Writer Reading Report: Peace Talks

cover185217-miniI received an ARC of Peace Talks by Jim Butcher through NetGalley. The one drawback? I’ve already read it, so now I have to wait longer before I can read the NEXT book.

Peace Talks is (will be?) a solid entry in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, but it wouldn’t stand well on its own even if it wasn’t novel #16. It concentrates on setting up big-picture conflicts, and it ends on a chapter-break cliffhanger of epic proportions.

True confession: I loathe cliffhanger endings with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. I have quit following series after being subjected to gotcha cliffhangers. 

I enjoyed Peace Talks despite the lack of ending, which says good things about Jim Butcher’s ability to sort out plot points in a satisfying way.

It’s been five years since the last book released, and at least two since I did a series re-read, but I was immersed from page one, like settling into my comfy chair after a long trip away from home.  Peace Talks has all the fun elements I’ve come to expect from a Dresden Files novel: Harry demonstrates the self-awareness of a kumquat but is shepherded to A Revelation by his friends;  scenes bounce from snarky dialogue to tender affection to outrageous hijinks and back; and conflicts of duty, honor and heart-ties abound.

A sense of Impending Events hangs over every small moment, and the plot was a typical Dresden Files rollercoaster, careening from one disaster and/or painful, no-win decision to the next.  By the end, when some elements were resolved, it felt like reaching the eye of a hurricane, a welcome breather for characters and readers alike.

I think that’s the main reason the cliffhanger didn’t bother me. I was ready to set down the book and take a break from the intensity.

I was honestly ready for a break from Harry, too. Peace Talks also has all the usual sketch-stereotype Dresden Files characters and the main characters make a lot of problematic value judgments about sexuality, race, gender, consent…yeah.

One of the things about the series that keeps me reading is that it doesn’t shy away from moral conflict, but that doesn’t make it comfortable, especially when the murkiness is presented in first person POV. Things are getting darker and darker, and Harry’s choices are getting…iffier and iffier. So. Break good.

And here’s a third reason the cliffhanger didn’t bother me: events in this series have been heading toward a cliff for several books now, so I’m more inclined to forgive it reaching one it had to jump off. Despite all the action, the plot of Peace Talks was mainly setup. All the various characters who’ve been introduced (over what, sixteen books?) are shifting into new ( and final?) configurations.  It isn’t a short book, but to break out yet another analogy, it only had enough pages to show the opening moves in a chess match that may take the rest of the series to resolve.

So brace yourself, because major shenanigans are about to ensue.

 

Writer Reading Report: Smoke Bitten

Thanks to NetGalley, I received two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of upcoming novels by two of my favorite authors. Here be my short but heartfelt reviews of the first one I finished. It’s out now, so you don’t even have to wait!

Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs.

I expect most people interested in Smoke Bitten have read some or all of the preceding books. Smoke Bitten is the twelfth in an urban fantasy series about Mercy Thompson,  part-time coyote, full-time auto mechanic, Volkswagon owner, seer of ghosts, and neighbor to a werewolf alpha.

So if you’re checking reviews because this book looks interesting, you’re right! It is!

I always recommend starting at the beginning of any series as well=established as this one–or at least with a book closer to the beginning.  That said, if this is the only Mercy Thompson book you can find, it’s a great chapter in the ongoing saga, and a decent introduction to the complex, entertaining dynamics between members of an ever-increasing cast.

Honestly, any plot summary without spoilers would be either redundant or too vague to be useful. The important points. First, as with most other books in the series, the events in Smoke Bitten take place over a very short time frame.  Second, the action is local, and the stakes more personal than world-changing.

The plot shines brightest when Mercy is dealing with her friends and family. Often she’s making hard choices between people and rules, between principle and practicality. In this book, a problem arises from the solutions to problems resolved in previous books.

It’s a tangle of big personalities, old grudges, and buried mysteries, with all the emotionally satisfying, complicated I’ve come to expect from this author.

 

A low-priority request

Hiya friends! I hope StayAtHome Spring 2020 Day X (where x is an integer value greater than zero) is treating you well.

If you have perchance ordered paperback copies of Novices from Big River Online, could you let me know when the book reaches you?  I’m collecting data for science! I expect it will take a lot longer than usual, with books being in the non-essential column compared to a lot of things BRO is shipping right now, and also I’m made of curiousity.

(Big hat tip to Seanan McGuire for my new favorite search-engine-dodging alternative for a certain retailer’s name.)

Note 2: If you care to leave a review for Novices online somewhere, that would be beyond fabulous and I would be ever so grateful, but…well.  I know reviews are hard. True confession, I’m behind on them too. Three reviews on my Habitica to-do list are bright red for being late-late-late.

**Note 3: Also remember that when you alert ME (privately, thx) to any typos/proofing glitches in any of my books, you get entered in a raffle for a free copy of the next book.

On the other hand, if you report typos & errata to Big River Online, the book gets pulled off the website & the creator gets penalized. Just an FYI for those who didn’t realize that.

And that reminds me, I owe someone a free copy of Novices. I do love giving people free things when I can.

AND I need to change the cover picture and add the paperback link to the book page on my website and ask Author Central to link the paperback & ebook entries…ah, all the authoring details. Never-ending fun. (for some values of fun)

Until later, all!