Welcome Home by Eric Smith

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Genres: Anthology, Young Adult, Short Stories
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: September 5th 2017

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A collection of stories from contemporary to science-fiction all connected by adoptions. Families created through love, the pain of giving up a child, and the struggle of trying to find the right family are all covered.

Like most anthologies there were good stories and bad ones. Several had strong enough plots and characters to be full books. Some were barely holding on for the few pages they got. That said the anthology was strong together. Adoption isn’t a subject I see covered in a lot of young adult novels and with the wealth of different stories here it really is a shame.

While many of the stories focus explicitly on adoption and the bonds it creates, some stories follow other plotlines just centering on adopted characters. An adopted girl who has super powers etc. It’s incredibly diverse including POC characters and LGBT+ characters all while keeping the focus on adoption.

There are treasures in this book, but there are just as many stories that I feel were sort of flops. It’s definitely a worthy pick up for someone who wants to see adopted characters in fiction. I only wish some of these stories would see full length adaptations featuring the adopted characters. All in all, it’s a decent read but the stories are too mixed for it to be amazing.

Here are the stories that really stood out for me: Webbed by Julie Esbaugh, These Broken Stars by C.J. Redwine, Tunneling Through by Shannon Parker, A Lesson in Biology by Sammy Nickalls.

For Fans Of: Spirit Level

The Book that Made Me by Judith Ridge

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Genres: Non-fiction, Anthology
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: March 14th 2017

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Authors are most often also avid readers – and as such the books they read usually influence their lives. Thirty-one authors write about the books that inspired them, changed them or just made them happy. From first childhood reads to books read in middle age, every reader knows the thrill of finding a book that stays with you.

There are a wealth of different stories in this book, along with comics interspersed throughout. The Book that Made Me captures the feelings all readers know of connecting with a specific book and knowing that you have been forever changed. The stories do start to feel a little blended after a while with ones being slightly too similar to distinguish.

Perhaps the most interesting stories are those written by authors of colour. Through these authors stories the importance of diversity in literature is clearly showcased. Several of the authors struggled to find people of their gender, religion or race in books when they were young. Some write because they want to see themselves in stories now in a way they were not able to as a child.

The stories are poignant, funny, touching and in general very well brought together. The childhood photos of the authors bring an incredible power to the stories that follow making it easy to picture the children they once were. However, too may of the stories felt similar to me – of course everyone’s experiences are unique but a few seemed to hit many of the same notes.

I do feel that this anthology will be better received by older readers who might have read more of the books mentioned (I felt very little connection with most of the life-changing books if I’d read them at all) or for fans of any particular author listed. It’s thrilling to read about other people who love books you also love deeply, or to dive into the mind of your favourite author.

The book is interesting either way, and a short read, but because the authors are strangers to me and the books were not ones I adored, it didn’t quite hit a home run. I still deeply enjoyed several stories, but many of then run together already.

For Fans of: The Secret Loves of Geek Girls

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins

Genres: Young Adult, Anthology, Romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 14th 2014

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“He says presents aren’t important, but I think they are – not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you.”

A collection of holiday-themed love stories by skilled and well-loved young adult authors.

A joy to read during the holiday season. My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of good and great love stories by some of my favourite young adult authors. It’s hard to pick a stand out, but the contributions by Holly Black, Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han and Kiersten White brought me the most holiday cheer. That is a third of the book but it simply cannot be narrowed down.

Kelly Link’s story The Lady and the Fox was the weak spot for me. It left too many unanswered questions and didn’t feel as much like the holidays as the other stories did. It was also a little disappointing to see very little sexual diversity – but it’s impossible not to enjoy a book filled with so much happiness. Sometimes you need a good fluffy read, especially around the holidays.

There is potential in so many of the stories for continuation, for more chapters – but part of their charm is that they’re short. No story overstays its welcome. As far as anthologies go it was a lot stronger as a collective than most tend to be.It had a guiding theme and even the weak stories were not a trial to read. My only complaint is that I had to let go of some of the characters too soon when so much more could have been done.

A book full of love and holiday cheer – perfect for December.

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For Fans of: Anna and the French Kiss

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls by Hope Nicholson

Genres: Anthology, Non-fiction, Comics
Publisher: Bedside Press December 2015
Publication Date: December 2015

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Sansa Stark loves lemon cake, and so does the girl I love.” 

A non-fiction anthology about geek girls and the girls and boys they love. Comics, short stories and prose all blend together in a fantastically diverse collection following fandom-driven women through stories of romance, sex and lost love.

The diversity in this book is astounding. Women of different races, backgrounds, sexualities, it’s very easy to find a story to relate with regardless of what your identity is like.Fandom is used to explore love, issues of race and gender, used to cope or to grow as a person.

The various tones and writing styles mean that there is something enjoyable for everyone. The standouts for me were “Minas Tirith” by Maguerite Bennett, “Cherry” by Cherelle Higgins and “Regards to the Goblin King” by Megan Kearney. I could list quite a few more that captured my heart, but I’ll leave it at my top three. There were stories that I found less engaging. Comics that I found too short or lacking any real depth, but judge as a whole this anthology is fantastic.

So many of the stories make it easy to forget the novels non-fiction status. They are written beautifully and evoke just as many feelings as fiction stories do. It’s unique, honest and a wonderful look into the world of women involved with fandom. A wonderful read for ANYONE who considers themselves a geek and loves stories.

Read this if you’re a fan of: Geektastic

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Genres:  Anthology, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 3rd 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places?”

A collection of stories by Gaiman meant to upset, disturb and prompt deeper thought from readers. Trigger Warning explores the darker parts of life. Explores things that create disquiet in the soul, the things that make us what we are.

There is no shortage of oddities in any of these stories, unfortunately that doesn’t stop many of the stories from falling flat. A lot of the short fictions Gaiman has included are just odd, but not in an interesting way. At times stories just feel like they’re dragging on even though nothing much is happening.

Collections are tricky, very rarely can an author include twenty or more great stories. The problem then becomes that the middle stories between the masterpieces feel weaker in comparison. Neil Gaiman is an excellent author, but by putting all the stories back to back it’s easy to see which are the stars and which are the padding.

“Orange”, “The Case of Death and Honey”, and “Nothing O’Clock” stand out as the three most captivating stories. “Orange” is written in a refreshing and unique questionnaire style and tells a strange, slightly off-putting tale. The other two tales are based off of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who respectively and would fit in nicely with the original material. “The Sleeper and the Spindle” was perhaps my favourite, but I have reviewed that previously.

Despite Neil Gaiman’s reputation for producing unforgettable work, Trigger Warning is forgettable as a whole. It does contain a few diamonds in the rough but as a whole the book averages out to just that: average.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Genres: Adult, Horror, Anthology, Thriller
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: November 3rd 2015

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

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“But there’s something to be said for a shorter, more intense experience. It can be invigorating, sometimes even shocking, like a waltz with a stranger you will never see again, or a kiss in the dark, or a beautiful curio for sale laid out on a cheap blanket at a street bazaar.”

Published 35 years after his last anthology Nightshift this book is long overdue. A collection of short stories by King, previously published and entirely new. Each is introduced with a short anecdote or explanation as to how the story came to be. A wonderful collected of 20 covering a variety of different genres, but all with King’s trademark sprinkles of horror.

I think that an essential part of horror is the strange and unfamiliar. Of course this doesn’t mean a proper novel can’t be good, I just find short stories more effective. Stephen King isn’t well-known for no reason. Each of the stories have well-fleshed out characters and a compelling premise.

These stories, like most of King’s work, are not clean-cut horror. They brush along several other genres. They look into human nature and are hilarious, tragic and sometimes even a touch romantic. Even the intros to each story are brilliant, and perhaps the best part of the book.

Ur was the standout story for me. That’s not to say that they other stories weren’t fantastic (they were), but Ur’s plot was absolutely brilliant. While it was definitely meant to be a short story I could have read an entire series of novels on the brilliant premise King presents.

Some King fans might be disappointed as the new content is definitely outweighed by older stories, but it works well as a collection. Many reviewers go through and rate each story individually but I believe part of an anthology is how the stories work together. In this book’s case it worked incredibly well. The themes of human nature, morality and mortality echo in every story. From the end of the world to the end of one life it is a collection that will make you think.

Well it may not be an absolute hit for every reader there’s at least one story in this book for everyone.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Rogues by George R. R. Martin

Genres:  Anthology, Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-fi
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: June 17th 2014

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Everybody loves a rogue…though sometimes we live to regret it.” 

A collection of stories focused on those dashing characters with gray morals. Stories from prolific authors, spanning as many genres as you can imagine, each with their own depiction of a rogue. From the classic fantasy thief to lying entrepreneurs and shady actors. Characters you’ll fall head over heels for, after all who doesn’t love a rogue?

The stories are all well curated and arranged. I never found myself with two stories of similar taste back to back. There were obvious standouts, “The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother” by George R.R. Martin,  “What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn, and  “The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss. There were stories that I didn’t expect much from that left me in love,  “Now Showing” by Connie Willis and  “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch. There were stories that were middling and one or two that I found a bit dense or boring. Some stories try to establish too much in the short time they had and were more confusing than enjoyable, but the majority of the stories were good. Better than good.

When working with a cross-genre anthology connecting stories can be difficult. I have too often seen anthologies fail because there was too little connection, or because author’s all had the same idea of how to incorporate the connecting theme. It’s bad when an anthology doesn’t flow, it’s worse when I have to read six stories about robot detectives in a row. Rogues suffers none of these issues. The genres vary but there is always a rogue character. It doesn’t limit itself to daggers and lock-picking rogues either. The connection was tight enough that the anthology felt together, but it allowed every author to create something different.

There are stories in this book that just don’t work as short stories, and stories that feel a little bland but they are outweighed by the good. It’s surprising for an anthology to have even one story I’d consider a 5/5 but for it to have five is astounding. This is not an anthology without disappointments (a creature I’m still positive is a myth when the anthology involves multiple authors), but it is an anthology worth plowing through. There are stories that make this book more than worth the read.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

UnCommon Bodies by Michael Harris Cohen

Genres: Adult, Anthology
Publisher: Fighting Monkey Press
Publication Date: November 24th 2015

1 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“You’ll stare or maybe you won’t be able to look that long. Some can’t.”

A collection of bizarre stories about beauty, disfigurement, monsters and men.

This anthology suffered largely because it was not well curated. Instead of each author dealing with different sort of bodies we have several stories of amputation, two stories involving mermaids, two involving freaks rising up against ringmaster, two involving men using kinky gay sex to fill the void left by their amputations. Not to mention three cyborg stories, two of which use the exact same pop-culture reference. The themes smash together in dissonance from horror, to mystery, to humour and finally to three straight up porn stories.

A few of the stories were part of larger works, which would have been fine if they felt like full stories on their own. Instead they felt like small hacked off pieces and left the reader with no satisfying conclusion.

The anthology also teeters between fetishizing and demonizing the different bodies. We are promised mermaids and monsters in the blurb. What it doesn’t mention is amputees (one evil, two kinky) and much to my disappointment, a transwoman. The inclusion of the transwoman, amputees and a woman disfigured by her mother’s abuse in this anthology were in poor taste. Touting “a modern freakshow” and presenting these stories is more than a touch offensive.

There were stories that stuck out as being interesting Skin by Brent Meske, From the Inside by Daniel Arthur Smith and Scars: First Session by Jordanne Fuller. They were well-written, unique premises and either touching or just creepy enough. Rated on their own they would all hit the three-star mark but they were just not enough to drag up the rating of this book.

Read this if you’re a fan of: Make Something Up

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys (selected) by April Genevieve Tucholke

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Genres: Anthology, Short Stories, Horror, Young Adult
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: August 18th 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Somehow it didn’t surprise Dahlia Allgood that the world would end on a Friday.”

This anthology combines several stories to spook you, unsettle you and generally keep you up at night. Each story takes elements from classic horror films or novels.

Like many anthologies this book has highs and lows. Some stories were a bit of a slow read, while others were rewarding and spooky. There were so many strong, diverse female characters, in a genre that usually only rewards clumsy virgins. Some stories were gory, others just plain spooky but I was a little disappointed by the fear factor. Disappointed in the fact that it wasn’t really as strong as it should have been. A few stories fail to eve be spooky at all, however the stories almost all share one thing. Vengeance. Many of the stories feature victims beating down their monsters, or a victim becoming a monster, and something about that is so supremely satisfying. Some of the authors seem to have only a tentative grasp on horror as a genre. Several seem more like mystery or crime stories. Some are just sort of boring plot lines with every cliche possible tossed in but the book rounds itself out with the few authors who wrote excellently.. Not for the excessively weak-hearted but those with the heard of a house cat instead of a lion should be just fine.

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READ THIS IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: Creepypasta

Edge by M.E. Kerr

Genres: Young Adult, Anthology, Short Stories
Publisher: Open Road Media Teen & Tween
Publication Date: September 15th 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: This book was received through to publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“”Ideas are personal,” someone said. “Bodies are all alike, but ideas, are individual and personal.””

A collection of short stories written by renowned author M.E. Kerr. From alternate universes, to stories of coming out, letting go and just growing up in general. Whimsical at times, serious at others, it’s a very eclectic and enjoyable collection.

The stories, while good, do feel a bit dated. None of them feel like timeless pieces. I was left feeling slightly disjointed from characters outside my time. It reads a little like a required reading in high school. Some of the stories are fanciful, set in alternate realities or worlds that really make you consider your own. It’s a very good coming of age novel, with plenty of stories about growing up. The writing style was brilliant. It was smooth, simple and very easy to devour quickly. However, while certain stories played all the right notes some stories didn’t. There were a few that left off far too vague or open-ended. It feels almost as though the whole story has been for nothing, or the ending doesn’t feel like a close at all. If I could pluck a few stories out this book would, no doubt, be a five star novel. A nicely varied anthology suitable for any young adult, if a little on the poorly aged side.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: The Poison Eaters