I really loved this collection. I'm coming to realize that I'm more of an anthology girl than a collection reader in general. I like the variety and I...moreI really loved this collection. I'm coming to realize that I'm more of an anthology girl than a collection reader in general. I like the variety and I can get bogged down in collection if they aren't balanced really well. And this is a long collection, twenty stories and five poems. It looks like the limited edition printed version of the book has ten more stories that weren't in the ebook, as well. But despite the length and my inclinations, this book was great, I really enjoyed every bit of it.
Even though I'd read several of the stories before, I re-read all of them except White Lines on a Green Field, which was fine (and award-nominated), but not one of my favorites. I enjoyed my re-reads of The Bread We Eat in Dreams (award-nominated), the very odd One Breath, One Stroke (which is one of the stories that made me fall in love with Valente), and Silently and Very Fast (award-nominated), which is probably the best short story/novella I've ever read. In fact, Silently was even better the second time around, I understood it better and picked up on nuances I'd missed the first time. Silently is still available online from when it was printed in Clarkesworld, I urge you to try it if you haven't read it yet.
It's interesting just to look at those three stories and see that one uses US history with a bit of mythology, a demon and religion, one uses Japanese culture and mythology, and one is science fiction and mythology, everything from Enki and Inanna to Snow White. But she uses the mythological references in such new and creative ways, she just blows me away. This isn't re-writing or updating fairy tales. In her stories mythology is a touchstone, or a mirror, or a jumping off point, but what she does with it is completely new and fascinating.
As for the other stories, I was never bored, but some I loved, some were fun and some were just smiles and nods. I loved my first visit to her version of Fairyland in The Girl Who Rules Fairyland—For a Little While. The teenage runaways inVoice Like a Hole were moving. The Shoot-Out at Burnt Corn Ranch was wild, she was at her craziest in that one, kind of a wild west version of One Breath with mythology and characters run rampant. I'm not good at reading poetry, my eyes just don't focus on it well, but I tried a few times with these and eventually The Melancholy of Mechagirl sunk in, and so did Red Engines. There were many other stories that were quite good, but those were my favorites. It's really a terrific collection. Which obviously isn't just my opinion, considering how many of the stories in the collection were nominated for and won so many awards. For once I'm in agreement with the judges. The collection was also nominated for the 2014 Locus Award. Those Locus voters always seem to get it right, good job guys. (less)
I read a story of Ballingrud's in Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales and he was one of the author's I liked well enough to really remember afterward, I...moreI read a story of Ballingrud's in Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales and he was one of the author's I liked well enough to really remember afterward, I really became a fan. I wanted to read more of his short stories but at the time the way to do that was to get this book and it wasn't out yet. And I was disappointed to see that it was being published by a small press and I didn't think my library would be getting it. I'm so thrilled to see that since it's release the collection has been nominated for several awards, including but not necessarily limited to the BFSA, the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. Pretty impressive for an author's first collection! And lucky for me, I was wrong. First, Tor.com released a story from the book, "The Monsters of Heaven," so I got a small taste now. And I just saw that my library does have the book on order, so I'll get to return to the collection soon and read the rest of it.
Monsters was dark and weird and sad. It was very rooted in the reality of what happens between a couple when a child is lost, but it added the element of something happening out in the world, these "angels" arriving, and how one specific angle would impact the dynamic between this devastated couple. I'm looking forward to seeing if there's any pattern or connection between his stories, if the monsters are as often human as otherworldly. (less)
This was one of the best anthologies I've read. Almost every story was good, and it had a very good balance and flow overall. I did read it slowly ove...moreThis was one of the best anthologies I've read. Almost every story was good, and it had a very good balance and flow overall. I did read it slowly over quite a period of time, putting it down and picking it up again many times, but I think this one would have held up pretty well for a straight read through.
Ian Tregillis - The Mainspring of His Heart, The Shackles of His Soul - A very good story, an intriguing alternate history and a moving story perfectly sculpted to fit the time available. I don't always like heart-tugging stories, I don't like feeling manipulated, and it's so easy for an author to cross that line. But this one work for me. It was a good opening for the book, setting the tone for the theme very well.
Jay Lake - The Blade of His Plow - The point of view changes weren't useful. Sometimes it's first, then it's third, it's too short of a story for that and it didn't add anything to it. And I just didn't buy into his motivation for being a soldier, for being killed and killing over and over again. I didn't like him, or feel sorry for him. I didn't actually feel much of anything, I just didn't connect with this one. If it had been a more original idea it could have saved it but I've read a ton of wandering Jew stories so it was all about the emotional impact.
Seanan McGuire - Cinderella City - This was a very enjoyable story, a good idea and well executed. It made me hope that the characters were a part of a series. I later found out that McGuire had written a previous short story about these characters in After Hours: Tales from Ur-Bar as well. This story didn't have the emotional depth that the first story in this book had, but it did have a cool idea and a sense of wonder that was a lot of fun, and it was a good change of pace for this point in the book.
Anton Strout - Tumulus - It was OK. It was good editing to have something a little darker at this point, the book was flowing well. I'm a fan of his but this wasn't my favorite thing he's done.
Fiona Patton - The Sentry - I found it hard to believe that a young woman (a girl really) could masquerade as a World War I soldier for more than a day or two without being caught. They didn't exactly have private latrines in those foxholes, much less in the barracks where they trained or anywhere else. It took away from the impact of the rest of the story, which was supposed to be very touching. Remember what I said about being a grumpy curmudgeon who doesn't like to be manipulated? It was still kind of touching.
Erik Scott de Bie - Ten Thousand Cold Nights - I'm glad I read the information about the author at the end of the book before reading this. It explained that the story draws upon the Japanese myth about the legendary competition between masters Muramasa and Masamune. In a test, Muramasa's blade was so bloodthirsty that it cut everything in its path including water and even air. Masamune's did not cut any of the things that Muramasa's did. Master Masamune's blade was declared the victor because it did not cut that which was innocent and deserving of preservation.
So, knowing all of that wasn't necessary going into the story, but it made it resonate more. It was a very good story, with a strong feeling of being firmly in the crossroads of historical fiction and fantasy, a legend of what might have been.
Dylan Birto - Mortality- I've read too many stories like this angel come down to Earth tale to enjoy this one. It was very predictable. It's just a story I've read in so many novels explored with so much more nuance (of course, they're longer). But it did fit the theme.
Tanith Lee - The Dog-Catcher's Song - A good story for the theme. A little creepy to think that one of our dogs might look at us romantically. But if it was turned into a human those loving emotions could certainly change. The teenage hormone point helped. I'll go with it for the sake of the story. I just read a story by Caitlin R. Kiernan because it was a finalist for the 2014 Locus Award that said that we shouldn't pick fairy tales apart with too much logic or fact and she was totally right. Anyway, it was kind of sad and sweet, a good fit for the book.
Laura Resnick - Mortal Mix-Up - This one was very disappointing. I'm a fan of her Esther Diamond series. She always balances adventure and humor in those books. But this wasn't funny and didn't go anywhere, it was just stereotypical and irritating. I hope it tickled other people's funny bones.
Jean Rabe - Band of Brothers - Such a bloodthirsty tale! I lost track of the number of broken arms, 30 dead men, and a dead-ish duck. But an original idea that I won't soon forget. The last line was great.
Tim Waggoner - Zombie Interrupted - This is more of an advertisement for his series than a real story, it felt like a tour guide of all of the different sites and creatures in Nekropolis than much of a story itself. I'm sure it intrigued some people into reading the series. I'm kind of intrigued, it sounds fun, a lot like the Dan Shamble books by Kevin J. Anderson but these came first by a lot of years. Usually the anthologies that I read , filled with stories by popular authors, are supposed to serve the dual purpose of entertaining you now and getting you to read more of the authors' works later. This didn't feel like so much that kind of a book, the stories are really strong, more the kind that get nominated for awards than just fun stories or between-the-book stories by popular authors that sell books. So this story seemed out of place. It was fine, it fit the theme, it just wasn't a story that would stand on it's own so much the way the others would.
Eugie Foster - Beneath the Silent Bell, The Autumn Sky Turns to Spring - A good story, the kind that seemed like it could earns awards. Not that it was perfect, just that it was the kind that judges seem to like, from what I can see from the award nominated stories that I've been reading. But I can't really figure out what they like.
Jody Lynn Nye - The Very Next Day - A cute Santa story. Bittersweet, but it didn't make me annoyed. The theme is human for a day, I can't get mad at all of the authors who take the description literally.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch - The Destroyer - I liked this story from a feral cat's perspective.
David D. Levine - Into the Nth Dimension - It wasn't perfect, but I liked the idea of the comic book world layered underneath ours with flatter colors, and how disorienting it would be to land in our with all of the extra vibrancy. The way the author described the change was great, very visual and easy to picture. The conflict between the characters was a bit predictable, duty versus freedom, responsibility versus love. It felt a lot like not so well disguised fanfic of the dynamic duo. But the concept was very cool.
Jim C. Hines - Epilogue - Very touching, a great way to end the book, though not a chipper one. But the story had it's light moments too, and definitely it's sweet ones. Good writing. And good editing to wrap things up.
There is a lot of history and a lot of life packed into this one story. It really is one of the best stories I've read this year among all of the many...moreThere is a lot of history and a lot of life packed into this one story. It really is one of the best stories I've read this year among all of the many award nomination processes, smart, clever and still enjoyable to read, but still important to remember. The whole package. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2013 against a strong field.
It was interesting that two other Nebula nominated novellas were also historical fiction. I strongly preferred this to Wakulla Springs, though I'm in the minority going by the number of nominations and wins it received. The history in that story was strong but the speculative fiction elements were weak, as was the pace and tension, both of which were strong here. Vylar Kaftan's The Weight of the Sunrise from Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2013 or possibly available online depending on your timing, was an alternate history of the Incan Empire that was also quite interesting and enjoyable to read. What if they'd found a way to isolate people with smallpox and quarantine them? How would it have changed the history of that nation, that region? And what sort of a relationship would the revolting American colonies want with the power to their south? I wasn't able to read Nancy Kress's or Catherynne M. Valente's stories that were also in the Nebula category, but Laurence M. Schoen's was a lot of fun, not what I normally see in award nominated stories, just a regular fun story well-told and a series that I want to add to my to-read list.
Anyway, The Burning Girls was a very powerful story in a field of strong, interesting and entertaining stories. The history happens to be some that I'm quite familiar with and I appreciate the way the more horrifying parts were told with deep emotion without going too sensational. It felt true, like the reader was witnessing a family tragedy. Usually short fiction has to focus in on one event or a short time frame to make the impact work within the physical size of the assignment, but this story attempted to show this family's triumphs and all to many tragedies over time and across cities and nations, and the author made it work, focusing in on a narrow enough tale that the slightly longer or wider scope worked very well. It's a story of America, just as Wakulla Springs was, with or without the demons and witches or sea monsters. It's always the monsters who wear human skin who are the scariest after all. All three of the historical fiction based stories show that element pretty clearly.
And once again I'm going on and on because I'm writing too late at night while I'm too tired. But The Burning Girls is available for free still from the Tor.com website and I think it may also be available from Amazon as well for the same low price, I encourage you to check it out. it's not a spot of light reading, but it's a worthwhile story that you'll remember. (less)
I liked the mystics, it was something that I haven't seen before. And I always like how fully imagined this world is and how completely real it feels....moreI liked the mystics, it was something that I haven't seen before. And I always like how fully imagined this world is and how completely real it feels. And Newt was great, she's always a scene-stealer. But I didn't love how watered down some of the characters have become. Rachel used to be more interesting because she was fallible. Not that I didn't want her to grow up over the course of twelve books and make better decisions, but now she's a super woman who not only keeps saving the world, she expects to keep doing so on a regular basis. And when she isn't doing that she's daydreaming about Trent's rear end, which got really hard to take after a while. And Trent used to be interesting because he wasn't a typical good guy, he was either a bad guy or shades of gray. Now he's washed out and all dull. I'm not a fan of this romance, too. The hints about it in early books were intriguing, but as it's played out the author has had to totally sanitize who Trent is and it's made him really boring. And not only has Ivy been completely pushed aside for Trent in the last few books, but she's also completely lost her edge as well. She could be sharp, tough, and witty while still being in love with someone other than Rachel. She's still pretty full of angst, so it's not like she's suddenly all sunshine and roses. It's just hard to balance, how do you let the characters grow and change without having them lose whatever it was about them that the readers related to? It's tricky.(less)
I started off getting so annoyed again right from the start. I didn't want to, I always start a new book assuming it will be great, or at least pretty...moreI started off getting so annoyed again right from the start. I didn't want to, I always start a new book assuming it will be great, or at least pretty good. But Maddy tends to really just irritate me. This young woman was until recently totally isolated and naïve, living alone with her gargoyle and had been since her mom died when she was a teenager. Remember how isolated her job as an Agent kept her? But now she had, "honestly grown so accustomed to succeeding that I didn't know how to fail." How is that possible? How did she get so perfect and so damn cocky? "I didn't easily give up anything that was mine." Why not? What makes you so brave and bullheaded? And then how did she know more about battle strategy than a fae king? Who was she to advise that guy like she knew anything? She isn't some geek who loves strategy games and is just finally getting a chance to implement her favorite hobby, much less has any actual experience, where does this knowledge come from? The overwhelming Mary Sue qualities of this character just drive me batty.
I'm sorry, I really am not that reviewer that likes to give bad reviews (which this won't be I have good things to say too), that keeps reading the series that she knows she isn't going to like just so she can write snarky reviews that she thinks are funny and get lots of likes or something. I do kind of get why a couple of series may lend themselves to that kind of parody-like thing, but I don't love it and this isn't that kind of series. The author seems really nice, and I was a big fan in the beginning. And I never like giving bad reviews. Maybe I just don't have the wit to write them funny enough or it to be charming instead of just awkward for everyone involved. Luckily for this series, the books are never entirely bad, that's the problem, that's why I keep reading. I still want to find out what happens to the characters. I get attached, I hate knowing that the story is still going on and I could be reading but I turned away. So if it's free from the library I keep going unless something happens and I just can't take it anymore, hoping every time that maybe the character will grow up a little this time, show a little bit of sense or awareness finally.
And she did, a little! Just a little, but it was progress. Maddy was nervous about the darkness inside her and the way that Beezle and the others turned away from her because of it. It did make her think about her tendency to just barrel into every situation without considering the consequences. Unfortunately, part of the considering led to repeating over and over again that she tends to "break and smash" her way through situations. I wish I had the ebook so I could count the number of times the phrase is used, it's definitely drinking game levels. And there were other things that were repetitive that an editor should have caught. For example, Maddy repeated several times in a very short section of the book how dangerous it was for her not to have a home with a threshold any more. It was too short a book to make repeating basic information necessary, especially in such close proximity.
When I reviewed Touch of the Demon by Diana Rowland (you should read all of her books, by the way, they're all wonderful) last week I said that the travel book in any series, where the main character and occasionally one or two other supporting characters as well, go out of town or to another world together, is usually the worst, but that Touch was the exception. This one wasn't exactly an exception as well, but it wasn't exactly a complete success either. When you take your character out of her familiar setting and away from all of the supporting characters that the readers love, you're taking a big risk. The bad part was not having Beezle or Maddy's half brother Samiel or J.B. in it for the first two-thirds (or Samiel in it at all), especially for me because as you know by now, I find Maddy frequently annoying. Actually, Samiel shouldn't be regulated just to a parenthetical notation because then Chloe goes with him and other than villains throwing around threats and then get killed, Chloe has been the only other female character in six books now, so not seeing her and having her be a part of the core team is a real lost to the team and the readers. I hope that Henry find a way to get her right in there working side-by-side with Maddy in the next book. I get too tired of these books that are written by women that still don't feature strong, smart female characters that talk to each other. Maddy has a harem of men who will do anything for her. It gets to be too much.
But back to being on the other-world, Maddy needed to grow up. She could do that anywhere. And Beezle and Samiel had stepped away from her for the time being because of the choices she was making and she needed to think about that. And it wasn't boring, or overwhelming, as some travel books get, piling on too much detail. And this section of the book was much more focused than previous books, or the last section of the book, which tend to cram a lot of plots and ideas in and get a bit jumbled. Once Maddy got back to Earth the story is suddenly going in ten directions at once again, which can be overwhelming when it's a whole book of that. So the other-world section was actually pretty good, when Maddy wasn't annoying me with her snark that wasn't actually funny because arrogance is a fine line. Plus I get even more annoyed when she gets put into leadership positions that she has no right being in with her total lack of experience, like being at the head of battles in previous books, so at least when she's away from almost everyone she knows on another world there's less of that happening. I get less annoyed with Miss Mary Sue exploring her incredible magical powers than suddenly being a genius battle leader, at least they have a foundation in her genetics.
As for a couple of specifics, Daharan was great. It was good to find out who Lucifer's third brother was, and it was really fun to see Puck intimidated. I loved this image, "I had a very strange vision of the brothers as children. It looks a lot like a chibi-anime cartoon in my head, all soft edges and big eyes. Alerian was a tiny cute squid in a baby pool. Puck was a troublesome toddler with chocolate on his face and a stash of cookies behind the couch. Daharah was a teensy dragon blowing puffs of smoke. And Lucifer rose up on little wings before falling to the ground, unable to stay aloft." Too funny! This is why I keep reading. Perfection. And I loved the end with Bryson and Lock, Stock and Barrel too. When Henry gets it right she gets it so right.
Overall, the good news is that it really was a much better book than the last few. Maddy still isn't the brightest gal in the world, but she is at least trying to be aware of her shortcomings and occasionally hesitates before breaking and smashing. The part of the book that took place on the other world was balanced by a last third or so back on our world with the full gang. There were a couple of super funny scenes to balance the earlier really annoying parts. In fact, I don't think I was annoyed almost at all during the second half of the book, so that's great. I'm not sure that the lists that were brought up several times of all of Maddy's exploits and kills were actually a great idea though. Yes, it helped refresh the reader's memory. But it did underscore my point about how absurd it is for one completely untrained and inexperienced young person to have done so much over the course of such a short amount of time. I know it's a fantasy series, but there has to be some basis of believability, a sense that these things could happen within the rules as they've been established for this time/place. And much of the time Maddy isn't believable. And that annoys me more than her bad attitude. But I'm very glad that this book had less of that than the last few. I really hope to see more growth in her character in the next book. Which I at least know now that I do want to read. And if we were able to give half stars I might be tempted to do so for this one.(less)
Looking back over previous reviews, I see that my memory is correct and I've been up & down on this series a bit. I've always really liked Celia a...moreLooking back over previous reviews, I see that my memory is correct and I've been up & down on this series a bit. I've always really liked Celia as a hero, she's a good mix of smart and brave, a survivor for her whole life, not just from the vampire attack, witty without being too snarky, with a nice dose of vulnerability. I think the authors created a great character, even if they don't always totally do her justice. Especially in her love life, which is always pretty weak in my opinion. Creed was sexy, but controlling. And I just never got Bruno, other than residual feelings for an old boyfriend I just don't see what Celia sees in him at all, the authors haven't managed to show it to me.
But! This book really showcased what I like about Celia. It was my payoff for sticking with the series, I wasn't annoyed at all until around two-thirds of the way through the book, and then it was just that one thing (see below). This book highlighted the contrast between the strong, capable woman who's job it is to protect and rescue people by averting danger and facing it if she must, and the sensitive, vulnerable woman that she can be as well. And that she can be both and manage to survive and thrive, if often by the skin of her teeth, and frequently only with the help of her loyal friends. When she was dealing with her sister moving on, she was vulnerable and strong at the same time. The other dealings with her mom and grandma were things that many readers can relate to on different levels, it has nothing to do with the supernatural and everything to do with being human. And there was another moment when she was in the hospital that was particularly well done. The entire time from when she woke up in the hospital to when the nurse came into the room was moving, seeing how afraid Celia was that she might have hurt someone or that she might finally go too far and might lose her struggle to remain human. But when the nurse came in and reminded her that they met before, it was really lovely. Celia has been the object of so much fear, and unreasoning hatred. And when she was so completely vulnerable and afraid, that she might lose her struggle and become a bat, that she might be executed instantly because of it, worst of all that she might hurt an innocent person, yet here was a woman who remembered that Celia has tried to help a lot of people before also under very difficult circumstances and she trusted Celia to control herself, and it gave her hope. It was a simple scene, shorter that my description probably, but it touched me. It was the first time that regular people outside of her circle of friends, not security guards hired by royal families, just people trying to do their jobs reached out to her and said that they had her back, they were going to protect her and get her through a crisis and it felt like a turning point. And at the end of the book she was tough and strong, she made the decisions that needed to be made no matter how hard they were and saved a life, then flew to the battle and saved many more, fighting side by side with a man who considered her an enemy, but they got the job done and she made the blow that may have saved the day. Her fears and limitations never stopped her from doing what needed to be done.
Taking a step back, I really liked the characters in book one of this series, even though the story only got three stars. Then books 2-4 had a lot of weaknesses in the plots, major coincidences and things that just felt like the kind of lazy writing that really experienced writers like these two shouldn't be trying to get away with. They kept undermining the strong character that they'd developed in Celia and in her friends to the point that if I wasn't able to read the books for free from the library I'd never have stuck with the series. But I'm glad I was able to, because book five showed some improvement and this book was really much better. Overall it showed strong character development for the main character as well as several of the secondary characters slotted neatly into the ongoing action story. The balance between their personal lives and professional lives/action story was well done, in my opinion.
But the authors always do at least one weird, really stupid thing and ruin their good streak! Like have Celia wake up from a truly terrible night and call Bruno to check if her weapons are ready, shower, get dressed, whine about not having her favorite jacket available, check her messages, and on and on but never check on her beloved friend who was medivaced to the hospital to have major surgery last night! Celia was with him on the helicopter, she was super concerned, then nothing. These authors are so inconsistent sometimes, it makes me nuts, don't they read their own manuscripts or have editors or beta readers? They're too big for it? No one cares about this hugely sympathetic character? Pages later, she's had an entire drive with Dawna and a long conversation about bills and everyday details and neither of them brought him up still. Their future spa date to relieve Dawna's stress is more important than finding out if their friend has survived the night. Finally, after Celia rents a new car but before she pulls out of the parking lot, she calls the hospital to find out that he's stable. Seriously? Who does that? It's so not OK, it completely undermines the character and makes her seem horribly shallow and stupid. Especially after the way that all of these people sent flower and were constantly at her hospital earlier in the book even thought they couldn't even get in to see her. But now Celia, and Dawna, couldn't even call to see if he had survived and what condition he was in. I'd like to say that the authors seem dumb for writing her that way but it would probably get my review banned. It's just so completely inconsistent with the character they've established. Or if they did it on purpose then it makes her seem incredibly unlikable with the screwed up priorities of a teenager, and I don't think that's what they intended, considering the rest of the book.
Rant aside, the book was very good, much better than I expected, the best since the first one. I like the woman Celia has become, and I like her friends. I appreciate her struggles and I can even relate to some of her experiences, despite the supernatural story. I wouldn't even mind the authors having her make stupid, shallow decisions sometimes if they felt intentional, no character is perfect and perfect is boring anyway. I don't care that she worried about her hair and makeup or loves her jackets or whatever. It's just some of the really odd choices that they make that make me nuts. (Anyone remember Emma's suddenly decision to become sterile just so she could stay friends with Celia? Who does that?) But overall I really enjoyed this book about a strong, vulnerable, successful woman.(less)
Probably more of a 3.5 star book, but it was good. This one is almost all angel politics and supernatural dynamics, so if you like the developing stor...moreProbably more of a 3.5 star book, but it was good. This one is almost all angel politics and supernatural dynamics, so if you like the developing story about the tensions between Heaven and Hell, you'll be interested in these goings-on. It still seems odd to me that Remy would be the only one disenchanted with the situation, or at least with the guts to stand up and say so, but that's the premise so we have to go with it. Marlowe is still great, of course, Sniegoski still writes the best dog except for Kevin Hearne's Oberon. But the cliffhanger ending stunk, readers be warned, you'll be out on a ledge until the next book comes out.(less)
This anthology was a bit of an embarrassment of riches in the author department. It featured eight of my favorite authors (out of fourteen) and only o...moreThis anthology was a bit of an embarrassment of riches in the author department. It featured eight of my favorite authors (out of fourteen) and only one that I was familiar with but not a fan of. Which was great in making the book high on my to-read list, but not as successful in helping me find new authors to read, which is one of the concepts behind anthologies like this. They're not only supposed to sell this book, but then to keep selling books as readers discover authors that they now want to read more from their portfolio. But I'm sure that some of the authors that are automatic to-read names to me and who I think of as big names are unfamiliar to other readers. I hope this book introduces them to new audiences; they all had good stories.
It was more carnie than punk overall. Other than one of two with some tattoos, the authors pretty much stuck to the carnival theme. If you have a fear of clowns there might be one or two stories to avoid, as a couple veered into circus territory as well.
Thurman - Clever concept, it was something familiar yet totally original and it also kept me guessing trying to figure it out until it was revealed. It was also very true to the theme.
I also always love her bio and the way that she uses her two paragraphs in every book she's published in to tell people about her rescued dogs and how important she thinks it is to adopt. With humor, the best way to get her point across and have it be remembered.
Dawson - I loved her creepy and seductive carnival and I gathered that it's a regular part of the world that her books are based in, so I get why she was really appropriate to include in this book. It was a good story, but it didn't make me want to read the stories. The end made it seem like the world wasn't real after all, so it didn't open up the world of the novels. To me it closed it off instead, like if it wasn't real then why would I want to read more books about other characters there? And I was already leaning against it, from the reviews I read it just doesn't seem like my cup of tea from the romance angle, I think it's going to really annoy me. But it was a pretty good story and the carnival was cool.
Hearne - Very good story, as usual. "Dogs make everything better." Can't argue with that. Especially Oberon. This is still my favorite urban fantasy series. Iron Druid fans will want to read the story, but it isn't critical to the story arc if you miss it, not like some of the other of his novellas or shorts. But if you aren't a fan yet, why not? Smart, funny, exciting, clever, fast-paced super fun books with the bravest, funniest dog in literature as a side kick. What are you waiting for?
Henry - It was only eh.
Wells - A solid story. I liked that it was different than anything I'd read from her before. And the character motivations were interesting.
Caine - Very good. It's the second time that I remember her writing a story in an anthology that had nothing to do with any of her books and felt totally different and fresh, like I'd have no idea that it was her writing it if it didn't have her name on it. But in a good way. When someone's done several long series, it's nice to see that they have other ideas too and can execute them and be so versatile. And I'm actually not such a fan of her YA series so it was nice to see younger people that I related to from her.
Pang - It was a good story. And it reminded me that her books have been on my tentative to-read list for a long time. Some friends rave about them, but I've been wishy-washy on the heavy romance described in the reviews (just because romance hasn't been my taste lately) and the wishy-washy heroine as well. And the hero from the novels is a very unattractive minor character in this story. The story was good advertising for her writing but not so much for his character, that was a questionable choice of portrayal. We'll see. I do want to read about that little unicorn some day (featured in the novels).
On the other hand, I did check out her Fox & Willow online graphic novel and it's very cute, and fits right into my current reading pattern perfectly. I'll have to try to catch up on that soon. http://sadsausagedogs.com/
On a separate note, I see from Pang's website that she suffers from chronic pain, back pain and maybe fibromyalgia. I wish her all the best in managing this very real specter.
Jacques - Her Regan Summers books sound good but they're only out as ebooks so unfortunately I can't get them from the library. And I liked this story quite a lot. It kept me guessing and it had a sense of darkness and tragedy within the mystery, without being too heavy. It really kept me interested and guessing. Until she lost me right at the end when Thalia, the muse of comedy and poetry, needed to distract a guy for a moment, so she pulled up her shirt because she wasn't wearing anything underneath and flashed him. Women are too often just as guilty of writing things that cheapen women as men are. We don't have to be serious all of the time (God forbid!!) but I just didn't get that at all, it totally didn't fit the tone of the story or the characters, and it just cheapened the whole thing.
Estep - It was a good story. But it didn't make me reevaluate the series. I read the first book and just didn't want to read any more. On top of the drinking games that could be played of repeating phrases (I still remember, "my gray eyes," years later), the real problem was that the woman is a murderer with no regrets, as is still apparent in this story. I just can't root for her. Assassins can be anti-heroes, but it's a fine line that doesn't work for me here.
Meding - Good story! It's subtitled, "A Strays Short Story" Is it the beginning of a series or maybe a world she'll use for stories in anthologies again? Either way, I'm definitely hoping for more. She's one of my favorites, I'll read anything she writes. I'll even pay for it, which I may have to since some dumb publisher decided to stop putting out her Dreg City series, another series that kept getting better and better. If/when she self-pubs that one, I'll buy it. Her MetaWars books are good, too.
Peeler - Good story. Except for another boob flash comment, it's apparently one of the women's favorite investigation technique, ha ha.. It wasn't a muse at least and it fit the tone of the story. But it made me wonder what Dr. Peeler was thinking. But her Jane True series is among my favorites as well. I bought them, which knowing my budget says a lot. Hearne and Peeler, and McCaffrey and Riordan, that's pretty much my auto-buy list. Sadly shorter now.
Kessler - Very good advertising for the series, it was a good story and it totally seemed to represent what the series was about. Some reviews made the books seem sillier than this but the writing in this story was solid with a somewhat light but not too fluffy tone. And it reminded me that some of her other books had been on my to-read list for too long as well. A win for the anthology model, it made me want to read more of her work.
Gay - Ah ha, this is what Rex and Emma were up to while Charlie was in Elysia. I like in-between stories like this, I feel like I'm in on a secret. But then I feel bad for fans who didn't get to read the story. They all need to buy this book or get it from the library, too. They aren't actually missing anything in the main story arc, but they'll want to have the fun of reading the story. The second aspect of the anthology model. Fans of the novels buy this book and new fans who liked this story go buy the novels. This story was a really was a good intro to her work without being necessary to the series because it's about secondary characters. And it was so sweet, seeing how much the former Revenant, Rex, cares about his new sort-of daughter, Emma. And it's definitely a, "ye reap what ye sow," story. That girl is Charlie's kid through and through, doing what she thinks is right no matter how risky or scary it is. This series really grew on me, the first book was pretty good, but it had some issues for me. Then they kept getting better and better after that. I'd definitely recommend it. And not just for the hellhound, he's a pretty minor character. Not like Oberon!
McGuire - As much as I loved the short storynovelette that I just read from her October Daye series (Sea-Salt Tears, look on her website, it was nominated for a Hugo award and it really is terrific) it's fun to read something totally different from her as well. Well, it wasn't exactly fun, it's not a lighthearted story. But it was a very good story, as usual. She's one of the few authors who seems to be consistently able to write both great books and short stories. Jim Butcher consistently writes good short stories, but they are always about the same world as his novel, McGuire seems to have more range. I love her October Daye series, and really like the InCryptid as well. I really want to get to the writing posted on her website as well. And yes, I do know that she also writes as Mira Grant and that everyone loves her many-time nominated books as well, but I'm not so into the post-apocalyptic thing. Maybe I'll get to them eventually. But I love the Toby series, even if the mysteries were really shaky in the first two books, the series has become one of the best around. And I'm looking forward to reading Rat-Catcher, despite the unfortunate name, which is also from the Toby series and about a fan-favorite character (which explains the title), and was also nominated for the Hugo for best novelette. Though the distinction between short story and novelette is really beyond me, they both seem really short to me. Sea-Salt Tears was 24 pages I think. Whatever. Anyway, this story was great, no surprise there. (less)
It was OK. Some of the things that were cute in the beginning are wearing a bit thin. I like Charley's humor, but without the maturity that she gained...moreIt was OK. Some of the things that were cute in the beginning are wearing a bit thin. I like Charley's humor, but without the maturity that she gained in the last book showing at all here it's just back to hyper all of the time. Just mentioning that she once had PTSD doesn't seem like showing much character growth. And I hate the naming of everything, especially her body parts, funny once, maybe or maybe not, but by book five it's annoying for sure. But the biggest thing for me is where I disagree with most fans. I'm just not even a little bit into Reyes. To me he's still a creepy stalker. Sure, he's handsome, but great sex does not make for a great relationship. And the stuff at the end was more controlling, creepy behavior to me, not romance. That's the way that abusive lovers behave, controlling everyone around you, controlling your finances for you without asking your opinions, getting rid of the people around you until they're the only person close to you. That guy never, ever asks her what she wants. Her opinion never, ever matters. But she trusts him! Why? Because he was abused and tortured? Because he's saved her life? Or because he's actually had a conversation with her once in the entire time they've know each other. Nope, not the last one. It's just a bizarre and unhealthy relationship. I can't get into it at all.(less)
If you like this series, I'm sure you'll like this book. I'm a fan, so I had fun. But I agree with Ami's review that it was definitely a case of round...moreIf you like this series, I'm sure you'll like this book. I'm a fan, so I had fun. But I agree with Ami's review that it was definitely a case of rounding up from the upper 3 star range, for all of the reasons she listed. Please read the review, it says it better than I could. Overall, the book was fun, fast and silly without being too silly. Lopez wasn't annoying in this one for the first time for me. I loved having Lucky, the Gambello hit man, in it so much and I thought the way that he got involved was believable enough for this series, which strains credibility every time Lopez shows up again in Esther's life with apparently all of NYC as his beat. Nothing wrong with a dose of willing suspense of disbelief as long as we're all in on it together. And "meeting" Lopez's parents was a treat.
But the end was quite a letdown, in a couple of ways. There was some good stuff, don't get me wrong. But there were some problems. (view spoiler)[Maybe every book doesn't have to have a major showdown, but to have the big magical phenomenon wrap up in three pages was just abrupt. I kept waiting for that, "but then the real demon jumps out of the closet," moment but it didn't happen. And that doesn't even include what didn't happen on the last two pages. I know the tradition is to make couples be tortured throughout every series, the Sam and Diane phenomenon lives on and on, but I truly believe that letting them be happy for more than a night doesn't have to be a death knell to a creative author. But torturing your readers with the same boring devices might be. (hide spoiler)] Were my issues with the end anything that majorly took away from my enjoyment of the book? No, that's why I had to round up and not down. One issue was more odd and a bit disappointing more than serious, I enjoyed the rest of the book enough to shrug and get over it. The other was annoying but expected. So overall I still say that if you're looking for a light, humorous and fast-paced urban fantasy series you really should give this one a try.["br"]>["br"]>(less)