Dark and Stormy Knights anthology

Anthologies are basically perfect reading when you KNOW you’re going to be interrupted by relatives. With that thought in mind, I picked this one up while on vacation in Sedona and read it in between all the madness of the Christmas season. (Yes, I know it’s been a few months since Christmas.. still working on that review backlog).

Dark and Stormy Knights
edited by P.N. Elrod

Dark and Stormy Nights is an anthology of 9 urban fantasy stories with the theme of “knights” who do some questionable things for the right reasons. So basically urban fantasy heroes doing what they usually do, which is work in the grey area. I liked that the theme is so wide open, and that the anthology had a bunch of authors I have read and liked. Here’s a breakdown of what we get, followed by my brief (non-spoiler) impressions of each:

  • A Questionable Client by Ilona Andrews (also found in a 2-novella ebook here)
  • Even Hand by Jim Butcher
  • The Beacon by Shannon K. Butcher
  • Even a Rabbit Will Bite by Rachel Caine
  • Dark Lady by P.N. Elrod
  • Beknighted by Deidre Knight
  • Shifting Star by Vicki Pettersson
  • Rookwood & Mrs. King by Lilith Saintcrow
  • God’s Creatures by Carrie Vaughn

A Questionable Client by Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels, a member of the Atlanta Mercenary Guild is offered a bodyguard job when two of her peers back out. This is a prequel the Kate Daniels series, which means it doesn’t require you to know anything, but fans of that series will enjoy learning the back story on how Kate met Saiman, a minor but unique character. I always understood that Saiman creeped Kate out from the beginning, and why that is is explained here.  Lives up to what I expect from Ilona Andrews, currently my favorite writing duo. Link to an excerpt

Even Hand by Jim Butcher – A powerful man agrees to protect a woman and child against a supernatural pursuer. This is set in the Harry Dresden universe, except the narrator is John Marcone. I haven’t read any of the Harry Dresden books, but I gather this narrator is not Dresden’s ally. He’s not a good guy, but he does have his own set of rules, and it was refreshing to hear a story from a character on the other side and who is sharp in a scary way. This was another strong story in the anthology and really hit the sweet spot in character development – I just loved the ambiguity in this one.

The Beacon by Shannon K. Butcher – This is a story about a weary hunter named Ryder Ward who kills Beacons – people who (through no fault of their own) attract monsters called Terraphages into our world from another dimension. The latest Beacon is a young girl with a single mother and Ryder feels wretched about his choices. This sounds like an original story though the Terraphages sound like the Synestryn of Butcher’s Sentinel Wars series. Although Shannon K. Butcher is known for her paranormal romance, this didn’t go there (although it did feel like there was the set up for it). There was something about these characters that I didn’t warm to – I think they just felt very standard issue: single mother in a small town, adorable child, tortured hunter, but I felt like there was a spark for something more there if this was a longer story.

Even a Rabbit Will Bite by Rachel Caine – This is another story that didn’t feel set in a bigger universe, but I really enjoyed the world building which was nice and comprehensive in such a small space. It’s about Lisel, a centuries-old woman warrior who has managed to survive and become the last living Dragonslayer, and she’s just been informed that her successor has been chosen (by the pope, as these things are). A young girl knocks on her door the next day. I loved this one for the characterization and dialogue. The grumpy old-school Dragonslayer (“Get your ass inside”) viewing the new guard with exasperation (“glowing with youth and vitality and health and a smart-ass attitude”) but having to train her anyway and maybe gets proved wrong was a fun concept. One of my favorites.

Dark Lady by P.N. Elrod – The Internet tells me that Dark Lady is part of the Vampire Files universe because its narrator, Jack Fleming is the star of that series. This didn’t bother me, all I needed to know was that Jack was a vampire, owns a nightclub, and on occasion helps out people, and this was explained in the first three sentences. This was a very noir-style story with a damsel in distress, a mob boss, missing money, and thugs galore, set in 1930’s Chicago. What I liked about this one was that there were surprises and a puzzle which is unexpected for the story length. Link to an excerpt

Beknighted by Deidre Knight – An artist named Anna gains a patron in order to pay for “living gold” which she needs to unlock a man from another world through her artwork, but there’s something that makes Anna question her patron’s motives for backing the project. This was another story that had more of a paranormal romance tint to the writing than an urban fantasy one. I found the concept of the living gold, Artist Guild and patrons in the context of artists actually “unlocking” things within their paintings interesting in theory, but the execution was confusing. It could be a reading comprehension fail on my part, but I just had trouble connecting some of the dots.

Shifting Star by Vicki Pettersson – Skamar is a woman made flesh by the focus of her creator, and her job is to protect a certain teen girl. This means investigating the abductions of girls around her age, working with a human, and dealing with human emotions. This is just as gritty and violent and a little bit heart rending as the rest of the Signs of the Zodiac series, and it focuses on side characters, but I think it would be a little difficult to follow the concept of the Zodiac, tulpas, and who Zoe Archer is unless you’ve read other books in this world. One of the darker stories in this collection.

Rookwood & Mrs. King by Lilith Saintcrow – A suburban wife comes to Rookwood, asking him to kill her husband, who is already dead. This is another short story of the pulpy vampire detective variety, except a more modern-day version and a damsel in distress who is a lot faster on the uptake than she might be given credit for. I liked the plot of this one, but I wish the story would have been from Mrs. King’s point of view instead of focusing on Rookwood’s interpretation of events.

God’s Creatures by Carrie Vaughn – Cormac is called to deal with a killer that has gutted some cattle. It is clearly a werewolf losing the battle against bloodlust, and it won’t be long before it moves to human prey. This is another story set in a bigger universe (Kitty Norville), but Cormac is a secondary character and on a side trip so you don’t need to have knowledge of the series to understand what is going on here. The concept of hunting a werewolf was straightforward, but God’s Creatures adds a human element and ambiguity to the whole enterprise that I liked. Link to an excerpt

Overall: As urban fantasy anthologies go, this is probably one of the strongest ones I’ve read. The reason for that is there seemed to be a concerted effort (for the most part) not to lose the reader with world building details they wouldn’t know. I think we’ve all read stories set in a world related to an author’s series and been lost before. It seemed like most of these were written from the point of view of a side character, or set the story before their series begins, or are original stories not related to some bigger world. This made things more accessible, which was refreshing to see. Also keeping things cohesive: no romance and stories that all kept with a theme of doing deeds for the “greater good” that don’t always leave our heroes looking entirely pure. A very solid lineup.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Temporary worlds book reviews – “although there are a few stories that didn’t work for me, I feel as if the good content outweighs the bad in this anthology”
Calicoreaction  – Worth the Cash: “On the whole, it’s a very solid anthology with stories that stand on their own two feet even if they’re set in established universes”

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The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity by various authors, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray

The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity
edited by
Joshua Palmatier
and Patricia Bray

This is an anthology of short stories that I bought while I was at Lunacon earlier this year. The concept behind each of the stories is how fae creatures may have adapted to modern times. I guess you can say all urban fantasy explores this idea, but these stories really focus on the clash of cultures and creative ways a square peg can fit into a round hole.There are fourteen stories in this book and I don’t plan to give away spoilery details to any of them, so this review is going to be really brief overviews and impressions of each story.
 
1) We Will Not Be Undersold by Seanan McGuire – This story centers around big-box store Undermart. Regular-guy Dan is an employee dating Nimh, one of the junior managers, and all is well until he begins to notice odd behavior at work. This was a quick, cute, tongue-in-cheek read and a good one to start anthology on a light note. It feels very different from what I’ve read from Seanan McGuire before. There’s something of a young adult air to it.
 
2) Changeling by Susan Jett – Marisol, a new mother distraught over complications during her son’s birth, discovers how the fae have adapted to New York when her midwife remembers just where she saw the birthing nurse before. A hero’s journey story that has a few familiar folktale elements and a thought-provoking ending.
 
3) Water-called by Kari Sperring – Jenny is some sort of water spirit or elemental that has fed on humans that have fallen into her canal for centuries. Lately the bodies have been leeched prior to their dumping and Jenny is forced to deal with the hunter infringing on her territory. This is a story set in the nighttime, with a main character that is far removed from human concerns and emotions. She is a predator — ancient and terrible. I enjoyed the tangible descriptions of the canal and its surroundings and everything to do with Jenny. Where this story went wrong for me was the ‘hunter’ character.
 
4) The Roots of Ashton Quercus by Juliet E. McKenna – Another story with fae as the protagonist, but this time with less predatory concerns than the last story. It is about a grove of dryads that have discovered that their trees are about to be razed for a new road. I liked the solution they came up with and how their group dynamics played out within the story.
 
5) To Scratch an Itch by Avery Shade – This time the fae in question is a little girl named Avery Sky who was told she had to abide by three rules, and one of them has to do with telling her parents if she ever got an itch between her eyes. This is what happens to Avery when the itch finally comes. This was a sweet story about childhood. I liked that the mystery behind the itch rule is revealed to the reader at the same time it is to Avery.
 
6) Continuing Education by Kristine Smith – Lee Kincaid is enrolled in an MBA program at the Old Campus of Monckton College, but her school’s professors are more than they appear to be. This was a mostly straightforward tale, but touches on the idea of the symbiotic relationship between the fae and humans.
 
7) How To Be Human™ by Barbara Ashford – A jaded “menopausal male fairy” uses his charismatic powers to make money off of self-help seminars. I liked both the premise and the link between power, age, and cynicism in the fairy world.
 
8) How Much Salt by April Steenburg – This is a story about a selkie named Dylan who is forced to go inland because of the way humans are encroaching on the sea shores. The story revolves around where he ends up. I was mildly amused by this one but wouldn’t have minded if it had gone further.
 
9) Hooked by Anton Strout – Hooked is the sort of story that changes as you read it. It starts off with a man knocking on a door because of a flyer, takes a little turn I wasn’t sure I liked, veers into something darker, and then twists and lands elsewhere. Hmm. The destination was OK, but I liked the journey there more.
 
10) Crash by S. C. Butler – A female trader hears a rumor about leprechauns on Wall Street and follows up on it. This left me with a feeling like I’d been gently nudged to imagine some twisted humor in some real world events.
 
11) Fixed by Jean Marie Ward – Jack Tibbert starts off as a cat and is taken to an animal shelter where trouble ensues. This was another story that felt decidedly YA since the narrator, Jack, is a teenage boy and definitely notices the teenage girl who picked him up. There was a good sense of urgency and action in this one, but I could guess where the story was going.
 
12) A People Who Always Know by Shannon Page & Jay Lake – A sort of cloak and dagger story that reveals political fighting between older traditionalists and younger upstarts among the fae. I always like stories that have something of a battle of wits in them so I liked where this went, but I wish there was more to this.
 
13) The Slaughtered Lamb by Elizabeth Bear – I think The Slaughtered Lamb was one of my favorite stories in the anthology in terms of the world building. It had that gritty UF style, and a New York City where magic overflow means there’s a “liaison between the real world and the otherwise one”. This is conveyed to us through the eyes of a transvestite werewolf with achy feet. I liked the characters more than what was actually going on, mostly because the action was quickly dealt with. The characters lingered longer. Yup, another I wanted to continue.
 
14) Corrupted by Jim C. Hines – This was (in my mind) the darkest of the stories, so this book closes on a very different note from which it began. A fairy whose job is protecting humans from those of her own kind, has to pay a high price to keep people safe. I thought this was very grim.
 
Overall: I think my reaction is on the middle ground when I look at the anthology as a whole. There were bits and pieces of each story that sparked my interest but I didn’t find a story that really burned itself in my brain. All of these stories stood alone just fine (if they were companion stories to a series, I couldn’t tell), but there were a few stories here whose worlds I wouldn’t mind revisiting – Elizabeth Bears’, Shannon Page and Jay Lake’s, and April Steenburg’s, in particular. Many felt complete and satisfying as they were (Susan Jett’s, Juliet E. McKenna’s, Barbara Ashford’s, Seanan McGuire’s and a few others), then there were the 3 or 4 stories that felt a little flatter than the rest. These focused on the premise of the fae creatures surviving among humans but I didn’t really notice other elements to them. The stories that incorporated some sort of growth and/or inner conflict, or conveyed the adaptation while telling a bigger story were the most memorable for me.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Links:
The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity website

Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor (illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo)

This is a trio of fantastical stories that involve a special kiss. Each story infuses fairytale elements with pieces of culture from across the globe – one is a nod to Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market“, another at Zoroastrianism, a third at the British Raj and the hell that Orpheus braved for Eurydice. The bonus is artwork that was created by Jim di Bartolo at the beginning of each story (pictures that show us the past–before the story we’re about the read begins), followed with one picture to leave the reader with a parting image.The initial capitals at the start of each chapter, the decorated end pages, and the inverted corners of the illustrations are details that made Lips Touch, Three Times a very beautiful book, the kind you’d want a physical copy of for your very own.
 
I bought a softcover edition of the book and compared it to the hardcover at the store – it looks like all the pictures are there and with the same colors (a combination of black and white, and pink). The only complaint I’d have is that I like the hardcover cover better than the paperback one. It’s an illustration by Jim di Bartolo which ties in with the inside better than this generic photo focused on some glossy lips (meh), but I like paperback over hardcover so that’s what I got.
 

Goblin Fruit: Kizzy belongs to a huge, weird family that lives on the edge of town and still believes in the Old World ways. Ghosts come to visit their house and the men hunt and do “things involving axes and offal” to turn their kills into meals. Kizzy is sixteen and embarrassed by their strange customs and beliefs. She hears the story her grandmother tells her about the goblins and her great aunt Mairenni, but she doesn’t hear. Goblins with magical fruit so good that girls would trade their souls for another bite are the stuff of fairytales to her. Which is unfortunate, because Kizzy is the type of girl that the goblins go after, a wishful girl with hungry eyes. When a preternaturally beautiful boy named Jack Husk shows up at school, no warning bells go off.
 
Although this story had the most ambiguous ending, this may be my favorite story. Yes, I am usually a HEA kind of girl, but I recognized Goblin Fruit as a cautionary tale, which made Kizzy’s fate more palatable. I also liked the modern feel of this story, with Kizzy going to high school and having conversations with her friends about boys and speaking in that easy, flippant way girls who are best friends often do. I liked that. The contrast between the teens and the fairytale they stumble into reminds me of the writing of Holly Black.

“Kissy! You just mingled saliva with the most beautiful boy ever to tread the hallways of Saint Pock’s. Saliva. There’s DNA in saliva.  You’re, like, carrying his cells in your mouth like one of those weird frogs that incubates its eggs in its cheeks!”
With a squeal, Evie added, “You could have his mouth baby!”
“God! Only you guys could make his saliva sound gross. I mean, did you see how perfect?”
“Oh, I saw,” said Cactus.

****
Spicy Little Curses Such as These: In British-ruled India, there is an English woman who goes down to Hell every week and bargains with the demon Vasudev for the lives of children. In exchange for the children, some adult with an evil soul would expire early. Every so often Vasudev would make things more interesting, and this is the story of what comes of a bargain where the newborn daughter of the Political Agent is cursed by one of their bargains. The girl, Anamique, was cursed with a voice so exquisite that all that hear it would promptly drop dead.
 
This is a romantic story where the suspense hinges on whether or not Anamique has the willpower to continue to be mute and spare those around her, even though only the servants believe her curse and her family does not. Anamique has a rich inner world but it’s a lonely life. Her downfall may be when she’s finally noticed by a young soldier named James Dorsey who finds her journal on the train, reads it,  and falls for with the person who wrote it. I loved how this story’s Indian setting felt like I was reading a beautiful dream of the past. Out of the three stories, I thought this was the sweetest and the most straightforward.

James cajoled an old missionary’s wife to take a turn at the piano at the end of the evening, so that he might have the chance to dance with Anamique.They touched for the first time, first delicately and decorously, fingertips to waist and hand to shoulder in the pose of the dance. But by and by James’s lips brushed softly against Anamique’s earlobe as he whispered something to her. She blushed furiously at the intimate touch, and a look of wistfulness and hope came into her eyes.
“I love you,” he had whispered, and it seemed to him as she pressed her lips together, that she was imagining whispering it back.

****

Hatchling: Esmé and her mother Mab live in their own separate world. Esmé has never been to school nor does she or her mother have friends or family. They live like fey creatures off of money they get when they sell diamonds a mysterious benefactor sends them in the mail. Then one day, Esmé’s left eye turns from brown to blue, and she hears wolves. That’s when they hastily throw together some belongings into a couple of violin cases and flee from her mother’s nightmare – the Druj. Watching over then until this moment is the exile Mahai, and he has plans for Esmé. The past of Mab, Mahai, and the druj is interwoven with the present in this story that centers around a race of immortal shapeshifters with no memory of their history.
 
Of the three stories, Hatchling is the longest, and with it’s shift from present to past, from one person’s history to another’s, it is probably the most complicated story. Before I started reading this, I had a couple of people comment that this was their favorite. I think in terms of the way things ended, all the pieces fitting together neatly and satisfyingly, I understand why this is a fave. This has elements of the Celtic fairy tales with dark Fae creatures who make mischief, turn into hounds and go on hunts, and keep pet trolls. I also felt like this was a story about memories and legends and things that were forgotten and then remembered. I liked this story, but the length and the shifting focus gave it less of an impact as the earlier stories in my mind. I also think expectation played a role here because we begin the story with Esmé, but the middle is about Mab, and the end is about someone else.

The forests belong to the Druj. Everything in them belongs to the Druj and the Druj are supposed to stay there — agreements had been made — but sometimes boredom gets the better of them.
Boredom is a terrible affliction of the soulless.
Every village in the foothills of those varied mountains has its tales of Druj stalking among them. They come as crows and owls, foxes and magpies, stags whose antlers carry the moss of centuries, and wolves, huge and hunched, padding silently through the center of town. Whatever cithra they keep, their eyes are always the same, that desolate blue, and that’s how humans know them.

Overall: A strong trio of stories and a keeper. I think the author says it best when she describes herself as “a magpie […] a scavenger of shiny things: fairy tales, dead languages, weird folk beliefs, fascinating religions, and more”. These are stories that all feel like the children of other stories, but they’ve all been heavily infused with an air of the romantic. Reading this feels like discovering a room filled with whimisical, fantastic treasures accumulated over a lifetime by a rich French eccentric who liked pretty things (Yes, I just linked two such cases – it’s a thing).
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe – overall score 9/10
Chachic’s Book Nook – “highly recommend to all fantasy fans” (she also quotes one of my favorite passages!)
Stella Matutina – 3.5 out of 5 (“prose is dark yet sweet; intricate yet accessible”)
Book Harbinger – “Lush, imaginative, beautiful in every way and extremely well-written”
Lurv a la Mode – 3 scoops out of 5 (“Despite not fully enjoying all the stories, I am in awe of the author’s imagination and skill”)

Stories for Nighttime and Some For the Day by Ben Loory

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day came to me from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. Although I love the cover (the sea, the sky, a tentacle, and a spaceship!) this is a book that I wouldn’t have found on my own. So chalk it up as one of the nice things about book blogging – getting to read good books outside your usual purview.

Read one of the stories, “The Girl In the Storm” here

Now, how do I describe this book? The one sentence summary is that this is a set of weird little stories. Very short, simple stories that feel like someone is relating a dream to you. Nameless and indistinct figures are the central characters. There was “a man”, “a woman”, “a moose”, “a tree”, “a boy”, or “a girl”, and then this very strange thing happens to them. Maybe they encounter an alien, or an ominous hat starts following them. Maybe they find a fish in their teapot. The story continues from there, and you keep reading because you have no idea how the story is going to end, and with 40 stories in 210 pages, each story is only a few pages long. And you have to know. Then you begin the next story. It’s the literary equivalent of eating potato chips. Before long, you’ve eaten the whole bag.

This book grew out of a horror writing class, but I didn’t find any of the stories very frightening, there’s just the dread of the unknown about some of them. They end in a way that suggests something bad has just happened without explicitly telling the reader what that was. To tell you the truth, most of my favorites had this sort of end. My other favorites were the stories that were just about living life – the stories in which someone or something decides to see the world, and what happens when they do, or the stories that had characters finding a friend or a love. I liked the sweet endings and the uncertain endings, although there were of course the endings that were neither.

Most of the stories were good, but every so often I hit one that fell flat. Usually these were the ones where I just didn’t get their point and as a result they became forgettable. I feel like either I’ve failed as a reader for not appreciating the meaning in the story, or the story has failed to actually convey a meaning. I can’t decide which.

Overall: I’d say I liked this one and it is a compelling read, but I also felt a little bit like these stories rely on a sort of Quirky-Kooky formula. It would have been nice to have stories in the mix that did not rely on this. I’d recommend it to people who have an appreciation for the offbeat.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers – 8 (Excellent, and a notable read of 2011)

Wild & Steamy (anthology) by Meljean Brook, Jill Myles, and Carolyn Crane

Wild & Steamy
Meljean Brook,
Jill Myles, and Carolyn Crane

There was about a week where this self-published anthology by a few well-known authors in romance and UF was 99 cents, and this week happened to coincide with my being on a plane for 6 hours as I traveled west across the U.S. So to my trusty nook it was downloaded. Wild & Steamy is now priced at the still reasonable $2.99. Currently it is only available as an ebook.

Meljean Brook has excerpts of all three short stories up on her website here.

Two of the three short stories/novellas were stories set in existing worlds. Carolyn Crane’s “Kitten-tiger and the Monk” is set in the same world as The Disillusionists Trilogy, and Meljean Brook’s story, “Blushing Bounder” is set in the world of The Iron Seas series. I couldn’t tell whether or not the third story, “Vixen”, by Jill Myles is similarly set in the same world as a series or not (the writing didn’t make me think it was), but research online reveals that it is part of the Midnight Liaisons world.

Blushing Bounder by Meljean Brook: Constable Edward Newton and his wife Temperance are recent newlyweds living in London. Theirs is a strained marriage, as Temperance once thought her husband was an honorable man, until he compromised her reputation and made a marriage to him and a move from New Manhattan to “bug”-infested London her only choice.  Temperance is appalled at the amount of Horde devices she sees in this new city, and is terrified of the tiny machines that practically everyone has injected into their systems.

This was a mostly sweet story about two people who have to work through misunderstandings in order to be together, with a bit of police procedural thrown in. I haven’t read any of the books in The Iron Seas series yet, but I understand that Constable Newton is a secondary character, and his detective, Detective Inspector Wentworth, is probably a main character in The Iron Seas series. She has a cameo, and I was able to understand the steampunky industrial London setting and it’s concepts pretty easily. What I had trouble understanding was minor: I didn’t understand the inspector’s reputation in London (it is not a flattering one), and I had trouble pinpointing Temperance’s age (her sickness and heightened sense of propriety made her seem older to me, until I read about her backstory and revised my estimate).

Overall: Really liked the world, and found the hero/heroine likable and their story quite sweet. A nice little read.

****

Vixen by Jill Myles: Miko is a were-fox (or kitsune) living alone in the back woods. Because of her heritage, she is “prone to polygamous relationships” but Miko isn’t satisfied with being being outside of a steady relationship. She knows too well the loneliness that life can cause – her mother being a prime example. So when local hunters start a fox-hunting club, and Miko’s mom sends over two shapeshifter bodyguards to protect her, she isn’t happy at the disruption to her quiet existence at first, but her were-fox nature is interested in selecting a mate. Or two.

This was the most sex-y story in the anthology, where the the problem of the fox hunters felt like a vehicle to introduce the menage rather than the focus of the plot. If you like steamy stories, particularly ones with a menage, this one will work. Threesomes are not my thing so for that reason I found this the least enjoyable of the stories. This also had the greatest “paranormal romance” feel of the three, with the familiar concepts of a mating urge, protective males, and shapeshifters coming to play.

Overall: Didn’t really like this one, but I’m not a fan of threesomes, so it was a personal taste issue.

****

Kitten-tiger and the Monk by Carolyn Crane: Sophia Sidway, a woman with the power to revise memories, is tired of regretting the things she has done. She wants to start anew – “to be stopped – once and for all”, and the one person who can do that is the Monk, a shadowy disillusionist who can “reboot” criminals. Sophia has been told that only The Tanglemaster knows where the Monk lives, but when she visits The Tanglemaster, Sophia is confronted by her first love, a man she betrayed years ago and has regretted it ever since.

This story was probably my biggest reason for buying this ebook in the first place. I am a BIG fan of The Disillusionists Trilogy (cannot WAIT for the third book), and this story provides some back story on two secondary characters. Sophia is actually a character I’ve disliked in the series so far (the first two books), so it was a surprise to be shown a more vulnerable side. This story is very character driven, in a good way. I enjoyed learning about Sophia’s past and I think it was presented in a way that you don’t need to have read the series to understand what was going on. The only issue I had was that the sex in this story seemed extraneous, but that is a minor complaint.

I’m not sure how story fit in with the rest of the trilogy. It may or may not be required reading if it informs upon the general plot of the series.

Overall: This was my favorite of the three. The character development in the short space was very well done. A must-read for fans of The Disillusionists Trilogy.

My impression of the whole anthology would be that these stories were entertaining and the price was reasonable. Worth it if you are a fan of any of these authors.

Buy: Amazon | Nook | Smashwords | All Romance Ebooks

Other reviews:
Smexy Books – B
Fiction Vixen – B
Smart Bitches Trashy Books – A
Book Girl of Mur-y-castell – positive

Zombies vs. Unicorns by various authors, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Ah, anthologies!  I do love them and really should read more. I get to try out new authors and put the book down in nice short story length increments. Zombies vs. Unicorns started as a online argument on Justine Larbalestier’s blog, and then became a book. The humor in this “fight” shines through in the first pages where Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier discuss how the book came about, and again in their introductions before every story. It was fun to hear the argument from both sides as to whether zombies or unicorns are the better creature.

This review is for an ARC copy I received at BEA. Zombies vs. Unicorns comes out September 21st, 2010

My reviews are going to be brief impressions for each of the 12 stories as I read along.

1) The Highest Justice by Garth Nix – This is the story of a princess who calls the aid of a unicorn to avenge the death of her mother. I think this is a Team Unicorn story, but it’s hard to tell. Pretty straight forward revenge tale, with perhaps a little more violence than the princess bargained for. I think the author may have been aiming for a bit of “fairy tale creatures may be noble but extreme views of right and wrong are also rather creepy”, and he got it.

2) Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson – A teenage zombie finds himself going against his instincts when it comes to another teenage boy because of their shared love of Joy Division. A star-crossed lovers sort of tale, full of music references. Made me really want mac and cheese. Romantic yet grisly and perhaps doomed (or perhaps not).

3) Purity Test by Naomi Novik – a drunk teen girl on a park bench in New York City is accosted by a unicorn looking for a virgin to help him on his mission. This was a funny and cute one. The sarcastic banter plus their creative problem solving were very entertaining.

4) Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan – A dystopian zombie tale with the sheltered teenaged daughter of a powerful man as the protagonist. Loved the dystopian feel and the way this ends in a turning point for the protagonist. I wanted more. I also liked how the story jumps back and forth between past and present, but it was presented clearly. Good sense of place – even Papiamento (a creole language spoken in Curaçao) was interspersed (but I had trouble figuring out what the words meant since it was just off of what I knew to be Spanish).

5) A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan – Set in a medieval setting, this short story has three narrators who each witness a small part what happens to a princess after a mysterious event in the forest. This has some questionable bits in it  (lovely prose sort of shields you from a high ew factor). Haunting with a ‘ghost story’ vibe.

6) The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson – a teen follows her boyfriend to a summer job in a farm in England, and meets some zombies.. a tongue-in-cheek story that has an interesting take on who and what could start a zombie epidemic.

7) The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund – I believe this is set in the same world as Peterfreund’s Killer Unicorn series (unicorns were once extinct but have reappeared and certain girls have the power to hunt them). The narrator is a teen girl who is an untrained unicorn hunter, so they are drawn to her. One has already killed her cousins. This story had some good growing pains – questioning parents and beliefs, and felt like it could be the seed of a whole book. Liked this one.

8 ) Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld – This is about teens post-zombie-apocalypse living in a gated, zee-free farm with some adults that have protected them. Surrounding the chain mail fence are zombies waiting outside. Interesting take on a communal life after escaping the zombie horde from a teen POV (which includes teen rebellion and crushes). Another one where I wished I could find out what happened next.

9) Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot –  A teen gets a unicorn for her 17th birthday. A glowing, farting rainbows kind of unicorn. I think Cabot had a lot of fun creating a unicorn that fits an extreme schoolgirl fantasy, and giving it to a teenaged girl who’s been a little bit jaded by life. I liked this one. Fun but also with a bit of a message for girls.

10) Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare – The girlfriend of the Duke-to-Be witnesses her boyfriend die and then come back to life in Lychgate, a town cursed to have it’s dead come back to life. This had a modern-day fairytale feeling to it, with a combination of Old World traditions in a place that has modern day technology. The ending is an odd combination of both comforting and creepy.

11) The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey – This is told from the first person POV of a unicorn who has lived a long time and although he can heal people, there’s a price for it. He’s been wandering the world looking for the perfect combination of purity and need. I don’t think I really understood this unicorn but I’m glad I didn’t. This story speaks to a dark place.

12) Prom Night by Libba Bray – Another post zombie-apocalypse story, where the adults are all gone and teens keep the town running. The story is told from the first person POV of a teen who stepped in as law enforcement as the kids in town gear up for the Prom. This was a tale which I thought had an interesting message about hope and survival when there is none.

Overall: There was a consistent level of quality in these stories that impressed me. I don’t think I encountered a dud in the bunch and every one left me with something to think about. This is one of the better anthologies I’ve read in a while, although I would warn that much of it is grim and gory and there are only a couple of light stories. I tried to decide which were my favorites and really had a hard time. I finally settled on Meg Cabot’s for my favorite light story, Margo Lanagan’s for my favorite dark (and disturbing), and Diana Peterfreund’s for something in between. Uh oh, all unicorn tales… let the hate mail from Team Zombie begin.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers – various ratings for each story, 7 overall (very good) –  with a giveaway that ends Sat August 21st.
Karissa’s Reading Review – “An above average collection of stories”

Since there are SO many dystopian stories in the bunch..
Dystopian-august

Huntress by Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge, Jenna Maclaine

Huntress
Christine Warren

This was an anthology I picked up at the friend of the library bookstore a while ago and am finally getting off the TBR. It has an author who writes in a way I like (Marjorie Liu), and another who I’ve meant to try (Caitlin Kittredge). The other two authors are new names to me so this was a good way to find out about them.

  • Devils Bargain by Christine Warren – Half-demon, half-human bounty hunter, Lillith Corbin has just one more task to do for the devil Samael – bring him the book the Praedicti Arcanum, which someone stole from him, in three days. Then their deal will be done and her soul will be saved. What she thinks is a simple job becomes complicated when she encounters Aaron Bullard in the middle of stealing back the book, and he tries to stop her.
This was a very straightforward paranormal romance and overall I’d give it an average grade. There was a lot about the story that felt predictable and the focus seemed to be about the hero and heroine getting together with their role in saving the world from apocalypse a means to do so. The part I liked best was the world building – demons and magic are accepted in everyday life, and the way magic and the demonworld worked interested me. What I disliked was the hero and heroine falling in lust at first sight. There was thin reasoning behind having sex and telling instead of showing.
  • Robber Bride by Marjorie M. Liu – Maggie Greene is her community’s tinkerer and fixer. She owns a junk yard in a world that was ravaged by a virus that killed 70% of the population 20 years ago. One day a strange pale man in a motorcycle arrives, and because Maggie has an odd gift she manages to bargain for her life. But that’s not the end of it. The man comes back with friends and steals people from her community, and she thinks they have Trace, an old woman and friend. With a mysterious raven that followed Trace and now follows Maggie, Maggie sets off to follow the band on motorcycles.
This story had a more urban fantasy feel although there is a definite romantic subplot. The writing was excellent, there’s a gorgeous sense of place and lyrical but uncomplicated writing, and I really enjoyed the fairy tale hints – a necklace of teeth, a journey, people who are not as they seem. I finished this one feeling satisfied and happy. Just this story is worth keeping the book. I’m beginning to feel like I would really like if there was a collection of Liu’s short stories, because I tend to enjoy them.
  • Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go (a tale of Black London) by Caitlin Kittredge – Jack Winter is a mage who does odd jobs for people in between gigs with his band. While he was in Scotland with his band he’s approached by a femme fatale with a job – to help her get to the Black so she can kill a demon. Jack is immediately leery, but is not really given a choice in the matter.
The main characters in this urban fantasy story are both very hard and jaded by their past. Jack is a brash and kind of skeevy, and Ava was a bombshell who exploits her sexuality to entrap him. This made them rather unlikeable so I found myself unattached to what was happening to them. I also I haven’t read the Black London books, of which Jack is a character. I think this story is probably easier to understand if you’ve read those books; although I could figure out Jack’s backstory, there are some places where I felt lost by the conversation. The language here was liberally peppered by Britishisms, but I wondered if they were overdone (does anyone use that much slang?). I would say this is a very gritty one with dark characters, dark places, and monsters that are reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth, but perhaps too gritty for my tastes.
  • Sin Slayer by Jenna Maclaine – Cin Craven and The Righteous, a group of vampire warriors, are tasked to take down Jack the Ripper, a demon who is terrorizing vampires in London. When they get there, Cin’s husband Michael is possessed by the demon and Cin must figure out a way to save him.
The author does a good job in getting the reader up to speed on Cin’s backstory and what The Righteous are, which I appreciated because I haven’t read any Cin Craven novels. There are a two already established relationships in the 4 members of The Righteous, and the sexuality between both couples at the beginning felt gratuitous, but perhaps not to those familiar with the books. After the story was moving along, the focus is on capturing Jack the Ripper, and the twist is that he takes over Michael, which Cin is very concerned about. I thought the relationship between Cin and Michael was illustrated well during his possession and Cin’s pained response to it. Overall a decent story.

Overall: There’s a mixture of urban fantasy and paranormal romance in the selection of stories presented in Huntress, and this is a combination that I think is a mixed bag that may work only for fans of both genres. I’m more of an UF reader than a PR one, so with the exception of Robber Bride, the stories in this anthology didn’t really resonate with me. I think this is worth picking up for those who are fans of the authors and related series in the anthology, but outside of that, the stories ranged from “meh” to “very good” and I would only call Robber Bride required reading.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Couldn’t find any – send me a link if I missed yours

Must Love Hellhounds by Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook

Must Love Hellhounds
Ilona Andrews

I preordered this one because this anthology of four paranormal stories featuring hellhounds has a couple authors I like in it.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

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1) Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews: This is the third story in the anthology but I read it first. 🙂

The Premise: This is a story set in the same world as the Kate Daniel series, but this time the first person narrator is Kate’s best friend, Andrea.  Andrea is filling in for Kate one day, when a call comes in about a member of the Atlanta Pack being chased after by a giant, three-headed hound. Andrea goes out to help and is dismayed to find Raphael, a were-hyena is the Pack member in trouble. Raphael has been pursuing Andrea for a while but Andrea is afraid he’s only interested in her for her novelty, not for herself.

Excerpt of Magic Mourns

My Thoughts: It’s probably better to have read the Kate Daniels series before reading this short story because much of the back story on Andrea’s origins and her relationship with Raphael is in those books, but that’s also reiterated in this story, so it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. I thought Andrea’s personality was similar to Kate’s (independent woman, hiding something, and doesn’t trust easily), but her voice was different enough from Kate’s (more wry humor I think) to make the story interesting. I enjoyed reading this one, because the pacing was just right to me, with a good balance of urban fantasy action and romance. I could savor it slowly. The reader already knows what will happen between Andrea and Raphael, especially if you’ve been following the Kate Daniels series, but it’s satisfying anyway. I also liked how well the story intersects with the Kate Daniels series and reveals a couple of things for people paying attention, but you don’t have to have read that series to follow this story (and there are no spoilers).

Overall: I’m a big fan of Ilona Andrews so no surprise: I liked this story a lot. A must read for Kate Daniel’s fans.

P.S. Is anyone else noticing some re-occurring themes in Andrews stories? Like the protection of children? Not that this is a complaint, I just find it interesting.

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2) The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris: This is the first story in Must Love Hellhounds, and by one of the two headlining authors (the other is Nalini Singh).

The Premise: Batanya and Clovache are both part of the Britlingen Collective, highly trained bodyguards for hire, who are assigned an unusual client. Crick wants Batanya and Clovache to protect him in Hell while he retrieves an item that he’d been hired to steal but he was caught the first time he was there.

My Thoughts: It’s a quirky, odd tale and not quite what I was expecting from Charlaine Harris. It takes some time to figure out who the Britlingens are and they use a combination of high tech and magic for their jobs, and hell is a bizarre place with a mixture of mythical creatures in it. Their client and others they run into are oddball people, and the whole tale uses a rather cheerful, matter of fact tone no matter what is happening. An example of bizarre is that someone has 2 penises. TWO PENISES!! It’s half-funny and half-I-don’t-know-what.

Overall:
I’m not sure if this will appeal to everyone depending on their sense of humor or level of tolerance for the off-beat. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t love it either. So I suppose it was in the “OK” to “good” range for me.

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3) Angels’ Judgment by Nalini Singh: Set in the same world as Singh’s Angel series, this story centers on vampire hunter Sara Haziz.

The Premise: Sara Haziz’s job is to bring back runaway vampires to their angel masters. Her latest retrieval is of a vampire whose head was almost cut off. Word is that a rogue hunter who has killed other vampires this way is responsible, and Deacon, the Slayer, is brought in.

Excerpt of Angel’s Judgment

My Thoughts: This was a straightforward whodunit with two ass-kicking characters and romance between them. The world building was interesting, and I didn’t have any problems following what was going on even though I haven’t read any of the novels set in this world yet. I couldn’t tell where this novella fit in the timeline of the Angels’ series though. At first I thought it was after Angel’s Blood, the first book, and was concerned that I was being spoiled, but then later on it sounded like Elena, Sara’s best friend and the heroine of the series, hadn’t met an archangel yet, so maybe this novella is supposed to happen before the series starts. The biggest issue I had with this was the repeated references to the sexual attraction of the two main characters, which made the romance very physical and not mental enough for me. Deacon bluntly tells Sara he wants to take her to bed within a very short time of knowing her and they pretty much sleep together while on a job together.  In the middle of their investigation when Sara is going to be the next hunter Guild Director? I also found it silly that Deacon was so big that he couldn’t fit into Sara’s car and had to follow on his motorcycle. Other than my inability to suspend disbelief at these things (and I think I’m in the minority from what I’ve seen), the story itself was relatively enjoyable.

Overall: Not bad but the romance was too predictable and physical for my tastes, but I think it would appeal to those who like a little steam in their stories.

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4) Blind Spot by Meljean Brook: This one is another story linked to a series I haven’t read, which is the Guardian series.

The Premise: Maggie is the equivalent of a butler for a very wealthy and powerful family, and her boss happens to be a vampire. When Maggie’s employer’s niece, Katherine, is kidnapped in New York, Katherine’s brother, Goeffrey Blake goes to get her, but he runs into some trouble and Maggie is sent over. Maggie and Geoff must work together (along with the family’s hellhound, Sir Pup) to find his sister.

Excerpt of Blind Spot

My Thoughts: I haven’t read the Guardian series, but I have read another novella set in this world in the Wild Thing anthology. I remember liking the worldbuilding in that story, but this one is even better. I think this author has grown, and I’m impressed! I felt like I was seeing Geoff and Maggie get to know one another and that although they each had an interest in each other they were aware that finding Katherine was more important. The attraction is shown more subtly, like their mutual curiosity for each other, and in gestures, like Maggie’s quick looks everywhere but pauses on Geoff’s mouth and hands. Meanwhile, Geoff’s thoughts reveal that he has known and thought about Maggie far before they ever met, which pulled me in because I wanted to know why and how that happened. The fantasy elements, such as Sir Pup the shape-shifting hellhound, and interesting abilities (really cool but I don’t want to spoil you), were unique and fascinating but also help along the story. I adored Sir Pup, the half-scary chaperone and  comic relief.

Overall: Really enjoyable blend of the fantastic and romantic. I liked this more than I expected to: it ties with the Ilona Andrews novella as my favorite in this anthology.

Other reviews:
The Good, The Bad, and The Unread – I think I consistently have a very different opinion from this reviewer, just like now, but we agreed on the Meljean Brook story. She’s also misinterpreted Andrea and Raphael’s relationship prior to when the novella takes place, IMHO.
Literary Escapism – I’m somewhat in line with her thoughts, but probably liked the Singh story less than she did.
Smexy Books – Same as above.
Shaymless Aymless at Babbling about Books and More – also in line with LE and Smexy books

Geektastic – Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

I picked this one up at BEA since I’m a Holly Black fan and she was signing it.

Geektastic is an anthology of geek related stories. According to the charming Editors’ note, the idea was formed after Comic Con, where, in line for a burrito, Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci discussed what would happen if “you were a Jedi and you woke up with a Klingon in your bed” (the first story in this anthology). It’s a fun concept, and this book has different varieties of geeks represented.  Although some stories have me thinking the idea was better than the realization, it was cool to see how many big names in the YA genre have geek cred.

Throughout the anthology are one page comics illustrated by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley about geeks like “How to Hook Up at the Science Fair”, “What your instrument says about you” and “Top Five Words or Phrases You Need to Know in Klingon” – these were amusing and nice breakpoints between stories.

Buy: AmazonB&N

Really quick reviews follow (My favorites were by David Levithan, Lisa Lee, Wendy Mass and Cassandra Clare):

1) Once You’re a Jedi, You’re a Jedi All the Way by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci: A Jedi and a Klingon wake up together in the same hotel room. Overall: OK. Funny and cute in a very geeky way. I enjoyed picturing the melee described here, but seems to focus more on Jedi vs. Klingon than their story.

2) One of Us by Tracy Lynn: A cheerleader tries to learn more about her football player boyfriend’s interests in geeky things by taking “lessons” from the the high school Genre and Nonsense Club – This one was like a primer into geekdom as each member of the club highlighted a particular aspect. Chock full of geek references, maybe too many, but ends nicely.

3) Definitional Chaos by Scott Westerfeld: A gamer responsible for bringing Con money to a hotel in Florida gets saddled with his crazy ex-girlfriend on the trip. The story seemed to focus on the idea of alignment, both in games and offline, and I found that aspect hard to connect to. This one took me a while to read because I kept putting it down.

4) I Never by Cassandra Clare: A girl and her friend who role play online as their favorite characters meet some other players of The Game in real life. Of course online characters differ greatly from their real life ones. A bit of a predictable Liking the Wrong Boy story, but ends up rather sweet.

5) The King of Pelinesse by M. T. Anderson: A boy discovers his mom gets love letters from one of his favorite fantasy authors and takes a trip to meet him. Um.. rather weird and somewhat creepy and sad. I’m pondering if this is saying something about certain fantasy authors or if it’s revealing the negative side of geekiness. Not sure.

6) The Wrath of Dawn by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith: A girl named Dawn attends a Buffy screening where people interact with the movie much like people do with Rocky Horror, and objects to the way the character Dawn seems universally despised. My reaction to this was “Eh”. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t move me.

7) Quiz Bowl Antichrist by David Levithan: A gay teen is part of his school’s quiz bowl team and butts heads constantly with the team leader while harboring a crush on another teammember. Told in the first person, this teens sarcastic observations had me chuckling. There were also some painful situations. This was probably my favorite short story.

8 ) The Quiet Knight by Garth Nix: Tony, a loner kid spends his time live action roleplaying as the Quiet Knight, and wondering what the Quiet Knight would do helps him come out of his shell. This was alright, sweet, but short.

9) Everyone But You by Lisa Lee: Felicity has just moved from Ohio to Hawaii, going from her High schools’ MIss Pep to No one she feels out of place and invisible. This is another growing pains sort of story and another one of my favorites. I also liked the details of Hawaii that the locals know about.

10) Secret Identity by Kelly Link: Written as a letter from a teenaged girl to someone named Paul Zell. She alternates between writing in the first and third person about herself, but I figured she met him online in a game called FarAway and they were to meet in real life at a New York City Hotel but he doesn’t show. This is a confusing story which was almost a DNF, but it did get better once I realized she was serious about the superheroes in the lobby and ignored the changing POV. In the end it left me wanting to know who Paul Zell really was, but I didn’t like the shifts in POV at all.

11) Freak the Geek by John Green: Two best friends, outcasts in a all girls high school are the targets for a school tradition to haze two geeks for a day. A nice friendship story, with I think a lighter dusting of geekiness. Left me with a warm fuzzy. One comment: Pokemon? I thought that was only a fad in the nineties?

12) The Truth about Dino Girl by Barry Lyga: Katherine loves dinosaurs and spouts off knowledge about them to her best friend Sooz, an artist in the making, but lately her obsessive nature has a new target – an unattainable guy with a perfect girlfriend. An illustration that evolution can favor the little guys too, but I thought Katherine’s “revenge” was hypocritical and crossed a line.

13) This is My Audition Monologue by Sara Zarr: A monologue by Rachel Banks arguing why she should finally get a part as cast in the latest theater production and not be shuffled off into the crew. Rambly, embarrassing, ambitious, geeky, desperate and defiant all rolled into one. I liked and disliked it for those reasons. I wonder if she got a part.

14) The Stars at the Finish Line by Wendy Mass: The narrator, Peter, has had a crush on Tabitha Bell since they were in grade school. When she declares her ambition of being an astronaut when she was nine, so does he, and the rivalry began.  Eight years later, Peter still has his crush and Tabitha still thinks he’s her biggest competition. Astronomy geeks, very cute. Another favorite.

15) It’s Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray: Leta and Agnes have been friends for a long time and friday night at the Rocky Horror Picture Show is their thing. Unfortunately things don’t always stay the same. Agnes gets a boyfriend and Leta feels left behind. This gave off a very nostalgic, teens-in-the-seventies vibe. I thought it had interesting things to say about geekiness and it’s relationship with identity, friendship, and coping with life. Liked it.

SciFiChick has 3 copies of Geektastic she’s giving away (contest ends August 22nd)

The Eternal Kiss by various authors, edited by Trisha Telep

I actually tend to like anthologies because it gives me a chance to “try out” or find new authors I may not have tried out on my own. Usually there are always hits and misses, but what I liked about The Eternal Kiss was that although it is a young adult anthology and it’s about vampires it doesn’t make the mistake of only being about teenage romance, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of vampires. I picked this ARC up at BEA.

I did something a little different here – I wrote up my review as I read the book, just jotting a couple of sentences on each short story. Very brief reviews follow (my two favorite stories were the ones by Karen Mahoney and by Sarah Brennan):

1) Falling to Ash by Karen Mahoney – Vampire girl (Moth) comes home to find her sire wants her to get the ashes of a recently staked vampire. Really like this one, this author has been on my radar on LJ, but I hadn’t connected the the LJ user with “Karen Mahoney” (sometimes things get past me), until I had already read and liked this.  This is the introduction to a series about Moth, so now looking forward to it.

2) Shelter Island by Melissa de la Cruz – 15 year old Hannah has a mysterious visitor at night. I couldn’t connect with this one. I think the characters, particularly the female protagonist were a not substantial enough in the amount of pages this story was for me to grasp them.

3) Sword Point by Maria V. Snyder – Girl fencer discovers that the prestigious fencing school she goes to is more than it seems – interesting at first but then I started to lose interest halfway when the relationship part occurs. The action at the end felt very perfunctory.

4) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – A bitten girl tries to stay human, but then learns her ex-boyfriend and a neighbor girl have run away to Coldtown, the vampire section of town. A dark story about the glamorizing of vampirism. Liked it, nice and chilling.

5) Undead is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Brennan – A nineteen year old who has been a vampire for a year joins a boy band. Hilarious. I laughed aloud so much reading this one. Another author I plan to look for in the bookstore.

6) Kat by Kelley Armstrong – A teen is awoken by her vampire guardian and try to escape would-be captors in the middle of the night – Interesting. Ending makes me want to read more, maybe the start of a series?

7) The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray – Teen gets a job at a halfway house which may not be all that it seems. I think my own experiences cloud the way I read this story. It bothered me that the protagonist become like the addict sister she considered selfish.

8 ) All Hallows by Rachel Caine – Vampire boyfriend of the narrator gets into trouble and she goes in to save him. Readers may need to have read other Morganville books. This is a short story in that world that seems to fit in the timeline after the first 4 or 5 books.

9) Wet Teeth by Cecil Castellucci A vampire begins to feel alive for the first time in a long time after meeting a strange girl in the park. This one seems to focus on the ending, and left me a bit wanting for the rest of the story, but seems to be in the right vein for horror.

10) Other Boys by Cassandra Clare- A girl begins to get interested in the new boy in school, who says he’s a vampire. This one had elements of nice old school horror.

11) Passing by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié – A girl has to pass the final class in her vampire hunter academy – only one student will get a special elixar. A bit too complex of a back story to cram into a short story space.

12) Ambition by Lili St. Crow –  Smart but poor schoolgirl meets boy at club. Girl falls out with rich best friend. Boy may be supernatural. Dreamy, sort of hazy relationship that may be dangerous à la Heavenly Creatures. I keep re-reading the last three lines, wanting questions answered.

13) All Wounds by Dina James – Girl discovers her grandmother and the bad boy in detention aren’t exactly who she thought they were, and neither is she. Looks like the start of a new series so there’s a lot of plot set-up, but not much time for more than brief character sketches.

The Eternal Kiss will be released July 27th.