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

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

Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes by Cory O’Brien

Genres: Mythology, Humour, Religion, History, Short Stories
Publisher: Perigee Books
Publication Date: March 5th 2013

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“We can rebuild these myths. We have the technology. We can make them snappier, flashier…it would be hard to make them sexier…But you get where I’m going with this.”

O’Brien retells classic tales from Greek Mythology to Egyptian mythos in a hillarious, brief and slighty offensive manner. Sex, drinking, parties and lots and lots of murder.

A bit lowbrow at times the humour is still very effective. It’s a quick read, and while it obviously takes several liberties with the source works, it still manages to be informative. A great crash course in world mythologies for anyone who’s tired of the same old retellings time and time again. Or for someone without the attention span for more academic versions of the tales. It also offers a very interesting look at how similar mythology is all over the world. How most stories support the same fundamentals and mostly just change the details. The American section felt a little out of place. It’s tacked on to the end of the book and suddenly we go from ancient creation myths and Gods to some American folktales. Though they feel out of place they still manage to tie off the novel neatly and allow for a neat little ending about religion and science intermingling.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Percy Jackson

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

Four by Veronica Roth

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Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Short Stories
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“I am not Tobias Eaton, not anymore, never again. I am Dauntless.”

The mysterious Dauntless boy, love interest to our heroine. His story is finally fully revealed through four short stories and three scenes retelling parts of Divergent from his point of view.

It’s an enjoyable read, but a quick one and I feel like nothing is actually gained from reading it. We know Four’s story already from the series, this reveals it in more detail but really adds nothing important. We know Four and other than his childhood he’s not that much different from Tris. So similar that their POV narrations in Allegiant sort of blurred together. At this point it really feels like the series is beating you over the head with it’s themes.

I enjoyed it, and I can see people becoming absolutely obsessed with this book. It’s the sort of series that will easily find people to love it (read: Hunger Games) but ultimately having finished the series I feel like it has been just that. Enjoyable but not interesting.

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READ THIS IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: DIVERGENT

Make Something Up by Chuck Palahniuk

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Genres: Fiction, Short Stories, Anthology
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: May 26th 2015

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy was received through the Goodreads First Reads program.

A collection of transgressive short stories written by Palahniuk over the course of a decade, including some previously published pieces.

It’s hard to start with this book, it’s story are mostly held up on cheap shock and gross-out tactics while relying on attempts to add surprising twists at the ending. At least one story is written in a faked dialect nearly impossible to read and only one or two stand out as actually having a good premise and decent execution. I certainly can’t unread these stories but it’s not because they were good.

I can remember every gross-out gimmick, but none of the characters names. I can remember that Palahniuk uses the word “anymore” in strange places and seems to be a little preoccupied with foreskin. Full of twisted views on love, marriage and women, it’s a mess. It was not entirely unenjoyable, but it’s clear Palahniuk valued cheap gimmicks above any characterization or plot.

This book seeks to offend and disgust it’s readers and to that end I imagine it will be very successful. Otherwise it’s just not very good.

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The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

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Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Stories, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Big Mouth House
Publication Date: February 9th 2010

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Books were something that happened to readers. Readers were the victims of books.”

From flowers that turn boys into wolves, wolves that turn into boys, books that come to life and girls whose touch can kill Holly Black writes twelve engaging modern fantasy stories easy for anyone to enjoy.

I have never read an author so adept at twisting fairies and unicorns into the world we live in, and on top of everything manages to write so many different and relatable characters from all walks of life with varying identity. Every story is written in a different style with vastly different characters. Happy and sad endings.

Anthologies tend to be tricky, there’s normally a few sour stories that make the bunch less appealing but all twelve of these short stories can hold their own. The way they connect with the worlds she creates in later books and even with each other is brilliant and it’s a worthwhile book for any Holly Black fan.

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READ THIS IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST