Heroic Hearts

Heroic HeartsHeroic Hearts
by Anne Bishop, Charlaine Harris, Chloe Neill, Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes, Kevin Hearne, Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780593099186
Publication Date: May 3, 2022
Pages: 350
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

In this short story collection of courage, adventure, and magic, heroes—ordinary people who do the right thing—bravely step forward.

In Jim Butcher’s “Little Things,” the pixie Toot-Toot discovers an invader unbeknownst to the wizard Harry Dresden . . . and in order to defeat it, he’ll have to team up with the dread cat Mister.

In Patricia Briggs’s “Dating Terrors,” the werewolf Asil finds an online date might just turn into something more—if she can escape the dark magic binding her.

In Charlaine Harris’s “The Return of the Mage,” the Britlingen mercenaries will discover more than they’ve bargained for when they answer the call of a distress beacon on a strange and remote world.

And in Kelley Armstrong’s “Comfort Zone,” the necromancer Chloe Saunders and the werewolf Derek Souza are just trying to get through college. But they can’t refuse a ghost pleading for help.

ALSO INCLUDES STORIES BY Annie Bellet * Anne Bishop * Jennifer Brozek * Kevin Hearne * Nancy Holder * Kerrie L. Hughes * Chloe Neill * R.R. Virdi


This sounds like a romance, but as the cover makes clear it’s an urban fantasy anthology, and the title refers to acts of heroism by characters that would normally be considered bit players or underdogs.

And it’s an excellent collection; with the exception of one (The Vampires Karamazov, which felt like a story fragment, or at least, a story with an incomplete ending), I enjoyed all of them; not something I can often say about anthologies.  Of course this collection’s deck is stacked, if you know what I mean, with authors like Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Anne Bishop, Kevin Hearne, and Chloe Neil, each of them offering short stories that complement or extend their most popular series.

I’m not sure I can come up with a favourite.  As much as I enjoyed all my favourite authors’ entries, when I think back across all of them the two that immediately come to mind as stories that ‘stick’ are Jennifer Brozek’s The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic – perhaps because I might overly identify with Felicia, who only wants to be left alone, and Kerry L. Hughes’ Troll Life which somehow charmed me in ways I can’t quite pinpoint; maybe the sentient trains?

Patricia Briggs’ story features Asil, Dating Terrors, and while it’s always fun to read about Asil – he makes me laugh – and the story is good, I have to admit I think he plays to best advantage when he’s surrounded by Charles, Anna, Bran and the rest of the pack.  For those interested, this short story is not the same one as Asil and the not-date found in the Laurel K. Hamilton anthology Fantastic Hope; it’s related, I suspect, and I’m certain Dating Terrors takes place after Asil and the Not-Date.  It also appears to have long-reaching implications for Asil and his fans; I’m wondering if they’ll play out in the next Alpha and Omega book?

Lord Peter Whimsey: The Complete Short Stories

Lord Peter Wimsey: The Complete Short StoriesLord Peter Wimsey: The Complete Short Stories
by Dorothy L. Sayers
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781473657632
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Pages: 437
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Hodder Paperback

Presented in chronological order, these short stories see Lord Peter Wimsey bringing his trademark wit and unique detection skills to all manner of mysteries. From poisoned port to murder in fancy dress, Wimsey draws on his many skills - including his expertise in fine wine and appreciation of fine art - to solve cases far and wide, some even taking him to foreign countries and unexpected hiding places in pursuit of miscreants and murderers.

Containing 21 stories taken from Lord Peter Views the Body, Hangman's Holiday, In the Teeth of the Evidence and Striding Folly, now published together for the first time in one volume, this is the ultimate collection for fans of classic detective fiction and Dorothy L. Sayers.


 

My current distal discomfort being what it is, I thought a book of short stories would work for me, and I’ve been in the mood for some Whimsey.

Of this entire collection, I think the only one I’d read previously was The Necklace of Pearls.  A few I didn’t much care for – The Queen’s Square pops immediately to mind, but that could be simply chalked up to my current attention span and the story being a fair-play mystery with maps are at odds.  I liked the logic behind how Whimsey solved it, I just found the process tedious.

My favourites are far and away the easiest to identify:

The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Mileage’s Will:  I loved this story and I think it’s a great example of superior writing, in that it was short but still contained all the suspense and entertainment many long stories struggle to achieve, and it was a nice departure from a ‘murder’ mystery.

The Learned Adventure of the Dragon’s Head: Another ‘no-murder’ mystery; less suspense but still oodles of fun with old books, maps, and a treasure hunt.  Peter learning what happens when you poke a dragon in the eye was the cherry on top of this delightfully fun tale.

The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach: Probably my least fave of the 4 I’m listing, but there was a whimsy about it I enjoyed, if the premise itself wasn’t totally disgusting.

Talboys:  This one was just funny.  Sweet too, but mostly just funny.  The ending is sublime.

All in all a solid set of short stories, with very few disappointments.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful

Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted HousefulAlfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful
by Alfred Hitchcock (editor)
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0394812247
Publication Date: January 1, 1961
Pages: 208
Genre: Children's Fiction
Publisher: Random House

Nine short stories featuring haunted houses, by such notable authors as Elizabeth Coatsworth, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain.


Yesterday was a bad day for my convalescence;  It was a 38 degree day outside, and inside my discomfort was such that I couldn’t settle, leaving me hot, cranky, frustrated and staring at my ceiling and my TBR shelves (they’re next to my bed).  My eyes landed on this book late afternoon;  we had it on our shelves growing up, and I’d bought a copy sometime back after finding out my mom had given away our original copy.  It felt like just the ticket for what ailed me.

It pretty much was.  Short stories for middle schoolers that were well written but untaxing.  The book’s description and foreward claim that each of the stories are about haunted houses and ghosts – they’re not.  One is Conan-Doyle’s The Adventure of the Red-headed League and that has nothing spooky in it except a sentence or two near the end.  There were only two stories that had actual ghosts; the rest were mysteries that involved spooky houses.  Still it was an effective method of distraction and entertained me as well as anything written for pre-teens possibly could.

Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: How Peter Parley Laid a Ghost

The Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume OneThe Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume One
by Tara Moore (Editor)
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9781943910564
Publication Date: January 1, 2016
Pages: 291
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Valancourt Books

The first-ever collection of Victorian Christmas ghost stories, culled from rare 19th-century periodicals

During the Victorian era, it became traditional for publishers of newspapers and magazines to print ghost stories during the Christmas season for chilling winter reading by the fireside or candlelight. Now for the first time thirteen of these tales are collected here, including a wide range of stories from a diverse group of authors, some well-known, others anonymous or forgotten. Readers whose only previous experience with Victorian Christmas ghost stories has been Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” will be surprised and delighted at the astonishing variety of ghostly tales in this volume.


 

My first thought as I started reading this – a story aimed at Victorian children – was that the writing shines a sorry light on the state of today’s education.  I doubt many children today would be able to pass a reading comprehension quiz based on this story, purely based on the vocabulary.  I could be wrong, but the writing here is certainly more sophisticated than that of most of today’s books aimed at adults.

How Peter Parley Laid a Ghost by Anonymous was better than Conan Doyle’s Captain of the Pole-Star; more interesting, amusing, and frankly, better written.  But it’s still not a true ghost story; it’s a morality tale aimed at the folly of superstition.  In this context, it’s a brilliant story; in the context of a spooky ghost story … not so much.

Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Vol 1: The Captain of the “Pole-star”

The Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume OneThe Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume One
by Tara Moore (Editor)
Rating: ★★½
isbn: 9781943910564
Publication Date: January 1, 2016
Pages: 291
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Valancourt Books

The first-ever collection of Victorian Christmas ghost stories, culled from rare 19th-century periodicals

During the Victorian era, it became traditional for publishers of newspapers and magazines to print ghost stories during the Christmas season for chilling winter reading by the fireside or candlelight. Now for the first time thirteen of these tales are collected here, including a wide range of stories from a diverse group of authors, some well-known, others anonymous or forgotten. Readers whose only previous experience with Victorian Christmas ghost stories has been Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” will be surprised and delighted at the astonishing variety of ghostly tales in this volume.


 

I love me some Conan Doyle, but not this one.  I’m not a fan of Arctic settings, nor of stories that take place at sea, so this was a double whammy against me liking it.  Add to that, it isn’t really a spooky ghost story, so much as a second hand account of ghost sightings and their results.

In my opinion, Conan Doyle’s The Haunted Grange of Grosthorpe is a far superior ghost story.

Small Magics

Small MagicsSmall Magics
by Illona Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781596069619
Publication Date: December 1, 2019
Pages: 455
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Subterranean Press

An anthology of short stories in the Kate Daniels universe.


When I saw here on BookLikes that Sweep with Me was out, I went to Ilona Andrew’s website to find out more, and noticed the release of a new anthology, published by Subterranean Press.  Yes please!

This is a compilation of the short stories Ilona Andrews has written, all previously published elsewhere, and for the first time in print, all the Curren POV’s Gordon Andrews has written and posted on their website.  Interspersed are 3? full color illustrations.

It’s a nice book – not the most impressive I’ve seen put out by Subterranean, but a good solid book.  I’d read some of the stories before, but enough of them were new to me to make me appreciate having bought it.

My only gripe with the book is with the Curran POVs.  As a character, these stories don’t always flatter Curran, but that’s trivial.  What is really disappointing, though, is the poor copy-editing of the Curran stories.  On the website, they’re clear to state that the stories were written for fun, not edited, yada yada.  And that’s totally understandable.  But I’d have though when it comes to publishing a limited release, numbered, signed, illustrated edition, the publisher, if not the authors themselves, would have wanted to take the time and make the effort to correct, at the very least, the most glaring omissions and errors (lots of the, a, an articles missing, or misplaced).

Ah well, a good collection that might have been great, but still welcome on my shelves.

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy ThompsonShifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 0425265005
Series: Alpha and Omega #0.5
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Pages: 450
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

You know how anthologies are, there’s almost always a gem or two, a handful of mediocre stories, and a few complete duds.  Stories the authors must have phoned it because they barely qualify as stories.

Not this one.

This is the best anthology of short stories in one book I’ve yet read.  A collection for Mercy Thompson and Co. fans, and every one of these stories is outstanding.  Nothing here has been phoned in: the writing is excellent, thoughtful – it feels like the author spent time getting these right.  Even the outtakes at the back are, while definitely not stand-alone stories, vividly written scenes that instantly transported me to time and place.

I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite or not, but Silver and Roses in Winter certainly were stories I enjoyed immensely.  But I find myself far more intrigued by Bran, Charles and Asil than I am about any of the characters in Washington State, so that bias might lend a bit of weight to these stories for me.  But mostly we’re talking about small degrees of difference.  Every single story was good – great even.  There isn’t a single one I’d rate less than 4 stars, so I’m just going to go ahead and 5 star the whole book.

Thanks Ms. Briggs for the wonderful stories.