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.

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Excerpts – March 2009

March 19, 2009

I’ve added a few excerpts to the list lately:

Go check them out!

Backup, by Jim Butcher

November 3, 2008

Harry Dresden’s brother, Thomas, is the star of Butcher’s new mini-novel, Backup. I keep wanting to refer to it as a short story, but can you still call something that if it’s published in hardcover and includes a few illustrations?

Thomas is a vampire of the White Court, which means that he’s basically an incubus instead of a bloodsucker. He struggles to keep his hunger under control, feeding it in only small, controlled doses that neither seriously harm his victims nor fully satisfy him. Thomas gets word that an old enemy is trying to use Harry as a pawn in a secret war, a conflict so intense that knowledge of it would endanger both the war effort and Harry’s life. So Thomas needs to save the day while keeping Harry in the dark about the truth behind his latest case.

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This anthology from the Horror Writer’s Association may not be to the taste of every urban fantasy fan, but I enjoyed it for the most part. Blood Lite is a collection of humorous horror stories, so some of them get a bit cheesy. Short descriptions of each are below.

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This is easily my favorite urban fantasy anthology. Often these types of books frustrate me because they tend to have only one or two really good stories. At best, many anthologies have too much filler, and at worst some authors really don’t seem to give a crap (like when Laurell K. Hamilton used a short story that was actually an excerpt from her next book).

Despite my low expectations for urban fantasy story collections, I had high hopes for My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding. I liked that it had a theme, especially one as interesting as wedding stories. It looked like a good mix of authors I’ve already enjoyed and folks who were new to me, which is always a bonus. Here’s a list of the stories and a few impressions:

  • “Spellbound” by L.A. Banks
    In “Spellbound,” the feuding Hatfield and McCoy families use voodoo rather than brute force to fight their battles. The basic idea is very Romeo and Juliet. But thankfully when Odelia Hatfield and Jefferson McCoy decide to marry, they have more support than Shakespeare’s lovers.
  • “Something Borrowed” by Jim Butcher
    Dresden Files fans will be happy to see a Harry story set at Billy and Georgia’s wedding. In one of the earlier books in the series, Dresden and the werewolf couple made a powerful enemy who decides it’s time for revenge. But the story should be enjoyable even for readers who haven’t been following the series.
  • “Dead Man’s Chest” by Rachel Caine
    This is a supernatural pirate tale, unconnected to Caine’s Weather Wardens series. It was fun enough, but highly predictable and I found Caine’s protagonist pretty annoying. I’m probably being a bit too harsh because pirates have been so overdone in the past couple of years.
  • “All Shook Up” by P.N. Elrod
    An Elvis impersonator with an uncanny resemblance to the real thing makes an impression on the caterer of a celebrity wedding. I thought this was the most original story of the lot, and a lot of fun. I liked Elrod’s approach to the wedding theme, by having the hired help as the main characters.
  • “The Wedding of Wylda Serene” by Esther M. Friesner
    I love the prose style of this one. It’s about a wedding that’s planned at a country club with an unusual problem. The setup is fantastic, but I have mixed feelings about the resolution because it got a little cheesy.
  • “Charmed by the Moon” by Lori Handeland
    An earlier story included a werewolf wedding, but in this setting the werewolves are more monstrous. This story includes characters from Handeland’s Nightcreatures series, but they’re taking a break from hunting shapeshifters to question their motives for getting married. This is one of the most romance-oriented stories in the collection, which means it wasn’t exactly my thing.
  • “Tacky” by Charlaine Harris
    This story is set in the same world as the author’s Southern Vampire stories, but doesn’t use the same characters. It’s about an unusual wedding, the thought of this marriage doesn’t really thrill either the bride’s vampire nest or the groom’s werewolf pack. It’s a must-read for any Harris fan, her characters are entertaining as they navigate the awkward social situation. There’s enough action to keep things moving, and the wedding ceremony itself is, uh, to die for. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
  • “A Hard Day’s Night-Searcher” by Sherrilyn Kenyon
    This is the other really romance-heavy entry, though there was more excitement than in Handeland’s story. It felt like Kenyon cheated on the theme. There was a wedding scene, but it was hardly central to the plot. The main characters could have just as easily crashed a birthday party or a book club meeting. Not that the supernatural creatures involved struck me as the book club type, but you get the point. The main character jumped from lust to serious life-altering commitment in a disturbingly short amount of time, which always bugs me.
  • “…Or Forever Hold Your Peace” by Susan Krinard
    The anthology closes with this supernatural mystery. The alternate history victorian setting was a treat, I was sad to learn that Krinard has only one other short story that uses it. The story starts out with a dramatic interrupted wedding followed by the disappearance of the bride. The main characters are a young man and woman who each have inherited supernatural talents that they put to use helping the groom figure out what happened. There are enough twists to keep everyone guessing. I liked the style of this story a lot, and hope to read a full length novel about the characters in the future.

This collection has really raised the bar for urban fantasy anthologies, which is nice to see. The upcoming Many Bloody Returns is a birthday themed set of stories that looks like it will feature many of the same authors, and My Big, Fat Supernatural Honeymoon has been announced but there’s no release date yet.