Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Maelstrom is a graphic novel adaptation of the second half of Storm Front, the inaugural novel in the Dresden FileReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Maelstrom is a graphic novel adaptation of the second half of Storm Front, the inaugural novel in the Dresden Files series. As with the first volume, The Gathering Storm, the book contains four sections, and each section was originally released in comic book format, then collected together into this one hardcover volume. At the end, there is also a bonus preview of the graphic novel adaptation of Fool Moon, which includes an excerpt and concept art.
Once again, I'm not going to review the overall story, because I've already written a review on the full-length novel version of Storm Front, a book that I very much enjoyed. Just like with The Gathering Storm, I thought the adaptation of the story was done extremely well, definitely hitting all the important plot points and staying true to the original source material. Again I would consider this book to be firmly in the adult graphic novel category as there is a fair bit of violence, some of which can get bloody and gory, both male and female nudity is depicted with the important parts strategically covered, and in two frames, a couple is seen in the background in the throes of passion. None of this bothered me, but since graphic novels tend to be popular with teens, I wanted to provide the information for those who might be concerned. My only small complaint is that this time, the illustrations were done by two different artists. I guess overall, I was generally satisfied with both artists' renderings. They each had something unique to offer, but I still have a bit of a preference for Ardian Syaf's work. Where I had a slight issue with it is that I found the switch in styles about halfway through the book a little jarring. I'm not sure why the book publishers did it this way, but I do wish they'd stuck with one artist for the entire series. Otherwise though, I thought it was an excellent graphic novel adaptation that I would definitely recommend....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Gathering Storm is a graphic novel adaptation of the first half of Storm Front, the inaugural novel in the Dresden Files sReviewed for THC Reviews The Gathering Storm is a graphic novel adaptation of the first half of Storm Front, the inaugural novel in the Dresden Files series. The book contains four chapters, and each chapter was originally released in comic book format, then collected together into this one hardcover volume. At the end, there is also a bonus comic adaptation of the prequel short story, Restoration of Faith, done by a different artist and story adapter. And at the very back of the book, there are both the line drawings and finished covers for the comic books.
I won't bother critiquing the overall story, because I've already done a review on the full-length novel version of Storm Front, a book that I very much enjoyed. What I will say is that IMHO, The Gathering Storm is an excellent adaptation of the novel into graphic novel form. Even though it's been a while since I read Storm Front, it's all coming back to me, and now in living color.:-) I really like Ardian Syaf's illustrations. I feel like they capture Harry and the other characters, as well as the situations in which they find themselves, quite well. While I've categorized some of the other Dresden Files graphic novels under young adult as well as adult, I would say that The Gathering Storm is firmly in the adult category. It contains some mild to moderate sexuality. Harry is seen naked throughout one scene, although the important parts are strategically covered. There is also a fair bit of violence, including a particularly bloody, gory murder scene.
As for the bonus content, the graphic novelization of Restoration of Faith was done very nicely. When I read the short story, I must have missed that Karrin Murphy was the cop who helped out Harry and his young charge. It was probably because I wasn't yet familiar with the characters who would be playing key roles in the books, so it was nice to get that little blast from the past. I didn't like the art work in this one quite as well. It was done by a different artist, and there was just something about it that didn't quite speak to me in the same way as Ardian Syaf's work on The Gathering Storm did. But overall it was a nice addition to the book. I also enjoyed seeing the original comic book covers at the end.
Overall, I very much enjoyed The Gathering Storm and don't think they could have done any better job of capturing the look and feel of the novel as well as the salient plot points into a comics style format. It was extremely well done, stayed true to the original source material, and is highly recommended by this reader for graphic novel fans....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Death Masks is the fifth full-length novel in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and my favorite of the series thus far. I love how tReviewed for THC Reviews Death Masks is the fifth full-length novel in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and my favorite of the series thus far. I love how the author was able to take multiple plot threads and weave them all seamlessly together into an exciting story. First you have Harry forced into fighting a duel with the champion of the Red Court of Vampires in order to put an end to the war that is raging between the Red vampires and wizards. Then Harry is hired by a priest from Rome to find the Shroud of Turin that has been stolen and presumed to have been brought to Chicago. After that, Murphy brings Harry in on a case involving a headless and handless corpse that the police have found. And last but not least, Harry's old girlfriend, Susan, finally returns to town after more than a year's absence, with another man in tow, leaving Harry feeling quite jealous. Believe it or not, as disparate as these plot threads seem, they do all bear some relevance to one another, and made for a nail-biting story in which the action barely lets up for a second.
Harry is an intriguing and complex character who seems to grow and change with each story of the series. He reminds me a bit of Malcolm Reynolds, the ship's captain on the TV show Firefly, because he has both a good side and a bad side. His good heart makes him do what he does for the greater good of humanity, but he's been tempted by the darkness before and it happens again in this book. Unlike his Knights of the Cross friends who try to show mercy, he's also not averse to roughing up suspects when he feels the situation calls for it. While we didn't necessarily learn much more about Harry's past in this book, I have a feeling the events themselves will have a far-reaching effect on him that will probably play out over the books to come, and I can't wait to see where it leads him.
As I mentioned before, Susan finally returns, wreaking havoc on Harry's emotions. He still loves her and longs to be with her, but her pseudo-vampire condition hasn't changed. She, however, has changed as a person, and for the first time in the series, I can truly say I liked her. It's not that I disliked her before, but there were times when she seemed a bit self-serving in her motivations. Not to mention, she was working as a reporter for a sleazy tabloid. Now she's found a greater purpose in life and is making the best of a bad situation by using her condition for a good cause. She helps Harry in a number of different ways throughout this story. In fact, he might not have made it out of some scrapes alive if not for her. Susan and Harry also get to share a passionate interlude, which kind of surprised me by how well- written it was. I guess I didn't expect a guy to be able to write a love scene that was so intense and emotional that it rivaled some of my steamy romances, but that's exactly what Jim Butcher accomplished here, which made me very happy.:-)
In addition to Susan, there are a number of other memorable secondary characters, some old and some new. Knight of the Cross, Michael, returns with two new Knights, Sanya and Shiro, in tow, searching for the Shroud too. Despite only interacting with him for a few days, I have a feeling that Shiro's influence is going to stick with Harry for a long time to come. We also get a little closer look at Michael's large family. Mob boss, Gentleman Johnny Marcone, is back too, and by the end, more depth and complexity had been added to his character. Much like Harry, I can't really justify all the nasty things he's done, but I do understand him better now and can't really hate him. Murphy is largely sidelined by the department in this book, but it doesn't stop her from helping Harry as much as she can. We're introduced to the Denarians, a group of demonic baddies who get their power from the thirty pieces of silver Judas received for betraying Christ. With thirty of them out there and only a fraction of the silver coins recovered thus far, I'm sure they'll be back trying to kick Harry's butt in the future. My favorite new character though is The Archive, a little girl who is the keeper of all human knowledge and memories. She is sent along with her bodyguard/babysitter, Kincaid, to act as emissary in Harry's duel with the Red Court champion. I absolutely loved this kid who is equal parts sweetness and serious – possibly deadly – intent. She sort of reminds me of a kinder, gentler version of Hit Girl from the movie Kick-Ass, and I can't wait to see more of her.
Overall, Death Masks was a truly awesome book. I have no complaints about the story at all. It was very well-written and kept me thoroughly engaged throughout with a nice balance of intense action and calmer moments where we get to meet new characters and get to know old characters better. And as I mentioned before, there's even a little romance, which pleased this romance-lover very much. There were some loose threads left hanging at the end which I'm sure will be picked up in future stories and woven into the greater tapestry of the series, and I'm very excited to see where things go next for our intrepid hero, Harry Dresden....more
"4.5 stars" Summer Knight was a much better read for me than the last book of the Dresden Files series. Even though I was really tired again while rea"4.5 stars" Summer Knight was a much better read for me than the last book of the Dresden Files series. Even though I was really tired again while reading this one and occasionally dozing off (just like last time:-)), I had no trouble at all following the story. There's lots of action, mystery, intrigue, and plenty of supernatural occurrences. The climactic battle in the Nevernever in the land of Faerie kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved that Jim Butcher finally gave his readers some more insights into Harry's background. I'd been getting really antsy waiting for Harry's character to develop more fully, so this new information was very much appreciated. The author also utilized several secondary characters who were already on the canvas from previous stories, and it was nice to see them again. Most exciting of all was a surprise character from Harry's past who showed up and became an unexpected ally. Everything combined to make Summer Knight a very enjoyable read.
In this installment, Harry is still reeling about nine months after the events of Grave Peril. He's been in a major funk ever since his girlfriend, Susan, left town after being bitten by a vampire. He also feels guilty about what happened to her, thinking it was at least partially his fault. He's been obsessively searching for a cure for her condition, without success, and it's strongly affecting his life. His apartment has turned into a pigsty, and he's about to be evicted from both it and his office. He needs money fast, but the only “job offer” he receives is working as an emissary for one of the faerie queens to clear her of a murder. After being screwed over by his fairy godmother, working for one of the Fae is not an appealing prospect, but when he discovers that his fairy godmother sold his debt to the Queen, he doesn't have much choice. Not to mention, the White Council is breathing down his neck for starting a war with the Red Vampire Court, and if he doesn't succeed in his mission, there could be hell to pay in more ways than one. Harry was definitely in fine form in this story. I've always loved the fact that he isn't an all-powerful wizard. His magical powers do have their limits, but I think this makes both him and the stories more interesting, because it gives him vulnerabilities, which adds conflict to the stories. Sometimes, he simply has to use good old-fashioned ingenuity and/or brute force to get out of sticky situations. However, his powers can also be pretty impressive, and I get the feeling that they may be gradually growing, that there could be a lot of untapped potential in him, which is a good thing for future stories of the series.
Susan may be temporarily (presumably) out of the picture, but there were plenty of other secondary characters to fill in the gap. Harry reconciles his friendship with Karrin Murphy, and we get to learn a little more about her background. She's still struggling emotionally with the supernatural things that happened to her in the previous books, but it seems she's finally forgiven Harry. She ends up being one of the few people Harry feels he can trust completely, and her warrior woman instincts help him out of a life-or-death situation. Billy and his Alphas werewolf pack from Fool Moon return to help Harry with his investigation and the coming battle. Toot-toot, the pixie who was first seen in Storm Front, is back to help Harry, along with his adorable little faerie army. The way Harry can always trick them with food is just too cute. We're introduced to a number of new characters including Ebenezar, Harry second mentor, and several members of the White Council, who I have a feeling will factor prominently in future books. Then there's Mab, the faerie queen who hires Harry. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her, because Harry still owes her two requests before his debt will be paid in full. There are also a group of half-mortal, half-fae young people who are instrumental players and some of whom will likely have roles in coming books as well. Of course, there's the mysterious character from Harry's past that I mentioned earlier, but I can't say much more about that without giving away a major spoiler. Suffice it to say, I liked this part of the story and hope we'll see more of this person as the series progresses, because I didn't feel like their history had been fully reconciled yet. This is only a fraction of the broad and varied supporting cast, but some of the ones I felt were more memorable.
Overall, I liked Summer Knight, and in the end, I waffled a bit on how to rate it. The ending was just so good, I almost gave it the full five stars, but as I considered a few minor quibbles I'd had throughout, I decided to knock off a half star. The writing needed a few more contractions, because the dialog and/or prose was occasionally a bit stilted without them. There are so many supporting characters, I sometimes found myself forgetting who they were, especially when they appear in an early chapter and then aren't seen for several more. Last but not least, while I did enjoy the book, I can't really say I felt a burning need to get back to it when I had to put it down, at least not until those climactic final chapters. I can't put my finger on exactly why this is, but normally, I only give five stars to those books where I could barely put them down. Other than the couple of minor things I mentioned though, I can't say that there was anything wrong with the story. In fact, I thought it was very well done. It held my interest quite well, and even though I probably never would have guessed the villain (that's not one of my strong suits anyway), once everything came out, it made perfect sense. So, ultimately, Summer Knight was a near-perfect read that has put the series back on track for me, and I'm looking forward to reading more Dresden books in the coming year....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Ghoul Goblin is a compilation of six comic book episodes from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series bound together into one volumReviewed for THC Reviews Ghoul Goblin is a compilation of six comic book episodes from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series bound together into one volume. It represents one complete Dresden Files short story that falls between Fool Moon and Grave Peril in the series chronology. After reading Grave Peril, I was left with some questions as to what Harry had been up to in between the two books, and I was kind of hoping this story might fill in some of the missing pieces, but alas, that was not meant to be. However, Ghoul Goblin was still an enjoyable story in and of itself.
In this book, our intrepid private investigator and professional wizard, Harry Dresden is called away from his hometown of Chicago to investigate the mysterious deaths of two sibling in a small rural town in Missouri. The local deputy sheriff believes that the deaths may have been supernatural in nature, which is why he calls upon Harry, but Harry gets a less than enthusiastic welcome to the community. He eventually discovers that the victims were part of a cursed family, meaning their remaining five siblings are still in grave danger. The body count ends up being rather high, and although Harry eventually vanquishes their enemies, I wouldn't precisely call the ending a happy one. In fact, several lives are irrevocably changed because of the events that occur, which might account for this book having a little lower ratings than others in the series. Overall, I guess it didn't bother me too much. I still liked the story pretty well in spite of the sad circumstances.
If the story had any weakness, I would probably say it was in the backstory of the family's curse and how it related to the current supernatural events playing out within the community. I can't say I fully understood how everything tied together until I read the bonus material in the back of the book. Then it all became much clearer. I must admit too that it was interesting reading the original concept synopsis and seeing how the story evolved from that early idea into the finished product. Overall, I found the illustrations appealing and thought they enhanced the storytelling quite well. Seeing how the story is scripted and them combined with the artwork was intriguing too. I was hoping that Harry's background might be explored a little bit in this one (at one point it was looking like it might be), but unfortunately, the author was only teasing us yet again and still stringing the reader along. Aside from my minor issues, Ghoul Goblin was a satisfying read. After enjoying the two stand-alone graphic novels in this series, I'm now considering going back and reading the graphic novelizations of the first two full-length novels. I think it could be an interesting experience....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Grave Peril is the third full-length novel in the Dresden Files series. Up to this point, I've been pretty engaged in this serReviewed for THC Reviews Grave Peril is the third full-length novel in the Dresden Files series. Up to this point, I've been pretty engaged in this series, but for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, this book didn't quite do it for me. It was still a pretty good story, but I just didn't feel as drawn into it as I have with the other thus far. I freely admit that part of the problem may have been me. I read the majority of the book while completely exhausted, as well as having a lot going on in my life that presented some distractions. That being said though, even when I'm tired and lacking focus, if a story is really good, it will still draw me in, but that wasn't entirely the case here. There was just something about the way it was written that didn't fully engage my brain.
Maybe it was because I didn't feel like I got enough insights into Harry's life this time around as I did with the previous books. Harry has always been an intriguing character to me and one of my biggest literary crushes. However, I didn't feel that this story was as good of a vehicle for his underlying charm and geekiness. He does exhibit his trademark chivalry and can never resist a lady in distress, which I find endearing. He's also very determined to win the day or die trying, which is an admirable trait as well, but I just didn't feel as connected to him this time. Perhaps it was because Harry wasn't interacting with the supporting characters in a deep and meaningful way. In some ways, they seemed like more of a means to an end, like they were just there to give Harry something to do or someone to play off of, rather than being an integral part of the story. I'm also becoming very impatient to learn more about Harry's background. Thus far, we've barely scratched the surface with regards to his first love and his mentor, and I'd love to know more about this part of his life and how it has shaped him into the person he is. But I'll admit that even with the foibles in his character development this time, Harry is still pretty cool.
In this book, Harry's love life takes on a new dimension. He first became involved with tabloid reporter Susan Rodriguez in Storm Front and their relationship progressed in Fool Moon. Now he's slowly coming around to admitting that he's in love with her. Unfortunately, though, we see so little of their interactions as a couple throughout these books that it felt like their romance went from 0 to 60 in mere seconds. It didn't help that they had to travel a pretty rocky road in this book, with some big changes occurring for Susan. Even though she usually ends up involved in whatever mayhem is going on, it seems more like Susan orbits the periphery of Harry's life rather than being a partner in it, which makes it difficult for me to become invested in their romance. Without that deep connection it was difficult to fathom the decisions he made regarding her and the risks he was willing to take for her sake.
The other thing that bothered me was that I was having a hard time following the story this time (which admittedly could have been due to my exhaustion), but it just didn't seem like the mystery flowed as smoothly as it could have. At times, I found myself rather confused and I don't think I could have speculated on what was causing the ghosts to rise in force if I tried. I also struggled a bit with the introduction of some new characters. First was Michael, a Knight of the Cross, who wields holy power. I really liked him as a character and hope we see more of him in the books to come. Also present was Harry's fairy godmother, Lea, with whom it seems he made some kind of pact a long while ago. She seems to enjoy tormenting him, and I think digging deeper into her character could definitely add to Harry's characterization. However, where I struggled was with how these two characters were introduced. They just pop into the story with very little background insights into Harry's relationship with either one. Lea has obviously been a part of his life for a long time, and he's been trying to avoid her. Michael, on the other hand, it seems Harry met while working on another case months before, which tied into one of the villains of Grave Peril. I kept feeling like I was supposed to already know about the villain and this previous case, like it was part of another story, but try as I might, I couldn't recall reading anything like that up to this point in the series. I just couldn't help feeling like there were pieces to the story I was missing.
In addition to Michael and Lea, there are some other secondary characters who either are introduced and appear to play roles in future stories of the series or who had been previously introduced in prior books of the series. Karrin Murphy doesn't play as big of a part in this book, but she does show up. Harry has an intriguing admiration for her that IMHO, in some ways overshadows his relationship with Susan. I've speculated before about whether there might someday be something more between Harry and Murphy, but considering the path his romance with Susan took, I'm not so sure anymore. The red vampire Bianca, first seen in Storm Front, is back in all her bad-ass glory. A new white vampire, Thomas, becomes an ally for Harry. And last but not least, Harry's sidekicks, Bob and Mister, were in fine form as always.
Overall, Grave Peril may not have been the best book in the series for me so far, but it does set up some pivotal events that I'm sure will play out in the next book or books of the series. I'll be interested to see where things go from here, considering all that happened in Grave Peril, so I'll definitely be picking up the next book Summer Knight soon and hoping that I'm not as confused by the storyline or as tired the next time around.:-)...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Although I'm an eclectic reader, I don't usually read a ton of books that fall outside the romance genre. I do, hoReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Although I'm an eclectic reader, I don't usually read a ton of books that fall outside the romance genre. I do, however, like to stretch my mind, so I enjoy finding books in other genres that entertain me. So far, The Dresden Files are doing just that. When starting a new book in this series, I've noticed that it can take a little while for things to get going, but about halfway in, I'm usually hooked. There's always lots of action and suspense, and Jim Butcher is masterful at ending each chapter with a mini-cliffhanger that keeps me turning the pages. With all this being the case, I always seem to have a good time reading any Dresden Files novel or short story. In this particular book, Harry goes up against several different werewolves who come in a variety of species, most of whom are quite vicious.
I probably wouldn't be having nearly as much fun with this series if not for it's protagonist, Harry Dresden. Part of the reason I love Harry so much is that I could easily picture him as the hero in one of my romance novels. He's chivalrous toward women which I personally find very appealing, but which the independent, kick-butt ladies who tend to appear in these book often find annoying. He's very honorable, always trying to do the right thing, and he views his wizard powers as a serious responsibility, always trying to use them to defeat evil even if it means putting his own life on the line to do it. I love that Harry's magic isn't an automatic fix-it for every situation that comes his way. For a large part of this book, his energy was so depleted he couldn't even conjure, and even when he can, it isn't always enough to overcome the supernatural forces he's up against. This lends itself well to higher suspense since there's more on the line, and it also means Harry must often use his wits to get out of sticky situations instead of relying on an easy solution.
In each book, it seems readers will get tidbits of both Harry's past and his future. It appears that the author is slowly building a series arc in which someone very powerful is out to kill Harry and is using the villains of each book to try to accomplish that objective. I'll be interested to see where this leads in future books of the series. We also learn just a little more about Harry's past. Because of things that happened with his first love and his mentor, Harry has a hard time trusting anyone, especially women. His character has undertones of a loner, but at the same time, deep down, he would like to have a relationship with someone. In the first book of the series, he became involved with Susan, a reporter from the Arcane, a tabloid style newspaper that covers supposed supernatural occurrences. At first, she only seemed to be using Harry to get the scoop, but in this book, she shows some surprisingly strong feelings toward him. They have a casual, yet somewhat complicated, romantic relationship, and they share one love scene in this book minus any real details. At the same time though, I think Harry has a bit of a crush on Karrin Murphy, his police department liaison, leading me to wonder if something might happen between them somewhere down the line. In this book, however, Murphy is still quite miffed with Harry because of things he kept from her in the first book, which have led to her being under investigation by Internal Affairs. She has become deeply distrustful of him even though she still likes him as a person, so as a consequence, they spend a lot of the book arguing.
As to other secondary characters in the story, there are a whole host of werewolves, some good, some bad, and still others who fall somewhere in between. Of course, it becomes Harry's job to figure out which ones are which. Before he can accomplish that though, several innocent people die, including one surprising character who I was just starting to like a little, because this person finally seemed to be warming up to Harry. One of the wolves, Tera, is one of those kick-butt heroines who the reader is kept guessing about throughout the story. I enjoyed the little twist with her character at the end. Enigmatic mobster, Johnny Marcone, is back too, first trying to hire Harry, then winding up in the sights of the bad guys. I don't think this would be a Dresden Files book without Harry's mischievous spirit sidekick, Bob, who's always good for a few laughs and his loyal but aloof cat, Mister. Overall, I really enjoyed Fool Moon, as well as the series as a whole. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes urban fantasy mixed with mystery and suspense. I know I'm certainly looking forward to continuing it soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" A Touch of Madness is the second story in B. C. Brown's Abigail St. Michael Mysteries. It continues to follow theReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" A Touch of Madness is the second story in B. C. Brown's Abigail St. Michael Mysteries. It continues to follow the main protagonist Abbey St. Michael as she takes on another murder mystery with supernatural underpinnings, while struggling with issues in her personal life. This time the book is solidly in the paranormal mystery/thriller genre with a touch of tart noir. Whereas there had been enough romance in the first book of the series to make me comfortable with classifying it as romantic suspense, this time, the romance was less prevalent and there was no resolution to Abbey's relationship dilemma. The mystery was on par with the first, very intriguing, and the overall storytelling was good as well. Although I correctly guessed what was going on, that didn't happen until near the end, so it kept me engaged throughout. The writing itself was good too, perhaps even a bit better than the first, because the editing had improved, leading to less distractions. Overall, this was a very good book right up until the final page. Unfortunately, the ending was so abrupt, I turned that last page, thinking, “What! That's it?” The mystery was admittedly wrapped up well, but Abbey's life certainly was not. In that, I was left with more questions than answers, which has made the book very difficult for me to rate.
In A Touch of Madness, Abbey takes on the case of three identical triplets all suspected of a string of serial murders. Unfortunately, the police can prove nothing, because the three sisters have all confessed to all the crimes. That's where Abbey, a touch clairvoyant, comes into the picture. She can see visions of things a person has done, simply by touching them. The police need her to go undercover to find an opportunity to touch each sister in turn, to determine which one committed which murder. To touch someone, especially someone who has committed a heinous crime, causes Abbey great physical and emotional distress. She is understandably reluctant to take the case until her ex-husband comes to her, pleading for her help, because one of the victims was his new fiancée. Abbey finally relents, but then becomes so obsessed with solving the case, it puts her own sanity at risk, not to mention her personal relationships. Overall, I did enjoy the mystery part of the story. The whole psychic phenomena thing is quite intriguing, and Abbey makes a good protagonist. She is the first-person narrator of the book and has a habit of interjecting snarky asides throughout. On the one hand, I admired her tenacity in wanting to solve the case, but on the other, she sometimes pushed herself in a manner that seemed a bit foolhardy to me, which to my way of thinking, was borne out in the way everything ended for her.
One of the main things that disappointed me in this book, though, was the romance. In the first book of the series, Abbey started a relationship with Nik, who is a psychic negator. In other words, he can dampen the psychic activity of any metaphysical near him, which is why he's the only person in Abbey's life who can touch her without causing her pain. Although I was satisfied with the way their relationship ended in the first book, I had felt like Abbey kind of gave Nik the short end of the stick so to speak. I had hoped that things would progress in a positive direction for them in this book, but unfortunately, Abbey's uncertainties continued. Even though he didn't have a huge role in either story and the reader only gets to see him through Abbey's eyes, I fell hard for Nik and thought he was a pretty amazing guy, which is part of why I didn't feel like Abbey treated him as well as he deserved. Nik proposes marriage early on, but Abbey basically turns him down cold. I was glad to see her mother and Nik's grandmother lovingly calling her an idiot for doing so, because I was thinking the exact same thing. In the end, I can't say I fully understood her reasoning either. She is concerned that if she lives in the same house with Nik long-term, he will completely dampen her abilities to the point that she won't be able to use them again, yet all they've ever seemed to cause her is heartache and pain. I did understand on some level her desire to catch the bad guys, but that obsession appeared to override her love for Nik and her desire for a normal life with a husband and children. It almost seemed to me like she was afraid to finally be happy. Also, her continued attraction to her ex when she's supposedly in love with, and committed to, another man was a bit disconcerting, leaving me thinking she still has a thing for him. Whatever her reasons, Abbey's reluctance puts a lot of distance between her and Nik for most of the story, and just when things seemed like they might be getting back on track for them, something Abbey says makes Nik walk out on their steamy reconciliation. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure why he did either. The issue seemed like something that desperately needed to be discussed, but after that, the couple didn't interact again for the remainder of the book. Based on how it all ended though, I can't help wondering if Nik is going to be out of the picture permanently if the series continues. That thought is rather distressing, because I liked him so much and he seemed perfect for Abbey.
Although, as I mentioned earlier, the editing was better for A Touch of Madness than it's predecessor, there were still a few small things that bothered me. First was repetition. Some of it was necessary to get new readers who hadn't read the first book up to speed on who Abbey is and what she does, but there were a couple of places where I detected repeating information within this book. I also thought that having large parts of the visions repeated at the end was kind of overkill. I think maybe Abbey saying that she experienced the murder of a particular person again would have sufficed. The scene transitions could have used a little more warning as well, such as extra spaces or different formatting. Occasionally, the narrative makes a time jump from one paragraph to the next which could be rather jarring. Last was with regards to the mystery itself which is a slight spoiler. ********Spoiler alert******** I couldn't quite figure out how all three sisters ended up being charged with the murders when Abbey was only able to pinpoint them to two, unless the third was being charged as an accessory or something, but that was never specified. I guess on some level it was probably necessary for the ending though.********End spoiler alert********
Overall, A Touch of Madness was a good story, and if the romance hadn't been so unhappy, the ending hadn't been so abrupt, and so many questions about Abbey's personal life hadn't been left hanging in the balance, I would have gladly awarded it at least four stars. As is though, the ending of any book is the last thing a reader is left with, and I can't say that I was particularly happy with the way things wrapped up. There was an excerpt at the end of A Touch of Madness for a new book titled Sight Unseen. However, there is no information about it on the author's website. I skimmed though the excerpt, and although it certainly looked like it might be a continuation, I couldn't be sure. If it is, I'd probably be game for reading it as long as it has a more satisfying ending....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Storm Front was a very good start to the full-length novels of the Dresden Files series. The first half or so of tReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Storm Front was a very good start to the full-length novels of the Dresden Files series. The first half or so of the book was admittedly a little slow in places and could be a bit narrative heavy throughout. I think this may be partly owing to the first in a series syndrome, where the author must spend time building the characters and their world. The first half also focuses more on the mystery aspect of the story with Harry simply doing some good old-fashioned sleuthing, but the second half really takes off, ratcheting up the suspense and focusing more on the paranormal and urban fantasy aspects. The mystery portion perhaps wasn't quite as mysterious as it could have been. Once I got to a certain point in the story, it was pretty easy to figure out who the perpetrator was and there were few surprises after that, but I still had fun with it anyway. All in all, a very enjoyable read.
The biggest reason I'm slowly becoming a fan of this series is Harry. He's an awesome hero and someone a geek like me can relate to. I'm already half in love with him and will unabashedly add him to my list of literary crushes, and this isn't even a romance. Despite being a very talented wizard, Harry is pretty much the underdog. Except for his cat, Mister, and his sidekick, Bob, he is basically all alone in the world. He has acquaintances, but at this point in the story arc, few people I would call close friends. On the contrary, practically everyone is out to get him at various times, even his police contacts, Murphy and Carmichael. Because of things that happened with a dark wizard in Harry's past, the White Council has sent a warden, Morgan, to watch him. Morgan and some of the council members are just waiting for Harry to screw up again, so they can execute him. So far, we've only gotten tidbits of what happened and what Harry did, so I'm really looking forward to learning more about his past. I like that just because Harry is a wizard, he isn't invincible or able to do anything with his powers. In fact, he uses his intelligence and ingenuity to get out of sticky situation more so than his magical powers. He also has problems and vulnerabilities just like any normal human, such as being late on his rent and puking at crime scenes. In addition, his wizard powers have a tendency to render technology of any kind useless around him, so he has no choice but to use his wits.
I think what makes Harry so lovable though, at least to a woman like me, is his sense of honor and integrity. He always tries to do the right thing. He may think about doing the 'wrong' thing to get out of a difficult situation, but in the end, he always chooses to take the high road. He has a good sense of self and is confident without being cocky or arrogant. He's smart, resourceful and kind of on the geeky side. He has horrible luck with women, is pretty awkward around them, and appears to be rather inexperienced when it comes to the fairer sex. Despite that though, he still admires the ladies and is old-fashioned, gentlemanly, and loves helping damsels in distress. He's also kind and honest with a sensitive spirit. What's not to love? I even adore his leather duster and how he's always wearing odd clothing combinations (or none at all;-)). His sarcastic sense of humor keeps me on my toes too.
There are some supporting characters who I believe will play roles throughout the series. Harry's cat, Mister, is really cute and the fact that Harry rescued him from a trash can when he was just a kitten shows what a good heart Harry has. Harry's sidekick, Bob, is a mischievous spirit who lives inside a skull. Bob is full of sarcastic comments and is always doing things to get himself or Harry into trouble, but at the same time is a big help to Harry. Murphy and Carmichael are the Chicago PD detectives with whom Harry works. Murphy has seen enough with her own eyes to mostly believe that Harry is for real and that there really are things that go bump in the night. She can have a little bit of a softer side, but most of the time doesn't let it show and doesn't cut Harry any slack either. Her partner, Carmichael, on the other hand is a complete skeptic when it comes to the supernatural. Then there is Harry's warden, Morgan, who is looking for any excuse to whack Harry, but at the same time has a certain sense of honor and fairness. The villain, victims, and other secondary characters were well-drawn and interesting too.
Overall, I had a good time reading Storm Front. It kind of has the feel of a noir detective novel mixed with fantasy and paranormal elements. There is plenty of action and suspense, but at the same time, a lot of Harry's one-liners and some of the situations he ends up in are LOL funny. Harry himself is just a wonderful character, a great mix of powerful wizard and everyday guy, and I can't wait to read more of his adventures....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Welcome to the Jungle was another enjoyable short story in the Dresden Files series, this time in graphic novel format. I rareReviewed for THC Reviews Welcome to the Jungle was another enjoyable short story in the Dresden Files series, this time in graphic novel format. I rarely read graphic novels, but have to say that this one was quite fun. It was kind of like reading a movie or watching a book.:-) The illustrations were very appealing and complimented the text perfectly. They also expressed the emotion and action of the scenes quite well. The illustrator, Ardian Syaf is billed as a rising star in the comic book world, and I'd have to agree. He is very talented.
The story itself is a fairly simple one with Harry investigating the mysterious and brutal murder of a security guard at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Those who don't believe in the supernatural are quick to blame it on a gorilla, but Harry knows better. Each of the Dresden Files shorts I've read so far have drawn me into Harry's world. He's almost like a super-hero with his wizard powers, but at the same time, he's just an average everyday guy who's easy to relate to. He's something of a hard-boiled detective, but also has a softer side and seems to really care about people. The tidbits of Harry's backstory that are revealed in this graphic novel really intrigued me, and make me eager to read the first full-length book of the series so that I can delve into this character and learn more about him. The two Chicago PD officers Harry works with, Murphy and Carmichael, are introduced in this story as well. Overall, Welcome to the Jungle was a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours of my reading time and really has me looking forward to continuing the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Touch of Darkness is an intriguing story that crosses several literary sub-genres. I would say that first and foremost it isReviewed for THC Reviews A Touch of Darkness is an intriguing story that crosses several literary sub-genres. I would say that first and foremost it is a tale of supernatural mystery and suspense as Abbey, the heroine, uses her paranormal talents to try to find and stop a serial killer of children with otherworldly abilities of his own. I thought that Abbey's jaded cynical attitude gave the book a touch of tart noir as well. A decent romantic element develops when Abbey meets her hunky new neighbor, just enough so that I would also be comfortable classifying the story as romantic suspense. But no matter which category the reader prefers, I found it to be an enjoyable read overall.
Abbey is the first-person narrator of the story who frequently engages in snarky asides. She is a former cop who now works as a police consultant using her gift as a tactile clairvoyant (meaning every time she touches a person or object, she gets visions of other people's lives) to help them solve crimes. Abbey has had her gift since childhood, but didn't come into her full powers until a traumatic event in her life a few years before. At that point, the department sent her on a “vacation” to an institute in Mexico which specializes in helping psychic individuals deal with their gifts. Around that same time, she also lost her unborn baby and her marriage crumbled, two events that have had a profound impact on her life. Unable to bear touching or being touched by anyone, Abbey essentially lives the life of a hermit. When she's not working, she spends all her free time engaged in geeky pastimes, like gaming, surfing the web, watching movies, and consuming copious amounts of junk food.
Abbey's abilities are very interesting. She and the other gifted people she mentions or runs into have X-Men type qualities such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, empaths, etc. For some reason, stories like this which explore the possibilities of the psychic realm have always fascinated me. In many ways, Abbey views her gift as more of a curse, because of how painful it is to touch another human being and the convolutions she has to go through to avoid that discomfort. Every time she leaves her house, she must wear multiple layers of clothing and gloves even in the summer, and her housekeeper must clean to a specific set of instructions that make Abbey seem OCD. Every time she helps the police on a case, it is traumatic for her, not only because touching dead bodies and objects at a crime scene can really throw her for an emotional loop, but also because she can't ever get though it without tossing her cookies too. It did make me wonder why she would keep torturing herself like that, but nothing ever came to light except a desire to catch the bad guys. That's certainly a valid reason, but I guess I was hoping for some deeper motivation, perhaps something in her past that drives her to get criminals off the streets.
Abbey's neighbor and love interest, Nikolas, is absolutely scrumptious. He has hot, dark good looks, can cook up a storm, and even owns his own restaurant. He also really knows how to treat a lady with gentleness and respect, all qualities which make him a keeper in my book. I love the way he pursues Abbey both in the beginning and later, when Abbey is trying to avoid him. I don't think any woman could resist the kind of overtures he was making. Nik is almost perfect in every way, which is why I was kind of disappointed in Abbey for thinking the worst of him when she discovers the secret he's harboring. How she could even imagine a sweet, wonderful guy like him capable of something so heinous I'm not sure. When he realizes what she's thinking, Nik is understandably hurt. I'm not certain I could have forgiven her quite so easily. Their reconciliation is very brief as well, so not entirely satisfying from a romantic angle. I'm hoping there will be more development to their relationship in the next book of the series.
A Touch of Darkness was a fast-paced story that held my interest quite well. While the storytelling was good, I thought that the technical aspects of the writing could have been a bit more polished. There are numerous typos and incorrect word choices, as well as some repetition that could have been pared down with better editing. Overall though, it was a good book that I could easily recommend to any reader who is interested in paranormal mystery/suspense or romantic suspense, and it has left me open to trying the next book in the Abigail St. Michael Mysteries series, A Touch of Madness.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I can't recall exactly where I first saw a recommendation for Michael's Wife, but I believe it was in one of the many romanceReviewed for THC Reviews I can't recall exactly where I first saw a recommendation for Michael's Wife, but I believe it was in one of the many romance forums to which I belong. In a few places, I've seen it categorized as romance or romantic suspense, but it isn't exactly either. There is very little, if any, truly romantic element to it. It is actually part mystery, as the reader spends the entire story wondering if the heroine is really who everyone thinks she is and if so, where she has been for two years and what made her leave in the first place. Michael's Wife also has a strong gothic element as the heroine battles her own psyche, fearing nearly everyone she meets and wondering if she's simply crazy. The author did a great job with creating an atmosphere that was just a little creepy with an almost constantly eerie, ominous feel, especially surrounding the Devereaux estate in Tucson. Once the story moved to Phoenix, the mood lightened a little, but there was still an overhanging sense of doom and gloom while waiting for the truth to be revealed.
Michael's Wife was both written and set in the early 1970's, during the height of the Vietnam era. I really felt like I'd been transported back in time to the decade of my childhood but in my current place of residence which was a very cool juxtaposition for me. Michael fought in Vietnam and the latter parts of the story are populated with hippies who are both peace activists and anti-war protesters. That whole culture comes to the forefront as well. Of course, there are no cell phones or computers, only what we would consider basic conveniences like modern appliances and a television. There wasn't even air conditioning, only a swamp cooler, in the sweltering desert summer. Don't even get me started on the hideous colors of fashions and interior decorations.;-) Not only was the era quite apparent in the physical aspects, but also in the social attitudes, especially toward women. They were still primarily the homemakers, generally taking a more subservient role with the assumption that if there was trouble in the marriage, she was the one at fault. Many people didn't seem to think twice about a man possibly abusing his wife and even kind of made fun of it in a darkly humorous way. There also seemed to be some stigma attached to mental illness. Strangely enough I wasn't overly bothered by these things like I normally would be, and I think that was mainly because of the context in which they were placed. It was almost like reading a historical novel in which the time and place were very vivid in my mind's eye.
The entire book is told from Laurel's third-person point of view. She was a fascinating character. The human mind never ceases to amaze me, so it was an intellectual, psychological and philosophical treat for my own brain to think of how a person can forget everything about themselves including their own name, but still have a knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Laurel was truly alone in her misery, a woman reduced to a fearful almost paranoid amnesiac state. I thought that she was very brave to stick around for the sake of the child she believed might be hers, even though no one believed that she couldn't remember and basically seemed to despise her. Jimmy became the rock to which she clung for strength and inspiration when things got difficult, and I could admire her for her commitment to being a good mother who refused to leave him again, even if she couldn't remember leaving the first time. She's a very down to earth woman who isn't really comfortable in the wealth and opulence of the Devereaux estate, but neither is she off-put by the almost slum-like housing in which they live when Michael takes her back to the Air Force base. There were other times though, when she seemed more weak. There is a part of me that wishes she had fought harder to get someone, particularly Michael, to believe her, but I also found her personality and attitudes to be pretty normal and believable given the time in which the story takes place.
Although we only see him through Laurel's eyes, Michael is easily the second most important character in the story. He is a very angry and tormented man who under other circumstances would have easily been sympathetic. However, even though he isn't what I would consider a romantic hero, he did remind me of heroes from the old bodice-ripper romances of the 1970's. Occasionally, he would do something nice for Laurel or seem like he was still drawn to her and wanted to reconcile, but more often than not he was a cold, dark, dangerous and sometimes even violent man. After learning about his childhood, I could see why he might feel betrayed when his wife seemed to simply walk out on him and their son, but I couldn't fathom why, if he truly loved and cared about her, he didn't try harder to find her or at least believe that she had amnesia when she returned. Therein may lie the problem, as he wasn't even able to admit that he was ever in love with her. Michael was certainly a very complex man, and while I was never comfortable with his brutish episodes of behavior, I wasn't as bothered by it as I would have been had this actually been a romance novel. I also think that having him be an enigma helped to play into the notion that he was almost every bit as suspect as anyone else in the story.
Michael's Wife got off to a somewhat slow start as the author takes her time introducing each potential suspect while Laurel struggles with trying to remember the past and how she could have possibly done some of the things they claimed she did. Eventually, the narrative begins to build momentum and becomes more intense and engaging until by the end, I was nearly biting my nails waiting for the denouement. I could have done with a few more clues being dropped earlier in the story, but I thought the author did a great job with drawing the reader into the confusion that Laurel felt, when she finally started to remember bits and pieces. In fact, it was quite strange just how “real” the story actually felt to me, in more ways than one. It was almost like something that could have really happened and would certainly make for a great movie, in my opinion. Michael's Wife was my first read by Marlys Millhiser. I was also surprised to discover that it appears to be her debut novel, making it pretty impressive for a first effort. I did enjoy the book and would be open to trying something else by Ms. Millhiser if the mood for reading this genre strikes again....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I believe I first heard of Lisa Gardner through one of the many romance discussion forums to which I belong, so going into reaReviewed for THC Reviews I believe I first heard of Lisa Gardner through one of the many romance discussion forums to which I belong, so going into reading The Other Daughter, I wasn't entirely certain if it was a romantic suspense or a straight suspense/thriller. After reading the book though, I would have to say it is the latter, but with a minor romantic element. There is a hero and a heroine in the novel. They do develop an attraction for one another, and there is one brief moderately descriptive love scene. However, their relationship wasn't that romantic to me, and I would estimate that it only comprised less than five percent of the total story. Therefore, I would not recommend it to readers who are looking for a true romantic suspense, but it was a good standard suspense/thriller that kept my attention fairly well engaged.
Melanie, the heroine and main character, was adopted twenty years earlier by a wealthy family who had lost their little daughter to a serial killer. She has no memory of the time prior to being found abandoned in a hospital a few months before her adoption. Over the years she has truly become “the other daughter,” essentially a replacement for the child the Stokeses lost. Melanie had, albeit perhaps subconsciously, taken on the role of caretaker to her highly dysfunctional family. Now, she, and they, are being plagued by someone who claims that she is actually the daughter of the serial killer. Melanie is a pretty good character, but I found it rather odd that she still lives at home with her parents at the age of twenty-nine, and her parents, in some ways, still treat her like an errant teenager. I also thought that her returning to her parent's house after she knew that they could possibly have been complicit in their daughter's death was a move that bordered on TSTL, and when she ran away after accidentally shooting a man in self-defense, that truly was TSTL. However, I will admit that the author used both of these incidences to propel the plot forward. I was also a bit baffled as to why Melanie kept getting upset with David for keeping things from her regarding his investigation. There are agents in committed relationships who can't reveal such information, and Melanie and David had only known each other for a few days. I guess maybe I can give her a pass though, since suddenly learning that her family had been keeping horrible secrets from her for years was incredibly stressful and made her feel betrayed. I just wish that the author had given a few more insights into her line of thinking.
David was an FBI agent, working undercover in a white collar crimes unit, and investigating Melanie's dad for insurance fraud. He works in this supposedly lower-key division, because a severe arthritic condition which causes him excruciating back pain keeps him from doing anything more strenuous. However, before he knows it, he finds himself embroiled in a twenty-five year old murder investigation that everyone thought was closed, running down clues, and fending off a potential assassin. David struck me as a no-nonsense, hard-boiled detective who was very good at his job. He has a pretty intense alpha type persona with an extremely limited gentler side. I guess as the story went on, he softened up a little, and since this wasn't really a romance his personality didn't bother me as much as it normally would. He and Melanie are both pretty stubborn people though, so they have a tendency to argue quite a bit, but not necessarily in an annoying way.
The Other Daughter was a pretty good mystery/suspense. Although I wouldn't say that it was un-put-downable, it was a rather intriguing story. I must admit though that in spite of not being particularly good at solving mysteries, I did correctly figure out the biggest piece of the puzzle very early in the book, and I was only more convinced by my theory as the story continued. However, the how, who and why for the most part kept me guessing until the end. I was a little disappointed that the author never really explained how Melanie lost her memory though.
The Other Daughter was my first read by Lisa Gardner, and for the most part, I liked her writing style. She has an interesting way of conveying information and progressing the mystery through narrative dialog. Even though this made the dialog quite a bit more dense than I'm used to, it somehow worked OK for me. The book got off to a pretty snappy start, but about a fourth of the way in, it started to slow down as the author explored the tense, sordid relationships of the extremely dysfunctional Stokes family. This made the mystery unfold at a rather languid pace until perhaps the last quarter or so of the book, when things picked up again as all the long-held secrets started to unravel. Overall, I enjoyed The Other Daughter pretty well, and would definitely be open to reading more from Lisa Gardner when I'm in the mood for a good suspense/thriller story that's light on romance.
Note: This book contains a graphic description of an electric chair execution which is not for the faint of heart. Although not particularly descriptive, the way in which the body of the little girl was found mutilated might be troublesome to anyone who is particularly averse to violence against children. ...more