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I Belong

Review: Carniepunk Anthology

CarniepunkTitle: Carniepunk

Author: Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire , Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Meding, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Hillary Jacques, Nicole Peeler, Jackie Kessler

Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy

Series: Iron Druid Chronicles 4.6, Hell on Earth 0.7, Abby Sinclair 0.5, Blud, Jane True, Charlie Madigan 4.5

Publication Date: July 23, 2013

Format: Paperback, 448 Pages

ISBN-10: 1476714150 (Simon & Schuster)

ISBN-13: 978-1476714158 (Simon & Schuster)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin


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.”

Quick & Dirty: This exciting carnival-themed anthology is a great book bursting with creative and original stories.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Painted Love – 5 out of 5 stars

Doodle travels, and watches. That’s what you learn right off the bat — nothing more, nothing less, other than his feelings about the world (which are masterfully described). He observes, and currently he hangs around Bart, a violent sociopath that wears a mask of handsome gentleman. But Bart has a plan that could hurt someone that Doodle has fallen in love with.

This was a great start to an anthology themed off carnivals. Instantly you feel the mood of the story, and you get deep insight to Doodle’s view of evil and good. It is unclear until the end how he manages to be allowed to hang around Bart constantly, which hooked me in and made me want to find out. It’s obvious he is no human, after all. This was one of my favorite reads from this whole book. The characters stuck in my mind even with the small amount of pages this story took up.

The Three Lives of Lydia – 3 out of 5 stars

Lydia is transported in front of a carnival that is bursting with Bludman (vampires), vicious animals, and Strangers, like her, that are not originally from this world. She is instantly recognized as completely layered in tattoos, something of an oddity back at home, and enters the entertaining place with Charlie, a Bludman.

This was okay, nothing amazing, but not horrible either. The love was a little rushed, but I really enjoyed the author’s way of telling the story and how Lydia’s personality was so distinct. Honestly, I wouldn’t have remembered this story so well if not for the ending, which is a tragic, unexpected turnout, but in a way made sense. Altogether, I enjoyed this, but not enough to get more than three stars.

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street – 4 out of 5 stars

The main character of this story is a druid, and he is at a carnival with his dog and his apprentice when he sees an attraction that seems…well, odd. An investigation leads to a lot of action, giving this an edge in the excitement value.

Well, when I first found out I would be reading a book that’s after the fourth Iron Druid book, I was worried about being confused. It was no problem, not at all. Everything was explained pristine clear! Another thing was that I felt the characters weren’t very unique — their personalities didn’t stand out. It didn’t really matter with all of the mystery and excitement the author incorporates, though, so altogether it wasn’t a big deal. I think that this was an intriguing plotline and I loved how the first sentence is something like “I’m scared of Kansas,” because it definitely hooked me in.

The Sweeter the Juice – 3 out of 5 stars

We start out with learning our character is a male, although he is making the transition to female slowly but surely. Jade Reynolds feels trapped in the wrong gender, but then her treatment is cut as her payment is overdue. Also at this time, a zombie apocalypse has taken over the world, adding another level of morbidity to Jade’s life of poverty, prejudice, and danger.

I don’t really have a concrete opinion on this story because there are so many parts of it and so many opinions; I can’t just cover the whole thing in one rating. However, I placed in somewhere in the middle, because I either really liked something or really didn’t. This book was like a cake, so many layers to it. There were Jade’s feelings about being caged — that was well done. There were the zombies — I wish I heard more about them, but other than that it was okay. I didn’t like the idea of Zed (a drug) much, and the ending was rather brief so it took me a minute of thinking to understand what had happened.

The Werewolf – 4 out of 5 stars

Brad’s wife is a werewolf, and Annie and Brad don’t have a stable relationship, but it gets by, until the carnival comes to town. I enjoyed this, especially the end. The author uses both Annie and Brad’s points of views, giving a reader insight to both of their feelings. This is a quick read that has a cocky, selfish villain that I really enjoyed. It’s lots of fun, and worth a read!

The Cold Girl – 5 out of 5 stars

Kiley is deeply in love with Jamie, has been for a long time, and she doesn’t see the warning signs until it’s too late. Her friends tried to tell her he was a jerk, probably cheating, but they didn’t know he was a murderer. Discovering this while at a carnival with him, she must fight for her life even as her heart is broken in two.

I loved this, and that’s all there is to it. While some of the other stories I said were favorites, this is my ultimate favorite. The author brilliantly describes Kiley’s love for Jamie and how it makes her naïve, and immediately makes you want to read more with the many incorporated foreshadowing hints. The antagonist was both the Cold Girl and Jamie, so you get adversity times two, making for an interesting, well-written story. Bravo!

A Duet with Darkness – 4 out of 5 stars

This short story is centered on a violinist, Melanie St. James, who ran away from home in order to be with her love interest, Nobu. She has more power than she knows, and she’s not the only one who wants to use it.

First let me announce that the writing style used in this story is gorgeous. This reminds me of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, although it’s unique in it’s own way. I loved the description, but the plot moved quickly at the end, so that it was a bit confusing and took away the fifth star. All in all, I still loved the story, and will be reading more of this author’s work.

Recession of the Divine – 2 out of 5 stars

Olivia is immediately noticed as supernatural — being associated with the Olympians who is living as a human, although you don’t know what she is until the end. She has powers, and some people want them for evil.

I didn’t like this very much. I just wasn’t interested and the plot seemed to move at a slow pace in the beginning, a fast pace in the end. Usually I love stories with Greek myths, but this didn’t capture my attention. I didn’t think Olivia had a very interesting point of view, and it was missing a critical uniqueness about it. I did like Thaila, another character, on the other hand. She had more personality and was funny, but it didn’t make up for the fact I don’t think this was a very good story.

Parlor Tricks — 5 out of 5 stars

Gin is an infamous assassin the  Spider by night, and owner of a resteraunt by day – she is also an elemental and sister to Bria, a detective. On a case to find Elizabeth, who went missing at a carnival, things get rather messy in an intriguing, action-packed tale.

This glued my eyes to the page from the first few paragraphs. I thought the plot, the way the author writes, it all came together to make a hilarious story that is worth reading. Gin, or “the Spider” has her own unique point of view, and I also adored Bria. I don’t know why I liked Bria so much, but I guess she has just the right mix of humor, intelligence, and seriousness to make me enjoy her. Definitely loved this, give it a read!

Freak House — 4 out of 5 stars

The daughter of a djinn, or genie, sets out to set her dad loose from a dark sorcerer who managed to capture him. Balthazar runs a show full of caged paranormal citizens (paras) that is reserved for only the richest.

The bond between daughter and father was really cute. The author seamlessly merges making sure the readers are confused, making sure it isn’t going too fast, and all the while not crossing the line to boring — I applaud this cohesion. I didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it, and there were a lot of cool creatures that were fun to hear about.

The Inside Man — 3 out of 5 stars

Capitola Jones runs an investigation business, and her next job is to discover who has been stealing the personalities and memories of various towns. And obviously, some searching leads them to the carnival.

Not a bad story, this was slightly uninteresting at the beginning, but got better as it moved along. Some moments were funny, so that’s a definite plus, and some were touching. The plot of the story was a good one, I just feel like it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. This is kind of in the middle on my mental scale.

A Chance in Hell — 3 out of 5 stars

The main character of this was originally living in hell, but now has a soul and a human body, and is being coached on human lifestyle by Ceci, her best friend. Dragged by Ceci to the carnival for some “human experiences,” she ends up with a more exciting day than she had planned.

I’d first like to point out that I had no idea that Daun (a demon) was considered a love interest until the very end. The short story starts out with Daun trying to steal her soul, after all, which doesn’t seem like the trustworthy aspect you would want in a future boyfriend. I thought that was a little stupid, but the story as a bigger picture wasn’t bad — for example, Ceci. I liked Ceci, as she was witty and hilarious, and I actually thought she was more fun of a character than any of the rest.

Hell’s Menagerie — 5 out of 5 stars

Emma and Rex own a hellhound named Brimstone, but after his pups are stolen, they go on a quest to take them back. Emma is such a sweet girl it makes me want to reach into the pages and hug her. Rex is funny, so I also saw the worth in him. Brimstone was strong, powerful, and let’s face it — he’s a dog, which gives him way more points in my book. The characters receive an A++! This was longer than the rest of the stories in this anthology, but in no way did that make it more boring. Rather, it left room for more action, and gave the author space to explain things fully. A great story and an enjoyable plotline left no room for dislike.

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea – 4 out of 5 stars

Ada is a mermaid, and so is her mother. She works at the carnival, where her mom is the main attraction. But she must stay out of the sea, stay dry: water wipes the memories of mermaids, and as long as she doesn’t get wet then she can keep her legs and hide her heritage. This had a cool, new idea. I really felt for Ada as she sees her mother’s memories of her slipping away even more every day, and I loved her uncle. There wasn’t much action, but the scenario of the water was enough to make up for that.


FTC Advisory: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Carniepunk. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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