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24. Skin Game by Jim Butcher


The eagerly awaited (by me) new Dresden Files novel.

I had some issues getting into it at first – the central plot is that Dresden gets dragged into a heist operation thanks to his obligations as Winter Knight, and I'm not a big fan of heist capers as a rule.

But I stuck with it because I love the series as a whole, and was well rewarded. Harry does stupid stuff and makes wisecracks. He's spent the past year out on his island in Lake Michigan while a lot of bad stuff has been going down in Chicago, so his friends are (understandably) suspicious and resentful when he turns up asking for their help to do something which is obviously Not Good, and he has to win their trust back.

As always, there's a big piece of magic at the end that is genius and very silly at once. And a few developments.

This one's weird in that Harry's brother Thomas doesn't appear, and his apprentice Molly only comes in at the very end.

Not my favourite in the series but good fun, and the developments at the end mean I can't wait for the next one.
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69. Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is back from the dead and has his first assignment as the Winter Knight - 24 hours to foil the bad guys and save Chicago (and the world).

I thoroughly enjoyed it; but I would, I'm a big fan.
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64. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

There's not a lot I can say about this book without massive spoilers for those who haven't got this far yet.

I really didn't like the first 50 pages, but I think that was me getting over the change in concept; it rapidly becomes much like the rest of the series though, and I made quick work of the last half.

In a lot of ways this is part 2 of Changes and would probably work less well as a stand-alone than the rest of the series.
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58. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

This series has been getting steadily darker; this volume opens with the surprise supernatural bad guy killing one of the Alphas (Harry's werewolf buddies), and gets more grim from there.

Don't get me wrong, I still loved it and there's some seriously tear-jerking moments, but the disproportionate price that Harry has to pay for doing the right thing was downright painful at the end.

And for those of you who are tired of me going on about this series, you'll be relieved to hear there's only three books left.
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54. Small Favour by Jim Butcher

Yes, I'm still in this rut. It took me a little longer to read this one, but the last 100 pages went by in one sitting. Not getting old yet. Things are getting increasingly dark though.
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51. Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

This is actually the first Dresden Files book I ever read, several years ago. It was the only one available at a branch of the library I could easily get to, and I took it out to see if I was interested in the series or not.

It was a even better on re-reading - while it works extremely well as a stand-alone novel, more is added by the story-arc context.

It also confirmed for me that I made the right choice in buying most of the books instead of waiting for the library to get them to me, in that I got a lot more out of it the second time. Not that I ever get time to re-read anything, but I've got them all if I ever get around to it.


52. White Night by Jim Butcher

More of the same. They just don't stop getting better (so far).
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47. Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Yet another really enjoyable Dresden Files book. Harry's surprise weapon at the end was hilarious yet clever, again.


48. The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane

The author, a Cambridge academic, sets out to find out if there are any truly "wild" places left in Britain and Ireland. It starts out with the whiny city-dweller "isn't nature so much better than this" tone that pisses me off, but I'm glad I persisted because that goes by the wayside quickly, and he comes to some surprising conclusions.

Most of his adventures are reasonably interesting. He also pulls a couple of truly stupid stunts, like night time mountain walking in the Lake District during a blizzard. He at least admits that his goal to sleep at the top of a hill on the northern tip of Scotland in a gale might have been a bit unrealistic.

The chapter that came as news to me is that the counties of southern England where the underlying rock is softer are full of ancient roads which over the centuries sank up to a couple of metres below the adjoining land, which Macfarlane calls the Holloways. Some of these have been filled in, but others are still there and completely forgotten but largely impassable as they're full of trees and brambles.

I'm keeping this, because I got quite a bit out of it even though I was probably in the wrong mental place for it, and there's an interesting bibliography.


49.Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

I was suckered into this because the cover proclaimed "if you like Zafon's Shadow of the Wind you'll love this" and Isabel Allende endorses it. I love Shadow of the Wind. A lot.

It's about a boring, set-in-his ways, Swiss teacher of ancient languages who, though a chance encounter and in the middle of a mid-life crisis, buys a book of philosophical musings by a Portuguese doctor in the throes of a mid-life crisis, drops everything and travels to Lisbon to find out more about the author. In the process he has to examine a lot about his life.

It took me ages to get into this (Shadow of the Wind it is not), but I got there eventually. The pseudo-philosophical ramblings of the book-within-the-book are nonsensical and stupid, but it turns out the author had an interesting life, having been in the Resistance against the Salazar dictatorship. It's a gentle, thoughtful book that is a good counterweight to the action-packed Dresden Files books I've mostly been reading lately.

This is another book that I was almost certainly in the wrong mental space to be appreciating, so I'm going to keep it as I may be in a better place to appreciate it at another time.


50. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Got this cheap on a fundraising stall at a National Trust property. I saw the film recently so there wasn't a great deal of surprise plot-wise, but I wanted to know whether I was interested in the rest of the series.

If anything, it's even grimmer than the film, despite the fact that Erlendur does not at any point eat a boiled sheep's head in the book. The prose is very sparse and odd. I'd blame this on the translation, but if what little I remember about medieval Icelandic has any bearing here, I'd say that the translator has gone a long way to make it accessible to English-speakers. There's not a lot to it, but it's quite gripping in places. The verdict is that I will look out for the rest of the series at some point, but I think I'll get them from the library.
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44. Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Yes, I'm still in this rut. Harry finds out he has a half-brother, and gets a puppy. He gets beat up a lot, and goes undercover as a production assistant in the adult entertainment industry.

I thought I might be burning out on this series a little and maybe I should read something else next, but I'm awfully tempted to go straight to the next one to see what happens next.
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43. Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Dresden Files, Volume 5.

So far this series is going from strength to strength. I laughed out loud when I got to the bit with the Trostskyist Knight of the Cross, but really, there's a lot of deeper stuff about the Knights of the Cross in this one.

And a really hot sex scene between Harry and Susan.

When I finished this book, I immediately went across the room, picked up the next one and started it. It starts out with Harry rescuing puppies from demons, which has me dying from the cute.

I need to re-read these all when I can give them my fuller attention, but at the moment they're all that are standing between me and being a complete gibbering wreck.
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42. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Book 4 of the Dresden Files series. (A supernatural detective type thing, for those of you who haven't heard me expostulate at length before).

What's not to love - there's an underground city under Chicago based on a real tunnel system, and lots of irreverent one-liners. Harry's secret weapon at the end is simultaneously genius, hilarious and really cute.

I've started the next one already and this series will feature heavily over the next few months.
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Does it matter if you read the books in order?

I started with Proven Guilty, even though it's quite far into the series, because it was the only one available at a branch of the library I could get to. I just wanted to read one to see if I was interested in the series or not. I thought it stood on its own really well.

I've since read the first three and just bought Summer Knight yesterday. I have also ordered Side Jobs from Amazon and pre-ordered the new one from Waterstones, which is out on the 28th.

Should I sit on Side Jobs and the new one, or can I dive in right after I finish Summer Knight?

For reference, I'm generally not hung up on reading things in the right order. I've spent most of my life depending on libraries, and it's only with the advent of online ordering that reading series in the correct order has even been possible. Unless there's great huge relevant gaps of plot missing, I really don't care about the minor stuff like characters' ages etc.

While I'm at it, same question re: Lindsey Davis' Falco series - my library has a lot of the later ones, and it's easier to get those first and then start ordering the rest.
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brief reviews brought to you by the ongoing cotton wool in my head:

14. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

I've reviewed both of Morton's other books (The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden) on here before. This is the same deal - multi-generational gothic potboiler revolving around a decaying stately home.

I think I loved this less than the other two. Having said that, I got through the nearly 700 pages in four days, and once I'd started was lugging it around on the bus to Bath & back (and thus all over Bath for the day) because I couldn't put it down.


15. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

Yes, I'm still reading these. This one's more focussed than the last few have been; good mindless fun.


16. Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Volume 3 of The Dresden Files. I love Harry Dresden. I loved this book, even though there's hardly any appearances at all by Murphy; the sidekick in this one is the self-righteous Knight of the Cross who is by turns lovely and really annoying. (I'm pretty sure that's intentional).

Be warned - I found the ending really sad.
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Once again, I fail at doing these idividually.

58. Bad Things by Michael Marshall

I would say that the Michael Marshall thrillers are subject to the law of diminishing returns, except that I read the last half of it in one evening, so he must be doing something right.

Less of an all-pervading conspiracy theory behind this than the other books, it's an interesting twist on the "something evil in the forest" tale.

59. Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children by Michael Newton

Not so much a history of children raised by wolves, etc (too lost to time) but a history of what they mean in the history of ideas. Lots of Enlightenment stuff and characters who popped up at the periphery of my PhD, but ultimately self-indulgent. Left me with more questions than it answered, and not in a good way. Amusing enough, but it's going back to the charity shop whence it came.

60. Generation X by Douglas Coupland

This month's Bibliogoths selection (which we will discuss tomorrow). I read this shortly after it came out, when I was a fully paid up member of the poverty jet set. I'd remembered the term but forgotten where I picked it up.

61. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Book 2 of The Dresden Files. I love this stuff. Mostly disposable supernatural-detective stuff but the scene where Harry becomes a wolf is just beautifully written.

The only thing stopping me from buying the rest of the series RIGHT NOW is that I just had a major accident at the library so things are a bit out of control around here book-wise.
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6. Storm Front by Jim Butcher

I was introduced to the Dresden Files by the short-lived television series, which I loved. I took a random volume out of the library last year and thought that was pretty fine too. As there's no more that live at branches of the library I can easily get to, I've started reserving them in order.

In this first one, Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, is hired to find a missing husband on the same day the police call him in to consult on two grisly murders that were done by magic. In doing so, Harry annoys Chicago's organised crime boss and nearly has a death sentence passed on him by the White Council. Women come on to him but circumstances always drive them away. There is a scary drug which makes people see into the occult world on the streets.

It's predictable in parts (such as the two mysteries Harry is investigating turn out to be related, as well as the drugs) but good fun nonetheless.

I didn't love this one as much as Proven Guilty, but I will certainly be ordering the next one from the library soon.

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