Archive for July, 2014

This is book four of the Dresden Files series. For my reviews on books one, two and three, check out the following links: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-storm-front-5-stars/ and: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/book-review-wednesday-fool-moon-dresden-files-4-stars/ and: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-grave-peril-4-stars/?preview=true

I’m really enjoying this series, and I think this one is my favorite since the first book. The bad guys are at their biggest and scariest, and everyone seems to be gunning for poor Dresden. The plot is awesome, the action is awesome, and the lines are really funny.

Here’s the blurb:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower.

The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.

And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him–and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name.

It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case. No pressure or anything…

After the events of the last book Dresden is at his lowest. Then of course he finds himself in the middle of a war that will determine the fate of the world, not to mention that other war he set off in the last book that everyone is still all angry about. Not a good time for Dresden, but it makes for an action packed book.

We finally get to see the White Council in this book – something that’s been mentioned for a while. Plus we meet our old friend Morgan: enforcer for the White Council, who is just as pigheaded as ever. The Council doesn’t disappoint. Wizard politics is scary!

While the plot is great, the characters really make this book. We get to see Toot Toot the fairy and his friends. They’re awesome and so cute. They have adorable military rank names like Caption and Star Jump, salute by slapping themselves on the forehead, and carry around random scavenged things as weapons.

The bad guys are definitely bad. The vampires fit into this category, as do some of the White Council, plus we have the faeries. The faerie queens are great; scary, but different enough from each other to be interesting.  They’re tricky things, and it seems like all of them could be hiding something. There’s also an interesting parallel between some of them and various myths that I noticed, as well as stories (like Alice in Wonderland – there’s the Summer and Winter queens for one thing, and the epic faerie battle takes place on a giant chess board). The world the author has been building in the previous books really gets shown off here. I’m fascinated with all the links to various other myths and stories he’s made possible. Did anyone who read this book or the previous one notice the link to Peter Pan? The ghostly realm the faeries live in is called the Nevernever. Sound like Neverland to you? And there are all kinds of worlds there, so it’s plausible one of them could have lost boys, pirate ships and mermaids.

We also meet changelings in this book which we haven’t come across yet. There’s a female changeling who is not stunningly beautiful like a lot of the females we’ve met so far in this series. She turned out to be one of my favorites and plays a big role in the finale.

So, plot = great, characters = great, world = great, action = great. Five stars. Nothing bad to say about this one. For more reviews on this book, go to the following link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91478.Summer_Knight

Advertisements

Non fiction book this time. I’m a little addicted to self help books, mostly any that can improve my word counts. There are people on the nanowrimo forums who can write one million words in a month. One million! Meanwhile my best is still around 70k in a month, and I haven’t matched that for a while.

Now, I don’t think this book will get me to a million in a month, but it’s one of the more useful books I’ve read.

Basically it is as it says on the cover: all about willpower. Do you want to resist that chocolate cake? Start exercising more? Or like me, put more hours and focus into something? This will help you. Each chapter talks through a useful piece of psychology, and ends with practical exercises showing you how you can put it into place.

This is where this book stands out from others I’ve read. Some other self help books talk the talk, but they don’t show you how to walk the walk. This one does. I picked up some useful things from my first read through, and I’m going through it a second time (which is almost unheard of for me since I hate repeating things) slower, paying more attention to all the exercises.

The great thing about this book is you can use it multiple times, going through it with a different goal you want to work on, or taking your last goal a step further.

Here’s the blurb:

Willpower – the ability to control your attention, emotions, appetites and behaviour – influences your physical health, financial security, the quality of your relationships and your professional success. We all know this. But why is it so hard to control and why, sometimes, do we have so little of it? Maximum Willpower brings together the newest insights about self-control from psychology, economics, neuroscience and medicine, explaining how we can break old habits and create healthy habits, conquer procrastination and manage stress and emotions. Discover why we give in to temptation and how we can find the strength to resist. By understanding the limits of willpower you can prioritize goals, make conscious choices, change old habits and give up the pursuit of perfection. This book focuses on strategies that can help you transcend limitations, strengthen self-control and escape the grip of chronic stress and procrastination. Whether you are trying to break a habit, improve your health, or find your focus, this book will change the way you think about willpower and help you make real and lasting changes in your life.

The writing style is easy to read, and the examples the author uses made this a enjoyable read for me. It’s not a dry self help book. This one is interesting and in my opinion as fun to read as any fiction books. In fact, I rushed through this the first time because I enjoyed it so much.

Five stars. No question. This is one of the few books I can think of nothing negative to say about. It’s that good.

And in case you want to read more reviews on this book, follow the link:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13365991-maximum-willpower

This is the third book in the Dresden series. For my review on books one and two go here: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-storm-front-5-stars/ and here: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/book-review-wednesday-fool-moon-dresden-files-4-stars/

At this point I’m going to assume you know the basic idea of the Dresden books. If not, check out my review of the first book.

Here’s the blurb:

Harry Dresden – Wizard
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden has faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago-area phone book.

But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: The spirit world has gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble – and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone – or something – is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself….

 This book has a really strong start. We’re thrown head first into action. There’s a big creepy ghost, and lots of little babies lives are at stake. And a new character is introduced who is pretty awesome. Michael’s very moral and follows his values, and is totally modest about it all. He’s just a really nice guy, like the nicest guy ever. No ulterior motives. Not a single ounce of selfishness.

The plot as usual is awesome. Lots of action, and just enough twistyness. The characters again are awesome (see Michael above). His fiery very pregnant wife is also very awesome, and doesn’t like Dresden one bit. We also meet a priest who seems decent enough, and a vampire who I really liked despite y’know, him being a vampire. The bad guys all have their motives, even if some are really petty (hey that’s humans / vampires for you). And we finally meet Dresden’s fairy godmother  who I found scarier than all the other bad guys put together.

All in all a good book that you should read. The only thing that stopped it being five stars for me was the women. Sure, they seem pretty badass, but it seemed like in the end they all needed rescuing. I get that Dresden’s the main character, but do so many female characters have to get in over their heads so he can begrudgingly save the day?

So four stars, a good book. Go read, unless you haven’t read the first or second, in which case go read them. Dresden has his old fashioned attitudes toward women (though he does respect them) in the other books, this one just had an overabundance of damsels in distress. Though to be fair, they did kick a lot of ass before they got in distress.

In case you want to read more reviews of this book before you make up your mind, follow the link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91476.Grave_Peril

This is the second book in the Sarah Milton Chronicles. For my review of the first book go to: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/book-review-wednesday-reading-the-dead-5-stars/

What I like most about these books is that they’re funny. Not just ‘small smile’ funny, there were definitely a few ‘laugh out loud’ funny moments to be had. Most of the humor comes from Anna who does what every ghost should do when they’re stuck on the sidelines watch people’s lives. Make sarcastic comments and pull the occasional prank.

To be fair, she does try to help out her best friend and detective Sarah Milton as well. With each book there’s a big mystery that Sarah and her team have to solve that ends up veering into the supernatural. And since Sarah and her ghost friend are the only ones who believe in the supernatural, they end up doing most of the heavy lifting.

There’s a real buffy humor vibe to these books, so if you liked that show then you should end up enjoying these books. The characters are awesome. Some do seem a bit stereotypical, but if they’re stereotypes, then they’re nice ones.

Here’s the blurb:

The second volume of the Reading The Dead – The Sarah Milton Chronicles series.

A frantic phone call from the wife of her former partner plunges LAPD police detective Sarah Milton and her teenage poltergeist sidekick, Anna Nigma, into a deadly mystery involving one of their most dangerous foes, the convicted “Fancy Dress Killer,” Harry Sands. The Violent Crimes Unit is in the hotseat to find the copycat serial killer responsible for a recent string of murders plaguing the city, leaving Sarah scrambling to understand the bizarre, otherworldly aspects to this latest murder spree.

Enemies from her past conspire with a new, even deadlier foe, in a thrilling adventure that threatens not only her life, but also the fate of those she holds dear, culminating in a supernatural showdown against an evil entity that ultimately tests the limits of her faith and courage.

I didn’t enjoy the plot as much as the first book. In the first book we saw a bit from Sarah’s childhood, then the rest was set in the present. This book hops back and forth between two timelines. One shows the fancy dress killer when he first went on his rampage (something that happened before the first book), and the other is set after the first book when similar killings start showing up.

Now don’t get me wrong, the plot was still enjoyable. We get more questions answered than the first book which is awesome. We find out more about our characters. I won’t give too much away, but by the end of the second book there’s a definite feeling that we’re heading toward some answers about the major questions like how come Anna is so powerful, and what’s the link between her and Sarah.

And action. Lots of action. So it was good, I just felt the moving back and forth took away from some of the tension. That’s what made this four stars rather than five stars for me.

If you liked the first book (and if you haven’t read that one, go read it because it’s a really fun read), then you should like this one. I’m definitely still hooked enough to be looking forward to the next book. And in case you want more opinions on this book to make up your mind, follow the link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20693205-reading-the-dead

I didn’t like this book as much as the first in the series: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-storm-front-5-stars/ but it still kept me entertained.

Our favorite wizard detective consultant meets werewolves in this book. I really like the thought put into the werewolves. There are several different types, a nod to varying lore of werewolf like creatures around the world. Of course the original lore can be flimsy and variable, so the author Jim Butcher has thought carefully about how to fit together the pieces into his own lore. It works well.

The wolves range from scary to downright terrifying (you’ll know that one when you come across it). We meet a few different types of wolves in this book. Every one of them seemed to be there for a reason, so it didn’t feel too crowded, and the interactions and comparisons between the types was interesting.

As usual the plot revolved around solving a mystery. People are getting killed around town, and Dresden and kickass detective Murphy are the only ones who seem to have any kind of clue who or what is doing the killings. Only problem is Murphy is in hot water with internal affairs due to the events of the last book, so she, and thus Dresden aren’t supposed to get involved.

Overall I loved the book. The plot felt a little off rhythm at times, but I think overall it worked out. Reading it, I was worried as there were some very cool high action scenes that built for a while and were just wonderful. I worried the finale might pale in comparison, but the ending was satisfying.

The characters were great. Murphy is definitely one of my favs. Their relationship goes through some development in this book, leading on from events in the last book. I like that the author isn’t afraid to play with his characters, to explore and change them.

The only thing that stopped this from being five stars for me is that Dresden’s magic seemed overly convenient. Now, I don’t mind him being powerful if it sticks to the limitations the author made clear in the first book. Most importantly, if he uses his power, he can tap himself out and need to recharge.

Most of the time the author seemed to follow that rule. Dresden did get weaker after using his power a lot, but there was at least one scene where he was struggling and going ‘I’m tapped out,’ and then boom, he was Mr impressive and powerful again. Maybe I missed an explanation, but that part knocked me out of the story with a raised eyebrow.

Summary: Good book. If you liked the first one then check it out. If you haven’t read the first one, then read it! That one was a definite five stars.

If you want to read more reviews on his book, follow the link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91477.Fool_Moon