Thursday, September 10, 2015

"Joy to the Worlds" by Various Authors

Joy to the Worlds is a collection of short stories that in sort way connect with the holidays. We get to travel in space, time, and the incredible, from the perspective of four different authors that brings a great degree of freshness to the book. While some of the stories stand on their own as great storytelling, they are so different that there is hardly a connection between them. 

Because of this I have broken up my review into the different stories in the book. Definitely fun to read while enjoying some hot cocoa around the fireplace.

“Wild Hunt” by Janine Southard:

This story caught me off guard from the beginning. As a first story I thought it was weak, as it started right in the middle of an event with minimal character introduction or even background onto what was going on. While a short story does not have much room to expand the plot, this one failed to make me feel passionate about it. Even after finishing reading it I still don’t know for sure what happened.

“Escape from Yorktown” by G. Clemans:

An adventure of galactic proportions indeed. Escape from Yorktown is the fun story of a visitor to a perfect-looking town that is not exactly what it seems. Fun and intelligent, this story brings forward a narrative that is engaging, even at its lowest moments. While at first it is a little convoluted, as the characters get fully developed the story becomes very enjoyable.

“Odysseus Flax & the Krampus” by Maia Chance

Forget about jolly old Saint Nicholas, this story is about a character that is quite the contrary. In the style of old traditional folk tales, this story grabs on to all the those well known story-telling elements and brilliantly weaves the odyssey of a traveler who makes a fateful stop in a small town. This mystical figure, the Krampus, steals naughty children at night. But it’s just a story, right? Odysseus finds out that devils come in many shapes, and things are not what they seem. You will really enjoy reading this story, it’s engaging, fast-paced, and has a brilliant ending.

“Ol’ St. Nick” by Raven Oak

A science-fiction whodunit that will keep you guessing until the last minute. The crew of a salvaging ship stumbles upon a wreck. The demise of a person within that vessel triggers a set of events that has everybody second-guessing their alliances and wondering who is the killer that is walking among them. As if this was not enough, the author throws in the mafia, well in this case, an intergalactic mob boss. Needless to say it was a refreshing story, considering it’s galactic setting and varied cast of characters. Borrowing elements from the classic sci-fi genre, this story is one of the strongest in the book.

"Bevel & Turn" by G. Clemans

It's always fun to read the story of a magical Christmas decoration, in this case a whirligig. Georgia is your typical socially awkward high schooler with a passion for woodworking. This passion will lead her down a mystical path of discovery, where she will learn more about herself, her family, and learning to lean on another for support. Caleb is the romantic interest that serves as a side kick to our protagonist. The stronger of Clemans' stories in this book, "Bevel & Turn" is entertaining and smart, with multiple cultural references. It was well-researched and provided a fresh look into a not do new plot device. I only wish the villain character was further developed, however there's so much that can be done within the limits of a short story.

"Death Node" by Janine A. Southard

  I was not a fan of Southard's first story in this book, as a matter of fact I consider it the weakest. But all of that is redeemed with "Death Node." Yes, pretty much like its preceding story, it deals with a form of time travel, but this one has an approach that is both logical and actually is what my view of time traveling is. Without spoiling it, all I will say is that it brilliantly explores the paradox of going back in time and affecting our own futures. Can we truly change history? Or is our presence in the past the necessary piece in the puzzle for things to end the way they are? The biggest problem with this story is that is not long enough. It has multiple dimensions/realities that keep building up to the climax of the story. The characters are smart, an Postrel, the protagonist, floods us with a deluge of thoughts, feelings, and what ifs. Enough to make a happy progression to the last pages of this book.

"The Ringers" by Raven Oak

You will never feel the same way about a bell jingling after reading this story. Set in a small, rural town, this story is dark and mystical, at times dystopian and at others similar to a Dickens style. Nevertheless, here's the story of a girl moving into a new place, a place that is beyond normal, a place with magic and secrets; where death is just a ring away. While I read this story, I could just envision the characters trying to see beyond the fears of lore, and make sense of the problems upon them. Elise, the protagonist, is skillfully developed to a point where I felt a good connection with her. The only problem I have with this story is that the end it felt a little like it was dragging. The pace somewhat dropped, though the ending itself was good. In the end, next time I hear the jingle of a bell late at night, I'll make sure I lock my doors.

"Mr. and Mrs. Mistletoe" by Maia Chance

The closing story of the book brings us a look of the past that never was, as the preview says a "retro future" of sorts. This allowed the author to insert many cool little elements to enhance this story that takes place in the 1950s. In itself it's a fun little story of a upper class town that is caught up in the vanity, of all things, of a glorified beauty pageant. Miss Pynne, the protagonist, is pushed into a mystery-solving quest for reasons that are hard to comprehend. As a character, she is very forge rabble, though this in part is done on purpose (after all, no one can ever get her name right). Not one of my favorites, the story that was being told was hard to believe. The motivations of the characters were at times too petty, even ludicrous. The holiday hint was very faint, yet present. Maybe I'll give the pageant circle a shot after this.

Finished on: August 31, 2015
Days reading: 10
My rating: 3/5
** I received a free copy of this book as an ARC by the author/publisher in exchange of a honest review.

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