Naked City – Book Review

Naked City

by Ellen Datlow (Editor)

★★★★

Expectation

I was very excited when I first bought this book almost a decade ago now. Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres and I had high expectations from this short story collection. I really love the cover and I am a big fan of Daniel Dos Santos cover art! I like the dreamy and intriguing quality of the characters on the cover and the misty setting that gives of fantasy vibes in an urban setting. I put this book on my personal reading challenge for the year and did finally picked it up for the Reindeer Readathon for the prompt that required me to read a book of my favorite genre! The names of the authors on the cover made me giddy with expectation of some good stories!

Summary

There are twenty short stories in this 500+ pages book. I did not realize just how big it was when I decided to finally pick it up. I expected fast paced short stories in urban fantasy but what I got was so much more. The stories of my favorite authors were excellent and I found some new authors to explore. I was reminded again of my interest in Dresden Files book series by Jim Butcher!

1. Curses by Jim Butcher ★★★
I liked this short insight into the world of Harry Dresden. Dresden Files book series is on my TBR for years now but I keep pushing it back and not there are so many books in the series I feel it would be a chore for me to collect them all. This short story presented me with a good feel of the authors writing but I can’t seem to get into the whole baseball and sport sin general vibe. While I was reading I got flashbacks to another story with the same theme and that made my reading experience less enjoyable.


2. How the Pooka came to New York City by Delia Sherman ★★★★
Gritty story with feeling. I liked the charm and depth of the characters. Would not mind reading more of the adventures of Pooka 😊

3. On the Slide by Richard Bowes ★★
The fantasy elements were barely in this story. The feel of a PI noire drama and lives of cops were not that appealing to me. I understand the homage to the TV series that this collection was named for but I wish there could have been some more fantastical elements to the story that I could relate to.


4. The Duke of Riverside by Ellen Kushner ★★★★
Outside of a medieval feel to the timeline of the story there were not any evident fantastical elements here. Other than that the story was intriguing and the characters were interesting. This story is an excellent example of passionate characters presented trough PG rated narrative and I don’t mind it one bit. It actually seemed very hot in a rather spartan way. I have some issues with the choice of the narrator but overall I really loved this story and would be interested to read more about the characters involved.


5. Oblivion by Calvin Klein by Christopher Fowler ★★★
This story was full of symbols that had me triggering and I was not sure what I was triggered by. I could not help but think of it as a prelude to something bigger and just beginning to bloom. I would love to have a bit clearer insight into some questions that were put out there.


6. Fairy Gifts by Patricia Briggs ★★★★★
This was the second time I was reading this story and I loved it even more than the first time. The clarity of well made characters and narrative jumped at me from each scene. Author has a way of making it easy for me to picture and understand everything she presents on pages and is a definite favorite!


7. Picking up the Pieces by Pat Cardigan ★★★★★
It started out suspicious but turned out to be an amazing story. I loved the theme and the setting. There were some minor things I had issues with but the historical content was rather endearing. Great story!


8. Underbridge by Peter S. Beagle ★★★★
This was more an insight into human nature than fantasy. At times it was rather unnerving and I must say the ending was not what I expected. For some reason I find the idea of the story thought provoking not for its fantastical elements but for its depiction of human condition!


9. Priced to Sell by Naomi Novik ★★★★★
Pace of this story was a bit faster and more lighthearted than those before and I loved it for that alone! This one has all the elements that I love in my urban fantasy books: wide choice of supernatural creatures, faster pace in sync with the urban setting and a good dose of practical quirkiness.


10. The Bricks of Geleck by Matthew Kressel ★★★★
This story almost had an Arabian nights feel to it. I liked the melancholy approach and event the philosophical vibe it made me feel. Thoughtful and pensive.


11. Weston Walks by Kit Reed ★★★
Another philosophical and introspective story with all the urban fantasy elements. I could not help but feel detached from the characters and how they were presented. More questions were poised than were answered.


12. The Projected Girl by Lavie Tidhar ★★★★
Historical references of this story were eerie. Main character seemed innocent enough but the amount of ambiguity he was surrounded with actually scared me. There were so many unsaid thoughts and references between the lines that the authors ability to blend them in so effortlessly amazed me. Rich story, composed in an intriguing way.


13. The Way Station by Nathan Ballingrud ★★★
I was not prepared for the amount of drama and serious stuff in this one. The symbolism is making my head spin. My expectations were very much different and it is starting to impact my reading experience.


14. Guns for the Dead by Melissa Marr ★★★★★
I am not a fan of western theme in any form or format. That being said this story was cute and interesting. I like the idea and how it was presented. This short story peaked my interest and I would like to read more of it.


15. And go Like this by John Crowley ★
This story, if it can even be called that, reads like a train of thought of a person who makes lists for a living. I was presented with an idea, but for idea to become a story some literary finesse is required. This essay of words put together had no literary value for me. I did not enjoy it.


16. Noble Rot by Holly Black ★★★★★
Twisted in a delicious way. I found this story romantic and sweet. I keep being surprised at how much I like the writing style of this author. There is something about the way she writes strange and weird that make them terribly appealing.


17. Daddy Longlegs of the Evening by Jeffrey Ford ★★★
This was the first story with a kind of macabre feel to it. I was waiting for a story with a bit more horror elements to it and this one did not exactly rise up to my expectations. There were some scary elements for sure, but the visuals I got from the descriptions had a Burtonesque feel to them. Not enough to scare me but just enough to confuse me. The idea of the story seemed like an urban legend.


18. The Skinny Girl by Lucius Shepard ★★★★
I liked the cultural references. I know nothing about the geography of Mexico City and this was a scary interlude. Interesting story and intriguing use of supernatural elements.


19. The Colliers’ Venus (1893) by Caitlin R. Kiernan ★★★
I liked how this story started. Then there was a dream sequence and it all went blurry for me. It got better at the end but I don’t think I understood the point of the story at all.


20. King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree by Elizabeth Bear ★★★★
There were so many interesting characters in this story and the amount of mysteries left me intrigued. I liked the idea and the concept. The end of the story was kinda choppy but that was in the spirit of the main character and the theme I guess.

Conclusion

I did not expect the philosophical quality of the stories to be so intense. Many of the stories had a quite serious vibe to them. They reminded me of some classics of the speculative fiction genre form half a century ago. Most of the stories had a pensive and thought provoking agendas and challenged the reader to think about reality using some fantastical elements. Some stories were even Kafkaesque in their sombre characters and introspective aim. There were some definite favorites among these stories and there was a one complete dud as well! The story I liked the best was Noble rot by Holly Black simply because it held my attention the longest after reading.

I am glad to have finally read this book. It has given me a definite direction towards reading some other books and it is another short story collection from my bookshelves I have finally read!

Favorite cover artist – Daniel dos Santos

 

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Few years back I made a post on pretty book covers of one of my favorite book series by Patricia Briggs –  you can check it out HERE.  I’m still a great fan of Patricia Briggs books and I’m happy to report that her collaboration with artist Daniel dos Santos is still going strong. He makes book covers for the US editions of both of her Mercy Thompson book series and Alpha & Omega book series. The series crossover from time to time and the visual representation on the book covers does them both justice.

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Daniel dos Santos is an American artist well known for making fantastic book covers depicting strong women. For more information on the artist you can check his official page – The Art of Dan dos Santos. He even made a guide for the latest Patricia Briggs book in the Mercy Thompson series Smoke Bitten which you can check out HERE.

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I collect mass market paperback editions and once I got interested in this series some seven years ago after seeing these beautiful covers I was completely hooked. The strong female leading characters of the booth series are portrayed quite realistically. The go trough hard times and they are flawed but the way they deal with their problems is inspiring. I have one short story collection he made a cover for as well!

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While there are some covers I like more than others I really cant decide which is my favorite one! I’m still behind one book in the series that came out this year for Mercy Thompson – Storm Cursed and I loved the next one announced already for Smoke Bitten!

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Here are three of the books I own in mass market paperback that tie for favorite cover for me. Silence Fallen is the latest that book cover that woowed me at first sight. Silver Borne I have very fond memories of reading and I like the fact that Mercy holds a book on the cover! Bone Crossed was one of the strongest books in the series for me and I love how Mercy is portrayed in profile in the rain.

Dan dos Santos has made some other of my favorite characters and book scenes come to life trough his art and here are some of the ones I like the best! First one is from The Dresden Files series. Second picture is for the Graphic novel edition of Serenity and the last one is for Deluxe edition of graphic novel Fables.

There is something very subdued in the ways Daniel dos Santos book cover art and I find it a great fir for the urban fantasy genre. I love his art and his covers are an added bonus and value for the books I already love. Book covers matter to me and when I can I will pick the edition with this amazing cover art!

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I think it is amazing when an artist and a book author make such strong partnership on more than one book series. I wish more artists and authors would do this. It makes me feel a lot better when buying a book series to know that the cover art was picked out with great care and will continue in the same style. I have a few book series that make me groan just by looking at them on the shelf because their discontinuity in the book design and cover art can be seen from a distance. #justbookishthings

Patricia Briggs book series I love and own

I read quite a bit of UF (Urban fantasy) genre. UF book series make for interesting and fast paced reading time with just enough action and excellent storytelling.

One of my favorite authors is Patricia Briggs.What made me love this author is a wonderful array of creatures and troubles that come with them.

I read, love and own two of her book series:

Mercy Thompson book series

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So far there are eight books in the series. I own first seven and the last one Night Broken is on my wishlist!

The main character is shape shifter mechanic Mercedes Thompson.

Mercy Thompson’s life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn’t exactly normal herself.

Mercy is an inspiring strong female leading character. She is suprisingly down to earth and easy to relate to. There are some love interests for her in the books but they enrich the storyline.

There is also a graphic novel version of the series which is also on my wishlist!

Let me just say this again: she is ubrecool awesome female character!

Alpha and Omega book series

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This series has three books and the fourth one Dead Heat is announced for next year!

This book series is running in sync with Mercy Thompson series. They are both in the same world but written from different characters point of view.

Here, main character is a female werewolf Anna. This book series was also known as Anna and Charles, introducing two main characters.

 Anna never knew werewolves existed until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But Anna is that rarest kind of werewolf: an Omega.

This series started out with short novella which came out in paperback in On the Prowl short story collection and as a single eBook novella.

Story starts with some political werewolf pack intrigue and continues with love relationship of the two main characters. It is mostly centered on werewolves and their traditions.

Here’s what graphic novel version looks like:

There is also a short story collection edition Shifting Shadows by the same author. Stories are set in the world of both book series.

What drew me to this author are some book recommendations and really awesome book cover art! They are all made by the same author Daniel Dos Santos. It kinda bugged me first that artist decided to make Mercy’s tattoos different on each book cover. But now it makes for some nice variations!

These are great stories and great characters. I strongly recommend them to every one who wants to read something really really cool!

Here is what they look like on my shelf! Notice the artwork on the spines!

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