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Review: Home Improvement: Undead Edition

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Home Improvement: Undead EditionHome Improvement: Undead Edition
edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner
Published: Aug. 2, 2011 (Penguin)
Purchase at: Book Depository, B&N or Amazon

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

I have a hit-or-miss record with anthologies, especially those including more than five stories. However, Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner consistently manage to pull together a quality collection of short stories. I think part of what helps is the themes. This time out the duo asked their writer friends to write an urban fantasy story with an element of home improvement involved. In some cases, it was home security, others renovations and even fighting with the home owners’ association.

I was excited for a new Sookie Stackhouse story. I like Sook, and I liked Harris’ short story in this anthology. In “If I Had a Hammer,” we found Sam and Sookie helping Tara and J.B. renovate their house in the name of a bit more room with the twins. There’s a bloody back story and a psychic involved. It’s cute and quick, and despite the lack of Eric, I enjoyed it. Though, I must admit, if you weren’t already familiar with Sookie and her world, it may lack context for you.

Instead of giving you a play-by-play of Home Improvement, I’ll just hit the highlights. Above all the others, there were three stories that stood out to me as the best: Melissa Marr’s “The Strength Inside,” Patricia Brigg’s “Gray” and Stacia Kane’s “Rick the Brave.”

Melissa Marr gives us a taste of the fae with her tale of Bori sisters raising two littles. The young Bori may look like teenagers, but are developmentally toddlers. Lacking impulse control when it comes to snatching birds and the like in the new neighborhood could be dangerous, and so the sisters seek to build a fence. Unfortunately, the head of the home owners’ association doesn’t much care for them.

The juxtaposition of feral fae attempting to mainstream in the ‘burbs is both creepy and touching. Marr’s “The Strength Inside” had me rapt from beginning to end. It might be worth the cost of Home Improvement: Undead Edition for this story alone.

Patricia Briggs went a different route, while there is a big remodeling project in her tale, “Gray” is really about a vampire seeking redemption from a lost love while claiming what’s hers. There’s a heavy theme of vampire territoriality and a touch of heartache.

Finally, Stacia Kane’s “Rick the Brave” made me all sorts of happy. You don’t need to have read the Downside Ghosts books to appreciate this one, but those longing for a Terrible or Chess fix will be pleased.

Terrible’s hired guys for a bit of no-questions-asked renovation. When Rick and his peer’s work opens a portal to the City of the Dead, the others flee. Rick and Terrible fend off ghosts while waiting for Chess to arrive. In the middle of trying to stay alive, Rick tries to hit on Chess. Terrible isn’t pleased, but you’ll get a laugh out of it. Those who have read through City of Ghosts will enjoy seeing Terrible and Chess interact. Only downside (no pun intended) is the story has me itching for Sacrificial Magic something fierce.

While I read most of this anthology, I skipped “Through This House” by Seanan McGuire. She’s fantastic, don’t get me wrong. Her story features October Daye, and I am not caught up on the series. The opening of the story gave back story that felt spoiler-y, so I skipped ahead. But I’d be willing to wager it’s excellent. I have yet to be disappointed by her.

On a side note, I really would love if they included spoiler alerts in anthologies. Like, just give me a heads up. “This story takes place after book X” would go far.

6 Responses to “Review: Home Improvement: Undead Edition”

  1. Smash Attack says:

    I think this one sounds hella fun. Thanks for the great review.

  2. I really like these anthologies. Or I guess what I like is the return of short stories because they are perfect for reading on the commute bus. This has some great authors.

  3. Anna says:

    I’ve only read the first story, the Charlaine Harris one so far (just bought it Tuesday after reading your review). I think it was one of her best short stories yet. She does great mysteries, with just the right amount of clues. The lack of Eric and the prevalence of good-guy Sam did make me a little nervous for the next book, though!

  4. I think adding spoiler alerts is a great idea. I’ll discuss it with Charlaine for our next anthology. (School bells ring next time in AN APPLE FOR THE CREATURE.)

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Just FYI, I was reading the galleys for the next anthology Charlaine and I have edited, and this time there are spoiler alerts in the about-the-author notes which precede each story.

    Not every contributor provided them, but most series stories have something like, “This story comes between Book X and Book Y.”

  6. Jessie says:

    Help!
    I REALLY enjoyed some of these stories and REALLY disliked some. I picked up a couple of new books from great stories in this though and have reread some.

    I need some help though – I REALLY enjoyed Kelner’s story. I know nothing about Kelner though and while I’ve looked on her page I don’t see any other stories/books about the girl in that story. Was that a one time hit or is there more? I want more please!!

    Thanks!

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