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The Stand

Author: Stephen King

Format: Audible audio book

Narrator: Grover Gardner

Publisher: Random House

Audio Release Date: 2/14/12 (Original Doubleday release 1/1/79; Complete & Uncut release, 1/1/90)

Length: 47 hours 56 minutes (Complete & Uncut HC, 1152 pages)

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Website synopsis:

One man escapes from a biological weapon facility after an accident, carrying with him the deadly virus known as Captain Tripps, a rapidly mutating flu that – in the ensuing weeks – wipes out most of the world’s population.

In the aftermath, survivors choose between following an elderly black woman to Boulder or the dark man, Randall Flagg, who has set up his command post in Las Vegas. The two factions prepare for a confrontation between the forces of good and evil.

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Publisher’s summary:

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides-or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail-and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

In 1978 Stephen King published The Stand, the novel that is now considered one of his finest works. But as it was first published, The Stand was incomplete, since more than 150,000 words had been cut from the original manuscript. Now Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil has been restored to its entirety.

The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition includes more than 500 pages of material deleted, along with new material that King added as he reworked the manuscript for a new generation. It gives us new characters and endows familiar ones with new depths. It has a new beginning and a new ending. What emerges is a gripping work with the scope and moral complexity of a true epic.

For the hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King’s gift. And those who are reading The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.

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My thoughts, which I hope are mostly free of major spoilers:

Those who know me well know that I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s writing. I’ll buy anything printed with his name on it and will greatly enjoy most of it because even bad Stephen King is enjoyable for me. Part of my enjoyment of King’s writing stems from the fact that his characters are so well-written and so believable that as a reader (or listener), I’m sucked right into the story and as I get to know them, their triumphs and terrors, their worries and their struggles become my own.

I’ve read and heard many opinions on King’s work and not all of them favorable. But one common opinion, generally of fans of the work, is that King doesn’t write about extraordinary people, he writes about regular people who encounter extraordinary (and sometimes supernatural) situations and occurrences. Sometimes those ordinary people in King’s stories become more than what they were because of what happens to them or around them, and sometimes they become less. The Stand is full of characters that do both.

This is a story that begins with a large and varied cast of characters who are spread far and wide across the United States, and who eventually come together for one reason or another. As the synopsis above declares, a man-made flu has wiped out 99% of the population and the people who survived, through a series of dreams, are drawn by one of two people: Mother Abigail or Randall Flagg, to one of two places: Boulder, Colorado or Las Vegas, Nevada. During the course of their journeys, people join up with others that they find along the way and friendships are forged, or enemies are made.

Some characters find a stronger version of themselves as they cope with the disaster and its aftermath, and then struggle to find a new life and build a new future for themselves and their new friends and loved ones. Other characters make the decision to abandon what they had been, or could have been, to pursue power and revenge. One thing King does so well in writing these characters is to make them so complex that you find yourself almost understanding the motivations of, and maybe on the verge of sympathizing with, someone who is in the process of turning to the ‘Dark Side’. Almost.

The Stand is, at its root, a story of good versus evil. Literally. Followers of God-fearing, God-praising Mother Abigail converge on Boulder in the ‘good guy’ camp and followers of creepy/evil/scary Randall Flagg gather in Vegas in, for lack of a better descriptor, the ‘bad guy’ camp. The bad guys are planning a military-style assault on the good guys, for no other reason than that Flagg wants them to. Hey, scary-ass dude that talked to them in their dreams wants them to do something, they do it regardless of how reluctant they might be, by God. Or by the other guy, rather.

Some of the people who have migrated to Vegas are criminals of one flavor or another but many of them seem to be reg’lar type folks, as several residents of the newly dubbed “Free Zone” in Boulder come to realize when they have cause to go to Vegas. Members of the Free Zone have no beef with the new residents of Las Vegas, they just don’t want to be attacked while trying to build a new life, a new family, a new community… a new society. So they look to Mother Abigail, one of the most colorful and likeable characters in this story in my not so humble opinion, and to a few chosen–or self-chosen, rather–leaders to decide how to best handle the threat from the West.

One thing that strikes me about this story is how King outlines each new society. Mother Abigail’s flock, for that is indeed what they are, are brought together and held together, by love. By the need for love, by the need to not be alone. To not be lonely. There’s an inherent need in man to be with others of his kind. To feel companionship and to have shared experiences and King hits this nail on the head so profoundly that you actually ache with loneliness when certain characters experience the same sad and horrible state. The longing to not feel that way anymore is what holds the people together in what becomes the Free Zone in The Stand. The survivors want things as simple as community and friendship. Loyalty and love.

Las Vegas, on the other hand, is full of fear. Dripping with fear. Seething with fear. People go there thinking they’ll have freedom to do whatever they please. No more rules, no more laws, no more oppression! Only they find themselves well and caught under the worn-down boot heels of a blue-jean wearing tyrant. One who can drive a man insane just by looking at him. They’re pretty well stuck there and they quickly come to realize that it’s dangerous to even toe the line, much less cross it. It’s dangerous to say anything untoward about their new leader… maybe even to think it. So best not. Best not.

Many of King’s works have some kind of religious, social or political commentary, but thinking back through his many books that I’ve read, I don’t know that any were quite as blatant as The Stand. The underlying theme is as I mentioned before, literal good versus literal evil and as simple as it may sound, it’s a powerful message. So many of those people that went to Vegas weren’t inherently evil. They were also lost and alone and looking for companionship in a world turned upside down. They just wanted to belong to something again.

Yet rather than choosing Mother Abigail, they chose The Dark Man who admittedly, appeared to many of them as a priest of some sort, or as a hero. He was cool. He was sexy. He promised them things. Promised them a place. Perhaps, promised them power. And before they were aware of what was happening, they were ensnared. They were trapped. They just plain didn’t know, or didn’t want to know, what they were walking into.

But they learned. Oh, yes. They learned. And they got to the point where they were afraid to so much as utter his name. A fact that was thrust into the faces of a handful of them by a member of the Free Zone that had been a professor of sociology before. Glen Bateman, upon encountering some of Flagg’s men commented as follows when he realizes that the men won’t say the name of their chosen master:

“Are you afraid? Are you so afraid of him you don’t dare speak his name? Very well, I’ll say it for you. His name is Randall Flagg, also known as the Dark Man, also known as the Tall Man, also known as the Walkin’ Dude. Don’t some of you call him that? Call him Beelzebub because that’s his name, too. Call him Nyarlathotep and Ahaz and Astaroth. Call him R’yelah and Seti and Anubis. His name is Legion and he’s an apostate of Hell and you men kiss his ass. Just thought we ought to have that up front.”

Glen Bateman is one of my favorite characters in this story if for no other reason than that he had the guts and gumption to make this pronouncement. Sure, when I met Glen Bateman alongside Stu Redman on a lonely New Hampshire highway, he may have seemed a bit pompous and overblown… but that was before I knew him. That was before Mr. King showed me who he really was… what he was really made of. This is what I mean when I speak of the way King’s characters are written. Some of The Stand’s characters have stayed fast and firm in my mind over the many years since I last read this book, even though many of the details of the story had faded.

Don’t read The Stand just for the great post-apocalyptic story that it is. Don’t just read it for the epic struggle between good and evil, though it’s worth it for that. Read it to get to know the amazing characters that Stephen King created to act out his end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario. Read it for Stu Redman and Frannie Goldsmith, for Nick Andros and Mother Abigail. Yes, even for Randall Flagg (who you may see in other works by Stephen King, do you ken?), for Lloyd Henreid and the Trashcan Man. Read it for Larry Underwood, who ain’t no nice guy. Read it for Kojak and for Harold Lauder and for Tom Cullen. Who could ever forget Tom Cullen? “M-O-O-N, that spells Tom Cullen, laws yes!”

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Afterthoughts:

If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, you’ll know that this story is one of many stand-alone SK works that is connected in some way to that series (hint: the previous link leads to a page which outlines said connections, but ‘ware spoilers). If you haven’t read The Dark Tower series, what’s the matter with you?

Grover Gardner did a fantastic job on the narration of this audio book. Those 48 hours just flew by! But seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed his reading and recommend his other works on Audible which are linked to above. But, so that you don’t have to scroll back UP through this entire post, I’ve included it here for your convenience. You’re welcome.

For the first annual World Book Night event in the United States, I signed up to be a book giver of this very book. I was accepted and received 20 specially printed paperback copies of The Stand, which was my first of three choices out of this year’s selection of books, to gift to members of my community. To see my thoughts on World Book Night and my experience as a book giver, check out the previous post in this blog. Or just clickity-click right here.

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Fave quotes:

“Baby, can you dig your man?” -Larry Underwood

‘The unreality was trying to creep back in again and she found herself wondering just how much the human brain could be expected to stand before snapping like an overtaxed rubber band.’ ~lonely thoughts of Frannie Goldsmith

“I spent most of my life feeling like the only Cro Magnon in a herd of thundering Neanderthals.” -Harold Lauder

‘No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of change. You just… come out the other side. Or don’t.’

“All of the old soldiers have faded away and left their playthings behind.” Glen Bateman

‘What kind of world was it where God would trap a person like a bug in a puddle of gasoline? A world that deserved to burn, that was what.’ ~wayward thoughts of the Trashcan Man

“That wasn’t any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery.” -Larry Underwood

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want for nothing. He makes me lie down in the green pastures. He greases up my head with oil. He gives me kung-fu in the face of my enemies. Amen.” -Tom Cullen

“Goodbye East Texas. It’s been pretty goddamn good to know you.” -Glen Bateman to Stu Redman

“Oh pardon me… it’s just that we were all so frightened… we made such a business out of you. I’m laughing as much at our own foolishness as at your regrettable lack of substance.” – Glen Bateman to Randall Flagg

‘And the righteous and unrighteous alike were consumed in that holy fire.’

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The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Format: Audible audio book

Narrator: Jim Dale

Publisher: Random House Audio

Release Date: 9/13/2011

Length: 13 hours 39 minutes (Doubleday HC is 400 pages)

Acquired: Audible.com

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The blurb from the website:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

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My  thoughts:

The synopsis I included above pretty much sums it up all one needs to know about this story and was more than enough to pique my interest. From childhood, cCelia and Marco are pawns in a contest that’s been repeated again and again for longer than they might believe, and one that they’ve essentially been tricked into participating. Neither of these talented young magicians –real magicians not sleight-of-hand type magicians– knows that the unfortunate loser will not only lose the contest, but will lose their life.

The stage of their contest is a circus… but it’s not your ordinary circus. Oh, no. It’s a wondrous thing, full of incredible performers and truly magical attractions. It’s known as Le Cirque des Rêves, The Circus of Dreams. And it truly is a circus of dreams, for it is truly magic, though the patrons don’t quite realize it.

Some patrons are so profoundly changed by their visit that they begin to follow the circus from place to place so that they can visit again and again. Eventually, these patrons begin to call themselves rêveurs, or dreamers.

‘Word spreads quickly in such select circles, and so begins a tradition of rêveurs attending Le Cirque des Rêves decked in black or white or grey with a single shock of red: a scarf or hat, or, if the weather is warm, a red rose tucked into a lapel or behind an ear. It is also quite helpful for spotting other rêveurs, a simple signal for those who know.’

The story follows not only the dueling magicians but their respective masters and the circus performers, as well as certain patrons and rêveurs, as the circus travels the world over a period of decades. When, as adults, Celia and Marco learn about the true nature of the competition in which they are involved, they decide that they want no part of it. Unfortunately, they’re both magically bound to continue and so attempt to break the rules and outsmart their masters.

One aspect of the story that threw me off a bit was the jumping back and forth in the story’s timeline. I imagine that it would have been easier to follow had I been reading a print book, but when listening to an audio book, one can’t always ‘flip back’ to the start of a chapter to refresh their memory on when they are in the story. So that would be one definite advantage to actually reading the book, rather than listening. Another advantage, of course, is the beautiful cover art. Although.. I have to also heartily recommend the audio if only for the masterful narration of Jim Dale.

Okay, so I suppose I’m suggesting that you go buy this beautiful book in print, read it, and then download the audio book and listen to it. I’m certain that you’ll enjoy the story all the more by following my instructions and once you’ve both read and listened, you may return here and thank me for my sound advice in the comments section below.

Happy reading. And listening. .

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Fave quotes:

“It is important, someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find the treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice up of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it…” ~The man in the grey suit

‘Old stories have a habit of being told and retold and changed. Each subsequent storyteller puts his or her marks upon it. Whatever truth the story once has is buried in bias and embellishment. The reasons do not matter as much as the story itself.’

‘Poppet: “Have you tried the cinnamon things? They’re rather new. What are they called, Widge?”
Widge: “Fantastically delicious cinnamon things?”’

“Love is fickle and fleeting. It is rarely a solid foundation for decisions to be made upon, in any game.” ~Tsukiko

‘And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead.’

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Department 19

Author: Will Hill

Format: author-signed paperback

Publisher: HarperCollins

Original Release Date: 3/29/2011

Length: 496 pages

Acquired: won in a publisher giveaway

Department 19 Website, Facebook & Twitter

This was first posted as a guest review at Waiting For Fairies

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The blurb from the website:

Jamie Carpenter’s life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein.

Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula.

Aided by Frankenstein’s monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond – from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania.

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My moderately spoilery thoughts:

Considering the fact that this is a YA book, I rather enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against YA, but at times the genre can be frustrating to read, as though YA writers assume that their readers aren’t mature or intelligent enough to handle content that’s a bit more complex. Some of the writing in Department 19 definitely seemed more appropriate for a younger crowd but all in all, it was fast-paced enough to keep the pages turning and intriguing enough to keep me thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. I also found myself anxious to get back to it as soon as possible whenever I had to put it down to eat or shower or sleep or work… pesky, pesky work.

Some of my favorite sections of this book dealt with the short glimpses back in history at the protagonist’s ancestors. Jamie Carpenter’s great-grandfather worked with the fabled Abraham Van Helsing and joined his circle of Dracula-staking buddies when Department 19, aka Blacklight, was formed in 1892, 100+ years before Jamie’s story begins. His grandfather met and befriended Frankenstein’s monster, who seemed quite civilized and took on his creator’s name after he passed. Finally we learn more about his father Julian, who was also a member of Department 19 and who apparently betrayed it, and so is much hated by the time Jamie is tossed headfirst into insanity.

Before the events in this story, neither Jamie or his mother had any knowledge of the classified, vampire-killing, militant branch of the government which his father had been an honored member. He was honored before that whole betrayal thing, anyway, after which his colleagues tracked him down and summarily executed him in his driveway in front of his family. I had a hard time swallowing such fly-off-the-handle type of behavior from a highly-trained, professional organization, but I didn’t let it detract (much) from the rest of the story.

I enjoyed the fact that the author touted Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a chronicle of true events, rather than a work of fiction. As one Department 19 Operator explains to a civilian after she admits that she has read Stoker’s book, “It’s not a story; it’s a history lesson.” Though that reminded me of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, in which Dracula is essentially a How-to guide for killing vampires of the Black Court, the concept fit well and the premise opened the door for the inclusion of Frankenstein’s character, which added some spice to the story.

Jamie is torn from his life as an awkward teen when his mother is kidnapped by one of the oldest vamps in the world, after which he is rescued from the same vamp by yet another monster straight out of a horror story. A monster who happened to be pals with his dad, once upon a time (no pun intended). Of course, neither Jamie or his mother had any knowledge of the vampire-killing militant branch of the government before this story takes place so we get a lot of info-dumping to catch Jamie (us) up on the history of the organization and his family’s part in it. I feel that Hill did a great job of fleshing out Jamie’s character, from the vehement anger at his father for his betrayal and for his lies about his job to Jamie and his mother, to his stubborn insistence in ignoring what he’s told by senior members of Blacklight. I often found his behavior exceedingly annoying but it was probably pretty accurate for a teenaged boy.

Aside from a bit of choppy jumping back and forth action toward the end of the book, the only issue I had with the story was the excessive gore. Yes, I do realize that this is a Stoker-esque portrayal of vamps as blood-sucking monsters and that much blood and murder and mayhem is likely to take place, but the book is aimed at a 12+ audience and I just felt that it was a little too bloody for the pre-teen set. I got the feeling while reading the many fight scenes that the author was writing something as anti-Twilight as possible and while I approve, multiple mentions of characters being soaked in blood and then the image of a vampire covered in gore from head to toe, flinging drops of blood from her hair in the midst of battle, was just a wee bit much.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this read to anyone who wants a good ole vamp-staking story. There are cool weapons, a lot of action, and an impressively in-depth history of the Blacklight organization, as well as a dun-dun-dun-DUNNNN ending that will, hopefully, make you look forward to the next book, Department 19: The Rising, as much as I do. (teaser chapters here)

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Ghost Story

Dresden Files #13

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: hardcover

Publisher: ROC

Release Date: 7/26/2011

Length: 477 pages

Acquired: purchased via two good friends at a book signing

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The blurb from the website:

When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn’t doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn’t stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has no body, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends — and his own soul — Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic…

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My thoughts, as brief (ha!) and spoiler-free as I can make them (note, definite spoilers through book #12, Changes):

I’ve mentioned before how Jim Butcher generally starts off his Dresden books with catchy lines. Book #13, Ghost Story, does not disappoint.

Life is hard. Dying’s easy.

As expected after the abrupt ending to book #12, Changes, which left many Butcher fans with an “Oh, hell no, he didn’t!” kind of attitude… Harry is dead. Oh, hell yes, he did!

As this story begins, Harry finds himself in an odd Purgatory-like Chicago. He learns he hasn’t moved on to some sort of afterlife because there was an irregularity with his death, that he died because “they cheated”. He’s told that he’s got to return to Chicago as a spirit and solve his own murder or three people he loves will come to great harm.

Nah, that’s not cryptic at all.

But Harry doesn’t have to go back to Chicago as a spirit. He could choose to do so, to return and find out who shot him, or he could choose to move on to “What Comes Next”. But there’s a catch — of course there’s a catch, there’s always a catch – once he sets out, there’s no going back to Chicagotory and there’s no moving on unless he finds his killer. If he fails to do so, he’ll be trapped as a spirit in the mortal world with no way to move on and nothing to do but slowly go insane.

Harry’s willing to take that chance in order to help his friends. His state of being may have changed, but not his priorities or his sense of obligation. One of the many traits I love in this character is his unwillingness to throw in the towel. Ever.

So Harry accepts his mission and returns as a spirit that nobody can see, with no magic and no easy means of communicating with his still-living loved ones. Harry visits an old acquaintance, the ectomancer Mortimer Lindquist who is able to communicate with spirits, and the hunt for the shooter is on.

Back at the ranch… or rather, at Murphy’s house, we meet up with the usual suspects. Murph is of course present, though dramatically different than the Karrin Murphy that left Harry on the Water Beetle to get ready for their date at the end of Changes. Also in attendance is Will, leader of the Alphas, Father Forthill from St. Mary of the Angels, Molly’s brother David Carpenter and Abby, one of the Paranet members we first met in book #10, White Night… and her little dog, too. Once Molly arrives, Murph has her own little war council or rather, her own Justice League, as Harry dubs the group.

So the gang’s all here, for the most part, and greatly changed in the time since Harry took a bullet, and then took his last swim. Harry learns that after he wiped out the Red Court, he created a power vacuum and all kinds of nasties have been attempting to fill it, meaning his friends have had their hands full fighting baddies in Harry’s absence, which has been quite a bit longer than he had known. Harry hadn’t been there to help his friends clean up the mess he had made and he was feeling somewhat guilty.

What could I do? What do you do to make up for failing everyone in your life? How do you make it right? How do you apologize for hideous things you never intended to happen?

These thoughts were a low point in the book for Harry. He’s overwhelmed with what needs to be done and feels incapable of doing much of anything but in true Harry Dresden fashion, he bucks up and faces the darkness.

My job hadn’t changed. When demons and horrors and creatures of the night prey on this city, I’m the guy who does something about it.

Harry’s usual strategy when working to take out an enemy is to bust in, blasting rod blazing and spells flying. He’s all power and strength and sheer determination.  His power is fed by emotions and some of the strongest emotions for using the kind of power Harry wields are anger, rage, and fear. He can also think his way around a problem but that usually comes after tossing around a lot of fire and sheer kinetic energy. Considering his physical state of being in this book, Harry is forced to modify the way he plans for an assault on the bad guys’ lair.

Maybe I should pause for a moment. Maybe I should think. Maybe I should reject both anger and fear and strive for an outcome beyond kicking down the door and smashing everything in my way. Play it smart. Play it responsible.

Overloading Harry with tasks is a familiar MO to readers of the Dresden Files. Mr. Butcher is fond of throwing many and varied obstacles into the path of his hero and this story is no different. As though trying to find the person that shot him wasn’t quite enough to be going on with, Harry takes on a client, helps out with the rescue of a priest, arranges yet another rescue (ok, maybe not quite so varied) of the aforementioned ectomancer from a seriously bad-ass spirit, and storms the beach at Normandy. Kind of.

Overachiever much, Harry? But of course he is, and he knows it!

Fabulous. Maybe I should make it my new slogan: Harry Dresden–I take responsibility for more impossible situations in the first twenty-four hours of being dead than most people do all day.

This book discusses memories quite a lot and stresses the power of those memories. At various points throughout the story, Harry dwells on his past a good deal more than he’s done previously in this series. We get a glimpse of the boy he was and what he experienced as an apprentice to Justin DuMorne. We see the betrayal by his master and mentor, and finally, we get to see young Harry’s first bona fide battle. It is awesome and terrible, and it sets his feet on the path to becoming the formidable wizard that goes on to eliminate not just one ancient Court of Vampires, but two.

Harry also dwells on the choices he made in Changes, regarding both Susan’s death and accepting the mantle of the Winter Knight. Our favorite wizard for hire wrestles with guilt and regret quite a lot in this book. He realizes that decisions made to do the right thing can still be wrong decisions.

Like it or not, I had embraced the darkness. The fact that I had died before I could have found myself used for destructive purposes meant nothing. I had picked up a red lightsaber. I had joined the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. I had become what I always fought.

Harry then learns that he may have been nudged a bit toward making those wrong decisions. Back to that whole, “they cheated” thing. Finally, Harry allows himself access his own memory of who shot him as well as who arranged for it to be done and why he had forgotten. He is now ready to move on, admittedly, rather anticlimactically. 

At this point, as a faithful (and possibly sobbing) reader of the series might expect or at the very least hope, Mr. Butcher introduces quite the holy shit! moment. Which is why we get to look forward to Cold Days, hopefully soon. We have yet to see a release date and unfortunately, there’s very little info regarding this 14th Dresden Files book on the author’s site but I’ll be keeping an eye out, as should you.

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Regarding the audio book format of Ghost Story: I just couldn’t buy it, couldn’t listen to it. When this book was released, I had just finished a re-listen of the first twelve Dresden Files books (plus Side Jobs) and I absolutely love listening to the audio versions of the books in this series. James Marsters has done such a spectacular job as the voice of Harry Dresden and to me, the two are synonymous with one another. Furthermore, I’m stubborn. I just couldn’t bring myself to read a Dresden book read by someone other than Marsters.

So imagine my delight when I first sat down last summer with my beautiful new hardcover and began to read… and heard Mr. Marsters remarkable voice in my head. Down to him snarling “Fuego!” and “Forzare!”. Marsters’ wonderful vocalization of Harry’s sarcasm was loud and clear and delightful. I could hear Bob’s accent and the familiar geekiness of Waldo Butters, I heard it all in beautiful inside-my-head surround sound.

I was pleased as punch, though my imagination wasn’t quite as good as hearing him actually reading would have been. I assumed that I could hear Marster’s voice so clearly in my mind because as I said, I’d just finished listening to him read the Dresden books for weeks on end. However when I re-read the book again over the last few days in order to touch up on a few points before posting this review, I could still hear him. Clear as day.

As I said, James Marsters is Harry Dresden. So while I’m sure John Glover did his best while reading this most recent book, I don’t know that I could bring myself to listen to him reading Harry. Unreasonable? Possibly. Obstinate? Certainly. But again, and I cannot stress this enough, James Marsters is Harry Dresden. At this point, I can’t listen to a Dresden Files book as read by another. Especially after seeing so many Audible.com reviews filled with disappointment and frustration that Penguin didn’t wait until Mr. Marsters was available to read. As a fan of not only the series but the audio books, I’d have waited. Okay, ’nuff said on that subject but I really, really missed your voice, Mr. Marsters!

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My own personal summary:

The one in which Harry: is… dead; meets the shade of Karrin Murphy’s dad; goes back to Chicago as a ghost to investigate his own murder; learns about wraiths and lemurs (lay-moors); meets a nasty old acquaintance from his dino-riding days; meets Evil Bob; realizes how long he’s been gone and what affect his death/disappearance has had on his friends; takes on a client; does a lot of soul searching; finds a fortress where the house above his basement apartment used to stand; under duress, tells Lea about his time with Justin DuMorne and his first encounter with He Who Walks Behind; manifests, thereby proving that he is insane; has a flashback to a pre-Chichen Itza convo with Molly; chats with his old pal Uriel and learns the truth about who shot him and why; finds Mouse as Maggie’s guardian (serious boo-hoo inducing chapter, that!); and has the mantle of the Winter Knight forced on him despite his efforts to the contrary.

.rand ta

Fave quotes:

‘I’d had a long, long day, battling the forces of evil, utterly destroying the Red Court, rescuing my daughter, and murdering her mother–oh, and getting shot to death. That kind of thing.’

‘Hells bells, I hate being the new guy.’

‘I screamed, emerging from the wards and onto Murphy’s front lawn, chock-full of new insight as to why ghosts are always moaning or wailing when they come popping out of somebody’s wall or floor. Not much mystery there–it freaking hurts.’

‘Interestinger and interestinger.’

‘Death is only frightening from the near side.’

‘It wasn’t like any kind of pain I’d felt before, and I’m a connoisseur when it comes to pain.’

‘Life is precious, fragile, fleeting–and Murphy’s life was one of my favorites.’

‘I was starting to get why so many ghosts seemed to be a couple of French fries short of a Happy Meal.’

‘My gast was pretty well flabbered.’

“Note to self. Look into apparent mystical anomaly later. Help your friends now.” ~Harry

‘The best thing about my faerie godmother is that the creepy just keeps on coming.’

‘It turns out ghosts can cry.’

“Wrong is wrong, even when you really, really want it not to be. I learned that one the hard way. It’s easy to do the right thing when it doesn’t cost you. Not as easy to do the right thing when your back is to the wall.” ~Harry to Fitz

‘I’d fallen victim to one of the other classic blunders, along with not getting involved in a land war in Asia and never going in against a Sicilian when death was on the line.’

‘They could kill me, but they couldn’t have me. I was my own.’

“Booya! That’s right! Who just rocked your face? Harry fucking Dresden! That’s who!” ~Harry to Evil Bob

“Hells bells. Harry, you idiot, when will you learn not to victory gloat?” ~Harry 

‘Dead or alive, Kemmler’s disciples did not play for funsies.’

“Aren’t you a little short for an archangel?” ~Harry to Uriel

     -          -          -          -          -          -          -          -          -          -

Congrats! Since you read your way through that review — or if you just scrolled through it, I suppose – you can now enter the book giveaway. I have one unread, author-signed, hardcover copy of Ghost Story to give away to one lucky commenter as a prize to celebrate my 10,000th blog view/1 year blogiversary! If you’re not a member of WordPress, just use your email address to enter a comment, it won’t be displayed publicly.

While I would greatly appreciate you sharing this blog post via the social networking site(s) of your choice, all you really need to do is leave a comment below. No quizzes or comment requirements, just tell me something you enjoyed about this book, or any of the Dresden Files! If you have yet to read the Dresden Files, let me know if you plan to start and whether any particular reviews, recommendations or something else has prompted you to pick up the series.

I will randomly choose a winner from the comments at the end of February, just be sure to leave a means of communication, be it Facebook, Twitter or email, if you know I don’t already have your contact info. Also, no location restrictions, I’m willing to ship the book via media mail to anybody, anywhere. So c’mon… comment away! And share!

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Changes

Dresden Files #12

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/6/2010

Length: 15 hours 28 minutes (HC is 448 pages)

Acquired: Audible.com

Sample chapters

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The blurb from the website:

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover – until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it – against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power.

Because Harry’s not fighting to save the world…

He’s fighting to save his child.

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts

Jim Butcher has the greatest opening lines for his Dresden books:

I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, “They’ve taken our daughter.”  I sat there for a long five count, swallowed, and said, “Um. What?”  “You heard me, Harry,” Susan said gently.  “Oh,” I said. “Um.”

I think those few simple words perfectly capture Harry’s utter shock at Susan’s revelation. It’s been some 8 years since Harry’s seen her and she sure never mentioned that their last encounter had produced a little bundle of joy.

Harry struggles with anger a lot during this book and it’s no wonder. He’s pissed at Susan for not telling him he was a father. He’s probably a little pissed at himself for not being there for his daughter, despite the fact that he didn’t know that she existed. And mostly, he’s phenomenally pissed at Arianna Ortega, widow of Duke Ortegaas well as the entire Red Court for having the audacity to kidnap his child in order to get at him.

Harry is ready to kick some major ass and God help anyone that gets in his way. And so Mr. Butcher commences with the destruction of Harry’s entire life.

His building is destroyed by explosives that were wired into the walls of Harry’s office, something for which he is being investigated by CPD. He learns that the Red Court intends to sacrifice the daughter he didn’t know he had as part of a curse. He seeks assistance from the White Council but finds no help there or even from his fellow Wardens. Ivy, the Archive is also unable to assist directly. His car is destroyed, his house is burned down, he’s paralyzed and an angel from Heaven above is even powerless to do anything for him.

All seems hopeless, even moreso than usual for a Harry Dresden tale. As is also usual: Harry’s pre-Hell-breaking-loose checklist.

‘Focus. Forethought. Reason. Sound judgement. That’s what was going to get me through this.

Fact one, my daughter was still in danger.

Fact two, I was hurt. Maybe badly, maybe forever. Even the efficient resilience of a wizard’s body had its limits and a broken spine was quite likely beyond them.

Fact three, Susan and Martin could not get the girl out on their own.

Fact four, there wasn’t a lot of help forthcoming. Maybe, with Sanya along, the suicidal mission could be considered only mostly suicidal… Sanya was the wielder of Esperacchius, The Sword of Hope. We needed hope right now. At least I did.

Fact five, I’d missed the rendezvous with Ebenezar many hours ago. I’d never intended to go and there was nothing I could do about the fact that he was going to be upset. But my absence had probably cost me the support of the Grey Council, such as it was.

Fact six, Sanya, Susan, Martin and whatever scanty help I could drum up couldn’t get to Chichen Itza without me and I sure as hell couldn’t get there in the shape I was in. According to the stored memories in my mother’s jewel, the Way required a swim.

Fact seven, I was going to show up for my daughter and to hell with what it would cost. And there were only so many options open to me.

I took the least terrifying one.’

And then he summons Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, who eventually consents to bestow upon him the mantle of the Winter Knight. In a very… interesting yet terrifying way.

‘What we did wasn’t sex, regardless of what it appeared to be. You can’t have sex with a thunderstorm, an earthquake, a furious winter gale. You can’t make love to a mountain, a lake of ice, a freezing wind.’

Harry’s War Council, which consists of most of the regular players, heads out to do battle with the entire Red Court of vampires. I won’t detail the whole of the battle or the end of the book here because, as usual, Butcher skillfully and beautifully crams so much between the covers of this book that to do so would result in a massive review, such as the one I posted last summer (this is a much-revised version of that monster). The sheer amount of information and action that he includes in these stories never ceases to amaze me.

This book was just brutal to Harry. He loses his office, his car, his home… he loses his child almost as soon as he learns of her existence, and he also not only loses her mother but carries the guilt of using her to destroy his enemies. He loses his freedom by becoming the Winter Knight and worries that he’ll lose himself by doing so… and finally, when there’s almost nothing left, he loses his very life.

This was only my second time listening to this particular book in the series and I don’t remember having such strong emotional reactions to some of these scenes the first time through. I’m not sure what it is, exactly–perhaps it’s my increased familiarity with the story and the characters or my heightened appreciation for the genius of James Marsters’ reading, or both–but I found myself in tears more frequently and I cried more intensely than I did when listening to this book for the first time last year.

So, I’m caught up. Finally. And now, I can get to this beautiful book sitting next to me, #13 in the series, which is fittingly and hauntingly titled Ghost Story.

Chapter 1…

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My own personal summary:

The one in which Harry: learns he’s a dad; tells Susan it’s over, for realsies; learns that the Red Court owns his building, just before they blow it up; crashes Arianna Ortega’s bullshit bid for peace in Edinburgh; flees from his basement into the Nevernever and fights a giant centipede; hides Bob and the holy swords in the Nevernever; gets arrested; sees his godmother who gives him a jewel, left in her possession by his mother; meets a god; is sad over the final destruction of the Blue Beetle; helplessly watches Thomas almost eat Molly; saves his elderly neighbors from the fire that destroys the boarding house; is paralyzed; begs an archangel for help; becomes the Winter Knight; wears armor; gets turned into a dog; learns exactly how intelligent Mouse really is; duels Duchess Ortega; saves his daughter; destroys the entire Red Court by killing new-vamp-Susan and generally hates himself for it; learns that Ebenezar is his grandfather and that the bloodline curse was primarily aimed at him; plans a date with Murphy; and… is murdered.

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Fave quotes:

“Something like this will test you like nothing else. You’re going to find out who you are, Harry. You’re going to find out which principles you’ll stand by to your death–and which lines you’ll cross. You’re heading into the badlands. It’ll be easy to get lost.” ~Mac to Harry

‘”Ack!” Fearless master of the witty dialogue, that’s me.’

“I will make Maggie safe. If the world burns because of that then so be it. Me and the kid will roast some marshmallows.” ~Harry to Murphy

“Booya! What have you got for a fiery beam of death? Huh?! You’ve got nothing for a fiery beam of death! Might as well go back to Atari bug boy, ’cause YOU don’t got game enough for ME!” ~Harry to the giant centipede

‘Hells bells, I needed to stop being so arrogant.’

“Not ready for the burden of wise-assery are you.” ~Harry, in a Yoda voice, to Molly

“If we only had a wheel barrow, that would be something.” ~Harry

“Wizards don’t giggle. This is cackling.” ~Harry to Murphy

“The more I look at it, the more certain I am that I have no idea what’s going on.” ~Harry

“I met the Eebs while you three were playing with the ick… ick… with the ickcoocachoo. With the Ick.” ~Harry to Molly

“Whatever you do, do it for love. If you keep to that your path will never wander so far from the light that you can never return.” ~Uriel to Harry

‘I carefully kept myself from letting out a shriek. It would have been unwizardly.’

“I don’t think I’m temperamentally suited for the action thing.” ~Butters to Harry

“Did it hurt when you kissed Mab? Because I always thought that her lips looked so cold that they would burn like streetlamps in Winter. Oo-OOO-ooh, did your tongue get stuck to her like on that Christmastime show?” ~Toot-toot to Harry

“So. Mab. You hit that. You… tapped that ass.” ~Sanya to Harry

“Good, now we have somewhere to go, someone to rescue. This part, I know how to do.” ~Sanya to Harry

‘Hope was a force of nature.’

‘Go, go gadget Faustian bargain.’

‘I stared up at the Erl King and with my typical pithy brilliance said, “Uhhh-ohhh.”‘

“Wow. You really do have a faerie godmother.” ~Susan to Harry

‘If I was on the road to hell, at least I was going in style.’

“That bitch.” ~Mouse, referring to Lea

“Restore them before I rip your ass off. Literally rip it off.” ~Mouse to Lea

Bite me… asshole.” ~Harry to the Red King

‘I used the knife. I saved a child. I won a war. God forgive me.’

“Only so many black-hearted villains in the world and they only get uppity on occasion. Stupid’s everywhere, every day.~Ebenezar

‘The only thing certain in life is change. Most of my changes lately hadn’t been good ones.’

‘Typical. Even when you’re dead, it doesn’t get any easier.’

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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

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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Turn Coat

Dresden Files #11

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/10/2009

Length: 14 hour 40 minutes (a 576 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

Sample chapters

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The blurb from the website:

The Warden Morgan has been accused of treason against the Wizards of the White Council–and there’s only one, final punishment for that crime. He’s on the run, wants his name cleared, and needs someone with a knack for backing the underdog. Someone like Harry Dresden.

Now, Harry must uncover a traitor within the Council, keep a less-than-agreeable Morgan under wraps, and avoid coming under scrutiny himself. And a single mistake may cost someone his head–someone like Harry.

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

“The Wardens are coming. Hide me. Please.” Not the words Harry would have ever expected to hear from White Council Warden Donald Morgan, who shows up at Harry’s door, bloodied and scared, and then passes out.

After Waldo Butters patches him up and he regains consciousness, Morgan tells Harry how he’s been framed for the murder of one of the Senior Council, Wizard LaFortier. They discuss the situation and both understand that it had to have been an inside job. Harry smells the Black Council all over it. He decides to help Morgan in order to stop the traitor, lest the treachery continue he possibly finds himself the victim of a future frame.

After a run to Thomas’ apartment to pick up a medical kit for Morgan, Harry senses something following him. He can’t spot a tail so he decides to take a gander with his Wizard’s Sight and boy, does he ever get an eyeful.  What he sees is so horrific, so utterly wrong, that he literally wrecks his car and staggers, sick, disoriented andcounting prime numbers all the while to keep from losing his mind, to Billy and Georgia’s nearby apartment.

After recovering, he realizes that the creature followed him and when it somehow cuts power to the entire neighborhood, Harry heads out with several of the Alphas to confront it. It doesn’t go well. The creature rips through the kids and gets away, leaving one of the Alphas dead and one near death. Harry thinks that he knows what it is, though… a skinwalker.

On his way home to finally tend to Morgan, Harry runs into Karrin Murphy. She was told of the wrecked and impounded Blue Beetle, and then heard about the power outage and the disturbance in Billy’s neighborhood, added it all together and came up with Harry Dresden. He tells her what’s been going on as she drives him home and we get a quick Murphy update to summarize the first few chapters:

“So let me get this straight, you’re hiding a fugitive from your own people’s cops, and you think the guy’s been set up in order to touch off a civil war within the White Council. And there’s some kind of Navajo boogeyman loose in town, following you around and attempting to kill you…”

Yup, that’s about it so far, Murph!

With Thomas’ help, Harry stashes Morgan, Molly and Mouse in a storage container he’s set up as an emergency bolthole and then heads to Edinburgh Scotland, via the Nevernever. He chats with Ebenezar McCoy about Morgan’s likely innocence and then seeks out Injun Joe Listens-To-Wind who’s investigating the scene of the murder. He then chats with the Merlin and offers his services in clearing Morgan’s name… so the Merlin instructs Peabody, a clerk, to hand over the file on the case to Warden Dresden. Peabody does so but Harry refuses to sign it out, he just takes it, much to the clerk’s chagrin.

Back at the ranch… erm, Harry’s basement apartment, rather… he and Murphy look over the file to see what they can see, which isn’t much. Except for the gigantic sum of money that was deposited into Morgan’s account, making it look like he was paid off to kill LaFortier. Murph suggests trying to follow the money but then Harry then gets an urgent call from his brother.

Thomas sounds frantic and tells Harry that he needs to get to the storage unit, that he can’t handle them all. The call is cut off so Harry and Murph beat it over to the storage facility where they find a whole crowd of creepy identical constructs which Harry refers to as grey suits and later on, as grey men (no, not those Gray Men) being controlled by a practitioner called Binder. Binder has apparently been hired to find Morgan and has tracked him to the area. Working together, Molly and Morgan manage to circle him and cut him off from the Nevernever so that the constructs fail and he’s alone… and then Murphy takes him down and cuffs him. She waits for the cops while Harry, Morgan, Molly and Mouse beat it out of there.

They discuss how they might have been found and Molly points out that they knew Morgan was in the vicinity but not which storage unit so they decide to go back to Harry’s place in order to reacquire the apparently non-magical tail that they seem to have picked up. Harry’s hoping to find out who hired Binder by first finding out who’s tailing him. With a little help from Toot-toot, who’s now a foot tall Harry finds a PI in the building across the street. Molly comes through with the assist and discovers that the PI was hired by a law firm. Harry goes a’calling. Only he discovers that the lawyer who did the hiring has had her mind tampered with, by a female White Court vampire. Hmmm, let me see… an ancient, evil skinwalker (which is essentially shape-shifter that can veil itself) and the Black Council together are a kind of a walk in the park for Harry so, I know! Let’s toss in some vampires to spice this plot up a bit!

Harry returns home to find Luccio at his apartment and poor Morgan gets his cold, hard Warden heart broken when he realizes that Luccio and Harry are involved. His reaction is actually kind of touching and sad. And then, oh yeah, you remember what an ass he can be and you get over it.

Harry takes Luccio along to meet with Lara Raith, thinking that she must have hired the lawyer that hired the PI that… well, you know. It’s rather obvious from their conversation that she’s not responsible and she takes the opportunity to dress down Harry and the White Council in general for a moment before alarms start going off. Chateau Raith is under attack. And Harry realizes that it’s the skinwalker. Oh, boy.

The skinwalker, henceforth known as Shagnasty, pretty much rips Harry, Lara and everyone else a new one before getting down to the nitty gritty. He tells Harry that he has Thomas and offers to trade him for the doomed warrior. Great, the bloody skinwal– erm, Shagnasty wants Morgan, too. That guy knows how to piss people off, alright.

Before heading out to figure out just how the hell he might orchestrate the rescue of his brother, a wounded and drugged Justine talks with Harry within Luccio’s hearing. She says enough that Luccio is able to deduce that Thomas is Harry’s brother and then reveals to Harry that she knew their mother.

Harry visits Murphy at SI headquarters where she’s holding Binder. She releases him and Harry’s newly hired PI (who quit the job tailing Harry because he wasn’t into the attempted murder thing) follows Binder to a hotel. Harry arrives and overhears Binder speaking to Madeline Raith who mentions that she tipped the Council off to Morgan’s whereabouts.

Great. So much for having time to solve the case. The clock, as they say, is now ticking and Harry is feeling a bit overwhelmed. He thinks at this point, ‘Maybe it was time to admit it, this one was too big for me. It had been from the very start.’ 

Harry formulates a plan and decides to move Morgan to the Water Beetle. They head out to the creepy island in Lake Michigan on which the Denarians held Marcone and Ivy in Small Favor. Harry leaves Murph on the mainland but they have a very touching conversation before he goes. Knowing the events at the end of Changes actually makes this little chat a lot more heart-wrenching than it was the first couple of times I read it!

On the island, Harry leaves Morgan and Molly on the boat and travels to the broken down tower on top of the hill. There, he performs a sanctum invocation to create a bond with the land, which he isn’t sure he will survive. But he does. As he later described it to Wizard Rashid of the Senior Council, he punched the spirit of the island, which is a genius loci, in the nose and now they’re friends. He names the island Demonreach and when he is on the island, he has access to the island’s latent energy which will give his own spells a bit of an extra punch. He also seems to have developed an awareness of anything and everything on the island, provided he is there.

Harry heads back to the mainland to take care of a few details in order to set his plan into motion. One such detail is calling the White Council to tell them he’s got Morgan and that he’ll be on the island at sundown, with a witness that can testify to Morgan’s innocence. He then calls Lara Raith who tells him that the money in Morgan’s account came from a dummy corporation owned by the Raith family. Lara realizes that her cousin, Madeline Raith is responsible and is working for someone that’s trying to play the White Council against the White Court. Harry invites her along for the festivities on the island that evening, too.

Harry has also arranged for Shagnasty to be informed at the opportune time that Morgan is on the island and that Harry will trade him for Thomas. His hope is that with a little help from his fellow wizards and a few White Court vamps, he’ll be able to take out the skinwalker, thereby rescuing his brother without tipping the Council to the fact that they’re related. It was actually rather fortuitous that Madeline Raith betrayed her cousin and their house, it gave Harry the excuse of bringing Lara in to declare her innocence and demand the return of her brother.

But nothing ever goes as planned, does it? At least not as planned by Harry. Ah, well… you know what they say about the best laid plans of Mouse and grey men… and wizards.

Ebenezar, Ancient Mai and Injun Jo Listens-to-Wind arrive at Demonreach via boat, several Wardens in tow -not literally, they were actually aboard the boat- to arrest Harry. They pause when Lara Raith and her sisters pop in and Lara makes a show of blaming Harry for her brother’s abduction. Harry then senses dozens of beings arriving on the island and realizes that Madeline and Binder have arrived, and that Binder has summoned gray men from the Nevernever. A lot of them.

As if that weren’t enough, Harry senses more arrivals and concludes that the traitor has taken the bait… and he’s brought a hell of a lot of friends. The  wizards and the vamps form a temporary alliance and rush to meet their attackers. A frenzied battle ensues. I won’t detail that battle here but it features werewolves, a crispy vamp, giant spiders and pixies. It’s a pretty damn good battle. You should read it. Chapter 42, page 417 in the paperback.

Battle, fighting, fire, blood, etc., and the time eventually comes when Harry senses that Shagnasty has arrived on the island with Thomas. It heads uphill to the tower and Harry races to beat him to the top because Morgan and Molly are holed up inside the little cottage near the tower. Another furious battle ensues, between Harry and Shagnasty. Harry actually holds his own for a little bit and then Toot-toot is there, attacking the creature, brave and stupid as he can be. After poor Toot is swatted out of the air and lands in some bushes, Listens-to-Wind shows up… and proceeds to kick the skinwalker’s ass. Which. Absolutely. Rocks.

With foes fled or defeated, Thomas rescued but taken by Lara, and no traitor outed, Harry, Molly and Mouse, head to Edinburgh for Morgan’s trial. Harry has a picture provided by his PI (say that three times fast) of a White Council member that traveled the Way through the Nevernever and had no business being in Chicago the previous evening… so he presents his photographic evidence and is scoffed at, as expected.

But then Mouse testifies. As such. He growls at the White Council clerk and Harry states that Mouse smelled him when he entered Chicago from the Nevernever the previous evening. Ancient Mai, among others, attests to the fact that Mouse is a genuine Foo dog and so his word… or his growl rather, is taken as testimony and the traitor is found.

And then he escapes.

The Merlin shows off a bit of his own badassery by organizing the Council, sending Harry after Peabody and fending off the wicked killer mist that Peabody had unleashed upon the assembled wizards before fleeing. Harry catches him but is unable to best him and is surprised by the arrival of Morgan who saves Harry’s life yet again when he shoots Peabody in the head. Twice. Wizards follow the double tap rule, too.

Morgan, sadly, doesn’t survive his wounds and massive blood loss, but expresses his thanks in a roundabout way and tells Harry the truth: Luccio killed LaFortier and that he was trying to protect his old master and mentor… the woman he loved.

It turns out that Peabody had been messing with a whole bunch of minds of the members of the White Council. He was responsible for Luccio’s actions and so she had absolutely no memory of the murder she had committed. She also wasn’t aware of what Morgan had done for her. Sadly, Peabody was even responsible for her relationship with Harry so that she could keep close tabs on him and Harry endured a rather uncomfortable Luccio breaking it off with him after they’d both recovered somewhat from their wounds.

To Harry, the most devastating casualty of the whole conflict was the end of his brother’s attempt to rein in his hunger. Thomas’ torture at the hands of the skinwalker was utterly devastating to him and it destroyed his inhibitions about feeding heavily upon and even killing humans. He now only sees people as food, food, food. Harry is horrified but promises to give Thomas time and space even though Thomas doesn’t see his new attitude as being a problem. He’s accepted his demon. Embraced it, even.

Harry also saw a bit of an entry in Ebenezar’s journal regarding Harry and Demonreach. It alludes to the fact that the island is more than an island and that it involves a mantle that he wouldn’t mind seeing Harry take up. Then it says, “I trust his judgement. Then again, I trusted Maggie’s, too.” Just a couple of morsels to nibble on until we find out from a future book what the hell all of that means!

All in all, Turn Coat was yet another action-packed Dresden Files adventure. There are so many things happening, not just in this book but in this leg of the series, that it’s somewhat difficult to keep it all straight! This is one reason I include spoilers galore in these write-ups, so that later on, I can read through them and actually remember the events of the books.

Next in the line-up is book #12, Changes. I’ve only listened to this book once, when it was released last year… so if you think my last couple of Dresden reviews are long, I apologize in advance for the next one. Of course, the next installment in the series–#13, Ghost Story–was released two days ago but I won’t be listening to the audio. Instead, I’ll be reading the hardcover in a couple of weeks, so that review take a little while to be published.

And now, Mr. Marsters… you may begin.

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My own personal summary:

The one in which Harry: discovers a wounded Donald Morgan at his door and then hides him from the Wardens who are after him for the murder of a member of the Senior Council; encounters a Nagloshi Skinwalker which kills one of the Alphas; visits a kinky vamp club where Thomas beats the crap out of his cousin; travels to White Council headquarters in Ediburgh, Scotland via the Nevernever; makes an offer to the Merlin to find the real killer and clear Morgan’s name; hires a PI; performs a Sanctum invocation on the creepy island from Small Favor, survives and comes away with some kind of bond with the island which he names Demonreach; arranges a meeting of Senior Council members and White Court vamps on Demonreach to simultaneously draw out and expose the White Council traitor and rescue Thomas from the skinwalker; takes Mouse to wizard court as a witness; joins a secret wizard group; gets dumped; and introduces Butters to the Alphas.

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Fave quotes:

“He was wrong. It doesn’t make him a villain. It just makes him an asshole.” ~Harry to Butters, about Morgan

“Oh, bite me wizard boy.” ~Butters to Harry

‘You can’t abandon life just because it’s scary, and just because sometimes you get hurt.’ 

‘Sometimes irony is a lot like a big old kick in the balls.’

“Madeline, go away before I beat you to death with my bare hands.” ~Thomas to his cousin, Madeline Raith

“You… are… vastly irritating.” ~Morgan to Harry

‘How the hell was I supposed to do the right thing, if there wasn’t a right thing?’

“If a revolver was good enough for Indiana Jones, it’s good enough for me.” ~Harry to Murphy

“If you knew half the things I’ve done that you think are impossible, you’d already be running.” ~Harry to Binder

“You’re a real humanitarian. A regular Mother Theresa.” ~Harry to Lara Raith

“Murph, you’re one hell of a dame.” ~Harry

“I swear. I swear to God, Morgan, if you don’t explain yourself, I’m going to strangle you dead with my own hands and drag your corpse back to Edinburgh by the balls.” ~Harry

“I feel less left out now that I know someone might kill me anyway.” ~Murphy

“I’d rather have you covering my back than anyone in the world, Karrin. You might be the best friend I ever had.” ~Harry

‘Fire erupted in an explosion that lifted the skinwalker another dozen feet into the air, tumbling tail over teakettle, an expression that makes no goddamn sense whatsoever, yet seemed oddly appropriate to the moment.’

“Don’t plan to bind you or banish you old ghost, just gonna kick your ass up between your ears.” ~Injun Joe to Shagnasty

“This is Waldo Butters, and his geek penis is longer and harder than all of ours put together.” ~Harry to Will and Georgia

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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

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story

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Savannah Grey

Author: Cliff McNish

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover or for Kindle)

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Release Date: 4/1/2011

Length: 266 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

15 year old Savannah Grey has never felt she’s belonged. She keeps her distance, so she’s surprised by her attraction to the new boy Reece.

Then strange things begin to happen: nature, it seems, is exerting an overpowering force on the world. Birds behave strangely; gusts of wind blow leaves so fiercely they seem to lure people away. And Savannah learns she has supernatural powers.

Nature has a purpose for Savannah and her friends. For they are on course to meet the vile and evil Orcrassa, who wants to destroy the world by corrupting nature. And it wants Savannah Grey to help realise its savage intent.


My thoughts, which will definitely include some mild major spoilers:

While I’m not exactly within the target audience for this book, I requested the galley and did my best to find something good in it. I have read and enjoyed many YA books and then recommended them to teens and adults, alike. That won’t happen with this book. Aside from asking my 16 year old daughter to give it a try, that is. I wanted the opinion of someone actually in the target audience to see if perhaps she had a different impression of it. Upon finding out why I wanted her to read the book, however, my daughter declined. She said that if I didn’t like it, she wouldn’t like it.

The book blurb, while short, sounded interesting to me, hence my request for the galley. Even now, I think that something good could have been done with this story idea but as it’s written? No. It just doesn’t work. I’ll give a quick run-down of the story and then explain why.

Savannah Grey, the main character, is a hapless orphan who moves from foster home to foster home, never truly feeling at home. She’s had the same best friend for years and Nina is the only person in Savannah’s life that she feels a real connection with. Until she meets Reece. She feels a kinship with him that she can’t explain, she feels drawn to him.

Then she discovers that they both appear to have the same affliction in their throats and realize that it’s a weapon that they’ll need to fight a monster. In order to protect this weapon until it’s ready to fight the monster, Savannah can and will attack anyone who gets near her. Rather, her body will attack them, since she can hardly maintain control of her extremities or her voice if her ‘weapon’ feels threatened in any way.

Also, interspersed with Savannah’s point of view chapters were sections from the point of view of one or another of the monsters in the story, namely the Ocrassa, an ancient entity with no earthly predators. Some reviews I read enjoyed the inclusion of the monster POVs but I found them distracting and perhaps a bit overkill because in light of the ending of the book, it seems that the Ocrassa’s power and infallibility were trumped up.

Okay… there’s really not much more run-down to cover. Unfortunately, I have more to say in picking it apart though I really feel the need to explain why I didn’t enjoy this book. Again, spoilers will abound so if you have any  desire to read this book, consider yourself warned.

First, I need to cover how awkward it was to read about the main character’s throat trying to attack people. I felt from the get-go that it was her voice that was the weapon and while there was something in her throat that was causing her voice to create monster-killing sounds, it was not her throat that was ‘attacking’ people. It was her voice and every time I read something about her ‘throat’ feeling threatened, etc., it just resonated poorly with me. Further, the idea of a sound, a ‘detonation’ according to the story, from one’s throat literally knocking them to the floor was a bit over-the-top for me.

My second biggest problem was with the inconsistency of the writing. At this point, I don’t recall precisely everything that I found so off-putting but there are a couple of instances that spring to mind. At one point, Savannah was testing her newly developed powers that she assumed would assist her in the fight against the monster and she realized that while her vision was greatly enhanced, she was unable to see in the dark. A few pages later, she mentally lists night vision as one of her powers. Later in the story, Savannah was looking through a window into a parking lot and then a couple of sentences later, she “ran to the window” to look out. Of course, this is an uncorrected galley so my hope is that the published book will have taken care of inconsistencies like this.

Savannah’s connection with Reece was understandable, especially considering the twist at the end of the book, but to chat for a few minutes and then simultaneously realize that this weird growth in their throats is a weapon that’s getting ready to fight a monster? It seemed like quite a stretch and I had to check to make sure the galley wasn’t missing a page or three of dialogue in which they’d had an involved discussion or perhaps saw or discovered something that made them realize that a horrible, nightmarish creature was after them and that it was their duty to fight it with their throats. Of course, that intuition could possibly be explained by the aforementioned big twist but it still lacks believability. One plus I saw with the twist that McNish added was that it would at least explain why Savannah’s ‘throat’ wouldn’t even allow her to kiss Reece.

The rest of it, though? Why the monster allowed her to live while researching her weaknesses? Knowing that a weapon is gaining strength to kill it, it rings hollow to me that an ancient and intelligent force would bother with research. When it kills anything that might be construed as a threat and it knows that Savannah is a threat, why would it go to great lengths to gather information about her? It wants to be sure this strip of a girl is a worthy opponent before it killed her? In a book full of hard to swallow occurrences, that one took the cake for me.

Finally, the coup de grâce on my unfortunate reading experience was the ending.

The very.

Abrupt.

Ending.

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