Although it may be obvious, I feel it only fair to mention that I am a fan and so cannot discuss this book dispassionately. But if you love the series, love the enchanted world of Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher ... I'm there with you. I have read every book Jim Butcher has written, or at least every one I have been able find via the good offices of Amazon or Audible.
I listen to them, read them, listen to them again and wait impatiently for the next installment. I even liked the TV series, though it was hardly the Harry I knew. I mean really, he didn't even have his leather duster. I loved it anyhow. When you're hooked, you're hooked.
The previous book, "Ghost Story" in which Harry was neither entirely alive nor dead was treacherous and difficult for Harry's fans. I liked it well enough, though it certainly was a change from previous Harry Dresden adventures. I was sure it was a bridge to the next phase of Harry's wizarding. I was right.
In "Cold Days," Harry is back, in the flesh. Changed, less careless of life having more or less lost it ... but as the Knight of Winter, he is powerful in new ways. This is just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and they aren't going away.
"Cold Days" is very satisfying. Although Harry gets pulverized, I am consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has already survived death. Earlier books ended with more resolution than the last few books have done. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing story line.
Jim Butcher is a clever. He extracts Harry from impossible predicaments wherein he faces horrendous odds, then adroitly uses these apparently hopeless situations to move the story in a new direction that will become the next book. No event is wasted. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle. A piece of the full picture is revealed in each subsequent installment.
Which brings me to my one criticism: the sudden inexplicable alterations of existing characters in which they reverse their previous persona. From a reader's point of view, such sudden turnarounds are a jolting. While there are no rules about this sort of thing, having an evil character suddenly become a good one or vice versa is disorienting. It takes a bit of time, with me sitting there and says "what?" until I am able to realign my thinking. A few extra hints along the way might be helpful. But it's a quibble. For all I know, there were hints I missed because I was looking the other way.
I'd keep reading even if the characters started walking on their hands and speaking Latin, but wouldn't mind less abrupt transitions. It's not a matter of believability; more like giving readers a chance to catch up with the author who for obvious reasons is way ahead of us. If you are already a Harry Dresden fan, reality is unlikely to be your issue. You probably left it behind a long time ago. Harry's world of wizards, demons, ghosts, strange immortal beings, mythological creatures and weirdness of every type is far removed from reality, but within the rules Jim Butcher has created for the Dresden world, it flows better if characters' personalities change in accordance with what we know of them. Just saying.
I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on this plane is likely to consist of grey bureaucrats, smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can't beat them; they have no substance.
In Jim Butcher's world, Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he's out there fighting for justice, right and good, even when it seems he's taken the wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad. He is stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions and habits. He's a poor listener and does not heed advice, a combination that has cost him dearly.
Yet Harry is changing. He has grown. He's painfully (in the most literal sense) aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he's made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He's not cocksure; he's more of a planner, less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only possible course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. This is good.
I'm sensing a climactic conclusion to the series coming. I would love the series to go on forever, but that is not the way of authors. There will be a few more books, relationships to work out, a future to plan, but ultimately, Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher will move on. I hope what comes next will be at half as good. Harry's awesome reality has become a metaphysical home away from home. Maybe in my next incarnation I will have magic of my own ... but in this life, I'll have to settle for the me I am. It may not be much, but it's what I have to work with.
James Marsters' excellent narration adds enormously to the pleasure of the story. He's the right narrator: don't switch!!.
If, as I have, you've been following this series from the beginning, this book has been a long time coming. Rachel Morgan has come an enormous distance -- professionally and personally -- since she first decided to leave the I.S. and become an independent runner. She has transformed from witch to day-walking demon and repeatedly saved the world.
Not that the world has been particularly grateful. She keep pulling the world's bacon out of the fire and they keep whacking her over the head. A simple thank you would do!
Ivy has moved on to a genuine relationship -- fragile but real -- with Nina. Jenks has (apparently) finally recovered from the death of his wife, Matalina. Bis, the baby gargoyle, isn't such a baby any longer. He's coming into his own and may just live up to the name he bears amongst gargoyles -- Worldbreaker.
Then there's Trent. Rachel and Trent have been dancing around each other through a lot of pages. Approach, back off, sashay left and do-si-do. Finally all the waiting pays off and we get some long hoped-for romance.
This is a deeply satisfying book on many levels. Kim Harrison not only gives us what we've waited for, but she does it so deliciously. The characters -- even background characters like Trent's irritating fiancé Ellasbeth -- are fully fleshed out. Great characters who have been MIA for a while, such as David and his were-pack, are back and ready to mix it up. Hail, hail! The gang is here!
Will Rachel save the world again? You bet.
A quick summary: Living vampires are rebelling. Their undead masters are asleep, apparently unable to waken. The world is being overwhelmed by wild magic Elven magic and Rachel is at the center of the maelström. There's no question she has been chosen by the Goddess. Why? For what exactly? Where does Newt fit in?
Although not every question is answered in this next-to-last book in The Hollows series, it answer a great many of them. Things you've been waiting for through eleven books finally happen in this, the twelfth volume. It is about time and was absolutely worth waiting for.
There's a lot of exposition in the first half of the book. Action explodes in the second half. The momentum picks up to such an extent I found myself backtracking and rereading to make sure I didn't miss a critical event or piece of information.
I have loved every book in this series and it was inevitable I would love this, too. Unlike many long running series, there's nothing tired about this book. It's as fresh, exciting and rich as it was in the beginning and in many ways, more so. I'm going to read it again. And probably, again after that.
Do not -- please -- read this if you haven't read the rest of the series. You need the background of the characters not to mention a lot of development of relationships. And history. If you haven't read the series, read it. It has been my favorite series for all the years I've been following it and has never disappointed me. It won't disappoint you, either.
As usual, Margeurite Gavin does a perfect job with the narration and if you liked earlier, book you'll love this one -- maybe even more.
This is, in my opinion, the best urban fantasy series. Period.
I loved this one. I really loved. It was funny, clever, witty. The people were oddly believable even in a story that was totally wacky. It stands out as one of the best science fictions books of my last decade and one of my favorite ever sci fi audiobooks. One of the mast interesting things about Scalzi is his ability to write well in a wide variety of styles. He can be serious, funny, a mix of both. He can be wild and crazy and highly technical ... and he makes it work. No one in the genre today works harder or produces more. This was the first of his books I ever read, but it hooked me like a fish on a line. Read it. If you like sci fi or just appreciate well-written and witty stories, this one will not disappoint you.
After years of waiting, the book finally came available as an Audiobook. Since I already have the book on Kindle (and as a hard copy), Audible.com let me buy the audiobook for just $4.59, a bargain I was delighted to snatch. A steal!
After being terribly disappointed in the recording of Kevin Hearne's Hunted (disappointed enough to ask for my money back), I was delighted this book was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Maybe better. Narrated by Claire Christie and Jeremy Arthur, I was (again) surprised at how much more I get from an audiobook than from print. I think it's because I read very fast. When I listen, the pace is that of human speech, perhaps slightly slower than normal conversation. I absorb more of the story listening than reading.
The dual narration works well. Aiden and Lara having their own voices and perspectives is appropriate. Usually I don't like multiple narrators, but I like them in this book.
Song of the Beast is Carol Berg's is a standalone book. I wish it were a series. I have it on good authority that another story (short story -- not an entire book) will be coming out based in the same world, though not featuring the same characters. I would prefer a book or two, but I will happily settle for whatever I can get.
If Carol Berg writes it, I will read it. I think she's brilliant and not nearly as appreciated as she deserves.
I came to love her dragons. There is a faint whiff of Pern to these dragons, except no dragonrider of Pern would so mistreat a dragon. I'm a sucker for dragons. Any dragon. And these are fabulous dragons.
I found the story's characters well-drawn and three-dimensional. Many relationships are between different species because, unlike her other books, not all characters are human. The relationships are logical extensions of the cultures from which they come. The slightly abrasive relationships between differing humanoids is fundamental.
The main character -- Aidan McAllister has been imprisoned and tortured. His beautiful voice has been silenced, his hands brutally destroyed. His music, which offered solace and hope to war-torn Elyria, is gone. The god in whom he never lost faith and nurtured him and his music since he was a child seems to have abandoned him.
Yet no one has yet told him what his crime was. He has no idea what earned him such punishment. He has emerged from prison a broken man, battered beyond endurance, wanting nothing more than peace and safety ... and the end of pain. Having lost himself, he must find his way back to himself, remember who he was because that's the key to what happened to him, what is happening to the world and the dragons. There is, of course, a beautiful woman.
Through it all, Aiden remains a gentle soul in a cruel world, a man to whom violence is abhorrent no matter what was done to him. He's neither vengeful nor mean. Music is his magic.
I wish there were a sequel to this book. I wanted to know what happened next, how this society evolves. The book left me with lots of questions. It isn't a cliff hanger -- not exactly -- but it didn't seem quite finished to me. There's plenty of room for more stories as this world realigns and reconstructs itself in the wake of a new understanding of dragons.
I liked the book so much I was sorry it ended. I never want any of Carol Berg's books to end.
Not content with having read the book, I also had to listen to it. Usually, if I like the book in one form, I like it equally well (or nearly so) in another. This, however, was not the case this time. I still love the book. But I have issues with the narration.
Hunted, by Kevin Hearne, is the sixth book in the Iron Druid Series. It's an action-packed run-for-your-life tour of Europe. Atticus and Granuaile should definitely have taken a cruise, or something relaxing. I'm pretty sure as honeymoon's go, this wasn't the best choice. Not that they had any choice in the matter.
Atticus O'Sullivan, the 2000-year-old last of the Roman Druids is running top speed across Europe. Romania, Germany, Holland, France ... then swimming the English channel to get to the woods by Windsor Castle. This is not exercise -- it's survival -- and as he (Granuaile and Oberon) race, they are fending off two angry, homicidal Olympian goddesses -- Artemis and Diana. And as experienced hunters, they are formidable adversaries.
Atticus messed with Bacchus and put him on a slow time island. Although it was self-defense, the Olympians aren't interested in why. They are just pissed off. Actually, more than that, watching the druids try to outrun the goddesses has become a sporting event for a wide range of deities.They don't seem so upset about Bacchus as they are eager to kill Atticus as well as Granuaile and Oberon. Freeing their crazy family member and co-deity is not their biggest issue.
The usual ways open to Druids of shifting to the safety of Tír na nÓg, are closed. Every tree and grove is guarded. The old ways are locked tight -- leaving them running long, hard, and fast in whatever physical forms and using whatever magic they can. They no longer have Morrigan's help, though they get some assistance from other immortals.
It does seem that just about everyone and everything is out to get them. Old enemies and new, vampires, gods and goddesses, dark elves, and some weird things who fit no category. Sea monsters. And Loki's on the loose bringing Ragnarök with him. The world is going to end. That's sort of Atticus' fault. Sort of. Sides are forming up for the big battle at the end of the world -- Ragnarök - the Apocalypse -- is it the end? Of everything? Could there be a new beginning? It's never happened before, so who's to know?
No one's banking on anything but death and destruction, so avoiding it as long as possible seems the sensible choice.
Sensible isn't part of the equation anymore. No one wants to negotiate, no one feels like chatting. It's kill or be killed. It's magic, weapons, a race to find a safe haven -- hide and seek along the way. No matter where they go, what they do, the Druids and all of their allies -- and enemies -- know the big finale is unavoidable. It will leave no one untouched. Meanwhile, the goal is to stay alive.
Atticus and Granuaile have almost no time in this book -- to my disappointment -- to develop the relationship they began after Granuaile was finally bound to Gaia and became a full Druid. There's no time now ... and given the perils, there may never be time. Not enough, anyway. A day, a few hours, grabbed here and there. This couple is not going to get that leisurely honeymoon, unless you count touring Europe in various forms - stag, horse, sea-lion, sea otter, falcon, mountain lion, wolfhound -- and of course, invisible. Most of the time, naked, a traditional form of battle dress for Celts, but not romantic.
Luke Daniels, the narrator is skilled and he does a fine job with Atticus and Granuaile ... and all other humanoids, but I really disliked his voicing of Oberon. It sounded like Bugs Bunny and was, to my mind, definitely unsuitable for the great wolfhound. I let it slide by me, but every time the voice came one, I got annoyed. I also didn't like his voicing of a bunch of the other secondary characters. Fine on the two Druids, but not fine on the others. Fortunately, there's more good narration than bad ... but be warned: if you don't like the idea of a dumb sounding Oberon with a lisp or cartoon deities from various pantheons, you won't like this audiobook.
This is the most high-speed book of the series to date. I had hoped for more character interaction and a bit less breathless and perpetual motion. If you like action -- and who doesn't? -- there's more than enough fighting, battling, scheming, running, swimming, dying, recovering -- but not much conversation. No down time. Not much relationship development. The book is a bridge to the next. Which is necessary. But you won't get resolution, not yet. Next book soon please!
It's beautifully written (as always). This is the first book in which Granuaile has her own voice. She's a full character now, co-equal with Atticus. Chapters alternate in the first person, her speaking, him speaking. At first, it jarred me a little, but then, I liked it. Nice to have both a male and female primary character in a fantasy novel. I can't remember if I've ever read a book in this genre where both sexes had equal roles. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it's all good.
I'm not going to give anything away. No spoilers, sorry.
If you are a fan of the series, you will like the book. It's probably not quite what you expect, but it's a critical link for what's coming.
It's Granuaile's coming of age -- and in its own way, also Atticus' coming of age. Although you would think he's seen it and done it all in his very long life, not so. He hasn't had a lot of human friends, much less lovers. There's a lot of new stuff for him to work his way through. Having a real relationship with a human woman requires relearning old habits. Like any relationship, come to think of it.
There are a lot of plot twists. Not all endings are happy. There are victories and temporary wins. Holding actions. I'm not sure there are solid victories to be had as the world draws ever closer to Ragnarök. It's all about survival, treachery and slippery alliances. The fate of the world hangs on a razor's edge. See you next book!
If you have not read the previous books, don't start with this one. There is a lot of history and the characters have all been built through the entire series. They won't make sense without the earlier books.
The book is also available in paperback and on Kindle. And, obviously, as a download from Audible.com. This is the first of the audio versions I've read. I don't know that I will try another. I think I'll stick with printed words for this series.
This is the story of Tzu Hsi, a woman who rose from obscurity to rule first as regent to her son, the boy emperor, then ultimately as the last Empress of China from 1861 to 1908. Her death heralded the end of the old China. The empire collapsed only three years after her death, in 1911.
First chosen as one of many concubines to the young emperor – no more than a child himself – she manipulates herself into position as his favorite, cultivates his favor until he depends on her completely. Still in love with her childhood sweetheart, a single night of love produces a son, the next emperor.
Intelligent, highly (self) educated Tzu Hsi makes herself essential to her debauched, physically weakened, opium-addicted husband. His early death leaves her regent to her son. She is forced to preside over the destruction of Chinese culture. Her fight against white imperialism is hopeless. As the representative of the last Dynasty, she tries to find her way while the China she has known is assaulted by wave after wave of western imperialist pirates under the guise of missionaries, traders, and ambassadors.
Once the rape of China begins, she is powerless to stop it. Even the rare victory is no more than a holding action. Despite all evidence, she cannot believe China can lose to these invaders and she never loses her unyielding belief in the superiority of Chinese culture … the ultimate irony given the unyielding belief of the Western powers of their superiority. The unstoppable force meets the immoveable object and the result is – as might be expected – tragic.
In a way, she was more right than she knew. The old China collapsed but from its ashes, the new China has gained more power than the old ever had.
There are a number of ways to read this book. It’s a brilliant, detailed picture of a vanished civilization … beautiful and to modern minds, bizarre. Certainly it’s the story of Tzu Hsi, her life, her deeply flawed, complex personality. Her bad decisions based on the logic of a world already gone where the rules no longer applied.
You can also read Imperial Woman as a much larger story, how the western nations took the oldest culture on earth and destroyed it so we could plunder it for opium.
How we destroyed thousands of years of art and treasures so each country from the west — who had no right to any of China — treated the Chinese people as if they were the barbarians because they did not want to become just like us.
The European powers with the help of the United States transformed China into a monster. Then we have the gall to complain we don’t like the way it turned out. China would never have become what it is today or taken the path it did without the brutality and devastation wrought by European imperialism. And of course, look what opium and all that has followed in its wake has done to improve our society? Karma is a nasty bitch.
Written in 1956, the story is probably more relevant today, 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent to the transformation of Communist China into the world’s biggest, baddest economic superpower. On many levels, for a lot of different reasons, it serves us right. We destroyed China. Now, in its own way, China is destroying us. One good turn deserves another.
I read Imperial Woman a few years after it first came out. I was in my early teens and it was just a story. An interesting, even fascinating story, but at the time, it meant no more than that.
Listening to it today had a lot more impact. Not only has my perspective, knowledge and interest in China’s extraordinary history expanded a huge amount, but the world has changed in way that were unthinkable when I read the book in 1960.
Written at the peak of the Communist witch hunts in the U.S. and the hottest part of the Cold War, we live in an entirely different world today. If you have knowledge of history, a sense of destiny and fundamental belief in Karma, you will find Imperial Woman contains many layers of meaning. It’s elegantly written, not even slightly dated.
Imperial Woman is available on Audible.com. Beautifully narrated, it's a perfect balance with enough feeling to make the story live, but not so overdone that it distracts from the telling. That's the best kind of narration.
As for the story, it's a classic, even more meaningtul today then when it was first published.
The story within a story (or play within a play), what is real versus what's fiction is not a new or original concept, no matter how many readers seem to think it is. Shakespeare used it and as Scalzi himself bears witness, there have been a lot of movies, books, plays and so on that have used one or another variations on this theme. I don't have a problem with that. In fact, I like his wililingness to explore a classic theme and was interested to see where he was going with it. I also appreciated his acknowledgments of others who have used some version of this story.
I really enjoyed the first part of the book, the interaction of characters with reality/unreality. I wasn't bothered by "he said/she said" and didn't much notice it. What I did notice by the end of the first coda as he was moving into the next ending? variation? was I was getting bored.
It really was like a piece of classical music that has one coda too many,
I liked the first coda well enough. His exploration of the mind of a writer in the throes of writer's block was interesting, although a bit heavy-handed. By the final coda, I was antsy and felt as if I had slipped back in time to find myself in a college writing class .. not a good thing.
I listened through to the end, though I drifted a bit toward at the finish as the book pounded relentllessly to its conclusion.
Less would have been more. It was a good idea, a clever concept. It had good narration. But it needed more plot. It felt like a movie that runs out of script 20 minutes before it runs out of film, too thin a tale to support its own length. I've read lots worse ... but Scalzi has written much better.
It has been a long wait since Perfect Blood. I read it at least four times in print and as an audiobook. When Ever After arrived, showing up simultaneously on my Kindle and in my Audible account the day before yesterday, I was dizzy with excitement. Finally!
Casual readers for whom books are just another way to pass the time will never understand the particular excitement of receiving a long-awaited book. This was a joyous event, a happy day. Finally, the next installment of the Hollows.
The thrill isn't gone, not by a long shot. I had just completed "A Memory of Light," the fourteenth and final book of Robert Jordan's (now Brian Sanderson's) Wheel of Time, so I needed to travel from one magical realm to another. It is a testament to my mental agility that I can slide so swiftly between planes of unreality and nary miss a beat.
I always read the audio version first, then read the book in print. Margeurite Gavin is so much the voice of the Hollows I can't imagine anyone doing a better narration. She was perfect as she has been in previous books.
I want to avoid spoilers since the book was released just two days ago and many fans haven't read it yet. I'll update it later when more people have had a chance to read it. In the meantime, I'm not going to tell you what happens, but I will tell you how I feel about it.
I had been enjoying the book. I was missing Ivy -- though not as much as I thought I would -- until I got to the second part of the book. At that point, I went from enjoying it to being enthralled.
After another chapter or two, Ever After had become so exciting and I was so gripped by the story, I trotted out to the living room and announced: "This book is so good you aren't going to see me again until I'm finished." I believe I babbled a bit more, then went back to my office and back to the world of magical Cincinnati, the saving of the Ever After, the world, and the shaping of Rachel Morgan's future.
Two hours later, the book ended.
I sighed, sitting there, absorbing the silence, unwilling to let go of the magic and bump down to my real world. So I stayed there for a while. Then I turned the computer off. It was late, nearly seven and past dinner time. I turned the oven on -- frozen pizza would have to do -- too late for anything more complicated.
Ever After was the most satisfying reading experience I've had in a long time. It scratched all my literary itches. There was magic passion and battles. There was a blooming of love and hope, the sadness of loss, and powerful demons to vanquish. I mourned the fallen, exalted for the living and dreamed about the what might lie in the future.
If a witch, an elf and a demon can work together to save the world, what other dreams may come?
Will Patton is an amazingly appropriate voice for the Dave Robicheaux books. Even though I know his work as an actor ... and he has done a lot of work on some pretty important series -- he's so authentic to my ears as the the narrator since Mark Hammer passed away that I never see the actual Will Patton in my mind, only the images formed by the words of the author. This is, in my opinion, exactly the way it should be. The narrator is the vehicle, not the star. That's a great deal harder than it sounds.
I love this series. I recognize that Dave and Clete are getting pretty long in the tooth, but the author also recognizes it, acknowledge it. I had thought the last one might be the end of the series, but it was good to have the guys back. It was also very interesting to get a look at the world from Clete's point of view, surprisingly different from that of Dave. His very different life experiences and childhood changed the picture and I very much enjoyed it, making this the best of the series in a while ... maybe three or four books.
I sense that the boys are going to have to pack it up and pack it in pretty soon. The Bobbsey Twins from Homocide are getting tired and I suspect that the author is getting a little tired of them. It's been a long and excellent run. I hope there will be a couple more books to come, but regardless, James Lee Burke is a fine author and if it isn't Dave and Clete, it'll be someone else.
And that will be good, too.
First, you don't have to guess that this is an other-worldly version of The Magnificent 7 (AKA The 7 Samurai) because King tells you it is in his intro. So I'm not giving anything away because it's no secret. It's beautifully done. This is NOT a horror story. It is fantasy fiction with a wonderful plot, a great reader, and King writing at his best.
I'm not a fan of King's horror genre stories. Just not my thing. But oh my, this man can write and when he is at the top of his game, nobody writes better. He is not merely a good writer: he's a great one. Lyrical. Elegant. Creative. Of this series, this was my favorite and remains so. For anyone who loves really well-written sci-fi fantasy, this is absolutely worth your time. Although reading it as part of the series certainly helps to keep track of the characters and locales (King references places from other stories and brings in characters from other books), nonetheless the book does stand on its own legs. You might miss some references if you're not a King fan and haven't read all his other books (I'm one of them and my son, a die-hard King fan had to fill me in on who was who), but the story works regardless.
If you've read this in hardcopy with the wonderful illustrations, it's still worth giving this a listen ... especially if it has been a few years since your initial reading. Audio is just a different reading experience. Different pacing, differently nuanced. And absolutely worth your time.
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