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Review: An Apple for the Creature, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

An Apple for the CreatureAn Apple for the Creature by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I've said in other reviews of anthologies, when they started getting popular I thought it was an annoying idea just aimed at getting fans of certain authors to buy more books. And of course that is the plan, put Charlaine Harris's name on a book and say that there's a Sookie story inside and it guarantees lots of sales. Or in this case, from what I can see in the Goodreads reviews so far, it's all about Ilona Andrews. Which is the reason I got it too, I have to admit it. But I have developed a reluctant respect for the business model because it works as intended. Not only does having a few big names on the cover sell books, but when the books are well edited it introduces readers to authors that they may not have tried otherwise. And frankly, as a library reader the expense isn't an issue for me, otherwise I couldn't justify buying books of stories that are just hit and miss.

These Harris/Kelner anthologies have been consistently among the best of the pack. The stories have been focused on the theme and the authors have been a really interesting mix. In this one, the mix of light stories, police procedurals, creepy stories, and mythology based stories worked very well. The mix helped keep the pace of the book interesting. Although I'm not a big short story fan, but the book kept my attention throughout. Of course some stories were stronger than others, but overall it was one of the more successful anthologies in terms of my enjoyment level. I was already a big fan of several of the authors, but that doesn't always translate into good short stories, so I was pleased to see how well they did this time out. The only completely new author to me was Donald Harstad, who's story was fantastic. I would absolutely would read his books if I didn't have anxiety issues, I really can't do thrillers. There were a couple others who I was familiar with but not already a fan, but their stories didn't convert me. Oh, and on a completely editorial note, I really liked that the author bios were right at the beginning of each story. I makes me nuts in anthologies when they're at the end of the chapters or at the end of the book, or worse, not included at all. I want to know who these people are, and if the stories are part of a series that I might want to buy, that's the whole point of this thing.

Charlaine Harris - It was fine, a bit preachy, but better than the attempt at mystery in the last anthology that I read. She's a good example of an author who's not great at writing short stories, in my opinion, so this was a nice improvement.

Jonathan Mayberry - It was a clever idea, but it went on much too long with the preaching as well, and then it ended very abruptly.

Donald Harstad - Gotta love a guy who thinks his wife and beagles are the most important thing to mention in his very short author's description. His law enforcement experience certainly showed in the story as well. It was a really smart take on what it would mean to be a vampire in the modern world from the perspective of police officers. It's hard to believe it was his first short story or his first foray into urban fantasy, it was very well done. I hope he considers making this the foundation for a book.

Marjorie M. Liu - A very good, creepy, and emotional story. I like that she finds so many new and original ideas for her short stories in the anthologies too; as much as it would be fun to have an episode from one of her series, I like that I never know what she's going to do next, it's makes it fun to discover.

Rhys Bowen - Pretty good, certainly appeals to the nightmares we all have about high school.

Amber Benson - I just don't like this series. I read the first book and decided not to continue with it. I tried this story but had to abandon it after a few pages, the girl is just Too Stupid To Live, much less lead anything. What's supposed to be cutesy funny is just annoying to me in this series, but it's a matter of taste.

Mike Carry - Very dark, very emotional, and smart; typical Carry while still being something quite different than anything I've read from him before.

Faith Hunter - It was fine, but I'm not familiar with the series and it didn't intrigue me to read more about it.

Ilona Andrews - Good story, as usual. It's always hard for me to judge how people who haven't read the series will feel, if they'll have a good feel for the world and characters, but I think this one is very self-explanatory. It's about Julie, Kate's ward, and is very self-contained, brief but enjoyable.

Steve Hockensmith - Kind of cute except that it doesn't hold water. If he was what he said he was in the end then he wasn't what the story was all about at all. So he just used the idea to scare the guy, but that kind of makes the whole thing seem fake.

Nancy Holder - Another good law enforcement story. I'm always amazed when authors can convey such a complete story in such a short time frame, it was quite well done. It's my favorite of her short stories.

Thomas E. Sniegoski - Wow, I didn't realize Kirby was a Frenchie! I just assumed he was a lab like Mulder. That tells you how long it's been since I looked at his website. What a cute dog!

Poor Marlowe! I did complain that he wasn't in the most recent book enough, so I guess this makes up for it. Poor baby had to go to school. Marlowe is a black Lab, modeled on Mulder, Sniegoski's beloved yellow Lab who passed away a couple of years ago. And he's a great character, the best friend of Remy, the angel/PI who's the main character in this series. But wow was that story bad timing when I was already freaking out about hiring a dog sitter for my dogs, too awful.

Toni L.P. Kelner - A good story, as usual. I haven't read her books yet, but she's a very good short story writer.

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