This is a collection of short stories written by Laini Taylor and beautifully illustrated by her husband Toni Di Bartolo. The artwork is stunning andThis is a collection of short stories written by Laini Taylor and beautifully illustrated by her husband Toni Di Bartolo. The artwork is stunning and gorgeous and perfectly fits the stories. Although the artwork preceeds each story it's only after you've finished the story that you truly understand what each image is saying and how they inter-relate. The stories themselves are an interesting mix. My favorite was the longest, Hatchling and definitely well written as is all of Taylor's work. She has a knack for writing strong characters and lush prose that brings the stories to life. Her descriptions and dialogue are always perfect. I was unhappy with the ambiguous ending of the Goblin Market story as it seemed weak-willed for the main character but other than that the stories were memorable and well done. This is a perfect collection to curl up with on a cold, dark night. ...more
An excellent mix of short stories. As usual Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs were the main impetus for me to read this anthology, but there was a lot oAn excellent mix of short stories. As usual Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs were the main impetus for me to read this anthology, but there was a lot of other good stories as well. Normally I like about a quarter of the stories in an anthology, but this one topped out at a little over half. A satisfying read and an excellent way to pass an evening....more
For fans of Doctor Who this collection of eleven stories offers the perfect blend of excellent writers and excellent stories. Like most collections thFor fans of Doctor Who this collection of eleven stories offers the perfect blend of excellent writers and excellent stories. Like most collections there are a few stories that lag behind the others a bit, but each is true to the doctor it features. If you love Doctor Who definitely give the stories a read....more
I'd prefer to give the overall anthology a 2.5. Less than half the stories are actually worth reading (at least by my preferences).
Stories to definitI'd prefer to give the overall anthology a 2.5. Less than half the stories are actually worth reading (at least by my preferences).
Stories to definitely check out (4 stars): Improbable Futures, The Chosen One, Gentlemen Send Phantoms and Homecoming. One's to give a try(3 stars): Death for the Deathless, Misery, The Killing Garden. Detailed descriptions and reviews for each short story are below.
Reviews for each of the short stories in this anthology. Gentleman Send Phantoms by Laini Taylor - (4 Stars) Three girls bake a special cake that will reveal their true love and all hope to see the same boy.
an awesome, sweet little story. It's like a delicious bite of cotton candy that just makes you smile. I love Laini Taylor's writing style and this is classic Taylor - filled with vivid, beautiful descriptions and a fairytale, lilting tone. Plus, the title deserves five stars.
Burned Bright by Diana Peterfreund - ( 2 stars) At a religious compound the faithful prepare for the rapture, but despite her fervent faith the prophet's daughter is not carried up to heaven.
I read an eBook version of this anthology. Had it been a physical book I'd have flung it across the room after reading this story. The scene description and imagery are vivid and well done, the characters are also vivid. There's no denying Peterfreund is a strong writer. However, the story itself is less than satisfying. It follows a cult-leader's daughter after she believes her family and most of her father's followers have been raptured up to heaven. There's no character progression at all for Bright or the other POV character, Sam, in this story. Both end the short exactly as they began it - Sam doubting Bright's father for the first time, and Bright utterly devout in her belief in her father's prophecy. More-over, the ending feels like a gimmicky trick and an easy out for Bright, whose faith is never really challenged at all. That lack of progression and growth made the story feel stagnant.
The Angriest Man by Lisa McMann - (2 stars) On his eighteenth birthday a young man sets out to find the grave of the angriest man. All his life the young man's mother told him that he was born wrong, filled with anger, because of the angriest man.
The descriptions in this story are good and I like McMann's word use/choices. She has some very vivid imagery. However, the story is barely coherent and I have no idea what really happened. I can't pin down her main character or the other characters in the story. The entire story reads like a bad drug trip pretending to be a folk tale.
Out of the Blue by Meg Cabot (2.5 stars) When twins KC & Kyle Conrad were six they had a close encounter with a flying saucer and the spaceman inside. He left them with identical blue dots on their skin to record data about the human race. No one believed them of course and the dots were chalked up as a rare type of mole. Ten years later, when KC makes an imprudent blog post about her close encounter all hell breaks loose and the spaceman returns.
This story started out with a lot of promise. The descriptions and characterization are great and the initial situation is an intriguing one. However, like many stories, that initial promise falls apart in the end and what might have been an intriguing character study turns into just another saturday morning monster special.
One True Love by Melinda Lo (2.5 stars) Princess Essylt is destined to overthrow her father when she meets her true love, according to a prophecy at her birth. In reaction, the king locks Essylt in a tower and isolates from all contact with men. Seventeen years later the king is set to marry for the third time - a young girl from an island nation. His jealously leads him to isolate the future queen in the West Tower with his daughter where the two become close friends and something more.
This short story is pedantic in every way. Every section is predictable and the situation completely cliche. The story relies on shock value alone, which isn't much of a shock, as a gimmick. So the princess falls in love a girl, big deal. That role reversal in the standard damsel in distress/knight in shining armor story isn't enough to sustain this story and make it interesting. I'm all for LGBT literature, but not just for the sake of being LGBT - give me a good story with compelling characters.
This is a Mortal Wound by Michael Grant (2 stars) In the year 2017, education has advanced by leaps and bounds and traditional schools and books are a thing of the past. Thirteen-year-old Tomaso disrespects his English teacher for clinging to her books and ignoring the Internet technology at everyone's fingertips. When Tomaso moves to San Francisco he thinks he's well away from Ms. Gill forever. Unfortunately for him she goes off the deep-end, kidnaps a bunch of kids and chains them to desks and forces them to learn their lessons from old books.
The premise of this story is ridiculous, the characters are cardboard cutouts without a spark of life and the twist in the story and resolution are so laughably thin that it's hard not to cringe.
Misery by Heather Brewer (3 stars) Alek & Sara are teens in a weird town where there is no color, no one smiles and a weird melancholy hangs over everything. As the two queue up to receive 'gifts' from a psychic who seems to run the town Alek feels a nameless dread and soon finds that everything he knows about the town of Misery is wrong and his life is about to change in big ways.
This story has an intriguing premise and the descriptions are well done. It feels a bit rushed but overall not a bad story.
The Mind Is A Powerful Thing by Matt De La Pena (2 stars) Joanna' s 16th birthday is marred by her unreasoning anxiety that she and her friends will be victims in a violent crime. Joanna's anxieties color every part of her world and staring her friendships, to the point that she considers running away from one of her closest friends because she's convinced herself he must a stalker.
This story is bleak and pointless. There is no ebb and flow, no rhythm, just fast forward crazy without hope. It's a personal preference but I can't stand stories that are all downhill with no ups, no hope and no chance for redemption. Moreover Joanna is an unsympathetic character and I was never able to connect with or care about her.
The Chosen One by Saundra Mitchell (4 stars) Corvina is the king's illegitimate daughter and has served as hand-maiden to her half-sister, the crown princess of Vernal, all her life. When Corvina's sister falls deathly ill Corvina sets out on a quest to find a fabled cup that may save her sister.
This story is one of the shining gems in the anthology. The main characters are well fleshed out and likable and I love that Mitchell chose to make a main character who is NOT a classic beauty but a scarred and humble girl. Corvina's earnestness and good heart make her an appealing character and while the quest seems too easy in many ways and far from original, Corvina's character makes the story worth the read. I really enjoyed this one.
Improbable Futures by Kami Garcia (3.5-4 stars) Stuck telling fortunes at a traveling carnival, a young girl hands out only bad news to her clients and discovers one day that her predictions are all coming true. The carnival is the only life Ilana has ever known and the one her mother wants but Ilana feels trapped and helpless, terrorized by the carnival's manager who has a preference for young girls.
Vivid descriptions and characterization bring this story to life. It's a not a fluffy tale but it has a raw honesty to it that feels right. One of the better stories in the anthology.
Death for the Deathless by Margaret Stohl (3 stars) A pair of immortal vampires, Adi & Luc, must deliver the news to others of their kind that by the end of the evening they will all die. The immortal group has taken the name Nostradamus through the years, inventing the man, to deliver their prophecies and in their way the prophecies are never wrong. Faced with death the immortal community surrenders to chaos as Adi & Luc watch.
An intriguing premise with well thought out characters and a nice twist. One of the better stories in the anthology. Though I would say it's only loosely YA - the characters may look like teens but they're several hundred years old.
Fate by Simone Elkeles (2 stars) When Carson moves into a trailer park he inherits more than the decrepit old trailer, he gets his irrepressible neighbor, Willow, as well.
This story is utterly maddening. I fail to see how it ties into the anthology theme and there is NO point to the story. No conflict, no up and down, just a steady monotonous drone. Willow comes across as twelve not sixteen and so unbelievably naive and sweet and disingenuous that she loses any chance at coming across as a real, believable character. This is a cotton candy story but one without any satisfaction in it because it isn't a story at all - it's a long drawn out ancedote. I didn't connect with either character.
The Killing Garden by Carrie Ryan (3 stars) Tanci assumed the position of Gardner and executioner in the emperor's court when she was 15. Over the years she has chased numerous condemned prisoners through the elaborate gardens in a deadly footrace that always ends in her strangling the life out of the prisoners. Then one day Tanci meets a prisoner in the dungeons she doesn't want to kill - Rete a handsome man who refuses to tell her why he has been condemned to die.
It's hard to connect with Tanci as a character or feel sympathy with her. She willingly murders people, hundreds of people, without question. In one scene she even kills her best friend merely because the emperor ordered her too and even though she has no idea why her friend has been sentenced to die. Tanci is merely a tool, as she notes. But it's rather hard to sympathize with a gun or an axe and though Tanci ultimately begins to doubt her position it's too little too late for me to really like her or root for her. Rete's presence and affection for Tanci seems contrived, rather than a natural progression of the story. This isn't a bad story, but not one I especially liked either.
Homecoming by Richelle Mead - (4 Stars) If you've read and enjoyed Richelle Meads Vampire Academy series you'll love this story. It's a little moment in time with Rose and Dimitri long after fans thought we wouldn't be getting any more significant time with two characters we've loved. For that reason alone, I love the story. It's also classic Rose and Dimitri and just a sweet, nice little peek into their lives. Filled with vivid characters, great dialogue and action it's a fast paced story. If you've never read Vampire Academy I'm not sure it will have as much charm, as the back story on the characters really makes this short come to life. ...more
It's hard to find a good anthology where the majority of the stories are well done and worth a read. I can usually find one or two stories I like in mIt's hard to find a good anthology where the majority of the stories are well done and worth a read. I can usually find one or two stories I like in most anthologies, but more than that is rare. An Apple for the Creature had 7 out of 13 stories that I enjoyed. Not a fantastic record but certainly better than most. For that reason, and the fact that I really enjoyed some of the stories a great deal, I'm giving the overall anthology a 3.5 rating. Individual ratings and reviews for each of the stories are below - I've done my best not to give away spoilers on any of them.
Playing Possum by Charlaine Harris (2 stars) Sookie Stackhouse short story- Sookie and a witch combine forces to thwart a crazy man intent on shooting up the local elementary school. needlessly long with all of the action and events packed int o the last quarter of the story. I'm sure the story will appeal to long-time Sookie Stackhouse fans, but overall it leaves me cold.
Spellcaster 2.0 by Jonathan Mayberry (2 stars) When someone sabotages the spell database a group of college kids is assembling, the demon summoning ritual their professor performs goes very wrong. Slow pace, long drawn out denoument. Semi-interesting characters but they feel like cardboard caricatures.
Academy Field Trip by Donald Harstad (4 stars) A special task force recruits a young law enforcement rookie to help hunt down a real life vampire. Nice twist ending, great descriptions, dialogue and characterization. Really good story overall.
Sympathy for the Bones by Marjorie M. Liu (4 stars) Clora is the local witchy woman's assistant, chafes at her mistress's hold on her and plots a way out. Interesting characters, good descriptions and pace. Good story overall.
Low School by Rhys Bowen (1 star) Hell manifests as the proverbial high school nightmare featuring demonic bullies, impossible tests and monstrous teachers dealing out torment. So utterly cliche it's cringe worthy. Predictable and filled with overdone tropes. I couldn't stop rolling my eyes throughout the story and wincing at every other paragraph. This story aims for literary analogy, trying so desperately to be clever it's like one of the pathetic students given lip-service in the narrative.
Callie Meet Happy by Amber Benson (1 star) Calliope Reaper Jones is sent to remedial Worm Hole Conjuring class and ends up opening a worm hole to another dimension just in time to save a ditzy actress and her hard-pressed personal assistant. The writing is clunky and uneven, each sentence filled with so many adjectives they practically out weigh any action in the narrative. I cringed at having a character named 'Happy' and the characters overall were very one-dimensional.
Iphigenia in Aulis by Mike Carey (4 stars) Melanie is trapped in a special school where the children are strapped in their chairs for lessons and never, ever touched or shown any affection. Really well written, interesting characters and a tiny bit of a twist. The surprise twist is predictable but in an enjoyable way and handled well. Great descriptions and dialogue.
Golden Delicious by Faith Hunter (4 stars) Rick LeFleur is sent to Psi-LED for training to become part of a special all paranormal task force, but he can't graduate unless he solves a violent and politically volatile murder case. Another fantastic addition to the Faith Hunter world and series. This one stands well on its own, however, for anyone who hasn't read the series. Great writing, good pacing, and characters you can't help but love.
Magic Tests by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) Julie ends up testing out a new school her adoptive parents want her to attend by helping find a missing girl. Another great addition to the Kate Daniels word but also a good stand alone story. I really like the character development Julie gets in this short piece. Well paced, well written and an engaging read.
An Introduction to Jewish Myth and Mysticism by Steve Hockensmith (2.5 stars) When a colleague's abusive ex moves back to town, a mild-mannered professor steps in with his supernatural talents to run the abuser off. This story left me tepid - it's not particularly bad but it's not great either. There is some truly cringe-worthy dialogue and the Hulk references were utterly cliche and annoying. The pace was rather slow and the twist ending was too little, too late and with too little interest.
VSI by Nancy Holder (4 stars) A pair of FBI detectives are forced to attend special training over the Thanksgiving Holiday, only to discover that vampires are real and at least one vamp has turned serial killer. Really good characterization, well written with good dialogue, pacing and a nice twist. Definitely an author I'll check out in future.
The Bad Hour by Thomas Sniegoski A fallen angel turned PI investigates strange occurrences at a local dog kennel and obedience school. I'm not a huge fan of talking animals, as they are so rarely done well. This is another case in point. The dogs in this short story are annoying and grate on the nerves. The plot seems thready and the action uneven. I wasn't a terribly big fan of the main character either. A disappointing read overall.
Pirate Dave and the Captain's Ghost by Toni L.P. Kelner While at a werewolf retreat a solo wolf is haunted by a belligerent ghost when he learns her boyfriend is a vampire. Based on the ridiculous story name and the overdone werewolves and vampires trope, I expected to thoroughly hate this story. I was wrong. This short story is the perfect example of how a good writer can make something out of even the most implausible idea and beaten to death theme. Great dialogue, a bit of a twist, good description and likable characters. There were a few aspects, in regard to the ghost's actions in the ending, that stretch credulity but overall this was a fun read. ...more
A nice collection of all the Dresden Files short stories to date. I loved these and read the appropriate stories between each book. A fun, delicious lA nice collection of all the Dresden Files short stories to date. I loved these and read the appropriate stories between each book. A fun, delicious little read and the perfect treat at the end of the day. Now that I'm through with these and Ghost Story, I'm desperately eager to read the next Dresden Files book!...more
A collection of 13 short stories from the Jane Yellowrock series, including several new stories and several previously published pieces. I love all ofA collection of 13 short stories from the Jane Yellowrock series, including several new stories and several previously published pieces. I love all of them, though the new ones were obviously my favorites. This is the first time I've read stories from a perspective other than Jane's so that was an interesting take. Fans of the Jane Yellowrock books will love this collection and won't be disappointed. People who are new to the series should start with the books first, so they are well grounded in the characters and world before diving in to the short stories as you'll enjoy them more. A fun, fast read and just the perfect pre-holiday treat. ...more