narfna’s #CBR5 Review #75: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

13642966Look, I appreciate the idea of having a Christmas themed mystery with dear Flavia and her community of imaginary fellow Britons, and while Bradley doesn’t disappoint with the characters, he totally drops the ball on the mystery in this one. It’s so short and thrown in there he might as well have not done it at all. His inattention to the mystery on this one made it feel more like a cash grab than a novel. When Doctor Who does a Christmas special, it’s still got a monster in it, you know? And usually a really good one.

It’s Christmas at Buckshaw, and the De Luce family is in dull spirits. They’re still having money issues, and as a result, Colonel De Luce has hired out Buckshaw for Christmas. Famous movie star Phyllis Wyvern is shooting her latest film there, and the whole village is practically twitter-pated about it (including Flavia’s sisters, Daphne and Ophelia).

So of course Flavia develops a special bond with Ms. Wyvern (who is a bit of a bitch, but who has interesting hints of depth that never get explored), and of course she turns up murdered half-way through, and of course it’s Flavia who finds her body. I want to make it clear, though, that I’m only complaining about those things being predictable because of how it turned out. You expect a certain amount of repetitive predictability in stories like these, but the mystery is solved in the blink of an eye, and most of the leg-work happens off page, so that we as readers have absolutely no chance of solving it ourselves (which annoys me in mysteries to no end). It’s just there BAM all of a sudden, and then it’s over.

Luckily, the parts with Flavia’s family were good. Flavia has a couple of revealing moments with her sisters and with her father that lead me to believe interesting things are coming in future books. Dogger also gets some nice characterization, although we still don’t know exactly why it is he knows so much about birthing babies (there can’t have been much need in the army for a gynecologist, if that’s what he is by training).

Anyway, moral of the story: if you’re going to write a mystery novel, make sure you actually care about the mystery part. Otherwise you get pissed off readers who want to punch you in the stomach.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #57: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

side jobsSide Jobs is a collection of short stories and novellas published by Jim Butcher in various anthologies. Each story follows Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only Wizard for Hire, on smaller cases in between books (and one case that is from Thomas’s POV). The only exception is the last story, which is new for the collection, and takes place about two hours after the ending to Changes (and made me want to go out and read Ghost Story immediately . . . sidenote, this novella may also be indirectly responsible for me accidentally becoming a criminal).

I think it was very considerate of Butcher to publish these in one place so I don’t have to track them down myself (either that or his publisher wanted money and he gets my good will as a side bargain). I really resent when authors publish things in anthologies because it’s so hard for me to keep track of everything, which I realize is a horrible and stupid reaction, but I don’t care.

Most of these stories are fun little side trips (hence the name) that wouldn’t have fit elsewhere in the books (some are a bit shoehorned in, as there are thematic requirements to some of these anthologies, i.e. the star-crossed lovers one with Murphy and Harry). And the very first story of the collection is a bit shaky, not that I’ll hold it against it, as it was the very first bit of the Dresden Files Butcher ever wrote, and as he admits in the intro to the story, it’s at best an amateur effort and only included for funsies basically. That’s probably my favorite part of the collection, actually, is those introductions in front of each story. Well, that and the last story, which is told from Murphy’s POV.

If you’re a Dresden Files fan, this is a must read. Don’t pick this up as an intro to the series. You will be lost and/or not care. Or maybe I’m lying and I just want you to read things in order like a normal person. Wow, this review is weirdly angry. I think I need a snack or something. TOODLES.