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!

Many Bloody Returns – Book Review

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Finished reading

Many Bloody Returns

edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

★★

Expectation

This is was my TBR Jar Draw for September. I was looking forward to it and reading some good short stories. I like reading short story collections because they introduce me to some new authors and ideas.

Summary

There were all together thirteen stories in this collection and what made me squeal was a dedication before the stories in the book. This gave me some extra enthusiasm for reading the stories. I went and wrote a few thoughts on each story.

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1. Dracula Night by Charlaine Harris ****

I very much enjoyed this story. It reminded me how much I loved reading Sookie Stackhouse book series. The funny and quirky dialogue was delightful. And offcourse Eric <3.

2. The Mournful Cry of Owls by Christopher Golden ***

This story had a YA feel to it. The timeline placing, the cultural tidbits and the actual supernatural creature in question were different than expected. It was more baffling than anything else.The mystic and pensive feel to it just did not work for me. And the owls I just cant perceive as anything but cute nocturnal animals.

3. I was a Teenage Vampire by Bill Crider ****

This author was completely unfamiliar to me before. At first this felt like a story for much younger audience and since the true age of the narrator character is somewhere around middle school it kinda fit. I was nicely surprised by the vampire of the story. It was a truly intriguing portrayal and I loved its subtle creepiness.

4. Twilight by Kelley Armstrong ***

This was so far the heaviest story. It was interesting and thought provoking but also kinda depressing for a short story. I expected more from a well renown author.

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5. It’s My Birthday, Too by Jim Butcher *****

I never read The Dresden Files and have only watched a few episodes of the TV show that did not last long. I loved this story. It had meat to the plot and characters were quite lovable. Everything about this story made me want to learn more about the characters and had me wondering about them. I had reservations about starting yet another UF book series but this one sure is intriguing.

6. Grave-Robbed by P.N. Elrond ****

I have not read anything from this author before but I have few other books and collections edited by her. This was an unexpected surprise. While the vampire of the story made me wonder quite a bit the setting and the general feel to this story was overwhelmingly positive.

7. The First Day of The Rest of Your Life by Rachel Caine ****

I loved this teasing introduction to Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series. I enjoyed the dramatic background and intriguing hints on characters in the story. I will definitely give these a chance when I get some other books series to a close.

8. The Witch and the Wicked by Jeanne C. Stein ***

This story seemed quite silly. The main character is kinda depressing and the plot was kinda far fetched. I did not know should I laugh or pay more attention. The vampires in this story bugged me. It was just not my kind of story it seems. This author was completely new to me and I have no desire to read more from her.

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9. Blood Wrapped by Tanya Huff ****

I have not read this author but I am familiar to her characters Henry Fitzroy and Vicki Nellson from the TV adaptation. I kinda like the TV show. This story is very much different from what I remember. This short story was interesting to read but I was annoyed with „What would Vicki think?“ that the characters kept asking themselves. Other than that I really enjoyed the story.

10. The Wish by Carolyn Haines ***

This author was new to me. The story was probably the shortest one in the whole collection. It was kinda morbid and nostalgic. The descriptions were depressing and ominous. I had to start reading it twice and force myself to concentrate since this short story already had a slow start and it took a few pages for anything other than setting descriptions to actually start. I’m still not sure what the author was talking about. The only thing I like in this story except the ever present madness is the actual vampire of the story.

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11. Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two by Tate Hallaway ***

This story was rich in interesting new creatures and mythology. Author was new to me and some ideas were intriguing. There was something kinda off with the characters though and it made me not like them all that much. The characters were not compelling enough for me to be believable.

12. Vampire Hours by Elaine Viets ***

A new author and a bit different story. There was something intriguing in the main character. Vampire of the story seemed sappy and kinda off. I’m not sure how I feel about this story though. The vampire bit seemed almost fairytale in quality. There were some interesting points in this story but the vampire part seemed forced.

13. How Stella Got Her Grave Back by Toni L.P. Kelner ****

What I did not like from the start was a title of this story. It made me think it was going to be another „girl power“ story like the one that came before it. I’m so glad I was wrong. The characters were lovable and the story was interesting. Vampires of the story were somewhat different than expected but they fit in nicely with the story. Strangely I did not mind many of the „curtain down“ love scenes that normally annoy me. I enjoyed this story.

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Conclusion

I’ve had this short story collection for almost a decade now and I’m glad I’ve finally read it. I am happy with the stories I’ve read. Most of the stories were good and better with only a few that just did not sit well with me. When it comes to vampires I can be quite picky. In the end it was a few little things that made me not love the story. I’m happy with the different vampire types the different stories brought out. I liked the action packed and funny stories more.