”



“If you just warn people, they often simply ignore you. But if you ask them a question, then they have to think about it. And once they start to think about the consequences, they almost always calm down.
Unless they're drunk, of course.

Or stoned.

Or aged between fourteen and twenty-one.

Or Glaswegian.”


“Every male in the world thinks he's an excellent driver. Every copper who's ever had to pick an eyeball out of a puddle knows that most of them are kidding themselves.”



The way Aaronovitch writes the police and the policing, right down to the cynicism, feels very authentic and makes me curious if it is based on experience or research and imagination.  Nightingale is laid up for most of this book so is not present as much as I’d like but he and Peter’s relationship as master and apprentice is developing and even some affection is beginning to show.



“For a terrifying moment I thought he was going to hug me, but fortunately we both remembered we were English just in time. Still, it was a close call.”



Finally, Leslie makes a few short appearances and she is often in Peter’s mind.  They are dealing with devastating injury she suffered in the first book and I really like that it is addressed and that Peter remains a good friend to her.  In fact there is a development with Leslie towards at the very end of the book which also promises some interesting directions in future books. 


Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a terrific narrator and really captures Peter’s voice and handles the humor very well.  I definitely recommend the audio.


FINAL VERDICT: This second book in the series continues to develop the characters in interesting ways, has a creative mystery story of its own and introduces some very intriguing through plot lines.  Part of me wants to read the rest now but the other part doesn’t want to catch up and have no more books to read. 4 out of 5 Stars. 


More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?