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.

—–

5 Stars

Wild Thing (Audiobook) by Josh Bazell, Robert Petkoff

Wild ThingWild Thing

by Josh Bazell, Robert Petkoff (Narrator)
Series: Dr. Peter Brown, #2

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs and 40 mins
Hachette Audio, 2012

Read: May 5 – 10, 2017


If you don’t think of this as a sequel to Beat the Reaper, this is a tolerable thriller. If you think of this as a sequel to Beat the Reaper, it’s a tragedy.

The plot was okay, the but outside of that, it’s unnecessarily preachy — the screeds about global climate change and evolution/religion were a big turn-off. They were too long (frequently distracting from the point), and were directed at straw-man opponents. Speaking of straw-men, I’m not a fan of Sarah Palin, really. But she (or anyone else) shouldn’t be treated like this — it’s okay if an author has a problem with her politics or religious views and expresses it in fiction. But to invent nutty religious views and put ’em in her mouth that’s just wrong and off-putting.

There are some good action scenes, and I enjoyed the paleontologist that Peter was hired to travel with (not enough to remember her name, mind you . . . ), and there’s no denying that Bazell can spin a story. So I’m not saying it’s a bad book. It just doesn’t belong in the same conversation as its predecessor.

I’ve got absolutely no complaints about Petkoff’s work — he does everything he can with the material.

Save your time — re-read or re-listen to Beat the Reaper — or try Shane Kuhn or Hart Hanson. This isn’t worth it.

—–

2 Stars

Beat the Reaper (Audiobook) by Josh Bazell, Robert Petkoff

Beat the ReaperBeat the Reaper

by Josh Bazell, Robert Petkoff (Narrator)
Series: Dr. Peter Brown, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs and 48 mins
Hachette Audio, 2009

Read: April 19 – 21, 2017


Dr. Peter Brown is having a rough day — he’s fighting to keep a patient alive long enough for someone competent to diagnose him properly — he’s also fighting to get someone to diagnose him properly. And he’s a got a new patient that recognizes him from his past life, who makes a threat — keep him alive, or someone will divulge that Brown’s got a new name and can be found at this hospital.

Peter Brown is the new name for someone in the Witness Protection Program — he was a contract killer who flipped on his employers and got sent to medical school. He’d been doing a pretty good job of moving on, but . . .

The novel tells Brown’s story in flashbacks through his childhood, becoming a criminal and what forced the break from that, um, atypical career path. Then we get to see him scrambling to stay alive in the present, and maybe keep some of his patients in the same state.

A first-person narrator describing how he’s killing someone with medical precision, and a touch of humor is just so much fun. This is a very visceral book — whether describing what a patient is suffering, what Peter is inflicting on someone, what someone’s inflicting on Peter, or even the drugs he takes to maintain alertness — he describes in the kind of detail you just don’t see anywhere else. You can feel it.

Peter’s got a great sense of humor — dark, sure, but what else can he have in is position? But if you don’t find yourself at least grinning a a few times, there’s something wrong with you.

Robert Petkoff narrates this in a hyper-masculine tone of voice, which fits perfectly. He embodies Peter in a way that you hope an audiobook narrator can. I liked the audiobook by him I heard last year, but this one seems like he got into the story more, like he was having fun (of course, this is a much more “fun” book than Before the Fall wants to be). Basically, he does a great job.

Part of me wants to go into more detail — but I find myself being restrained. Beat the Reaper is visceral, witty, intelligent and violent — this has all the elements of a thriller that’ll appeal to me. The plot and characters are pretty decent, too — that’s more than you can ask, really.

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4 Stars

Whispers Under Ground (Audiobook) by Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Whispers Under Ground (Audiobook)Whispers Under Ground

by Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Narrator)
Series: The Rivers of London, #3

Unabridged Audioboook, 10 hrs., 17 min.
Tantor Media, 2012

Read: July 24 – August 5, 2017


Okay . . . man, how to sum this one up. Peter, Lesley and Abigail Kamara (a teen-aged neighbor of Peter’s parents) go down into the tunnels of the Underground to look for ghosts, and find one. What we learn here will be important come The Furthest Station. This is a fun little foray into the wider supernatural world of this series.

And then we get back to police work — a man is stabbed at the Baker Street tube and there’s enough for Stephanopoulis to bring in Peter just to rule out magic. Which he can’t do. It turns out that the victim is an American, which makes everything unnecessarily complicated. And then it turns out that he’s the son of a US Senator, and things get worse. The FBI sends an agent — Kimberly Reynolds — over to help out/observe/get in the way. So Peter has to handle to non-normal side of the investigation, keep Seawoll from having to hear about magic (because it interferes with actual police work in his mind), and not let Reynolds know that there’s anything not run-of-the-mill about Peter and the investigation. All at the same time.

Very quickly, it seems clear that there’s something going on that Peter and the rest just don’t get. Yeah, magic was involved in the killing, but there’s no real trace of it in the victim’s life — not with him, his school, his friends, his enemies, or anything. So where’s that come into play? The answer comes when it’s least expected and in a direction that was impossible to predict.

Aaronovich really pulled a rabbit out of his hat this time. Sure, he made both the rabbit and the hat, so it’s to be expected that he’d do that. But, there’s just something about the way he did this one — police procedural that accidentally turns up the answers and leads to something bigger than anyone expected. A great balance of UF and Procedural (the last one was a bit too light on the procedural for me).

Guleed doesn’t get enough to do, but I liked her presence. Lesley really gets to shine a bit here, and her inability to be a regular part of the police force is underlined here for her and Peter — and just how horrible that is emphasized throughout. When Stephanopoulis is the rational, supportive authority figure for Peter (other than Nightingale), you know that Seawoll is a little over the top in his antagonism to all things Folly. But mostly, this was about characters we know and like getting to do things to keep us liking them, and probably liking them more while introducing some new figures for us to enjoy.

Really, the main take away I had from this audio production was a bit of joy over the fact that Holdbrook-Smith isn’t perfect. His Agent Reynolds was just bad. At least the American accent part of it. I enjoyed his flubbing of that more than I should have. Meanwhile, everything else he did was just fantastic — especially Lesley. The range of emotion, sarcasm, etc. that he can put into her voice while still accounting for her lack of face is just incredible. Also, Zach Palmer — the roommate of the murder victim — was just hilarious. I know a lot of that was in the text, but the way Holdbrook-Smith brought him to life was wonderful.

As impressed as I was with the way that Aaronvich did everything he did, something about this one didn’t work for me as much as others in the series do (either in this re-read or originally). I’m not sure why. Still, this was a good, entertaining book that anyone who likes the concept of a Police Officer/Wizard in training should enjoy.

—–

3.5 Stars

Moon Over Soho (Audiobook) by Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Moon Over Soho (Audiobook)Moon Over Soho

by Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Narrator)
Series: The Rivers of London, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs.
Tantor Media, 2012
Read: June 21 – 23, 2017

When I think back over the first books in this series, I remember them being a lot of fun — pretty funny, really, with moments of tension and drama.

I don’t know why I think that. Listening to the first two have been a good corrective. Yes, Peter is witty, and some of what he does while learning magic or talking to other police officers is amusing. But these are not light books — this is solid police work mixed with dark magic. They’re still fun, just a lot less light than I recall. Actually, my poor memory extends beyond just the tone. I remembered almost nothing about the plot of this one (I remembered almost everything that wasn’t involved in the main plot, the long-term investigation into the Faceless Man, the stuff with Lesley, etc.). Which made it a great experience to re-read.

Jazz musicians are dropping dead after performances of a lifetime — in ways that seem like natural causes, but Peter (and Dr. Walid) can tell there’s something more going on — just what that might be is a touch beyond them. There’s another supernatural predator traveling in London hotspots, preying on unsuspecting men. Peter and DS Stephanopoulos work together to get to the bottom of things — we also meet PC Sahra Guleed. After Guleed’s appearance in Body Work, I’ve been trying to remember where I knew her from, but I couldn’t come up with it, so pleased to have that question resolved for me — I remember now, and I remember what a great character she is.

Peter’s spirit, his curiosity, his drive — they make for a great protagonist, and I quite enjoy spending time with him. I would’ve liked a bit more Nightingale — but I understand why he wasn’t around. Even Peter’s new love interest and his new musician friends are a blast. Really, I can’t think of any characters in here I don’t dig.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith . . . I’m telling you, this guy is just great. His characterizations of the regular characters, plus the ones that we meet here, are great, he just brings everyone to life. But, the job he does with Lesley May’s voice as she recovers from the devastating injuries she sustained at the end of Midnight Riot? I don’t know how to talk about how wonderful — and heartbreaking — I found that.

Another little plus that the audio books bring (not attributable to Holdbrook-Smith) are the interstitial music, that little jazz bit between chapters. It’s just perfect for this series. If you could get that on a chip in the paperbacks to play when you turn the page of a new chapter (or on a whim)? That’d be gold.

A great installment in the series, solidifying the world and helping every character move forward following Midnight Riot.

—–

4 Stars

Kindness Goes Unpunished (Audiobook) by Craig Johnson, George Guidall

Kindness Goes Unpunished (Audiobook)Kindness Goes Unpunished

by Craig Johnson, George Guidall
Series: Walt Longmire, #3
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 42 min. pg.
Recorded Books, 2011
Read: June 29 – July 3, 2017

I was going to try to come up with something original for this time through the book, but mostly, I liked what I said last time, so let’s stick to that. I do have a few new things to say at the end, I should note.

It’s a sure sign that I need to spend more time reading Johnson than watching the show based on this series in that I’m consistently surprised at how funny these books are. Sure Henry Standing Bear’s dry wit is there, Vic is brash and inappropriate — amusing enough — but the narration, Walt himself? I chuckled a lot.

So, Walt and Henry (and Dog!) are off to the City of Brotherly Love to visit Walt’s daughter, Cady, meet her boyfriend, and for Henry to do something at a museum (just an excuse to see Cady). Oh, and conveniently enough, to meet Vic’s family (three police officers, one former police officer, and one attractive mother). After arriving in town, Walt doesn’t even get to see Cady before she’s brutally attacked and hospitalized.

Naturally, Walt stumbles upon the one person in Philadelphia who’s more knowledgeable and interested in Indians than Henry. It’s that interest (obsession?) and his connection to Walt that makes Walt the best man to track down the man who put Cady in the hospital (and other assorted nefarious acts). That’s a level of coincidence that you just buy — like Gideon Oliver vacationing somewhere that a set of bones surprisingly shows up; Nero Wolfe needing information from someone who’s a sucker for orchids; or that every falsely accused murderers that Andy Carpenter stumbles upon happen to own a cute dog.

There’s enough twists, turns — and one seeming unnecessary but entertaining diversion (that turns out to be not so ancillary) — to satisfy any mystery reader. Even out of water, this fish can swim. There’s some very interesting things that go on in the character’s personal lives that should make things interesting down the road (and that I can’t talk about while remaining spoiler free) — enough to make this more than a tale of a father’s vengeance.

The first chapter (only one in Wyoming) is great — Walt totally failing to connect with an elementary school classroom, a fun and prototypical Absaroka County shootout, and other things that make up a typical day for Sheriff Longmire on the eve of his trip.

One thing that I did take note of last time, but didn’t write about was the theme of daughters and parents. There’s a lot about Vic and her mother, but the focus is on Cady and the place that she has in Walt’s head and heart. I’m not sure how you could read/listen to this without your heart melting a bit — particularly if you have a daughter who’s growing up a bit too quickly, like me. Guidall did a solid job with his narration of this book, but his performance in the last chapter just about broke me.

Walt in the big city, like Walt in the least populated corner of Wyoming, is just a pleasure to spend time with — even if things are going horribly for him.

—–

4 Stars