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Very Important Corpses

Monday, November 26, 2018

Very Important Corpses (2017) Simon R. Green

This is the third Ishmael Jones mystery.

The Organization is sending Ishmael and Penny to Scotland (to that very famous Loch in fact) to provide security for a gathering where one agent has already been murdered, and it’s probable the House has been infiltrated by one or more spies.

(T)hey were all ages and races; and they had the air of aristocrats at Court, or even Knights of the Round Table. But that was only in their minds. My first thought was that they all looked like accountants.

If there is a theme to this series so far, it’s summed up in this passage:

‘You really believe in this creature?’ I said.

‘Monsters are real,’ said the Major Domo.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘They are. But people kill a lot more people than monsters ever do.’

Like other Simon R. Green books, everything is over the top. Which is fine, because that’s precisely what I expect.

Where I was a little disappointed was that Ishmael felt far more John Taylor here than I thought he did in the previous books. That’s nothing wrong with John Taylor, but I really like the idea of an alien pretending to be a human, so it was a little disappointing to feel Ishmael channeling John Taylor.

The mystery also felt a little weaker here–I was pretty sure of at least one of the characters who was involved, and it felt like there were more questions raised than resolved. Not cliff-hangers mind you, just things left hanging.

I have the next book, so I’ll read it eventually, but I’ll take a pause for now, because as much as I enjoy Simon R Green’s stories, they do sometimes get a little repetitive when read one after another. (Not that stories, but the dialog.)

Publisher: Severn House Digital
Rating: 7/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth, Audio Edition

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth, Audio Edition (2006/2008) Simon R. Green narrated by Marc Vietor

This is the 6th book of the Nightside series, and closes a major story arc–John Taylor knows who his mother is, and the battle between them has come to Nightside. Now all John has to do is defeat his mother without bringing about the destruction of the entire world.

It’s a pretty dark story, and lots of bad things happen, but there are the occasional amusing bits.

“You here to cause trouble?” (the enforcer) said, in a voice so deep he must have had a third testicle tucked away in there somewhere.

“Almost certainly,” I said.

“Right, lads! said the enforcer, glancing back over his shoulder to address the rest of the street. “Pick up your feet, we are out of here. This is Dead Boy and John bloody Taylor, and we are not being paid nearly enough to take on the likes of them. Everybody round to Greasy Joan’s cafe, where we will wait out whatever appalling things are about to happen.”

I think that after John, Dead Boy might be my favorite character in the Nightside. It’s not that Suzie Shooter isn’t great, but I just like Dead Boy a little more.

And I like Dead Boy a lot more than I like Razor Eddie.

The narration remains good, but I’m now out of these audio books, so it’ll be awhile before I get to the next one, since they aren’t available from the library.

Publisher: Audible Studios
Rating: 9/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: 9/10, Audio Book, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Re-Read, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Paths Not Taken, Audio Edition

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Paths Not Taken, Audio Edition (2005/2008) Simon R. Green narrated by Marc Vietor

The fifth Nightside book finds John looking to go back in time for a way to stop his mother–the Being Lilith–from destroying the Nightside and possibly the world.

John takes with him Suzie Shooter and Tommy Oblivion in the hopes that their skills and gifts will allow them to go back in time and return to their own time.

This is an extremely dark story, although I find that I don’t find John Taylor nearly as awful as I did the first time I read this. He behaves as he always does, although it’s not entirely clear that he’s working for the Nightside or for himself.

This book also contains one of my favorite passages of all the Nightside books.

Next door to the brothel was a dark and spooky little shop selling reliquaries–the bones of saints, fragments of the True Cross, and the like. Special offer that week was apparently the skull of John the Baptist. Next to it was a smaller skull, labelled JOHN THE BAPTIST AS A CHILD.

That’s one of the few light passages in this story, but it’s still a story you have to read.

As I’ve said before I like the narrator for this series. He doesn’t do different voices extremely well, but he makes the different voices clear, which is what is particularly important with an audio book.

Publisher: Audible Studios
Rating: 7/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: Audio Book, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Re-Read, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Agents Of Light And Darkness, Audio Edition

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Agents Of Light And Darkness, Audio Edition (2003/2008) Simon R. Green narrated by Marc Vietor

Angels have come to the Nightside searching for the Unholy Grail–the cup Judas drank from at the Last Supper. Before the entire Nightside is destroyed, John Taylor is hired to find the Grail so it can be taken to the Vatican. But the angels from above and below aren’t just going to let it slip through their fingers.

As I was listening to this, I was thinking about why I liked this series so much, and then John met up with Suzie.

Suzie Shooter was lying sprawled across a scuffed and faded green leather couch, a bottle of gin in one hand, a cigarette in one corner of her downturned mouth.

As always when she wasn’t working, Suzie had let herself go. She was wearing a grubby Cleopatra Jones T-shirt, and a pair of jeans that had been laundered almost to the point of no return. No shoes, no make-up. From the look of her, it had been some time since her last gig. She was overweight, her belly bulging out over her jeans, her long blonde hair was a mess, and she smelled bad. Without taking her eyes off the mayhem on the screen, she took a long pull from her gin bottle, not bothering to take the cigarette out of her mouth first, then offered me the bottle.

When she came back, she looked like Shotgun Suzie again. The grubby T-shirt and faded jeans were gone, replaced by gleaming black leather jacket, trousers and knee-high boots, generously adorned with steel chains and studs. She wore two bandoliers of bullets across her impressive chest, and the hilt of her favourite pump-action shotgun peered over her right shoulder from its holster on her back. A dozen assorted grenades hung from her belt. She’d even brushed her hair and slapped on some make-up. She looked sharp and deadly and very alive.

Shotgun Suzie is the antitheses of very love interest in every action story ever. She’s the burly one without any class or couth and she doesn’t give a shit what you think.

In this story we discover why she’s so hard and dark and scarred, but sharing that with John doesn’t change her. She remains hard and dark and untouchable.

“You religious, Taylor?”

I shrugged. “Hard not to be, in the Nightside. If only because there are no atheists in foxholes. I’m pretty sure there is a God, a Creator. I just don’t think he cares about us. I don’t think we matter to him. You?”

“I used to tell people I was a lapsed agnostic,” she said easily. “Now I tell them I’m a born-again heretic.

I really do enjoy this series. Although it’s borderline horror, it’s so over the top I can’t take the blood and guts and monsters seriously.

And I am enjoying the narration. I won’t say he’s as versatile as other narrators I like, but he’s not irritating, and he does a good job keeping different characters separate.

Publisher: Audible Studios
Rating: 8/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Re-Read, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Something from the Nightside, Audio Book

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Something from the Nightside, Audio Book (2003/2008) Simon R. Green narrated by Marc Vietor

Ah, John Bloody Taylor, how the Nightside has missed you.

I saw myself as a knight-errant . . . but the damsel in distress stabbed me in the back, my sword shattered on the dragon’s hide, and my grail turned out to be the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

Or perhaps not.

I didn’t know if I still had it in me to be really dangerous, but I thought so. It’s like knocking someone off a bike with a baseball bat; you never really lose the knack.

I’m still at loose ends as to what I want to listen to, so I decided that the Nightside would work well enough while I searched for a series that would keep me walking just one more chapter AND was available to borrow from the library (I bought the first audio book ages ago when it was on sale).

Do I like the audio version? Yes. Yes I do.

Is this a series where I should listen to one book after the other? Probably not. Not anything to do with the narration, but the Nightside books can get a bit repetitive when read one after the other. So maybe in a few months I’ll look into reading the second, so I’ll enjoy the second book as much as I did the first.

Publisher: Audible Studios
Rating: 8.5/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, Audio Book, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Re-Read, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Street Magicks

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Street Magicks (2016) edited by Paula Guran

I believe it took me less than a year to finish this anthology. Hopefully this is a new trend for me.

“Freewheeling” by Charles de Lint
“A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
“Caligo Lane” by Ellen Klages
“Socks” by Delia Sherman
“Painted Birds and Shivered Bones” by Kat Howard
“The Goldfish Pond and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman
“One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King” by Elizabeth Bear
“Street Worm” by Nisi Shawl
“A Water Matter” by Jay Lake
“Last Call” by Jim Butcher
“Bridle” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“The Last Triangle” by Jeffrey Ford
“Working for the God of the Love of Money” by Kaaron Warren
“Hello, Moto” by Nnedi Okorafor
“The Spirit of the Thing: A Nightside Story” by Simon R. Green
“A Night in Electric Squidland” by Sarah Monette
“Speechless in Seattle” by Lisa Silverthorne
“Palimpsest” by Catherynne M. Valente
“Ash” by John Shirley
“In Our Block” by R. A. Lafferty

“Freewheeling” by Charles de Lint this is a story I’d read several times previously, in other anthologies. It is a good story, but sad.

“A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch is a story I got hung up on. I like Scott Lynch, but had a difficult time getting into this story.

“Shouldn’t I have a hangover?”

“I took it while you slept,” said Ivovandas. “I have a collection of bottled maladies. Your hangover was due to be the stuff of legends. Here be dragons! And by ‘here,’ I mean directly behind your eyeballs, probably for the rest of the week. I’ll find another head to slip it into, someday. Possibly I’ll let you have it back if you fail me.”

“Caligo Lane” by Ellen Klages is a story I ended up re-reading when I picked the anthology back up. It is beautiful and marvelous and very sad.

When geography or politics makes travel or escape impossible, she is the last resort. Each life saved is a mitzvah.

Once, when she was young and in a temper, she crumpled one into a ball and threw it across the room, muttering curses. A man in Norway found himself in an unnamed desert, confused and over-dressed. His journey did not end well.

“Socks” by Delia Sherman is the story of a girl with an affliction who finds her voice.

“Painted Birds and Shivered Bones” by Kat Howard is about a werebird. Or a cursed man. Or a woman recovering herself.

Some days were good days, days when Maeve could walk through her life and not be aware of any of the adjustments she performed to make it livable.

“The Goldfish Pond and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman is… well… it’s a Neil Gaiman story.

“One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King” by Elizabeth Bear this one I read twice and still was unsure about.

“Street Worm” by Nisi Shawl is a story of a girl–a teen whose parents think she’s seeing things that aren’t there.

“A Water Matter” by Jay Lake I mostly skimmed.

“Last Call” by Jim Butcher is another Dresden files short story. It was fine.

“Bridle” by Caitlín R. Kiernan I didn’t bother to read, since I don’t like her writing (she writes horror, which I dislike; It’s nothing personal).

“The Last Triangle” by Jeffrey Ford is a story I started and then got distracted. It’s actually an interesting story about magic and science–or rather geometry.

“The Last Triangle is an equilateral triangle; all the sides are equal,” she said.

I failed math every year in high school, so I just nodded.

“Working for the God of the Love of Money” by Kaaron Warren I mostly skimmed; it was darker and sadder than I wanted to read.

“Hello, Moto” by Nnedi Okorafor is about science and witchcraft.

“The Spirit of the Thing: A Nightside Story” by Simon R. Green is a John Taylor story I’d read previously, but still enjoyed.

They didn’t know anything. They hadn’t seen anything, because they didn’t come to a bar like this to take an interest in other people’s problems.

“A Night in Electric Squidland” by Sarah Monette I surprised myself by enjoying. Possibly because it was a police procedural of sorts, I found myself wanting to read more about the characters.

Mick, observing the pretty young man with the eye of an expert, saw that he was not as young as he was trying to appear, and he would be prettier if he admitted it.

“Speechless in Seattle” by Lisa Silverthorne started and didn’t finish.

“Palimpsest” by Catherynne M. Valente started and then realized that I generally dislike her short stories, so skipped.

“Ash” by John Shirley was not for me.

“In Our Block” by R. A. Lafferty was an odd and amusing story.

An interesting collection, although there were a lot of stories that were not for me.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Prime Books

Written by Michelle     Categories: Anthology, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural, Urban     Comments (0)    

The Dark Side of The Road

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Dark Side of The Road (2015) Simon R. Green

The Dark Side of The RoadI have an off-and-on relationship with Simon Green’s stories. Some I love very much (Nightside) while others, I just can’t get into (The Secret Histories). But finding it on sale, I decided to give this new book a try.

Ishmael Jones lives under the radar, working for secret agencies, doing things that others can’t.

My reflection met my gaze with a cold, mistrustful stare. A very familiar face because it hadn’t changed in so very long. Not the one I would have chosen; but good enough. I was tall, slim, dark-haired and handsome enough if you weren’t too choosy. A long rangy figure who appeared to be in his mid twenties. Dressed well, but anonymously. The kind of stuff you can buy anywhere, so you can fit in anywhere. An easy smile, a casual look, and dark eyes that gave away absolutely nothing.

Right before Christmas, in the midst of a terrible storm, he receives a call from his boss and mentor to come to Belcourt Manor, the Colonel’s family home.

This book is classic snarky Simon Green.

Don’t worry if you can’t tell me any of your secrets; just make up some fascinating lies. That’s what I always do.’

‘It’s amazing,’ said Jeeves. ‘You keep talking and you keep coming up with things, and yet not one of them is ever remotely comforting.’

‘It’s a gift,’ I said.

And as with the Nightside books (and in the classic style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) the cases and histories that are hinted at are delightful and horrifying.

(T)he Murder Generals; the Dark Lady from Under the Hill; the Queen in Waiting and the Cathedral in Flames; and the High Orbit Ghosts. They all threatened the world, in their time, until the Colonel and I put them down.

I do love how what he hints at is far more horrifying that what he could describe.

Is this book for everyone? Probably not, as I think that Simon Green may be a specific taste, but if you enjoyed Nightside, or like The Rivers of London, then you should enjoy this latest Simon Green offering.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Severn House Digital

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Tales from the Nightside

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tales from the Nightside (2015) Simon R. Green

Tales-from-the-NightsideThe Nightside. “Where all your dreams can come true, especially the really bad ones.

This is a collection of Nightside stories, many of which I have read before, and a previously unpublished novella.

If you’re a Nightside fan, then you’ll want this. If you’re not sure if the Nightside is for you, read the first few stories and you’ll probably know if you’ll like it or not.

Here’s what you get, with original publication year.

“The Nightside, Needless to Say” (2004)
“Razor Eddie’s Big Night Out” (2006)
“Lucy, at Christmastime” (2008)
“Appetite for Murder” (2008)
“The Difference a Day Makes” (2009)
“Some of These Cons Go Way Back” (2009)
“The Spirit of the Thing” (2011)
“Hungry Heart” (2011)
“How Do You Feel?” (2012)
“The Big Game” (2015)

“The Nightside, Needless to Say” is the first Nightside story, and it introduces us to the Nightside through Larry Oblivion. This was my introduction to the Nightside, and why I started reading the series.

We found the big man sitting behind a desk in a surprisingly modest inner office. He was playing solitaire with tarot cards, and cheating.

Yes, Larry Oblivion is dead, but he’s not quite a zombie. And being a good detective, he is going to find out who killed him, and why.

“Razor Eddie’s Big Night Out” is one I hadn’t actually read before. Razor Eddie may actually be my least favorite Nightside character, so I was kinda glad this was a shorter story.

Didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy parts.

We passed by the Egyptian cat goddess Bast, now reduced to singing “Memory” out on the Street, for the tourists.

“Lucy, at Christmastime” is another story I hadn’t previously read, and is actually somewhat different from the usual Nightside stories.

“Appetite for Murder” is another story I’d previously read, but still very much enjoyed re-reading. Sam Warren was the first Detective in Nightside, working for the Authorities, and getting called into cases that are more than the obvious. We also spend time with Ms Fate, who gets name-checked in other stories, but this is her only really big appearance.

“The Difference a Day Makes” is the first John Taylor story, and we also get to spend time with Dead Boy, who I quite like.

“Right!” said Dead Boy, brightening immediately. He kicked the door wide open and stalked forward into the impenetrable darkness beyond. His voice drifted back to us: “Come on! Give me your best shot, you bastards! I can take it!”
Liza looked at me. “Is he always like this?”
“Pretty much,” I said. “This is why most people won’t work with him. Personally, I’ve always found him very useful for hiding behind when the bullets start flying.”

“Some of These Cons Go Way Back” is a story about Harry Fabulous, and this story is almost a little too dark for me. But it’s still good.

“The Spirit of the Thing” is another John Taylor story, where he helps a ghost.

“Hungry Heart” is another John Taylor story where we learn that clients always get what they ask for–and often that’s precisely what they deserve.

I sighed. It was hard to stay mad at her. Though probably worth the effort.

“How Do You Feel?” is a pure Dead Boy story, and one of my favorites. Dead Boy gets to discover who ordered him killed, and perhaps even why.

“I helped make you who you are!” he said desperately. “I helped make you Dead Boy!”
“Let me see,” I said. “How do I feel about that?” I closed my hand abruptly, and all the bones in his shoulder shattered.

We also finally learn about Dead Boy’s car.

Who is awesome.

“The Big Game” is the new novella. It pretty much brings all John Taylor’s friends together for a finally smash-bang story.

There are lots of hints dropped about events in previous books…”human. My mother turned out to be a Biblical Myth; from that part of the Old Testament where God gets really angry,” so you probably don’t want to read this unless you’ve enjoyed the earlier books.

This story seems to pull in all the bits that it seems like Simon Green wanted to use previously but never got around to. So there is plenty to giggle at here.

The End of the World Club, for those convinced the world really is coming to an end, anytime now, and are determined to do something practical about it. I subscribe to their monthly newsletter. Just in case.

Though nothing beats my favorite line from Paths Not Taken:

Next door to the brothel was a dark and spooky little shop selling reliquaries–the bones of saints, fragments of the True Cross, and the like. Special offer that week was apparently the skull of John the Baptist. Next to it was a smaller skull, labelled JOHN THE BAPTIST AS A CHILD.

If you’re already a fan of the Nightside, then you’ve probably already read this, unless you didn’t know about it, in which case, you should run RIGHT NOW and get it. If you haven’t read the Nightside, the first half should be a good introduction to whether you’ll like it or not, but save the second half until you’ve read at least most of the John Taylor books.
Rating: 9.5/10

Published by Ace

Written by Michelle     Categories: 9/10, Anthology, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Magic City: Recent Spells

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Magic City: Recent Spells (2014) Paula Guran

Magic-City-Recent-Spells

Table of Contents
“Street Wizard” by Simon R. Green
“Paranormal Romance” by Christopher Barzak
“Grand Central Park” by Delia Sherman
“Spellcaster 2.0” by Jonathan Maberry
“Wallamelon” by Nisi Shawl
“-30-” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“Seeing Eye” by Patricia Briggs
“Stone Man” by Nancy Kress
“In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch
“A Voice Like a Hole” by Catherynne M. Valente
“The Arcane Art of Misdirection” by Carrie Vaughn
“Thief of Precious Things” by A.C. Wise
“The Land of Heart’s Desire” by Holly Black
“Snake Charmer” by Amanda Downum
“The Slaughtered Lamb” by Elizabeth Bear
“The Woman Who Walked with Dogs” by Mary Rosenblum
“Words” by Angela Slatter
“Dog Boys” by Charles de Lint
“Alchemy” by Lucy Sussex
“Curses” by Jim Butcher
“De la Tierra” by Emma Bull
“Stray Magic” by Diana Peterfreund
“Kabu Kabu” by Nnedi Okorafor
“Pearlywhite” by Mark Laidlaw & John Shirley

“Street Wizard” by Simon R. Green I’ve read this story before, but enjoyed it just as much the second time around. The narrator is a street wizard, and walks us through a single night on the streets, walking his beat.

(L)ike everyone else she’s got something to complain about; apparently she’s not happy that people have stopped flushing baby alligators down their toilets. She misses them.
“Company?” I ask.
“Crunchy,” she says.

There are lots of other lovely little bits (especially the demon who guards the Chinese Christian Church).

“Paranormal Romance” by Christopher Barzak is the story of a witch of makes love spells, but whose magic doesn’t work for her. So her mother sets her up on a blind date.

When Myspace and Facebook came around, and her mother began commenting on photos Sheila had posted from some of her date nights with statements like, “He’s a hottie!” and “Now that’s a keeper!” Sheila had had to block her mother.

I really liked this story.

“Grand Central Park” by Delia Sherman starts like this:

When I was little, I used to wonder why the sidewalk trees had iron fences around them. Even a city kid could see they were pretty weedy looking trees. I wondered what they’d done to be caged up like that, and whether it might be dangerous to get too close to them.

With a start like that, how can you resist?

“Spellcaster 2.0” by Jonathan Maberry is another re-read, and I think I enjoyed it just as much the second time around as I did the first. What happens if you input every known magical spell into a computer database?

“Wallamelon” by Nisi Shawl was a sad story, of growing up and magic and friendship lost.

Sundays they went to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Not to church. “God aint in there. Only reason to go to church is so people don’t talk bad about you,”

“-30-” by Caitlín R. Kiernan surprised me, as much of what she writes is horror. This is horror, but of a rather different type, about one way to get past writer’s block.

“Seeing Eye” by Patricia Briggs is another story I’d read before, and actually recently re-read, because it stuck in my mind.

“Stone Man” by Nancy Kress is about an undiscovered magician, and the problems that come with his newly discovered skills. It’s also a sad tale about kids who are abandoned and unloved, for any of many reasons.

“In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch is a tale about magical libraries and librarians.

Inappropriate Levity Bronzeclaw, “Lev” to everyone at the university. Lev’s people, dour and dutiful, gave their adolescents names based on perceived character flaws, so the wayward youths would supposedly dwell upon their correction until granted more honorable adult names.

Delightful! (OOK!)

“A Voice Like a Hole” by Catherynne M. Valente was another story about lost and abandoned children. I found it very sad.

“The Arcane Art of Misdirection” by Carrie Vaughn was set in her existing world, with a character who has made brief appearances in Kitty’s world, but requires no knowledge of that world or the characters therein. (You’re quite into the story before you realize you’ve met one of the characters in the Kitty books, so you lose nothing if you haven’t them.)

“Thief of Precious Things” by A.C. Wise was an odd tale, about a fox girl, stealing for? getting revenge upon? the crow men.

“The Land of Heart’s Desire” by Holly Black is a story of humans and faerie living together, perhaps uneasily. I felt like I was missing something in this story.

“Snake Charmer” by Amanda Downum is the story of the death of a dragon. Of revenge for the death of a loved one. In this story I also felt like I was missing something–not a big something, but something.

“The Slaughtered Lamb” by Elizabeth Bear was a fun story, of a queen trying to make it in a magical world.

“The Woman Who Walked with Dogs” by Mary Rosenblum wasn’t technically a depressing story, but it still made me depressed–a girl whose mother is working working working to try and give her child a better life, and doing everything she can to keep her from trouble. I did, however, love the idea of what happens in houses at night being very different from what you see during the day.

“Words” by Angela Slatter was an amusing and fun story, about which I can’t really tell you anything without giving everything away.

“Dog Boys” by Charles de Lint was one I quite liked, but then I love Charles de Lint’s stories. A boy is trying to survive in a new school, in a new town. Depsite trying to keep his head down and himself out of trouble, he gets involved, and steps into trouble far worse than he could have guessed.

“Alchemy” by Lucy Sussex was a lovely and sad story, about alchemy and change.

“Curses” by Jim Butcher is a story I’d read before, and reminded me why I used to love his stories so much. Harry Dresden is called upon to do something about the curse on the Chicago Cubs. It’s a fun story.

“De la Tierra” by Emma Bull is an odd story, about a magical assassin. Except he’s not an assassin by his own choice.

I quite liked it.

“Stray Magic” by Diana Peterfreund is another story I’d read before. The main characters are a girl who volunteers in a no-kill shelter and an abandoned dog.

“Kabu Kabu” by Nnedi Okorafor is the story of a taxi ride to O’Hare airport. I’ve read stories by Nnedi Okorafor and now I’m wondering why I haven’t read more.

“Pearlywhite” by Mark Laidlaw & John Shirley is another story about street children. It’s dark, but didn’t feel as depressing as some of the other stories about unloved and abandoned children.

All in all this is a marvelous collection, that I highly recommend.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Prime Books

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, Anthology, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural, Urban     Comments (0)    

Something from the Nightside (Audio Version)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Something from the Nightside (Audio Version) (2003/2008) Simon R. Green narrated by Marc Vietor

This is the first book in the Nightside series, and introduces us to both John Taylor and the Nightside.

You’ll probably know very quickly if this is for you or not.

John “Bloody” Taylor is a private investigator who has been hiding in the normal world–hiding from the Nightside–which has been trying to kill him for years. John Taylor has a gift, he can find anything, but his gift only works in the Nightside, and when he uses his gift, it makes him visible to those who are trying to kill him.

The Nightside is a place where it is always three in the morning, and where people who to indulge in tastes so horrible you can’t even imagine them. It is a horror book, but the horrible things are so over-the-top they don’t both me at all. Others may feel differently.

The narration is very good. He initially sounded a little more gravelly than I imagined John Taylor sounding, but soon it seemed fitting, and I came to like it.

You should definitely read an excerpt before buying, because the Nightside isn’t for everyone, but if you find you like it, you’ll probably love it.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Audible Studios

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, Audio Book, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives (2011) edited by Justin Gustainis

those-who-hunt-monstersAs the title says, this is a collection of supernatural mysteries.

“Little Better than a Beast: A Marla Mason Story” by T. A. Pratt
“Dusted: A Cosa Nostradamus Story” by Laura Anne Gilman
“The Demon You Know… A Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom Story” by Julie Kenner
“The Spirit of the Thing: A Nightside Story” by Simon R. Green
“Holding the Line: A Jill Kismet Story” by Lilith Saintcrow
“Defining Shadows: A Detective Jessi Hardin Story” by Carrie Vaughn
“Deal Breaker: A Quincey Morris Story” by Justin Gustainis
“See Me: A Smoke and Shadows Story” by Tanya Huff
“Soul Stains: A Vampire Babylon Story” by Chris Marie Green
“Under the Hill and Far Away: A Black London Story” by Caitlin Kittredge
“An Ace in the Hole: A Sazi Story” by C. T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
“Hell Bound: A Hell on Earth Story” by Jackie Kessler
“Impossible Love: A Piers Knight Story” by C. J. Henderson
“Running Wild: An Outcast Season Story” by Rachel Caine

This was, as sometimes happens, a mix of stories I liked and didn’t like, though there wasn’t any particular story I thought was terrible. Just stories that were more or less to my personal taste. There were also several stories I had previously read.

“Little Better than a Beast: A Marla Mason Story” by T. A. Pratt is one I had not read, but I enjoy Marla Mason stories, so this was a fun one. Marla is warned only at the last minute that a monster is heading for her town–a monster from the past, as well as the first chief sorcerer of Felport (as we as an explanation as to how Felport got its name. I really liked how Marla dealt with the problems here.

“Dusted: A Cosa Nostradamus Story” by Laura Anne Gilman. Daniel is a retired cop and private investigator who deals with… special cases. Cases that involve things that Nulls don’t see or know about. It wasn’t a bad story, but it didn’t do anything for me, either. Which happened previously with Laura Anne Gilman stories.

“The Demon You Know… A Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom Story” by Julie Kenner. I’ve seen the Demon-Hunting Soccer mom stories before, and they didn’t pique my interest. With a pretty low bar to clear, I have to say I enjoyed the story. I’m still not sure I’d want to read a book, but I did like the story, and thought it was very well done.

“The Spirit of the Thing: A Nightside Story” by Simon R. Green. I’m a huge fan of the Nightside and John Bloody Taylor, and this was a Nightside story I had not read before, so of course I enjoyed it. As with most Nightside stories, you don’t need to have read a Nightside book to read one of the short stories.

“Holding the Line: A Jill Kismet Story” by Lilith Saintcrow. I am unfamiliar with Jill Kismet’s world, and I can’t say I understand it much better following this story. There was a fair amount I didn’t understand, which got in the way of my enjoyment of the story.

“Defining Shadows: A Detective Jessi Hardin Story” by Carrie Vaughn. I had JUST read this one in the anthology Weird Detectives. It’s a very unusual vampire story.

“Deal Breaker: A Quincey Morris Story” by Justin Gustainis. This story was also in Weird Detectives, about a deal with the devil.

“See Me: A Smoke and Shadows Story” by Tanya Huff. This was also in Weird Detectives.

“Soul Stains: A Vampire Babylon Story” by Chris Marie Green. This was another story I had trouble with, being unfamiliar with the universe in which the story was set. It’s a vampire story, but the vampire mythos is never quite clear to me.

“Under the Hill and Far Away: A Black London Story” by Caitlin Kittredge. This is the second story I’ve read set in this world, and I liked this one better than the first, but it was nowhere near to my favorite story.

“An Ace in the Hole: A Sazi Story” by C. T. Adams & Cathy Clamp. This was another unfamiliar world, but I didn’t have any problems diving into the story. And there were some fascinating world building bits here.

There were three emotion scents in the room right now — determination, which smells similar to a heated cast iron pan; and anger, which reminds me of hot peppers roasting. The final scent was frustration; which is a weird mix of scents, including boiling water, black pepper and other stuff.

In other books with weres, they talk about heightened sense of scent, but this is the first time I remember those scents being described in such a way. I quite liked it.

“Hell Bound: A Hell on Earth Story” by Jackie Kessler. This was a story about a succubus, and wasn’t my thing at all.

“Impossible Love: A Piers Knight Story” by C. J. Henderson. This was a very interesting story, and one I can’t say I felt entirely comfortable with. For some reason, the idea that Down’s Syndrome could be caused by demonic possession bothered me. I’ll have to think more about why that is.

“Running Wild: An Outcast Season Story” by Rachel Caine. I’ve read Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden books, and although they weren’t bad, they also weren’t my thing. I believe this story falls into the same category.

All an all, an interesting anthology, and would I can easily recommend–especially if it’s still only $3.
Rating: 7/10

Published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

 
 

Written by Michelle     Categories: Anthology, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations (2013) edited by Paula Guran

weird-detectives-recent-investigationsThis is a collection of short stories previously published elsewhere, so I’d already read several of these stories. But there were several I had not, and several of the ones I’d read before were well worth reading again.

This book has been sitting around for awhile, waiting to be read, primarily because I got it in trade paperback, and it’s huge and heavy–just the kind of book I hate reading. Too heavy and too bulky for comfortable reading. But the stories drew me in and didn’t let me go. (Though the book itself was why I lacked patience for stories I’d recently read or didn’t catch my interest immediately.)

"The Key" by Ilsa J. Blick
"The Nightside, Needless to Say" by Simon R. Green
"The Adakian Eagle" by Bradley Denton
"Love Hurts" by Jim Butcher
"The Case of Death and Honey" by Neil Gaiman
"Cryptic Coloration" by Elizabeth Bear
"The Necromancer’s Apprentice" by Lillian Stewart Carl
"The Case of the Stalking Shadow" by Joe R. Lansdale
"Hecate’s Golden Eye" by P.N. Elrod
"Defining Shadows" by Carrie Vaughn
"Mortal Bait" by Richard Bowes
"Star of David" by Patricia Briggs
"Imposters" by Sarah Monette
"Deal Breaker" by Justin Gustainis
"Swing Shift" by Dana Cameron
"The Beast of Glamis" by William Meikle
"Signatures of the Dead" by Faith Hunter
"Like a Part of the Family" by Jonathan Maberry
"Fox Tails" by Richard Parks
"Death by Dahlia" by Charlaine Harris
"Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell" by Simon Clark
"See Me" by Tanya Huff
"The Maltese Unicorn" by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Initially, I was just going to flip through and read stories by authors I love, but then I ended up just reading straight through. Having no patience, if I story didn’t immediately grab hold, I didn’t finish it, and if I hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed it the first time (or had read the story very recently), I didn’t give it a second read.

“The Key” by Ilsa J. Blick was the story I ended up reading last, because I initially wasn’t going to read all the stories. But since I’d read almost everything else, I flipped back to the start to read this one. This is a story centering on Jewish mysticism. One bit in particular caught my attention:

“We Jews are not like you Christians. We don’t believe that Hashem makes everything better. Hashem can be harsh. Life is sometimes unfair. But we believe that Hashem gives us a fighting chance.

That’s closer to my personal theology than mainstream Christianity, but not quite it.

“The Nightside, Needless to Say” by Simon R. Green was a story I’d previously read, but enjoyed it just as much the second time around. I particularly love the little side comments that spike Nightside stories (even though this wasn’t a John Bloody Taylor story–it’s about Larry Oblivion).

We found the big man sitting behind a desk in a surprisingly modest inner office. He was playing solitaire with tarot cards, and cheating.

“The Adakian Eagle” by Bradley Denton I’d read relatively recently, and skipped.

“Love Hurts” by Jim Butcher I’d read before, but mostly forgotten. I decided awhile ago I much prefer the Harry Dresden short stories to the books. Mostly because the short stories are all mystery, which is what I like best about the Harry stories.

“The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman is the kind of story I generally dislike–a Sherlock Holmes story. But, it was Neil Gaiman, so I read it. I’m not going to change my mind about modern writers taking the reigns of Holmes and Watson, but this one wasn’t too bad.

“Cryptic Coloration” by Elizabeth Bear was an odd story, though it was surprisingly dark and depressing. It did have amusing bits, however, was the story that started me reading straight through instead of reading only authors I particularly like. It’s about both a mage hiding in plain sight as an English professor, and three bored young girls who really should have something better to do than moon after their English professor.

“The Necromancer’s Apprentice” by Lillian Stewart Carl was interesting, but it felt like she was really trying to hard with all the period correct insults. It’s a peek at the death of Lord Robert Dudley’s wife–a death that caused a great deal of gossip because of his relationship with Elizabeth the First.

“The Case of the Stalking Shadow” by Joe R. Lansdale was a somewhat odd story. It’s a tale of how a young girl found herself on the path to becoming a woman who investigated the supernatural. I quite liked the idea of the laser pointer.

“Hecate’s Golden Eye” by P.N. Elrod is a story I’d read before. Jack Fleming helps his partner Charles Escott attempt to recover a stolen necklace. I can’t say this is one of my favorite Jack Fleming stories, but it wasn’t terrible.

“Defining Shadows” by Carrie Vaughn is set in Kitty’s world, but is not a Kitty story, although Cormac makes an appearance. Instead it’s a story centering on Detective Hardin of the Denver PD Paranatural Unit, who has interacted with Kitty in the past. I quite liked this story, and Detective Hardin, who is investigating half a body discovered in a shed. I vaguely remembered reading this previously, but enjoyed it again.

And I found the “bad guy” completely fascinating.

“Mortal Bait” by Richard Bowes was an odd story. Set in the 50s, the main character is a WWI vet, which is what drew me into the story. It was not, however, my thing.

“Star of David” by Patricia Briggs was a story that seemed to be set in Mercy Thompsons’ world, but contains none of the characters from that series. This is another story I’d read previously, but one that I very much enjoyed re-reading. The main character is a werewolf who is estranged from his daughter. I really liked this story.

He thought you had to be bleeding someplace to hurt this badly.

Yeah. That’s harsh and true.

“Imposters” by Sarah Monette was an interesting story I hadn’t come across before. It’s a world not quite ours, where magic is the norm, and where people are killing themselves, claiming they imposters in their own bodies. Part of it reminded me of Sergei Lukyanenko‘s Night Watch–the idea of ill-wishing being able to cause harm. Now I kinda want to reread the Night Watch series.

“Deal Breaker” by Justin Gustainis centers on his character Quincey Morris (occult investigator), not Stan Markowski (whose series I’ve been reading). I can’t say much about the character of Quincey Morris, but I very much liked the solution to the problem presented.

I really liked it.

“Swing Shift” by Dana Cameron is the second thing I’ve read by Dana Cameron, and I guess I can now safely say that I simply don’t like her writing. I really LOVE the idea of her vampires and werewolves, and I really want to like her stories, but I just don’t.

“The Beast of Glamis” by William Meikle was another story where the tale was being related after the fact, to a group of listeners. I think this story wanted me to know more British history/Scottish than I do. I can guess as to what the story was alluding to, but my head for dates is really poor, so it’s possible I’m wrong, which I found rather irritating.

“Signatures of the Dead” by Faith Hunter is a story I quite like, but had just re-read, so I skipped it.

“Like a Part of the Family” by Jonathan Maberry was… I’m still not sure how I feel about this. It’s a werewolf story set in modern times. I think that perhaps the bit about the main character being a werewolf perhaps was supposed to come as a surprise, but since this was a collection of supernatural mysteries, it wasn’t a surprise.

“Fox Tails” by Richard Parks is set in a mythical Japan, and I’ve read and enjoyed his stories before, but the mix of historical Japanese with noir detective just didn’t work for me. Which is too bad because I liked the mystery, just not the tone of the main character.

“Death by Dahlia” by Charlaine Harris I skipped, because I’ve read it several times. It’s actually not a Sookie short story, which means it’s not annoying, but I didn’t find it worth a third read.

“Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell” by Simon Clark I read only because I read the Neil Gaiman Sherlock Holmes story. I think if it wasn’t a Holmes and Watson story I really would have enjoyed it, but as it was supposed to be a Holmes and Watson story… Well, Sherlock Holmes is my comfort reading, and has been since I was a teenager, so I find stories not written by Arthur Conan Doyle to be… unimpressive.

“See Me” by Tanya Huff is a Tony Foster story, and oddly, although I enjoyed her Vicki Nelson series, I’ve never gotten into any of her other characters. This wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t something I liked.

“The Maltese Unicorn” by Caitlín R. Kiernan I quickly gave up on. Possibly because she generally writes horror, and I typically have an irrational dislike of horror. Even though I know a lot of what I do like can be secondarily classified as horror.

Never claimed to be logical.

As I said, this contained a lot of stories I’d read previously, but they are for the most part good stories, so if you don’t have the original anthologies, this would be well worth getting.
Rating: 8/10


 
 

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, Anthology, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

The Way of the Wizard

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Way of the Wizard (2010) John Joseph Adams

way_of_the_wizardI love anthologies. They give me an escape in bite size pieces that won’t keep me up past my bed time on a work night, and they also often a wonderful introduction to authors I have not read previously.

This anthology focuses upon wizards of all sorts, doing wizardly things, though not very many evil wizards.

In the Lost Lands – George R.R. Martin
Family Tree – David Barr Kirtley
John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner – Susanna Clarke
Wizard’s Apprentice – Delia Sherman
The Sorcerer Minus – Jeffrey Ford
Life So Dear or Peace So Sweet – C.C. Finlay
Card Sharp – Rajan Khanna
So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen – Genevieve Valentine
The Go-Slow – Nnedi Okorafor
Too Fatal a Poison – Krista Hoeppner Leahy
Jamaica – Orson Scott Card
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Robert Silverberg
The Secret of Calling Rabbits – Wendy N. Wagner
The Wizards of Perfil – Kelly Link
How to Sell the Ponti Bridge – Neil Gaiman
The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories – Christie Yant
Winter Solstice – Mike Resnick
The Trader and the Slave – Cinda Williams Chima
Cerile and the Journeyer – Adam-Troy Castro
Counting the Shapes – Yoon Ha Lee
Endgame – Lev Grossman
Street Wizard – Simon R. Green
Mommy Issues of the Dead – T.A. Pratt
One-Click Banishment – Jeremiah Tolbert
The Ereshkigal Working – Jonathan L. Howard
Feeding the Feral Chidren – David Farland
The Orange-Tree Sacrifice – Vylar Kaftan
Love Is the Spell That Casts Out Fear – Desirina Boskovich
El Regalo – Peter S. Beagle
The Word of Unbinding – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria – John R. Fultz
The Secret of the Blue Star – Marion Zimmer Bradley

The anthology starts with George R.R. Martin’s story “In the Lost Lands”.

You can buy anything you might desire from Gray Alys.
But it is better not to.

The queen should have remembered that before sending Jerais to Gray Alys to ask for something she really shouldn’t have. All in all, a good but rather depressing tale. (You’ll see that refrain several times. But that’s the advantage of an anthology: you can skip stories you don’t like.)

In the next story, “Family Tree” by David Barr Kirtley, Simon has escaped his family and built his own home in a tree, but the internecine arguments follow him when he tries to escape. It’s a reminder that it’s important to learn how to say no to your family.

I’d previously read “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner” by Susanna Clarke in her anthology. It contains many of the things that I liked so much about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

“Well,” said Saint Kentigern, cheerfully. “Let me see what I can do. Saints, such as me, ought always to listen attentively to the prayers of poor, dirty, ragged men, such as you. No matter how offensively those prayers are phrased. You are our special care.”

Delia Sherman’s story was “Wizard’s Apprentice” was another story I’d read previously, but enjoyed just as well the second time through. I like how I thought it was going in one direction, but it then veered off someplace else completely. Also, what’s not to like about an evil wizard running a used book store?

Jeffrey Ford’s story, “The Sorcerer Minus” was one I didn’t care for. The Sorcerer minus is a jerk. I didn’t really like spending time reading about him.

“Life So Dear or Peace So Sweet” by C.C. Finlay was one of the stories I just gave up on. I kept putting the whole anthology down because I couldn’t get into this one story, so I just moved on.

“Card Sharp” by Rajan Khanna, on the other hand, was a story I very much liked. First, for the idea of a deck of cards being magical and for a card magician calling himself Hoyle. Quentin has a deck of magical cards and one desire: revenge.

Genevieve Valentine’s story, “So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen” just didn’t work for me. I liked the idea of natural magicians being affected by climate change, but the whole environmentalism thing felt heavy-handed.

In “The Go-Slow” by Nnedi Okorafor, Nkem is a famous actor, but he wants to escape. A drive through a Nigerian go-slow where he was only supposed to go from one side of the city to another, leads to another odd attempt on his life.

I’d never read/heard about Ogbanje before. Still not sure I understand, but I still found it interesting.

The story “Too Fatal a Poison” looks at a tale from the Odyssey. Elpenor dies on Circe’s island, and Krista Hoeppner Leahy wonders why.

Also, Odysseus is kind of a jerk.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Robert Silverberg had another magician–or in this case apprentice sorcerer that I really didn’t like. Gannin Thidrich has become an apprentice to V. Halabant, and falls in love (so he says) with her.

What a jerk.

“The Secret of Calling Rabbits” by Wendy N. Wagner was a good story that I didn’t enjoy. Rugel is a dwarf, who has spent most of his life hiding from the humans who destroyed his village. I think the ending was supposed to be happy, but it didn’t feel that way to me at all.

“The Wizards of Perfil” by Kelly Link is another story I’d read previously, in another anthology. Onion and Halsa are chosen (or not) to become apprentices to the wizards of Perfil. This story made more sense to me the second time through, but it’s still rather depressing.

“How to Sell the Ponti Bridge” by Neil Gaiman. I don’t know why I’m so fond of story about rogues. I don’t like them very much in real life (at least I don’t like the ones I’ve met) but they’re so fun to read about.

“The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories” by Christie Yant was another depressing tale. Just not for me I suppose.

Mike Resnick’s tale about Merlin, “Winter Solstice” was another thoroughly depressing ta’e. Merlin lives backwards in time, so other people’s memories are his future. He also seems to be developing dementia.

In The Trader and the Slave by Cinda Williams Chima, Linda is an enslaved enchanter. Garlock is her master, and a Trader, but the deal is never in the client’s favor. I liked this one despite the horridness of the slavery.

Cerile and the Journeyer by Adam-Troy Castro was another depressing story. I liked the Baba Yaga-esque bits of the desert and forest and wall appearing, but jeesh. Be happy with what you have.

In “Counting the Shapes” by Yoon Ha Lee, Biantha’s magic is based upon mathematics. It’s an interesting–if confusing–idea.

I did like the king, though.

“Considering the current state of affairs, I’d have to declare a chain of succession down to the apprentice cook. If anyone survives, they can argue over it. My advisors can rule by council until then.”

I didn’t much care for “Endgame” by Lev Grossman, mostly because it seemed like such a waste to use magic for nothing more than playing games.

“Street Wizard” by Simon R. Green didn’t disappoint, even though it’s not a John Taylor story. He rarely fails to make me laugh, such as with a passage like this.

I make a stop at the biggest Chinese Christian Church in London, and chat with the invisible Chinese demon that guards the place from trouble-makers and unbelievers. It enjoys the irony of protecting a Church that officially doesn’t believe in it. And since it gets to eat anyone who tries to break in, it’s quite happy. The Chinese have always been a very practical people.

“Mommy Issues of the Dead” by T.A. Pratt is a Marla Mason story, from when Marla was learning to be a better sorceror.

“One-Click Banishment” by Jeremiah Tolbert took an idea that I’ve been espousing for years and years.

And then the doc runs back to legal-speak standard bullshit. One paragraph of pure contractual evil buried in legal cruft. Clever. Nobody ever reads the user agreement text before checking the box and continuing. I’ve heard people joke that we were giving away our souls in the damned things, but I’d never seen anyone actually try it.

Of course, my theory is that companies aren’t greedy–they only take a little portion of your soul every time you read through without clicking. But with as much software as I’ve installed in my life, I’m sure I’m in hock.

I’ve actually had Johannes Cabal the Necromancer on my wish list for awhile. “The Ereshkigal Working” by Jonathan L. Howard is a short story set before the novel. I’m well-known for my dislike of zombies, but this did amuse me.

“Feeding the Feral Chidren” by David Farland was another strike out for me. Huang Fa wants to gain Yan’s hand in marraige as well as her love, but upon his return to her, he falls afoul of a magician.

I shouldn’t have liked “The Orange-Tree Sacrifice” by Vylar Kaftan. Magicians are torturing a girl to death, but little do they know, she dedicated her death to the Goddess. But I found it very hopeful.

“Love Is the Spell That Casts Out Fear” by Desirina Boskovich. Also not for me.

“El Regalo” by Peter S. Beagle was a nice relief after the darker stories. Angie is terribly annoyed by her younger brother Marvyn, age 8. When Marvyn becomes a witch, he gets even more annoying, but sometimes useful.

The Word of Unbinding by Ursula K. Le Guin was another interesting albeit terribly depressing story.

Festin is trapped by an evil wizard who seeks to overwhelm and destroy the territory Festing protects.

“The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria” by John R. Fultz was also not for me. It felt far more like a schizophrenic break than a fantasy story, which felt–not fun.

“The Secret of the Blue Star” by Marion Zimmer Bradley I’ve read several times before, and now I really really want to re-read “Thieves’ World” even though Lythande is nowhere near to my favorite character from that series.

There were multiple stories I didn’t care for, but on the whole, I found it a good and enjoyable collection. After all, I don’t have to read the stories I don’t like.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Prime Books


 
 
 

Written by Michelle     Categories: Anthology, British, Fantasy, Mystery, Private Eye, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

A Hard Day’s Knight

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Hard Day’s Knight (2011) Simon R. Green

Walker is dead. Long live Walker.

Because now John Taylor is Walker, and now it is his job to keep order (of a sorts) in Nightside.

Unfortunately for him, someone has decided it’s time for Excalibur to make a reappearance in the world–and he needs to be the one to wield it.

Interestingly enough, they’re right. John Taylor already turned down power when it was offered, doesn’t want the power of being Walker, but like the power of being Walker, he can’t think of anyone else who would be up to the responsibility.

This was a good story, but I can’t say it was as good as previous stories. The dialog was perfect as always:

Julien suddenlt recognized the gold pocket-watch I was still holding in my hand. “How did you get that?”

“Walker left it to me in his will.”

“We haven’t even found his will yet!”

I shrugged. “Details, details…”

Julien sighed. “And you wonder why nobody trusts you…”

“No, I don’t. I don’t give a damn.”

But I really have to wonder where else Simon Green can take John Taylor. After all, he’s now Walker.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Ace

Written by Michelle     Categories: British, Fantasy, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told (2010) edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers

I wouldn’t say the best necessarily, but it’s not a bad selection of stories. And the fact that I got to read it for free probably helped.

“Appetite for Murder” is Simon R. Green story that does not feature John Taylor or Eddie Drood, but is set in Nightside. If you have never read a Nightside story, this would actually be a decent introduction to the place. If you enjoyed this story, I’d recommended the Nightside books. If you have read the Nightside series, one twist won’t be much of a surprise, but the other… Sam Warren has been a Detective in the Nightside for a long long time. He’s worked for the Authorities, and finds killers who manage to step out of line even in a place where murder is cheap and easy and all but expected on every corner.

Patricia Briggs‘ story, “Star of David” is set in the same world as her Mercy Thompson series, but as with Simon R Green’s story, does not feature the main characters from that series, and again, works as a very good introduction to her world. Stella helps place kids in foster homes, and when it’s reported that one boy she’s placed has attacked his foster parents, she thinks something is wrong, and turns to someone she said she wouldn’t call, to help he resolve the problem.

“Grave-Robbed” is one of P.N. Elrod‘s Jack Fleming story, but like other Fleming stories, does not require a knowledge of previous books, and (as with the previous two stories) is a good introduction to that world. A (very) young woman comes looking for Escott, but gets Jack. Because she needs immediate help, she decides to accept Jack’s assistance. Her sister has fallen prey to a medium who is taking her for everything she’s got, and it looks like he wants to marry the wealthy window. Jack’s client wants this scum exposed before her sister ends up even worse off.

I’ve read several other of Mike Resnick’s Harry the Book stories, and was disappointed that I couldn’t find any others. Apparently Harry only lives in short stories, like “Occupational Hazard.” Harry is a bookie, and when one of his client puts in a hex that goes over Harry’s hex protection, Harry is in deep trouble.

I love Nina Kirki Hoffman‘s stories, so stumbling across on is always a pleasure. Terry is a witch, and although she practices some black magic, she still lives with her mother (although she is forbidden to practice in the house). She sells spells and makes plenty of money, but just doesn’t want live alone, and aside from her magic practice, she gets along fine with her mother. As with all her stories, I love the various twists.

“Doppelgangster” is similar to (but not the same as) Laura Resnick‘s book Doppelgangster, and I think I prefer the story without Esther (the main character in the book).

Max Allen Collins’ story, “The Night of their Lives” was one that surprised me into liking it. It’s set during a great Depression, and a cop goes undercover into a shantytown to see if he can find out who has killed 11 of the down-down-on-their luck. I really liked this story, for a variety of reasons.

Norman Partridge’s “Road Dogs” was an odd story, but one that I enjoyed once I got into it. Glen Barlow comes into town when he learns that his sister has died. Glen believe that her boyfriend is behind the murder, and there is no convincing him otherwise.

Kelly Armstrong‘s story “Staked” has the same characters as her story “Bitten” but like most of the other stories in this anthology, is accessible without having read any other of her stories. It’s not a bad story, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s story “Corpse Vision” was one of the darker stories. Joe is slowly drinking himself to death in Paris, while working for a newspaper instead of writing his novel like he wanted to. This story takes awhile to get going, but it is quite good once I got into it. I suppose the problem with anthologies is that when a story has a very different tone from from the one before it, it takes a bit to settle down and figure what’s going on.

I only actively disliked one story, “Ninja Rats on Harleys” which was just a whole bunch of WTF and was the one story in the collection that felt like a chapter out of an existing book rather than a whole and complete story.

There were a couple other stories in the collection, but I didn’t love or hate them, so all in all, this was a pretty strong collection.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Skyhorse Publishing

Written by Michelle     Categories: Anthology, Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Ghost of a Smile

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ghost of a Smile (2011) Simon R. Green

As much as I enjoy Simon R. Green’s writing, and as much is it frequently makes me laugh, I found Ghost of a Smile to be disappointing.

There is still plenty of dialogue to make me happy:

“That’s it?” said JC, after Happy had been quite for awhile. “I don’t know why I keep you around. Could you be any more vague? There are psychic pets on television on are more specific than you!”

and

“You have no idea how close to the wire that came,” said Happy. “It feels like my brains are leaking out my ears.”
“What makes you think you have any?” said Melody.
Happy glared at her. “Everyone’s got ears! I think I’d like to go home and lie down now, please!”

Yet despite the exchanges I love, the story mostly went on too long, with long sections that felt like filler rather than anything at all integral to the story. In fact, several chapters felt like they could have been summarized by, “they climb to another floor, where they discover more horrible and disgusting things, which they manage to overcome, and then they climb to the next floor.”

And then there was the end, which managed to have multiple cliff-hangers and newly introduced plot points.

Yuck.

So, sadly, I think I may stick to the Nightside books, and leave the Ghost Finders and Secret Histories alone.
Rating: 5/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny (2010) Simon R. Green

John bloody Taylor is still in Nightside, just as appalling as ever.

The Authorities are gone, replaced by the new Authorities; not necessarily kinder and gentler, but almost certainly less evil than the group they replaced.

And Walker is dying. The man who was an uncle to John Taylor, as well as his nemesis many times, wants John Taylor to take over his position. John has no interest in replacing Walker, but Walker isn’t one to take no for an answer.

Additionally, John has cases of his own. The first involves an elf (“never trust an elf”) and the second involves a promise John made during the Lilith War–a promise he didn’t keep.

But as always, it’s the writing and the dialog that I love best.

“But…he’s an elf! When did you last hear od one of them lower himself to ask a mere human for help?”

“Never,” I said. “Which would suggest that not only is this case going to be impossible, unethical, and quite mind-bogglingly dangerous, but I’ll probably end up stabbed in the back by my own client.”

“Well, of course,” said Cathy. “I thought that was all understood when i said, Your client is an elf.”

The other thing I like is that although this is a continuation of events from earlier books, and despite the ending that was so obviously an opening for the next book, the story arc is complete within the book.

I would not, however, recommend starting here if you are not already familiar with the Nightside series. There are several incidents that really only have their full impact if you’ve been following along from the beginning, and know the relationships between John Taylor and the other inhabitants of the Nightside.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Ace

Written by Michelle     Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Ghost of a Chance

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ghost of a Chance (2010) Simon R. Green

I can’t help myself. I know it isn’t good for me, but I have this addiction to Simon R. Green’s Nightside.

I’ve read the Eddie Drood novels, and they’re OK, but they just aren’t the same. But I keep ordering them, and when I saw he had a new series, I preordered it without blinking.

The Carnacki Institute is a super secret organization housed in Buckingham Palace that takes care of ghosts and other hauntings. JC, Melody, and Happy aren’t the best operatives the Institute has, but they’re good, and they’re willing to take on the things that go bump in the night. Of course, working for a secret agency, doing work that is a threat to body and mind isn’t necessarily a career from which you retire, and when you save the world, you don’t get to tell anyone. (Conversely, if you die in the line of fire, no one knows about that either.)

JC, Happy, and Melody aren’t John Bloody Taylor, and the London in which they work isn’t Nightside, but there are plenty of scary creatures out there, and each member of the trio has different skills they can bring to bear against the monsters.

There are monsters. The monsters do horrific things. And there is snark. Lots of snark. All three of which combine to make the perfect Simon Green novel.

No, it’s not Nightside, but it’s fun and enjoyable, and an enjoyable read while waiting for the next Nightside book.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Ace

Written by Michelle     Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Butcher Bird

Monday, May 31, 2010

Butcher Bird (2007) Richard Kadrey

Spyder lives just on the edge of being a deviant. He’s a tattoo artist and owns a shop with his childhood best friend, Lulu, who does piercings and body mods. He drinks and smokes and enjoys the company of women of questionable morals, but underneath that he’s actually not a bad guy.

Then he learns about the world parallel and overlapping out world.

He also gets suckered into a trip to hell, but that comes later.

The initial feel of the book is similar to Simon R. Green’s Nightside series: gritty, dark, full of nasty things, and the protagonist wise-cracks his way through the horrors. However, it’s darker than the Nightside books, and Hell feels more like Steven Brust‘s To Reign in Hell.

Initially, I had a hard time getting into the story, the world building was a little confusing to me at first, but I think that was due to the pain killers I was taking more than anything to do with the story.

The characters are all interesting and individuals, although occasionally I did think Spyder was a hair over the time with his wise-cracking. Yes, John Taylor is far mouthier and obnoxious in the Nightside books, but those books are a take on hard boiled detective novels and the dialog feels right. A couple times I thought the dialog here was a bit forced–no one is that witty all the time.

But that’s the only real fault I came across. The characters were good, the story was solid, and it kept me interested despite the pain medicine. All in all, I recommend it.
Rating: 8/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, Fantasy, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Just Another Judgement Day

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just Another Judgement Day (2009) Simon R. Green

It’s been awhile since I read a Nightside book, since they switched to publishing in hardback first. But after lots of anticipation, Just Another Judgment Day arrived.

John Taylor is still a bit at loose ends after the Lilith War. He is no longer being hunted by his enemies, and although he doesn’t want to be, he remains a power in Nightside–a power to be respected as well as feared is something he still has not come to terms with. He and Suzie Shooter are living together, but her past is still haunting her, and their relationship remains in limbo.

To add to the mix, a new group of Authorities are attempting to fill the power vacuum, and Walker wants John to support them.

As with most of the books, the story opens with John taking on a case–a member of Nightside’s high society wants to know why his friends and acquaintances are looking younger, but the clinic that serves them won’t even give him the time of day.

This book does what I like best about the Nightside series: John Taylor is hired to solve mysteries and solve problems, and he does it with attitude.

Walker led us right up to the Adventurerers Club Doorman, who stood tall and broad and very large before the closed club doors. He was supposed to be a were saber-tooth tiger and given the sheer size of him, I was perfectly prepared to believe it. He stood aside for Walker, because everyone does, but gave first Suzie and then me his best cold, assessing look as we passed. Suzie glared right back at him, and he actually blushed a little and looked away.

“He likes you,” I solemnly told Suzie.

“Shut up,” said Suzie.

“He likes you. He’s your special Doorman friend.”

“I have a gun.”

“Never knew you when you didn’t.”

If you have not read a Nightside book, you should be able to start here and pick up what is going on. Of course, I always believe you should go back to the beginning and read forward, but you could read Just Another Judgment Day without having read any previous books.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Ace

Written by Michelle     Categories: 8/10, Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Dancing on the Head of a Pin

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dancing on the Head of a Pin (2009) Thomas E. Sniegoski

dancing_on_the_head_of_a_pinRemy Chandler may have averted the apocalypse, but things aren’t looking any better for him this time around. He’s been hired to recover some missing weapons–weapons that are most certainly more than they first appear.

The second Remy Chandler novel actually follows the short story in Mean Streets. When I read the first book, A Kiss Before the Apocolypse, one thing I noted was that I started hurrying through the second half of the book, but thought it might have been because I’d read the novella in Mean Streets first, and so had a good idea what was going to happen.

Unfortunately, I found the same thing with this book. Part of it was possible the continual flashbacks to Remy’s life with Madeline. I get what the author was trying to do with the flashbacks, but to me they felt like speed bumps in what was otherwise a fast-paced story.

Additionally, some parts of the mystery seemed almost blindingly obvious. Relatively early in the story I thought, “well, that’s where the weapons are,” then thought, “no, that’s just entirely too blatant,” yet that was it precisely.

Not that parts of the story were not a surprise–they were. But even that was a bit of a problem. I kept being reminded of other books and tales (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Simon R. Green’s Nightside kept coming to mind, as did Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels [Interestingly, all those are British authors. Do the Brits have a better idea of Hell than Americans?]) and kept finding this story falling flat in comparison.

One other thing. Upon inspection, this is a really terrible cover. Every time I looked at the cover, I kept thinking Ben Browder was about to be attacked by mini-glowy-eyed hyenas and extra tall, extra skinny jawas. I know that a cover shouldn’t make or break a story, but I really hate bad fantasy covers. With covers like that, small wonder no one wants to take the category seriously.

So although this story does have much to recommend it, it is most definitely not my cup of tea, and in comparison to other books set in Hell or that deal with Lucifer, this was unfortunately a letdown.

And now I want to watch “Farscape.”
Rating: 6/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: Fantasy, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Daemons Are Forever

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Daemons Are Forever (2008) Simon R. Green

daemons_are_foreverThat was thoroughly disappointing.

I really like Simon R. Green’s writing style–I love the Nightside books and liked the first Eddie Drood book, The Man with the Golden Torc. The second Eddie Drood book, however, not so much.

This book was all over the place, and it wasn’t particularly clear why it jumped from one place to another the way it did. Additionally, he brought it characters and concepts from other series, that I suppose were supposed to be enjoyable if you’d read the Deathstalker series, but I hadn’t, and the whole thing just felt forced.

Even more frustrating, for probably the first half of the book Eddie was being an annoying ass. I just wanted to smack him for being so stupid. And when he ended up proven right (of a sorts) it was almost unbearable, because he didn’t really deserve the happy ending, or for things to work out as well as they did.

You saw the fall coming from a mile away, saw his hubris yet he walked right into and acted all shocked and surprised when it happened.

Yes, there was sharp snappy dialog. Yes, there were lots of amusing references to other science fiction and fantasy characters and series. But the whole thing just felt forced. It was like he’d gotten an idea for a story, wandered off in the middle, and then took a giant leap when he realized how far off course he’d wandered.

Essentially, the characters felt off, the story meandered back and forth for seemingly no reason, and some of the plot just felt ridiculous. I ended up skimming the second half of the book, just so I could find out what happened and then move onto another book.

This book won’t put me off Simon Green’s writing, but I also don’t think I’ll be in any hurry to read the third book in the Eddie Drood series, which is already out in hard back. I also really hope this was an aberration, and not a sign of how his books to come are going to go.
Rating: 4/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Mean Streets

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mean Streets (2009) Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson, Thomas E. Sniegoski

OK. I admit it. I’m an Amazon junkie. I often search for my favorite artists and look at coming releases to see if anyone I love has something new coming out. Which is how I stumbled upon Mean Streets. I believe it is possible I looked at the authors involved an actually squealed. But can you blame me? Kat Richardson, Simon R. Green, and Jim Butcher. All in one book? Have I died and gone to supernatural fantasy reader heaven?

And what makes pre-ordering even better, is that I get the joy of ordering the book, and then some point months later the book magically appears on my doorstep after I’ve forgotten about it.

How could you ask for anything more?

The first novella is “The Warrior” by Jim Butcher. Harry is worried that there is a threat to Michael, but in trying to Michael and his family, may only have put them in greater danger.

First, I’m delighted to see Michael again. Now that he no longer carries Amoracchius, there’s not a lot Michael can do to help Harry (or get him into trouble, and I’m not sure that a story where Harry and Michael go out to lunch would be very compelling. So I was glad to have Michael back for another story.

And to make it better, it was a good story. Michael gets to be all calm and accepting about his own fate, while Harry still doesn’t quite believe in the world as Michael sees it. But what I liked best was to see Harry working as a team with Michael and Molly.

I think both “The Warrior” and Jim Butcher’s last novella “Backup” are excellent additions to the the Dresden series, and I have to admit I think I almost prefer Jim Butcher in the shorter tighter format of a novella. We’ll test that when the next Dresden book comes out in paperback.

The second story was Simon R. Green’s “The Difference a Day Makes,” which starred the ever appalling John Taylor.

A woman wanders into Strangefellows looking for John Taylor. She’s lost in Nightside, with no memory of how she got there, what she’s doing there, and what she had done for the past 24 hours.

As this is Nightside, the answer is of course “nothing good.”

This time John is assisted by Dead Boy, and Dead Boy’s wonderful car of the future. After all this time, it’s hard to believe that Dead Boy is still held together. It’s got to be more than staples, tape, and wood putty holding him together at this point.

What continues to astound me about Nightside is that after all this time and all these books, he can still come up with things that make me squirm. John keeps telling Liza how terrible things are going to get, and as a reader I’m all, “Yeah, we’ve heard that before. What could be worse than the Lamentations?” Well, worse not necessarily. But he still comes up with some really horrific things.

I’m very glad I don’t live in his imagination.

Kat Richardson’s story “The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” was third, and one I was very much looking forward to. I am really enjoying her Greywalker series and am waiting impatiently for the third Harper Blaine book to come out in paperback, so this was a lovely treat.

Harper is given a case that seemingly requires only that she take a clay artifact back to Mexico and lay it on a specific grave on the Day of the Dead. But with Harper’s talents, we know–as does she–that nothing is that easy.

Although I enjoyed the third story, I found the story somewhat confusing in the middle. We were given a bunch of information and not much in the way of an explanation. Although the explanation did come later, there were multiple passages I had to re-read so I could figure out what was going on.

This didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the story, but it made this for me a weaker story than it could have been. However, I really liked the resolution of the story, so things evened out in the end.

Also, I love how stories in an anthology can have longer more complex titles. I mean, “The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” is really an awesome title that would work far less well as a book title.

The final story was Thomas E. Sniegoski’s story “Noah’s Orphans.” I have to admit that after finishing “The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” I put the anthology down. I mean, I’d never even heard of Thomas Sniegoski, and here he is closing of an anthology of some of my favorite authors.

But despite myself I glanced at the first couple sentences. “OK,” I thought. “I’ll read a page or two. But I know nothing about this Remy character, and it looks like he’s got previous stories, so this doesn’t bode well…”

Next thing I know I’m finishing the story.

Remy Chandler–angel and private detective–is grieving over the death of his wife. He finds himself not just dreaming he sees his wife, but finds himself drawn into a case against his will, to find who has murdered Noah.

Yes, that’s Noah of the Ark.

The story was complex, yet not confusing, despite the fact I was meeting these characters for the first time. But I have this feeling as if I’ve read about Remy in another anthology, but can for the life of me figure out what anthology that was.

So this was an excellent anthology, and I believe it would be a good introduction to any of these authors or characters.
Rating: 9/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: 9/10, Anthology, Fantasy, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Unnatural Inquirer

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Unnatural Inquirer (2007) Simon R. Green

We return once again to Nightside, where John Taylor is once again on the case. On several cases actually.

As he finishes a case at the HP Lovecraft Memorial Library, he’s asked by Walker, who has the Voice of Authority in Nightside, to retrieve the Aquarius key before Max Maxwell gains more complete control over the Loa.

From there, he’s asked to find Pen Donovan, and a DVD he claims shows a broadcast from the afterlife. Only things get far more complicated than expected, as a half demon succubus joins him in his search for Pen Donovan, and keeps asking him what he sees in Suzie Shotgun.

First, like most other Nightside books, we get to see Taylor work more than one case. I like that we see how some things are easy for him, while others… less so. Second, we get to revisit some of the denizens of Nightside, although others remain absent. After all, what would be a Nightside book without a visit to Strangefellows and Alex Morrisey?

Although this is by no means my favorite book in the series, The Unnatural Inquirer is a solid addition. I still like spending time in the Nightside, and eagerly await then next book in paperback.
Rating: 7/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

Unusual Suspects

Friday, November 28, 2008

Unusual Suspects (2008) edited by Dana Stabenow

I own and read Dana Stabenow’s first fantasy/mystery anthology, Powers of Detection and found it a mixed bag. But when I saw Unusual Suspects and saw it had stories from Sharon Shinn & Simon R. Green, I knew I would have to have this anthology.

In general, I enjoyed it more than the first anthology. Unlike the first anthology, the Sookie story was not on of my favorites. I fear I’m becoming annoyed by Sookie. Hopefully the next book I get will repair my goodwill towards her. And I didn’t dislike the story, I simply didn’t care one way or the other about it. The primary mystery itself was actually interesting, but I suppose I felt like the story wandered all over the place; perhaps I like my short stories to be a little tighter. But again, it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t as good as other short stories I’ve read by Charlaine Harris.

The Dana Stabenow story was odd, and actually felt like it belonged in the MZB Sword & Sorceress anthology. There were a few things that frustrated me, the first being that if individuals are being sent to dispense the King’s Justice, don’t you think they’d know just s teeny-tiny bit about the area they’re visiting? I was also somewhat disconcerted by the partners who seemed to know each other not at all. Weird. Although I’m not sure I believed the resolution, it was still interesting.

I quite liked Sharon Shinn‘s story, “The House of Seven Spirits.” A woman moves into a house with seven ghosts, and eventually tries to figure out why they’re all tied to the house. There’s something refreshing about a woman who isn’t the least bit frightened by moving into a house full of ghosts, and who acts rationally in response to their existence.

The other “haunted house” story, Laurie R. King’s “The House” would have been better had I not read a very similar Charles de Lint story. There was even a similarity between the storytellers in the stories, with their primary difference being age. (Mind you, the Charles de Lint story wasn’t a haunted house story. It was the twist that was the same in both stories.)

“Spellbound” by Donna Andrews was a very good story that I thoroughly enjoyed, once I realized that it wasn’t going to have the apprentice being all in love with the magician with whom she works (it had that feel initially, so I was a bit wary starting out). The mystery was good, I liked the characters, and the tiny twist at the end–even though I saw it coming–was very amusing.

Another favorite story was Simon R. Green‘s “Appetite for Murder.” Even though I saw some of the clues, I ended up wasting brain power trying to remember bits and pieces about Ms. Fate and Tommy and Larry Oblivion, and so was surprised at the end, even thought the pieces were there all along. And shockingly for a Simon R Green story–no one seemed to describe anything as appalling.

If you’re a fan of fantasy mysteries, this anthology is a good introduction to some authors I particularly like, and although it had some weak spots, was better than its predecessor.
Rating: 7/10

Written by Michelle     Categories: Anthology, Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural     Comments (0)    

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