Book Review: Skin Game

Book Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Harry Dresden is back!

Chicago’s only professional wizard (or at least, the only one listed in the yellow pages) returns in the 15th installment of Jim Butcher’s fast-paced urban fantasy series, the Dresden Files.

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

Clearly, at book 15, this is not a good entry point for Dresden newbies. Sure, you might be able to figure out what’s going on — but I doubt it. By this point in the series, the relationships are complex, there’s a lot of backstory, and the mythology and world-building are so intricate, with so many interwoven storylines and a huge cast of characters, that there’s not much that would make a whole lot of sense coming in cold.

For Dresden fans, however, Skin Game is a delight. Picking up soon after the jaw-dropping events in Cold Days, Skin Game sees Harry thrust right back into action, thrown into a seemingly no-win situation in which he’s forced to help an archenemy carry out a crazy dangerous plan with potentially devastating consequences. Still, Harry has no viable way to refuse, and thus embarks on a whirlwind three-day escapade alongside a team of colleagues who mostly can’t be trusted. Harry’s life is at stake every moment, his friends and loved one are all at risk, he gets broken and bruised — a lot — and above all, Harry has to figure out how to make his way through without endangering everything he holds dear and without turning into what he most fears.

Why do I love Harry Dresden? He’s smart, he’s brave, he’s a total wiseass, and he’s just really, really funny. Jim Butcher’s writing crackles with energy and humor, even in the midst of bloody action sequences. Harry may get hurt, but he’s never completely down for the count. And even in the midst of grave peril, he manages to get off some of the best one-liners and pop-culture references in fiction today.

My only complaint about Skin Game: No Thomas, and not enough Molly*. Other than that, we’re treated to a compelling plot, exciting action, forward motion in Harry’s ongoing personal drama, and an adventure story that’s simply impossible to stop reading.

Plus, we get to meet a Greek god, so there’s that.

All in all, Skin Game is a very successful addition to the Dresden body of work. Ongoing readers of the series have to read this one, period.

Some series stick around way past the point where there’s anything fresh or interesting to say. Not Dresden. I hope Jim Butcher plans to continue writing about Harry for years to come. If he does, I promise, I’ll be there to read the books. All the books. Forever.

And a final word:

Parkour!!**

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Skin Game
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Publication date: May 27, 2014
Length: 454 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library

* Oh, wait. One more complaint: We have to wait another year for book #16.

**with special credit and a big smile to my Goodreads friend Emily for reminding me of one of my favorite repeated utterances in Skin Game.

 

 

The Monday Agenda 7/7/2014

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Life:

Busy, busy week… thus, not much reading or reviewing! We had relatives visiting for most of the week, which was delightful. Plus, 4th of July celebrations! And my little guy (who’s not so little) left for three weeks of summer camp yesterday, which meant that I spent a good chunk of the weekend ironing name tags into clothes. (If you’ve ever gone to summer camp, you’ll understand!)

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Skin Game by Jim Butcher: Done! Another excellent entry in the Dresden Files series. Review to follow.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian: Just started.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week!

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

Close Your Eyes, Hold HandsLandlineThe Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel

I’ll be continuing with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (of course).

The new Rainbow Rowell book arrives this week! I’m really looking forward to reading Landline.

And if there’s time, I’ll be starting The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalie Sanmartin Fenollera.

Meanwhile, I really need to clear some space in my reading life for new week’s big release, The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. Finally, book 3 in the All Souls Trilogy!

 

Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic, #2)The kiddo and I are still enjoying Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede — although it’s now on hold for a few weeks, until he gets back from camp.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Happy reading!

boy1

Thursday Quotables: Skin Game

quotation-marks4

Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Skin Game by Jim Butcher
(published May 27, 2014)

We got out of Karrin’s little SUV and headed toward the creepy old slaughterhouse full of dangerous beings. Which … pretty much tells you what kind of day I was having, right there.

Par for the course, if you’re a certain Chicago wizard.

Because Nicodemus is a murderous murdering murder.

He sure knows how to pick his enemies!

But they were doughnuts of darkness. Evil, damned doughnuts, tainted by the spawn of darkness…

… which could obviously be redeemed only by passing through the fiery, cleansing inferno of a wizardly digestive tract.

Harry Dresden is back! Man, have I missed his smart-ass comments about all things supernatural, deadly, or just plain weird.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Leave your link in the comments — or, if you have a quote to share but not a blog post, you can leave your quote in the comments too!
  • Visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

For my first wishlist post of 2014, I’ve picked the upcoming new installment in a favorite series:

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Skin Game by Jim Butcher
(to be released May 27, 2014)

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

I was so excited to see that the next Dresden Files book has a cover and a release date! At 15 books and counting, this series hasn’t lost a bit of steam. The last book, Cold Days, had a major game-changing cliffhanger of an ending. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

The Monday agenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

It’s New Year’s Eve morning, last day of 2012! Heading out of town tomorow for a few days in the snow with family before work, school, and real-life kick back in. Meanwhile, there are books to read! Onward with the reading agenda.

From last week:

Cold Days by Jim Butcher: Done! Terrific new addition to the Dresden Files series. My review is here.

Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel: Done! Review still to come.

I did not get a chance to flip leisurely through my two new coffee table books (My Ideal Bookshelf and Buffy: The Making of a Slayer), so I’ll look forward to savoring them in the New Year.

And this week’s new agenda:

I have two library books left on the pile before I dig back into my collection at home, in keeping with my #1 resolution — maintain a healthy balance between reading library/new books and books on my shelves. So, first I’ll finish up the library books:

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: A YA novel by the author of the very charming Anna and the French Kiss.

This One Is Mine by Maria Semple: The earlier novel by the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, which I enjoyed tremendously. (My review is here).

After that, I’ll dive into something I already own — either The Round House by Louise Erdrich or one of the Susanna Kearsley novels I’ve been waiting to read.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Book Review: Cold Days

Book Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is back! And — dare I say it? — better than ever.

(Spoilers for earlier Dresden books ahead, so proceed at your own risk.)

In this 14th novel of the Dresden Files, Harry is back from the quasi-dead, but there’s no time to rest and recuperate. As the new Winter Knight, Harry has to survive Queen Mab’s rather deadly version of physical therapy before setting out to obey Mab’s commands, reunite with his friends, avoid menacing fairies, and – oh, yeah – save Chicago and perhaps the world from a looming apocalypse.

Every time I pick up a Dresden Files book, I’m reminded all over again of how much I enjoy this series, what a way with words Jim Butcher has, and just what a bad-ass Harry Dresden really is. Some series linger on way past their expiration date (I’m looking at you, Sookie), when clearly there’s really not much else to do or say with the characters. Not so in the Dresden Files. Cold Days continues the ongoing story and enriches it, drawing on past stories and mythology, adding layer upon layer of complexity to the challenges facing Harry, and moving the story in some creative and unexpected directions.

Cold Days deals very much with Harry’s new role in the Winter Court, but to understand the action, it’s important to have read the previous books. Familiarity with book 4, Summer Knight, is especially helpful. Harry’s strongest allies, including his brother Thomas, apprentice Molly, will-they-or-won’t-they love interest Karrin Murphy, and big doggie Mouse are all back at his side, fighting against new super-scary villains and fighting in alliance with some surprising new partners.

I really won’t say too much more about the plot, a) because it goes a mile a minute and covers a tremendous amount of ground in the course of 500 pages, and b) because you’re really better off experiencing it on your own.

I wasn’t really sold on the previous volume in the series, Ghost Story, but the one before that, Changes, was blow-your-socks-off great. To a large extent, the events of Changes are much more important to the on-going narrative than those of Ghost Story, and lead nicely into the central action of Cold Days. I would rate Cold Days as among the best in the Dresden Files series. By the end of Cold Days, Jim Butcher has set some new players into action, rearranged the power structures, given new roles to familiar characters, and left Harry facing a potential threat to his own well-being, a looming menace to the world at large, and some weighty decisions to make concerning his personal life.

If you’re a fan of the series, you will absolutely want to read Cold Days. If you’ve read bits and pieces of The Dresden Files, or maybe only watched the sadly short-lived TV series, let me tell you that it’s worth continuing with the books to get to the really stellar volumes such as Changes and Cold Days.

And if you’ve never read any of the Dresden Files books? Well, what are you waiting for? Jump in, start at the beginning, and enjoy! But clear any other books off your reading calendar — once you start The Dresden Files, you won’t want to stop.

The Monday agenda

MondayAgenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Wishing good cheer, happy holidays, and delightful reading to all! What’s on the agenda this week?

From last week:

Graphic novels galore! I read all of the books I’d planned to — possible a first for me! You can find my comments on the seven graphic novels I read this past week here.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman: Didn’t end up starting this one. I want to — really, I do! — but just not right now.

My son and I still haven’t started a new read-aloud yet. He was sick for most of the week, and when he’s sick, we stick with the “comfort food” of good old Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book, If I Ran The Circus, Scrambled Eggs Super, The Sneetches… the reading equivalent of chicken soup.

And this week’s new agenda:

I’ve just started Cold Days by Jim Butcher, the newest release in the Dresden Files series. This is book 14, and Harry is still going strong! This should be fun.

The library stack is growing again. Waiting to be read are Sailor Twain, a graphic novel by Mark Siegel, and YA novel Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.

Also on my agenda for this week: Spend some time savoring two lovely new gift books that I treated myself to after receiving a couple of gift cards: My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount and Thessaly La Force (I’m absolutely drooling over this book) and Buffy: The Making of a Slayer by Nancy Holder.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.