Chicks Kick Butt
Edited by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes
Performed by Joyce Bean, Jennifer VanDyck, Justine Eyre, Khristine Hvam, Lauren Fortgang, Nicola Barber, Dina Pearlman, Piper Goodeve, Aimee Castle, Elizabeth Livingston, Christina Delaine, and Kim Mai Guest
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / urban fantasy / vampires / werewolves / demons / exorcisms / short stories /
Today’s women don’t stand around waiting for a hero. These days, women are quite capable of solving their own problems and slaying their own dragons (or demons, as the case may be). In this all-new anthology, Kerrie L. Hughes and New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine have collected original stories from thirteen of today’s most exciting urban fantasy and paranormal authors. Each story features a strong heroine who kicks butt and takes names in a dangerous world and makes that world a better place for everyone in it — except the bad guys, of course. And if she finds a bit of romance along the way, well, a little heat warms the heart and sharpens the mind . . . just as long as the man can keep up.
Chicks Kick Butt is an anthology of stories with strong, driven female protagonists written by women. I am pretty sure that I’ve never read anything by the majority of the authors, and it was the concept that made me pick it. Most of the stories involved characters or worlds from other, full-length novels. Please note there are spoilers in the individual reviews for the stories, so let me just say if you’re looking for a light entertaining read, I may not recommend this anthology. It was uneven in terms of writing quality overall, although the stories by Rachel Vincent and Lilith Saintcrow were quite good. I will be honest, some of the writing was so bad I couldn’t finish listening, and so the review is only for the first part of the story. The audio narration was similarly off, with some of the narrators’s over-the-top characterization taking me out of the story. There was a neutral male voice actor who gave each story’s relevant info. While the audiobook came on disks, I transferred it to digital for ease of listening. So it is not a flaw, but on each end track the audio would fade into music, there would be the instruction to switch disks, and then the last few sentences would be repeated before moving on.
On to the individual stories:
Shiny by Rachel Caine – *** Not really my thing, but pretty good. I am unfamiliar with this author’s other work, but she wove the explanations in really well. The story was really character driven over the sunny backdrop of Florida, and was definitely entertaining, with diamond bikinis, fast cars, and handsome men. I wouldn’t seek out her work, but I’d listen if she was included in another anthology. The car-obsessed main character, Joanne, has a great voice.
In Vino Veritas by Karen Chance – * So bad I had to stop listening. The narrator was pretty neutral, but the writing was just bad. Admittedly, I’m pretty picky with vampire stories, but I did try to give it a chance even after they came out with the ‘dhampire’ bit. I enjoy well-done daywalker stories. This just wasn’t one of them.
Hunt by Rachel Vincent – **** Powerful, slightly triggery with flashbacks to a sexual assault, threatened sexual assault, and violence. Werecat Abby goes on vacation with some friends only to have their camp invaded by several violent men. It is a story about finding the strength within oneself, and the narrator was a perfect match to the story. She relayed Abby’s emotional reaction to the events well without distracting from the story.
Monsters by Lilith Saintcrow – **** Characters, concept, narration, all of it was great. Perfect match between the tone of the narrator and the luridly poetic imagery. This story threw together a vampire and werewolf in a quest for revenge, but the depiction of both felt fresh, more visceral than most modern vampire stories. I would definitely read more by this author.
Vampires Prefer Blondes by P N Elrod -*** Surprised how much I liked it. Narrator really sold it, effortlessly falling into the main character and the verbal ticks of the noir novel. I had my doubts for the first track or two, but the story drew me in. It had a very solid universe that didn’t need much explanation, plus the realistic reactions of the characters was a refreshing change.
Ninth Tenths of the Law by Jenna Black – ** I was getting an Exorcist vibe from this (which is good, especially since it was about exorcism), but the ending was a bit weak. The build up was great, with a runaway rebellious teenage possibly possessed by a demon, an over-bearing religious fanatic, and a jaded protagonist, but then the world-building kicked in and overshadowed a really interesting story. I understand that Morgan having a demon inside her is from a series of novels, but here it felt like a cheap trick to resolve the plot. The narrator was great, completely hidden by the story.
Double Dead by Cheyenne McCray – ** I had to look this one up to see which one it was, and I still can’t really remember anything about it.
A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still be Red by Elizabeth A Vaughn – ** I really wanted to like this. It was probably the most violent of the stories, and the violence was described rather well. I couldn’t get a good handle on the main character or world. It felt like something that should be developed into a longer format.
Superman by Jeanne C Stein – * I couldn’t get into this at all. I listened to the whole thing, but found my mind wandering. Neither the narrator’s delivery nor the story were strong enough to hold my interest.
Monster Mash by Carole Nelson Douglas – **** Although I’m sure I missed a few references, I enjoyed this story quite a bit. There’s a lot to keep up with as Delilah tries to figure out who or what is haunting a supernatural casino, but it’s entertaining even if you’re unfamiliar with this universe. Narrator did an excellent job, with just enough characterization to make it fun.
Wanted Dead or Alive by L A Banks – *** Interesting (yes, I know, damning with faint praise). It was a little hard to follow, as the beginning was an infodump on the particulars of vampires in this universe, but I would give the author another shot with something longer. The characters were interesting, there was just a lot of explaining going on.
Mist by Susan Krinard – * I couldn’t finish this, and I LOVE Norse mythology. It may have been the combination of narrator and text. The voice actor droned a little while I was trying to parse which parts of the mythology they were using, and together it just lost my interest. I listened through to the fight scene in the park, but I figured I had enough when even a fight between a valkyrie and a giant couldn’t keep my attention.
Beyond the Pale by Nancy Holder – NR. At first the story was amazing, although the changeling bit made me snort out loud in surprise (Hitler and Manson as changelings instead of humans) but I let that part go. Then it got to the bit where faeries actually stole babies and the Nazis were blamed for it, and no. Just no. It kept nibbling at my mind while I was listening to what seemed to be a very well written story, so it would appear this isn’t the story for me.
Posted by Sarah R.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell; Read by Multiple (see list below)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 12 February 2013
[UNABRIDGED] 9 hours, 15 minutes
Themes: / short stories / vampires / veterans / farmers / children / reincarnation / silkworms /
Sample of title story: | MP3 |
In the collection’s marvelous title story, two aging vampires in a sun-drenched Italian lemon grove find their hundred-year marriage tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. In “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979,” a dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left in a seagull’s nest. “Proving Up” and “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis”–stories of children left to fend for themselves in dire predicaments–find Russell veering into more sinister territory, and ultimately crossing the line into full-scale horror. In “The New Veterans,” a massage therapist working with a tattooed war veteran discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the images on his body. In all, these wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.
I had been looking forward to this book coming out, because I loved Karen Russell’s first book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. She is also the author of the much-acclaimed Swamplandia! which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. These stories did not disappoint! I was curious to see if there would be more set in Florida, but these span from Italy to New Jersey, from the plains to Antarctica. And just as I would have expected, the stories are at times startling, amusing, and sad. I will just say a few words about each, but this is a must-read.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove – two ancient vampires try to satiate their desires by eating lemons
Reeling for the Empire – human silkworms, vivid and terrifying.
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 – maybe the seagulls are the only ones really paying attention
Proving Up – starts as a struggling farm family story, ends in a … i can’t even…. *shiver*
The Barn at the End of Our Term – dead presidents alive in horses’ bodies
(actual presidents, not the band)… this one made me laugh more than any of the others.
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating – Sometimes you’re the whale, but you’re probably usually the krill.
The New Veterans – PTSD, massage, tattoos, and what is healing, exactly?
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis – I couldn’t decide what I thought of this one. It is either about bullying or children who can turn into other things. Maybe both. Maybe neither.
The audio version is great, because each story has its own reader, really allowing for the differences in voice and feeling.
List of readers:
Vampires in the Lemon Grove read by Arthur Morey
Reeling for the Empire read by Joy Osmanski
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 read by Kaleo Griffith
Proving Up read by Jesse Bernstein (his accent is perfect for this story!)
The Barn at the End of Our Term read by Mark Bramhall
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating read by Michael Bybee
The New Veterans read by Romy Rosemont
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis read by Robbie Daymond
Posted by Jenny Colvin
Starring Vincent Price!
[via Movies For The Blind]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)
By Melissa F. Olson; Performed by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: 2012
Publisher summary: A woman with the ability to counteract magic is in a race against time–and the supernatural underworld–to catch a killer before another body drops.
Scarlett Bernard knows about personal space: step within ten feet of her, and any supernatural spells or demonic forces are instantly defused–vampires and werewolves become human again, and witches can’t get out so much as a “hocus pocus.” This special skill makes her a null and very valuable to Los Angeles’s three most powerful magical communities, who utilize her ability to scrub crime scenes clean of all traces of the paranormal to keep humanity, and the LAPD, in the dark.
But one night Scarlett’s late arrival to a grisly murder scene reveals her agenda and ends with LAPD’s Jesse Cruz tracking her down to strike a deal: he’ll keep quiet about the undead underworld if she helps solve the case. Their pact doesn’t sit well with Dash, the city’s chief bloodsucker, who fears his whole vampire empire is at stake. And when clues start to point to Scarlett, it’ll take more than her unique powers to catch the real killer and clear her name.
I snagged this audiobook to post about from the stack of urban fantasy because it was an author I had not heard of, the first of a series, and not previously published on Audible! Reviews I’ve seen so far are complimentary on the main character, and the complexity of the story.
Coincidentally, we are on the hunt for 1-2 paranormal romance or urban fantasy audiobook reviewers. If this kind of book is your kind of thing, please contact Jenny on the about page!
Posted by Jenny Colvin
If I had to name the one story that’s influenced my reading, and thinking, most in last couple of years I’d name The Horla by Guy de Maupassant. It’s possesses my mind like a dark and deep tunnel running through my imaginative landscape – if you haven’t heard it yet you should. Below you’ll find my preferred version, but there are more readings, and adaptations HERE – and we did a whole podcast about it, that’s HERE.
One new thing though is this |PDF| which I made from a scan of an issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries – it features the 1911 George Allan England translation.
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Justin Cronin; Read by Scott Brick
CD or MP3 -[UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: October 16, 2012
Themes: / Vampires / Post-apocalypse / Virus /
The end of the world was only the beginning.
In his internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with . . .
In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.
I wasn’t going to read this book. I wasn’t! I felt like The Passage was a well-contained story and I didn’t understand where else it could go. I will let the author explain what he focuses on in The Twelve, because I find it too difficult to summarize. (This is from an older post from 2010 on io9.com.)
The next two books each go back to Year Zero at the outset, to reset the story, and to deal with something you didn’t see and didn’t know was as important as it was. It’s not a linear quest story, which I would find dull and plodding. With each book, you need to have the narrative terms reestablished with fresh elements. Also, if you didn’t see [a character] die, they’re not necessarily dead. There’s a big cast in the first book, and plenty of unresolved stuff. I will resolve it by the end. [Early vampire character] Anthony Carter? No, not abandoning him.
In [The Twelve], you go back to what happened in Denver after the outbreak took place. The story will resume in that location a few days after breakout. So you can see another angle on what occurred and certain elements will affect our band of heroes 100 years in the future. It will be called The Twelve – and it’s not who you think.
This means that the story starts with where Amy is, and follows up with an assortment of other characters. Just like in The Passage, storylines are dropped completely as others are followed. Since I was listening to the audio, it was a bit more difficult to keep track of, just because it was harder to flip back and get a refresher on names, etc.
The author provides a lot more information about what happened to various people at the very beginning, explaining how some of the communities were formed, the horrific actions of the USA government (including events like “The Field”), and other parts of the novel jump around up to 97 years from when the virus originally took hold. This kind of information is usually my favorite part of post-apocalyptic stories – the rebuilding. What kind of societies form? How do they work? Who has control? I think Justin Cronin shows a lot of creativity and variety in these situations, since it isn’t just one story, but multiple. Many of the characters, locations, and situations overlap throughout the story, and I had this sense of the author as a puppeteer, drawing strings of stories around each other. Kudos to him that they never seem to tangle in disaster.
Scott Brick is the narrator for the audiobook of The Twelve, and does a fantastic job. He doesn’t bother doing a lot of voices, but his inflection is perfect. He has this ability to get out of the way of the story that I really appreciate when I’m listening. It just comes to life and I’m not constantly thinking of HIM, but of the story.
And The Twelve requires a lot of thinking and paying attention. The multiple story lines, the jumping around in time and history, and the sprinkling of quotations that Cronin throws in kept my attention. He started with a Mark Strand poem, almost as if I needed something to clinch whether or not I’d read this book.
I won’t have that dilemma for the final book. While this story has a satisfying climax, I was left with far more questions this time around. I’m not sure I know which side everyone is on. I’m not sure I even know what sides there are, anymore. What I am sure about is that this book is hard to put down.
Posted by Jenny Colvin