Archive for October, 2014

This one is the ninth book in the series.

Links to my reviews of the previous Dresden Files books:

One: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-storm-front-5-stars/

Two: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/book-review-wednesday-fool-moon-dresden-files-4-stars/

Three: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-grave-peril-4-stars/?preview=true

Four: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-summer-knight-5-stars/

Five: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/book-review-wednesday-death-masks-dresden-files-book-5-5-stars/

Six: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/book-review-wednesday-blood-rites-dresden-files-five-stars/

Seven: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/book-review-wednesday-dead-beat-dresden-files-5-stars/

Eight: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/book-review-wednesday-proven-guilty-dresden-files-book-8-5-stars/

I’m going to assume by this point you know what this series is about. So here’s the blurb for this particular book:

In Chicago, someone is targeting magic practitioners–the members of the supernatural underclass who don’t possess enough power to become full-fledged wizards. Some have vanished. Others appear to be victims of suicide. But now the culprit has left a calling card at one of the crime scenes–a message for Harry Dresden.

Harry sets out to find the killer, but his investigation turns up evidence pointing to the one suspect he cannot possibly believe guilty: his half brother, Thomas. To clear his brother’s name, Harry rushes into a supernatural power struggle that renders him outnumbered, outclassed, and dangerously susceptible to temptation.

And Harry knows that if he screws this one up, people will die–and one of them will be his brother…

First things first, if you haven’t read the previous books you’re going to be very confused. This one relies heavily on knowledge of the books before it. If you have read the previous books then you’re going to eat this one up like candy.

Murphy calls Harry in on a case that may or may not be supernatural. People appear to be killing themselves. Harry decides it is supernatural, and off the plot goes. We also get to see Elaine; Harry’s first love, who is now a private eye in LA specializing in the supernatural. And Molly; Harry’s apprentice is in this one, and less big headed than the last time we saw her.

We get a huge complex puzzle to unravel with Harry firmly in the center of it. Then there’s added drama when several clues suggest Harry’s brother Thomas may be involved. Cue lots of suspicion and sleuthing and not being able to just talk things through like a couple normal human beings. Idiots.

There’s big bad guys, and a lot of action. In the middle of all this we learn some more about the politics of the current battle between the White council and the Red court, and how Harry could possibly tip the balance. It’s all very fun to read, but quite episodic. We get a mention of the secret group plotting in the White council, but no movement on that plot in this book. Still, a fun read and definitely a five star book for me.

For more reviews of this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91475.White_Night

There’s something captivating about reading this book right from the first sentence: ‘The circus arrives without warning.’ There’s a certain rhythm to the words that reminds me of listening to a beautiful song or reading a fairy tale. This makes for a pretty read, and it was easy to be swept away when the marvels of the circus are described. It makes a very interesting use of the second person in a few short sections dotted through the book, making it feel like you are there seeing each act with your own eyes.

Let’s look at the blurb:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn. As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears. Le Cirque des Reves. The Circus of Dreams. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.

Most of the book is from an omniscient pov (though I did suspect it of delving into head hopping a couple times). This helps add to the exotic mysterious atmosphere, but doesn’t help us get much of a read on our characters. Indeed, even toward the very end I didn’t feel I knew that much about how the two main characters had felt through the events of the book. The supporting characters are interesting, though some also suffer from this lack of being able to get to know them.

The book is set over a large period of time which drains the immediacy, particularly when the contest hinted at between our main characters turns out a lot more anticlimactic than it sounds. Don’t expect much action, but expect a lot of beauty. As long as you’re OK with a slow but remarkably pretty book, check out this one.

For more reviews on this book go to the following link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16180175-the-night-circus

Another Stephen King book. Not sure how many that makes it this year, but I’m getting through them. Right now I’m at 72 books read this year, and have two more Stephen King books (The Long Walk and The Green Mile) that I’ve read but not reviewed yet. So look out for my reviews of those and other books over the next month.

While I wouldn’t say The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is my favorite Stephen King, it is right up there. It’s a shorter book – only 264 pages – and is one of his milder ones.

Here’s the blurb:

Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland strays from the path while she and her recently divorced mother and brother take a hike along a branch of the Appalachian Trail. Lost for days, wandering farther and farther astray, Trisha has only her portable radio for comfort. A huge fan of Tom Gordon, a Boston Red Sox relief pitcher, she listens to baseball games and fantasizes that her hero will save her. Nature isn’t her only adversary, though – something dangerous may be tracking Trisha through the dark woods.

Trisha is an engaging character, which is just as well since we spend most of the book with just her. She’s someone determined to try and make the best of things by playing the chipper little sister to her downer brother who seems to complain about everything. You know those annoying kids who insist everything you’re doing is wrong and ‘life is so against me,’ ‘it’s not fair,’ ‘all I want is to have my every whim catered to, is that so much to ask?’ Yup, he is one of those. I’ve met a few of those in my time, and even though I spent a relatively small amount of pages in his company I felt sorry for Trisha and her mother. In his favor though, Trisha going missing does seem to push him out of his selfish mode, and he does have his reasons – though I don’t think there’s enough to be THAT much of a brat.

Trisha turns her determined mindset to getting herself out of the mess she’s gotten herself into. She makes a lot of good choices, but being nine years old she makes some bad ones too and those result in her wandering further away from safety. And of course since this is Stephen King there’s something very creepy following her. Despite trying to keep her chipper attitude she goes through a lot of being scared, but there’s a moment at the end where she finds her courage. You really feel like she achieves something in that moment, like all that hardship has made her a stronger person.

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard about this book is to say that a child that young wouldn’t survive so long alone in the woods. I disagree. A while ago I read an article about a six year old who lead three two year olds, one three year old, a 14 month old to safety after hurricane katrina, while carrying his five month old brother. Kids can and have done amazing things. They can have surprising adaptivity and determination to survive.

I’d say if you like survival stories and like Stephen King then read this one. Don’t expect as much gore as his usual books, though there is a little. For more reviews on this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11564.The_Girl_Who_Loved_Tom_Gordon

If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be: beautiful.

This is a pretty book, but steers clear of too much flowery language. It veers between an elderly man in modern times and his recollections of his early twenties as part of a travelling circus in 1930’s depression rife america. I’ve read this kind of set up before, and always worry that one of the narratives will be a lot more boring than the other and make me want to skip. In this book that didn’t happen. It’s true that more happens in the past than the present, but the present still has things going for it, and elderly Jacob is so stubborn and awesome, even more so in some ways than his younger self.

Let’s look at the blurb:

Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.

By morning, he’s landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he’s in love.

In an America made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all…

It’s clear from reading the book that Sara Gruen; the author did her research. There are little bits of information from the time and from circuses of the time weaved together in the story. This helps to make the vibrant setting of the circus even more so. The characters are also rich and multi-layered; both humans and animals. Rosie the elephant is as well crafted a character as Walter the dwarf clown, August our charming villain, or Marlena the love interest.

The romance has its sweetness and angst (though I found myself more interested in the bond Jacob forges with Rosie, but I’ve never been much into romance). Marlena is an all right character. She’s difficult to get a read on at first, but as the book goes on the reader and Jacob discovers her strength. One of my favorite moments of hers is when she defies her husband in order to feed some of her food to a starving man.

What I liked most was that the book wasn’t just romance. In fact for most of the book Jacob and Marlena keep things to a professional working relationship with a dabble of friendship. And Jacob has other things to take care of than pining over his attraction for her. He has animals to care for, friends and enemies to watch, and danger to be wary of. There’s enough non romance things going on to keep a person less interested in romance, such as myself, glued to the book.

Definitely recommend this book. For more reviews on this book follow the link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43641.Water_for_Elephants

I think this one be one of those Stephen King books like Cujo that a lot of people hate and I end up loving. It’s one of his milder books, which might be why it has some laying hate on it. Not saying there isn’t any gore. This is Stephen King, of course there’s something icky hiding in those pages, but this is a good entry novel for someone not sure if they can stomach Stephen King in his full flair. Be warned though, this is a long, long, long book at 890 pages, so if you’re looking to try out Stephen King but aren’t into marathon reads, you might want to start with something shorter and work up to this one. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is another milder book of his that is much shorter. I’ll be posting a review for that one in a few weeks.

Let’s have a look at the blurb:

Since his wife died, Ralph Roberts has been having trouble sleeping. Each night he awakens a little earlier until he’s barely sleeping at all. During his late night vigils and walks, he observes some strange things going on in Derry, Maine. He sees colored ribbons streaming from people’s heads. He witnesses two strange little men wandering the city under cover of night. He begins to suspect that these visions are something more than hallucinations brought about by sleep deprivation. Ralph and his friend, widow Lois Chasse, become enmeshed in events of cosmic significance.

This book starts off as a sweet if sad story about an elderly man trying to come to terms with his beloved wife’s imminent death. Of course since this is Stephen King we quickly get some hints that something supernatural is at work in this world when a man from our guy’s neighborhood starts acting strange. Since his wife dies shortly after he puts the weird occurrence out of his mind, but of course this is the first part of a much larger plot that includes auras, telepathy, creatures no one else can see, and a plan that will kill hundreds if he does nothing to stop it.

The characters are flawed. Something I like about Stephen King is that his characters are such imperfect people. I particularly liked that the higher level beings we meet are just as flawed and unsure about everything as humanity. I did worry at first that our main female character seemed kind of ditsy and uninteresting, but as she becomes more central to the plot she fleshes out. The bad guys weren’t as fleshed out. Our main human bad guy has his touches of humanity which is nice, but his entourage are faceless, and the primary reason for what they do seems to be crazy people with extreme ideas.

Now I realize that a lot of people who help with a plot to kill are going to be a little on the nutty side, but several people with what seems like exactly the same brand of crazy seems far fetched. It’s true that the condition of crazy might’ve been influenced by the supernatural. I remember at least one of them who had definitely been pushed in that way, but he thought he was acting of his own free will, rationalizing the orders he was supposed to carry out. Even if they were all pushed this way, I’d have liked to see some of them rationalize it in different ways. Sure maybe one pro-lifer (the group of people the influenced were selected from) rationalizes that killing this pro-choicer will really help their cause and is all scarily enthusiastic, but another sees the deed as a mercy killing, thinks they’re saving the person from their own bad choices and gets no thrill out of it whatsoever. And someone somehow manages to fight the influence even if fleetingly, proving that there is something more to these guys than hands to hold guns and knives while smiling identical crazy grins and spouting propaganda like meatbag puppets. I like to see the cracks of humanity in bad guys, or at least some identity, just like I occasionally like to see the cracks of darkness in some of my heroes.

It did take a while to get to the action, so some might find it slow but I found myself enjoying the flow of it. I had no problems with the pacing, but I definitely wouldn’t describe it as action packed.

I think the thing I loved most about it was the world Stephen King built. In this book reality has levels. As you go higher you get to see parts of the world usually invisible: auras, thoughts, knowledge about people you shouldn’t know, creatures no one else can see. Go higher still as you become invisible to people back on your level and can float through solid objects like they aren’t there. Go too high and you can lose your mind.

It’s always nice to imagine the world has more depth we’re not aware of. And I find the idea that the best way to use these extra layers is to first turn yourself mad through lack of sleep poetic. Madness and enlightenment always make an intriguing combination.

I’d say if you’re a fan of Stephen King and don’t mind longer books with a slower pace then read this one. For more reviews on this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10585.Insomnia