Gimme A Z: Seanan McGuire -- I admit to bias as Seanan's a good friend, but her story of a cheerleader waking up a...moreSixteen stories.
My favorites were:
Gimme A Z: Seanan McGuire -- I admit to bias as Seanan's a good friend, but her story of a cheerleader waking up as a zombie and going back to see if she could still be on the squad was funny and frightful at the same time.
At First Only Darkness: Nancy A. Collins -- I'm a fan of hers from the Sonja Blue series and this one was just chilling. I was glad it was still broad daylight.
Do No Harm: Tim Waggoner -- This one was kind of sciencey in a different way from zombie virus stories, but led to the same thing, with an insectoid twist. It included one of the very few strong female characters in the book besides Heather from the cheerleader story above.
Posthumous: Sean Taylor -- No explanation for how the Zombie thing happened, but it's all about a writer who came back after her death and how she copes ... or fails to cope ... with her existence and her distant, selfish husband and his methods of coping with a wife he can see use for only one way now.
In The Line Of Duty -- Zombie cops vs. Zombie terrorists. Nuff said. And one of the women in this story reminded me of lil badass murphy from Robocop.
The ones that most bothered me at a non zombie creepout level were:
You Always Hurt the One You Love -- only woman in the story is a bimbo who talks baby talk to her boyfriend, never catching on to the problem he's having.
Zombie Camp -- in which the woman in the story is depicted as weak and whiny. I guess that was meant to show how sick Frank is, but it didn't sit well.
Stories that barely even registered to me:
The Immortal Part: A guy muses on the immortal part of himself even as he goes through the motions of his human life as best applied to a world with zombies.
Zero: A girl with mother issues in love with a gay guy with father issues. The girl is the zombie.
The Warlock's Run: Zombie NASCAR driver. Permanently 17 years old in mind and body.
But None Shall Sing For Me: It was blurbed as a story of revenge for slave ship ancestors, but it didn't feel that way.
In the Quiet of Spring: Another woman whose husband considered his career more important than his woman. Not a theme I much like to begin with.
If you have loved the Borderlands series since the beginning, then you know what I think.
If you haven't, and this is your first time across the border...moreIf you have loved the Borderlands series since the beginning, then you know what I think.
If you haven't, and this is your first time across the border?
Then you're lucky. You'll get to meet Wolfboy, Orient, and Farrel Din, and Screaming Lord Neville. And you'll get to meet the new faces who made their way to the crazy town between the Human world and the Realm where the Truebloods come from.
The stories vary from whimsical: Welcome to Bordertown to the romantic and heartbreaking A Tangle of Green Men, to silly yet still powerful vignettes like the songs from Steven Brust and Neil Gaiman.
The characters are so well written that one can identify with them even when one's experiences and orientation vary from that of the characters.
I'm a sucker for Greek/Roman/Other Country pantheon mythology, so this story was practically a neon READ ME sign.
Nikki Glass' whole world gets flip-tu...moreI'm a sucker for Greek/Roman/Other Country pantheon mythology, so this story was practically a neon READ ME sign.
Nikki Glass' whole world gets flip-turned upside down when, escaping a bad blind date set up by her well-meaning adopted sister, she goes to the aid of a client -- who turns out not only to have been lying about needing her help, but to have set her up in a way that immediately makes her all but an instant enemy to his family because what he set her up for was to accidentally kill him.
From there, she's going through the standard "I don't know I'm immortal" freakout which is understandable after such a bad car wreck on an icy night. But the hostility she is met with scares her away from the first group of people she meets, and the second group are no better. Finally she must choose one or the other and she chooses the first group -- whereupon she learns she's a demigoddess -- the now-immortal descendant of Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
As Artemis was considered the virgin goddess, this makes Nikki a rare thing among even the divinely empowered, and a hot property for contention between the two demigod factions. She makes her choice and gradually begins to learn what having Artemis' blood means: literally supernatural aim that doesn't miss no matter what, greater ability to hunt by moonlight, and an affinity for deer.
Things I liked:
Nikki Glass is not blonde, though her adopted sister Steph is. And although Steph is blonde, she's neither a bimbo nor a damsel. She is, in her own way as much of a hardass as Nikki herself aspires to be.
Nikki is flawed. She has kind of a thing against being a "tattletale" and that gets her in trouble more than once. She has a phobia of being abandoned, but that she comes by honestly and it makes sense in story once she and the reader both find out why that happened. She also doesn't leap into embracing her new reality with open arms, and that causes her some problems as well. Her leftover tough girl routine from her days as a troubled foster kid doesn't serve her well in this world, and she has a couple of rude awakenings with the realization that she is nowhere near as tough as she fancies herself.
The villains are almost moustache-twirlingly nasty, but that makes it fun to see them get theirs. At least the ones who do get theirs. The Big Bad is probably not going to get his until later in the series, but I don't doubt that it'll be fun seeing him get there.
The characters have depth.
Blake, for example, I was prepared to hate and hate a lot from the moment I saw he was willing to use his sexual powers (from Eros, natch) as a weapon. But as the story went on, we see that he too is flawed for being a demigod, and that his weaponization of sexual lust is scrupulously and carefully aimed only at people who are truly nasty and who have done worse than that to others. Further, he is also suffering at the hands of his own supernatural talent -- in that his sexual prowess being literally god-given -- means he can never build a long term relationship with sex in it.
Jamaal I was also prepared to hate. But the author is weaving an interesting adversaries to allies to possibly more thing between him and Nikki, that intrigues.
The one actual rapist in the book gets his in a way that is exquisitely painful. And his victim is happy to hear it hurt. Maybe that's a little savage and bloodthirsty of me, but that subject does hit a sore spot with me, so I empathized strongly with the victim.
Things I did not like:
Jamaal was the sole Person of Color in the whole book, though it is hinted that there were Greek-Mediterraneans in the book. Jamaal was a little stereotypical with the beads in his braids. But worse than that, he was the "out of control savage, raging Black man" for most of the book. Yes, there was an in-story explanation for it, but it was still disheartening to see the Black guy as the ragemonster.
As mentioned above, didn't like Blake's tendency to use rape as a weapon, and I hope that this one time is the only time it shows up in the series.
Things of neither like nor dislike that were interesting:
Story takes place in the Maryland/Washington DC area. Having lived in that area a lot helped me visualize a bit, though the descriptions were not very detailed.
Another "I won't touch my trust fund" heroine, which is probably going to give me privilege winces as I read since although Nikki won't touch hers, Steph is the "wealthy do-gooder" type.
How Nikki came into her powers was predictable at first, but only at first. She had a genuinely hard time until her sister suggested she look at it from a different perspective -- at which point they kicked in, but Nikki still had a hard time embracing it for sure.
Oh, and one other thing -- very fast read. Started it around 6 pm and finished it in 4 hours with breaks for food and games. (less)
The direction that Jenna Black took was Nikki having a preference for inappropriate and/or unavailable men, which meant she could've gone either way: Anderson, pining for his wife who had gone insane during her imprisonment, or Jamaal, who was hostile and whose own demigod power was making him a hairtrigger temper.
While I must give kudos to Ms. Black for her sympathetic story of Jamaal's pre-Civil war slave background and for her "the Union soldiers weren't all wholesome heroes" origin of Jamaal's demigodness, the fact that she describes Jamaal in Nikki's voice as "exotic" is a little uncomfortable to read as a black reader, who knows that the word "exotic" is kind of a buzzword for "white person who wants to see what it's like to be with the black person, and is it all that the urban legends say it is".
I'm also uncomfortable with the amount of rape ideation in the book. Nikki's sister is a rape victim of the bad guys. Anderson's wife was a repeated rape victim. Blake's power is sort of weaponized rape.
That being the case, I am hoping with the Bigger Bad who was behind the rapes of Nikki's sister and Anderson's wife being out of the picture for the moment that there will be less rape in the third book.
The third book has a strong indication on the cover image that Nikki and Jamaal will end up growing closer, or at least working more closely.
I liked that we got to see a little more of Jack in this book and a little more of Logan, though still not much of either. I would also like a touch more description of the rest of the Liberi because so far, it's:
Nikki: Dark hair, average looks. Anderson: nondescript brown in human guise Konstantin: Olive-skinned, neatly trimmed beard Alexis: Mediterranean dark hair and olive skin. Steph: Perfect blonde princess looks. Emma: Snow White gone evil Blake: Ultra-pretty boy Jamaal: and I quote, "a thing of beauty", a hottie, exotic, etc. Maggie: Not sure what she looks like. I think she's blonde? Logan: Not sure what he looks like. Leo: Not sure what he looks like. Jack: Not sure what he looks like except for his mischievous twinkle
Although putting this list together also makes me think maybe the descriptions are based on how strongly Nikki feels for the people in question. Still, I'd prefer a bit more depth in my descriptions. The characterization mostly makes up for it.
And it is nice despite the problematic elements to have the black character, despite being an exaggeration of Angry Black Man, being a good guy, even if the white woman's suggestions are the only things helping him keep it together.