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My hobbies include just about anything, really...except reading, I hate reading! Kidding of course, reading is my favorite hobby! I love not only reading, but creative writing as well. I'm currently working on a novel about a group of paranormal social workers who try to help creatures like themselves cope with being different while also protecting humanity from the more malevolent beings. Other hobbies include music, yoga, comedy clubs, movies, and video games. I read from just about any genre, but my favorites are fantasy/urban fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and graphic novels (that's what us comic-book geeks call them to try to sound more sophisticated). In my secret identity, I work as an accountant for a nonprofit organization . I know...accounting and creative writing don't exactly go together...what can I say, I'm full of contradictions! My rating system: 5 STARS - I absolutely loved this book! I couldn't wait to finish it, yet I also never wanted it to end! 4 STARS - I liked this book an awful lot! It would have been perfect, except for some minor issue or issues that detracted from my overall enjoyment. 3 STARS - I liked this book, but found it somewhat flawed. Probably would not read again, but might still give the author and/or series a second chance. 2 STARS - Overall, a disappointing read for me. It had its moments, but sadly the bad outweighed the good. 1 STAR - I hate the part of my brain that convinced me to read this book!

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Queen and Country: A Gentleman's Game
Greg Rucka
Proven Guilty - Jim Butcher If the charge is writing one of the best Harry Dresden novels yet, then Jim Butcher has just been Proven Guilty!

As a practicing wizard, Harry Dresden has always been troubled by the methods of his bosses in the White Council. But since becoming a Warden and witnessing the Council's methods firsthand...now he's outright disgusted by them! When someone is caught practicing black magic, rather then considering rehabilitation for the practitioner, the Council prefers to simply cut the dark wizard off at the knees (or more accurately, the head)! So when Harry is tipped off that someone is utilizing black magic in Chicago, he hopes to find the practitioner before the Council does. However, it wouldn't be a day in the life of Harry Dresden if there weren't at least five crises going on at once! In addition to locating the spellcaster, Harry has to contend with an ongoing battle between the wizards and the vampires, movie monsters that have somehow come to life and are attacking citizens, the daughter of an old friend who is in trouble with the law, and fairies with the power to tear the world apart who are on the brink of war! So now Harry has to save the world from the bad guys, as well as save the bad guys from the good guys. Oh, and if he could survive the whole affair, that would be nice, too!

I've always had somewhat conflicting feelings towards the Harry Dresden series. While, personally I find the series a lot of fun, whenever I'm talking to someone with more sophisticated tastes than me (in other words, at least 98% of the planet), I feel the need to defend my love of the books! I'll find myself saying things like, "Yeah, the FBI agent pulling a gun on Murphy over a snide remark was a bit much, but...", or, "yeah, I know the books feature a greatest-hits cast of supernatural creatures from other books, but..." So I was ecstatic to read this book and find that Jim Butcher has finally done it...he's finally written a book with enough depth and complexity that I no longer feel the need to defend my enjoyment of his work. In fact, there were three major categories in which Butcher displayed a more mature method of storytelling...

Deeper characters

One character who showed a lot of character growth this time around was Harry Dresden himself. In past books, his wise-cracking could be funny, but it also often took the place of any real characterization, to the point where Harry could come across as a one-dimensional wise-ass whose constant one-liners eventually evoked more eye-rolls than chuckles...
feyeyes
Dresden has gotten this reaction so many times, he was 35 years old before he realized that pupils are usually found in the CENTER of an eye!

However, this time around, Harry is more conflicted. His horror at the White Council's ruthless methods. His desire to reconcile the Carpenter family with their rebellious daughter. His temptation to accept the fallen angel Lasciel's offer of more power. Harry has become a much more rounded character at this stage in the game, and he's not the only one. In the past, the Carpenter's came across as almost cartoonish with their perfect life, with family matriarch Charity seemingly distrusting Harry for no further reason than to provide some comic relief with her snarky comments towards him. However, now we're given a much clearer glimpse into the Carpenters' lives, and they become far more sympathetic because of it (particularly the formerly-unlikable Charity). This time around, I wasn't just entertained by Dresden and his cast of characters...I truly cared about them!

Deeper story

Look, I'll be the first to admit that, while I found the earlier books very entertaining, the actual plots were often as thin as the paper they were typed on. "Fool Moon" was about pissed-off werewolves..."Grave Peril" was about pissed-off ghosts..."Summer Knight" was about pissed-off fairies (I'll stop now, something tells me you've picked up on the pattern). However, by this stage in the game, the books are now weaving together many different plot threads at once. If this were one of the earlier books, chances are the black magic and the conjured-up movie monsters would have made up the entirety of the novel. However, in addition, we get political battles between the wizards, deeper ramifications of the wizards' war with the vampires, and the presence of the fairies, where even the ones who are on Harry's side come across as devious and untrustworthy. At first. I was afraid the fairies were just being thrown into the mix, but Butcher managed to make them an integral part of the story. And I've always appreciated how Butcher's rendition of fairies is so much more sinister than the kindly fairy-godmothers that fairies are often depicted as...particularly recurring Dresden nemesis Queen Mab...
mab
I can't imagine why this interpretation of fairies never made it into the Disney movies...

Along with a larger story, more complex themes are explored as well. I loved how the lines between "good" and "evil" were much more blurry, and after being asked to wonder "will they or won't they" about Dresden and Murphy for seven books, I was pleased to see how the tension between them was actually addressed in a more mature fashion than I would have previously expected. Of course, Butcher understands that people don't usually check out his books strictly for some weighty philosophical struggles, which brings us to...

Deeper action

In the past, I've referred to the Dresden books as "fun", but this time around, one of the first adjectives that springs to mind is "exciting"! Butcher outdid himself with the fight sequences, particularly in a duel between Harry and a movie monster known as the Scarecrow, where the action is so beautifully depicted, it channeled the writing abilities of R.A. Salvatore himself! I've always considered Salvatore the greatest at describing fight scenes, but if Butcher can keep this up, he'll definitely be holding the silver medal next to Salvatore's gold. Other fight sequences (particularly the big showdown towards the end) also feature raised stakes and more creative spellcasting, making this an adventure I didn't just read about, I actually felt!

So by giving us a larger story with more complex concepts and fleshed-out characters, Butcher manages to proved his maturation (and downright improvement) as a writer! The previous Dresden novels were good books, but added depth makes this one a good story as well!
deep
Okay...maybe this book isn't really THAT deep, but it sure feels that way when you compare it to [b:Fool Moon|91477|Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)|Jim Butcher|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1345556849s/91477.jpg|855288]!