Skin Game by Jim Butcher

ButcherSkinGameWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2014)

Length: 15 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 15 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

At the end of the previous book, Cold Days, there was some game changers that came out in that nudity fight. The biggest one for me was that Molly became the new, and youngest, Lady Winter. Mab was supremely happy with that and is enjoying training Molly up. Harry has been stuck on Demon Reach island because he has this parasite in his head that is nearly ready to pop – which means his head would explode. Messy! But the power of Demon Reach can keep it under wraps for a while until Molly can show up and help remove it. So Harry has been working on all his physical and magical skills, running through the underground Prison of Nasty Badasses yelling ‘Parkour!’ as he leaps over obstacles and careens around corners.

Mab shows up and she has traded Harry’s skills in order to pay off a debt; Harry will have to assist his arch nemesis Nicodemus Nickelhead in a vault heist. Harry isn’t happy about this, but on the surface it doesn’t sound particularly hard. But this wouldn’t be a Dresden Files book if things weren’t difficult, right? Nicodemus plans to steal a powerful religious artifact right out of the vault of Hades in the Underworld. To do that, he has to first break into the highest security vault on Earth to match a Way into the Nevernever that corresponds with Hades’s vault. It’s going to be a mess!

The good, the bad, and the shaggy will team up in this crazy and deadly effort. Harry wants to bring along Karrin Murphy. Nicodemus brings along his daughter, who also has one of the demon-possessed coins. A variety of other folks join in, a few of which we have seen in previous books. Some are on the fence when it comes to good versus evil and Harry is expecting a lot of double crossing. Out of this crew, Mr. Grey was the most interesting to me. Throughout the entire book, I wasn’t sure what side of the line he would eventually land on. Indeed, he had my fooled more than once. There’s also a pretty cool reveal about his origins at the end of the book.

There is one sex scene in the book and it is smoking hot! It’s been some time since Butcher included such a scene in this series. It’s definitely worthy. Ach! There’s plenty I want to say about the characters involved, but that would be spoilery. Trust me, it’s worthy and yet there is definitely more to be done between these two.

The action is well spaced out with sneaky alliances, reuniting of friends, and hashing out hurt feelings. Waldo Butters is especially distraught over how Harry has treated his friends these past several years. Indeed, Harry has been through quite a bit, but Waldo does a great job of pointing out how Harry hasn’t really stopped to look at things from another point of view. Harry has had increasingly less contact with those outside the Fae and he’s started thinking too often like one of the Fae court, trading favors and owing debts. Plus he has this whole Winter Knight mantel toying with him – his thoughts are more predatory towards everyone, even if the reasons differ. The Fae code of favors and debts seems to help Harry hold the Winter Knight instincts in check, though this doesn’t excuse the hurt he’s caused his friends.

Once Nicodemus and crew make it into the Underworld, there are multiple gates to be defeated before they can get to the vault. Hades and his minions are a real concern and things get pretty dicey. I really enjoyed Hades’s dog Cerberus. Butcher is excellent at tossing in a little humor at the tensest of moments to have me laughing and biting my nails at the same time!

Michael Carpenter also plays a role in this book. I won’t share too much, just know that it is worthy. Also, because Michael is involved, Harry has to face the fact that he has spent almost no time with his daughter. All his friends want him to correct that. It’s a difficult thing for Harry as he wants to protect her and having an active relationship with her may well put her in danger.

The ending was pretty darn good (though I have one criticism I will get to in a moment). We have a surprise hero which I did not see coming! It was well done and I even did a little fist pump in joy when I got to this point. My criticism is with a flashback that Harry has at the end of the book that pertains to some of his actions at the beginning of the book. Since this entire tale is told through Harry’s eyes, it stood out as a weak plot device. The only time in the 15 books that we haven’t lived through all of Harry’s doings as they happen was that one time he ordered Molly to erase a chunk of his memory. So leaving something out that definitely affects the out come later and revealing it at the end of the book was clunky. However, that quibble is definitely small in comparison to my enormous enjoyment with this latest book in the series. As usual, Butcher wraps up the main points but leaves enough open for the next book in the series to build upon.

Narration: James Marsters continues to do this series justice with this latest installment in the series. I like how Harry’s voice has aged a little over the span of the series. I liked his confident Molly and his ticked off Waldo and his still supportive Michael. I thoroughly enjoyed his voice for Hades, especially when Hades talks about his dog.

What I Liked: Big stuff happens in a vault heist; Mab brooks no argument from Harry; lots of fun characters (both good and bad) return in this book to join the adventure; Waldo Butters points out how Harry hasn’t been the best of friends in the past few years; Mr. Grey is a very interesting addition; that lovely sex scene; Hades vault; the final show down.

What I Disliked: There was a flashback/reveal scene near the end that stood out as clunky.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Critic

The Hysterical Hamster

Fantasy Book Review

The Book Bag

SFF World

S. Krishna’s Books

Dial H for Houston

Cannonball Read 8

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Vicky Loebel, Author of Key to the Coven

LoebelSpeakeasyDeadEveryone, please give a warm welcome to Vicky Loebel! We chat about Wodehouse, spaceships, defying certain death, and plenty more! Don’t forget to check out the audiobook giveaway (available to Audible.com and Audible.UK account holders) below!

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

If this is fiction, the person who rescues me from certain death is going to be (a slimmer, braver version of) me. But I’d love to have Spiderman, the ghost (Gaspar) from my book Speakeasy Dead, and Harry Dresden on my side. If this is reality and the jaws of a death look anything like a centipede, my superhero husband gets the job.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Anyone who knows me will rat me out as a huge fan of the 2015 Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie. I got my writing start by creating fanfiction based on the original TV series, and seeing the essence of the show captured on the big screen was a dream come true.  As far as books, if I could erase them from my mind every few years, I might not read anything but P.G. Wodehouse.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Writing is both the hardest and the best job because I spend every day confronting my best and worst qualities. Oh wait, I meant parenting is the hardest job. No, writing. Wait….

LoebelKeysToTheCovenWhat book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series made into any sort of game. The beauty of her books is that you can pick any of the characters and step right into their skin. So while everyone else was fighting to be Cordelia, Miles, and Ekatarin, I’d nip in as Ivan for the win.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Anything you say may be used against you in a work of fiction. And you’ll never even know.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I never wanted to tell stories. I wanted to live them – preferably as either an astronaut or an international spy, preferably riding a spunky American quarter horse. Eventually I accepted the fact that if I wanted adventures, I’d have to write them.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Alexander Dumas (Three Musketeers),  Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice/no zombies), Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey/Maturin series), and P.G. Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster). Jim Butcher is alive and I can’t really justify altering that to get him to my dinner table, so for the fifth author I’ll invite Sir Terry Pratchett whose audiobooks have brought me hours and hours of pleasure. Since I have no idea what any of them eats, I’ll arrange a big Tapas party where we cook dishes together in my imaginary gourmet kitchen.

LoebelVacationBrideCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I once had the distinction of attending a science fiction convention and making small talk in an elevator by asking guest of honor Octavia Butler if she was there for the con. Yes, I loved her books. No, I had no idea what she looked like. She smiled graciously and said yes.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Where does Spiderman hang his webs when he swings down the street? Do slow zombies pose a threat to anyone who’s not too stupid to live? And why would you hide a perfectly good spaceship under water? Couldn’t you hide it in space?

Places to Stalk Vicky Loebel

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Book Blurb for Keys to the Coven:

LoebelKeysToTheCovenThe Road to Hell is Paved with Bad Intentions. Get ready for Keys to the Coven, a witty, tightly plotted, (adult) urban-fantasy/romance set in an original universe where karma is power, sex is karma, and it’s not who you know but whose soul you own that matters.*

To become a demon, you must die in complete and utter despair. Three hundred years ago, Max passed that test with flying colors and joined the afterlife resolving never again to have innocent blood on his hands. Now Max has been given the job of breaking a young witch’s family curse. But what she doesn’t know, what Max can’t bring himself to tell her, is that completing his mission almost certainly means her death.

When Felicity Woodsen inherits her mother’s coven, she learns each firstborn Woodsen daughter must become the consort of an evil-arch demon. Felicity’s only hope is to ally with the mysteriously charming Max. But is saving her body from one demon worth risking her soul with another?

Roxashael became a demon when his Roman captors sent his family, one by one to be devoured by lions. The lesson was clear: power is good; lots of power is better. Two-thousand years later, Rocky has power. He’s purchased hundreds of souls, and he’s created the Minsk Homunculus, a magic artifact that, by binding a human witch as his consort, turns him into an arch-demon and places him above the goody-two-shoes laws of karma.

Unfortunately, Rocky made a mistake. He fell in love with Felicity’s mother and in a moment of weakness promised to give up his demon-consort charm. Now Felicity’s mother is dead, the Minsk Homunculus is slated for destruction, and Rocky’s power as an arch-demon is about to end.

No demon can break a promise. If Rocky refuses to give up the Minsk Homunculus, he’ll become the lowest, most abject slave in Hell. But then, why break promises when they’re so easy to corrupt?

GIVEAWAY!!!

Vicky is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of her book Keys to the Coven! The audiobook is available through both Audible.com and Audible.UK. To enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1)  Do you have either an Audible.com or an Audible.UK account?  2) Do you have an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment? 3) Leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends September 9th, 2016.

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Cold Days by Jim Butcher

ButcherColdDaysWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2012)

Length: 18 hours 50 minutes

Series: Book 14 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

At the end of the previous book, Ghost Story, Harry wakes up and finds that Mab, Winter Queen, has kept his body alive with the help of Demon Reach island. He’s a bit grumpy about it. Mab means for him to keep his word and he is now the Winter Knight. First, he has to spend months at Arctis Tor in physical therapy. Thankfully, he has a competent and beautiful therapist, Sarissa, to help him through it. Unfortunately, he is tested nearly daily by Mab herself and this often means sharp pointy things being flung at this head.

Harry is introduced to the Winter Court on his birthday with a big party. Of course, these are the fae and a party wouldn’t be complete without some serious injuries. Maeve shows up in her vagazelled birthday suit and taunts Harry in a variety of ways. Then a Red Cap makes the mistake of harming Sarissa and this gives Harry the opportunity to show off his new powers as the Winter Knight. Once the festivities have tamed down a bit, Mab quietly sets Harry on his first task for her: kill one of her strongest minions, a specific immortal. Harry is going to be hard pressed to carry out that order!

Back in Changes, Harry had a lot happen to him that changed his life – he lost his office, apartment, car, etc. Now in this book, I actually see Harry has changed. We’ve seen Harry pressed to the limits before, having to make hard decisions. These things over time have aged him; some have given him wisdom and some have subtly changed him in other ways, like becoming more cynical. Now he has the mantel of the Winter Knight and that means he not only has this magnificent power, he also has these animalistic urges to protect what is his and destroy anything that threatens him and his, and sometimes even those things that deny him his will. Harry has this roiling mass of violence and lust just beneath the surface that he has to keep in check all the time, or does he? The poor man will be tested sorely!

First things first: very few people know that Harry is still alive. All his friends think he is dead. So you can imagine what it’s like for him to stroll up as the Winter Knight. Ha! There was a plethora of feelings here as he reunited with his friends. Some were angry. Some were happy. Some had very mixed emotions. Then Harry himself has quite a few emotions about being alive and being the Winter Knight.

Harry doesn’t have a place to stay in the mundane world, so Molly puts him up at her swanky apartment. Apparently, she did a job for the svartelves and they were quite pleased with her work. I should mention that all that physical therapy and combat training with Mab has left Harry well muscled. Molly wasn’t the only one who noticed. 😉

Harry ends up at Mac’s for a brew and a sandwich when the Outsiders make an appearance. We’ve had little snippets of the Outsiders in previous books but this is the first book where we get some solid info on them. There’s some senior characters that have been working hard to keep the Outsiders out and few people know the extent of these efforts. Harry wasn’t the only one whose mind was blown by some of the big reveals in this book concerning the Outsiders. Lots of good stuff going on there.

I liked that Bob the Skull ended up with Waldo Butters. Bob is very fond of the internet – ha! Harry needs to pick Bob’s brain on how to kill an immortal and indeed there is one way that Bob knows of. Pretty soon, Harry’s friends are rallying around him to assist in stopping yet another disaster. But first there is the Wild Hunt to contend with. Let me just say that the Kris Kringle bit was awesome.

There’s a significant reveal about Demon Reach island and that was unexpected but also deliciously evil. Demon Reach has definitely developed it’s own personality these past few books. The final big fight scene involved nudity and that made me laugh in the face of all the grimness. Well done! There’s some silliness with Karrin Murphy and her motorcycle that started off OK but then felt a little forced later on. There were several unexpected outcomes to the final fight and at least one of them is a game changer. Jim Butcher continues to surprise me, even though this is the 14th book in the series. Book 15, Skin Game, is out and I suggest you have it ready to go because you are going to want to know how events in this book change the lives of your favorite characters going forward.

Narration: Once again, James Marsters is Harry Dresden. I wonder if he has a leather trench coat and carved staff that he takes with him to the recording studio to channel Dresden. I really enjoyed his performance in this book. He had an evil Sidhe grimalkin (which is a large talking cat) to perform –  and he did it awesomely. Then his voices for Mother Winter and Kris Kringle were also great. Hearing Kringle be so cheerful about hunting was a little chilling. Mother Winter! So powerful! So evil! And perhaps a touch of dementia going on. It’s simply another great performance.

What I Liked: Harry has to face reuniting with friends and family; Harry has put on some muscle; Molly has gotten her life together; Harry’s quest to kill an immortal turns into so much more; more info about the Outsiders; more info about Demon Reach island; the big fight scene – in the nude!; consequences of that fight scene; great cover art; great narration.

What I Disliked: I did feel that the bit with Murphy and her bike was a little over done.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Critic

Fangs for the Fantasy

Geeks of Doom

Elitist Book Reviews

The Ranting Dragon

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

ButcherGhostStoryWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2015)

Length: 17 hours 36 minutes

Series: Book 13 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

In the previous book, Changes, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s finest (and only) wizard, lost everything in the gambit to save his daughter.  He lost his office, his apartment, his car, and broke his back. So he had to make a deal with the lesser of three evils. His ability to walk restored, he soldiered on and while he saved his daughter from the Red Court vampires he also lost his life at the end of Changes. So this story opens with ghost Harry in a train station. There he meets a familiar face, Karrin Murphy’s old partner who died in one of the earliest books. He gives Harry some info but mostly evades questions as he ushers Harry over to Captain Murphy’s office –  Karrin’s long deceased father. There Harry is given a choice – he can continue on his ghostly journey (and, no, they don’t know what waits outside of their ghostly city) or he can go back as a ghost to prevent harm from coming to three of his friends.

Of course, we all know what Harry decides. So he’s dropped off outside Mortimer’s because he’s the only guy Harry knows that has the ability to reliably communicate with ghosts. There we meet one of Mortimer’s protectors, Sir Steward. Sir Steward explains more about who the ghost world works and Harry has to be rather careful to not think too loudly less he attract ghosts who want to devour his essence. I really liked Sir Steward. He had a dry sense of humor and a strong sense of honor and a very solid idea of who and what he is, which has allowed his ghost to live on as long as it has.

Harry had an uphill battle the entire time in this book. It was crazy. He’s been dead for 6 months and while no one retrieved his body, there was far too much blood left at the scene. So lots of folks have trouble believing that either Harry is dead (Karrin) or that he is a ghost zipping around trying to rescue folks (nearly everyone). Even Mortimer, who accepts that Harry’s dead, doesn’t want anything to do with his ghost. But Harry saves his life and Mortimer gives him a small amount of his time, initially. Harry has to keep on hacking away (pleading, bargaining, threatening) at Mortimer to get more of his time.

Things have gone to rubble while Harry was away. Molly has become unpredictable and homeless. Karrin lost her job. The streets are dangerous now in nearly every neighborhood. Things that had stayed away from Chicago because Harry protected it have come creeping in. But not all is doom and gloom. Mister, Harry’s cat, made it out of the fire in the last book and found a decent home. Mouse, his dog, is happily guarding his daughter who also landed in a loving home. There’s plenty more along those lines, some of which jerked some emotions out of me. Harry, in classic ghost story form, gets a good look at what his presence meant to those that cared for him.

OK, so besides all the feels in this book, there’s plenty of action too. Harry has been tasked with finding his own killer, which is no easy feat. Then this bully and low-level magic user makes his presence known by ordering a drive-by shooting. Through him, Harry learns that one of his old enemies is in town, but this enemy has a new and powerful sidekick. So Harry is floating  around (or sometimes zipping around) Chicago learning to use his ghostly skills and fighting crime. Yay! He’s also learned to make use of that grave that the Black Court vampire lady bought for him several books back. A ghost has to rest sometimes.

Since memories have power in ghostland, and can also be used to trade for favors, we get to learn more of Harry’s past. I was particularly intrigued by the memories of his time with Justin DuMorn. Harry keeps getting more and more complicated – and I like it!

The ending was fantastic! I loved the final fight scenes and how folks came together to do what they could. It was a lot of fun but also filled with tension and since Butcher killed off Harry I have this fear that he might start bumping off favorite characters. Lots of good stuff went down in that final fight scene.

Afterwards, we learn a few more tidbits. The mystery of Harry’s killer has been revealed. Harry has a chance to see his family members, such as Thomas. I have to say that I felt Butcher bent the rules just a little on the Thomas/Justine love but don’t touch thing. It was sweet but I also felt it was a cheat. Anyway, it’s such a minor thing. The ending did have one last surprise, so I hope you have the next book handy. This was another excellent addition to one of my favorite series.

Narration: This book was originally narrated by John Glover but fans had become accustomed to James Marsters’s performances and didn’t want a switch in narrators this late in the series. So Penguin Audio re-recorded it with James Marsters. Hooray! His performance was spot on, as always. Harry has some really complex emotions in this book, usually about his daughter, and Marsters did an excellent job of getting those across to the listener. I also loved his voices for Molly as she impersonates various characters from the original Star Trek crew.

What I Liked: Harry has a whole new set of rules to figure out; the key to the mystery of who killed Harry; what became of his friends and pets after his death; Mortimer’s continued resistance to become entangled in Harry’s ghostly affairs; the big final fight scene; the warp up; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: There is this teensy criticism about Thomas and Justine and their work around.

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

iO9

Fantasy Book Critic

Changes by Jim Butcher

ButcherChangesWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 15 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 12 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Out of Harry’s past, Susan Rodriguez gives him a call, though it isn’t to swap the latest news of their lives. Their daughter, Maggie, has been taken by the Red Court vampires and Harry is ready to go on the war path. Harry will give up plenty in this book in order to save a child he has never met.

Way back on my review for Book 3, I said that’s when the series gets real and the ante was upped. Now, this is the book that showed me the author isn’t afraid to push that envelope to the breaking point. I had plenty of emotions on this one, even on the reread. Harry can take only so much abuse!

Susan, who is tainted with Red Court vampire bite but has held off the change all these years, flies into town with her sidekick, Martin (who shares the same affliction). They work with Harry, Thomas, and Murphy to dig up info on one of the leaders of the Red Court, Arianna Ortega. Harry soon learns that he’s got a pair of vampire assassins after him and they have some monstrous near-jaguar thing (which he calls the Ick) with them. The Ick quickly scraps his car and the assassins take out his office. It only gets more heated from there.

Harry calls in every favor owed him and then some in his hunt for info on his daughter’s location. He even burns a few bridges with the White Council of wizards in doing so. A handful of folks guess why this one human child is worth so much to him and all who know advise him to keep that very, very quiet. Meanwhile, Harry is advised to seek out some assistance from crime lord John Marcone, who points him to Monoc Securities. This is one of my favorite little parts of the book. I love that the author starts to pull in some deities as Harry gains in power.

The assassins aren’t done with Harry and he continues to lose things that matter to him. Eventually, he’s trapped between a rock and a hard place and he has to do something he never wanted to do. That was tough. It makes a great read and a great story but I also felt for Harry in that moment when he makes the decision.

The last quarter of the book is this long running battle full of individual triumphs and failures as Harry and his friends face off with the Red Court. It’s incredible! So many people laying it all on the line against such odds and Harry really letting his inner dark side out to play! It was intense but not fatiguing.

There are plenty of repercussions to that lengthy fight. Some we know by the end of the book and some we don’t until later in the series. That’s one thing I really enjoy about this series: your actions have repercussions, no matter your reasons. For instance, Murphy took yet more time off from work to assist Harry and she will pay for that. We also learn some things about Harry’s past and about his mother. All in all, I think this is one of the best books in the series.

Narration: James Marsters continues to do awesome work with this series. He is angry Harry, tender Harry, sad Harry, relieved Harry, etc. He really owns this character. In this book, he also does a great job with some Mayan words (such as the full name of the Ick). His voice for the Red King of the Red Court Vampires is chilling. I also love his voice for the delighted, and perhaps slightly demented, Liana (Harry’s fairy godmother).

What I Liked: Several significant changes happen to Harry in this book; actions have consequences; Harry pulls out all the stops to rescue his daughter; there’s at least one kiss, betrayal, sword fights, might and magic, and overwhelming odds!; great narration; significant ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – one of the best books in the series!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

Guild Master Gaming

iO9

Fantasy Book Critic

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

ButcherTurnCoatWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 14 hours 4o minutes

Series: Book 11 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard PI, was quite surprised to find Warden Donald Morgan on his doorstep asking for his assistance. Even though Morgan tormented Harry for years, Harry can’t help but be curious. Morgan has been accused of treason by the White Council and Harry has a limited time to figure out who really did the deed.

For all those who wondered what Harry and Morgan could accomplish if they could set aside their animosities and suspicions, this book contains the answer. I loved the set up for this book. Harry and Morgan have detested each other for years and Morgan has tried to execute Harry every chance he got. Now Morgan is forced by circumstance to go to Harry for assistance. Haha! I think it’s Harry’s deathwish-cat level of curiosity that makes the decision for him to take up the challenge of hiding Morgan while trying to uncover the real culprit.

Harry and Morgan aren’t the only two that harbor suspicions – this book brings in various characters that distrust one another. Harry trusts Molly to tend to Morgan’s wounds, but Morgan has just as much dislike for Molly as he does Harry. Then Thomas is brought into the mix – and Morgan can’t contain himself when it comes to vampires, even White Court vampires! Luckily, Mouse, Harry’s dog, has the most common sense and forcibly quells disagreements a few times. Mouse is my hero!

Something horrible is tracking Morgan, besides the White Council wizards. I don’t want to spoil what it is, so I’ll just use Harry’s petname for it- Shagnasty. It’s strong. It’s brutal. Morgan defeated one once, but it took great timing and a serious bomb. Harry might not be able to pull off the same. Butcher does a great job of getting across just how evil and dangerous this thing is! Billy and the college campus werewolves make an appearance in this book and they take their first hard hit in fighting Shagnasty. A bit sad. But that just fuels the fire for taking out Shagnasty.

I do believe this is the first full length novel we meet the mortal, every-day kind of PI Vince in, though I think he appears in one of the earliest short stories. Vince isn’t willing to give Harry much info. However, he’s probably no match for Molly. We also have our first introduction to Binder, a low-level magic user with one trick, though it’s an effective trick. He wreaks havoc on Harry’s attempts to keep Morgan hidden and to keep his apartment in one piece. Toss in the on-going tortured love between Thomas and his mortal girlfriend Justine, a deceptive yet stupid cousin of Lara Wraith’s, Shagnasty capturing and torturing one of Harry’s companions, the distrust of Antonia Luccio, and then Harry has his work cut out for him!

The ending to this book surprised me the first time I read it. During this reread, it still hit hard. I can see this as one of those turning points in Harry’s life. He spent a chunk of his teen years and his early adulthood fearing and hating Morgan. Now, as a wizard in his own right and a man who has been through a lot of scary stuff, he still had all this emotional baggage towards Morgan. Yet he helps him because he believes in doing what is right. There at the end, Morgan asks Harry to continue to do what’s right even though that means covering up the truth for now. It was a bit of a gut-wrencher but very worthy!

Narration: James Marsters, our Harry Dresden incarnate, continues to do the character justice. I’ve always liked his stern voice for Morgan; in this book, we get to see more sides to Morgan and Marsters does a good job of keeping that stern voice while also letting some other emotions creep in. Shagnasty’s voice must have done a number on Marsters vocal cords! It was so harsh and creepy!

What I Liked: Morgan needs Harry’s help; Mouse’s common sense keeps Harry’s guests from killing each other; Shagnasty is probably Harry’s toughest opponent yet; the ending has plenty of serious stuff; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

Daniel’s Corner Unlimited

Fantasy Book Review

The Mad Hatter’s Book Shelf & Book Review

Bloggity Award and Other Stuff

Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn blog recently nominated me for the Real Neat Blog award. I tend to enjoy blog awards because it forces me to be a little more personable and chatty. Plus, we all get to talk about books.

The Rules:

    • Thank and link the blogger that nominated you.
    • Answer the 7 questions that the nomination has provided you.
    • Create 7 questions for your nominees.
    • Nominate 7 other bloggers.
    • Bend said rules

1. If you could meet any author, from any time (past and present), who would that be and what would be your most pressing question?

That’s a tough one. Andre Norton (Forerunner Foray, Timetraders, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (for his Pip & Flynx series), Isaac Asimov (for his Lucky Starr series), and Anne McCaffrey (for her Dragonriders of Pern series) all an impact on me as a kid and it would be cool to get a drink with them and find out what books, authors, or artists had an impact on them.

2. Who is your absolute favorite character, ever. I know you’re probably groaning and rolling your eyes but there must be one character that springs to mind immediately – probably followed by a host of others – but, I want that first knee jerk reaction please and why!

I find that if you ask me this today, you’ll get one answer and if you ask 6 months from now, you’ll get another. I’m easily swayed by whatever I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying at the moment. Let’s go with Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard PI. I like how he can think out side of the box and come up with crazy polka powered T-rex zombie type solutions to messed up situations.

3. What is your favorite series out of all the books you’ve read?  The series you would recommend without hesitation.

I will always adore Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange Cycle. The epic fantasy, the alternate history, breaking so many standard tropes! However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone because of the sex. I love the sex, and that’s part of what breaks so many dated, sexist standards in fantasy fiction, but is everyone ready for it? Personally, 9/10 people I recommend this series to, has enjoyed it.

4. What’s your preferred reading format, book or e-reader?

These days I do a lot of audiobooks. I dabble in other formats, but find that my deep fatigue from illness makes concentration an issue. Audiobooks are great for me because I don’t get hung up on typos, grammatical errors, large words that I once knew but now find difficult to connect meanings to, etc. The story continues with an audiobook no matter what issues the book may or may not have.

5. The book you were most looking forward to but ended up being really disappointed with?

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. Wow! This book was a bit of a snoozer for me. The main character that ties it all together, that everyone knows or is tied to in some manner, is pretty darn boring. I kept on with it to the end hoping it would get better. There’s plenty of interesting side characters and I liked the slower pacing than usual for the fall of modern society story. But instead the book really is about this one guy who is pretty bland.

6. Blogging – what do you love/not love – any embarrassing moments?

I love that I don’t have a schedule. I blog when I feel like it (or when I feel up to it) and can take a break from it when I don’t. I like that I have kept it small and just blog what I want to blog about and don’t try to force myself into being glitzy, trendy, or the first to post a review on the latest hot ARC. There’s plenty of blogs that do focus on those things, and I’m glad they’re out there because I read them.

So far, I haven’t done anything too embarrassing. I know my typos and such have gone up this past year while I have been sick. But in the big scheme of things, that’s rather small.

7. Most anticipated book for the remainder of 2016?

Kevin Hearne is coming out with his first epic fantasy, I think. Hooray! I really enjoy his Iron Druid Chronicles (urban fantasy). Scott Lynch may be releasing his next Gentleman Bastards book (hooray!). As far as I know, there’s no release date yet for Peace Talks by Jim Butcher. Henry Hertz & his two sons have at least 2 more kids books coming out this year – they’re always so well illustrated! Of course, the next A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I always look forward to something new from Jim Bernheimer. I’m hoping Domino Finn does another Sycamore Moon book. I’ve really enjoyed the first 3 Jonathan Shade urban fantasy books by Gary Jonas and I’m hoping he puts more of the series out as audiobooks. Joe Hempel does a great job narrating them.

Here’s my 7 questions:

If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be and what would you be doing?

What makes you cringe?

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Bonus Question: If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class about your favorite genre, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

While I will mention some favorite blogs below, I’m going to leave this open mic. If you find the questions (or my answers) amusing, feel free to chime in down in the comments or create your own blog post answering them – if you let me know you did so, I’ll swing by and check it out.

I like to visit author David Lee Summers blog for the steampunk – most definitely for the steampunk. Viviana, Enchanstress of Books is doing a lot of cool audiobook stuff this month. Broken Teepee has a fun mix of home gardening, book reviews, and info on home brewing kits and such. I’ve found Home Cooked Books by narrator Karen White to be a fun place with lots of interesting bits on what it’s like to make an audiobook. Violin in a Void is constantly expanding my world of books, and I like her focus on African authors and book blogs. Mike Powell is a photographer and he focuses on nature. I especially love his photos of herons. Evelyn Aster, who writes mostly contemporary romance (which, admittedly, is a bit outside my favorite genres), regularly posts pics of her fancy nails and her fancy drinks.

On a personal note, I haven’t been as involved as I normally am due to chronic illness. 2015 was one of the toughest years of my life and 2016 is shaping up to be as well. However, just last month I finally got a diagnosis! Hooray! Turns out I have many, many tiny blood clots throughout my lungs. Because the blood clots have been tiny, the condition didn’t present with the normal sharp pains to the chest, etc. Various scans and doctors missed it, and I was often misdiagnosed as having an asthma exacerbation. Now my doctors suspect the blood clots could have been going on as long as 2 years, with my lungs absorbing at least some of them. Because it went on so long, I have a moderately high case of pulmonary hypertension, which in turn has enlarged my heart. So, I have lots of work to do to get better and it will take many months. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since January and will be for at least a few more months, perhaps longer.

So, if you pinged me about something and I haven’t responded, feel free to ping me again. I’ve been hypoxic for probably about 12 months now and when your brain doesn’t have it’s regular stream of healthy oxygen, you get stupid, tired, and forgetful.

Small Favor by Jim Butcher

ButcherSmallFavorWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 13 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 10 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Billygoat? If you’re not, then you should be and this story serves as a good example as to why. The story starts off with a friendly snowball fight at the Carpenter household, which then turns into a murderous brawl between Harry and some gruffs (which look a lot like upright billygoats). As Harry ponders over the implications of this latest tussle, Sargent Karrin Murphy of the Chicago PD tasks him with checking out a site with his wizardly senses. There he finds a large pentacle…. and Mab, a Queen of the Winter Court. She calls in a small favor from Harry: John Marcone, crime lord of Chicago, has gone missing and Mab wants him found.

When Mab is in the human world, her voice alone can kill mortals. So she talks through a grimalkin, which is like an extra evil large cat. The things Mab can do to Harry with just her voice make me shudder! And Toottoot tried to warn Harry, but Harry is too curious for his own good.

This is probably my 2nd or 3rd reading of this book and for some reason I always forget everything about it except for the gruffs because they are awesome and scary. And perhaps because Harry is always mentioning their..um… tackle. So once again I was pleasantly surprised by what took place in this installment of the series.

The Denarians are back in play and they are after something pretty darn important, if only Harry could figure out what it is in time. He teams up with Anastasia Luccio (a Warden for the White Council of wizards), Ivy the Archive (who has everything that’s ever been written down in human history memorized), and her bodyguard Kincaide (who has a secret supernatural side). Eventually, Harry has to make some hard choices about whether or not to do a trade with the Denarians. He is not a happy camper about it and he decides to play dirty (hooray!).

Luccio actually makes a play for Harry and he is totally oblivious. Poor dude. Bob the Skull has to point it out to him later. Of course Bob does it with his usual entertaining sarcasm. Harry’s love life, tho small and intermittent, is a mess.

Sanya and Michael (both Knight Templars with saintly swords) lend a hand in the final showdown. Murphy, Thomas Wraith of the vampire White Court, Molly (Harry’s apprentice), and Toottoot with the honor guard faeries all volunteer to help Harry out in some way. This lengthy scene is pretty intense. Harry finally puts a name to what Ms. Guard is, besides being a very deadly assistant to John Marcone. Harry also discovers a new power which, upon explanation from Bob, scares a little poo out of him.

One of the things I really like about this series, is that as the stakes get higher, the consequences go up as well. People get injured. In this book, one of Harry’s friends takes a hard hit and the book leaves us wondering just how bad it is. It’s a good thing the next book in the series is already out. Also, more and more Harry is learning that he can’t be the sole person to fight evil; he needs help from friends and allies and he won’t be able to protect them all.

Narration: James Marsters continues on as the voice of Harry Dresden. I really liked his creepy voice for the grimalkin and his uber-creepy voice for Mab. As always, his voice for Toottoot is both amusing and sincere. Marsters makes a pretty good gruff too, sounding like an angry billygoat.

What I Liked: The stakes are raised; Harry has friends and questionable allies along for the ride; the Denarians return for another round; Mab doesn’t accept Harry’s insolence lightly; the final big showdown at the end.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

Grasping for the Wind

Daniel’s Corner Unlimited

Notes from a Readerholic

Writing About Reading

White Night by Jim Butcher

ButcherWhiteNightWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 14 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 9 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Karrin Murphy has taken a vacation day and she has chosen to spend that day showing Harry a supposed suicide crime scene. She has her doubts and Harry Dresden, Chicago’s wizard PI, has his ways of accessing info that most people aren’t privy to. Now Harry finds himself drawn into a series of murders (which look like suicides on the surface) of low-level magic users. As he starts chasing down leads, he and Karrin can’t help but turn a questioning eye towards Thomas Wraith as a man matching his description was last seen with several of the victims.

Harry is now in charge, officially, of Molly’s magical training and this is the first murder investigation he takes her on. The first step is the morgue and a visit with the mortician Waldo Butters. Harry takes the time to teach Molly the basics about reading a corpse of some of it’s final memories. Molly was pretty nervous but her first foray into this little magic trick isn’t what any of them expected. Ha! It does give Harry one more piece of info on the killer but not near enough to figure out who it is.

This book brings back some old enemies and frenemies and brings in some new ones. There’s gentleman John Marcone, Chicago’s crime lord, and a personal favorite of mine. Harry and Marcone often grudgingly swap info and this time Harry will need Marcone’s muscle. Then there’s Thomas’s sister Lara Wraith. A new enemy plus an enemy Harry thought was dead bring some ghouls to the party and the festivities are well underway.

Murphy and Harry have messed with ghouls before. Pretty messy things and hard to kill when they are in a group. In this book, Harry has some flashbacks to one of his side jobs during a summer in New Mexico when he was training some of the new Wardens in combat magic. Ghouls are gruesome and Harry has it out for them. I like that we have this degenerate enemy that we can feel guilt-free in totally hating but I also like that Butcher doesn’t make them mindless.

Harry and a few other wizards have suspected for a while that there is some evil force working within the White Council but Harry has had no proof and no person to point the finger at. In this book, Harry gets a few more hints and some definite indicators that this nebulous evil force wants Harry out of the picture. This being a reread for me, it’s great to see how well Butcher lays some ground work here for some big things that come later.

Harry’s old flame Elaine returns to the storyline and provides Murphy and Harry with some help on their investigation. Now, I’ve never quite gotten around to trusting Elaine fully. But Harry does and for now that will have to be good enough for me. On one hand, I find her hard to trust because she doesn’t have an allegiance to any group and she works hard to stay under the radar. On the other hand, I think younger Harry might have done much the same if he had gotten the chance. So until Elaine proves to be a bad guy, I have to mark her down as an asset and a good guy.

Ramirez strolls back in to the plot and strikes up a flirt with Molly. Ramirez talks a bit of a game but once he’s faced with the White Court vampires, his sexual prowess is revealed in detail. Ha! Still, Ramirez stands besides Harry in the thick of it at the end of the book. It’s quite a show down. It is one of my favorite fight scenes in the series, and a lengthy one at that too. Harry’s snark is allowed to run lose and Lara takes the brunt of it at one point. Mouthwash indeed!

At the end, Harry discovers how Thomas has been keeping himself so well fed and he’s quite surprised! So was I the first time around. Molly has learned a bit about her own limits when it comes to combat magic and situations. Mouse, Harry’s dog, is more than he seems. And there’s tons more fall out from the happenings in this book but I don’t want to get spoilery. Over all, this book has a bit more serious tone to it. Harry is still a smart mouth and that brings some much needed comic relief to certain scenes, but the stakes have gone up. With that, the characters are all getting a bit more serious, pushing on each other harder, lines are drawn in the sand. All together, this is one of my more favorite books in the series.

Narration: James Marsters continues to give this series a fine performance. I greatly enjoyed his voice for Thomas especially when Thomas is putting on a fake French accent. His ghoulish voices sound just as demented, wet, slurred, and deceitful as I imagined they would. Once again, he does a very convincing seductive and charming Lara Wraith.

What I Liked: Thomas is a suspect; Marcone returns to the plot and there is a price for his assistance; Murphy continues to pay a price for helping Harry –  it’s not fair but it’s realistic; Molly’s first on a lot of stuff; the lengthy fight scene at the end; Thomas’s job.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

The Founding Fields

The Book Bag

Sarah’s Reviews

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

ButcherProvenGuiltyWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 16 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 8 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only PI wizard and now a Warden for the White Council, gets called up by Molly to bail her friend out of jail. He’s not happy about it, but he knows that Molly is having some issues. He gets talked into checking out SplatterCon!!! where Molly is one of the lead organizers. The White Council has reports of some evil magic happening in Chicago and they’ve tasked Harry with finding the source and dealing with it. SplatterCon!!! turns out to be a bit scarier than anyone figured when a horror movie monster comes to life and starts taking out the guests. Someone is inviting in phages from the Nevernever. Not good!

Later on, Molly disappears and Harry has to try every trick in the book to locate her. While he is attempting to locate her, he learns some interesting things about Charity, Molly’s mom. I really liked that we get to learn more about her as she has been a rather minor character in the series so far. As we know from previous books, she doesn’t like Harry, and now with Michael (her husband and a Knight Templar) away on ‘business’, she is stuck in this position where Harry is her best hope of finding and helping Molly.

Later on, Harry and some trusted allies have to suit up and head into the Nevernever. Without giving too much away, Thomas of the White Court vampires, is an excellent fighter and there are some great scenes with him kicking in teeth and stomping on faerie wings. The efforts of Harry and crew in the Nevernever have repercussions, some of which are known by the end of this book, but then there are some that don’t become apparent until later in the series. That’s another cool thing about these books. In rereading the series, I can see these ripples easier and it’s just amazing how well laid out the big arching plot is for the series.

Before the book is over, Harry has to face some of his fears as well. One of them, he knows is coming and he has time to think about how he will handle it. The second comes as a bit of a surprise and a relief once he starts talking about. I really liked that Harry had to deal with some of his biggest fears in this book.

At the end of the previous book, Dead Beat, Thomas moved out of Harry’s place. Harry spends the entire book wondering what Thomas is now doing for a living. He’s looking healthy and Harry worries that he’s turned to the dark side in feeding. The ending to this little mystery is quite amusing but we don’t get that until later in the series.

As usual, there’s a slew of returning characters in this book. Police officer Rawlins, who knew Murphy’s dad back in the day, is tasked with guarding a crime scene that Harry wants access to. Murphy of course is around and also accompanies Harry into the Nevernever. Lashiel’s carbon copy in Harry’s head is rather insistent in being of assistance and Harry learns some mental skills in blocking her out. The Lady Summer Lily and her Knight Fix put in an appearance as well. Even Harry’s godmother has a little role. There’s more, but these are the ones that stood out to me. This book is another great addition to the series and I had a lot of fun with the fear theme for the book.

Narration: James Marsters continues to do a worthy Harry Dresden. His female voices are on good display with this book : Charity, Molly, Lashiel, Murphy, Harry’s godmother, the Summer Lady, etc. He makes them all distinct and feminine.

What I Liked: The theme of fear used throughout the book; SplatterCon!!!; Molly has a lot of issues; Charity’s trusting of Harry; the gang goes to the Nevernever; Harry has to face 2 of his biggest fears.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

The Founding Fields

The Ranting Dragon

L. K. Evans