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2009 Stories 70-74

So I've picked up the anthologies featuring short stories by Jim Butcher that are peripheral parts (at least, so far) of the Harry Dresden book series.  These stories CAN be read alone, they stand alone nicely and give you a feel for his writing without really spoiling anything major that happens in the series itself.  Or, at least, the two stories I've read so far fit that description.  The problem now is, I'm reading the rest of the stories in each volume -- most of which are connected to one or another hot supernatural series at the moment (for instance, each volume has a Sookie Stackhouse story, from the book series on which the HBO series "True Blood" is based).  So the next few entries are bound to be a bit more "genre."  I'll get back to the "literary short stories" soon.

70. Heorot by Jim Butcher, from My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (Edited by P.N. Elrod).  Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard listed in the phone book, is called on by an old friend to investigate the disappearance of a new bride hours before departing on her honeymoon.  As the title implies, there are connections to the classic epic poem "Beowulf."  You get a nice sense of Harry's inherently chivalrous nature here (a nature that does more often than not get him in trouble), and a tight little story that hints at the broader world of the books without making you feel like you need to read them to understand how that world works.

71. It's My Birthday, Too by Jim Butcher, from Many Bloody Returns.  This one does give a slight spoiler to a relationship that develops in the main Dresden books, but without giving too much away ... in an attempt to deliver a birthday present to his friend Thomas Raith, Harry ends up trapped in a mall afterhours, fighting Black Court vampires.  Great fight scenes in this one, and again gives you a sense of how Butcher has set up his vampire culture (Black Court are the ones who are most like vampires as described by Bram Stoker, for instance).  Again, Harry's chivalry almost has bad results, but less so than in the previous story.

And a few non-Butcher stories from the anthology Many Bloody Returns (where all the stories have to do with vampires and birthdays, an odd mix):

72. The Wish by Carolyn Haines.  Very short, compared to most other stories in the book.  Very poingant as well.  The narrator sees Death and knows her time has come, but wants to meet Her on her own terms.  Really really well written, moody, languid and yet tightly paced.  Not, as far as I can tell, part of a series.

73. Vampire Hours by Elaine Viets.  A middle-aged socialite realizes her marriage is over, and tries to figure out what she's going to do next as it becomes apparent everyone else has a plan that doesn't include her.  Nice twist at the end that doesn't go the usual route.  Also not apparently part of a series.

74. How Stella Got Her Grave Back by Toni L.P. Kelner.  I got such a kick out of this story.  A bit of small town south, two very funny vampires who trade witty banter but are more than just stock comedy types, a mystery (why is Stella's grave missing its stone and now occupied by a murdered "Jane Doe?"), and just a fun story overall.  Stella and Mark would be fun characters even if they weren't vampires.  Also not part of a series, although it feels like this one could lead into something.

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