Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eclipse (Twilight Saga, Book 3) by Stephenie Meyer

Eclipse (Twilight Saga, Book 3)
by Stephenie Meyer
Read by Ilyana Kadushin and Matt Walters

Continuing on with the saga of high school student Bella Swan and her boyfriend the Vampire and her almost boyfriend/best friend the Werewolf, Stephenie Meyer brings out the best in her story with book 3, "Eclipse." This book has some real nice qualities to it and seems to be a stronger story than the previous 2 books in the series.

The relationship between Edward Cullen, the vampire and Bella is strenghtened in this book. For the romance lover this is the book where true love is defined and embodied through the characters of Edward and Bella. A problem arises in this relationship in that Bella is also friends with and possibly in love with Jacob Black, a Quilute Indian and werewolf. With the werewolf being the natural enemy of the vampire you can see how this would create some stress. Jacob and his father have been friends with Bella and her father for years where Edward only came into the picture within the last year or so. Also, it doesn't help that Edward left Bella (for her safety), during that time Bella was severely depressed and the only thing that brought her out of the funk was Jacob. Jacob also is in love with Bella.

Now with this background we are treated to a great love triangle, and may the best man win. But Stephenie Meyer doesn't make it that easy. In the first book, "Twilight," Edward destroyed a tracker vampire named James. He did this because James was out to kill Bella. Well James' mate Victoria was not happy with this and in order to get revenge she wants to destroy Bella. In "Eclipse" Victoria's back and this time she has created an army of new-born vampires to take the attention of the Cullen family while she kills Bella. The Cullen's try to pull in every favor they can think of but no one wants to help with this little war being waged. No other vampires want to bring the attention of the Volturi upon themselves. The Volturi are the "governing class" of vampires that destroy any vampires that bring attention to the existance of vampires.

Eventually the Cullens team up with the pack of werewolves from the Quilute reservation in order to make the odds a little more even against the newborns and Victoria. Thus forcing Edward, Jacob and Bella to deal with this extremely complicated realtionship. This temporary truce between the werewolves and vampires creates the possibility of leading to a long term working relationship with two groups of "good guys."

In this book Jacob really turns out to be a bit more immature acting when it comes to loving Bella. He forces a kiss on her twice the first time Bella looks at the kiss as an attack the second...well let's just say it is eye-opening. Even if Jacob is a bit less mature, I'm still with Team Jacob and the werewolves. They are just more fun.

Also revealed in this book are more background on the Quilute tribe and their magicks as well as the backstory on Edward's "brother," Jasper, his "sister," Alice and other "sister," Rosalie.

Keep in mind all this is going on while Bella is finishing out her senior year in high school and getting ready to graduate and on top of that become a vampire herself after she graduates. Before she is to become a vampire Edward insists she marry him.

So with true love, true friendship, battles between vampires and werewolves and vampires this book has a lot of tension and action. Truly the best, so far, in this series. Too bad there is only one book left in the series.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 1:07 AM Comments: 0

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Something Borrowed" a short story from the Dresden Files

"Something Borrowed" a short story from the Dresden Files
by Jim Butcher
From the book "My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding"
edited by P.N. Elrod
Published by St. Martin's 2006

Okay here I am waiting for the next Jim Butcher "Dresden Files" novel "Turn Coat" and I have nothing to read. So I go look on his website ( ) and find he has written a few Dresden short stories. I can't get enough of Wizard Harry Dresden's wit, wisdom and ability to kick serious supernatural butt, so I'm going to devour all the stories I can.

I picked up the book and have found it full of some fun supernatural short stories, I'll be posting a review of the book as a whole later. Here I am to tell you of this adventure of Harry Dresden. This story takes place between Dead Beat and Proven Guilty.

As you can probably tell from the title of the collection all the stories have weddings as the centerpiece. Weddings are hard enough to bear but throw in some monsters, faeries, vampires, wizards et. al. and you have a real mess on your hands. And we all know Harry Dresden is a magnet for trouble.

In the beginning of this story Harry has been "drafted" to be the best man for the wedding between the werewolves Billy and Georgia. He is being forced into the position because the original best man (another werewolf) was severely injured during a battle the night before. Harry was involved in the battle but turned out to be battered less than the wolf. So with a black eye and sore muscles, Harry is being fitted with a last minute tux. Georgia's evil stepmother (not supernaturally evil, just evil) is being a control freak in everything that could make this wedding go bad. Harry is one such thing.

After dealing with the step-mother, Billy expresses to Harry he's concerned for Georgia, she doesn't answer her phone. He asks Harry to check on her. Harry goes to her apartment to discover a scuffle had taken place, so he calls in backup, in the form of Lt. Karrin Murphy of the Chicago police, Special Investigations unit.

Harry and and Murphy track down Georgia to discover a faerie is seeking revenge on the werewolves from when they took down someone from the Winter Court of Faeries. Georgia is swapped with a faerie so Billy will marry the faerie and then Billy and Georgia will die. After Georgia is found in a spell, Harry discovers the spell can only be broken by a kiss.

With evil-stepmothers, true love and a sleeping beauty, this story carries all the fun and excitement of a Dresden Files novel but condensed down to one fun-filled short story.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 1:56 AM Comments: 0

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Princep's Fury Book 5 of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

Princep's Fury
Book 5 of the Codex Alera
Jim Butcher
Read by Kate Reading
Penguin Audio, 18 Hours

Jim Butcher has created an epic series of magick, swords and mythical beasts in the Codex Alera, and he's approaching the finale of the series according to his website book six is to be titled First Lord's Fury and will end the series. Knowing this and having listened to all the previous four installments, I listened as slowly as possible not wanting this relationship I have developed with the land of Alera and the born leader in Gaius Octavian, Tavi to his friends. Jim Butcher's creativity has created a world that I had hoped be able to visit forever.

Once again Kate Reading provides a great auditory escape into Jim Butcher's world of Codex Alera. Her vocal characterizations are simple enough to put sound to the characters and to be able to inflect emotion into those same voices.

The beginning of this series brought us the character of Tavi, who has a secret, the secret is slowly revealed throughout each book that Tavi is the son of Gaius Septimus, son of the First Lord of Alera and heir to that same title. Septimus was killed in a major battle between on of Alera's enemys, the Marat. Tavi's mother, Isana, hid Tavi's fury crafting abilities so that he would be safe from those that would assassinate him and the first lord to take over the crown. Tavi grows up without the ability to fury craft, making him a freak among the Alerans.

The Alerans use a special magic/sorcery called fury crafting to call upon the furies of the elements to perform functions from the simplest tasks of lighting lamps, pumping water or building homes from wood or earth to military uses of flying, increasing strength, healing, or functioning at super human speed. Everyone in Alera can perform some fury crafting to some degree, the most powerful of which are leaders of the separate states in the land, and the First Lord being the most powerful of all.

In Princep's Fury Tavi has been accepted as the Princep's (heir to the crown of First Lord), however the recent civil war in Alera has left many citizens disgruntled and wanting for something more than what Gaius Sextus, the First Lord, seems to offer. Alera has had many enemies surrounding the land The Marat to the south, the Ice Men to the north and across the sea to the west the Canim. Through diplomacy and kindness has created an ally through the Marat. While not so much of an ally, the Canim have agreed to cease hostilities as Tavi and his legion assist them in building ships and returning to their homeland. Tavi has earned the respect of the Canim Leader, Varg and through that a working relationship with the Canim.

One other enemy that has come to Alera from unknown origins is the Vord. The the first book in the series Tavi awakend a Vord Queen while proving himself to the Marat leaders. The Vord is an insect like species that are extremely powerful. They take forms similar to the people in the lands they invade. They can takeover a living being body (animal or human) through a small taker that eats its way to the brain of the "host" and then controls the "host's" every move. Also the Vord Queen can read minds thus making her a dangerous enemy. Many people in Alera do not believe the Vord to be real, until now.

The Vord have begun to attack Alera, this time around they are using fury crafting, which only Alerans have been able to do. This makes the Vord even more dangerous. To save Alera the First Lord, Gaius Sextus, has plans. The first of which is to send Count Bernard (Tavi's Uncle and a powerful fury crafter) and his wife Countess Amara (former cursor/spy for the First Lord) to discover how the Vord are able to suddenly use fury crafting. Next, in order to bring in more legions Gaius sends Tavi's mother Isana to the Shield Wall in the north, where the perpetual war with the Ice Men is waged, to form a truce so that the Legions there can come fight the Vord, and finally the First Lord lures the Vord to the Aleran capital where he can fight the Vord Queen. Killing the queen is the only way to stop the Vord.

While the possible destruction of Alera goes on, Tavi has arrived with ships full of Canim in their homeland, only to discover that the Vord have destroyed all the people and lands save for one small faction fighting a never ending war with the Vord. Tavi must then fight the Vord side by side with the Canim to escape back to Alera.

Once again, with Princep's Fury, Jim Butcher has created a masterpiece of high fantasy with excitment from many factions that will sweep you up in the excitement that is Codex Alera.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 1:47 AM Comments: 0

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Just After Sunset" By Stephen King

Just After Sunset
By Stephen King
Published 2008 by Scribner

Stephen King the master of horror delivers once again with his latest book, “Just After Sunset.” “…Sunset” is a collection of short stories that, as King states in the introduction to the book, allow him to exercise that little used short story muscle. Back in the day when he was writing, not to put food on the table, but to allow that extra check that turned out be nice to a then struggling family where his source of income was teaching high school English and summer jobs as a delivery driver or in a laundry. This book is basically his challenge to himself to see if he can still write the short story.

He Can!

“Just After Sunset” is a collection of 13 stories ranging from the romantic ghost story to the gross out kill-the-man-by-locking-him-in-a-port-a-potty-and-tip-it-over story. Each story is different but they all ring true of that Stephen King touch. He takes the what-if and makes it real, but usually in a scary or at least a haunting finish.

In the back of the book Mr. King provides a story by story explanation as to why and how the stories evolved.

Here’s a breakdown of the stories.

1. “Willa”
The story of some folks that have just experienced a train crash and have been waiting for hours at the nearest depot for a back-up train to take them home.

2. “The Gingerbread Girl”
read my review of the audio release of this story here:

3. “Harvey’s Dream”
A man who wakes up from a nightmare of his wife being killed, and wanting to tell the wife. She doesn’t want to hear the story but knows she has to.

4. “Rest Stop”
A writer his headed home on the interstate and stops in a rest stop to relieve himself. As he enters the building he hears an argument and a man beating a woman. This is a what-would-you-do story that brings out the hero in all of us.

5. “Stationary Bike”
A man buys a bike to become healthy and prolong his life but ends up crossing into another dimension.

6. “The Things They Left Behind”
This is Stephen King’s story to help understand the after effects of 9/11. This is a heartwarming story telling what happens to one man that survived the bringing down of the twin towers in New York. Told in a way that only Stephen King could.

7. “Graduation Afternoon”
Another Stephen King what-if. A girl celebrating her boyfriend’s graduation and contemplating her own future is witness to a sight that changes all future plans. When reading this story it may be helpful to play Pink Floyd’s “Two Suns in the Sunset” from the Final Cut album.

8. “N.”
A psychiatrist treats an OCD patient that developed his disorder after leaving a Stonehenge like structure.

9. “The Cat from Hell”
A great story about a hit man hired to kill a cat.

10. “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates”
A cell phone is the last connection to a wife’s late husband.

11. “Mute”
An interesting guy-picks-up-hitchhiker-then-goes-to-confession story.

12. “Ayana”
“Pay it Forward” movie meets a psychic healer.

13. “A Very Tight Place”
This is the gross out story in the book, and my favorite. Two enemies from the rich part of society, one seeks revenge by locking the other in a port-a-potty and tilts it over and leaves him to die.

Fun stories to read and all have that Stephen King touch to keep any fan happy. If you are not a typical Stephen King reader you’ll enjoy this also, a story for everyone.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 10:02 PM Comments: 0

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cursor's Fury: Book 3 of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

Cursor's Fury: Book 3 of the Codex Alera
Jim Butcher
Narrated by Kate Reading, unabridged
Penguin Audio, 20.5 hours

Jim Butcher has yet again created a memorable masterpiece in the Codex Alera series. The story is set in the mystical land of Alera, whose residents seem to be descendants of Roman Legionnaires. As befits legionnaires of any time or place, there are plenty of stunning battles, heroic characters, and menace from both ingenious alien races and treacherous allies. Add to this the ability of Alerans to control different aspects of the forces of nature (fury crafting) and you have the ingredients for an exciting piece of literature that spans five books. Each title builds toward the conclusion of this saga, with the sixth and final book in the series scheduled for publication later this year.

Narrator Kate Reading keeps the audiobook alive with a delicate command in her voice that demands attention. She accurately conveys excitement and danger, providing a good read that will lock in listeners and keep them engaged throughout the battle-filled story.

Cursor’s Fury continues the adventures of Gaius Octavius, or Tavi, the only Aleran who cannot perform magic by controlling a part of nature. But Tavi is the grandson and only heir to the First Lord, Gaius Sextus. His true identity is kept secret to avoid assassination by those seeking to overthrow the First Lord. Tavi’s mother uses her water-fury crafting skills to prevent Tavi from developing what would no doubt be extremely powerful fury crafting. As a result, Tavi is forced to rely on his wits to overcome many serious tests that come his way.

Recognizing his leadership skills and seeing through the veil created to hide Tavi, the First Lord, Gaius Sextus, realizes Tavi is his grandson. To protect him, Tavi is sent to train with a legion of recruits who are far away from civil strife. Because the First Lord has not named an heir to the throne, some of the major houses of Alera feel the need to overthrow the powerful First Lord and place themselves on that throne. The most ambitious of these is House Kalare. Lord Kalare has made it known that he will do anything to capture the throne, and in Cursor's Fury he makes his move.

To help insure his victory, Lord Kalare allies himself with the Canim, one of the sworn enemies of Alera.
The Canim are a humanoid/wolf race that live across the ocean from Alera. Lord Kalare asks the Canim to invade at the same time he attacks the First Lord. The plan seems to be working until it’s discovered that the Canim have something else in mind. They don't come over with merely an invading army, they come over with most of their population in order to take Alera themselves. And to emphasize the point, they burn their ships so they cannot return to their homeland.

Meanwhile, instead of being out of harm’s way, Tavi's 1st Legion of "fish," finds they must fortify and hold the bridge to the city of Elinarch. The bridge is a strategic point where the Canim threaten to invade Alera. The young legionnaires are called fish because they are new recruits and, instead of knowing how to battle, they flop around like fish. Through a series of unplanned events, Tavi is forced into the rank of Captain and must use only his wits to lead the legion of "Knights Pisces" into a major battle that may decide the future of Alera.
With a war on three fronts, this book is full of exciting action and a great cast of characters. Codex Alera is one series that is worth reading, or better yet, hearing again and again.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 1:11 AM Comments: 0

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket published 2006

The Beatrice Letters
A Series of Unfortunate Events (companion)
By Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Published by HarperCollins 2006

The Beatrice Letters was published just one month before the final book in the Series of Unfortunate Events, written by Lemony Snicket and featuring the tales of the Beaudelaire orphans. The series was a hilarious romp through the adventures of these three children with plays on words, anagrams and subtle references to many works of literature. Lemony Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) had a flair for humor and his adolescent fiction series provided some fun reading that even the adults could enjoy.

This companion to the series is a bit confusing at first but fun nonetheless. It's confusing because we never really know who Beatrice is. In the Books Beatrice is the mother of the orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, and she dies in the fire that begins the troubles, and leaves the children orphaned. In The Beatrice Letters, Beatrice seems to be 2 people, the mother and a sibling to the 3 orphans. The letters at first seem as though they are correspondence between Lemony Snicket and Beatrice, but as the reading progresses it seems the Lemony Snicket letters are written 10 years before the Beatrice letters, yet they flow. Very fun to read, but I warn you if you need clues to the secrets of the Baudelaire orphans you either have to dig really deep into this book or they don't exist.

The packaging of the book is also clever, it includes a mysterious poster, and a portfolio in which the book fits. The book also contains twelve punch-out letters (of the alphabet, as opposed to correspondence, although the ambiguity is intentional), and each is mentioned in different, interesting ways. An example is that the first letter is an E, juxtaposed against a card from Snicket to Beatrice, in which a map Snicket had drawn forms an E. The cardstock letters appear to be an anagram of 'Beatrice Sank'.

The book is a very short read with only 13 letters in total, but quite fun to puzzle over. Normally, when I review a book that is a part of a series, I will tell you whether or not the book can be read independently of the series or if you need to start with book one. With this one, ummmm I don't know...maybe, maybe not, but, I will tell you this, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is an awesome series and very fun to read, so read the 13 books in the series anyway.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 9:47 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

White Night The Dresden Files, Book 9 by Jim Butcher

White Night
The Dresden Files, Book 9
by Jim Butcher
Published 2007 by ROC

As any of my friends in Chicago can verify, life in the Windy City can be hectic and still full of adventure. Well, to say that's an understatement in Harry Dresden's Chicago is in itself an understatement. Harry Dresden is a wizard and private investigator that has set up shop in Chicago. Harry has a hero streak in which he HAS to help the common man. Oh yeah, he's also a warden for the White Council (the governing body of wizards world-wide), holder of one of the swords of the Knights of the Cross (which he is supposed to be find a true holder), fighting off possession of Lasciel (a fallen angel/Denarian), mentor to a teenage wizard, half-brother to a vampire of the White Court (a vampire that lives off sexual energy) and consultant to the Chicago P.D. Special investigations division. Busy guy.

If that weren't enough, Harry is sometimes called upon in his duties as warden to train new wizard recruits for the war between the White Council and the Red Court of Vampires. The war has taken its toll on the White Council, thus the reason Harry, of all people, has been made a warden, and new wizards are few and far between. The wizard's power is passed down through the mother's line of ancestry.

In this book someone is targeting female wizards with small amounts of power, and killing them. The women targeted are not powerful enough to be part of the White Council but have enough power to perform small magicks and they all seem to be suicides.. The person who is last seen with the murdered/suicidal women seems to be either Harry or his half-brother Thomas. Sgt. Karrin Murphy of the C.P.D. S.I. calls in Harry on one scene due to some strange circumstances on the scene. The suicide just doesn't feel right to Murphy. Harry soon discovers a "magical" message that was meant only for him to find. The message is, "Exodus 22:18," a Bible quote which states, "Suffer not a witch to live." Harry soon finds this hidden message on the body of another victim. The second victim was made to look like a suicide, but with the help of Harry's apprentice, he discovers she died in sexual ecstasy, as in an attack of a sexual vampire, from the White Court.

Suspecting his half-brother, Harry tries to find why Thomas is avoiding all of Harry's attempts to communicate. Harry goes to Thomas' home and finds a map with all the addresses of the missing women and some of the dead ones. Harry knows Thomas is not capable of such acts and tracks him down.

What comes next is a conspiracy within the White Court of vampires, an attack on Harry's psyche, an attempt to destroy the White Council of wizards, and a huge battle between vampires, wizards and an army of mercenaries hired by Chicago's own crime boss, "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone.

Things just aren't easy for Harry, but that same excitement is what makes the Dresden Files books a great series to sink your teeth into. I will warn you it would be best if you picked up the first book, "Storm Front" and read them in order before you get to this book, which is number nine in the series, because of plot points that were started in earlier novels. Trust me, once you read one you'll want to get through the series as fast as you can.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 1:56 AM Comments: 0

Monday, January 05, 2009

Justice League of America: Exterminators by Christopher Golden

Justice League of America: Exterminators
Christopher Golden
Multicast production
Graphic Audio
Approx. 5 hours
Audiobook published 2008

I was going through my stack of books and audiobooks to review and saw that I had another audiobook from Graphic Audio. I soon became excited because, well, when Graphic Audio promises "A movie in your mind," not only do they deliver, they deliver with a punch. Another Graphic Audio production and, to add icing on the cake, another production of a Justice League of America audiobook. With great production and the exciting events that follow Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, The Green Lantern et. al. I got myself ready for the ride of a lifetime.

I would like to first emphasize how wonderful Graphic Audio's productions are when converting a novel to audiobook. The music, sound effects and voicework really place you into the action and keep you glued to the audiobook. There were times where I would intentionally drive slower when listening in the car or find more housework to do so I could wait that much longer before I had to shut off the audiobook. It reminds me of the old radio serials where your imagination worked to push the story along. However comparing this audiobook with a radio program is like comparing (to stay in the comic book genre) the '60s Batman television series to the 2008 theatrical release The Dark Knight. The cast of voices all perform their roles as superheroes while the narrator pushes the non-dialogue sections of the book creating a constant flow of storytelling mixed with superb sound effects and music.

The story in this novilization based on DC Comics Justice League of America heroes begins when a surprisingly large number of people are popping up with super powers. These ""meta-humans"" come to be under close scrutiny of the Justice League because they can either use these powers for good or bad. While some come out to help the world's known superheroes some seek to use their powers for ill will and creates a new problem for the heroes to combat.

These ""meta-humans"" cropping up all share common background, the United Kingdom. This leads the older members of the Justice League to think that due to their handling of a previous situation in the U.K., the Justice League themselves are responsible for the creation of these "meta-humans".

To make matters worse the "meta-humans" begin evolving into creatures that resemble armored salamanders and begin burrowing into the Earth. The burrowers then begin cropping up in major cities around the world destroying everything in sight. With millions of lives at stake the Justice League goes into action fighting these seemingly indestructible creatures while at the same time finding the reason they have come into being.

While the action takes place in the story a series of flashback segments takes the listener back ten years to when an alien force invades Earth and is destroyed by newly formed Justice League and the Royal Air Force over the skies of the U.K. Leading to the outcome that the aliens have returned in the form of a parasite to destroy the planet.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman become so overcome by these burrowers they have to call in the Justice League reserves, so no matter who your favorite DC Comics hero is, they'll probably make an appearance in this exciting tale; Justice League of America: Exterminators.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 9:05 PM Comments: 0