Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reading Journal: Side Jobs, Stories from the Dresden Files

Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
By Jim Butcher


From Amazon:


Here, together for the first time, are the shorter works of #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher-a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre of allies managed to close in record time. The tales range from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious. Also included is a novella exclusive to this collection that takes place after the cliff-hanger ending of the April 2010 hardcover, Changes. This is a must-have collection for every devoted Harry Dresden fan as well as a perfect introduction for readers ready to meet Chicago's only professional wizard.

My Thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this compilation of stories. I had been missing this series after I finished Changes back in May. When I first started reading the Dresden Files (which begins with Storm Front) on the recommendation of a seriously enthusiastic Barnes and Noble employee, I really wasn't so sure about this series.  I didn't think the writing was that great, and I just didn't really get the appeal. But, I thought, she was so convinced the series was amazing...maybe I'll give it another shot. By the time I was in the middle of the fourth book (and if I'm being 100 percent honest and not a stubborn hold-out, by the middle of the third book as I found the character Michael to be an excellent addition) I totally understood why she loved the series so much. Butcher does a great job of making you care about Dresden and his friends. Yes, some of the stuff he gets into is ridiculous, and, despite being a wizard, some of the battles he gets into (and subsequently out of) still test the believability boundaries. But by the forth book Butcher has accomplished some excellent world and character building.


Because of that, this compilation of stories worked for me. As the series goes on, the situations Dresden gets into become more and more dire, so the short and fun stories were a nice relief from that gloom and doom. I really enjoyed the novella "Backup" from the point of view of Dresden's White Court Vampire brother Thomas. And the final novella "Aftermath" was an excellent segue into the most recent novel Ghost Story. (Which I will review later.) 


As always, the nerd-culture humor was on point and I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions. Also, the short annotations before each story that explained why Butcher wrote each story and where the story appears within the series timeline was very helpful.


Recommendation: Worthy addition to series. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reading Journal: City of Fallen Angels

From the Mortal Instrument's site.
City of Fallen Angels
Book Four of The Mortal Instruments
by Cassandra Clare

You can read the first chapter on the series website.

From Amazon:

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price. Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary's best friend, Simon, can't help her. His mother just found out that he's a vampire and now he's homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse that's wrecking his life. And they're willing to do anything to get what they want. Not to mention that he's dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other one.

When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

My thoughts: (possible unintentional spoilers)
I read the first three a while back--and the first book in the sister series, A Clockwork Angel, after that. So, I didn't remember a lot of details, just main plot points. I'd love to go back and re-read all of them, but who has the time for that? I wish they'd release these things closer together.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. I liked how it gave us a break from the Clary/Jace drama by following Simon. I'm a sucker for the star-crossed lovers bit, but it does get tiring after a while. Jace was his normal withdrawn and angsty self, but I suppose we can't fault him for that. I'm not sure I understood why his nightmares would warn him that he would do something bad. If I were the demon/creature trying to control another person--why would I warn that person of what I was doing? But maybe it's like a side effect the possessor can't control. And I also liked how Clary realizes that maybe she's been a little self-absorbed because she has no idea what's going on in Simon's life. Hopefully, she will grow up a bit and realize there's more to life than trying to get Jace to quit acting a fool.

I enjoyed delving into the love triangle between Simon, Maia, and Isabelle and I'm satisfied with where that stands at the end of the book.

This one was a lot of set-up, since it is introducing a new story arc for the final three books. I thought Clare did a good job balancing wrapping up this book while leaving open ends for the series. I won't go into the ending because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but it was enough of a cliffhanger to make me excited for the next one.

Recommendation: Worthy. (But should be read as part of the series, not as a standalone.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fear Street Saga: The Betrayal (Book 1)

Yeah you can't look inside here, I yanked this pic from Amazon
I don't know how many of you out there read R.L. Stine as a kid, but this little subseries was one of my favorites. The Betrayal is the first book in the Saga and tells the story of why so many terrible things happen on Fear Street.

The Betrayal begins with Nora Goode watching in horror as the Fear mansion burns. Quickly you realize that the man (boy?) she loves, Daniel Fear, is trapped in the mansion. In her grief, she runs towards the mansion to save him, but is paralyzed with fear when she sees visions of people burning in the flames. One person in particular stands out: a young girl screaming in horror and pain. Nora quickly realizes that this young girl is tied to a stake. 

The main plot of the book is Nora's written version of the vision she saw in the flames: the betrayal of the pious Goode family by the Fier brothers and the subsequent destruction of both family lines in their search for revenge. By the end it is clear, these two families are doomed play out the same love-story-with-a-terrible-death-and-misery-filled-ending. At the end we are left with the third-generation Fier son, Ezra, leading the way into the second book.

These books are very simple and quick reads and, as long as you know that going in, the book will be enjoyable. There's not much in the way of detail or characterization, which is a shame really because it has a rather enjoyable revenge plot set in the time of the Salem witch trials. I could totally see this basic plot being expanded into a tome-like trilogy. Despite being simplistic, it is still a fun read and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the second book.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fear Street: Revisited

(from Wikipedia)
I don't know if it is because my brain is totally fried, or just because these books are generally EPIC and deserve a revist, but I've decided I want to read all the R. L. Stine Fear Street books. I know I read a bunch when I was younger, but I'm sure I didn't get through all of them. My favorites were the Fear Street Saga spin-off.

I'm going by the list on Wikipedia and I'm going to start with the original series and the three Saga spin-off books.

And yes, I did go on a used book search and rescue mission today. I managed to pick up books 1 and 3 of the Saga and the first book The New Girl. So this party is getting started NOW!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I'm Back...I hope.

I haven't updated this site in a loooong time because I've been focused on school and other things.


I have to finish my thesis by Spring 2012, but I'd like to start this up again. It won't be at a fierce pace and I probably won't be joining any reading challenges...since a lot of my reading will necessarily be academic. (Which I won't review here unless it is somehow insanely interesting.)


I'm starting a thesis blog as well, to track my progress and just talk through things. My thesis will be on visual rhetoric/communication, public culture, images, protest, and WikiLeaks. If you are interested you can check it out.


Updates to come soon!


(Oh and when I started using Google+ I deleted all the photos on the account not thinking how that would affect the blog. So, sadly, all the pictures up to this point are gone.)