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


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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: ‘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: ‘Death Masks’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

Death Masks

The Dresden Files, Book #5

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks

Length: 11 hrs and 21 mins

Release Date: 10/29/09

(novel released 08/05/2003 by Penguin USA & a 464 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: purchased from Audible.com

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Publisher’s Summary:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for.

A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards…

Professional hit men using Harry for target practice…

The missing Shroud of Turin…

A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified…

Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.

Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.

My thoughts… and beware, I think about spoilers quite a lot:

My thoughts begin with Harry’s thoughts. Rather, a specific thought that Harry has at the end of chapter 7  which sums up the action in the book thus far quite nicely, and sets the scene for the remainder of the book:

‘In this corner: one missing shroud; one impossibly and thoroughly dead corpse; one dedicated and deadly vampire warlord; three Holy Knights; twenty-nine fallen angels; and a partridge in a pear tree. And in the opposite corner: one tired, bruised, underpaid professional wizard, threatened by his allies and about to get dumped by his would-be girlfriend for John Q. Humdrum.’

In this fifth installment in Jim Butcher’s exceedingly popular Dresden Files series, we see not only the return of  Harry’s friend and Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, we also meet Shiro and Sanya, the other two Knights of the Cross and their respective swords, Fidelacchius and Esperacchius. Their introduction is just fantastic as they blend perfectly into the background before rescuing Harry from an attack by one of the Fallen… the Order of the Blackened Denarius.

Yes, ‘Fallen’ as in, ‘fallen angels’. These guys are wicked bad-asses who use coins, the very same coins Judas took as a bribe before hanging himself, mind… to lure mortals into enslavement and/or at best, indentured servitude. And they are exceedingly hard to kill. Oh yes, did I mention that they want Harry? Not to kill him, necessarily, but to join them. And if he won’t join, then yeah, to kill him. Fun times!

Of course, the ass-kicking Knights of the Cross beat down the fallen angel scene wasn’t the first excitement in the book… oh, no! we begin with Harry hanging at the Larry Fowler show where, before wreaking havoc on the set of the TV talk show with his magic, he has chats with some interesting characters including Duke Ortega of the Red Court of vampires who challenges Harry to a duel and Father Vincent, of the Vatican, who hires Harry to find a very, very precious religious artifact that was recently stolen. Stolen from Turin.

Not only is all of that happening, very nearly at once, but Murphy drags Harry to the morgue to meet Dr. Waldo Butters, a quirky,  polka-loving Medical Examiner who’s had a glimpse of the supernatural. Poor Dr. Butters was actually institutionalized for a time after identifying some remains from the burned out estate of Bianca, the Red Court vampire, as something other than human. Butters has a very interesting client in the morgue that Karrin wanted Harry to see… he seems to have died of every disease known to man. All at once. How’s that for the icing on the cake?

So yeah… Butcher starts this book out with a bang, baby! And the punches just… keep… coming! The audio is just 11 hours and 21 minutes long and what an action-packed 11 hours and 21 minutes it is.

Much to Harry’s chagrin, Michael and the other Knights try to get Harry to back off of the case. Back off and leave town. Or we’ll kind of make you back off. Gee, thanks guys! Harry is understandably none too happy about this development and he’s at a loss as to where to find the shroud so he calls an Oracle from the Never Never for a bit of advice.

It turns out that the Knights received part of a prophecy concerning Harry and the search for the shroud. Said prophecy segment stated that if Harry seeks the Shroud, he “will most assuredly perish”. The Knights, however, didn’t get the crucial part of the prophecy, the part which was kept from the Knights by their enemies  in order to restore the balance. So the Oracle divulges the really important bit that concerns the Knights themselves: “If you do not, they all die and this city with them”.

To find the shroud or not find the shroud… whatever will Harry do? No-brainer, this one. What else would he do? He gets a tip on the shroud’s whereabouts and plans to check it out which leads him to the thieves and a handy-dandy little trap. But of course, did we think it would be easy?

Waitjustaminute… did I mention Susan? Ahh, no, it would seem I overlooked that little tidbit earlier. Oopsie! Allow me to take a moment to bonk myself on the forehead and backpedal a wee bit. So yeah, guess what?! Susan’s in town!

Yes, that Susan… Susan Rodriguez. Harry’s former girlfriend who thought she’d crash a vamp party in book #3, Grave Peril and ended up drastically changed by Bianca of the Red Court. If she ever gives into her thirst for blood, which will cause her to kill her victim, she will become a full-fledged, card-carrying vampire of the Red Court. At the end of Grave Peril, she beat it out of Chicago after turning down Harry’s proposal of marriage/promise to find a cure. She left Chicago and broke Harry’s freakin’ heart. But now… she’s baa-aack! Popped into town to quit her job and clear out her personal belongings, says she. Also, maybe to torment Harry with her mere presence and/or break his heart yet again?

I’ve got to say, that Butcher’s portrayal of Harry in the scenes with Susan in this book is just heartwrenchingly beautiful… exquisitely painful… achingly bitter. Of course, I’ve read the series before and as I’ve mentioned, I’m re-listening to it in its entirety in preparation for the July release of book #13, Ghost Story. I mention this tidbit once more to point out that my knowledge of the events of book #12, Changes just makes the Harry/Susan scenes in this book all the more poignant and bittersweet. Those scenes are made all the more emotionally charged by the very nearly perfected reading of James Marsters. He just gets better and better with each book, in my not-so-humble opinion.

So, back to it after that little aberration into the tragedy that is ‘Harry and Susan’… We have Harry trying to find the shroud, Denarians trying to lure him into eternal slavery and/or kill him, a Red Court Vampire hoping to kill him in a fair-and-square duel -right, like a Red Court vampire can be trusted to do anything ‘fair-and-square’?!- and if all of that mess isn’t enough… damn, I guess we’re back to Susan and all of the emotional baggage she drags back into Harry’s life.

In all fairness, she is pretty damn important to Harry, now and in the future of the series. All in all, Butcher has put together some truly magnificent ingredients to create a perfect recipe for yet another edge-of-your-seat ride on the roller coaster that is Harry Dresden’s unusual life.

One last observation… yes, finally! Hey, you’ll be glad I mentioned it as it’s one of my favorite parts of the book! Of course I’m referring to the introduction of the Archive, who is assigned as a mediator in the duel between Harry and Ortega and who is NOT what Harry was expecting. Her character is superbly written… she’s one part little girl sweetness, one part scary powerful and one part sheer bad-assery.

Last, last comment. I promise. Along with Ivy, as Harry dubs her (“Archive. Ive… Ivy.”), we meet Kincaid. In this book, he’s been hired to protect the Archive and while Harry is unsure of him, Ivy says he can be trusted. After all, he’s paid through April. We’ll see more of the mercenary in later books but here he provides a nice counter to Ivy’s innocent wisdom. One last bit about Ivy: her reaction when she sees Mister is. just. priceless! “Thank you for letting me pet your kitty.” Very nice touch, Mr. Butcher.

Fave quotes:

“You don’t look very… Archive-esque.” ~Harry to Kincaid

‘My tongue dropped out of my mouth and flopped onto my shoes.’

“Chew and smile? At the same time? Do I look like Jackie Chan?” ~Harry to Susan

‘That’s what you get for trying to be a hero. You get to eat a 6-pack of 9mm bon bons.’ ~Harry

“Ye ole ‘join up or die’ ultimatum. Gee, no matter how many times I get it, that one never goes out of style.” ~Harry to Nicodemus

‘”I’m a disciple of the Tao of Peter Parker, obviously,” I said. I guess Nicodemus was a DC Comics fan because he didn’t get it.’ ~Harry

Susan: “So help me God, if  you quote Clint Eastwood at me I’m wrapping this car around a telephone pole.”  Harry: “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Susan: “You’ve really got class, Dresden.”  Harry:“Class oozes out of my  every orifice.”

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#6 – Blood Rites

#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: ‘Green-Eyed Demon’ by Jaye Wells

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Green-Eyed Demon

Sabina Kane, Book #3

Author: Jaye Wells

Format: galley (available for purchase as mass-market paperback and audio book)

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 2/22/2011

Length: 299 Pages

Acquired: via the publisher

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Publisher’s summary:

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. Her sister has been kidnapped by her grandmother, the Dark Races are on the brink of war, and a mysterious order is manipulating everyone behind the scenes.

Working on information provided by an unlikely ally, Sabina and her trusty sidekicks–a sexy mage named Adam Lazarus and Giguhl, a Mischief demon–head to New Orleans to begin the hunt for her sister. Once there, they must contend with belligerent werewolves, magic-wielding vampires and–perhaps most frightening of all–humans.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about most, she must save herself from the ghosts of her past.

 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book much better than The Mage In Black! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that book, too… but this one had more going for it. The team is on unfamiliar ground in N’Awlins and it’s always fun to put characters in a new situation. We inevitably meet some new characters, some of whom ingratiate themselves with the reader rather quickly and who I didn’t have a problem trusting, which is saying something. Lastly, we have a mission, which is two-fold: rescue Maisie and then find and kill the evil grandmother. I’ve rather been looking forward to that since reading book #1, so I’m happy that it’s now become a priority!

So, the book opens with Team Awesome back in Los Angeles, preparing to kidnap one of the Dominae, which are essentially the three head vamps. Not Lavinia, Sabina’s grandmother and the Alpha Domina, but the weaker of the three. The kidnapping doesn’t quite go as planned but they grab their captive and flash on over to deliver her to the Faery Queen in hopes that an alliance can be made as well as to take instruction from Orpheus, the mage leader.

Finally, Sabina, Adam and Giguhl end up in New Orleans to hunt for Maisie in order to rescue her, as well as Lavinia in order to kill her. Enter Zenobia, voodoo shop owner and friend of Rhea, and Zen’s assistant Brooks. I liked both of these characters immediately and found them both to be strong additions to the story. They were also infinitely helpful to the Team as well as colorful and fun to read. We also meet a few other new faces when Zen sends Sabina to a butcher shop to find a blood source and to a local drag club to find an information source.

Things are rather frustrating for Sabina as she feels that she’s constantly on the defensive once in New Orleans. Lavinia finds her right away and with dismay, Sabina realizes that her grandmother has fed on a particular kidnapped mage’s blood and therefore can do magic. Not only does this seem unfair to me, it seems a bit far-fetched. Lavinia can flash herself about after having fed on a mage blood but Sabina, who trained for weeks with Rhea can only do her Cyclops-esque pew-pew trick to incinerate people? No lessons on healing or flashing herself about all bad-ass like the other mages can do? Yet her grandmother can do such things after having a Maisie snack? Hmmm…

So yeah, Sabina’s at a disadvantage from the get-go. Still, she carries on and blunders about a bit, anxious to both find her sister and avoid the affections of Adam. At every turn, it seems that their enemy is one step ahead of them and that reacting is all the Team is capable of doing.

Enter another new face, recreant mage and lead singer of rock band Necrospank 5000, Erron Zorn. His introduction is hilarious and really, I can’t do it justice here so I won’t even try. Suffice to say that he lends the team a hand and then later on, gives them some much-needed intel, info-dump style. I like this character a lot, though we don’t see much of him, sadly.

I had a hard time putting this book down… or putting my laptop down, rather… and was anxious to get back to it and find out what was going to happen, already! I was happy with the way Wells handled Sabina’s growing up thing, it didn’t feel forced and it didn’t feel fake. It felt just right and though she still had a few temper issues and thinking she could handle things on her own issues, she’s matured as a character and it’s good to see.

Had Sabina still been going on with her knee-jerk reactions from the first two books, there would have been much eye-rolling as I read. But she didn’t and there wasn’t. I feel that the pace of the story was good and there was enough humor to give me the occasional chuckle but not so much as to lessen the seriousness of the mission and the emotion of the story as the characters, namely Sabina, realized what was important to them and what they were willing to do to preserve it.

Bottom line, if you enjoy urban fantasy with punchy characters, I definitely recommend this series. Check the books out at Amazon.com, Audible.com or your fave local or internet book store.


Fave quotes:

‘I’ll give the faeries this: They know how to rock some landscaping.’

“Bael’s balls, can we get outta here already? This alley smells like Satan’s asshole.” ~Giguhl

“…did your cat just talk smack to me?” ~Brooks

‘Hollywood had been getting vampires wrong for decades-don’t get me started on the soulless undead thing… or the godsdamned sparkling.’

“We must never speak of this again.” ~Adam

‘I imagined the list in my head: 1. Perform voodoo ritual on evil owl. 2. Find out who sold us out to the anachronistic Caste vampires. 3. Make amends with lesbian werewolf. 4. Rescue twin. 5. Murder grandmother.’

‘Couldn’t blame him for his fear – no one ever expects zombies.’



Review: ‘Summer Knight’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

Summer Knight

The Dresden Files, Book #4

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp.

Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins

Release Date: 06/10/09

(novel released September 3, 2002 by Roc & a 371 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: received as a gift

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Publisher’s Summary:

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower.

The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.

And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him — and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name.

It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case.

No pressure or anything…

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My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

Wow, Harry Dresden is in baaad shape. His ex-girlfriend, reporter Susan Rodriguez left town months ago after the Red Court began to transform her and Harry has been working non-stop in an attempt to try to find a magical solution to her little vampire problem. To no avail. He’s depressed. He’s withdrawn. He’s figuratively, and literally, a damn mess.

To kick off the book, Billy (the werewolf we met in Fool Moon) gives Harry what-for about all of it… his appearance, his self-imposed exile, his lack of work or anything resembling income, his impending eviction from his home and office and his general bad attitude. Then someone tries to kill him. Several someones, in fact. And then it rains toads. Could Harry’s day get any worse? Why, yes… yes, it could.

It would seem that his debt to his godmother The Leanansidhe has been sold, to none other than Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie. And Mab wants Harry to do him a favor: find out who killed the Summer Knight and stole his power. Oh, and clear her name of the crimes in the process.

Harry isn’t interested. Until, that is, he learns that the White Council of wizards is going to throw him to the dogs… erm, to the Red Court of vampires if he doesn’t ensure the cooperation of the Winter Queen. So he actually has no choice but to do Mab’s bidding. No, really! He’ll be happy to help!

A lot happens in this book. A hell of a lot. Not only do we get to meet the Senior Council of wizards but we’re also introduced to Harry’s mentor, Ebenezer McCoy. We also get to meet the one and only Elaine, Harry’s first love and fellow apprentice to Justin DuMorne. Elaine, that Harry thought had betrayed him all those years ago. Elaine, that Harry thought had been dead. By his own hand.

As if that weren’t enough new characters to get to know, we’re introduced to a whole slew of faerie royalty. Winter queens and Summer queens are plotting and consorting and preparing for a war. A war which will tip the balance between Summer and Winter and which will not bode well for humankind.

We also meet a couple of changelings that the now-deceased Summer Knight had taken under his wing and they want to hire Harry to find their friend. Harry just doesn’t have the time. But he really needs the money so he takes that case, as well. Of course he does, where a damsel is in distress, there the wizard Dresden will be to lend a hand. And most likely get his ass kicked in the process.

So… not only does Harry have to solve the murder of the Summer Knight, he has to fend off vampire assassins and faerie assassins, he has to trust the girl who essentially betrayed him, he has to stop a war between beings so powerful that any of them could crush him on a whim and he has to keep his own kind, the wizards, from mollifying the vampires with his life.

I almost forgot… Morgan of the Grey Wardens reappears in this book and he’s as nutty, fanatical and infuriating as ever. Just another thing counting against Harry as he races against the clock to find out who the baddie is this go’round, stop the war and save the world.

In all fairness, I ought to mention what’s counting for Harry this go’round. Of course I mentioned Billy earlier and he and the Alphas are all for helping Harry out in this latest escapade. They’re pretty bad-ass, too. However, notable mention in the Wizard Assist category goes to Karrin Murphy of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations. Only she’s not acting in that capacity when we see her in this book. In fact, she’s in pretty crappy shape herself.

She’s still having major issues over what she endured at the hands of the Nightmare in the last book and to top it off, she’s facing some difficult to deal with personal issues. It’s the first we see of this side of Karrin and I’m pretty sure that this is the book in which I really, really start to like this character. It’s the first book in which she’s not all in-your-face-bitchy to Harry and that might be due in part to the fact that this is the first book in which Harry is completely and totally up front with her about everything. About the Red Court and the White Council… about his case with the Queen of Winter. About all of it.

To her credit, Karrin handles it all pretty well and then proceeds to kick ass against some pretty tough denizens of Faerie and kind of saves Harry’s bacon in the process. When Harry tells her, “When I asked myself who I could trust, I came up with a damn short list. You’re it.” …I admit that I got a bit choked up. Especially in light of the events at the end of book #12, Changes and what they mean for Karrin in book #13, Ghost Story, due to be released in July of this year. As much as I’m anticipating this next book in the series, I’m afraid that it will be one big sob-fest for me!

I believe I mentioned in my review of Grave Peril, book #3 of The Dresden Files, that James Marsters had finally fully realized his awesomeness as the voice of Harry Dresden. I was premature in that assessment. While Marsters’ reading of that book was indeed awesome, his reading of this book was downright fantastic. Likewise, his reading of the Winter/Summer battle was nothing short of incredible. Well done, Mr. Marsters… well done.

Next up in the Dresden Files re-listen is book #5, Death Masks though sadly, it’s on hold until I finish book #2 of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man’s Fear. Look for that review by the end of the week. Or maybe by the end of the weekend.

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Fave quotes:

‘No one does suave like me. If I was careful, maybe I could trip over something and complete the image.’

‘A faerie queen. A faerie queen was standing in my office. I was looking at a… faerie queen. Talking to a faerie queen. And she had me by the short hairs.’

‘Somewhere out there was a village I’d deprived of its idiot.’

‘I don’t have a muscular stomach. I’m not overlapping my belt or anything but I don’t have abs of steel. I don’t even have abs of bronze. Maybe abs of plastic.’

“That’s what I love about working with you, Dresden. The certainty.” ~Murphy

“Harry, that’s not a plan, that’s a Looney Tune.” ~Murphy

“Consider a haircut, you look like a dandelion.” ~Lea to Harry

“Unicorns. Very dangerous. You go first.” ~Harry to Elaine

“Hi,” I said. King of Wit, that’s me.

“I would have acted sooner but it would have been a fair fight, and I avoid them.” ~Maeve to Harry

“Not only ‘no’, but ‘hell no’.” ~Harry to Mab

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#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: ‘Grave Peril’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

Grave Peril

The Dresden Files, Book #3

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp.

Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins

Release Date: 06/10/09

(novel released September 5, 2001 by Roc & a 378 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: received as a gift


Publisher’s Summary

Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago area phone book.

But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble — and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone — or something — is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc.

But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself….

My thoughts… and beware, I think about spoilers quite a lot:

Aaaaand James Marsters has fully gotten the feel of Harry and is once again giving me goosebumps with his growls and snarls and such. *shiver*

Jim Butcher gives a little intro at the beginning of this audio book and it’s kind of cool to listen to. One thing he mentions, and I’m totally paraphrasing and kind of going from memory and from my impressions of what he said, is how a lot of people have commented on how this third book in the series really steps up the pace and kicks the series into gear. Having just finished reading it, I agree. Several things are set into play in this book that aren’t realized until the latest novel, Changes and wow, did I see a lot of foreshadowing in this book.

One problem I personally have with this series is that I didn’t pick it up until the release of Turn Coat and so in both of my previous read-throughs, I’ve read the first ten books one after the other so it’s rather been like reading one long book. Because of that, I have difficulty distinguishing the events of each book and placing them on a time line. Unless I’m immersed in the series as I am now, albeit only a quarter of the way through at the moment, I can’t recall off the top of my head which book had the dinosaur or which had Harry working with Marcone in the cave, etc. That’s one reason I’m keeping track of my thoughts on the books I’m reading, so I can recall who, what, why, when, where… and how.

The point of all my blathering is, once again, that I agree with Butcher’s statement about this book. It’s like books #1 & #2 were intros, prequels… just to give us a taste of Harry’s world. Because now… now it starts.

We get to meet Michael Carpenter, Knight of the Cross and frequent cohort through much of the rest of the series, immediately as the book opens. He and Harry are in the Blue Beetle, racing toward the hospital… erm, rather, driving as quickly as possible toward the hospital… to stop a ghost from killing the babies in the nursery. Intense.

During that scene, in which we get our first glimpse of the Nevernever, we also meet another new character, Harry’s actual faerie godmother, The Leanansidhe. Or Lea for short because she’s a nickname kind of gal! She’s a member of the Winter Court of Faerie and her character is also recurring. Much of the time when we see her, she’ll be trying to make Harry into one of her hellhounds, sorry… heckhounds, and Harry generally doesn’t care for her/is terrified of her.

Harry and Michael vanquish the ghost (though not before seeing that she’s been tortured into insanity), escape the evil godmother and to top off the evening, they both get arrested. At which time we meet Michael’s very pregnant wife, Charity. Charity isn’t happy about having to bail her husband out of jail… she doesn’t much like Harry. Big surprise. Not a lot of people like Harry. Poor Harry.

A short time later, when we first meet up with Karrin Murphy, head of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations Unit, she’s irritable as usual but this time, she has a damn good reason. A colleague has literally gone insane overnight and she has called Harry in to help. To fix it. And fix it now, dammit! Again, Harry has an infinite amount of patience with Murphy in these early books. She’s so quick to expect wonders/miracles from him and equally quick to blame him for anything and everything that I just wanna smack her.

Now, let me reiterate my love of her character… I can understand that her lack of understanding  of all things magical and supernatural makes her unreasonable but it still makes me wish Harry would turn her over his knee and paddle her behind ala Mat Cauthon and Joline Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Which was inspired.

Anyway, during this scene, Harry uses his second sight to see that the insane cop’s very soul is being tortured in the exact same way as the ghost that was after the babies. Upon removing the psychic barbed wire from the cop’s soul, Harry has the opportunity to see Murpy with his second sight: ‘Murphy, a guardian angel, coming through the door in a blaze of wrath.’ So. Cool. Listening to Marsters read that part gave me goosebumps!

Then the ‘Nightmare’, as Harry dubs it, goes after him in his dreams and stars and stones! It eats some of his magic. That’s not creepy. So the scene is set for another action-packed Dresden adventure. Harry’s been stripped of much of his magic yet he’s got to find and stop the Nightmare, figure out if it was summoned by the same person that’s stirring up the dead and causing so much ghost activity in the city and protect his friends because the Nightmare is after them, too. He’s also got to somehow recover Amoracchius, Michael’s magical sword… yes, there’s a magical sword. Of course there is, hello?! And Harry kind of lost it.  To his evil godmother. Oops. Last on Harry’s to-do list is to rescue the damsel in distress who asked for his help and was kidnapped by vampires of the Red Court. Easy peasy, right?

Harry and Michael attend a celebration at BiancatheRedCourtvampire’s mansion. Where we first meet ♫Thomas♪! Into the lion’s den they go and it doesn’t go well. Despite the disaster that the ball turned out to be, Harry pulls a few pretty slick tricks out of his bag near the end of the book. Bereft of much of his magic or no, he is pretty awesome. Finally, despite of… or perhaps because of the situation with Susan and the vampires, Harry is finally able, late though he may be, to admit to Susan how he feels about her. Something Michael had nagged him to do throughout the entire book. Better late than never, huh? The fact that it was too late was so very sad.

One last tidbit before I move on to the next book… is this perhaps a bit of book #13 foreshadowing from dream ghost Harry once the ‘Nightmare’ has been vanquished? “That’s the only bad thing about this gig as a ghost. Once you accomplish whatever it was that caused you to get created, you’re done.”

Fave quotes:

“Holy shit. Hellhounds.” “Harry, you know I hate it when you swear.” “You’re right. Sorry. Holy shit, heckhounds.” ~Harry & Michael

‘”Ow,” I complained. I keep my complaints succinct.’

‘The married thing. Sometimes I’d look at it and feel like someone from a Dickens novel, standing outside in the cold and staring in at Christmas dinner.’

“In the real world, the vampire eats you before you hit the record button.” ~Harry, to Susan

‘Hi God, it’s me, Harry. Please don’t turn me into a pillar of salt.’

“Don’t ‘yadda yadda’ the Lord, Harry. It’s disrespectful.” ~Michael to Harry

‘I slip into the archaic at dramatically appropriate moments. So sue me.’

“Let that be a lesson to you. Hands off the Fist of God.” ~Harry to vamp

‘I offered myself a hand up. So I took it.’

“What goes around, comes around and sometimes you get what’s coming around. And sometimes, you are what’s coming around.” ~Michael to Harry

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story