24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2007
If you are a fan of Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan Series, this book is worth the price for Harrison's story alone. A prequel to the series, "Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" is a much better stand-alone, than Harrison's Ivy prequel in anthology Dates From Hell, but it is even better for fans of the series. This story reminded me of how much I liked the series before the disappointing last book For a Few Demons More .
Harrison's "Two Ghosts" shows an eighteen year old Rachel, still struggling to overcome the disease that almost killed her as a child and beginning to discover her true power as she strives to garner the support she needs to meet her goal of becoming an Inderland Security runner like her late father. For fans, there is some real insight into what drives Rachel in later books. For newbies, there is still a great story, where Rachel will have to push past her limits to save two souls, one already dead and one soon to be if she fails.
I also enjoyed Lynsay Sand's contribution, "Run, Run, Rudolph". This is a follow on to the "Claire Switch Project" (also from Dates from Hell) and stars Jill who is caught in the same shapeshifter ray that brought both her brother Kyle and her best friend Claire love and trouble. Sand's story is silly at times but is still a fun romance. Jill somehow manages to make all her Christmas wishes starring handsome Nick come true, while shapeshifting to try and avoid an evil scientist who wants to use her as a lab specimen.
Marjorie Liu's effort was fine but I prefer her longer Dirk & Steele novels to her short stories. The heroine, Six, is has been trained since childhood as kind of a special ops agent for the Chinese government, but has hit a snag in her latest mission when she runs afoul of vampires. Six is saved by a sexy necromancer but not before being infected. Not truly understanding why, she gives up the only life she has ever known and discovers a love that may mean her salvation. There was romance here but it was too rushed to have much depth, but the basic storyline was interesting and I wouldn't mind seeing another story with these characters.
The final story, "The Harvest" by Vicki Pettersson is a prequel to her Zodiac series. It really captures the flavor of her other books (The Scent of Shadows (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 1) and The Taste of Night (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 2)) even in this short format. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this series but this was is a nice little fill-in giving a little more background on characters from the series, Warren, Tulpa, and Joanna's mother Zoe the former Zodiac archer, as Zoe tries to rescue Joanna's child stolen by the Shadow agents. There is a touch of bittersweet romance and I couldn't help but feel sorry for Zoe who has spent her entire life sacrificing love for duty and the fight against evil.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques
Whether your preference is Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas, or New Year's, you'll find a paranormal adventure here to suit your spirit.
Kim Harrison shows us in Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel what happens when a spell to call a ghost goes haywire and brings the wrong one to you. Rachel Morgan is a teenager trying to prove she has what it takes to make it in her dream job at Inderland Security, in spite of her frequent illness growing up. When her brother challenges her, Rachel is determined to win, no matter what, even if it means fighting vampires.
If you are a fan of her Hollows series, or as in my case, are new to the series, you'll enjoy this prequel. Rachel is a spirited young woman full of spunk who won't take no for an answer, even when it means running around on the night of the Solstice celebration to help a young girl in danger. Rachel even gets to experience a little love and romance with the ghost she accidentally summons, which adds a little touch poignancy to the story.
Lynsay Sands gives us a humorous take on a psycho stalkers obsessed with studying shape shifting abilities, even if it means said stalker has to trick people into "participating" in his scheme in Run, Run Rudolph. Here we meet Jill, who is tricked into being blasted with a shape shifting ray while babysitting her niece. Now she's on the run just when her love life finally seems to be heating up neighbor store owner, Nick, in time for them to play Mr. and Mrs. Claus in the annual Christmas parade.
This story is a sequel to a novella featured in the book Dates from Hell. Having not read the previous story I still followed along fairly well, though I was missing the back story on why our villain was so desperate to trap Jill and use her in his science experiments. We had a very enjoyable, and funny, story here nonetheless and I'm going to now have to go read the preceding story. I especially loved watching Jill come to terms with her new ability and how to control it, when constantly changing her appearance (even becoming a reindeer at one point!)
Marjorie M Liu has us spend Chinese New Year with a young government agent who unwittingly finds herself caught up in a war against soul sucking vampires in Six. Orphaned at a young age, all Six has ever known is her training and later her career as a government agent. When her latest mission introduces her to hideous soul stealing vampires, her only aid is in the form of a sinfully seductive necromancer who has his own job to fulfill where the vampires are concerned.
This story probably had the most romance of any in the book. Be forewarned however, if you are a fan of the Dirk & Steele series, Six is completely different from the stories found there. This is a very dark and gritty story though it still showcases Liu's incredible talent for word building and character development. I've come to love Liu's books and found Six to be quite captivating, though I could see it working a little better as a longer novel.
Lastly, the story I was most waiting for, Vicki Pettersson's The Harvest rounds out the collection. Pettersson gives us a prequel to her Zodiac series when former Light Agent Zoe must spend Thanksgiving trying to rescue her granddaughter from her greatest enemy and leader of the Shadow Zodiac, the Tulpa, who happens to be the grandfather of this special child.
I love the Zodiac series and have been waiting for this story since I read the first two books earlier this year. I knew Zoe was a fascinating person and had so much story to tell. The Harvest only scratches the surface of Zoe's complex life, but it was enough to satisfy this eager fan, at least for a little while. Another added bonus was discovering more about Warren, the leader of the Light Zodiac. This story sheds a lot of light on his reasons for treating Joanna the way he does in the other books in the series. However, while fans of the story will be sucked right in, readers who are new to Pettersson's world may find themselves confused here and there, trying to keep all the details straight.
Holidays Are Hell is a wonderful collection of paranormal holiday tales. Keep in mind that while this is not a romance anthology, we do have a bit of romance in every story, some more than others. What a perfect book to read when needing some relaxation during the hectic holiday season.
© Kelley A. Hartsell, December 2007. All rights reserved.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2007
I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but these were long enough to be satisfying. Unfortunately, except for Harrison's novella, that was where the satisfaction stopped. Harrison's "Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" provided interesting backstory and a very different view of the heroine from her popular "Hallows" novels. This is a good coming-of-age story that kept me interested from start to finish. Kudos to Harrison for successfully re-imagining Rachel, and for showing readers something of the special culture of the Hallows.
The other three authors in this anthology have apparently been published before, but I've never read any of their work and I certainly won't be looking for them, based on the stories published here. Lynsay Sands ("Run Run Rudolph") starts with a completely unbelievable premise, and continues with dull characters and a predictable plot. While boredom set in quickly, I made it about three quarters of the way through before paralysis of the brain cells forced me to quit reading. Marjorie Liu's much edgier "Six" looked interesting at first, until it became clear that there was no substance behind the noir-ish surface. Vicki Petterson's "The Harvest" started dull and continued boring; IF she's published a novel featuring these characters and IF you've read it, the novella might be more interesting, but if like me you're unfamiliar with her work, this is not an enticing introduction.
If you're willing to get one good novella for the price of four, buy this book. Otherwise, put the price toward the next Kim Harrison novel.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2008
Not a fan of short stories, I nevertheless bought this book because of Kim Harrison. I'm behind on reading her Rachel Morgan series and thought this would be a good way to get back into it. Turns out it was an excellent way -- this short look at Rachel's background was extremely well done. If I hadn't already been into the Morgan series, this story would have been enough to make me seek out Harrison's full-length novels.
The Lynsay Sands contribution was too superficial. She had a neat plot idea, but her characters seem like they could be cut and pasted out of any average romance novel. Even though it was short, I got bored with the story and skipped to the end so I could get to the next author.
Which turned out to be Marjorie M. Liu, with a story set in China. A no-nonsense woman, raised by the government to be a human weapon and known only as "Six," meets a mysterious man with unusual abilities and has to partner up with him to battle vampires -- and try to avoid becoming one herself. Six is an awesome fighter, the kind of character that often sucks authors into making them too perfect (the "Mary Sue" syndrome). Liu resisted the temptation, though, and even in a short story still managed to give readers insight into Six's vulnerabilities and desires. I've never read Liu before but will definitely try one of her full-length novels next.
Vicki Pettersson was another new author for me. Apparently her story in this collection is part of her "Sign of the Zodiac" series. Readers who require a "happily ever after" ending will be disappointed, but I like the fact that she didn't try to cram such an ending in. I don't know all the rules of her Zodiac universe and its good-versus-evil superhumans. Maybe in a longer Zodiac novel she could have worked her characters around to that point, but the point where she left her characters at the end of this tale felt very honest. It also felt like it was laying the foundation for a sequel, so maybe the happily-ever-after readers will get their wish in a later installment.
Overall, the book was worth buying. I'm going to get back into reading Harrison's Rachel Morgan series next, but I'll definitely check out Liu's and Pettersson's other works too.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Holiday Are Hell is a collection of four novellas by four different authors.
Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel is by Kim Harrison, and part of her Hollows urban fantasy series. This is a well written back story of Rachel Morgan, a young witch, and one of the three main characters of the series. Her dream is to become an officer of the supernatural police force like her deceased father. But she is a bit too young, and still recuperating from a near fatal disease. Her older brother promises to sign the permission papers if she can cast an advanced spell. What happens when Rachel tries the spell is unexpected, and leads to all sorts of problems. I love the Hollows story, and got this anthology just to read this story, and was not dissappointed in it.
Run, Run Rudolph by Lynsay Sands is a light hearted and funny novella about a woman who suddenly gains the ability to shape change, and the mad scientist who is determined to capture her for study. Helping her out is her big crush, a sexy local businessman. This is a sequel to the author's funny story in Dates From Hell.
Six by Marjorie M. Liu is the story of a Chinese government agent who must join forces with a necromancer to fight vampires. I wasn't too sure about his one. It had promise, but not enough to make me go seek out other stories by this author. I am unsure of whether or not this is tied to a series.
The Harvest by Vicki Petersson is part of her Zodiac urban fantasy series. This one did not do much for me, as I did not particularly like the main character or the world - an alternate Earth where super heroes fight on the part of good or evil. However, since this is part of a series which I have not read, it is quite likely that I am not getting full value out of the story. I am sure that people more familiar with the author and series would probably get a lot more out of the story than I did.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"Holidays Are Hell", an anthology of four different short stories by various authors, suffers the same problem as most other anthologies. The stories have varying degrees of sucess. The theme here is obviously the holidays and unfortunately most of the stories could have been written before the theme was decided and the authors could rewrite a few lines mentioning its the holidays and voila...their short stories fit the theme. Only the short story by Lyndsay Sands, and maybe the first story by Kim Harrison, truly feel like the holidays are a part of the main theme.
The first story is Kim Harrison's anchor story featuring her Hollows character Rachel Morgan. In "Two Ghosts For Rachel Mogan", we get to visit with a younger Rachel Morgan, fresh out of school. Rachel's brother Robbie is in town for the Holidays and makes her a deal that she can't do a high level spell to raise the ghost of their deceased father. Rachel definately does raise something, and the action has its consequences. This was a fun story that fit the short story format fairly well. I found all the background and up close look at her family beneficial and I think it will add to my experience continuing the Hollows series. I don't know how many new readers would be as fond of the story as I was. I give it 4 stars.
Lynsay Sand's "Run Run Rudolph" was the suprise hit of this volume. I enjoy her "Argeneau" vampire series to some extent, and I expected this to be very similar. Not so much. In this story, Jill finds herself being stalked by someone who wants to study and experiment on her because she has recently become a shapeshifter. Desperate to not be caught, Jill finds herself on a race through a Christmas parade, through stores, and more, changing her shape often (and sometimes in a quite funny manner). For whatever reason, this story truly worked for me. While I would love to read more about Jill, this feels like a completed story to me. I give this one 5 stars.
I barely made it through Marjorie M Liu's story "Six". Six is a government agent trained her whole life to be tough. Suddenly she is thrown for a loop when she runs into a man who seems to be on the same side as she is, but doing it a different way. When she is infected by a vampire, she has to put all her trust in Joseph to save her. Unfortunately this story was dull. I never got a good hand on what exactly Six was and how she got in that position. The idea seemed pretty good, so I guess just the execution was not so hot. I haven't read this author before, but planned to. Now I am not sure. 2 stars.
The final story is "The Harvest" by Vicki Pettersson. It is a prequel of sorts to her Signs of the Zodiac series. Since I have read the first two novels in this series, I found the story to be very interesting. It answered some questions and left some more, that I hope will be expanded on in further volumes. This is definitely a don't miss for Zodiac fans...but if you haven't been introduced to this world, I am afraid readers may be somewhat lost. While Pettersson does make an attempt to 'set up' her world here, it seems to be a mix match of ideas and not a full blown explanation of the "Light" and "Dark" signs and their history. I felt the first story in the series made a better attempt to explain the complex world, and it took me to the second book to fully understand the entire set up. Maybe, new readers will be confused enough to also be intrigued enough to start the series. For my own enjoyment of the story I give "The Harvest" four stars. I would probably give it a 3 for someone who has never read the Zodiac series yet.
This still is an anthology well worth picking up if you are a paranormal or urban fantasy fan. It has four well known authors and even if you pick and choose the stories you want to read, it seems worth the money to purchase. This would be a 3 1/2 star book overall, if I could rate it that way.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2007
This is a totally incredible book. We have four major authors who are writing stories that either contribute to their leading series or are writing a new one. Harrison writes of a younger Rachel, Pettersson writes of Joanna's mother at a time when she was just a teenager and the others develop a different story all together. All get tied to the holidays, ones that we know and some that we may not know. It is awesome read, especially since we are in the holiday season now. All fans of any of these authors should seriously consider adding this to their collection.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2008
This was a compilation of four novellas edited by Kim Harrison. Overall I thought it was a great set of stories. I zipped through this book so fast. My favorite story was the Kim Harrison one; my least favorite Six by Liu.
- Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel by Kim Harrison
This was a great prequel to the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison. It was a lovely stand alone story, but had more impact if you have read that series. It was fun to read about a younger Rachel who is still struggling to recover from Rosewood syndrome and trying to decide if she should join the IS or not. It was nice to read about a time in her life that helped get her to where she is at the start of the series. Great quality of writing, excellent, just like all of Kim Harrison's stories.
- Run, Run Rudolph by Lynsay Sands
This story was a surprise for me. It was funny, light-hearted, and I really liked it. I have never read anything by Lynsay Sands before. I liked her light writing style. There is nothing heavy or contemplative here, but it was a fun read all the same. I might check out more of her writing based on this story. Basically it tells about a woman who gets zapped by a molecular experimental machine and can change shape. She ends up being hunted from someone from her brother's past and what ensues is pretty funny.
- Six by Marjorie M. Liu
This was my least favorite story. I have never read anything by Liu before. This story was about a Chinese agent, your basic trained from birth assassin, and how she ends up getting involved in the paranormal community. Liu did a good job of switching writing style when she switched character perspective. Still, I didn't care for the writing style and I though the heroine was a bit boring.
The Harvest by Vicki Pettersson
This was a prequel to the Signs of the Zodiac by Vicki Pettersson. The story is told from Zoe Archer's (Joanna's mom) point of view. It tells us more about what happened to Joanna's daughter and gives interesting insight into both Zoe's relationship with the Tulpa and her relationship with Warren (the leader of the Light Zodiac). I am not sure how good of a stand-alone story this is; but if you have read some of Pettersson's books you will absolutely love this story. It explains so much about why Zoe did what she did and sheds a lot of Light on why Warren and Joann interact the way they do.
All in all a great combination of stories. I plan on ordering some of the other Hell compilations that have been edited by Harrison. Hopefully those will be as high of quality as this book was.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a set of nearly novella length shorts which overall rates a 4. The stories are:
Kim Harrison; Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel.
Here Rachel deals more with her family and some of her background. Her older brother wants her to move to the coast with him and take advanced classes in witch craft and she wants to join Interlander Security (IS). This book lacks the more detailed world building of the first in the series but can be read as a starting point for the series. Good characters good plot with a decent twist; almost imposable to do better in a short. 4 stars+
Lynsay Sands; Run, Run, Rudolph.
Here the author is still having fun with her Molecular Destablizer (if you zap a human with it they become a chameleon able to change into any thing that they can visualize). But they have no information about that thing. Very funny and well written plot is pretty linear which is why it only rates 4 stars.
Marjorie M. Liu; Six.
This would make a great plot for a movie like "Crouching Tiger Sleeping Dragon" as it has all the characters. The orphaned super martial artist agent (shades of Rudyard Kipling), the mentally powerful mysterious guru, the grandmother etc. This would have gotten a 5 star rating as the plot is good as is the humor and characters. But the ending simply leaves too much up in the air with the organization.
Vicki Peterson; The Harvest.
This story uses a world with Zodiac characters that isn't really developed although the plot and characters are well done it is just too much for a short but is better than average and deserves 3 stars.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2007
With a title like this, you know you have to indulge in this fun anthology. It's just such a spot on assessment that between that and the authors listed, you're bound to get your money's worth. Admittedly, half the stories were difficult to impossible to get into. Marjorie Liu's Six was edgy and action filled, but not something I cared for, though it was clearly well written. Set in her Zodiac universe, with which I am barely familiar, Vickie Petterson's Harvest will be a stocking stuffer treat for her fans, but if you are not one already, you'll be a fish out of water. Okay, the griping is over with, now I can gush. Lynsay Sands' Run, Rudolph, Run is a sheer delight, telling the tale of a very unusual shape shifter running for her life and finding out the truth about the man she's had a crush on for ages. I would dearly love to have seen this be a novel length book. Shape shifter books are enjoyable, but very few put a new spin on the paradigm. This is the freshest take on the genre I have ever seen. Combined with the author's wit, it's a guaranteed smile producer. Hollows' fans will be more than pleased with Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel. No, don't get worried that all Rachel Morgan's been through has had her follow Shakespeare's advice to "get thee to ta convent." This gives us more back-story on our favorite witch, showing us the conflict she underwent with her brother and mother in order to gain the right to join the I.S., in the process learning how strong she truly is. I will admit I missed Jenks being in this, but getting a visit from the mental friend Rachel has become is something to celebrate. Now, I just have to be patient while I wait for her next adventure. I do hope all you readers have been good so Santa will bring this to your stocking, but if not and you get coal, buy it anyway.