I'm not sure my review of this is really needed. If you're wanting to explore the world of the free Tor short stories, you should just check out karenI'm not sure my review of this is really needed. If you're wanting to explore the world of the free Tor short stories, you should just check out karen's reviews, which is where I find all the good ones. But I can't just leave this review space blank either, the story deserves more than that.
“Mama Alice would say that God never gives us any burdens we can’t carry.” The harpy says, Does she look you in the eye when she says that?
I find it amazing sometimes how I can read a 500-page novel and remain fairly emotionally detached, but some writers are just able to tear my heart open and leave me thinking about their story for hours... with just a few pages of powerful writing.
This story is so raw. The writing has an edgy, gritty, ugly honesty about it that drew me in and had me living inside the narrator's mind. I guess it's some kind of magical realism / dark fantasy if you want to get into genre-specifics but it's also way more than that. It's a portrait of a young girl called Desiree who was born disfigured and sick, a girl who is dying and must take pills every day... but she's not dying - in her own words - "fast enough".
"I’m dying. Just not fast enough. If it were faster, I’d have nothing to worry about. As it is, I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with my life."
If she had a couple of years, she could resign herself to her fate; if she had a full life, she could live it happily. But, instead, she's somewhere in between. Still dying, longing for everything normal people get to have, and having to decide what to do next with her half-life.
Every day, she visits the harpy who lives in an alley near her home; she feeds it garbage and the two form a strange kind of friendship... strange, but possibly the most genuine relationship in Desiree's life. Hell, I feel emotional just trying to write this damn review.
It's a very dark, bleak tale that you probably shouldn't read if you're feeling particularly depressed, but it was an incredibly effective piece of storytelling. I hung on the author's every word.
Honestly, this is one of the best YA anthologies I've ever read. Normally I can pick out one or two strong works amid a bunch of mediocre ones but, inHonestly, this is one of the best YA anthologies I've ever read. Normally I can pick out one or two strong works amid a bunch of mediocre ones but, in this case, there was only one story I didn't enjoy. I think Suma's remained my favourite throughout but I also absolutely loved Marie Lu's creepy closet girl. So many great stories here, all inspired by various movies, books and music.
The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma 5 stars This was a fantastic start to the collection. The author's eerie, poetic writing style is well-suited to short stories, particularly horror ones. Lots of strangely beautiful imagery, as well as birds, creepy men and a little taste of truth: "Teenage girls know more than we’re given credit for."
In the Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan 4 stars A nod to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and even stranger and creepier than the original. This is about monsters, little girls with big imaginations and, of course, tea parties in the forest. "They wanted the safe answer. The one that reassured them that all monsters are filled with darkness."
Emmeline by Cat Winters 4 stars Nobody does creepy historical fiction with a touch of romance quite like Cat Winters, even when she's writing short stories. This one isn't very scary but it is unsettling, evocative and sad too, set in France during the First World War. "Boys were curious creatures by nature."
Verse Chorus Verse by Leigh Bardugo 4 stars This isn't my favourite of Bardugo's short stories - that would be The Too-Clever Fox - but it is very good. It's about a teen starlet (and her mother) who gets sentenced to rehab and finds a lot more than she bargained for within the centre's walls. I'm not sure I "get" the ending, but it did creep me out a lot. “Her chest was tight, the breath caught there, captive against her ribs. Something was in that room with her daughter."
Hide and Seek by Megan Shepherd 4 stars This was an excellent and fast-paced tale of cheating death. When Annie dies, Crow Cullom comes to take her soul, but Annie knows how the rules go. If she can win a game against death, her life will be hers again. In a 24-hour hide and seek marathon, Annie must avoid the traps death has set out - but is it really possible to hide from death? "When does the game begin?" she asked.
The Dark, Scary Parts and All by Danielle Paige 2 stars In an anthology filled with many fascinating, complex and twisted female characters, this one instead offers a Mary Sue, bitchy high school mean girls, and a supernatural love interest. “But Damien Thorne was not supposed to be looking at me. He was supposed to be looking at someone with longer limbs, a face with more angles than circles, and a dress that was bought this decade."
The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh by April Genevieve Tucholke 3 stars This story pulls inspiration from two well-known horror classics and it never quite touches upon the darkness and fear of either. In fact, it rather superficially recreates the plots of both in a mash-up that feels contrived rather than scary. "Headlights. Someone's coming. Someone's coming."
Fat Girl With a Knife by Jonathan Maberry 3 stars Predictably, Maberry goes the zombie route for his horror short. It was entertaining and introduced us to Dahlia - a complex character and high school "fat girl" - but it wasn't that original and it didn't contain any of the creepy atmosphere that many of the other stories created. The two stories that are very high school clique-centric haven't impressed me as much. "That's when Dahlia knew that something was a lot more wrong than boyfriend problems."
Sleepless by Jay Kristoff 4 stars This is a story of twists and turns that made me smile almost as much as it creeped me out. I think it would have been a little better if I hadn't seen the movie it's obviously based on, but I still very much enjoyed it. There was plenty I didn't see coming. "Sometimes I wonder if the right girl is out there. Sometimes I wonder if Momma isn't right about all of them."
M by Stefan Bachmann 3.5 stars Children reciting creepy rhymes has to be one of the scariest things, right? Well, I think so. And this story is written from the perspective of a blind narrator, which makes it all the more eerie to imagine the sounds of the rhyme coming to you in the darkness. "L is for Louis, who douses the spark, M is for Misha, who sits in the dark..."
The Girl Without a Face by Marie Lu 5 stars Wow, that was amazing! The most traditionally scary story in the collection (I was genuinely looking over my shoulder) but also very psychological and very clever. Lu blurs the line between realistic and supernatural in a story that is gruesome, chilling and sad in ways you probably won't expect. Plus, closets and mirrors *shivers* "As he drifted off, he realized that the shuffling sound seemed to come from behind the closet door."
A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow by McCormick Templeman 3 stars This story wasn't as compelling as some of the others and I found myself almost wanting to skim-read some parts(which is pretty unforgivable in a short story). Though the setting is perhaps the most different and exciting and the talk of "night creatures" watching from the trees was indeed unsettling, it was the characters that let it down for me. "And for a moment, she had something like a premonition, a feeling that something terrible was watching her, something hungry and sick."
Stitches by A.G. Howard 4 stars Definitely not one for the sqeamish! Not only is this story graphic and gory, but some of the imagery used made me cringe. But if you can stomach it, it's an excellent story that continued to surprise me. And what an opening line! "The first time the wrens sang at night was three years ago, when I used a rusty saw to cut off Pa's left foot."
On the I-5 by Kendare Blake 3.5 stars I really liked this but I think being the last story was a disservice to the tale - the others that came before it made the reveals less shocking. But it is suitably creepy and ends with a combination of horror and sadness. "She wasn't stupid. She was just sad. And young. So full of life, she thought she could afford to lose some."
All quotes were taken from an ARC and are subject to change by the final publication.
1) This story is wonderful. 2) It has nothing to do with the Grisha trilogy. 3) I don't particularly like the Grisha trilogy - first one was okay but the second was disappointing, IMO. Haven't read the third. 4) This is a little folk tale about a fox who survives by outsmarting others - but has he finally met his match? 5) It's just the right amount of dark. 6) Just read it. You don't even have to spend anything :)...more
Like almost all short story collections by various authors, this one is a mixed bag of hidden gems and ones I didn't even finish. If you'd asked me beLike almost all short story collections by various authors, this one is a mixed bag of hidden gems and ones I didn't even finish. If you'd asked me beforehand to name a list of YA authors that I'd like to appear in a short story collection, many of the ones here would have made that list: Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, Holly Black, Gayle Forman, David Levithan and maybe Rainbow Rowell (I like but don't love her books).
Then if you'd asked me what kind of short story collection I'd like to have from these favourites of mine, you would have got all kinds of weird and wonderful suggestions from me... but a collection of holiday-themed romances would never have occurred to me as something enjoyable. I'm not much of a romantic or a Christmas person, to be honest. I'm more of a Halloween type of girl - and all the genres that could possibly go with it. But I did get some really nice surprises here. I'm not sure it's worth buying the entire collection but it would be sad for you to miss out on the better ones. And it is a pleasingly diverse set of stories, filled with people of all races, ethnicities, religions and sexualities *thumbs up*
Personally, I think this book starts and ends with the two best stories, from Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor respectively. Taylor's work came as no surprise but I didn't see Rowell's tale coming. She really hit me where it hurts (in a good way). The story made me sit up and take notice in a collection that I wasn't sure would be my thing. I'm not going to review every single story properly because some didn't pique my interest and some I skim-read, but here's what I thought.
"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell - 5/5 This was my favourite story and it probably wasn't a good idea for it to appear first because so many that followed received unfair comparisons with it. It tells the story of the midnight countdown on New Year's Eve over several years, revisiting the same characters in a non-chronological order and slowly filling in the blanks on their personalities and relationship. It amazed me how much I fell in love with the two protagonists, how well-developed their characters were in so short an amount of time and pages.
“You’re a kaleidoscope. You change every time I look away.”
It was a funny, sweet, wonderful little story. With a hint of melancholy, as all the best New Year stories should be. There's something really sad about the possibility of the new and moving on and becoming someone else, not being who you once were. Rowell captures that hint of fear people have about growing up and everyone they once knew changing around them.
"The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link - 2/5 This was one I didn't read properly. It started well and had an intriguing premise but I grew bored.
"Angels in the Snow" by Matt De La Pena - 3/5 I really liked the idea of this one and my only real problem with it was that I didn't like the female love interest. It was refreshing to see a YA romance told from a male perspective and I liked the subtle exploration of race and racial stereotyping that existed without overtaking the main story. It's about a guy who is house-sitting for his boss over the Christmas period and is slowly starving in a house with no food (he is broke). An encounter with his pretty neighbor sparks an interesting and unlikely relationship that is built up through the telling of stories.
Indulging more and more tidbits about each others lives, the two grow closer. But how much of what they tell each other is the truth?
"Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me" by Jenny Han - 2/5 It must just be something about Jenny Han's writing style that doesn't agree with me because I've been unable to like any of her books. I started to skim read this story and I can't actually remember what it's about. Hence, no real review. Oh well...
"It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins - 4/5 I'm really not surprised that Perkins delivered. It was her name that I saw first on this collection and I added it immediately before checking out who else was included. Her stories are always so cute and sweet, but without too much of the cheesy. This one is no exception.
Unlike Rowell's story - that deals with a relationship over the period of several years - Perkins tells us a love story that takes place over just a few hours. And it is surprisingly effective. She builds instantly likable characters and uses her gift for dialogue to convince you to root for the two protagonists even after such a short amount of time. It is one of the more feel-good, enjoyable stories in here, but it also deals with anxieties about the future and the expectations other people have of you.
"Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan - no rating I didn't read far enough with this one because I felt no connection to the characters, which is why I'm not leaving a rating or review. I'm extremely pleased that an LGBT romance was included in the collection, I know some romance collection publishers in the past have been douches about it, but I wasn't grabbed by the story. As much as I have enjoyed Levithan's work in the past, most of his more recent stuff hasn't really worked for me.
"Krampuslauf by Holly Black" - no rating Sometimes I love Holly Black so much that I get pulled in and completely addicted to her stories. And sometimes her style does nothing for me. This time was the latter. Didn't finish.
"What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman - 3/5 This story is about a Jewish girl who moves to college in a small, very Christian place where she feels like a complete outsider. There she meets a black boy who is equally treated like an outsider and these two big city small town misfits find something important in each other. I liked it okay.
The characters were interesting enough that I read to the end and enjoyed reading about their relationship. However, I think the story was built up solely around addressing racial and religious stereotypes, which I agree is important, but here it overshadowed everything else that happened. Most of the dialogue was made up of the two protagonists discussing the way other people saw them in this new town. I understand the idea about outsiders coming together, but I got the impression that these two got together simply because she was Jewish and he was black. Plus, the ending got a little too cheesy for me.
"Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire - no rating I didn't read this one. Someone tell me if it's good and I'll go try it :)
"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White - 3/5 White is not one of my favourite authors. I've tried a bunch of her books and never been able to get into them or understand the hype. So I didn't have much hope for this one, but I tried it and it was better than expected. Unlike most of the authors in this collection, White goes with a quirky, funny style that was easy to digest and enjoyable. The characters weren't as memorable as some of the others, but I did get a few laughs from it.
"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter - no rating I didn't try reading this one either because it just didn't appeal to me. Feel free to let me know if it's good.
"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor - 5/5 *sigh* And finally... Laini Taylor is so reliably, consistently good in her storytelling and her beautiful, evocative language. In a collection full of contemporaries, she manages to take us into her own fantasy world and breathe some magic and wonderful prose into the holiday season.
All evening long, real snow would fall from the ceiling to glitter on the lashes of dancing girls and ardent boys, but Neve and the Dreamer didn’t linger. They had other things to do: all of them. All the things, dreamed and undreamed, in the depth and breadth of the whole spinning world.