Dead Beat (The Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher

Dead Beat (The Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher

deadbeatThis entry in The Dresden Files has wizard Harry Dresden fighting necromancers to protect his friends and contemplating his own mortality. We also get to hang out with a few side characters and see a fascinating new side of Bob, who just happens to be one of my favorite characters in the whole series.

“Because that Kemmler was a certifiable nightmare,” Bob said. … That got my attention. Bob the skull was an air spirit, a being that existed in a world of knowledge without morality. He was fairly fuzzy on the whole good-evil conflict…” pg 39, ebook.

There’s some ridiculousness and danger to the story, but mainly Harry-angst and the perpetual struggle against darkness.

“And despite every religious faith, the testimony of near-death eyewitnesses, and the imaginations of storytellers throughout history, death remains the ultimate mystery. No one truly, definitely knows what happens after.” pg 30, ebook.

And a few old enemies, of course: “She laughed harder, and the sound of it spooked the hell out of me. … There was no warmth in it, no humanity, no kindness, no joy. It was like Mavra herself…”pg 33, ebook.

Harry is still dealing with his disabled hand, which he burnt the heck out of in the last book. “I had a responsibility to keep that destructive strength in check; to use it to help people, to protect them. It didn’t matter that I still felt terrified. It didn’t matter that my hand was screaming with pain.” pg 65, ebook.

Also, some of Harry’s previous decisions about vampires and the Wizard Counsel have some serious consequences. But, anybody who’s been reading this series for awhile, knew that that was only a matter of time.

And there’s the small matter of a certain silver coin that Harry picked up a few books ago and buried under the concrete in his lab. But whatever is in the coin can’t get out of the circle he put it in… right?

“I just keep getting more wounded and tired. … I’m not some kind of superhero. I’m just me. And I didn’t want any of this.” pg 131, ebook.

If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend you start with the first book. The stories build on each other and become quite satisfying, in my opinion.

The ending of this one contains some ridiculousness that I was not prepared for, but after some thought about the series, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter.

There is very little Jim Butcher could write in here that I wouldn’t like. Somewhere along the line, I’ve become quite a fan of The Dresden Files.

I didn’t expect it. But that’s the truth.

Check out my other reviews of the series:

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3) by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher

Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5) by Jim Butcher

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6) by Jim Butcher

Thanks for reading!


Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

lostintranslationLost in Translation is a slim volume of doodles with accompanying definitions of untranslatable words from many languages around the globe. It’s a treat.

There are words for feelings that I’m certain everyone has experienced… we just lacked the language to describe it appropriately.

This book showed me how universal emotions and perceptions can be and the difficulty of capturing the indescribable in words.

But we’ve certainly given it a good try.

I liked the words that described fleeting moments of beauty in nature the most. All of the following are from Lost in Translation but the pages are un-numbered so you’ll just have to trust me that they’re in there:

Komorebi: (Japanese noun) The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees.

Waldeninsamkeit: (German noun) The feeling of being alone in the woods, an easy solitude and a connectedness to nature.

Mangata: (Swedish noun) The road-like reflection of the moon in the water.

And, finally, a word that perfectly describes one of my vices:

Tsundoku: (Japanese noun) Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.

I didn’t realize that was actually a thing.

Ah, the joys of reading and cluttering up my house with tsundoku. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6) by Jim Butcher

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6) by Jim Butcher

bloodritesIn this entry in The Dresden Files, the vampire Thomas asks Harry to help his friend, an adult film maker. People keep dying on set and Thomas thinks its magic-related.

Part-mystery, part-comedy and 100 percent wizard, I think Blood Rites is one of the best in the series so far.

“I was agreeing to help him and taking a job, just as though Thomas were any other client. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’d ever done. It had the potential to lead to lethally unhealthy decisions.” pg 17

As usual, Harry can’t seem to get his life together long enough to get anything done. He runs from crisis to crisis. But, he’s become self-aware enough to realize what he’s doing.

“My worry and tension slowly grew, and as they did I took a perverse comfort in the familiar emotions. It actually felt good to feel my survival instincts put me on guard against premature mortality. Hell’s bells. Is that insane or what?” pg 93

We learn a lot more about Harry’s personal life in this story.

“The hardest lesson a wizard has to learn is that even with so much power, there are some things you can’t control. No matter how much you want to.” pg 353.

And we also get to meet a shady character or two from his past.

Highly recommended for urban fiction fans.

Check out my other reviews of the series:

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3) by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher

Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5) by Jim Butcher

Thanks for reading!

Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant

Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant

bloodandbeautyA historical fiction novel about one of the most politically savvy families of all time.

Oh, the Borgias. What an extraordinary family and what a story.

Just when you think that things couldn’t become more scandalous, they do.

A Pope with a family? Check. Forbidden attraction between siblings? Check. Poisonings and intrigue and, dare I say, murder?

The attraction of this story is not just the crazy Borgias, it’s also Rome itself.

All roads lead to it, the center of power in Europe for centuries. One never really “rules” Rome, you just ride your wave of popularity until it crashes.

This city was the perfect backdrop to showcase the political acumen of Alexander VI, Cesare Borgias, and, eventually, Lucrezia Borgias.

Blood & Beauty contains political as well as personal drama, the shifting alliances of kings, queens, and city-states, and some very unique family dynamics.

Sarah Dunant ranks among my favorite historical fiction authors. Her stories are well-researched and never dull.

Somehow, she distills the legend to find the human being within.

If you enjoy historical fiction about the Renaissance and Rome, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Thanks for reading!

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

missburmaA layered and subtle historical fiction about a family in Burma and how they make it through all sorts of terrible things that happen there.

This is an incredibly dark book based on the true family history of Charmaine Craig. My book club had a tough time discussing it.

“Your problem is that you believe in right and wrong. Don’t you know evil will find you no matter what?” pg 11.

First of all, the introductory portion doesn’t make sense until the last half of the book. The pacing is glacially slow. A few of our club members couldn’t make it through the first couple of chapters.

Secondly, the constant warring and torture of innocents by the conquering forces is really difficult to read.

“We welcomed them because we’d been persecuted by the Burmans for centuries, we’d been their slaves – our villages perpetually attacked, our people perpetually preyed upon, stripped of everything from our clothing to our lives.” pg 37.

It is an important history, certainly, but the darkness of it made me feel sick.

A third problem club members had with Miss Burma is it feels disjointed.

At first, readers thought Khin and Benny were the focus of the book. But then, the point of view drifted around to Louisa, their beautiful daughter, and her story took over.

We must find a way to rejoice in our circumstances. We must find a way to do more than endure.” pg 145

Basically, the Karen are an ethnic minority in Burma, now Myanmar. For centuries, the Karen have been enslaved by the Burmese. The underlying story is about how the Karen tried to unite against the ruling government to create a federation.

“Our modesty that runs so deep it is almost self-annihilating. But now.. our relative invisibility strikes me as very sad. … If you stand for a moment behind their eyes- behind the eyes of anyone for whom modesty is not an ultimate virtue- we appear to value our lives less than they do.” pg 168

Against this background, the family of Khin and Benny tries to survive and do what they believe is right.

This story is full of flawed characters and whole passages where most of the action takes place in people’s minds.

There is fairly graphic torture, rape and violence. If any of those are triggers for you, beware.

Recommended for patient readers and those who can handle a very dark history. The book club certainly learned a lot about Burma from this book. And bullets still fly in Myanmar today.

Thanks for reading!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

circeCirce is an epic fantasy that reads like a historical fiction novel, based on the Greek mythology of the witch of Aiaia, the daugher of a Titan- Circe.

I minored in the classics at university and one of my favorite classes was mythology. I love taking apart stories that mirror humanity’s foibles and try to explain the origin of some of life’s harder truths.

In the war between the Titans and the Olympians, a creation story that could be interpreted to mean the ascension of modern culture over more ancient superstitions, the Olympians triumph. But the Titans are not wiped off the face of the earth.

“Beneath the smooth, familiar face of things is another that waits to tear the world in two.” loc 272, ebook.

Some of the Titans’ powerful and mysterious children play central roles in the great mythological stories. Circe is one of those.

“They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and cousins. Least of the lesser goddesses, our powers were so modest they could scarcely ensure our eternities. We spoke to fish and nurtured flowers, coaxed drops from the clouds or salt from the waves.” loc 102, ebook.

She began her life in the halls of Helios, a Titanic deity who was a god of the sun, much like Apollo.

“At my father’s feet, the whole world was made of gold. The light came from everywhere at once, his yellow skin, his lambent eyes, the bronze flashing of his hair. His flesh was as hot as a brazier, and I pressed as close as he would let me, like a lizard to noonday rocks.” loc 158, ebook.

Compared to her great father and gorgeous, manipulative mother, Circe was nothing- one of the many faceless children of the greater gods, whose future was destined to be a wife and then mother to more godlings.

Circe’s future is not as simple as all that.

She, and her brothers and sister, have a unique power that no other gods possess. They have the ability to harness the plants and power of the earth, to create potions and salves with miraculous effects. They call it: pharmakeia.

Modern readers can recognize the roots of the word “pharmacy” in the name.

“Pharmakeia, such arts are called, for they deal in pharmaka, those herbs with the power to work changes upon the world, both those sprung from the blood of gods, as well as those which grow common upon the earth.” loc 909.

It is a power no one understands and, because of its mysteriousness, it makes even the gods afraid.

There is more to Circe’s story than pharmakeia. She also interacts with Hermes, Daedalus and Odysseus. She creates a god and a monster. She shakes the foundation of the oceans.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy mythology or historical fiction. It will transport you to a world where gods and goddesses walk the earth and humanity can do nothing but tremble in their shadows.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an advance, digital copy of this book.

Thanks for reading!

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

sugarskyBeneath the Sugar Sky takes readers back to the world of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, but not to a moment in time before the events of the first book. It is a sequel rather than a prequel.

I found it strangely satisfying in a way that Down Among the Sticks and Bones was not.

“They can be hard for their families to understand, those returned, used-up miracle children. They sound like liars to people who never had a doorway of their own.” pg 7, ebook.

And instead of just one world other than our own, readers get to experience a couple in Beneath the Sugar Sky.

The trouble begins when someone from a different world shows up in the everyday world and asks to see her mother. The thing is, her mother died in the real world some time ago.

The world that the girl comes from doesn’t pretend to follow time the normal way- it’s a nonsense world. Now, this visitor is disappearing and needs help from some of the residents of Eleanor West’s Home before she vanishes altogether.

“That makes no sense at all,” she said. “That means it may well work. Go, my darlings, and bring your lost and shattered sister home.” pg 29, ebook.

A new character in this book is Cora, a girl who went to a water world. She has an insightful way of viewing reality and seems able to see to the heart of people with little trouble: “They always had their shoes, their scissors, whatever talisman they wanted to have to hand when their doorways reappeared and they had to make the choice to stay or go.” pg 19, ebook.

Kade, Christopher and Nancy are in this book as well. “So many different doors, and yet here you are, all of you together, trying to accomplish the impossible.” pg 40, ebook.

I recommend reading Every Heart a Doorway before this book, to get the most enjoyment out of it. It’s perfect for young adults or readers who like fairy tales.

Thanks for reading!