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Sunday, July 1, 2012

in which I continue to buck the trend by reviewing more books that have been out for a long time

Well, maybe you like those fancy schmanzy book review pages with their "this just in" cutting edge new book reviews. But I own a used bookstore, so most publishers don't grant me the honor of pre-release copies anymore. I do, however, keep right on reading the thousands of millions of books that are already available to the public (often for several years) so in case you are as behind the curve as I am, or you just like to hear my opinion on things (I'm betting on #1) here are reviews for:
Jim Butcher's Dresden Files Ghost Story

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Interestingly, when I pulled the image for this book onto the blog I also spotted this pic of Ms. Fey looking utterly fantastic:

Seriously, this is a really fantastic picture right?
So let's talk about her book first. Bossypants is a series of essay style chapters that are part memoir, part stand up riff. Think of it as Fey performing Weekend Update on the topics of her personal and professional life. Fey's writing is always fresh and funny, her humor is dry and sarcastic and self-deprecating. There's not a lot to pull apart and look at with this book, if you like her, you'll love it. If you don't like her, this book isn't going to change your mind. I happen to think she's one of the funniest people on the planet, so I laughed out loud repeatedly and had a great time reading it. It's also not a deeply confessional book, although there are some juicy behind-the-scenes moments from Fey's TV shows I never really felt like I got to know the author better. I was very impressed that  one of the final chapters each of the 30 Rock writers gets a mention as well as a bit of what the author considers their best writing. (One writer penned the line "Never follow a hippie you just met to a secondary location"...truer words were never spoken) It was both classy and unexpected...like Tina Fey herself.

Jim Butcher's Ghost Story is up next...normally, I'd quickly catch up the reader who doesn't know the series on where we are in the story line but in this case, it's pointless. The series is now thirteen books in. While some books are more directly tied into the core plot than others, this one is entirely predicated on past titles, past alliances between supernatural factions and character development based on incidents that happened many books ago. I can't even explain enough to make a basic plot summary make sense. So here's what I can tell you: Harry Dresden is dead (this happened at the end of the last book, aptly titled Changes) and he is now responsible for finding his own killer so he can move on to some kind of afterlife. Everything else? Well, you'll just have to go read ALL the books. 

If you are a fan of Laurel Hamilton or Charlaine Harris, you could think of The Dresden Files as the male counterpart to their supernatural investigation series. Butcher writes a better magic-users world, in my opinion. His magic follows what could be recognized as some kind of logical, physical laws and also would be more palatable to the real, human breed of magic user than some of the aforementioned authors. Like Hamilton's Anita Blake books, the writing cries out for a continuity editor, but unlike Hamilton, Harry Dresden's storyline never descends into soft-core porn, so points for that. In short, if you haven't started the series and you are the least bit curious about it, I think you should run out to Eljay's (or call us) and get the series.

**If you have not read the series and you want to, please stop reading now (and come back to this after you read books 12), spoilers ahead***

For those of you who have already read the preceding books,  I'd rate this one slightly below the average quality. A lot happens, which is always good in a plot-driven book. Molly gets a major character-angst upgrade and so does long-suffering Murphy. Having wiped out the Red Court, Dresden has closed-out a huge number of storylines from earlier books...Susan, their daughter, Mab's pursuit of Dresden as the Winter Knight, all resolved. 

***end spoilers***

This combined with Dresden's lack of physical presence give the whole book a bit of "nowhere to go" feeling. Dresden has always been a bit neurotically-stuck-in-his-own-head for me, but when all he is amounts to his thoughts (and most of his thoughts amount to "oh no, I have no body!"), it's downright annoying. While the end of the book is satisfying and opens a whole new set of problems and character paths for Dresden, Molly and Murphy, I can't help feeling like this would have made a great short story or even a novella rather than a full length book. Still, I'm happy to hear that a contract for many more book was just signed, especially since rumors abounded a few years ago that Ghost Story would be the series finale. 

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