Two stars means "it was ok" and that's exactly what this was. It's just a very short prequel to The Wrath and the Dawn where Khalid first meets ShahrzTwo stars means "it was ok" and that's exactly what this was. It's just a very short prequel to The Wrath and the Dawn where Khalid first meets Shahrzad and can tell she hates him with a burning passion. I know it's just supposed to be a glimpse into his first impression of her, but I couldn't help thinking "is that it?"
This was a great collection. It's so many things: diverse, creative, funny and sad. That's actually what surprised me most of all: overall, this was aThis was a great collection. It's so many things: diverse, creative, funny and sad. That's actually what surprised me most of all: overall, this was a very melancholy, bittersweet collection, especially when compared to the mostly fun and feel-good My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. The cover makes it look very cutesy, but it tackles a lot of important issues.
"Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo - 4.5/5 This was such a great place to start. Bardugo writes some of the best short stories and this bittersweet, summery love story about river spirits was no exception. It's full of blazing atmosphere and lyrical fairy tale quality, with an ending I didn't see coming. “The summer took on a different shape - a desperate, jagged shape, the rise and fall of a dragon’s back. The world felt full of hazards. Every song on every album bristled with portent.”
"The End of Love" by Nina Lacour - 4/5 A lovely lesbian romance about a girl whose parents are divorcing, so she escapes from home by attending summer school and going camping with new friends (and the object of her affection). It's sweet, touching and the atmosphere is full of summer possibility. “Just because a person reveals something to you about yourself doesn’t mean they’re meant to do more than that."
"Last Stand At the Cinegore" by Libba Bray - 2/5 This one didn't work as well for me. It's less romantic and atmospheric, choosing instead to be a silly, lighthearted ode to classic horror movies. Lots of quirky references and some funny moments, but most of the humour wasn't to my tastes. The plot felt a little scattered and messy too. “Your emotions get super weird after you’ve been hunted by demons and forced to banish your boss to hell.”
"Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block - 4/5 I'm still reeling from this story because it was one that snuck up on me. It doesn't end how you think it will and it left me feeling quite overwhelmed with emotion, especially after I spent most of the story thinking it was just "okay". It's a heady, drug-fuelled summer haze of a read, and the ending was one I couldn't stop thinking about. “It can be hard to understand why we run toward certain people and away from others at different times in our lives. Why we search so hard for that thing we are looking for, and then run so fast when we find it.”
‘‘In Ninety Minutes Turn North’’ by Stephanie Perkins - 3.5/5 Perkins' stories are just so damn cute. This continuation of her story in the winter anthology sees a return to the relationship between Marigold and North. In truth, I'm not sure we needed to return here and part of me would have liked to see something completely new, and yet it was still sweet and adorable. It's pretty obvious how the story will play out, but fun to watch it happen. She smiled. “You’ve always been my favourite character.”
‘‘Souvenirs’’ by Tim Federle - 3.5/5 This one made me sad. It's "break-up day" for Matt and Kieth before they part ways. The characters were well-drawn and developed in the small amount of page time the author had and it left me with a lot of emotions. It's a gay romance/break-up with Dickens references and a lingering bittersweetness. Our first kiss happened beneath a murky moon, with mosquitoes buzzing around me like a halo.
‘‘Inertia’’ by Veronica Roth - 2/5 I really didn't care for Roth's short. Arguably, this was the most creative of the bunch with a sci-fi setting and memory play, but it honestly felt like another Tris and Four story. Long, lacking in chemistry and quite boring for the most part. “Come on. This isn’t where the story starts.” He reached for my hand, and the scene changed.
‘‘Love is the Last Resort’’ by Jon Skovron - 3/5 Hmm, I quite enjoyed how this one played out, but there were way too many characters for a short story. Still, it was enjoyable and fit well with the summer theme - set in a vacation resort where a bunch of teens play at matchmaking. Very light, funny and breezy compared to the other stories. Dear reader, I want to assure you that this is not a story about love or romance, regardless of what you may have read on the cover.
‘‘Good Luck and Farewell’’ by Brandy Colbert - 4/5 Another quite dark tale that opens up on a Chicago beach, summer sun shining down and sand between the characters' toes. However, it soon becomes clear that all is not well and Rashida's beloved cousin is moving to San Francisco with her girlfriend. What follows is a story about grief, depression and race, offering up a diverse, important addition to the anthology. More about love in all forms, than simple romance. She loves me, but that’s a different kind of love, and it’s not enough to make her stay.
‘‘Brand New Attraction’’ by Cassandra Clare - 2/5 The only thing that saves this from 1 star is the description of the carnival. I guess I'm one of those people that enjoys the creepy glow of carnivals, the mysteries lurking in the Tunnel of Terror, and the talk of popcorn and cotton candy. Other than that, though, the story lacks a hook. And, given the opportunity to write any kind of love story, with any kind of love interest, Clare decides to write about two cousins? Not my thing. Yeah, yeah, I get that they aren't "blood-related", but still not my thing. I tried to decide if it was immoral to lust after your step-cousin. I figured it wasn't. We weren't actually related. No shared blood.
‘‘A Thousand Ways this Could All Go Wrong’’ by Jennifer E. Smith – 3.5/5 This story grew in strength as it progressed. Initially, I thought this was standard romance fare that one would expect from the author, but things are gradually revealed that will change our minds. I especially liked the way our perception of the male love interest shifts as new information is brought to light. Slow-burn and natural. "Well," he says with a shrug, "there was only ever two options. Either it was going to be fine or it wasn't."
‘‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’’ by Lev Grossman - 4/5 I really didn't expect to like this one so much after my bad experience with The Magicians, but maybe Grossman's writing style is more suited to shorts. I found this Groundhog Day love story intelligent, thought-provoking and different. Unlike many of the others, it keeps you asking questions until the end. Here we were, the last boy and girl on earth, and I couldn’t think of anything to say.
The first part of this short story is... expected. It is exactly what I would expect from Gillian Flynn. An unnamed female narrator manipulates peopleThe first part of this short story is... expected. It is exactly what I would expect from Gillian Flynn. An unnamed female narrator manipulates people every day in her job - from giving hand jobs to wealthy men to reading people's "auras".
I didn't stop giving hand jobs because I wasn't good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.
She's smart, ambitious and perceptive. She has a laid back attitude towards sex, even as a form of manipulation. And she isn't afraid to screw people over to better herself. This is a character we would expect from Flynn.
However, the middle part of the story was, for me, the strongest. It is definitely very creepy and leaves you wondering whether this is a thriller or whether something supernatural is happening. Very psychological, very scary, and with twists and turns I didn't see coming.
The final third of the book, though, was where things got a little nuts. "Reveals" and "twists" went back on themselves (or did they?) and the ending gives us nothing. Ambiguous endings work sometimes, but this was a little too much of a non-ending for me....more
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