Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits

Dec 13, 2010

Book Review: Twice Bitten

The Book:

The third installment of Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series (Twice Bitten follows Some Girls Bite and Friday Night Bites) finds Merit continuing to try to balance her personal life and issues with the more public one of being the Cadogan House Sentinel, a lead guard of one of the three vampire houses in Chicago. The vampires are growing in popularity, causing shifts in the supernatural world that was once hidden away.  The shapeshifters are now convening in Chicago to possibly make themselves public, plus heal old wounds with the vampires from years past.  Merit's master vampire, Ethan Sullivan, has offered her services to protect the Alpha, Gabriel Keene.  No problem, right?  Wrong - Merit not only has to deal with the assassins who are after Gabriel, but also a master who wreaks havoc with her senses and emotions, a best friend (and sorceress) with whom she is on the outs, and finally an offer from an outside group that could put Merit's loyalties to her house in question.

The Yarn:

I have read all three of this series and am happy to say that the storyline is steadily being built forward and sideways where Merit is concerned.  The dialogue Neill has created, especially between Merit and Mallory, her best friend before and after her transformation, is quick, chuckle-causing and normal to any two twenty-somethings.  Age is a definite factor in the vampire world, as those who look young have been around for centuries, and power increases with age.  Merit's quick rise to Sentinel of Cadogan House has caused some challenge since she is so new, and as the relationship between Merit and Ethan continues to heat up, Merit finds that the age difference is still a factor with her master's near four-hundred years of walking the earth.

As a librarian I am really enjoying that she tends to fall asleep with books, does a lot of research again in the House library, and in this book actually runs into the House librarian for the first time. 

Neill does a nice job of having the characters give quick snippets of backstory in the first chapters so a reader picking up this book wouldn't be leaping into a pile of unknown characters and history, but who would want to miss any of the rise of this English literature graduate student turned feisty vampire elite?

The Ink:

Title:         Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires #3)

Author:      Chloe Neill
Publisher:  NAL Trade
Date:        July 2010
Read:        Library Book
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Dec 4, 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay

Note:  Some spoilers in the following review.

The Book:

Suzanne Collins finishes off her highly acclaimed Hunger Games series with
Mockingjay.  After reading the first couple of chapters at a friend's home, I ended up picking up the ebook for my Nook and have finally finished the book while waiting for my Thanksgiving meal to digest.

Katniss Everdeen survived the Games, not once, but twice.  Rescued by the rebels of District 13 but separated from Peeta, Katniss finally accepts that to finally break the chains that the Capitol has on the rest of the Districts, she must fully pick up the mantle as the Mockingjay.  First in the hands of President Snow, now in the hands of the rebels' President Coin, Katniss discovers that being the face to the rebellion is not the same as being in control.  Katniss must deal not only with her pursuit in assassinating Snow, but with her conflicted feelings for Gale and Peeta.  Everything Katniss discovers puts her on the path leading to the final battle at the Capitol, where winning the war isn't the same as winning freedom, and the truth is not always easy to live with.

The Yarn:

Living was a theme that permeated this book: Katniss had to make and eventually live with many choices that resulted in several deaths throughout the book.  Her sense of responsibility for her family, for Gale and Peeta, for her styling team and final squad is in conflict with her own need to make things right for her - to kill President Snow and help the Districts live free from the Capitol's rule.  But with each new discovery that all is not as obvious as right and wrong, Katniss makes a climactic decision after the last battle which changes everything, including her thoughts on who should live and who should die.

I wasn't surprised by Katniss' slant from altruistic to selfish motives of revenge and back, not even when she voted in support of running the Games again at the end.  What did surprise me was how the Gale vs. Peeta storyline kind of washed out.  Who she ended up with was not too much of a stretch, but the lack of dynamic collision between the characters made it seem like Katniss just let life throw the person at her, as opposed to her making decisions, as she lamented about during the conversation Gale and Peeta had about her before the final battle.

I believe that Mockingjay is a solid ending to the series, but I was not as swept into the story as I was with its predecessors, especially Catching Fire.

The Ink:

Title:         Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)

Author:      Suzanne Collins
Publisher:  Scholastic
Date:        August 2010
Read:        Barnes and Noble Nookbook
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Nov 30, 2010

Book Review: Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files

Note: Some spoilers from Changes in the following review.

The Book:

Jim Butcher's Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files (2010) is a collection of stories about Harry Dresden: his world, his work, and the varied characters of friends, family, colleagues and enemies. All but one have been previous published. Highlights include "Restoration of Faith", one of Butcher's first works where readers can first meet Harry, glance at Officer Murphy, and see that Harry mantle of "protector of children" has always been worn. "Last Call" is one of two stories that shines a light on the ever dour but enjoyable Mac and his bar, and Harry's friends Will, Georgia and the rest of the young werewolves bring unfortunate work during Harry's "Day Off". Not all are told from Harry's perspective, as his brother Thomas' lead in "Backup" shows Harry outside of the droll internal monologue that is the normal point of view in the novels.

In the last story, the brand-new novella "Aftermath", which begins just after the final scene in Changes, the view shifts to the ever-present Murphy. We find that Murphy may not be carrying her badge anymore, but her cop instincts are tested to their limits as she steps up to investigate the disappearance of werewolves in the wake of the decimation of the Red Court, while simultaneously dealing with the increasing evidence of Harry's death.

The Yarn:

While I had read most of these stories before in various anthologies, being able to read them all together and in order gave me a more cohesive view of Harry and the intricate web of secondary characters. These relationships are what makes Harry shine in his role as investigator and friend, and I look forward to diving into the stories about each of them as much as I do about Harry. Butcher's continuing development of Harry's brother Thomas, his assistant Molly, and (among my personal favorites) "allied enemies" like the Valkyrie Gard give Dresden a broader life beyond his supernatural PI role. It is because of this large number of characters that I would not recommend this book to those who have never read any of the Dresden Files before. However, it is a great refresher for those (like me!) anxiously awaiting the next book. While "Aftermath" gives no relief to the climactic ending of Changes, it will make the reader resolve to believe as Murphy does, and keep going "until Dresden gets back."

The Ink:

Title:       Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
Author:    Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Date:       October 2010
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