TBR Jar Draw – June 2020 update

Last month I was busy with reading challenges and nearly forgot to include the TBR Jar Draw book into my reading. For this reason I picked out tho shortest and the easiest solution for my TBR Jar Draw in May.

I have read:

Shining Path: Cable Volume 1 by David Tischman, Igor Kordej ★★

This is a Croatian edition in hardcover by Bookglobe publisher. The story was good. I had some problems with following all the action. I kept feeling like I was missing something and had to catch up.
I have some issues with the artwork. Kordej’s works are very recognizable with chunky characters and muscles. What bugged me the most was actually the coloring and I really did not like how it looked with illustrators firm and dark lines.

The Warden (Chronicles of Barsetshire #1) by Anthony Trollope AND Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond (The Hollows Short stories) by Kim Harrison went back into the Jar.

For June I pulled three new picks from the Jar:

1# Holidays Are Hell (Short Stories from Hell) by Various authors

This is a collection of urban fantasy short stories form some of the authors that are already known to me. I have three other compilations from Short Stories from Hell series and have already read them. There are three other which I don’t own and as time goes by it is less likely I will find them. This one has some Christmasy wibes and I would like to leave it for when I need a holiday theme book sometime in winter.

2# Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #7) by Kevin Hearne

I am frustrated and annoyed for having accidentally ordered the wrong format of the last two books from the Iron Druid Chronicles book series. My mode worsens just by looking at the shelf and how out of place the book series now looks right there. This is not giving me any incentive to take and read the books in this series. If I had a paying job and money to get another editions that fit instead I would…right now I am just too annoyed to concentrate on reading these books and the more time passes the less I am motivated to give it a go…

3# Buffy the Vampire Slayer Vol. 1 by John Vornholt, Arthur Byron Cover, Alice Henderson

This is my pick for June and I managed to include it in two other reading challenges for June! One is  Make Your Myth-Taker reading challenge which you can check out HERE And the other one is The Olympic Games which you can check out HERE This book is almost the size of the other two together so it will be a real challenge to read it.

Book of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women – Book Review

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Book of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women

edited by Angela Carter

★★★★

Expectation

Angela Carter’s Book of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women was a book I bought a few years ago of the shelf in a bookstore I used to work in. I’ve seen the name of Angela Carter and a title and I just had to have it. I loved Angela Carter’s short story compilation The Bloody Chamber and some of her stories captured my imagination for a long time after reading them. I enjoyed them and remember them fondly. I fully expected to read female authors writing about female characters and and female lives.

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Summary

This collection is composed of eighteen different stories from various female authors that come form different cultures and different parts of the world. I was in the middle of reading these stories during the International Women’s Day March 8th. It was a great way to celebrate it by reading a book from women about women that talks about different aspects of women. The title suggested the less traditional but much more real women.

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  1. The Last Crop by Elizabeth Jolley ★★★★

This first story in the collection is a very inspiring and quirky just like the mother in this story is. The resourcefulness and and the well meaning caught me by surprise. I like the pace this story has set for the rest of the collection.

  1. The Debutante by Leonora Carrington ★★★★★

This story was so short that just as I got into it was over. I liked the idea and how it was written! Loved the fact that the story had a hyena in it!

  1. from The Gloria Stories by Rocky Gamez ★★★

This was by far one of the most confusing stories I’ve read. Gender bender quality of the story aside, what gave me trouble was that I could not place it in any timeline. I needed more cultural pointers to get into the story. I was confused by switching from issues of ignorance and homosexuality.

  1. Life by Bessie Head ★★★★★

The main character is a woman named Life. This story hit me hard. Life dies in a very relatable way many women have died trough the ages.

  1. A Guatemalan Idyll by Jane Bowels ★★

This story was the longest so far with around 40 pages. It read like a piece for the theater and the characters were one dimensional and oppressive.

  1. The Young Girl by Katherine Mansfield ★★★★

The short form of the story alluded to certain motives but they were never fully explored. This story was more like a painting than a narrative and everything it had to say could have been made in to a painting.

  1. Three Feminist Fables by Suniti Namjoshi ★★★★★

Three very short texts. So short one can hardly call them stories. So far they reminded me the most of the Angela Carter’s other works and I enjoyed them the most as well! The fantastic elements and dry humor translated much more than words can convey.

  1. The Rainy Moon by Colette ★★

One of the longest and most tedious stories so far. I just had trouble concentrating. The mentioned background characters were confusing and I struggled between „French realism“ setting and motives of the story.

  1. Wedlock by George Egerton ★★★

I had some trouble with reading this story due to the English slang dialogues. The whole story was dripping with melancholy and it affected me more than I liked it to admit.

  1. Violet by Frances Towers ★★★★

This story presented how people more often make decisions based on their fear. Rather nice story with a gloomy ending.

  1. The Plums by Ama Ata Aidoo ★★★★★

I loved the verse writing style. It was very emotional and very symbolic. Prose was heavy with meaning and some of it scared me.

  1. A Woman Young and Old by Grace Paley ★★★★★

I think this story has captured so many aspects of what matriarchy could feel like.

  1. The Long Trial by Andree Chedid ★★★

I appreciated the cultural diversity this story brought with it. The religious theme is quite thought provoking and satisfying.

  1. The Loves of Lady Purple by Angela Carter ★★★

Dark and playfully twisted. I like that she used a doll as a story element.

  1. The Earth by Djuna Barnes ★★★

I liked the writing style and the motives. The characters were unique and very expressive against their own nature. I was surprised at how some themes transcend well trough time and I can understand them better than I thought I would.

  1. Oke of Okehurst by Vernon Lee ★★★★

A very elaborate story with gothic elements. Sort of melancholy and captures the English countryside with „weltshmertz“ theme.

  1. Girl by Jamiaca Kincaid ★★★★

I have a thing for these short forms with lots of repetitions and even more hidden meanings.

  1. Aunt Liu by Luo Shu ★★★★

I’m ambivalent toward this story. I’m not sure I can digest what it is suggesting. Although i’m sure that a man in the situation of aunt Liu would probably be celebrated hero and a martyr…

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Conclusion

There were only two stories I did not like. The five of the stories were excellent and I enjoyed them so much. The rest were either good or very good. The general rating of the collection is four stars out of five. These stories were not celebrating women power but were delving into those female traits that are rarely explored by authors and media. Some characters were inspiring and ingenious others were thought provoking and melancholy. I’m very pleased with this book and the stories I’ve read.

December Book Wrap Up 2019

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Monthly reading review – December 2019

This December I have read:

Shifting Shadows (Mercy Thompson Shorts) by Patricia Briggs ★★★★★

Siege and Storm (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★★

Ruin and Rising (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★

The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Graphic Novels #3) by Robert Venditti, Rick Riordan ★★★★

Black Butler, Vol. 2 by Yana Toboso ★★★★

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★

Mr. Sinful (Heartfelt #1) by Serenity Woods ★★★★

gr December books

1. How many books have you read last month? Are you happy with the amount you read? 

I’ve read seven books total in December. Considering that all but one were started and finished in the last two weeks of December this is a pretty good score.

2. What was the best of all the books you’ve read in December? Any scenes or characters that made a lasting impression?

I enjoyed all the books I’ve read in December this year. They were all pleasure reading for me. I’ve rated only two books with five stars out of five: Shifting Shadows and Siege and Storm. The Darkling  from Grishaverse series might even be a incentive enough for another reading of the Shadow and Bone trilogy how much I liked the scenes he was in!

3. Were there any not so good books for you last month? What made it hard or not enjoyable to read?

This December I can’t complain on any of the books I’ve read!

4. How did the books you were reading last month fit in your reading plans if you had any?

I had a list of books I wanted to read by the end of the year. And with all wishes and lovely books I had on my reading list I could not account for real life getting in the way of my reading for most of December. Out of fifteen books I planned on reading by the end of the year I read only nine. You can check out my list HERE.

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5. Any updates on the series you are reading or are you starting any new series?

I’ve finished Shadow and Bone trilogy and plan on reading more Grishaverse books soon. I got one more Black Butler manga and one more Percy Jackson graphic novel close by I need to read as well. I thought I would have read Kitchen Princess by now as well. I’m also eyeing some new book series right now and the only thing that is stopping me is that I’m worried because I don’t have all the books in case I get really into it!

6. Would you like to recommend any books or authors you’ve been reading this last month?

Shifting Shadows and The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic were two short story collections that reminded me how much I like the short story form. Read something short and sweet from time to time! You might like it a lot and if not you will not spend a lot of time on it. Short stories are best way of sampling and enjoying new authors and ideas and need more appreciation.

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The Language of Thorns – Book Review

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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

by Leigh Bardugo

★★★★

Expectation

I picked this book up with some other Grishaverse books I was buying to complete the collection. I loved the Shadow and Bone trilogy and was hooked so bad I wanted to get them all. I had no idea what this book was about except that it was a short story collection and it looked really gorgeous. I was pleasantly surprised with the story themes. The symbolism reminded me of some fairy tale compilations I read when I was younger.

Summary

The darker folk tales the author choose for her world of Grisha hit home and gave me a lot to think about. The stories are engaging and do not let the reader to make assumptions on the world being all black and white. There is a lot of depth in shades of grey and a whole rainbow of colors springs up when you least expect it. The themes in these stories many authors might shy away from but Leigh Bardugo handled them beautifly. I loved it.
The stories have a „cautionary tale“ feel to them. Some were even therapeutic in their practical approach to life. I liked the consistently provocative female characters and situations they were put in. The illustrations on the pages drew me in and provided and extra motivation from page to page.

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– Ayama and the Thorn Wood –
The first story blew me away right from the start. I was intrigued with illustration and scanned every page for picture clues along the text. The narrative style was very soothing and helped with giving the story a „Seherezade“ from „One Thousand and One Night“ feel. Moral of the stories was appealing along with pacing of the narrative.
– The Too Clever Fox –
The second story started out as a fable. I could not help but notice how the characters braced their difficulties as challenges to overcome. There was a distinct lack of vengeful feelings throught the story. Again, the practicality of life is at the fore front of all things. The ending came almost too sudden for me and I did not like it at all.
– The Witch of Duva –
I liked this one a lot. It started out simple enough as a some of the folk tales might but turned out darker than I expected. I love the dualitiy of this story and how something might seem perfectly logical driven by superstitions and our own expectation but the other side of the coin hides the truth we are taught to shy from sometimes.

– Little Knife –
This story I enjoyed the least. The dominance of the male characters was annoying and the end was not enough gratifying at all! I went trough this story at a rather fast pace and when I consider it now it probably needed some slower pacing and contemplation.

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– The Soldier Prince –
I could not help but feel a bit creeped out by this story. I found the illustrations for this story to be the most compelling. The red coloring and the Nutcraker motive gave the illusion of a theme that was more Christmasy for me ( I was reading it during Christmas time). It was all mixed signals for me.

– When Water Sang Fire –
It was difficult to imagine Fjerda as a setting of this story. I loved the characters and the character dynamics in this story. This story seemed like a an introduction to something larger. There were so many possible points for further narrative and so many characters I was wondering about.

Conclusion

I think the reason I did not get along with some of the narrative so well was because I was still thinking about it along the lines of more traditional fairy tales. These stories have much more depth to them than I expected and require more time for contemplation. The story I tend to most get back to is the first one – Ayama and the Thorn Wood. Because of the “story inside of the story” mechanism I liked it and have a need to read it again from a perspective of both characters. When Water Sang Fire is the strongest story for sure. It is longer than others and there are many characters I was intrigued by and wanted to read more about. It was not what I expected when I got the book but it is a more than solid short story collection for not only Grishaverse fans but for anyone who enjoys folk tales and myths as well. Anyone not familiar with the any of the Grishaverse books might enjoy these stories and an elegantly produced this book is a great present for any book aficionado.

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Strange Candy – Book Review

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Finished reading

Strange Candy

by Laurell K. Hamilton

★★★★

Expectation

Laurell K. Hamilton is one of my most read authors. I’ve read both of her big book series Anita Blake and Meredith Gentry. While I have some of her other works as short stories and even another standalone book, this is the only short story collection she is the only author of. I liked the concept of the collection and I wanted to see her stories that are not urban fantasy related read like for me. I was very looking forward to short stories from the world of Anita Blake.

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Summary

1# Those who seek forgivness ★★★★

Insight into life of Anita Blake the animator and how she deals with every night zombie raising business. It is set before any of the series events in the books. Interesting but rather depressing when looked trough the series as a whole.

2# A Lust of Cupids ★★★★★

This is a cute short story perfect for Valentines day! In the story people sometimes get chased by little Cupid like creatures who shot them with arrows to fall in love or just get infatuated. I loved the concept and the humor of the story. I enjoyed the methapore of the story a lot! Would not mind reading about the vengance either!

3# The Edge of the sea ★★

Story about murder and mystery with supernatural twist. Dark and melancholy. I did not like this story. It was sad and traumatic.

4# The Scarcity of lake monsters ★★★★

This was a well balanced story that made me sad. I like the characters and the idea of fantastical creatures being real. I was lulled into this story with first part being endearing and then got smacked down and a bit heartbroken. Good story though!

5# Selling houses ★★★★★

Simple and concise story set in the Anita Blake world. The main character is a civilian woman realstater checking on a house she needs to sell. There were some nicely creepy elements and the story was a great fit.

6# A token for Celandine ★★★★

The most complex story so far. I like how deep the world felt right away. It was set in a fantastical world akin to those of Dungeons and Dragons. He first part seemed a little hard to get into but it went much better toward the end. It was a nice little adventure. This story is set in the Nightseer world.

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7# A clean sweep ★★★

A really short story based on an idea of a cleaning super hero. I liked the twist at the end but I wished there were some more meat to it all.

8# The Curse-Maker ★★★

Very much DnD type of story. There’s a bard thats gotten cursed with sickness and theres a female warrior who loves him and wants to find the one who is responsible. I liked the parcticality of the sorcerer in the story. The blade was interesting. As usuall the end shows much more promise that the begining of the story. Story is set in the Nightseer world.

9# Geese ★★★

More magic and sorcery. I found the story quite weird for some reason. It was OK but a bit too much angst for some reason. The idea off a shapeshifter taking refuge in the animal form appealed to me a lot. The ending was just confusing for me

10# House of wizards  ★★★★★

I loved the idea of magic and non magic world coliding in such a way. I also have growing respect for people who are good at usefull and practical things. This story just felt sweet and lovely.

11# Here be dragons ★★★★★

Strangely alluring and complex supernatural story. I was fascinated with character motivations. In the core it is a dark story about sociopaths. Children of the story are different. There is strength and there is also hope. Interesting take on human need for intimacy.

12# Winterkill ★★★★

Another story form Nightseer world. Main theme is revenge killing.  I liked the magical aspects of the story. There are always some glimpses into horror in most stories in this collection. I think that is just the author’s writting style. There is certain strength in main female characters and also backup male characters seem to have come from a same mold. I liked the story and the angsty feel to it.

13# Stealing souls ★★★★★

A very well rounded short story with Sidra and Leech. This one more than the rest made me remember playing RPG with the group of people. There was something endearing in reading a thief do his trapfinding thing. Liked this story a lot!

14# The girl who was infatuated with death ★★★★★

Last story I might have read a long time ago in another short story collection called Bite. It has been so long that I am simply not sure anymore. It has been almost a year since I last read Anita Blake novel Crimson Death. It made me remember how much I liked reading them again. These characters have a special place among my favorite books.

“I like to think that Irving is somewhere chasing angelic speedboats, or maybe he’s got his own wings. Surely, even God needs a laugh now and then, and Irving is a funny guy, for a monster.”
― Laurell K. Hamilton, Strange Candy

Conclusion

I liked that conceptually each story had a character driven by something like a personal weakness, like some strange candy… One thing that struck me as kinda odd is that there were so many stories with characters from Nightseer novel yet there were no Merry Gentry related stories. I enjoyed most of the stories and the writing was what I expected it to be. I don’t usually read fantasy so much and reading these short stories made me read more fantasy in February than I did for the better part of the last year. I am still not fan of fantasy.

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TBR Jar Draw February 2018

I finshed my TBR Jar Draw for January fairly quickly. It was not a novel nor a short story but an indie RPG book The Shab-al-Hiri Roach by Jason Morningstar. Years back I used to play RPGs like Vampire the Masquerade and Dungeons and Dragons a lot more than I do now. I made a short review on the book and you can find it HERE.

After I finished this book I decided not to rush into the next TBR Jar Draw until February started. The two draws I have not read are going back in the jar:

# The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3) by Rick Riordan

Dhampir (The Saga of the Noble Dead series #1) by Barb and J.C. Hendee

My three new TBR Jar draws are as follows:

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1# Sigvald (Warhammer Heroes #4) by Darius Hinks

I got interested in this book because of a board game I love playing Chaos in the Old World. It is part of a larger fantastical universe of Warhammer Fantasy. To really explain why I bought this book and I’m not interested in others from this series I would have to read and review it.

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2# Strange Candy by Laurell K. Hamilton

This has been on my shelf so long that I am unsure have I read it or not. I’m pretty sure I have read at least one of the stories in it but never have I read it as a whole book. I follow the author Laurell K. Hamilton and love reading short stories in general.

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3# The Witch with no Name(The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison

This is the thirteenth and the final book from The Hollows series. It is the only one I have not read. This series has been with me for more than a decade. I truly enjoy this urban fantasy series and have recently recommended it to a friend from my book club – and she loved it so much she went trough it on a span of few weeks. It would be good to finish a book series but it would also be a bittersweet experience since it is a series full of characters I love.

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All three options are good and inviting. I am a bit shamed for letting so many good books stay unread on my bookshelves. I’m having one of those moments where I’m glad to have started challenging myself to read more of the books from my bookshelves with TBR Jar Draw!

Three Slices – Book Review

Three-Slices

Finished reading

Three Slices

by

Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson and Chuck Wendig

★★★★

Expectation

I was going trough the list of short stories I missed reading for Iron Druid Chronicles after one of my friends asked for reading recommendation. Naturally I turned to Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. I found a few short stories and novellas I have not read yet and this one stood out as an interesting one. I gave up on reading the short stories in order since they are not so easy for me to come by. I was actually surprised to see that the story A Prelude to War is almost on point for book 7. which is the next book I need to read for this series. I have heard for Delilah S. Swanson and her Blud series and even put it on my TBR some years back. I have never read anything of it though. This is my first Chuck Wendig story and I had no idea what to expect.

Summary

These three stories have in common the theme of tyromancy. Tyromancy is the art of divination and telling ones future using cheese hence the apt title Three Slices. While each story is set in its own universe the cheese part is what connects them in a quirky way.

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A Prelude to War

by Kevin Hearne

★★★★

This story was relatively easy for me to get into. It is divided into two segments. One follows Atticus the main character of the series in his exploits to recruit the help of someone he used to know and to get better insight for dealing with his enemies. The other part of this story follows Granuaille on her training to be a druid. While Atticus was one of my most liked parts of the Iron Druid Chronicles I did prefer Granuaille and her way of dealing with druid business and foes. I suspect the part with Atticus has more meaning to the main story of the book series and will have to read on to find out.

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Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

by Delilah S. Dawson

★★★★

Second story  in this collection presented a bit of a challenge to get into. As a short story from a fully developed and fantastically rich world it brought out an array of new creatures and a world that follows its own rules. Since I knew nothing about any of it the first part of this story had me going slowly to try to understand dynamics of the creatures and the rules they abide by. I knew there was a vampire type creatures of some kind in the center of it all and that’s about it. I like the main character Criminy Stain and his sense of flair. The character itself is very strongly portrayed and driven. In retrospect the story was full of macabre and strange but it was all very nicely put together and I did not mind the brutality of some parts. Its a very dark story set in a dark world with some dark characters. I ended up liking it.

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Interlude: Swallow

by Chuck Wendig

★★

This author and her characters I knew the least about. From the very start it read more like a mystery thriller than anything else. While the story Delilah S. Swanson before it had more macabre elements this one was much more scary for me. The way it was written did not help either. The story was put together by little chapters out of order. The way they continue is that they turn forward in time and back in time in the most intense parts of the plot. I had no love for this and did not like it all that much.

Conclusion

While all three stories have a character that uses cheese to tell future in some way there was a distinct commonality in the title of the second story – Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys which refers to a polish saying with general meaning Not my problem, I don’t care. In each story there was a moment of betrayal and the motive of the betrayer had certain carefree elements – nothing personal, I was just worrying about my own stuff. This three story collection was entertaining to read and I found it to be informative for future reading.

The beautiful illustrations were made by Galen Dara and are part of the book. Aside the cover illustration each story has one and I like them as much I like the stories.

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Short story collections

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While reading my TBR Jar Draw from September I was reminded how much I enjoy reading short stories. Almost instant gratification that comes from finishing a short story is very motivating for me and helps with my reading goals. Reading short stories introduces me to new and exciting authors and helps me find new and enjoyable reading material.

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Sometimes short stories come from authors that have a longer book series and are a wonderful way to highlight some interesting character that would not get enough page time otherwise. There are some of my favorite book series that were based on a short story that evolved into a spin off and a full fledged book series on their own. Most notable example of this is the story Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs that came out in On the Prowl collection along with stories by three other authors. I immediately loved the story and characters. Later on Alpha and Omega became a favorite book series of mine. It has five books so far and is going along nicely.

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I have a few unread short story collections I want to read. After Many Bloody Returns I am extra motivated to read at least one of them by the end of the year. Most of the stories are urban fantasy and offer a wide choice of authors. Here are my choices for short story collections:

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Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy

edited by Ellen Datlow

This is a collection of twenty short stories from some really interesting authors. Some of the authors are already favorites and some are completely new. The most prominent author of this collection has to be Jim Butcher with his short story from the Dresden Files book series. I love the cover artwork by Dan Dos Santos – he makes covers for Patricia Briggs book series as well.  The number of stories and page count over 500 ensures me to have enough wonderful reading material for quite some time. Looks very inviting!

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Carniepunk

by Rachel Caine and various authors

Another urban fantasy collection with a twist. This short story collection offers fourteen stories by different authors. From all the authors I’ve read only Kevin Hearne and his Iron Druid Chronicles book series. This offers a great choice for October reading since the themes revolve around carnivals and macabre.

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The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire

edited by Trisha Telep

This story collection with vampire theme reminded me of the time when I started collection vampire themed books and stories in general. Of the authors I’ve read before there is Cassandra Clare. Most other authors I’ve heard nice things about and I’m interested to try them out.