Tag Archives: mystery

Review: Closer to the Chest

The last in the Herald’s Spy reviews! (At least until I can afford to buy the Family of Spies series, which may be a while, yay happy homeowning and trying to get my life together over here, ugh.)

So where does the final book in this series take us? Someone is blackmailing and then threatening the noble women in Valdemar high court. While normally not too big of a bother and a part of the political game, this time there is a definite malicious edge to it that Amily can’t quite ignore. Meanwhile, Mags finds that businesses being run by women are facing an increasing level of hostility and sabotage. Both events correlate with the introduction of a new religion in Valdemar that is misogynist at its core. It will take approaching both sides of the problem, plus Mags putting himself into a dangerous situation, in order to unravel the truth for the protection of Valdemar!

First impressions, this was the story that Misty wanted to tell. Both of the prior books were just build up to it, allowing for her to introduce characters, skills, and concepts in prior books so she could get to this story. It’s the only explanation I have for the plot being that much tighter and everything being more in keeping with what I expect from a Valdemar book. This means it finishes on a high note, at least, though I fear most loyal readers are going to skip this series entirely as a result.

There were parts of the plot that worked for me, and parts that I just cringed my way through. I like the idea of the enemy being a religion that is preaching against women beyond bad stereotypical roles. I resent that it was Mags who got to go to the bottom of it, that the idea when Amily first presented it was scoffed at or seen as her making leaps in logic, and that despite it being a very female forwarded plot, it still felt like men were the main heroes of this story. Maybe I’m just too harsh of a reader, but when I figure out that these are the people who are doing something wrong, and then when a female character points it out and gets told to either wait as others investigate or until there is evidence of actual wrong doing… It just rubs me the wrong way.

On the plus side, I did find the church having two Gifted of their own among their ranks to be nice. Usually Heralds are either against normal people or people with regular magic, so seeing those with mind magic who aren’t Chosen by the Companions and how they can end up being used for nefarious purposes by a religion was cool. I also appreciated the emphasis on how expensive books were and how women were the best to copy those texts in the days before the printing press. It’s something I don’t think many people appreciate due to how prevalent the written word is in our lives, but Valdemar has always made a point of emphasizing how important the oral stories and thus the Bardic gifts are, and for good reason.

I like the idea of the Queen’s ladies, the group of handmaids, and I’ve seen similar concepts before, but ugh, I feel like there is so much wasted potential as a result. I don’t think enough was done with them besides making them a spy network that Amily has access to, and I feel like between Amily, these girls, and some of the resources they have, we could have written Mags out of the book entirely. I get the importance of male and female power balance, but come on. We don’t have nearly as many female Heralds as the focus of books as it is, being denied it yet again was just irksome.

For me, Closer to the Chest was the closest that this series has gotten to a traditional Heralds of Valdemar book. But overall, the series just felt tired. Like there were certain scenes that were what Misty actually wanted to write, or certain plots and subplots, and the rest of the book was just a vehicle to get to them. One of my writing professors once said that unless a scene excited you, you needed to edit it to death until you did like writing it or cut it entirely. I wonder if that could be applicable to this series for Misty…


Review: Closer to the Heart

Okay, I’m going to try and get back in the swing of things here!

The next in the Herald’s Spy series, Closer to the Heart deals with Amily and Mags’s wedding….sorta. They quickly take care of the legal side of it, which is a good thing. The formal state wedding turns into a distraction to be wielded against outside forces. Two of Valdemar’s neighboring countries (you know the ones, no one can spell them) are threatening to wage war against Valdemar for threatening their fragile peace due to a child king over one of their countries. While Mags investigates the funding of the rebellion with his mining experience, Amily serves as a distraction and works to maintain diplomatic relations until they can put a stop to it.

Plot wise, the story was at least a little amusing. I felt like the wedding should have been kept a secret to be a cool reveal at the end rather than just being a part of an early plot arc like it was no big deal. But at the same time, that could have made the ending too crowded, so I understand why it wasn’t done that way? I’d have to see drafts going both ways to decide, and obviously, Mercedes Lackey is not among my writer buddies. XD The return of Kirkball was not on my favorite list, but at least she kept it short and it was moderately entertaining since Mags couldn’t be on Companion back this time, so we got to see him actually handle a horse.

I liked the more earthy, proud and take charge maid that we had in Keira, who was a welcome change from the silly little newt from last book. The expansion of Nicholas’s mentor was also at least moderately entertaining, though I found him slightly insufferable. Maybe I’m just over the suave, debonair types. Maybe it was because we saw too much of him as the wise, perfect mentor and not enough to make him seem human. Bleh. I wish we had seen more of him with his wife, that might have saved him. Instead, I was more interested in Tuck and Linden because at least they had personality and problems and flaws that I could empathize and relate to, and a real relationship.

Speaking of relationships, I liked how Mags and Amily got to see a little bit of each other’s worlds in this book. Mags got to pretend to be among the nobility for real, Amily learned how to roof walk from his group of scamps. It was a refreshing change to their relationship. This also opened us up to more about their everyday life and how that worked. Seeing some of the lower Courts work was something that I wildly welcomed. We keep hearing about Heralds stationed there, but rarely got to see it actually happen and what those duties mean. Even if Mags was bored silly, I was glad to finally have that reference to world building, and it was done in a very organic way rather than being forced.

Mags was pretending to be a noble-type, but it was in among his home territory. I feel like this was a wasted opportunity. While we knew none of his old mine owner’s family was going to be around, or it was highly unlikely at any rate, I feel like we could have seen more of either him with someone from that old mine or even in the same area… I don’t know, it just didn’t feel like it had the emotional impact on the reader that I felt it should have. I felt like it got covered up with Kirkball and other nonsense instead. Especially because we saw very little of this setting in the first book due to his emotional state, so we had a lot of high expectations and then they weren’t met.

I did like the way that the tools were being worked into clothing and other disguises, with the addition of Tuck to make it happen. We know that several reigns down the road, the Heralds have all sorts of odd tools, and now we know how they get the designs! Or at least the basics, we all know how things evolve with time. I am all for rogue and spy types having hidden tools and weapons on them, though, and this really brought me a pleased, smug sense of pride in their cleverness, even though I wasn’t the writer.

Overall, this book left me feeling a little…meh. Like, yeah, there were bits of humor and flashes of things I liked, but there weren’t enough to make me absolutely love this book like I did some of the prior ones. But at least the plot wasn’t recycled this time, and even if it didn’t flesh out the emotional impacts as much as I would have liked, it brought in some good world building for the series as a whole in a way that didn’t feel forced. If you don’t already love Valdemar, I would suggest starting elsewhere. But if you’re already invested, it’s decent.


News: Self-Publishing and Mystic Riders!

Thought I’d give you all an update this week to start off the new year with my plans! Thus why the delay till the 1st. (And then this time next year I can wonder what happened, right? lol)

So first bit of exciting news: GinnyZero and I have launched a blog for our MMORPG! Mystic Riders MMO is our baby project, a non-combative P vs E RPG that we are approaching from a narrative-first direction. It is a game for girls, with lots of options for customization and story paths (okay, not Detroit: Become Human levels, but paths!) that is for horse lovers and adventurers who may or may not have secretly creative/girly sides…or not, the choice is literally yours. All you have to have is a love of horses and exploring an open world and ranging series of stories that will all make sense in the end. (I hope, I will have a lot of pans in that fire!)

We’ve gotten a large chunk of the story concept and mechanics figured out, so while we are in the middle of writing everything and getting an organized list what’s left that we can’t do on our own, we can be stirring up interest! Right now it’s just the blog, I’m hoping in the next couple of months to get us set up with a bank account so we can do a tip-jar sort of thing so if you all want to throw us five bucks here or there, we can commission concept art. There’s also a twitter, @MysticRidersMMO, that is retweeting all of the various game thoughts in one place (because that is required, jeebus), tweeting whenever the blog updates, and (yes, AND) will be participating in writer games once they get out of the holiday slush because…well, we keep learning new things about our characters while doing it, and isn’t it fun to learn that with us?

Unlike here, where it is basically me babbling at you once a week, there’s a little bit more going on over at Mystic Riders MMO because Ginny and I aren’t just writing for writers and readers, we’re appealing to players and developers and parents. (Apparently I have good instinct for informative carrot talks to parents…? Who knew?) So while my awkward self is providing blog posts on Saturdays, with editing and additions from Ginny, Ginny is posting on random Tuesdays with quotes, pictures of what is inspiring us, and maybe some links to music or videos as needed. We have lists and piles of inspiration stuff, we want you all to see it and get an image of what we want this game to be so hopefully we can convince others to help us make it a reality.

Another plan is for Sun’s Guard: Ten. I am out of people to query, and honestly, I’m rather annoyed at the whole agency view anyway. So I am withdrawing my last one (because lack of communication is my biggest pet peeve ever) tomorrow morning, because I’m taking the holiday at least halfway off. As for self-publishing, I have a coworker who has very generously volunteered to do my book covers, and he is honestly very good, I’m ecstatic to have him helping. If I can get his work back on my personal time track, what I will probably do is release Sun’s Guard: Ten on Amazon on either the rough-date I have the book taking place at, or on Caley’s birthday, whichever lines up best with his own schedule.

I really just need a week before the release to run it through spell check and reread for typo purposes again, as well as edit one section for questionable copyright purposes, and it is ready to go without someone giving me a concrete critique of the current draft. (And I have tried.) Once we’ve got the book cover done and I figure out how I want the summary to go, we should be in good standings. I am planning doing a digital release AND a printed release through Amazon…I’ll probably buy it and Ginny’s books to sit on my self at the same time, not gonna lie. Though lordy do the shelves need organized at some point this year… My twitter will be a few weeks of promoting the book, and then the blog will have a few writing posts that are as non-spoilery as possible (definitely for later books….questionable for the first book) about my process with Ten that I haven’t already talked about. Then it’ll return to normal until the next book, lol.

Speaking of next books, Ginny has given me a side project by accident via me getting a writer’s block on Caley’s next book, probably caused due to the stress of querying, so until I’m unstuck later and not drowning in getting other stuff for Mystic Riders set up so going back to my list of things to do for it, I am poking at a stand-alone book. My monsters-of-the-world book idea fell apart on me, showing that not all fanfic can make the leap to original pretty obviously, but this one is a lot more self contained. It might actually be pretty short, even for me, so more of a novella, but I am hoping to get it out to you all at some point too, because I’m pretty excited about it.

(Ginny says she can see one of my DnD characters and her current love interest in it, I am arguing back that there is only so much fluff the DM can give me before it gets awkward for both of us, this is how I get my fluff! And then there was digging for play-bys to use as my models, which was harder than I expected for my knight…)

So besides an MMORPG, Sun’s Guard: Ten, and possible future novella shenanigans, the blog is going to continue the same. I have a stack of new books to read, though I don’t think I’ll be reviewing all of them, I FOUND THE GINNY BOX by unpacking the closet so I have plenty of fodder that way though, and I have thoughts and feelings on several RPG characters to continue to talk about. It’s going to be a great year, if a busy one!


Review: Crimson Peak

…Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor, I’m reviewing something that’s still in theaters. Mostly because I really wanted to talk about this movie, but didn’t want to see it again, so I needed to review it now. (Also, this means I dig less into my limited horror movie resources for next Halloween, yay!)

Edith Cushing wishes to become a writer, a difficult thing indeed in the days of Edwardian New York. The oddball of her social set, she never expected attention from men, and in fact seemed to scorn all things feminine and romantic, at least in terms of her writing. This all changes with the arrival of Sir Thomas Sharpe and his sister Lucille, who are seeking investment from Edith’s father and his company to save his family’s lands. In a whirlwind romance, Edith finds herself as the new Lady of a harsh land. Except the ghost of her mother delivered a warning, and there are secrets in the hall of the decrepit house. Deadly ones.

Ugh, where to attack this one… Okay, let’s start with characters. The Sharpes were great. Thomas was this perfect level of warmth and strength, but there was brittleness there, and it made him very endearing. On the other side, Lucille produces this image that is supposed to be similar to Thomas, warm and strong, but she is in fact cold and it shows sometimes. Her strength, however, is very real and terrifying. The actress managed it well, so that when Lucille did show emotion, it was done so powerfully that it made me jump in my seat. I also liked Edith’s father, for the bit we saw him in, and showing an actual capable father (if a slightly underhanded one, but I’ll give him a pass). I golf clapped when he confronted Thomas in the study.

Where the characters fell apart were Edith and the doctor/childhood friend character. I don’t know why they picked up this girl from Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and I honestly tried to give her a second chance, but she is so flat! I mean, there would be an occasionally flash of something good, and then…flat. Which didn’t fit with how spunky Edith was supposed to be judging from dialogue and other character’s reactions to her and just… Ugh. Bad casting decision. As for the doctor character, he was set up to be Edith’s rescuer, and that sort of irks me. I mean, they tried to fix that in the end, but honestly, I wish he hadn’t been involved at all. He was just an added complication to an already clunky plot.

And yes, the plot was a little clunky. The romance was built up great, and had a great ending, but it fell apart in the middle. I think skipping the boat trip was a bad idea. I think we needed to see at least a little of it, to help transition. But a lot of the plot problems actually come to issues with the world building. I mean, we’re supposed to be scared of these ghosts. Except they were shock-scares and gore, not actual fear because they established with the first ghost that even creepy ghosts can have good intentions. If the mother ghost was just supposed to be a warning about the future (and how she knows the future is a plot hole that irks me), then she needed to be not creepy so we would see a difference in the ghosts at Crimson Peak…except they were good intentioned too, so really, the ghosts were shot in the foot early on. They were shown too much, instead of just showing them sort of influencing the world around them at first and hiding the monsters until the end. Another minor plot issue is the clay itself. Is England really that much wetter? I’ve fallen on red clay earth (yay, Oklahoma and horses), and let me tell you, it’s hard! That part really made no sense to me.

I did feel like the sheer amount of back story and mystery were handled well, to a point. I knew something was going on by the walk in the park, though I wasn’t sure of specifics until later. But it was hinted at beautifully and woven into the story well as random little snippets that the audience saw, but Edith didn’t. I did find the actual recordings to be overkill. By that point, the audience knew what was going on, it was pretty obvious what all else was going on that with her smarts, Edith should have figured it out without having someone tell her. I mean, fine, keep the trunk thing if it is that important, but can we just stick with the pictures and whatnot being in it? And I refuse to believe that Lucille would have missed the canisters for that long anyway…

Overall, it’s a good watch. It’s less paranormal scary and more gory (sort of like the Underworld movies, now that I think of it), and you definitely can’t poke at the plot too hard before it falls apart. But the acting of the Sharpes makes it worth going to see, so if you can grit your teeth past Mia, you’ll feel like you definitely got what you paid for.


Review: Dresden Files 15–Skin Game

Sorry this is a day late. I had a bit too much good news yesterday, and the excitement wore me out. So. The final Dresden File book! At least until Peace Talks comes out. 😛 BTW, a friend and I have official reached the level of, “Okay, we’re going to make this crack fanfic verse out of FRUSTRATION!” And because I’m a King Arthur story nut. Anyway.

Skin Game starts off with Harry running around the prison doing…Parkour. Yeah, you read that right. But it doesn’t last long. Mab needs him to step up as Winter Knight to work with Nicodemus. And to insure it, she has leverage over Harry. If he doesn’t, he will die from the parasite living in his head that helped save his life during his attempted suicide. So he has to struggle to keep his white hat on straight. In the meantime, he worries over the effect the mantle is taking on him and how it is going to change him. Will he become a monster, or is he just too much in his head? (Though he’s obviously not that either!)

So, to begin. Butcher gets huge props for this book. Seriously. Okay, the tone starts off a little weird and disjointed from the rest. But it gets better, and I mean lots. It was exciting, constant surprises and conflict. And the ending was perfect. I knew something was going on, this time, but Harry was suitably quiet about it. Did it sometimes irk the tar out of me that Butcher used the same turn of phrase the entire book? Yes. I wanted to whack him if he mentioned keeping something close to the chest one more time. But I didn’t suspect what the twist was, and yet it didn’t feel out of left field. He finally found a balance to the suspense and mystery aspect.

Character wise, the little girls stole the show. Maggie, obviously, and the parasite. (Yeah, I’ll spoil you on that one.) Maggie seemed a little too young at times (she’s supposed to be ten, Butcher, not seven), but her personality was great. She was very much her own character, and I worried she’d be too much like Ivy. A concern I no longer need to have. I like how she was this source of conflict for Harry and the worries he now has as a father. Though speaking of being a father.. The parasite, we didn’t get to see much of her, but the entire concept of it was hysterical. I just hope Butcher gives her an actual name in the next book. (I’ve been calling her Suli, an epithet for Minerva. It seems appropriate.) I have to wonder where he’s going with this creation. Was she just a loose end? Is she a part of something much bigger? I don’t know.

Shout out, because I am also a Greek myth nerd. I loved Hades. Absolutely loved. And this makes how many of us now who subscribe to the theory that Persephone willingly married Hades…?

World building wise, I thought that this actually did some good things. Once again, he brought in one new element, worked on some others, and that works well for him. It seems like as long as he doesn’t devote the whole book to a new aspect, he does better about keeping the information from being completely overwhelming. However, as much as I love Hades… I don’t know how I feel about the Greek myths being brought into the Dresden verse. It was already horribly complicated, and now adding yet another layer to the Nevernever and the power of belief just… It just might be more than even a series this long can handle. We’ll see.

I didn’t have as much bad to say about this book, but now I’m going to talk about the series as a whole. Maybe it’s because I never really got into huge series outside of the Saddle Club, The Babysitters Club, and Nancy Drew, but it seems to me that this is all a really big project that honestly, without a devoted fanbase, would have fallen apart books ago. It’s very hit or miss as far as whether the plot is going to work or the world building elements will be overwhelming or not. I think Butcher is doing the same thing I’m currently doing, where I throw things at the wall and see what sticks. And I think kind of learned what not to do from him, as far as how much new stuff can be handled, how many times can you really almost end the world in three days… I think Butcher really needs a reader who reads a book and knows what they are doing so they can tell him honestly what they think about it. Not an agent or his publisher, but a beta reader. I know without mine, I’d be lost.

Alright, next week I’ll be back with some sort of RPG or writing thing, and then I have a new YA book to read and review. I’ll review Peace Talks as soon as it comes out though, and keep making it a regular occurrence when it happens. See you Thursday!


Review: Dresden Files 14–Cold Days

At last! Family is out of my house, and I’ve had a chance to read Cold Days. Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays, I got a cold, so this post might be short. Now let’s see what trouble Harry has gotten himself into now…

Physical therapy has never been exciting until you’ve had the fae version, or so we start out with. Harry has to recover from his brush with death, which is not easy to do when you are also in training as the new Winter Knight. Mab has no mercy…and for good reason. Her first task for Harry borders on the impossible. To make matters worse, he has to try and find balance with finding his place in the normal world again, despite no longer clearly being on the good side. And what on earth is going on with Demonreach? Oh, only the potential end of the world. And a lot of trouble for Harry even if he does manage to save things again. Nothing major.

A lot of this book was me sitting here, on my couch. Swearing. Loudly. My friend (who has read all of these) laughing at me. Yeah. But…there were a few hiccups, like what I’m coming to realize is always going to be the case with this series. Usually where there was the bad, there was some good though, so it was managed to balance out better than it usually did.

To begin with, there was some issues balancing out the world building. On one hand, we were dealing a lot more in depth with the fae than we ever have before. (And I might regret saying that, but from where I’m sitting… yes, more than ever before.) So that’s a lot of information. But we’ve got Demonreach’s secret going on, we’ve got more information about what happened when Harry “died,” we’ve got Outsiders and Gatekeeper and just… Too much going on, man. And to make it worse, the first fourth or so of the book sets up for basically fae adventures only…and then we’re back in Chicago and it’s total whiplash. And it’s a weird pace compared to the rest of the book. Overall, kind of a clunky transition. I get why he did it, and I like the details it gives us. But it just creates a clear dividing line in the book between sections.

Plot wise, it takes a bit for him to get going. I blame the last book being such a plot-spinner book. It didn’t give him quite as neat of a jumping off point as he normally has. So he had to actually deal with some mess he left behind, and that just takes time. But then once he gets going… the plot is more than a little amusing. I repeat, I was swearing. Not the, “Oh lord, I want to throw this book at the WALL,” swearing, but the, “This is too cool for proper words!” kind. It starts to get clunky at the end, but I’ve about decided that Butcher just doesn’t know how to handle loose ends. He wants to throw all these things together, but he struggles with weaving everything together until he starts knocking out parts so he can focus on two or three.

Character wise… I have mixed feelings. Some of my favorites get little to no screen time in these recent books. I mean, Thomas at least has his moments, but… I miss Ramirez. I miss Michael. I miss all these characters that helped us remember Harry’s humanity. I think we really need to see more of them, or all that nerfing we just did of Harry’s character is going to be lost. I’m also REALLY getting annoyed over how many female characters keep dying. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have issues with character death period. It’s usually done for shock value rather than anything else. But the proportions of main character deaths between the girls and the boys is feeling off to me.

Overall, Cold Days was a fun read. I enjoyed the excitement of it once it got going, and there were some character moments that shone through. But I think it is possibly the worst book for a first time reader to pick up, making it incapable of existing outside of the series, which I think is a problem. And then on top of that, even for a long time reader, there was some serious clunkiness and issues with the world building.

I would say more, but… Cold. Headache. I have work in the morning. I’m interesting in hearing other opinions though. Any highlights (or lowlights) from this one catch your eye? Comment and let me know!


Review: The Dresden Files–Side Jobs

Since I still haven’t gotten my hands on Cold Days, I thought I would read the short story anthology, since it was published before hand anyway. A collection of various short stories, most were written under the theme of a different anthology that Butcher participated in. Most were through the traditional point of view of Harry, but some strayed into some welcome new POVs, including Thomas and Murphy.

The stories were wildly different from each other. Some were rather humorous, such as Harry struggling with all the petty concerns of his day off which ended up being a normal day. Others were very serious, such as the novella about Murphy handling the loss of Dresden. And some hit my nerves, such as the Night of the Living Brews. But it was quite a collection, and there some good parts to it and some bad to it.

When it comes to plots, some were better and more complete than others. You could tell where Butcher was just throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck, and when he had something actually planned out. Really, of all of them, I only liked two for their plots. One was the one that hit my nerve, the Night of the Living Brews, surprisingly. While I didn’t like Harry making light of what was going to happen to the kidnapped bride, I did think structurally, it was well thought out and equally well executed. It also did what an anthology short story was supposed to do, which is give us glimpses of the characters and world going on behind the scenes, rather than throwing a ton of information at us. My other favorite was actually the one that Butcher wrote for our shared teacher, Professor Deborah Chester. It was also very well structured and I loved the message that was in it. And oh my gee, bet cop Murphy!

The rest were sort of eh. Some I felt like were beating dead horses, such as the one centered around Michael. Others were just far too busy for my tastes, with just too much going on. I get that he was trying to do that to poor Harry and Anastasia, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And while Aftermath was great… It was too much. I could tell it was a novella, not a short story, and combined with the short blips, it just… It felt too long and too clunky. I thought it had a good point to it, I thought it was fairly well written. I just don’t think it belonged in this anthology. I think it needed either published separately or expanded upon or something. It was just awkward.

I love the depth these short stories helped add to characters. From grown Will and Georgia, to Thomas, to Murphy, to even Uriel. All of them really got a chance to shine in these books. Even Harry got a different take, since we got to see him how Thomas and Murphy saw him rather than just how he sees himself. Considering how important she becomes, I’m surprised we don’t get anything from Molly, or hell, even something from Mouse. (God, Mouse’s point of view, that would be humor.) As I said, I had a few of my old issues with female character portrayals again, but whether because he didn’t have the length or he realized it, it wasn’t so bad that I threw the book.

Some elements in the stories were very obviously from previous books. Things such as the vampire Courts, the Valkyries, even the crime scene in Chicago. He merely expanded upon them, which is awesome to see. I love all the little bits that never make it into books but the author does think about. But all that being said, I think there were issues when he was introducing new things. I don’t remember the Oblivion Wars even being mentioned, and while seeing Thomas do things on his own was cool, I just had issues connecting because I’m going, “What the heck were these and why can’t I remember them? Irony!” It eventually came up again (sort of) with the psychic link via beer goddess, but it was still clunky in my head. But that’s my opinion.

Overall, I liked these a lot. I loved the little glimpses into the relationships between characters that they offered, and how easy they were to read and track through. Butcher didn’t get tangled up in his own ideas nearly as much, and for me, it made a drastic improvement. Some spots were a little prickly, and I feel like the tone gave whiplash with the way the stories were arranged, but that can easily be placed on when they were published in the writing process and just not thinking about how one story will ready after having followed another. I kinda hope he does some more of these!


Review: The Dresden Files 13–Ghost Story

Sorry for my flakiness. I had some personal stuff going on, and when that happens, sadly the blog must take a backseat. However, I did have a very productive Thanksgiving vacation from work. I’ll talk more about it on Thursday. For now, onwards with the Dresden!

Ghost Story picks up right where Changes let off… Sort of. Harry is now dead, but he isn’t at the gates of St. Peter or about to take Dante’s tour of Hell in a more permanent nature. Instead, he’s being sent back to clean up a few messes lingering after his demise. But there is more at stake than even Harry knows, as more than his ghost returns with him and a few old enemies linger in unexpected places.

So, things that went really well in this book. Characters! It was nice to see Harry knocked down to near-Muggle levels. He needed the wake-up and we as readers needed to see him as at least moderately equal to us rather than so greater than life like he has been the last couple of books. (Didn’t someone call death the great equalizer?) It also broke up the formula of the series in the way he dealt with his problems. For once, at least on his end of things, magic wasn’t the answer.

It was also interesting to see how the other characters dealt with his death. Thomas and Harry handle loss the same way–they wallow. Though I wished we had seen more of him than this little blurp towards the end. The same for Maggie, who was practically unseen. And really, it didn’t take too long for Harry to find out where she was despite him claiming not to want to know. Hello, logic fail. However, it was Murphy and Molly who had the biggest changes. Murphy really tried to fill in the gap Harry left behind in the magical community, but you could see it and her grief were wearing on her. In a rare moment, I felt like Butcher handled Murphy exactly like how I think she should have been as a character.

Molly was her own kind of mess. Without spoiling too much, I did like how Butcher showed her fractured psyche, and some of the doppelganger shenanigans were awesome and weren’t predictable. She really came into her own in this book, I think, even if no one, even herself, was ready for it. She stopped being a child, at least to us non-wizarding types. I have to wonder how this will affect her standing with the White Council. Admittedly, they are on kinda shaky ground with Harry gone the way he is, but I can’t see them leaving her be either. So maybe the mundane world is going to have to meet the wizarding world in a rather interesting clash.

I thought the world-building down as far as the ghost-world and the afterlife was interesting. I loved the angel we met, and how he reacted to some of his underlings (who were also awesome, so happy to see them!). The ghosts were well explored, not only in what lingered but also what they were in the relation to the afterlife…and how this made Harry different. They had some memorable characters, some for bad reasons and some for awesome ones. And seeing inside of Bob’s skull, oh goodness! The villain was also passable, and logical at least. It wasn’t something I had thought about, but with the way Butcher set up his after life, well, it does make the most sense.

When it comes to the plot, I think structurally, it worked. It flowed well, there were clear cause and effects. The villain, again was passable and logical. I thought it was all dramatic and yet adorable. If I was looking at it alone, if it was set up to be a stand alone, I think it could have worked really well. So for once, it could have worked that way instead of being so hardset as a series book…if he had written it that way. Sadly, it was very dependent on being part of this series, bringing up previous events without explaining them clear enough that a newbie reader would understand them. And as a series book?

Well, to coin a weird phrase, this was a wheel-spinner book. And what I mean is, for all the awesome things that happened that I loved… I feel like this entire book could have been skipped. Or it could have been parceled out as subplots, because… Nothing really advanced. Yeah, some stuff happened, but it easily could have happened while Harry was off being the Winter Knight. We’ve established that time flows weird in the Nevernever! Dying nerfed him for a little while, which again, I liked. But he’s going to go right back to normal, ain’t he? Some side characters advanced, but they could have done that in other books. The villain wasn’t even a concern on most readers’ minds! So I’m waiting to be sold on the necessity of this book.


Review: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

Happy Halloween! And with that, a special post just for the holidays. (Or at least, one of my favorite ones and the kick start to the fall/winter festivities.)

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (which has a much fancier Japanese title that I will not insult anybody by trying to write myself) is a Japanese anime that is a combination of murder mystery, horror, slice of life comedy, and romance. It follows a high school paranormal club with the president being a ghost herself! Yuko Kanoe has no memories of her life or how she died, and she has haunted the school for years, leading to many ghost stories to develop. But then Teiichi Niiya sees her (and her remains) and the two team up to try and discover Yuko’s past. But there is a kernel of truth to all the old stories, and there is more to Yuko’s memory loss than they could ever have guessed…

Despite the wildly different genres this story travels between, it actually balances them really well. I never felt mood-whip-lash as I went from horror to something romantic to something mysterious, etc. It all flowed very well together. I thought the fan service was a little too strong with Yuko, but then, I’m not big on fan service in the best of moods, so… The romance was cute and dramatic and full of squee (all good points). But the end game is weird for me. I like my romances to end with a solid base for the future, so I can easily imagine where it is going to go next. But… Half of this couple is a ghost. A teenage ghost at that. What are they going to do as he grows older? What if he ever wants kids? It just sits weird for me. Don’t get me wrong, I bawled like a baby there at the end, but… I sorta wish he’d ended up with the great-niece instead.

The characters weren’t simple constructs, not easy to show in such a short medium. The main three (or who I saw as the main three) had several different dimensions to them. Yuko’s past and her way of dealing with it was heart-wrenching in its self-destruction. Teiichi had to struggle with how far he was willing to go for his feelings or if it was better to just go with the flow. Kirie has to struggle not only with who she thinks Yuko is, but also with who she is and how that affects her life. The rest of the characters were pretty flat, but that only let the focus stay on the main three and bring their issues to the light. And it was awesome.

The story was this quirky mix of everyday little mysteries and some of them stacking together with the longer running series, only in sneaky unexpected ways. The villain was actually something internal, which is also something that really vibes well with me. In something short like this, you don’t have time to play with both internal conflict and external conflicts seriously. You can dabble with one, but it has to resolve itself within the episode because through the series, it will get tangled and possibly get forgotten. They did the right thing and focused on the internal conflict within the group and within the main title character. Sometimes I still wanted to throw a shoe at the TV as it dealt with the day-to-day stuff, but I put up with it because it made the ending all the more bittersweet.

The horror aspects were not as bad as I was afraid they were going to be. This was not Hansel and Gretel all over again. No nightmares (actually, Agents of SHIELD has given more nightmares after season 1), and it actually handled the scary elements well and in ways that made sense. I thought the school was horribly contrived as was the illness from the memories, but it wasn’t something that completely broke my suspension of disbelief. It was just a bit of a push, even for a ghost story. The entire setting was that way, really. It was such a push to make it work, to keep it isolated like they wanted it. I don’t entirely see the purpose of it, unless things in Japan are really quite that different. Really, I think the fanservice though is going to remain the worst part of the whole series.

Overall, I think the series was well done and well written. I mean, even the introduction and closing sequences were well thought out with what happened in the story that particular episode (which was really creepy a couple times). It was a perfect way of doing a short series. It had a resolved ending, it focused on what it wanted to bring out, and it didn’t waste time with everything else. I wish other animes would learn from it. (Like Magical Warfare. Dear GOD, do not get me started on the last few episodes of this first season…)


Review: The Dresden Files 11 – Turn Coat

Well, thank God I made a buffer. I had the flu the first week, and then last week I was busy making up for the fact I got the flu. *eyeroll* I got the part of Abbess Guinevere, btw. I’m excited. 😀 On a sadder note, we’ve caught up to my once-a-week schedule, and with fair starting and me being crazy busy for at least a couple of months, I’m going to go back down to once a week blog posts until the new year. I’m very, very hopeful that after the holidays if not sooner, I can start guaranteeing twice-a-week posts permanently, but I need time to finish getting stuff around here beaten into shape.

Turn Coat brings back an old friend…sorta. More like enemy, but when someone is begging to be hidden, it’s really hard to quibble over the details. While Morgan has been around, now he’s turning to Harry for help. Ironic, no? But things are never as easy as they appear. Morgan is being accused of killing one of the Senior Council members. To make matters worse, trouble is brewing in the direction of the White Court, and something truly horrendous has been summoned straight out of Native American folklore (errr, I’ll get to this). Add to the fact that Harry can’t seem to leave any of his house guests alone for longer than a few minutes, not counting Mouse who tries to keep things calm, and well, is it all that surprising that everything goes straight to Hell?

So, what went right in this book? To begin with, the naaglosshii was actually scary. It was honestly a villain I dreaded seeing, and not just because Butcher did something sexist and fed into rape culture. It was terrifying before he made it intelligent, that was really just the icing on the cake. I can say the same really about Demon Reach. Maybe that’s just because both sort of tagged on nightmares I had as a kid that have stuck with me as an adult. Either way, job really well done on this book with the horror/monster characterizations and descriptions. Even some of the previously flat characters who we are supposed to just completely hate got some fleshing out that didn’t necessarily make me hate them less, but it made them more real so I could enjoy hating them more. (Such a weird thing to type.)

I also have to give him some props. I didn’t peg the traitor as the traitor, I didn’t see Morgan’s confession at the end coming, and while I think the explanation of Anastasia makes complete sense and I saw bits and pieces of that stacking up in hindsight, it was also a welcome little shock-not-shock as well. (Translation: Becca wasn’t extremely surprised by the Stacia part, but didn’t at least completely see it coming.) Butcher is finally getting a handle on the mystery part of the series, so while we get bits and pieces of the whole thing, we aren’t so completely behind Dresden that we are annoyed and we aren’t so far ahead of him that we get impatient.

And believe it or not dear readers, I am not going to give him crap about what happened with Anastasia. Because this time, it was written in a way that I actually felt like was closer to trying to push a friendship into a relationship at the advice of somebody else…and then realizing that that somebody else was an idiot and trying to return back to the friendship. That advice was probably really, really strong, but there was a certain level of choice to it that I felt was missing in the earlier book between Murphy and Lord Raith (and really, more than a couple members of the White Court). I doubt she got pushed to sleep with Harry, for instance. And in some ways, she was still very much herself in some of it. So congrats, Jim. I am not going to rip into you over this.

But speaking of the White Court… THOMAS! My baby! I can’t talk about it, it’s too spoilery. But… THOMAS!

When it comes to the world building and monsters part of it though… I gotta admit, I’ve got some issues with the way that Butcher is portraying the Natives and their legends. I’ve taken some Native studies-themed courses, and while I am far from an expert, I’ve gotten to where I can tell when someone is relying too heavily on stereotypes in movies. And Butcher is walking that line far too much. I would honestly be surprised if one of my old professors reads the Dresden Files because of Injun Joe and the way he and his culture have been showcased in the book. Maybe I am wrong and Butcher consulted with some Native writers before he added that element, and if so and he actually listened to them, I withdraw my complaints. But as it stands now…I repeat, I doubt it. I really, really doubt it.

There were some really weird character inconsistencies with Molly in this book. I don’t understand why she went mind probing, not after all the trouble we went through in the last book establishing that she finally learned the boundaries. I mean, I understand that some serious time has passed since then. But it still seemed really out of left field for her to go down that road. Was it setup for later in the series? If so, it’s contradictory to the previous way she’s been shown, so why bother trying to redeem her in the earlier books? Was it to help soften up Morgan there at the end? No, because now we’ve given this idea to her that it’s okay to break the rules as long as you aren’t caught. Which again, is so radically contradictory to everything we’ve spent a couple of books establishing now, that I got a little frustrated.

The ending did not help matters. Not at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He wraps up all his necessary threads, has the series ones still going, a few small steps taken in resolving them… But there is no high note. And while in a mid-series book, you can have mostly downward spirals on your characters’ lives, in my opinion, any ending is just completely unsatisfying if there isn’t a high note of happiness somewhere. But all I saw at every turn in this one was more sadness, more future trouble being hinted at, more relationships coming to an end, more threats looming over the horizon. As a result, the book didn’t really feel finished to me.

Rather than press on to Changes, however, I’m going to take a slight break and review an anime I mentioned in an earlier review. I think I need to refresh my brain a little, since I need to be looking at the books as both a series and as a whole, and I’ve been forewarned that that starts to get tricky from here on out. So see you next Thursday!