The Book of Sawce, Chapter 21 – A Book Your Mom Loves

21 The Green Mile

Starring: Mr. Jingles

I was lucky enough to be born to two individuals who were pretty avid readers in their respective days.  My dad would often recite Shakespeare to me when I was just a baby, and it was his glowing praise of Watership Down that led me to picking it for a previous entry.  Even as a child I was aware of how much he’d read from different authors, but I only remember my mom devouring the books of a single author–Stephen King.  She is the sole reason I read the entirety of The Dark Tower series in high school.  So, when I saw “A book your mom loves” on the list, I knew Mr. King would be making his first appearance in the challenge.  When I asked her which one I should get, she didn’t think too long before she gave her answer.  It’s time, my friends, to walk down Stephen King’s The Green Mile.

Getting stuck in a nursing home by his grandkids has given Paul Edgecombe a lot of time to reflect back on his long life, and he decides to write about the strange things that happened to him in 1932.  As a younger man he was the “bull-goose screw” of E Block at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, nicknamed “the Green Mile” thanks to the color of the floor. Being the boss of a death-row wasn’t easy, but it was during the Great Depression and he worked with some genuinely good people, so Paul stuck with it.  That began to change when they received the largest inmate E Block would ever see–the 6’8″ black man covered in scars by the name of John Coffey.  He was convicted of raping and murdering two little white girls, but for some reason, Paul Edgecombe shook John’s hand when he arrived on the Mile.  That was weird in itself, but Paul really gets interested in the new inmate when John touches him and heals the urinary infection that had brought Paul to his knees one morning.  Boss Edgecombe soon comes to believe John Coffey is innocent and realizes the large man is far more than what he seems.  Still, no one could know what effect the mysterious, seemingly ever-crying man would have on the lives of everyone on the Green Mile.

I haven’t read too many of his books (I think I’m at ten now), but King is definitely one of my favorite authors.  Most of the fantasy I read is either set in another world or presents a hidden culture in a world much like our own.  King was sorta my introduction to certain fantastical things being there just because they’re there.  His are books are often very grounded compared to my normal fare.  Despite it being years since I last read one of his books, I was looking very forward to this.  And, y’all…Watership Down finally has a contender for my favorite book in this reading challenge.  What can I say?  My parents have good taste.

I only mentioned two characters in that set-up paragraph, but there are so many great characters in this book (le gasp).  Best mouse Mr. Jingles, best bro Brutus “Brutal” Howell, best warden Hal Moores, worst prisoner Wild Bill, worst guard Percy Wetmore, best lady at nursing home Elaine Connelly, best…you get the idea.  King is really good at giving you flawed heroes you find yourself cheering for, but he excels at making real bastards you want to see get their comeuppance.  And you get both here!  For the most part.  I still can’t believe I felt bad for Eduard Delacroix who found himself on the Mile for raping and murdering a girl and then killing six more people by accident when he set her body on fire to cover up the evidence which caused the building next to her to burn down.  King can play with your emotions with the best of them.  Giving Del a mouse arguably smarter than he was definitely helped, though.

Aside from the mystery of what Paul was doing in the shed on the nursing home grounds every day, there wasn’t much that kept me invested in the present day narrative.  That was compelling and Elaine is great, but the introductory chapters of all six parts sometimes felt like they were keeping me from John Coffey.  Which is fascinating now that I think about it.  Paul often mentions how Coffey had a hypnotic effect on people when he wanted to.  You couldn’t help but be drawn to him.  Looks like he got me, too.

As with most Stephen King novels, this one isn’t for the faint of heart.  There are deaths both peaceful and gruesome.  Also, I genuinely cried at one point.  I didn’t just tear up.  I didn’t just get a single tear from getting all feels-y.  I cried, and it took me a good while to pick the book back up.

Like I said earlier, The Green Mile is a top contender for my favorite book I’ve read during this challenge.  It’s by one of my favorite authors, it’s populated by a great cast, and that there story ain’t none too shabby either.  It’d make a pretty good movie!

We’re getting to that spoopy (as the youngsters say) time of year, so it’s appropriate the next book is a book that scares me.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

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The Book of Sawce, Chapter 20 – A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List

20 The Master and Margarita

He’s a very talented cat.

Ho-ho-holy crap, it’s been almost a year since I last wrote a new Book of Sawce.  Man, oh, man, where does the time go?  Not toward reading books, apparently.  So…yeah.  To everyone who thought I only write about anime, here’s evidence to the contrary.  Welcome back to The Book of Sawce.  And now we pull from the bottom of the to-read list and journey to Russia in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

The corrupt, elite, pretentious, and general snobs of 1930s Moscow begin to experience some very strange things.  The first was a poet by the name of “Homeless” who witnessed the head of the literary bureaucracy…lose his head when a trolley ran over him.  Another finds himself teleported to a completely different town.  Yet another barely escapes a vampire!  This all culminates in a dark seance led by the foreigner Woland and his motley crew.  Again, those in attendance are struck with the occult and run out into the streets of Moscow.  No one knows how this is all being done, but a patient who’s checked himself into an asylum known only as the Master meets Homeless and has come to one conclusion–Woland is Satan.  With an entourage comprised of a loud-mouthed hog-sized cat, a tall checkered-suited fast-talking man, a fanged hitman, and a naked redheaded woman with a purple scar on her neck…the Master’s guess may not be too far off.  So, look out, Moscow!  The Devil has come to town.

So, why was this even on my to-read list?  Well, I took a class on Faust in college, and everything associated with the legend just fascinated me.  Still does, actually.  So, research for that class led me to what many consider one of the greatest Russian novels.  I haven’t read many (i.e. any) Russian novels, but I figured that it’d be a good place to start.  Took me so long to read it because there was just always something else to read, watch, or play.  Thanks to this reading list, though, I can finally say I’ve read The Master and Margarita.  And…it’s okay.

To get the really big complaint out of the way, I’m gonna talk about why I put this book down for a year.  There are chapters of the book that are supposed to be from the Master’s novel which he burned.  His novel is a re-interpretation (or I guess it’s legit in this novel) of Pilate executing Jesus Christ.  A neat idea, but those chapters dragged on for ages for me.  I couldn’t stand them.  I was much more interested in the dark and zany antics of Woland’s crew in Moscow.  Yes, the Pilate chapters are meant to parallel the then present-day story, and the two complement one another, but they just didn’t read that well.

Another problem I had was that the titular characters show up extremely late in the story.  I had assumed they’d be the main protagonists, and when Margarita shows up, she does kinda become the lead character.  Woland’s party are essentially the main characters, though.  In a way.  We rarely see things play out from their point-of-view, for it’s almost always from that of the human characters they’re terrorizing.  But, they tie the story together, and it’s their visit to Moscow that we follow.  I guess Bulgakov couldn’t really name the book Satan and Friends and expect it to sell well, though.

I pretty much enjoyed every other aspect of the book.  Margarita surprised me by how much of a fun and distinct character she was, and the Master was fine for his little page-time.  Seeing the snooty of Moscow get their comeuppance in so many odd and various ways was a delight.  I especially love the poor guy whose head was pulled off during the seance, but after it was reattached, he was never quite the same.  There’s also another random citizen who’s smart enough to believe the rumors and doesn’t get caught off-guard by Woland’s crew at all.  Speaking of Woland’s friends….

They are the true highlight of the novel.  Hella doesn’t do much, but I do love redheads and vampires/succubuses, so she’s great.  Azazello is somewhat the straight-man of the group since he doesn’t really care for Behemoth’s and Koroviev’s shenanigans.  His description of being walleyed, armed out the wazoo, and having only one fang easily sticks with you.  The two standouts are definitely the aforementioned Behemoth and Korviev.  Behemoth is giant talking cat with a penchant for drinking, smoking, wearing bow-ties, and destroying things.  Of course, I read his lines with John DiMaggio’s voice.  Koroviev almost always wears a checkered suit and a pince-nez with one cracked lens and the other missing.  He is so overly dramatic and lies just for the hell of it (pun intended).  Whenever those two show up, the book is at its most fun.  Woland himself was all right.  It’s a neat interpretation of the Devil.

Yeah, there’s  definitely a lot more to this book whether you want to look at what Bulgakov might have been saying about religion, the literary world, society at the time, or whatever else.  That does add to a book for me, but at the end of the day, I gotta look at how much I was entertained by what I’ve just read.  As much as I love this depiction of Satan and his Merry Monsters, a lack of real main characters and some pretty boring cutaway chapters made this book a bit of a chore to read.

Well, with The Book of Sawce finally back, hopefully it won’t take another year for the next post.  My new challenger is a book my mom loves.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 19 – A Book Based on a True Story

19) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

That voodoo that you do.

Even moreso than the last challenge on this reading list I’m so totally for real finishing this year (spoiler alert: that was a lie), I was really dreading this entry.  It might actually be the main one I didn’t want to do.  Since I started down the perilous path of a bookworm many years ago, I’ve mostly hated nonfiction.  A vast majority I was assigned to read in elementary, middle, high school, and even college, I found to be bland, melodramatic, dry try-hard stories that just didn’t do anything for me.  That’s why it was especially difficult to pick a book this time around.  I did a lot of research trying to find one that would suit my tastes, and I eventually wound up buying this one on a whim.  Yep.  Let’s mosey on down to Savannah, Georgia, with John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

John Cusack (he plays the narrator in the movie adaptation, so that’s what I’m calling him) is a reporter from New York who finds himself in Savannah during a trip with his friends.  The city draws him in as it has so many others.  John decides to get an apartment there and alternate between his two homes.  Soon enough, though, he begins to spend more and more time in the South.  The fascinating people he meets keep him too entertained and interested:  The eternally carefree party-man Joe Odom, the in-your-face drag queen Lady Chablis, and the Jonathan Crane-ish (Scarecrow shout-out!) Luther Driggers are but a small fraction of these characters.  One such resident–important socialite and John’s friend–Jim Williams, surprises the town when he shoots and kills the young, violent prostitute Danny Hansford.  How does this effect such a strange cast and setting?  Not too terribly much, actually.

When asked in the future if I have a favorite nonfiction book (because I’ll totes be asked that some day), I can point to this one.  Yes, I like this book.  In fact, I really like this book.  The info on the cover flap told me this book read like a novel and was filled with a number of eccentric characters.  That’s what got me interested.  Dealing with a sort of murder mystery and knowing Kevin Spacey stars in the film adaptation is what ensured I’d read this one.  Thankfully that all came together for a great read.  I do have one major problem with this novel, though.

See, the synopsis on the cover and the Wikipedia page tout the trial of Jim Williams as the central narrative of the book.  And yes, it is indeed the main plot, but it doesn’t kick in until almost halfway through.  The first half feels like a collection of short stories with the connecting theme of an unnamed narrator meeting weird people in Savannah, GA.  That bugged me.  I understand you have to pull in an audience, and I guess there’s no lie when saying the trial is the plot, but it’s evident that’s not what the book is supposed to be about.  This book is about Savannah.  What happens to Williams adds conflict, but it was always about this town in the South that refused to change.  I don’t know if I would’ve preferred knowing that outright, but it irked me when I realized how long it took to get to the alleged point.  If it weren’t for the cast to keep me turning those pages, I probably would’ve hated this book.

I don’t know if my complaint is something generally found in the “faction” genre, but at least it’s my only problem.  I love love love the cast.  They alone make this book worth reading.  Savannah ain’t too bad either.

That’ll wrap up this one, ladies and gents.  Next up is a book at the bottom of my to-read list.  That…is a massive list with an impressive bottom.  Might take me a while to find one.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 18 – A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book

18) The Old Man and the Sea

It’s as riveting as it sounds.

I mentioned last time that Pulitzer Prize-winners are not my forte.  As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I tend to read a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and science-fantasy.  When I read a book, I really want to be taken away.  I want to go to distant worlds and lands.  I want to see the impossible.  I want to be engrossed in a fiction with ideas I’d never considered.  There are exceptions, but I rarely choose to move outside of those bounds–which is why I started this reading challenge in the first place.  To broaden my horizons, if you will.  So, let’s go ahead and dive right on into (see what I did there?) Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Santiago is an old Cuban fisherman who’s down on his luck.  He has gone 84 days without a single catch, and this has somewhat ostracized him from the fishing community.  Even Mandolin–the young boy who always went out to fish with Santiago–no longer sails with him because his parents view Santiago as bad luck and have forbidden the boy to fish with the old man.  On the 85th day, Santiago decides to sail far out into the Gulf Stream in hopes of catching a big one and breaking his streak.  The old man soon finds himself in a fight for his life as he hooks a huge marlin, but Santiago will do everything he can to prove he’s still got it.

Even though I have a degree in English, I cannot say for certain what else by Hemingway I’ve read.  A lot of authors tend to blend together whenever I think back to what I read for school.  I’m sure I’ve read more of his stuff, but I genuinely can’t remember.  So, why did I choose to read The Old Man and the Sea instead of something else?  It’s short.  It’s really, really short.  I read it in two sittings, but I could’ve done it in one.  It’s not an easy read, though.  I mean, sure, there’s nothing hard to understand here, but it’s so slow.  I had to force myself to continue reading at certain parts because I just didn’t care.  Thankfully the book really picks up at the halfway point, and I breezed through the second half.

I also chose to read this because I love Moby-Dick, and I wanted to see if this was similar.  It’s not.  Other than the fun little metaphors scattered throughout.  Hemingway went with some religious imagery here, and I don’t know why.  Like, at one point he likens one of Santiago’s trials to “feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood,” and at another Santiago falls three times while carrying his mast up a hill.  So, Santiago’s Cuban fisherman Jesus, I guess.  Is the titular sea heaven?  I don’t know.  These are questions to be answered in an essay, and that ain’t my life anymore.

For what it’s worth, I do kinda wish I had been assigned this in high school.  You can’t help but admire Santiago’s grit and determination, and who doesn’t enjoy hunting down religious symbolism in literature?  (I don’t.)  Despite a first half that drags on for what feels like 200 pages (it was only 60-ish), I did wind up liking it well enough in the end.  Even though it has that “this is real world stuff, yo, so it can’t end happy” mentality.  Spoilers, I guess.

That’s it for this installment of The Book of Sawce.  Let’s see what the next chapter will be!…. Ah, dammit.  A book based on a true story.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 17 – A Book a Friend Recommended

17) The Name of the Wind

Spoiler alert: It’s not FWOOSH.

Yeah, it took me a hot minute to get to this one.  My bad, y’all.  This one’s on me.  I mean, I have been putting in work on the Summer of Anime, so there’s that.  Also kinda might be working on a short story.  So, you know, I’m still doing things.  But yeah, I’m gonna try to show this reading challenge (that was supposed to end last year, but I don’t want to quit something else) who’s boss and knock out as much as possible this year.  Anyhoo, I polled my peeps on Facebook to see what I should read for this entry.  Didn’t get quite as many suggestions as I wanted, but it was still a decent turnout considering the low traffic my social media sites get.  Well, three people suggested Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, so I decided that’d be the next one.  Didn’t know it was over 700 pages when I made that decision, but hey, fortune favors the bold.

Not much happens in the backwater town of Newarre.  Thanks to the war, no travelers ever show up, and merchants bring with them outlandish prices.  One day, though, the Chronicler shows up and finds himself at the Waystone Inn.  As his name suggests, the Chronicler’s occupation is to travel around and document fantastic stories.  Why does this bring him to the Waystone Inn in Newarre?  Because the owner is an unassuming man named Kote.  At least, that’s what he wants the world to believe.  He’s really Kvothe–a legendary figure shrouded in myth and mystery thought to be dead.  Since Chronicler’s found him, though, he agrees to tell the newcomer his story over three days, so the world may know what happened to the Kingkiller.  It’s a tragic one that will obviously end with our protagonist a broken man, but even now dark forces seem drawn to the innkeeper.  He might not be quite as retired as he wants to be.

The Kingkiller Chronicle seems to be Rothfuss’s way of really deconstructing the ace hero of fantasy literature.  You know the one.  He’s either handsome, from a powerful lineage, possesses latent powers, is great at everything he tries, or some combination of those.  Kvothe is all of these.  Well, the lineage is a bit in question, but there are hints that it’s there.  As we see, though, Kvothe is a broken man.  His student, Bast, tries constantly to get him to remember who he was and be the man he used to be, but he’s Kote now.  He’s just an innkeeper.  So, even though he was blessed with all those gifts, we are getting three massive books on how that would really affect someone in the long run.  This book is definitely a good set-up for it.  As a youngling, Kvothe is far more clever than those around him.  He knows it, too, which leads to impatience and very bad decisions.

Two other important themes of this book are names and stories.  Kvothe himself has many names, and all of them mean something.  He even chose “Kote” for a specific reason.  His main love interest, Denna, goes by three or four different names, at least.  The book’s name is about a name!  Names give power in this world.  Not just real power over the wind and fire and whatnot, but it also shows the mundane in how knowing someone’s name can give you power over their attention when you call for them.  It’s odd, but interesting.

The stories part is a biggie, too.  I mean, the framing device is a man raised in a traveling troupe telling his story to someone since there are so many stories about him.  Within Kvothe’s story, he tells other stories he was told growing up.  Even though they go on a bit too long, they set up important elements for this and–I assume–later novels.  It’s something a master storyteller like Kvothe would do, and I like how Rothfuss plays with that a bit.  Like I said, though, those parts can go for a smidgen too much.

The world-building in this book is top notch.  I found myself dying to see Kvothe travel to more places so I could see more of the world.  That doesn’t really happen until the second book (from what I hear), though.  The mythology is rich and interesting, too.  The Chandrian, the Amyr, Taborlin the Great, Tehlu, and so many others are given great care and build-up.  I know I said the stories within the story got a little out of hand sometimes, but they did set the stage for so many legends, and I can’t wait to find out more about them.

Don’t know how I feel about magic in this world, though.  It’s called “sympathy,” and it’s approached very scientifically…sorta.  I dunno.  The description of how sympathy works is cool and all, but I guess I’m part of that camp that says, “It’s magic.  I don’t have to explain it.”  Don’t get me wrong, I like there being rules for magic and whatnot, and there is actually some legit magic in the world with naming, but something about sympathy doesn’t sit right with me.

The characters are great, too.  Special shout-out has to go to Kvothe’s best buddies at the University–Simmon and Wilem.  They are true, blue bros.  It’s good times whenever they show up.  The various Masters at the University are a fascinating cast, as well.  They’re the nine heads of the school and the various departments, so they’re bound to be a bit odd and/or haughty.  Elodin takes the cake, though.  He’s the Master Namer, and Kvothe seeks to be his pupil since naming is something he’s wanted to do since he was a wee little lad (he’s 15 here, so I guess he was still a wee little lad in my eyes).  Elodin is a straight-up wack-a-doodle, and their encounters are almost always amusing.  Ambrose is set-up to be a wonderfully detestable villain, so I certainly hope to see him get his comeuppance at some point.  There are so many other wonderful characters, too, like Option B love interest Fela, the money lender Devi, bar-owner Deoch, and the underground-dwelling Auri.

I’m a little conflicted on Denna, though.  She’s a great love interest since she doesn’t fill just one role.  She drives some conflict, but she also provides a lot of respite.  She fulfills as many duties in the story as she has names, but you can’t help but feel she’s a little too…I’m not sure.  She’s not flawless by any means.  I don’t know how to put it.  Something about her just sticks in my craw, though.  Granted, that has a lot to do with the man who fell head over heels for her telling the story, so I guess it’s a bit of brilliance on Rothfuss’s part.

I love this book, guys and gals.  The world-building is fantastic, the cast is varied and interesting, and everything’s told in such a way that you can’t wait to see what happens next.  It is a bit too long, though, and drags at some important parts (looking at you, three years in Tarbean).  All in all, it’s a great fantasy book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

When next we meet, I’ll be writing about a Pulitzer Prize-winning book.  Actually not looking forward to that since it’s way outside my wheelhouse, but eh.  What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 16 – A Book from an Author I Love That I Haven’t Read Yet

16) Equal Rites

You gotta fight for your rites.

So, remember that cruise I mentioned way, way back?  That cruise where I impressively knocked out four of the books on the list?  Well, before I got on that boat, I visited an old pal o’ mine who lives in Seattle.  This pal has a nasty habit of loaning out good books and forcing his friends to read them so that they, too, can be addicted to the series he likes.  He stayed true to form and handed me two books.  I informed him that I probably wouldn’t get to them for a long while since I was trying to complete a reading challenge, but the man’s patience is eternal, so he smiled and said, “You’ll read them.”  He was right.  I finally read them.  I covered Jim Butcher’s first Harry Dresden novel, Storm Front, in the last entry, and now we get to the second.  It’s time to hop on the Great A’tuin’s back as we journey into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld with Equal Rites.

Eight is a powerful number on Discworld.  That’s why the wizard Drum Billet travels to the small village of Bad Ass.  An eighth son of an eighth son is about to be born, and he needs to pass on his magic before he dies.  The Smith is happy to hear from the mage that his eighth child is destined to be a great and mighty wizard.  So, Billet gives up his powers, but there’s a bit of a hitch.  Eskarina Smith is not the eighth son of an eighth son.  She’s the eighth-born first daughter of an eighth son, and girls can’t be wizards.  They just can’t.  Thus, it’s up to the local witch Granny Weatherwax to train the girl in the ways of witchery when her magic starts becoming too powerful.  When it gets even more powerful than that, well…Discworld may very well just have to deal with the first girl wizard, much to everyone’s dismay.

Terry Pratchett was amazing.  This is only the third book of his I’ve read, but I love the man.  The Discworld novels obviously poke fun at and hang lampshades on every fantasy trope imaginable, but it’s still a fascinating world to read about.  Granted, a lot of that has to do with the absurdity of it all (it’s a disc-shaped world on the backs of four elephants on the back of a giant turtle), but fantasy is…fantastical.  Why not run with it?  There’s just so much imagination packed into this series.  I quite enjoy the darker side of fantasy (I did write a post about the fifth A Song of Ice and Fire novel, after all), but you also need the lighter side of it.  And that’s why I’m thankful for Pratchett.  The man was comedy gold.

I loved The Color of Magic when I first read it, and Equal Rites is much the same.  I don’t think I like this one as much as Rincewind’s first outing, though.  Not entirely sure why.  I guess I just didn’t click with Granny and Esk and their shenanigans.  For a while, at least.  The first quarter of the novel took me a while to get through, but after that, I devoured the darn thing.  I think that’s after Esk’s first time Borrowing an animal, which forces the two on their journey to the Unseen University.  Getting to see old Weatherwax finally wander outside of Bad Ass along with her apprentice was one amusing scene after another.  I’m a little sad that Esk is never really a main character again, but I look forward to reading more Granny Weatherwax adventures.

There’s not much to say about the other characters.  They all just pretty much exist to make jokes.  They’re good jokes, though.  I don’t think anyone could read this book and not laugh.  Pratchett was a master at taking every imaginable concept in fantasy fiction and making jokes out of them.

I do wish I had more to say about Equal Rites.  It’s good, it’s funny, I’d suggest it to almost anyone, but I can’t say I love it as much as I wanted to.  Hopefully, the rest of the Witches novels will win me over.

The next entry on the list is a book a friend recommended.  I asked around, and I picked one that seemed interesting.  What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 15 – A Popular Author’s First Book

15) The Dresden Files Storm Front

That is his broom stick. (Jay-kay)

The Book of Sawce is back!  Cue the applause!  Yes, believe it or not, I’m still working on that pesky reading challenge.  Sure, it’s been over three months since the last Chapter, but it’s not like I’ve been doing nothing.  I’ve been writing quite a bit more than I have in…ever.  It’s all been on the blog, but that’s something.  So, here we are with a popular author’s first book.  Jim Butcher’s popular, right?  Cool.  Let’s dive into The Dresden Files: Storm Front.

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a wizard.  You can find him in the yellow pages (is that still a thing?) under “Wizards.”  Yep.  He’s a wizard-for-hire.  Not only does he help out the Chicago PD with unusual crimes, but he also takes on cases from those who want to hire him to find or investigate something.  Storm Front sees the world’s only wizard private investigator brought in by Lieutenant Karrin Murphy of Special Investigations to aid in solving the gruesome murders of a high-ranking member of Chicago’s underground and the escort girl that was with him.  On the same day, Dresden is hired by Monica Sells to find her missing her husband.  Why would she go to him?  Well, her husband had begun dabbling in sorcery.  He’ll have to solve the murders and find Mr. Sells without being killed by Chicago’s crime lord, the vampiress in charge of the escort service, the wizard council who wants him dead for breaking the Laws of Magic, or Murph—who would rather just arrest him for being an ass, but she probably wouldn’t mind shooting him sometimes.

I quite enjoyed this book.  I’ve been a fan of Butcher’s for some time since I read his Codex Alera series years ago.  Been wanting to get to his most famous series since then, but it’s obviously taken a while.  Dresden is awesome.  His warped instincts when it comes to fight or flight, his strong desire to help those in need, and his often crummy attitude make for an interesting protagonist in this urban fantasy/crime noire world.  The other characters are cool as well.  The bad-ass Murph, the gruff Mac (I don’t care if he’s barely there, I love him, dammit), the “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone, the intrepid Susan Rodriguez, the mischievous Bob, the glorious cat that is Mister, and so on.  Side note–his car is the Blue Beetle.  Of course I’m gonna love that!

One of the main things I loved about Storm Front is the humor.  I laughed quite a bit.  There’s one scene in particular that involves a demon attacking, a potion mix-up, a magic circle, and awful timing.  Yes, the situation is legitimately pretty dire, and the book gets much darker after that, but I was laughing at the absurdity of it all in such a life-threatening scene.  I don’t know if there was ever anything quite like that in Codex Alera.  Me mind’s a bit fuzzy.

Even though I did like the mystery, I could see the twists coming a mile away.  I don’t know whether to chalk that up to my own meta-reading or to this being Butcher’s first book.  I’m leaning toward the latter since I’m the easiest person to get with mysteries.  That being said, this is definitely his first book.  The fairly weak mysteries and plentiful—yet often humorous—exposition are indicative of that.  I can almost forgive the exposition as this was the establishing book in what would become a 15-book (and probably more soon enough) series.  But, it was fairly noticeable and pulled me out of the action quite a bit.

I’m glad I finally read this, though.  The characters and world are fascinating enough to get anyone interested in the rest of the series despite its obvious solutions and tendency to info-dump.  I’d definitely suggest checking it out.  Not my favorite I’ve read so far, but definitely enjoyable.  It’s books like this that make me want to abandon the reading challenge and just read all the other books in the series in quick succession.  I won’t, though.  Or maybe I’ll take some book breaks from the reading challenge.  I guess it’s something to consider.

Next time, I’ll be tackling a book from an author I love that I haven’t read yet.  What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.