Carniepunk

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Expected Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Gallery Books
My Source for This Book: Gift From The Publisher
Steam Level: Varies (Chaste with a Steamy or two thrown in for good measure)

Official Blurb:

A star-studded urban fantasy anthology featuring bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, and Kevin Hearne, whose stories explore the creepy, mysterious, and, yes, sometimes magical world of traveling carnivals.
The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?

And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.

Featuring stories grotesque and comical, outrageous and action-packed, Carniepunk is the first anthology to channel the energy and attitude of urban fantasy into the bizarre world of creaking machinery, twisted myths, and vivid new magic.

Painted Love
– Rob Thurman

Author’s Website: http://www.robthurman.net/
Part of a Series: No

What a great way to start off this anthology! I’ve never before read anything by Rob Thurman, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this lovely, dark story not only grabbed my attention, but had a wonderfully unexpected paranormal twist that definitely made this one stand out to me.

5/5 Stars

The Three Lives of Lydia
– Delilah S. Dawson

Author’s Website: delilahpaints.blogspot.com
Part of a Series: Yes, Blud Series
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone (but you’ll appreciate it more if you read the rest of the series first.)

I won’t lie — this story right here was the reason I picked this book up in the first place. I love Ms. Dawson’s Blud series, and eagerly devour anything she writes in that world.

Outside of my deep and abiding love for the world that Ms. Dawson has created, I loved the twist of Lydia’s past. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and had me gasping in delight at the reveal.

Newcomers to the series shouldn’t have any problem following along, though of course as a fan of the series, I would recommend reading the other books anyway. 😉

5/5 Stars

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street
– Kevin Hearne

Author’s Website: http://kevinhearne.com/
Part of a Series: Yes, Iron Druid Chronicles
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone

I’ve never picked up any of the Iron Druid Chronicles before, but I can tell you, that will be remedied very soon.

This action-packed tale features a Freak House where unsuspecting fair-goers end up trapped in Hell and getting eaten by demons.  With plenty of excitement and remarkable “visuals”, this one was another of my favorites.

4.5/5 Stars

The Sweeter the Juice
– Mark Henry

Author’s Website: http://www.markhenry.us/ (which is down at the time of this review)
Part of a Series: I don’t think so…

This one was… different.  Actually, even though the ending about killed me (let’s just say the HEA addict in me was crushed), it was one of the more interesting reads in the anthology.  It was Good Weird. You know, the kind of Weird where you finish it, and your face immediately affects an expression of extreme confusion, as you ask yourself, “WTF did I just read?”, but then moments later, you find yourself kind of wanting to read it again?

Yeah, that kind of Weird.

4/5 Stars

Werewife
– Jaye Wells

Author’s Website: http://jayewells.com/
Part of a Series: No

As a fan of the Sabina Kane series, I love Ms. Well’s writing style, with action, magic, and a pleasantly twisted sense of humor abounding.  This particular story, though, fell a little flat for me.  While I enjoyed the basic premise and adored the ending, I think the fact that neither of the protagonists were particularly likable made it hard for me to really get into it.

Even so, the ending (which, by the way, may be the only Happily Ever After, albeit an untraditional one, in the anthology) is what really saved this one for me.

4/5 Stars

The Cold Girl
– Rachel Caine

Author’s Website: http://rachelcaine.com
Part of a Series: No

Despite the fact that I have never read anything by Rachel Caine (and really, how did I manage that?), and the fact that I picked up this anthology because of some of the other authors that were featured, this one was probably my favorite of all the stories.

I loved the twist on vampires, the revenge plot, and the ending, and I tell you, I will absolutely be picking up other books from this author, even though I don’t typically read YA.

5/5 Stars

Duet With Darkness
Allison Pang

Author’s Website: http://www.heartofthedreaming.com/
Part of a Series: Yes, Abby Sinclair Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably

From what I can tell, it’s a prequel of the Abby Sinclair series, and while I wasn’t expecting a happy ending (as really, the best you can hope for within this anthology is bitter-sweet), this one just wasn’t a favorite. While I probably would have enjoyed this more had I been familiar with the series, the ending was so depressing that I was left feeling rather cold. I did, however, enjoy the whole Devil Went Down to Georgia vibe that it had going on.  Even so, not my favorite.

3/5 Stars

Recession of the Divine
– Hillary Jacques

Author’s Website: http://hillaryjacques.blogspot.com/
Part of a Series: No

As I went to write this particular review, I got quite confused until I realized that Hillary Jacques and Regan Summers are the same person. That is helpful knowledge I think.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this new take on old mythology, with the Goddess of Memory falling captive to an unscrupulous carnie who wants to use her powers to make himself rich.  The interesting heroine and several nice little plot twists kept things moving and made this one really stand out in my memory. Erm. No pun intended.

4.5/5 Stars

Parlor Tricks
Jennifer Estep

Author’s Website: http://www.jenniferestep.com/
Part of a Series: Yes, Elemental Assassin Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but worked okay as a standalone

Though I’m familiar with the earlier works of the series, I haven’t read the most recent installments, but even so, I think this one stood quite well on its own.  Fans of the series will enjoy the use of Elemental magic, and newcomers will get a good introduction into the series.

As for me, though I certainly enjoyed it, this wasn’t one that really stayed in my mind when I was finished reading.

4/5 Stars

Freak House
– Kelly Meding

Author’s Website: http://chaostitan.blogspot.com/
Part of a Series: Yes, Prequel to (as yet unpublished) “Strays” Series
Series Best Read In Order: N/A

I loved this one, and was very sad to learn that there are no other books in the series yet.  My Googlefu tells me that there is at least one novel already written, but it doesn’t yet have an official publisher and/or release date.  *fangirl angst*

Seriously though, this one was one of my favorites. With a half-Djinn on a mission to rescue her father from a menagerie of otherworldly creatures in a world where “paras” are out of the proverbial closet, but not protected.  An interesting world, likable characters, and plenty of potential have me salivating for the next installment.

4.5/5 Stars

The Inside Man
– Nicole Peeler

Author’s Website: http://www.nicolepeeler.com/
Part of a Series: Yes, Jane True Series

I…. I didn’t like this one.  While I give the author credit for the use of creepy clowns and an interesting premise overall, I think I was at a disadvantage since I’d never read anything from this series. While there was plenty of background worked carefully into the story, I just couldn’t get into it. Add to that the explicit child rape/incest and I could barely finish this one.

1.5/5 Stars

A Chance In Hell
Jackie Kessler

Author’s Website: http://www.jackiekessler.com/
Part of a Series: Yes, Hell On Earth series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but does okay as a standalone.
Steam Level: Steamy

As one of the steamier entries in the anthology, this story was one of if not the only one that is “mature” based on sexual activity rather than creep factor.

Now, to be fair, I’m not a fan of succubi heroines (since honestly, I like monogamy or polyamory, but not promiscuity).  I’ve never read anything in this series before (see previous sentence), but I did enjoy the writing, and there was plenty of action which I liked.

Still, I can’t really say I liked a story when I didn’t particularly care for the heroine, nor when I’m so unfamiliar with the series that any romantic/emotional entanglements just lead to confusion rather than having the impact I would imagine they’d have had I read this series before.

Still, not bad.

3.5/5 Stars

Hell’s Menagerie
– Kelly Gay

Author’s Website: http://www.kellygay.com/
Part of a Series: Yes, Charlie Madigan Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but worked okay as a standalone.

Again with a series I’m unfamiliar with, though I think that this may have been to my advantage for once.  From what I understand, the main series focuses on Charlie who is out of the picture for this narrative.  I loved the animals as well as Emma’s abilities with them, and I can definitely see myself reading more of this series.

Recommended for animal lovers who enjoy a twist of the paranormal.

 4/5 Stars

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea
Seanan McGuire

Author’s Website: http://www.seananmcguire.com/
Part of a Series: No

I loved how the author breathed life into not just the carnival but also the legend of the mermaid.  You could almost feel yourself walking down the fairway, and combined with a lovely bitter-sweet ending, this story was the perfect way to wrap up the anthology.

4/5 Stars

HeartDivider

Overall, this anthology was simply wonderful.  As most of my readers are well aware, I’m typically glued to my Kindle as I prefer ebooks over printed works in almost every case. Even so, I only had access to a paperback version of this book, and I still couldn’t put it down — that’s high praise from me, indeed!

My favorites were Delilah S. Dawson’s The Three Lives of Lydia and Rachel Caine’s The Cold Girl, but I was also pleasantly surprised by several authors I’ve never read before, including Rob Thurman’s Painted Love, Kevin Hearne’s The Demon Barker of Wheat Street, and Freak House by Kelly Meding.

While the middle of the anthology fell a little flat for me, the hauntingly bitter-sweet ending of Seanan McGuire’s Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea was the perfect finishing touch.

Overally, highly recommended for Urban Fantasy fans of all tastes.

4halfA very solid 4.5/5 Stars.