Strictly for the fans, Shifting Shadows includes six previously published stories from the world of Mercy Thompson plus four new ones. They're all ter...moreStrictly for the fans, Shifting Shadows includes six previously published stories from the world of Mercy Thompson plus four new ones. They're all terrific (my favorite remains "Alpha & Omega"), and even though I'd read the older stories already, it was nice to re-read them all as a set. (less)
While I haven't read all of the stories in this massive anthology, I think I've gotten about as far as I'm going to, at least for now. I really only s...moreWhile I haven't read all of the stories in this massive anthology, I think I've gotten about as far as I'm going to, at least for now. I really only scratched the surface, but of the several stories I've read, these are the ones I enjoyed the most:
"Virgins" by Diana Gabaldon: Jamie Fraser! Need I say more? This terrific novella is a prequel to Outlander, and focuses on young Jamie and his best friend Ian during an adventure as mercenaries in France. Just terrific -- if you're an Outlander fan, you won't want to miss it.
"Bombshells" by Jim Butcher: A fast-paced, totally enjoyable story set in the world of the Dresden Files, with Harry's apprentice Molly as main character. Lots of fun.
"Raisa Stepanova" by Carrie Vaughan: Excellent historical fiction about a young woman pilot in the Soviet army during WWII.
"The Princess and the Queen" by George R. R. Martin. Strangely, I found this extremely long novella not terribly engaging, despite the fact that it's set in Westeros. The story bogs down in names, genealogies, titles, and family histories, so much so that forward momentum is frequently lost. There are interesting events, but I found it a chore to get through this story.
There are plenty of other pieces in Dangerous Women that I haven't yet read and that I'd like to go back to. But this book is over 700 pages long, and I think I'm done for now. Back on the shelf it goes, to be revisited from time to time when I'm in the right mood. (less)
It probably goes without saying that this book is essential reading for fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and related works. I really have no...moreIt probably goes without saying that this book is essential reading for fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and related works. I really have no idea whether the stories contained in A Trail of Fire would be at all interesting for newcomers to her work -- certainly, there's some well-researched and written historical fiction here, but I have a hard time seeing it being meaningful to anyone who hasn't read her other books and isn't familiar with the characters.
That said, what a delight it is to have the four novellas contained in A Trail of Fire all in one volume! Three stories have appeared previously in other anthologies, but the new one, The Space Between, won't be published in the US until spring of 2013.
It's plain and simple: If you love the Outlander world, read these stories.
Updated to add: A more detailed review is now posted on my blog.(less)
Philip Pullman's retelling of fifty classic fairy tales is crisp, lovely, entertaining -- and educational too! His excellent introduction gives a conc...morePhilip Pullman's retelling of fifty classic fairy tales is crisp, lovely, entertaining -- and educational too! His excellent introduction gives a concise history of the Grimm brothers' work, as well as providing literary context for the nature and role of fairy tales. After each story in the collection, the author provides factual data on the source of the story and its appearance in other versions and cultures, as well as offering his insights on how and why he chose the story and how he approached its retelling. The stories included range from familiar ("Cinderella", "Little Red Riding Hood") to obscure and curious ("Lazy Heinz", "Hans-my-Hedgehog"). I enjoyed this collection very much, and put it down at the end feeling that I'd had a great time and that I'd learned something!
After finally putting down the borrowed copy of Magic for Beginners which I’d been reading on and off for the past week, I can make two definitive sta...moreAfter finally putting down the borrowed copy of Magic for Beginners which I’d been reading on and off for the past week, I can make two definitive statements:
1) Kelly Link is a very gifted writer. 2) I suck at short stories.
I really gave it my all, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to read all eight stories in this collection. I managed to get through six (although for two, my reading might better be described as skimming). I pick up short story collections rarely and reluctantly, but in this case, I’d heard enough high praise for Kelly Link to decide to give it a go.
I absolutely loved the first story in the collection, “The Fairy Handbag”, narrated by a teen girl whose recently deceased, oddball grandmother has appointed her the guardian of a magical handbag. According to Grandmother Zofia, the people in her little village of Baldesziwurlekistan all picked up and moved into the handbag hundreds of years ago in order to escape a terrible invasion, and have lived there happily ever since. “The Fairy Handbag” is weird and wonderful, and I was thoroughly enchanted.
Also very good was “The Stone Animals”, about a family who leaves Manhattan and moves into a country home upstate, only to discover that, slowly but surely, all of their possessions have become haunted. I’m not sure what any of it actually meant, but I love some of the imagery used, especially this brief glimpse of the pregnant wife who can’t stop painting and repainting the rooms in the house:
He found Catherine standing on a ladder in the kitchen, one foot resting on the sink. She was wearing her gas mask, a black cotton sports bra, and a pair of black sweatpants rolled down so he could see she wasn’t wearing any underwear. Her stomach stuck out so far, she had to hold her arms at a funny angle to run the roller up and down the wall in front of her.
The story entitled “Magic for Beginners”, equally weird and oddly touching, is the tale of a fifteen-year-old boy and his friends who are obsessed with a mysterious TV show called The Library. Or is this story about characters on a TV show called The Library who are obsessed with a TV show called The Library? At one point, main character Jeremy wonders “about what kind of television shows the characters in television shows watch.” Kind of made my head spin.
Kelly Link’s writing is lyrical and full of unconventional images and similes. Just two of the many that made me smile:
He feels like a tennis ball in a game where the tennis players love him very, very much, even while they lob and smash and send him back and forth, back and forth.
The disco ball spins and spins. It makes Jeremy feel kind of carsick and also as if he has sparkly, disco leprosy.
Kelly Link has great talent, and I truly enjoyed the stories I read. The fact that I couldn’t get through all of them certainly has more to do with me as a reader rather than with the quality of the book. If you enjoy short stories, and get a kick out of worlds weird and twisted, I’d definitely suggest giving this collection a whirl.(less)
The nine stories in After the Apocalypse focus, for the most part, on what happens next, once the worst has already happened. Whether disaster strikes...moreThe nine stories in After the Apocalypse focus, for the most part, on what happens next, once the worst has already happened. Whether disaster strikes in the form of zombies, computers run amok, bird flu, dirty bombs, or other types of contamination, life as we know it no longer exists. What the characters do next is what makes these stories interesting.
Particularly good were "The Naturalist", about a zombie preserve where condemned criminals are sent to serve their sentences; "Useless Things", about a dollmaker getting by while the world dries up around her; "The Lost Boy", whose main character has been in a fugue state for five years; and "Honeymoon", about a girl who just wants to have fun, scary medical experiments notwithstanding. For sheer quirkiness, though, I'd pick "Going to France" for its lovely absurdity.
On the downside, this collection seems to have been rather shoddily copy-edited. Typos abound: Acronyms have their letters reversed from one page to the next, character names are often misspelled (June/Jane, Franny/Fanny, etc), and on several occasions I had to stop and reread a sentence that was either mispunctuated or had a word missing.
Given that I typically don't care for short stories, I was more engaged by After the Apocalypse than I'd expected to be. Interesting stories, but the editing problems definitely were a distraction.(less)
"Marine Biology" was originally published in a paranormal romance collection, and has just been released as an ebook single. This is the first story o...more"Marine Biology" was originally published in a paranormal romance collection, and has just been released as an ebook single. This is the first story of Gail Carriger's that I've read that's set in the modern world, rather than the Victorian era. It's also - shocker! - set in the US. Not a single cup of tea throughout!
"Marine Biology" is a cute, light love story involving a reluctant werewolf hiding his sexuality and a few other key points from his he-man pack. When he and a gorgeous merman are thrown together to investigate some stolen money, sparks fly -- and precipate a few important moments of truth.
The mystery is rather beside the point. The fun is in meeting and appreciating the main characters, reading about pack dynamics (and barbeque social mores), and encountering a few interesting marine animals along the way.
Gail Carriger's humor and way with words shine through, as usual. Of course, if you really want to have fun, I'd highly recommend her Parasol Protectorate series. "Marine Biology" is a quick, diverting read, and would make a great dessert after a night of "serious" reading.(less)
I bought this collection of urban fantasy short stories specifically to get my hands on the new novella by Diana Gabaldon, "Lord John and the Plague o...moreI bought this collection of urban fantasy short stories specifically to get my hands on the new novella by Diana Gabaldon, "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies". For anyone devoted to the works of Diana Gabaldon, this is yet another fun addition to the Lord John series -- not exactly essential, but another chance to see Lord John apply his upper-crust British military efficiency to the solving of a seemingly supernatural mystery. Gabaldon knows how to please her fans. LJ&tPoZ includes just enough of all the elements that make her readers salivate, including a reference to our favorite red-headed Scot, Lord John's attraction to every well-formed male in his vicinity, and this time around, a cameo appearance of an important (though, at least for me, much despised) character from the Outlander series.
I'm sure the rest of the stories in this collection are quite good as well, and I'll get around to them eventually. For readers like me, the Lord John piece is reason enough to pick this one up.(less)
Wow, what a strange collection of stories. Margo Lanagan has a unique voice, creating rough-hewn characters with their own distinctive dialects, in wo...moreWow, what a strange collection of stories. Margo Lanagan has a unique voice, creating rough-hewn characters with their own distinctive dialects, in worlds foreign yet vaguely familiar. The stories in Black Juice cover a bizarre range of subjects, including an assassination spree aimed at clowns and a family whose obligation it is to physically change the seasons. My favorite of all -- and the one that will stay with me for a long time -- is "Singing My Sister Down", which simply has to be read, even if you choose to skip the rest of the book. Overall, I'd say Black Juice is weird, often creepy, and really quite good.(less)
I picked up "Strange Brew" for the sole purpose of reading the two stories in it by authors I love: Charlaine Harris and Jim Butcher. Jim Butcher's st...moreI picked up "Strange Brew" for the sole purpose of reading the two stories in it by authors I love: Charlaine Harris and Jim Butcher. Jim Butcher's story, "Last Call", is a straight-up Harry Dresden adventure, exactly what you'd want if you're a fan. Charlaine Harris's story, "Bacon", is a non-Sookie story set in the Sookie-verse, continuing the story of Dahlia, the vampire featured in "Tacky" (which appeared in the collection "My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding"). Although a tad convoluted, "Bacon" is worth reading, with a surprisingly dark ending. To be honest, I didn't bother with the rest of the stories in this collection, and don't intend to read them at a later date (although based on the quirky titles, I'm sure fans of those authors would want to read them all). However, I still consider "Strange Brew" satisfying, as it gave me a nice fix of Butcher and Harris, which is always welcome. (less)
I picked up "Songs of Love and Death" specifically to read the new story by Diana Gabaldon ("A Leaf on the Wind of All Saint's"), and it was certainly...moreI picked up "Songs of Love and Death" specifically to read the new story by Diana Gabaldon ("A Leaf on the Wind of All Saint's"), and it was certainly worth it! "Leaf" is a fantastic addition to Gabaldon's works in the Outlander series. Focusing on a character we've previously heard about but never met, this story explores a plot point introduced in the 7th book in the series, Echo in the Bone. Without going into detail, in order to avoid spoilers, all I can say is that Gabaldon's fans MUST read this story. Lots to think about, and very touching as well. Of course, there are many other stories in this anthology, which is described as focusing on tales of star-crossed lovers, with a supernatural twist. It includes a terrific piece by Neil Gaiman, which I highly recommend. This is a book that I think I'll come back to in between reading other things, rather than reading all in one sitting. Looking forward to enjoying the rest of the stories, and hope to perhaps encounter some new writers for future exploration.(less)
"You Know When The Men Are Gone" is an astonishingly lovely book of stories, focusing on the men and women of the Fort Hood army base in Texas. The st...more"You Know When The Men Are Gone" is an astonishingly lovely book of stories, focusing on the men and women of the Fort Hood army base in Texas. The stories are loosely connected, painting a slowly emerging portrait of the heartache and joys so specific to marriages separated by war. Bit by bit, the author depicts the army wife's agony of a year spent worrying, relying on static-filled phone calls to reassure herself that her husband, for now anyway, still lives and breathes; the terror of coming home after a year apart; navigating reentry into a life only imagined for a year; and the vast chasms that can open up under such circumstances, no matter how much love exists between two people. These stories are beautifully written, and drive home the unimaginable pain and sacrifice lived daily by these families, which most of us only learn about on the evening news. Highly recommended.(less)
Robin McKinley is the queen of modern fairy tale writers, and "Door in the Hedge" is an impressive addition to her works. DITH is McKinley's second pu...moreRobin McKinley is the queen of modern fairy tale writers, and "Door in the Hedge" is an impressive addition to her works. DITH is McKinley's second published work, after "Beauty", and contains four fairy tales -- two originals ("The Stolen Princess" and "The Hunting of the Hind"), and two traditional tales retold ("The Princess and the Frog" and "The Twelve Dancing Princesses"). As always, McKinley's use of language is flawless. Many recent retellings of fairy tales seem to bend over backwards to include modern language, as if looking for a hook for the reader. McKinley's uses her words as a paintbrush, so that the very vocabulary and sentence structure create the stories' atmosphere, as much as do her descriptions and narratives. The stories in DITH are lovely and compelling, and while the book is a quick read as a whole, the mood created lingers long after the stories end. Highly recommended for anyone new to the works of Robin McKinley, as well as anyone who loves well-written fantasy. Magical and unforgettable.(less)