Adult · Books · Fantasy · Mystery

Book Review: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

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

So when the police bring him in to consult n a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting.

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(I know, I know. I’m super late to the party on The Dresden Files series, but I’m trying to make up for it now.)

Harry Dresden is not only a smart-mouthed, geeky, slightly disgruntled investigator, but he’s a wizard to boot. Most people can’t even fathom the things Harry has come up against, but to him it’s just another part of the job.

His latest job is a perplexing one that brings him face to face with a mafia boss, vampires, demons, and some seriously ****ed up dark magic. People are being murdered quickly and it’s only a matter of time before the killer takes out Harry, too.

I really enjoyed the face-paced story that Butcher created. The details of the case sucked me in from the very beginning and kept me up at night. (This is saying something, because I don’t typically read many crime/mystery stories.) Even more enthralling was the world that the story takes place in, one that is very much like the modern world, but peppered with magic and monsters throughout. The characters (even the minor ones) were well-crafted and colorful. My favorite was Harry’s lab/potions assistant Bob, who is actually a faerie spirit bound in a human skull.

Harry’s attitude towards women felt a tad cliche and outdated, but considering this book was published twenty years ago, I can give it a pass. We’ll see how the more recent volumes hold up.

Fantasy · Fiction · Short Stories · Writing

Parade of Lies

“The faeries are coming, the faeries are coming! Mommy, look! The faeries are coming.”

“I know, sweetheart.” Clarice Mayberry smiled sweetly at her daughter before taking a hearty swig from the flask hidden within the depths of her coat. Of course she knew about the faeries. It wasn’t like it had been Jenny’s idea to get up at the ass crack of dawn and take a train all the way to midtown just to see a couple of rubes wearing polyester wings. It had been her idea; she had only planted it in Jenny’s mind and used the poor girl as her excuse for getting up so early.

They’d only been waiting a quarter of an hour, but their fingers and noses had already turned red from the cold. Whoever thought it a good plan to host a parade in the middle of February was clearly a sadist or someone who just hated children. Or, rather, the parents of those children who’d been forced to escort them out to the streets of New York at eight a.m. on a Saturday.

“Mommy, can the faeries see us?” Jenny’s big blue eyes were rounder than usual, threatening to pop from her tiny porcelain face. She could hardly contain her excitement during the train ride. Her six year old mind could barely wrap itself around the fact that the characters from her favorite show were about to collide with her own reality. Clarice didn’t have the heart to tell her that the faeries about to parade down 43rd street weren’t even real.

“Of course they can see us, dear. Why shouldn’t they be able to?” she asked, but by the time the words came out, the girl had fixated her attention elsewhere. After another sip of “mommy juice” and a glance at her watch, Clarice finally relinquished her dignity and plopped down on the curb among the other chattering children.

People were beginning to pack in tightly on the sidewalks. Police and security guards paced back and forth along the street, keeping a close eye on the growing crowd, although none seemed particularly concerned that the group before them was the dangerous type. Clarice sniggered at the thought. Teens wearing brightly colored tutus and matching wigs tossed handfuls of free candy towards the spectators. Finally, at a quarter after nine, a man dressed in head-to-toe in blue came prancing up and down the street with a megaphone, announcing that the show was about to begin.

Clarice stood and took a tight hold of her daughter’s hand. Jenny bounced up and down on the heels of her feet with that crazed look in her eye that only a child intoxicated with copious amounts of sugar could possess. The ground beneath them pulsed with life as music blared from every direction. The children shrieked at the sudden appearance of hundreds of performers in leotards and cheaply made wings. They bounded down the street, waving impossibly long streamers, throwing confetti, and doing back flips over one another. Clarice’s stomach roiled at the sight of it all – at the “faeries” and the obnoxious theatrics. She still couldn’t fathom why the Cirque du Fae was so popular. Even as a television show, it was ghastly. She wished she could find the moron who created it and wrap her pretty little fingers around their neck. Yet, despite her disdain for the popular program, she showed up year after year to observe the annual parade celebrating all things faerie.

A woman with wings painted to look like a monarch butterfly’s came right up to Jenny and handed her a plastic flower from the basket slung over her arm. “Look, Mommy! I got a flower,” she waved the cheap decoration wildly in front of her mother’s face.

But Clarice was hardly paying her any mind. “That’s great, honey,” she muttered, keeping her eyes fixed on the throng around them. She craned her neck to scan the faces behind her, her brow knit in deep concentration. It was impossible to see properly, however, with candy and confetti constantly pelting her in the head. She squeezed herself closer to the barrier blocking the crowd and stared into the faces of every performer that passed, but they were all far too young.

“They have to be here,” she muttered. Forty-five minutes had passed already, meaning she was nearly out of time. “Come on, come on.” Her foot tapped nervously without her realizing. To anyone else, she simply looked like she was moving in time with the music.

“Ladies and gentleman. Children and faeries of all ages.” The echoing voice boomed from the loudspeaker from every direction. Clarice could hardly imagine just how much the tenants of the surrounding buildings must be enjoying the festivities at such an early hour. “Prepare yourselves for the grand finale!”

Within seconds a pink haze was creeping its way towards them, temporarily blocking view of the street and causing everyone’s eyes to water. “Oooh, it’s like the cotton candy clouds on the show!” Jenny declared. Clarice gripped the girl’s hand tighter to prevent her from wandering off and trying to taste the smoke to determine if it did, in fact, taste like cotton candy. Fortunately, the fog faded almost as quickly as it appeared, revealing the parade’s main attraction.

Jenny was rendered speechless as a giant castle rolled towards them, towering several stories high. The bottom portion of the float was designed to look like fluffy white clouds to give the illusion that the castle was flying among them. From each of the windows a faerie or other mythical creature popped its head out and waved. A clear platform jutted out over the crowd from halfway up the castle where a dozen dancers and acrobats performed tricks at once. Even Clarice, who had been doing her best to avoid the entire spectacle paused in her search to gaze up at the nerve wracking display. A female performer, the star of the show, came out and sent the children into a wild frenzy. With a graceful bow she opened her arms wide and revealed the papery wings that attached from her shoulders to her wrist. She looked more like a bat than a faerie, Clarice thought, just as the young woman dove head first from the platform and did a flip in the air.

Suddenly, an ear-piercing scream cut through the air, drowning out the music and laughter surrounding them. Clarice’s head whipped up towards one of the balconies overlooking the parade, where a man and a woman were engaged in a performance of their own. No, not a woman, Clarice observed. A faerie. Not a faerie like the imposters in the parade, but a real faerie. At first glance, she hardly recognized the female up on the balcony. Her appearance had changed a great deal since they’d last seen each other – her hair, once long and lush, had been cut to her chin and had thinned considerably. Everything about her was haggard and covered in filth. Even the large flesh-colored wings that protruded from her back looked like they had seen better days. Clarice’s hand covered her mouth as she watched the dark haired man struggle to restrain the faerie and pull her back through the window from which she came. Even from street level, she could see the fierce blue of the pendant around the man’s neck, bright and mocking her.

The next scream came from Clarice’s own mouth as she let go of Jenny’s hand and pushed her way through the thick crowd, through the candy, glitter, and bullshit. “NOOOOO!” she screeched as the female on the balcony finally freed herself of the man and took a flying leap off the balcony and towards the shocked crowd and the sidewalk below.

“Not again,” Clarice cried. Once again, she was too late.

Adult · Books · Fantasy · Fiction · Young Adult

Sequels I Probably Won’t Read

Some books are so good that you have to read the next one immediately. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 other books on your TBR list. You put them all aside and buy the sequel because you won’t be able to sleep at night if you don’t know what happens next.

These are not those books.

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Out of No Man’s Land (Sand #2) by Hugh Howey – Sand had an interesting storyline,  but the characters left me a tad disappointed. The story went back and forth between different points-of-view, which made it feel like there wasn’t enough character development.

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Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman – There was very little that I liked about Scythe.  Everything/everyone was boring and it felt like another stereotypical YA dystopian novel.

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The Magician King (The Magicians #2) by Lev Grossman – Despite how much I disliked The Magicians I contemplated reading the second book. Several people have insisted that the story gets more exciting, but judging by what I’ve seen of the television version, they’re lying to me.

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Age of Swords (The Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan – I am not dead set against reading the next book. I enjoyed Age of Myth, but I don’t know if I liked it enough that I really care to read the rest of the series.

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The Masked City (The Invisible Library #2) by Genevieve Cogman – The Invisible Library had a pretty cool premise, but there was very little background detail. It kinda felt like you were just dropped into the middle of a story, so things were confusing at times. I’ve heard that the sequel is similar, so I’ll probably pass on this one.

Do you keep reading a series if  you didn’t like the first book?

Books · Favorites · Fiction

Valentine’s Day Bullshit (Favorite Fictional Romances, Pt. 2)

Who’s almost ready to celebrate the most disappointing day of the year?! I know I sure am. I’ve already purchased eaten half a box of those mystery chocolates all by myself while contemplating setting everything around me ablaze.

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As you can see, I am feeling somewhat bitter about Valentine’s Day this year. Everyone else has been posting appropriate, lovey dovey crap though, so I feel like I should at least pretend, just for tradition’s sake.

Last year I made a post about a few of my favorite fictional romances. I’ve decided to expand on that list this year. (To see part 1, click here)

Sheldon & Amy (The Big Bang Theory) – These two are hilarious. Their nerdiness and weird quirks make them perfect for each other, even if Sheldon just doesn’t get it half the time.

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Feyre & Rhysand from (A Court of Thorns and Roses series) – These two really understood each other and what they needed in each other. They had both been through some really fucked up stuff and rather than letting it destroy them, they allowed it to bring them together.

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The Doctor & Rose (Doctor Who) – If you tell me that you didn’t cry in Doomsday I’m calling you a LIAR.

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Jane & Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre) – Their relationship was a little weird, but I feel like they finally got their shit figured out in the end.

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What do you think about the couples on this list? Who are some of your favorite fictional couples?

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction

Book Review: Wendy Darling (Shadow)

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Wendy finds herself once again in Neverland, back in the arms of the maniacal Peter Pan. This time, however, things are different. No longer under the influence of Peter’s illusions, she’s there for one reason only: To stop him.

Working with Peter’s arch-enemy, Captain Hook, Wendy has some dangerous and seemingly impossible tasks ahead of her. It’s a cruel game she’s playing, complete with pirates, mermaids, fairies, and ancient evils as old as Neverland itself. Even more complicated is the fact that Booth, her childhood sweetheart, the boy she actually loves, gets captured and thrown in the mix. 

War has arrived. Can Wendy stop it in time to save the lives of her brothers, Booth, and everyone in Neverland? 

First and foremost, I’m going to start this review with a confession: I burst into tears upon finishing this book. It was all just so perfect and so beautiful. 😩 I adored this series so much that I honestly never wanted it to end.

At first, I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not Booth’s appearance would enhance the story. Surprisingly, it did. I really liked Booth’s character and his relationship with Wendy, plus the maturity that it added to the story. (This one may not be appropriate for younger readers.)

All of the relationships throughout this story are wonderfully complex. Most interesting are Peter’s relationships with Tink and the Lost Boys. I feel like Oakes really made a statement here in showcasing how dangerous relationships can get when you became enamored with the wrong type of person. Peter’s mind games are sick and twisted, yet he’s charismatic enough that everyone falls in love with him. At times, you forget that you’re even reading about a “boy” and not some abusive cult leader.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Wendy visits the Forsaken Garden. The imagery in this scene is so real and downright eerie that it sent shivers up my spine.

I was worried about the ending of the story, as there is always the chance of re-tellings to get all “fairy tale” on you. I didn’t feel like that was the case here. I felt like the author created the perfect ending to this truly amazing story. Whether you’re a fan of re-tellings or not, I highly recommend this series.

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Fiction

Book Review: The Wise Man’s Fear 

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Kvothe is no ordinary innkeeper. He was one of the youngest and most talented students ever accepted into University. He has tackled monsters, slept with a dangerous fairy, and called the name of the wind. He’s survived the streets of Tarbean without a dime to his name, survived malicious attacks from fellow arcanists, and can move people to tears with his lute. 

That’s only the beginning of his story. 

The Wise Man’s Fear was the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles series. After devouring the first book, The Name of the Wind, I couldn’t wait to read this one. The story started right where the last one left off. I was impressed with how flawlessly Rothfuss managed to pull this off.

I enjoyed getting to see more of the characters we were introduced to in TNOTW. Kvothe and his friends are one big group of eclectic misfits. At times, I found myself wishing to be part of their group because they seem like a lot of fun. There were several other new characters as well, although some did not tickle my fancy as much. I loved the addition of Felurian (the Fae seductress), as brief as her appearance was. I’m hoping for another glimpse at the Fae realm in the future.

By the time I reached the second half of the book I felt that the story really started to meander. Big chunks of the story felt more like filler than relevant plot. I’m not sure whether Rothfuss intended to go in a different direction at some point or just lost focus for a bit, but this really bugged me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I really struggled with the second half of the book because I found myself growing bored.

Overall, I did enjoy The Wise Man’s Fear. Rothfuss could tell you the story of The Three Little Pigs and spin it into something epic. I look forward to reading the next book, although apparently I’ll be waiting a while for it to come out.

Books · Fiction · Writing

Hunger

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The house was unusually quiet that particular evening. Dinner had been a casual affair, consumed faster than it had taken to prepare. The remnants of the meal had already been scraped away and forgotten. The effort had gone unnoticed, but she didn’t expect anything otherwise.

The creatures, worn from their usual pacing and state of restlessness, were sound asleep in their respective corners. Sounds of the one-eyed panther’s snoring cut through the silence in little ragged breaths.

There were chores to be done. Odds and ends lay around the house, cluttering the table and her brain. A sweater lay draped across the back of the chair. A light gray shoe peeked out from  beneath the couch. Empty cardboard boxes laid in a heap next to the front door. She sighed as she surveyed the room. There was always so much work to be done and never enough energy to complete it all.

A dull ache pounded a rhythmic beat against the base of her skull. It was going to be a long night.

The sky outside grew darker. She breathed a deep, heavy sigh and tried to focus on the book on her lap, but the pain in her head made it hard to see the words.  Growing irritated, she eventually got up and began pacing back and forth. The white bear raised his head slightly off the ground and grunted in commiseration before thumping it back down again. None of them were strangers to discomfort.

Her stomach growled; she should have eaten more for dinner. She continued her slow measure across the room, chewing her nails while she did so, trying to chew back the gnawing hunger in her gut.

She stood in front of the fireplace, staring into the grate despite the lack of flame. It was the middle of summer. too hot to light a fire. She averted her eyes from the smiling faces on the mantle. There were few, if any, pictures of her in the house. Tears stung the corners of her eyes. She repressed the urge to scream and rip everything off the mantle, to stomp on all the pictures until the glass shattered beneath her feet.

Instead, she waited.  Waited for her nerves to settle and for her head to stop aching. She waited for her stomach to quiet it’s screams of loud protest.

She had no idea how long she’d been standing there, the only indication of time passing was the growing darkness outside. The room was almost completely blackened. She wondered if she stared long enough whether a fire would ignite in the grate on its own accord.

She waited.

Her heartbeat grew louder, until it thumped loudly through her chest and filled the room. She hoped the noise wouldn’t wake anyone. Her pulse quickened and her hands began to shake violently. It was going to be a long night.

The pangs in her stomach worsened until it felt as though it was turning itself inside out. She dropped to her knees, hands clinging to her abdomen and tears streaming down her cheeks into puddles on the floor. She hadn’t even realized that she’d been crying. The ringing in her ears was deafening. She put her hands over her ears and tried not to scream. Waking them would only make it worse for her later.

Then, suddenly, it came to an abrupt halt. She was alone on the floor with nothing but the silence again.

The silence.

It was so loud that she never heard the footsteps. The soft patter of black paws as they inched their way across the room until they were directly behind her.

Her hunger was finally silenced as the youngest panther made his feast.

 

Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction · Young Adult

A Very Magical Anniversary

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. If you read my blog regularly you know that I’ve already mentioned (at least a dozen times) how much I adore the Harry Potter series. When I first discovered the series, back when I was a wee little 11-12 year old, I didn’t realize how much it would impact me, even years later as an adult.

There are a ton of articles/posts floating around the internet today in honor of Harry’s anniversary. Of all the ones I’ve read so far, I think my favorite is this one from Goodreads. I loved getting to read how the books have impacted other people, children and adults alike.

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Here’s to J.K. Rowling and the little bit of magic she has brought into all of our lives.

Adult · Books · Classics · Favorites · Fiction

On Gothic Literature

Despite the fact that I haven’t been reading much of it lately, I adore gothic literature. I developed a taste for gothic suspense and gothic romance novels back in high school when I was introduced to Charlotte Bronte and Daphne Du Maurier. For those unfamiliar with gothic fiction, it is a sub-genre of literature that typically combines elements of horror, suspense, death and romance. It originated in eighteenth century England and influenced similar literary styles throughout other parts of Europe and America. Gothic novels commonly feature dark settings, such as mysterious castles, dungeons, mansions, and graveyards. Sometimes they incorporate aspects of the supernatural, like ghosts, but this is not always necessary.

One of my favorite aspects of gothic literature (aside from the creepy settings) is the psychological mind fuck that usually accompanies it. Authors of this type of literature know how to combine what are often viewed as “negative” human emotions (such as terror, dread, and doubt) and combine it with romanticism to create one pleasurably disturbing experience for the reader. (I am now sitting here wondering what this says about  me as a human being. It’s probably best not to open that can of worms…)

There are so many amazing classic and modern gothic novels out there. If you are new to this genre, you may want to introduce yourself by starting with a few of these:

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Do you like gothic literature? What are some of your favorite gothic novels?