Today’s the last Friday of March, which means this post will consist of reviews for the books I’ve read this month. You can read last month’s post here. I’ve had a fairly busy couple of weeks and haven’t read too much, but we do have four books to review today:
- Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3)
- Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)
- Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Here we go! 🙂
Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks – Jim Butcher
I read the first two Harry Dresden books last month and mostly felt a bit underwhelmed. They’d been recommended so much, I really expected much better. However, Fool Moon did feel a little promising, so I had reason to hope the series would start getting better.
I was right.
Grave Peril, continuing the trend of silly puns in book titles, is about a disturbance in the Force; or rather, the spirit world. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I found the mystery interesting and the plot well-paced. The book starts in situ and leaves us to figure out what’s been happening in the weeks preceding the first chapter, which I liked. It’s good to come across an author that respects their readers enough not to spell everything out.
The book also introduced my favourite character in the series yet. You get to meet him in the first chapter, and he isn’t any less entertaining or enjoyable by the end of the book. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but he really is fantastic.
I liked the way the story developed, even if one or two twists were slightly predictable. The series is still finding its feet, but it’s getting better refreshingly quickly.
Summer Knight came next and though I enjoyed it, I felt a little bit disappointed that the improvement from the previous book wasn’t as marked as the one from Fool Moon to Grave Peril. Still, it was a solid read.
We see Harry trying to recover from the events of Grave Peril, and what better way to deal with difficult feelings than being hired by the deadliest, most dangerous client Harry has ever had?
A few events from the previous book have consequences here, but they’re more of a side plot. However, by the end of the book it’s clear the next couple of instalments in the series will be dealing with those consequences front and center.
The book introduces quite a bit of lore, and takes joy in massively developing on characters and places from Grave Peril in much more detail. The plot wasn’t my absolute favourite, but I did like the complexities and subtleties Jim Butcher introduced here. I have a feeling they’ll come back in a few books and pay dividends.
Death Masks was a bit of an odd one. Events continue from the last few books, but unexpectedly, Death Masks barely glanced at the overarching story as it told us about Harry’s latest case. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book. The magic here is interesting, and so is the villain, but it wasn’t what I expected.
There were a few more complex characters thrown into the story universe and while everything’s working for now, I’m starting to feel a little worried Jim Butcher won’t be able to keep juggling all the events and recurring characters as well as he has, and will slip before too long. The positive reviews the series has received overall as well as the recommendations from others suggest he pulls it off, but I’ll have to wait and see for myself.
Overall, these three books were a massive improvement on the first two. The series is still not anywhere near my list of all-time favourites, and I don’t know that the books would be the first thing to come to mind if someone asked me for a recommendation, but I feel invested in the story and in the characters and definitely want to catch up to the newest books.
Here’s to hoping the next few books pick up and there’s another step up to make the series really stand out.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln – Doris Kearns Goodwin
Finally. This book (which will be henceforth referred to as Team of Rivals) is by far the best thing I’ve read in ages. Wow.
I initially picked it up because I thought my book reviews post would be boring if I only covered Harry Dresden books. I thought of what else I could read and decided to go non-fiction, as it’s something I rarely read and would likely make a nice contrast with the silly and light-hearted magic books. I chose a book about Abraham Lincoln more or less at random. I’d done a project about him in middle school and have had a vague interest in the American Civil War since a class on American History I took back in ninth grade, so I thought Lincoln would probably not be too boring a subject.
Talk about an understatement.
This book had me laughing out loud, crying, and fretting anxiously at work, counting the minutes till my next break so I could read a precious few pages to tide me over till my next chance to read more.
It was fantastic. The book does a fantastic job or painting a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in an unconventional way. Rather than simply offering up first-hand accounts of the man, it details his life as well as that of some of his biggest political rivals. Why? Well, because Abraham Lincoln incorporated some of his strongest rivals into his Cabinet. Rather than using the power of the Presidency to knock them down, he had enough confidence and authority to make them the closest members of his political family, and add their strengths to his.
Seeing the change between their haughty opinions of the backwoods lawyer from Illinois when he first elected, and their awe and love for a truly great man just a few years later is remarkable.
Kearns does a fantastic job of both telling and showing the many qualities of Lincoln’s personality as well as the strength of his character using passages composed by the man himself, anecdotes others have about him, and the private writings of those close to him.
By the end of the book I felt I loved Lincoln nearly as much as I admired him, and broke down in ugly crying in a Subway when I finally got to the part of the book that narrated his assassination.
I started this book expecting a dry political text on a man that died over 150 years ago. What I found was a beautiful detail on someone who is surely one of the greatest men to ever have walked this Earth. Captivating, moving, fascinating. I can’t think of enough positive adjectives for this book.
If you want to feel a sense of awe and get a glimpse at Greatness, if you want to read about a man who perfectly balanced ambition and kindness, authority and compassion, and empathy with a first-rate mind, this is the book you need to be reading right now.
Team of Rivals easily goes into my list of Top Twenty books of all-time, probably into the Top Ten, too.
Have you read any of the books covered in this post? Did you read one or more of the ones covered last month? I’d love to hear how my impressions and opinions on the books compare to yours! If you have any recommendations based on the books I’ve covered here, please let me know. I’ll be covering a couple more Harry Dresden books next month, but I’d like to balance them out with other stories.