Campanelli: The Ping Tom Affair by Frederick H. Crook

Narrator: Tom Cooper

Publisher: Frederick H. Crook (2017)

Length: 2 hours 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Campanelli

Author’s Page

Set in Chicago in 2109, Detective Frank Campanelli and his partner Detective Marcus Williams are investigating the death of two men. One is identified as a son, Wong, of a leading Chinese criminal family. The crime scene is lacking the expected amount of blood and this simple clue sets Campanelli and Williams on a hunt for a killer. Hopefully they will be able to catch the perpetrator before a war can break out between the lead criminal families of Chicago.

First, I really enjoyed Frank Campanelli. He’s blind and uses cybernetic implants to mimic eyesight, allowing him to live an independent and pretty normal life. This gives him a little different way of looking at some things, giving him the occasional edge in his work. He’s chosen to stay on Earth while much of the population has left for another habitable planet, Alethea. The whole story has a noir detective feel but it’s set in this kind of grungy future Chicago with cool SF tech. This mash up works really well for me.

Campanelli isn’t new to the area. He has contacts and relationships with people in the area, including Lei Wong, whose son has just turned up dead. He knows the best forensics people and his partner, Williams, is a gengineered navy SEAL. Despite Lei Wong being this crime boss, the author makes him very human. Campanelli has to deliver news of his son’s death. Despite Lei’s need to keep a strong face on, Campanelli can still see how this news pains him.

Now, there are few ladies present in this story and I wish there were a few more and they were doing something besides being romantic interests. Tam, Frank’s part-time girlfriend, has potential to be more in future books. I did like the main forensics lady and her geeky ways. The pacing of the story and the mystery were all good until right at the end. Now I didn’t mind the whodunit part but I did feel that the big reveal was rushed and it was very convenient for a character to provide all the answers. I would have liked the detectives to have sorted most of it out for themselves.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Tom Cooper did a pretty good job with this book. He’s great at playing a male noir detective. He also had a decent voice for Marcus Williams. I did have a little trouble hearing distinctions between the characters here and there, especially with minor characters. He was good at an elderly Lei Wong and his pacing was good as well. His female characters could use a bit more femininity.

What I Liked: The cover art; main character with disability; cybernetics!; noir detective in future Chicago; the murder mystery itself.

What I Disliked: Few female characters; final wrap up was rushed.

What Others Think:

Windy City Reviews

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs

Narrator: Holter Graham

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2013)

Length: 2 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 0.5 Alpha and Omega

Author’s Page

Set in Chicago, Anna is the lowest in her pack, a werewolf pack she wasn’t given the choice in joining. After years of abuse, she is ready for a change. The Marrock has sent his son Charles to sort things out. Neither Charles nor Anna get what they expected.

I listened to this book as part of a group read and it’s a prequel to Cry Wolf. The Alpha and Omega series is a spin-off of the Mercy Thompson series and is more romance oriented. Honestly, it’s been some years since I read Mercy Thompson but I believe I like that series quite a bit more than this series.

So Charles is a dominant male among the werewolves and he’s a big handsome guy with skills. He meets Anna and discovers she’s an Omega, which is a person who can soothe and bind a pack together. However, her pack isn’t using her skills; instead they are just using her. By that I mean they take a chunk of her paycheck, have her clean and run errands, and pass her around sexually to reward pack members for questionable deeds. Obviously, Charles is not pleased at this at all. There shall be a reckoning!

There was insta-love between Anna and Charles on a primal level in which their inner wolves recognized it but their human sides took longer to figure it out. I liked the dual nature of this aspect of the story. I also like that this tale shows just what the Marrock, Bran, doesn’t want among the North American packs.

While some justice is meted out by the end, I felt that certain wolves didn’t show remorse over their actions, claiming they were ordered to abuse Anna and other lesser members. Obviously, some of these wolves will need further calibration.

The story had some intense moments, but the romance was a meh for me. I felt that Anna’s character was just too submissive all around. There’s the need to survive a bad situation, sure, but we could have used some inner Anna thoughts about how to avoid the worst of it, or change it, or sabotage food. Something.

The Narration: Holter Graham makes a very good Marrock and a very good Charles. His feminine voices were OK. I liked the harsh tones he can adopt when two wolves are squaring off. I also liked his soothing, patient voice for the Marrock.

What I Liked: Werewolves; Chicago; not all that bend are weak; the dual nature of the werewolf; the worst of the batch do meet justice.

What I Disliked: Anna is always bending, giving way; many of the misbehaving wolves showed no remorse over their actions. 

What Others Think:

The Bibliosanctum

Dear Author

All Things UF

Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet by Robert Kingett

Narrator: T. David Rutherford

Publisher: Robert Kingett (2015)

Length: 3 hours 26 minutes

Author’s Page

 

In Chicago, legally blind Robert Kingett takes the dare to live without the internet for one month. Has the internet really added to the degradation of society? Kingett shares his experiences, both positive and negative, in this journal-entry like publication.

Initially, due to the main title, I was expecting the author to go off the grid, which means disconnecting from public utilities and trying to live off rainfall and solar power and the like. As I got into the book, I realized this was just a small, but very interesting, experiment of trying to live without the internet in a major city. The author still has his apartment, public utilities, and access to public transport and such. At first, I thought that living without the internet wouldn’t be too big a deal. (Living off the grid is a bit more rigorous.) However, I was wrong. I’m glad the author only had to suffer for a single month as he underwent this experiment.

I really enjoyed the diary-like entries as I felt I was discovering these little nuggets of wisdom at the same time as the author. As he struggled to get movie times for a visually-impaired screening, I struggled with him. Installing a land-line phone was hampered by the fact the manual that came with it is in really tiny print (the author, while legally blind, can read large type… if it’s large enough). Meanwhile, he experienced the rush and joys of meeting people in person and getting to know them through long phone calls or conversations in person, instead of digging up stuff about their hobbies on the internet first. The author uses well-placed humor even when he’s clearly irritated with something, making this a fun read.

There were two scenes that really stood out for me. First, the author was job searching during this month and the lack of internet service definitely affected his chances of getting a job or internship. The other one concerned his gaming system (I think it was Xbox, if I recall correctly). His efforts to play a certain game, which he had the CD for, were cut short when the game required him to be logged into his online account. Customer service was unable to assist him in this.

All together, this humorous account of one man’s adventure made me appreciate the internet more for the services it makes so much easier. I can pay all my bills online. Obtaining information is generally very easy. I have access to news, anything from immediately local to world view. Also, I quite enjoyed all the little references to nerdom – Harry Potter, gaming, etc.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: T. David Rutherford was pretty good for this book. He gave a sense of humor or frustration as the story dictated. The production was very good, lacking any external noises or lip smacking. While he only had to do a few voices, he did them well.

What I Liked: Fascinating little experiment; humor tucked in throughout the book; the job searching scenes; he just wants to play his game!; dating while off the internet; finally, returning to the internet a wiser man.

What I Disliked: I probably would have chosen a different title, but that’s a small criticism and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book.

What Others Think:

Crippled Gaming

Matt McAvoy’s Website

Deadlock by Sara Paretsky

ParetskyDeadlockTofuNarrator: Susan Ericksen

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2012)

Length: 10 hours 28 mins

Series: Book 2 V. I. Warshawski

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone novel.

Set in the 1990s in Chicago, Vick Warshawski is a private detective. The story opens with a funeral for her cousin Boom-Boom Warshawski, an ex-hockey player. He was working for a Great Lakes shipping company and apparently slipped on an icy pier and died in the water. Vick is Boom-Boom’s executor of his will; dealing with his estate and papers leads her to wonder if his death was an accident after all. As she digs into Boom-Boom’s death, her own life is threatened.

I like that Vick likes sports and pays attention to the local games and teams. I don’t care for sports at all, but I like having a main female character that does have a passing interest in professional sports. Vick has a practical kind of toughness that I find irresistible. She’s not tough because she’ll argue back or because she insists on doing things on her own terms. She’s simply a strong personality and would be no matter what gender she was born into. Her practical nature (letting trusted friends know where she’s off too – sometimes, carrying a weapon that she’s proficient in, wearing sensible clothing and shoes, etc.) is what keeps the character grounded for me.

The main subject of this book, the Great Lakes shipping industry, involves the great locks of the lakes. I find locks fascinating and I was pretty excited to see Vick traveling through a major lock or two in this novel. Vick spends a chunk of the book trying to understand the shipping manifests for the company Boom-Boom was working for. As such, she enlists someone in the business to explain the finer details. Here is where my one little quibble with the story lies. In Book 1, Indemnity Only, Vick becomes romantically involved with a man who works at the insurance company that Vick is kinda sorta looking into. Now, here, in this book she becomes romantically interested in a man who is hired by the shipping company she’s looking into. I felt this plot mechanism was a little overused in the series.

Now, back to the good stuff. Paige is a beautiful dancer that was having a secret romance with Boom-Boom. Vick meets her at Boom-Boom’s funeral and Paige asks a small favor – she would like access to Boom-Boom’s apartment so that she could collect her things. While they hadn’t reached the point of exchanging keys yet, she did have a few bits of clothing and makeup at his place. The plot deepens when Vick finds her there going through Boom-Boom’s papers. Paige fesses up to looking for some personal letters the two exchanged while she was on tour. I, like Vick, think she’s hiding something. I really wasn’t sure what until the last bit of the book. Vick figured it out before I did.

Finally, there’s this major accident in the book that I totally didn’t see coming. It slid right in there under my radar and it was well written. Vick got to experience it all first hand and I was worried she would be injured enough for a hospital! I was a little surprised at the body count for this book, but that just keeps me on my toes. I do enjoy a mystery series that can keep me guessing and surprised.

Narration: Once again, Susan Ericksen makes a really good VI Warshawski. She does the Chicago accent quite well. Her male voices are believable. With Book 1, I noted that sometimes I had to turn down the volume during the shouting scenes. That was not an issue with this book. The characters sounded like they were shouting but I didn’t have to adjust my volume control.

What I Liked: The Great Lakes locks; Vick’s interest in local sports; Boom-Boom’s an ex-hockey player; the mystery of Paige and her relationship to Boom-Boom; a big accident leaves Vick roughed up.

What I Disliked: As with Book 1, Vick uses a romantic interest to gain info on a case she is working.

What Others Think:

Classroom Number 4

Prezi

Kirkus Reviews

Mystery File

That’s What She Read

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

ParetskyIndemnityOnlyChupaNarrator: Susan Ericksen

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2011)

Length: 8 hours 43 mins

Series: Book 1 V. I. Warshawski

Author’s Page

Vick Warshawski is a Chicago cop’s daughter and an independent private detective. A man calling himself John Thayer hires her to find his son’s missing girlfriend, Anita Hill. Vick starts with the basics, such as checking the boyfriend Peter’s apartment for clues. What she finds is Peter’s body. The mystery deepens when she goes to Peter Thayer’s dad to ask him some questions and finds the real John Thayer. Vick is soon drawn into a case of insurance fraud, big unions, and the missing Anita Hill.

When I was a kid, the VI Warshawski movie came out and parts of that movie have stuck with me. So recently I got my hands on the first 5 Warshawski stories as audiobooks and Book 1 does not disappoint! This is way better than the movie I remember. First, I really like Vick. She’s independent and practical. She knows herself and what she’s willing to do or not do. For instance, she doesn’t hesitate to break into Peter’s apartment – and no guilty conscience there nor any second guessing herself. She also holds her own with stubborn cops and overbearing business men. The story occasionally brings up gender inequalities, but not so much so that I felt I was being asked to go to a Woman’s Pride parade.

The plot was pretty good as well. I was guessing for most of the book as to who was the culprit. While it was apparent pretty early on that there was some connection between the insurance company that John and Peter both worked for and the big union Anita’s dad worked for, I couldn’t guess the specifics until near the end.

The story is set before the time of cell phones and widespread internet. Vick actually has to track down physical information. While this dates the book a bit, I quite enjoyed it. I’m just old enough to recall the days before modern computing and the world wide web of information. So I have an appreciation for how hard it was for Vick to track down all the info that lead her to the bad guy.

There’s two side characters in this story that I really liked. There’s Vick’s best friend, the Viennese Lottie, who is a doctor. It never hurts to have a doctor as a personal friend especially when you get banged up as often as Vick. Then there’s Peter’s young sister Jill Thayer. Vick takes her under her wing a time or two in this book.

All around, this book exceeded my expectations. I half expected the story to be a cozy detective novel with a body or two. That was not the case. Vick is serious about her business and the men who want her off the case are serious too. Vick’s life is seriously in danger more than once in this book and if I didn’t know there were several more in the series, I would have been worried about her or those closest to her. As a final note, I loved that Vick took some hits and kept mouthing off. I also loved that those closest to her were concerned for her but didn’t coddle and coo over her as if she was some poor defenseless woman. Vick is awesome!

Narration: The narration is pretty good. Susan Ericksen makes a really good VI Warshawski. She also does the regional Chicago accent for most of the characters, which I also appreciated. Her male voices were believable. I also liked the light Austrian accent for Lottie. My one little criticism is that Vick and her cop connections often do a lot of yelling and so I had to sometimes turn down the volume because the narrator was yelling right along with them.

What I Liked: Vick – she’s just great; Lottie and her doting yet professional ways; Jill’s persistence in helping find out who killed her brother; the murder mystery; set before the internet age, Vick has to track down physical information.

What I Disliked: Sometimes the audio volume was a bit loud during the scenes that involved shouting.

What Others Think:

Bibliophile’s Corner

Review Stream

Kirkus Reviews

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