28 iun. 2010

Jim Butcher - Storm Front (Dresden Files Book 1)

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does - and not just because he's the only one who does it. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they come to him for answers. Because the everyday world is not as 'everyday' as it seems. It's actually full of strange and supernatural things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a - well, whatever it is the police are having trouble with this time.
There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get...interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.

I initially found out about Jim Butcher and his "Dresden Files" series after purchasing, by mistake, "Turn Coat" which happens to be the eleventh book in the Harry Dresden series. The blurb on the back cover seemed interesting enough the first time around so I decided to purchase and read the first (at least for now) book in the series. I'm glad I made that decision.

"Storm Front" is a very entertaining novel of magic, humor and the financiary struggles of Harry Dresden (actually, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden) that seems to be just an average Joe. With a twist. He's a wizard and not only that but he is the only wizard you'll ever find in the phone book as he's the only openly practicing wizard in the country.

The novel is written from a first person perspective (obviously Harry's perspective) and from the beginning it's clear that Harry is no usual wizard: he's not very sharp but he has great self-deprecating humor. The supporting characters are not very fleshed out, being mostly reduced to the level of sidekicks or helping the narrative to move along. One particular character that I would've liked to know more about is Bob, the spirit trapped in a skull in a basement. He slightly reminded me of Bartimaeus, from The Bartimaeus Trilogy, albeit on a sexual overdrive.
The villain (trying not to spoil too much there) is basically one-dimensional and has no redeeming qualities but it does not really hurt the novel overall.

There are some interesting things in the novel in terms of the magic system that's being used by the wizards with the staves and rods being used to channel the magic power, the tapping of energy from storms, the usage of summoning circles etc. Sure, it's nothing very original but it is interesting to see how Butcher uses them to suit the book's and/or the character's needs. Unfortunately, the Sight (the Third Eye of the magicians, where they can See the actual energies and forms of the things around them - sort of like the plane scanning in The Bartimaeus Trilogy but on a smaller scale) is something that is not very detailed and I hope that in future books we'll get to find out more about it.

"Storm Front" is in no way a masterpiece of contemporary literature. It's not epic neither in scope nor prose. It's sheer Fun and it's a great way to spend some hours. It never reaches the levels of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, for example, in terms of humor or character development but, as I mentioned above, it's worth a read. I'm very much looking forward to reading the other books in the series and I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun with Harry Dresden.

27 iun. 2010

John Connolly - Every Dead Thing

The Travelling Man is on the move. Few will survive the journey.
Former New York detective Charlie Parker is a man shattered by the brutal killings of his wife and child.
The Travelling Man is an artist of death, making human bodies his canvas and taking faces as his prize.
Now another girl is missing...

I was very excited about John Connolly after reading his "Book of Lost Things", a smart and very well written fantasy novel. I had heard about his Charlie Parker thrillers but didn't really get around to picking one up and reading it (I think it's mostly due to the fact that I've been obsessed with Richard Laymon lately). I eventually bought about 5 of his 8 Charlie Parker books and just finished "Every Dead Thing", his first Charlie Parker novel (named after the american saxophonist and composer).

The book starts out with a bang, the death of Charlie Parker's wife and young daughter at the hands of an individual called The Travelling Man. What's striking from the beginning (and it will hold up throughout the rest of the book) is that Connolly does not forbear from depicting very graphical murders (especially involving children and young adults). He also touches on things that are hardly mainstream in books: child rape, child mutilation etc. so this probably isn't a book for people that find such matters distasteful. I do not, however, so I kept on reading. The plot eventually splits in two (I actually enjoyed the secondary plot more, about the dissapearance of Catherine Demeter, than I did the main plot, about the Travelling Man) and, eventually, all will fall into place (as it usually does and you just know everything is connected, more or less).

Moving on to the characters now. Connolly wrote Charlie Parker as a depressed (for obvious reasons) former alcoholic with a sharp tongue. His humor is quite sparkling at times and he does manage to be a likeable anti-hero (the first comparison coming to mind was that of Spencer Grant from Koontz's "Dark Rivers of The Heart" - although, Spencer Grant was not an alcoholic with a sense of humor and Charlie Parker is sans chien). The supporting cast are an interesting bunch as well: Rachel Wolfe (Charlie Parker's psychologist friend), Angel and Louis (the gay assasins pair), Woolrich (Charlie Parker's long time FBI friend). There are some characters that are one-dimensional but I wasn't really bothered by that, as they helped move along the plot in an effective way.

The setting of the novel was something that attracted me from the beginning: part of it takes place in New Orleans (and sorroundings). Connolly's New Orleans is not far from the New Orleans we've come to know in movies such as Cat People (the hyper-sexualized 1982 version), Angel Heart and even Lynch's Wild at Heart. I have no clue if New Orleans was ever like that but I would love to visit it in its pre-Katrina years.

Connolly's prose is gripping from the start and his humorous burts lighten up the mood just at the right times. I do have some gripes with the book, though. The plot twist is a bit too obvious, the final showdown is rather mild and the Travelling Man does not really travel that much (but perhaps it's an allegory that is completely lost to me). Even as it is, I highly recommend this novel and I'll be returning to Charlie Parker once I'm done with what I'm currently reading and I'll most definitely have a complete John Connolly book collection in the near future.

24 iun. 2010

Pourvu Quelles Soient Douces

So...here's the best music video ever made, in its full glory, split in two parts (stupid youtube!):

Part 1

Part 2

Enjoy. There's nothing better.

19 iun. 2010

Music 2010 [so far]

So, here's what's necessary to listen to in 2010 so far:

1. Marina And The Diamonds - The Family Jewels
2. Scissor Sisters - Night Work
3. Yeasayer - Odd Blood
4. Hot Chip - One Life Stand
5. James - The Night Before
6. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
7. Xiu Xiu - Dear God I Hate Myself
8. Smooth - The Parade
9. Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1
10. Goldfrapp - Head First
11. CocoRosie - Grey Oceans
12. Caribou - Swim
13. These New Puritans - Hidden
14. Morning Benders - Bigh Echo

Will return with updates as time goes by.

16 iun. 2010

Nintendo Love!

How Nintendo kicked the universe's ass.

E3. Ieri. Nintendo. Wow.

Cred ca cele patru cuvinte sunt suficiente. Dupa o conferinta Microsoft destul de flasca (for lack of a better word) in care au fost prezentate Call of Duty (deja sunt vreo 4500 de jocuri in seria asta), Gears Of War 3 (sa zicem ca merge), Halo (cel mai prost FPS) si Kinect (sau Kinetic sau cum 'zda ma-sii ii zice Natalului mai nou) si inaintea unei conferinte Sony (Nici nu stiu daca a fost conferinta dar sa fim seriosi, they're the worst...worst than Apple!), Nintendo blew everyone away.

With what, you may ask?


- Zelda! Motion Plus! Wii! Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword!
- First Wii Kirby Game (si arata fabulos)
- Goldeneye! (oh da!)
- Donkey Kong Returns (stunning!)
- 3DS !!!!
- Kid Icarus!!!
- Epic Mickey!
- More Golden Sun footage!
- More Metroid Other M footage!
- 3DS !!!!!
- Zelda!
- 3DS !!!!!

Well, gosh darnit! I got goosebumps!

Way to go Nintendo! Iar au dat cu adversarii de pamant (as if anyone can hold a candle to Nintendo, ha!).