Just an avid reader. Mostly SF/Fantasy, some hobbies, paranormal, urban fantasy and lighter, fluffier things.
DISCLAIMER: A review in progress as each story is read from someone really horrrible about reading and reviewing anthologies and short stories/works. This one was picked up because I'm a big fan of Kim Harrison and her The Hollows series with character Rachel (and going in I do know that not all the stories are that series or plot-line).
Section: The Hollows
"Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil" - More of Ivy's backstory immediately before she becomes a runner and before she even meets Rachel.
After all the years reading this series, it still tugs at my heart reading about Kisten. How weird that some characters just resonate with a reader for such a long time.
It was way harsher/grimmer than I expected--but, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. In fact, it has now made me glad I bought this anthology. Ivy had it rough although she and Kisten had each other's backs and did their best to make things better. Ivy becoming a runner, not a spoiler if you've read The Hollows series, was actually a demotion but it was one she chose to gain more freedom. What is a spoiler, but was a very clever setup, is how she and Kisten arranged for that to happen. Not sure if the story would have the same appeal for someone not a The Hollows fan; but, a very good, complete story arc.
(This was published in other anthologies also but a first time read for me. I may even have gotten the other books and skipped over because had not started reading Kim Harrison books yet-- if so, my loss.).
Author's note: "When I first began writing the Hollows, there were very few strong female vampire characters making it into print, and when I realized how large a role Ivy was going to play, I decided I needed to develop the social structure of the Hollows vampires from the female point of view. The novella Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil was the perfect chance for me to try out a few of my ideas. I learned a lot, not only about the Hollows vampires—both living and dead—but also about Ivy. The depth of her mental abuse is touched upon here, and it is also here that it’s easiest to see why she stays with Rachel, who is both her crutch and her saving grace. Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil was first published in the anthology Dates From Hell|."
"The Bespelling" tells how the demon Al made Ceridwen his familiar on her wedding day. Of course this is one backstory the diehard Hollows fan would want. I liked; but, a bit creepy and even for a short story was way too short. Cannot believe something this short was considered a story.
Author notes: "Al is one of my more favorite characters in the Hollows. I never expected him to be anything other than the Big-Bad-Ugly—fun to hate, but nothing more. It was a surprise when Rachel began to understand him, and even more of a shock when Al responded not just by showing a softer side, but by lifting the veil on his past as well. “The Bespelled” was first published at the end of the mass market edition of The Outlaw Demon Wails, and it shows Al in his earlier mind-set of use and abuse. But the appearance of the blue butterflies gives evidence that even before Al met Rachel, he was beginning to find himself lacking and was looking for more."
"Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" - Rachel's teenage first meeting with Pierce, at crossroads deciding on I.S. or more college out west with Robbie. Very good story, good action, and good job portraying a teenage Rachel while showing the Rachel we know. Bit sappy about it.
Author notes: "first appeared in the anthology Holidays Are Hell. Family was becoming more important to Rachel at about this time in the series, and dropping back to when she was still living at home and working for her hard-won independence gave me a chance to show where Rachel developed not only her stamina but also her refusal to give up hope in the face of low odds. I thought it was important for the reader to see the Rachel beyond the tough, capable, and get-back-up kind of girl I usually focused on, the one who came from the fragile, weak, and death-row childhood. It makes her choices easier to understand."
DISCLAIMER CONTINUED: Do keep in mind when reading my ratings/review, I don't like short stories. Okay, a few SF classics and magazine subscriptions back in the day, used to make me enjoy short stories by some really expert authors (Asimov, Bradbury, Clark, Silverberg, Zelazny, etc.). But not so much the "clips" or "extras" that are published this decade. Not many authors get that complete story arc or utterly engrossing idea/concept into a shorter work. And so many are just extra bits that if book was a movie would get left on cutting room floor or be in the DVD extras sections.
I still get sucked in. Usually by wanting more from a favorite author, more of a favorite character, hearing the buzz about a new anthology project, etc. I'm trying to do better so putting some stalled anthologies back on the currently reading. (Actually, after II picked up Dangerous Women humongous anthology and felt guilty about some perfectly good but stalled older anthologies.)