Tues. Sept. 17: Anthology #ReaderExpansionChallenge

Many Bloody Returns: Tales of Birthdays With Bite. Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Keller. NY: Ace Books. 2007.

September’s challenge is an anthology. I love anthologies, especially themed anthologies, because it introduces me to writers whose work I don’t know, and I get the chance to enjoy short pieces by writers whose work I do know.

This anthology is about vampires and birthdays. There are thirteen stories in it (which makes sense). They aren’t linked to each other, but they are each author’s unique take on the theme.

All the stories I read are interesting. I skipped one, because it was in present tense, and I don’t like prose in present tense. But I enjoyed the twelve I read.

My favorites, however, were:

“It’s My Birthday, Too” by Jim Butcher. It’s a Harry Dresden short story, exceptionally well done. It reminds me why I enjoy this series so much, and makes me want to go back and re-read the series in order.

“Grave-Robbed” by P.N. Elrod, featuring un-dead detective Jack Fleming. I wasn’t familiar with that series before, but this story makes me want to read more. Jack helps a young woman protect her widowed sister from a scheming medium who wants to steal her fortune.

“Blood Wrapped” by Tanya Huff was my introduction to her Smoke series, and I’m going to read the whole thing. Vampires outside of Vancouver? One of them the bastard son of Henry VIII who writes romance novels under a female pseudonym? Yeah, I’m in.

“Vampire Hours” by Elaine Viets. I’ve been reading all three of Elaine’s series over the past few weeks, and enjoy her writing. This isn’t tied to any of those series; it’s a stand-alone, and it’s lovely and touching, about a woman facing menopause and divorce in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s always wonderful to find new-to-you authors and then seek out more of their work. I had a great time with it.

What did you read this month? Leave the answer in the comments.

We reconvene on October 15. October’s theme is to read something Samhain (Halloween) related.

Happy reading!

Midnight Enchantments: Harry Dresden


Midnight Enchantments is a celebration of paranormal authors and characters, leading up to Samhain.

Midnight Enchantments: Harry Dresden
By Devon Ellington<strongi

I’d heard about this JIm Butcher series for years. It was one of those I figured I’d “get around to” reading “someday.” Sort of like a round tuit, those potholder like things we used to give each other back in the 80’s and 90’s, when someone would say they were too busy and would “get around to it.”

Then, one of my students recommended the series, telling me she enjoyed it and thought I would, too. The next time I went to the bookstore, I picked up STORM FRONT. My student was right!

What makes Harry Dresden such a terrific character? He’s unique, he’s memorable, and he’s a good guy. Sure, he’s unusual — a paranormal detective who’s also a licensed wizard. He’s even in the phone book — a great detail. The guy has skills. He’s got talent, too, but he doesn’t do things by half-measures. He’s good at what he does because he puts in the work. He’s also got a wry sense of humor, a strong sense of loyalty, and doesn’t hesitate to do what needs to be done when those around him flinch. He’s someone you could just as easily sit and have a beer and burger with in the local bar, or go demon hunting with, should the need arise.

Chicago, the setting of the books, is also an additional character. It’s a slightly alt-Chicago, but the streets are both familiar and strange, and the geography sings. His father was a stage magician, so not only does Harry use magic in his work, he also knows how to weave in illusion when necessary. The way Butcher uses the two systems in tandem rather than in opposition makes for lively action. His mother was a wizard, but we don’t have much information about her in the early books. As with most wizards, he’s got an arsenal of tools at his disposal, as well as drawing on the elements. He seems to trust the tools, more at this point, although I hope that will be one of his areas of growth in the series (I’m just a few books in). He’s under the watchful eye of the White Council — who’d be more than happy to kill him if he steps out of bounds.

His relationship with Karrin Murphy, a cop and his sometimes partner on cases, is fascinating and unconventional. There’s a lot of deep emotion there, but neither seems willing to take a risk on the other. Considering how often they’re nearly killed together, it’s understandable. I don’t really understand why he’s involved with Susan Rodriguez other than she’s a fun sexual partner– I find her more annoying than alluring or feisty — but I’m willing to stick with the books to see how it unfolds. Harry may not always understand the women around him, but he likes and respect women, and that keeps the stories from falling into gender cliches.

Butcher is great at melding the natural world with the paranormal, telling us unique, unusual stories, driven by sparkling dialogue and memorable characters. Strong, intelligent female protagonists have been on the rise in this genre over the past few years. Every once in awhile, it’s nice to also focus on a male protagonist who’s also strong and quirky and intelligent and fun.

–Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. She will present her Dialogue Workshop at the Write Angles Conference on the Mt. Holyoke Campus on October 22. Visit her website at www.devonellingtonwork.com