All right guys let's take this one story at a time:
Rocky Mountain Wedding by Jillian Hart This is apparently the conclusion to a trilogy of short stori...moreAll right guys let's take this one story at a time:
Rocky Mountain Wedding by Jillian Hart This is apparently the conclusion to a trilogy of short stories featuring this family and their meddlesome mother. Having not read the other two I still found myself able to follow along and enjoy the story for itself. Mostly. While Melody believes Gabe to be mostly playing up how unhappy he is with the meddling his mother is doing, Gabe genuinely does not want anything to do with the woman. His little moments of 'well she's pretty and nice' are swiftly tossed away by his irritation.
It was a sweet story though and Melody was at least a spitfire.
Married in Missouri by Carolyn Davidson I can't be sure how purposeful this was, but this story feels almost exactly like the first story (just minus the confusion on who's bride she's meant to be). And unfortunately MARRIED IN MISSOURI suffers for it. Lucas and Elizabeth are just...boring. And rather repeatitive. And dull. The amount of times that Lucas either says or thinks that he got the perfect woman for him is tedious and Elizabeth, for all that she doesn't want to think about her almost fiancee Amos, spends A LOT of time thinking about how glad she is she didn't get stuck with him and how much better Lucas is and how miserable her sister must be.
And the ending is just contrived and ghoulish in so many ways.
Her Alaskan Groom by Kate Bridges
This is also part of an ongoing series. Cute and fluffy, I feel a little bad since by the time I got to this story I was so irritated by the previous one that I didn't give this one quite the chance I should have. John and Sophie were interesting and had fire, but the story just was kind of there. I found it interested that Sophie was a midwife, and that certain provided some good fodder for the supporting story, but as a romance it wasn't anything special to me.
Mail Order Brides is one of my favorite tropes--and one of the only ways I'll read American historical romances. That said this wasn't a keeper collection for me and I don't feel a need to seek out the authors other titles because of it. (less)
Prelim Review: In the end I was far more disappointed then I thought I would be, considering I greatly enjoy all three authors (and two of the series...morePrelim Review: In the end I was far more disappointed then I thought I would be, considering I greatly enjoy all three authors (and two of the series the stories are connected to).(less)
Before I start this review, I want to note something that’s more than a little important to the understanding of this book. This is an anthology writt...moreBefore I start this review, I want to note something that’s more than a little important to the understanding of this book. This is an anthology written solely by ethnic Chinese writers who live outside of China proper. In her introduction Tess Gerritsen explores the fact that growing up, she was immersed in the Chinese culture–its superstitions, cultural beliefs, etc., but as she grew up she felt less “Chinese” and more “American”: “I believed in science, not superstition. As my memories of childhood receded…I forgot just how Chinese I am” (pg 1, Tess Gerritsen). Every story in the anthology (all 18, which is a lucky number in Chinese numerology) is centered around the writers’ growing up Chinese, “…an identity that none of us ever truly escapes, though we may grow up far from the shores of China” (pg. 2, Gerritsen).
I’m thrilled by this notion and was eager and excited for this collection. I have a not-so-trivial complaint, however. The cover art. It’s pretty, to be sure, but that is a Western dragon depicted on the cover, not an Eastern dragon. Doesn’t matter, a dragon is a dragon, you say? Think again. Unlike their Western counterparts, Eastern Dragons were considered to be good luck symbols, wise advisers and revered as sacred because of their ties with the Emperor. For me this is rather disruptive and irritating.
Onto the stories, however, which in theory, should have made up for the cover art’s lack.
“The Character of the Hound” by Tony Pi I have never read nor heard of this writer before, but now I want to read more of his writings. Part cautionary tale for traitors, part murder mystery and learning when to compromise, this story was engaging from the first page. Wu Fan is an engineer for the Song Dynasty and is called upon to perform a special service for his country; he is to house a shen (spirit) to help solve a murder and theft. The story moves at an even pace, with Lu Fan and then Lu Fan/Quan Shen (Hound Spirit)’s narratives being distinct, but familiar. Its an interesting concept and one I hope the author explores in another short story or even a longer novel.
And that, my friend, ends what I enjoyed best about this anthology. The very first story in the collection is the only story I truly wanted to read again. The other seventeen stories failed to impress me, but more importantly they failed to entertain me. In William F. Wu’s “Going’ Down to Anglotown” I felt distinctly uncomfortable with the author’s depiction of what would have happened if Asia had more dominance over America than Europe. By the time I reached “Bargains” by Gabriela Lee (an author I’ve read before in the short story collection By Blood We Live) I was wondering if I had read the back cover correctly.
I have no doubt that the authors included are talented, and I’m likely to even enjoy a couple of them outside of this anthology, but I could not enjoy them this time around. I know better than to fully trust the backcover blurb on a book–they are rarely ever truly indicative of the book within–but the forward filled me with hope. I just wish the book had fulfilled that hope better.(less)
The holiday stories day 2! I don't romantic suspense that often--mainly because a lot of the novels I read already have suspense they just don't label...moreThe holiday stories day 2! I don't romantic suspense that often--mainly because a lot of the novels I read already have suspense they just don't label it as such, but hey its a Christmas collection! That means I want to read it!
I'll review each story individually then the collection as a whole.
"Must Love Santa" by Nina Bruhns
When a hot Santa who is really an undercover cop has a run-in with a sexy dog sitter unwittingly involved in his investigation, sparks fly. If only their two mischievous dogs...and the bad guys...weren't getting in the way.
So much love for this story. In short order we learn that Nick wants to join the K-9 unit after fulfilling his vow to a dying young girl, loves dogs and hates the creep trafficking in humans. We then learn that Emily hated the restlessness of the suburbs, wants a job in the city and isn't fond of walking dogs. Things happen, dogs are saved and of course, everyone gets a happy ending (except the creep trafficking in humans). Its a bit far-fetched and convenient, but I found the reveal of how the information is being passed to be rather ingenious (if flawed).
"The Old Man's Back in Town" by Ann Charles
In the lonely mining ghost town of Goldwash, Nevada, Christmas has come early. Unfortunately, the local bar owner must be on this year's naughty list, because Santa brought her something even worse than a piece of coal--her old man.
This is a prequel to the forthcoming series based in Goldwash, NV. Which I may read since this tickled my fancy. Kind of a groundhog day scenario--Montana keeps reliving when her ex-husband shows up at the bar, Joel's words "Come back to me Montana" echoing each time. I liked it--rougher then my usual romances, but Goldwash sounded interesting and I really wanted to know what was up with the dejavu. I do have a minor niggle--Montana says that she hasn't been as far 'west' as Montana (the state)...unless she lives at the very edge of Nevada's eastern border there's no possible way Montana is west of where she lives.
"I Love Lucy" by Rita Herron
All Lucy Lane wants for Christmas is to spend it with her family -- and the man she loves. Instead, she's on the run from a stalker!
This is apparently a sequel to the book Sleepless in Savannah which I haven't read. This was a decent story. I think it was unintentional on the author's part, but a lot of Reid's actions kind of mirrored Emmett's, at least I think they did, so it was a little creepy. Since this was a sequel everything about everyone was either quickly glossed over (Lucy's exotic dancer background, Reid being a construction worker) or not explained (I still have no Earthly clue how Reid/Lucy met, or Maddie and Chase or Lance and Sophie, who is Lucy's sister) so I didn't feel invested in the relationships.
"Christmas Corpse Caper" by Lois Lavrisa
Stuck at work on Christmas Eve, Mark Stevens plans to make the best of it. He may even wrangle a date with a co-worker he's loved since fifth grade. But his plan quickly goes awry when the night turns creepy with strange noises and a broken vase. And when a corpse vanishes, the question becomes whether he'll make it through the night without losing his sanity...or his life.
This is a prequel to the book Liquid Lies, which I haven't read and not likely to read (I'm not much for cozy mysteries, which this is more like then a romantic suspense). This was okay. Oddly this reminded me of the same feeling I have when I watch ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. Its a fairly wacky caper--two sisters, a father's inheritance, dorky guy trying to impress pretty girl--that while it doesn't have a whole lot of steam, delivers a couple of chuckles if you of the mood for corpse humor.
"A Very Shitake Christmas" by Patricia Mason
Two factors conspire to ruin a sexy private eye's holiday: her boyfriend's obnoxious father, and a mad bomber out for revenge. Enjoy the laugh-out-loud humor crossed with nail-biting suspense.
This is apparently a sequel to In Deep Shitake, which I also haven't read (kinda sensing a trend here...) and also unlikely to be reading. I got about halfway through the story when I realized I just wasn't that into it. Its kind of not really even set during Christmas? Its set in June, but Mo's boyfriend's father celebrates Christmas in June 'cause its more 'historically accurate for Christ's birth', so while there's all the trimmings its not the same at all. So this was a DNF story.
Overall I think this collection was decent. I definitely enjoyed the first two stories moreso then the other three (with the third story beating out the fourth story in enjoyment by a smidge), but for $0.99 its a quick, light treat that'll divert you before the holidays really send you off the cliffs of insanity.(less)
I didn't read the original anthology this is part of (Songs of Love and Death) though given the fact the original collection has almost a dozen author...moreI didn't read the original anthology this is part of (Songs of Love and Death) though given the fact the original collection has almost a dozen authors I like from various genres, I really should have. And maybe I will at some point (that is not right now). This collection however took 5 of the stories--how they were chosen I know not--and released them together as an ebook special.
I'll review each story separately and then my overall impression.
"The Marrying Maid" by Jo Beverly
Here she tells the story of a man wooing a very reluctant maid--with his life and the lives of all his relatives in the balance, all doomed to die if he can't overcome her resistance. Which is not going to be easy.
I typically like Jo Beverly's romances. Most have some sort of magical hint--overtly like this story with Oberon and Titania inferring left, right and center or more subtly, like a 'magic' locket. That said this one felt...off to me. The short format, plus the sudden urgency to the male's plight when a sudden realization hits upon him, made the genuineness of their 'love' feel artificial and as false as can be. This dampened the mood for me and left me feeling a bit uncomfortable.
"Blue Boots" by Robin Hobb
In this poignant story, Hobb shows us that although love can build bridges across the widest of chasms, those bridges can be swept away by a flood of troubles--but that sometimes, with luck and persistence, they can be built again.
The amount of love I feel for this story is manifold. Seriously. It feels a bit long-ish, as long chunks are reflective as Timbal tries to feel out her feelings and reason with her hormones, but it has a...I'm not sure what you would call it. It feels right. The length and narrative structure is like one the ballads Azen (the minstrel) sings about. I rooted for Timbal to find her happiness and despaired when it seemed like Azen was a lout. It had me engaged from beginning to end (though I do wish it could have been longer.
"You and You Alone" by Jacqueline Carey
A compelling and intricate tale that follows the consequences of a promise between star crossed lovers down through the generations--one with quite a high price in blood.
I'll be honest--most of my friends rave about Carey's novels in some fashion. I myself am not so taken with her writing. This story I believe is set in the same world as her Kushiel books (mainly because there's a lot of talk of Naamah and Kushiel's Chosen, but I can't say for sure where it falls in the chronology). And unlike does not end quite as...happily. Depending on what you consider to be happily I suppose. Its quite a romantic tale of tragedy, of losing love and regaining it and losing it again.
I suspect if I knew who Anafiel was, or what this plot he speaks of was really about I may have enjoyed this story better. As is I enjoyed it a lot for what it was (memories of a long gone past filled with regrets, selfish needs and selfless deeds) and wonder a bit at the rest.
"Under/Above the Water" by Tanith Lee
Its said that each of us has one special person in the world that we are destined to love, and that to miss meeting that special person, to go through life without them, is perhaps the worst tragedy that can befall you. Lee shows us that if you miss your destined lover in one lifetime, it may just be possible to find them in another...
I....have no idea what happened in this story. Um reincarnation? Maybe? Kind of? I enjoyed Lee quite a bit when I was younger (her Claidi Journals were boon companions of mine), but I can honestly say I don't remember the novels being this confusing (well the whole truth about who 'Claidi' kind of got confusing). Zaeli is on a trip to maybe feel something other then despair of her lost lover, Zehrendir is doing his best to find a reason to live on after losing the two people he trusted most--two different times, two different people but united. Somehow.
Yeah that's all I really understood.
"Demon Lover" by Cecelia Holland
There's a cost for everything, but here we learn that sometimes the cost can be must too high, no matter how glittering and wonderful the prize is--or seems to be.
I kind of liked this one. I didn't buy into the romance at the end. That is, I could have if Palo's introduction wasn't as bad it was and if it didn't feel like Fioretta settled for him because she felt she could do no better. The author mitigated it a little bit, but it still didn't excuse the abominable way Palo treated Fioretta originally and I found it hard to get over that. Also creepy castle is creepy.
Over all this was a nice sampling of what the anthology has to offer. I'll definitely be checking out the entire collection, there's a few other authors included I would enjoy I think, and this is definitely worth the price its at.(less)
Prelim Review: While this isn't a perfect book, this is a book to be damned proud of. This isn't just an anthology of short comics and pin-ups with a...morePrelim Review: While this isn't a perfect book, this is a book to be damned proud of. This isn't just an anthology of short comics and pin-ups with a glib theme of 'Women Empowerment' or a collection of stories that prove women are as cool as men (if not cooler). This is a book filled with stories about characters who face problems every girl goes through and yeah sometimes superpowers or magic helps to make things better, but it just as easily comes down to whether that young girl or woman is brave enough to embrace the ability to make a change.
Prelim review full review to be posted on Poisoned Rationality(less)
Hurley caught my attention with God's War, which was unexpectedly interesting to me despite being about as far out of my book reading interest scape a...moreHurley caught my attention with God's War, which was unexpectedly interesting to me despite being about as far out of my book reading interest scape as possible. I bought this e-book anthology of her short works from earlier magazines and online 'zines because I wanted to read more of her work.
Each comes with a brief recounting of where it was originally published and some other tidbits; how it was received or how much hate mail she still gets over certain stories for instance. I'm not certain if any of these are set in the same universe as GOD'S WAR, but they follow similar patterns and writing styles. Words, descriptions and the overall flow of each piece marks it as uniquely Hurley, but as I said makes it confusing as to whether they have any connection otherwise.
These aren't easy to read and I don't recommend them for anyone who is suffering some sort of anger or activist outrage--these ten stories will likely not do much to calm you down. In the story "Wonder Maul Doll" Hurley says
Give a woman a gun, and the power dynamics change. It’s not so much that I started out writing with the explicit goal of writing fiction that treated men and women equally (the “f” word), or even skewed the dynamics to matriarchy on occasion (which were always violent, too – you can’t oppress half of the world and have a peaceful society, no matter which half you’re oppressing. Sorry). It’s that I started writing stories I wanted to read. Gritty, brutal stories about screwed up people who also happened to be women. This story first appeared in From the Trenches: An SF War Anthology in 2006. In 2009, it was “reprinted” in EscapePod and reached a whole new audience of angry science fiction fans who felt I was gory for gory’s sake and moaned and groaned about what had happened to their happy-go-lucky Golden Age SF. “Where’s my cozy white guys rule the world stories?” they cried. These chicks ate it.
(Hurley, Kameron (2010-12-19). Brutal Women: The Short Stuff (Kindle Locations 775-783). Unknown. Kindle Edition.)
And that sums up her stories quite well. Her stories are violent, they feature women (primarily) doing atrocious things that in the past were seen as 'masculine' issues. The scary thing is that if you changed the gender of any of her narrators from female to male people wouldn't bat an eyelash. (Want a good example? Read "If Women Do Fall They Lie", guess the gender of the narrator, then switch it, does it change your perspective and opinion?).(less)
Prelim Review: Overall I have to say I was pretty pleased with this anthology. The stories were on the fairly short side, but were by in large really...morePrelim Review: Overall I have to say I was pretty pleased with this anthology. The stories were on the fairly short side, but were by in large really hot. Not all of them ended happily, some of the authors chose to stick closely to the ending of the original myth or tale (The True Folly of Icaraus by Saskia Walker for instance) and there were some surprises (The Lady of the Flowers is based on a Welsh legend) amongst the normally re-imagine Greek/Roman mythology.
And happiest of most I found a few new authors to pick up and try!
Full review to be posted at Night Owl romance(less)
This was a quick read for me for when I'm cooking or in between homework assignments. I enjoyed the anthology, for everything I questioned in the Harr...moreThis was a quick read for me for when I'm cooking or in between homework assignments. I enjoyed the anthology, for everything I questioned in the Harry Potter/magical boarding school world there was an answer in one of these stories pretty much. Some fared better then others (I thought the story "Boil and bubble" by Phaedra Wheldon could have benefited from a longer format while Jody Lynn Nye's "A Learning Experience" was perfectly suited to the shorter form), but they all entertained me.
I wouldn't mind if a few even got expanded in some way; Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Domestic Magic" was well contained, but had little hints at the end that there could be more to the story. Debra Dixon's "Coyote Run" was fascinating in how it approached the traditional role of the witches' familiar and I wouldn't mind if she explored Izzy's life after a bit more.
If you enjoy anthologies this is a solid one. Some of the authors are well known for their anthology works and others have longer novels that their shorter stories don't tie in with and thus don't do those longer works any great justice. In the end its not a bad way to pass some in between free time when a longer novel isn't possible.(less)
Prelim Review: I wouldn't necessarily say this is the best book ever, but as far as an anthology goes it has more than the normal amount of stories I...morePrelim Review: I wouldn't necessarily say this is the best book ever, but as far as an anthology goes it has more than the normal amount of stories I enjoyed.
From Tim Waggoner's "Do No Harm" (about a former Doctor, now Zombie Queen, who can't quite let go of the Hippocratic oath) to Seanan MacGuire's "Gimme a Z!" (about a cheerleader now zombie who just can't give up the school spirit) I found the anthology to be enjoyable.
My favorites were definitely Tim Waggoner, Seanan MacGuire, and Robert Sommers' stories, but there were very few I didn't enjoy. I found Robert Lee Byers' "Zombie Camp", about a vacationing couple who 'go Zombie' for a few hours each day, to be intriguing, but rather unsettling. That and Robert Sommers' story ("Into That Good Night") both had married couples and marriage at the center, but approached love in the time of zombies entirely different.
Full review to be posted at Night Owl Romance(less)