My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: Chaos Choreography

Protector of cryptids and ballroom dancer extraordinaire, Verity Price returns in Chaos Choreography. This time a pesky snake cult threatens Verity’s dreams of dance. Tracking down ritual murderers between Argentine Tangos proves surprisingly challenging for our spunky heroine.

Chaos Choreography—Seanan McGuire, 2016. Rating 3.5/5

A member of the infamous Price family of cryptozoologists, Verity keeps her real identity hidden to avoid eradication by the infamous Covenant of St. George which believes that the only good cryptid is a dead cryptid. Now, Verity and her ex-Covenant husband, Dominic, are living (awkwardly) with Verity’s family—until Verity gets an unexpected second chance: to return to her Valerie ballroom dancer persona and appear on a top twenty reunion reality tv show, Dance or Die. Verity leaps at the chance to head to LA and follow her passion, only to discover that eliminated contestants are being… literally eliminated. Ballroom takes a backseat while Verity tracks down the evildoers.

Chaos Choreography is the fifth title in McGuire’s flat-out fun InCryptid series. Verity is feisty, good-hearted, astoundingly athletic, deadly with a knife, and possesses an infectious joie de vivre. Only Verity could hide a dagger in a sparkly ballroom dress the size of a handkerchief. In this installment, we get to go a little deeper into Verity’s character, watching her wrestle with conflicting life choices. Her love of, and talent for, dance wars with her life’s work of defending cryptids everywhere.

Dance or Die is a thinly veiled fictionalization of the FOX tv show, So You Think You Can Dance. If you’re familiar with the show, you’ll recognize individual judges and choreographers in some of McGuire’s characters, which adds to the fun. From Cha Chas to chupacabras, Swing to sharkmen, Chaos Choreography is a bizarre, but weirdly successful blend of the high-pressure world of dance and monsters. The snake cult premise is a little on the weak side, and I found myself enjoying the behind-the-scenes look at the dances and the show more than I cared about who was offing the dancers. But the humor, fast-paced action, light magic, a host of eccentric characters, and a climactic extravaganza make up for a lot. This lively, escapist read will drag you out of the doldrums.

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Review: Peace Talks

Harry Dresden, practicing wizard and dogged detective is back. Now, Harry’s racing to save his vampire brother, rescue Chicago from a formidable foe, and, equally challenging for Harry, exercise tact at the supernatural peace accords.

Oh, Harry—I’ve missed you.

Peace Talks—Jim Butcher, 2020. Rating: 4.5/5

It’s been six years since Skin Game (2014), when we last had the unmitigated pleasure of watching Harry pull off a daring heist of Hades’ bank vault. Peace Talks picks up right where Skin Game left off. Life has quieted down (marginally) for Harry. He and his daughter are living safely with the svartalves. His relationship with his brother Thomas is good. His relationship with Murphy is great. But who needs stability, right? Harry’s grandfather warns him the wizard’s White Council is out to get him. The Wardens think Harry’s humanity has been…compromised…by Queen Mab. Thomas is accused of an assassination attempt. Mab orders Harry to do a favor for the sexy and fearsome vampire leader, Lara Raith. The police are on Harry’s trail for some run-of-the-mill (for Harry) mayhem following the bank heist. Oh, and the dangerous, watery Fomor produce a bona-fide Titan goddess who enthusiastically plans destroy all of humanity. Harry lives in interesting times.

Honestly, I’ve been both longing for and dreading a new Harry adventure. Dread almost won out: what if Butcher lost Harry’s mojo? What if Harry wasn’t, well, Harry? What if the plot got pretentious? Or moribund, like so many series that drag on past their prime? Essentially, what if the book sucked? I refused to read Peace Talks for a few weeks, I was that worried.

Needlessly.

Peace Talks is everything I wanted and, frankly, needed right now: the rush of an amusement park ride, the familiarity of my most comfy chair, and a hero. Butcher got it all right. Harry is still Harry: battered but not broken, hard-nosed and soft-hearted, wry, and a little goofy. And he continues to grow. Harry’s newly developing intimacy with Murphy is tender and shy. Harry’s friends and enemies alike are equally complex. The Chicago Harry knows and loves is gloriously, grittily real. If I visit, I fully expect to run into Harry tooling around the city in his Munstermobile, or exercising on Montrose Beach. Returning to Harry’s world—chaotic, treacherous, violent, loving—is a joy.

Butcher brilliantly keeps a lot of balls in the air, ratcheting the suspense high, our anxiety higher, and the story flying. At 340 pages, the book was still too short, it was that good. The end of Peace Talks does leave the plot hanging off multiple cliffs. I’d be grumpy about this Empire Strikes Back finish, except the sequel is already out. Battle Ground. And I won’t be waiting weeks to read it. Insert sigh of happiness.   

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