Holidays Are Hell by Kim Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My favorite stories in this anthology were "Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" by Kim Harrison and "Six" by Marjorie Liu. Ironically, they weren't Christmas stories.
"Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" by Kim Harrison
This story looks into Rachel's past, when she was eighteen, fresh out of community college, and determined to recover from her childhood of severe illness and to get a job working for Inderlander Security. Her brother Robbie is in town for Solstice Night, and wants her to go back to west coast with him and go to a four year college to continue her Earth Witch studies. Rachel isn't interested. Her life is in Cincinatti. They make a deal that if Rachel can raise her father's ghost and he will agree to her going into the IS, and sign her permission slip, then Robbie will support her decision. In the process, Rachel raises the spirit of Pierce, a male witch who was working for the older version of IS, tracking a vampire who preys on young girls. This was a great story. I liked how Rachel got to strut her young stuff, showing the strong woman she would one day grow into. I liked the sweet chemistry between Rachel and Pierce. It was also nice to see Rachel's family. Her brother is kind of bossy, but Rachel holds her own against him and Pierce's inbred chauvinism very well. Kim Harrison's excellent writing skills are ably-demonstrated in this short story. 5 stars.
"Run, Run Rudolph" by Lynsay Sands
At first, I wasn't sure I'd like this story. It seemed too pedestrian. Heroine owns a clothing shop. Hero owns a shoe shop. At first I wasn't sure of the tone, and the Kim Harrison story gave it a hard act to follow. Forgive my non-paranormal contemporary snobbery. As always, it helps to keep reading. It was actually really funny. I was giggling and laughing out loud like crazy! Jill was a pretty sharp heroine. She figured out pretty soon how to use the abilities that had been forced on her by a crazy scientist who used to work with her brother. This story is related to "The Claire Switch Project", which is in Dates From Hell. In that story, Jill's brother creates a machine that can destabilize molecules to allow a person to change their form to whatever they visualize. This story has a little bit of the goofy vibe of the previous story, but I liked it much better. The humor found me at a good time, I guess. I thought that Nick, the guy that Jill had been sweet on for months, was a very nice guy. I liked that he accepted Jill for what she was, helped to protect her from her pursuer, and he had felt the same way about her for months, but was waiting for the right time to declare his feelings. This was a nice, fun Christmas short story. 4 stars.
"Six" by Marjorie Liu
Marjorie knows what us comic book/action-adventure movie/romance novel-reading fangirls want! In this story, the heroine is a police officer who was trained from a young age to be an invincible fighter. She has no life outside of her work, and suppresses her longing for anything more beneath cold, hard determination. Her whole body is a weapon, and she knows how to use it. The hero is a necromancer, and they are fighting vampires that are straight out of Chinese folklore. I felt like I was watching one of those awesome Hong Kong action movies, which I love! I loved the intense bond between Six and Joseph. I loved that this book was set in China, and that the heroine is Chinese and the hero is Chinese and Russian. This book takes place on New Years' Eve, and it was interesting to see how that holiday is celebrated in China. Boy, I wanted some dumplings after I read this story; since one of the characters makes them, making me drool in the process. I think Marjorie Liu is a highly talented author, and I am kicking myself for letting all her books accumulate on my tbr pile. I plan to rectify that in the New Year. 5 stars.
"The Harvest" by Vicki Pettersson
This story took so long for me to read. The idea is intriguing but the execution was fairly tedious. I think that it would have benefited from lots more dialogue and action instead of explanatory narrative. I did like the idea of a war between good and evil and how it's been told in comic books, which the forces call 'manuals'. Zoe was a strong, vivid character. I thought she showed a lot of mettle, striving to protect her daughters and granddaughters, even at the price of giving up her own legacy. The relationship between her and her ex-lover and comrade was bittersweet. It was interesting how Ms. Pettersson built this story around Thanksgiving, and how she integrated it into this story. The Buddhist spiritual aspects are underutilized in urban fantasy. I think I would have loved this story if had been more active, with more showing. As it was, it was kind of boring. I'm sad about that. 3 stars.
Overall, this was a good collection and a nice holiday read.
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