I reviewed the first of these anthologies, Dates from Hell over here. This is the second one which is in the same vein as the first – urban fantasy, some paranormal romance going on, with an added holiday theme.
For the most part I liked this anthology better than the first one. I think it was all on the "good!" side except for one story.
"Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" by Kim Harrison. In Dates from Hell we got a story about Ivy set before she meets Rachel, and in this story, we get a story about a young teen-aged Rachel before she ever joins Inderland Security. I thought this was well done because you don't have to have read the Rachel Morgan books to understand the world (much less confusing than the story in Dates from Hell), plus there are a lot of new things to learn for those who read those series. We learn about Rachel's family dynamics, and about Rachel's reasons for joining IS. I was also surprised to see how different Rachel is physically in this short story than what I was used to seeing in the series, but her stubbornness and trying to do things seemingly beyond her abilities seems very familiar.
"Run, Run, Rudolf" by Lynsay Sands. If you look at the link to the first anthology, and check out the "Claire Switch Project", this is a continuation of that short story. A couple of scientists gets zapped by a "destabilizer ray" that allows them to shapeshift if they concentrate really hard. I thought that story was goofy and I think this continuation is equally so. The scientists from the first story rebuild the ray in their basement and the same mad scientist from before (John Heathcliffe) zaps Jill with it. The characters sound like caricatures, and because Jill's keeps losing concentration during shapeshifting, she keeps conveniently being naked in public and flashing the man she's interested in (at least three times!). I rolled my eyes a lot. I have checked out reviews from this book and surprisingly this was many people's favorite story so I don't know.. I may be crazy or something when I say this was my least favorite of the bunch and it did not fit in with the rest of them.
"Six" by Marjorie M. Liu. I think this one is a stand alone, unconnected to an outside series, and it manages to have great world-building, action, characters, and plot in a short space. Six is a elite Chinese agent trying to track down terrorists when she stumbles upon the paranormal – vampires – not the western myth I'm used to reading about, but the Chinese version – Jiang Shi. This was a refreshing twist. When I was a kid and camping for the first time, a Singaporean boy scared me to death telling me about the Jiang Shi. I couldn't sleep all night imaging them hopping over to kill me! Seriously – cold sweats. Anyway, Six also meets a man named Joseph who fights these vampires, and who has some special abilities and they start working together. Possibly my favorite of the bunch because I liked the setting – urban China. Liu has several romance novels out but I really like her urban fantasy. I also enjoyed her short story in the Wild Thing anthology – that one was about a woman with living tattoos over her body which protect her but will eventually kill her, and that's going to be a series called Hunter Kiss.
"The Harvest" by Vicki Pettersson – Another one based in the world where a series is set. This is the story of Zoe Archer – the mother of the protagonist in the Signs of the Zodiac series, Joanna Archer. I thought this was a great side story to go with the series which fills us in on the motivation of Zoe's mother as well as learning about her personality and how she was able to do what she did. But, if you haven't read this series, I'm not sure how lost you would be reading this story. It's possible the answer is – quite lost. Though there are several hints that explain the world, the Zodiac world is very complex so it's hard for me to say how confused someone would be. Definitely a must-read for a Zodiac series fan though.
P.S. This one shall be tagged with my butt shot cover tag. I'm not a fan of the shoes on this cover but ok, it's holiday-related. Also – I noticed that this cover is so similar to another Kim Harrison cover – For a Few Demons More the mass market paperback (same pose – woman in dress walking with knife on the left side of the cover). Odd.
My TBR is around 120. Eek?