Harry Dresden

I’ve been deluged by fans of Harry Dresden lately.  Lynn Cahoon, Midu Hadi, and Mae Clair.  So many who are so enthusiastic, I had to see what I was missing.  So I bought the first Harry Dresden book–Storm Front.  And for the first couple of chapters, I did an inward shrug.  What was the fuss about?  And then I got seriously hooked.

What is it about wizards named Harry?  Well, both of the ones I know are pretty much alone in the world.  Their parents, like every Disney animated movie I watched growing up, are past tense.  Kaput.  The establishment isn’t too fond of them.  And they have more talent than any single person (even a wizard) should have.  Add to that, that they’re up against monumental odds.  Odds they shouldn’t survive.  And neither of them take themselves too seriously.

Dresden has a great mix of lethal and humor.  People die horrible deaths, but the skull in the basement who helps him make potions, bargains for a weekend of ribald entertainment.  And the women in their lives are no shrinking violets.  When Dresden apologizes to Murphy, she hobbles into his hospital room to throw the flowers he sent her in his face.  The action made my adrenaline pump.  The monsters are scary.  And the villain’s scarier than the things he creates.  But even with magic bouncing off walls, Dresden felt REAL.  Because I could relate to him as a person.

When I finished Storm Front, I downloaded book two.  I never read books back to back, but I’m looking forward to the next story to see what Dresden does next.  Now I know what the fuss is about.  Harry Dresden is one fun series to read!

Even Better Than I Expected

I stayed up longer than usual to finish reading SAPPHIRE FLAMES by Ilona Andrews.  I hardly ever do that anymore, so it takes a really good book that I can’t put down to keep me up into the wee hours.

When I want a book with wild imagination, lots of action, and even more battles, my go to is Ilona Andrews.  The same can be said for tons of other readers.  She’s a New York Times best-selling author, because she delivers.  When I want shivers but no horror, she delivers that, too.  Time after time, in every book, her protagonists (female and her romantic interest) look like there’s no way they can survive their newest threat.  The odds always seem impossible.  And of course, they somehow manage to scrape through alive.  They face mages who can shred minds, reach into another sphere to pull out monsters, or amass armies.  It’s wonderful fun.

In the first set of three books featuring Catalina’s family–starting with BURN FOR ME–the books revolve around Nevada and Rogan.  Nevada’s the oldest sister in the family, who’s struggling to keep the family’s detective agency solvent after her father dies and to keep food on the table.  When she takes on her latest case, she runs smack into “Mad” Rogan.  She and Rogan got three books before their HEA, and they were great together.

SAPPHIRE FLAMES is the first book in the second part of the series, featuring Nevada’s sister Catalina and her romantic interest, Alessandro.  There are references to the first books in the series, but I think there’s enough information that you could read this set without reading the first.  And this set has a different feel.  I can’t remember reading a more dashing hero than Alessandro.  He’s gorgeous.  He’s sexy.  He’s Italian and a count.  And he’s deadly.  Plus, he really, really wants Catalina.

The especially fun part about Alessandro is that his magic negates anyone else’s magic he’s close enough to.  AND if there’s any kind of weapon close enough, he can have a copy of it in his hand to use.  When he battles, he can go through weapons one after another until he finds the right one to finish his opponent.  My favorite example of this is when he and Catalina are battling a mage who can change into a huge killing beast, and he shoots her over and over again at a building site and finally ends up with a chain saw in his hand while Catalina hacks at her head with a sword.  Nice family fun.

Catalina’s magic struck me as more subtle, but it’s every bit as deadly.  She can wrap her magic around anyone and make them love her to the point that they’ll do anything she asks to make her happy.  She’s VERY careful of her magic and has to hold it in so that it doesn’t affect innocent people.  She uses her magic in really surprising ways, and I enjoyed watching her get out of deadly situations by being so clever.

And when you put Catalina and Alessandro together…sparks fly.  Chemistry explodes.  I knew they wouldn’t get together at the end of the book (since it’s book one in what I assume will be three), but oh, I wanted them together!  I should mention quickly that Catalina’s family and friends are all wonderful in their own ways, as well.  And as you can tell by this long, gushing review, I absolutely loved this book.

Mystery Musings

I just finished reading PAINT IT BLACK by PJ Parrish.  I’ve just started the series, so as usual, I’m behind everyone else.  This is the second full book, and I really liked the first one, but I loved this one.  I loved it so much, I decided to do more than a review and to write about it here.

It’s gritty, but for me, it never went too far.  It’s violent, but we hear the violent acts but don’t have to watch them.  I can only take so much these days.  When I was young, bring on the horror and gory!  Show me a new serial killer.  But those days are behind me.  Which is odd.  Because I can write about them with more ease than I can read them.  Maybe because I put myself in the killer’s mind and what he’s doing feels like what he would really do?  Not sure.  But hinting at things off screen works better for me these days.

The Louis Kincaid stories are thrillers, and this one revolves around a serial killer.  His psychology fascinated me.  And the farther I read, the more I knew that eventually, Louis Kincaid would be high on his list of victims.  That made for great tension.  To the point, (and, sorry, because this might be a spoiler that ruins some of the tension when it happens). that he kidnaps one person but doesn’t kill her because she doesn’t fit his profile.  It’s such an insight into the killer’s motives, I thought it was brilliant.

Besides the mystery and motives, I enjoyed how the characters in this book were fleshed out.  And it was all done in such an understated way with so few words and deep conversations, I was impressed.  Each character is mindful and respectful of each other’s space.  They all have past histories, and some of those histories are painful, so they tiptoe around them, never prying, never pushing too hard.  That made it so that when I learned a little about them, a peek into what happened that they avoid, it made it all the more meaningful.

The end was a fight to the finish.  Well done.  The protagonist didn’t just walk into an obvious trap, even though I do think he could have figured out who the last victim was sooner.  But that aside, the end delivered a strong, emotional impact.  It worked.  And the wrap-up wasn’t exactly what I expected but realistic, so actually better in its way.

This book had complex, private characters; a great villain; strong teamwork between the good guys; and plenty of tension for a thriller.  It’s going high on my list of favorite reads.

Mystery Musings

How much do you want to think?  Concentrate?

I read at the end of the day, usually for an hour or two.  Some days, my brain is worn out by then.  But once in a while, I still enjoy stories that challenge me, that make me think.

I recently finished WHEN GODS DIE, by C.S. Harris.  It’s a Regency mystery, and I really enjoyed it.  But the plot was so complicated, I had to concentrate to follow it and the characters involved. It’s not for the faint of heart…or tired of brain.  I have a special fondness for the Regency period, but politics played such a big part of the story, I felt like I needed a notebook to keep track of who sympathized with the Stuarts, who was loyal to the king, even though he was half-mad and his son, the Prince Regent, was a spoiled, self-indulgent leader who got booed in London.  And that was just a start.  BUT, it was all worth it.

The bad guys had no pricks of conscience when they killed.  They were mean and scary.  And in the middle of all the intrigue, Sebastian St. Cyr discovers he’s been deceived about his past.  Almost everyone knew the truth but him.  He was only a boy and didn’t understand what was really going on.

When he’s disillusioned even more, he joined the military and fought the French.  He returned home six years later, his intelligence and survival skills honed.  Many, and I mean MANY people try to kill him in this book.  And they all ended up dead.  The fight scenes were great.  I’m no specialist, but St. Cyr’s tactics felt believable to me.  When he walked into a room and people got out of his way, it made sense.  The man was intense and focused.  And smart.

His relationships were as complex as the plot.  He and his family had their differences.  And secrets.  His romance with Kat, an actress who won’t marry him because she loves him too much, had tender, endearing moments.

I recommend this book and will read the next one, even though I need a break first.  It’s not a fast read.  And there’s a lot of action.  Some nights I went to bed, and the story kept whirling in my head.  St. Cyr came alive for me.  So did London–the good and the bad of it.