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Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Verity Price is a Cryptozoologist, someone who studies Cryptids (the things that science has yet to put a finger on), who moonlights in her cover identity as a competitive dancer. Her family broke away from the Covenant, and organization bent on wiping out the cryptids, a few generations back and has been studying and protecting them as best they can. This caused a bit of a vicious blood feud between the Covenant and Price family. Hence Verity’s cover identity- it wouldn’t do for a Covenant member to pin down her location.

Except one has. There is a Covenant member in her city, and Cryptid girls going missing. They must be connected.

Right?

I opened this book knowing I adore the author, all of her incarnations- from her music to Mira Grant. So I knew I was going to at least enjoy the read. Reading it at the same time as my partner added another level of enjoyment. We weren’t directly competing for page count, but at I got to use the phrase “Have you gotten to the waheela yet?” and chortle uncontrollably at his blank stare.

So I opened the cover and settled down knowing I was going to like what I saw, and I was not disappointed. Very is a fun character- simple as that. There is a wonderful lack of angst and emo to this urban fantasy chick. She is more concerned with the ass kicking and dealing with the loyal Cryptid mouse cult that has infested her apartment.

The first InCryptid offering is not as deep as, say, the Toby Daye books or her work as Mira Grant, but sometimes I want nothing more than I book I can just simply like reading, cover to cover. It is an excellent world build with some fascinating characters and dialog only Seanan could pull off. I laughed, I guffawed, I snorted various beverages ingested at poorly thought out intervals. All in all, it was a splendid good time. I will merrily say I had a blast and wait for the next book.

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After Hours: Tales From the Ur-Bar edited by Josh Palmatier and Patricia Bray

Imagine an eternal bar managed by Gilgamesh himself. It has existed everywhere and when, and always has exactly what its patrons need on tap (which sometimes differs from what they think they want). What started as an idea a group of authors came up with while in their cups translated magnificently into a collection that is the perfect combination of humorous and haunting. Each story has something new to offer- a bit of insight, a cunning use of Gil and his bar- and they all come together to build a beautiful look at humanity as a whole, the good and the bad. Snatches of life from a barkeeps eyes, without all of the cliché. It was a fun, often surprising, read from a very talented group of authors.

Benjamin Tate sets the scene in his “An Alewife in Kish”. Here we meet Gilgamesh, and find out how exactly he came into possession of the bar. Immortality always come with a price and bargains seldom are without a catch.

S.C. Butler lays out just “Why the Vikings Had No Bars”. Odin sees an opportunity to gather a good handful of warriors in Gil’s bar. Drinking and hailing and berserking ensues.

Jennifer Dunne reminds the reader of the dangers in dealing with Gods in “The Emperor’s New God”. Mars is not a deity to be trifled with.

“The Tale that Wagged the Dog”, by Barbara Ashford, is a brilliant look at Tam Lin and his selkie lover. I would suggest not drinking while reading this one. The biting humor will most likely lead to choking.

Maria V. Snyder writes a darker tale about a woman’s place in Japanese society in “Sake and Other Spirits”.

In “The Fortune-teller Makes Her Will” Kari Sperring moves us to 17th Century Paris and weaves a haunting story involving an innocent young girl who speaks with the voices of angels and the Poisons Affair.

“The Tavern Fire”, by D.B. Jackson gives us a possible explanation for the fire that started at Boston’s Brazen Head tavern in 1760, and its lack of casualties.

Patricia Bray reflects on the dangers of unicorn vomit as well as how rough a life of hunting the supernatural actually is in her story “Last Call”.

In Seanan McGuire’s “Alchemy of Alcohol” we meet the King of Summer and his Lady and their very unique problem.

“The Grand Tour” by Juliet E. McKenna walks the reader through the tensions of pre-World War Europe, through the eyes of two youths who experience the worst and the best strangers have to offer.

Dreams of glory are not all that they seem in “Paris 24” by Laura Anne Gilman.

“Steady Hands and a Heart of Oak” by Ian Tregillis looks at a talented sapper in WWII London and his drive for recognition (and penchant for womanizing).

“Forbidden” by Avery Shade is an eerie look at the 1980’s from a far future point of view.

In “Where We Are Is Hell”  Jackie Kessler somehow managed to roll a story about loss and redemption into a couple thousand words without leaving anything out. (And managing a very ‘Lady or the Tiger’- style ending.)

Anton Strout winds up the anthology with “Izdu-Bar”- a cunning combination of alcohol and zombies.

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

This is the most solid book to come out of this series yet.
And the creepiest. And topping “A Local Habitation” for chill factor was quite the feat in of itself.

I am attracted to the grotesque, the twisted and tainted, in books. I like antagonists who walk a fine line between evil and skewed, bits of humanity showing here and there, making the reader think. Blind Michael is an amazing example of this. Here is a creature so Old and so terrifying, who warps children into monsters, who plays by the rules of children’s games and rhymes…and every now and then there is a nuance that slips through, giving away bits and pieces of something deeper than just the monster.

And that, to me, is scarier than a mere bogeyman.

An Artificial Night had solid pacing, an enthralling storyline, and enough sarcasm to keep me happy for ages. For those who love a story of the Old fashioned Halloween, give this one a try. It is heavy with twisted woods, twisted children, and the Hunt that runs wild every now and then…

Toby continues to grow as a character, which I am enjoying. As always, I want more Tybalt (who wouldn’t?!) but the part he plays is well done as always. Connor I am still undecided on. He has a rotten marriage, but he seems to me to be a bit of a weak guy, and my opinion of him remains unchanged. Good looking, obviously, and a good friend to Toby, but he…copes poorly, and that coping puts Toby in a bad position.

What we find out about Raysel is chilling and perfect, and even Luna and Lily have gooseflesh-inspiring parts to play in this one.

The Luidaeg and Spike remain my favorites. The Luidaeg is everything I want in an Old Fae, and the idea of a rose goblin makes me adore Spike. Both of them have a LOT of stage time in this book, so all in all, An Artificial night was custom made to make me a happy reader.

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“Feed” By Mira Grant

I would like to say the zombies are what makes this book fantastic- after all, it does start with a guy poking a zombie with a stick- but what makes Feedso bloody amazing is the sheer scope of its humanity. The book takes human nature and tears it apart and shows you all the hidden bits you never wanted to know about. It will give you goosebumps. It will make you laugh. It will make you angry. It will make you cry. It is that well done.

It starts with an amazing world build. Humans cured cancer, they cured the common cold, and those two cures blended in just the wrong way and unleashed one nasty virus upon the world. The good news, humans survived the initial zombie event. The bad news? Humans all carry the zombie virus, in its dormant state, and it can be triggered. Add in the fact all mammals over 40 pounds can also ‘go zombie’ and trigger the virus out of dormancy in a human, and lets just say animal husbandry and pet ownership is not as common as it once was.

Now, lets move to the social aspect. Bloggers are the news now, and engage in bids for ratings that are fascinating to read about. The whole blogger/news infrastructure is beautifully done, and for someone who spends as much time communicating online as I do, it rang with enough possible truth that I found it enthralling.

The book revolves around a bloggers covering the presidential campaign in this environment, with enough plots and conspiracies and real nasty political maneuvering to keep the pages turning at a frantic speed. The usual novel format is broken in places by ‘posts’ from the main characters, adding to the urgency and strain of building events, and making the characters almost painfully real.

No punches are pulled in this one, and it is an absolutely amazing book as a result.

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