Edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Book Cover: TeethI picked up this book as an impulse loan at the library when the title typeface caught my eye. (Design nerd moment: I really like how they were able to make the title actually look like teeth without being totally cheesy about it – very elegant, especially coupled with the lack of teeth in the image) I also had already heard of the book because one of my favorite blog writers, Genevieve Valentine, wrote one of the stories in the collection, and posted that story online. It was awesome, so I figured I wouldn’t mind reading it again and see if the other stories were of the same caliber.

Of course, some were and some weren’t. Well, Valentine’s was still the best, but there were others I really liked, too. In fact, Valentine’s story was first in the collection, and then the second story, All Smiles by Steve Berman, dealt with a vampire myth from a more unusual, non-European culture, as well, so I was pretty pleased. (Actually, both these first two stories are available in a preview of the book here.)

The problem with this type of anthology is that lots of people, me included, like to read about vampires, so it makes sense to collect stories about them. Good vampire stories, though, often use vampirism as a surprise twist in the story, so you see the problem. Just being included in this type of anthology spoils a lot of the stories, so there were certainly several that I think I would have liked a lot more if I hadn’t just been reading them waiting for the vampires to show up.

A not-so-brief gripe to close out this review: the book cover promises contributions from Cassandra Clare & Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, and more. Now, I’m a recent fan of Holly Black, and I really enjoyed her story here, co-written with Cassandra Clare; and I’m starting to think Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely was a fluke because I haven’t enjoyed any of her other writing nearly as much; but my real gripe is with Neil Gaiman. I love his Sandman graphic novels and every full-length novel he has ever written. I consider myself a huge fan of his. However, his short stories are crap. So, I knew not to actually consider his name on the cover to be any sort of selling point, but he must have disappointed legions of not-already-disappointed fans with his short and hasty-seeming poem that reads more like a pop song. Weak sauce, Gaiman, weak sauce.


Sequels, Follow Ups, Trailers, and Recommendations

As the holidays come barreling towards us, I first want to point you toward my entry last year on good Christmas books. I haven’t started my annual rereads yet, but I need to get on that. It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me until I’ve read a few Connie Willis short stories.


But if you don’t want to create an entire holiday reading plan, here a few other things that have come up lately that relate to some of my past posts.

Remember when I raved about The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson? And said that I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be part of a series? It is! The second book, The Crown of Embers, is out now and it might be even better. I’m not going to go into any detail, since talking about this one would spoil the first one, but I loved it and it reminded me a lot of Bitterblue. The only downside is that it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger–Elisa’s story is clearly going to be a trilogy.

Now remember when I, and everyone else in the world, raved about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? I recently read one of the books she wrote before that, Sharp Objects, and it was equally compelling and creepy. In fact, if anything I felt even ickier after reading that one. So if you liked Gone Girl and want to read a disturbing mystery novel, Sharp Objects is perfect. (Also, we get a surprising number of Google hits on things like “gone girl linda holmes hugged the book.” So for the record, future Google searchers, I feel confident that she hugged the book at the point where Amy’s journal ends, and that next section of the book starts. Is that clear without being too spoiler-y?)

One of the best things about seeing the last Twilight movie in the theater (oh yes, I did), was that they showed about 10 different awesome previews. My sister was thrilled about the Catching Fire trailer, but I was most excited about City of Bones. I’ve already explained how much I like those books and, at least in the previews, it seemed like they had the look of everything right. I am too old to recognize any of the teenagers playing the leads in the movie, but I am excited about the parental-level casting. Aidan Turner, who was a vampire in the Being Human series (the BBC one, not the Scyfy remake), is Luke and Jonathan Rhys Myers is absolutely perfect as evil, creepy Valentine.

Finally, if you’re not already reading Tomato Nation, well, I don’t see what you’re even doing on the Internet. But just in case, one of the recent entries in her advice column, the Vine, asked readers for book suggestions for preteen/teenage readers. The comments on the entry are great, reminding me of YA books I loved and introducing me to some new ones. The comments to Anna’s recent Sunshine post included some discussion about what ages that book would be appropriate–the comments on that Vine post might provide some other great options.

The Many Books of Cassandra Clare

Sometimes when I see an interesting book and realize it’s the first in a series, I feel overwhelmed by the task in front of me and don’t even both starting. Too many pages! Too much commitment! So I understand that recommending two interconnected series of seven books (so far!) is dicey. But don’t panic! Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series will not be a weight upon your reader’s conscience. This series just makes me happy, because I know I can count on more books coming.

City of Bones, the first book in the series, tells the story of Clary, a New York City teenager who finds out that she’s actually part of a world of demon hunters and vampires and werewolves, etc. I know there are a million young adult books out there with this same basic plot, but Clare creates a very detailed world and whole giant cast of interesting characters. There’s passionate teenage love, parents who don’t understand, fairies who strike bad bargains, a magical city in another dimension, secret governments, warlocks–it goes on and on. I don’t necessarily think the characters are that realistic (they really don’t read like teenagers to me) and the books aren’t going to offer tremendous insight into the problems facing our world now (for that, go read Bitterblue). But they’re fun and dramatic and surprising and engaging and ultimately satisfying.

There are five Mortal Instruments books so far, and clearly at least one more coming. I initially said that there are seven because Clare has started a second, companion series, set in the same universe but 100+ years back in Victorian London. The Infernal Devices has two books so far and I think I might actually like it better that the modern day books right now (but I am a sucker for period stories set in England). So please give Cassandra Clare a chance, starting with either City of Bones or Clockwork Angel. If you don’t like the first, you don’t have to read any more because they’re very similar. But if you like them, just think–you won’t have to worry about having something fun to read for many, many hundreds of pages. They’re also in the process of making the first one into a movie and I’m pretty sure they’re going to position it as the new Hunger Games, so just think how ahead of all the teenagers you will be!