30 November 2010

Book Review: Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files

Note: Some spoilers from Changes in the following review.

The Book:

Jim Butcher's Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files (2010) is a collection of stories about Harry Dresden: his world, his work, and the varied characters of friends, family, colleagues and enemies. All but one have been previous published. Highlights include "Restoration of Faith", one of Butcher's first works where readers can first meet Harry, glance at Officer Murphy, and see that Harry mantle of "protector of children" has always been worn. "Last Call" is one of two stories that shines a light on the ever dour but enjoyable Mac and his bar, and Harry's friends Will, Georgia and the rest of the young werewolves bring unfortunate work during Harry's "Day Off". Not all are told from Harry's perspective, as his brother Thomas' lead in "Backup" shows Harry outside of the droll internal monologue that is the normal point of view in the novels.

In the last story, the brand-new novella "Aftermath", which begins just after the final scene in Changes, the view shifts to the ever-present Murphy. We find that Murphy may not be carrying her badge anymore, but her cop instincts are tested to their limits as she steps up to investigate the disappearance of werewolves in the wake of the decimation of the Red Court, while simultaneously dealing with the increasing evidence of Harry's death.

The Yarn:

While I had read most of these stories before in various anthologies, being able to read them all together and in order gave me a more cohesive view of Harry and the intricate web of secondary characters. These relationships are what makes Harry shine in his role as investigator and friend, and I look forward to diving into the stories about each of them as much as I do about Harry. Butcher's continuing development of Harry's brother Thomas, his assistant Molly, and (among my personal favorites) "allied enemies" like the Valkyrie Gard give Dresden a broader life beyond his supernatural PI role. It is because of this large number of characters that I would not recommend this book to those who have never read any of the Dresden Files before. However, it is a great refresher for those (like me!) anxiously awaiting the next book. While "Aftermath" gives no relief to the climactic ending of Changes, it will make the reader resolve to believe as Murphy does, and keep going "until Dresden gets back."

The Ink:

Title:       Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
Author:    Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Date:       October 2010

25 November 2010

Thanks Giving

I have a lot to be thankful for:

I am thankful for my niblets, who brighten each and every day (even during the times I will not let them darken my bedroom doorstep when I hide under the covers). 

  • I am thankful for my family, who has supported me through the ups and downs of my Life, from childhood to now.
  • I am thankful for my work.  I adore being a librarian.  I may not be in a library right now, but it is still my title by degree and performance.
  • I am thankful for my home.  I have been a year in my house and while it is definitely harder than dealing with a smaller apartment, I feel blessed with two floors, a basement, a yard and with that...
  • I am thankful for my gardens.  While they were not as successful as previous years, I am excited to plan for next spring.  To see my vegetables feed my family, to see my flowers bloom and feed my soul.
  • I am thankful, oh so thankful, for my friends.  At church, at work, on Facebook and Twitter, the web I have woven with these people strengthens and supports me.
  • I am thankful for love: for the ones I love and who love me, past present and future.  For the simple love of my beloved pets, the shiny love of my children, the heartbeat-skipping ardor of being in love.
I hope today finds all in states of thankfulness, in one form or another.

In other news, I have put the finishing touches on a couple book reviews but it was suggested to me that there should be that "personal touch".  I thought about pairing my book reviews with various yarns: was the story as scratchy as unprocessed wool? As flammable as acrylic?  I certainly cannot say my knowledge of yarn would get me far in that, but then I thought about spinning a yarn.  One of the definitions of "yarn" is "to tell a story".  Isn't that what my review essentially does, tell the story from my point of view?

So, my reviews will consist of two parts:  "The Book", which will be an overview of the work, and "The Yarn", which will include my thoughts and highlights. I am sure at times I will have more than enough to say to take on the more formal meaning of a yarn, which is "a long and often involved story or account, usually telling of incredible or fantastic events" (which reading totally is a fantastic event).

I hope you enjoy!  

16 November 2010

Reading, Writing, Reviewing

I read.  I read a lot.  Not as much as I used to when I was younger, I admit, but then I didn't have a life beyond my homework, my art  and my books.  Now, I have a job and niblets and a house and a cat and friends and...well, a bit more than I did in my teen years.  But, I do still have books.  Not as many as I used to keep and cart around, but some that have traveled with me since I was a child.  Hopefully some of those my children will eventually pick up.  I also admit to being a fast reader due to skimming more than reading, at times.

I loved being a cataloger and acquisitions librarian in my previous jobs, as that gave me the chance to buy books for my libraries, to make decisions on what to add to the collections, for patrons (including myself) to have access to and read.  Such joy!   Part of this joy was reading review sources: Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Ingram and even websites like B & N and Amazon.

I always wanted to be one of those reviewers.  However, one thing I never got the hang of in library school was reviewing.  My only experience with it was in my Childrens' Literature course, and I never made my instructor happy with my reviews.  I would compare what I wrote to what I saw in those publications, to my fellow students in class.  I lost faith in my ability to do them, much like I lost my faith in my art when I compared myself to what I saw others produce.

I thought I couldn't write, but here I am putting pieces of me in posts for the whole world to see.  Of course I can write.  I am just my harshest critic.

My current job is out of libraries, but I am still a librarian.  I handle library catalogs and webpages instead of books and CDs.  But I still love reading, and sharing that with other people.  Being a LibraryThing Early Reviewer has made me dip my toe back into reviewing books.  I have also just signed up for NetGalley and received my first couple of items from Harlequin there to read and review.  You will start seeing some of those reviews here too, along the way.

If I can put my thoughts about my work, my home, my kids - all things that I love - here on my blog, why not about something else I enjoy?  Why not?

11 November 2010

highs, lows and all over the in-betweens

Life isn't a straight line from beginning to end, and it seems the last couple of months have wandered all over the place.  I have had to climb a few hills and pull myself out of some valleys, but I still seem to be standing above, looking out over the next part of my Path that lies ahead.  At least as much as I can see.  There has been laughter, and tears, and fun and pain.  There has also been canning, and baking, and cake.

There should always be cake.

The highs:

I have two beautiful niblets that I learn more and more have their own way of viewing things.  I am not always patient and kind, but when I stop grumbling about them not doing the things that I want, I can listen to what they want.  Sometimes, I see the person they will become, flashes of outlook on life and love.  They won't necessarily believe I have been through a lot of what they are going through (Really, I swear I wasn't a grown up, even though I believed I acted like one since about age ten.), but I can try to help them see that what they are going through, they will leave behind.  I can accept their view on what they do and don't do over my own.

Except for their rooms.  They still have to clean them.  I am tough that way.  

Fall has brought us leaves.  Leaves that make big piles to wade through and jump in and hide.  Leaves that will cover my garden beds before the snow (or I guess I should say before a sticking snow, since we have already had our first), leaves that seem to dance when the wind blows.

It also brought us pumpkins.  Honestly, I wasn't going to do them, but the niblets wanted them really bad.  So I gave in.  I was a bit concerned as I had never carved them before, but must say not only did I do a pretty good job, but it was fun.

More high was last weekend and attending the New England Webcomics Weekend with friends.  We started it off Friday night with the "Pub Crawl", where everyone was on the hunt for stickers.  Good thing that in Northampton, no one bats an eye to four people walking through the streets yelling, "STICKERS!"

Also, it seems that our version of a pub crawl includes food, the Catan dice game, and hot cocoa.

NEWW was a blast, and I have new art for my walls and a new appreciation for those who create these works.   

The lows:

I have two cats.  Both have been with me forever, it seems.  Longer than I have had my human children anyways.  They have moved with me all over New York, to South Carolina and back, to Kansas and back.  We have many miles of travel together.

My little cat, Juniper, has had a growth under her leg for several years.  It would break open, drain, then come back.  A couple months ago, it did the same thing.  But this time, it didn't reform, and became an ugly mass.  She was moving slower and looking skinnier too. So, I took her to the vet two weeks ago, fearing a surgery bill that would be more than I could handle.  Instead I was told that she had some sort of tumor, that she had lost half her weight, that her kidneys had shut down and there really wasn't anything to do.  

I brought her home that day.  I explained to my niblets what was going on, and we cried and pet her and gave her as much love as we always had.  Then last Monday I took her back to the vet for the last time.

This is the first pet I have had to put to sleep myself.  It was thought about, but still hit with the Mack truck of unexpectedness that comes with news you really don't want to hear.  My other cat is even older than she was (20 to her 16 years) and I wonder what I will be told the next time I bring him in.  But that won't be for a while.

Last month I also hit the anniversary of the wedding I had last year.  My spouse and I actually got together that day, and went for a drive to a reservoir we had walked and talked at many times before.  We spoke of the present: what we were doing and where we are, we said how thankful we were to have known the love that we were given, and to say goodbye.  It isn't easy to say goodbye, even when you believe you had already done it before.  I guess it is something you can do over and over again.

The in-betweens:

What else do you do during the in-betweens?  You get up in the morning, or sleep in.  You go to work, get the children off to school, figure out meals and doctor appointments and scouts and church and free time (still trying to figure out that last one).  You clean, you cook, you rake, you shop, you visit, you rest...every moment is filled by something.  Because no matter what, Life just keeps moving you forward.

I have canned tomato sauce, ketchup and applesauce this year.  Not complete successes where the tomatoes were concerned, but knowledge gained for the next season.

I pulled up the last of the plants in the garden.  It wasn't everything I had hoped either, but I have the winter to plan, and re-plan and overplan and cut back on planning and then plan again, what next spring will give me.  The flower bed was an unexpected joy, and I hope to continue adding to the beauty it brought this past summer.

I have been reading.  Trying to keep up with the new books by authors and genres I enjoy, trying to discover ways to stretch my budget in cooking and making other ends meet.  Also finding I don't have as much time to read as I wish, and have had to send books back to the library overdue and untouched.  Sacrilege.  

Same with knitting.  I did finish one gift (a week late) and am working on a couple others.  Also saw the sweater I made for my daughter actually fitting her for the first time since I made it three years ago.

I have been all over the map, mourning what has been, celebrating what might be.  I live, I laugh, and I love.  Life isn't perfect, but that isn't what I am looking for anyways.  (Okay, except maybe in clean rooms.  A mom can dream.)

Life is good, and that is enough.