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Friday, September 23, 2011

"Home Improvement: Undead Edition" (Anthology)



Publisher: Ace (2011) 

     The overall theme of this anthology is the do-it-yourself world of home renovation, but with a definite otherworldly twist. Dealing with topics as diverse as wizardly home security, ghosts in the walls, and supernatural building permits, these stories include both series-related tales and stand-alone yarns. Although paranormal anthologies are not usually my favorite books, this one includes several top-notch stories, particularly those by Victor Gischler, Patricia Briggs, Heather Graham, Melissa Marr, and Toni L. P. Kelner. My two favorites were those by Stacia Kane and Seanan McGuire.

Charlaine Harris: "If I Had a Hammer" (an all-new SOOKIE STACKHOUSE story) 
     So-so story: Sookie, Sam, Tara, and J. B. attempt a renovation project to make more room for Tara and J. B.'s twin babies, but are stymied when they inadvertently unearth a ghost who has his own agenda. (I would have loved to have seen Pam wielding a hammer on this project.) (Click HERE to go to my review of the SOOKIE STACKHOUSE Series.)

Victor Gischler: "Wizard Home Security" 
     Good story with a satisfying ending: A wizard takes a few shortcuts on his home security system and learns the hard way that when magic is involved, it's never good to skimp on personal protection.

Patricia Briggs: "Gray"
      Good story: A vampire returns to renovate and live in an apartment she live in decades earlier. As construction begins, she has a run-in with the local vampire leader and a reunion with the ghost of her dead husband.

Rochelle Krich: "Squatters' Rights" 
     Not one of my favorites: When a couple moves into their new home, the wife begins to hear noises in the wall and voices in her head. We know from the get-go that this renovation project will end badly.

> Heather Graham: "Blood on the Wall" 
     Good story with a nice twist to the ending: A New Orleans cult leader accused of murder is forced to team up with the private investigator he has been harassing in order to find the real killer.  Here, the home improvement project takes place in a mausoleum. 

>  James Grady: "Mansion of Imperatives" 
     In a typical horror-story set-up, five people head for a haunted house in the woods during a blizzard to start a renovation. It's kind of like The Evil Dead without the humor.

Melissa Marr: "The Strength Inside"
      Good story with a great ending: Bori sisters are attempting to raise their younger siblings and need to build a wall to keep them under control. The problem comes when the homeowners' association's annoying president won't approve their proposal. The ending is very satisfying, particularly if you've ever run up against a petty bureaucrat who misuses his or her power.

>  E. E. Knight: "Woolsley's Kitchen Nightmare" 
     In this weird story, which teems with supernatural beings, a supernatural Gordon Ramsay clone attempts to set a strange restaurateur on a profitable path, that includes a few structural improvements.
 

Seanan McGuire: "Through This House" (from the OCTOBER DAYE series; takes place between Late Eclipses and One Salt Sea
     My favorite story in this book: Toby's friends come to her aid as she attempts to take ownership of the knowe of Goldengreen (Toby's gift from the Queen of the Mists), but they must first overcome some rather violent resistance from the current residents. (Click HERE to go to my review of the OCTOBER DAYE Series.)

>  S. J. Rozan: "The Path" 
     My least favorite story in this book: An extremely shy and timid guardian spirit helps to reclaim a lost artifact that will allow him to continue his reincarnated path through life. The "home improvement" in this story takes place in an ancient cave. Too much talk and not enough action.   

> Stacia Kane: "Rick the Brave" (from the CHESS PUTNAM/DOWNSIDE GHOSTS Series, one of my all-time favorite series) 
     One of my favorites: Rick is a naive human trying to earn enough money to get out of debt, but he gets in over his head when the building he is renovating turns out to be full of monstrous, deadly ghosts. Luckily for him, Terrible and Chess come to his rescue. (Click HERE to go to my review of the CHESS PUTNAM/DOWNSIDE GHOSTS Series.)

 Suzanne McLeod: "Full-Scale Demolition" (from the SPELLCRACKERS series; set 6 months before The Sweet Scent of Blood) 
     Genny Taylor is a Sidhe fae who can't cast spells, but can crack (i.e., break) them. In this story, Genny is asked to rid a home of pixies, but that turns out to be a ploy to involve her in a much deadlier scheme that plays out in a house that is in the middle of a renovation. (Click HERE to go to my review of the SPELLCRACKERS Series.)
  
Simon R. Green: "It's All in the Rendering"
     In this typically offbeat and humorous tale, Green tells the story of Peter and Jubilee Caine, who are the caretakers of a safe house (at 13 Daemon Street) that exists in both the mortal and the supernatural realms. When they are threatened by both a human and an elven housing inspector, they must figure out how to prevent the destruction of their home.            

Tony L. P. Kelner: "In Brightest Day" 
     Great story with a humorously twisted ending: A young and irreverent houngan (i.e., voodoo priestess) must keep reanimating a revenant so that he can finish his last architectural project. Then, she has to justify her actions to Tante Ju-Ju and the voo doo council.

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