First off, I feel inclined to note that I gave the novel 3 stars, but I really wanted to give it 3.5 stars. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others, but I just didn’t love it.
I decided to listen to this after hearing rave reviews from Tom and Veronica on the Sword and Laser podcast. They really talked it up and it had a pretty interesting premise so it felt like a no-brainer. To give a little background, Bitter Seeds is an alternate history set in Europe during World War II. In this retelling however, the British employ warlocks and the Germans basically have soldiers with superpowers.
Overall, I did enjoy it, but it definitely left something to be desired. The story wasn’t bad nor were the characters, but they also weren’t amazing. I never felt that invested in the characters (on either side). They were realistic enough, but were just somewhat flat. It’s hard to describe, because they weren’t poorly written or unlikeable…they were just kind of bland.
My biggest gripe with the story was the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say the climax fell short. I wanted big explosions and high excitement–it seemed like that’s where things were going–but that’s not how it played out and I was a little underwhelmed.
My only other comment is about the narrator, Kevin Pariseau. Mr. Pariseau has narrated a lot of novels and I expect that he’s pretty well respected, but he just didn’t feel like a great fit to me. Most of the novel takes place it the UK and it just stands to reason that a British narrator would have been selected. The accents of the characters would have been a bit more convincing and I think it would have increased my enjoyment.
That said, it was a pretty fun read. It’s not very long either so it’s no major investment.
Before I get into the story, let me first address the narration of this book by Roy Dotrice. If you only listen to this book, then I expect that you’ll feel that Mr. Dotrice does a wonderful job. Unfortunately, if you listen to the books subsequently, you may not agree.
The main problem is that Dotrice changed the voices of several characters. He also changed the pronunciation of several characters’ names. At first, it was jarring, but after a few hours, I had forgotten all about it.
Now onto the writing. As usual, George R.R. Martin proves that he is excellent at writing morally grey characters and intricately twisted plots. He’s very good at bringing characters to life and making you care about them, whether you love them or hate them.
However, the main reason that I can’t give his book 5 stars is because, despite it’s length, Martin ignored several characters that are critical to the series’ overarching plot, including Daenerys, Stannis, Jon Snow, Bran, and Tyrion.
That to me is a big deal, because as a result the plot didn’t really move forward all that much. Yes, some minor events occurred and a number of sub plots were introduced, but the main plot was not addressed at all.
Still, this was a very good novel in its own right. There wasn’t a lot of action to speak of, but there was still a lot of excellent drama and character development. Plus, the characters that it did focus on are some of my favorites.
If you liked the first three books, you’ll definitely still like this one, but I’m hoping for a little more in the fifth. I think we all know roughly how the series has to end; I just hope Martin doesn’t drag it out too much.
To be honest, Blood Rites is not my favorite of the Dresden Files, but, given that, it's still very good and still worthy of 5 stars. I guess I just enjoy this series that much.
Considering the awesomeness of books 3-5, it was going to take a hell of a lot for Butcher to top himself again. Truthfully, Butcher gave it a good shot. As usual, there's a twisty plot, well-written action scenes, and black humor. On top of that Blood Rites was chocked full of solid character development, and not just for Harry; there are a lot of really powerful scenes involving Thomas.
I really like that Butcher's characters are not flawless and they are forced to live with the consequences of their decisions. They are also not invincible (although some are pretty close). Okay, Butcher isn't going to kill off his protagonist, but Harry never gets through a novel unscathed.
My only real complaint about Blood Rites is that part of the central plot surrounds an adult film. It did lead to some humorous moments on occasion, but it just didn't work that well for me. The characters were kind of dull and it just didn't compare to some of the other parts of the plot.
Blood Rites is the second book in the series to be produced by Penguin Audio, which means that the narration and production quality are outstanding. James Marsters makes an excellent Harry Dresden and he has done a superb job since Penguin took over.
Without question, if you enjoyed the first five books, you'll love Blood Rites as well.
What really impresses me about this series is how it improves little by little with each book. Through five novels, that has held true, which is no small accomplishment considering how good Gravel Peril and Summer Knight were.
It also seems like the stakes get a little higher in each novel, and they are definitely pretty high in Death Masks as Harry finds himself smack in the middle of a sinister plot by some major demon-types to wreak havoc on the denizens of Chicago. Harry not only requires the help of resident Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, but also two other Knights. Trust me, you're talking about some big league baddies if you need three Knights of the Cross to deal with them.
There were a lot of things that I really liked about this novel in particular. It had a great plot, twisting and turning through mysteries and misdirection. It had a great cast: some characters that we know and love and some new characters on both sides of the coin. I was particularly amused by the character of The Archive. Beyond all that, like all Dresden novels, it had great pacing, action, and a little dark humor.
One of the biggest improvements, in my mind, that Butcher made came in Grave Peril when he took a deep breath and slowed things down a bit, gave Harry some breathing room, gave him some time to reflect rather than just react, and gave the reader a chance to keep up. Those reflective moments continue in Death Masks and tend to be some of the best passages in the novel.
Oh, and what an amazing ending. I won't spoil anything, but it was delightful and definitely made me want to dig right into the next novel.
This review would not be complete if I didn't mention the significantly improved narration by James Marsters. I really liked Marsters' performance of Harry Dresden in the first four novels, but when Penguin Audio began producing the audio books (taking over from Buzzy Multimedia), they must have had a couple of suggestions. With Death Masks, Marsters now has a voice for each character, his speech is crisper, and the overall production quality is much improved. I'm definitely very happy with the change.
Overall, Death Masks was a great read. If you enjoyed the previous novels, don't stop, you've got to read this one.
Let me start by saying that Grave Peril, the third book in the series, was incredible. It added new depth to the story and characters, but also left Harry in a vulnerable and unenviable position.
As a result, Summer Knight starts well into a period of desperation and depression for Harry, but he soon finds that is the least of his concerns when he ends up thrown into a war between Summer and Winter, testing his ingenuity and his mettle.
Despite the fact that Grave Peril was amazing, Summer Knight was easily its equal. In this novel, we saw new dimension of Harry, one that was forced to deal with failure and it made him all the more human. We also saw Harry grow and learn to deal with new challenges, both magical and emotional.
And, as usual, the novel it littered interesting characters. I was particularly glad to see more of Billy (the werewolf), but I also enjoyed the reappearance of Toot-toot and his band of fairy warriors.
If nothing else, listening to these novels has made my commute to work far more enjoyable. But seriously, if you like Urban Fantasy at all, you need to check this series out. Well worth your time.
The Dresden Files is one of my favorite series. I've read them all (excluding Cold Days) once and now I'm listening to the audio versions. When I started listening to Storm Front, the first in the series, it reminded me why I love the series and the same was true for Fool Moon. But then I listened to Grave Peril and I realized that even though I loved the first two novels, the third was somehow even better.
Grave Peril is much like the first two novels in many ways, but it's also better in a lot of little ways. The plot is delightfully twisty, new and interesting characters make their first appearances, and Harry is, to be frank, a total badass--all of which are standard fare.
But what makes it all the better is that the story actually slows down a bit. Instead of throwing Harry into one spot after another, Butcher devotes more time to developing the characters and their relationships, to building Harry into a realistic, if flawed, character. And it's awesome.
Dresden has a nose for finding trouble and, in the first two novels, he makes his way out relatively unscathed, if more than a little battered. But Butcher makes it clear in Grave Peril that the stakes are getting higher and so are the consequences.
In addition, Butcher introduces two of the best supporting characters in the entire series in this novel: Michael and Thomas. Personally, I think Michael kicks ass. His quiet resolve lends very well to Harry's brash tendencies. Plus, he's a knight and that's pretty hard to beat.
Overall, I thought Gravel Peril was a fantastically entertaining read, a ton of fun, but also a bit deeper than the first two. If you enjoyed those, keep reading, because it gets even better. Highly recommended!
Although I read Fool Moon for the first time a few years ago, I recently listened to the audio version to gear up for Cold Days, the 14th installment in the ongoing Dresden saga. What I found was that Fool Moon was easily as good as I remembered.
In Storm Front, the first Dresden novel, Jim Butcher introduces us to Harry Dresden and a couple of secondary characters, but that novel is really Harry's novel and he's more or less on his own. Having read the first 13 novels in the series, I can vouch that the secondary characters are some of the best that I've encountered in any series. Thus, I was very glad that we got to see some more of Murphy and were introduced to the Alphas in Fool Moon.
It was also nice to see a more intricate plot, although I have to say that it's possible that this one got a bit convoluted by the end. Let's just say that there were a lot of werewolves (as you might expect by the title) and it got a little difficult to keep them all straight.
Regardless, Fool Moon was another step forward in a series that somehow seems to get better with each novel.
I should also acknowledge that James Marsters makes a great Harry Dresden. He has a great sense for the character and a flare for the dramatic. He isn't a perfect narrator, but I can't imagine a better Dresden.
Overall, I found Fool Moon to be very enjoyable the second time. I would honestly recommend this series to anyone, but especially those that favor urban fantasy or noir detective novels.
I recently picked up the first 12 books in the Dresden Files series during a sale, because I've been hankering to re-read them and also because I was really interested to hear James Marsters (of Buffy fame) read them. It was an excellent decision.
The Dresden Files are some of my favorite books. The may not necessarily be the absolute finest works of literature, but they really speak to nonetheless. So going in, I expected to enjoy Stormfront because I can still remember reading it the first time and then going and reading the next seven books in the serious without pause.
What I didn't expected was just how much I would enjoy a novel that I had already read. It was simply fantastic. Harry Dresden is one of my favorite characters (hands down) and I absolutely love the way the Jim Butcher writes this series.
Right from the beginning, the action kicks into high gear and, somehow, Butcher finds ways to continually raise the stakes throughout the novel. But one of the things that I love best is how, in the middle of the action, Butcher will pause to explain what Harry's doing or give additional details about how magic works. You might think this would disrupt the pacing of the novel, but it actually works really well.
I've said many times in the past that one of Butcher's real talents is writing characters. Harry is obviously a great character, but so are many of the secondary characters including Murphy, Bob, Susan, and Mac.
What's really amazing is that, despite the fact that Stormfront is thoroughly enjoyable and good enough to earn a 5 star review, it's just the beginning of the series and the books actually get better.
But I can't conclude this review without giving some props to James Marsters as well. He did an excellent job. He really captured the tone of the novel and his voice is just perfect for Harry.
Legion is simply yet another example of Brandon Sanderson's immense talent. The guy is clearly one of the best fantasy writers today and Legion just shows how far that talent extends. I have no idea how Sanderson can publish so many works so quickly.
Legion is a short novella set in the modern day about a guy who sees and interacts with a host of imaginary individuals. These individuals each possess unique skills or knowledge, which they ultimately pass onto Steve, the protagonist.
I was immediately drawn in by this concept. I mean, Steve is basically a genius, but his genius requires him to interact with hallucinations. What an awesome concept. I was totally sucked in right from the start.
The story itself is pretty neat, involving a camera that can take pictures of the past, but the best parts are the interactions between Steve and his hallucinations.
The only real complaint that I have is that it was too short! I really hope that Sanderson intends to revisit this world, because I am eager to read more. I found Legion to be a very creative and entertaining story and I would recommend it highly to any fantasy reader.
I really had no idea what The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was about when I started listening. It had been on my "wish list" list for quite awhile and I just randomly decided to grab it. I can't help but think that a three star review seems awfully negative, but, really, I liked the novel; I just didn't love it.
Michael Chabon's work is undeniably well written. The characters are incredibly realistic, as is the setting. If I didn't know any better, I would believe that Chabon grew up in New York City in the 1940s. He must have done an incredible amount of research to pull off the setting so convincingly.
Perhaps because the audiobook was split up into three files, the novel felt to me like it had three acts. The first act was really an introduction to the characters and their business endeavors, the second act was largely a love story, and the third was the war and beyond. I could elaborate, but I'll refrain to avoid spoilers.
I really liked the first act. It was really interesting to see how Sammy and Joe take part in the birth of superhero comics, and The Escapist was frankly awesome. I also largely enjoyed the second act. I found Rosa to be interesting, quirky, and a wonderful compliment to the existing cast of characters.
My biggest issue was the third act. I just didn't enjoy it very much. I understand why Chabon chose for the story to go the way it did, but it started to wear on me and finishing the story became a bit of a slog, especially because the conclusion was both expected and inevitable, but not particularly satisfying.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel, especially the parts about The Escapist, but it wasn't my favorite and I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone. I think this one takes more of a patient reader than some of the novels that I tend to like.
When I decided to listen to Snow Crash, it had been in my “to read” list for probably a couple of years. I had been meaning to read something by Stephenson for awhile, but none of his novels ever made their way to the front of my list. I think Neal Stephenson is just one of those authors that, as a science fiction reader, you have to try out at some point and I’m glad that I finally did. Snow Crash was awesome.
Stephenson never gives a concrete date for when it’s set, but hints at the early 21st Century. Despite the fact that it’s set only 10 or 20 years after the 1992 publish date, Stephenson has created a world that has changed dramatically, seeing a huge push towards capitalism to the point where even the United States has largely been replaced by independently owned countries. Even though it’s nothing like what the world is really like today, I found this to be a very interesting, if not realistic, vision of the future. If nothing else, it provided an appropriate setting for the story.
The story follows two great characters, Hero Protagonist, hacker, pizza delivery guy, and the greatest swordsman in the world, and YT, 15 year old skater and messenger. Both characters were independent and unique. Hero was intelligent, quiet, and methodical, whereas YT was also intelligent, but sharp tongued and ironic. I also thought Uncle Enzo was a pretty interesting secondary character.
The plot was also very interesting, mixing politics, history, mythology, and religion. Interestingly enough, I actually felt like I learned a few things reading this novel and it definitely gave me a few things to think about as well. I won’t go into further detail, because I don’t want to spoil anything.
The last thing that I wanted to mention was the technology. I was really surprised at how accurate some of Stephenson’s tech was. Yeah, some of it was pretty far flung, but other things like the metaverse aare pretty much in place today.
I’ve heard some people say that you either love Stephenson or you hate him. I gave this novel 5 stars, but I’m not ready to jump into the “love” category yet. It was really good and I enjoyed it, but there are still other authors that I like better. That said, Snow Crash is a fairly recent cyberpunk classic and a must-read for any science fiction reader so get out there and pick it up if you haven’t read it yet.
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