Mini Reviews: Wrath & Dawn short stories, King George

Do short stories garner reviews? Even mini ones? Why yes, yes of course! Because why the heck not. Also, I went back into a The Wrath & the Dawn kick after re-reading the first book and falling in love with the characters all over again. So why not continue that love by reading the prologue-y chapters?

The first one, The Moth & the Flame, is pretty much the larger of the two pieces, owing to the fact that Ahdieh has written Despina and Jalal’s first encounters with each other. The two had ample chemistry in the books, but in these first few meetings, they’re short and sweet and altogether worth reading.

The second, The Crown & the Arrow, is a reflection piece in Khalid’s POV. It takes place exactly around the same time the novel begins, with Shazi on the verge of walking up to her husband and caliph for the very first time. Khalid’s always a fun POV, because he’s a very poetic and romantic one.

And…because the first two ARE short stories, I’ve thrown in a non-fiction I’d read because it was one of those books I had assigned to my literature voldies.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

The SEA Is Ours: Indiegogo Campaign Now Up!

seaisoursJust, you know. I’m putting this here. ‘Cause, you know. steampunk. Southeast Asian stuff. My story is in it. Wink wink nudge nudge huzzah huzzah blow nose–erm, I mean yes.

Mostly I’m just here to throw out the exciting fact that Rosarium Publishing has finally put up the Indiegogo campaign for The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, which will begin its distribution on November 1st. Oh, yes. As if NaNoWriMo isn’t enough, you’ll find me lamenting my writing and shamelessly plugging it when I can in the same month. Aren’t you guys ECSTATIC?!

No?

Okay, fine. Be like that. I’ll still love you anyway.

So yes, this anthology.

It’s a lot of steampunk, and I don’t want to say “it’s not your typical kind of steampunk” but it probably is because I don’t think there’s much in the way of Vicky London going on in there. Of course there wouldn’t be, it’s tales of Southeast Asia after all. Still, in a way it is your typical kind of steampunk, because you’d have to recognize it as steampunk as well. Ugh. Maybe I’ll just leave it to editrixes Joyce Chng and Jaymee Goh to define it:

Commonly assumed to be “Victorian Science Fiction,” our fancy steampunk recipe combines alternate history, technofantasy, and retrofuturism.

It’s got a lot of explosive writing, not just because my particular story has to do with erupting volcanoes but I so wanted to go there. I so went there.

It’s got pretty pretty artistic depictions of said explosive stories! Did I say they were pretty?

Hell, just go to the campaign page. Small or big, any contribution helps!

(And depending on how many contributor copies I get, I might be willing to part with one in a giveaway. And I’d totally deface it with my autograph inside because why not. Wouldn’t that be neat?)

TTT: Short Stories

ttt

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

For some reason I have a harder time thinking up freebies than I do on a normal Top Ten Tuesday topic. This time around, I wanted to highlight the wonderful world of short stories!

I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a short attention span when I’m reading. There are days where I am able to read one book at a time and other days where I can’t focus long enough before going to a different book and then switching back and forth between several books I’ve put on my bedside table.

When my attention span is really taking a beating, I go to short stories, because they are exactly what I’m looking for. Anthologies can be picked up and read whenever you want, and most of the time, reading one short story is pretty much good for a single sitting. Short stories also help me find writers I want to read more of novel-wise, and often I gravitate towards authors I love who also happen to have short stories littering different anthologies.

So this list is for those anthos out there, for keeping my attention span happy, one short story at a time.

Freebie: Ten Anthologies Worth Reading

Corsets & Clockwork edited by Trisha Telep – Before I started reading steampunk, there was this anthology. C&C pretty much introduced me into this subgenre, literature-wise, and it probably explains why I constantly think of intricate clockwork dresses and thensome.

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier – “For a good time, call…” Seriously, though, this antho was pretty fun to read, and there are different short stories by different authors in various genres. By the end of it, you’ll wind up picking a side. Go team zombies!

Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs – Alright, so context might be needed to enjoy this anthology, but whatever. If you’re familiar with supernatural romance, urban fantasy, and werewolf/vampire/fae fiction, then likely you’re familiar with–and have an idea of whether you like–Mercy Thompson. I read Moon Called first before I delved into this collection, and I haven’t regretted it since.

Unfettered edited by Shawn Speakman – If you’re looking for a collection put out by masters of high fantasy, this collection is definitely one I’d recommend. There were numerous shorts penned by authors I looked up soon after (Rothfuss, Vaughn, and Brett being a few of them) and some shorts penned by authors I loved (Sanderson, Hearne).

The Arabian Nights – It doesn’t even matter which version of the collection you pick up, and whether or not you’re reading the canon stories spoken aloud by fabled Scheherazade. Just pick up a copy and read the stories. They’re fantastical and marvelous and every bit as magical as the ancient East.

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce – I totally bought this collection of short stories the first few days it was released. There were a lot of different stories here that I loved, particularly because most of them occur in Tortall. Of course, not all of them do, but since they were penned by Tamora Pierce, every single one of them was worth a read.

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor – I’m not sure if the last story should count as a short, since it took me two sittings to read it. BUT. The three shorts in Taylor’s collection are fantastic, and it’s hard for me to pick a proper favorite since I loved all three of them to pieces.

Aesop’s Fables – These fables pretty much takes a good minute or two to read, probably less for a number of them. Yet they’re rich in imagination, and there are certainly morals to some that I’d totally heed.

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner – There wouldn’t be a complete short story collection without a book on fairy tales. This particular one made me laugh a lot. It was also easy to follow, considering the tales Garner used are well-known.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi – Veering off from your regular SFF stories to bring you nonfiction! I read this in college, and I recall rating it two out of five stars. I wouldn’t change the rating, but in retrospect, I’d still say reading this collection is worth your time. It follows Levi’s experiences pre-WWII, and he ties each short to a periodic element, which I thought was pretty cool.

And because why the hell not, a shoutout to the last few anthologies I’ve been honored to contribute to:

Ancient New edited by James Tallett – Alternate historical stories, involving technology in ancient times and vice versa.

Kisses by Clockwork edited by Liz Grzyb – A collection of steampunk romance stories, of the steamy or cutesy variety. Yes, this is a kissing book.

2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide edited by Corie and Sean Weaver – A science fiction antho for the young and impressionable!

The SEA is Ours: Tales From Steampunk Southeast Asia edited by Jaymee Goh and Joync Chng – Steampunk of the Southeastern Asian variety, where technologies include flying whales and volcano-powered airships.

(I have noticed the past few short stories that have been accepted were scifi/steampunk as opposed to fantasy. I’m not sure what that’s saying about my mentality here.)

ARC Review: Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Completely not meant to be factual, though each story (save one) pulls loosely from actual real-live women who aren’t-well-known-but-kinda-in-the-brink-of-recognition, I suppose.


ALMOST FAMOUS WOMEN

by Megan Mayhew Bergman
Scribner, January 2015
Historical fiction
provided by NetGalley

almostfamouswomenGoodreads: Nearly every story in this dazzling collection is based on a woman who attained some celebrity—she raced speed boats or was a conjoined twin in show business; a reclusive painter of renown; a member of the first all-female, integrated swing band. We see Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s troubled niece, Dolly; West With the Night author Beryl Markham; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister, Norma. These extraordinary stories travel the world, explore the past (and delve into the future), and portray fiercely independent women defined by their acts of bravery, creative impulses, and sometimes reckless decisions.

Jumbly Thoughts

I’m a little lukewarm on this. On the one hand, I loved the fiction that emerged from imagining what kind of life these women led and what possibly made them who they were. On the other hand, I kind of lost interest halfway through the stories because I started asking what the purpose was. I did find that I loved the uber-short pieces, and the ones that were told in the actual woman’s POV (as opposed to some made-up character that took care of the subject of the story). Then there was one story that I didn’t think fit very well, but I actually enjoyed it, so, again, lukewarm, that.

I made notes for each of the stories, but I think I’ll just highlight my personal favorites:

“The Pretty, Grown-Together Children” – First story was in the perspective of Daisy Hilton, a conjoined twin reminiscing on her life journey along with her sister Violet. I liked the fact that the story was broken up into thought processes and time periods; this is a strange thing for me to say, because normally I hate stream-of-consciousness stuff.

“Norma Millay’s Film Noir Period” – To be honest, I had to re-read this story twice because I had no idea who any of the people were, and it was hard to get into the characters when I didn’t have a clue why her sister Vincent was famous or why there was a point to this. There were written blurbs about each story at the end of the book, but by that point, it was a little late in the game. That said, I really liked this story the second time around, soon after I realized why Norma’s POV was significant.

“Hazel Eaton and the Wall of Death” – This was a short reminiscent blurb of a woman racer in the early 1900s and the actions she took to get to where she was. It was absolutely short, but rather compelling.

“Expression Theory” – Short blurb and thought process of an ex-dancer named Lucia. Again, another one of those stream-of-consciousness things, but in this case, it worked. I kind of laughed when the chair got thrown in the middle of it, though I’m not actually sure I was supposed to.

“A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch” – Beryl Markham contemplates the taming of a stallion, all the while seeing her life flash before her. What my favorite thing about this is that there were two stories in this that get tied in together to form the picture of an accomplished woman. It was also to the point and didn’t drag on like a few of the other stories.

“The Internees” – Quite possibly the shortest story in the book, and about women liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during WWII. It was also quite possibly one of the more powerfully-emotional ones.

“The Lottery, Redux” – When I read the title, I immediately thought of the Shirley Jackson short story I’d read in high school. Once I finished the story, I realized it was a similar take on Jackson’s story, but only using a matriarchal line as the set of leaders. Bergman does explain the writing of this at the end of the book, but again, it would have been nice to have a blurb about each story before reading the actual thing.


3 out of 5 Goodreads stars!

 

 

ARC Review: Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson fans will want this book for two main reasons:

  1. Damn, that is one mighty fine cover.
  2. Short stories in Mercyverse including stories that haven’t been put in anthologies yet whaaaaat??!@!!omg111!!!!

A little disclaimer: This has only been my second exposure to the Mercy Thompson universe, and previous to this, the only actual novel of this universe that I’d read was Moon Called. But while I am still just starting my journey on the Patricia Briggs bandwagon, I will say now that I thought the anthology was superb.

I read all 400 pages of Shifting Shadows and enjoyed each story. Wait, what’s that, you say? “But there are over 460 pages’ worth of stories in Shifting Shadows!” Yes, I am aware of that. While I was open to some spoilery things in later books, I drew the line somewhere. It’s a really thin line, but I intend to go back to these stories once I’ve read more of the actual series, so there’s that.


SHIFTING SHADOWS

by Patricia Briggs
Ace Hardcover, September 2014
Urban fantasy

shiftingshadowsShifting Shadows is a collection of 10 short stories and 2 “outtakes” revolving around the urban fantasy world of Mercy Thompson. In the collection, readers will find several stories of secondary characters that show up within the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series (in various books), as well as stories about well-loved recurring characters. You even get one short story with Mercy herself (“Hollow”). It’s really easy to talk endlessly about each short story that I’ve read, and goodness knows I took copious notes while I read them (which were mostly for my benefit). In any case, to save you from what is already going to be an overlong writeup: you can check out what Briggs has to say about the contents of Shifting Shadows here.

My Thoughts (mostly spoiler-free to a degree)

Since all of the stories are relatively new to me, I’m just going to go ahead and mention them in the order they appear in the book.

“Silver” is meant to be a romantic tragedy and an origin story of Samuel and Bran, though mostly of Samuel, as well as Samuel and Ariana. I swear there were onions hidden in the pages, because I might have teared a bit reading the short. If I didn’t already adore Bran and Sam when I read of them in Moon Called, this story would have clinched their characters for me. Also, Bran is frelling badass.

“Fairy Gifts” is a Montana-based story about a vampire returning to his hometown after receiving a plea from a fae. It was short and sweet, though it was a little more difficult to empathize with the character, since I’m not particularly keen on Mercyverse vampires as of yet.

“Gray” is another vampire story, this time taking place in Chicago, where Elyna returns to her husband’s home. This one I liked better than “Fairy Gifts,” but I think that’s a mixture of the fact that there’s a female vampire who kicks ass and the presence of a ghost watching her back. Kind of romantic, I think.

“Seeing Eye” is fantastic. After the introduction of Elizaveta Arkadyevna in Moon Called, I’ve been curious as to the inner workings of the witches in Mercyverse. Getting to read about a blind white witch was cool, but putting a werewolf in there as well was even better. Talk about a blind woman with her guide dog–or, in this case, wolf.

“Alpha and Omega” is certainly the start of what I think will be a beautiful series–and in conjunction, a beautiful series relationship. This was a story where I sat back and thought: “Dammit, this is another Briggs series I have to pick up, isn’t it?” I can see why it could easily be a favorite short story among fans, because it was one of mine in this collection. Also, apparently Briggs describes the Anna/Charles relationship as “sweet”, not “steamy.” Um. I’m not sure I agree. This short story was plenty steamy to me.

“The Star of David” is a cute Christmas short story about reuniting with loved ones. David Christiansen was talked of and eventually became kind of important in Moon Called, so a short story with him during the events after with his estranged daughter was nice.

homecoming

Mercy and the wolf pack are SO badass.

“Roses in Winter” is not particularly endearing for me, because I’ve yet to read about any of the characters in the short besides Bran and Charles. Asil’s role as an old wolf waiting to die is interesting, though, and I’m thinking Kara’s got one hell of a sad, sad backstory.

“In Red, With Pearls” features my favorite gay werewolf! Okay, probably the only gay werewolf in the series, but I don’t care. Warren’s awesome, and so’s his main squeeze. This short plays out as a mini-detective story, and includes zombies and witches. Yeah.

“Redemption” features Ben, who plays a slight role in Moon Called. I admit I haven’t warmed up to Ben just yet, though this particular short story did leave me quite amused.

“Hollow” is Mercy-related, and the two outtakes happen to be Sam and Adam’s points of view (which, IMO, is AWESOME), respectively. Again, I will have to read them at a later time, because they occur way too far into the series and I do have some sort of spoiler-line that I don’t want to cross.

Mercyverse Reading Guide

At this juncture, I would say: “Go get this collection when it comes out!” as well as: “Go read the Mercy Thompson series!” But don’t do what I did and read one book and then start on the short stories unless you are bracing yourself for a few spoilers (and trust me, you will get them). Some of the stories take place before/during/a little after Moon Called, but a number of them do not. In fact, some of the characters in the collection don’t even show up until later books. So below, I’ve included a guide into optimizing your reading of Mercyverse.

Chronological Order (as of 2014)

  • Pre-Series
    • “Silver” (Shifting Shadows)
    • Homecoming (Mercy Thompson Graphic Novel)
    • “Gray” (Shifting Shadows)
    • “Fairy Gifts” (Shifting Shadows)
    • “Seeing Eye” (Shifting Shadows)
  • Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)
    • “Alpha and Omega” (Shifting Shadows)
  • Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega, #1)
  • Hunting Ground (Alpha & Omega, #2)
    • “The Star of David” (Shifting Shadows)
  • Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, #2)
  • Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3)
  • Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, #4)
    • “Roses in Winter” (Shifting Shadows)
  • Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, #5)
    • “Outtake – Sam” (Shifting Shadows)
    • “In Red, With Pearls” (Shifting Shadows)
  • River Marked (Mercy Thompson, #6)
  • Fair Game (Alpha & Omega, #3)
  • Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson, #7)
    • “Redemption” (Shifting Shadows)
  • Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega, #4)
  • Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)
    • “Outtake – Adam” (Shifting Shadows)
    • “Hollow” (Shifting Shadows)

That being said, I don’t plan to read the Alpha & Omega series until I’ve at least finished 3-4 of the Mercy Thompson books, and some short stories I’d recommend reading before certain books. “Silver” can be read at any time, but it might be better to read it right before Silver Borne (which practically continues “Silver”). “Seeing Eye” occurs a year before Moon Called, but might be better read, context-wise, before or after Hunting Ground. It’s really dependent on whether you care about character familiarity over chronology, or vice versa. My general opinion is to at least start Moon Called before anything else to test out whether or not you like the Mercyverse to begin with. And I suppose one could skip out on the Alpha & Omega series altogether and still get the gist of the stories, but hey, got to cover the bases, right?

Some final notes:

5 out of 5 Goodreads stars!