Thursday, August 1, 2013

Audio Review: Carniepunk


CarniepunkAuthors: Rachel Caine, Seanan McGuire, Kevin Hearne, Rob Thurman et al.
Release date: July 23rd 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Audible

Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world. . . .

RACHEL CAINE’s vampires aren’t child’s play, as a naïve teen discovers when her heart leads her far, far astray in “The Cold Girl.” With “Parlor Tricks,” JENNIFER ESTEP pits Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, against the Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns. SEANAN McGUIRE narrates a poignant, ethereal tale of a mysterious carnival that returns to a dangerous town after twenty years in “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea.” KEVIN HEARNE’s Iron Druid and his wisecracking Irish wolfhound discover in “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” that the impossibly wholesome sounding Kansas Wheat Festival is actually not a healthy place to hang out. With an eerie, unpredictable twist, ROB THURMAN reveals the fate of a psychopath stalking two young carnies in “Painted Love.”
Carnivals! As someone who dislikes crowds and cheap, unhealthy food, I must admit I am not a fan. But in the hands of my favorite urban fantasy authors, even a carnival can become the most exhilarating thing. Leave it to Rob Thurman, Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Rachel Caine, Allison Pang, Hillary Jacques, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Gay and Seanan McGuire to make even crowds seem suddenly appealing.

It seems that Kevin Hearne functions much better in the short story format. Deprived of the chance to indulge in long and dull mythology lectures, he focuses on his characters and action. In his story, Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon visit Granuaile’s home town in disguise, but instead of family, they end up facing demons. Oberon plays a pretty big role in the story and he is as entertaining as ever so fans of the Irish Wolfhound have a lot to look forward to.

I gave up on the Elemental Assassin series ages ago, when things between Gin and Owen became unnecessarily complicated, but I must admit I enjoyed Parlor Tricks, Jennifer Estep’s contribution to this anthology. In it, Gin and her sister Bria search for a missing girl, last seen visiting the carnival the previous night. Those who follow the series and know about the strained relationship between the sisters will thoroughly enjoy their easy banter and partnership in this story. And of course, as a special treat, Gin’s sarcasm gets unleashed as her disdain for carnivals comes to light.

Hell’s Menagerie by Kelly Gay brings us back to the amazing Charlie Madigan series. I was devastated when this series ended so a short story from Rex’s perspective was like a balm for my wounds. Rex was always my favorite and his relationship with Emma never failed to bring a smile to my face. This story takes place during Charlie’s quest to Elysia (no spoilers), so it’s just Rex and Emma, saving their exotic hellhound puppies from a traveling circus.

The Jane True story doesn’t focus on Jane or Anyan, but on the secondary (well, tertiary) characters Capitola, Moo and Shar. The girls are investigating a rather interesting case that takes them straight to a carnival. The story is told in Capitola’s point of view and is both energetic and hilarious.

Another noteworthy story is The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry. Transsexuals, sex reassignment surgeries, hysterical pregnancies, all in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Sounds interesting? I thought so. The first half of this story is an exercise in hilarity, and the second half combines humor, gore and non stop action. My recommendation? Read it, or better yet, listen to it. The narrator contributed a great deal to Mark Henry’s brisk humor.

And while we’re on the subject of narrators, Carniepunk is narrated by Candace Thaxton and Kirby Heyborne. They alternate in narrating stories and they’re equally good. Both their voices are pleasant and unobtrusive. The only advantage Ms. Thaxton has over her colleague is her talent for accents. She is far more adaptable in that regard.

I’ve only mentioned the stories that stood out in some way, but I enjoyed every one of them, which is SO rare with anthologies. In fact, I dare say this is the best anthology I've ever come across. I highly recommend Carniepunk to all urban fantasy fans, and if you get a chance, do yourselves a favor and get the audiobook.


19 comments:

  1. I saw that you were reading this and I was really curious about your thoughts. You see I have heard of all of these authors but haven't read anything by any of them. So I should read this one and get to meet all. :D That's my theory and I see you liked the book so I'll probably go for it. Great review Maja :)

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  2. I just finished this one and have to agree! I really enjoyed these stories, even though I was creeped out by most of them. Clowns...*shudder*

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  3. This definitely sounds like a winner of an anthology Maja! I love that you enjoyed every single story, that's never happened to me with an anthology, but these are some outstanding authors so it doesn't surprise me that each contribution was solid. I adore Gin, though I agree things with Owen turned in a direction I didn't care for, so I'm most excited to see what she and Bria get up to!

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  4. I am actually looking forward to this one, I couldn't resist grabbing it the other day. I am so glad that while all of them weren't perfect (they never are in anthologies) that you did enjoy them!

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  5. Ooh sounds great. I'm glad you found all the stories to be enjoyable as that's quite rare for an anthology. Mark Henry's story sounds fascinating! I might need to check this out just for that one.

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  6. I've been wanting to read this one, but my library does not have it. And I love audios :) All the stories sounds amazing! Great review.

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  7. I have this one waiting at the bookstore! I ordered it but haven't had a chance to stop by to pick it up, so I'll be doing that Saturday, for sure. I'm so excited to read all these stories! I'm most excited for Kevin Hearne's, just cause I love his books, but I'm glad that there's no lengthy mythology explanation stuff. Can't wait to read this!

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  8. This has been on my radar and um yes, going to pick it up for sure, I loved that you enjoyed them all!

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  9. I so agree with all of this! Ah I am curious now about it on audio. It has been my fave anthology I have read! Anyone who loves UF so needs this one! Oh and me and Gin agree on clowns. *shivers* :)

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  10. This is actually my first time hearing about this one. O_O I enjoy urban fantasy and I really like the sound of the stories, especially The Sweeter the Juice. It sounds hilarious! But, I am really looking forward to meeting all the characters. They sound fantastic, and really easy to appreciate! I definitely need to check this one out soon...The only thing holding me back is the fact that carnivals have clowns. Honestly, ever since I saw the clown episode of Supernatural..I don't think I have EVER looked at a clown picture. :// Glad you enjoyed this though, Maja! Great review! :D

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair 

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  11. This sounds like an anthology I'm willing to try. I'm not such a fan of short stories, because they are so short :p but I think I might like these! Great review :)

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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  12. I received a finished copy of this in the mail but sent it to Heidi since I wasn't interested. It does sound like something I'd enjoy, though, so maybe once I familiarize myself with these authors a little more I'll be more interested in this. Wonderful review, Maja - it's always tough to review short story collections!

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  13. I don't have very good luck with Analogies, I usually buy the individual short stories if available, but this one sounds really good. The only author I recognize is Rachel Caine but I'm very interested in reading the Jennifer Estep story. Great review, Maja. I might get it from the library.

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  14. Yeah! So happy to hear that you enjoyed all the stories. This is my next read after I finish the two short Jesse Petersen books I am working on. I don't think I could listen to the Hearne story since it isn't narrated by Luke Daniels. Luke has totally spoiled me and I am in love with his voice.

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  15. I love anthropologies. This one sounds particularly awesome. All those authors are great and since you enjoyed them -- even though you don't usually enjoy anthropologies -- only encourages me all the more! Great review :)

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  16. I like the sound of this. I haven't read any of the work by these authors and I think this is a great way for me to sample their writing style. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. I'm generally not a fan of anthologies, and although I'm slightly tempted to pick this one up now, I don't think I will really end up reading it all. I'm glad you enjoyed it though! Funnily enough, I actually quite like carnivals, even though I too dislike crowds and greasy food. Or maybe it's just the idea of it... Lovely review, Maja!

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  18. These sound kind of creepy, but in a good way (I am totally creeped out by carnies, clowns, and anything in that wheelhouse). So glad to hear you enjoyed this! I'll probably save this for when I'm caught up on some of these series, but it's good to know each of the stories is enjoyable. Lovely review!

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  19. I picked this one up in print. I can't wait till things calm and I can get to reading it. :) Thank you!

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