Note: I'm uploading my books from Goodreads and since there are like 200+ it's going to take awhile. The uploading seems a bit wonky too, so hang with me as I fix things. Also there may be spoilers until I can make all the appropriate tags.
I'm an ex-English Major who, sick of reading classics after college, decided to read all the trashy books I didn't before because I was too snobby. Since graduating, I've entertained myself with comics, YA, and romance novels, finding out they can not only be decently written, but superbly written. I've since recovered from my classics aversion, but I'm now more open-minded reader willing to read from any genre. If a book has kick-ass heroines and/or witty banter and/or takes place in a different time or place (including fantasy settings), I will most likely fall in love with it. My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Meljean Brook, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hartman, Catherynne M. Valente, and Aliette de Bodard.
I am aware there was controversy surrounding this editor, so I had checked this out of the library. Because the original blog post detailing what happened has been taken down, I can only go by hearsay. Apparently in later anthology, one of the authors wanted to include a homosexual love story and Telep insisted the author change it to a heterosexual one. I don't know if Telep was acting on behalf of the publishing house or her own preferences. I thought to let people know to make their own decisions.
Average: 3.5 Stars
I just read the stories of the authors I was interested in. Despite the title, most of the stories I read fell more into the horror genre than YA paranormal romance. With the exception of Brennan's story, the stories revolved around the same theme of devolving into a monster and accepting one's monstrosity. Black's story is the standout that the rest fail to match, but there still is some pretty good vampire-based horror in here.
Favorite: "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" by Holly Black
Standouts: "The Thirteenth Step" by Libba Bray and "Ambition" by Lili St. Crow
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Matilda has been infected by vampirism. If she avoids biting someone for 88 days, she can remain human. However, she will have to make a choice when her boyfriend and her friend's sister travel to a coldtown - where vampires are confined from the rest of the population. But once you enter Coldtown, you can never leave...
I wanted to read this to see if I should purchase the full length novel based on this story This story knocked me DEAD ON MY FEET (pun not intended). It's exactly what I think many vampire stories have been missing after the Twilight vampire resurgence - terror, (lack-of) morality, and mortality. It's one of those stories that after you put it down makes you think, "What do I do NOW? I can never read again, because nothing will ever live up to this." It always amazes me how writers can create a whole world in a short story and Black creates a terrible, yet believable future where vampires exist. Matilda is a great character - she's resourceful and worldly, yet self-destructive and naive at the same time. the journey she takes into Coldtown is both heartbreaking and horrible. A definite must read.
So in other words: I have already purchased the full-length novel :)
Undead is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Rees Brennan
A new vampire joins a boy band and struggles to adjust to his new life and his new fame.I'm a huge fan of Brennan, but this story just fell flat. Her humor was a bit too over-the-top and I think she and Justine Larbalestier were much funnier and more poignant in their vampire spoof Team Human. Brennan still manages to get in her trademark funny one-liners, but not her best work.
The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray
After her life being messed up by her sister's drug addiction, Lauren takes a job at Angeleus House to help other drug addicts. However, Angeleus House may not be what it seems.
One thing Libba Bray excels at is horror. She knows just how to infuse her scenes with enough creepiness and mystery to keep readers reading. That being said, I really really hated the protagonist. She was whiny, stupid, and privileged. I mean there are so many coincidences that scream "VAMPIRE" and "CULT" and Lauren just ignores them despite having been warned beforehand by another character. The emotional impact of the story was less because I just hoped Lauren would die. There is an interesting commentary running through the story that society's disregard of poor POCs and drug addicts and the like are what causes the vampires to infiltrate society. It is an interesting thought that rings of some truth, but I don't know if this was treated with sensitively. It's hard because Lauren is a self-centered bitch and dismisses people, but this sometimes left a bad taste in my mouth. The story wasn't helped by the fact it had similar themes to Holly Black's and Black's was much better. Still, a good creepy story.
Other Boys by Cassandra Clare
Jennifer finds herself drawn to the boy who says he's a vampire. Is he or is the truth much more horrific?The story was alright with a nice little twist on the usual vampire story. It didn't feel very original and similar in theme to Black's and Bray's stories, but not nearly as memorable.
Ambition by Lili St. Crow
The heroine has always felt she will never have the life of "the golden people" surrounding her at school. Rich. Beautiful. Lucky. Irresistible. Until she meets Johnny and he makes her an offer to be something greater.
I was surprised at how good this story was. Crow was really able to create a voice that sounded like a teenager and doesn't hammer home a moral, allowing for a Shirley Jacksonian ambiguity. Is this a (demented) Cinderella story? Or a horror story? It's up to the reader to decide. One minor quibble: the author (and editor) apparently don't know the correct spelling of hola. *side eye*
Average: 3 Stars (so far)
I didn't finish the anthology, but hope to come back to it eventually. So far, there was a lot of interesting ideas, but no story really stood out or was incredible.
Favorites: "Finders" by Melissa Scott and "Missions of Greed" by Sue Lange
Worst: "Landfall" by Joan Slonczewiski
"Finders" by Melissa Scott
Scavengers Cassilde and Dai must decide whether to risk all their funds and Cassilde's declining health when their untrustworthy ex-partner/lover returns promising a possible monunmental discovery.
Probably the most interesting and unique world-building I've read in a long time, I was fascinated with the part cyberpunk, part scavenger, and slightly Eastern-influenced world Scott created and wished that this story had been a much longer novel. A dying world, ravaged by war, forced to live off their fore-bearers' (or Ancestors to the characters)tech for survival. The Ancestor's technology is in limited quantities, forcing scavengers to go into the wreckage of the Ancestor's homes to mine what is left of a decreasing supply. Scott never info-dumps, but gives the reader enough information so they can piece together the world and it's history. Sadly, I never quite got the sense of the main character and the plot relied on a character needlessly withholding information and a baseline stupidity of most characters involved (Let's ignore the strange ship that showed up and disappear on our radar! That won't haunt us later! Let's leave our ship unguarded despite said strange ship and a possibility of an important artifact! Nobody will bother us!) in order to move forward. Despite an ending that felt abrupt, this is a unique tale that bends genres and makes me wish for more tales in this world.
"Bad Day on Boscobel" by Alexander Jablokov
While performing her job helping aliens immigrate and adjust to life on the astroid Boscobel, Dunya and her daughter become caught up with a couple Martians, gangs, and a possible invasion.While I enjoyed the setting (a society built in very large trees) and the characters of Miriam and Dunya, the story hinged on deus ex machinas and inconstant characterization to move the plot forward too often and was filled with awkward writing. The worst offender was Dunya's plot moppet daughter,Bodil, whose only personality traits were annoyingly spunky and the ability to show up randomly and instigate plot events. She is apparently old enough to have a boyfriend her mother disapproves of, but spoke ["They hit him, momma (sic). A lot. I never trusted them. I want to hurt them" (60).] and acted [Bodil pushed her lower lip out and looked about to cry (71).] like she was six-years-old. While Bodil's characterization and the lazy writing hurt the story, the unique world, Miriam's bad-assary and Dunya's efficiency made up for the weaknesses. An enjoyable, yet mediocre story.
"In Colors Everywhere" by Nisi Shawl
***TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR THIS STORY***
In the future, planets become penal colonies. When a mysterious object from the overseer crashes on their planet, Mentor Trill and elder-in-training, Dola, go and investigate, finding both horror and hope.
I loved the idea of this world - a penal colony where the personalities of prisoners are placed in clones and left on their own to survive. However, the prisoners have thrived, creating their own economy and culture and having children. Because the prisoners are placed in bodies that may be different from their original sex (or race or age), sexuality and gender identity is more fluid (it's also implied that the original prisoners may have been imprisoned for being transgender). The sinister overseer, nicknamed Dr. Ops by the prisoners, is not allowed to kill them, but can do whatever else s/he wants. Shawl's fantastic world-building has echoes of imperialism, first-world/third-world, and globalism.
However, there is a rape in this story. It threw me because it was so unexpected, especially given the feminist overtones of this anthology. I did not agree with how the elders had sent their recruit to be raped and then deny her abortion as her final test. It was incredibly cruel and made the ending ambiguous. I couldn’t tell if Shawl is approving or condemning the elders' actions, but the whole rape-plot didn’t sit well with me.I loved the story, but I’m struggling with the implications in the story. The world-building was fantastic and progressive, but the rape and elders’ complicity in the rape dropped the rating down for me.
"Mission of Greed" by Sue Lange
Captain Lai has been vying to have a planet named after her for years. However, her ambitions may cost her her life when one of her crew members is found murdered and her crew mutinies.
A throwback to the pulp sci-fi stories of yore, Lange's story heaps on the suspense as Lai doesn't know to trust while a possible extraterrestrial adds a hint of space horror. I loved the character of Lai - she's ruthless, ambitious, and tunnel-visioned, an almost fatal flaw. She's not the nicest or the most admirable person, but she's fascinating. The story isn't the most original (and you can figure out pretty easily who the culprits are) or boundary-breaking, but it kept me glued to the page and curious what would happen next.
"Sailing the Antarsa" by Vandana Singh
Mayha is sent from her planet Dhara to sail the Antarsa sea - a current that flows in outer space. Her people believe it will take her to another settlement of humans who haven't never been seen or heard from since they left Earth with the Dharans. As Mayha hurtles into the unknown, never to see her loved ones again, she contemplates how life brought her to this point and begins to make a startling discovery.
Apparently this is the story to read in this anthology, so I'm sad I didn't love it. It's an excellent story, but there were a couple of things that tripped me up. I loved how Jainism was incorporated into the story and Dharan society. The ideas of kinship and non-violence are very refreshing considering how much sci-fi is based on imperialism. However, so much of the world-building relied on the fact that some Dharans have evolved inhuman traits (like scales or eyes that see in the dark) within only five generations. Evolution takes thousands of years, and to have some of the story hinge on this spontaneous Lamarckian evolution really made it hard to immerse myself completely in the story. Singh wrote an excellent story based on a theology that is so different from the various foundations of sci-fi, but the science was a bit too far-fetched for me.
"Landfall" by Joan Slonczewiski
Jenny Ramos Kennedy is working on a top secret project during summer break from college. However, her top secret project reacted badly to her experiment and hunks of debris are falling from space straight toward Havana.
This story is more like an interlude between two novels than an actual story. There was too much info-dumping, too many characters making an appearance with little if any personality, and no plot. The world-building is so lazy that the author mentions background info only to restate that EXACT SAME background information a page later as if it was new information. The “story” ends abruptly, and the last sentence basically read like an advertisement for the series. It also has two of my biggest pet peeves: heavy-handed politics and random Spanish words inserted into EVERY BIT OF DIALOUGE (because names like Cesar and Marta and the fact the story takes place in CUBA aren’t clues enough). There were a few interesting ideas (such as biology - something I understand! – used as part of the sci-fi world-building and computers implanted into the brain), but the mediocre writing and haphazard plot/world-building won't have me picking up any more of this author's work.
"This Alakie and the Death of Dima" by Terry Boren
The planet Dima is dying, forcing Alakie and the other Hu to leave behind their alien protectors, the Dina. However, Alakie isn't going to give up without making sure both the Dina' s and Hu's descendents survive.
The basis of this story was great - aliens saving and raising humans survivors of a crash, creating a symbiotic society, and the implications when their home is destroyed. However, I had no idea what the hell was going on for most of the story. I had to reread multiple parts just to somewhat grasp the world, the characters, the plot, etc. It didn't help the characters refered to each other by strange titles and themselves as "this *such-and-such*" I wish this story was more accessible, because underneath all the confusing world-building is a good emotional story. But as is, I shouldn't have to work so hard while reading for pleasure.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
In the colorful capital of the Tang Dynasty, Musician Jia needs to steal a book by a famous courtesan to pay for her freedom. However, she has to steal it from the handsome Cheng!
It is truely amazing how much detail and character Lin fits in this well-plotted 57-page story. Chang'an comes alive, as do the character's of Jia and Cheng. Jia is determined and tough, yet vulnerable without being weak. She never plays the victim and, despite being a servant, is willfully in charge of her own destiny. Her Cheng is reserved and kind, yet as determined and playful as Jia underneath. Despite such a short page count, their story and attraction didn't feel rushed (although the very end resolved things a bit quickly and easily). I loved both these characters and their sweet sexy story very much. Jeannie Lin is definitely a gem among Harlequin authors.
An interesting look at the lives and love affair of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, two of the greatest actors of the mid-20th century.The book was very readable and engaging, about not only the stars themselves, but the movies they were in as well. The authors had a weird tick of jumping around in time when relating the story, which could be very confusing. Once again, I just lost interest. Overall, I would recommend for those interested in old Hollywood and the fascinating stars that inhabited it.
A young girl born with eyes rimmed in black is banished to the palace garden to live out her life. However, when a young prince befriends her, she weaves magical interwoven tales, enchanting and enthralling him.
To describe In the Night Garden is an almost impossible task. It’s a collection of stories at once Arabian Nights and fairy tales and none of those things. The book is split into two larger tales, but each story spawns another story, and each interconnected, not only to the story before, but to other stories and the other tale. It is at once homage to legends and myths and fairy tales, yet at the same time, deconstructs the things we take for granted in those tales (especially with gender, race, and sexuality). There is so much in this book – so many characters, so many stories, so many plots – it takes a while to read. Valente’s fantastic imagination is shown off, as is her heartbreaking insights and dark humor. She draws from many different cultures and traditions to create her own diverse world where the stories occur. And like anything Valente, the world is so unique and fully fleshed out, it’s amazing. Each story is like pulling back layers on the world and a larger story. Her ability to change her authorial voice to each speaker of a story is impressive and really sells the multiple layers to the story(ies).
The reason why I didn’t feel this book was up to the standards of Deathless or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… is because neither tale in In the Night Garden was as distinctive nor had the sense of completion of Valente’s other works. Both tales left something wanting. One tale was more traditional, but tied all the loose ends up at the end; while the other, more unique in its subject matter, left some story threads incomplete. The ending is rather abrupt, like the book was chopped off at the end. Of course, there is a second volume and maybe both need to be read as a complete book.
While In the Night Garden isn’t my favorite Valente, it’s still a Valente, which means it is leaps and bounds above most fantasy fiction out there. Unique worlds, fantastic characters and creatures, subverted folklore, humor, heartbreak – what more could you ask for?