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)
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 finally started reading the "free samplers" that Penguin/Ace/Roc Books distributed at SDCC 2009. Several novels seemed promising, this being one of...moreI finally started reading the "free samplers" that Penguin/Ace/Roc Books distributed at SDCC 2009. Several novels seemed promising, this being one of the most intriguing.
I really, really enjoyed it. Great characters, great story and lots of action -- just what I'm looking for in UF books! I hope that Huff decides to expand on this world and give us more tales about Alysha & the Gale family, because I will be waiting to read them!(less)
Richelle Mead starts off her Dark Swan series with this fast-paced novel. Eugenie Markham is a shaman-for-hire and very good at her job of ridding our...moreRichelle Mead starts off her Dark Swan series with this fast-paced novel. Eugenie Markham is a shaman-for-hire and very good at her job of ridding our world of demons, spirits, and creatures from the Otherwold (Land of Fae). Armed with a Glock .22 (loaded with either silver or steel bullets as needed), iron & silver athames, a gem-encrusted wand, and tattoos to aid with spiritual access to the Otherwold and the Underworld, Eugenie is a tough, no-nonsense, beauty ready to take on any job to pay the bills. But when client asks her to find his kidnapped 14-year-old sister who was taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie is hesitant to proceed. Traveling spiritually to the Otherworld is dangerous enough, but extended physical stays are practically suicidal – especially now that these creatures are trying to rape and/or kill her. Eugenie agrees, but soon discovers that secrets about her past are about to change her life in ways she could never have guessed – including who she is and who she can trust to help her.
Mead does an excellent job of creating fascinating characters that are often more than they initially seem. In much the same way, her plot is filled with twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes. The tone alternates from romantic to harrowing to hilarious smoothly. Very quickly you are swept into Eugenie's world and are invested in these characters' fates. I'm excited to immediately read the next novel Thorn Queen, because I really want to spend more time in this world. The only downside is my now-constant craving for Milky Way candy bars! (less)
**SPOILERS** - But only for Changes (The Dresden Files #12)
Although I guessed correctly as to who killed Dresden from the events that occurred while r...more**SPOILERS** - But only for Changes (The Dresden Files #12)
Although I guessed correctly as to who killed Dresden from the events that occurred while reading Changes, Ghost Story did make me wonder a few times if perhaps I was wrong ... AND I certainly didn't expect the other bits revealed at the conclusion of this novel.
I'm especially pleased that Butcher committed to continuing Harry's adventures in spirit form rather than having him miraculously find a way back to life within a few chapters (which was actually a worry for me). Unfortunately for Harry, but fortunately for the reader, Harry reluctantly accepts his fate, stays true to his nature to help his friends by putting himself in harm's way, and gets wack-a-moled as the story progresses.
Urban Fantasy authors take note, making your characters human (fallible and true to their nature despite whatever you throw at them - even death) and requiring them and the events they face to react as real as possible within the context of the rules of your world, is the difference between great characters and good characters. That's not to say that they can't act irrational when faced with a challenge outside of their norm, but at some point they need to realize this themselves. Additionally, your characters need to continue developing beyond book number three or five. Even though Harry (and The Dresden Files' supporting characters) has (have) grown bit by bit over the course of this series, it is so refreshing that the game changer thrown at them in the perfectly titled Changes, forces them to mature in surprising, and yet realistic, ways. Because Butcher did just that, I'm still excited to follow Harry and friends to Cold Days and the eventual conclusion of this series.(less)
Loved it. A great story that grabs you and sucks you in immediately, characters that are interesting and relatable, a well balanced amount of descript...moreLoved it. A great story that grabs you and sucks you in immediately, characters that are interesting and relatable, a well balanced amount of description and dialogue, and a fast paced plot that will keep you turning the pages. I can't wait to read Beautiful Darkness, the next book in this series.(less)
A worthy follow-up to Beautiful Creatures that begins two months after the concluding events in that book. The pacing this time around is slower with...moreA worthy follow-up to Beautiful Creatures that begins two months after the concluding events in that book. The pacing this time around is slower with a lot more of the story going on in Ethan's head, but the plot and character development is completely satisfying. Ethan starts hearing a new song about Lena and this time the focus is on the Seventeenth Moon and Lena's decision to be either a Light or a Dark Caster. In her grief, Lena has isolated herself from everyone -- including Ethan. Ethan starts his summer job working for his Aunt Marian, the town librarian and discovers that she's also hired an apprentice Ivy.
Despite Gatlin's reputation for being a sleepy, southern town steeped in tradition and oblivious to the powerful Casters and Incubuses in their midst, a whole lot of trouble is brewing as the Light and Dark factions of Lena's family wait impatiently for her to claim herself. Soon Lena's trouble-making cousin Ridley shows up with her mysterious, motorcycle riding companion John Breed and their presence, along with jealousy, fear, and misunderstandings, pull Lena and Ethan apart. But Ethan is determined to stand by Lena at all costs.
For a novel that spends a great deal of time in Ethan's head, once the action takes off, the adventure is filled with twists, turns, and surprises that you just don't see coming. I love it when I'm so sure I know where a story is headed only to be proven wrong, which is exactly what happened for me in Beautiful Darkness.
I'm very much looking forward to the next book in this series Beautiful Chaos to find out the repercussions of Lena's choice.(less)
This anthology of three novellas serves its purpose extremely well. I picked up the book specifically to read Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms's short s...moreThis anthology of three novellas serves its purpose extremely well. I picked up the book specifically to read Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms's short story, but all three contributions grabbed me enough to add the other authors' series novels to my TBR list.
Mercedes Lackey's "A Tangled Web" (Five Hundred Kingdoms #5.5) - Featuring Brunnhilde and Leopold from TheFive Hundred Kingdoms, I thoroughly enjoyed Lackey's mash-up of Norse and Greek deity myths inserted into this series' Godmother/Tradition framework. Especially making Persephone a stronger character who willingly participates in her abduction by Hades rather than acting solely as the victim of a tragic tale. Instead she and Hades are the calm, rational romantic partnership, while Bru and Leo service the hero/heroine functions to satisfy The Tradition. The unexpected twists and winks that characterize this series add humor and enliven these classic myths, while seamlessly intertwining them.
Michelle Sagara West's "Cast in Moonlight" (Prequel to the Chronicles of Elantra series) - I was intrigued with Kaylin and the other main characters almost immediately, and I think Sagara West did a terrific job with the plot and pacing. I was quickly swept into the action and felt very satisfied when I finished. However, a few things irritated me--although not enough to not recommend reading this novella. My frustration was with the minimal world building and limited characterizations. Particularly in regard to the geography, politics, and role of magic within the Empire (especially the city of Elantra) versus that of the fiefdoms (especially Nightshade where Kaylin is from). I am also still not sure what the Tha'alani, Barrani, and Ferals look like--are they anthropomorphic like the Leontines (feline-humanoids) and Aerians (avian-humanoids) or humanoid mortals/immortals similar to our Fae? Because this prequel appears after many of the novels in this series were released, I'm hoping that the first and subsequent novels in this series have addressed these omissions and space restrictions for this short story necessitated trimming them out.
Cameron Haley's "Retribution" (Prequel to the Underworld Cycle) - I immediately connected with enforcer Domino and was sucked into her travails despite my dislike of mob/mafia stories. I think the fact that the mob in question is Israeli rather than the typical Italian, Chicagoan, Russian, Asian, or Latin gangs found in most popular media was an interesting choice--especially given the setting of Los Angeles County. The fact that this novella is a well written revenge scenario with a paranormal twist also helped.(less)
This was a smart and moving story, although it surprised me that it was so brief. The symbolism, the characters, the plot, and the message were pitch...moreThis was a smart and moving story, although it surprised me that it was so brief. The symbolism, the characters, the plot, and the message were pitch perfect. I'm really looking forward to reading all of the books in Kessler's The Horseman of the Apocalypse: The Rider's Quartet series.(less)
(lost my original entry-in-progress ... let's try this again, grrrr)
Reminiscent of a mash-up of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles/Mayfair Witches series-...more(lost my original entry-in-progress ... let's try this again, grrrr)
Reminiscent of a mash-up of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles/Mayfair Witches series--although lacking their true horror--with a pinch of Dan Brown's use of secret societies, ancient texts with hidden meanings, and science married with the mystical, A Discovery of Witches is the beginning of what I believe will be a fantastic series.
To be honest, it was a difficult read for someone with a lot on their plate and while borrowing it from the library. But between two library systems and some fortuitous synchronicity, I finally managed to get through the nearly 600 small type, highly-detailed pages of this tome wanting more. I would suggest planning on reading this book in one marathon two or three day session with nothing else on your to-do list.
I will reserve my opinion that it could have been edited down to exercise a lot of the detail until I read Shadow of Night. If the next book in this All Souls Trilogy, is as verbose without more of this detail paying off in the subsequent novels--as a good portion did in the last 100-200 pages of this one--then I'll know this is a fault of the author and editor. Somehow I get the feeling that it really was necessary to get all of the complex subplots moving along with the main story and set-up what's to come in books #2 and #3.
Harkness did an excellent job of world building with a large amount of that description. By the last third, I was thoroughly enmeshed in this world despite the multiple plots. She also has created complex and engaging characters with whom I am anxious to continue following on their adventures.
Despite the verbose description and somewhat annoying stop-and-start pacing, I think A Discovery of Witches is well-worth the effort, and I look forward to reading the entire series.(less)