Some Honorable Mentions of 2014

The Day of Lists continues:

Here are the books I wanted to include on my best of, but something kept me from it.

Honorable Mentions should go to (in alphabetical order):

He Drank, and Saw the Spider (Eddie LaCrosse, #5)He Drank, and Saw the Spider

by Alex Bledsoe
My Review
You could substitute Wake of the Bloody Angel here. This series has long-surpassed the gimmick of a hard-boiled detective novel in a generic fantasy setting. Pigeon-hole it however you want, it’s just a good book.
4 Stars

The Lives of Tao (Tao, #1)The Lives of Tao

by Wesley Chu
My Review
Despite the buzz around this, I wasn’t sure I was terribly interested — nor did I really know what to expect. So, so glad I took the chance. A barrel full of exciting, gun-blazing, snarky fun.
4 Stars

Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark FantasyBad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy

by Harry Connolly

My Review
I’m not normally a short story reader, but more collections like this might make me one. Different types of fantasy, all well written, even in the stories that aren’t my cup of tea I found something to enjoy.
4 Stars

The Severed StreetsThe Severed Streets

by Paul Cornell
My Review
Audible.com has provided a sample of the audio book version. Give it a shot, I’m betting 30 minutes won’t be enough.
I was impressed by the first in this series, London Falling, but this kicked it into a different gear. It’s about London as an entity as much as it is about these characters and their opponents — it’s dark, twisted and a little hopeful. Some fine writing here.
4 1/2 Stars

The Intern's Handbook: A ThrillerThe Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller

by Shane Kuhn
My Review
Hyper-violent, comic commentary on corporate cultures with heart. Or something like that.
4 Stars

The HumansThe Humans

by Matt Haig
My Review
Haig’s got this gift for making us look at ourselves with the oddest type of outsider. Ultimately, I realize I’ve read and watched this story before, but I was either finished or nearly finished before I had that insight. Either way, didn’t care, because no one had told it like this.
4 1/2 Stars

The Westing GameThe Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin
My Review is forthcoming
I’ve sat down to write the review of this one I don’t know how many times. I read this dozens upon dozens of times as a kid — loving the characters, the story, the strange little puzzle. And then walked away from it for decades. Reading it this summer was a wonderful blast from the past, and although I felt like I could recite the thing en toto I couldn’t, it still filled me with joy. Not just for nostalgia’s sake, either. This was probably one of my 3 favorite reads of the year, but it felt like cheating to put it on the main list, so here it is.
5 Stars

LandlineLandline

by Rainbow Rowell
My Review
A marriage on the rocks, a career on the brink, a magic telephone and Rainbow Rowell’s charm and heart. What more can I say?
4 1/2 Stars

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple
My Review is forthcoming
First book I finished in 2014, and it’s stuck with me the whole year — even as I struggle to write a review. A strange, impossibly strange and entirely believable world, populated with people I’m convinced could exist — and maybe do. I don’t know what else I can say about this (probably explains the year delay). It’s good. Funny, heartfelt, tragic.
4 Stars

Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths by Harry Connolly

Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark FantasyBad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy

by Harry Connolly

ebook, 153 pg.
Radar Ave Press, 2014
Read: July 29 – August 23, 2014

By and large, I am not a fan of short stories. The length is typically frustrating for me — even when they don’t remind me of the various anthologies I had to use in Lit classes throughout my High School and College years. Still, I try every now and then to read some. Finding a good short story is as rewarding — if not moreso — than finding a good novel. This is a collection of ten short stories and one novelette — six of the stories are reprints, the others have been published for the first time in these pages. The novelette belongs to Connolly’s criminally under-appreciated Twenty Palaces series, and would be worth the purchase price for fans of that series. If you’ve never read that, but are interested in in trying out a variety of new fantasy worlds (including one that has some books to go with it), this is a great investment.

There was one story in the batch that I didn’t like. But even as I read it, and wasn’t enjoying it, I realized there was nothing poorly written/constructed about the story. It just wasn’t my thing. I don’t care who told the story, or how they did it, Don’t Chew Your Food wasn’t going to work for me. It’s a pretty straight-forward horror kind of thing, and that just doesn’t do it for me.

That out of the way, let’s focus on the pluses. This was a nice little variety pack of stories — the styles were all over the place, one (Hounds and the Moonlight) read like something the Brothers Grimm would’ve appreciated, another (Cargo Johnny) felt like it should’ve been introduced by Rod Serling, and another (Beyond The Game) demonstrated that Connolly can do funny — which is nice to see (also nice to have a little palate cleanser after all the mayhem and destruction).

The One Thing You Can Never Trust is a great introductory story — in just a few pages we have a political system (or two) unfolded for us, society’s way of (not) dealing with a racial divide and a new magic system. All while telling a tidy little crime story. Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths is similarly a great short burst of world building with a fresh magic system — and some wonderful monsters, both human and not. Great opening paragraphs, grab you and make sure you’re along for the ride.

The main reason people are going to be picking up this collection is for the Twenty Palaces story: The Home Made Mask. And they are right to do so. I cannot get enough of this series (sadly, I’m a member of a very exclusive club). The fact that Ray and Annalise aren’t in the story much doesn’t affect that — this is the strange, creepy, capricious kind of magic at work that makes this series so compelling. Tempted to buy some Power-ball tickets just so I can commission some more of these.

I think my favorite story was Lord of Reavers, which is the closest thing to “traditional” fantasy. This tale of an almost super-human swordsman joining up with a band of raiders was great. I felt that I should’ve seen the conclusion coming sooner than I did, but it was so much fun I’m glad I didn’t. I’d read a novel or more starring this character — easy.

Most short story collections are uneven at best, full of ups and downs. Bad Little Girls . . . is an exception — 1 down, and 10 ups. Can’t ask for more than that. You’d do well to give it a try.

—–

4 Stars