April 8, 2009
Mean Streets is an anthology with four stories about supernatural investigations. It includes:
- “The Warrior” by Jim Butcher
When Harry Dresden steps in to protect a threatened friend, he could be playing into the hands of an unknown enemy. This book is set after Small Favor, and has some pretty major spoilers for that story. The story took some interesting turns and there was also a nice theme about how small actions can have unforeseeable results. It was my favorite story in the collection, and any fan of the Dresden Files should enjoy it.
- “The Difference A Day Makes” by Simon R. Green
A woman asks John Taylor to help recover her lost memories of the previous day, and the search leads to one of the seediest areas of the Nightside as well as a truth that she’d probably be better off not knowing. This story seems like it may be targeted at people who haven’t been introduced to the series yet. As someone who has read all of the books, I found it pretty repetitive. I think maybe I’ve read that “Not everything that looks like a car is a car” bit one too many times. The concept was interesting enough, but it was too stuffed with speeches about the nature of the Nightside and the ending was less than satisfying.
- “The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” by Kat Richardson
Harper Blaine gets a bequest in a stranger’s will, but it comes with strange conditions that lead her to a Day of the Dead celebration full of secrets and revenge. This is my first exposure to Richardson, and I’ll definitely be trying one of her novels. Harper’s powers seem interesting, though I didn’t understand them all that well. Some of the Day of the Dead explanations felt too much like lectures, and the climax got a bit confusing. But there were some great twists and I liked it a lot.
- “Noah’s Orphans” by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Remy Chandler gets dragged into another angel-related investigation after the murder of Noah (yes, the one that built the ark). It’s set shortly after A Kiss Before the Apocalypse (my review), and there are a few spoilers for that novel. The story is okay and I like the main character, but I’m just not connecting with this setting the way I have with my favorite urban fantasy worlds.
March 25, 2009
Men of the Otherworld is an anthology focused on Clay and Jeremy Danvers, mostly told from Clay’s perspective. Most of this book was previously available for free on Armstrong’s website, but it’s nice to see it in print form. Armstrong will be donating her proceeds from the book to World Literacy of Canada.
December 16, 2008
December 6, 2008
Unusual Suspects is a mystery/fantasy anthology. It’s a follow up to Powers of Detection, so if you liked that one then you know about what to expect. The stories all focus on crime and the supernatural. Some stories are urban fantasy, while others take place in more traditional fantasy worlds.
November 11, 2008
We’re practically swamped in anthologies lately, this one is a holiday themed collection. The stories in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe involve werewolves and Christmas, though several of them could have been set at any time of year and seem to only include seasonal mentions as an afterthought.
October 19, 2008
July 14, 2008
Like any anthology, Hotter than Hell has it’s ups and downs. I immediately loved the title, because back in my college days that was going to be the name of my all-girl Kiss cover band if I’d ever gotten off my ass, learned to play guitar, and started an all-girl Kiss cover band.
Here’s a few impressions of each story:
- “Music Hath Charms” by Tanya Huff
One of the best in the collection, it’s about an struggling agent in the music industry. She’s determined to sign twin musicians whose talent is too remarkable to be natural. It definitely lives up to the spicy theme, but there’s also a real plot and a likable heroine who saves the day.
- “Minotaur in Stone” by Marjorie M. Liu
I haven’t read anything by Liu before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. A forgotten woman living in a modern-day maze comes in contact with the minotaur of legend, still trapped in a magical labyrinth. It’s written in an enchanting style and I was really drawn to the characters. But three sex scenes in just over 30 pages felt a bit excessive.
- “Demon Lover” by Cheyenne McCray
An incubus is assigned to take a paranormal writer’s soul, it’s more of a romance than an urban fantasy story, so it doesn’t really fit my taste. And for some reason I really dislike it when an author’s main character is a writer, that choice only works for me on rare occasions. It’s just too meta. It jerks me right out of the story, especially when the narrator points out how events are similar to research about their subject or thinks about how events in the story seem almost fictional.
- “Equinox” by L.A. Banks
Banks is a pretty good writer, and it’s a great idea to have an ancient goddess show up in today’s world and hunt people that she thinks are hurting the land. But the story seemed to imply that Artemis, the legendary badass herself, just needed some good lovin’ and she would settle down.
- “Ride a Dark Horse” by Susan Krinard
I don’t care if they’re fictional characters or if the heroine is really passive and is confused about what she wants. No still means no, not “grope a little more and see if she changes her mind.” Feeling up a near-stranger while she’s sleeping is assault, even if you have some kind of unacknowledged magical love connection. Sorry, but this story seriously yicked me out.
- “To Die For” by Keri Arthur
A werewolf and a wolf shifter are drawn to each other while working a missing persons case. The story doesn’t explain how Arthur’s werewolves and wolf shifters are different, but it’s made clear that they are and this causes some friction. The story has both action and drama. I think I liked it a little more than her novels, possibly because the shorter format doesn’t leave time for much bed-hopping even if the characters would have been interested in that.
- “Curse of the Dragon’s Tears” by Heidi Betts
One for the romance fans, it’s about an arrogant young man who was cursed into becoming some kind of immortal lizard guy because he yelled at a hungry gypsy group for poaching on his family’s land. Seems like a bit of a disproportionate response, no? Apparently “that time grandma turned a guy into a monster for being a jerk” became a popular family story, so one of the gypsy’s descendants goes to look for the man after having steamy dreams about him. Betts felt the need to point out that her hero had scales all over, which sounds extremely uncomfortable – if not downright painful.
- “Brother’s Keeper” by Lilith Saintcrow
The main character is a witch who gets her power from sex. This isn’t a self-contained story, it seems more like it’s setting up other events because a mystery is introduced but not solved. I doubt I’d buy a novel with this character as its heroine, because I don’t like it when plot or character traits mandate sex. I really enjoyed Saintcrow’s writing though, so maybe Working for the Devil will be more my style.
- “(Like a) Virgin of the Spring” by Susan Sizemore and Denise Little
A fun, light story about a psychic time-traveler stuck in ancient Britain.
- “Life is the Teacher” by Carrie Vaughn
A newly-made vampire longs for her past but puts it behind her. An enjoyable, character-driven story.
- “Moonlight Becomes You” by Linda Winstead Jones
A lonely apartment-dweller gets to know her neighbor, who she believes may be a vampire. This is probably my favorite of the mostly-romance stories because of the humor and sense of mystery, and because the conclusion was believable without being obvious. The main character bases her suspicions on knowledge of popular fiction’s version of the supernatural, and it seemed as if she believed mostly because she wanted it to be true.
- “Dirty Magic” by Kim Harrison
Set in Harrison’s version of Cincinnati, this story is about a banshee, a woman who feeds off the emotions of others. At first I thought the ending was a bit of a confusing, jarring mess, despite the really interesting turn of events. It seemed better after reading it again. I’m still not sure if I was too distracted on my first read or if the end of the story only seems well enough supported when you know what’s going to happen. I’m not really sure if that matters, though. If a story ends up with a big enough “wait, what?!” moment that you immediately want to read the whole thing again, then it’s certainly effective.