Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blood Rites, book six of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Blood Rites, book six in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, seemed like it was going to be just as awesome as the last five books. However, I think this has been my least favorite book in the series so far. I do have to wonder if it’s partially Dresden burn out, but I really think it’s more than that. The pace of this book is slower, maybe that is part of it. I think part of the reason I did not like this one as much is that I just was not as invested in Harry’s client. 
Thomas, White Court vampire, comes to Harry to ask him to help a friend. This friend is a movie producer and people around him keep dying. They believe it is an evil eye curse, but if so, it is a pretty sloppy one. The roundabout way that Harry got this particular case, and the fact that Harry doesn’t get to know the actual client that well just left me less invested in the outcome. 
I will admit that once the focus shifts more to the White Court vampires, the pace and interest picks up. Some of the Black Court vampires show up in this one as well. Harry ends up having to hire some guns to help him fight the Black Court vampires. There is a big reveal involving Dresden’s mother that I don’t want to give away.
Even though this book wasn’t my favorite of the series, there is still a lot to like. Butcher had just made the fourth and fifth books so good that it was hard to keep up that pace. I definitely am not letting this one minor disappointment keep me from reading the rest of this fantastic series. 
I’m going to give Blood Rites by Jim Butcher, 3 bookmarks.

Death Masks, book five in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

The Shroud of Turin has been stolen. A Red Court vampire warlord is challenging  Harry Dresden to a duel, and if Harry refuses, the assassin will go after everyone Dresden knows. The Vatican wants Harry to help find the Shroud. The Knights of the Cross (all three of them!) want Dresden to leave it alone. If that weren’t enough of a headache, Harry how no idea how he’s going to beat the vampire Ortega in a duel without using magic. 
Welcome to Death Masks, the fifth novel in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. This one starts with the pedal to the floor and doesn’t let up. We get to see all three of the Knights of the Cross, and all three swords. It’s a good thing they’re around, since the Fallen, fallen angels who have taken a human host, are also after the shroud, and have no problem killing to get it. 
Karrin Murphy is on the outside of the murders surrounding the search for the Shroud. Dresden meets the smartest young girl in the world, the Archive, the repository for all human knowledge. White Court vampire Thomas is back as Ortega’s second for the duel, which may be yet another plot of Thomas father’s to get Thomas killed. 
I really enjoyed this entry in the Dresden Files series. It really is amazing that Harry is still standing. He seems to just make more and more enemies. On the upside, I suppose he inspires more and more loyalty in his friends. This was one of the more violent books in the series so far I think. 
I’m going to give Death Masks by Jim Butcher, 1 bookmark

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher’s fourth book in the Dresden Files series is Summer Knight. This book delves more into the fae that exist in Harry Dresden’s world. I have to admit that pretty much what I know of faeries, I have learned through other urban fantasy books. Here’s what you need to know. There is a summer court and a winter court. The summer court is thought of as the good faeries and the winter court is thought of as the bad faeries. However, it is not that black and white. 
Harry has a godmother from the winter court. She appeared in the previous book (Grave Peril), and had been trying to collect on a debt owed to her by Harry. She was pushed into selling Dresden’s IOU to Mab, the queen of the winter court. Mab’s request is definitely going to be more than Harry Dresden bargained for. But, what’s new about that right?
Dresden would have probably tried harder to get out of solving the mystery of the murder of the summer court’s knight, but the White Council of magic got involved. In Grave Peril, Harry had started a war between the Red Court vampires and the White Council. In Summer Knight, the Red Court would like the White Council to just hand Harry over to them. However, Harry would rather not just be handed over to his death. 
Harry enlists the help of the teenage werewolves, the Alphas, and Karrin Murphy of course. There are some great fights in this one. Yet again, Harry seems to head to one fight, and if he survives, he has someone else gunning for him. The faery courts are very interesting, and I love the Alphas and Harry and Murphy’s trip to Wal-mart. 
I think this has been one of my favorite books in the series so far. I am definitely still loving the Dresden Files
I’m going to give Summer Knight by Jim Butcher, 1 bookmark

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grave Peril, Book Three of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Grave Peril is the third book in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The monster du jour in this book is a vampire. Well, vampires really. These are Red Court vampires. In Dresden’s world, there are basically three types of vampires: Red, White, and Black. Red Court vampires feed on blood, are weak in the daytime, and wear a skin mask of sorts to conceal their true form. 
Harry gets invited to a party by the head Red Court vampire, Bianca. He really does not want to go, in spite of the fact he was invited as a representative of the White Council of wizards. 
Of course, Harry can never just be fighting one bad guy at a time. So, in addition to dealing with vampires, Harry is also fighting ghosts with his friend Michael. This was another case where I felt like I had missed something. It seems like Dresden and Michael had some previous adventures that we missed. But again, there doesn’t seem to be any short stories that cover the gap. 
There is one big bad guy that Harry calls the Nightmare. He is actually able to damage people’s souls. He really lives up to his name. We also meet a White Court vampire named Thomas. White Court vampires feed off of emotion rather than blood, but they are no less deadly. Of the remaining of the vampire types, the Black Court vampires are like Dracula. They are weakened by sunlight, susceptible to garlic and holy water, not to mention a good old fashioned stake through the heart. 
I have really been enjoying the Dresden Files. I’ve gotten behind on my reviews because I can’t stop reading them. I just finished book six, so expect more reviews soon.
I’m going to give Grave Peril by Jim Butcher, 1 bookmark. I can’t seem to stop reading them. I love the humor, and the action is just crazy. Poor Harry always has to fight one battle, and if he survives, there’s another baddy waiting in the wings to kill him. 

Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

Spider Bones is the latest Temperance Brennan novel by real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. Reichs’ novels seem to get better and better. Some of her early novels are a little too heavy on technical details, even though they have always had some good action sequences. In my opinion Kathy Reichs has gotten better at explaining the technical parts, and her plots are fantastic. Spider Bones takes some real twists and turns that keep you turning pages until the end. 
This book takes Temperance Brennan from Montreal, back to the Carolinas, and eventually to Hawaii. Tempe’s adventure starts out with the discovery of a body in a pond in Montreal. Fingerprints taken from the body lead to a former U.S. soldier, who had supposedly been killed in the Vietnam War. Unraveling this mystery leads Temperance to the Carolinas and then to Hawaii to work with the group that works to identify remains of POWs and MIAs and get them back to their families. 
Temperance is still working through her personal life in this book. She still has to see Canadian police detective Andrew Ryan as a result of her job in Montreal. Even though he hurt her when he decided to try to have a relationship with an ex-girlfriend and mother of his teenage daughter. There is also Charlie Hunt back in the States. I think Temperance is kind of enjoying some time on her own and isn’t in a hurry to rush into any relationship. 
We also see quite a bit of Tempe’s daughter in this book. Katy suffers a tragic blow and ends up traveling to Hawaii with her mom. We also see more of Ryan’s daughter Lily in this book. 
The case in this book is fascinating. It wasn’t too hard to figure out at least part of the twist, but it was a great ride. I would highly recommend this book. Reichs’ Temperance Brennan from the books is very different from the Temperance Brennan from TV’s Bones. The two Temperances don’t really have a lot in common, but they both are enjoyable characters. I had started reading the Kathy Reichs books and then decided I really wanted to try watching the TV show. Now I’m hooked on both Bones series. 
I’m going to give Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs, 2 bookmarks. There are still some parts that get too technical, but they are still hard to put down. 


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mr. Darcy's Diary: A Novel by Amanda Grange

I read Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange as a break in the Dresden Files series. It was available for free on Kindle at the time I downloaded it. It is the first novel I’ve read by Amanda Grange, it looks like she has written other similar books based on other male characters in Jane Austen novels. She is also the author of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and a couple other historical romances. I enjoy Jane Austen books to begin with, and I enjoyed this book too. In fact, I couldn’t put it down. I love the story of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, after I read this book I sat down and watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries (you know, the one with Colin Firth). 
Ms. Grange did a good job of weaving text from the original novel with new content. It made for a compelling retelling that felt true to the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy, as he was created by Jane Austen. If only the rest of us could have access to the private thoughts of our own significant other and learn as much. It was amusing to learn that Darcy in some ways was just clueless. He apparently really did  not understand at first why Elizabeth Bennett was so upset with his initial marriage proposal. 
If you are a fan of Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice, you will probably enjoy this book. We even get a peek of the married life of Darcy and Elizabeth, but most of the book is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view. I really enjoyed this book, and it was a quick read.
 I’m going to give Mr. Darcy’s Diary: A Novel by Amanda Grange, 1 bookmark.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

This second book in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, as you can probably guess from the title (Fool Moon) has Harry facing off against werewolves. Our favorite characters from book one are back, Bob the skull, Kerrin Murphy, and Harry of course. As I started reading this book, I thought I missed something. There is a female character that is introduced as a sometime apprentice of Harry’s, and I did not remember her from the first book. So, I re-read the first book (Storm Front), and she wasn’t mentioned in there at all. At least I satisfied my nagging brain that I hadn’t just forgotten her from the first book. Although, I think that is one of the things I disliked about this particular book. There were a few things that made me feel like I had missed a book. Perhaps there is a short story somewhere that talks about things alluded to in this book, but I haven’t found it yet. 
Aside from the feeling of missing a part of the story somewhere, I really enjoyed this book. I enjoy how Jim Butcher manages to make things weave together that at first glance may seem like they have nothing to do with each other. In Fool Moon, we learn that there a multiple types of werewolves, ranging from people who just behave like animals but never look like them, to people that can change at will, and even a type that is more like the traditional werewolf myth of being cursed to change at the full moon. 
It is probably a good thing that Mr. Butcher is slowly opening Dresden’s world to us. It seems pretty complex, and I think it would have been overwhelming to give too much of an overview in the first book. Many urban fantasy series have maybe a few of the classic storybook monsters, vampires, werewolves, maybe ghosts. Dresden’s world has it all, all the storybook monsters, including the fae, and it seems like pretty much any supernatural creature you’ve ever heard of is likely to make an appearance at some point. Butcher’s Chicago rivals Bon Temps and the Hollows for complexity.
Werewolves are not generally my favorite of the supernatural set, except for Kitty, I love her! The werewolves that Dresden runs into are definitely on the scary side. There is an unbelievable amount of carnage in this book, but I didn’t really feel it gratuitous. I think there was a point to showing the reader the chaos a couple werewolves can cause. In some ways I think it helped prepare us for the craziness to come in book three of the Dresden Files, Grave Peril
I have already read the third book in the series and am working through the fourth as I write this, so needless to say, I will continue reading this series. I know I discovered it late and I have a lot of catching up to do! I’m going to give Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, 2 bookmarks

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Storm Front (Book 1 of the Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

Storm Front is the first book in the Dresden Files series. Harry Dresden is a professional wizard, living in Chicago. Really, a professional wizard, he even advertises in the yellow pages. Most of the phone calls to his office are people asking if he’s serious, and the others want him to do their kid’s birthday party. However, Harry actually gets a call from a real potential client. The mysterious Monica wants Harry to find her husband. Not normally Harry’s cup of tea, but he’s desperate for money, and figures, how hard can it be? 
Harry also does contract work for the Chicago PD, he works with Karrin Murphy on special crimes. The kind that involve supernatural stuff. In Harry’s world, not only are wizards real, but so are vampires, and were wolves, and demons, and pretty much anything that goes bump in the night. However, unlike some other urban fantasy series, the general public doesn’t know that all of the supernatural stuff exists. 
The police are investigating the murders of two people who literally had their hearts explode out of their chests. Not normally a natural occurrence, so Murphy suspects magic was involved and calls Harry. Murphy wants to know what they could possibly be dealing with, and Harry could probably reverse engineer the magic involved. The problem is that Harry is under the close watchful eye of the White Council, a magic policing body that believes Harry may not always be playing for the good guys. If Harry is messing with magic that could explode people’s hearts, he could find himself judged and sentenced by the White Council before you can say “giant scorpion.”
A giant scorpion is one of the things Harry gets to fight by the way. Jim Butcher, and therefore Harry Dresden has a great sense of humor. He has a spirit named Bob who lives in a human skull and is like a living grimoire. Harry also has a huge cat named Mister. 
I highly recommend this series, I can’t wait to read more, and I am intrigued by the short lived Sci-Fi channel series as well. Storm Front is funny, fast paced, with plenty of action and suspense, and a great introduction to Harry Dresden’s Chicago. I’m going to give Storm Front by Jim Butcher, 1 bookmark

Dirty Rotten Tendrils by Kate Collins

Dirty Rotten Tendrils is the latest book in the Flower Shop Mysteries by Kate Collins. Abby and Marco are secretly engaged. But Marco’s younger brother, Rafe, also got engaged, to a girl he knew for a few hours, that he met when he started working with her at Hooters.  So, along with a murder to solve, Abby has to worry about engagement intrigue. 
We see all of our favorite characters, Abby’s mom, her cousin Jillian, Grace and Lottie, and of course Marco’s mom Francesca. We find out what hideous piece of art Abby’s mom will make her sell next. We get to meet Rafe’s fiancee and her crazy family.    
The murder victim in this book is a slick and unscrupulous defense attorney known as the Lip. The Lip is representing a young man who won an American Idol type competition. The young man is dating a starlet and is accused of taking sole credit for a song that he co-wrote with a friend. Abby is discouraged that her small town is going crazy at having a celebrity and national news coverage in town. 
The Lip turns up dead and one of the prime suspects is Abby’s former boss, Dave. Abby knows he would never hurt anyone and sets out to make sure the police know it too. Abby gets some help from her PI and bar owner fiancee Marco. The two of them are determined to find the real killer and keep their engagement a secret from their meddling mothers. 
This is a really fun series, there is a great supporting cast. I love Marco’s nicknames for Abby, and I loved the screwball comedic situations in this book. I think this is one series that improves with age, and I want more of Abby and Marco! I”m going to give Dirty Rotten Tendrils by Kate Collins, 2 bookmarks.

The fifth book in the Scumble River mysteries by Denise Swanson is Murder of a Barbie and Ken. I first have to say that I liked the title and I liked the characters who ultimately became the victims. I think Ms. Swanson may not necessarily be a Barbie fan, but I appreciated the humor in her portrayal of a real life version of the couple. Skye and Simon’s relationship has been progressing nicely and they joined a community organization together. Skye Denison, school psychologist, is mixing with the wealthy wives of the male members of the group, and gets invited to a bunch of different parties for various home sale products. 
Barbie is selling a line of prepared food, and Skye ends up purchasing a week’s worth at the end of the party. Skye comes back to pick up her order and finds the body of Barbie, and of her husband, Dr. Ken. Obviously, the seemingly perfect couple had made an enemy of some one. 
Sheriff Wally asks Skye to help him by keeping her ears open among the members of the organization that she and Simon belong to. Wally knows that even if he were a member, the others wouldn’t talk freely in front of him. Although, Skye has started to get a reputation as a snoop, or a good sleuth, depending on who you ask. 
To add further complication to Skye’s life, Simon’s estranged mother shows up on Skye’s doorstep in a huge snow storm. Skye takes her in for a few days, but insists on telling Simon right away. Simon is not pleased with his mother for showing up, ostensibly for Thanksgiving with her son, or for Skye for agreeing to take her in. 
This story introduced us to the fun character of Simon’s mother, Bunny. We see Simon and Skye’s relationship humming along nicely. I am still enjoying the series and will read more of them. I’m going to give Murder of a Barbie and Ken by Denise Swanson, 2 bookmarks

Murder of a Snake in the Grass by Denise Swanson

Murder of a Snake in the Grass is the fourth book in the Scumble River mysteries, which feature school psychologist Skye Denison. This book finds Scumble River celebrating its founding. They have even invited the last remaining relative of the original founder to attend the celebration. Skye and Simon have started seeing each other again, but I don’t know that we can count Sheriff Wally out yet in the series’ love triangle. 
In ....Snake in the Grass, we also meet Skye’s former fiancee for the first time. He shows up in Scumble River and seems to want to win her back. He claims he’s changed. Skye decides she owes him a second chance like the one she got when she came back to Scumble River. Skye had left town right after high school graduation in a blaze of what she hoped was glory. She insulted the town and everyone in it on her way out. She took some teasing when she came back, tail between her legs, but overall the townspeople were willing to give her a second chance. So, Skye decides she owes her ex-fiancee the same courtesy. As you can imagine, Simon isn’t too happy about the idea. Has her former fiancee really changed, or does he have something else up his sleeve?
The murder to be solved is that of the relative of the original founder of Scumble River, who came to town from Canada to celebrate, and didn’t live to head back north again. Skye gets into the investigation because two students at the high school found the body and came to tell Skye about it, and she ran interference with Sheriff Wally when they reported the crime to the police. 
This was an enjoyable story in the series. We see a lot of Skye’s family and it’s nice to see things progressing between Skye and Simon. I have yet to decide if I’m a Simon fan or a Wally fan, they both seem pretty great. Although, for some reason something about Simon has always made me suspicious, but that’s probably just me. I have really been enjoying the Scumble River mysteries and look forward to reading more of the series. I’m going to give Murder of a Snake in the Grass by Denise Swanson, 2 bookmarks

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Babies the Movie

I just watched the movie Babies, which follows four babies from different parts of the world. Thomas Balmes is the director and Alain Chabat is a producer and had the original idea. The movie follows a babies from Africa, Mongolia, Japan, and the United States from birth till their first steps. I loved this movie! You just can’t beat a movie full of cute babies. My 7 and 10 year olds watched part of the movie. It wasn’t enough to hold their interest, but they did watch for probably at least an hour of it. We discussed a little bit about the differences in how the babies live, but also about how they are the same.
Babies does show all of the moms before their babies were born, while they were  very pregnant, but it pretty well glosses over the births themselves, other than the juxtaposition of how they differ among the cultures. From the low key birth in Africa to the baby from the United States hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes. My boys were interested in the comparison between the baby in Africa, crawling in the dirt and playing with rocks, to the baby in the United States, getting vacuumed around and having a lint removing roller rubbed over her clothes. 
Babies is very unflinching in the portrayal of breast feeding, but my boys didn’t seem to phased by that. The African women do not wear tops of any kind, my boys didn’t ask about it, so we didn’t really discuss that women not wearing tops is just a cultural difference. We did talk about whether it was good or bad to let a chicken wander around in the house like the Mongolian baby had. My youngest son asked if it was bad to let the chicken wander around in the house. I told him that it can increase the risk of illness like the bird flu, but it is the way things are done in that culture, and it’s not really good or bad. 

          I watched the Blu Ray version of Babies, the scenery was gorgeous. There wasn't much in the way of special features, other than a small featurette that was an update on how the babies look 3 years after filming on the movie finished. The filmmaker goes back to visit each family and shows them each the finished movie. 

I think for an introduction of kids to the difference among people, but still highlighting how people are basically the same, this movie is brilliant. I would highly recommend this movie as an interesting discussion into cultures, and as just an excuse to look at cute babies for a couple hours. My kids are both well into elementary school age, and I’m not sure whether this movie gave me a baby fix, or if it made me want to be around a real one more. I can’t really rate this movie with bookmarks, but, as I think I’ve mentioned, I would highly recommend Babies.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker is the second book that features Percy Parker and the Guard that she is to join forces with. Leanna Renee Hieber’s books have a nice pace to them, this second book was even faster paced than the first. I suppose the lead up to war often seems to fly. This book deals with the aftermath of the battle in the Guard’s chapel at Athens Academy in London. 
The Darkly Luminous Fight.. deals with a lot of the inner workings of the six people who make up the Guard and Percy. There is a lot of romance, a lot of frustrated romance, and a lot of danger and adventure. I also enjoy the view of religion or spiritualism in this novel. It touches on the theory that world religions and spiritual systems have more in common than they have differences, and it is possible that all of them could be “right.” Although the spiritualism in these books seems more centered around Greek mythology. 
I really enjoyed both of these books, I don’t know that there’s more to this series, but I would definitely consider reading what ever Ms. Hieber does next. I’m going to give The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, 1 bookmark


The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen is the second book I have read by Sarah Addison Allen. I had previously read The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Both of these books had an element of magic about them, without being blatantly supernatural. This story is about Josey, a young woman who takes care of her mother. Josey has no life of her own. Her mother, Margaret, was a great beauty in her day, and Josey could never really measure up. Josey takes comfort in food, she has a whole stash hidden in a secret compartment in her bedroom closet. The story begins when Josey finds an unwelcome visitor in her closet, Della Lee. Della Lee is on the run from something and Josey decides to let her stay for a little while, even though the two women do not run in the same circles. Josey is the daughter of one of the most popular and most wealthy resident of the ski town where she lives. Her father passed away when she was young, but her name still carries clout in her little town. 
Josey also has a past that continues to affect her adult life. She tended to throw amazing tantrums, and most people in town will not let her forget it. Josey has an unrequited crush on the family’s mailman. She would love to be able to leave her little town, but is still hoping her mother will show some love and forgiveness for her. This is really a coming of age story, even though the main character is already in her twenties. 
I really liked this book and hate to give too much of the plot because I don’t want to give away any of the surprises. I’m going to give The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, 1 bookmark.