Summer Shorts: Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance

Summer Shorts - Dead Book Darling - Puppy!Welcome to the first Summer Shorts post for 2011!  I decided to revive this little feature, reviewing two short stories every Saturday of July and August, 2011.  I am going to try to feature different authors or anthologies every week, and this week I’m staring with… The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance

 

Pack by Jeaniene Frost

(Author of the Night Huntress Series – Goodreads)
Thoughts: I was not at all a fan of Jeaniene’s Night Huntress series – I know lots of people think it is the best thing since sliced bread, but all I could see when I open the pages was “Buffy Fanfiction” in bright, flashing letters. But I thought perhaps with different characters, I might might learn to enjoy her writing. And I am pleased to say that I did!

Pack isn’t exactly fantastic. It’s a short story written in as though it were a novel… rather like a mini-novella. That kind of style really does not work when you only have a couple thousand words to get through. And yet, in spite of the style, Jeannie still managed to create interesting 3D characters, a solid universe, and an almost believable were-romance.

Almost believable, you ask? Well, keep in mind this is a short story – a short story that takes place in “real time”. So the were-romance does descend into the pits of the “we are mates and you are mine, growl” trope. But when that comes from a rather-sexy werewolf? I don’t really mind.

Bottom line? Not bad at all. Worth the 20 minutes it will take you to read it.

 

How to Date a Superhero by Jean Johnson

(Author of the Sons of Destiny Series – Goodreads)

Thoughts: Wow, this story was terrible. The writing was depressingly amateur, the characters less-than-one dimensional and the plot non-existent. This is most certainly not a case of me disliking a story for its content – because there wasn’t really a story for me to dislike. And in a way, that is far far worse.

So, what exactly was the problem? Well, first off, the plot was rather stupid: spandex-wearing superheroes are “out” and are minor celebrities in their own right. There’s only so far a girl can suspend her disbelief… certainly not far enough to understand why people would wear spandex if they didn’t need to.

Then there was the pacing – or lack thereof. The story starts with a meeting that takes up about half the word count and is – in the end – utterly pointless. It felt like the first chapter of a tedious novel; I honestly would have stopped reading if it hadn’t been a short story. And finally, there was the “romance” angle – in which the two characters simply tell each other, “oh dear, I do rather fancy you”, and then live happily ever after. What. The. Hell.

Bottom line? Just… don’t.

Next week… Kelley Armstrong!

Summer Shorts – Ode to Edvard Munch by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Summer Shorts is a weekly feature on Dead Book Darling, reviewing great short stories every Saturday through July-August 2010.

Ode to Edvard Munch by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Caitlin’s Website / Goodreads / Librarything

Rating: 5 stars
Featured in: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance

Thoughts: Ode to Edvard Munch is an elegant, literary story.  It may be only 10 pages long, but it felt epic.  Breathtaking, heartbreaking and all sorts of things I can barely describe.  Beautiful.  Terrifying.  Horrific. 

Kiernan is one the most artistic writers I have ever read.  She reminded me of one of my favourite authors, literary fiction writer Javier Marias – and that is certainly not a compliment a dole out lightly.  I’ve re-read this story a few times since I first picked it up, and each time I notice something new to swoon over.

All I can do is give you a sample of her style.  I spent most of this story drawing hearts around passages – here’s one of my favourites:

“This was the hall of my mother,” she says. And now I see the corpses, heaped high between the smoky braziers. They are nude, or they are half-dressed, or they’ve been torn apart so completely or are now so badly decomposed that it is difficult to tell whether they’re clothed or not. Some are men and others are women and not a few children. I can smell them even through the incense, and I might cover my nose and mouth. I might begin to gag. I might take a step back towards the stairs leading up to the long corridor and the bloodless desert night beyond. And she blinks at me like a hungry, watchful owl.

“I cannot expect you to understand,” she says.

I cannot explain or describe the plot of this story – if I tried I would only belittle its content.  I can tell you that it is narrated by a male pianist and features a female vampire who sits on benches in central park.  We never learn their names, and we certainly never see their relationship progress to anything I would call a “romance” – but with Kiernan, there’s no need.  They will remained etched in your memory because of it.

Bottom line?  Quite possibly the most beautiful piece of UF I have ever read.  Caitlin R. Kiernan has just jumped to the top of my MUST WORSHIP list.

Summer Shorts: Dangerous (Darkest Powers) by Kelley Armstrong

Summer Shorts - Dead Book Darling - Puppy!

Summer Shorts is a weekly feature on Dead Book Darling, reviewing great short stories every Saturday through July-August 2010.

Dangerous (Darkest Powers Story) by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: 

Free online story! Click here to read the story on Kelley Armstrong’s website.

Thoughts: This brilliant Darkest Powers story tells us how Derek and Simon got to Lyle House. Considering Derek is insanely smart, I had been wondering how he managed to get himself and his brother locked up. Armstrong does a fantastic job explaining the circumstances. It’s rather tragic and rather wonderful – and, best of all, it’s in Derek’s POV.

Oh, Derek. *sighs* *gets misty eyed* Ahem.

Anyhow, this story is a hundred pages of epic brotherly love. Honestly – Derek and Simon could give the Winchesters (Supernatural TV) a run for their money. They had such fabulous interplay between them – both trying to protect each other (usually Derek was the only successful one) whilst bantering non-stop. It is fabulous.

Now, I expected to love Derek in this – and trust me, I did – but what I wasn’t expecting was Simon. Oh, Simon. He desperately wants to keep his brother with him, and tries so damn hard to make Derek admit to what he wants. Not that he succeeds – Derek is as stubborn as a mule. But while I understood the extent of Derek’s love for Simon from the DP trilogy, in Dangerous we see just how much Simon loves his brother back: an awful lot.

Bottom line? You absolutely must read this. Although, even though it is set before The Summoning – make sure you read that first. It will make the experience 100x better.

Kelley Armstrong is currently writing another online short story in Derek’s POV set between The Summoning and The Awakening. It is called Divided and is currently a WIP. Check her blog to see for regular updates!

 

Summer Shorts: Kiss and Tell by Michele Jaffe

Summer Shorts - Dead Book Darling - Puppy!

Summer Shorts is a weekly feature on Dead Book Darling, reviewing great short stories every Saturday through July-August 2010.  I’ve been reading quite a few fabulous anthologies lately, and I want to share the love!

Kiss and Tell by Michele Jaffe

Michele’s site / Goodreads / Librarything

Find it in: Prom Nights From Hell Anthology
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3 stars

Thoughts: Kiss and Tell was adorable but rather clunky. Miranda is a gifted 18-year-old with troubled past and a rather odd love of self-help book (How to Get – And Kiss! – Your Guy played a rather large part in the plot).

The book alternated between rather giggly fun, and some Pretty Serious Stuff. And even though I enjoyed it, I honestly don’t know what this story is about. Miranda saves a rather bizarre “fourteen”-year-old and then sets up a date with a guy she has been crushing on (who we see bizarrely little of, btw)… and that’s all I know for sure. There is – supposedly – quite a big reveal about Miranda’s powers and family… but I really just didn’t get it. Nothing was properly explained and the story didn’t really get wrapped up.

There were some rather interesting secondary characters in the tale, including Miranda’s lesbian BFF and a kiss-a-holic fourteen-year-old (who I could have done without, but she did have some rather funny moments).

Bottom line? Fun but unfinished. If you skip it, you’re not missing much – but if you read it, expect a few fun laughs. I think Jaffe might be better novel-length fiction.

Summer Shorts – The Exterminator’s Daughter by Meg Cabot

Summer Shorts is a weekly feature on Dead Book Darling, reviewing great short stories every Saturday through July-August 2010.  I’ve been reading quite a few fabulous anthologies lately, and I want to share the love!

The Exterminator’s Daughter 
by Meg Cabot
Meg Cabot / Goodreads / Librarything

Find it in: Prom Nights From Hell Anthology

Rating: 4 stars

Thoughts:  I’ll admit it – I used to think Cabot was a writer for 12-year-old girls with learning disabilities.  Harsh, I know.  But hey, I come to you reformed!

The Exterminator’s Daughter was fun, fun, fun!  The 50-page story kicks off when a stupid-but-sweet teenage girl is seduced by a rather evil vampire.  Her BFF Mary (a.k.a. the Exterminator’s Daughter) just so happens to be a kick-ass vamp killer.  Helping her swoop in to save the day is the awesome-and-totally normal Adam, and, oh yeah, they get to go to prom.

It is super funny, with a touch of rather adorable romance.  But Cabot took the story one step further, writing some pretty well-rounded characters.  Mary isn’t just charging to the rescue for the hell of it: she has suffered a pretty devastating personal loss and is on a pretty un-funny quest for revenge.  It’s all rather tragic, but it made me connect with Mary about so much more than I would think possible in so few pages!

Bottom line?   Cabot is certainly on my YA radar now – anyone who can leave me smiling and wishing for a sequel deserves to be read ASAP!

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