Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Book review 2010.08

Author: Jim Butcher

It goes without saying that this is my favorite novel series of all time. Storm Front, the first novel in the series, is the book I spent several years trying to write. After reading Storm Front, and then subsequent novels in the series, I realized that I was done. There was no need for me to write a novel of any sort, Jim Butcher did it for me and I don't think I have anything to add to the genre.

One of the reasons I like the Dresden Files so much is that Butcher surrounds his flawed protagonist with clever, funny, and most importantly, interesting characters. And it's always been clear to me that Jim Butcher is a gamer because his characters all level up in between books. They aren't static. They have their own storylines that grow and change over time, just like Harry does.

I'm not going into details of this story because the book is still new. All I'll say is that like the previous couple of books, Harry Dresden continues to come into his own as a Wizard, and as usual, the name of the book symbolizes the story on several levels. Well, in this case, the one word says it all; we don't need symbolism to tie it together. And true to Butcher-form, the action and intrigue in this story starts from page one and never lets up.

Butcher continuously expands the world and setting with every book, and this one holds to that trend. He takes us to new parts of our world and the Nevernever. And Harry Dresden learns things about his world and the people in it, too. Some very surprising and painful things.

Changes is one of the best books to date, and I'm looking forward to the next one. And there WILL be a next one. You hear me, Butcher? I loved this book so much that as soon as I finished the last page, I wanted to simultaneously punch Jim Butcher in the head and pat him on the back.

Just as in the previous book, Turn Coat, one of my favorite supporting characters got some of the spotlight: Mouse. I've loved Mouse since his introduction in the novel Blood Rites, where he helped Harry escape from the flaming-poo-flinging monkey demons. Best opening scene in the history of literature.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Time and Relative Dimensions in Space

I'm behind on my book reviews and that stinks. I've been reading enough to fill my quota, but I haven't been making time to write the reviews. I blame it on the British. No really, it's their fault. I'm not jumping onto my European-invasion soapbox again. This is aimed directly at the British, rather than all of Western Europe, more specifically, the blame lies squarely on the BBC. And I guess Netflix isn't exactly free of blame either.

I've been catching up on Doctor Who. Lots of Doctor Who. Doctor Who was my favorite show during my teenage years. (I experienced the awesomeness of Star Wars as a kid, so I was past that.) Doctor Who had all the hardcore scifi that I wanted, twisty, expansive story lines, and just a touch of humor. And the most amazing time machine / space ship ever invented.

Thanks to the beauty of Netflix, over the last few months I've watched some of the older episodes from the first two Doctors, seen the first appearance of Jon Pertwee, which I'd never seen before, and watched most of Tom Baker's epic run, mostly for the nostalgia of my teenage years.

I'm about to watch the last season of the scarf and look forward to seeing the entirety of the Peter Davison run. Once I get halfway through his time as the Doctor, I'll be in all new material! That's right, I've never seen any of the stories about the sixth, seventh, or eighth Doctors. And all of that is just to get me warmed up to re-watch Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant! Maybe by then I'll have learned to love the new guy too.

So I'll get a couple of book reviews posted soon, and we've also played some great games recently that I'll have to post about too. But up next: Jim Butcher's Changes.

Now reading: The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Slammer's long walk

So we're talking about getting a new dog.

Our previous dog, a beautiful black greyhound named Slammer, died on Groundhog Day this year. She and I had gone out so she could go to the bathroom before the family left for school and work. When we came back into the house, she took two steps inside, stumbled, yelped in pain, and collapsed on the floor. I held her in my arms as she gasped for breath and whined. Her heart was beating arrhythmically, so I knew things were bad. I don't know if it was a heart attack, seizure, or aneurism, but it happened quickly. In less than a minute, my faithful companion was gone.

My wife, kids, and I took the day off to grieve and take care of our dog. It was not an easy day, and the pain is still strong for all of us. It's no coincidence that around that time, I stopped blogging. I also stopped responding to e-mail and most other forms of communication. Slammer was my steadfast companion, keeping me company in the wee hours of night while I watched TV or wrote. When she was ready for bed, she'd harass me relentlessly until I gave up and followed her lead. She was a quiet, kind, and loving soul. And now she's in doggy Valhalla, sleeping on their doggy beds and chasing their game animals before retiring to the mead hall at day's end.

When we first decided to adopt a rescued greyhound, we contacted a regional rescue group (the now-defunct CVGreys) and set up a home visit. We had our eyes on a different dog, but they brought several out to our house, one of which was Slammer. When they arrived, the dogs moved as a herd of deer through our house, checking the place out. After a few minutes of greetings and exploration, most of the animals settled in the living room where their people were. Slammer staked out a space in front of our big window, plopped down and promptly rolled onto her back and went to sleep. She quite literally adopted us. (Meanwhile, the dog we *thought* we wanted was unsure and wouldn't settle. I think he was nervous around our boys.)

A week later, it became official and she returned for a second visit, this time with her bags packed. Our adjustment period was short. We crate-trained her for a few weeks, but it became apparent that she wasn't happy spending her day locked up in a cage. She would force the door open, break the plastic lining tray, and tear up anything we gave her to play with. On those days we came home to find her out of the crate, she'd be lying in the floor nearby, wagging her tail and grinning.

Realizing that she was telling us she was ready for some independence, we started locking her in our bedroom via babygate. That lasted for a while, and then we started coming home to her once again in the living room on her pillow. And naturally, when we finally took the last step and removed the babygate to give her run of the house during the day...we'd have to pry her out of the bedroom when we got home at the end of the day.

Slammer was a smart, sassy, fun-loving girl. And I still miss the hell out of her. But the rest of the family is ready to move on, and they're right. Naturally no animal will ever replace her, but it's time to extend our loving home to another rescuee. And no, there's no doubt at all that we're getting another greyhound. They're awesome!

Now reading:
In this photo - a gluten-free cookbook.
Currently -
Nocturnal by Scott Sigler. Great action & urban fantasy/scifi story.