Tuesday, June 24, 2014

74:120 Skin Game by Jim Butcher

The 15th book in the Dresden Files series.  Things have been different since Harry's return as the Winter Knight.  Rather than policing Chicago, he has been hanging out at Demonreach trying to figure out what is going on with the thing growing in his head and how to get it out.  Mab has been content to let him be but now it's time for her Winter Knight to pay off one of her debts with his services.  Unfortunately for Harry, this means he is being loaned out to Nicodemus, someone who is most definitely on Harry's *hit list but equally unfortunate is Mab's displeasure should he fail to uphold her end of the bargain.  With that, Harry is thrust from one tight spot to another as he tries to play a very dangerous game and keep his head at the same time.  But really, what can go wrong when you are working with a psychopath who is trying to steal from Hades?

I admit, I still have issues with the fact that Dresden is alive and his life is not superchanged from before he died but as far as Dresden stories go, this was a fun one.  It was nice to see Murphy and Michael and Butters again although I'm very curious as to what is going on with Molly since she was hardly part of things in this one.  It also needed more Bob because seriously, Bob the skull is just awesome.

Page count: 454p/18,343p ytd/199,381p lifetime

Thursday, June 19, 2014

73:120 Pax Demonica by Julie Kenner

The 6th book in the Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series.  Kate has decided to take Allie and go back to her roots in Rome to the society that took her in when she was orphaned now that her marriage to Stuart is on the rocks and he has taken their son and left.  Out of nowhere, as they are getting read to leave, Stuart returns and tells her that he and Timmy want to go with her and learn more about her previous life and be a family again.  Now Kate is trying to work on her relationship with Stuart and play tourist instead of just visiting Forza to show Allie around.  This is made all the more difficult because demons are coming out of the woodwork around her either looking for something they think she has or threatening her to take care of the "key" when she doesn't even know what it is.  As they delve further into this mysterious key, it looks like it's real end of the world kind of stuff and they need to figure it out fast if they want anyone to be able to see tomorrow.

It was nice going back into this world but it seemed like Kate's snarky mode was definitely turned down for this one which I missed.  I was also hoping to get more about her life before we met her in this series and there wasn't a whole lot of that in this which was a little disappointing but overall, a fun little bubblegum read.

Page count: 258p/17,889p ytd/198,927p lifetime

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

72:120 Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Yeah, I know, second time reading it this year but I picked it for my book club selection when I had my choice, especially since the second one had just come out in May.  Here's my previous review:

The first in a new trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.  Area X has been uninhabited and off limits for a long time with only teams of specialists being allowed in past the border for years now.  Of those eleven previous exhibitions, most have never come back and those that did were never the same.

Now the twelfth expedition is entering.  A group of four women; the psychologist (de facto leader), the anthropologist, the surveyor, and the biologist who is our narrator.  They are there to map out the territory, collect specimens, and bring back a report of what it has become.  They are expecting the unexpected but that doesn't begin to prepare them for what they find.  It starts with the tunnel (tower?) that they discover near the established base camp and the words written with some sort of living organism on the interior of it.  What is even more disturbing than the secrets Area X is hiding are the ones that they have brought with them over the border.  Will any of this expedition make it back to tell any of the secrets they learn?

My first time reading Jeff VanderMeer and all I can say is Wow!  I was blown away by this book.  I want to call it a psychological thriller but that doesn't do it justice.  It was thought provoking and anxiety inducing.  I spent much of my reading time biting my nails in suspense as to just what the heck was going on.  There was so much subtlety and nuance to almost everything that I know I will have to read it again just to try and catch half of it.  I can't wait for the  next one!  And can I just say, I love that they are bringing all three books in the trilogy out this year?!  

Re-reading it made it much easier to get a lot more details than the first time through but only increased my number of questions about Area X.  I'm now about 1/3 of the way into the second one and while it's answered some of the questions I had, I know have a whole new stack of questions as well.

Page count: 195p/17,631p ytd/198,669p lifetime

71:120 Sudden Death by Stefon Mears

Ramirez was just an ordinary guy, nothing special, with an ordinary job.  He came home from work expecting to just grab a beer and watch some TV one night when instead he finds the body of his neighbor dead in his shower, apparently murdered with one of his kitchen knives.  With no idea what to do, he panics and starts to consider fleeing when he starts finding notes that lead him on a path from which there seems to be no return.  One with conspiracies within conspiracies and you can never know who to trust.  All he wants to know is why him but that is not as simple a question as it seems...

An interesting tale of manipulation, reminding me in many ways of the movie "The Game" with Michael Douglas of a man caught up in something where he doesn't know what is going on or who is pulling the strings.

Page count: 72p/17,436p ytd/198,474p lifetime

Monday, June 16, 2014

70:120 Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

The first book in the Blackwell Pages series.  Matthew Thorsen has grown up his entire life being the black sheep of his family even if they are all descended directly from Thor so it's a great surprise when he his chosen as the champion that will lead them into battle during Ragnarok.  He is both scared and thrilled until he overhears the conversation of the elders afterward and discovers they want him to fail in his mission.  Now he finds himself on the run with classmates and former enemies, Laurie and Fen, who are also descendants of Loki trying to follow the clues that the Norns have given him and find the other descendants of the gods who will be necessary in the upcoming battle.

I love Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series and Viking mythology so when I saw this in the bookstore, I had to grab it for my, then, 12 year old.  It's an entertaining take on the mythos that brings things into today's time and entertwines the mythology throughout while relating nicely to the middle-school group.  The second book is now in the house but I've been informed I'm not allowed to read it until my son does.  He's become a big fan.

Page count: 358p/17,364p ytd/198,402p lifetime

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

69:120 Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Rose Marshall died in 1952, driven off the road by Bobby Cross, a man who made a deal at the Crossroads.  Instead of just moving on however, Rose became a Road Ghost, one who does what she can to save drivers from accidents on the road when it's possible and help them move on and be at peace when it's not.  She hitchhikes her way all over the country and there are many names for her but all she really wants is to figure out a way to win her freedom, to escape Bobby Cross forever.

This is a collection of Rose's stories through the 60 years she has been wondering the roads.  Some are about people she's saved, some are the ones she shepherded through the layers of the afterlife, and some are her encounters with Bobby Cross.

An interesting take on ghost stories, funny and witty and poignant all at the same time.

Page count: 312p/17,006p ytd/198,044p lifetime

Friday, June 6, 2014

68:120 Hold Me Fast but Fear Me Not by Stefon Mears

A modern retelling of the Tam Lin myth.  Jane's uncle has died and left her his house and everything else.  She and her friend take a road trip to a town that doesn't appear on any maps and that is only the start of the strangeness of the town.  The strangest thing by far are the stories about the motorcycle gang that roams her uncle's land and especially their charming leader.  Before she knows what's happened, she has fallen in love with him and is carrying their child but finds out quickly that there are stranger forces at work that she will have to battle if she wants to keep the man she has come to love.

I'm only passingly familiar with the legend this is based on and I'm curious to do some more research on this.  I enjoyed the story itself without the background although I had some technical issues with some of the pregnancy symptoms and I felt like the ending was a bit rushed but otherwise a fun tale.

Page count: 112p/16,694p ytd/197,732p lifetime

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

67:120 Hot Mama by Jennifer Estep

The 2nd book in the Bigtime series.  The wedding between Carmen (aka Karma Girl) and Sam (aka Striker) is interrupted by the newest ubervillians in Bigtime but Fiona (aka Fiera) and the rest of the Fearless Five tells them to go ahead on their honeymoon anyway.  Fiona needs a break from the happy newlyweds as even after a year she still mourns the loss of her fiance, Typhoon.  Now she is not only trying to stop the new ubervillians but after meeting sexy Johnny Bulluci, she is willing to find time to enter the dating scene again.  Can she manage to keep her secret superhero identity secret from the man she is coming to love?  And what happens to them if she can't?

These are just pure bubblegum and I get that but at the same time, I kind of wish Ms. Estep would have done something different with the names so things weren't so blazingly obvious because that means that everyone in Bigtime is dumb as dirt to not figure out who these people all are.  Unfortunately, this one also saw the long inner-monologues with huge amounts of repetition.  I get a little bit of that at the beginning in case someone is new to the series but seriously, I'm pretty sure Fiona told us about her incredible metabolism that meant she constantly needed to eat large quantities of food over 20xs.  That is just lazy writing and has been my consistent problem with Ms. Estep's books.  Her worlds are fun and well constructed and I was hoping the repetitive inner monologues were limited to her Elemental Assassin series but apparently that is just her writing style.  I'll finish the series knowing that and I'm invested in the Elemental Assassin series and I will continue to hope that she will eventually tone that down but I will definitely not be picking up any of her other works because of it.

Page count: 356p/16,582p ytd/197,620p lifetime