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Dune Messiah

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At first, I was excited that this second book in the Dune series did not use the omniscient POV. Turned out I was wrong. By the fifth or so chapter there was the usual head hopping of omniscient POV I find totally annoying. There was a bit more order and sense to the switching of the POV, though, where we see events alternatively from the view of different characters. So I got over it, if not used to it. But I think the omniscient POV was at least partially responsible for keeping the characters at a distance, keeping me from really connecting, knowing them.The story is nearly as epic as the first, yet more focused at the same time. The dangers quickly increased for Paul, as conspiracies were suspected, hinted, then revealed and put into play. Paul seemed aware, yet not aware. It was hard to be sure what he knew, which increased the tension, but eventually just led to confusion. It seemed nearly all the characters had hidden motives, multiple goals and purposes for their actions. I tried to figure out what each character wanted at different stages in the story and only sometimes succeeded. Chani was pretty up front about things. Figuring out Irulan was another thing altogether. Knowing what she did (trying not to give spoilers here), I felt for Chani. It drove me crazy that she didn’t know. I wished Paul would step up his perception and figure it out.I saw the end for certain characters coming, and had to consider who of the many characters would die by the end. I hoped for a reprieve that never came.While the sources of menace and threat became clearer as the story progressed, some conversations left me unsure and even confused. Much of what was said was full of double meanings, but I wasn’t always clear on what the deeper meanings were. For example, the conversation when Stilgar realized what Paul had come to understand about their fates. The author never made clear what it was Stilgar or Paul had realized. Unless I missed something, Herbert left the reader to figure that out, only he didn’t give us enough information.Midway through, I was definitely getting confused. Paul kept talking about things as if the reader understood. But we didn’t. His words were cryptic, with things only half explained. His ‘growing understanding’ left me in the dark. I could see where his understanding had changed, but understanding of what? I was left with the sense I had missed information, that there was something I should have grasped that slipped by me. I couldn’t even tell if Paul was purposely playing into the conspiracy’s hand with his conversation with Endric or if Endric got the better of him. Perhaps we weren’t supposed to know till the end, but it left me with a fuzzy feeling. Even realizing all he’d understood, I had the feeling I’d missed half of what had happened.I was also puzzled that Irulan was in such opposition to Paul, when in Dune, the first book, the chapter opening quotes were all "taken" from the "history" and writings of Muad’dib—written down by Princess Irulan. Some were quotes directly from her. But they sounded in support of him. From this I take that Irulan’s ‘conversion’ at the end was sincere, though I saw no evidence of that. And Paul’s vision of the falling moon—why was this vision any different than his other visions? It wasn’t clear and neither were some of his conclusions. Although, his final conclusion regarding Chani was clear as day. I was hoping he would be wrong for once. The ghola character was intriguing and at times a mystery. I couldn’t understand why Paul kept him, except perhaps nostalgia for a life long past. By then end, I did see why he did. Not sentimentality—that wouldn’t have been like Paul (he seemed to no longer have capacity for it). Yet the final transformation seemed somewhat expected on Paul’s part. How I couldn’t say.A line that brought me closer to understanding Paul, though I never reached full understanding, was this one from page 193:"He felt chained to a future which, exposed too often, had locked onto him like a greedy succubus." It explains some of his lack of resistance to that future he so wanted to avoid. He knew the events he saw would come to pass. Only with much orchestration could he hope to steer time in a more desirable direction. When I reached the end of the story, much of what happened was still cloudy for me. The problem was he kept his motivations from the reader as well as those around him much of the time. As a result, the story was way more confusing than it needed to be, and the ending much less satisfying.
Harry Dresden 3 - Grabesruh: Die dunklen Fälle des Harry Dresden Band 3

by and

"Wow," Bob said. "You're dying. What a great plan."Bob always knows how to put things.Still loving Harry Dresden. The third installment offers a broader picture of Harry Dresden's world, and like before, he starts playing with the line between good and bad magic.Jim Butcher is teaching me a lot about writing, about story, and storytelling. How to continue to make things worse for your character. Don't just put a time limit on him saving everyone. Make him take poison that puts a time limit on his life-saving! How to unfold backstory: in dribs and drabs. He mentions the Nevernever nearly immediately in the first book. But I don't think he ever outright explains it. Harry will mention, say, Faeries, and Bob will elaborate: "Either we get the Disney version of Faerie, with elves and tinkerbell pixies and who knows what sugary cuteness, or we get the wicked witch version, which is considerably more entertaining, but less healthy." He drops bits of information only when we need them. And sometimes even then we have to wait. It makes for a smoothly flowing story that seems to unfold effortlessly and keeps you turning the pages.I like the character of Michael, though I don't know exactly what he is. I don't know if we'll see him again, but I hope so.And Harry continues to make mistakes and pay the price for them. He loses people. He makes enemies. He starts wars. And he doesn't even get paid.And I love him even more for it.
Harry Dresden 2 - Wolfsjagd: Die dunklen Fälle des Harry Dresden Band 2

by and

The second in the Harry Dresden files was just as fun as the first. I'm getting to know Harry a bit better. He's awkward, sincere, inept, a terrible liar, not all-powerful, has a weakness for women in distress and women with long legs, wickedly sarcastic, flippant, irreverent, arrogant, sometimes slow on the uptake, worries about the little guy, hates bullies, tries to be responsible, doesn't always succeed, cries, worries about his cat, will puke after seeing a torn up dead body.Harry takes risks, usually to help someone else, and this time, comes too close to magic he shouldn't play with. We get to see him go up against werewolves and mobsters, and it's not clear who he's more intimidated by. He succeeds in stopping those who would do nothing good, but he pays a price.An oft-misunderstood wizard, blamed for many things he's usually trying to stop or prevent, Harry Dresden is perhaps unlike any character I've read. Certainly one of the most memorable. I had instant affection for this character, especially how he's read by James Marsters. I'm moving on immediately to the next in the series.
Harry Dresden 5 - Silberlinge: Die dunklen Fälle des Harry Dresden Band 5

by and

After the tremendous all-encompassing conflict of the last book, I wondered how Butcher would top it, or if he could.Well, he did. In Death Masks, instead of end-of-the-world catastrophe, Harry is attacked on all sides. At once, of course. In fact, at chapter eighteen or so, I noted that Harry had yet to sleep! And it had been two days. He'd already been challenged to a duel by a powerful vampire, shot at by the mob, attacked by one of the Fallen (and still his day was to get worse). Oh, and there's a prophecy that if he tries to find what he's been hired to find, he'll die. But if he doesn't, everyone dies.All that without a nap.Harry finally slept when it was over. I think he slept for a couple of days.This story was just as fast paced as the previous ones, if not more so. It grabs you immediately and doesn't let go till the end. Harry was confronted with so many threats that a duel with a vampire warlord actually took a backseat.On to the next. Can't wait to see how Butcher tops this.
Harry Dresden 4 - Feenzorn: Die dunklen Fälle des Harry Dresden Band 4

by and

"I was scared. Not in that half-pleasant adrenaline charged way, but quietly scared. …It's a rational sort of fear that puts a lawn chair down in the front of your thoughts and brings a cooler of drinks along with it."There's an image to start a story.Harry's not in good shape at the start of this book. It's interesting to see the level of continuity. Considering the end of the last book, he shouldn't be in good shape. But many authors would just give their main character some recup time and move on to the next adventure. Nope, we get Harry in the midst of crisis, obsession, assassination attempts, and generally being on everyone's bad side.We learn even more about Harry here. His story is more complex. The trouble he's in is deeper. There's war brewing -- on two fronts. Truths are revealed. Alliances made. It's actually the biggest trouble Harry's been in. And the consequences are bigger, with potential to affect the whole mortal world.Harry's character is summed up well towards the end when the Gatekeeper tells him he's accomplished his task, he can stop. But he doesn't, though he desperately wants to, "because I'm an idiot. And there are people in trouble." Harry puts others before himself every time. Not in a saintly, holier-than-thou way. Reluctantly, with regrets at times, with dread often. But he does it because it's the only way he can live with himself. And when he wins, it's just barely, and always at a price.I'm getting the sense there's a larger tale going on, being revealed in small doses, with hints and insinuations at times, sometimes more overtly. We learn about his mother a little bit each book, and it's becoming clear there's more to that story than even Harry knows. There was a huge revelation in this book I won't mention to avoid spoiling anyone. But I can now see how there's over a dozen books and counting. Along with the crisis du jour, there's trouble brewing in the background, secrets threatening to rise to the surface.I can't wait.
Gideon's Corpse

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I have a mixed review for Gideon's Corpse. The story began right where Gideon's Sword left off, updating a bit for those who might not have read the first. But after a few chapters, there was a huge information dump of basically all of Gideon's backstory, even of information they'd already given the reader. And it went on and on. I found it annoying, not so much because I knew the information from the previous book, but because it repeated info we already got in this book. Plus it was all dumped in one block. Very unlike the authors. One problem with the first half of the book: the scenario was there was an Islamic terrorist. I thought, Really? You couldn't be more original? It's the easiest and most overdone idea in crime fiction these days. And then the cliché ramped up--Islamic terrorists with a nuclear bomb. Yawn.Eventually there were clues that the cliché setup of the radicalized Islamic convert-turned-terrorist was some sort of red herring, and I began to have hope for the story. But I would have been happier to get some of those hints earlier, if only to avoid the feeling I was reading a cliché, cookie-cutter storyline. I was not amused by the chainsaw fight, though. It was too horror-flick like, bordering on the ridiculous. And I have a high tolerance in fiction. If you establish something as acceptable, I'll usually go along with it. Perhaps that was the problem. Gideon was supposed to be kind of average, if more intelligent than most. Nothing in his background said he'd be able to swing chainsaws with a cult nut. However, midway through the story, with a sudden and unexpected plot twist, the story became suspenseful, unpredictable, and more interesting. Many times I could not guess how Gideon would get himself out of the situation he'd gotten into. It was strange. The second half of the book was the caliber I'd come to expect from Preston and Child. Not sure what happened for the first half. The only problem I had after that was the closing chapter. It was rather hokey and sentimental, and I felt, extraneous and unnecessary. I kept expecting a paragraph to be the last line, and then there was more (I listened to the audiobook). So, a mixed, ambiguous review. Not even sure how many stars to give this one. The first half is about a two star, but the second half would be at least three and a half, maybe four.Overall, I have to say, can't wait for the next book in the Pendergast series.
Two Graves

by and

Lovers of Agent Pendergast may be thrilled or horrified by the opening part of Two Graves. But it is a hint, and perhaps a warning, of the depth of treachery and danger Pendergast will face. I took it as an indication of the depths of his misery. Pendergast doesn't wallow. He acts, and boy, it would have been quite the final act. But I hate spoilers, so I'll try to keep them to a minimum here!I was entranced throughout the story. It lived up to the reputation of the series, with suspense and action to spare even. Well, mostly.With so much going on, about three-quarters of the way through I thought another book would be needed to wrap up the many story lines. Pendergast was hopelessly entangled in South America, rather far for D'Agosta to be of any help. Never mind how they'd left things when D'Agosta and Pendergast had last spoken! Then, in the span of twenty pages, things took such a turn for the worse, I was hoping D'Agosta could come in to help Pendergast.Corrie's story line was a bit confusing, though. Aside from the fact that she found the Nazi papers that drove her into hiding, there was no clear reason for her to be in the story. Perhaps it's going to tie in to the next book, but it didn't seemed related to the story line at all. If I were the sort of person who skips over parts, I would have skipped over those parts. I just didn't see what her subplot had to do with the rest of the story. And with the suspense of the predicament Pendergast had found himself in, it was a bit of a let down to then be taken to suburban Pennsylvania to deal with a framed bank robber.I would've liked more D'Agosta in the story. Usually D'Agosta comes to Pendergast's aid or to assist him, but this story was different. This was really Pendergast's story. He was teetering on the edge much of the time, came close to giving up, didn't care if he lived or died a number of times, was actually suicidal, had to face the grimmest of realities... To add his friend--one of a very few--as a witness to his turmoil might have been too much for him. I would have liked to see the repairing of the relationship between them, though. I needed a bit more than D'Agosta telling Laura that Pendergast once again called him 'my dear Vincent.' Perhaps more in the next book?Don't get me wrong -- Two Graves was gripping, at times shocking, and a true couldn't-put-it-down read. Pendergast got himself into a far worse mess than he has before, came closer to having no escape than I can remember, left behind many more bodies, and faced a far more frightening enemy.As I've read through the Pendergast series, I got used to lining up the next one while I was reading. Now I've caught up. I can't move on to the next one. There isn't a next one. I have to WAIT for it to be written. I'm not happy about that. I've been getting a Pendergast fix about once a month for maybe a year now. What am I going to do now?Mr. Preston? Mr. Child? Get busy!
The Drop

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I haven't listened to a Harry Bosch tale in a while. The narrator has a distinct way of speaking I've come to associate with Harry Bosch. While engrossing enough to listen to during a commute, this story disappointed me on several levels. WARNING: Ahead there be spoilers. I found Connelly explaining a lot. Things that were obvious he said anyway. A lot of explaining of gestures, for example. The editor in me kept saying 'you just repeated yourself,' or 'that's obvious from what you just said.' It was distracting, interrupted the pacing, and took away from the narrative. Kind of a lesson what not to do for a writer. I may have forgotten details regarding Harry Bosch's character, but he behaved differently than I remember him acting in other stories I've read. Namely, he is more aggressive in this story, and well, he's kind of an ass. He consciously shuts out his partner, David Chu, ordering him about and outright telling him he isn't going to tell him what was going on. Once he tries the "I'm trying to protect you" line, but it comes off as patronizing and he never returns to the idea anyway. Besides, that's not how partners work. He's working a political case, but he should show Chu how to deal with the politics. Instead, he took control of the investigation himself, ordering Chu about, even though Chu calls him on it and tells him he doesn't appreciate being shut out. Chu was out of line talking to the reporter, but when Chu confronts Bosch with how he's treating him, Bosch refuses to acknowledge it, insisting on holding Chu to a standard he's not keeping for himself. He treats Chu poorly and has no guilt about it and no desire to forgive Chu. He just writes off Chu as a partner. Another thing I didn't understand was his reaction to Hannah. They get romantic after knowing each other a short time, and Hannah tells him about her son, who committed a horrible crime. When Hannah asks how he feels about what she told him, he is at a loss to offer anything but sympathy. When Hannah says she can't ignore her feelings, that she has to deal with what her son did and that he was in prison -- a reasonable statement, in my opinion -- Harry suddenly comes to the conclusion he's made a mistake with her and blows her off. It seems a huge leap that didn't have an explanation. There was no connection between point A and B. I don't see how he came to his conclusion just from what she'd said. Maybe it's a guy thing? Hannah starts talking about feelings, Bosch jumps to "this is a mistake"? There's something missing there to me. And somehow, Hannah "knows" she "messed up" with him when they next talk. I don't see how, since he doesn't give any indication except being a little abrupt in how he ended the last conversation. If she can sense he's annoyed, I don't see how she would have figured out why. It seems Connelly was operating with more knowledge than he was sharing with the reader. By the end of the story, Harry has made a U-turn on his opinion of Chu, presumably because of how he handles their second case. I have to assume that, because he never explains his change of heart, except that he manages to tell Chu he did a good job with the case, and later tells himself he's going to move on and stop holding a grudge. But how did he get there from the deep insult he'd felt? It didn't seem plausible. Chu was also a bit annoying in his reaction to Harry's behavior. While he tries to stand up for himself and complains to Harry when he shut him out of the case, that's all he does. Then when Harry finds out about the reporter, Chu insists he's going to make it up to Harry and practically begs Harry for a second chance. Repeatedly. The guy needs to grow a pair. The Hannah storyline is left dangling a bit. But at that point, I didn't much care. With Harry being a general ass, I was less than happy with this story.
Needle in a Haystack

by

I started reading this without high hopes. I thought I'd soon put it down. Instead I was drawn into the story. I'm trying to pinpoint why. The style and voice are unusual. It is written in -- or translated into -- the present tense, which threw me off at first, but that lasted only a page or so. Mainly, the opening of the story made me curious. As the story progressed, it revealed its secrets slowly, without indulging in backstory before its time. It gave just enough to want to know more. So I kept reading.But soon, I found the number of characters introduced a bit overwhelming. I couldn't see exactly where the story was going, nor did I have a handle on the characters. Slowly, we learn more about them, such as when it's revealed that Eva is an operative. It was almost as an aside. What interests me is that it's written in omniscient POV. When I read Dune, that was a big problem for me. I find that POV annoying -- it feels like head-hopping -- and I thought it kept me from feeling close to any of the characters. In this case, I don't think the omniscient kept me at a distance from the characters. I got inside their heads and felt a connection with them. It still felt like head-hopping, though, especially when the thoughts switched between characters in a single paragraph. This is my problem with omniscient POV. When I start a scene, I orient myself through the character who starts the scene, who obviously has the POV. To have to repeatedly change that is disorienting, and as a result, I get pulled out of the story on a regular basis.The major complaint I have is how the author structured the dialogue. It's in italics, without quotation marks, which just on a subconscious level I think is disorienting (makes me think it's internal dialogue). But what's worse is each speaker doesn't get his or her own line. You basically have to guess who's speaking and when the other speaker starts speaking. No tags, no breaks. Just a paragrah of italic text. It's extremely confusing and forces the reader to do some detective work to figure out what's going on.Even more puzzling: Only at about page 100, did I figure out that chapter one was actually a prologue of sorts. The next chapter went back in time to before the murder, but there was no indication of this whatsoever. I can't imagine why an author would do that. At chapter fifteen, we get to the point in chapter one, when the man is killed and his body dumped where he was found in chapter one. It does say something that in the fourteen chapters in between, there was so little attention paid to the the murder the detective was supposed to be investigating, that I sort of forgot about it. Those chapters developed the various characters, mixing backstory with events happening at the time. The characters are multi-faceted and often surprising. But the structure of the story is bewildering. You should not find out more than halfway through the book that you'd stepped back in time at the beginning.In the end, while an intiguing story, it meandered a bit much. Many events seemed unrelated. Many characters were peripheral with little connection to the main plot. Such as Giribaldi's wife & the baby. What was the point of that? I'm finished, but I'm not entirely sure what happened.
Extraction

by and

This is a short story by authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, meant to tide over their fans last year until the next Pendergast book came out. It's a short but thrilling tale, where Pendergast tells a ghost story of sorts--his personal ghosts. It's just the sort of story you'd imagine lurking in Pendergast's past. The view into his childhood is revealing, especially his thoughts on his brother. He seems to genuinely regret his behavior towards his brother. And, most telling, he gives the impression he's still a bit frightened by what he saw in that house. Extraction offers a bit of insight into how the character of Agent Pendergast became the man we read about. A nice tidbit for reading in the dark!
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