Review: The Voice of the Night

Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsTitle: The Voice of the Night
Author: Dean Koontz
Published: March 2011 (first pub 1980)
Author’s Website: http://www.deankoontz.com/
Genre: Horror

Review:  Colin is a shy kid who idolizes his new friend, Roy, one of the most popular kids in school.  Along the path to becoming blood brothers, Roy talks a lot about killing animals and people, even asking Colin if he’d be willing to join in killing someone for no reason other than it being a real “popper”.  Colin doesn’t really believe Roy has or will kill anyone, but when he crosses Roy, he learns just how crazy Roy is.

Bottom Line:  This is a great horror/suspense story.  No monsters or ghosts.  Not a lot of blood and gore.  Just suspense.  Building and building…and then building a bit more.  When, finally, the suspense is broken, it’s a brief respite before more suspense leading to the final climax.  I highly recommend it to fans of the suspense/horror genre.

 

Review: Shards & Ashes

Shards & AshesTitle: Shards & Ashes
Author: by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong
Published: February 2013
Authors’ Websites: http://www.melissamarrbooks.com/
and http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/
Genre: Science Fiction, YA, teen

Review:  This collection is the result of Marr and Armstrong proposing to this group of authors to each write a short story in which the future is dark and bleak.  To that extent, this collection is a success, some more bleak, some more dark.

“Hearken” by Veronica Roth– Kids with special musical talents are given implants that allow them to hear life or death songs, which are within all humans, so they can recreate the music on their instruments.  While interesting, I found this story boring.

 “Branded” by Kelley Armstrong – Pure-blooded humans have walled themselves in towns/fortresses to keep out supernaturals, hybrids, and outsiders.  Due to the limited food, populations are controlled, and if one of the townspeople is found to have supernatural blood, he are branded and cast out.  Such is the case with Braeden.  When he is found to have werewolf blood, he is branded and cast out, leaving behind his best friend, Rayne, even though he’s never turned and has been a valued member of the community.
"No, we will not," the guard said, his voice growing louder as the parents' footsteps trampled over the hard earth. "Come back and get the child or you are leaving her for the hybrids."

“Necklace of Raindrops” by Margaret Stohl – In this world, everyone has a necklace with life beads. Some use up their beads quickly by being risk takers, while others hide/covet theirs, called lifers.  But maybe there’s a life outside of this.  Could it be possible that life isn’t really tied to these necklaces of raindrops?  While interesting, I found this one boring, as well.

“Dogsbody” by Rachel Caine – A corporate-run government that makes decisions based strictly on numbers, for the betterment and survival of the people, but more for the betterment of their own elite lifestyle.  After surviving a “downsizing”, an orphans works his way up through the system, seeking revenge against those who orchestrated it.  A fairly compelling storyline with good action.  One of my favorites.

I wish I'd never looked into that window and met Pria's dark, panicked eyes.  Seen her press her small hands against the window and mouth my name.

“Pale Rider” by Nancy Holder – Another slow one here.  A mysterious stranger shows up and whisks the heroine away to Europe where a hole to the fey world has allowed their magic to seep into ours with devastating consequences.  Can our heroine help save the world?

“Corpse Eaters” by Melissa Marr – A god walks the Earth and his human worshippers consume human flesh from a corpse stew.  Two youngsters wage a nightly battle against the corpse eating minions, killing as many of them as they can.  The boy continually tries to get the girl to leave the city for somewhere safer, but she refuses, driven by vengeance for the death of her sister and the love of her father, who won’t leave the city.  It doesn’t have the fastest pace, but the creepy factor makes up for it.

“Burn” by Kami Garcia – In a world where the sun is hot enough to burn people in seconds, a girl finds her younger sister has been snatched and the police aren’t willing to help.  She begins to track her sister and gets help from a stranger as they race to save her sister from becoming skin grafts for the rich.  Interesting, fast-paced story that is far too believable.

“Love is a Choice” by Beth Revis – Aboard a city-sized transport ship, the former heir to the leader has quite the conundrum when his girlfriend becomes obsessed with stopping the drug-induced mind control the leader has placed pushed onto the citizens, regardless of the likelihood of violent-overthrow.

 “Miasma” by Carrie  Ryan – Disease runs rampant and once the corrupt doctors come calling, the choices are pay them off to ignore the infected or watch them drag your loved ones away, never to return.  When the handsome son of the wealthy family on whose estate she works catches her stealing flower petals, he life takes a much different turn than she’d expected.  An interesting story.

 

Bottom Line:  Overall, I enjoyed this collection of short stories.  Some are more exciting than others, some are more dark and bleak, some are fairly creepy, and some are quite believable as a potential future for our planet.  A few even have what could almost pass for happy endings.  My favorites are, not necessarily in order, “Dogsbody”, “Corpse Eaters”, and “Branded”, while “Necklace of Raindrops”, “Hearken”, and “Pale Rider” did nothing for me.

Review: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and The Goblet of FireTitle: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: July 2000
Author’s Website: http://www.jkrowling.com/
Genre: Fantasy, YA, teen

Review:  The Quidditch World Cup comes to England during the summer before Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts and Mr. Weasley has managed to procure top tier seats.  After a great match, the celebration gets a bit out of hand with a rowdy bunch tumbling muggles before all chaos break loose and someone releases a Dark Mark.

And then, without warning, the silence was rent by a voice unlike any they had heard in the wood; and it uttered, not a panicked shout, but what sounded like a spell.

“MORSMORDRE!”

As if the events at the Quidditch World Cup weren’t enough excitement for Harry’s fourth year in the wizarding world, Hogwarts hosts the Triwizard Tournament:  a competition that brings contingents from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, the two other European wizarding schools.  Due to the dangerous nature of the tournament, students under age 17 were prevented from putting their names into the Goblet of Fire to try to become their school’s champion.  Somehow, though, after Cedric Diggory for Hogwarts, Viktor Krum for Durmstrang, and Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons, the goblet spews forth a fourth champion, Harry Potter.

Rita Skeeter, reporter for the Daily Prophet corners Harry while the judges debate whether he will be allowed/required to participate in the tournament.  It’s from this interview that I got my second Teaser Tuesday of this book:

Frowning, he avoided her gaze and looked down at words the quill had just written:  Tears fill those startlingly green eyes as our conversation turns to the parents he can barely remember.

“I have NOT got tears in my eyes!” said Harry loudly.

Between nearly getting thrashed by a Hungarian Horntail in the first challenge and having to figure out how to breathe underwater to pass the second, Harry has to learn to dance for the Yule Ball…and find a date.  With all of the champions still in the game, they enter the third and final challenge: a giant maze, at the center of which lies the Triwizard Cup.  It’s a race that ends with Harry watching Voldemort rise again in human form.

A swishing noise and a second voice, which screeched the words to the night: “Avada Kedavra!”

A blast of green light blazed through Harry’s eyelids, and he heard something heavy fall to the ground beside him; the pain in his scar reached such a pitch that he retched, and then it diminished; terrified of what he wad about to see, he opened his stinging eyes.

After he’s risen, Voldemort attempts to kill Harry, only to find himself thwarted as Harry escapes.  Harry brings news of Voldemort’s return to Dumbledore and the Minister of Magic, who take opposite stances on the veracity of Harry’s tale.  While the Minister of Magic refuses to acknowledge publicly that Voldemort has returned, Dumbledore informs the students about the Dark Lord before they leave the school for their summer break.

Bottom Line:
The fourth year of Hogwarts, while still filled with humor, adds a bit more mortal peril, even a bit of murder.  We are also introduced to a number of characters that remain through the end of the books, some more significant than others.  Another great story that I highly recommend.

BookBlogWriMo – Days Twenty-One, Twenty-Two

BookBlogWriMo.  Book Blog Writing Month.  Created by “Book Bumblings” as a book bloggers’ version of NaNoWriMo.  I found it through “Shattered Hearts Reviews“.

Day Twenty-One – My First Reviews

My intent with this blog wasn’t to become a book blogger or reviewer, but I have posted a number of reviews over the last four years.

My first review was “Review:  The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing” by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron, and The Editors of Writer’s Digest.  In this review I didn’t provide the authors/editors, a link to where the book could be purchased or read about,  or a picture of the cover.  I gave my thoughts on the book’s contents, recommended it, and was done.

A few months later, my second review was “The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction:  a Review“.  It also failed to provide helpful information on how to find a copy of the book.

My third review, “Review: Gauntlgrym, Neverwinter Book I” by R.A. Salvatore, was much more detailed, but had the same shortcomings as the first two.

In my fourth review, I finally hit upon the format that I try to follow for all of my reviews.  “Review:  The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1)” provided title, author, date published, author’s website (or wikipedia page), genre, my review, and my “bottom line” on the book.

Including a few drafts still in the works, I’ve reviewed 56 books so far.

Day Twenty-Two – Bookshelves

Here’s a pic of the built-in bookshelves I have downstairs.  bookshelvesYou probably can’t tell that there’s any order there, but there is…a little…

Stephen King is all in the upper left, along with some Dean Koontz and Dan Simmons horror. The rest of the horror books are on the far right on the second level down, along with some science-fiction, like Dan Simmon’s “Hyperion Cantos” and Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”

Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series takes up the shelf below it with Brandon Mull’s “Candy Shop Wars” series and George R.R. Martin’s two “Dreamsongs” volumes.  Other fantasy books are mostly on the next shelf over at the top.  They include “The Inheritance Cycle“, Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments”, “The Prydain Chronicles“, Fred Saberhagen’s “Book of Swords” series.

The third shelf from the top at the far left hosts Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series and other paranormal and fantasyish romance books, including a few Nora Roberts books written as J.D. Robb.

“Classics” by Ernest Hemingway, Socrates, and Charles Darwin share space on the third shelf from the top in the right column with Frederick Forsyth’s “The Odessa File” and some comedy’s, like Dilbert books, a couple Calvin and Hobbes books, and a couple “The Far Side” galleries.

Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks and novels take up the entire top shelf, second from right, and spill over into some of the space on the next level down.

Books on writing and publishing fiction and poetry, as well as grammar and style guides, dictionaries, and thesauruses take up the top right shelf.  This includes the two books mentioned above as my first and second reviews, as well as Stephen King’s “On Writing.”

Non-book items in these shelves include a Dracula “action figure”, a St. Patrick’s Day dachshund figurine, Dan Dribble (a Finnian), a few family/baby pics, a few crafts by the girls, and other various fantasy figurines.

This does not include the full-height bookshelves in both of my daughters’ rooms, the office, or the living room.  The only one of those not full of books, is the one in the living room.  Bookwise, it only hosts the Harry Potter series, including The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and Harry Potter and Philosophy:  If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts.

Review: Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of AzkabanTitle: Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: July 1998 (June 1999 in USA)
Author’s Website: http://www.jkrowling.com/
Genre: Fantasy, YA, teen

Review:  Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison Azkaban and the Ministry of Magic is convinced he’s going to coming after Harry Potter –so worried that they forgive his (unintentional) use of magic, underage and in front of muggles, send the Knight Bus to pick him up, and put him up in the Leaky Cauldron for the end of the summer.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron meet the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, on the Hogwarts Express and learn first hand what dementors, the guardians of Azkaban, look like when one decides to try to join them in their train compartment.  It turns out the dementors have been set to guarding the perimeter of Hogwarts in hope of recapturing Sirius Black.

Their third year at school comes with new courses, a lot of new courses for Hermione.  She’s taking so many that Ron and Harry can’t understand how she can possibly be doing it.  One new course they all share is Divination with Professor Sybill Trelawny, a kooky, crazy-looking woman who has a habit of predicting dire situations and death in just about every class.

Professor McGonnegal’s response to the trio’s reaction to  their first divination class was my only Teaser Tuesday from The Prisoner of Azkaban:

“There is no need to say any more, Miss Granger. Tell me, which of you will be dying this year?”

As the year progresses, the hunt for Sirius Black continues while the students enjoy their best Defense Against the Dark Arts classes so far with Professor Lupin, which includes the creepy, shape-changing Boggart.  While the students very much enjoy classes with Professor Lupin, when he experiences health issues, they aren’t as thrilled with the substitute, Professor Snape.

When Harry isn’t allowed to go to Hogsmeade, a little town near Hogwarts where students get weekend passes to visit, the Weasley twins, Ron’s older brothers, provide Harry a great tool to sneak around and find secret passages out of the castle:  the Marauder’s Map, which he puts to great use over the next few years.

As it turns out, Hermione’s trick for taking so many classes also comes in handy saving the day.

Bottom Line:
With this third story, Ms. Rowling has created a trend in this series of each book being slightly darker than the previous books.  Not only do we have Dementors attempting to suck the joy and life out of people, but we also have rumors of wizards blowing up crowds of muggles.  It appears sometimes during this book that there are too many sub-plots to follow, but they are all pulled together in the end.  Another great story that I highly recommend.

Review: Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and The Chamber of SecretsTitle: Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: July 1998 (June 1999 in USA)
Author’s Website: http://www.jkrowling.com/
Genre: Fantasy, YA, teen

Review:  When Harry ignores Dobby the house elf’s pleas to not return to Hogwarts for his second year, the comical elf creates a bit of mischief that gets Harry locked in his room at 4 Privet Drive.  Luckily, his best friend, Ron, and Ron’s brothers bust him out and it isn’t long after their second year starts that trouble begins.

No sooner have they returned to Hogwarts than Harry begins to hear whispery voices in the walls.  Shortly thereafter, the first student turns up petrified with a message scrawled on the wall proclaiming “The Chamber of Secrets” has been opened.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione again find themselves trying to solve another mystery at Hogwarts.  As Hagrid is arrested as the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets*, he gives Harry and Ron a clue, which leads them to follow a trail of spiders into the Forbidden Forest where they meet Aragog, the leader of a clan of giant spiders. As the plot thickens, one of the trio ends up petrified and Ginny Weasley goes missing.  Once again, with a little help from unexpected sources, Harry has to save the day.

One of the things that makes this series great is J.K. Rowling’s ability to have her core characters interact believably, right down to the insults they hurl at each other, while introducing one or two characters in each book that are only main for the one book.  In The Chamber of Secrets, this character is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart.  His Colgate smile and pompously charming personality endear him to some, while others wonder how someone so self-absorbed could have possibly done all he claims to have done in his books.

While The Chamber of Secrets is longer than The Sorcerer’s Stone, I only had one Teaser Tuesday:

He rolled up his sleeves, brandished his wand, and bellowed, “Peskipiksi Pesternomi!

It had absolutely no effect; one of the pixies seized his wand and threw it out of the window, too.

*To find out if Hagrid’s guilty of what he was arrested for, you’ll have to read the book.

Bottom Line:
Another great story.  We begin to see a bit of how magic can be used for nefarious purposes, and we are introduced to a few nastier creatures.  As most of the characters have returned from The Sorcerer’s Stone, there isn’t as much time devoted to setting up the world and introducing characters, leaving more time for building a story with a few twists and distractions, which Ms. Rowling does wonderfully.  The slightly darker story is still mostly light-hearted and is, again, easily recommended to everyone.

Review: Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's StoneTitle: Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: June 1997 (November 1998 in USA)
Author’s Website: http://www.jkrowling.com/
Genre: Fantasy, YA, teen

Review: In Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.  Our introduction to “The Boy Who Lived”, Quidditch, Hogwarts and the Hogwarts Express, platform 9 3/4, wizard chess, Albus Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid, Severus Snape, 4 Privet Drive, the Dursleys, Parseltongue, Diagon Alley, Gringots and its goblin bankers, chocolate frogs, Bernie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, myriad other teachers and classmates, and, of course, Lord Voldemort.

Infant Harry is deposited on his aunt’s doorstep after his parents are murdered.  About eleven years later, the much maligned Harry is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft where he meets his future best friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, and his nemesis, Draco Malfoy.

Once the introduction to the characters and the world take place, which takes about the first half of the book, the main plot line of the first book gets rolling along.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione work together to overcome a series of challenges and prevent Lord Voldemort from getting his hands on The Sorcerer’s Stone.

With this book being relatively short, I only had one Teaser Tuesday:

“But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend.  There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.”

Bottom Line:
I enjoy every one of the books in the Harry Potter series, and while I like some of the stories in other books better than the Sorcerer’s Stone bit, it’s difficult to not hold this book up as one of my favorites simply because it introduces us to the magical world and wonderful characters.  This book is so easy to recommend to everyone, kids, teens, adults, fans of the genre or not.