The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRising

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Skin Game by Jim Butcher

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Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxOnAmazonia

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwood

The Green Children by Domino Finn

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Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

JonasDragonGate

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

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A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

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I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

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My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

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My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

VonnegutCatsCradleTofu

As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

Heya Everyone! I was recently tagged by The Audiobookworm in this fun book tag. Feel free to comment on my book choices or to add your own for each category in the comments. I’m going to tag a few people at the end, but if you want to throw up a post with your answers, leave me your link in the comments so I can swing by.

1. “Tale As Old As Time” – A popular theme, trope or setting you will never get bored of reading.

Theme – Underdog

BrownRedRisingThe Red Rising series by Pierce Brown was excellent. Can’t wait to see more from this author. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a mash up of Roman mythology/military command structure with terraforming of Mars and beyond. Be proud of your scars. You’ve earned them!

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainD-List Supervillain series by Jim Bernheimer – which is just a lot of damn fun! Mostly, the supervillains in this series are just anti-organization. The various super-characters are imaginative and there’s plenty of humor.

Trope – Artificial Intelligence

DircksTheWrongUnitI recently read a whole bunch of AI stuff. The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks was a delight. It had that right mix of humor and serious bits. The AI units are programmed to learn to care for their humans, so the anthropomorphizing of the AI units is realistically built into the story.

PerreaultProgenyRay Jay Perreault has written several stories that feature AI and I have been enjoying making my way through his audiobooks. Progeny is one of my favorite AI stories, though his AIs run the gamut of cold, calculating evil to human-like societal beings.

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Serengeti by JB Rockwell was super intense in several ways. The story starts off with a space battle and the AIs are the ships, though they all have human crews. This space battle takes perhaps as much as half the book. Then the second half is the story of this one ship trying to limp home. The humans have to go into stasis, so that just leaves the ship’s AI and her little AI minion bots. The struggle to reach their goal, to stay sane over the lengthy years, to keep functioning just enough to keep the human crew alive – just an excellent tale.

Setting – Ancient Times

There’s plenty of stuff that happened in ancient times. Most of it is interesting, gritty, and dramatic. Here’s a list of some of the stuff I’ve read so far and have really enjoyed.

SmithRiseOfZenobiaConn Iggulden’s Emperor series – This series focuses on Julius Caesar, starting with his boyhood years and going all the way through his life to the dramatic, bitter end.

The Rise of Zenobia by JD Smith – set during the Roman empire in the Syrian city of Palmyra. I learned from this book and that always is a plus.

John Maddox Roberts’s SPQR murder mystery series – Set in 1st century ancient Rome during the time of Crassus and Pompey. Who could resist murder mystery and ancient Rome? Not me!

Patrick Bowman’s retelling of The Odyssey for young adults – The Odyssey of the Slave series. In this series, the focus is on a young lad who is taken as a slave when the famous city of Troy falls.

Colossus by Colin Falconer – This is a tale of Alexander the Great. Technically, it’s an alternate history, but if you don’t know much abut Alexander and the arc of his life, you wouldn’t know it. I really enjoyed this tale – elephants!

The Sekhmet Bed by LM Ironside – set in ancient Egypt. Ahmose was raised up to Great Royal Wife status. Political intrigue plays a big role in this story.

RobertsClaimedByTheEnemyRise to Power by Uvi Poznansky – set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BCE. This is the first book in a series about David and his rise to power told from a secular point of view.

Claimed by the Enemy by Shauna Roberts – despite the title and the cover art, this book is pretty darn good. Set in ancient Mesopotamia during the time of King Sargon, the book focuses on two young individuals who were placed in difficult positions.

2. Belle – A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too

KayUnderHeavenGuy Gavriel Kay never fails to provide a beautiful story and his covers are always so well done. Recently, I read Children of Earth and Sky, and the cover is indeed just as beautiful as the tale inside. If you said I had to pick my favorite GGK novel, I would be hard-pressed to say which it was. His Sarantium duology is about the fall of an empire, so plenty of vast ideas going on there but with excellent pinpoint characters that do a great job of showing the human side. I also loved The Lions of Al-Rassan, which is based on Moorish Spain. There’s plenty of areas of conflict but also plenty of areas for commonality. I could go on and on, but you should just go pick up some GGK for yourself.

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear was one of my favorite reads of 2015. The cover did a great job of capturing the Wild West and Steampunk mix of the story. Karen was also a wonderful character, not being a stereotypical kick ass heroine that are so abundant lately. She does kick ass, she’s just also a real person who happens to be brave when backed into a corner.

3. Beast – A book you didn’t expect much from but pleasantly surprised you.

AllendeZorroZorro by Isabel Allende was a pleasant surprise. In essence, it was an origin story for Zorro. I loved watching the black & white TV show was a kid so it was pretty cool to read this book and get Allende’s take on how Zorro came to be. There was a lot more depth to this character than I expected, which, in retrospect, was silly of me. Zorro lived during a time of Spanish colonialism in the New World – there were plenty of cultures and conflicts. Allende did a great job of pulling those elements into this tale.

ClinesTheFoldThe Fold by Peter Clines was one of the best SF Thriller novels I have read. It was fun. It was intense. It had SF themes that I could get into. The characters were also interesting, especially the lead guy who has a true eidetic memory. This was both a help and a hindrance to him.

King11226311-22-63 by Stephen King is the first King novel I have read. It won’t be the last. King did a really great job with the characters in this book. I know some folks have labeled him as a horror novelist, and nothing more. However, this book shows that he has a lot more going on. It’s obvious he put quite a bit of research in to the time and location (1963, Texas) of the bulk of the book. While I do expect that as I explore King’s works, this novel won’t be my favorite but it certainly delivered more than I expected.

4. Gaston – A book everyone loves that you don’t.

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel – I was on the fence about this one. I liked that it was a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that wasn’t full of angst. However, I didn’t really care for the character Arthur Leander, who all the other characters are somehow connected with. He was boring and I wanted to know more about these other characters but the story kept coming back to him.

CoehloAlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – it’s a young man’s adventure quest and it’s been done so many times before. All the ladies are in some subservient role, which is also a standard (unfortunately) in such adventure tales. Most of the men have a Personal Legend to find or to fullfill. Meanwhile, the 3 female characters lack any such ambition.

Grahame-SmithAbrahamLincolnVampireHunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – The most exciting parts of this book were the dream sequences and even those were mean tricks. The reader enters each of the dream sequences as if they are the next part of the story and only at the end of the scene do you realize it’s a dream. I really liked Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and his Unholy Nights was pretty entertaining as well, so I was sad to say that I found this book to be a snoozer.

5. Lefou – A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counter part.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraJean Tannen from The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch – This series is full of creative cursing, thievery, camaraderie, magic, death, romance, pirates, evil people getting their due, the good guys getting the crap beaten out of them, and more creative cursing.

PriestBloodshotHeldigAdrian from the Cheshire Red Reports by Cherie Priest – Adrian is still a bit of a mystery, since I have only read the first 2 books in this series (I hope there will be more in the series!). He’s ex-military on a search for his missing kid sister. He’s also a dragqueen, and his parents have disowned him because of this. He makes a great sidekick for Raylene, the vampire thief.

6. Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumier & Cogsworth – A book that helped you through a difficult time or that taught you something valuable.

For over a year now, I have been going through this medical thing. I’ve basically been on bed rest for a year now and I was finally diagnosed in May with CTEPH – which is basically blood clots that have hardened in my pulmonary arteries, which has caused pulmonary hypertension to a moderately high degree, which will be fatal…. in perhaps 6-10 years, unless I have this big, kinda cool in a SF way, kinda scary in a mortality rate way, surgery. That’s scheduled for early February. So, these books have helped me cope with this lengthy process.

Good cat, good book, what else does one need?

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford – this is a coloring book for adults and it’s the first one I ever bought. It’s remarkably detailed and it’s pretty amazing how coloring really takes me out of my current situation. Also, it’s something I  can do while listening to audiobooks.

CareyKushiel'sDartTerre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey – This series has been awesome and I have been part of a group read along with several wonderful ladies on the blogosphere. I’ve read Book 1, Kushiel’s Dart, so many times but it was quite something to share it with others in this in-depth discussion of the book. We started the read along back in May 2015, and now we’re on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss. We’ll have to finish the last two books after my surgery – so that gives me something to look forward to. If you haven’t checked this series out, then I highly recommend it for alternate history and epic fantasy fans. I know sometimes it gets panned because there is plenty of sex in it, but the amount sex doesn’t outweigh all the awesomeness – the political intrigue, the sword fights, the desperate straights of the heroes, the saving of the realm! Honestly, the sex enhances the characters instead of just being padding to up the page count.

7. “Something There” – A book or a series that you weren’t into at first but picked up towards the end.

JordanPathOfDaggersThe Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – It took me about 4 books to really get into this series, but I’m very glad I read it as it is a touchstone for epic fantasy fans. The first book really took a lot from Tolkien’s works and I was bit insulted the first and second time I read it. However, I was encouraged by a great group of book bloggers, who were part of this big 2+ years-long read along of the series, to keep going. Also, in an interview, Jordan spoke about how he wanted to model Book 1 on Tolkien’s works to give readers something familiar. Eventually, starting at Book 4, Jordan’s genius really starts to show through. I am very much hoping they do make this series in to a quality TV series or a quality series of movies.

8. “Be Our Guest” – A fictional character you’d love to have over for dinner.

ButcherDeadBeatHarry Dresden & Bob the Skull from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files – This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. The first few can be read in any order, but I think the series is best read in order since the larger story arc starts really building on itself around Book 4 or 5, though there are small things even in Book 1 that are tied into again later in the series. Bob would be a hoot at any dinner party. He doesn’t get much socializing, so he lacks all those hindrances that make most dinner conversations so dull.

HearneShatteredAtticus & Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles – this is yet another favorite urban fantasy series. Oberon would bring the appetite and the humor with his simple doggy demands. Atticus, being the 2000+ year old druid that he is, would be able to chat about several entertaining subjects.

Tagging Others

So now I would like to tag some other bookish folks, though please don’t feel obligated if this isn’t your cup of tea. Also, if I don’t tag you but you want to play along, please do! And leave me a comment with a link to your post so I can visit.

Lynn from Books and Travelling

Andrea from Little Red Reviewer

Julie from Oh, Julie!

Austine from Novel Knight

Book Wins from Novel Knight
Book Wins from Novel Knight

And I would like to smash into this long post a big thank you to Austine! I won a very fun book package from her recently. It was full of books and bookish things and fake tattoos and a red mask and nail art. And then she wrapped everything in gold paper! This box of goodies was such an upper, especially since I have been sick. I loved unwrapping everything and modeling the mask, tattoos, and nail art for my man. Thank you Austine!

A Time Travel Tagging

I was recently tagged by Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn. The subject is all about books and time traveling, in one way or another. I really enjoy these tag posts as they often give me something to talk about without having to use a lot of brainpower. Here are the Q&A.

SummersOwlDanceWhat is your favorite historical setting for a book?

It’s hard to pick just one. I’ve read plenty of stories set in ancient Greece (Mary Renault), Roman murder mysteries & ‘celebrities’ (John Maddox Roberts, Conn Iggulden), and the 1800s of the American West (David Lee Summers, Cherie Priest). Also, the Tudor era attracts me. In fact, I’m currently wrapped up in Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory.

AsimovStarsLikeDustWhat writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Isaac Asimov is near the top of my list. His books feature prominently in my childhood/teen years. I read his Lucky Starr series but also many of his adult novels. For kicks, I’d love to meet Homer and put to rest the age-old argument on whether Homer was male or female or collection of authors. I wouldn’t mind meeting Pearl S. Buck. Her novel, The Good Earth, was required reading in both the 5th and 9th grades (I moved and changed school districts, so that’s why I got hit twice with this classic) and I loved it both times. She had a very interesting life and it wouldn’t just be her books I’d pester her with questions about, but also her travel and years living in China.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraWhat book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

There’s so much good stuff out today! Apart from a few classics, most of the ‘safe’ or required reading I had access to as a kid was boring and often felt fake or like it was missing a big element of life – you know, all the gooey, messy bits that make all the good parts that much better. Luckily, I had full access to any SFF novel in the house and there were plenty of those. So to supplement my childhood bookshelf, I would give myself Andy Weir’s The Martian, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

Chupacabra
Chupacabra

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

I would speed ahead to my future self and hand her a copy of Robert E. Howard’s stories. His writing is some of the best I have enjoyed and yet several of his stories, Conan or otherwise, have certain sexist and racist elements that really repel me. This book would remind me that humans, including myself, are flawed and that things change over the years, such as views on a woman’s proper role in high fantasy adventure. Yet despite these shortcomings, a person can still love a story, or a person, or a country, etc.

ChaneyTheAmberProjectWhat is your favorite futuristic setting from a book?

I always enjoy closed systems and several feature in SF stories. These are domed cities (Logan’s Run by Nolan & Johnson), underground villages (The Amber Project series by JN Chaney), underwater towns (Lucky Starr & the Oceans of Venus by Isaac Asimov), very large space stations (The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey), etc.. There’s the wonder of discovering these places, seeing how they are supposedly working and will go on working forever, and then watching it all come apart in some horrible way that means death for most of the people in the story. Yeah, welcome to my little demented side.

 

Grahame-SmithAustenPrideAndPrejudiceAndZombiesWhat is your favorite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

For fun, I wouldn’t mind visiting Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I really like the idea of making polite ball jokes, decapitating zombies, working out in the dojo, and politely trading British insults over tea. Honestly, I think that is the only way I would survive the Victorian era.

RobertsTheKingsGambitSpoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Back when I was eyeball reading printed books (I do mostly audiobooks now) I had a ritual. I would start a book and at that moment that I knew I was hooked, that I had fallen in love with the story, I would turn to the last page and read the last sentence. Most of the time this didn’t spoil anything, but every once in a while there would be a final line that gave away an important death or such.

PriestMaplecroftIf you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

Actually, I do have a Time Turner. My husband bought it for me at the start of September while he was at an SCA event. It was right after we learned that I was quite sick but a few weeks before we learned just how sick. So, lots of bitter sweet emotions tied up with that piece of jewelry.

Anyhoo, if I had a working one, I would go everywhere and do everything. I would start with planning things that Bill and I have wanted to do together (like celebrating Beltane in a pre-Christian era) and then add in things that I have always wanted to do but which my be a big snooze fest for Bill (such as Charles Darwin’s Beagle voyage).

JonasAnubisNightsFavorite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

Currently, I’m enjoying the Jonathan Shade series by Gary Jonas. Time travel really becomes an element in this urban fantasy series in the second trilogy with Ancient Egypt featuring prominently. I also adore Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I finally read a Stephen King novel, 11-22-63. The characters were great even as the underlying premise was only so-so for me. The Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones was a fun, crazy creature feature.

ButcherColdDaysWhat book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, for sure. I’ve read the early books several times each and I get a laugh out of them each time. Also I would like to experience Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey all over again for the first time. That book showed me how prudish some of my ideas were when I first read it. I wonder what it would show me now? Perhaps the same thing, if indeed this book has had as big an impact on who I am as I think.

Tagging Other People

So in general with these fun tagging posts, I never want anyone to feel obligated to play along. As usual, if any of you want to play along, I definitely encourage you. You can answer any of the questions in the comments or you can throw up your own blog post and then let em know about it so I can come read it. Here are some people who I think would like this particular time travel subject:

David Lee Summers

Under My Apple Tree

Beauty Is A Sleeping Cat

On Starships & Dragonwings

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: C. T. Phipps, Author of Cthulhu Armageddon

CTPhippsAuthorEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author C. T. Phipps. I really enjoyed his book, The Rules of Supervillainy and am very excited to see his latest, Cthulhu Armaggedon, out in audiobook. So don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – an Audible.com version of Cthulhu Armageddon, narrated by Jeffrey Kafer. 

If you could be an extra on a horror movie or TV show, what would it be and what role would you have?

I’d have to say I’d probably do best as an extra on SUPERNATURAL. I wouldn’t really fit in as the bearded pudgy Southern author unless it’s as a zombie on The Walking Dead. I also was a huge fan of the show for the first five seasons with my wife making a regular ritual of it. As for what role I’d have, I’d love to be the guy who gives them a vital clue before dying horribly. I’m realistic about my chances in such a situation.

I’d also love to have a guest starring role on an adaptation of one of my books but baby steps. Hehe.

PhippsCthulhuArmageddonWhat makes you cringe?

It’s funny but I’m not afraid of things like spiders, clowns, closed spaces, heights, or any of the usual things but am mortally terrified of embarrassing situations. I could probably deal with the Slenderman more easily than I could an awkward conversation about emotional stuff. It’s funny because my wife thinks I’m a big baby about that while we have our weekly horror movie-a-thons but flee at any romance films.

Ironically, I had a lot more trouble writing the emotional beats of THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY and its sequels than I ever did with the zombies or demons. It’s similar with CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON and STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON.

PhippsTheRulesOfSupervillainyWhat now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

I’d like to say H.P. Lovecraft because while I’d love to interview J.R.R Tolkien, I probably wouldn’t be able to come up with any interesting questions for him. With H.P. Lovecraft, I would have a bunch of them ranging from talking about racial issues, the meaning of his monsters, and so on. It’d be a conversation he’d probably walk out on me during but it would certainly be enjoyable. Then again, we might just bond over our shared love of the weird. I did, after all, write the novel CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON to follow up on some of his ideas.

Personally, I’d like to know what he thought of the way his stories have spread out and become so influential.

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

That’s a tough call because I really do love to resist books I’ve read in the past and see if I can get anything new from a re-read. I’ve re-read A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE over and over again. I’ve also done the same with the LORD OF THE RINGS. So I’ll avoid the usual answers and go with THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher. Those books have been something I’ve enjoyed for almost seventeen years now and helped create my love of urban fantasy. I loved reading about Harry’s crazy adventures, his myriad femme fatales, and experiencing the crazy combination of humor with dramatic storytelling which is the heart of the series. Being able to enjoy that all for the first time again would be grand. It was a big influence on THE SUPERVILLAINY SAGA, ESOTERRORISM, and STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON.

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

Writing is my most difficult job! Well, actually, no, it’s all the things around writing. The job of editing, advertising, and selling your book to your audience is a full-time job well after the “fun” part of making it work. Being an indie author definitely has its advantages over one of the big publishing houses but one of the reasons I could never be a self-published author is because I’m overwhelmed with the parts I do do. LOL.

Still, I would never do anything else.

PhippsTheGamesOfSupervillainyWhat 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’m a very video game-influenced author as I love the interactivity of being able to project a portion of yourself into the game world, particularly RPGs. So it’s actually a complicated question as the majority of books are more like movies in that you’re along for the ride but don’t really have a way of impacting the plot. The exception to this was the fabulous “Witcher” games which managed to preserve the feel of the classic fantasy series while also allowing you a lot of choice in the narrative. I also loved THE SHADOW OF MORDOR which isn’t about any of Tolkien’s characters but set in his world with someone not so morally pure.

If I were to see one of my books adapted to a video game, I’d definitely choose THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY, STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON, and CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON in no particular order. I think Rules would be particularly awesome as you’d have this big wide open sandbox full of colorful characters. You could also decide whether Gary goes the Anti-Villain route or becomes pure evil.

PhippsTheSecretsOfSupervillainyWho are some of your favorite book villains?

If I had to choose favorite villains from books other than my own, I would choose Grand Admiral Thrawn from THE THRAWN TRILOGY, Jaime Lannister from A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS’ Sauron. In the first case, Grand Admiral Thrawn is such an elegant and cultured character you actually want him to win despite being up against our heroes.

Jaimie is such a three-dimensional character that it’s hard to even say he’s a villain rather than a differently valued protagonist. Sauron? Sauron never even shows up in-person but casts such a shadow over everything that he manages to become a pervasive presence nevertheless. I also have a strong fondness for Gentleman Johnny Marcone and Lara Raith from THE DRESDEN FILES.

If I had to choose my favorite villain from my books, I’d probably choose Alan Ward from CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON. He’s a scientist and wizard with knowledge dating back to the Pre-Rising world which everyone has forgotten. Alan has the desire to save humanity from destruction and is willing to do anything, break any taboo, and do whatever horrible thing is necessary to figure out a way to preserve the human species.

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

Warning – Easily Distracted.

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

Shorter.

I always saw myself as a writer, too. Which is why becoming one is such a gleeful thing.

Thanks for the interview!

Book Blurb for Cthulhu Armageddon

PhippsCthulhuArmageddonCthulhu Armageddon is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters).

John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and the suspicion that he’s “tainted”. Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends. It’s the one thing he has left.

Places to Find C. T. Phipps

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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

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

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