Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Anthology of Birthday’s With Bite!

You’re invited to a celebration of vampires by a baker’s dozen of favorite authors. Sink your teeth into thirteen all-new, never-before-published stories, each one a fresh and unique take on the concept of what birthdays mean to the undead.

From cakes to stakes, a celebration of everyone's favorite bloodsucking subculture by a baker's dozen of favorite authors. Each of these thirteen original stories offers a fresh and unique take on what birthdays mean to the undead. From Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse attending a birthday party for Dracula to Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden battling bloodsucking party crashers, these suspenseful, surprising, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous stories will ensure paranormal fans will never think of vampires or birthdays quite the same again.

Title: Many Bloody Returns
Editor: Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner
Start & Finished: 1/19/09- 1/23/09
Published: 2007
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Pages: 355 (total)
Genre: Anthology- Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal

Birthdays, everyone has them… even your favorite fictional characters! For some, birthdays are a time of happiness and celebration; others well… not so much. Mainly mystery authors Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner (with a little paranormal thrown into many of Harris’ most recent works) are the editors of this collection of stories called Many Bloody Returns. In the introduction they explain how and why they chose this particular theme for their first anthology together: “We decided to pick two apparently unrelated concepts- vampires (the dead) and birthdays (celebrations of life) - and see what different ways some very talented writers could combine the two.”

This thoroughly unique and entertaining anthology contains stories by so many wonderful authors. Six of whom I had read before (some novels, some short stories) and six others of whom I expect to be reading more of in the future. There was only one story in the entire collection that I didn’t enjoy which is almost a miracle!

Title: Dracula Night
Author: Charlaine Harris
Pages: 20

In New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris’s “Dracula Night,” Sookie Stackhouse is the only human at the annual commemoration of Dracula’s birth. But this year, the Prince of Darkness actually shows up- and finds Sookie a tasty-looking present.

In the Sookie Stackhouse world created by Charlaine Harris, vampires only have two celebrations a year: Halloween of course, and a birthday, Vlad Tepes III- otherwise known as Dracula. Each year all the vampires get together and hope that the Count will put in an appearance (kind of like in The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown as one of the characters notes). Dracula Night is set between the seventh (All Together Dead) and eighth book (From Dead to Worse) in the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Eric Northman is my favorite vampire in Sookie’s world so it was nice to see him have center-stage even though he spends the entire story in hero-worship mode. Which is very, very odd to Sookie fans who know that “Eric [is] charming and enterprising, and he [takes] good care of his employees; but the first person on Eric’s admiration list was Eric.” I’m not saying that it’s really far outside of his character but it is far outside of the persona that the readers know. I think I agree with Sookie when she said it was endearing but at the same time a little scary. Very good story nonetheless but it makes me wish the next book in the series would hurry up and come out!

Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries:
1. Dead Until Dark (2001)
2. Living Dead in Dallas (2002)
3. Club Dead (2003)
4. Dead to the World (2004)
5. Dead as a Doornail (2005)
6. Definitely Dead (2006)
7. All Together Dead (2007)
8. From Dead to Worse (2008)
9. Dead and Gone (2009)
10. Cruel and Unusual (2009)

Related Posts: Grave Surprise, An Ice Cold Grave, Aurora Teagarden #1-4 & #5-8

Title: The Mournful Cry of Owls
Author: Christopher Golden
Pages: 28

A girl named Donika's sixteenth birthday is approaching and she is beginning to feel stranger and stranger with each day drawing nearer to the big date in Christopher Golden's The Mournful Cry of Owls. Her Albanian mother is starting to act odd as well so her only solace is her music, her boyfriend, and the woods. Golden is a science fiction and dark fantasy author (and co-author) of over nine different series and several novels as well.

You just know that there is going to be some kind of big revelation at the end of the story from the very beginning. How big of a revelation I wasn't quite sure but I thought it was interesting how the author used the Albanian folklore about the shtriga (a type of vampire) in such a modern setting. This was the first time I have ever read anything by Golden but I was intrigued by his use of folklore in the story and it makes me wonder how many of his other stories and novels include Old World myths...

Title: I Was a Teenage Vampire
Author: Bill Crider
Pages: 22

Anthony award-winning mystery author Bill Crider is the next person to contribute a vampire/ birthday story to the anthology. Called I Was a Teenage Vampire, it was obviously inspired by horror films from the 1950’s (I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, etc.). The story is about how Carleton’s sister talks him into asking the unpopular kid at school (Binky) into inviting the vampire he claims to knows to her party.

This was the first story that I didn’t really enjoy. Although it was well-written and was “complete“, I just didn’t really care about any of the characters. The audience knows ahead of time that Carleton will become a vampire and I think that took away from the story too. Also, to be honest, if it weren’t for the occasional curse word, I doubt this would even make it into the young adult genre as it seems to be more suited for ages 9-12.

Title: Twilight
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Pages: 26

In “Twilight,” Cassandra DuCharme, from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s Dime Store Magic, knows she has to kill too love as a vampire another year-- but finds herself disturbingly disinterested in the hunt.

Werewolves, half-demons, witches, warlocks, and vampires have all made appearances in Canadian author Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld urban fantasy series but some have larger parts than others do. Twilight takes place between the books No Humans Involved and Personal Demon and involves the vampires Cassandra and Aaron.

The second reason why I picked up this anthology was because of Ms. Armstrong's story since I'm a huge fan of her series. The vampires are the minor characters in her books but Aaron's "Rebirth" was the author's first online story so I knew enough about these particular vamps to be interested. Cassandra seemed kind of standoffish and snooty (or “imperious, pigheaded, and cranky”) through the eyes of everyone else so it was definitely interesting to be in her shoes finally but I think I prefer Aaron to her.

Women of the Otherworld Series:
1. Bitten (2001)
2. Stolen (2002)
3. Dime Store Magic (2003)
4. Industrial Magic (2004)
5. Haunted (2005)
6. Broken (2006)
7. No Humans Involved (2007)
8. Personal Demon (2008)
9. Living with the Dead (2008)
10. Frost Bitten (2009)

Related Posts: My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon, Dates from Hell

Title: It’s My Birthday, Too
Author: Jim Butcher
Pages: 45

New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher's crime-solving wizard Harry Dresden, of the Dresden Files novels, heads to a role-playing party to give his vampire brother a birthday present in "It's My Birthday, Too," only to discover there are some bloodthirsty party crashers who don't share their brotherly love.

Jim Butcher’s Chicago-based wizard Harry Dresden has become quite famous in the urban fantasy genre despite the fact that the TV show based on the series was cancelled after only a season. It’s My Birthday, Too features two different kinds of vampires- those from the Black Court and Harry’s brother Thomas is a White Court vampire. This story takes place between the books White Night and Small Favor.

I've read a few of Jim Butcher's short stories about his wizard Harry but so far I haven't managed to pick up any of the books in this extremely popular series. I was surprised then to discover that I could follow the story easily even though it references people and things that have happened in the novels. I really liked the vampire brother in this story too! The story was funny and very good too, I know I’ve said it before but this time I think I might actually go and get the rest of the books in this series.

Dresden Files Series:
0. Backup (2008)
1. Storm Front (2000)
2. Fool Moon (2000)
3. Grave Peril (2001)
4. Summer Knight (2002)
5. Death Masks (2003)
6. Blood Rites (2004)
7. Dead Beat (2005)
8. Proven Guilty (2006)
9. White Night (2007)
10. Small Favor (2008)
11. Turn Coat (2009)

Related Post: My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon

Title: Grave-Robbed
Author: P.N. Elrod
Pages: 29

National bestselling author P.N. Elrod’s hard-boiled vampire PI Jack Fleming, from The Vampire Files, infiltrates a suspicious séance on the eve of the dearly departed’s birthday in “Grave-Robbed.”

Set in Chicago during 1937, P.N. Elrod’s short story Grave-Robbed takes place between the last published book A Song in the Dark and the one the author is currently writing Dark Road Rising. It stars her main series character Jack Fleming who just happens to be a vampire with some very interesting abilities.

Another urban fantasy detective series that has been on my list of need-to-reads ever since I read Elrod’s short story in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon. From what I’ve read so far by Elrod, it reminds me a bit of Butcher’s series so I guess its only proper that this follows It’s My Birthday, Too! I really like the idea of a vampire PI and Jack has an interesting sense of humor too. This was a very good story, one of the best in the anthology!

Vampire Files Series:
1. Bloodlist (1990)
2. Lifeblood (1990)
3. Bloodcircle (1990)
4. Art in the Blood (1991)
5. Fire in the Blood (1991)
6. Blood on the Water (1992)
7. A Chill in the Blood (1998)
8. The Dark Sleep (1999)
9. Lady Crymsyn (2000)
10. Cold Streets (2003)
11. A Song in the Dark (2005)
12. Dark Road Rising (2009)

Title: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
Author: Rachel Caine
Pages: 24

Rachel Caine's young adult series The Morganville Vampires is set in a town run by vampires- not many of them good ones either. In The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, it's Eve Rosser's (a supporting character in the series) eighteenth birthday and she has an important decision to make: will she sign up with a new vampire patron and be Protected from being lunch (like a pet)? Or will she decide to try to go it alone. This story takes place before the first Morganville book Glass Houses.

After much deliberation, I finally read all of Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampire series and I thoroughly loved each one (although they are a bit too short). Eve is a great character in the series but she’s not the main character so the audience only knows her and her story through the eyes of Claire. I do kind of wish that I could read the whole series over for the first time again- it’s that good! Like with the novels, I wish the story had been a little longer- mainly because I hated leaving Morganville behind.

The Morganville Vampire Series:
1. Glass Houses (2006)
2. Dead Girl's Dance (2007)
3. Midnight Alley (2007)
4. Feast of Fools (2008)
5. Lord of Misrule (2008)
6. Carpe Corpus (2009)
7. Fade Out (2009)

Title: The Witch and the Wicked
Author: Jeanne C. Stein
Pages: 26

Dreaming about owning her own cosmetics line while catering a vampire birthday party, Sophie is a little perturbed when the birthday boy is reduced to ash… but not enough to keep her from using her new ingredient in her face cream! Written by the urban fantasy author Jeanne C. Stein, The Witch and the Wicked is set in her the same world as her Anna Strong Chronicles.

The world that this was set in was interesting but the idea of using vampire ash in a cosmetic cream creeped me out a little. I have never read one of Jeanne C. Stein's stories before but while I disliked the main character in this story (who thankfully isn't part of the main series); I was still a little disappointed in the way it ended because I wanted to know what happened next! I'm intrigued enough to think about trying more books by this author.

Title: Blood Wrapped
Author: Tanya Huff
Pages: 23

Tanya Huff has been writing paranormal novels since the late 1980s but probably her most popular books were those in the Victoria Nelson series written between 1991-1997. Recently her series enjoyed renewed interest thanks to Lifetime adapting them into the short lived series Blood Ties starring Christinia Cox, Kyle Schmid, and Dylan Neal. In Blood Wrapped, Henry needs to find the perfect 40th birthday present for Vicky while solving a child kidnapping case at the same time.

Blood Ties quickly became one of my favorite shows and ever since it was cancelled I’ve vowed to eventually read the books but I have yet to do so. Blood Wrapped was a neat experience for me since I’m missing my favorite characters but it was a little odd because they aren’t quite the same as in the show. There are also a few added characters but I quickly came to like them too and now I can hardly wait to start this series! My only complaint is that if you haven’t read the books, there are some serious spoilers.

Vicky Nelson Blood Series:
1. Blood Price (1991)
2. Blood Trail (1992)
3. Blood Lines (1992)
4. Blood Pact (1993)
5. Blood Debt (1997)

Title: The Wish
Author: Carolyn Haines
Pages: 10

Set in Mobile, Alabama, Carolyn Haine’s addition to the anthology is a story about Death. In The Wish, Sandra sees Death one day when she comes to take Sandra’s twins after a car accident. Despite attempts to join them, Death refuses to take her since it’s “not her time” so on her 43rd birthday she decides to arrange a little surprise when Death comes calling for her.

Probably the saddest and shortest of all the stories, it’s also a little confusing at first. In addition, it’s the only story in Many Bloody Returns that doesn’t feel quite complete (I think it could have benefited from a few more pages at least). Carolyn Haines is the author of many stories set in the Mississippi Delta including her Sarah Booth Delaney series and even though this author lives so close by, I have never had the pleasure of reading anything she had written before. However, very few of her books have paranormal elements in the them.

Title: Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two
Author: Tate Hallaway
Pages: 25

Tate Hallaway’s story Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two besides having a unique name has unique characters too. Garnet Lacey is the main character in the author’s vampire chick-lit series- a girl in love with a vampire named Sebastian. It’s her vampire boyfriend’s thousandth something birthday and she’s determined for him to have a good time despite the fact that he believes his birthday is cursed since he was born on Christmas day. However, when things really do start to go awry and they‘re stranded in a snowstorm, Garnet starts to wonder if there really is something to this curse business…

I loved this story and I can hardly wait to read more by this author. Her characters are both so interesting: a witch who is host to a goddess and a magic-made vampire (he can walk in the sun and has a normal body temperature), how neat is that?! I’m also a little curious to see if she continues to use mythological beings and creatures in her novels. So excited to have discovered this author’s cute and fun series.

Garnet Lacey Series:
1. Tall, Dark and Dead (2006)
2. Dead Sexy (2007)
3. Romancing the Dead (2008)
4. Dead If I Do (2009)

Title: Vampire Hours
Author: Elaine Viets
Pages: 27

Primarily a mystery author best-known for her Dead-End Job series, Elaine Viets tries her hand at writing a paranormal for the first time in the story Vampire Hours. It’s a typical “woman gets older so her plastic surgeon husband starts shopping for a newer model” story, with a not-so-typical ending when Katharine meets some vampires.

Ms. Viets is another author of whom I know of and even read at least one short story by but I’ve never actually gotten around to reading any of her novels. I especially felt bad for Katharine because she had no real friends and her husband was scum. Although the subject in this story is sad, I did enjoy it in the end however I do wish it would have been just tad bit longer or maybe have an epilogue instead of leaving it to your imagination.

Title: How Stella Got Her Grave Back
Author: Toni L.P. Kelner
Pages: 37

And in award-winning author Toni L. P. Kelner’s “How Stella Got Her Grave Back.” vampires become amateur sleuths (with breaks for feeding) to solve the murder of a Jane Doe.

Nominated for the 2008 Anthony awards, the second editor Toni L. P. Kelner’s story How Stella Got Her Grave Back is the last but certainly not least story in the Many Bloody Returns anthology. She is another mystery author who has gotten her start writing vampire fiction in this collection but her mystery roots show through in the story when it‘s main character finds out there is someone buried in her grave.

I am familiar with Kelner’s work since I’ve read the first five novels in her Laura Fleming Mysteries so I knew she had a wicked sense of humor but applied to new characters it was even more pronounced. As of yet, the author hasn’t made any plans to turn these characters into a continuing series but I’d really love her to!

“A sire is a male parent. A female is a dam. And damned if you’re not female.”
“Vampires always say sire,” she said doubtfully.
“That’s because vampire society is male chauvinist, and has been since Dracula developed a taste for Turks on a stick. Let’s strike a blow for feminism! From now on, you can be my dam. My dam of the damned!”

Picture Explanations
Dracula: The Prince of Darkness’ birthday is being celebrated
Owl: According to some myths, the shtriga transform into owls
Bat: The vampires in this story can transform into bats
Alley: Armstrong’s vampires can go outside during the day and even hunt if they like
Shoegasm: There’s a store in the mall that has cobbler little folk whom Harry helped set up there.
Grave: Someone robs a grave in this story
Suitcase: Eve’s parents kick her out on her birthday
Cosmetic Cream: Sophie dreams of opening her own line of cosmetics.
Red Boot: The little girl who was kidnapped was wearing a pair of red boots
Slit Wrist Scars: Sandra attempted suicide when her children died but Death wouldn’t take her
Snow Storm: The couple in the story are stranded in a snow storm.
Scalpel: Katharine’s husband is a plastic surgeon who stops loving her because of her wrinkles
Cemetery: Stella goes home to visit her family plot


  1. What a cool idea for an anthology! I still haven't read any of the Sookie Stackhouse books, nor the Dresden Files, nor any of the others, actually :P Someday, though. And this still sounds fun.

  2. Wonderful coverage of a great anthology. Kelner knows how to assemble talent.

  3. Wow, thanks for the informative post on this book. I'd seen it around, but I never really got the gist of it. It really sound fun and cool. And it's nice how you have the published background for these stories (and the photos!).

  4. sounds like a great anthology!
    I always enjoy your reviews.

  5. Oh, my goodness, Jen...been a little busy lately....LOL!
    Great review! I love the picture of the owl too and I loved Sookie Stackhouse :)

    Have a Happy Day!

  6. Nymeth: Isn't it? Thought it was very innovative of the editors. Oh, you NEED to read the Sookie books. I just adore Eric :)

    SciFiGuy: Aw thanks and yes she does! I haven't read one of her books in awhile but I liked her southern mysteries. She writes good paranormal though too so I hope she decides to write more!

    Carolyn Jean: *blush* Thanks. I really enjoy doing it and it helps me remember the stories better later on.

    Naida: I'm glad and I enjoy yours too.

    The Chic Geek: I know! I'm almost through writing reviews for January! I'm SO excited! Love that pic too :)

  7. I struggle with the Sookie Stackhouse books. They are so fun and well-written. But I guess I'm just a romance fan to the core. I want Sookie to find the perfect guy (undead or otherwise) and spend the rest of her life enjoying True Love.

    Nerdy, I know. But there you have it.

  8. The Garnet Lacey & Kelley Armstrong vampire stories were my favorites. Glad you enjoyed this :)

  9. Kate Diamond: I truly hope she chooses Eric one day!

    Mo: I'm so glad I discovered the Garnet books! Can't wait for the next one to come out :)

  10. I am looking forward to finding some time to read this anthology. I have read a few of the authors and am interested to read some of the others. Thanks for reminding me about this :)



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