Review: ‘White Night’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

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White Night

Dresden Files #9

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/23/09 (original release date: 4/3/07)

Length: 14 hours 13 minutes (a 452  page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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The back cover blurb:

Someone is targeting the city’s magic practitioners, the members of the supernatural underclass who don’t possess enough power to become full-fledged wizards. Many have vanished. Others appear to be victims of suicide. But the murderer has left a calling card at one of the crime scenes–a message for Harry Dresden, referencing the book of Exodus and the killing of witches.

Harry sets out to find the killer before he can strike again, but his investigation turns up evidence pointing to the one suspect he cannot possibly believe guilty: his half brother, Thomas. Determined to bring the real murderer to justice and clear his brother’s name, Harry attracts the attention of the White Court of vampires, becoming embroiled in a power struggle that renders him outnumbered, outclassed, and dangerously susceptible to temptation.

Harry knows that if he screws this one up, a lot of people will die–and one of them will be his brother.

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts, helped along by a few quotes from the book:

The problem with waiting for weeks after finishing a book to write the review is that some tidbits of the story tend to get lost in the haze of memory. It’s especially bad when a procrastinating reviewer picks up the next book in the series because they simply cannot wait to dive into another piece of Harry’s world. I’m a bad reviewer. I’ve said it before and I’m reiterating that glaring personal fault yet again. I’m trying to remedy this gross oversight in my book reviewing repertoire and in doing so, hope that I don’t mangle this review… because this was SUCH a good book and SO much happens, as is pretty much run-of-the-mill for Dresden Files books, especially those written later in the series. But I must get it finished and you know what they say about liking the present and something about not having time. Or something.

Whatever the case, I’m finally battening down the hatches and getting down to the nitty gritty. Partly because this book deserves its moment here on my blog and partly because I still have THREE more Dresden Files books to listen to and then review before book #13 in the series, Ghost Story is released. In a week. I will NOT be waiting to pick it up because I have unfinished reviews on my plate. Or in my blog. Nosiree… Sadly, I won’t be able to download the audio and listen to the masterful reading of James Marsters as I have with every other book in this series, since he was unable to do this book. *insert hysterical fangirl sobbing here* I vow that I will not buy the audio unless until it’s released being read by Mr. Marsters, who is the voice of Harry Dresden. The hardcover will have to suffice for the nonce and I’ll have to imagine Marsters’ voice in my head, which shouldn’t be too terribly difficult, as I’ve listed to him read this series multiple times. Now, enough of my mewling and blathering… on with the review!

So, we begin this 9th installment of Butcher’s popular Dresden Files series with an unusual case. As if Harry ever has normal cases. It’s off the books as SI has had budget cuts and the recently demoted Sergeant Murphy is stubbornly paying Harry’s fee out of her own pocket. Chicago PD has investigated several apparent suicides but Murphy wants Harry’s take and of course, he finds magical evidence that the latest suicide was indeed, murder.

In fact, it seems as though the murderer specifically wanted Harry’s attention but in taking this case, Harry is dragged into a power struggle within the White Court of vampires. Now I’ve seen a few reviews and comments that criticize Mr. Butcher for the ongoing vampire war and politics storyline. It would seem that some people just want a monster of the week type series with no deep thinking or intrigue. Me? I eat this stuff up. I personally feel that with all of the added drama and plots that run through multiple books, Butcher is able to add so many facets to the story that make the series more enjoyable, in my opinion.

Enough about that, however. Back to it.

Harry’s inquiries lead him to an order of local magic practitioners, none strong enough to be on the White Council, who have dubbed themselves the Ordo Lebes, or the Order of the Cauldron. Cauldron… large cooking pot. Whichever translation you prefer. The women in the Ordo are terrified that whoever is killing their peers will eventually get them all so they’ve hired someone to help protect them. That someone is none other than Elaine Mallory, one-time student of Harry’s former teacher, Justin DuMorne and Harry’s first love. He also finds another old acquaintance with the group. One Helen Beckitt, first (and last) seen in the first book of the series, Storm Front. Knowing what he does about Helen, he automatically suspects her.

However, Harry hears evidence pointing to the killer possibly being a Warden of the White Council so he’s doubly motivated to find who’s to responsible for the deaths and stop them. Wait, make that triply motivated as Harry discovers that one of the victims most likely died at the hands of a White Court vampire and then sees a security camera image of the latest missing woman in the company of a White vamp he knows very well: Thomas Raith.

He tries to find Thomas and discovers a room in his brother’s swanky new apartment which contains something that could be very damning: information on all of the victims, including pictures that were obviously taken before the police had arrived. Harry is determined to solve the case and find the killer, thus clearing the Wardens AND his brother, but… there are a few things standing in his way. Namely, his pal and Thomas’ cousin, Madrigal Raith from Proven Guilty. Yes, he’s back, he’s brought friends and he’s got a bone to pick with Harry. What bad guy doesn’t?

In his pursuit of the truth of this case, Harry utilizes Little Chicago (in a typically bad-ass Harry Dresden kind of way) to follow a suspect and learns that he’s got a couple of suspects. He then tracks Thomas using his pentacle amulet, which is the twin of Thomas’, and finds his brother hiding several women and children on a boat called the Water Beetle. As it turns out, Thomas is not the killer but Harry’s frustrated that Thomas had knowledge of the murders and didn’t share the information with him. Told you there would be spoilers, hope you’ve read the book!

So Thomas is innocent and much relief ensues but as they discuss getting the women and children to a safe house, they’re attacked by Madrigal Raith and a gaggle of ghouls. No, Professor Lockhart wasn’t present, don’t get your ‘wizards named Harry’ mixed up this late in the game. While fleeing the boat and certain death in a grotesque and gory way, Harry is shot in the back. He’s wearing his warded leather duster and so isn’t killed but he does fall stunned into the depths of Lake Michigan. He essentially blacks out and has a flashback to a ghoul attack on a boot camp for trainee Wardens the previous summer in New Mexico.

Harry survives, of course and gets back to the business of solving this latest in a series of bizarre cases. He takes stock of what he knows and sums things up:

The facts, man. Just the facts. Fact 1: Male operatives of House Scavis and House Malvora had been engaging in murders that attempted to frame the Wardens as the perpetrators. Fact 2: House Raith, their nominal superior led by the White King, sort of, had pursued a policy of armistice with the White Council. Fact 3: That dippy twit Madrigal jumped into the deal on Malvora’s side, pitching in a murder or two of his own, evidently to attract my attention. Fact 4: Thomas, though aware of the lethal intentions of his fellow White Court vampires, had shared nothing of it with me. Fact 5: The victims had been women of magical talent, universally.

Harry has several more facts to think on but these five are enough to clue him in to what’s really going on -that the whole thing has just been a play for power within the White Court, to undermine the peace talks between the White Court and the White Council as well as to cull the herd, so to speak, of magical practitioners. So Harry plans… a counter attack, if you will. I love this bit of conversation between Harry and Murph regarding what Harry’s going to do about the division in the White Court and the possible implications of an alliance between the Whites and the Reds: “You have a plan,” she stated. “I have a plan.” “What’s the plan, Harry?” I told her. She looked at me for a second and then said, “You’re crazy.” “Be positive, Murph! You call it crazy, I call it unpredictable.”

Before marching forth into battle and almost certain death, Harry has a chat with the shade of Lasciel about change. Harry mentions to Lash that he’s been angrier since she showed up and wonders if she might know why that is. “I told you once before, my host,” the shadow said, “you are easier to talk to when you are asleep.” Which was just chilling, taken in that context. Everyone has that part of them that needs to be reined in. It’s that little urge you sometimes feel to hop over the edge of a great height when you’re looking out from a high building. It’s the immediate spark of anger you feel when someone cuts you off and makes you want to run your car into that moron. It’s the flash of fear in you when something surprises you at night, leaving you quivering with your body primed to fight or flee. Call it the hind brain, the subconscious, whatever, I’m not a shrink. But it’s there. And it’s real. Mine wore a lot of black even before Lasciel showed up. Like I said, chilling.

Harry goes on to tell Lash that she can chat up his subconscious all she wants, that it’s not going to do her any good, that he’ll never take up the coin. In  the meantime, those conversations with his other self may have elicited changes in her, also. He points out to her that she is but a copy of Lasciel, the fallen angel and that who she’s become while existing outside of her whole self will die once taken back into herself.  Harry tries to explain to her that she could exist as her own ‘person’ as she is, that she has a choice. He tells her, “Lash, just because you start out as one thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t grow into something else,” which drives her away, prompting him to get back to the problem at hand. ‘Get your head in the game, Harry. Defeat the whole damn White Court now, worry about taking on Hell later.’

So Harry is set to take on the murderers he’s been tracking who also happen to be card carrying members of the White Court. He calls in fellow Warden, Carlos Ramirez to give him a hand and Carlos sums the situation up rather nicely: “We’re going to stomp into the middle of a big meeting of the White Court, call a couple of them murderers, challenge them to a duel, and kill them right in front of all of their friends and relatives, right?”

And that’s just what they do. It… doesn’t go well. Harry and Ramirez kick ass but then all hell breaks loose, as hell tends to do. The extraction Harry had pre-arranged with his old frenemy (yeah, I hate that word, too… but it’s rather spot on in this case!) Gentlemen Johnny Marcone turns into a bigger operation than was intended, and so pretty much everyone but Harry and Lara Raith are rescued. Harry’s subjected to a psychic attack by a White vamp and is only saved by the intervention of Lash, who essentially sacrifices herself to save Harry. Lasciel the fallen angel is still around, imprisoned in the coin, but Lash, the bit of her that had been riding around in Harry’s head, is now gone. Harry manages to save Lara Raith’s life and blows the shit out of most of what’s left of the White Court. I didn’t do this scene justice but this review is already over long so I thought I’d paraphrase a bit.

The end of the book finds Harry retrieving the buried coin of Lasciel from its grave in his basement and surrendering it to Father Forthill. Finally, dust settled and all, he follows Thomas to learn how he’s earning his living and feeding, which gives a rather lighthearted ending to what was quite an involved and heavy storyline.

Up to this point, I think that each book I’ve just finished is my favorite of the series but then I read the next one and I’m not so sure. I think that Butcher just improves this story so much with each installment and adds so many plot twists and interesting characters to the line-up that as a reader and a huge fan, I just can’t help but love the series more with each book and I’m so excited for Ghost Story!

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My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: takes a case in which women who commit suicide are actually being murdered; finds an old acquaintance from book 1 with a group of witches; begins to suspect his brother of being a serial killer; uses his new and improved shield bracelet, which is pretty bad-ass; uses Little Chicago for some seriously cool surveillance; runs into Elaine… again; gets shot in the back; has a flashback to a ghoul attack at Luccio’s Warden Boot Camp in New Mexico; soul gazes Helen Beckitt and sees her daughter’s death; scares the shit out of his apprentice, Molly Carpenter, who keeps veiling herself and following him; mounts a pretty ballsy assault on the White Court; saves Lara Raith’s life; loses the shade of Lasciel, which (whom?) he had dubbed Lash; surrenders Lasciel’s coin to Father Forthill; follows Thomas and learns the secret of his feeding and source of income… aaand pokes a bit of fun.

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Fave quotes:

“Do all wizards whine this much?” ~Murphy

‘We fled. I’m not too manly to admit it. We scampered, retreated, vamoosed, amscrayed.’

‘I hate it when the real world ignores a perfectly logical, rational assumption.’

‘I carefully did not lose my temper and barbecue her stupid face right then and there.’

‘I screamed in order to summon up my primal reserves and to intimidate Madrigal into missing me and definitely not because I was terrified.’

“Who’s a grumpy wizard in the morning?” ~Carlos to Harry

“I. Am not. Yoda!” ~Harry to Molly

“My mouth is partially paralyzed. It makes it hard for me to read. He’s here to help me with the big words. Tell me if I’m supposed to push or pull on doors, that kind of thing.” ~Harry talking to security guard about Mouse

“I’d been planning the little ball-of-face-melty-sunshine thing for awhile now.” ~Harry to Murphy

‘Murph sat beside me, not saying anything, not accusing me of anything, she just sat with me. Friends do that.’

‘Dammit, Harry, ignore your penis before it gets you killed.’ ~Harry to self

“Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. The ghosts of indictments of past, present, and future. They will teach you the true meaning of ‘you are still a scumbag criminal’.” ~Harry to Marcone

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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Review: ‘Degrees of Freedom’ by Simon Morden

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Degrees of Freedom

Metrozone #3

Author: Simon Morden 

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: 6/1/11

Length: 384 pages

Acquired: Net Galley

[excerpt]

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The blurb:

The Six Degrees of Samuel Petrovitch:

  • Michael is an AI of incalculable complexity trapped under the remains of Oshicora Tower. Petrovitch will free him one day; he just has to trust Michael will still be sane by the time he does.
  • Maddy and Petrovitch have trust issues. But Petrovitch is pretty sure she loves him.
  • Sonja Oshicora loves Petrovitch, too. But she’s playing a complicated game and it’s not clear that she means to save him from what’s coming.
  • The CIA wants to save the world. Well, just America, but they’ll call it what they like.
  • The New Machine Jihad is calling. But Petrovitch killed it. Didn’t he?
  • And the Armageddonists tried to kill pretty much everyone by blowing the world up. Now, they want to do it again.

Once again, all roads lead back to Petrovitch. Everyone wants something from him, but all he wants is to be free …

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

I’m a bad book reviewer. Baaaad. I’ve had this book in my ereader since shortly after the release of the first book in the Metrozone trilogy, Equations of Life. I even finished reading it a couple of days after it was released on June 1st. I’ve just been a slacker and have little excuse for not getting this review done and for that, I apologize profusely. Because this book… was awesome.

I think one of my issues with putting off this review (though this is by no means the only review I’ve had pending for weeks!) is that there is SO MUCH information in this book to cover! In all of them, really, and I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t go back and reread the first two before diving into this one because Mr. Morden packs a ton of information into each book and then refers to it, directly or not, in each subsequent book. So yes, even after a month or two, it’s possible to forget multiple little tidbits that can leave you thinking, “Huh?” as it’s referenced in a later book in the series. At least, it’s possible for me.

So… on to talking about Degrees of Freedom! And spoilers. Be warned. I toss out spoilers like Samuil Petrovitch tosses out curse words in Russian.

This third and final (that I’m aware of) installment of The Metrozone trilogy finds Sam in the Freezone, nearly a year after the Outies nearly overran the Metrozone in a violent invasion that killed tens of thousands. Everything north of the Thames has been isolated and dubbed the Freezone, with Sonja Oshicora as its leader and Sam as its symbol of perseverance and hope. Michael, the AI that’s the remnant of the intelligence Sonja’s father created as part of Virtual Japan which became the New Machine Jihad before Sam took it down, is still buried beneath the ruins of Oshicora Tower since an attempt by America to kill it. Him. Michael is a him and he’s Sam’s friend and Sam is determined to free him.

But the world is watching and the Freezone’s one year of freedom from outside intervention is nearly over. All Sam wants is freedom. For himself, for his wife, for his friends and for Michael. He’s been planning something in secret, planning for a vision he had in Theories of Flight and he’s nearly there when, what else? Everything goes to hell. Sam, who is well on his way to becoming a genius post-apocalyptic bionic man, always seems to get blindsided and have his careful plans stomped into bitter little bits of disappointment and regret. But then again, he’s quick to think around a problem and figure out a solution so he’s well-suited to face whatever comes his way.

Or is he? He’s pretty much estranged from his wife, Maddy… Pif is imprisoned in America and his one hope of freeing her is someone from his past that he’d rather not be involved with… there’s suddenly a nuclear threat in the heart of the Freezone… and the New Machine Jihad has risen again. As if that weren’t enough to be going on with, Sam has been betrayed and he doesn’t know who to suspect so he kind of suspects everyone. All while he’s trying to save Michael while the CIA is trying to stop him from doing so. Yeah, that whole raining/pouring thing.

Of course, as an ardent fan of this new trilogy, I had complete faith in Sam during the shit storm through which he was attempting to navigate his way to freedom. I wasn’t worried at all. Not a bit. Nope.

One of the many things about this story that’s somewhat amazed and delighted me is how quickly I became familiar with -and fond of- the main character, Sam Petrovitch. His brashness and devil may care attitude are endearing and I quickly noticed when he acted out of character or did something that I wouldn’t have expected him to do. One example is his tendency to swear in Russian. A lot.

At one point, he’s discussing the nuclear threat with Cardinal Carillo:

“We’re in Armageddonist territory here, Your fucking Excellency, and if I don’t have some answers soon, it’s going to be too shitting late to do anything about it.”

After that sentence I had a waitjustaminuteSamdoesn’tswearlikethat! moment. And then I read the next sentence and had a good laugh about it, partly because I called the unusual nature of his cursing in English and partly because he wasn’t very good at it:

“I’m not used to swearing in English, but I’m making the effort because you’re a Yank, and it’s important that you understand just how trouser-pissingly scary this all is.”

Being brilliant and having saved the Metrozone from annihilation not once, but twice before, doesn’t keep Sam from getting down in the dumps now and again. He’s only human -mostly- and he gets depressed, too.

‘He knew it wasn’t meant to be this way, and yet there he was, underground, damaged beyond repair, out of battery power, threatened by entombment, nuclear annihilation and a woman scorned. Pizdets.

This story is so fast paced, the plot literally flies by and keeps you holding onto the edge of your seat, or clutching tightly to the edges of your book, rather… wondering if Sam will accomplish all that he’s set out to do… if he’ll manage, once more, to pull it all together and win the day. Or if his plans will fail miserably as the best laid plans are wont to do.

For anyone who has yet to pick up this series, I highly, highly recommend it. Morden has created a world and characters that I would be delighted to visit again. Aside from the re-reads of this trilogy that I’ve got planned and Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, that is.

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Fave quotes:

“What if an AI shows signs of independent, creative thought? What if it can empathize? What if it has the capacity for generosity, altruism, compassion?” ~Father John to Sam

“Far be it for me to point out some flaws in your plan, but are you a complete mudak?” ~Sam to Dalton

“I don’t know what to say. I’m supposed to be the king of the futile gesture, and here I am, trumped by some stupid Yankee lawyer.” ~Sam to Dalton

‘Misdirection. It was harder work than mere secrecy.’

‘Everything was temporary. Nothing lasted forever, not things, not people, not love, not time itself.’

“I haven’t got the energy. Find me a power source. Or vodka. Both, preferably.” ~Sam to Valentina

“My voice is permanently stuck between sarcastic and condescending, no matter how hard I try for the dizzying heights of irony.”

“Talking geek at you always made you horny.” ~Sam to Maddy

“We’re dealing with people who are comfortable with nuclear terrorism. Stabby, shooty stuff might be the least of our worries.” ~Sam to Lucy

“How come this is so obvious to me, but not to you bunch of emotionally retarded grown-ups?” ~Lucy

“Old Man Oshicora had a sense of humor, as well as being a cold-hearted murderer. I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive.” ~ Sam to Tabletop

“Amongst all the other things I’ve also fucked up, this has to take the crown jewels for the thing I’ve fucked up the most, right?” ~Sam to Tabletop

“Lucy, I’m tired of this. Tired of trying to fix things that shouldn’t be broken in the first place. i want to make something new that doesn’t have to be squeezed into an earlier pattern.” ~Sam

“I wouldn’t want anyone’s burka spontaneously catching fire because of something I’ve said.” ~Sam to Yasmina Surur

“Hi. My name’s Samuil Petrovitch, and I now run this show. If someone wants to own up to being in charge, speak now, because what you say will have a dramatic effect on your life expectancy.”

“I feel some shock and awe coming on.” ~Sam

“It’s as if a whole world of cultural meaning has cried out in terror and been suddenly silenced.” ~Sam

“This is revolution. Where is end? I do not know. All I know, this is beginning and we must be brave.” ~Valentina

“Meh, if I’m going to fail, I may as well fail spectacularly.” ~Sam

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Review: ‘Proven Guilty’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

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Proven Guilty

Dresden Files #8

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/23/09 (original release date: 2/6/07)

Length: 16 hours 16 minutes (a 576 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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The back cover blurb:

There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined.

But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.

As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already  in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film.

Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

This action-packed and information-packed 8th volume of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series starts off with Harry witnessing the trial and execution of a 16 year old warlock who had used magic to seriously mess with the minds of multiple people. Harry is angered and disgusted by the execution but as the Merlin calmly explains, the warlock had caused the deaths of many people and his use of Black Magic had driven him insane. While Harry understands, he laments that there was nobody to teach the boy to prevent his misuse of his talent and therefore save him from his fate.

Afterward, Ebenezar asks him to find out why the Sidhe, both Winter and Summer, have failed to respond to the invasion of Faerie by the Red Court the previous year. Ebenezar also invites Harry to lunch, though Harry declines. He’s still feeling somewhat betrayed by his one-time mentor since he learned that Ebenezar McCoy is the White Council’s Black Staff, ie. assassin. He’s not quite ready to forgive Ebenezar for the deception.

Harry then gets a cryptic message from the Gatekeeper, Rashid of the Senior Council, to investigate multiple incidents of Black Magic within Chicago. Rashid tells him in the message that nobody else is aware of the incidents and informs Harry that it is vital that he investigate immediately. To which Harry thinks, ‘Faeries. Black Magic. It never rains but it pours.’

As Harry leaves the gathering of the Council, he is again tempted by Lasciel to take up her coin, an offer to which he responds angrily. The thing is that she has helped him out considerably in the past and the more he seeks her assistance, the more likely he is to continue doing so. She is very anxious to stay alive and if Harry were to die, so would Lasciel. As if his various assignments from the Senior Council and the temptations by Lasciel weren’t enough, Harry is run off the road while driving the Beetle by an unidentified person. What a great day he’s having!

Upon being returned to his humble basement abode by Murphy, Harry makes ready to test Little Chicago, an exact scale model of the city set up in his lab. The model was painstakingly assembled and Harry hopes to use it in his work, hopes that it will make that work easier and more accurate. But he has to be very careful… if he and Bob have made any mistakes in the construction of the model, it could literally explode, killing Harry the very first time he uses it. So he prepares for the first use of the model very carefully, despite the mild concussion he sustained in the accident.

When his preparation ritual is interrupted by the phone, he rants and raves a bit and then abandons the ritual to bail Molly Carpenter–eldest child of Michael Carpenter, Harry’s friend and Knight of the Cross–out of jail. When he arrives downtown, he discovers that Molly isn’t the one in jail. It’s her boyfriend, Nelson, and he’s innocent of the charge of assault for which he’d been arrested. Molly pleads with Harry to help him and so Harry does, but in doing so he unknowingly gets swept up in a case that will not only lead him to the warlock practicing black magic that he’s been charged by the Gatekeeper to find, but into Faeire itself… straight into the heart of Winter and its struggle with Summer.

The usual players are present once again and Harry has some pretty deep discussions with several of them, including Molly, her mother Charity, Father Forthill and Murphy. He also tries to have a discussion with his brother Thomas but the White Court vampire has been acting very odd as of late, and is hardly ever around anymore. Harry suspects that he’s actively feeding again and worries for him.

Harry also meets with Fix, the Summer Knight who brings along the Summer Lady, Lily, the youngest of the Faerie queens of Summer. They’re compelled to not reveal much of anything at all to him but he gleans that Summer hasn’t reacted to the invasion of Faerie by the Red Court because if they do, then Winter will strike at them while they’re otherwise occupied. Since Lily isn’t able to tell Harry what he needs to know, he asks her to call in Maeve, the Winter Lady, who is under no compulsion to prevent her from talking to Harry. She hints that Mab, the Winter Queen, may just be insane. As if Harry doesn’t have enough problems to be going on with!

During the course of Harry’s case with Molly, he and Murphy have an impromptu discussion on matters of the heart… on an elevator, the best place for impromptu discussions on matters of the heart, if you ask me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go well for Harry though he realizes that Murphy is right when she tells him: “You couldn’t do casual. You commit yourself too deeply. You care too much. We couldn’t have something light. You would never settle for that.”

Despite knowing that she’s right as she proceeds to tell him every reason they shouldn’t be together, Harry still tries to change her mind: “Maybe you’re thinking about this too much, Murph. Logic and reason and planning for the future. What’s in your heart doesn’t need that.” To which Murphy responds: “I used to think that, too. I was wrong. Love isn’t all you need. And I just don’t see us together, Harry. You’re dear to me. I couldn’t ask for a kinder friend. I’d walk through fire for you.” She goes on to say that they just wouldn’t be right for each other and mentions that she wants someone to grow old with her, and that he would outlive her by hundreds of years. It’s rather heartbreaking to listen to James Marsters’ reading of that particular scene. He perfectly relays Harry’s rejection and pain, which are acute. As Murphy leaves the elevator Harry thinks: ‘Stab. Twist. God, I love being a wizard.’

I might have dwelled upon that particular conversation a bit too long, but it’s important in regards to the rest of the series, I think. Harry and Murphy banter back and forth quite a lot and Butcher even includes a short story on this very subject in his collection, Side Jobs, published last  year. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I enthusiastically encourage you to do so. Aside from the short in Side Jobs, Butcher has Harry getting ready for an actual date with Murphy upon their return from Mexico at the end of book 12, Changes. Of course, the date between the long-time friends and colleagues never happens as readers of the series to date well know. The reason that it never happens is something that makes the final short story in Side Jobs, which is from Karrin’s point of view, all the more sob-inducing.

Okay, ’nuff said about that. Back to this story…

As Harry works the case–which involves phobophages in the form of horror movie monsters crossing over from the Nevernever to feed on the fear of the people attending a horror movie convention called SPLATTERCON!!! before killing them–he realizes that someone is following him, though he’s unsure as to whether it’s the same someone who had previously run him off the road. He also encounters a movie producer named Darby Crane, who sets off his spooky alarm bells and quickly becomes the person that Harry likes for the culprit responsible for summoning the phobophages.

After yet another attack, which Harry mostly fended off by casting a spell to send the phobophages after their summoner, he and Rawlins are heading out to track them and therefore find the summoner when a van hits Mouse and Harry and Rawlins are kidnapped by Darby Crane and his lawyer. They’re not held for long, however, and despite having apparently been sold by Crane on eBay, Harry and Rawlins make their escape, ironically from the very garage that Harry was held in back in book 2, Fool Moon by the lycanthropes that had kidnapped him. Upon escaping, they’re joined by Thomas and a very much alive, if battered, Mouse, who actually led Thomas to Harry and Harry realizes that Crane–aka Madrigal Raith and Thomas’ cousin–is just the fall guy, and not actually responsible for the black magic. As they’re making ready to leave, another phobophage shows up and surprises Harry with it’s strength and immunity to his magic.

Difficult as it proves to get away from the creature, they do and Harry tracks the phobophages that he’d sent after their summoner. His spell leads him to the Carpenter house where he learns that Molly has been taken. But not by phages, by Fetches of the Winter Court. Harry uses Little Chicago to find where they took Molly over into the Nevernever and mounts a rescue attempt, accompanied by Thomas, Murphy and Molly’s mother, Charity, since Michael is out of town on ‘business’.

They are assisted–Charity is assisted, rather–by the Summer Lady and Knight and are successful. Harry also encounters the Winter Knight who has been tortured and imprisoned for years and his Godmother, Lea, who is also being punished and imprisoned by Mab. Unfortunately, she’s a little insane though she does tell him that by using the power of Summer at Winter’s heart in order to rescue Molly, Harry has alerted the Winter Fae who are all now heading to kill him. They make a run for it and escape, and Harry learns that Lily kind of used him to distract the forces of Winter in order to free up Summer to assist the White Council.

Once Charity is back at Saint Mary of the Angels with her family, Harry discusses with Molly her options. He tells her that she broke one of the laws of magic when she interfered with a couple of her friends to keep them from using drugs and that she has to answer to the White Council. Despite a hefty dose of denial, Molly eventually comes around and decides to turn herself in, once Harry assures her that the Wardens will have to go through him to execute her for the crime.

When they show up for the hearing, Lily and Fix arrive and officially commend Morgan for his valor at the recent battle against the Red Court. Lily also credits Harry with the success of the campaign, relaying his incursion into Faerie and his assault on Arctis Tor, the heart of the Winter Fae, which distracted the forces of Winter and allowed Summer to assist the Council against the Reds. Harry knows this is all nonsense but it sure makes him look good.

Harry then stands for Molly in her hearing at which all but two of the Senior Council are absent. Only Rashid and the Merlin are present and the Merlin finds Molly guilty and orders her executed. Harry begs Morgan not to do it and Morgan appears to have reservations. Before he can carry out the Merlin’s sentence, however, a slew of Warden trainees show up with Captain Luccio, several members of the Senior Council and none other than Molly’s father, Michael… the Knight of the Cross. Turns out, he’d pretty much saved their asses from demons and the Council was somewhat inclined to vote in Molly’s favor because of this. While she’s under the Doom of Damocles, she’ll live and become Harry’s apprentice.

Harry finally confesses to Michael that he picked up Lasciel’s coin and is shocked to learn that Michael already knew… that he’d seen the whole thing. He’s happy to hear that Harry hasn’t taken up the coin and tells Harry that he’ll be there for him if he decides to give up the coin, and his power with it. He then tells Harry that if he changes, he’ll also be there.

To wrap up the book, Bob tells Harry that there had been a flaw in Little Chicago but that it had been mysteriously fixed before Harry had used it to track Molly. I’m guessing that Lasciel had something to do with that. We also learn that Murphy has been demoted for being AWOL for 24 hours while helping Harry rescue Molly. Thomas is pissed that Harry believed Murphy’s rejection, he seems to have some information from a talk with Murphy and thinks that Harry should try harder. Finally, Ebenezar visits and discusses the White Council traitor with Harry. They surmise that there must be more than one person acting in concert to cripple the White Council and attribute many of the things that Harry’s countered over the years to this phantom organization dubbed the Black Council by Harry. They decide to keep their eyes open and not to disclose their suspicions to anyone on the Council, seeing how there are most likely traitors in their midst. Then… Harry invites Ebenezar to dinner and reconciliation ensues.

All in all, this is one of the most involved books to date in this series. Butcher steps it up a notch or three with all of the Faerie court drama as well as the probable long-time existence of the Black Council. There are info dumps galore but they’re artfully done and the reader, especially when listening to the masterful reading of James Marsters as I have been doing during my re-listen of the series, must pay close attention or miss vital information.

My apologies if I forgot any tidbits, there was quite a lot of ground to cover with this one. My further apologies for the length of this post… again with the amount of ground to cover thing. If you read this far, you have my thanks… why don’t you leave a comment to attest to your perseverance and dedication? Next on my list of re-reads to get up to speed on the series before the release of Ghost Story in July: book 9, White Night!

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My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: witnesses the execution of a kid who’d been practicing black magic; gets a call for help from Michael Carpenter’s 17 year old daughter, Molly; goes to a horror convention; chats about matters of the heart with Murphy… a few times; is auctioned off on eBay; has a drink and a talk about Faith with Father Forthill; has a heart-to-heart about magic with Charity Carpenter (there are quite a lot of personal chats going on in this book!); storms Arctis Tor, the heart of Winter to rescue Molly; saves Molly again, this time from execution by the White Council for breaking the 4th Law of Magic and takes her on as an apprentice; confesses to Michael that he picked up a Blackened Denarii only to learn that Michael had seen the incident; fends off Molly throwing herself at him, thinking that’s what he wants and/or needs after their soul gaze; discusses with Ebenezar the possibility of traitors on the Council and dubs them ‘Black Council’; and finally… over the course of his talk with Ebenezar about the traitor(s) on the White Council, he reconciles with his old friend and mentor.

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Fave quotes:

‘Sometimes I get tired of being the guy who has to deal with undealwithable situations.’

“Stars and stones, I don’t want dating advice from a frigging helltart.” ~Harry to Lasciel

“You’re with me today, I need someone to watch my back. Maybe help me eat a hot dog later.” ~Harry to Mouse

“For the love of God, Maeve. Will you give the Evil Kinkstress act a rest? It gets tired pretty fast.” ~Fix

‘Dammit, I hate when someone knows more than me about exactly how deep a hole I’m digging under myself.’

“I’m not a teenage girl. Please don’t try to good cop me.” ~Harry to Rick

‘Dammit. Stupid demons. Always with the last word.’

“You. You killed my dog. Get your affairs in order.” ~Harry to Glau

“You’re siphoning my noble hero vibe. Cease and desist or I’ll sue.” ~Harry to Rawlins

“Hey! Are you selling me on eBay?” ~Harry to Crane

“Get off the creepy psychic vampire train.” ~Harry to Crane

‘Vanity, thy name is vampire.’

“Murph, you rock! Go, team Dresden!” ~Harry

“Oh yeah, this isn’t coming back to bite anyone in the ass later.” ~Thomas

‘When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching–they are your family.’

“Lea, what has happened to you? How long have you been a… Sidhe-sickle?” ~Harry

‘Hey. I don’t care what kind of fairie or mortal or hideous creature you are. If you’ve got danglies and can lose them, that’s the kind of sight that makes you reconsider the possible genitalia-related ramifications of your actions real damn quick.’

“I can’t sleep well any night I haven’t inflicted a little property damage.” ~Harry to Fix

“Thank you for another field trip, Harry. Kind of bland, though. Maybe next time we should bring some coffee or something, so we don’t yawn ourselves to death.” ~Thomas, after the gang returns from Arctis Tor

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


Review: ‘Dead Beat’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

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Dead Beat

Dresden Files #7

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date:  (original release date: )

Length: 15 hours 14 minutes (a 396 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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From Amazon.com:

Chicago’s preeminent wizard is coping with his new roommate–his vampire half-brother Thomas. Harry soon has problems bigger than Thomas’ clutter to deal with.

Mavra, one of Harry’s vampire foes, summons him with a threat to his police-lieutenant friend, Karrin Murphy. Mavra demands Harry get the Word of Kemmler for her, or she’ll frame Murphy for murder.

Harry doesn’t even know what the Word is, but while he’s trying to find out, and also what damage Marva will be able to do with it, several necromancers descend on Chicago. When Harry learns that the newcomers are students of Kemmler, an evil wizard who mastered ancient spirits in a way no one has since, he discovers that they are seeking the Word, too, in hopes of seizing the powerful knowledge within it and calling forth a powerful creature known as the Erlking.

Butcher’s latest maintains the momentum of previous Dresden outings and builds the suspense right up to a rousing conclusion.

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My thoughts… and many spoilers:

This seventh installment of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series talks a lot about death. I know you wouldn’t get that from the name of the book, but it’s true. I promise. But seriously, there is a lot of deep thinking in this story, something that a lot of people may not expect from urban fantasy but, yeah… here it is. With this book and, indeed, the entire Dresden Files series, Butcher manages to create an entertaining mix of hilarity, sarcasm, action and complex emotion. He adds a touch of the macabre and ties it up with a hell of an adrenaline rush. What, you’ve never gotten an adrenaline rush from reading a book? My friend, you’ve just not found the right book.

And so Harry begins yet another fast-paced adventure with the regular crowd. Something of the regular crowd, anyway. Thomas is there, of course, since he’s now living with Harry after having been completely cut-off from his family and their money; Murphy’s there for a minute, just long enough to make Harry jealous over the fact that she’s jetting off to Hawaii on vacation… with Kincaid; Butters, Chicago’s funny little, polka-loving ME not only makes an appearance but features largely in the plot; Mouse the dogosaurus plays a bigger role in this book; Billy pops in a time or three and of course, Bob the skull is there and we get to see a new, scary-as-hell side of him.

We also get to meet a couple of new faces. Harry’s one-time persecutor Morgan, who is a Warden of the White Council, we’ve met… but his fellow Warden Carlos Ramirez is introduced in this book as is the Captain of the Wardens, Anastasia Luccio. We’ll see more of them in future books but the intros, especially that of Luccio, are significant.

On to the story. Harry gets a blackmail letter from someone he thought he had killed in the last book… none other than Mavra of the Black Court of vampires. She’s going to send some lovely snapshots of Murphy blowing a guy’s head off to the authorities if Harry doesn’t do as she bids. Of course, the guy Murphy offed was a Renfield who had literally been driven insane by the Black vamps –or Blampires, as Harry refers to the Black Court vampires in book #6, much to the chagrin of his former mentor, Ebenezer– and was no longer a person. But the photographs don’t show that, and really, what self-respecting cop who’s NOT a member of Murphy’s own Special Investigations Unit of the Chicago PD would believe that story?

So… Harry feels the need to protect Murphy, since he recruited her for Black vamp hunting in the first place. Of course, he takes the job and proceeds with trying to learn who Kemmler was and what the Word might be. Turns out that Kemmler was one evil necromancer and that Bob the skull used to work for him. He’s blocked out much of  his memory from that time but Harry orders him to remember and it nearly kills him.

Then necromancers start showing up all over the place. They pop into the morgue while Harry’s visiting with Waldo Butters, they show up at a bookstore where Harry ends up to search for a book that the necromancer at the morgue had in his possession, and they apparently kill a professor in a museum. Damn necromancers, making messes all over the place.

As Harry begins to piece together what they’re after and what they can do if they find it, he begins to feel a bit overwhelmed. These are powerful people that he’s up against and he’s pretty much got to face them alone. Not to mention, battered and beaten, as he generally becomes toward the climax of these books. At one point,  he’s visited in a dream by his father and really, it was quite an emotional scene. Upon realizing that this really IS his dad and not a figment of his imagination, we see Harry in a rare, vulnerable moment: “It’s getting to be too much,’ Harry says to his dad. ‘I just keep getting more wounded and tired. They just keep coming at me. I’m not some kind of a superhero, I’m just me.”

I really enjoyed this scene as it gave Harry a bit of hope to carry on with the fight and really, if Harry doesn’t carry on, the bad guys win. We can’t have that. This scene is absolutely perfected by the reading of James Marsters, who can instill so much emotion into his voice that it makes my throat close and my eyes water. And no, that wasn’t my body shaking with trembling sobs as I listened to this scene. I had the hiccups, okay? Let it go…

Another interesting moment in this book is when Harry calls the Wardens of the White Council for help. Five of them show up -only five- Captain Luccio and Morgan among them. They tell Harry how the Red Court has just decimated their numbers and Luccio appeals to Harry to join the Wardens and help them in their time of need:

Luccio: “I think that you do not realize your own reputation. You have overcome more enemies and battled more evils than most wizards a century your senior. And times are changing. There are more young wizards obtaining membership to the Council than ever before. Like Ramirez and his companions there. To them, you are a symbol of defiance to the conservative elements of the council and a hero who will risk his life when his principles demand it.” 

Harry: “I am?” 

Luccio: “You are. I can’t say I approve of it but right now, the Council will need every scrap of courage and faith we can muster. Your presence and support in the face of great danger will appease your detractors and the presence of a wizard who has experience in battle will encourage the younger members of the council. Put simply, Dresden, we need you. And you need us.”

Harry realizes the truth in her words and despite his less than friendly history with the Wardens, he dons the gray cloak, which gives us a fun little scene when Thomas and Bob see him: 

Thomas: “Holy crap.”  

Bob: “Harry, you stole a Warden’s cloak?” 

Harry: “I didn’t steal it.” 

Bob: “So you took it off a dead body?” 

Harry: “No, I got drafted.” 

Thomas: “Holy crap.”

Butters is present for this exchange and of course, has no clue as to what’s going on which just makes the scene that much more enjoyable. This is one thing I love so much about a series… you get to the point where you know the characters and their histories so well that a short conversation such as the one I just mentioned is hilarious to read and sticks with you as one of those awesome story moments.

Despite his father’s reassurances and the presence of his brother and his friends, Harry gets to feeling a bit downtrodden in this book: ‘I didn’t feel like a wizard,’ he thought during a rare moment of quiet solitude. ‘I didn’t feel like a deadly and powerful Warden. I didn’t feel like the supernatural champion of Chicago or a fearless foe of evil, a daring summoner able to cast his defiance into the teeth of a supernatural titan or an enlightened sage of the mystic arts. I felt like a scarred, battered, aching, one-handed man with few pleasant prospects for the future and a ridiculous pair of pants with one leg slashed off.’

This is, of course, what Harry thinks of his dire situation. Despite the fact that he’s used to going it alone, he actually does have people standing behind him and beside him now. It’s something that’s not easy for him to get used to but he needs to realize that he can depend on those people because he’ll need them even more in future books.

A few notable events that require a mention before I wrap this up. First, the Erlking… the necromancers are planning to summon him in order to facilitate their super-nasty ritual which Harry is trying to prevent from taking place. So Harry figures that if he can summon him first and then trap him, then the naughty necromancers won’t get to play. This just actually pisses off the Erlking in a really big way and so he’s got Harry’s name on his list. I mention him mainly because we’ll be seeing him a bit later in the series.

Next… I have to say how incredibly awesome it is when Harry goes riding down the street into battle with the necromancers on Sue’s back. Sue, of course, is the tyrannosaur from the museum. Sure, necromancy is bad, but Sue wasn’t a person, was she? I love the way Harry thinks and I absolutely loved this scene.

Finally, Harry speaks with Lasciel in this book. Yes, that Lasciel… the fallen angel whose coin is buried in Harry’s lab. He’s previously understood that she’s the reason he’s been using Hellfire so he knew that she was extending her influence in some way. But he didn’t realize how very close she actually was, to manifest in his dreams… and then some. I won’t say all, but we will be seeing more of Lasciel later in the series.

Okay, I think I’ve been quite wordy enough for the nonce so I’ll get on with listening to the series in preparation for the release of book #13, Ghost Story in a couple of months. Can’t wait! Next on the list, book #8, Proven Guilty. Mr. Marsters, you may begin.

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My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: gets jealous about Murphy going to Hawaii with Kincaid; thinks about death a lot; gets blackmailed by Mavra to find the Word of Kemmler or she’ll take Murphy down with pictures of her killing a Renfield; learns that his hand will eventually regenerate; talks with his dead father in a dream; encounters various necromancers; admits to Billy & Georgia that he’s been unwillingly using Hellfire; gets asked out on a date; has a dream-chat with Lasciel; joins the Wardens after the Red Court wipes out 3/4 of their numbers; and Harry uses necromancy to re-animate the bones of a friggin’ tyrannosaur which he then busts out of the museum and rides into battle.

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Fave quotes:

‘Chicago has a bitchin morgue.’

‘A raised hand isn’t much in the regular world but from a guy in a long coat with his own flock of zombies, it had to be at least as menacing as pointing a gun.’

“I don’t want to get killed. Or arrested. I’m really bad at being arrested. Or killed.” ~Butters, to Harry

Harry: “How are you as a sounding board?”  Thomas: “I can look interested and nod at appropriate times.”  Harry: “Good enough.”

“I’m so pretty, it’s hard to think of myself as intelligent.” ~Thomas

“Polka will never die!” ~Butters

“I just don’t like the idea of sitting on the sidelines when you might need my help. Hey. You’re doing this on purpose. You’re trying to keep me out of it to protect me, you… sneaky little bitch.” ~Thomas to Harry

‘I didn’t know this before but it turns out, tyrannosaurs can really haul ass.’

“But I want to go with you, I want to help. I’m not afraid to… die fighting beside you.” ~Butters to Harry

Harry: “Come on, Ramirez.”  Ramirez: “Everyone else who lets me ride on their dinosaur calls me Carlos.”

“I’m brilliant as well as skilled. It’s a great burden, all of that on top of my good looks, but I try to soldier on as best I can.” ~Ramirez

“BOB! You have… my… permission!” ~Harry

“Size really does matter.” ~Bob the Skull

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


Review: ‘Spirit’ by Graham Masterton

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Spirit

Author: Graham Masterton

Format: galley (also available 4/15/11 on audio book)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 11/2001 (first published in the UK in 1995)

Length: 432 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

Laura and Elizabeth Buchanan’s lives were changed forever when their little sister Peggy was found dead in the icy water of the family’s pool.

But Peggy never left her sisters. As Laura and Elizabeth grow up, a string of inexplicable deaths threatens to shatter their lives. Each corpse shows signs of frostbite–and each victim’s dying moments are tortured by a merciless little girl in a white dress.

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My thoughts, which contain spoilers:

As the synopsis states, Laura and Lizzie Buchanan lose their younger sister during the winter of 1940 when she fell through the ice over the family pool and drowns. While this understandably devastates their parents, Laura and Lizzie are quite young when it happens and so, again understandably, aren’t affected as dramatically by Peggy’s death. In fact, a few nights later, they build a snow girl out in the yard and dress her in Peggy’s clothing which unwittingly and perfectly unintentionally, binds her spirit to them.

Only the spirit of young Peggy Buchanan doesn’t manifest as Peggy Buchanan. Rather, she takes the form of a girl from a favorite story which was read to her often by her eldest sister, Lizzie. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen was a rather scary fairy tale and the lost spirit of Peggy Buchanan not only takes the form of the girl from the story, she is also able to manifest the Snow Queen herself when she takes her revenge and the Snow Queen is a frightening entity.

For some reason, spirit Peggy feels that she needs to protect her older sisters. Forever. And by protect, I mean kill and or maim anyone who does them harm, does them wrong or even just gets too close to them. While it’s expected for lost little Peggy to want to take revenge on someone who has hurt one of her sisters, it didn’t really make sense to me that she would feel the need to harm a person who hadn’t actually done anything but help one of them out… or someone who made one of them very happy later in life.

I had two distinctly different feelings while reading this book. The first was that the story was exciting and properly horrifying at times and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, when Peggy would  manifest again, what Lizzie and Laura would do about it. The second, drastically different feeling was that kind of feeling you get when you read the same line over and over, your eyes start to glaze over and you thumb ahead to see how many pages you’ll have to suffer through before the end of the chapter.

While the premise of the story was good —very good, mind, else I’d not have requested the book from the publisher– Masterton either didn’t fully develop his characters to understand what was going as the years passed in the story or he just plain dragged the thing out too long. Way too long. Most likely both as I feel that the book was indeed too long and so there were more glazed eyes inducing scenes than there should have been. Also, the characters were just… well, kind of dense.

There were far too many scenes that made me roll my eyes and sigh in frustration as one of the other of the surviving sisters was utterly clueless in regards to what was going on around them when they’ve had multiple experiences over the course of a decade or more. They know of multiple people who have died of extreme cold: one particular person was frozen during the summer, others were nearly instantly frozen solid and even in winter, that’s something that just doesn’t happen. There were multiple occasions in which the water in a pool suddenly froze and it would even get freezing cold in a house filled with blazing fire places. Yet the sisters didn’t immediately deduce that Peggy’s spirit was there? That was just too unbelievable for me.

While I did enjoy parts of this story immensely, my overall impression was that it wasn’t as entertaining as I had hoped and the characters weren’t at all believable. To be honest, I was somewhat relieved when I finally finished and I most likely won’t read another of Masterton’s books, much less recommend this one.

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Fave quotes:

“Have a care now, you don’t want to go breaking your ankle. Even a phenomenon ain’t worth that.” ~Dan Phillips to Lizzie Buchanan

“There are three worlds, and there always have been. The world of the living. The world of spirits. And the world of the truly rested, the empty world, which is the world of absolute peace.” ~Eusebio the gardener

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Review: ‘Blood Rites’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

Blood Rites

Dresden Files #6

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/6/10 (original release date: 8/3/04)

Length: 13 hours 11 minutes (a 372 page paperback also resides on one of my bookshelves, amongst my other Dresden books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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Publisher’s summary:

For Harry Dresden, there have been worse assignments than going undercover on the set of an adult film. Still, there’s something more troubling than usual about his newest case. The film’s producer believes he’s the target of a sinister curse-but it’s the women around him who are dying.

Harry’s even more frustrated because he only got involved with this bizarre mystery as a favor to Thomas-his flirtatious, self-absorbed vampire acquaintance of dubious integrity. Thomas has a personal stake in the case Harry can’t quite figure out. But Harry is about to discover that Thomas’ family tree has been hiding a shocking revelation that will change his life forever…

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My thoughts (which contain many spoilers so proceed with caution if you haven’t read the book):

The opening minutes of this sixth installment of Jim Butcher’s extremely popular Dresden Files series finds Harry fleeing a school in the dead of night, carrying a box of puppies while being chased by demons, which by the way, resemble purple chimpanzees with wings. Oh yes, and they’re hurling flaming excrement. What better start could one want to a Dresden Files book?

Then Thomas Raith, yes that Thomas Raith, a vampire of the White Court, tells Harry about a job on a movie set, which Harry accepts though he doesn’t realize that it’s actually the set of a porn movie. All sorts of fun is had by Butcher as Harry experiences various levels of discomfort with the situation. This particularly uncomfortable-for-Harry exchange between him and Murphy was perfectly read by James Marsters and literally had me laughing out loud: Harry“He doesn’t believe in using surgically altered… emmm… You know.”  Murphy“Boobs? Jugs? Hooters? Yayas?”  Harry“I guess.”  Murphy“Melons? Torpedos? Tits? Gazongas… knockers… tatas?”  Harry“Hell’s bells, Murph!”

But the case really does turn out to be a nasty one, and much more involved than Harry suspects, at first. There is indeed an entropy curse but Harry’s not so sure that the target is his client. The deeper involved in the case he becomes and the more he learns, the more dangerous things get until he finds himself at odds with not one court of vampires, but two. And neither one of them Red!

We get some nitty-gritty Black vamp fighting, the most memorable of which includes a frozen turkey that falls from the sky to crush a vamp’s head and chest. Random, yes but it was actually the result of an entropy curse that Harry redirects from the girl that it was gunning for. That scene was a wonderful combination of creepy and hilarious and I could literally see Black vamps, White vamps and Harry all standing there blinking as the timer popped out of the turkey atop the twitching vamp that it had crushed. That scene was incredibly fun to listen to!

As the story progresses and Harry realizes who’s behind the entropy curse and that they know he’s onto them, he has to not only stop the next curse, which will most certainly be directed at him, he also has to find a way to go after Mavra of the Black Court. She’s holed up with her scourge somewhere in Chicago and she’s also after him. Could we just deal with one vampire court at a time? Please? Maybe?

Knowing that he can’t handle Mavra & Company alone, Harry enlists the help of Karrin Murphy (who encourages Harry to please need her help during the Murphy family reunion this Saturday!) and his old mentor, Ebenezar. He also hires Kincaid, the mercenary we first met when The Archive joined the cast of characters in book #5Death Masks and was promptly given a name by our favorite professional wizard. She has been henceforth known as Ivy and though Kincaid is still working for her, he came to Harry’s aid when called. Although… if Harry fails to pay him then Kincaid will kind of kill him. Sorry, business is business. Hell’s bells. Where Harry is concerned, when the incendiary poo hits the fan, it really hits the fan.

In addition to meeting Thomas again in this book, we also get to meet the fam. First we meet Thomas’ younger sister Inari, who is also working on the movie set, as production assistant. Next we meet his older sister Lara, who is called in to work as one of the actresses when another entropy curse sends the girl she’s replacing to the hospital. Finally we meet Dad.

Daddy Raith is actually Lord Raith, the friggin’ King of the White Court. And he is a very not-nice vampire. It turns out that the White King has killed every one of his other sons when they got to the point where he thought they might challenge his position. Not personally, of course. He does it in such a way that he can’t be blamed for their deaths. Thomas is the first to have lived as long as he has. In part, he says, because of Harry. Which is one reason he enlisted Harry’s help with the case on the porn set.

Lord Raith, however, plans to remedy the failure of his previous attempts to dispose of his only remaining son. And to get rid of Harry at the same time. Harry, however, enlists the help of Thomas’ sister, Lara to prevent both of these seeming inevitable murders. He makes a crazy proposition but will she help him? Does she dare? If not, will Harry, Karrin and Thomas survive?

Not only is this book a fantastic read all on its own, but it touches on several things that will have bearing on future books. Butcher concentrates on family a lot in this story… Harry’s family, Thomas’ family, Karrin’s family. There’s a lot of pain on Harry’s part, for losing everyone in his past. His parents, Justin DuMorne who adopted Harry and was his first mentor, and throughout the course of this book, he even kind of loses Ebenezar when he discovers who his former mentor really is and the nature of the services that he performs for the White Council.

This book is something of a turning point for Harry. He’s got people he cares about that he’s getting closer to and it makes a difference. He now has something to lose. A lot of somethings. Which makes the altercation with Ebenezar that much more dramatic. When you don’t have a lot of people who are close to you, losing even one is a pretty damn big deal.

It was hard at times, for me as a “reader” to listen to Marsters’ reading because he’s become so adept at this point in the series at expressing the emotions of the characters. He’s perfected this character’s voice breaking or that character’s voice trembling. You can hear the emotion that the characters are feeling and it really does a lot to add a lot to the listening experience.

My first time through the series, I actually read the books up to #10, Turn Coat but have since listened to the entire series on audio, through book #12, Changes, including Side Jobs. I just LOVE the audio books. I’m currently on my second ‘listen’ of the entire series which is actually my third time through the series to date. I’m doing this re-listen in preparation for book #13, Ghost Story, which is scheduled for a July 2011 release and about which I get more and more excited with every book in the series that I complete. On to book #7!


My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: rescues Foo Dog puppies; has a heart-to-heart with Thomas; takes a case on the set of a porn movie; learns a secret about Thomas’ parentage; speaks with his dead mother; meets Karrin’s family and learns that her sister is engaged to her ex; goes after Mavra of the Black Court with Karrin, Kincaid, and Ebenzar; gets his hand charbroiled; learns that Ebenezar is the Black Staff for the White Court; saves Thomas from his own father; learns that he’s conjuring Hell-fire with his staff, thanks to Lashiel-who’s-coin-is-buried-in-the-lab; gets a roommate and… gets a dog.

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Fave quotes:

“Stupid little fuzzbucket. This is why I have a cat.” ~Harry to puppy

“‘Running an errand’ is getting a tank of gas or picking up a carton of milk or something. It is not getting chased by flying, purple, pyromaniac gorillas hurling incendiary poo.” ~Thomas to Harry

“Discretion is the better part of not getting exsanguinated.” ~Harry to Thomas

Harry: “I need a thug. You available?”  Murphy: “You need manpower?”  Harry: “I need thugpower. … I need thugpower with countergoon capability.”

“Is that a puppy in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” ~Murphy to Harry

Bobby: “Who the hell are you?”  Harry: “I, the hell, am Harry.”  Bobby: “Are you always a wise-ass?”  Harry: “No, sometimes I’m asleep.

‘I dug for more information, like a good investigator. “Why not?”‘

“For my next trick… anvils!” ~Harry, after the frozen turkey fell from the sky to crush the Black Court vampire

Harry: “Well then, I’m glad you took the time to RSVP me. I have a problem that needs to stay on the QT but is rapidly going FUBAR. I’m sorry to call you LD through AT&T instead of using UPS but I needed your help ASAP. I hope that’s OK.”  Ebenezar: “Don’t make me kick your ass.”

“It’s been a busy couple of days, what with dodging all the certain death coming at me from every direction.” ~Harry to Ebenezar

“This is a family get-together. Maybe you could find another part of the park to stand around looking foreboding.” ~Rich to Harry

“We’re doing battle with the living dead, Murph. Expect the occasional curve ball.” ~Harry

Kincaid: “You’re going to lose that hand.”  Harry: “I was sending it back to the kitchen, anyway. I ordered it medium-well.”

Lara: “I underestimated you.”  Harry: “Don’t feel bad. I look so stupid.”

‘Monday afternoon, I got the Blue Beetle back from my mechanic Mike, who is the automotive repair equivalent of Jesus Christ himself. Either that or Dr. Frankenstein.’ ~Harry

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


Review: ‘You Believers’ by Jane Bradley

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You Believers

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Author: Jane Bradley

Format: galley (also available in hardcover)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 5/03/2011

Length: 416 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

You Believers is a powerful, cathartic story of casual evil and of how the worst things can be faced so that we might not only survive, but grow. A young woman goes missing, and her mother uproots her life to find her daughter.

But it is not just the heartbreak or the deep mystery of the hunt for lost loved ones that Bradley so convincingly explores. Rather, with the help of an amazingly dedicated searcher, family and friends somehow learn to move past unspeakable horror and celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit.

Offering a vision that is at once ruthless and utterly compassionate, Bradley renders the search for logic, meaning, redemption and even hope in the domino force that is human nature. Part Southern gothic, part crime, part haunting suspense story, You Believers takes us on an infinitely harrowing journey that rewards the reader with insight into how we might endure horrible events with faith, strength, and grace even while it reveals the ripple effects of random violence.

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My thoughts, some spoilers included:

Shelby Waters finds the missing. Sometimes she finds them alive. More often… she doesn’t. And so her job isn’t only about organizing searches, traipsing through fields, forests and marshes or questioning friends, loved ones and potential witnesses to the disappearance of the missing, it’s also about preparing those friends and loved ones for the worst, even if they don’t realize precisely what she’s doing. She tries to incite hope in those whose loved one stepped out the front door one day and just never came home, even as she quietly prepares them for the worst, while using every resource at her disposal to find that person, alive or dead.

Shelby knows loss. She knows tragedy. She was once one of those people who lost someone she loved… her sister Darly. From the start of their search for her sister to the tragic end, she experienced the wide range of emotions that one goes through when looking for a missing loved one: fear, hope, grief, horror, hatred, loss, never-ending sorrow. The loss of her sister prompted her to start REV, or Rescue Effort Volunteers, in order to help people bring their loved ones home, one way or another. She’s seen the worst of people and she’s seen the best. It just seems some days that the worst far outweighs the best and it’s hard to remain optimistic in the face of the horrors that human beings can sometimes inflict upon one another.

Not only do we see the story of the disappearance of 30-year-old Katy unfold from Shelby’s point of view, we also see the thoughts and emotions of Billy, Katy’s fiance as well as those of Livy, her mother, as they hope for the best while fearing the worst. Despite Katy’s step-father and local police playing down the disappearance and making assumptions about where Katy may be, both Billy and Livy know that something bad has happened. Despite Katy’s proclivity to party and run off with other men, those closest to her know that’s not what happened. And as the weeks pass and become months, the hope of finding Katy alive sadly turns into the hope of just finding her, putting her to rest and punishing whoever was responsible for taking her from them.

Lastly, we see the points of view of the men responsible for Katy’s disappearance. We see their thoughts and motivations and their fears. At least, the fears of one of them. The other is fearless. He is evil incarnate and he is scary as hell because he can pretty much pass himself off as a nice, normal kid. But he is far from normal. We don’t see how truly despicable he is until he commits his second crime during the course of the book. The crime that will be his undoing… because his victim escapes.

She tells afterward of a voice that spoke to her in her mind and talked her through her ordeal. A voice that kept her from panicking and essentially gave her the means to not only escape but also to garner enough information from her attacker finger him for another crime… the crime against the missing Katy Connor. She swears afterward that Katy was the one who spoke to her and while she’s sad about the implications of her believe, she’s grateful to have had Katy’s voice and her help. She knows that Katy helped her to survive.

This is a powerful story of loss and grief, and how Katy’s loved ones begin to deal with the pain of her loss and look forward to the future. It’s also a cautionary tale, I think… as it warns of potential evil walking around disguised as someone normal, someone like you, that can change your life and the lives of your loved ones in an instant.


Fave quotes:

‘Katy Connor thought she was safe. She was supposed to be safe at three o’clock in the afternoon in the parking lot of a strip mall on one of the busiest streets in town. She did nothing wrong. She bought a bag of clothes and walked to her truck.’

‘There was still the kindness of strangers out there, even at thirty thousand feet above the world.’ ~Livy Baines

‘Some nights I just want my mind clear of all the awful.’ ~Shelby


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