The Urban Fantasy Anthology

Overview: This ought to be fun. It’s a collection of stories, long and short, in the three sides of urban fantasy. The editors and writers have included essays on the different sides of urban fantasy. Useful for those, like me, that have barely scratched the surface. Let’s get on with the stories, shall we?

A Bird That Whistles by Emma Bull

Overview: It’s a musical journey for John. The journey starts when he meets Willie for Open Stage night at the Orpheus. Willie dresses in an old-fashioned way, has plenty of advise about music to offer, and seems otherworldly at times.

Likes: Good switch Ms. Bull. I could have sworn that Willie was a vampire. But the clues to his identity were well placed. Biggest hint: music, singing…hint, hint.

Conclusion: I liked this one. It was fun.

Make a Joyful Noise by Charles de Lint

Overview: Wow. Maida and Zia, part of the Cousins as they call themselves, have gotten themselves caught up in human affairs. Well Maida has anyway. Promises are sacred to the Cousins, and she has made a doozy. Oh, did I mention that it’s to a ghost?

Likes: This story explains a lot of how family relationships work. Maddy’s death was open to your interpretation. But it was Donnie and their mother that I felt for the most. Every family has feelings like this, and it’s nice to see it being portrayed as just the way it is.

Conclusion: As close as this is to a true depiction of mother and child, this will be a ‘love it or hate it’ story. I enjoyed it , even though it was sad.

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

Overview: Um, what was this? I have no idea where we were going here. All I know is it’s all 30 minutes away.

Conclusion: I didn’t like this one. It was confusing. This is the second time something from Mr. Gaiman just confused me, so I’ll count my losses with his works.

On the Road To New Egypt by Jeffrey Ford

Overview: This starts out like a bad joke. A guy picks up Jesus and the Devil. It wasn’t a funny one either.

Conclusion: This is another one that I didn’t care for. Jesus wasn’t portrayed in the best light. And I’m not talking about the smoking and drinking either.

Julie’s Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Overview: What do you get when an artist with a magical background finds a tapestry that shows something that she doesn’t like? Hang on for Julie here.

Likes: This was kind of cool. A teacup unicorn, the joy of all little girls. Or was that just me? The ending was sweet.

Conclusion: I liked this one. Julie’s grandmother must have been one scary woman to disobey.

This ends the “Mythic Fiction” sub-genre. We go to “Paranormal Romance” next.

Companions To the Moon by Charles de Lint

Overview: Mary is worried. Edric has seemed to close himself away from her. And she fears he might be cheating on her.

Conclusion: This is a cautionary tale. I’m not sure what to make of this one. All I do know is that the relationship could never work under the guidelines both parties put it under.

A Haunted House of Her Own by Kelly Armstrong

Overview: Tanya and Nathan have bought a supposedly haunted house. Haunted bed and breakfasts are considered to be all the rage these days. Not that Tanya has bought any of those stories. So why are there so many freaky occurrences with Nathan at the center?

Likes: I like haunted house stories. This one is no different. Tanya’s fear is quite understandable. The ending now, that was the real kicker.

Conclusion: Isn’t karma something? I liked this one.

She’s My Witch by Norman Partridge

Overview: Oh my. Young love, or more like teen love. A teenager with his witch and the last night of summer.

Likes: It was a pretty neat story. A guy bringing out the beauty he sees in a woman. It just got a little weird when you find out Johnny’s secret.

Conclusion: What comes around, goes around. Why can’t anyone get this? I liked this one.

Kitty’s Zombie New Year by Carrie Vaughn

Overview: Kitty just wants a New Year’s kiss. Is that too much to ask? When a woman in a stupor shows up at the party, it’s up to Kitty to figure out what’s wrong with her. The joys of having a supernatural call-in program.

Likes: Kitty’s research on zombies was kind of fun to follow. And the way that they were able to help Beth was sweet.

Conclusion: I liked the character of Kitty, not so sure about reading her story any further though. I did like this story.

Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs

Overview: Tom is searching for Jon, his brother both in blood and in blue. To aid his search, he is sent to Moira to help him. Since the group that has Jon is called the Samhaim Coven, he needs a witch’s help. Good thing Moira isn’t scared.

Likes: Tom is my kind of guy. He doesn’t care what he has to do to get the job done. Let him watch my back.

Conclusion: I liked this one. Maybe I ought to find more on Patricia Briggs.

Hit by Bruce MacAllistair

Overview: Would you take out a repentant vampire for the chance of ultimate forgiveness? That’s what Anthony has been offered. Did I mention that the hit takes place in the Vatican?

Conclusion: I didn’t like this one. God doesn’t play these games.

Boobs by Suzy McKee Charnas

Overview: We have another werewolf story. One about young teens.

Conclusion: This one is just sick. I’m pretty freaked out by the main character. I hated it.

Farewell My Zombie by Francesca Lia Block

Overview: A woman’s son was eaten by zombies. So she’s out to help others threatened by them. The only question is, was Max really eaten by zombies?

Conclusion: Have I mentioned how little I like unreliable narrators? I think it’s the feeling of being lied to. This is just one reason I didn’t care for the story. The other reason is how Ms. Block referred to those with the slightest conservative slant.

This ends our trip through “Paranormal Romance.” All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip. We’re starting the “Fantasy Noir” next.

The White Man by Thomas M. Disch

Overview: Another bipartisan story with an unreliable narrator. Tawana is worried about vampires attacking the Somali refugees in Minneapolis.

Conclusion: Why is it that there is no backlash when the liberals start preaching in their stories? C.S. Lewis is still taking flack for “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Preaching, of any kind, isn’t much fun to read. I didn’t like this one.

Gestella by Susan Palwick

Overview. This is different. Here we have Gestella, a werewolf who falls in love with a man named Jonathan.

Conclusion: This story was awful. Between the second person point-of-view and the ending, well it made for terrible reading, and made no sense. Especially since the ending made the story void.

There are more stories in the “Fantasy Noir” section, but this is where I stop.

Over all Conclusion: After ‘Gestella,’ I bummed out on the anthology. Out of twenty stories seven were good, eight I couldn’t stand, and five I couldn’t read. I did look up the last five stories, and found that “Fantasy Noir” really isn’t my style. Maybe, you will like it better.

Books: A Team Effort

Oh boy. The Amazon and Hatchette debate has certainly heated up. The only result, that I’ve seen so far, is that the self-published, indies, whatever you wish to call them, but they’re basically the ones who say they need no one, have all come out ringing the funereal bells for the printed book. But I ask you, have you ever considered that it takes more than one person, the author, to get these books out?

Let me ask it another way. Picture this: you’re at the stadium and are going to be watching your favorite team sport. It’s even your favorite team playing. The opposing team comes out in all of their glory, ready to play. And then, your team is to take the field/court/ice/whatever they play on, and all that comes out is the star of the team. Doesn’t look like it’ll be a good game does it?

Now let’s replace the opposing team with other books, the critics, and all of the ones that will be pushing against you. And let’s place the author, you, in the position of the home team’s star player. How do your odds look now? Not very comforting are they? This is how I see those authors who say that they need no one to make it big. They are the sole player going against the full team. And I don’t care how they were published.

Yes, we all give credit to the person whose name is on the cover of our books. And occasionally the authors will give credit to those who have inspired/helped them, usually through the Acknowledgements section. But, and this is a doozy, where do you think the money goes in regards to the books? Let’s take traditional publishing for example. We have the author, the author’s agent (if applicable), the editors, the copy editors, the line editors, the copy setters, the gallery printers, the proofreaders, the book binders, the publicists, and the stores of all kinds.

I can just hear someone out there saying that they don’t need these people. Okay, so you have to now hire an editor, and maybe a copy editor, this time you have to pay for them. Have you joined a writer’s group? Do you have any beta readers? Have you gotten your story from a news article or an anecdote? Do you count those providers that stock your book, be they digital or brick-and-mortar stores?

You see even a self-published book, the good ones anyway, have a lot of people helping with the author’s work. What’s worse some of these authors seem to think that they don’t need any help editing their novels. Mistakes are easy to miss with only one set of eyes. If you can’t afford the editor, at least let a family member or a friend comb over your work to spot anything that can jar the reader out of the story.

I’m not saying that you should even think about quitting your writing. By all means, write your stories. Just remember books of all kinds are a team effort. Even your e-books. You don’t want to be in the position of our hypothetical team’s star, do you?

Catherine Coulter & J.T. Wilson’s The Lost Key: A Brit in the FBI 2

I received this book for a fair review.

Overview: Nicholas Drummond, a man with dual citizenship–his mother was an American actress, his father is British nobility I think–, is coming into his probationary period with the FBI. Too bad it starts out with such a bang. A rare book dealer is murdered in the middle of Wall Street. Then the man’s children disappear.

Story Telling: This was a well written story. Many things were hidden in plain sight and made for a fun read.

Likes: A lot of my likes came from Zachary. He was supposed to be the boss, and he managed to keep a real smart mouth. Nigel’s relationship with Nicholas reminded me more of friends instead of employer/employee. Mike has the perfect job for here. It seemed like she was getting pretty high there at some points.

Dislikes: The only real problem that I had with the book was Josef, Leo, and William’s side story. For the most part, it could have been combined into a prologue as much of the information lead into the main story, yet didn’t give too much away.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part was how Nicholas and Mike were able to rescue Adam. I’d have loved to see the looks on the operators’ faces when that signal went out.

Conclusion: This really was a fun trip. Hopefully the next one won’t book as international. Not that this one was too bad, it was basically America and England. I wonder what’s next in Nicholas’s and Mike’s lives.

Consuella Harris’s The Surrogates

I received this book courtesy of Mrs. Harris for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Keith Brown has been offered a deal of the century. Valerie Scovall, a judge now but a lawyer several years ago, has hired him to find out what happened to two men who ran a Surrogate program, Lake Shore Parenting Group, quite a few years a ago. Was it murder or an accident.

Story Telling: For the most part, this story was told in a first person point-of-view in Keith’s perspective. There is one scene that is a bit jarring though. It’s when Keith and Valerie meet. The scene is in first person, up until Keith walks in Valerie’s office, then it switches to third person so to describe Keith.

Likes: Keith’s doggedness is to be admired.

Dislikes: This is a drama filled story. One that suffers from somebody trying to be too politically correct. For fun see if you can identify the gay, black, white, and liberal characters. Really the worst part is that for a mystery, there wasn’t many mysterious thing happening. Where was the intrigue, the clues being dropped, the investigation of the murders?

Conclusion: It’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes. Hope you like listening to drama queens when you pick this one up.

Geena Bean’s Come Back Dear Sun

I received this book courtesy of Mrs. Bean for a fair and honest review.

Overview: Oh no! The Sun went down and never came back. What are Kaylee, Mattie, Lily, and Fran to do? Try to get it back of course.

Story Telling: The story was written to attract young readers. Mrs. Bean is rhyming in a similar vein as Dr. Seuss.

Likes: The pace of the story combined with the charming illustrations make this an immersive book for most children.

Dislikes: The book gives an inaccurate portrait of why children don’t go out to play anymore. It’s not because of the games or the internet. Most parents won’t send their children outside in such dangerous places. Are you going to let a child go out to play with the risks that (s)he’ll be snatched or caught in a drive by? No sane person would. I agree that children need more exercise and playtime, but it’s a new day dawning and more care needs to be taken.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part was when the girls came up with a plan to talk to the Moon and bring back the Sun.

Conclusion: This is a cute idea. I’d read it and explain why going outside is to be a planned excursion with a parent or guardian around.

Mark Cornelison’s Undressed: Taking Everything Off and Putting On What Matters Most

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Cornelison for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Mr. Cornelison, one half of the Cornelison team on Season 13 of ‘The Biggest Loser,’ wishes to show us how Go used a reality show to change his life. So basically, it’s a memoir.

Story Telling: Remember what I said about the overuse of italics in the last book? This one was loaded with them. Needless to say, it was a slow read.

Likes: There were nice summarizing points at the end of each chapter.

Dislikes: I didn’t care for all of the italics. There must be a better way for emphasis. Nor did I care for the Christian vie of weight gain. Please tell me where in the Bible God says “Thou shalt not be fat.” Or, even better, which Biblical group had a problem with Jesus being a glutton?

Favorite Scene: I like how Mr. Cornelison spent the time with his son.

Conclusion: You’ll probably like this one if you liked ‘The Biggest Loser.’ Personally, I never have watched the show, nor do I wish to start, but to each his own.

Richard P. Flynn’s Irishmen Don’t Cry A Medical and Emotional Journey with ALS

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Flynn for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Mr. Flynn wants to let us in on a little secret. What’s the secret you ask? It’s that with the help of your family and the right frame of mind, you can live with anything and keep a positive attitude. It isn’t all talk either. Mr. Flynn has ALS. And he seems pretty happy.

Story Telling: This is a different way to write a memoir. The format is more like a scrapbook-styled journal.

Likes: I like the optimism Mr. Flynn lives with. Life can’t be too inspiring in his position. Yet, as long as he can enjoy skiing then he is happy.

Dislikes: I read with a reading partner. The additional information–those pieces given by his doctors, his wife Nancy, and his aide Carolyn–are all written in italics. These are rather large chunks that hurt the eyes. Perhaps it’s just a formatting issue.

Favorite Scene: My favorite story of Mr. Flynn’s involves his college days and the mooner. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Conclusion: This can help put your life in perspective. Though it can e hard reading. Hard in the terms that it can be difficult to keep happy while hearing what is happening to someone else. Pick a happy day to read this one.

My Obligations as a Writer and a Reader

I subscribe to the Writing-World.com newsletter. In the September 18, 2014 edition, there’s an interesting article on the obligations between authors and their readers by Ms. Victoria Grossack. She made many points that I agree with, and it got me thinking about what my obligations are.

As a writer, I see my obligations in a rather simple light. For starters, I see that writers put something of themselves into everything that they put out. The books are a reflection of the authors. As such, you will not find much vulgarity or cursing, in my novels, short stories, or any of my articles. In my day-to-day life, I don’t speak like that. In the same vein, you won’t find any derision aimed toward God, or any person, nor will you find an obsession with sex in my work.

Another thing I owe my readers is that my work is written and polished to the very best of my ability. It is unfair to both me and you for me to do anything less. Not only should my writing be polished, but my story telling skills shouldn’t leave any gaping plot holes.

My final obligation as a writer is that I must never attack a reader or reviewer that does not like my work. Not everyone will like my style, but this is not the fault of the reader or the writer.

Those are my three points that I follow as a writer. Now for what I see as my obligations as a reader and reviewer.

If you are a long time follower of this blog, you already know my first obligation is to offer fair and honest reviews. I see this as necessary to both the author of said book, and the would be readers who might use my review to help them come to a decision beneficial to them.

I believe that my reviews are a great place to use those manners that most of us were taught as children. Respect is key here. I respect the authors for their work, and all I ask is that they respect me as a reader of their work.

My final obligation is that somehow I pay for the books that I read. Be it with a review for the Advanced Reader Copies, or out of pocket for those that I purchase. There should be a fair exchange between the author and reader. The only time I go for a free book out of these situations, is if I’m looking for public domain books.

The way I see it, I don’t ask for much. My demands on myself are a bit stricter that yours maybe, but it keeps me true to myself.

Deborah Smith Parker’s The Horse That Haunts My Heart

I received this book courtesy of Mrs. Parker for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Mrs. Parker has invited us along for a trip down her memories to the three summers that she spent with Tank, the horse she rode at a working ranch camp.

Story Telling: This memoir was simplistic in style, and made for easier reading than some of the serious stuff should allow. It’s a good one afternoon read.

Likes: I’m a bit horse crazy myself. Spending time at the camp was kind of fun. Tank sounds like he would’ve been a blast to be around.

Dislikes: My major problem with this memoir had to do with the allegations of Sam’s molestations of some of the other campers. My problem is that this book was written over fifty years after the fact. Sam is unable to defend himself against this accusations, and, as Mrs. Parker herself has admitted, she wasn’t a victim, just a shoulder to cry on. She could have said simply that she and Sam had a falling out.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part was when Take made a path through the bramble rather than risk the girls’ lives that were with him.

Conclusion: This book was great. Just the sexual component, as well as some of the New Age beliefs make it so that this is a book that young girls shouldn’t read without parental guidance, they’ll need it.

Dean Koontz’s Brother Odd-Odd Thomas 3

Overview: It’s been seven months since Odd has moved to the monastery in the Sierras. St. Bartholomew’s seems like the perfect spot to hide from the lingering dead, if it wasn’t for Brother Constantine. A ghost of one presumed suicide, and now the bodachs are hovering over the innocents in the hospice care for disabled children. What’s a guy to do?

Story Telling: This book didn’t make much sense to me. Perhaps it is just all of the monastery life, but I felt like a true outsider. Odd is still Odd. He’s still not going to shoot someone if he can avoid it. There weren’t many ghost scenes this time around. Even Elvis seemed to be absent, mostly.

Likes: For the most part it was the care the Sisters showed the children that really drew me in. Odd really ought to take the example of Brother Knuckles to heart. He doesn’t wish to harm anyone, but God help you if you threaten one of his charges.

Dislikes: The monastic life was hard for me to follow. Nor do I think that Odd necessarily had to leave his comfort zone. Let’s face it, he had more than enough trouble in Pico Mundo. Speaking of Pico Mundo, why couldn’t Oddie have spent Christmas with his loved ones?

Favorite Scene: My favorite part was when Elvis was playing in the snow with Boo.

Conclusion: I think I liked Odd’s hometown more than I do him. This book wasn’t as good as the others in my opinion. Think I just might skip ahead to “Saint Odd,” and back to Pico Mundo.