This book is slow to start. While I can see how I might be creeped out if I was living the characters' situation, "Ooooo, there are no ATMs! OooOOoo!"...moreThis book is slow to start. While I can see how I might be creeped out if I was living the characters' situation, "Ooooo, there are no ATMs! OooOOoo!" isn't a very scary bogeyman. After the real bogeyman came on the scene, though, I couldn't put it down.(less)
Since we're coming up on the Christmas season, here are a few novellas to ignite some holiday magic for you. And by "holiday magic", I mean "sex". Bec...moreSince we're coming up on the Christmas season, here are a few novellas to ignite some holiday magic for you. And by "holiday magic", I mean "sex". Because the sex in this anthology is hot, and generally stronger than the plot. Only one of these novellas has an actual housecat as shown on the cover. Another has a cat statuette and the other two deal with cat-humans, a shapechanger and a genetic experiment. They're all magical, though. This anthology didn't blow me away. I think fans who follow one or more of these series will appreciate this anthology far more than those who don't. See full review at What If Books Etc.(less)
This really is Mencheres' novel, with Kira serving mainly as a catalyst to his development. The issues he struggles with have already been shown in th...moreThis really is Mencheres' novel, with Kira serving mainly as a catalyst to his development. The issues he struggles with have already been shown in the main series, but here we see more of him and how he deals (or doesn't) with his problems. While I admired Kira, Mencheres' tendency to rhapsodize about her grew thin after a while. Still, I thought the romance was well developed. Each character was vivid enough that I knew what they were thinking even when the POV character misinterpreted their actions. An enjoyable read.(less)
"Two Blondes" by Charlaine Harris - Three stars. Sookie's not sure why Pam has invited her to come along for a girls' getaway, and why they're going t...more"Two Blondes" by Charlaine Harris - Three stars. Sookie's not sure why Pam has invited her to come along for a girls' getaway, and why they're going to the land of casinos and strip clubs. Sure enough, their vacation is a pretense for yet more vampire politics. While the story was interesting, nothing new happened. It could have been titled "Yet Another Adventure in the Sookie Saga." Good enough to tide you over between novels but nothing you need to rush out for.
"The Boys Go Fishing" by Sarah Smith - Two stars. Bill Green is a retired superhero mourning the loss of his mortal wife. When a girl knocks on his door and asks him to train the next generation of "Talents", he agrees, on one condition. The story draws from a variety of sources: superheroes, Ranma 1/2, the Loch Ness monster. Unfortunately this makes it feel confused and mish-mashed, with no unifying theme or explanation. There's no real character development, and the ending seemed to come out of nowhere. The themes of isolation and mortality could have been interesting, but they weren't.
"One for the Money" by Jeaniene Frost - Five stars. Cat and Bones return for a well-deserved vacation. Unfortunately, they are interrupted by a lady in distress (heavy on the "distress" and light on the "lady") and then again by Cat's acerbic mother on an interrupted vacation of her own. This is Cat and Bones at their best with action, drama and steamy sex. The relationship between Bones and Justina is developed a little further here and made me smile at one crucial moment.
"Meanwhile, Far Across the Caspian Sea..." by Daniel Stashower - Five stars. The nameless narrator takes a job researching for an encyclopedia publisher, only to run into conflict with a senior editor who has never taken a vacation. The author bio says he is a mystery writer and it shows. The story glides along, each clue dropping smoothly into place. I especially loved the contrasts running throughout the story, some done so subtly they're not picked up until a reread.
"The Innsmouth Nook" by A Lee Martinez - Four stars. When Philip and Vance open a bed and breakfast in a dreary New England village, it does not become the vacation hotspot that they had hoped for, and the insular locals are closemouthed and unhelpful. Cute and clever short. There were some hints dropped that I didn't understand, but I'm sure that they would have explained a lot about the story if I was more familiar with THE classic of this genre. I especially loved the dynamic between Philip and Vance.
"Safe and Sound" by Jeff Abbott - Three stars. When an American college student goes missing during a vacation to a small South American country, an opportunistic news anchor jumps on the story as ratings gold - especially since no one can recognize or locate the exotically beautiful woman he disappeared with. The opening was intriguing, since who doesn't love to hate people like Nora Dare?, and the ending was quite fitting, but the middle part dragged.
"Seeing is Believing" by L A Banks - Three stars. Soon after a local psychic inherits her mother's job of police consultant, she makes an incredible claim that has the sheriff believing her "overtired". At the urging of him and her supportive brother, she travels to New Orleans and meets a young man also involved in the psychic community. For some reason Jessica is never described, which bothers me. I'm still not even certain what race she is, especially blatant when compared to everyone else's descriptions. And while there's not enough of Ralph seen to make him a stereotype, he edges dangerously close. The story was also bogged down by a habit of repeating plot points and switching perspectives mid-paragraph without warning. Still, the characterization was vivid and I enjoyed Grand's dialogue.
"The Perils of Effrijim" by Katie MacAlister - Four stars. A demon's vacation is jeopardized when a jealous apprentice witch banishes him back to Hell, and he must scramble to salvage it before his owner returns from hers. I believe this is part of an ongoing series, but I don't follow this author. The short is high-energy and quite silly - a torture scene includes singing "My Humps" over and over again. I know some people will find the last sentence incredibly amusing but I just found it frustrating.
"Thin Walls" by Christopher Golden - Five stars. The walls of Tim's hotel room are painfully thin, and his neighbors keep him up at night with their sexual escapades. But that's not all he hears through their walls. Is it Freudian of me to observe that when female authors show a beautiful woman enjoying sex, this is portrayed as a positive thing, but with a male author it's negative? Maybe, or maybe this story aims to hit men in their most immediate fears. But despite my discomfort with the implications, this is a compelling and well-written short.
"The Heart is Always Right" by Lilith Saintcrow - Five stars. A gargoyle with a crush on a department store checker soon finds that she has become a focus for magic, with the forces of evil scrambling to possess her before the good does. I found the repeated use of Heart distracting - it seems to have three or four different meanings so I was never quite sure what it meant this time. But the story is sweet and the nameless gargoyle is adorkable. In retrospect, the title is quite fitting.
"The Demon in the Dunes" by Chris Grabenstein - Five stars. Sixteen-year-old David is having a summer fling at the beach, but his trysts are interrupted by a scary figure only he can see. Genuinely creepy story with a poignant ending, as any good ghost story should have. It's filled with nostalgia both for the innocence of youth and for the era he grew up in, wrapped up in the tale of his first love.
"Home from America" by Sharan Newman - Two stars. All his life, Patrick has dreamed of going to Ireland to find his roots, but when he finally does he gets the shock of a lifetime. I found this short to be just generally unlikeable. The protagonist is petulant and self-centered, more of a teenager than a twenty-something. His family is nonchalant to the point of negligence. And the ending infuriated me, as it came out of the blue and left a bad taste in my mouth.
"Pirate Dave's Haunted Amusement Park" by Toni L P Kelner - Four stars. After becoming a werewolf, Joyce retreats to her childhood theme park for a much needed break. But even that relaxation is denied here, because something is wrong at Pirate Dave's. Cute, lighthearted short. I had to laugh at Joyce's sarcastic competence, raising an eyebrow as she points out the villain's flaws. It was the perfect piece to end the anthology on.(less)
Kate is that rare heroine: one aware of her own flaws. A smartass loner whose big mouth gets her in trouble, she often regrets her impulsiveness and a...moreKate is that rare heroine: one aware of her own flaws. A smartass loner whose big mouth gets her in trouble, she often regrets her impulsiveness and a big mistake she makes at the end of the book is met with a decision to change her ways. Perfect for anyone who's tired of authors treating their jerkass characters as admirable.(less)
"A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews - Five stars. An interesting short from the world of Kate Daniels. Regular readers gain a new perspective on...more"A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews - Five stars. An interesting short from the world of Kate Daniels. Regular readers gain a new perspective on Saiman and new readers are introduced to one of my favorite female protagonists. Kate's innovation and the villain's casual cruelty make this piece shine.
"Even Hand" by Jim Butcher - Five stars. Narrated by a villain slash uneasy ally from The Dresden Files, John Marcone. His quiet ruthlessness is a nice contrast to the series' white knight. Hints about a future conflict in the series left me wanting more.
"The Beacon" by Shannon K Butcher - Three stars. An interesting premise with great dramatic potential, but slowed down by a need to repeat everything and spell out every detail. The sexism of both main characters also aggravated me. ("Oh, if only she had a man around to protect her! But when she divorced her husband she gave up that right.") Still, points for avoiding the obvious cliche ending.
"Even a Rabbit Will Bite" by Rachel Caine - Five stars. I'm thrilled that this story is so perfectly self contained, somehow getting a full background, a full plot and vivid characters into one short story. But I'm also disappointed because I want more and there isn't any.
"Dark Lady" by P N Elrod - Four stars. Interesting characters and great writing, but the politics and double dealing got rather complicated toward the end and I didn't know enough about the bad guys to keep them straight. I loved the poltergeist and could practically hear her attitude coming through.
"Beknighted" by Deidre Knight - Three stars. I wavered between three and four for this one. The story was compelling, but the plot was obscure and the characters unreadable. Ultimately though, the narrator was too passive and there's no objective measurement of what really happened here.
"Shifting Star" by Vicki Pettersson - Five stars. This short is both self-contained and leads into a greater plotline. The author skillfully wove in background info without giant info dumps. The ending was a shock at first, but upon reflection it's absolutely perfect and leaves me intrigued about the main series.
"Rookwood & Mrs King" by Lilith Saintcrow - Five stars. There were a couple jarring instances of the narrator's thoughts wandering for a moment, but other than that the story reads smoothly. The ending was set up brilliantly and left me smiling.
"God's Creatures" by Carrie Vaughn - Five stars. Told from Cormac's POV from the Kitty Norville series, this short introduces some moral ambiguity into his character and explores the internal conflicts that are shown indirectly in the main series.(less)
Jewish actress Esther Diamond is playing the part of a homeless prostitute for a TV show when she witnesses a man attacked by gargoyles, his hand torn...moreJewish actress Esther Diamond is playing the part of a homeless prostitute for a TV show when she witnesses a man attacked by gargoyles, his hand torn off completely. Shockingly enough, the police assume the hysterical, half-dressed woman in Harlem at midnight, raving about murderous gargoyles, is high on drugs and arrest her. They change their minds when they find the severed hand, several days decomposed. Esther's ex-almost-boyfriend Detective Connor Lopez thinks she was the victim of a cruel practical joke. Her sorcerer friend Max knows better. Esther witnessed a confrontation between vodoun spirits and a zombie. And now that she's teaching acting classes at a Harlem community center, Esther's worried that her teens might be right in the middle of the battle zone. She ought to be worried for herself.
The exposition was smoother in this book than in its prequel, Doppelgangster (review). The beginning wasn't as boring, either. The book opens with details of her job with the Crime & Punishment TV show (and it might just be that I like Law & Order, but I found the C&P exposition interesting in its own right) but segues into the zombie mystery much quicker when she spots the attack near the C&P set. From then on, the book continues at a good pace.
While the mystery wasn't very mysterious, the writing was smooth and the character dynamics entertaining. I give Unsympathetic Magic a B+. See full review at What If Books Etc.(less)
Great book. I liked the conflicts and how Piper dealt with them. It's not an "issue" book; Piper's deaf but she doesn't focus on that, she's a normal...moreGreat book. I liked the conflicts and how Piper dealt with them. It's not an "issue" book; Piper's deaf but she doesn't focus on that, she's a normal teen trying to live a normal life. Most of her problems don't come from her disability in and of itself, but from other people refusing to meet her halfway and trying to make her deal with them on their terms.
One thing that really pissed me off, though, was that her parents STEAL money given to her by her grandparents. The summary makes it sound like it was the parents' money they chose to spend on something else...not so. It is Piper's money, they outright steal from her, and I did not think that conflict was resolved nearly satisfactorily enough.(less)