Review: ‘The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker’ by Leanna Renee Heiber

The Strangely Beautiful Tale

of Miss Percy Parker

Strangely Beautiful #1

Author: Leanna Renee Heiber

Format: paperback

Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.

Length:  324 pages

Release Date: 10/01/2009

Acquired: borrowed from a friend

Excerpts available here

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Publisher’s Summary:

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy?  Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside.

She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts.

But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and  an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…


My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

As children, Alexi Rychman and five others were possessed by ancient spirits. They didn’t lose any sense of themselves but they were changed. While still themselves, they were also now The Guard and were each given powers and charged with The Grand Work: to “maintain the balance between this world and the one beyond” and to “guard the living from the dead wandering the earth”.

As Alexi explains later in the book, “There is a group charged with maintaining the relative peace of day-to-day mortality, protecting it from the dead by the mix of their own mortal talents and a few… special forces.”

On the night of their possession, the children are given instructions by a goddess who appeared to them from a portal inside the chapel of the Athens Academy school in London. She tells them that they must await a seventh member of their group, Prophecy, who will appear among portents and signs to join them in their fight against Darkness, who wishes to overrun the world of the living. And so the six -Alexi, Rebecca, Michael, Lucy, Elijah and Josephine- tend to the tasks given unto them as they wait for their prophesied seventh. They wait for 21 long years before not one, but two prospects are placed in their path, as the goddess foretold when she warned them to take care in their choice.

First comes Miss Percy Parker. Orphaned and raised in a convent, she is an outcast due to her unusually pale skin, hair and eyes. Of course, she’s albino but in 1888, that’s no more normal than it is today, perhaps even less so. Her most prized possession is a phoenix pendant left to her by her mother before she died and her only friends are the spirits of the dead, which she can both see and speak with. She is accepted into Athens Academy at the age of 18 (going on 19) by the Headmistress, Rebecca Thomson who also happens to be one of The Guard. Due to her less than stellar performance in mathematics, Percy is soon getting private lessons from her mathematics professor whom she is quite enamored of, one Alexi Rychman.

Percy is both a source of frustration and fascination to Alexi. He attempts to prod her into being less timid, in part by ordering that she remove the gloves, scarf and colored glasses that she wears all the time. Though it’s difficult for Percy to remove her protective coverings, she does so during their tutoring sessions and is pleased when her professor doesn’t look at her any differently. All the while, he’s wondering if she could be the seventh that he’s waited for.

Next on the scene is Lucille Linden, a beautiful and mysterious woman who appears out of nowhere, seeking protection and the help of Alexi and The Guard. To all but Alexi, she seems to fit the profile of their seventh but of course, she is anything but. She is what the goddess warned them of on that first night so many years before. And so there is division in the ranks of The Guard: Alexi’s choice of Percy as the seventh against, well… everyone else, who like Lucille for the job.

I absolutely loved the setting of this story… Victorian London, where the Ripper is running rampant and is a supernatural being rather than a man. I also got a kick out of the tie-in to the mythological story of Persephone. I enjoyed the interaction between the characters and that Heiber makes them so believable. They’re funny and expressive, they have secret desires and hopes, they have difficulty coping with the weight of duty that they carry and Heiber imparts all of this emotion profoundly yet efficiently. I grew to like and care about all of them, even the ones that we really don’t get as much face time as Percy, Alexi and even Rebecca.

Finally, the language… ahh, the language. It’s beautiful and dramatic and I was truly captivated while reading this book. I’m happy to have received the second book in the series (signed and inscribed by the author, yay!), ‘The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker’ as a prize in an online giveaway so that I can jump right in and hopefully be ready for book #3 when it’s released next week!


Fave quotes:

‘When left to her own devices, Miss Parker was neither shy nor awkward; she was radiant.’ ~Alexi’s thoughts upon seeing Percy dancing with the ghosts

“Come, mein Leibe, there are errands to run, flowers to gather and dreams yet to be planned.” ~Marianna to Percy

“Come into the light, Miss Parker, for I’ll not allow you to slink in the shadows. To do so would be to eclipse the moon.” ~Edward

“Hello again, you filthy creature of hell!” ~Alexi

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Review: ‘The Warded Man’ by Peter V. Brett (audio)

The Warded Man

Demon Cycle Trilogy #1

Author: Peter V. Brett

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: Pete Bradbury

Publisher: Recorded Books

Length:  18 hrs and 14 mins

Audio Release Date: 11/25/2009 (Published in the US by Del Rey, 03/10/2009. Published in the UK by HarperCollins as The Painted Man, 09/01/2008)

Acquired: purchased from Audible.com

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Publisher’s Summary:

Mankind has ceded the night to the corelings, demons that rise up out of the ground each day at dusk, killing and destroying at will until dawn, when the sun banishes them back to the Core. As darkness falls, the world’s few surviving humans hide behind magical wards, praying the magic can see them through another night. As years pass, the distances between each tiny village seem longer and longer. It seems nothing can harm the corelings, or bring humanity back together.

Born into these isolated hamlets are three children. A Messenger teaches young Arlen that fear, more than the demons, has crippled humanity. Leesha finds her perfect life destroyed by a simple lie, and is reduced to gathering herbs for an old woman more fearsome than the demons at night. And Rojer’s life is changed forever when a traveling minstrel comes to his town and plays his fiddle.

But these three children all have something in common. They are all stubborn, and know that there is more to the world than what they’ve been told, if only they can risk leaving their safe wards to find it.


My thoughts, which may contain minor spoilers:

The story opens with the introduction of 11 year old Arlen, who goes to the nearby village with his parents to help clean up and repair what they can after a demon attack leaves dozens of villagers dead. While there, a Messenger comes from the Free Cities and Arlen learns that people once fought the corelings, demons that rise from the core of the earth each sundown to wreak havoc on the lives of mankind. Arlen tires of cowering in fear behind warded walls so when tragedy strikes his own family, he sets out alone to follow the Messenger, who braves the night with portable wards.

Next, we meet 13 year old Leesha, who aspires to become a woman so that she can marry and get away from her oppressive and abusive mother. After a demon attack on her own village, the life she thought she would have crumbles to dust and she becomes apprenticed to the local healer.

Finally there is Rojer, who loses his parents to a coreling attack at the age of 3 and is left in the care of the sole survivor of the attack, a Jongleur who has come to the village with a Messenger. Sadly, his mother may have survived if the Jongleur, Arrick, hadn’t shoved her out of the way to save his own hide. Still, despite his selfishness, he honors her last wish to care for Rojer and so raises and apprentices him.

The story follows each of the children as they grow up, over the course of about 14 years. The main focus of the story is on Arlen who was found on the road by the Messenger Regan, shortly after running away from his father. Regan takes the boy home and arranges for him to become apprenticed to a Warder, in order to become adept at that very necessary skill of all Messengers. Regan’s wife grows to love Arlen and blindly hopes that he will stay within the warded walls of the city in order to remain a Warder, marry and have children.

Arlen has other plans, however and eventually sets out to see the world. He seeks the ruins of old cities in the hope that he might learn about the people who once inhabited them and how they had fought the corelings. He travels many roads and learns many things before finally meeting Leesha and Rojer near the end of the book. Each of the others have also grown and changed after 14 years, though not nearly as much as Arlen has changed.

I’ve seen a few reviews and comments that mention that Brett was trying to move the story along too quickly, skipping months and years from one page to the next which gave the story a rushed feel. I didn’t have this issue with the book, not in the least. I thought that the fast-forward tempo was rather fitting because as the reader, I was indeed expecting this to be the story of a warded man and not a warded boy. I wasn’t left feeling like I was missing anything and despite a rather long section that didn’t feature Leesha at all, I didn’t even feel cheated in regards to her story. Brett did a good job of ‘catching up’ on each character if their plot line had been skipped over for multiple chapters and the story flowed rather well.

Also, before I get to the meat of this post, a quick word about the reader. I thoroughly enjoyed Pete Bradbury’s performance and had no trouble whatsoever getting into the story. I’d never listened to Bradbury read and worried that I’d have difficulty getting used to his voice and his style but he was great and I look forward to him reading the rest of the books!

Now, the story. The demons. The utter terror that most of the people of this world live under night after night after night. The characters living in constant fear that causes some to freeze when faced with the abominations that rule the night while prompting others to risk themselves to save loved ones or neighbors from an unthinkable fate. The isolation and loneliness experienced by those who live far from the Free Cities accentuates their bleak survival against all odds. The emotions of the main characters… their grief and worry, their defiance and determination… are palpable and it’s as simple as breathing to get completely caught up in their stories.

The world, the people and their hopeless plight, the horrors that stalk the nights, the helplessness and desperation that permeate their lives are all painted so vividly by Brett that I was utterly captivated. The story grabbed me from the get-go and I was drawn into this grim world where every single person’s life is ruled by the sun… or rather, by the lack of sunlight. Every chore and errand must be completed by dark. Everything you don’t want destroyed must be safe behind wards when the sun sets. Wards must be checked for wear regularly or a family may wake up to fire demons and rock demons burning and smashing their way through their home… from which there is no escape. For if they were to flee outside, they would only be met by more demons and certain death.

Not only do the people live in constant fear, the threat of the demons rules every aspect of their lives. They marry off their daughters as soon as they reach puberty, essentially hoping that they procreate as much as possible. The demons kill so many people that the population struggles to keep up and bearing many children is a point of pride to most women. The people are generally isolated and most that don’t live in the Free Cties only interact with those that live close, in the same village or in close proximity. The only people that regularly travel for days at a time are the Messengers and some people only see one of those once a year.

Even in the Free Cities, life is less than ideal and ruled by the presence of the demons each night. Each city relies on the others to provide supplies and food and in turn, has its own commodity to offer to the other cities. Most of the handful of cities are ruled by Dukes and they generally don’t get along very well, arguing amongst themselves over trade and who’s to pay for caravans lost to demon attacks, among other things. There is political unrest aplenty and I suspect that unrest will come to play a bit more in the second book, The Desert Spear.

Sprinkled here and there throughout the story are tidbits of the lives of men before they cowered in fear behind warded walls. There are mentions of science. Of machinery. Of a demon war in which mankind didn’t hide from the night but instead fought the demons when they rose from the Core and eventually defeated them, banishing them back to their own world beneath the ground. But then mankind forgot about the demons. About many of the life-saving wards. The offensive wards. And so they were left totally unprepared when the demons began to rise again. A second demon war ensued and mankind was decimated, having forgotten all but the basic defense wards.  Three hundred years have passed since the second demon war and mankind waits for the fabled Deliverer to drive the demons from their midst once more. But will he ever come?

At the close of the story, Arlen, Rojer and Leesha have decided to spread the knowledge that each has been taught or discovered on their own, to as many people as possible so that others can begin to fight back, rather than hiding behind their wards. Each of them has a deep hatred for the corelings and an urgent wish for mankind to live without fear once more.

I’m lucky to have the audio book of The Desert Spear (excerpt here) waiting for me but once I’m finished with it, I’ll have to wait right along with everyone else for the release of book #3, The Daylight War. Let’s hope we’re not waiting for too long.

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Fave quotes:

“My throat’s dry. I’ll need a drink before I sing. Not water, bring me wine. I need a claw from the demon that cored me.” ~Eric to Rojer

“Get on your Core-spawned scary horse and be on your way!” ~Leesha to Arlen

“I was so occupied with what I was fighting against that I’d forgotten what I was fighting for.” ~Arlen

Review: ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss (audio)

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The Wise Man’s Fear

The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 2

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: Nick Podehl

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Length:  42 hrs and 59 mins

Release Date: 03/03/2011 (Hardcover published by DAW: 03/01/2011)

Acquired: purchased from Audible.com


Publisher’s Summary:

My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as “quothe.” Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I’ve had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it’s spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree. 

My first mentor called me E’lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.

But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant “to know.”

I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.


My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

Since I had a super-awesome friend from Indiana picking up an autographed hardcover for me from an author signing, I bought the audio book from Audible as soon as it was released (two. long. days after the HC release!) and set to it. But as I started listening, I was torn between plugging in my headphones day and night to get through it as quickly as possible so I could find out what was going to happen and the alternative… taking it in small doses to make it last.

I had this same issue with Robert Jordan’s (& Brandon Sanderson’s) Towers of Midnight last November and ended up doing the same with this book as I did then. I tried to take it in small doses but then plowed through the last third of the book in a day or two. I just had to hear one more chapter… had to get through this scene… HAD to see what Kvothe would do next. Since finishing the book, it’s taken me a while to collect my thoughts, and get proper spellings for some names as I only heard them and was guessing, but I’ve got the book in my embrace… erm, I mean in my hands (thank you, J!) so it’s time to review!

Again, I do discuss spoilers for this book and most likely the first so if you’ve not read either book and are wary of spoilers, now would be a good time to stop reading. On with it!

Knowing before even reading The Name of the Wind that Kvothe would be kicked out of the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in, I was anxious as Day 2 of his recitation of his legendary story to Chronicler would start. I really enjoyed hearing of his time at the University in Wind and was worried that he’d be ousted from that revered place of arcane learning early on in Fear and that I’d not get to see much of Wilem and Simmon, Auri and Elodin. Kvothe did end up leaving the University in the course of this book but it was by his own choice, and he had many adventures before returning. So I get to experience that OMG what’s going to happen that will result in his explusion?! anxiety again at the start of Day 3 of Kvothe’s story, when that book is published. Thanks, Pat!

All kidding aside… okay, some kidding aside, a LOT happened in this book as one might expect from a 43 hour long audio book. The hardcover is a massive 1,000 pages that you could most likely use to clobber a troll, or Ambrose, to death. As for the audio and my listening experience, I was fully used to the reading of Nick Podhel so I didn’t have a hard time getting into the story as I did with Wind.

On the morning of Day 2 of Chronicler’s stay at the Waystone Inn, Kvothe continues his story of his time at the University.  The pace easily settles back into Kvothe’s life as a student at the Arcanum and we again see him struggling to pay tuition and dealing once again with Devi, struggling in his feud with Ambrose and trying in vain to become closer to Denna while not crowding her and scaring her away. One of my favorite parts of this book was Kvothe planning and executing some much-deserved revenge on Ambrose. This took place after, of course, Kvothe kind of did a stoopid thing and made himself a target of malfeasance. He had to find a way to protect himself from Ambrose’s revenge and then pulled a hell of a whammy on his hated nemesis. It. was. fabulous!

Things escalate between the two and Kvothe decides to take a semester or two off which was a fortuitous decision as his friend, the nobleman Threpe, has a proposition for him. It would seem that Threpe received a letter from the Maer Alveron of Vintas a very rich and powerful noble, who was looking for a discreet and well-spoken person, preferably a musician to assist him in a delicate matter. Kvothe happily accepts the challenge, thinking that the Maer may be able to assist him with his search for the Amyr, the better to seek his revenge on the Chandrian. And so he sets off on what turns out to be rather a perilous journey that we unfortunately don’t get to hear much about.

Upon his acceptance into the Maer’s employ in Severen, Kvothe promptly foils an assassination attempt, reunites with Denna, learns a secret about her, helps the Maer woo a would-be bride and assists some mercenaries in the annihilation of a group of bandits that have been stealing the Maer’s taxes. I enjoyed Kvothe’s time with the mercenaries and found that the Adem, Tempi was  quite entertaining as well as an adequate substitute for the comic relief that had been absent since Kvothe left his friends Simmon and especially Wilem behind at the University. Kvothe displayed some incredible bindings during the altercation with the bandits and proved himself to be quite formidable and a little bit scary in that respect.

Shortly thereafter, Kvothe has a rather drawn-out visit with Felurian, the incredibly beautiful fairy of legend that is known to lure human men into her reality and very literally pleasure them to death. Kvothe composes a less than flattering song about Felurian and manages to convince her to release him so that he might gain more experience with women in order to better praise her many talents. He convinces her that he’s being truthful in saying that she’s the first experience he’s had and goes on to explain that he can’t very well tout her superiority over human women as he’d never been intimate with one. And so he escapes her clutches with some new skills, a promise to return to her, a pretty bad-ass cloak made of shadow and some disturbing words from the Cthaeh, a being he encountered while in the land of the Fae who seems to know a great many things about Kvothe.

At this point, we experience an interlude that’s very unlike the previous sort, when Bast interrupts Kvothe’s re-telling with an outburst. He’s very upset that Kvothe never mentioned his talk with the Cthaeh and predicts doom upon anyone who seeks advice from it and on anything that person does henceforth after meeting with the being. I’m guessing that we’ll see or hear more of this in the next book but the interruption was a bit disjointed and left my curiosity on the matter unfulfilled since there was no more mention of it in the book.

Shortly after leaving Felurian, Kvothe travels to Ademre with Tempi, who has been teaching Kvothe of the Lethani and the ways of his people… and is kind of in trouble for it. So Kvothe, intending to defend his new friend, lands himself in a trial during which he must prove himself worthy to learn the Lethani or… die. Once he learns a few fighting skills and shows that he understands the Lethani, thus proving himself, he is gifted with some very valuable information about the Chandrian. Content with his newfound knowledge, he returns to the Maer in Severen for a short time before returning to the University to continue his studies. He has another solo adventure on his way from Ademre to Severen and is touted a hero though he must seek a pardon from persecution from the Maer.

While he was unable obtain the patronage of the Maer before leaving Severen as he had hoped he would, having revealed his ancestry and forever alienating the Maer’s prejudiced young wife, he was gifted with his University tuition paid in any amount for as long as he was to attend. So despite the unfortunate cessation of his time in Severen, Kovthe was in a much better place financially upon his return than he had been since losing his parents to the Chandrian.

There’s not much revealed about the goings on in the world during the interludes when we revisit “Kote” and The Waystone Inn. A few villagers saunter in to have Chronicler write up wills for them and we see Kvothe set upon by bandits but other than that, we don’t hear any more of what’s happening in ‘current times’ and I hope to see some more of that aspect of the story in the next book.

I absolutely loved this book and I suspect that I’ll reread it and book #1, The Name of the Wind at least once more before book #3 is released. I hope the wait isn’t too terribly long!

 

Fave quotes:

‘We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because, that’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite? To know the flaws and love them, too. That is rare, and pure, and perfect.’

“Ambrose, your presence is the horseshit frosting on the horseshit cake that is the admissions interview process.” ~Kvothe

“Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.” ~Elodin to Kvothe’s classmate

“After all this is done we can have a symposium on how stupid I am.” ~Kvothe to Simmon and Wilem

“Do all of the women in the world secretly know each other? Because that would explain a lot.” ~Simmon

“All I want is someone who likes me.” “All I want is  a clear sign.” “I want a magical horse that fits in my pocket, and a ring of red amber that gives me power over demons, and an endless supply of cake.” ~Simmon, Kvothe and Wilem, while drinking

‘I don’t mind being called a liar. I am. I am a marvelous liar. But I hate being called a liar when I’m telling the perfect truth.’

Review: ‘Theories of Flight’ by Simon Morden

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Theories of Flight

The Metrozone Series #2

Author: Simon Morden

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 4/01/2011

Length: 296 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

Read an excerpt  here.

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Publisher’s summary:

THEOREM: Petrovitch has a lot of secrets.

PROOF: Secrets like how to make anti-gravity for one. For another, he’s keeping a sentient computer program on a secret server farm – the same program that nearly destroyed the Metrozone a few months back.

THEOREM: The city is broken.

PROOF: The people of the OutZone want what the citizens of the Metrozone have. And then to burn it to the ground. Now, with the heart of the city destroyed by the New Machine Jihad, the Outies finally see their chance.

THEOREM: These events are not unconnected.

PROOF: Someone is trying to kill Petrovitch and they’re willing to sink the whole city to do it.


My somewhat spoilerish thoughts:

How does one top a book like Equations of Life, which featured the near destruction of post-Armageddon London when an AI methodically killed hundreds of thousands of people while destroying pretty much… everything? Why, with a book like Theories of Flight of course, in which our good guy, Dr. Samuil Petrovitch not only makes the greatest scientific breakthrough in living memory but is betrayed, avoids assassination at least twice, narrowly escapes the revenge of a pissed-off American woman and then single-handedly takes control of the New Machine Jihad in an attempt to thwart a hostile take-over of the northern Metrozone. And that’s just in the first half of the book!

“A revolution. A whole new way of doing things. No one has to die, no one has to be overthrown. There’ll be no blood or fire–just light. It’s going to be brilliant.” Unfortunately, Sam’s vision as he told it to Sonja Oshicora four months after the events of book 1, dubbed The Long Night (the events, not the book), didn’t come to pass and there is plenty of blood and plenty of fire. Sadly, blood and fire was what was needed to save the Metrozone and Sam stepped up to care of business.

Of course, the whole thing came to pass when he set out to rescue Maddy, to whom he was wed in the four months since the end of Equations of Life. Maddy has joined the newly-formed MEA, the Metrozone Emergency Authority where her prodigious talents have been no doubt put to good use and Sam has also been busy, what with his whole discovery of artificial gravity thing.

But other events overshadow his historic scientific breakthrough: former Detective Harry Chain, who now also works for MEA asks Sam’s assistance on a case involving the CIA, assassins are out to get him, his wife is injured in the line of duty and finally, there is an incursion into the Metrozone by the Outies who, despite sounding like a bunch of people with protruding belly buttons, are actually a massive group of uneducated yet murderous outcasts. And they don’t just want to just invade and take the Metrozone as their own, they want to destroy it and everyone in it. What’s more, they’re fully capable of doing just that. It rather makes the term ‘Outies’ sound less amusing and more foreboding, yes?

Upon learning that Maddy has been called in to assist in the defense of the city, Sam sets out to rescue her from an invading force that appears to be much more formidable than was originally determined. He’s accompanied only by Miyamoto, sent by Sonja to protect him and by the artificial intelligence which is all that’s left of VirtualJapan, the AI that became the New Machine Jihad when Sonja’s father, Oshicora-san was betrayed and murdered.

At first it looks like an in and out job, grab the girl and go… only a whole bunch of other stuff comes up to distract Sam and divert his attention from his single-minded task. The odds are against him reaching Maddy, against the Metrozone surviving the invasion intact, against survival… so Sam is left with no choice but to unleash the New Machine Jihad, which is as powerful as ever but happily, less insane this time around.

Still, despite the horrors that may arise, Sam sets the AI loose to do what it can to help him save what can be saved of the Metrozone which it does. And which, unfortunately might start a war with the United States. So we have a few questions: can Sam survive and save the Metrozone? Again? Can he save the AI from those who would destroy it? And can he do all of this without bringing the wrath of the world’s sole remaining superpower down on all of their heads? As he tells Miyamoto: “What’s the point of being the smartest guy I know if I don’t use those smarts to do something?”

As with book 1, Theories is vividly orchestrated and action-packed, mildly graphic and chock full of grim humor, as evidenced by my extensive ‘fave quote’ section below. We also get a tantalizing peek into Sam’s past in St. Petersburg, Russia which of course, only left me wanting more of the back story… namely of Sam’s history and of Armageddon. I also want to know how the US became the sole super power -a ruthless and utterly amoral super power- in the world? I rather got a kick out of Sam threatening to take the whole country down, super-power or no. Bad-ass much, Dr. Petrovitch? Indeed, he is!

I also need to point out how tickled I was with Sam’s “One Ring” comments in reference to the AI and New Machine Jihad. Being a lifetime fan of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I particularly enjoyed looking at the AI/NMJ as “one ring to rule them all”. Nicely done, Mr. Morden.

I’ll definitely be checking out Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, once I finish with book 3 of the trilogy, Degrees of Freedom. The collection is available as a free PDF download at the link I provided to the author’s site but I highly suggest reading the series before biting into the short stories. Though I know little about what they cover, there’s just something about an agonizing wait that makes the attainment of literary gratification that much more potent.

One last comment. I would love to have these books in audio format so that I could listen to Sam swear in Russian. That would be awesome. That is all.

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Fave quotes and yes, I realize that there are a lot but the awesome quotes in this book are rather like Lay’s potato chips, I think:

“Out of the way. Science coming through.” ~Sam

Yobany stos! I’m trying to conduct an epoch-making experiment which will turn this place into a shrine for future generations. So shut the huy up.” ~Sam

“Everyone’s allowed to make a stupid mistake now and then, and this is your turn.” ~Sam to Andersson

“The CIA are in town, apparently, and not in an ‘if you have a few moments, I’d like to ask you some questions’ sort of way.” ~Sam to Sonja

“We can swear loudly and point guns at each other in a vodka-fueled frenzy: just like old times.” ~Sam to Grigori re: Marchenkho

“I have to catch a plane at stupid-o’clock in the morning.” ~Pif to Sam

“You idiot. You genius-level idiot.” ~Pif to Sam

Miyamoto: “What are you doing?”  Sam: “I’m being awesome Don’t interrupt.”

“I’m reluctant to threaten the only person in a position to help me. But I have a gun in my pocket that I’m very tempted to use on you.” ~Sam to Dr. Stephanopolis

[There is no logic behind your statement. Simply wishing for something to be so does not make it so.] ~AI, Michael to Sam

‘He had not been quite this angry for a very long time… Days, at least.’

“When I first met you, you were incapable of talking to a woman without insulting her. Now you have a harem.” ~Sonja to Sam

Sam: “Are you familiar with Schrödinger’s Cat?”  CIA assassin: “No.”  Sam: “And another metaphor dies whimpering on the altar of ignorance.”

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Would you like to win the entire Metrozone series? Of course, you would! Visit Deranged Book Lovers’ blog and enter the contest!

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Review: ‘Death Masks’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

Death Masks

The Dresden Files, Book #5

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks

Length: 11 hrs and 21 mins

Release Date: 10/29/09

(novel released 08/05/2003 by Penguin USA & a 464 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: purchased from Audible.com

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Publisher’s Summary:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for.

A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards…

Professional hit men using Harry for target practice…

The missing Shroud of Turin…

A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified…

Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.

Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.

My thoughts… and beware, I think about spoilers quite a lot:

My thoughts begin with Harry’s thoughts. Rather, a specific thought that Harry has at the end of chapter 7  which sums up the action in the book thus far quite nicely, and sets the scene for the remainder of the book:

‘In this corner: one missing shroud; one impossibly and thoroughly dead corpse; one dedicated and deadly vampire warlord; three Holy Knights; twenty-nine fallen angels; and a partridge in a pear tree. And in the opposite corner: one tired, bruised, underpaid professional wizard, threatened by his allies and about to get dumped by his would-be girlfriend for John Q. Humdrum.’

In this fifth installment in Jim Butcher’s exceedingly popular Dresden Files series, we see not only the return of  Harry’s friend and Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, we also meet Shiro and Sanya, the other two Knights of the Cross and their respective swords, Fidelacchius and Esperacchius. Their introduction is just fantastic as they blend perfectly into the background before rescuing Harry from an attack by one of the Fallen… the Order of the Blackened Denarius.

Yes, ‘Fallen’ as in, ‘fallen angels’. These guys are wicked bad-asses who use coins, the very same coins Judas took as a bribe before hanging himself, mind… to lure mortals into enslavement and/or at best, indentured servitude. And they are exceedingly hard to kill. Oh yes, did I mention that they want Harry? Not to kill him, necessarily, but to join them. And if he won’t join, then yeah, to kill him. Fun times!

Of course, the ass-kicking Knights of the Cross beat down the fallen angel scene wasn’t the first excitement in the book… oh, no! we begin with Harry hanging at the Larry Fowler show where, before wreaking havoc on the set of the TV talk show with his magic, he has chats with some interesting characters including Duke Ortega of the Red Court of vampires who challenges Harry to a duel and Father Vincent, of the Vatican, who hires Harry to find a very, very precious religious artifact that was recently stolen. Stolen from Turin.

Not only is all of that happening, very nearly at once, but Murphy drags Harry to the morgue to meet Dr. Waldo Butters, a quirky,  polka-loving Medical Examiner who’s had a glimpse of the supernatural. Poor Dr. Butters was actually institutionalized for a time after identifying some remains from the burned out estate of Bianca, the Red Court vampire, as something other than human. Butters has a very interesting client in the morgue that Karrin wanted Harry to see… he seems to have died of every disease known to man. All at once. How’s that for the icing on the cake?

So yeah… Butcher starts this book out with a bang, baby! And the punches just… keep… coming! The audio is just 11 hours and 21 minutes long and what an action-packed 11 hours and 21 minutes it is.

Much to Harry’s chagrin, Michael and the other Knights try to get Harry to back off of the case. Back off and leave town. Or we’ll kind of make you back off. Gee, thanks guys! Harry is understandably none too happy about this development and he’s at a loss as to where to find the shroud so he calls an Oracle from the Never Never for a bit of advice.

It turns out that the Knights received part of a prophecy concerning Harry and the search for the shroud. Said prophecy segment stated that if Harry seeks the Shroud, he “will most assuredly perish”. The Knights, however, didn’t get the crucial part of the prophecy, the part which was kept from the Knights by their enemies  in order to restore the balance. So the Oracle divulges the really important bit that concerns the Knights themselves: “If you do not, they all die and this city with them”.

To find the shroud or not find the shroud… whatever will Harry do? No-brainer, this one. What else would he do? He gets a tip on the shroud’s whereabouts and plans to check it out which leads him to the thieves and a handy-dandy little trap. But of course, did we think it would be easy?

Waitjustaminute… did I mention Susan? Ahh, no, it would seem I overlooked that little tidbit earlier. Oopsie! Allow me to take a moment to bonk myself on the forehead and backpedal a wee bit. So yeah, guess what?! Susan’s in town!

Yes, that Susan… Susan Rodriguez. Harry’s former girlfriend who thought she’d crash a vamp party in book #3, Grave Peril and ended up drastically changed by Bianca of the Red Court. If she ever gives into her thirst for blood, which will cause her to kill her victim, she will become a full-fledged, card-carrying vampire of the Red Court. At the end of Grave Peril, she beat it out of Chicago after turning down Harry’s proposal of marriage/promise to find a cure. She left Chicago and broke Harry’s freakin’ heart. But now… she’s baa-aack! Popped into town to quit her job and clear out her personal belongings, says she. Also, maybe to torment Harry with her mere presence and/or break his heart yet again?

I’ve got to say, that Butcher’s portrayal of Harry in the scenes with Susan in this book is just heartwrenchingly beautiful… exquisitely painful… achingly bitter. Of course, I’ve read the series before and as I’ve mentioned, I’m re-listening to it in its entirety in preparation for the July release of book #13, Ghost Story. I mention this tidbit once more to point out that my knowledge of the events of book #12, Changes just makes the Harry/Susan scenes in this book all the more poignant and bittersweet. Those scenes are made all the more emotionally charged by the very nearly perfected reading of James Marsters. He just gets better and better with each book, in my not-so-humble opinion.

So, back to it after that little aberration into the tragedy that is ‘Harry and Susan’… We have Harry trying to find the shroud, Denarians trying to lure him into eternal slavery and/or kill him, a Red Court Vampire hoping to kill him in a fair-and-square duel -right, like a Red Court vampire can be trusted to do anything ‘fair-and-square’?!- and if all of that mess isn’t enough… damn, I guess we’re back to Susan and all of the emotional baggage she drags back into Harry’s life.

In all fairness, she is pretty damn important to Harry, now and in the future of the series. All in all, Butcher has put together some truly magnificent ingredients to create a perfect recipe for yet another edge-of-your-seat ride on the roller coaster that is Harry Dresden’s unusual life.

One last observation… yes, finally! Hey, you’ll be glad I mentioned it as it’s one of my favorite parts of the book! Of course I’m referring to the introduction of the Archive, who is assigned as a mediator in the duel between Harry and Ortega and who is NOT what Harry was expecting. Her character is superbly written… she’s one part little girl sweetness, one part scary powerful and one part sheer bad-assery.

Last, last comment. I promise. Along with Ivy, as Harry dubs her (“Archive. Ive… Ivy.”), we meet Kincaid. In this book, he’s been hired to protect the Archive and while Harry is unsure of him, Ivy says he can be trusted. After all, he’s paid through April. We’ll see more of the mercenary in later books but here he provides a nice counter to Ivy’s innocent wisdom. One last bit about Ivy: her reaction when she sees Mister is. just. priceless! “Thank you for letting me pet your kitty.” Very nice touch, Mr. Butcher.

Fave quotes:

“You don’t look very… Archive-esque.” ~Harry to Kincaid

‘My tongue dropped out of my mouth and flopped onto my shoes.’

“Chew and smile? At the same time? Do I look like Jackie Chan?” ~Harry to Susan

‘That’s what you get for trying to be a hero. You get to eat a 6-pack of 9mm bon bons.’ ~Harry

“Ye ole ‘join up or die’ ultimatum. Gee, no matter how many times I get it, that one never goes out of style.” ~Harry to Nicodemus

‘”I’m a disciple of the Tao of Peter Parker, obviously,” I said. I guess Nicodemus was a DC Comics fan because he didn’t get it.’ ~Harry

Susan: “So help me God, if  you quote Clint Eastwood at me I’m wrapping this car around a telephone pole.”  Harry: “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Susan: “You’ve really got class, Dresden.”  Harry:“Class oozes out of my  every orifice.”

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


Review: ‘The Atomic Weight Of Secrets’ by Eden Unger Bowditch

The Atomic Weight Of Secrets

or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black

The Young Inventor’s Guild, #1

Author: Eden Unger Bowditch

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover)

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Release Date: 3/15/2011

Length: 320 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had. But all that changed the day the men in black arrived.

They arrived to take twelve-year-old Jasper Modest and his six-year-old sister, Lucy he with his remarkable creations and she with her perfect memory from their London, England home to a place across the ocean they’d never seen before.

They arrived to take nine-year-old Wallace Banneker, last in a long line of Africa-descended scientists, from his chemistry, his father, and his New York home to a life he d never imagined.

Twelve-year-old Noah Canto-Sagas, already missing his world-famous and beloved mother, was taken from Toronto, Canada, carrying only his clothes, his violin, and his remarkable mind.

And thirteen-year-old Faye Vigyanveta, the genius daughter of India’s wealthiest and most accomplished scientists, was removed by force from her life of luxury.

From all across the world, they’ve been taken to mysterious Sole Manner Farm, and a beautiful but isolated schoolhouse in Dayton, Ohio, without a word from their parents as to why. Not even the wonderful schoolteacher they find there, Miss Brett, can explain it. She can give them love and care, but she can’t give them answers.

Things only get stranger from there. What is the book with no pages Jasper and Lucy find in their mother’s underwear drawer, and why do the men in black want it so badly?

How is it all the children have been taught the same bizarre poem and yet no other rhymes or stories their entire lives? And why haven’t their parents tried to contact them?

Whatever the reasons, to brash, impetuous Faye, the situation is clear: They and their parents have been kidnapped by these terrible men in black, and the only way they’re going to escape and rescue their parents is by completing the invention they didn’t even know they were all working on. An invention that will change the world forever.

But what if the men in black aren’t trying to harm the children? What if they’re trying to protect them? And if they’re trying to protect them, from what?


My thoughts:

What a very odd story. Very odd. Rather sad and rather confusing and rather unfulfilling, once the last page is turned.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. Because I did… very much. I’m just feeling a bit let down, like I didn’t get the big reveal I was expecting and quite looking forward to.

I’m left with questions that I was expecting answers to but didn’t get. Questions such as, what were the items that several of the parents took from their children before disappearing mysteriously and why did their parents need them so badly? What was The Strange Round Bird song all about and how did all of the children know it to the exclusion of any and all other lullabies or nursery rhymes? What was the polymer that Wallace was working on so diligently? Who are the men in black and what was this story all about?

Perhaps it’s all just a set-up for the rest of the series, I thought. Perhaps the big plot point was indeed, the children’s invention and maybe the majority of the story revolved around that one thing: the children handing their invention over to the brothers. Which, I ought to mention, was fantastically funny in a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” kind of way.

I also mentioned that this story was rather sad. As the summary of the book states, the children are all taken from their parents and thrust into a wholly unfamiliar situation with no explanation whatsoever. Their parents disappear with and the people into whose care the children are placed either don’t know what’s happening or won’t say. The children don’t know who to trust. They’re angry and scared, upset at their apparent abandonment while being half out of their minds with worry for their parents. Despite having absolutely brilliant minds, they’re still children and so naturally have trouble adjusting to a confusing and frightening situation… hence the sad.

I’m hoping that the second book in the series will reveal a few of the tibits that Bowditch left behind the curtain in this first installment. I’ll definitely check out the next book but there will have to be a bit more meat in the story to keep my interest and keep me reading.


Fave quotes:

‘It was precisely because of this strange black attire that Jasper knew this man was there to fetch them, and was not some nefarious stranger out to do them harm. Well, he might well be a nefarious stranger out to do them harm but, if so, he was their own personal nefarious stranger, and Jasper knew they had no choice but to follow.’ ~as reasoned by Jasper Modest

“Don’t ‘don’t’ me. Don’t you dare ‘I don’t’ me when you know I know you know you do, you know, I do, don’t you, hm?” ~Reginald Roderick Kattaning



Review: ‘Green-Eyed Demon’ by Jaye Wells

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Green-Eyed Demon

Sabina Kane, Book #3

Author: Jaye Wells

Format: galley (available for purchase as mass-market paperback and audio book)

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 2/22/2011

Length: 299 Pages

Acquired: via the publisher

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Publisher’s summary:

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. Her sister has been kidnapped by her grandmother, the Dark Races are on the brink of war, and a mysterious order is manipulating everyone behind the scenes.

Working on information provided by an unlikely ally, Sabina and her trusty sidekicks–a sexy mage named Adam Lazarus and Giguhl, a Mischief demon–head to New Orleans to begin the hunt for her sister. Once there, they must contend with belligerent werewolves, magic-wielding vampires and–perhaps most frightening of all–humans.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about most, she must save herself from the ghosts of her past.

 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book much better than The Mage In Black! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that book, too… but this one had more going for it. The team is on unfamiliar ground in N’Awlins and it’s always fun to put characters in a new situation. We inevitably meet some new characters, some of whom ingratiate themselves with the reader rather quickly and who I didn’t have a problem trusting, which is saying something. Lastly, we have a mission, which is two-fold: rescue Maisie and then find and kill the evil grandmother. I’ve rather been looking forward to that since reading book #1, so I’m happy that it’s now become a priority!

So, the book opens with Team Awesome back in Los Angeles, preparing to kidnap one of the Dominae, which are essentially the three head vamps. Not Lavinia, Sabina’s grandmother and the Alpha Domina, but the weaker of the three. The kidnapping doesn’t quite go as planned but they grab their captive and flash on over to deliver her to the Faery Queen in hopes that an alliance can be made as well as to take instruction from Orpheus, the mage leader.

Finally, Sabina, Adam and Giguhl end up in New Orleans to hunt for Maisie in order to rescue her, as well as Lavinia in order to kill her. Enter Zenobia, voodoo shop owner and friend of Rhea, and Zen’s assistant Brooks. I liked both of these characters immediately and found them both to be strong additions to the story. They were also infinitely helpful to the Team as well as colorful and fun to read. We also meet a few other new faces when Zen sends Sabina to a butcher shop to find a blood source and to a local drag club to find an information source.

Things are rather frustrating for Sabina as she feels that she’s constantly on the defensive once in New Orleans. Lavinia finds her right away and with dismay, Sabina realizes that her grandmother has fed on a particular kidnapped mage’s blood and therefore can do magic. Not only does this seem unfair to me, it seems a bit far-fetched. Lavinia can flash herself about after having fed on a mage blood but Sabina, who trained for weeks with Rhea can only do her Cyclops-esque pew-pew trick to incinerate people? No lessons on healing or flashing herself about all bad-ass like the other mages can do? Yet her grandmother can do such things after having a Maisie snack? Hmmm…

So yeah, Sabina’s at a disadvantage from the get-go. Still, she carries on and blunders about a bit, anxious to both find her sister and avoid the affections of Adam. At every turn, it seems that their enemy is one step ahead of them and that reacting is all the Team is capable of doing.

Enter another new face, recreant mage and lead singer of rock band Necrospank 5000, Erron Zorn. His introduction is hilarious and really, I can’t do it justice here so I won’t even try. Suffice to say that he lends the team a hand and then later on, gives them some much-needed intel, info-dump style. I like this character a lot, though we don’t see much of him, sadly.

I had a hard time putting this book down… or putting my laptop down, rather… and was anxious to get back to it and find out what was going to happen, already! I was happy with the way Wells handled Sabina’s growing up thing, it didn’t feel forced and it didn’t feel fake. It felt just right and though she still had a few temper issues and thinking she could handle things on her own issues, she’s matured as a character and it’s good to see.

Had Sabina still been going on with her knee-jerk reactions from the first two books, there would have been much eye-rolling as I read. But she didn’t and there wasn’t. I feel that the pace of the story was good and there was enough humor to give me the occasional chuckle but not so much as to lessen the seriousness of the mission and the emotion of the story as the characters, namely Sabina, realized what was important to them and what they were willing to do to preserve it.

Bottom line, if you enjoy urban fantasy with punchy characters, I definitely recommend this series. Check the books out at Amazon.com, Audible.com or your fave local or internet book store.


Fave quotes:

‘I’ll give the faeries this: They know how to rock some landscaping.’

“Bael’s balls, can we get outta here already? This alley smells like Satan’s asshole.” ~Giguhl

“…did your cat just talk smack to me?” ~Brooks

‘Hollywood had been getting vampires wrong for decades-don’t get me started on the soulless undead thing… or the godsdamned sparkling.’

“We must never speak of this again.” ~Adam

‘I imagined the list in my head: 1. Perform voodoo ritual on evil owl. 2. Find out who sold us out to the anachronistic Caste vampires. 3. Make amends with lesbian werewolf. 4. Rescue twin. 5. Murder grandmother.’

‘Couldn’t blame him for his fear – no one ever expects zombies.’