Monday, December 29, 2008

"New Moon" The Twilight Saga book 2 - by Stephenie Meyer

New Moon
The Twilight Saga book 2
by Stephenie Meyer
audiobook read by Ilyana Kadushin
Published by Little, Brown Young Readers (August 21, 2006)

As many of you know I'm a sucker for a good vampire story (ha, sucker...vampire). So I've decided to give this Twilight Saga series a read, and I can say that they aren't bad. I knew going into this reading adventure that I was diving into adolescent fiction, but hey, Harry Potter was very entertaining and Lemony Snicket's "Unfortunate Events" books kept me in stitches, so the adolescent fiction can sometimes be a real treat.

I'm still on the fence on this one but I will say that during the moments of tension and thrills the author kept me reading with a fervor that makes these books worth reading. BUT (I know everyone's got a big BUT), the main character, Bella Swan, is a typical mopey teenage girl, that uses her teenage girly wiles to get what she wants. At times I just wanted to slap this wanna be Emo girl. But she did represent a fairly large slice of the psyche of teen angst, especially in this installment of the Twilight Saga, "New Moon."

In this novel Bella (the mopey human girl) and Edward Cullen(the beautiful, moody vampire) compare and contrast their lives with Romeo and Juliet. Bella has to watch the movie for her English class and uses this as a stall tactic to keep from going to her birthday party the Cullen's (family of vampires) have planned for her. You see, Bella doesn't want to age any more she wants to be eternally 17 like Edward, but Edward does not want Bella to become a vampire. Edwards reasoning behind this is that he believes vampire's souls are damned and he doesn't want to damn Bella. At the end of the Romeo and Juliet movie Edward states he doesn't want to live in a world without Bella.

Eventually she goes to the party and is showered with gifts. As she opens one of the gifts she gets a paper cut. Typically not a problem, actually at most parties it would be a source of a joke, but in a house where the folks live off blood and the smell of blood can encourage an attack, this creates problems. One of the Cullen family is still trying to get used to the not feeding on humans and only animals (vegetarian vampires), and goes to attack Bella at the smell of her blood.

This fiasco shows the Cullen's that their living in the same town as her creates a constant danger to her life and decide it's time to move on. The family leaves and Bella is thrown into several months of depression in which her dad, who she refers to with his first name, Charley, rather than calling him dad, finally decides he doesn't know how to handle this depression and threatens to send her back to live with her mom. This motivates Bella a little so she becomes a little more active with her social life. During these months of depression she has also made herself a bit of an outcast with her friends at school, and surprises one by inviting her to go to a movie.

After the movie Bella comes to walk near a bar where some neighborhood ruffians are hanging out and being the target of constant danger and accidents, she walks too close to the guys and as she does she hears Edwards voice in her head warning her to watch out. After she clears what could have been danger she realizes that in order to hear the sweet voice of Edward the only thing she can do now is put herself in danger.

Within a few days she sees a school mate is giving away 2 motorcycles, she knows that Charley has always forbidden the riding of motorcycles and they potential danger they hold, so she takes them. In comes Jacob Black, a minor character in the first book and member of the Quileute Indian nation. Jacob has a talent for fixing vehicles so she gets him to fix up the bikes and show her to ride. Side note here; this is one of the areas that really ticked me off. Bella played on Jacob's emotions and crush on her to get him to do what she wanted, fix bikes and teach her to ride. Jacob is smitten with Bella and that is his weak spot with her. So thinking she likes him he does what she wants.

The nice turn in this part of the story is that Jacob, being a member of the Quileute nation, soon becomes a shapeshifter/werewolf. According to legend the werewolves protect the tribe from vampires.

Jacob and his pack of other werewolves rescue Bella from a rogue vampire, Laurent, who we met in book one. Laurent is out to find Bella so the other vampire in their pack, Victoria, can kill her. This is revenge for Edward killing Victoria's mate, James.

Victoria continues to hunt for Bella, which leads to many dead bodies and the community is out looking for large wolves. The wolves are seen leaving the kill sites as they try to track down the bloodsucker. Bella is kept on the reservation while the wolves hunt. During the boredom Bella decides to try to hear Edward's voice again (it's all in her head, by the way) so she decides cliff-diving is dangerous enough.

One of the Cullen's, Alice, has a talent for seeing the future and sees this dangerous activity as Bella committing suicide and succeeding. Word get's out to Edward about Bella's "death" and he heads to Italy to get an ancient family of vampires to kill him. Remember the Romeo and Juliet reference?

Bella must now hurry to Italy with Alice to prevent Edward's suicide.

The events in Italy create an interesting outcome that affects the remaining 2 books in the series, and honestly I can't wait to read them. Make sure you note I'm on Team Jacob and not Team Edward.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Proven Guilty The Dresden Files, Book 8 by Jim Butcher Published 2006 by ROC

Proven Guilty
The Dresden Files, Book 8
by Jim Butcher
Published 2006 by ROC

Things just never get easy for Harry Dresden. The White Council who always had it out for him has recently mad Harry a Warden for the White Council (basically the police force for the wizarding community). You'd think with this promotion Harry Dresden, wizard/private investigator, would be more accepted. But at the beginning of this book, Proven Guilty, a trial is being held for a young man that has used magic to influence the mind of a human, this not only breaks one of the 7 laws of magic but also uses black magic which can bring harm the user. As with most trials conducted by the White Council the youth is found guilty,declared a warlock and sentenced quickly. There is only one sentence for breaking the laws; DEATH.

The White Council held this trial in Chicago to make sure Harry saw the outcome. Harry remarks how blood does not stain the gray cloaks of the wardens as he is forced to watch the beheading of the warlock.

With this impression made Harry and the rest of the council depart. Most go off to continue the war with the Red Court Vampires, others go off to continue their duties. Harry in the meantime is contacted by The Gatekeeper, a higher up Council member that through some mysterious method of sending a message from the future asks Harry to investigate some black magic going on in Chicago.

Before I go too much further I would like to talk about the Dresden Files series in general. I've said before that Jim Butcher has created one of the best series of myth / magic / and mayhem with this series. One of the things that makes these books so good is they always start out with some big event grab you and you have no choice but to hang on and enjoy the ride. Proven Guilty is no exception. Without giving too much of a spoiler hereI will point out that the beginning and the end of this book is perfectly bookended and not only comes full circle but hits with some great life lessons. In fact I love the way Jim Butcher through Harry Dresden turns the Parable of the Talents from they Holy Bible into the catch phrase of Stan Lee's Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Back to the story...the black magic Harry has to track down seems to be occurring at "Splatter-Con" a convention held in Downtown Chicago celebrating the art of horror movies. Creatures from the movies are coming to life and attacking the patrons of "Splatter-Con." One of the many talents of Jim Butcher is to be able to write some wit and humor into these stories, in fact Harry Dresden wouldn't be worth reading about if it weren't for the quality of "wise-assness." During some of the magical battle scenes with some of the more popular creatures, Harry Dresden quotes the movies with some great tact and fun reactions.

The creatures creating the monsters are known as fetches, they are from the "Nevernever" and they feed off fear. The fetches have come for the daughter of Michael Carpenter, Michael is a Knight of the Cross...yes THE CROSS...and is God's swordsman (one of 2 left). It seems that Michaels daughter, Molly,has some magic abilities and the fetches abduct her. Now it is up to Harry to rescue her.

With a rescue party that features, Karrin Murphy of Chicago PD, Harry's half-brother/ White Court vampire, Thomas and Molly's mother, Charity, Harry follows the fetches into Arctis Tor, the castle of the Winter Queen and fights off the fetches, the faerie and fae of Winter's court, the Erlking and many more to come to an exciting climax which then forces Harry to bring Molly in to a trial with the White Council.

For some great action, thrills, chases and everything that makes a great read the Dresden Files is the perfect series, and Proven Guilty fits into the series offering even better action, thrills, chases and everything mythical and magical.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Reunion in Death" by J. D. Robb Published by Berkley, 2002

"Reunion in Death"
by J. D. Robb
Published by Berkley, 2002 

Once again Nora Roberts, er...ummm...I mean J.D. Robb has created a exciting futuristic detective novel in the " Death" series.  This book, like most of the other books in this series, starts out running and never lets up until the villain is caught.  (Not much of a spoilere there, really, because Lt. Eve Dallas, NYPSD always gets her man, or in this case woman.)
Before I get to the meat of the story of this book I would like to point out a few things.  The characters in this series of books are awesome!  They are so realistic and their relationships are very human and work well to show the human side to drama.  The action in these books usually is up and down but with this one it never lets up. 

I really only have one complaint with these books but really it's not much of one.  It has to do with the graphic sex scenes throughout all the books in this series.  I understand Eve and Roarke really love each other and are a very physical married couple and I understand that Nora Roberts is a romance writer, but jeez, enough already.  These books are perfect science-fiction detective novels with great character development but I feel the books are cheapened by the bodice-ripping sex scenes.  I keep looking for Fabio on the cover.  I have a hard time convincing people to keep reading these books when they get to the sex scenes.  Some of the scenes described could make a Licensed Companion (LC) blush.  In the future prostitution is legal as long as they are licensed.  It really is for me an abrupt stop in the story when Eve and Roarke start having sex and the details of such scene is drawn out in explicit detail.  Okay yeah I know now after reading most of the series to skip ahead about 10 pages, but .....c'mon!
One other thing but this is on the cool side of stuff.  For anyone who has read any of the novels or my reviews, you know that Lt. Eve Dallas' husband Roarke owns nearly everything on and off planet.  But in this novel we learn he has  a holodeck.   How cool is that?  A holodeck!  I love this guy.

Okay, here's the story. In this book Lt. Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke return to New York rested from a vacation. Eve is eager to get back to work in the madness and mayhem that is homicide in NYPSD. When she returns to her desk she finds her office has been cleaned and painted and all her paperwork filed. Is it pixies? Nope, Officer Peabody took initiative and finished all pending paperwork and cleaned Eve's office while she was away, but only after Peabody and EDD Detective McNabb came back from a vacation funded by Roarke.

Since there are no pending cases or paperwork, Eve opens up the cold case file and finds one that seems solvable, and proceeds to give Peabody her first case to fly solo on. But just as they return from interview a dead woman's husband there's a ruckus in the bull pen in homicide division and a faint smell of baked goods....hey, cops and doughnuts, even in the future they go hand in hand. Anyway, the baked good culprits are Officer Peabody's parents dropping in for a surprise visit. The visiting Peabodys wrangle their way in to staying in Eve's & Roarke's mansion. Now Eve has to do the one thing she detests most, entertain guests.

Luckily she becomes busy when a man is murdered and Eve is called on the case. The man was poisoned at his birthday party in plain sight of all the guests. Eve soon learns that one of the catering staff left the scene. The staff member is identified as Julianne Dunn, a woman who Eve had put in prison for murdering her three husbands, a black widow who likes to poison her husbands and take off with their riches.

This time Julianne Dunn is seeking revenge on Eve, the only woman that ever bested her. To do so she targets Roarke but before she takes away Eve's man she sends the Eve and her staff chasing red herrings, other murdered men that fit no pattern.

What turns out to be a global romp with great action and great detective work "Reunion in Death" is another superb sci-fi cop thriller that can get you hooked on this series. So if you like/don't mind the sex scenes go ahead and read them but if you think they are just fluff and serve little purpose (like i do) skip over them and enjoy an action packed thriller.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Valis" by Philip K. Dick audiobook review

Philip K. Dick
Read by Tom Weiner
Blackstone Audio
Approx. 8 1/2 hours
Audiobook published 2008

Valis is the first of Philip K. Dick's three final novels (the others are Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer) and seem to cover PKD's final days searching for the meaning of life within religion. This book fits not only into the science fiction category, but could also fall easily into the philosophy realm, because the book consists of the main character discussing the origin of God and the purpose of life while suffering through mental illness.

The reader, Tom Wiener, has a very pleasant voice that adds a bit of a feel of authority while reading through the many sections. The book covers times when the main character is locked up in a county mental hospital, writing and quoting from his exegesis (his book on trying to find God), hanging out with his friends and discussing theology and finally meeting what could be the messiah of our time. When Weiner reads the scripture-like quotes from the exegesis they sound like real scripture being read from a pulpit, which definitely makes listening to this book more interesting and easier to absorb the philosophies.

Valis takes place in the 70s in the United States, and may be semi-autobiographical. One hint at the autobiographical feel is that the book is written in both first and third person. In first person the narrator refers to himself as Philip the sci-fi writer and refers back to some of his books. When the narrator shifts to third person he refers to the character Horselover Fat. It is revealed that Horselover Fat is actually part of PKD's schizophrenic split personality and all his friends treat them as 2 different people and hope for him to be cured eventually. Another semi-autobiographical aspect is in the name Horselover Fat. "Horselover" is English for the Greek word philippos (Φίλιππος), meaning "lover of horses" (from philo "brotherly or comradely love" and hippos "horse"); "Fat" is English for the German word "dick".

Valis is about a group of friends' search for God, who turns out to be a virus, a joke, and a mental hologram transmitted from an orbiting satellite. The friends are very reminiscent of the friends in the book "A Scanner Darkly," especially in their very humorous dialogues about God. Basically the friends are all former stoners who have stopped doing dope and now have philosophy as their new drug.

The main character of the novel, Horselover Fat, is thrust into a theological quest when he receives communion in a burst of pink laser light. From the mental ward of a bay area hospital to the ranch of a fraudulent charismatic religious figure/rock musician where they confront the Messiah: a two-year old named Sophia. She confirms their suspicions that an ancient, mechanical intelligence orbiting the earth has been guiding their discoveries. who turns out to have a direct com link with God,

Truly, Valis is an eye-opening look at the nature of consciousness and divinity as PKD leads us down the twisted paths of Gnostic belief, mixed with his own bizarre and compelling philosophy. For an exciting sci-fi trip through theology and philosophy with some great humor thrown in pick up Blackstone Audio's recording of Valis by Philip K. Dick.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Academ's Fury Book two of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher
Academ's Fury Book two of the Codex Alera
Read by Kate Reading
Penguin Audio
Approx. 21 hours
Audiobook published 2008

Jim Butcher wanted to create what he called a "sword and horses" novel and the Codex Alera series is that and more. This high fantasy series  is very successful in creating a new world where swords are the weapon of choice and the horse is one of the main transportation methods. However, Butcher did not limit himself to these two concepts when creating his world. Other weapons include furies, a type of sorcery using the elements. The furies are also the answer to transportation as well as communication and medical arts. Basing all this on the ideals of the Roman Legionnaires, Butcher's writing not only provides excellent battle scenes but great characters that live in a four dimensional universe. Academ's Fury builds on that foundation and not only pushes the series along but also is an intriguing read in and of itself.

The narrator, Kate Reading, has a touch of a British accent that brings a classic quality to the book. Her accent gives this sword and sorcery novel the feel of an Arthurian tale. At the same time, she provides the perfect level of emotion during the warm moments of love between the characters and, when needed, bursts of excitement during the novel's tense battles. She can deliver lump-in-the-throat speeches as well as screaming enemy attacks.

Academ's Fury picks up 2 years after the events in the book, Furies of Calderon. The hero, Tavi, lacks the ability to control the furies (fury crafting), making him a "freak" in Alera.. Studying to become a cursor, or messenger, for the First Lord (Emperor) of Alera, Tavi learns the job also requires becoming a spy and a warrior.  As his studies near their end a new danger comes to the capitol of Alera, where the First Lord resides and is the home for the acadamy Tavi is attending. This new danger is in the form of a being known as the Vord.

The Vord is an insect-like race also referred to as shapeshifters. The Vord gain control of the body and mind of an enemy, creating a zombie with a Vord mind to battle their enemies. This tactic is a demoralizing weapon because the body taken over by the Vord, perhaps a loved one or even a child, becomes a treacherous killer. In any great story a hero will have his ultimate villain, Batman has the Joker, Spider-Man has Venom. Jim Butcher has created one of the most ultimate nemeses of all time with this race of Vord. They are powerful, dark and complex.

Tavi awakened the Vord in the first novel in the Codex Alera, Furies of Calderon, by spilling some of his own blood on the Vord nest in the wax forest. This not only awakened the Vord but also made Tavi a target. When the Vord expands its community it separates into 3 queens, which move to different locations and set up new nests to conquer all life in that area.

Duroga, a clan leader of the Murat, has come to warn Tavi's uncle of the danger after destroying one of the three nests. The other two must be destroyed or all of Alera will fall. One nest is in Calderon Valley the other is seeking Tavi in the capitol city.

While this new danger is going on there also exists the beginnings of a civil war in Alera due to the First Lord having no heir. So with complications of politics piling on top of the pending destruction of humanity, Tavi must use his wits and strength to save Alera.

This book is cram-packed with excitement that will keep you up until you hear the final sentence, and even there you will be reaching for the next novel in the series.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Dead Beat" Book 7 of the "Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher

"Dead Beat"
Book 7 of the "Dresden Files"
by Jim Butcher
published by ROC, 2005

Once again Jim Butcher has created a great novel of suspense, action, thrills, and dare I say... a little romance, featuring the coolest wizard of all time Harry Dresden. In this novel the Wardens of the White Council are all but wiped out by the Red Court Vampires, all of humanity is threatened by the Erlking, Chicago will be destroyed by 5 necromancers seeking godhood, Harry Dresden faces a Fallen Angel that threatens to take over his soul, and his half brother is a slob. But hey, this is just a typical Halloween for Chicago's wizard for hire Harry Dresden.

This title of this edition of the "Dresden Files," "Dead Beat," refers not to Harry having to hunt down a dad not paying child support but rather the relentless toll the never ending perils facing humanity that he must defeat, thus leaving his body "Dead Beat." One thing I've noticed in all the Dresden files books I've read is it seems that Wizard Harry Dresden always takes on more than seems like he can handle, but usually through friends and sometimes pure dumb luck he comes out on top. He always seems reluctant to ask for help but eventually volunteers come out of the woodwork. That excitement of not knowing whether he will survive the ordeal and the absolutely wonderful wit and humor by author Jim Butcher keeps me coming back to these books.

This book however Harry finally admits he's in over his head and asks for help from the Wardens of the White Council. The White Council is the Justice League for wizards and out to battle evildoers, the Wardens are their police force. The problem is , when Harry asks for help it's a bad time for the White Council, the ongoing war between the Red Court and the White Council (started by Harry, by the way) has cut down the number of Wardens from 200 to only 50 remaining alive around the world. Thus only 5 can come to Harry's aid. In the process and much to the dismay of Morgan, the Warden that hates Harry, the Council makes Harry a Warden. But before I get to far ahead of myself, let's talk about what happens here.

Harry gets a message from Mavra, the leader of the Black Court of vampires who Harry supposedly destroyed in the last book, apparantly Mavra got away and now wishes to speak to Harry. Remember the Black Court are the most evil of all the vampire courts and are the ones best represented in the Bram Stoker novel, rumor has it that the White Council encouraged Stoker to write that book so the average joe can kill a Black Court vampire, which led to their near extinction. It seems Mavra wants Harry to find a book for her. Only this book is the ultimate of all evils and the ultimate book of Necromancy, black magic raising the spirits of the dead. With this book Mavra could become a god. The catch is that if Harry doesn't find this book, Mavra will destroy the life of Harry's best friend and possible love interest, Lt. Karrin Murphy of the Chicago PD Special Investigations. A little blackmail and Harry pretty much has to do this, actually this is where chivalry gets the best of Harry Dresden.

At the same time Harry is searching for this book, 3 days before Halloween, 5 powerful Necromancers are also looking for this book. When they learn Harry is searching for the book they now have to hunt down Harry.

Dresden learns that the necromancers will use this book to raise the Erlking, a faerie king that can destroy humanity, and make one of the 5 a god with ultimate power to destroy all of mankind. The race is on and Harry is finding these necromancers too powerful to be handled alone.

Harry decides to call in the Cavalry, in this case the Wardens. Keep in mind here that Harry has been under constant surveillance by the Wardens and under the most extreme scrutiny that if he were to ever delve into the Black Arts, he would be executed immediately. Well the Wardens come in to help but before they do they make Harry a Warden, big decision for Harry. He accepts and they go to battle with the Necromancers.

Big action, big thrills, big suspense in "Dead Beat" the 7th book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. A little bit of a spoiler before I go--- It is so cool when Harry goes riding through Chicago on the back of a T-rex with a polka playing one man band riding with him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Furies of Calderon Book one of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher
Furies of Calderon Book one of the Codex Alera
Read by Kate Reading
Penguin Audio
Approx. 20 hours
Audiobook published 2008

Jim Butcher has created a wonderful new world of fantasy in the series known as Codex Alera. This first book in the series introduces all the main characters and the creatures and events that make Alera a great world in which any reader could get lost.

The narrator, Kate Reading, delivers the punch when needed in this epic adventure and when needed vocalizes the perfect emotional tone during the various emotions in the tale. Kate Reading's voice easily relays the sense of loss or hope, and when needed, she can drum up the excitement for all the battle scenes. Jim Butcher has written all the words to describe the various scenes and settings that make this an exciting read, but Kaet Reading's delivery makes it so the audiobook listener gets completely immersed in the land of Alera.

The people of Alera have special abilities called fury-crafting. The Alerans have tamed the furies to assist them in their every day jobs. The furies represent the main elements; earth, metal, wood, fire, water and air. The earth furies manipulate earth and stone and allow earth fury-crafters to gain more strength and be great hunters/trackers. The metal crafters make superior swordsmen. The wood crafters manipulate plants and trees great for making camouflage and increasing accuracy of arrows. The fire crafters not only manipulate fire but can also use the fire furies to manipulate human emotion. The water crafters tame the waters to communicate over long distance, heal others, keep a youthful appearance and detect emotions. The air crafters have the ability of flight and increased speed and agility as well as the ability to bend air to listen or see long distances.

All these powers make the Alerans masters of their domains and yes some small skirmishes may erupt but the land is governed by Gaius Sextus, First Lord of alera. Gaius is getting older and after the death of his son, lacks an heir, so a war of who could be First Lord seems imminent.

In the Calderon Valley there lives a "disabled" boy by the name of Tavi. Tavi lives on Bernardholt with his uncle Bernard an earth and wood crafter, and aunt Isana, a water crafter. The reason Tavi is disabled is that he lacks any fury crafting skills, and this does not happen in Alera. Tavi has learned to use his intelligence to get out of a situation instead of relying on furies.

In Furies of Calderon, which is book one of the Codex Alera, which so far there are six books in the series, the Tolkienesque adventures in Alera are unleashed. Tavi has lost his flock of sheep and he and his uncle go out to find them, instead they find that the Murat (a violent and dangerous race of humanoids that have tribal affiliations with certain animals in the realm) are invading the Calderon Valley, after a near fatal encounter Bernard is wounded and may die if not healed soon, Tavi stays to mislead the Murat warriors so that Bernard can be taken to safety. At the same time a strong Fury Storm erupts in the valley and Tavi has to seek shelter or die from the Murat attack or the furies in the storm. As he's running for shelter he finds a runaway slave girl, Amara (who is actually a spy sent from Gaius to find what is happening in the Calderon Valley) and risks his life to help her.

At this same time three mercenaries find their way to Bernardholt seeking shelter from the storm. The three are looking for Amara to keep her from warning the steadholders of the coming war, and are also there to start the war so Gaius looks week and House Aquitaine can take the throne.

Amara takes Tavi into the night to warn the Count ruling calderon, since Tavi is the one who has seen the Murat. During their escape Tavi and the slave with a secret, Fade, are captured by the Murat, Amara and Bernard make it to the garrison to warn the count but meet opposition from a second in command that does not believe them and barely prepares the garrison for the battle, Isana and one of the mercenaries are captured by an evil steadholder who wishes to "break" them and make them his slaves.

As the separate parties go on their own adventures working to stop a war in Alera excitement abounds in this first book of what is proving to be a great fantasy series. Be prepared for a fun read with some all the highs and lows of the emotional gamut.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Blood Rites" Book 6 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher published 2004

"Blood Rites" Book 6 of the Dresden Files
by Jim Butcher
published 2004 By ROC

Book 6 of "The Dresden Files," "Blood Rites," starts out with the wizard Harry Dresden, running down the hallways of an old school saving a box full of puppies from flying monkey demons that fling balls of flaming poo. How can you not get hooked from that? After all he's saving puppies, dodging demons & poo all within the first 10 pages. He manages to save the puppies and destroy the flying monkeys but as with all the books in "The Dresden Files," that is only the beginning. You see, Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire and is ready to help the common man, sometimes he gets paid for it and sometimes not. He is also a sometime consultant for the Chicago P.D. Special Investigations department headed by Lt. Karrin Murphy.

But the problem with Harry is that life isn't just one case after another, he's got vampires to worry about and many other magical beings ut to kill him. Oh and vampires in Harry's world aren't simple, they fall into 3 categories:
-- White Court Vampires: These vampires are the type that feed on the emotional energy of humans to survive.
--Black Court Vampires: These vampires are the type most similar to the Dracula legends. They are reanimated corpses that feed on blood of the living. There are few of this court remaining due to the popularity of the novel Dracula, but the ones that still remain are some of the strongest known.
--Red Court Vampires: These vampires are similar to the Black type, who feed on blood.

Harry recently destroyed the leader of the Red Court and has learned that Mavra, the leader of the Black Court has set up shop in Chicago, so Harry must destroy the Black Court vampires. At this same time Thomas Raith,son of Lord Raith the leader of the White Court, has asked Harry to help out a film producer whose fledgling film company is being attacked by a malacchio, the evil eye type curse, which is killing the females associated with the producer. Thomas is one of Harry's friends and is the driver of the getaway car when running away from the flying monkey demons. As they return the box of puppies to the person that hired them, who turns out to be a monk from a Tibetan temple that is to be guarded by the puppies, one of the puppies ends up missing. Later the pup is found in Harry's car and Harry adopts the pup since the owner cannot be located.

Now Harry has 2 major things to worry about; destroying Mavra and the Black Court, and finding out who is cursing the film producer. Oh, I guess you could add a third, staying alive through all this. Once again that is just the beginning through the book Harry learns a secret that will forever bond him with Thomas Raith and could bring down the White Court Vampires.

To fight the Black Court, Harry calls on help from Lt. Karrin Murphy, Kincaid, an assassin for hire and bodyguard for The Archive (The Archive is the little girl that represents the knowledge of all time) and his old mentor Ebenezer McCoy (the man who took Harry in after Harry killed his uncle). But in this case a new question comes out about Kincaid and Ebenezer and Ebenezers role in the White Council of Wizards, a dark secret revealed about Harry's mother and Ebenezer's role in the Council.

It turns out that Thomas' family is behind the curse on the film producer, by the way the films produced are adult films, so the ever chivalrous and modest Harry is put to the test on the set. While it appears that the producer is the focus of the curse the gain from the curse and the problems created run much deeper than just to keep a man from making money in films.

It seems that as I read more and more of these novels by Jim Butcher each one becomes a turning point in the life of Harry Dresden. In this one he learns family secrets vital to his future, receives a major injury that reveals another demon after him, another demon is unleashed in the curse that has it out for Harry, and finally Harry gets a new roommate and guard dog.

These books are full of action and excitement, and with Jim Butcher's ability to weave a tale, keep you hungry for more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Betrayal in Death by J. D. Robb (pub. 2001)

Betrayal in Death
by J. D. Robb
Published by Berkley Publishing Group 2001

Once again we head into the future for another Nora, I mean JD Robb, action packed, futuristic, crime thriller featuring the super-bad, super-tough NYPSD homicide detective, Lt. Eve Dallas. This time Eve is on the trail of an elite killer for hire, who after brutally assaulting his victims he strangles them with sterling silver wire. To top that off he makes it a point to be seen and almost dares the cops to catch him.

It all starts at luxurious Roarke Palace Hotel, a maid walks into a suite for the nightly turndown - and steps into her worst nightmare. A killer leaves her dead, strangled by a thin silver wire. The second victim is an editor for one of Roarke's publishing companies and a personal friend of Roarke. Each victim getting closer to Roarke.

The killer is wanted by the FBI and Interpol and has not been hunted by them for a couple of decades. He's Sly Yost, a virtuoso of music and murder. A hit man for the elite. Lieutenant Eve Dallas gets to know him well. But in this twisted case, knowing the killer doesn't help solve the crime. Because there's someone else involved. Someone with a more personal motive. Eve must face a terrifying possibility, that the real target may, in fact, be her husband Roarke.

The FBI agents on the case catch wind of Dallas tracking down Yost and interfere when Eve has him cornered, thus allowing Yost to escape.

While all this is happening Roarke is in the middle of handling a multi-billion dollar auction to raise money for an actress from his past. Then another of Roarke's past shows up in the form of one of his best pals from Dublin, Mick Connelly. Mick is amazed that Roarke has gone on the straight and narrow, but once meeting Eve, he understands why.

Since the crimes hit so close to Roarke, Eve brings him on as a civilian consultant and the team of Eve and Roarke are ready to take on thieves and murderers. Also along for the ride are the great characters created by Robb; Electronics division Detectives Feeney and McNabb, Dallas's aid Officer Peabody...Peabody & McNabb are getting closer in their relationship...Commander Whitney even kicks some booty in this excellent installment of the " Death" series.

Everytime I read one of these books I get anxious and just want to let the Sci-Fi television network to get on the ball and start producing this series of science fiction cop shows. But after reading this one, I think there's another step we could take...COMIC BOOKS. Eve and Roarke fighting crime together are better than Batman & Robin, Captain America & Bucky, and even Scooby & Shaggy. These guys make a great team and with all the cool gadgets and the eccentricities of all the surrounding cast this would also be one heck of a comic book series. Yes these books are just that good.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Buffalo Gal: a Memoir" By Laura Pedersen

"Buffalo Gal: a Memoir"
By Laura Pedersen
Publisher: Fulcrum Pub (October 31, 2008)

Most of the time when I read memoir type books I get information from a person's life that is very unlike my own. Mary Carr wrote about growing up in Texas during the 60s in "Liar's Club and David Sedaris is always writing about his strange life through his many books. In this book, "Buffalo Gal" by Laura Pedersen, the author takes a look at her life growing up in the 70's which hits more to home for me. While she grew up in frozen Buffalo, New York and I grew up in tornado riddled Oklahoma, many of the same concepts hit home. Laura Pedersen also takes more of a humorous view of her life creating a very funny read.

Just to give you an idea of who Laura Pedersen is, here's the bio listed on "Laura Pedersen has written for The New York Times and is the author of Play Money, Going Away Party, Beginner s Luck (chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection), Last Call, Heart s Desire, The Sweetest Hours, and The Big Shuffle. In 1994, President Clinton honored her as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman, and writes for several well-known comedians. Pedersen lives in New York City."

This book shows how the author’s comedic talent developed; after all, growing up having to dig yourself out of the snow you pretty much have to find something to entertain. Having a mother who was the neighborhood free clinic helped also.

There are many stories about the author’s mom being ever alert to medical problems, someone could sneeze and her mother would be ready to treat yellow fever. That explains why as a teen Laura’s mother would go back to school and actually work in the medical field.

The book begins with a history and development of what in 1901 was the 8th largest city in the United States, but in the hard times of the 70’s became just another northern city. The book then tells of the history of the author’s grandparent’s and their migration into the United States from Ireland and Denmark and succeeding in the land of the free.

Each story and chapter is told with the perfect mix of humor and history to keep the reader anxious to turn the page. I think the funniest aspect of the book of Laura skipping school to ride her bike into Canada and play the horses, or beating her family at poker, all of which led to her becoming the youngest person with a seat on the American Stock Exchange.

Get ready for some history, humor and maybe even a few flashbacks to your childhood with “Buffalo Gal” by Laura Pedersen.

Check out the author's website here;

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Twilight (Twilight, Book 1) by Stephenie Meyer (pub. 2005)

Twilight (Twilight, Book 1) by Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (2005)
audiobook narrated by Ilyana Kadushin

Once again I decide to find out what these whacky kids are reading these days and I find that there is a new series of books that features mythical beasts and adventure. This series is the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer. The series just recently ended? with book 4 "Breaking Dawn" and a movie based on book 1. With the movie soon to be released I had to check this one out. I've always been a fan of vampires and when I heard this series featured vampires and shapeshifters that just added the oomph to the idea.

The general idea in the book is that it is adolescent romantic fiction featuring vampires. The last series featuring mythical creatures that captured the reading youth didn't have any vampires, or romance for that matter, but wizards and werewolves and others, that series was the "Harry Potter" series. This book focuses on the vampires and romance, that is missing in teens lives. Together vampires and romance have always been tied together. Bram Stoker's "Dracula" the first major book of vampires was very romantic in nature and Anne Rice's vampires are pretty much nothing but romance. But don't let that deter case you're one that thinks romance is for saps. After all the whole premise of vampires is the romance. With "Twilight" we follow the adventures of Bella as she finds love in the small town of Forks, Washington. The problem is the person she's in love with is a vampire.

Bella has just moved in with her dad for her senior year in High School and goes through the typical high school traumas of trying to fit in and finding a sense of self. Forks is a small town and seems to have some secrets. One of those secrets is the Cullen "family." Dr. Cullen is said to be a very talented doctor and his wife have 5 adopted children. The "children" all seem to be normal teens, except they possess exceptional beauty and grace. Edward Cullen is the one that captures Bella's eye but when she is seated at his lab table in Biology class he acts as if she repulses him.

Not understanding what she did to offend him, Bella finds their paths constantly crossing. One such crossing is on a snowy winter day when a van driven by a fellow student nearly crashes into her. The crash should have been instant death for Bella, but out of nowhere Edward whisks her out of the way. Looking back at the van Bella notices a nice hand sized dent in the van, and at the same time wonders where Edward came from, and most of all why did he save her?

As the story progresses the love between Edward and Bella grows to the point that it the reader knows it was MEANT to be. But a human in love with a vampire can lead to problems. Especially when 3 rogue vampires come to Forks and decide to hunt down Bella. Bella makes her escape but with a "tracker" vampire that is only a fleeting escape. At this point without giving too much away, I have to admit the final battle is pretty much non-climactic. However the information and the story continues and is a very nice opening book to the series.

The author, Stephenie Meyer, does change some of the mythos behind vampires, as do all writers of vampire fiction. The big issue is that vampires can come out in the day. However, in the Olympic Peninsula town of Forks sunny days are rare so there's still some mystery there. The vampires do still feed on blood, but the Cullen family are "vegetarian vampires," feeding only on animals and not humans, great for keeping the deer and mountain lion population down. The temptation to hunt humans still lingers, keeping an edge to this story.

So go out and read what the "kids" are reading, and enjoy a fun romp through a vampire high school. If you are a listener of audio books the reader is Ilyana Kadushin, and as the story is told from Bella's point of view, Ilyana's voice sounds just as you'd imagine Bella to sound.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Witness in Death written by J.D. Robb

Witness in Death
written by J.D. Robb
read by Susan Ericksen
audiobookPublisher: Brilliance Audio 2007
Original novel published by Berkeley 2000

We return once again to the world of Lt. Eve Dallas the best homicide detective in New York in the year 2059. This time the book starts out as Eve and Roarke are enjoying a play at Roarke's newly built "New Globe Theatre." The play is a stage version of the classic movie "Witness for the Prosecution." Dallas is enjoying the play because she is solving the crime while watching the play. The climactic scene in the play is at the end when the lead actor is stabbed by his wife onstage. The problem is that someone has switched the prop knife for a real one and the actor, Richard Draco, is murdered onstage in front of a couple thousand witnesses including Lt. Eve Dallas. Now Dallas has a homicide to solve.

"Witness in Death" is Book 10 in the " Death" series written by Nora Roberts' pseudonym J.D. Robb. It is the 10th book but the 11th story (one story appeared in an anthology) in the series that to date has 27 books (32 stories) in total. The books in this series are some really fun to read sci-fi crime thrillers, and this book is no exception.

While the crime itself took place right in front of Dallas, that doesn't make it cut and dry. After all who switched the prop knife for the real one, when did they do it and why? These are the questions that Eve and her crack team of NYPSD's finest have to solve. This time her team consists of electronics division detectives Feeney and McNabb, her aide, Officer Peabody (who has recently been exploring a love interest with McNabb), Officer Truehart, Dr. Mira - police psychologist, and Roarke (only because Roarke owns pretty much everything on and off planet and loves to dabble in his wife's work).

When it comes to who did it and why, that leads on a confusing trail, because everyone that knew the arrogant Richard Draco hated him and wanted him dead. All of them have a different reason for wanting him dead but it pretty much comes down to Draco being an arrogant jerk. (that's putting it pretty mildly).

When a stage hand is later found dead by hanging, the team rolls into overtime, because the stage hand had just booked a trip to Tahiti so probably didn't kill himself.

If you're wishing to check this book out in audio form, be prepared for a real treat. Susan Ericksen is the reader for all the " Death" books and has the vocal characterizations down perfect. My favorite is how she captures the entire character of Peabody in her voice. I'm afraid that if this is ever made into a movie, if they don't cast Holly Hunter as Peabody, I may have a hard time believing the actress. Listen to the audiobook and you'll see what I mean. Each of the character's voices created by Ms. Erickson are unique and you may feel you are hearing a multi-cast performance.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Doctor Who – The Evil of The Daleks

Doctor Who – The Evil of The Daleks

Written by David Whitaker

Multicast performance starring Frazer Hines

Published by BBC Audiobooks America

Running time 2 hours 51 minutes

Published 2007

One of the many things that got me on the path to loving science fiction was my exposure to “Doctor Who” every Saturday night on PBS (at least in my hometown). Doctor Who was a time and space traveler with many dimensions to his character. He also had many incarnations through the years, which provided a plausible explanation when different actors portrayed him. Although all of the doctors were unique and well-worth watching, I will have to admit my favorite was Tom Baker. He’s the one who portrayed the doctor with the long scarf and the frizzy hair.

The series was set up as somewhat of a sci-fi soap opera, or better yet, a television serial, with a cliffhanger at the end of every episode. One unique aspect of older programs is the “cheap” special effects, which, by today’s standards, are completely unbelievable. Fortunately, they really didn’t drive the story so viewers forgave them and sometimes got a good giggle. Now, if you were to take away the visual effects, every episode is brilliant storytelling. With writers such as David Whitaker the concepts in the world of the Doctor make for some dramatic science fiction. So, what happens if you take the visuals away from the series? A very interesting and fun audiobook from BBC Audio, that’s what.

This production is more than a single narrator reading a TV script adaptation – it’s an audio performance that lets you experience the broadcast using the recording of the original soundtrack (combining the voices from the TV show with the music and sound effects) along with added narration that describes scenes and provides the set-up for action sequences. The narrator, Frazer Hines, should feel right at home because a much younger Hines is the actor who portrays the Doctor’s assistant in this particular TV episode. Using the original soundtrack, the listener is treated to the voice of the second incarnation of the Doctor, portrayed by Patrick Troughton. Also experienced is the full effect of the loud dischordant voice of the Daleks, a treat in itself. So, with the story narrated and the voices of the original actors, it becomes pretty much a radio play, which makes for some fun sci-fi listening. As a side note, the original copy of this television broadcast was destroyed in the 60s but, due to fan efforts, the audio was saved, which allowed the creation of this audiobook.

The episode begins with the Doctor and Jamie trying to track down thieves who stole the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space – it is a time machine and spacecraft used by the Doctor). After some mysterious and “too convenient” clues the Doctor and Jamie track down an antiques dealer whose antiques are authentic but new. This leads the Doctor and Jamie to be captured by the dealer and the Daleks and taken back in time to 1866. During their stay in 1866, the Doctor is forced to trick Jamie into passing some tests for the Daleks so the “human factor” can be extracted by the Dalek’s to use in their plans to conquer humankind.

With clever twists and deceptions, the performance finally leads to the Dalek home planet of Skaro, where the Doctor intends to defeat the Daleks once and for all. Can he do it? Ahh… I will not give that away, Enjoy this audiobook and you will find out. This audiobook will bring back some great memories for Doctor Who fans of all ages and could create some new ones with a great science-fiction time traveling adventure with Doctor Who.

Listen to the audio review below.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert& Kevin J. Anderson (2008)

Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert& Kevin J. Anderson (2008)
Read by Scott Brick
Published by Macmillan Audio
Running time 18.5 hours
Published 2008

In the world of science-fiction, one of the best series of books to come down the pike is the Dune series created by Frank Herbert. After Frank Herbert's death, his son, Brian Herbert, teamed up with sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson and pretty much wrapped up the series by providing 6 prequel and 2 sequel books. The prequels offered some backstory to events and ideas only barely mentioned by Frank Herbert in the original series. The sequels ended the series that had a huge cliff-hanger which Frank Herbert left when he passed away. So with all of that taken care of, one has to ask, what more is there in the Dune Universe? (Or the Duneverse)

Actually, there is the potential for lots more. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, with the backing of the Herbert estate, are just the folks to provide more stories in the Duneverse. Paul of Dune is one of three novels (at least only three planned so far) filling in some gaps and providing the fans of Dune with some more stories to devour. After all, "The spice must flow."

This audiobook is read by Scott Brick. I will have to say that Brick is one of my favorite voices for audiobooks. I first heard him when I was listening to the audiobook "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote. He expressed such great emotion in that book. Then later, when I was making it my mission to read or listen to every book in the Dune series, I heard his voice again in the prequels. I was glad to hear he was voicing this one as well. Brick can express emotion and characterization with such subtlety that, while you are still getting the same reader, your ears are treated to a near dramatization.

His voice-work really shapes a character. In the book "Dune," Count Hasimir Fenring was Emperor Shaddam's right hand man. Frank Herbert had written in quite a few strange speech patterns, like lots of nasal sounds, and would create sentences similar to: "mmmmwah, I think we can destroy House Atreides, mmmmmm." While this could have presented challenges for some narrators, Brick works these into his reading to sound like the character does not have a speech problem but is thinking as he's speaking. This approach makes these moments ring with clarity and portrays a new dimension of the not-so-good Count’s personality, who plays a vital role in Paul of Dune.

All the books in the Dune series feature plans within plans, conspiracies within conspiracies and plots within plots. As a result, many scenes include both the speech and thoughts of various characters. Brick reads these sections without flaw so the listener is not confused as to what is said aloud or thoughts the character shares with no one.

Paul of Dune takes place essentially between the time of the original novel Dune and the second book Dune Messiah" Paul Maud'Dib is in control of the planet Arrakis, Dune, and is the emperor of the known universe. The former Padisha Emperor Shaddam Corrino, IV, has been exiled to the planet Salusas Secundus, the training planet for his Sardaukar army which were defeated by Maud'Dib and have since joined the jihad of Maud'Dib.

This book tells more of what happened during the jihad and of the assassination attempts on the Emperor Paul Maud'Dib. Another interesting aspect of this book is that it also covers the time before Paul Atreides (soon to be the Maud'Dib) came to the spice planet, Arrakis, Dune. In flashback sequences Paul is making sure that Princess Irulan is telling the actual story of his life and the reader is transported to the War of Assassins which occurred when Paul was only 12. In the Dune timeline this would be between the prequel book "House Corrino" and the original book, "Dune." It feels as though you are getting two novels in one, but both stories meld into a single idea and fantastic climactic end.

Listen to the audio review below.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Loyalty in Death" by J.D. Robb (published by Berkely, 1999)

Once again we join New York's best homicide detective in the year 2059, this time it's not really a real homicide case that Lt. Eve Dallas is thrust into. Sure, there are dead bodies and a murder mystery for this kick-butt future cop to solve but this time a lot more is at stake and the culprits are terrorists.

Before I go too far with this one I would like to ponder with you; Why was it that beginning a few years before the attacks of 9/11 several authors were writing about terrorist attacks in New York or via aircraft? Chuck Palahniuk, Kyle Mills and J.D. Robb are just three that come to mind at the moment, but wow...that's a coincidence. Palahniuk and Mills had to go back an rewrite their books to not get too close to the actual attacks. Okay side venture over, let's get back to talking about "Loyalty in Death."

The beginning of the book gives us a simple little warning from a terrorist group calling themselves "Cassandra." "We are Cassandra, We Are Loyal," is how they begin every communication. Cassandra seems to be an off-shoot of a terrorist group from after the "Urban Wars" known as "Apollo." "Apollo" had terrorized the nation seeking to take over the country by blowing up landmarks and all ending with the destruction of the Pentagon, after which the leader was killed and nothing further was heard from "Apollo." If you know your mythology the you know Apollo to granted Cassandra the gift of prophecy and Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy. But this warning is that Lt. Dallas may be a problem in their plans so they have to take her out, or in the least, keep her busy, and busy she is.

One of the best tool and toy maker's on and off planet, J. Clarence Branson, has just been murdered by his wife by one of his company's own drills. The wife Lisbeth Cook, is very calm about the whole deal, she found out he was cheating and in a fit of rage, she uses the drill to stick him to the wall. She remarks, "that model IS very reliable." Something doesn't sit right with Eve on this one, and not just the fact that she gets the murder charge knocked down to murder 2 and will hardly do any jail time. More is fishy when Lisbeth gains a nice couple hundred million dollars from J. Clarence's will. This does not go over well with J. Clarance's brother and business partner B. Donald Branson.

At the same time Eve gets a communique from "Cassandra" saying that a building will be blown up. All this while Eve is investigating the mysterious death of an underground electronics expert by the name of "Fixer." Just thinking of all this work makes my blood pressure rise, but it's all in a day's work for Lt. Dallas, Eve, NYPSD.

Throughout the book Eve Dallas solves 3 murders, and attempts to thwart the destruction of several New York city landmarks. On top of all this her Aide, Officer Peabody, discovers she and Electronics Division Detective McNabb share a mutual interest, each other. Also, Peabody's brother comes to town and is set up in another murder. Let's not forget Eve's husband Roarke, being the richest man on and off planet may keep him busy, but he's always ready to use his former criminal side to assist with the detective work, besides, he has the coolest toys and gadgets.

Lots of action in this one and a very fast paced book, you won't want to put it down. I will note that in the earlier publications of the book World Trade Center Twin Towers were one of the landmarks set for destruction by the terrorists, but in the audiobook that reference is removed. I think the same was done with all printings of the book after 2001.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Digital Conversion PSA

Just in case you haven't converted yet.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Road to Dune by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Frank Herbert (published by Tor Books, 2005)

Any true science-fiction fan can tell you that one of the classics of Sci-Fi is the Dune Series created by Frank Herbert. If you have taken it upon yourself to read the entire series you'll remember that Frank Herbert died and left the series a real cliffhanger. Some dedicated dune fans will say that is what he intended but some will say he had more to write. Frank Herbert's son, Brian has teamed up with another sci-fi author, Kevin J. Anderson and working with Franks notes and stored treasures left behined have brought the Dune series to a close. They have also augmented the series with some great prequels also using ideas they found in Frank Herbert's many writings, and to this day they are adding more stories and books to the Duneverse with the recent publication of "Paul of Dune." (note: I'll be reviewing this book soon...I have the audiobook sitting on my shelf waiting for my devouring.

So we've got more stories and the Duneverse continues but what led to the coming of the classic that is "Dune?" Well that brings us to this review. Not only did Brian and Kevin find story plotlines in the cache of documents left behind by Frank Herbert, but they found many other treasures, some including rejection letters. This book is a multi-treat for science fiction fans and die hard Dune fans. In this collection there are letters from publishers about why "Dune" would not be a good book and would never sell. Also included is the original story that Frank Herbert wrote called "Spice Planet" which is the basis of what would be "Dune." This is the original and even though the basic story is still there, this novella doesn't grasp the environmentalism, religion and politics as the final does. I'm glad he rewrote it.

The surprising thing about this book is that so many publishers turned down the book, not because of being a bad story, but because the book was so long. In fact the original publisher, Chilton, published only automobile manuals and took a chance that worked out well for them.

Included in this book is the original, never published news story about stopping sands from destroying coastal towns in Oregon which got Frank Herbert scheming of a planet of sand. Other goodies in the book are some short stories by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, three of them bridging the gap between the 3 books covering the Butlerian Jihad, and one taking place during the Harkonnen takeover on Dune in the original first novel, "Dune."

This book is a very nice compliment to the Duneverse, in that it provides insight into the mind of Frank Herbert and the development of the famous spice planet, Dune, and some added stories that add to the thousands of years covered throughout all 14 (now 15) books.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"Diary: A Novel" Chuck Palahniuk (pub. 2003)

I'm not sure what I really expected out of this book, but I got a really good read, that much is certain. Many people know Chuck Palahniuk as the author of "Fight Club" and "Choke" and expect some really interesting social commentary and this book provides more views of society through the cynical eyes of Chuck Palahniuk. Keep in mind though, he has also written some good horror like "Lullaby" and "Haunted." When he does write the horror it also contains some social commentary/satire, and this book contains all that with what starts out as in interesting view of society through the eyes of a failed artist to a horror novel of a woman held hostage by a community.

Before I run through the gist of the book, I would like to point out that this is book is told through the view of a woman, this is rare for a Palahniuk novel (in fact, it is the only one I've read so far) and he pulls it off well. Another aspect is that this book is not the typical non-linear storytelling Palahniuk uses, but there are some aspects of the non-linear through some flashback sequences.

The book begins as a "coma diary," in which Misty Wilmot is keeping because her mother-in-law, Grace Wilmot, insists on her keeping because Misty's husband, Peter Wilmot, is in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. As the book progresses more is learned about the community of Waytensea Island where Peter calls home and he and Misty moved back to after Peter's father's death.

Waytensea Island is a tourist based community that has fallen on some hard times. The hard times though, are part of a 4 generation cycle in which every 4th generation a famous artist creates art on the island and draws tourists and the money is back. The catch is that this artist is a reincarnation of the previous artist that brought fame and fortune to the Island. Misty learns all about this from clues left behind by her husband, Peter.

Peter and Misty met at art school when Peter found she was "attracted" to the cheap costume jewelry he would wear and that the paintings by Misty were of landmarks on Waytensea Island, which Misty had never seen. After Peter's father's death they move back to the Island to help his mother. Peter becomes a contractor and remodels peoples homes and Misty becomes a waitress at the Island's hotel/restaurant. Peter however leaves clues in the form of "missing rooms" from the summer tourists homes he's remodeled. Some of the summer homes are missing closets, kitchens, dining rooms. Peter has sealed up the rooms but before sealing up the rooms he paints graffiti on the walls warning Misty, "You will die, when they are done with you."

The people return to their homes and discover the missing rooms, one Angel Delaporte has an interest in graphology (handwriting analysis) has a missing kitchen and upon discovery of the warnings and rantings of Peter he goes with Misty to try to solve the mystery of the warning. It is later discovered that Angel is more than he lets on to be as are many of the characters in this book.

Misty is soon held captive by her mother-in-law, Grace Wilmot, and forced to paint. Misty becomes bed-ridden thanks to the drugs from the island's doctor and is fitted with a catheter and has her eyes taped shut. The paintings then flow out of Misty like automatic writing and after she has completed 100 paintings the full story of the island's dark secret kept by all the families on the island.

In a haunting story of reincarnation, betrayal and greed Chuck Palahniuk has created a very intriguing novel that is very hard to put down. Each chapter ends with something new revealed and a new puzzle to solve.

Get your Battlestar Galactica fix

C'mon It can't end this way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Reverb Brothers Live @ The White Eagle

Some good ole fun music featuring my buddy on the coronet

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Batman - The Stone King by Alan Grant

Batman - The Stone King
Justice League of America
By Alan Grant
Audiobook produced by Graphic Audio
Multicast Production
Approx. 6 Hours

I'm a huge comic book fan and only recently took to reading novelizations of comics and have found it a pretty good experience. Now, how do you put a comic book turned novel into an audiobook? Well let me tell you, get Graphic Audio to do the production. Reading a comic book you get to look at all the cool graphics and while reading the text your eyes are treated to some visual storytelling. When a comic is then turned into a novel you lose the visual stimulation, and the author has to completely tell the story with words. Alan Grant wrote Batman - The Stone King novel and told a great story. Now that Graphic Audio has produced the book into a "Movie for Your Mind," comic book lovers can hear the novel and fully experience the action. Not a single detail is missed.

The use of a multicast is pretty much needed and is extremely well done in this audiobook. The voices of all the superheroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, The Green Lantern and of course Batman) are very well cast and sound exactly like you would expect and want them to sound like. The sound effects and music create a great atmosphere for great listening. When Graphic Audio says they produce a "Movie for your Mind," they aren't kidding. In one scene in the book Wonder Woman is attacked by zombies arising from a nearby cemetery and the sounds of the bones crushing and zombies digging themselves out of the grave are so realistic that you would swear the special effects person actually made the undead rise from the grave and fight each other just so the sounds could be recorded. Unreal realism in the sounds.

The story behind Batman - The Stone King is this; a dam near Gotham City is about to burst and Batman has determined the dam cannot be saved but the citizens of Gotham city must be protected. Batman calls for the help from Justice League members to create a "safe dam break." After the turmoil and all the Justice League members are getting their breath and looking over the destruction created by the rushing waters The Green Lantern notices a strange object. Uncovered by the erosion of the sudden rushing waters is a pyramid, not unlike those in Egypt. Soon an archaology team takes over and the Justice League go their separate ways.

The pyramid is found to be aligned with all the other sacred sites around the globe (the Pyramids in Giza, Stonehenge, Easter Island, et. al.) and the home of The Stone King. The Stone King is awakened and come Halloween night will destroy the world and rule over the remnants of humanity. When the Justice League tries to battle the Stone King, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and The Green Lantern are trapped within stone and it is up to Batman to save them and the Earth.

The story is one of constant excitement and with the extra oomph of Graphic Audio's sound effects, music and great voice casting the excitement is even higher. And as is true with all good comic books there is some great comic relief moments so you can ease up the tension, such as when The Flash goes to save Batman after the Dark Knight is thrown by the Stone King, he puts himself into position to ease the impact of Batman. After Batman lands on him The Flash says, I will never do that again. Now in the audiobook the acting is so great that you feel the impact and the wry humor intended by this statement.

Get ready for some great entertainment and some great comic to novel action in Batman - The Stone King. I will warn you, if you listen to this audiobook in a public place or where people can see you make sure you explain why you are white knuckled or cheering on an unseen hero. Graphic Audio really puts you into the middle of the action.

Listen to the audio review below:

Click here to get the MP3 podcast file from

Or click on the graphic below for other sci-fi audiobook reviews...some by me..some not.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Captain's Fury Book Four of the Codex Alera By Jim Butcher

Captain's Fury
Book Four of the Codex Alera
By Jim Butcher
Audiobook produced by Penguin Audio
Read by Kate Reading
Approx. 20.5 Hours.

Jim Butcher has created a Lord of the Rings series for today’s generation. The Codex Alera series takes place in a mythical/mystical land called Alera. The Alerans are humans who have a special ability known as fury crafting. In fury crafting the Alerans manifest the spirits of the elements to create magic and maintain life. From simple fury lamps, which use fire furies to provide light, to earth furies which can create shelter and gain extra strength in battle, all Alerans control their elements. All Alerans except for Tavi (a.k.a.Gaius Octavian/Captain Rufus Scipio). Tavi is forced to live with his "disability" by using his wits. Later in the series (about book 3) Tavi learns some limited fury crafting, but nowhere near the abilities of the regular Alerans.

Before we get into the meat of this audiobook review let me first say I may be a little biased due to my huge fanship of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books. I love his characterizations in those books and have declared myself an official Jim Butcher fanboy. I have read his other novel which is based on the Marvel Superhero Spiderman, another of my favorites, and have been interested in reading the Codex Alera series. I wanted to first finish the Dresden books but when the opportunity to review this book came up, I more than jumped on it. I did want to read the Codex Alera books in order, but the opportunity began with Book Four, so I did some quick research and got the gist of the series to prepare myself for book four. In retrospect the research helped, but I didn't really need it. Jim Butcher continues the series but when needed, he recaps what has happened enough to keep the reader in the know, but still enough to make you want to go back and read the series, which I will.

This review is for the audiobook version of the book and I'll tell you right off that I'm glad I started this series with an audiobook. First of all there's the convenience of an audiobook, you can listen while commuting, while exercising, while doing housework or heck, even while showering. Second, this audiobook was so well read by Kate Reading. (I think her last name is very fitting, but I should say it's pronounced RED-ing.) There are many characters throughout this book and series and Kate Reading makes the subtle changes in her reading that the voices of the different characters really stand out. Another aspect of her reading is the portrayal of emotions of the characters and the excitement of the action. The emotions and excitement are subtle enough for the listener to still maintain their own interpretations but also enough to capture the mood created by the author.

The audiobook production of Captain's Fury is very well done in that the pace of the reading is kept up with the pace of the written material, when needed the excitement is allowed to carry the action with a fast pace, while during times of the book when explanation of past events are needed the reader and the direction slow to allow the listener to absorb the information.

Okay, let's talk about the story.

In this book Tavi's mysterious origin is discovered. It seems Tavi has more in store for his future than simply being a captain of the First Aleran Legion. This book is the turnaround book where Tavi becomes more as well as many other characters in the series. The beginning of the book finds Tavi in charge of an attack on the invading Canim, a race of wolf-like humanoids that have invaded Alera by crossing the sea. This book also explains why the Canim came to "invade." It turns out not to be an invasion, but rather an escape from a force that is also a threat to the Alerans.

One of the reasons I referred to this book as, "Lord of the Rings series for today’s generation," is that the book is part of an ongoing series with mythical creatures that are battling separate wars but you can tell a central battle between good and evil is forthcoming. Also that the book covers characters that start out with one central mission and branch out into several side but related missions, and from what I can see will be regrouping to fight the main battle. However, Codex Alera has already gone more than Tolkien's 3 book series to this 4th book and more. And finally to justify my comparison, Jim Butcher's writing is not only fun and adventurous but also has a great literary feel that could easily be studied by scholar's for years to come.

On a final note, an interesting aspect of this book is the constant reference to the Roman Empire are great and not accidental. The most obvious references to Rome and its era is the use of terms like Legionare, Legion, patriserus, and other such terms. Also, the names of many characters are Latin styled. Maximus, Gaius, etc. Jim Butcher had this to say about his fascination with the Romans, "There's plenty of Lost Roman Legion stories out there. Mostly, the stories are about where they went, and what they did when they got there. This one just happens to be about the world they got lost on, and the society that developed there over the next couple of thousand years."

So do yourself a favor and pick up the Captain's Fury, by Jim Butcher, audiobook and jump ahead into the Aleran world. Good news comes via Jim Butcher's website that the other books will be released soon on audiobook so you can go back and listen to the history of Tavi.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Conspiracy in Death by J. D. Robb (The Penguin Group 1999)

I'm continuing in my quest to read all the novels in this great series by J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts. I've read several and jumped back and forth from the first few to the last few. This is number 9 in the series (if I have my books correct) and it delivers the same punch all the others in the series do. I can say this about the series; There is not a single bad book in it. Each book can be read independent of the series, but if I had it to do over again I think I would like to read them in order. At times it's fun to see what happens to the characters and then go back and revisit where they were introduced in the series, but J.D. Robb not only creates great characters from the start but knows how to develop them through the series and make them seem more than real.

In this book for instance we are introduced to the NYPSD Officer Troy Trueheart, in my interpretation he's a bit of a Jimmy Olsen type character, young, eager and good at his job. Later in the series he comes to the detective division and works under Detective Baxter and with this intro we get more of an understanding in his character. Basically any character in the series will come back as long as they are not killed. We are also introduced to Dr. Louise Dimatto who will later run a clinic/home for women that is funded by Roarke.

In this book Lt. Eve Dallas and her assistant Delia Peabody, are called to a crime scene by Officer Ellen Bowers, and Officer Troy Trueheart. A homeless man, that goes by the name "Snooks" is killed, his heart removed. The heart is removed with the skill of an extremely talented surgeon. Dallas and Peabody both know a serial killer is preying on the city sidewalk sleepers. With all of the cities resources, and Eve's billionaire husband Roarke, Eve develops solid leads, but the puzzle is a free clinic run by a saintly doctor, Dr. Louise Dimatto. Soon though, three are dead, and Eve is running out of time.

Unfortunately for Eve, trouble is also coming from within the police force. Officer Ellen Bowers is deranged, and obsessed with Eve. She obsessively writes a journal about all the terrible things that, she believes, Eve has done. One night, going home to her apartment, still obsessing, Bowers is attacked, and killed. The blame is quickly placed on Eve, who is stripped of her badge, and goes into a deep depression because her badge and her job define who she is. Only her husband Roarke can bring her back, and help her figure out why four people are dead, why someone wanted her off the force, and why this is all being done.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" by David Sedaris (Publisher:Little, Brown and Company, 2004)

This book is collection of 22 autobiographical essays by American humorist David Sedaris, and a fun joyride through they eyes of David looking at his family members and his own experiences. The essays run the gamut of family topics from David wanting to be a hippie and panhandling to purchase a suede vest in the 70s to his "redneck" brother's marriage day to uncomfortable situations in which an openly gay man should not get into with a young boy.

I think the best way to break this review down would be essay by essay. But first I want to say that David Sedaris has a great way of finding humor in the most interesting places. It could be that funny situations hit us everyday, and from some of these stories, they do, and we just don't take the time to enjoy them. David Sedaris now allows you to laugh at some of those moments from his life and possibly enjoy your own just a little more. Most of these stories are really something that happen on a day to day basis but Sedaris' use of language and ability to describe the situations, makes them funny and with some just poignant enough to make you feel good.

I'm not going to go recap all 22 essays, I'll leave some of the fun for you, but I will recap some of my favorites.

"Us and Them" - childhood memories of a family "who don't believe in TV"
Young David takes upon himself to defend and pity a neighborhood family that have no television and may not understand some pop culture references, at least until, they go trick or treating the day after Halloween, and the only candy available is his "hard earned" stash.

"Full House" - a childhood game of strip poker gives the young Sedaris a touching moment
Have you ever wondered how growing up a homosexual affects the normal everyday things a young boy goes through? Take for example slumber parties.

"The Change in Me"
- the 13-year-old Sedaris wants to act like a hippie.
Seeing a hippie girl get free money by panhandling David decides that's the way to be cool, and after eyeing a suede vest in the department store he now knows how to earn the money.

"Blood Work"
- a case of mistaken identity while cleaning houses
So what would happen if you worked cleaning houses and a customer mistook your company for an erotic housecleaning service?

"The End of the Affair" - Sedaris and Hugh's different reactions to a love story
This story had one of the funniest lines. David is explaining that his sister is one to talk through a whole movie and at times the following may happen; While watching an actor spread mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich she would lean over and say, "One time I was doing that and the knife slipped and landed in the toilet." Leaving David wondering, who would make a chicken sandwich in the bathroom?

"Repeat After Me"
- Sedaris's visit to his sister Lisa, and his family's feelings about being the subject of his essays
I always wondered what his family thought about being the subject of his stories and in this story we find out and at the end left with a little tender moment where David apologizes, not directly but through a parrot.

"Six to Eight Black Men" - thoughts about the traditional Dutch Christmas story, among other cultural oddities
This has got to be one of the funniest stories in the book. David likes to compare different cultures and this comparison of the Dutch Christmas and that St. Nicholas doesn't have 8 tiny reindeer but 6 to 8 black men accompanying him is some great laughs.

"Nuit of the Living Dead"
- a late night encounter at home in rural France
In this story David points out how the mundane things in life can be viewed by the average person much different than what is actually going on. The story starts with David drowning a mouse in a bucket when some lost tourists stop by to ask for directions. Many hilarious details in this one.

And those are just the highlights. I would highly recommend the audiobook on this one because hearing the words read by the author makes them that much more hilarious.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Here's a blast from the past

The Runaways performing "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" (don't ask me why they spelled it that way). This band was the band that launched Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Also in the band were

Sandy West (deceased)drummer

Micki Steele, later played bass for the Bangles.

Peggy Foster, she has played bass on some of Steve Vai's albums

Cherie Currie later starred films including Foxes with Jodie Foster(remember that 70's blockbuster?), Parasite with Demi Moore, Wavelength with Robert Carradine, This is Spinal Tap, Twilight Zone-The Movie, Rosebud Beach Hotel, Rich Girl and others, as well as numerous guest spots on series television (Matlock and Murder She Wrote among others).I found this to be odd; Currie is currently a chainsaw carving artist and recently opened her own Chainsaw Art Gallery in Chatsworth, California. She won awards in various art competitions.

Jackie Fox

Vicki Blue moved on to tv/film production

Laurie McAllister she joined just before the band disbanded and never actually played on any albums (a could have been?)

"Mama Weer All Crazee Now" was originally recorded by the British Glam rock band Slade on their album Slayed?. It was the band's third number-one single in the United Kingdom, spending three weeks at the top in September 1972. The single fared less well in the USA, where it peaked at #76.

The song has also been covered by The Arrows, Mama's Boys, Ángeles del Infierno, Quiet Riot (who also covered Slade's Cum On Feel the Noize), James Last, and London (Nikki Sixx's pre-Motley Crue band.

There I just thought this was interesting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey" by Chuck Palahniuk (Published by Doubleday, 2007)

The last book I reviewed by Chuck Palahniuk ("Choke"), I remarked about how I love non-linear story telling and that I appreciate especially the non-linear works of Mr. Palahniuk. This book I think was the perfect non-linear book. At first though I was let down by the time-line structure. Basically the book is a history of the would-be / could-be messianic character of Buster "Rant" Casey, told through anecdotes from various characters who knew Rant or in some cases technical/governmental advisers. It's not until about halfway through the book that you realize the beginning may be the ending, or the ending may be the middle or the end may be, or the middle may not have ever happened, or any combination thereof. At this point in reading, the book became more of a dark humorous novel to something of weird existentialism.

Basically Buster Casey's mom becomes pregnant with him at the age of 13 by what could be a stranger or maybe the man she later marries, Chet Casey. The rumors through the small town of Middletown, run rampant about the family, so anything could be true. As Buster grows up he leads a not so normal childhood. In order to either perpetuate or dispel myths told to little children, Buster creates some strange scenarios. Take for example the tooth fairy myth.

There is a time in Middletown's history when a squirt gun cost $50 and a candy bar could cost $500. This inflationary period is started by Buster Casey. When walking with his grandmother to church, a strange man tells Buster that he is his real father, and proceeds to tell Buster how he can receive untold wealth. Just after he tells him this, Buster's grandmother is bitten by a black widow spider in her church bonnet and dies. After this Buster and a friend gather empty paint cans from the townsfolk for a recycling drive for scouts. In some of these cans are rare coins worth thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. When a kid loses a tooth in town Buster would give the the kid a coin in which the kid would replace with the one from a parent. This could would be worth thousands and the parents couldn't say anything, because after all they are the ones that started the whole tooth fairy myth, and asking where the coins came from would be to admit to the lie of the tooth fairy, then Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and so on.

One year, on Halloween, Buster earns his nickname of "Rant." Every year the city puts on a Halloween haunted house and party. In the Haunted house the children dip their hands in cold macaroni and olives while blindfolded and told they are touching guts and eyeballs. (Remember those days of childhood?) Well Buster decides to spend some of his new found fortune and makes a rather large purchase from a local slaughterhouse. This Halloween the eyeballs, guts, blood etc. are real. The kids are covered in cows blood and guts at the party which is at the end of the maze that is the haunted house. The cake becomes covered in blood from eager hands, costumes become darkly stained from kids wiping off the sticky mess. Finally someone finds out that it is all real and a grand pukefest begins that covers the blood covered community center with a fresh layer of puke. Buster is then called Rant. Rant being the sound you make when you puke up when all has been puked.

Now keep in mind this history of Rant is told through the folks that were there. The book has many more such incidences until Rant finally graduates (or bribes his way out of high school) and moves to the city. This is the point where not only do you start to fully realize the non-linear aspect of the story but also a story of a futuristic distopian society in which there is a class war between those that live/work during the day (daytimers) and those that live/work during the night (nighttimers).
The nighttimers are the lower of the class system and the daytimers look down their noses to nighttimers.

Rant invades the nighttimer society not only throwing it in turmoil but also throwing daytimer society into turmoil along with it. Rant takes up with Party Crashers. These are nighttimers that in order to have fun they crash cars into each other, then milk the event by pretending to get out and argue with each other.

The pasttime of party crashing was started by the government when the government was trying to find ways to make traffic move more smoothly. The first thing the government found was the the biggest slowdown in heavy traffic was not the crash but the rubberneck effect of the passersby. They found this by having agents intentionally crash into each other and then record the results. Finding the rubberneck effect was the slowdown they then created DRVR Graphic Traffic Radio. A Radio station that not only told of wrecks but took calls from paramedics, police and rescue personnel and report on the injuries and describing them in full gory detail.

Well Graphic Traffic soon became a reporting station for the thrill seeking Party Crashers. The Party Crashers have rules, you can only crash into other Party Crashers, and to alert that you are Party Crashing you had to decorate your car to that night's theme. Honeymoon nights are when you decorate your car with shaving cream / tin cans etc. and write Just Married on your car, all passengers are dressed as brides, grooms or other members of a bridal party. Other themed nights are Christmas, Thanksgiving and so on.

Here also is where the weirdness begins. Rant, throughout his childhood, has always sought out being bitten by spiders, snakes, rabbits, coyotes, dogs and any other wild critter. Rant then becomes a carrier/spreader of rabies. Rant starts to infect all nighttimers and party crashers with rabies. Soon nighttimers infected with rabies begin infecting daytimers by maybe licking apples to be sold in a store etc.

After starting a major rabies epidemic Rant crashes his car off a cliff, but his body is never found.

This brings us to the beginning of the book and starts a section of the book where the story goes off in an extremely surprising science fiction/existentialistic view that will treat you with a great read. There are rumors that Chuck Palahniuk is writing a sequel to this book and with the cliffhanger/twisting ending I don't doubt this at all.

I'm not going to give too much up about the end of the book other than be ready for time travelling, creating immortals and gods and a never ending rabies epidemic that threatens the world. I think that I've only covered about 30% of this immense volume of work with my summary. So be prepared for fun.