Disclaimer: I read this back in 2014 – apparently, I’m just bad at remembering to publish posts.
When I was a kid, I remember watching parts of Grease at a friend’s house. It was the scene where Frency realizes that she has absolutely no talent as a hair dresser and needs to go back to high school. I was instantly in love but it took a while before I got to watch the whole movie. I still love it. So when I saw the title Summer Knight, I immediately flashed to Travolta and Newton-John singing about their new love.
Love is really not the case for Harry Dresden. Quite the opposite. In Grave Peril, Dresden’s girlfriend Susan crashes a vampire party and pays a price for it. She is almost turned into a vampire and has to fight constant urges to feed on humans. So she has left the city and Dresden are struggling to find a cure. Struggling so much that he has given up on luxuries such as bathing, shaving, working and eating.
But when he is approached by the faerie Winter Queen and realizes that she has bought the debt he owed his fairy godmother – yeah, he has one of those and no, there’s no Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella vibe to her – he really has no choice but to do her bidding.
And getting involved in faerie politics is not a walk in the park. Or when it is, it involves toads falling on your head. Real toads – and lots of them. Especially when the faerie queen asks him to investigate a murder. And it get really interesting when it’s the Winter Queen asking him to find out who killed the Summer Knight. Especially when the elimination of one of the faerie court’s knights means a serious shift in power.
It turns out that there’s quite a lot at stake here. Letting one of the courts gain power means, that the other court is weakened – and well, these are the Summer and Winter courts so if Winter gains in power, there will be some serious consequences for the environment and stores selling woolen underwear will really take off. So there’s a lot of reasons for Harry to get involved – and not only because his loving (!) fairy godmother has sold his debt to her to a faerie queen.
This was another solid Harry Dresden book.
When I was a kid, I liked ghost stories. My father had some books about white ladies and he told me about castles which have their own private ghosts. He didn’t believe in them. I think he just wanted to make my world a bit richer, just like I tell my kids how their grandparents had to run from dinosaurs when going to school and how their father saved me from a dragon.
Now I don’t believe in ghosts as white sheaths moving softly through walls. But I do believe that extreme sadness, pain and anguish can leave behind some kind of remnants that we – or some of us at least – can feel.
Now, Jim Butcher is not this subtle. When he lets Harry Dresden go up against ghosts, he doesn’t just find some whimpy moaning white lady to pit him against. He of course creates the worst kind of ghost imaginable and lets this ghost have the most powerful helpers – and then he lets Harry, poor messed-up Harry, face off with these and takes us along for the ride.
Now it’s not like Harry hasn’t got any help. Taking a back seat in this story are Harry’s normal helpers such as Karrin Murphy, a police officer from Special Investigations and also to some extent Susan Rodriquez, Dresden’s girlfriend. But they are put on the back burner to make room for interesting new characters such as Michael, a Knight of the Cross, and his family. Now Michael comes with a special connection to God and a magnificent sword and while constantly lecturing Dresden on how to be a decent person and a better man, he knows how to handle himself when trouble comes around.
The intrigue in this book also allows us to delve into the Nevernever for the first time – an experience which is not altogether pleasant for our dear Harry. It also allows us to experience the Vampire courts more intimately than earlier – again not altogether pleasant for Harry. It also introduces faeries, especially Harry’s godmother Lea.
If you ask me to say exactly why I like these books, I’m not quite able to get you an answer. I can give you all the normal reasons – it’s a thrilling exciting read with an interesting main character and it’s just the right thing to loose yourself in. But so is a lot of books. I haven’t yet pinpointed what it is that so far makes me enjoy these books. But I do enjoy them and I guess I’ll keep reading ’till I can find out what it is that attract me about Harry Dresden.
Other than he is a cool, but not too cool, wizard living in Chicago trying hard not to destroy any and every modern technology he gets remotely close to while attempting to help ordinary people exposed to supernatural situations and creatures while trying to have a somewhat normal relationship with his girlfriend.
This week’s topic is all about new authors. Not new as in debut authors but authors that are new to me (and the other readers participating in Top Te Tuesday this week). And this is a fascinating topic. I have never before noticed how many new authors I read during a year. I have a goal for myself to read a book by each of my (five) favorite authors every year so they are not new but I have never counted how many new authors I try out. I am actually very pleased with my result. I have given 23 authors a chance this year. So far! I like that! To me, it says that I’m willing to take a chance and I’m not stuck in reading the same few authors over and over again. And it’s also interesting because the 23 authors are very different. There’s both debuts, classics, non-fiction and more. So what you’ll find below is my list of the Top Ten Authors that I have read this year and that I expect to explore further in the coming years; the best of the 23.
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Toni Morrison. I read Beloved this year and it was an incredible read. I was so blown away by this book. It was such an incredible powerful and heartbreaking book about a mother doing everything, everything, to protect her children. I will definitely read more by Morrison and I’m a bit sad that I have waited this long to read her for the first time.
F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have postponed reading The Great Gatsbybecause I watched the movie edition of it starring Robert Redford many years ago and didn’t get it. Not at all. But now I’m apparently the right age for Gatsby because I loved this book too. It was just so good and, again, heartbreaking in all the right ways. Poor Gatsby!
Jennifer Egan. Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goon Squad was the first novel I read this year and it definitely started the year right. I really enjoyed this, all of this, including the powerpoint chapter!
Félix J. Palma.The Map of Time was a mad, mad ride. H.G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, time traveling, love, automatons and so much more. It was wonderful and I loved it. I really want to read the next book in this series! and I hope it is just as much fun.
Carol Birch. Let’s be honest, Jamrach’s Menagerie is definitely outside my normal comfort zone. But I loved it. The first part when they were chasing the ‘dragon’ and finally caught it, was amazing and the second part with the shipwreck was even better. Really a good book!
Ben Marcus.The Flame Alphabet was a strange book indeed. I’m not sure I got all of it but it was so very different and so very fascinating. A very different book to most dystopian literature. I’m still wondering about those weird listening holes… and all the rest of it. As well as how it must be not to be able to be close to your children because their speech makes you sick…
Karen Thompson Walker.The Age of Miracles was the second book I read this year and it was really different and very good. I liked the different take on a dystopian novel and how it also had focus on the fact that life goes on, especially when you’re a teenager.
Colm Tóibín. I was so impressed with not only Tóibín’s courage to take on the story of the mother of Jesus and her lack of belief in her son being the Son of God but also with the way he did it. The Testament of Mary is a wonderful novella, highly recommended. And I plan on reading more by Tóibín!
Alan Bennett. I absolutely adored The Uncommon Reader and I was so well entertained by it. It had it’s flaws, sure, but it was so very good at the same time. And the ending absolutely blew me away! If this one is typical of the way Bennett writes, I definitely want to explore him further in the future.*
Jim Butcher. When I needed something light and entertaining to help me deal with too much work and too little sleep, Jim Butcher was the man to deliver it. I’ve read the two first of The Dresden Files (Storm Front and Fool Moon) and while they are not amazing fantasy, they were good enough to keep me entertained and awake, no easy feat!
* Okay, this is rather embarrassing. Apparently, I read The Clothes They Stood Up In back in 2008 and liked it somewhat … So he’s not a new author. Or is he, when I had completely forgotten having ever read anything by him?
‘Don’t mess with a wizard when he’s wizarding.’ (location 3055)
So immediately after finishing Storm Front, I picked up Fool Moon. In part because I was intrigued and wanted to keep on reading about Harry Dresden and in part because I just wasn’t ready to dive into anything more serious.
I had a good time reading Storm Front but didn’t love the book. But there’s no question about it – Fool Moon is the better book.
As usual – or can’t you say that when it’s only book two? – Harry is in serious need of work and money. But luckily he is called in to help the police and finds himself at the scene of a rather grizzly murder. A scene with large paw prints, a victim which seems to have been halfway eaten – and it’s a full moon. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that werewolves play a part in the plot.
But if it were just werewolves, it would be too easy. So as it turns out, there are different kinds of werewolves – and they don’t necessarily look with friendly eyes on each other. Or on the private eye wizard trying to figure out what’s going on…
There’s not much new under the sun. The plot follows roughly the same pattern as in the first book. There are several recurring characters who do pretty much the same as in the first book and Harry seems to react in the same ways. But there’s is something about these books and as the writing has improved from the first book, I’m still game.
Something I really like about this series is, that Harry doesn’t always seem to always know exactly what he’s doing and even though he’s a trained wizard, he sometimes overestimates his own abilities. And that works well for creating some great action. Another clever move is that Dresden can’t use modern technology so he can’t just look things up online because anything electric basically self-destructs whenever he gets near. This is such a smart move on Butcher’s part.
I also really like that Butcher doesn’t fully explain a lot of things. We are still left guessing about what a lot of things are and how the magic really works. Like the Nevernever. I’m pretty sure that Harry will go there at some point and I like that we are kept waiting.
But I think my favorite part of this book was the potion making. He makes a fade-into-the-background potion as well as a pick-me-up potion and the ingredients just makes sense – in a funny way. The fade-into-the dark potion is filled with boring stuff – like lettuce for taste and elevator music to camouflage the spirit whereas the pick-me-up potion contains morning doughnut, fresh soap, dawn sunshine, a to-do list, some bright cheerful music – and coffee! I’m really not sure it makes sense if you think too hard about it but it doesn’t have to. It works in the book.
So all in all, this book has more humor and feels better written than the first book in the series. Oh, and he mentions Benji too, a childhood favorite of mine. So again, an enjoyable read and I’ll definite read further on in the series at some point. Probably soon because I’m starting to fall asleep again when reading in bed at night…
So lately I’ve been struggling so much with my reading. I have hardly any time to read, except in bed, and when I do that, I read about 5 pages, take a nap and then read 5 pages more, nap, give up. This has gotten so bad that I’m starting to feel stressed about it. Books and reading are such a big part of my life that it has a negative influence on me when I don’t have time to spend on it. My new job is taking up a lot of time and energy and that’s fine. I love my new work place, my colleagues and the challenges I face every day. Each day is different and I enjoy that. At the same time though, I really need to have my reading and my escape into books and the inspiration they give, to be the best employee, mother and person. So the only possible solution I could think of, was changing my reading material. I was reading literary fiction as well as philosophical non-fiction and this simply wasn’t keeping me awake – despite my interest in it. So I have changed my strategy – even though it might mean that I will be unable to complete my reading goals for the year. But so be it – there’s nothing else I can change right now. So because of that, I dived into a new genre to me, urban fantasy, as well as a new series, The Dresden Files.
I’ve had these recommended by a friend who shared quotes on Facebook and then we got to talk about them and she got me to reconsider my previous position of having absolutely no interest in this series.
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a P.I. in Chicago. But he is also a wizard. Dresden is struggling to make ends meet for himself and his cat, Mister. So when he gets hired by a woman to find her husband as well as called in by the police to assist in a double murder with a seemingly magical origin, he feels that his luck has changed. However the murders are somewhat more grizzly than Dresden and the police are used to and soon, there’s a lot more at stake. Not least because the White Council, a sort of board ruling the wizards, is after him, claiming that he has broken the wizard laws and used black magic – and because the local mob boss and the vampire queen are both involved in the affair and neither seem particularly happy about Dresden’s involvement. Oh, and then there’s the demon. And the scorpion. And women who wants to go out with him. It’s a mess!
So what I liked about this book, is the world. I like the idea of supernatural beings living alongside humans and humans not knowing about it. I know there’s nothing new about it and it has been done in lots of other series and shows, but for me, this was what I needed now. Even though I don’t think the writing is all that good, I was intrigued by the story – and more importantly, kept awake for the most part. I like Harry Dresden and I especially like that wizards aren’t all powerful but get burned out if they do a lot of magic as well as need wands, amulets and more to better control their magic – as well as talking craniums.
So as pure brain candy but with the potential to evolve into something both darker and more sinister as well, this is a good thing. Harry Dresden is a character who isn’t yet all that fleshed out but who can become something really interesting. I’m hoping his huge fan base isn’t wrong and that the already 13 further novels published in the series will continue to keep my interest. Wizardry is all about thinking ahead, about being prepared. Wizards aren’t really superhuman. We just have a leg up on seeing things more clearly than other people, and being able to use the extra information we have for our benefit. Hell, the word wizard comes from the same root as wise. We know things. We aren’t any stronger or faster than anyone else. We don’t even have all that much more going in the mental department. But we’re god-awful sneaky, and if we get the chance to get set for something, we can do some impressive things. (location 1261/65).