Happy Tuesday, Readers! For two days and urban Tuesday I've scoured my collection of urban fantasy and pulled out a recent purchase that I think many will appreciate given that it is an anthology with several favorite authors in this genre.
Hex Appeal (love this title in the play on words!) was released in June by St. Martin's and features magical stories from the fabulous Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Erica Hayes and five others. There were many surprises between the different stories and writing styles that made this book a very interesting read. Given the variety of authors there will at least be three or four stories in this anthology that many will enjoy if not every story. I know there are a lot of likes and dislikes between all you diverse readers out there which is the beauty of anthologies. You'll always find something you like no matter your taste!
Below you'll find all the goodies on the book, and extended snippet reading and of course fabulous cover art!
edited by P. N. Elrod
Back of the book:
Fall under the intoxicating spell of their hex appeal…In the magical world that lies hidden beneath our own, witches and conjurers play deadly games. They know just the right spell to kill a man with one kiss—or raise him back again. And they’re not afraid to exact sweet revenge on those who dare to cross them. But what if you’re the unlucky soul who falls victim to a conjurer’s curse? And if you had the power to cast a magic spell of your own, would you use it?In this bewitching collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors tell all-new, otherworldly tales. Spellbinding stories featuring bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, resurrected boyfriends and even a sex droid from the twenty- third century named Silicon Lily. But as our conjurers are about to discover, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hexed. And sometimes, even the best spun spells can lead to complete and utter mayhem.
Extended Snippet Reading:
Standard excerpt taken from THE ARCANE ART OF MISDIRECTION by Carrie Vaughn
Grant led, and Julie was happy to let him do so. At every exit door, he stopped, held before it a device that looked like an old-fashioned pocket watch, with a brass casing and a lumpy knob and ring protruding. After regarding the watch a moment, he’d stuff it back in his trouser pocket and continue on.
She guessed he was in his thirties, but now she wasn’t sure—he seemed both young and old. He moved with energy, striding up the stairs without pause, without a hitch in his breath. But he also moved with consideration, with purpose, without a wasted motion. She’d never seen his show and thought now that she might. He’d do all the old magic tricks, the cards and rings and disappearing-box trick, maybe even pull a rabbit from a hat, and his every motion would be precise and enthralling. And it would all be tricks, she reminded herself.
After three flights, she hauled herself up by the railing, huffing for air. If Grant was frustrated at the pauses she made on each landing, he didn’t let on. He just studied his watch a little longer.
Finally, on about the fifth or sixth floor, he consulted his watch and lifted an eyebrow. Then he opened the door. Julie braced for danger—after the empty elevator shaft, anything could happen: explosions blasting in their faces, ax-wielding murderer waiting for them, Mafioso gunfight—but nothing happened.
“Shall we?” Grant said, gesturing through the doorway as if they were entering a fancy restaurant.
She wasn’t sure she really wanted to go, but she did. Leaning in, she looked both ways, up and down the hallway, then stepped gingerly on the carpet, thinking it might turn to quicksand and swallow her. It didn’t. Grant slipped in behind her and closed the door.
This wing of the hotel had been refurbished in the last few years and still looked newish. The carpet was thick, the soft recessed lighting on the russet walls was luxurious and inviting. In a few more years, the décor would start to look worn, and the earth tones and geometric patterns would look dated. Vegas wore out things the way it wore out people. For now, though, it was all very impressive.
They lingered by the emergency door; Grant seemed to expect something to happen. Consulting his watch again, he turned it to the left and right, considering. She craned her neck, trying to get a better look at it. It didn’t seem to have numbers on its face.
“What’s that thing do?” she asked.
“It points,” he said.
Of course it did.
He moved down the hallway to the right, glancing at the watch, then at doorways. At the end of the hall, he stopped and nodded, then made a motion with his hands.
“More magic?” she said, moving beside him.
“No. Lockpick.” He held up a flat plastic key card. “Universal code.”
“Oh my God, if the resort knew you were doing this—and I’m right here with you. I could lose my job—”
“They’ll never find out.”
She glanced to the end of the hallway, to the glass bubble in the ceiling where the security camera was planted.
“Are you sure about that? Am I supposed to just trust you?”
His lips turned a wry smile. “I did warn you that you probably ought to stay out of this. It’s not too late.”
“What, and take the elevator back down? I don’t think so.”
“There you go—you trust me more than the elevator.”
She crossed her arms and sighed. “I’m not sure I agree with that logic.”
“It isn’t logic,” he said. “It’s instinct. Yours are good, you should listen to them.”
She considered—any other dealer, any sane dealer, would have left the whole problem to Ryan and security. Catching cheaters once they left the table was above her pay grade, as they said. But she wanted to know. The same prickling at her neck that told her something was wrong with yesterday’s businessman and today’s housewife also told her that Odysseus Grant had answers.
“What can I do to help?” she asked.
“Keep a lookout.”
He slipped the card in the lock, and the door popped open. She wouldn’t have been surprised if an unassuming guest wrapped in a bath towel screamed a protest, but the room was unoccupied. After a moment, Grant entered and began exploring.
Julie stayed by the door, glancing back and forth, up and down the hallway as he had requested. She kept expecting guys from security to come pounding down the hallway. But she also had to consider: Grant wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t have a way to keep it secret. She couldn’t even imagine how he was fooling the cameras. The cameras won’t even pick up what I did, he’d said. Did the casino’s security department even know what they had working under their noses?
She looked back in the room to check his progress. “You expected that watch, that whatever it is, to lead you right to the guy, did you?”
“Yes, it should have,” Grant said, sounding curious rather than frustrated. “Ah, there we are.” He opened the top bureau drawer.
“What?” She craned forward to see.
Using a handkerchief, he reached into the drawer and picked up a small object. Resting on the cloth was a twenty-five-dollar chip bound with twine to the burned-down stub of a red candle. The item evoked a feeling of dread in her; it made her imagine an artifact from some long-extinct civilization that practiced human sacrifice. Whatever this thing was, no good could ever come of it.
“A decoy,” Grant said. “Rather clever, really.”
“Look, I can call security, have them check the cameras, look for anyone suspicious—they’ll know who’s been in this room.”
“No. You’ve seen how he’s disguising himself; he’s a master of illusion. Mundane security has no idea what they’re looking for. I’ll find him.” He broke the decoy, tearing at the twine, crumbling the candle, throwing the pieces away. Even broken, the pieces made her shiver.
Then they were back in the hallway. Grant again consulted his watch, but they reached the end of the hallway without finding his quarry.
They could be at this all day.
“Maybe we should try knocking on doors. You’ll be able to spot the guy if he answers.”
“That’s probably not a good idea. Especially if he knows we’re coming.”
“How long until you give up?” she said, checking her phone to get the time. The thing had gone dead, out of power. Of course it had. And Grant’s watch didn’t tell time.
“Never,” he murmured, returning to the emergency stairs.
She started to follow him when her eye caught on an incongruity, because the afternoon had been filled with them. A service cart was parked outside a room about halfway down the hallway. Dishes of a picked-over meal littered the white linen tablecloth, along with an empty bottle of wine and two used wineglasses. Nothing unusual at all about seeing such a thing outside a room in a hotel. Except she was absolutely sure it had not been there before.
“Hey—wait a minute,” she said, approaching the cart slowly. The emergency-stair door had already shut, though, and he was gone. She went after him, hauling open the door.
Which opened into a hallway, just like the one she’d left.
Vertigo made her vision go sideways a moment, and she thought she might faint. Shutting the door quickly, she leaned against it and tried to catch her breath. She’d started gasping for air. This was stupid—it was just a door. She’d imagined it. Her mind was playing tricks, and Grant was right, she should have stayed back in the casino.
No, she was a sensible woman, and she trusted her eyes. She opened the door again, and this time when she saw the second, identical—impossible—hallway through it, she stayed calm, and kept her breathing steady.
Stepping gently, she went through the door, careful to hold it open, giving her an escape route. Her feet touched carpet instead of concrete. She looked back and forth—same hallway. Or maybe not—the room-service cart wasn’t here.
“Odysseus?” she called, feeling silly using the name. His stage name, probably, but he hadn’t given her another one to call him. His real name was probably something plain, like Joe or Frank. On second thought, considering the watch, the universal lockpick, his talk of spells, his weird knowledge—Odysseus might very well be his real name.
“Odysseus Grant?” she repeated. No answer. Behind one of the doors, muted laughter echoed from a television.
She retreated to the original hallway and let the door close. Here, the same TV buzzing with the same noise, obnoxious canned laughter on some sitcom. She could believe she hadn’t ever left, that she hadn’t opened the door and seen another hallway rather than the stairs that should have been there. This was some kind of optical illusion. A trick done with mirrors.
The room-service cart was gone.
She ran down the hall to where it had been, felt around the spot where she was sure she had seen it—nothing. She continued on to the opposite end of the hallway, past the elevators that she didn’t dare try, to the other set of emergency stairs. Holding her breath, she opened the door—and found herself staring into another hallway, identical to the one she was standing in. When she ran to the opposite end of that corridor, and tried the other door there, she found the same thing—another hallway, with the same numbers outside the rooms, the same inane voices from the television.
Bait. The room-service cart had been bait, used to distract her, to draw her back after Grant had already left. And now she was trapped.
Thank you all for stopping in and spending a small bit of your Tuesday with me. I hope I've helped you find a new read for new author to add to your TBR pile.
Your Turn! Who's your favorite urban fantasy author and why? in my opinion you can't beat Jim Butcher or Patricia Briggs! Their writing styles are drastically different but their worlds are rich and whisk you into their stories moment you open their books.