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 Roberts...er...umm, 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 "...in 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 Amazon.com: "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;
http://www.laurapedersenbooks.com/

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 you...in 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.