CarniepunkCarniepunk is an anthology of short stories by current and upcoming urban fantasy writers. I like reading anthologies every so often to fish for new writers/series to read. Each anthology has a basic premise to work with. From the title, I’m sure you got that all these stories are based around carnivals.

I, personally, have never been to a one of these types of carnivals. These are the road-side, traveling carnivals with the rattling rides and fried everything on a stick food. I’ve mainly just been to big name amusement parks, with the occasional county/state fair (not traveling, permanently in place rides and such).

Some of my favorite writers (Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire) contributed to this book and for the most part, its pretty good. Some of the stories just hit me the wrong way and I had to stop reading that story. Not a in a ‘that’s too creepy to read’ way but a ‘please work on your writing style way’. Some of them felt like writers with very little, if any, publications under their belt. And of course, some of them had the gratuitous sex scene. Because that’s required of urban fantasy I guess? Like I’ve said before, I have nothing against a good love scene but if your just throwing it in because you think its expected…please don’t. It should help the flow of the story some how. That’s why I had to stop reading Anita Blake stories. She needs to feed off sex all of a sudden. Really?

Anyway, moving on. The following writers have short stories in this anthology: Rob Thurman, Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Rachel Caine, Allison Pang, Hillary Jacques, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Gay,  and Seanan McGuire. Rob Thurman I think is easily the most original story of the lot. Some of these are stand alone stories (like Thurman’s) but some of them are short stories in one of the writer’s series (like Estep’s).

Carniepunk is worth a read I think, though I don’t believe carniepunk will ever be a subgenre of urban fantasy. Though if there are any urban fantasy writers out there capable of creating a series about supernatural carnies, please have at it. It would be pretty original to say the least! Rating: C+/B-. I wish that Amazon’s Kindle service would allow you to buy individual short stories, rather than the whole anthology. Anyone know if that’s possible?

Chimes at Midnight

I love the October Daye novels. They are awesome. Beware SPOILERS.  The latest out by author Seanan McGuire is called Chimes at Midnight. This one starts out with Toby doing her knightly/detectively duties. In a way. It’s really a personal crusade she’s on. See there’s a drug out on the streets. One that is perfectly good for pureblooded fae. It gives them a nice little trip to la-la land. But it’s instantly addictive and eventually deadly to changelings (fae that are partially human).

Toby doesn’t like the stuff. Changelings have it hard enough in the world without killing themselves for a stupid high. So she’s trying to rid the streets of San Francisco of the stuff. She finds proof that it is actually killing changelings with the body of a young changeling in an alleyway. She thinks that this will be enough for the Queen of the Mists to actually do something about it.

How wrong she is. The Queen so actively hates Toby that not only does she refuse to do anything about the goblin fruit (which she doesn’t see as a problem because hey, pureblood queen here) but she actually banishes Toby. Toby has three days to clear out or the Queen will do something very nasty to her. Probably lots of nasty things.

Well Toby won’t go down without a fight. Not her, not ever. That is not who Toby is. So what does she do? Oh nothing. Just plans a little insurrection. The Queen of the Mists (and apparently the correct title is Queen in the Mists. Who knew?) is a pretender to the throne. She claimed to be the daughter of the previous king, who died without actively presenting any children to his fellow nobles.

Turns out though, that she was lying. I mean pants on fire lying. The previous king (Gilad Windermere) was pureblooded Tuatha de Dannan. The current sitting Queen is Siren, Banshee and Sea Wight.  That being the case, Toby sets out to find Gilad’s real kids because the Luidaeg (which is apparently pronounced loo-sha-k. Not seeing that…) assures Toby that he really did have two legitimate children.

Finding them (now grown since Gilad died during the 1906 San Fran quake), is relatively easy. The Luidaeg provides Toby and Tybalt with magic fireflies that will track down her magic. Why the Luidaeg’s magic? Because she provided those children with very powerful protections, so powerful that the Luidaeg herself can’t track them. But those bugs can. So they find the heirs easy enough but there’s a problem. The boy, Nolan, was elf shot in the 30s and will be asleep for some time and because of that, his sister Arden is frightened of standing up for her rights.

Toby eventually talks Arden into at least hearing her out and takes her to Goldengreen. Once there, she asks for Queen Dianda and her consort Patrick Lorden from the Undersea duchy of Saltmist.  Once all and sundry are present, Dianda helps Toby talk Arden into insurrection and pledges the forces of Saltmist to Arden’s cause.

Meanwhile, Toby is still running around trying to arrange things when a human man hired by the Queen hits her in the face with a pie. Yes, a pie. But not just any pie. A goblin fruit pie. Its even worse for Toby than it is for most changelings. As we found in previous books, Dochas Sidhe, which Toby is, are bloodworkers. Powerful ones. More than once, Toby has shifted the balance of her own blood to be more or less fae as needed. Well, the goblin fruit causes her to try shifting entirely human to better enjoy the high. She shifts so far that she doesn’t register as fae to most anyone else, she ends up something like 15% fae.

She doesn’t give up though, doesn’t give in to the craving for goblin fruit. Blood is always the key for Toby and she finds that drinking some, usually her own, helps keep the cravings at bay. Walter, her alchemist professor ally at UC Berkeley, makes her some lozenges from her own blood to keep her going while they finish this insurrection. The Luidaeg thinks that’s such a good idea that she does the same for Toby from her own blood, which is far more powerful than Toby’s is.

And those blood lozenges work decently well. Their effectiveness starts waning quickly because Toby is all go, no quit. She really needs to overthrow the old Queen now because the Queen has a hope chest in her treasury. The hope chest can help Toby change the balance of her blood now that she no longer has the power to do so. Only the Queen is a crafty bitch and keeps chasing Toby and her allies around, capturing Dianda and Nolan and causing Arden to flee.

Finally, Toby convinces Arden (again) that this really is the right thing to do. Arden agrees on the condition that Toby retrieve Nolan from the clutches of the old Queen. Toby agrees because Nolan is in the Queen’s knowe, where the hope chest is.

Toby and Tybalt manage to free Dianda and Nolan and find the hope chest, which Toby uses. It isn’t that simple, it never is where Toby is concerned. But the lot of them manage to get back to Muir Woods where Arden’s knowe is only to find things have gone a little wrong. See the sitting Queen is part Siren and she can make people do things, even things they don’t want to do, but singing. Toby knows this and stops up her ears but no one else has managed to do so (which you’d think they would have thought of because really, they all knew that the old Queen was part Siren…).

Toby has only one thing she can do. To break a Siren’s song, you have to kill the Siren or have her remove it. Well the Queen sure as hell isn’t going to do that and Toby will not break Oberon’s Law (no killing of other Fae). Toby is a bloodworker. She removes all trace of Siren from the old Queen’s blood, thereby breaking the spell. There are quite a few people present who are quite shocked at, even more so than having fallen into the Siren’s song in the first place.

So the good guys win, the bad guys lose and there is a new Queen in the Mists. I’m not entirely sure I really like Arden but she’ll at least not be batshit like the last Queen. Toby kicked the goblin fruit habit because she shifted herself close enough to pureblood that it couldn’t affect her anymore. Now she wants lots of steak and coffee. I can’t wait to see where this goes next. Team Toby! Rating: A+. Also, if you get the Kindle version of it, you get a bonus short story in that universe, but from the perspective of the Luidaeg instead of Toby. I love the Luidaeg, she might be my favorite character in the universe.  🙂

Kill City Blues

I believe Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey has been out for several months already but I will put up a big SPOILERS alert just in case. So Kill City Blues is the latest in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. Sandman Slim, aka-James Stark, aka-Lucifer is the asshole that everyone loves to hate. He is the quintessential anti-hero. He is not a good guy and don’t think for a moment that he is, even if he does occasionally do good.

Stark is not Lucifer anymore, but he is pretending at the hotel Chateau Marmont. Free luxury digs, food and booze? Can’t pass that up. Stark passed the Lucifer mantel (really a title rather than a name) on to Mr. Munnin, one of five fragments of god. Unfortunately, in the course of doing so, he lost his most powerful weapon the Qomrama Om Ya (which Stark calls the Magic 8 ball. Much easier to say and type) to renegade angel Aelita who really hates his ass. She used it, quite accidentally, to kill one of the other five pieces of god. And then there were four. The one still in heaven is apparently paranoid schizophrenic and driving angels out of heaven (not like during the fall more of a “he’s wacko, let’s get out of here” sort of way).

Stark and girlfriend Candy nearly get whacked by someone looking for the Magic 8 ball so Stark decides enough is enough. He needs to find that thing and fast. So he starts beating on people, sending messages into the criminal underground of L.A. Someone had better spill before things get really messy. Eventually he gets picked up by a guy named Norris Quay, supposedly the richest man in California.

Quay wants the Magic 8 ball for his collection. He is purely selfish but he is not above killing to get what he wants. Quay eventually slips a spy (a younger, tick-tock homunculus of himself) into Stark’s group via a bunch of vampires along with some information. The Magic 8 ball can be found in a place called Kill City.

Kill City is just about as bad if not worse than it sounds. Kill City was a mega mall. Or it would have been if something hadn’t happened. Hundreds were killed in a building accident. People were trapped and died or went cuckoo. It is a bad place with a capital BAD. But the Magic 8 ball is down there, guarded by an old Roman ghost. What a Roman ghost is doing in L.A. is beyond me but plot!

Stark bring Candy, Brigitte the zombie killer, Vidocq the thief and Father Traven down to Kill City with him. He’s smart enough to know not to go in there alone. Quay’s spy goes with because he’s their map through Kill City (naturally). They fight and struggle through the levels of Kill City until they reach the old Roman ghost who turns out (surprise, surprise) to be piece 3 of 5 (or rather 4) of god. After some banter and a little bit of bargaining, he agrees to tell Stark and his troupe where the Magic 8 ball is. Turns out…it’s in the lobby area of Kill City, which they passed through to start their journey. Ain’t life a bitch.

So they retrieve the Magic 8 ball, but it costs. More than Stark is willing to pay. Granted, Aelita buys it (always nice when your mortal enemy kicks it I guess) but so does Traven. Traven was easily the most innocent person that Stark knows. Stark decides that is way too high a price for having his ultimate weapon because Traven was excommunicated by the Catholic church before Stark met him. It wasn’t anything bad that he did, he translated a book that the Church felt shouldn’t be translated.  But excommunication is a one way ticket to hell, regardless of the severity of your breach.

So Stark decides fuck this, I’m getting Traven’s soul out of hell. And boy howdy does he. It was a like the great escape if Steve McQueen had to break into the concentration camp first. It was awesome. Of course, that pisses off the current Lucifer, who kicks Stark and company out of the Chateau Marmont.

These books are great. There hasn’t been one that I’ve had to struggle to finish. I cannot wait until the next one comes out, whenever that may be (soon I hope). While you don’t necessarily need to read the other books to read this one, it does help because Kadrey does reference past events. I recommend this whole series but this book in particular is darn good. Rating: A.


That is the name of a book, not something I’ve decided to do to the site (much to someone’s chagrin I’m sure). At any rate, I have now secured a job (yay!) so I will be reading over lunch and likely going through more books than I have recently since I can now afford to buy new ones (yay!).

So, on to Indexing. This book was written by Seanan McGuire as a serial for Amazon’s Kindle service. You pay your money and every couple of weeks, you get a new chapter until you finish the book, which I have just done. I did this as a trial and while it has a certain amount of appeal (new chapters are automatically downloaded and attached to the end of the current chapter, even if you aren’t finished with it), it can also be frustrating when the writer doing it is as good as Seanan McGuire.

And now the plot! This was really imaginative! There is an entity called the ATI Management Bureau (ATI = Aarn-Thomas Index or something to the like. It’s been a long time since I read the beginning of the book). The job of the ATI bureau is to keep the incursion of fairy tales into the ‘real world’ at a minimum. We’re not talking about something like the movie Enchanted where a Disney princess from an animated realm pops into Central Park (or wherever, I didn’t see that movie).

No, we’re talking about fairy tales latching on to a person and forcing them to live out the story of a Snow White, a Sleeping Beauty, a Little Mermaid etc. And the thing about fairy tales is that, if you read the original versions of a lot of them, they aren’t very nice. Often times when a story takes over someone’s life, it kills that person or someone close to them. Or otherwise ruins their lives.

The lead character is a lady by the name of Henrietta “Henry” Marchen. Henry is a Snow White in waiting: hair as black as coal, skin as white as snow, lips as red as roses. At any time, with the right trigger (generally taking a bite of an apple), she could go full on Snow White. She works with a man named Jeff who is a fully activated tale (in his story he is a cobbler). When he activated, he blew his entire savings on shoes. Now he’s an archivist for the ATI, the source of knowledge for his team.

Also on Henry’s team is a punk “young” woman named Sloane. Sloane is an “averted” (though I can’t remember if we ever find out how she was “averted”) Wicked Stepsister. This means she is a bitch and tends to think about doing serious bodily harm to Henry (because Snow White, a good character). Because she was averted from going full on Wicked Stepsister (generally this equals murderous), she has the ability to sense when a tale is near and is really very good at breaking whichever cursed story is trying to come into being.

Finally, there is Andy. Andy is a plain old normal human. He has no story that he resembles and is therefore generally immune from the effects some stories might have on the near activated or fully activated team members. And he’s a married gay man. Which really has nothing to do with the plot but I do love it when a writer shows they’re not afraid to ‘go there’, so to speak. 🙂

At any rate, it is their job to stop or contain fairy tale encroachment on the real world because it tends to wreak havoc. For instance, Sleeping Beauties that have a strong enough back story to them can put even regular people to sleep. And none of them will wake up until the Beauty wakes up which could either mean they’ll all sleep for 100 years or they need the kiss of a Prince.  Goldilocks’ tend to attract bears. Real ones. Guess who often ends up mauled?

Henry’s team purposefully activates a tale in order to end another one, a female Pied Piper (usually Pipers are men but this girl had all the tags and so Bob’s your uncle). They get in a lot of trouble over this but they take the girl under their collective wings. She is, understandably, not happy about what they did and later on she turns into something of a bad guy (late SPOILERS).

After that, cases start piling up at an alarming rate. So the team has to figure out what is going on before its too late.  Will Henry go full on Snow White? Will Sloane become a Wicked Stepsister? And who is behind all of this? I challenge you to read the book and find out. And since it is officially complete now, you should be able to get this in one go now but I don’t know for certain.

I really loved this book and always wished that each chunk I got was longer than it was because I’d zoom through it. However, I did have a couple of issue. One, there was very little explanation of how the ATI came about. Who first noticed these incursions? How did he/she/they convince others of it? How did they figure out how to stop things? And two, McGuire kept using code (like 709 is Snow White…I think) but there’s no glossary at the front or back of the book that we could reference. It would have been nice to have a little summation of a couple of these tales because its been a while since I’ve read any of them and some of them are obscure. For instance, growing up the version of Snow White that I heard never mentioned a sister named Rose Red. In the book Snow White and Snow White with a Rose Red are two differently indexed tales, even though they are a similar story. So it can get a little confusing if you’re doing this chunk by chunk.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that I would love, love, love to read a sequel. I’d like to see the characters explored a bit more. So very much worth the read. I love unique takes on beloved old fairy tales. Rating: A.