Monday, April 30, 2012


Author: Suzanne Johnson
Publisher: TOR
Date Published: April 10, 2012

Drusilla Jaco is a wizard, empath, and junior sentinel for New Orleans. Her job is to help protect the city from any beings that might cross over from the preternatural world, though to her chagrin she is delegated to mixing potions and research much more than she would like. When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans with crashing force, it not only unleashes torrents of floodwater and devastation, but creates breaches between this world and the next. Now the undead are loose in the city, people are being murdered and strange symbols are appearing at the crime scenes.

To top it all off, DJ's boss, Gerald St. Simon, is missing, DJ has infuriated the undead pirate Jean Lafitte and he's out for revenge, and the wizard Elders have assigned DJ a new partner who thinks all problems can be solved with a gun and a grenade. The search for Gerry and the serial killer unravels secrets that threaten to destroy DJ and shows her where love and friendship are truly found.

This is a book I would not normally pick up, because I prefer stories that take place in fantasy worlds rather than urban fantasy. However, I know Suzanne Johnson from her website, so I thought I'd give it a try (plus, the cover looked pretty cool). I was pleasantly surprised by the creative ideas and world building in this book. The author has seamlessly fused historical details with story, and we see the likes of pirate Jean Lafitte, Louis Armstrong, and Marie Laveau make appearances along with the wizards and shapeshifters. The sadness and devastation Hurricane Katrina wrought is dealt with respectfully along with the horror of the preternatural world released into ours.

I enjoyed reading from DJ's perspective as she is spunky, irritable, a bit sarcastic, and totally human in her actions and desires. Her drive to find her mentor and father-figure, Gerry, and her stubborn belief that he is still alive despite evidence to the contrary is the heart of this novel. She struggles with her own abilities and emotions while battling the undead and uncovering secrets. I was worried that the romance between DJ and her partner Alex would take over the story, but it remained appropriately in the background.

One thing I wished for was a little more tension and excitement from secret-reveals. There are certain things that DJ learns through dialogue that I wish she had discovered on her own. She could have become very angry or upset about certain things that would have increased tension between characters, but instead she takes them pretty calmly and the story moves on. Also, several parts of the book are very slow and it takes a while for the story to get moving.

I love the small taste of elves we get in this story through DJ's elvish ancestry and the magic staff she discovers. The staff isn't just a prop, but allows her to do magic she couldn't normally do on her own and seems to have powers she is yet unaware of. I am hoping we learn more about it and DJ's connection to the elves in the next books.

Overall, an enjoyable read for urban fantasy fans filled with adventure, mystery, and secrets uncovered.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back from Romania!

Wow, it feels like I have been gone much longer than two weeks! To give you a brief recap, I was in Romania working with an organization in a couple orphanages there. Because of a corrupt government that has only recently come out of communism and a bad economy, the country has been left with thousands of abandoned children. Romanian history is fascinating, and I had no idea that the Romanians themselves didn't know that there were thousands of orphans in their country--many of them still don't.

Many of the larger organizations have pulled out of Romania because it is expensive to be there and complicated to register as a volunteer organization there. The organization I worked with is one of the few still there, and they are there to stay. It was wonderful and encouraging to see the work they are doing. Because of the groundwork of trust and relationships the permanent staff have created in these orphanages, the kids just leap into your arms when you arrive, ready to love and be loved in return. This is so different from working with kids here at home, because these orphans are starved for love and attention. It was sad to see them in this condition, but they didn't need pity; they needed love and respect and friendship, and we tried to give them these things during our two weeks there.

The organization I worked with is small, so they rely heavily on these short-term mission teams coming in to help them, which is good as it is not like I was going on a vacation; I was there to serve (though I did have a fabulous time and grew along the way as well!).

I could go on about events and the fascinating differences between Romania and North America (might I just say that driving there is CRAZY. Driving laws and things like stop signs appear to be just suggestions. Also, another odd thing was it is not rude to stare there, so you'd get blatantly stared at a lot when you were out in public, which felt weird.). But I'm just going to close with a few pictures.

I'm not going to put up photos of the kids on in case of privacy concerns, but here is a taste of some beautiful Romanian scenery from our day off of visiting the orphanages. We went up into the mountains to see a castle in Transylvania, and it was just amazing.

Those two weeks were enough to create a special place in my heart for Romania, the orphans and staff at the organization, and I hope to someday go back.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy April and Blog Break

I am having a great time perusing all the A's and B's of my blogging buddies for the A-Z Challenge, and I'm sure all of you are enjoying it too! I would love to participate, but I'm not because I'm heading to Romania to do volunteer work in orphanages for a couple weeks. So I will be disappearing from my blog for most of the month of April.

Stay tuned when I return for another countdown. I realize I haven't been posting much about video games, even though it says right up there that this blog includes video games in its subject matter, and goodness knows I play them enough. So when I return I will initiate the Top 10 Video Game Countdown. Care to guess what's on my list? (Well, you can get at least one of them from my profile picture.)

Now go, be merry, and enjoy visiting all the awesome blogs posting alphabetical subjects this month!