That’s the NaBloPo­Mo the­me for the mon­th, and one of the prompts is, “What’s the sweet­est thing some­one said to you today?” It was yes­ter­day, but he said my mes­sages make him light up all day. Some­thing like that can take me through a week 🙂

Book Review: Down These Strange Streets edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner R. Dozois

Down These Strange StreetsDown The­se Strange Streets by George R.R. Mar­t­in
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

This anthol­o­gy gath­ers sto­ries from authors who nor­mal­ly write in var­i­ous gen­res. The com­mon­al­i­ty is that each sto­ry is a mys­tery, and there’s a fan­tas­tic twist to each. Martin’s intro­duc­tion calls such sto­ries the “bas­tard stepchild” of mys­tery and hor­ror.

Char­laine Har­ris’ “Death by Dahlia,” set in the Sook­ie Stack­house uni­verse, is one of a series of sto­ries about the vam­pire Dahlia Lyn­ley-Chivers. Each sto­ry stands alone, but my enjoy­ment grows greater with each addi­tion to her tales. I’d much rather see Dahlia as the main char­ac­ter of a nov­el than Sook­ie, to be hon­est. This sto­ry, set at the par­ty for the ascen­sion of a new vam­pire sher­rif, was a lit­tle gem, and a nice start to the col­lec­tion.

“The Bleed­ing Shad­ow” by Joe R. Lans­dale is grit­tier from start to fin­ish, set in the south of black folks in the 1950s. A beau­ti­ful wom­an sends her some­time-suit­or to find her broth­er, a blues musi­cian who has got­ten into music that isn’t of this world. I couldn’t be done with this one soon enough, as it gave me the willies. I have a feel­ing Lans­dale would be hap­py that it stuck with me for a while.

Simon R. Green’s “Hun­gry Heart” takes us to the Night­side, where John Tay­lor is hired by a young witch to retrieve her stolen heart. I haven’t read any of the Night­side nov­els, but this is prob­a­bly the third or fourth short sto­ry I’ve read, and for some rea­son they nev­er leave me want­i­ng more. I don’t hunger for the dark­ness, I guess. I will give Green points for cre­ativ­i­ty in evil hench­men, though.

“Styx and Stones” by Steven Say­lor takes a teenage ver­sion of his nov­el hero Gor­dianus on a world tour to see the Sev­en Won­ders of the World, and this stop is Baby­lon. Gor­dianus and his com­pan­ion, Antipa­ter, find a mur­der­ous ghost in res­i­dence near their inn in addi­tion to see­ing the Zig­gu­rat, the Gate of Ishtar, and what’s left of the Hang­ing Gar­dens.

S. M. Stir­ling’s “Pain and Suf­fer­ing” was unsat­is­fy­ing to me. It opened with an ex-soldier’s com­bat flash­back twist­ed into some­thing Oth­er, then we learn that the ex-sol­dier is a cop. He and his part­ner spend a lot of time inves­ti­gat­ing an appar­ent arson and pos­si­bly-con­nect­ed kid­nap­ping. The flash­backs repeat. There’s more, but I don’t want to spoil the sto­ry. I just felt that there was a lot of build-up for very lit­tle pay­off, and that per­haps this sto­ry was meant as a teaser for a nov­el in which con­text it would all make far more sense.

“It’s Still the Same Old Sto­ry’ by Car­rie Vaughn fea­tures vam­pire Rick, from the Kit­ty Norville books. An old friend calls him need­ing his help, but by the time he gets to her, she’s dead. Most of the sto­ry is told in flash­back, with him remem­ber­ing when he orig­i­nal­ly met the now-old-wom­an, when they were lovers for a time. The mur­der is no great mys­tery for very long. The sto­ry felt more rote than any­thing else, as if per­haps Vaughn want­ed to human­ize Rick a bit by show­ing that he had cared for this wom­an at one time. I didn’t feel much of any­thing from it.

One of the more cre­ative pieces, “The Lady is a Scream­er” by Conn Iggulden, is told in first per­son by a con man turned ghost­buster. I didn’t like it, pre­cise­ly, and i cer­tain­ly didn’t like the nar­ra­tor. It stands alone, though, and doesn’t feel deriv­a­tive at all, so that says some­thing all by itself.

“Hell­ben­der” by Lau­rie R. King is prob­a­bly the only sto­ry that left me deter­mined to hunt down more of the author’s work. I would clas­si­fy it as near-future sci­ence fic­tion, but it cer­tain­ly fits in the noir detec­tive gen­re as well. I have no hes­i­ta­tion giv­ing this one sto­ry five out of five stars.

“Shad­ow Thieves” is a Gar­rett, P.I. sto­ry by Glen Cook. That’s anoth­er series I haven’t read, but I believe this is the first time I’ve read a short sto­ry set in that world. I wouldn’t mind read­ing the series if the nov­els are all light-heart­ed like this sto­ry. There was some dark­ness, obvi­ous­ly, or the piece wouldn’t be in this anthol­o­gy — but over­all, there was humor.

Melin­da M. Snod­grass’ “No Mys­tery, No Mir­a­cle” is prob­a­bly the most con­tro­ver­sial sto­ry in the book if any­body is real­ly pay­ing atten­tion. I found it intrigu­ing and well-writ­ten.

“The Dif­fer­ence Between a Puz­zle and a Mys­tery” by M.L.N. Hanover takes us a big city, where an over­worked cop is try­ing to get a con­fes­sion out of a sup­pos­ed­ly demon-pos­sessed killer. He gets help from an unusu­al min­is­ter (Uni­tar­i­an, we’re told — not some­thing that will thrill any UUs out there). I found this one of the most chill­ing sto­ries in the book. Telling you why, how­ev­er, would be a spoil­er.

I would love to see a nov­el fea­tur­ing the main char­ac­ters of Lisa Tut­tle’s “The Curi­ous Affair of the Deo­dand” — a young wom­an in the Wat­son role and a young man as a Sher­lock Holmes-type con­sult­ing detec­tive. The young lady is every bit as vital to resolv­ing the case as the man is, which is one of the things I enjoyed about the sto­ry. The res­o­lu­tion isn’t as sat­is­fy­ing as it could be, though, which is one of the rea­sons I’d like to see the same char­ac­ters in oth­er cir­cum­stances.

“Lord John and the Plague of Zom­bies” by Diana Gabal­don is a Lord John Grey sto­ry. This is, I believe, the first thing I’ve read by Gabal­don. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t earth-shak­ing­ly good. It was decent­ly-plot­ted with pre­dictable char­ac­ters and a nice lit­tle twist at the end, so enjoy­able to read. I won’t avoid her work but I’m not burn­ing to read more, either.

“Beware the Snake” is an SPQR sto­ry by John Mad­dox Roberts. Once again, I’m unfa­mil­iar with the author and the series, but the sto­ry gave enough con­text for me to under­stand the set­ting and the char­ac­ters, so that was all right. It was enjoy­able, although I prob­a­bly would have twigged to a cou­ple of things more quick­ly were I more famil­iar with Roman nam­ing cus­toms.

Patri­cia Brig­gs’ “In Red, With Pearls” is set in Mer­cedes Thompson’s world but fea­tur­ing were­wolf War­ren Smith and his lover Kyle. Kyle is set upon by a zom­bie assas­s­in who is thwart­ed by War­ren, but of course War­ren wants to know who sent the zom­bie, why, and who made the zom­bie. It’s a very good sto­ry, as I’ve come to expect from Brig­gs. I had a bit of a hard time keep­ing up with some of the sec­ondary char­ac­ters in the sto­ry, but then I was dis­tract­ed at the time.

“The Adakian Eagle” by Bradley Den­ton is a Dashiell Ham­mett sto­ry — as in, Ham­mett is a char­ac­ter. That was inter­est­ing alone, but the sto­ry in gen­er­al was well-told. Spare and hard, as befits one of the main char­ac­ters.

All in all this is a col­lec­tion that I can def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend. There are very few clunk­ers are sev­er­al excel­lent sto­ries. George R.R. Mar­t­in and Gard­ner R. Dozois did their jobs very well.

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Plinky asked: What was the best thing about yes­ter­day?

I spent the entire day with my daugh­ter! We had a love­ly time togeth­er. Isn’t she a doll?

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Woot! We won!

It looks like the T-SPLOST bill was defeat­ed by a land­slide. I’m so glad! That thing was a total boon­dog­gle. My baby girl and I spent the day togeth­er and one of the very first things we did was go vote again­st it!

We had a good lunch togeth­er and a frozen yogurt treat. She indulged me, so I final­ly got to go to In Stitch­es, too. They have the most incred­i­ble selec­tion of fibers! I picked up my first Glo­ri­ana silks for a char­i­ty stitch­ing project.

Now I’m exhaust­ed, but hap­py. It was a good day!

Book Review: Entangled edited by Edie Ramer

EntangledEntan­gled by Edie Ramer
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this anthol­o­gy up because all pro­ceeds go to the Breast Can­cer Research Foun­da­tion, which is a won­der­ful cause. Many of the authors’ lives have been touched by can­cer in one way or anoth­er, some first-hand. The vol­ume is Hal­loween-themed, as well.

I don’t believe I’ve read any­thing but short sto­ries by any of the­se authors in the past except for Jen­nifer Estep, and I haven’t read the Mythos Acad­e­my series in which her sto­ry is set. I’m more like­ly to read it now than I was before.

“Hal­loween Frost” by Estep and “Ghost­ly Jus­tice” by Allison Bren­nan (set in her Sev­en Dead­ly Sins series) were the most pol­ished sto­ries in the anthol­o­gy. Too many of the oth­ers had plot holes, or felt like teasers to get a read­er to pur­sue more of the author’s work. A short sto­ry should be self-con­tained.

Some of the authors let the “romance” get in the way of the plot­ting. If the main char­ac­ter acts like an idiot because she’s dis­tract­ed by the bul­ge in a man’s pants, why make her the main char­ac­ter of a sto­ry? Espe­cial­ly if, as in “Sin­ful­ly Sweet” by Michelle Miles, you fail to resolve the major plot issue you raise?

While I admire the cause for which the­se ladies are writ­ing, I can’t help but think a short­er, high­er-qual­i­ty anthol­o­gy might have been a bet­ter bet.

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Happy News

You are read­ing the blog of the newest board mem­ber of Grants to You, a won­der­ful non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion based in Prescott, Ari­zona. I’m going to be doing a lot of work involv­ing the web site and serv­ing on a new com­mit­tee. I’m tick­led pink!

In oth­er news, I got to intro­duce some­one to the Dres­den Files today! I thought every­body had heard of Butcher’s books, but in case there’s anoth­er fan­ta­sy fan out there who has been deprived: you want to read the­se, I promise. They’re about Chicago’s only pro­fes­sion­al wiz­ard, Har­ry Dres­den. He rou­tine­ly deals with vam­pires, demons, were­wolves — you name it. There was a short-lived tele­vi­sion show that should have been longer, but it died the death of so many great shows (like Fire­fly).

Start with Storm Front, but know that you’ll want to have Fool Moon and Grave Per­il handy. 

I love them so much that I keep all four­teen vol­umes (thir­teen nov­els and a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries) on my Nook as com­fort read­ing. I’m eager to read num­ber four­teen, and I can’t think of many oth­er authors who can keep the excite­ment going that long. I’ve nev­er encoun­tered one per­son who doesn’t like the­se books if they’ve read them, so give them a try!

Book Review: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, #11)Dead Reck­on­ing by Char­laine Har­ris
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

For fluff, it’s got some real­ly dark sce­nes. It doesn’t have enough of a plot to be any­thing more than fluff, though. It absolute­ly does NOT stand alone, so don’t con­sid­er read­ing this book unless you’ve read all that went before it — you’ll be hope­less­ly lost. 

Sook­ie has changed so much over the course of this series that she is hav­ing trou­ble rec­og­niz­ing her­self, and is trou­bled over it, with good rea­son. Hav­ing a main char­ac­ter change is good, and I’ll say that some of that change is growth, but I can’t say it’s all growth, or all to the good. (Can any of us say that, though, about the changes we go through in our lives?)

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Book Review: Tricked by Kevin Hearne

Tricked (Iron Druid Chronicles, #4)Tricked by Kev­in Hearne
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

That was so good. Just so very good. Like the last three — well plot­ted, with good char­ac­ter devel­op­ment from a fas­ci­nat­ing cast of char­ac­ters. This time most of the mythol­o­gy is Native Amer­i­can (specif­i­cal­ly Nava­jo) instead of Norse or Celtic, but there’s a lit­tle spice from oth­er tra­di­tions thrown in as well. And as before, there are always con­se­quences get­ting involved, even in good caus­es. I think that’s one of the biggest ways this series reminds me of the Dres­den Files by Jim Butcher.

I am absolute­ly going to be on ten­ter­hooks until Trapped is released!

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Morning Pages Tool

I’ve recent­ly got­ten back into the dis­ci­pline of doing morn­ing pages, some­thing that’s a vital part of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It’s a great way to clear your men­tal caches each morn­ing and pre­pare to write some­thing more mean­ing­ful. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, one writes three pages long­hand.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I have trou­ble with that. The arthri­tis in my hands caus­es ter­ri­ble cramp­ing, and I can’t read what I’ve writ­ten by the time I’m a sen­tence or two on. I get pre­oc­cu­pied by how ter­ri­ble my hand­writ­ing is and so dis­tract­ed that the whole point of the exer­cise is lost.

If I try to use a word proces­sor, I end up writ­ing too much. Blog­ging is no good, because I write too much and I wor­ry about for­get­ting to mark the entries pri­vate.

750 Words is a won­der­ful alter­na­tive. It pro­vides noth­ing but a blank screen and a notice when you hit 750 words (three pages at 250 words each equals 750 words). It’s a free ser­vice! And it will send you reminder mes­sages.

I’m tick­led pink!