July 13th, 2011

50bookchallenge2011

Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files

Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

B&N Synopsis

Readers have followed the exploits of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden for over a decade, but this case file is the first collection of short stories about the wily wizard/investigator. Like Harry himself, Side Jobs covers a wide swath of urban asphalt; from gritty back alley monster encounters to whimsical supernatural flights. Dresden Files sliced perfectly for leisure reading. This 400-page hardcover contains a never-before-published novel that takes place after the cliff-hanger ending of Jim Butcher's April release.

This was a fantastic set of shorts involving all the regulars in the the world of Dresden. I liked seeing background bit and pieces that helped solidify that universe - especially after the crazy cliffhanger of "Changes." The novella at the end rounded that story out and hopefully set the stage for Butcher's next novel, "Ghost Story," which should be out any day now.

First person can be hard to write. Butcher does an amazing job of capturing whoever's perspective he's in, whether that's Harry, Thomas or Karrin Murphy.

I can't recommend this collection enough. You'll laugh like crazy, and you might even cry a little.

Books completed 27/40


Book 5 of 50: The Guardian

Title: The Guardian
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Genre: Romance
Pages: 384

Synopsis: After a rough childhood and a bout of homelessness in her hometown of Daytona, Florida, Julie realizes that her life is turning around when a complete stranger named Jim first buys her breakfast a few times, then offers to find her a job and a place to live should she come back to his small hometown of Swansboro, North Carolina. Eventually, she accepts, starting her employment at a popular hair salon, eventually moving up to a full-fledged stylist. Meanwhile, she falls in love with Jim, they get married and buy a house together. Sadly, years later, Jim is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and passes away. On Christmas Eve of that year, Julie receives a delivery which includes a note that Jim wrote before his death, giving Julie his blessing to find someone who makes her happy and move on in his absence. The box that it accompanies contains a whimpering Great Dane puppy, which Julie decides to name Singer.

The book, which begins four years after Jim's death, is the chronicle of Julie doing her best to just live life and recover from her devastating loss. Once she realizes its time to start dating again, she is soon thereafter presented with a dilemma: shall she fulfill Jim's wishes by settling down with Mike, a mechanic who was Jim's best friend and who works with his brother at a successful garage and has unfulfilled dreams of being a musician? Or, shall she go for Richard, a charming businessman who has it all, including the ability to take her out to expensive restaurants, Broadway shows and hot air balloon rides at the drop of a hat?

My take: Again, I have been taught not to make snap judgments of what I've heard and what I've assumed about entries within certain genres, let alone the output of certain authors based on their reputations. I have wanted to finally read Sparks for a while but never got around to it; that is, I wanted to get a better piece of what he is all about outside of one of his most famous, The Notebook. So, when I saw this one for sale at a Friends of the Library book sale for two bucks, I really couldn't say no.

Now, considering that I am an avid fan of romantic comedy movies, a love story with all the regular and somewhat out of the ordinary plot twists and complications are things that I find to be cool. This book, however, really shocked me in the way that it was anything BUT your typical romance. The back story is really well developed, and so are the characters. The settings are very elaborate, and you definitely know where the characters are, as well as what kind of people they are. The good thing about this book is that it is, often not what anyone expects it to be. And while I don't want to spoil it for anyone who will read this one after me, the story of one of Julie's potential beaus not being who he says he is kept me hooked to the very end.

The ending is a tiny bit predictable, but also threw me into a fit of rage at one point; the latter is to say that the ending is also really really sad. I don't boycott sad endings, but for the fact of exactly what happens, as well as the predictability of the end, this knocked down my grade for it a little bit. Still, it's a good book.

Grade: B+

Pages: 2068/15000
Books: 5/50 (since June 18, 2011)

This one cross-posted to 15000pages  and 50bookchallenge