Jim Butcher

JIM BUTCHER: COLD DAYS

skin game jim butcherJim Butcher’s new Harry Dresden adventure will be out in a few days. It’s been a long wait, but it’s nearly over. Thought it might be a good time to remember the last book — which was one of my favorites and which I just reread to remind myself of what came before, the better to enjoy the new book: The Skin Game.


It was a long wait between books last time too. All I could do was wait, which I did with the proverbial bated breath. I love Harry Dresden’s world and with Harry, Chicago’s resident wizard. Look him up. He’s in the Yellow Pages. I read Cold Days on Kindle then listened to the audiobook.

James Marsters is a great narrator, the voice of Harry Dresden. One of the books used a different narrator and fans were seriously upset. I wasn’t as bothered as some others, but I prefer Marsters. Moving to this from Ghost Story where Harry was neither alive nor dead was rough for Harry fans. In Cold Days, Harry is back, in the flesh. Less careless of life having lost it … but as Winter Knight, he is powerful in new ways. Just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and aren’t going away

Cold Days is satisfying. Harry gets pulverized, attracting violence like iron shavings to a magnet. I am consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has already survived death itself. Earlier books ended with more resolution than these last few books. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing story line heading toward a Dresdenesque apocalypse.

Jim Butcher extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces overwhelming odds, then adroitly weaves these events into the storyline, taking Harry and the series into the next book. He wastes nothing. No phenomenon is accidental. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of a picture to be finally revealed.

My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil in my reality consists largely of grey bureaucrats, corporate executives and smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance. In Jim Butcher’s world, the bad guys are solid, big, and seriously bad-ass. Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he’s out there battling for justice and good, even when it seems he’s taken the wrong turn.

Despite appearances, Harry is never bad. He is stubborn, overly wedded to his own opinions. He does not heed advice which has cost him dearly. He persists in believing he knows best, not only for himself, but for friends and is taken aback when friends object. Sooner or later, he will get the point. He is changing. He is painfully aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he’s made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He’s become more a planner, less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only possible course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting.

This is good. There are six more books to come. Time to work out the unfinished relationships. Harry’s awesome world is my metaphysical escape from the life’s woes. Harry’s woes are much  more entertaining than mine. Maybe in my next incarnation I will have magic.

Including spine

Don’t miss this installment — and don’t  read the new book until you’ve read at least a few of the earlier episode (all of them is better!). It’s rich, complex and I promise it will grab you and take you for a ride you won’t forget.

The Dresden Files:

COLD DAYS IN THE DRESDEN UNIVERSE

Congratulations to Jim Butcher. Cold Days is the winner of this year’s GOODREADS CHOICE AWARDS FOR THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR in the Paranormal Fantasy category. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in the past half-dozen years in any genre. I unreservedly recommend the series. However, if you have not read the earlier books, do not start with Cold Days. You need the history and back stories from earlier books for this one to make sense.

Check out all the winners on Goodreads!

I waited with a proverbial bated breath for this episode of the Harry Dresden series. I am enchanted by Jim Butcher’s writing and the world he has created, in love with Harry, Chicago’s resident wizard. Look him up. He’s in the Yellow Pages.

I read Cold Days on Kindle then listened to the audiobook. James Marsters is a great narrator, the voice of Harry Dresden. One of the books used a different narrator and fans were seriously upset. I wasn’t as bothered as some others, but I prefer Marsters.

Moving to this from Ghost Story where Harry was neither alive nor dead was rough for Harry fans. In Cold Days, Harry is back, in the flesh. Less careless of life having lost it … but as Winter Knight, he is powerful in new ways. Just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and aren’t going away.

Cold Days is satisfying. Harry gets pulverized, attracting violence like iron shavings to a magnet. I am consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has already survived death itself. Earlier books ended with more resolution than these last few books. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing story line heading toward a Dresdenesque apocalypse.

Jim Butcher extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces overwhelming odds, then adroitly weaves these events into the storyline, taking Harry and the series into the next book. He wastes nothing. No phenomenon is accidental. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of a picture to be finally revealed.

I’d keep reading the books even if the characters started walking on their hands and speaking Latin, but wouldn’t mind less abrupt transitions when a character is about to flip from the dark to the light side. It’s not a matter of believability, more like giving readers a chance to catch up with the author. If you are a Harry Dresden fan, reality is not your issue. You probably left it behind a long time ago.

I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on my reality plane consists of grey bureaucrats, corporate executives and smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance.

In Jim Butcher’s world, the bad guys are solid, big, and seriously badass. This is where Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he’s out there battling for justice and good, even when it seems he’s taken the wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad. He is stubborn, overly wedded to his own opinions. He does not heed advice which has cost him dearly. He persists in believing he knows best, not only for himself, but for friends and is taken aback when friends object. Sooner or later, he will get the point.

He is changing. He is painfully — in the most literal sense — aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he’s made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He’s become more a planner, less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only possible course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. This is good.

There are six more books to come. Time to work out the unfinished relationships. Harry’s awesome world is my metaphysical escape from the life’s woes. Harry’s woes are much  more entertaining than mine. Maybe in my next incarnation I will have magic. In this life, I shall settle for unmagical me.

 

Including spine

Don’t miss this installment. It’s rich, complex and I promise it will grab you and take you for a ride you won’t forget.

The  Dresden Files:

Book 1: Storm Front

Book 2: Fool Moon

Book 3: Grave Peril

Book 4: Summer Knight

Book 5: Death Masks

Book 6: Blood Rites

Book 7: Dead Beat

Book 8: Proven Guilty

Book 9: White Night

Book 10: Small Favor

Book 11: Turn Coat

Book 12: Changes

Book 13: Ghost Story

Side Jobs: Stories From The Dresden Files

Book 14: Cold Days

Returning to the Dresden Universe — Cold Days in Audio

Including spineListening Cold Days again took me back to a world I love. James Marsters is a wonderful narrator. Marsters has become the voice of Harry Dresden. One book used a different narrator and fans were up in arms. I wasn’t quite as bothered as some, but I prefer Marsters. He strikes that perfect balance to enable me to see the story in my head. My own movie.

I am a Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher fan, so there’s no way for me to discuss any of these books with even a semblance of neutrality. If you also love the series, the enchanted world of Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher … I’m with you.

In the last Dresden book, “Ghost Story,” Harry was neither entirely alive nor quite dead. It was a difficult excursion for Harry’s fans. I liked it well enough, though it was different from any previous Harry Dresden adventure. I was sure it was an important bridge to the next phase of Harry’s world and I was right.

“Cold Days” is more satisfying. Although Harry gets pulverized (as usual), I’m consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has, after all, already survived death. Earlier books ended with more resolution than the last few. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing story line. “Cold Days” brings Harry back in the flesh. Changed, less careless of life having lost it … but as Winter Knight, he is powerful in new ways. This is just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and they aren’t going away.

Jim Butcher is a clever. He extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces horrendous odds, then adroitly uses these apparently hopeless situations to move the story in a new direction that will become the next book. Nothing is superfluous. It’s all part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of the full picture to be revealed in a subsequent installment.

I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on this plane is likely to consist of grey bureaucrats, smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance. Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he’s out there fighting for justice, even when it seems he’s taken a wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad, though he is stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions. He’s a poor listener and does not heed advice, a combination that has cost him dearly.

Harry is changing and growing. He’s painfully (in the most literal sense) aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he’s made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He’s not cocksure anymore. He has become more of a planner. He is less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. All to the good.

I’m sensing a climactic conclusion to the series coming. I wish the series would go on forever, but Jim Butcher has said it will be 20 books and a trilogy. I’m not sure if the trilogy is part of the 20 books or in addition to it. I keep meaning to ask. Maybe I’ll just wait and see.

I hope — by now — the next installment of the Dresden Files is nearing publication. I’ll be waiting and ready to read when it comes around! Meanwhile, if you haven’t gotten to this one, don’t miss it. It’s rich, complex and I promise it will grab you and take you for a ride you won’t forget.

Sandman Slim, Richard Kadrey (2009)

Sandman Slim is fantasy, horror, and mystery, gift-wrapped in a deliciously witty package. It’s got the cast of characters from Heaven, Hell and every place in between. Enough zombies, in various flavors, to satisfy anyone’s enthusiasm for gore. Enough violence to get your heart pumping.

Cover of "Sandman Slim: A Novel"

The writing is sufficiently sophisticated, literate and sharp-edged that you have no doubt you are reading a book for grown-ups. This is no excursion into adolescent sparkly vampires. The undead are as far from cuddly as a bunny is from a crocodile.

The good guys aren’t particularly warm and fuzzy either. It’s a new perspective on angels and demons, good versus evil. The distinction between the good and bad guys is a matter of degree and ultimate intent. Both commit atrocities. It’s a matter of whose side you are on and what your final goal happens to be … and whether that’s evil or holy is a matter of opinion.

In Kadrey’s world, angels are as lethal as any of the bestial dead. Flaming swords or not, there’s nothing human or huggable about these heavenly hosts.

Meet Lucifer, Uriel and a few other big shots of the hereafter. Spend some time in Hell. Take a quick peek at Heaven.

Kadrey’s biting wit makes this first book and subsequent books in the series addictive. I read the first one, then hustled over to Amazon and bought the next two installments (Kill The Dead and Aloha From Hell).

It’s set in Los Angeles, but this is not your grandfather’s L.A.

Richard Kadrey

Richard Kadrey

“L.A.” says our hero, if indeed Sandman Slim can be classified as a hero, though he is indeed heroic, “is what happens when a bunch of Lovecraftian elder gods and porn starlets spend a weekend locked up in the Chateau Marmont snorting lines of crank off Jim Morrison’s bones. If the Viagra and illegal Traci Lords videos don’t get you going, then the Japanese tentacle porn will.”

In terms of hyper-literacy, Kadrey rivals Mike Carey, although these books are darker — and the Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books are very dark — and noticeably more violent. And gory. Jim Butcher on steroids and meth.

If fantasy is your genre and you don’t mind violent and gory, check these out. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they are extremely well-written and the perspective of God, Heaven, Hell and human life is sufficiently unique to hook me. I don’t usually like quite this much violence and am not especially into zombies … but these are good. Intense. Reeking of testosterone.

Trapped, Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 5, by Kevin Hearne

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I got the notice from Amazon. Kevin Hearne’s latest new book in the series — HUNTED – was delivered to my Kindle today. I’m not going to have time to read it for a while. I have a long list of books to review and many pages to go read before I can read anything not on my “to read and review” list.

In honor of the new release, here’s my review of Book 5, TRAPPED.

This book was released November 27, 2012. I had it in hand the day of its release. I took several weeks to read it. It wasn’t terribly long, but I wanted it to last. Then, after I finished reading it, I got the audiobook and read it a twice more. Just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I read the first three books Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered. I liked them. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but I enjoyed them enough so that when the fourth book came out, I bought it. I liked it better than the first three and when this most recent book was released, I was right on top of it. Each book has been better than the one before it and I can hardly wait for the next volume.

Trapped is the fifth installment of the Iron Druid series. It is wonderful. The writing has smoothed out, the characters have become more solid, three-dimensional, real. Atticus finally has a human companion. He’s always had a companion, of course, his faithful wolfhound Oberon. More about Oberon later. But now, it’s the beautiful Granuaile, his apprentice now about-to-be Druid.

One of the things I most like about Kevin Hearne‘s writing is the care with which he constructs his world. It has rules, axioms, standards. Within his world, his characters and nature obey. There is symmetry, logic and order. The world feels right. Although it’s a different reality than ours, but makes sense. Nothing falls up.

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The story has more than adequate action to satisfy any fantasy reader, but it is also graceful and elegant. Add to that a hefty dollop of wit, humor, historical tidbits and mythology. It scratches all my literary itches at the same time.

Many authors supposedly base stories on mythology, but really, they use names taken from mythology but that’s as far as it goes. Hearne’s gods, from whatever pantheon they are drawn, are remarkably true to their namesake. My very first literary crush was on Apollo via Bullfinch and I’ve come a long way since then, but my affection for gods and goddesses and their many descendants remains.

sausage-festThen there’s Oberon the wolfhound. If I had no other motivation, I think I’d read these books just for Oberon. He has a wonderful “dog’s eye view” of the world and human relationships. He is the first “talking dog” who is a dog, not a furry human. He thinks doggy thoughts, lusts after sausages and poodles. He has a big vocabulary and great communication skills, but he is a real dog. And funny.

I liked everything in this book: an intelligent plot, fully realized characters, lots of action, care for the details. Best of all,  the story is unpredictable — full of  surprises, plot twists and wonderful words.

I would not — as others have — compare Kevin Hearne to Jim Butcher. Although both write in the fantasy genre and I love both authors, the worlds about which they write are very different. I’m sure Harry and Atticus would like each other and enjoy a glass of brew, but they move in different circles. I’ve never liked comparing authors as if they were interchangeable parts. There’s more than enough room for everyone and plenty left for those who have yet to set pen to paper.  Atticus isn’t going to replace Harry or vice versa.

Should they find reason to join forces, that would be very cool. I bet Oberon and Mouse would get on  too … but if they never meet, I’m sure that both will do their part in saving this sad old world of ours.

The Iron Druid Chronicles — Hounded to Trapped — by Kevin Hearne

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The Iron Druid Chronicles includes (to date) five books: Hounded, Hexed, Hammered, Tricked, and Trapped. The books follow the adventures of the last of the Druids,a  2100-year-old survivor of the Roman massacre of the Druids back in the reign of Claudius (41 AD to 54 AD).

The Beginning: Hounded (May 2011)

Atticus O’Sullivan — not his real name, but we never find out what his real name is, though many hints are dropped — survived the long ago massacre by fleeing to North America which had not yet been discovered by the Old World. After many years, he has established a peaceful life in Arizona where he runs an occult bookshop, does a bit of  shape-shifting that lets him enjoy hunting with his Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Atticus’ shifted shape is also a Wolfhound and his friendship with Oberon goes far beyond dog and master or even dog and dog.

Atticus’ appearance suggests a young man in his early 20s, belying his two millennium life. Through his long years of survival Atticus has gained a great deal of power, drawn mostly from the earth to which he is bound.  Personally, he’s pleasant, witty and hyper aware of the forces of earth, air, water and other. He has not survived for so many centuries without gaining enough wisdom to know when to fight and when to run. He has power, but he is also a survivor, choosing his battles with great care.

In the course of ages, he has come to possess a magical sword — Fragarach, the Answerer. Fragarach is coveted by an ill-tempered and powerful god. Although Atticus initially prevails and keeps the sword, many wheels are set in motion by the battle for its possession and the scene is set for the next five books in the series.

From the Paperback edition

Hounded was recently reissued as a Mass Market Paperback.

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Most Recent: Trapped (November 2012)

I’ve followed the adventures of Atticus, Oberon, and more recently, the beautiful Granuaile, his apprentice who is now about to become a full Druid in Trapped, released November 27, 2012. I had Trapped in hand the day of its release. I finished reading it, then got the audiobook and read it a couple more times. Just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. That is a pretty fair indicator that I very much enjoyed the book.

Hounded was the first of the series and while I did enjoy it, I felt each subsequent book has been better than the one before it. Trapped was the best to date. With Hunted due to be released soon, I can hardly wait!

All of the books are rousing good fantasy yarns. Even better, Hearne has done his homework. His Pantheon(s) of Gods are pretty accurate, much more so than most fantasy books that call on various gods. The writing is intelligent, witty, fast-paced and original. Kevin Hearne‘s world is constructed with care. Within that world, the characters and nature itself are subject to natural law and logic. There is symmetry and order. The world feels right. It’s a different reality, but nothing ever falls upwards.

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Each story has more than enough action to satisfy any fantasy reader, but it is graceful and elegant.

sausage-festAtticus is the kind of character I’d love to hang with, but if I had to take my pick of one character with whom to spend some quality, it would have to be  Oberon the wolfhound. Oberon has a delightful “dog’s eye view” of the world and human relationships. He is the first “talking dog” who is a dog, not a furry human. He thinks doggy thoughts, lusts after sausages and poodles. He has a big vocabulary and exceptional communication skills, but he is a dog. And a funny dog at that. He has a thing for poodles which I have actually heard criticized as sexist. Folks, if this bothers you, perhaps you are taking life too seriously. Really.

The Iron Druid has it all: intelligent plots, fully realized characters, lots of action, great detail. Best of all,  the stories are never entirely predictable. There are enough surprises and plot twists to keep you hooked. The words are delightfully well crafted. For me, books are always about the words … and Kevin Hearne uses words beautifully.

I would not — as others have — compare Kevin Hearne to Jim Butcher. Although both write in the fantasy genre and I enjoy both authors, the worlds about which they write are significantly different as are the personalities and lifestyle of their protagonists. I’m sure Harry Dresden and Atticus O’Sullivan would appreciate each other and might enjoy a glass of brew together, but they move in different circles. I’ve never liked comparing authors as if all writers in the same genre are essentially interchangeable parts. There’s more than enough room for everyone and plenty left for those who have yet to set pen to paper.  Atticus isn’t going to replace Harry and Harry is unlikely to be at home in Atticus’ world.

And that is the way it ought to be. Should they find reason to join forces, that would be cool. I bet Oberon and Mouse would get on well … but if they never meet, I’m sure both will play their part in saving this old world of ours.

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A happy slave to books

Half a dozen times during every month of the year, I see the sun rise and hear the birds sing the morning in. It’s not insomnia. I am in the thrall of a good book and I just can’t stop reading. I’ve been a book junkie since I was a very young child and its an addiction I have no interest in breaking. It has been my inspiration and my refuge, my world away from reality, my alternate universe of choice.

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It’s my all time favorite drug. It’s not illegal, although it has cost me a lot of sleep and a fair bit of money.

I read. Constantly. I read on my Kindle, I listen to audiobooks. I read regular books. I often read several books at the same time: an audiobook by day, a print or Kindle edition at night in the delicious comfort of my bed.

I’m addicted to books and not just a single genre. I read straight history, with a particular passion for the 14th century, perhaps because it seems to have been the turning point of western civilization, the rise of central government, the creation of free peasantry and what we now call the middle class.

There was the Black Death, the schism the created two popes … one in Avignon and the other in Rome … which for the Christian world was calamitous. There was endless war, brigands who roamed the countryside, burning, raping, despoiling and destroying what pitiful remnants of communities that survived other simultaneous catastrophes. Inflation rendered money worthless. Many regions were effectively depopulated leaving no one to tend fields and grow crops … and famine followed. The 20th century, with all its horrors, could never top the 14th. I find that strangely comforting.

I read thrillers and mysteries and police procedurals. I read courtroom dramas … lawyers, district attorneys, victims, criminals and trials. Then, when the world is more  real than I am willing to bear, I read science fiction and fantasy, immersing myself in places that could never be, in futures that might be, and vicariously pursue magic and sorcery. Books are my escape. Take away everything else, but leave the books so if I cannot physically fly away, I can escape in spirit.

Ever since I got my first Kindle, I feel like I’ve been given ultimate freedom. I’ve spent my live traveling with trunks full of books. Now, I can bring a whole library with me to the dentist’s waiting room. And since I got my amazing Bamboosa Lap Log, I have achieved electronic reading Heaven.

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I am, for the moment, discovering new favorite authors. All of my previous favorite writers seem to be in that never-never land between the last book and th next in the series. Since they are still creating and waiting has never been something at which I excel, I put these months to good use and seek out more authors to feed my hunger for books, to try to discover a new world, a new voice, a new piece of time to explore. In case you are looking for something to read, here’s an updated bunch of my favorite authors and books. Please feel free to tell me about your favorites because they may very well become mine, too! It’s through readers’ suggestions that I’ve discovered most of the authors I love best. I count on you!

Bamboosa with closed Kindle HD in its hard case.

Bamboosa Lap Log with closed Kindle HD in a hard case.

Barbara Tuchman is my favorite writer of history, though by no means the only history author I love. Most of her books are wonderful, but my two favorites are A Distant Mirror and The Guns of August. David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin are rapidly overtaking her, however … especially Ms. Goodwin who writes very serious history, but also some wonderful memories of growing up in Boston with the Red Sox. I always have a special place in my heart for local kids who made good!

Don’t miss the Hollows Rachel Morgan books by Kim Harrison. I think it’s the finest of the all urban fantasy series. If you haven’t discovered Jim Butcher‘s Harry Dresden series — a gumshoe who can throw a mean spell, but takes a loaded gun, just in case — dive in. Check our The Iron Druid series from Kevin Hearne.

Lap Log with Kindle HD (7") open and on.

Lap Log with Kindle HD (7″) open and on.

Connie Willis‘ time travel books including The Doomsday Book, Blackout, All Clear, and To Say Nothing of the Dog are among the best books of this genre ever written. Her humorous short stories and novels, from Bellwether to All Seated On the Ground are among the funniest, smartest books and stories I’ve ever read.

And, speaking of time travel, Stephen King‘s 11-22-63 is exceptional. It is not a horror story, but true science fiction. The prose is sometimes so beautiful that it brings tears to your eyes.

In the sometimes grim and gory world of fantasy, take a look at Ben Aaronovitch‘s Peter Grant series, Richard Kadrey whose Sandman Slim keeps me fascinated and also awake at night. Mike Carey’s Felix Castor in a world filled with the dead and demons.

Recently, I discovered Carol Berg. I completed the final of her various series last night … and am now holding my breath in anticipation of her next book.

I love just about everything written by James Lee Burke. If Faulkner had written detective stories, he’d be James Lee Burke. His Dave Robicheaux series is a long running favorite, but his other books are great too.

I’ve read all of John Grishoms books, almost all of Richard North Patterson‘s novels, and most of Nelson Demille.

The writing of Anne Golon wrote (and is still writing) an amazing series of historical novels about a fictional woman named Angelique. They take place during the time of Louis XIV. This series was one of the significant influences on my life,. Angelique lived a life she chose and never accepted defeat. Her story piques my interest in history and she also inspired me to a personal courage I might not have found without her. The English language versions of the books are long out of print (though you can occasionally find them on Ebay and book search sites) but recent ones — Anne Golon is well into her 80s — are available in French and maybe some other languages too, but sadly, not English.

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I cannot close this without referencing two authors that have given me great joy, the incomparable Douglas Adams, and Jasper Fforde whose world I long to enter. I still mourn Douglas Adams. He should have had many more years. Douglas, you died way too soon. Jasper Fforde writes with a similar wonderful lunacy in a fantasy world where fiction is real and reality isn’t.

This doesn’t even begin to cover everything. It would take me days to begin to remember everything … and way more pages than anyone would have patience to read … but this is a tickle for you. Maybe you too are searching for something to fresh to read, a new world to discover. These are some of my favorite places … I’d love to hear about yours!

There are so many way to keep yourself up at night … and I recommend them all. Books are still, page for page, the best entertainment of all because no one can do special effects like you can with your own brain.

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The 20 Best Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Last Decade

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

We are in the midst of a glorious Golden Age of paranormal fantasy—the last ten years, specifically, in genre fiction have been nothing short of landscape-changing. The days of rigidly defined categories (romance, fantasy, horror, etc.) are long gone. Today, genre-blending novels reign supreme: narratives with virtually limitless potential that freely utilize elements of fantasy, romance, mystery, horror, and science fiction.

I’ve been asked to compile a list of the best paranormal fantasy novels of the last decade (2003–2013): a virtually impossible task, considering how many iconic series and authors have risen to prominence during that period—Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Richard Kadrey, Kat Richardson, Stacia Kane, Nicole Peeler, and Jaye Wells, to name just a few.

I did a comparable list back in 2009 and, while researching this post, I realized how radically paranormal fantasy has evolved in just a few short years. The list below includes 20 novels that are not only extraordinarily good, but have also dramatically influenced—and continue to influence—the course of the genre.

20. The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, by Mario Acevedo (2006)
This is the first book in Acevedo’s Felix Gomez saga, a series that went a long way toward redefining the genre when it was released in ‘06. And talk about great opening lines: “I don’t like what Operation Iraqi Freedom has done to me. I went to the war a soldier; I came back a vampire…”

19. Pride Mates, by Jennifer Ashley (2010)
The first book in Ashley’s Shifters Unbound saga, this was a transcendent read for me—it was the first paranormal romance that worked just as well as a paranormal fantasy. This remains one of the most wildly erotic novels I’ve ever read.

18. No Hero, by Jonathan Wood (2011)
This sadly underrated début is one of the most audacious novels I’ve ever read. The novel’s main character, Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace, is obsessed with Kurt Russell. Throw in conjoined triples, an antisocial ninja assassin, prophesying twin girls who live in a pool with octopi, battery-licking sorcerers, grimoires hidden in Peruvian temples, killer cats, and more tentacled monstrosities than you can shake a sword at, and you have an unforgettable read!

17. Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire (2009)
The first book in McGuire’s October Daye saga, this series is an utterly readable fusion of dark fantasy, mythology, and hard-boiled mystery. It’s a profoundly deep series that is at times filled with starkness and existential angst and at others with breathtaking images of magic and beauty.

16. Moon Called, by Patricia Briggs (2006)
The first Mercy Thompson novel, this series has experienced a few ups and downs in the last few installments, but for my money, Moon Called has to be on this list. A sexy, tattooed shape-shifting auto mechanic, Mercy is arguably one of the most memorable paranormal fantasy heroines ever created.

15. Already Dead, by Charlie Huston (2005)
Huston’s first novel featuring vampire Joe Pitt, this series expanded the boundaries of paranormal fantasy. In my review, I described this novel as “a savage and sardonic novel that blends blood-sucking fantasy and horror elements with the hard-boiled style of noir thrillers.”

14. And Falling, Fly, by Skyler White (2010)
White’s debut novel was an intensely passionate, sublimely poetic, soul-rending work of art. The entire novel—which revolves around the relationship between a vampiric fallen angel named Olivia and Dominic, a neuroscientist with a “bizarre” affliction—reads like dark ethereal poetry. Unforgettable.

13. Four and Twenty Blackbirds, by Cherie Priest (2005)
Priest’s debut and the first of her Eden Moore novels, this haunting and poetic read marked the fledgling steps of a writer who has become one of the most innovative—and significant—figures in genre fiction. This novel and its two sequels are vastly underrated.

12. Blue-Blooded Vamp, by Jaye Wells (2012)
The concluding volume of Wells’s stellar Sabina Kane saga, this is how you end a series! This novel is chock full of shocking plot twists and bombshell revelations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this series will go down as one of the best paranormal fantasy sagas of all time. It’s that good.

11. The Taken, by Vicki Pettersson (2012)
This was just an amazing read. From my review: “This novel transcends genre categorization—yes, paranormal fantasy readers will LOVE this novel but so too will hardcore mystery and romance fans and, most importantly of all, mainstream fiction fans. This is Vicki Pettersson’s coming out party—and we’re all invited.”

10. A Rush of Wings, by Adrian Phoenix (2008)
Phoenix’s debut novel—and first installment of The Maker’s Song saga—is one of the edgiest series out there. I mean, c’mon! How can you go wrong with a duo that includes an undead rock star and a sexy FBI agent? A hugely under-appreciated series.

9. Dead to the World, by Charlaine Harris (2004)
The fourth book in Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, this is when the series really got good for me. You can say what you want about the HBO series True Blood but, regardless, this is an iconic series featuring an iconic heroine.

8. Tempest Rising, by Nicole Peeler (2009)
The beginning of one of the most beloved paranormal fantasy series on the shelves, the novels are powered by selkie-halfling heroine Jane True, who is in many ways the antithesis of the conventional paranormal fantasy heroine. She’s short, not exactly athletic, socially awkward, works in a bookstore, and instead of wearing stiletto heels and leather miniskirts, Jane rocks comfortable jeans and purple Converse. I love this series!

7. Cerulean Sins by Laurell K. Hamilton (2003)
LKH’s Anita Blake saga is easily the most divisive saga on the shelves. This long-running—and historically significant—series has had its ups and downs over the years, but a high point for me was Cerulean Sins, still my favorite book in the series.

6. Greywalker by Kat Richardson (2006)
Richardson’s debut novel and beginning of her Greywalker saga, one of my all-time favorite series. Featuring Seattle-based private investigator Harper Blaine, who can see into the realm of the dead, these novels are exceptionally written and almost flawless in their execution. Classy and classic, this is one series that will stand the test of time.

5. Blood Blade by Marcus Pelegrimas (2009)
The Skinners novels read like a cool, supernatural-powered video game—nonstop action, ghastly monsters, unique weapons, intriguing and well-developed protagonists, and plot twists around every turn. But the series is so much more than that. It’s a highly addictive blend of splatterific horror, dark fantasy, mystery, supernatural thriller, and sardonic social commentary. I’ve called Pelegrimas “the Bram Stoker of the 21stCentury” for good reason.

4. Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane (2010)
The first novel in Kane’s Downside saga, this is the most socially significant fantasy saga I’ve ever read. From my review: “Never before in paranormal fantasy have I read a series that features the combination of grand-scale world building, labyrinthine mystery, superb character development, and social relevance. Stacia Kane’s Downside saga is taking paranormal fantasy to another level…”

3. Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (2005)
Butcher’s Dead Beat—the seventh installment in his Dresden Files—was a blockbuster book when it was first released. Not only was it the first Dresden Files novel to be released in hardcover, it was a clear indication of just how much the series had expanded to embrace mainstream fiction readers. The first printing sold out in a just few days! The commercial success of the Dresden Files paved the way for countless other noteworthy protagonists, including Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt and Mario Acevedo’s Felix Gomez.

2. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (2009)
An in-your-face fusion of fantasy, horror, and hard-boiled mystery. It’s Kadrey’s biting wit that makes this novel so unforgettable. His blunt and acerbic writing style makes for simply addictive reading. For example, here’s how he describes Los Angeles: “L.A. is what happens when a bunch of Lovecraftian elder gods and porn starlets spend a weekend locked up in the Chateau Marmont snorting lines of crank off Jim Morrison’s bones. If the Viagra and illegal Traci Lords videos don’t get you going, then the Japanese tentacle porn will.” Classic.

1. For a Few Demons More, by Kim Harrison (2007)
The fifth installment of Harrison’s phenomenally popular Hollows saga featuring endearing gray witch Rachel Morgan and company, this novel was the first hardcover release in the series and, at least for me, heralded its ascension to élite series status. With only two novels to go until the series concludes, there is no doubt in my mind that the Hollows saga will go down as arguably the very best paranormal fantasy series ever written.

What are your favorite paranormal fantasies?

Tags: best of × paranormal fantasy × roundups

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Don’t Miss any of these, but especially Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series and my absolute all-time favorite, Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. It is wonderful.

See on www.barnesandnoble.com

Harry Dresden’s Magical Chicago

Storm Front: The Dresden Files, Book 1 | Jim ButcherI was feeling a bit forlorn after I completed Mike Carey‘s Felix Castor series until Harry Dresden tapped me on the shoulder and invited me into the world created for him by author Jim Butcher. As I read my way through the entire series, 14 books to date with more on the way, I felt I’d found a perfect combination of gumshoe and wielder of magic. Everything I enjoy most in fantasy is in this series. Harry is a wise-ass, witty guy. And smart, sometimes too smart for his own good.

Grave Peril (novel)

Grave Peril (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Harry is a powerful wizard. He takes on challenges that should kill him, sometimes almost do and arguably have done so at least once , yet he is ever on guard to protect his city and the whole human world against the forces of darkness. A man with great power, he also packs a gun because magic is great stuff, but sometimes, there’s nothing quite like bullet to get the job done.

He’s witty, funny, sentimental, and foolhardy, prone to give the benefit of a doubt to the wrong people and end up paying heavily for being nice. He’s loyal to a fault and hates following rules. He’ll protect those he loves at the cost of his own life and soul. If your back’s to the wall, Harry’s the guy you want at your side.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard. He’s listed in the Yellow Pages. Look him up. He doesn’t do kids’ parties.

For nearly a year, as I read my way through the earlier books in the series, I was entirely engrossed in Harry Dresden’s world. Eventually, much to my chagrin, I realized I’d reached the end of the already-published books. When I finished Ghost Story and Changes, I knew I’d reached the series’ turning point. I moped for a while, but I had to trust the author’s ability to bridge the changes in story and characters with his usual skill. When Cold Days was released, Jim Butcher had indeed moved the series to a new level. Harry was back, better than ever with power to spare. It isn’t the “old Harry.” It’s a wiser, more temperate Harry.

Harry has seen the other side. He no longer acts as if he is invulnerable. He knows he can win the day yet lose his life … and life is more precious to him than before. Holding the title of Winter Knight, Champion of the Winter Fae (Mab’s realm), he has great power for good or evil. He will be a knight like no other before him. Which is good because a war is shaping up. The lines are forming. Harry holds a unique position as the fulcrum of forces in this great battle to destroy or preserve the world as we know it.

Ghost Story: The Dresden Files, Book 13 | [Jim Butcher]To say this is a wonderful series doesn’t quite cover it. There are many series in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Some are so lightweight they float away and you can’t remember anything about them at all. Some are pretty good, others even better. A few are great. This fits nicely into the “great” category.

But why? you ask.

Fantasy series and stories are not known for complex, multi-dimensional characters .  Heroic, powerful and brave no doubt, but when you read a lot of books in this genre, you usually know what’s going to happen long before it does. Harry and his crew are unpredictable. They grow, they change, they develop. They form relationships. The mourn their losses, celebrate their victories. They go through hard times and if they survive, are changed.  They are magic-wielding wizards or some other magical being, but emotionally they are like people you might know, if you include in your circle people who can cast spells to blow up a city block or reanimate a Tyrannosaurus Rex. None of my friends can do that — as far as I know — but they probably wouldn’t tell me if they could. The world of magic is secretive.  Sometimes, if I’m feeling whimsical, I imagine Harry and a few of his pals settling in Uxbridge. Their secrets wouldn’t stay hidden for five minutes.

I read most of the series as audiobooks, but some in print too and a few of them in both formats. I own the last four or five in hard cover because there is something yummy about a fresh, new hardcover. I don’t read the hard covers: I just savor them. I line them up on my shelves in pristine splendor, then I read them on my Kindle. The entire series is available in paperback, if that’s your preference.

Following is the full series to date in order. Although you do not have to read the first few books in order, if you have a choice, it is easier to follow that way. As you progress in the series, you really can’t read the later volumes out-of-order if you want them to make sense.  Harry grows and changes a great deal from the first book on. He’s barely a kid when it starts, but he is all grown up by the time he arrives at Cold Days.

96-ColdDays-2

Although the series is mostly fun, there is a serious undercurrent. Butcher has put a good deal of thought into the nature of good and evil, the choices we make and price we pay for these choices. Life in the real world is never black and white, nor is it in Harry’s world. It is in the gray areas that Harry operates; rarely are his choices  purely good or evil. His life is complicated and the complexities make the stories more interesting. This is one of the very rare series where I don’t always know what’s going to happen before I read it.

Jim Butcher is a fine writer. The stories are witty and charming. It isn’t all darkness and violence. Dialogue is snappy and intelligent. There are no dummies on Harry’s team.

The  Dresden Files:

Book 1: The Dresden Files – Storm Front

Book 2: The Dresden Files – Fool Moon

Book 3: The Dresden Files – Grave Peril

Book 4: The Dresden Files – Summer Knight

Book 5: The Dresden Files – Death Masks

Book 6: The Dresden Files – Blood Rites

Book 7: The Dresden Files – Dead Beat

Book 8: The Dresden Files – Proven Guilty

Book 9: The Dresden Files – White Night

Book 10: The Dresden Files – Small Favor

Book 11: The Dresden Files – Turn Coat

Book 12: The Dresden Files – Changes

Book 13: The Dresden Files – Ghost Story

Side Jobs: Stories From The Dresden Files

Book 14: The Dresden Files – Cold Days

Changes: The Dresden Files, Book 12 | Jim ButcherIf you are a fan or a writer, the video that follows is a comprehensive interview with Jim Butcher during which he answers  many questions about what’s going on in the Dresden universe and what is likely to come in the future. The interview took place shortly the release of Cold Days in November 2012. Unlike other interviews, this one is well recorded and you can hear the questions and Jim’s answers. It runs a bit more than 45 minutes It’s a great interview and well worth your time.

The insights are not only into Harry Dresden‘s world, but into the world of the author. For me, as a writer, I’m always fascinated by how authors do what they do, how they figure out which characters are going to be prominent in this book (or the next). How they inspire themselves to keep producing day after day and in the case of Jim Butcher, producing high quality work fast.

No two authors work the same way. As many authors as I’ve listened to, corresponded with, read about, each is unique. What inspires one would drive another crazy. You’ll learn a lot of interesting stuff in this interview. Jim Butcher is witty and articulate and offers genuine insight into his work.

This interview does not answer the burning question “Are Harry and Molly going to get it on?” Sorry. You’ll have to wait for the answer with the rest of us. However, if you watch the video, you will learn a lot about Harry, how he got to be the way he is, and where he and his friends are going. If you are a writer, the detailed explanations of Jim Butcher’s writing process are priceless.

Happily Reading Myself to Death

75-bedsideMedia-HP-1Half a dozen times during the past few months, I’ve seen the sun rise and heard the birds wake and sing the morning in.

I have sometimes gotten up very early to see the sunrise and take pictures. More typically, the reason is both more mundane and more reflective of who I am. It is the thing I do that is most “me.” I am awake into the early hours because I am in the grip of a good book and can’t put it down.

Cover of "Song of the Beast"

I’m addicted to books.

Although I go through phases where I read a lot of one genre, I move through many genres over the course of time. I have spent years reading history, indulging my enthusiasm for the middle ages and especially that weirdest of times,  the 14th century. Perhaps I am specifically fascinated by this period because it was a fulcrum of civilization, the emergence of central government, a free peasantry and what became the middle class. There was the Black Death, the schism when two popes reigned, one in Avignon, the other in Rome: a calamity for the Christian world. There was endless war, brigands roaming throughout the European countryside, burning, raping, despoiling.  Destroying what sad remnants of communities had  survived the other catastrophes of those years. Inflation rendered money worthless. Many regions were entirely depopulated leaving no one to tend fields and grow crops. Famine followed.

The 20th century, with all its horrors, could never top the 14th. I find that oddly comforting, though I can’t imagine why.

I read thrillers, mysteries, police procedurals and courtroom dramas. I read about lawyers, district attorneys, victims, criminals and prisons. Then, when I need to escape, I turn to science fiction and fantasy, immersing myself in other worlds, other realities that could never be, in futures that may yet be as I pursue magic and sorcery.

Cover of "To Say Nothing of the Dog"

In an ironic turn, I’m giving Jane Austen another chance. I hated her books in school, but felt that 40 years having passed, it might be time to try one more time and so I find myself in the middle of “Pride and Prejudice.” I will never be a Jane Austen fan, but I am recognizing much of the wit that eluded me when I was younger and although it isn’t my favorite fiction, I can see where it might be someone else’s.

It is indeed the ultimate drug for me. Take away everything else, but leave me books so that if I cannot fly away in body, I can escape in spirit.

I am, for the moment, between favorite authors. All of my favorite writers are in the process of creating their next books, though some are finished and publication dates are set … in the future … and waiting has never been something at which I excel. Now is my time to search for new writers, to try to discover a new world, a new voice, a new piece of time to explore.

I thought I’d make a short list for you of some of my favorite authors and a few of my favorite books. I encourage you to make suggestions for books I might like. I’m always looking for new authors and genres.

Barbara Tuchman is my favorite writer of history. Most of her books are wonderful, but my two favorites are A Distant Mirror and The Guns of August. I am also a very big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin and cannot recommend her books too highly: they are wonderful. Her tome on Lincoln, Team of Rivals which became at least in part the basis of Spielberg’s Lincoln, or her equally brilliant work on Franklin Delano Roosevelt No Ordinary Time are masterpieces.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraha...

The entire Hollows series by Kim Harrison for the finest of the urban fantasy genre. Her most recent book, Ever After is the best yet … and they are all marvelous.

Don’t miss Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid series. Great in print, on Kindle and as an audiobook. And you can get an autographed copy. It’s a series that has been getting better with each new book and I’m expecting great things.

Jim Butcher‘s Harry Dresden series … a gumshoe who can throw a mean spell, but takes a loaded gun, just in case. His most recent book, Cold Days was better than ever and is taking the story in deliciously creepy directions.

Connie Willis‘ time travel books including The Doomsday Book, Blackout, All Clear, and To Say Nothing of the Dog are among the best books of this genre ever written. She has also written some of the most hilarious science fiction stories I’ve ever read including All Seated on the Ground, Bellwether, and a bunch of others.

Unlike most readers, I read her more serious ambitious books first and was surprised to discover she was best known for her lighter, humorous fiction. Both are wonderful and you can’t go wrong with any of them. I should mention that some of her older books are only available on Kindle and/or audio.

Dave Robicheaux Series

And, speaking of time travel, Stephen King‘s 11-22-63 is exceptional. It is not a horror story, but true science fiction. The prose is sometimes so beautiful that it brings tears to your eyes.

Recently, I discovered Carol Berg. I completed the final of her various series last night … and am now holding my breath in anticipation of her next book. If you want to start with one of her few books that isn’t part of a series, may I recommend Song of the Beast. Hint: I hope you like dragons!

I love just about everything written by James Lee Burke. If Faulkner had written detective stories, he’d be James Lee Burke. His Dave Robicheaux series is a long running favorite, but his other books are great too.

I’ve read all of John Grishoms books, almost all of Richard North Patterson‘s novels, and most of Nelson Demille.

The writing of Anne Golon wrote (and is still writing) an amazing series of historical novels about a fictional woman named Angelique. They take place during the time of Louis XIV. This series is has been one of the most significant influences on my life, not only literary, but personally.  Angelique lived the life she chose and never accepted defeat. She gave me an interest in history that I carry with me to this day, and she also inspired me to a personal courage I doubt I’d have otherwise found. The English language versions of the books are long out of print, but the recent ones — Anne Golon is well into her 80s — are available in French and a possibly other languages. You can get more information through the Friends of Angelique.

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I cannot close this without referencing two authors that have given me great joy, the incomparable Douglas Adams, and Jasper Fforde whose worlds I long to enter. I still mourn Douglas. He should have had many more years. Douglas, you died way too soon. Jasper Fford writes with a similar wonderful lunacy in a fantasy world where fiction is real and reality isn’t.

This doesn’t even begin to cover everything. It would take me days to begin to remember everything … and way more pages than anyone would have patience to read … but this is a tickle for you. Maybe you too are searching for something to fresh to read, a new world to discover. These are some of my favorite places … I’d love to hear about yours!

Dresden Files: Fool Moon Vol 2, Jim Butcher, Mark Powers & Chase Conley

Dresden FilesFool Moon Vol 2

Jim Butcher, Mark Powers and Chase Conley

Diamond Book Distributors
Publication Date: Mar 12 2013

I grew up in a world where comic books were ubiquitous. I loved them and read a lot of them, though I strongly favored DC over Marvel and had a particular passion for Superman.

I’ve had to do a bit of mental gear-changing to wrap my head around comic books as “graphic novels.” As far as I can tell, these are comic books in all but name. They are more expensive, have much nicer covers, far better bindings, a significantly higher class of illustration and more complex stories to tell. They are also have more pages.

For all that, I look and see a really expensive comic book. It doesn’t mean I don’t buy them. I do. I have an almost complete set of Asterix, several graphic novels by Kim Harrison and the full Tin-Tin series. This kind of thing is not new. It’s been around a while. What’s new is nomenclature, not concept.

All of the preceding is to explain I am familiar with the genre and not saddled with prejudice toward it.

I love the Dresden Files and have read all of the books. This was the first graphic version of Harry Dresden I have seen and the events in the story were familiar and taken from the novel of the same name.

This is part two of a graphic presentation of “Fool Moon.” I didn’t read part one, but I don’t think that’s the issue either. It’s the writing.

I am a Jim Butcher fan. I love the way he writes. I love Harry Dresden, his crazy quirky personality and the strange, wonderful world he lives in.

Much of Jim Butcher’s charm as an author is his cleverness and wit. In the midst of violence and chaos, with blood and death raining down in every direction, Harry has a sense of humor. He is funny, always ready with a wisecrack and a joke . It’s a significant characteristic of his writing and his character. It’s a big part of what makes the books special. The sharpness of the writing makes the stories addictive and great fun to read.

The graphic version seems to have had a humor excision. The wit, puns, literary allusions are gone … leaving violence and gore. Yes, it’s Harry Dresden. It certainly looks like Harry. Everything is beautifully drawn, lots of attention to detail … but the author is MIA.

So, as a big-time Harry Dresden fan, I might buy the book if I got it very cheaply. Otherwise, I would probably skip it. Liking the illustrations — and I do — is fine and dandy, but the words are for me the essence of a book. I dare say I am not alone in this. Readers may like pictures too, but first and foremost, we love words.

I don’t see why the quality of the dialogue could not be improved. I can think of a lot of ways at least some narration could be added. It doesn’t need to be hundreds of pages, just something to make it feel like Jim Butcher played a role in the production. His name is listed as one of the authors, but I don’t feel his magic.

I am sure this book (remember, this is part two of two) will find a niche amongst his many ardent fans of which I count myself as one, but for me, this wasn’t Harry Dresden or Jim Butcher.

I wanted to love this book. It’s not awful. The illustration is classy, if a trifle cluttered, but felt true to the material. From a purely visual point of view, it’s a pretty good representation of Harry Dresden. But as a book — for me — it fell rather flat.

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Into The Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond, Kim Harrison

Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond by Kim Harrison

As a matter of personal and very subjective taste, I’m not a fan of short stories even by authors I love. I read them anyway, but  I read too fast to fully engage with them. By the time I get into a story, it’s over. This being Kim Harrison, I made an exception. There are only a few authors for whom I will make this exception: Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Connie Willis, Jasper FForde, James Lee Burke … and a few others.

This is what I would call a  mostly very good collection. I would have been shocked had it been anything less. I don’t love everything this author has written, but even her less-than-best work is far better than most writers … and the older and more mature her work becomes, the better it gets. A few of these stories are exceptional (no I won’t tell you which … you should decide for yourself based on your own taste), but it’s a very mixed bag in terms of style, time and place, “world,” and thus offers a somewhat bumpy ride, as literary excursions go. The material ranges far and wide, making it difficult to judge it as a single book.

Some stories are not new; if you’re a fan, you probably have read them before. If this is your introduction to Kim Harrison, I’m not sure how it will present to you. I’ve been reading her books for a long time and loved them from the first, but I started with one of the early books of The Hollows … and was immediately sucked into that world. This is a different kind of experience, and the worlds in it vary quite a bit. Maybe they would be a good introduction to the world of the Hollows for some people (though not all the stories are from that world). Personally, I’d recommend reading “Dead Witch Walking” first.

It’s more than just a personal preference. I think the novel is a much stronger example of Kim Harrison’s writing. She creates characters that are three-dimensional and complex. In a genre not renowned for fully fleshed out characters, hers really are. In fact, that is one of outstanding literary qualities: her characters are so well-drawn you feel as if you’ve known them for years. They are more than stereotypical non-human urban fantasy “types.” They are people and carry a lot of personal history. I don’t think “Into the Woods” is necessarily representative of her finest work and thus not a fair way to judge the author. But …. to each his or her own.

Of the new material, some stories are clearly “test balloons” for possible new directions after “The Hollows” series is finished. Some of the stories were published previously in other places and forms so fans are likely to have already read them. But — kind of like the prize in the Cracker Jack box — there are a couple of long stories that fill holes in the back stories of earlier books, material that has been hinted at but never explained. If you’re curious, for example, about what Jenks and Trent did while on Trent’s quest to retrieve his daughter, you’ll get the whole story here.

I would have bought any book by Kim Harrison published anyway and this gave me my “fix” while waiting for the release of “Ever After.” “Into the Woods” prevented me from chewing the desk after finishing my third rereading of “Perfect Blood. Today I am at peace knowing I’ll have the book in hand in about two weeks. I was grateful this collection became available when it did. For reasons that I can’t explain, it was a period when all my favorite authors were between releases … and since I’m not a George Martin fan (sorry guys, I tried very hard to like the books but I don’t) and what has turned out to be a very long wait for the final book in Brian Sanderson’s conclusion to Richard Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” epic. Jim Butcher had not yet released “Cold Days,” though he too tossed me a bone via a set of short stories (thank you).

Since the end of November, the books I’ve been waiting for have begun to be released.

“Cold Days” came out (see my review and other Jim Butcher related material), “The Woman Who Died a Lot” was released (Jasper FForde) and between these two, I survived the holidays. Now, “Ever After” will be out on January 22 and in three more days, “A Memory of Light,” the final piece of The Wheel of Time will be here.

Meanwhile, these stories are worth reading, especially if you like short stories. It’s perfect reading for bedtime because you can finish a story before you drift off. I do recommend the book. It’s worth your time.

As so many series I’ve been following wind down, I wonder what will come next, what the authors I love best will serve up to feed my voracious appetite for books. Reading is my nourishment of choice. Believe it or not, I worry about this stuff. Okay, I am a bit odd. But you knew that, right?

View all my reviews

Meet Harry Dresden … and Jim Butcher

Cold Days - FrontThis is the “not official” but incredibly cool video for Jim Butcher‘s “Cold Days.”

This is the Harry Dresden I have always seen in my mind’s eye … as opposed to the TV version. Tall, with his rings, his staff, the leather duster, the Pentacle he always wears.

If only they could make a mini series or movie with this Harry … I can dream!

Totally cool and not nearly long enough!

And now, a few words from the author:

Jim Butcher – The Dresden Files – The Series

Dead Beat: The Dresden Files, Book 7 | Jim ButcherI was feeling a bit lost after finishing Mike Carey‘s Felix Castor series. I wandered sad and alone through the empty halls of literature until Harry Dresden tapped me on the shoulder and invited me into the world created for him by author Jim Butcher.

As I read my way through the entire series,13 books to date with at least one more on the way, I felt I’d found a perfect combination of great gumshoe, mystery, and magic.

Everything I enjoy most in fun reading is in this series. Harry is a wise-ass, joke cracking, funny guy, reminding me a little of Spenser, And Harry is smart … sometimes too smart for his own good.

Grave Peril (novel)

Grave Peril (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Harry is an amazing and very powerful magician who takes on challenges that should kill him and sometimes almost do. He’s sentimental, foolhardy, prone to give the benefit of a doubt and end up paying heavily for so doing. He’s loyal to a fault and hates following rules.

He’ll protect his loved ones at the cost of his own life and soul and if you want someone on your side, Harry’s your guy.

He believes magic is wonderful, but should be used only for good, and in a pinch, a high-caliber gun is a pretty good alternative. Magic takes time and energy, so keep your pistols loaded and bring artillery.

For nearly a year, Harry Dresden.He has kept me happily entertained.

Although not my absolutely favorite fantasy series (Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series holds that honor), it is in my top five. I have enjoyed every single one of these books.

The current last one — Ghost Story — is quite different than previous ones … and for a while, I felt like I’d wandered into the wrong series. But Butcher is a fine writer and skillfully brings you back to the Harry you know and love, albeit a more subdued, thoughtful … as well as sadder and wiser … version of himself. The end caught me by surprise, though really, when I thought about it, it shouldn’t have. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say that the end was perhaps both inevitable and highly appropriate. I just didn’t see it coming.

Butcher left room to continue the series  and apparently, the next book should be available within a few months. Yay..

Ghost Story: The Dresden Files, Book 13 | [Jim Butcher]This is a great series. It’s fun, there’s violence, crazy monsters, complex characters who are evil, but rarely entirely so, and good characters who have flaws. The landscape comprises many shades of grey — with some notable exceptions. There are a few totally evil characters and some nearly perfect good guys.

Harry Dresden is well-intentioned, but far from perfect. He travels a long way from one end of the series to the other.

All things come to an end, but I would be glad for a bit more time to hang with Harry Dresden.

I have read most of the Harry Dresden books as audiobooks, but a few, because I didn’t care for the narrator, on my Kindle. They are all available as paperbacks, Kindle, and audio, so you can take you pick and read them in whatever format you prefer … or whatever is convenient.

Following is a list of the entire series in order. You do not have to read them in order, though it does make it easier to follow. I didn’t start with the first book, but after that, I went back and started from the beginning.

Harry grows and changes a great deal from the first book onward. He’s barely a kid when it starts, but he is far from a child by this book where he finally has to confront his mortality and make a serious choice about his values, and his soul.

Harry is human and though he can control magic, is not immortal or invulnerable. He can die. He can be seriously injured. He makes mistakes. Quite a few of them, actually and he does his best to fix what can be fixed. His friends, lovers, and the whole array of human and non-human characters that are part of his world are fully developed and with each book, you find out more about them and understand them better.

The series is mostly good magical fun, but there are serious and thoughtful areas concerning the nature of good and evil and the choices we must make. It is never black and white. It is within the gray areas that Harry operates most of the time and his choices are inevitably complicated. It makes him and the stories more interesting, but it also makes his life much harder.

Storm Front: The Dresden Files, Book 1 | Jim ButcherBook 1: The Dresden Files – Storm Front

Book 2: The Dresden Files – Fool Moon

Book 3: The Dresden Files – Grave Peril

Book 4: The Dresden Files – Summer Knight

Book 5: The Dresden Files – Death Masks

Book 6: The Dresden Files – Blood Rites

Book 7: The Dresden Files – Dead Beat

Changes: The Dresden Files, Book 12 | Jim ButcherBook 8: The Dresden Files – Proven Guilty

Book 9: The Dresden Files – White Night

Book 10: The Dresden Files – Small Favor

Book 11: The Dresden Files – Turn Coat

Book 12: The Dresden Files – Changes

Book 13: The Dresden Files – Ghost Story

Side Jobs: Stories From The Dresden Files