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Archive for May, 2011

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Proven Guilty

Dresden Files #8

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/23/09 (original release date: 2/6/07)

Length: 16 hours 16 minutes (a 576 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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The back cover blurb:

There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined.

But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.

As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already  in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film.

Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

This action-packed and information-packed 8th volume of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series starts off with Harry witnessing the trial and execution of a 16 year old warlock who had used magic to seriously mess with the minds of multiple people. Harry is angered and disgusted by the execution but as the Merlin calmly explains, the warlock had caused the deaths of many people and his use of Black Magic had driven him insane. While Harry understands, he laments that there was nobody to teach the boy to prevent his misuse of his talent and therefore save him from his fate.

Afterward, Ebenezar asks him to find out why the Sidhe, both Winter and Summer, have failed to respond to the invasion of Faerie by the Red Court the previous year. Ebenezar also invites Harry to lunch, though Harry declines. He’s still feeling somewhat betrayed by his one-time mentor since he learned that Ebenezar McCoy is the White Council’s Black Staff, ie. assassin. He’s not quite ready to forgive Ebenezar for the deception.

Harry then gets a cryptic message from the Gatekeeper, Rashid of the Senior Council, to investigate multiple incidents of Black Magic within Chicago. Rashid tells him in the message that nobody else is aware of the incidents and informs Harry that it is vital that he investigate immediately. To which Harry thinks, ‘Faeries. Black Magic. It never rains but it pours.’

As Harry leaves the gathering of the Council, he is again tempted by Lasciel to take up her coin, an offer to which he responds angrily. The thing is that she has helped him out considerably in the past and the more he seeks her assistance, the more likely he is to continue doing so. She is very anxious to stay alive and if Harry were to die, so would Lasciel. As if his various assignments from the Senior Council and the temptations by Lasciel weren’t enough, Harry is run off the road while driving the Beetle by an unidentified person. What a great day he’s having!

Upon being returned to his humble basement abode by Murphy, Harry makes ready to test Little Chicago, an exact scale model of the city set up in his lab. The model was painstakingly assembled and Harry hopes to use it in his work, hopes that it will make that work easier and more accurate. But he has to be very careful… if he and Bob have made any mistakes in the construction of the model, it could literally explode, killing Harry the very first time he uses it. So he prepares for the first use of the model very carefully, despite the mild concussion he sustained in the accident.

When his preparation ritual is interrupted by the phone, he rants and raves a bit and then abandons the ritual to bail Molly Carpenter–eldest child of Michael Carpenter, Harry’s friend and Knight of the Cross–out of jail. When he arrives downtown, he discovers that Molly isn’t the one in jail. It’s her boyfriend, Nelson, and he’s innocent of the charge of assault for which he’d been arrested. Molly pleads with Harry to help him and so Harry does, but in doing so he unknowingly gets swept up in a case that will not only lead him to the warlock practicing black magic that he’s been charged by the Gatekeeper to find, but into Faeire itself… straight into the heart of Winter and its struggle with Summer.

The usual players are present once again and Harry has some pretty deep discussions with several of them, including Molly, her mother Charity, Father Forthill and Murphy. He also tries to have a discussion with his brother Thomas but the White Court vampire has been acting very odd as of late, and is hardly ever around anymore. Harry suspects that he’s actively feeding again and worries for him.

Harry also meets with Fix, the Summer Knight who brings along the Summer Lady, Lily, the youngest of the Faerie queens of Summer. They’re compelled to not reveal much of anything at all to him but he gleans that Summer hasn’t reacted to the invasion of Faerie by the Red Court because if they do, then Winter will strike at them while they’re otherwise occupied. Since Lily isn’t able to tell Harry what he needs to know, he asks her to call in Maeve, the Winter Lady, who is under no compulsion to prevent her from talking to Harry. She hints that Mab, the Winter Queen, may just be insane. As if Harry doesn’t have enough problems to be going on with!

During the course of Harry’s case with Molly, he and Murphy have an impromptu discussion on matters of the heart… on an elevator, the best place for impromptu discussions on matters of the heart, if you ask me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go well for Harry though he realizes that Murphy is right when she tells him: “You couldn’t do casual. You commit yourself too deeply. You care too much. We couldn’t have something light. You would never settle for that.”

Despite knowing that she’s right as she proceeds to tell him every reason they shouldn’t be together, Harry still tries to change her mind: “Maybe you’re thinking about this too much, Murph. Logic and reason and planning for the future. What’s in your heart doesn’t need that.” To which Murphy responds: “I used to think that, too. I was wrong. Love isn’t all you need. And I just don’t see us together, Harry. You’re dear to me. I couldn’t ask for a kinder friend. I’d walk through fire for you.” She goes on to say that they just wouldn’t be right for each other and mentions that she wants someone to grow old with her, and that he would outlive her by hundreds of years. It’s rather heartbreaking to listen to James Marsters’ reading of that particular scene. He perfectly relays Harry’s rejection and pain, which are acute. As Murphy leaves the elevator Harry thinks: ‘Stab. Twist. God, I love being a wizard.’

I might have dwelled upon that particular conversation a bit too long, but it’s important in regards to the rest of the series, I think. Harry and Murphy banter back and forth quite a lot and Butcher even includes a short story on this very subject in his collection, Side Jobs, published last  year. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I enthusiastically encourage you to do so. Aside from the short in Side Jobs, Butcher has Harry getting ready for an actual date with Murphy upon their return from Mexico at the end of book 12, Changes. Of course, the date between the long-time friends and colleagues never happens as readers of the series to date well know. The reason that it never happens is something that makes the final short story in Side Jobs, which is from Karrin’s point of view, all the more sob-inducing.

Okay, ’nuff said about that. Back to this story…

As Harry works the case–which involves phobophages in the form of horror movie monsters crossing over from the Nevernever to feed on the fear of the people attending a horror movie convention called SPLATTERCON!!! before killing them–he realizes that someone is following him, though he’s unsure as to whether it’s the same someone who had previously run him off the road. He also encounters a movie producer named Darby Crane, who sets off his spooky alarm bells and quickly becomes the person that Harry likes for the culprit responsible for summoning the phobophages.

After yet another attack, which Harry mostly fended off by casting a spell to send the phobophages after their summoner, he and Rawlins are heading out to track them and therefore find the summoner when a van hits Mouse and Harry and Rawlins are kidnapped by Darby Crane and his lawyer. They’re not held for long, however, and despite having apparently been sold by Crane on eBay, Harry and Rawlins make their escape, ironically from the very garage that Harry was held in back in book 2, Fool Moon by the lycanthropes that had kidnapped him. Upon escaping, they’re joined by Thomas and a very much alive, if battered, Mouse, who actually led Thomas to Harry and Harry realizes that Crane–aka Madrigal Raith and Thomas’ cousin–is just the fall guy, and not actually responsible for the black magic. As they’re making ready to leave, another phobophage shows up and surprises Harry with it’s strength and immunity to his magic.

Difficult as it proves to get away from the creature, they do and Harry tracks the phobophages that he’d sent after their summoner. His spell leads him to the Carpenter house where he learns that Molly has been taken. But not by phages, by Fetches of the Winter Court. Harry uses Little Chicago to find where they took Molly over into the Nevernever and mounts a rescue attempt, accompanied by Thomas, Murphy and Molly’s mother, Charity, since Michael is out of town on ‘business’.

They are assisted–Charity is assisted, rather–by the Summer Lady and Knight and are successful. Harry also encounters the Winter Knight who has been tortured and imprisoned for years and his Godmother, Lea, who is also being punished and imprisoned by Mab. Unfortunately, she’s a little insane though she does tell him that by using the power of Summer at Winter’s heart in order to rescue Molly, Harry has alerted the Winter Fae who are all now heading to kill him. They make a run for it and escape, and Harry learns that Lily kind of used him to distract the forces of Winter in order to free up Summer to assist the White Council.

Once Charity is back at Saint Mary of the Angels with her family, Harry discusses with Molly her options. He tells her that she broke one of the laws of magic when she interfered with a couple of her friends to keep them from using drugs and that she has to answer to the White Council. Despite a hefty dose of denial, Molly eventually comes around and decides to turn herself in, once Harry assures her that the Wardens will have to go through him to execute her for the crime.

When they show up for the hearing, Lily and Fix arrive and officially commend Morgan for his valor at the recent battle against the Red Court. Lily also credits Harry with the success of the campaign, relaying his incursion into Faerie and his assault on Arctis Tor, the heart of the Winter Fae, which distracted the forces of Winter and allowed Summer to assist the Council against the Reds. Harry knows this is all nonsense but it sure makes him look good.

Harry then stands for Molly in her hearing at which all but two of the Senior Council are absent. Only Rashid and the Merlin are present and the Merlin finds Molly guilty and orders her executed. Harry begs Morgan not to do it and Morgan appears to have reservations. Before he can carry out the Merlin’s sentence, however, a slew of Warden trainees show up with Captain Luccio, several members of the Senior Council and none other than Molly’s father, Michael… the Knight of the Cross. Turns out, he’d pretty much saved their asses from demons and the Council was somewhat inclined to vote in Molly’s favor because of this. While she’s under the Doom of Damocles, she’ll live and become Harry’s apprentice.

Harry finally confesses to Michael that he picked up Lasciel’s coin and is shocked to learn that Michael already knew… that he’d seen the whole thing. He’s happy to hear that Harry hasn’t taken up the coin and tells Harry that he’ll be there for him if he decides to give up the coin, and his power with it. He then tells Harry that if he changes, he’ll also be there.

To wrap up the book, Bob tells Harry that there had been a flaw in Little Chicago but that it had been mysteriously fixed before Harry had used it to track Molly. I’m guessing that Lasciel had something to do with that. We also learn that Murphy has been demoted for being AWOL for 24 hours while helping Harry rescue Molly. Thomas is pissed that Harry believed Murphy’s rejection, he seems to have some information from a talk with Murphy and thinks that Harry should try harder. Finally, Ebenezar visits and discusses the White Council traitor with Harry. They surmise that there must be more than one person acting in concert to cripple the White Council and attribute many of the things that Harry’s countered over the years to this phantom organization dubbed the Black Council by Harry. They decide to keep their eyes open and not to disclose their suspicions to anyone on the Council, seeing how there are most likely traitors in their midst. Then… Harry invites Ebenezar to dinner and reconciliation ensues.

All in all, this is one of the most involved books to date in this series. Butcher steps it up a notch or three with all of the Faerie court drama as well as the probable long-time existence of the Black Council. There are info dumps galore but they’re artfully done and the reader, especially when listening to the masterful reading of James Marsters as I have been doing during my re-listen of the series, must pay close attention or miss vital information.

My apologies if I forgot any tidbits, there was quite a lot of ground to cover with this one. My further apologies for the length of this post… again with the amount of ground to cover thing. If you read this far, you have my thanks… why don’t you leave a comment to attest to your perseverance and dedication? Next on my list of re-reads to get up to speed on the series before the release of Ghost Story in July: book 9, White Night!

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My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: witnesses the execution of a kid who’d been practicing black magic; gets a call for help from Michael Carpenter’s 17 year old daughter, Molly; goes to a horror convention; chats about matters of the heart with Murphy… a few times; is auctioned off on eBay; has a drink and a talk about Faith with Father Forthill; has a heart-to-heart about magic with Charity Carpenter (there are quite a lot of personal chats going on in this book!); storms Arctis Tor, the heart of Winter to rescue Molly; saves Molly again, this time from execution by the White Council for breaking the 4th Law of Magic and takes her on as an apprentice; confesses to Michael that he picked up a Blackened Denarii only to learn that Michael had seen the incident; fends off Molly throwing herself at him, thinking that’s what he wants and/or needs after their soul gaze; discusses with Ebenezar the possibility of traitors on the Council and dubs them ‘Black Council’; and finally… over the course of his talk with Ebenezar about the traitor(s) on the White Council, he reconciles with his old friend and mentor.

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Fave quotes:

‘Sometimes I get tired of being the guy who has to deal with undealwithable situations.’

“Stars and stones, I don’t want dating advice from a frigging helltart.” ~Harry to Lasciel

“You’re with me today, I need someone to watch my back. Maybe help me eat a hot dog later.” ~Harry to Mouse

“For the love of God, Maeve. Will you give the Evil Kinkstress act a rest? It gets tired pretty fast.” ~Fix

‘Dammit, I hate when someone knows more than me about exactly how deep a hole I’m digging under myself.’

“I’m not a teenage girl. Please don’t try to good cop me.” ~Harry to Rick

‘Dammit. Stupid demons. Always with the last word.’

“You. You killed my dog. Get your affairs in order.” ~Harry to Glau

“You’re siphoning my noble hero vibe. Cease and desist or I’ll sue.” ~Harry to Rawlins

“Hey! Are you selling me on eBay?” ~Harry to Crane

“Get off the creepy psychic vampire train.” ~Harry to Crane

‘Vanity, thy name is vampire.’

“Murph, you rock! Go, team Dresden!” ~Harry

“Oh yeah, this isn’t coming back to bite anyone in the ass later.” ~Thomas

‘When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching–they are your family.’

“Lea, what has happened to you? How long have you been a… Sidhe-sickle?” ~Harry

‘Hey. I don’t care what kind of fairie or mortal or hideous creature you are. If you’ve got danglies and can lose them, that’s the kind of sight that makes you reconsider the possible genitalia-related ramifications of your actions real damn quick.’

“I can’t sleep well any night I haven’t inflicted a little property damage.” ~Harry to Fix

“Thank you for another field trip, Harry. Kind of bland, though. Maybe next time we should bring some coffee or something, so we don’t yawn ourselves to death.” ~Thomas, after the gang returns from Arctis Tor

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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Dead Beat

Dresden Files #7

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date:  (original release date: )

Length: 15 hours 14 minutes (a 396 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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From Amazon.com:

Chicago’s preeminent wizard is coping with his new roommate–his vampire half-brother Thomas. Harry soon has problems bigger than Thomas’ clutter to deal with.

Mavra, one of Harry’s vampire foes, summons him with a threat to his police-lieutenant friend, Karrin Murphy. Mavra demands Harry get the Word of Kemmler for her, or she’ll frame Murphy for murder.

Harry doesn’t even know what the Word is, but while he’s trying to find out, and also what damage Marva will be able to do with it, several necromancers descend on Chicago. When Harry learns that the newcomers are students of Kemmler, an evil wizard who mastered ancient spirits in a way no one has since, he discovers that they are seeking the Word, too, in hopes of seizing the powerful knowledge within it and calling forth a powerful creature known as the Erlking.

Butcher’s latest maintains the momentum of previous Dresden outings and builds the suspense right up to a rousing conclusion.

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My thoughts… and many spoilers:

This seventh installment of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series talks a lot about death. I know you wouldn’t get that from the name of the book, but it’s true. I promise. But seriously, there is a lot of deep thinking in this story, something that a lot of people may not expect from urban fantasy but, yeah… here it is. With this book and, indeed, the entire Dresden Files series, Butcher manages to create an entertaining mix of hilarity, sarcasm, action and complex emotion. He adds a touch of the macabre and ties it up with a hell of an adrenaline rush. What, you’ve never gotten an adrenaline rush from reading a book? My friend, you’ve just not found the right book.

And so Harry begins yet another fast-paced adventure with the regular crowd. Something of the regular crowd, anyway. Thomas is there, of course, since he’s now living with Harry after having been completely cut-off from his family and their money; Murphy’s there for a minute, just long enough to make Harry jealous over the fact that she’s jetting off to Hawaii on vacation… with Kincaid; Butters, Chicago’s funny little, polka-loving ME not only makes an appearance but features largely in the plot; Mouse the dogosaurus plays a bigger role in this book; Billy pops in a time or three and of course, Bob the skull is there and we get to see a new, scary-as-hell side of him.

We also get to meet a couple of new faces. Harry’s one-time persecutor Morgan, who is a Warden of the White Council, we’ve met… but his fellow Warden Carlos Ramirez is introduced in this book as is the Captain of the Wardens, Anastasia Luccio. We’ll see more of them in future books but the intros, especially that of Luccio, are significant.

On to the story. Harry gets a blackmail letter from someone he thought he had killed in the last book… none other than Mavra of the Black Court of vampires. She’s going to send some lovely snapshots of Murphy blowing a guy’s head off to the authorities if Harry doesn’t do as she bids. Of course, the guy Murphy offed was a Renfield who had literally been driven insane by the Black vamps –or Blampires, as Harry refers to the Black Court vampires in book #6, much to the chagrin of his former mentor, Ebenezer– and was no longer a person. But the photographs don’t show that, and really, what self-respecting cop who’s NOT a member of Murphy’s own Special Investigations Unit of the Chicago PD would believe that story?

So… Harry feels the need to protect Murphy, since he recruited her for Black vamp hunting in the first place. Of course, he takes the job and proceeds with trying to learn who Kemmler was and what the Word might be. Turns out that Kemmler was one evil necromancer and that Bob the skull used to work for him. He’s blocked out much of  his memory from that time but Harry orders him to remember and it nearly kills him.

Then necromancers start showing up all over the place. They pop into the morgue while Harry’s visiting with Waldo Butters, they show up at a bookstore where Harry ends up to search for a book that the necromancer at the morgue had in his possession, and they apparently kill a professor in a museum. Damn necromancers, making messes all over the place.

As Harry begins to piece together what they’re after and what they can do if they find it, he begins to feel a bit overwhelmed. These are powerful people that he’s up against and he’s pretty much got to face them alone. Not to mention, battered and beaten, as he generally becomes toward the climax of these books. At one point,  he’s visited in a dream by his father and really, it was quite an emotional scene. Upon realizing that this really IS his dad and not a figment of his imagination, we see Harry in a rare, vulnerable moment: “It’s getting to be too much,’ Harry says to his dad. ‘I just keep getting more wounded and tired. They just keep coming at me. I’m not some kind of a superhero, I’m just me.”

I really enjoyed this scene as it gave Harry a bit of hope to carry on with the fight and really, if Harry doesn’t carry on, the bad guys win. We can’t have that. This scene is absolutely perfected by the reading of James Marsters, who can instill so much emotion into his voice that it makes my throat close and my eyes water. And no, that wasn’t my body shaking with trembling sobs as I listened to this scene. I had the hiccups, okay? Let it go…

Another interesting moment in this book is when Harry calls the Wardens of the White Council for help. Five of them show up -only five- Captain Luccio and Morgan among them. They tell Harry how the Red Court has just decimated their numbers and Luccio appeals to Harry to join the Wardens and help them in their time of need:

Luccio: “I think that you do not realize your own reputation. You have overcome more enemies and battled more evils than most wizards a century your senior. And times are changing. There are more young wizards obtaining membership to the Council than ever before. Like Ramirez and his companions there. To them, you are a symbol of defiance to the conservative elements of the council and a hero who will risk his life when his principles demand it.” 

Harry: “I am?” 

Luccio: “You are. I can’t say I approve of it but right now, the Council will need every scrap of courage and faith we can muster. Your presence and support in the face of great danger will appease your detractors and the presence of a wizard who has experience in battle will encourage the younger members of the council. Put simply, Dresden, we need you. And you need us.”

Harry realizes the truth in her words and despite his less than friendly history with the Wardens, he dons the gray cloak, which gives us a fun little scene when Thomas and Bob see him: 

Thomas: “Holy crap.”  

Bob: “Harry, you stole a Warden’s cloak?” 

Harry: “I didn’t steal it.” 

Bob: “So you took it off a dead body?” 

Harry: “No, I got drafted.” 

Thomas: “Holy crap.”

Butters is present for this exchange and of course, has no clue as to what’s going on which just makes the scene that much more enjoyable. This is one thing I love so much about a series… you get to the point where you know the characters and their histories so well that a short conversation such as the one I just mentioned is hilarious to read and sticks with you as one of those awesome story moments.

Despite his father’s reassurances and the presence of his brother and his friends, Harry gets to feeling a bit downtrodden in this book: ‘I didn’t feel like a wizard,’ he thought during a rare moment of quiet solitude. ‘I didn’t feel like a deadly and powerful Warden. I didn’t feel like the supernatural champion of Chicago or a fearless foe of evil, a daring summoner able to cast his defiance into the teeth of a supernatural titan or an enlightened sage of the mystic arts. I felt like a scarred, battered, aching, one-handed man with few pleasant prospects for the future and a ridiculous pair of pants with one leg slashed off.’

This is, of course, what Harry thinks of his dire situation. Despite the fact that he’s used to going it alone, he actually does have people standing behind him and beside him now. It’s something that’s not easy for him to get used to but he needs to realize that he can depend on those people because he’ll need them even more in future books.

A few notable events that require a mention before I wrap this up. First, the Erlking… the necromancers are planning to summon him in order to facilitate their super-nasty ritual which Harry is trying to prevent from taking place. So Harry figures that if he can summon him first and then trap him, then the naughty necromancers won’t get to play. This just actually pisses off the Erlking in a really big way and so he’s got Harry’s name on his list. I mention him mainly because we’ll be seeing him a bit later in the series.

Next… I have to say how incredibly awesome it is when Harry goes riding down the street into battle with the necromancers on Sue’s back. Sue, of course, is the tyrannosaur from the museum. Sure, necromancy is bad, but Sue wasn’t a person, was she? I love the way Harry thinks and I absolutely loved this scene.

Finally, Harry speaks with Lasciel in this book. Yes, that Lasciel… the fallen angel whose coin is buried in Harry’s lab. He’s previously understood that she’s the reason he’s been using Hellfire so he knew that she was extending her influence in some way. But he didn’t realize how very close she actually was, to manifest in his dreams… and then some. I won’t say all, but we will be seeing more of Lasciel later in the series.

Okay, I think I’ve been quite wordy enough for the nonce so I’ll get on with listening to the series in preparation for the release of book #13, Ghost Story in a couple of months. Can’t wait! Next on the list, book #8, Proven Guilty. Mr. Marsters, you may begin.

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My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: gets jealous about Murphy going to Hawaii with Kincaid; thinks about death a lot; gets blackmailed by Mavra to find the Word of Kemmler or she’ll take Murphy down with pictures of her killing a Renfield; learns that his hand will eventually regenerate; talks with his dead father in a dream; encounters various necromancers; admits to Billy & Georgia that he’s been unwillingly using Hellfire; gets asked out on a date; has a dream-chat with Lasciel; joins the Wardens after the Red Court wipes out 3/4 of their numbers; and Harry uses necromancy to re-animate the bones of a friggin’ tyrannosaur which he then busts out of the museum and rides into battle.

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Fave quotes:

‘Chicago has a bitchin morgue.’

‘A raised hand isn’t much in the regular world but from a guy in a long coat with his own flock of zombies, it had to be at least as menacing as pointing a gun.’

“I don’t want to get killed. Or arrested. I’m really bad at being arrested. Or killed.” ~Butters, to Harry

Harry: “How are you as a sounding board?”  Thomas: “I can look interested and nod at appropriate times.”  Harry: “Good enough.”

“I’m so pretty, it’s hard to think of myself as intelligent.” ~Thomas

“Polka will never die!” ~Butters

“I just don’t like the idea of sitting on the sidelines when you might need my help. Hey. You’re doing this on purpose. You’re trying to keep me out of it to protect me, you… sneaky little bitch.” ~Thomas to Harry

‘I didn’t know this before but it turns out, tyrannosaurs can really haul ass.’

“But I want to go with you, I want to help. I’m not afraid to… die fighting beside you.” ~Butters to Harry

Harry: “Come on, Ramirez.”  Ramirez: “Everyone else who lets me ride on their dinosaur calls me Carlos.”

“I’m brilliant as well as skilled. It’s a great burden, all of that on top of my good looks, but I try to soldier on as best I can.” ~Ramirez

“BOB! You have… my… permission!” ~Harry

“Size really does matter.” ~Bob the Skull

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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Spirit

Author: Graham Masterton

Format: galley (also available 4/15/11 on audio book)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 11/2001 (first published in the UK in 1995)

Length: 432 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

Laura and Elizabeth Buchanan’s lives were changed forever when their little sister Peggy was found dead in the icy water of the family’s pool.

But Peggy never left her sisters. As Laura and Elizabeth grow up, a string of inexplicable deaths threatens to shatter their lives. Each corpse shows signs of frostbite–and each victim’s dying moments are tortured by a merciless little girl in a white dress.

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My thoughts, which contain spoilers:

As the synopsis states, Laura and Lizzie Buchanan lose their younger sister during the winter of 1940 when she fell through the ice over the family pool and drowns. While this understandably devastates their parents, Laura and Lizzie are quite young when it happens and so, again understandably, aren’t affected as dramatically by Peggy’s death. In fact, a few nights later, they build a snow girl out in the yard and dress her in Peggy’s clothing which unwittingly and perfectly unintentionally, binds her spirit to them.

Only the spirit of young Peggy Buchanan doesn’t manifest as Peggy Buchanan. Rather, she takes the form of a girl from a favorite story which was read to her often by her eldest sister, Lizzie. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen was a rather scary fairy tale and the lost spirit of Peggy Buchanan not only takes the form of the girl from the story, she is also able to manifest the Snow Queen herself when she takes her revenge and the Snow Queen is a frightening entity.

For some reason, spirit Peggy feels that she needs to protect her older sisters. Forever. And by protect, I mean kill and or maim anyone who does them harm, does them wrong or even just gets too close to them. While it’s expected for lost little Peggy to want to take revenge on someone who has hurt one of her sisters, it didn’t really make sense to me that she would feel the need to harm a person who hadn’t actually done anything but help one of them out… or someone who made one of them very happy later in life.

I had two distinctly different feelings while reading this book. The first was that the story was exciting and properly horrifying at times and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, when Peggy would  manifest again, what Lizzie and Laura would do about it. The second, drastically different feeling was that kind of feeling you get when you read the same line over and over, your eyes start to glaze over and you thumb ahead to see how many pages you’ll have to suffer through before the end of the chapter.

While the premise of the story was good —very good, mind, else I’d not have requested the book from the publisher– Masterton either didn’t fully develop his characters to understand what was going as the years passed in the story or he just plain dragged the thing out too long. Way too long. Most likely both as I feel that the book was indeed too long and so there were more glazed eyes inducing scenes than there should have been. Also, the characters were just… well, kind of dense.

There were far too many scenes that made me roll my eyes and sigh in frustration as one of the other of the surviving sisters was utterly clueless in regards to what was going on around them when they’ve had multiple experiences over the course of a decade or more. They know of multiple people who have died of extreme cold: one particular person was frozen during the summer, others were nearly instantly frozen solid and even in winter, that’s something that just doesn’t happen. There were multiple occasions in which the water in a pool suddenly froze and it would even get freezing cold in a house filled with blazing fire places. Yet the sisters didn’t immediately deduce that Peggy’s spirit was there? That was just too unbelievable for me.

While I did enjoy parts of this story immensely, my overall impression was that it wasn’t as entertaining as I had hoped and the characters weren’t at all believable. To be honest, I was somewhat relieved when I finally finished and I most likely won’t read another of Masterton’s books, much less recommend this one.

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Fave quotes:

“Have a care now, you don’t want to go breaking your ankle. Even a phenomenon ain’t worth that.” ~Dan Phillips to Lizzie Buchanan

“There are three worlds, and there always have been. The world of the living. The world of spirits. And the world of the truly rested, the empty world, which is the world of absolute peace.” ~Eusebio the gardener

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Blood Rites

Dresden Files #6

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/6/10 (original release date: 8/3/04)

Length: 13 hours 11 minutes (a 372 page paperback also resides on one of my bookshelves, amongst my other Dresden books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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Publisher’s summary:

For Harry Dresden, there have been worse assignments than going undercover on the set of an adult film. Still, there’s something more troubling than usual about his newest case. The film’s producer believes he’s the target of a sinister curse-but it’s the women around him who are dying.

Harry’s even more frustrated because he only got involved with this bizarre mystery as a favor to Thomas-his flirtatious, self-absorbed vampire acquaintance of dubious integrity. Thomas has a personal stake in the case Harry can’t quite figure out. But Harry is about to discover that Thomas’ family tree has been hiding a shocking revelation that will change his life forever…

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My thoughts (which contain many spoilers so proceed with caution if you haven’t read the book):

The opening minutes of this sixth installment of Jim Butcher’s extremely popular Dresden Files series finds Harry fleeing a school in the dead of night, carrying a box of puppies while being chased by demons, which by the way, resemble purple chimpanzees with wings. Oh yes, and they’re hurling flaming excrement. What better start could one want to a Dresden Files book?

Then Thomas Raith, yes that Thomas Raith, a vampire of the White Court, tells Harry about a job on a movie set, which Harry accepts though he doesn’t realize that it’s actually the set of a porn movie. All sorts of fun is had by Butcher as Harry experiences various levels of discomfort with the situation. This particularly uncomfortable-for-Harry exchange between him and Murphy was perfectly read by James Marsters and literally had me laughing out loud: Harry“He doesn’t believe in using surgically altered… emmm… You know.”  Murphy“Boobs? Jugs? Hooters? Yayas?”  Harry“I guess.”  Murphy“Melons? Torpedos? Tits? Gazongas… knockers… tatas?”  Harry“Hell’s bells, Murph!”

But the case really does turn out to be a nasty one, and much more involved than Harry suspects, at first. There is indeed an entropy curse but Harry’s not so sure that the target is his client. The deeper involved in the case he becomes and the more he learns, the more dangerous things get until he finds himself at odds with not one court of vampires, but two. And neither one of them Red!

We get some nitty-gritty Black vamp fighting, the most memorable of which includes a frozen turkey that falls from the sky to crush a vamp’s head and chest. Random, yes but it was actually the result of an entropy curse that Harry redirects from the girl that it was gunning for. That scene was a wonderful combination of creepy and hilarious and I could literally see Black vamps, White vamps and Harry all standing there blinking as the timer popped out of the turkey atop the twitching vamp that it had crushed. That scene was incredibly fun to listen to!

As the story progresses and Harry realizes who’s behind the entropy curse and that they know he’s onto them, he has to not only stop the next curse, which will most certainly be directed at him, he also has to find a way to go after Mavra of the Black Court. She’s holed up with her scourge somewhere in Chicago and she’s also after him. Could we just deal with one vampire court at a time? Please? Maybe?

Knowing that he can’t handle Mavra & Company alone, Harry enlists the help of Karrin Murphy (who encourages Harry to please need her help during the Murphy family reunion this Saturday!) and his old mentor, Ebenezar. He also hires Kincaid, the mercenary we first met when The Archive joined the cast of characters in book #5Death Masks and was promptly given a name by our favorite professional wizard. She has been henceforth known as Ivy and though Kincaid is still working for her, he came to Harry’s aid when called. Although… if Harry fails to pay him then Kincaid will kind of kill him. Sorry, business is business. Hell’s bells. Where Harry is concerned, when the incendiary poo hits the fan, it really hits the fan.

In addition to meeting Thomas again in this book, we also get to meet the fam. First we meet Thomas’ younger sister Inari, who is also working on the movie set, as production assistant. Next we meet his older sister Lara, who is called in to work as one of the actresses when another entropy curse sends the girl she’s replacing to the hospital. Finally we meet Dad.

Daddy Raith is actually Lord Raith, the friggin’ King of the White Court. And he is a very not-nice vampire. It turns out that the White King has killed every one of his other sons when they got to the point where he thought they might challenge his position. Not personally, of course. He does it in such a way that he can’t be blamed for their deaths. Thomas is the first to have lived as long as he has. In part, he says, because of Harry. Which is one reason he enlisted Harry’s help with the case on the porn set.

Lord Raith, however, plans to remedy the failure of his previous attempts to dispose of his only remaining son. And to get rid of Harry at the same time. Harry, however, enlists the help of Thomas’ sister, Lara to prevent both of these seeming inevitable murders. He makes a crazy proposition but will she help him? Does she dare? If not, will Harry, Karrin and Thomas survive?

Not only is this book a fantastic read all on its own, but it touches on several things that will have bearing on future books. Butcher concentrates on family a lot in this story… Harry’s family, Thomas’ family, Karrin’s family. There’s a lot of pain on Harry’s part, for losing everyone in his past. His parents, Justin DuMorne who adopted Harry and was his first mentor, and throughout the course of this book, he even kind of loses Ebenezar when he discovers who his former mentor really is and the nature of the services that he performs for the White Council.

This book is something of a turning point for Harry. He’s got people he cares about that he’s getting closer to and it makes a difference. He now has something to lose. A lot of somethings. Which makes the altercation with Ebenezar that much more dramatic. When you don’t have a lot of people who are close to you, losing even one is a pretty damn big deal.

It was hard at times, for me as a “reader” to listen to Marsters’ reading because he’s become so adept at this point in the series at expressing the emotions of the characters. He’s perfected this character’s voice breaking or that character’s voice trembling. You can hear the emotion that the characters are feeling and it really does a lot to add a lot to the listening experience.

My first time through the series, I actually read the books up to #10, Turn Coat but have since listened to the entire series on audio, through book #12, Changes, including Side Jobs. I just LOVE the audio books. I’m currently on my second ‘listen’ of the entire series which is actually my third time through the series to date. I’m doing this re-listen in preparation for book #13, Ghost Story, which is scheduled for a July 2011 release and about which I get more and more excited with every book in the series that I complete. On to book #7!


My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: rescues Foo Dog puppies; has a heart-to-heart with Thomas; takes a case on the set of a porn movie; learns a secret about Thomas’ parentage; speaks with his dead mother; meets Karrin’s family and learns that her sister is engaged to her ex; goes after Mavra of the Black Court with Karrin, Kincaid, and Ebenzar; gets his hand charbroiled; learns that Ebenezar is the Black Staff for the White Court; saves Thomas from his own father; learns that he’s conjuring Hell-fire with his staff, thanks to Lashiel-who’s-coin-is-buried-in-the-lab; gets a roommate and… gets a dog.

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Fave quotes:

“Stupid little fuzzbucket. This is why I have a cat.” ~Harry to puppy

“‘Running an errand’ is getting a tank of gas or picking up a carton of milk or something. It is not getting chased by flying, purple, pyromaniac gorillas hurling incendiary poo.” ~Thomas to Harry

“Discretion is the better part of not getting exsanguinated.” ~Harry to Thomas

Harry: “I need a thug. You available?”  Murphy: “You need manpower?”  Harry: “I need thugpower. … I need thugpower with countergoon capability.”

“Is that a puppy in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” ~Murphy to Harry

Bobby: “Who the hell are you?”  Harry: “I, the hell, am Harry.”  Bobby: “Are you always a wise-ass?”  Harry: “No, sometimes I’m asleep.

‘I dug for more information, like a good investigator. “Why not?”‘

“For my next trick… anvils!” ~Harry, after the frozen turkey fell from the sky to crush the Black Court vampire

Harry: “Well then, I’m glad you took the time to RSVP me. I have a problem that needs to stay on the QT but is rapidly going FUBAR. I’m sorry to call you LD through AT&T instead of using UPS but I needed your help ASAP. I hope that’s OK.”  Ebenezar: “Don’t make me kick your ass.”

“It’s been a busy couple of days, what with dodging all the certain death coming at me from every direction.” ~Harry to Ebenezar

“This is a family get-together. Maybe you could find another part of the park to stand around looking foreboding.” ~Rich to Harry

“We’re doing battle with the living dead, Murph. Expect the occasional curve ball.” ~Harry

Kincaid: “You’re going to lose that hand.”  Harry: “I was sending it back to the kitchen, anyway. I ordered it medium-well.”

Lara: “I underestimated you.”  Harry: “Don’t feel bad. I look so stupid.”

‘Monday afternoon, I got the Blue Beetle back from my mechanic Mike, who is the automotive repair equivalent of Jesus Christ himself. Either that or Dr. Frankenstein.’ ~Harry

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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