No surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Jim Butcher's short story "The Warrior". A fast-paced tale, centering on Michael Carpenter, his family, and his...moreNo surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Jim Butcher's short story "The Warrior". A fast-paced tale, centering on Michael Carpenter, his family, and his connections within the church many months after the events in 'Small Favor'. One of the reasons why I enjoy Butcher's stories is that his novels are filled with character development and lots of action. We don't get 3+ pages of unnecessary description about the scene, and if the description goes on for more than a paragraph, it's because it's important to the characters or the scene itself. This is also why his novels are so tough to put down once started.
I also easily fell into Kat Richardson's Harper Blaine story "The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog". A 'Greywalker' story centered around a third party client's bequest in their will to place a clay dog statue on someone's grave during the Day of the Dead celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico. I found the mystery to be intriguing and the characters engaging. I have the first 2 novels of the 'Greywalker' series, and I planned to get around to reading them eventually. However, I enjoyed this story so much that I'm bumping them up to "next" after I finish Butcher's 'Turn Coat' and 'Princep's Fury'.
To a lesser degree, I enjoyed Thomas Sneigoski's 'Remy Chandler' short story "Noah's Orphans" -- particularly his conversations with his Black Lab Marlowe (who reminded me of Shadow, the dog I grew up with). The story was well-written, interesting, and I liked Remy & Marlowe, but the battling of fallen angels and tracking of Noah's killer is just not interesting subject matter for me.
It is rare that every story in an anthology speaks to the reader. "Mean Streets" does pretty well in that I enjoyed 3 of the 4 stories presented. The final short story "The Difference A Day Makes" by Simon R. Green was the dud for me. John Taylor is a private investigator in The Nightside ("the longest night in the world, where the sun has never shone and never will") where anything dark, sick & twisted that can be imagined can be found. Taylor is a paranormal version of the hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe with the dialogue sounding exactly like Humphrey Bogart's characterization. I never connected with any of the characters, and the mystery was unappealing to me. Way too formulaic in style and plot, and too much overblown description about things I could care less about. I found the story to be boring and trite, and it was a struggle to read the entire tale and not just stop reading after the first chapter.(less)
Now this is what an anthology should be! MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING succeeds as much as BLOOD LITE failed. To be fair, since we're dealing with 9...moreNow this is what an anthology should be! MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING succeeds as much as BLOOD LITE failed. To be fair, since we're dealing with 9 vs 21 short stories, I shouldn't be surprised. Here the stories are more like novellas so they have sufficient time to develop character and plot. MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING also showcases IMO the cream of the urban fantasy crop. As is indicated by the anthology's title, all of the stories deal with supernatural weddings.
Again, my draw to the book was knowing a Jim Butcher Dresden File was within. The fact that Charlaine Harris and Lori Handeland contributed stories too was just icing on the Wedding Cake! Even better, I like 6/7 stories this time!
L.A. Banks' "Spellbound" -- Take the infamous Hatfield/McCoy feud, throw in a little Romeo & Juliet romance, then add the supernatural. Not the strongest tale, but sweet little romp.
Jim Butcher's "Something Borrowed" -- Werewolves Billy & Georgia are getting married and Harry's the best man. As is always the case, something is keeping things from running smoothly. Georgia's not acting like herself, and Harry has to call in Murphy to help him save the day. Another high action winner from Butcher. One of my favorites of his short stories.
Rachel Caine's "Dead Man's Chest" -- I really enjoyed this tale too. A twist-filled tale that I thought would be a (yo) ho-hum story at first, but bloomed into a fun, romantic adventure. It even made me look forward to her continuation story in MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL HONEYMOON.
P.N. Elrod's "All Shook Up" -- Definitely the weak link of the book. A pre-cog caterer meets an Elvis impersonator at a wedding; a great premise that fails to deliver. Perhaps she should stick to editing because she did a great job assembling this anthology.
Esther M. Friesner's "The Wedding of Wylda Serene" -- This story was also less enjoyable to me, but at least the ending ramped up the action and consequences of Greek Gods meddling in human affairs.
Lori Handeland's "Charmed by the Moon" -- Creepy and romantic. I'm new to Lori's novels and haven't read her Nightcreature series yet, so I can't say how it falls into the existing series, but I like the story enough to put them on my "To Read" list.
Charlaine Harris' "Tacky" -- I've yet to read her Southern Vampire novels (waiting on availability through my library), but I love HBO's "True Blood" and her short stories are fun and amusing. This tale deals with the delicate wedding details when a vampire bride stoops to marrying a werewolf.
Sherrilyn Kenyon's "A Hard Day's Night-Searcher" -- Again, I'm unfamiliar with the author's Dark-Hunter series, so I can't comment on whether or not this short story fits the mold. My only complaint is that it didn't really define the world enough for those who don't follow the series. However, I found it to be an enjoyable story about Dark-Hunter whose naive squire publishes a magazine story that too-closely resembles his Dark-Hunter's life. When another more Type-A female squire comes to arrest his bumbling squire, the Dark-Hunter makes a deal hoping to win her affection and save his squire.
Susan Krinard's "... Or Forever Hold Your Peace" -- I liked this tale set in a Victorian alternate universe where magic is inherited along with one's title. An imaginative concept to comment upon societal class struggles when a bride is kidnapped at her wedding.
Another anthology book picked-up because I wanted to read the Jim Butcher story inside.
Of all the urban fantasy collections I've read recently, this o...moreAnother anthology book picked-up because I wanted to read the Jim Butcher story inside.
Of all the urban fantasy collections I've read recently, this one is probably my favorite to date. I enjoyed nearly all of the stories included, and most I would consider to be very well written -- not just quickly thrown out tales better left untold, as is often the case. Perhaps this is due to the editing skills of Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner.
This anthology's theme of the combination of Vampires and Birthdays are illustrated in the following short stories:
"Dracula Night" by Charlaine Harris -- Sookie Stackhouse is invited to attend "The" Dracula's Bithday Party at Fangtasia. I loved this one. Fun, funny and with a great little twist.
"The Mournful Cry of Owls" by Christopher Golden -- A sad, coming of age tale about Donika Ristani, who tries to be a typical teenager while also adhering to her mother's more traditional values. She struggles not to give in to the temptation of her attraction to her friend Josh, but her rash decision to streak through the woods with him leads to unexpected circumstances.
"I Was a Teenage Vampire" by Bill Crider -- Carleton, the teenage vampire in question, tells his tale of how her became a vampire. A cute tale, even if it was predictable.
"Twilight" by Kelley Armstrong -- No not THAT "Twilight". I really liked this tale about vampire Cassandra DuCharme, who is having trouble making her annual kill in order to stay alive. In this vampire world, vampire must live by the rule: "Another life taken. Another year to live." While vampires drink blood regularly to feed, they must drain one person before the anniversary of their rebirth as a vampire or rapidly weaken to death. A different take on the vampire myth, interesting characters, and cool story.
"It's My Birthday, Too" by Jim Butcher -- Another winning short story in the life of Harry Dresden. It's Valentine's Day. Harry and Molly have just slain a slime golem, and due to the snowy weather, Harry plans to drop Molly home, but needs to swing by Thomas' apartment to deliver his birthday gift. Thomas isn't home, but helping an employee by "pretending to be a 'straight' vampire" at her vampire LARP Valentine's night party at a mall restaurant. When Harry & Molly arrive at the mall, they notice that it's closed and there's suspicious activity afoot.
"Grave-Robbed" by P.N. Elrod -- I haven't liked any previous stories by this author, so I didn;t even bother to read this one.
"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" by Rachel Caine -- What would happen if vampires controlled your town, humans were their chattel, and when you turned 18, you had to swear allegiance to the vampire who was your family's official protector, pick a new protector, or try to live without one being constantly hunted. A very intriguing tale of Eve and the horrifying events on her 18th birthday.
"The Witch and the Wicked" by Jeanne C. Stein -- A fun, humorous tale of witch caterer Sophie and how catering the birthday party for vampire Jonathan Deveraux and her dream of starting her own cosmetics line meshed in quite an unusual way.
"Blood Wrapped" by Tanya Huff -- I didn't know that the Canadian TV series "Blood Ties" was based on a series of novels, so imagine my surprise to discover a Vicki Nelson related tale herein. Vampire Henry Fitzroy (bastard son on Henry VIII) and his sired companion Tony Foster contemplate 40th birthday gift ideas for Vicki, while investigating a possible kidnapping of a 4 year old girl by werewolves. Great story.
"The Wish" by Carolyn Haines -- An odd, yet moving story about a woman whose spirit (and subsequently her marriage) died along with the death of her twin children in an auto accident. She witnessed death in the form of a wind wraith take her children away after the accident, and she hope to die in their place. For years she's tried & hoped to join her children, but the angel of death told her her time was not up. Now the wraith has appeared again.
"Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two" by Tate Hallaway -- Witch Garnet is taking her vampire boyfriend Sebastian out to dinner on Christmas for his birthday. Sebastian is convinced that his birthday is cursed due to all of the unfortunate events that always occurred to him on that day beginning with his birth. Garnet doesn't believe this, but their car breaks down on the way into town in the middle of a snowstorm. Despite this ominous portent, Garnet is sure that they can find someone living nearby who will be willing to let them call for a cab. Her wish is granted soon thereafter ... or is it. Another well written, fun & twisty tale.
"Vampire Hours" by Elaine Viets -- As Katherine's 55th birthday approaches, she's feeling neglected by her cheating husband, but afraid to confront him because the upper-class circle to which she belongs tends to toss aged divorcees aside like garbage. Despite being married to the most successful plastic surgeon, she avoid her husband's cajoling to have work done and opted to embrace aging gracefully. Now, she realizes that decision has lead to her current predicament. Due to bouts of insomnia, she notices the penthouse in the trendy condos across the canal has been hosting frequent parties in the evening. As her marriage crumbles, Katherine is drawn to these parties. Despite recent murders in the area, one night she decides to take a walk toward the condos, and meets a handsome, younger man who tells her she beautiful. Meeting this stranger helps Katherine to cope with her pending divorce, but how far is she willing to go to find happiness? A fun, romantic tale with a twist.
"How Stella Got Her Grave Back" by Toni L. P. Kelner -- A sweet and poignant story about vampire dam Stella and her newly turned companion Mark, when they make a visit to Stella's grave on her birthday only to discover that someone else is buried there now.
An added perk ... the book is dedicated to Joss Whedon, which I thought was pretty cool.(less)
The "sequel" to MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING, this anthology was pretty successful, although I enjoyed fewer stories than in its predecessor. That'...moreThe "sequel" to MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING, this anthology was pretty successful, although I enjoyed fewer stories than in its predecessor. That's not unusual for anthologies, but giving that I liked all but one previously, I had higher hopes for success.
As one suspects from the title, this time around all of the short stories are centered around honeymoons.
Also, it should be no surprise that yet another of Jim Butcher's Dresden File stories brought MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL HONEYMOON to my attention.
Kelley Armstrong's "Stalked" -- A stalker livens up a werewolf couple's less than exciting honeymoon. Soon the stalker becomes the stalked and the couple revel in the chase. I'm not familiar with her Women of the Otherworld series, but these characters and the story was so engaging that I'm looking forward to adding them to my "To Read" list.
Jim Butcher's "Heorot" -- Marcone's Ms. Gard helps Harry rescue a bride kidnapped before her honeymoon. Great melding of Beowulf lore into the Dresden world, and we discover who/what "Amazon" Gard really is in the process. Plus, courageous and lovable Mouse is featured! My new favorite Jim Butcher short story.
Rachel Caine's "In Roman Holiday, or SPQ-arrrrrr" -- Taking off where her story from MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING left us. More pirate adventures with newlyweds Cecelia & Captain Lockhart. This time other cursed sea captains are out to capture Cecelia believing that she can break their curses as well.
PN Elrod's "Her Mother's Daughter" -- Once again this author's story does little to move me. Although I will admit this one was better than the one in MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING. I can safely say that I won't be reading any of her novels anytime soon.
Caitlin Kittredge's "Newlydeads" -- An uninspiring mess of a story about people going missing at a resort due to being sacrificed to sea monsters. It was a chore to slog through this story.
Marjorie M. Liu's "Where the Heart Lives" -- This is a lovely story despite never having read this author's Dirk & Steele series. Two sad and beautiful love stories surround what appears to be a haunted woods. The reader easily gets drawn into the mystery and the characters. A definite highlight to this anthology.
Katie MacAlister's "Cat Got Your Tongue?" -- A fun, jaunty tale about one living and two ghostly couples in a haunted castle. Again, the characters are engaging, and the story is filled with humor and a few twists. Another bright spot.
Lilith Saintcrow's "Half of Being Married" -- A charming story of newlywed vampire hunter Kat and werewolf Mitchell. Both haven't told the other about their supernatural secrets -- secrets that they worry will destroy their marriage when their quiet honeymoon in a small town is interrupted by a nest of vampires. Lots of action and characters that you like from the start.
Ronda Thompson's "Wulf in Groom's Clothing" -- An okay story about a mismatched couple honeymooning in the forest. Laura pretends to like roughing it to please her new hubby Sam, an avid nature lover. Sam, as his surname Wulf suggests, is a werewolf and his cabin in the wild is his way of coping with the 3 days each month that he changes. He's hoping that consummating his marriage will finally break the curse, but things don't go as planned. I didn't feel that this was much more than a standard romance formula with werewolf thrown in to make it seem different. Unfortunately, that idea is pretty prevalent (and has been done better) in urban fantasy.
I liked 6 of the 9 stories contained within. Definitely worth borrowing from a friend or library, but I wouldn't bother buying this one -- despite LOVING Butcher's story. I will simply hope that someday all of his short stories will be compiled.(less)
I picked up this anthology strictly because I'm trying to read all of Jim Butcher's short stories. In this collection, it is a Dresden Files short sto...moreI picked up this anthology strictly because I'm trying to read all of Jim Butcher's short stories. In this collection, it is a Dresden Files short story entitled "Day Off". Just from the title you know that Harry Dresden's not lucky enough to get a day off -- there wouldn't be a story otherwise. A classic Dresden tale including the characters that we've come to know and love -- and entertaining & engaging enough to entice readers to his series.
With the aforementioned exception, if anthologies are a way to introduce readers to several authors and whet your appetite enough to read their books, this one failed mightily. Blood Lite is supposedly a collection of *humorous* supernatural stories. Too bad so few evoked a laugh -- sadly, most didn't even earn a grin here or there. The majority were just dumb and/or boring.
What stories worked?
Charlaine Harris of Sookie Stackhouse (HBO's "True Blood") fame brings a fun little tale called "An Evening with Al Gore" about four friends who take going green deadly serious. It was entertaining, but not great.
I also enjoyed Lucien Soulban's "Hell in a Handbasket" about how hell's minions are saddled with a troublesome delivery. One of the few that made me laugh.
Matt Venne's "Elvis Presley and the Bloodsucker Blues" gives us an interesting theory on Elvis' last days. This one was a fun read and made me grin a few times, but from what I've heard, I think Charlaine Harris did this twist better with Bubba.
Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Where Angels Fear to Tread" and Kelley Armstrong's "The Ungrateful Dead" were two other tales that stood out as being interesting reads.
I wish I could say that much about the other 15 short stories. Chalk this one up to borrow from a friend or the library. If you must buy it, I suggest buying it used to get your money's worth.(less)
Surprise! An anthology where I enjoyed all of the stories!
Werewolves are not my urban fantasy characters of choice -- love those vamps -- but I really...moreSurprise! An anthology where I enjoyed all of the stories!
Werewolves are not my urban fantasy characters of choice -- love those vamps -- but I really enjoyed the inventiveness of these authors to weave werewolf/shapeshifter mythology into Christmas mythology with mostly successful results. Who knew the evil that lurks in Santa, reindeer, elves, etc. Some of the tales are better crafted than others, but the vast majority were fun & interesting reads.(less)
An urban fantasy anthology with 3 excellent novellas -- all are enthralling tales that hit the ground running and don't let up until they end. I'm not...moreAn urban fantasy anthology with 3 excellent novellas -- all are enthralling tales that hit the ground running and don't let up until they end. I'm not familiar with Maggie Shayne or Barbara Hambly, but if they can do a great a job in long form as they have with these novellas, I need to read more of their work. I especially liked the fact that the stories get creepier as you go.
Note also that these UFs have a heavy dose of romance mixed in with their paranormal thriller plots -- just enough to enhance the character development without being distracting from their page turning plots.
"Dancers in the Dark" by Charlaine Harris - Layla Rue Le May is down on her luck, so she decides to join a vampire dance company to make her living. Layla is wary of people, in general, and the fact that the company requires the human partners to be willing to be bitten at the end of each dance doesn't help her trust issues. When Layla discovers that someone is stalking her, she is forced to turn to a vampire for protection.
"Her Best Enemy" by Maggie Shayne - Kiley Brigham is a take-no-nonsense reporter whose crusade is to rid her town of Burnt Hills, NY of all the phony mediums, psychic healers, witches, etc. So when her new home appears to be haunted, Kiley reluctantly turns to psychic Jack McCall, one of her targets, for answers.
"Someone Else's Shadow" by Barbara Hambly - Professional belly dancer/tarot reader Maddie Leveau is concerned about her 18-year-old roommate Tessa, who has recently come to NYC to audition for the American Ballet Academy. Late one night when Maddie stops by the building in which Tessa dances to walk her home, Tessa is missing. Maddie searches the deserted building room-by-room and just before she finds Tessa dazed and confused on the top floor, the building's lights go out and Maddie is threatened by a shadowy figure lurking nearby. Before they leave, they run into Phil, a tenant in the building, who evades Maddie's queries about the voices she heard. Days later, Tessa's behavior becomes stranger, and Maddie worries that Phil may be the reason why.(less)
I wanted to read this anthology specifically for Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire (aka Sookie Stackhouse) series story. As is typical with anthologi...moreI wanted to read this anthology specifically for Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire (aka Sookie Stackhouse) series story. As is typical with anthologies, I enjoyed some of the stories better than others. On the plus side, these are novella-sized stories, so they all have better character & plot development than most of the "short" story compilations that I've read over the past year.
While I ended up liking "The Britlingens Go to Hell," it was a much tougher read than the Sookie novels and other related short stories that I've read to date ... and my least-liked tale in the book. Most likely it's because I did not find the bodyguard characters--Batanya and Clovache--interesting in the Sookie novel All Together Dead, where they were introduced. However, once they started out on their quest, the story improved and had a satisfying conclusion--even if the Hellhound connection was pretty flimsy.
Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter novella "Angel's Judgment" was a good read: interesting characters, a well written plot, and good pacing. This one is much more focused on romance than action for my taste, but it was nice to see good character development that's often lacking in these brief stories.
Conversely, Ilona Andrews' "Magic Mourns" was more my speed: mostly action with a sprinkling of romance; a fun, driving plot; humor; and engaging characters. This story had the best "traditional" use of a Hellhound even if the setting was (thankfully) non-traditional. I've never read Andrews' books before, but if this short story is any indication of what her novels are like, I will be adding her work to my TBR shelves!
Meljean Brook's Guardian novella "Blind Spot" is another story that has a heavier slant toward romance, but it's nicely balanced with action, humor, and intriguing characters. I enjoyed her creative concept for how Blake (and his sister) use magic, because it was fun to switch character POV and added a lot of humorous moments. I especially liked her Hellhound, Sir Pup, who is the most developed Hellhound character within the 4 novellas--as opposed to being relegated to an obstacle for the main characters to thwart along their journey. Like Ilona Andrews, I have no history with Brook's novels or short stories, but am looking forward to adding them to my TBR shelf!(less)
Harris' Sookie short stories are just as engaging as her full length novels. In fact, they are nice filler stories for what's going on between the eve...moreHarris' Sookie short stories are just as engaging as her full length novels. In fact, they are nice filler stories for what's going on between the events in the novels without the high drama ~ just cool, insights in character development.
However, don't make the mistake I did and let them spoil a story arc in a novel not yet read. Either buy the book and only read the short stories in their chronological order in between the novels or don't read all of them until you have finished From Dead to Worse (Book #8).
I finally decided to finish up this book of 4 novellas in order to clean up my "currently reading" shelves, where I was storing some books that I've r...moreI finally decided to finish up this book of 4 novellas in order to clean up my "currently reading" shelves, where I was storing some books that I've read, but haven't reviewed; several self help books that require some online work to complete; a couple of books that I haven't finished because they're not very engaging, and two anthologies that I have on hand to fill in the gap between novels. Plus, one of my hopes for 2011 is to finish all the books that have been sitting on that shelf for months!
What the heck was I waiting for?! When they say "Hot", they mean it! OMG Emma Holly's "The Countess's Pleasure" and Lora Leigh's "The Breed Next Door" were scorchers and not for the faint of heart! Less romantic than full-throttle erotic, but both novellas have good solid stories that most romance readers will enjoy. Those who prefer less graphic description and more romance will likely want to skip purchasing this anthology.
I purchased this book specifically to read Meljean Brook's novella "Falling For Anthony," and it's probably the least graphic romance story of the bunch. Being that it is the prequel to The Guardians series, I definitely wanted to read it before continuing on with the other novels in that series.
As for the fourth and final novella Shiloh Walker's "The Blood Kiss" ... in a word: irritating. Make that two words: highly irritating! There is nothing wrong with the story or the character's per se. In fact, had she gone out of her way NOT to copy Romeo and Juliet to the point of having a balcony scene and similar descriptions of recognizable scenes/characters--but kept to the spirit of plot--I would not have been so irritated. The first few pages almost read as if she just changed the names and wrote the play word for word, but in modern vernacular. It was highly distracting having the main characters and their families be so identical to the originals: Roman and Julianna, Wolfclan Montgomery and The House of Capiet. Actually, the latter is what completely stopped me in my tracks, made me reread the preceding paragraphs from the beginning again, and from then on I noticed how everything became a cheap Shakespeare imitation. Perhaps if she called it as Clan/Coven Capiet or even Capiet House it would have been less jarring. It is really a shame because once the action started and she let it become just a weres versus vampires paranormal action-romance, my irritation all but slipped away, and I enjoyed the story.
I started this paranormal romance anthology in order to read another of Meljean Brook's stories in her series featuring The Guardians, but actually en...moreI started this paranormal romance anthology in order to read another of Meljean Brook's stories in her series featuring The Guardians, but actually enjoyed all four novellas.
"Cave Canem" by Susan Sizemore – This, the 6th Laws of the Blood story, is about vampire Enforcer Dan Conover and werewolf/witch Tess. Conover has raised Hellhounds for nearly two thousand years, ever since his former werewolf lover Syrilla mated with his war hound Beast and begat the race of protectors. That was in ancient Rome when he was the vampire known as Corvei. Conover awakens from a magic-induced dream about that event only to discover that two of the three Hellhound pups in Baby's current litter have been stolen. Tess also senses the magical theft and sets out toward Conover's kennel in Phoenix to track the demon responsible. Meanwhile, people are being slaughtered by the Hellhound pups, and both Conover and Tess join forces to track the thief, whom they believe is Conover's sire Valentine. What Conover and Tess don't expect is the attraction they feel for one another.
I'm always glad when a short story grips you from the beginning with the action, and doesn't weigh the reader down with lots of character description. Sizemore actually starts off with character background, but it is disguised as action – Conover's magic-induced dream of how Hellhounds came into being. Further background is sprinkled into the action as other characters are introduced. The plot is fast paced, filled with several twists, and the resolution is very satisfying – as is the romance.
"Russian Roulette" by Erin McCarthy – This novella is the 5th Vegas Vampires story, and while not taking place in Las Vegas, it features bar owner/musician Alistair Kirk and fledgling vampire Sasha Chechikov. Knowing that his cruel, ex-wife Cassandra is holding a woman hostage in her home, Alistair impulsively rescues Sasha and brings her back to his apartment above his New Orleans vampire bar. Raised in Las Vegas by her mother, who was vampire Gregor Chechikov's blood slave, and sold to Cassandra after Gregor's death, former vampire slayer Sasha trusts no one, least of all another vampire. After being turned into a vampire, her slayer "friends" turned on her, and recently, her only vampire friend betrayed her as well. Now Alistair expected her to pretend to be his girlfriend in order to protect her. Sasha's history of abuse and betrayal by men and vampires has made her a survivor, and she grudgingly plays along looking for her opportunity to escape. What neither expects is that their first kiss – a ploy to throw off Cassandra's bodyguards when they show up in Alistair's bar – will lead them toward romance.
This is another satisfying novella with just the right mix of description and action. Although it is more of a romance than "Cave Canum", it is one of the more successful novella romances that I've read. McCarthy lets the action drive the characters toward romance and trusting one another, rather than having the romance develop as the action takes place and the characters are heading toward solving a mystery. Her characters are interesting, likeable, and well developed. I especially appreciate her setting remaining constant and intimate – something that I think helps provide strength to the romance. There's even a nice, little plot twist at the end that doesn't feel forced.
"Double the Bite" by Chris Marie Green – A Vampire Babylon story falling between books #2 and #3, which focuses on twin vampires Ginny and Geneva, who have left their maker Sorin and their progeny back in Los Angeles and in 1978 are now living in New York. Ginny feels an immediate connection to small town deputy Ben Tyree, who shows up at the famous discothèque Studio 54 during its heyday asking questions about his missing brother Nolan. Psychically sensing Ginny's affection for Ben, Geneva is jealous of her twin and mistrusting of Ben, sensing that he could be trouble. She worries that due to Ginny's kindhearted nature that she might also help Ben, while divulging vampire secrets to him. Keeping a tight rein on her attraction to Ben, Ginny assures Geneva that she only sees him as a potential meal. Feeling a kinship to Ben & Nolan's sibling love, her growing attraction to Ben, and the strain of her sister's cloying nature pulling at her, she decides to help Ben discover what happened to Nolan.
I found this novella to be quite a treat, if a bit heavy on the sex and light on the action. However, I enjoyed the idea that the infamous drugs and sexcapades of Studio 54 would be the perfect place for vampires to congregate and feed unnoticed, so at least the setting supported it leaning more toward romance. Also on the plus side, is the fact that the characters and whodunit are equally intriguing and the resolution's final twist was very satisfying.
"Thicker Than Blood" by Meljean Brook – This Guardians tale falls between books #3 and #4 and follows vampire Annie Gallagher's attempt to locate a missing human girl named Cricket. What this rogue vampire enforcer never expects is that her quick, midnight snack will bring Annie's pre-turned past back into her life and that her best ally to find the girl will be her husband and FBI agent, who thinks she's dead. As if tracking for the girl and fighting her love for her husband isn't enough, Annie's trying to avoid the demon nephilim who are seeking out vampires in various cities and destroying them.
As with the previous Guardians stories that I've read, this one is a successful balance of action and romance with the character background and development fostered along the way. I appreciate that Annie's mission is more complex than she first believes. Additionally, rather than her current modus operandi of using her work as a means to hide from her past, I enjoyed that circumstances along the way force her to reconcile with her loved ones before she can be at peace with her afterlife – a common theme in The Guardians books. (less)
As much as I love Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series, generally I don't find her and Toni Kelner's anthologies to be the best bang for your bu...moreAs much as I love Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series, generally I don't find her and Toni Kelner's anthologies to be the best bang for your buck. That is not to say that I didn't enjoy their contributions ("Two Blondes" and "Pirate Dave's Haunted Amusement Park", respectively). Quite the contrary, they are, in my opinion, the best offerings amongst the 13 short stories within Death's Excellent Vacation. I also enjoyed Lilith Saintcrow's "The Heart is Always Right", Chris Grabenstein's "The Demon in the Dunes", and Katie MacAllister's "The Perils of Effrijim", but the rest ranged from "Meh" to downright uninteresting.(less)
I was really disappointed with this anthology. I didn't like most of the stories presented, including Charlaine Harris' submission "Dahlia Underground...moreI was really disappointed with this anthology. I didn't like most of the stories presented, including Charlaine Harris' submission "Dahlia Underground," which is unusual (not that it's a bad story, I just didn't care for the characters).
I don't know if it was because the writers were so focused on the supernatural element -- which Harris stated was a new aspect for most of these MWA writers -- that their plots suffered, or that since I'm not a (non-urban fantasy) mystery fan, that it's just me. Some really felt like the supernatural elements were completely forced, but mostly I didn't think the characters were very interesting, plot was too drawn out and then the ending rushed, or I had figured out the ending after reading only a few pages.
The only stories that I did enjoy were the last three: "Grave Matter: A Mike Hammer Story" by Max Alan Collins/Mickey Spillane "Death of a Vampire" by Parnell Halls and "Taking the Long View" by Toni P. Kellner
To me these were the most fast paced, yet well developed plots; the characters were interesting -- so much so that I'd like to read more stories about them; and I hungrily read them to find out what the final outcome would be.
If you already enjoy reading mystery novels or specifically these authors, then you will likely enjoy most of the stories contained herein. Urban fantasy readers, on the other hand, may be disappointed. (less)
Another great anthology of novellas where I thoroughly enjoy all four offerings of "Love, Supernatural Style"!
I chose this compilation specifically to...moreAnother great anthology of novellas where I thoroughly enjoy all four offerings of "Love, Supernatural Style"!
I chose this compilation specifically to read Maggie Shayne's tale from her Immortal Witches series, and although I enjoyed it, IMO it was the least interesting story of the group.
J.D. Robb's "Interlude in Death" - An In Death series novella centered on NYPSD homicide detective Lt. Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke, an intergalactic hotelier/businessman, on the resort planet Olympus in 2059. A guest speaker at The Interplanetary Law and Security Conference, Eve is forced to endure her dislike of space travel and the embarrassment of it being held at one of her husband's luxury hotels. Due to the accusations of a misogynistic police hero, Eve and Roarke become suspects when a murder takes place the first night of the conference. With the assistance of the local Chief of Police Darcia Angelo and Eve's NYPSD team, Eve & Roarke are forced to prove themselves innocent and find the real killer. This was an excellent who-done-it that reminded me a bit like Total Recall.
Susan Krinard's "Kinsman" - Jonas Kane VelArban is a Kinsman, the only humans allowed to interact personally and professionally with the alien race known as shaauri because they have been adopted by them. Usually telepathic, they are descendants and recruits of Eeva Kane (the explorer who brokered peace between humans and shaauri), are the only humans allowed to enter shaauri space and control the trade routes. Because of their privileged & wealthy status, many humans hate them. Jonas has lived exclusively with his shaauri family for the past 7 years following an accident that killed his wife and two members of the ruling family on Persephone, his home planet. Upon arrival, he's greeted by a young woman named Galatéa (Téa) Dianthe, who begs him to help her discover what's become of the missing royal vessel Eurydice on which her brother was serving. Jonas reluctantly agrees to look into the matter after Téa offers to give him children since she is a telepath and Kinsmen frequently accept willing artificial insemination partners in the hopes of birthing telepaths to carry on their lineage. Secrets, lies, and betrayals abound in this thriller that I found to be very compelling. My only wish would be that Krinard would have more stories set in this world.
Maggie Shayne's "Immortality" - This Immortal Witches series novella begins with the betrayal of Puabi, Dark Witch and Ancient Queen of Sumer, by her husband and his lover. After being severely burned in a house fire set to kill her, she manages to throw herself off a cliff into the sea, where she drifts aimlessly as she heals. Eventually she is found floating lifelessly near the Virgin Islands by Matthew Fairchild as he's out in his boat. He is startled by the fact that she strongly resembles his recently deceased wife Gabriella and hauls her onto his boat thinking he will turn the body over to the authorities once the impending storm passes, but she suddenly revives and attempts to stab him with a knife. He manages to gets the knife from her and calm her down, but she passes out again before they reach his island villa. Neither trusts the other, but once she awakens, they start to build a relationship as Matthew helps her recover, tells her about his deceased wife & child, and Puabi confides her life story as well. They quickly forge a bond over the similarity between Poppy's (Matthew's pet name for Puabi) and Gabriella's looks and lives. Matthew & Poppy's idyllic romance is cut short as they soon realize for safety's sake that they must leave the island. Their escape quickly turns deadly, but they manage to make it to the island of Saba. However, their adventure has just begun. I like most of this story, but IMO too much time was spent on the background so that the romance and intrigue portions of the plot felt rushed. It just felt like this was a novel sized story forced to fit as a novella, and I would have rather invested the time in reading the longer version.
Laurell K. Hamilton's "Magic Like Heat Across My Skin - Conversely, Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novella is brilliantly balanced with just right amounts of background, romance, and intrigue for a fast-paced, action-packed adventure. I have yet to read any of the series novels, but this novella has made me want to move them up on my "to read" list. Anita is avoiding having to deal with decisions concerning her vampire lover Jean-Claude and her werewolf lover Richard, when circumstances surrounding members of the wereleopard pack that Anita inherited after killing their leader, force her to rely on both men. Two members of the pack are being held hostage by another shapeshifter group in an S&M club. Reluctantly, Anita calls Jean-Claude to help her reach the club owner as a means of ending the trouble, but Narcissus, the owner, has a strict non-involvement in shapeshifter politics policy, so Anita agrees to let Jean-Claude bring in some of his people to help. Unbeknown to Anita, his "people" consist of Richard and his second-in-command Asher, a necromancer. The disadvantage of reading a story set in the middle of a series is not having a clue about some parts – for me, this involved the ritual performed by these three to fix holes in their auras prior to handling the wereleopard situation. It made sense from the brief description included, but not knowing the full back story on the why was a bit frustrating. Otherwise, the pacing was perfect, the characters engaging and the plot compelling. It did exactly what an anthology story is designed to do … make me want to read all of the books in the series. (less)