Summer Knight (Audiobook) by Jim Butcher, James Marsters

Summer Knight (Audiobook)Summer Knight

by Jim Butcher, James Marsters (Narrator)
Series: The Dresden Files, #4
Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs and 12 mins
Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp., 2009

Read: August 23 – 25, 2017


So, we get more information on the White Council (not just the vague references in the first couple of books and our buddy Morgan the Warden), as well as our introduction to the Fae Courts. Throw in everything we learned about Marcone in book 2, vampires in book 3, and what we’re about to learn in book 5 and we’ll have fully established the world of Harry Dresden. And wow, what a world.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We start off with dealing with the war Harry was tricked into instigating in the last book, he’s got assassins after him — but thankfully, Billy’s got his back. A friendship has developed between Harry, Billy and the rest of Billy’s pack since Fool Moon which is pretty cool to see. Even if Harry’s too blinded by his obsessive need to cure Susan’s vampirism to see things like friendship, self-destructive lifestyle, and whatnot. Billy’s also minding the store for Harry and has made an appointment for him to meet with a new client.

Harry doesn’t want a new client — but he’s about run out of money and is looking at the business end of evictions soon, so he’d better. He doesn’t want this new client either, for reasons you can read/listen to for yourself, but she doesn’t leave him much of a choice.

Before he can get too carried away with dealing with this, he has to attend a meeting of the White Council — where he will be a major topic of conversation, thanks to the vampire war. Which isn’t going too well for the Wizards. We meet some great characters at this meeting, including Harry’s [spoiler] and mentor, Ebenezar McCoy. McCoy is a hoot — Marsters (no surprise) nails his character, by the way — he’s just one of those guys you like from the moment you meet him on the page and your appreciation for him only increases. In the end, the Council basically puts Harry to a test — if he doesn’t pass, they hand him over to the vampires; if he does, things continue on the way they are now — and if he dies in the process, well, that’ll be inconvenient. The test, naturally, involves him taking the above client he doesn’t want.

In a nutshell, a member of one of the Fae Courts has been killed and Harry has a couple of days until the Summer Solstice to find out who did it. Otherwise, the balance of power between the Courts will shift and war break out. A war that’ll pretty much decimate the planet’s climate in ways that Al Gore couldn’t imagine. Which is a bad thing for us humans. So pretty much, Harry has to solve a murder, stop a war/save the earth, while dodging assassins, skeptical wizards, and who knows what else or he’ll be tortured and killed by vampires after being abandoned by his people. In just a couple of days.

Oh, and a long-lost (and assumed dead) person from Harry’s past shows up in the middle of all this, too.

No big deal, right? Poor, poor Harry. It’s a fun adventure (for the reader), the mystery story is decent, the adversaries are fantastic — and the new characters (even those we never see again, sniff) are great additions to what’s just a great cast.

I mentioned the friendship of Billy and Harry earlier — we get a lot of it in this book, Billy’s along for most of the adventure, and he’s really turning into someone Harry can count on. Karrin Murphy gets some great action, too — and Harry finally clues her into what’s going on re: Fae, Vampires, White Council, etc. You know, keeping the promise he made to himself at the end of book 2. Well done, Dresden. I can’t fail to mention Toot Toot — he’s come a long way since we met him in Storm Front, in no small way thanks to Harry.

I’m talking about an audiobook now, so I really should say something about James Marsters’ work. I’m just going to sound like a broken record, though, if I do. I’m trying to think if I wasn’t that impressed with anything, or if there was something in particular that I thought he did well, and I can’t come up with anything. I really enjoyed his Bob in Summer Night — nothing different in the characterization, I don’t think, but it just came to life in a particular way. Also, he captured the very strong sense of fatigue, of being at the end of his rope that so defined Harry in these pages.

This wasn’t my favorite book — although I really enjoyed it on the whole — and really relished reliving the establishment of the Council and Courts in the series. While I thoroughly enjoyed the stuff in Wal-Mart (for example), it went on too long and wasn’t worth it to the story. There were a few too many moments like that in this book for my taste — fun in and of themselves, but ultimately, time wasted, so I’ll knock this down a star. Also, it proves that as much of a mindless fan-boy I can tend to be about this series, I’m a little discerning. A little.

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4 Stars

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Grave Peril (Audiobook) by Jim Butcher, James Marsters

Grave Peril (Audiobook)Grave Peril

by Jim Butcher, James Marsters (Narrator)
Series: The Dresden Files, #3
Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs and 59 mins
Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp., 2009

Read: July 6 – 8, 2017


Wow. There’s just so much going on in this book — so much that sets things in motion that are still shaping the series. Once a series goes on as long as this one, it’s easy to mix up your internal timeline about what happens when — this reread really exposed how much I’ve done for The Dresden Files. I don’t know how many times I asked, “Wait, what? That happens now? I thought it was ____”

Anyway, we start this one with Harry and Michael on their way to rescue a Maternity Ward full of newborns from a ghost. It takes practically no time at all for Butcher to establish Michael, his relationship with Harry, and place in this world. I gotta say, I was shocked at how easy Butcher made that look — a sure sign that it wasn’t effortless for him. Michael is one of my first examples to use when people tell me that paladins are dull characters. I could go on about this particular Knight of the Cross, but no one has that kind of thing.

It’s not just the witch in the hospital, there are angry ghosts all over town — and much more powerful than they normally are. Something’s afoot, and Harry’s having some trouble figuring out what. It does seem to be targeting Harry, Murphy and some others that were with them when they took down a criminal a few months earlier.

Meanwhile, Bianca is up to something, and Harry’s too distracted by the ghosts to figure it out, which will prove to be very bad. On the other hand, he meets Thomas Raith because of this — and that’s good for us readers, as much as the rest of the night his horrible for Harry.

There is just so much that goes wrong here, you have to feel sorry for Harry. Which is not to say that everything goes wrong, Harry unleashes quite a bit of magic in this one — more than we’ve seen so far (because of reasons), but there are consequences for this — consequences that it’ll take years for Dresden to clean up.

Marsters . . . pick your superlative and apply it to his work here.

A lot of fun, a lot of heart, a lot of evil, a lot of pain. If this isn’t where this series comes together and fulfills the promise of the premise, it’s darn close.

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5 Stars

Fool Moon (Audiobook) by Jim Butcher, James Marsters

Fool MoonFool Moon

by Jim Butcher, James Marsters (Narrator)
Series: The Dresden Files, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 6 min.
Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp., 2009

Read: May 30 – 31, 2017


Let’s keep this short:

I didn’t love this one as much as Storm Front, and I remember things as a whole being better. Still, we get the introduction of the Alphas, we get to see a little bit of every type of Werewolf in this world (I’d forgotten 1 of them), Dresden makes some smart choices re: Karrin Murphy (but man, most of what happened between the two of them in this book was annoying to a fan, and poorly constructed I think), and a (in retrospect) dumb one about Susan.

The main story was pretty good — I’d have liked to see Harry be a little quicker to figure things out, but he’s not perfect. Nor is he the investigator he’ll become eventually. I need to remind myself these are early days. As I recall, book 3 is a little less-good than this, which doesn’t make me look forward to it. But I know I like where things go pretty quickly, so I’ll keep going.

Marsters was fantastic — this would’ve been a 3 in just about any other narrator’s hands, er, vocal cords. I can’t say enough good things about him.

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4 Stars

Storm Front (Audiobook) by Jim Butcher, James Marsters

Storm FrontStorm Front

by Jim Butcher, James Marsters (Narrator)
Series: The Dresden Files, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 1 min.
Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp., 2009

Read: May 18 – 19, 2017


Okay, I know myself well enough that I’m pretty incapable of critical thought when it comes to The Dresden Files — which is not to say I think the books (especially this one) are perfect, but I can overlook all the flaws — and those I can’t I can shrug off. It’s been years — almost a decade — since I re-read this, and I’d forgotten some details, but the core is pure Dresden. And the best of all is that I know they get better from here.

So I’m not going to talk about the book, really. For the 2 of you who don’t know, Harry Dresden is a Marlowe/Spenser-type of P.I. (but not really) who happens to be a wizard. He consults with the police on the supernatural front and does a little business helping private citizens. That’s all the setup you need.

What I want to talk about here is the audiobook portion of it — I’ve heard for years that the James Marsters narrated audiobooks in this series are fantastic. I was prepared to be thoroughly entertained. But not as much as I was. Marsters was just incredible, almost unbelievably good. This was, as the best audiobooks are, a performance, not just a reading. And this was one of the best performances I’ve witnessed from Marsters. Had I the means, I’d have bought the rest of the series Friday night after I finished this one.

Butcher fans, if you’ve only read the book, you need to listen to them, too. Marsters brought our man to life.

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5 Stars

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

I should’ve had this up no later than May 29, but I wanted to get it juuuust right. And I failed. But I’m always going to fail when it comes to this series. Amongst series currently being written, this is my favorite (yeah, I’m taking the coward’s way out and not choosing between Dresden and Wolfe), which means that I’m just never going to be able to properly express how great I think the books are.

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Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)Skin Game

by Jim Butcher

Hardcover, 454 pg.
Roc Hardcover, 2014
Read: May 28, 2014

Quick review for people who haven’t read up through Cold Days:
Why are you reading this? Go and catch up. You’re missing out on one of the best series being published today. You’ve got about a year ’til Peace Talks comes out, so you have plenty of time to read up through Skin Game (which you really should read, because it was great).

Longer take for those who have read Cold Days (still, spoiler-free):

Okay, this is book 15, which means it’s time for The Denarians to return. But this time, Harry’s not opposing them (directly, anyway), but thanks to his service to Mab, he’s working alongside (for?) Nicodemus. Nicodemus has assembled a team of magical types to go rob a vault belonging to Hades. Harry, of course, is itching for a fight, but he doesn’t get the chance for one. If he doesn’t do what Mab & Nicodemus require, those closest to Harry will pay the price. Skin Game takes the basic plot structure of a heist film, and it works really well as such. A great, gripping story, doing things with the supporting characters involved (new and old) that you wouldn’t have guessed were possible with Harry’s past and attitude.

Beyond the plot — there’s something going on with Harry. Small, incremental changes are creeping in to our wizard’s character, as part of the aftermath of Changes. He’s dimly aware of them, but thinks he’s in control. Those close to him see them, too and make the same judgment call — it’s Harry, he’s got it taken care of. But there are those, like Butters, who aren’t as willing to believe that Harry can do it all. He sees trouble on the horizon and is willing to speak truth to Harry about it.

There’s other character development to take note of as well: Michael, Charity, and Murphy all continue to grow in positive ways — slowly, organically, and in ways you really only notice when you take a long look at them. Molly’s changing a lot, too — and not that slowly or organically, but after the end of Cold Days, what do you expect? Butters continues to grow and develop in ways that feel right, but are undeniable. When you think of who he was back in Death Masks and what he’s grown into by the end of Cold Days, it’s truly impressive. And he takes some major steps forward this time around, that I really want to talk about, but won’t. I have no shame in admitting that he choked me up. He could’ve easily been Butcher’s version of John Chen from the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike/etc. books — around for a little comic relief, some science help (some medical help, too), but nothing major. Instead, Butcher’s turned this polka-loving nerd into his Neville Longbottom.

In between the banter, the quips, the forzare-ing and fuego-ing, the action, you get things like this…it’s what separates guys like Butcher from the pack

There’s power in the touch of another person’s hand. We acknowledge it in little ways, all the time. There’s a reason human beings shake hands, hold hands, slap hands, bump hands.
It comes from our very earliest memories, when we all come into the world blinded by light and color, deafened by riotous sound, flailing in a suddenly cavernous space without any way of orienting ourselves, shuddering with cold, emptied with hunger, and justifiably frightened and confused. And what changes that first horror, that original state of terror?
The touch of another person’s hands.
Hands that wrapt us in warmth, that hold us close. Hands that guide us to shelter, to comfort, to food. Hands that hold and touch and reassure us through our very first crisis, and guide us into our very first shelter from pain. The first thing we ever learn is that the touch of someone else’s hand can ease pain and make things better.
That’s power. That’s power so fundamental that most people never even realize it exists.

I don’t normally read reviews of books I’ve already decided to read, but I made an exception in this case when Patrick Rothfuss posted his (pretty sure I linked it in one of my Saturday posts). One of the things he said was, “that Jim made me cry, like, four goddamn times in this book.” I went into this thinking Rothfuss was exaggerating about the crying. And then later I started to worry that he’s manlier and more in control of his emotions than I am. It’s not news to anyone who’s read Butcher — especially the more recent volumes — the guy can hit you right in heart. He’s like a long distance phone commercial from the late 80’s or the producers of the Friday Night Lights TV show — when he wants you to feel something, by gum, you will.

I do think that Butcher’s done better, but I’m still giving this 5 stars because while I was reading it, I was totally immersed in it. The rest of the world really didn’t exist — I was on the edge of my seat, leaning forward as if that’d help me get through it quicker — hanging on every word, chuckling, cackling, cheering, gasping as appropriate — totally engrossed, and that impact lasted for a couple of days following. If that doesn’t say 5 stars, I don’t know what does. And while I think other books were technically better — I can’t think of a problem with this one.

How long ’til #16, Peace Talks?

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5 Stars

Non-Fictional Feelings for Fictional Characters

A slightly different post this morning, I’ve been trying some behind-the-scenes work here on the blog this morning — composition, infrastructure, design, etc. The books that I’m overdue to review are hard to write about, I’m plugging away at 4 different reviews right now that I absolutely want to get right , and that’s time-consuming. Also, Grossman’s YOU: A Novel took 2 or 3 days longer to read than I’d expected — worth the time, but it did sort of mess up my schedule. So, like I said. Something different.

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I saw that picture on Grammarly.com‘s facebook page*, and as one does, shared it, which prompted a friend to ask what some of my favorite fictional characters were. I decided to limit the list to fictional characters from books (a. see the picture and b. see this blog), and to characters I had “non-fictional feelings” for — Hannibal Lecter was a favorite (for 2 books, anyway), but I had no emotional attachment to him, or Evanovich‘s Ranger — fun character, but don’t really care about the guy. Here, with added commentary, is my list.

  • Archie Goodwin — this is the name that jumped immediately to mind. Archie’s the big brother I never had — the quick, agile wit; the athleticism; the way with the ladies — and the rest of the things that older brothers so often exemplify to those of us who never had one (on the other hand, we didn’t have to share a bedroom). ‘Course he makes the list.
  • Spenser — it’s almost impossible to spend as much time in a guy’s head as I have Spenser’s (or Archie’s) and not have some sort of emotional bond there. Everything I said about Archie applies here too, actually.
  • Harry Dresden — Chicago’s resident Wizard P. I. He feels like a friend. Hanging with Harry for a night of RPGs, Double Whoppers, and McAnally’s beer sounds ideal.
  • Scout Finch — she’s plucky, honest, a born-reader, and loves her pa (even when she doesn’t understand him). She’s had a soft spot in my heart longer than most of the people on this list.
  • Hermione Granger — sure, her famous buddy still gets all the press. But it’s this brave, clever, stubborn and resourceful gal who’s the most consistent hero in the series — and the one you can count on for genuine emotional moments. (this isn’t to take away anything from Ron, Luna, Albus, Neville, Sirius, Dobby, etc. — but Hermione alone manages to do it in every book in the series)
  • Chet Little / Oberon — it felt like a cheat listing these separately, and it just looked wrong to leave one of them off the list. So…I cheated. Both of these charming gentlemen will win you over within a few pages (in Dog On It and Hounded, respectively), and after you spend a few books with them, they’ll have stolen your heart. They make you laugh, they make you worry — and in Hunted, Oberon commits himself to one of the bravest acts I’ve seen, and choked me up a bit. The humans these guys live with almost make the list just on their testimony.
  • Angela Gennaro — if you hadn’t grown attached to Angie already, especially after Darkness, Take my Hand‘s events, there’s just no way you can’t fall apart with her at the end of Gone, Baby, Gone

Let me hear from you, reader/follower/happener-upon-this-post — who do you have non-fictional feelings for?

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* I looked but couldn’t find the source for this, otherwise I’d have cited it. If you know who should get the credit, please let me know.