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Carniepunk
 
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Carniepunk [Format Kindle]

Rachel Caine , Rob Thurman , Kevin Hearne , Seanan McGuire , Jennifer Estep , Allison Pang , Kelly Gay , Delilah S. Dawson , Kelly Meding

Prix éditeur - format imprimé : EUR 13,30
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Carniepunk
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“Painted Love”

Rob Thurman


Love is a bitch.

There’s no getting around it.

But I’ll get to that later.

First . . . first came Bartholomew.

On any given day someone can be a hundred different people. I’m not talking Sybil here, and no voices in the head, but no one is singular within themselves. They’re good . . . help a little old lady with her groceries. They’re bad . . . steal a magazine from a newsstand. Sometimes they’re smart, sometimes stupid. Sometimes loving as they give their child a kiss on the cheek and murderous in the next minute when they jack a car and kill a man in the process. People are people. Hateful and peaceful. Content and miserable. Honest and deceitful. With all of that inside fighting for control every minute of the day, it’s a wonder everybody’s not banging their heads against the wall. And those around you—even you yourself—aren’t ever quite sure what they’re going to get from moment to moment.

I knew that just like I knew from watching him that Bartholomew was nothing like that—the exception that proved the rule. Bartholomew wasn’t at war with himself or his darker emotions. With Bartholomew it was all about Bartholomew. What he wanted and what he’d do to get it. Love wasn’t a bitch to him, because he loved himself inside and out.

All the best sociopaths do.

It wasn’t just my luck to hook up with one—it was an occupational hazard. I’d seen more of the world than most and it wasn’t by drifting. I always had a plan. I’d long found that the best way to travel was to find someone who was going somewhere you wanted to be, stick with them, and keep your mouth shut. You’d be surprised how little they minded, mostly because if you picked the right ones, they were entirely self-centered. They were generally puzzled to one day realize they’d picked up a buddy, wonder how you’d slithered in under their radar and become a fixture in their lives. But that’s another thing about people: they didn’t want to ask too many questions. Some people didn’t like to look stupid, some people didn’t like to make waves, and some people—the smartest people—generally didn’t want to know the answer.

And the ones like Bartholomew—they ultimately couldn’t bring themselves to believe someone had put one over on them. After all, that’s what they did, not what was done to them.

I was good at it, what I did. Maybe you could say I used people, but I did it out of harmless curiosity. My talent for hanging around by blending into the background was useful, but I didn’t put it to the same use Bartholomew did his. He worked at a carnival, which was what had interested me in the beginning. I’d seen a lot of things as I made my way around the world, and a carnival was more or less next on my list. I came across Bart on a week away, whoring and drinking mostly, heard his glib stories about where he worked, and there found my opportunity.

His ego was my ticket to ride.

When he returned to the carnival with me tagging along, I saw his work. I don’t mean him giving away stuffed prizes or running a few rides or ushering people into a mirrored maze, although he did do all those things. Nope, Bart’s true occupation was hurting people. Sometimes for entertainment, sometimes for profit, but always with the zeal you find in those who truly love their jobs.

Bart . . . he couldn’t get enough of his job.

Not that it was my problem. I wanted to see what the life in a carnival was like, and that’s what I would do. If Bart liked to play mind games with gullible people, it was their fault that they weren’t a little sharper, now, wasn’t it? Or at the very least it wasn’t my fault. I was just along for the ride. Speaking of . . .

His carnival was one helluva ride.

It had been settled for two weeks in one small scrubby field on long-bladed grass that cut like knives, and spectators’ feet had stomped its grounds down into dry, pitted dirt. There was a Ferris wheel that made the most god-awful sound as it creaked up and around. It was the groan and rattle of a dragon’s dying breath—the last dragon in the darkest of ages, its final breath heated by fire and coppery with sacrificial blood somehow caught and bottled to run some unimaginable, infernal machine. Only instead of all that, it ended up wheezing its way through a garishly lit wheel that, instead of grinding their bones to dust, spun screaming children along in paroxysms of delight. That dead dragon was probably embarrassed by it all.

I liked it.

Then there was the carousel. If you’ve ever read any book, seen any movie, heard any carnie tale, you know carousels are where the very best and worst things happen. Depending on which way you spin, depending on what animal you choose to ride, Fate either kisses you on the lips or slits your throat. I loved those stories, because they got it right. That’s exactly how fate was: capricious as fuck. She would ignore the biggest decision in a person’s life yet gleefully wipe your slate in a fatal do-over on something as innocent and simple as a merry-go-round.

Perched proudly upon it was one particularly shifty-looking red-and-black-striped tiger with faceted red glass eyes that glittered like bloody tears. I wondered where he’d take you if you climbed in his saddle. I doubted it was Disneyland.

The maze of mirrors: now, that was creepy, flat-out. If you looked just the right way, took the fastest glimpse over your shoulder, you could see your reflections turn to shadowed doppelgängers with sharp teeth, hungry smiles, shadowed holes for eyes, and taloned hands pushing against the glass that locked them away. Hardly anyone did, though, look just right. But I did, each time grinning and giving a friendly wave to my predatory images across a hundred gleaming surfaces. The clawed hands waved back and, blinking in curiosity, the eyes of soot and silver would give me a wink. You caught us. Point to you.

I wasn’t superstitious and, no, not crazy. I’d traveled the world. I kept my eyes open and I’d seen things. Boring things, astounding ones, and everything in between. What I saw in the carnival was nothing unbelievable. It was more of a pitcher plant where careless flies were caught in the sticky nectar and slowly slid down to be devoured by digestive juices. If you weren’t careless, you’d be fine. If you were careless . . . hey, carnivals weren’t the only thing in the world that would eat you. In fact, after several days of following Bart through the maze of booths and rides, I’d come to the conclusion that carnivals weren’t built. They grew. They accumulated, like a feast of flies on a hidden carcass. One day there was an empty field, the next the carnival bloomed like an ebony poppy. Eventually people—and things—came, populated it, and there you go.

A slow-moving predator came to life.

Some people were carnival people. They knew the carnival and the carnival knew them. They belonged. They were black poppies, too, only on a smaller scale.

Others were just people: good, bad, and indifferent, but all of them blind. They did the work, though, and the carnival needed them. They weren’t the careless type, living the nomadic life, and they survived. I wondered what it was like to be blind like them. I’d seen a good deal of the world, but even with my first step, I’d always been able to see.

“Bart, do you have change for a fifty? Oh, look at your new friend. He’s cute.” The girl smiled at me. Becca? Yeah, Becca was her name. I’d heard it in passing the day before. She worked the psychic booth with her sister, and if she was older than fourteen, I’d need to see a birth certificate as proof.

I tried hard not to smirk back at her smile. Hey, I was cute. I worked on being cute. People, even self-centered, oblivious, or gullible people, didn’t want someone with serial killer vibes following them around.

Bart smiled back at her, so friendly and affable that manufactured goodwill oozed out of his pores. “Doodle? He’s all right. He hitched up with me on vacation. I thought I’d show him the sights.”

It was a joke to him. Bart’s kind didn’t do anything for anybody, but Becca liked me, and Bart . . . Bart liked underage girls. And underage boys. Vulnerable women. People humiliated and naked, bound in chains. And that was only the top layer of porn stuffed in his footlocker. I didn’t want to know what the second, third, or fourth layer showed.

“Change for a fifty, yeah? Anything for you, sweetheart.”

Becca was young, with long waves of hair dyed cotton candy lavender, round blue eyes, small white teeth that showed when she laughed, and exactly five freckles spread across her nose like a spray of cinnamon chips on a Christmas cookie. Wearing a long, filmy green dress, all the better to look psychic and ethereal, she reminded me of a mermaid curled happily on a rock counting flying fish. She looked innocent and sweet and oh-so-gullible.

A combination Bart absolutely could not pass up.

Of course, sociopaths with questionable taste in porn weren’t always as smart as they thought they were. There was a gleam in Becca’s blue eyes that said she wasn’t nearly as gullible as Bart thought. And if it hadn’t been for me, his new pal, I doubt he’d have seen even a smile from her.

I hadn’t run into the problem of being too cute before. Cute was harmless, cute was safe, and cute let me hang around as long as I liked. Unfortunately, this time it was helping out a predatory dick, and that annoyed me. As I’d thought before, whatever games Bart played weren’t my problem. I was a traveler. I couldn’t get bogged down by people’s troubles. There were always going to be problems, and there were always going to be Barts in the world. I couldn’t change that.

But I didn’t like being used as bait in a trap. That’s all. I just didn’t like it.

Maybe Bart would behave himself and in a few weeks I’d be gone. Off to someplace new with someone hopefully somewhat less problematically evil than good old Bart.

“Good-bye, Doodle.” Becca smiled at me again. The two front teeth were separated by a tiny gap and her smile was all the more perfect for it. She thought my name was funny, I could tell. But I didn’t mind. I liked it. That was me. Humble Doodle, nothing less, nothing more.

“He’s the quiet sort,” Bart laughed. His laugh was perfect, too, but completely false. Becca’s smile was a warm summer rain. Bart’s laugh was a snow globe—cold glass and fake plastic whirling around, trying to fill the void beneath the hard shell. “Doesn’t say a word. But come back and visit him anytime. I do enough talking for the both of us, Miss Becca.”

Becca tilted her head. “Maybe.” Then she smiled again, this time at Bart, and headed back to the psychic booth.

Just like that, I saw the gleam of good sense sputter and go out of her eyes. It wasn’t her fault, not really. She was fourteen and Bart was a good-looking twenty-one-year-old in a carnival where her working age group was limited and dental hygiene was not the word of the day among most. Bart was blind, the most interesting parts of the carnival a mystery to him, but he was a black poppy, too—a different sort, but he’d eat you all the same.

I sighed. This had every sign of fucking up my good time here.

Bart frowned at me. “At least you’re good for something.”

That would be Bart, only noticing me when I did something for him—whether I’d meant to or not. The Bartholomews of the world . . . Bigger assholes could not be found.

While Bart continued to sucker people into trying to win teddy bears in a game so rigged Vegas would’ve been proud, I did my best to forget about little girls with lavender hair and concentrate on my sightseeing. I perked up as the Poodle Lady passed by us. She was a grandmotherly type with hair as short and curly as that of her dogs, pink cheeked and plump and with a thousand fake diamond rings, bracelets, necklaces, even a tiara. When the sun hit her, she glittered wildly, a star about to go supernova. She was a sight, but that wasn’t what interested me.

It was the poodles.

I loved the poodles.

I whistled low and soft as they trotted by, bedecked in ruffled collars. All white, they were tiny dandelion drifts blowing across the ground, yipping and excited from their last round of acrobatic tricks. As one, each furry face turned my way at the whistle too soft for the Poodle Lady to hear. Each mouth opened and each pink tongue twisted to change into a tentacle with pulsing suckers and fully as long as each dog’s entire body. Each eye turned the blind silver-white of fish that lived so deep underwater that sight wasn’t necessary.

It tickled me. Cthulhu slept, but his goddamn poodles roamed the earth.

Then they were only ordinary poodles once again and they scampered on, one stopping to lift a leg on Bart’s booth.

“Hey, you little shit!” he snapped, tossing a teddy bear at it with malicious force. In a fraction of a second the stuffed animal was nothing but shreds and stuffing and, after pissing on that as well, the poodle was gone.

A few minutes later five clowns wandered by, following the Poodle Lady to the lunch tent. I didn’t bother with them. Clowns were the biggest disappointment in the carnival. They were supposed to be cannibalistic, murderous, child-stealing monsters with jagged metal teeth and makeup mixed of blood and ashes. But no. They weren’t. They were just ordinary people who liked to make people laugh. Which, don’t get me wrong, is nice in theory and all. Still . . .

Disappointing.

That’s what happens when you buy into a stereotype. You think nightmares using intestines to make balloon animals and you get slightly dumpy, sort of sad, average people who had determined that if they couldn’t laugh themselves, they would do their best to make others laugh. Noble, but a little bit boring. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Bart, the porno-loving sociopath, end up as a balloon animal, as he seemed set on ruining my playing tourist.

Finally, Bart closed up the booth a few hours later to grab a meal himself. I went along, too, not that he would notice if I ate or not. Luckily, I could get by on little. Roaming the world will teach you that. Refrigerators and microwaves were rare in my life. I had eaten goat once in India. . . . I still felt rather bad about that.

Bart loaded up a paper plate with barbecue and long, slinky fries dripping with grease. Sitting down at a picnic table, he dug in, and I rethought the goat issue. The food here looked as if that long-digested goat had vomited on a plate and then handed you a fork. Bart obviously didn’t mind, as he plowed through the mess. I reflected on how he had a grin and a wave for everyone who walked by except the Poodle Lady, and I wasn’t surprised. The clowns had their masks of greasepaint and Bart had this mask. The friendly guy who was enough of a flirt for the women and a bit of the roguish con man for the men—it was a good disguise. It said, “I’m good, but not too good.” Too good can’t be real, and Bart was smart enough to know that. He relied on the wink and the grin and the “I might cheat you at cards, but not for money.”

He made you like him, and there weren’t many masks better than that. Everyone here fell for it, even the black poppies, who I’d have thought would’ve known better. He really was that good.

But on that day, I learned I was wrong after all. One person did see through him.

Remember when I said love’s a bitch?

Yeah. . . .

Now is when I come back to that.

Love is a bitch.

That’s what people say. I hadn’t come to the conclusion about how often people were right—I was a little naïve on the subject, I admit it—but in this case, with this one nugget of knowledge, the people were in the know. On the money.

Love is a bitch, and this being my first encounter with it, I wished the saying was longer. Love is a bitch . . . but here’s how you deal with it. A nice list with bullet points would be appreciated. Some pictures, maybe? I’d take stick figures if that’s all that was available. I wasn’t proud. I traveled the world, but that didn’t mean I was always wise in the ways of it. Any assistance I could get, I would happily take. I was stuck with Bartholomew, however, and helpful he was not. What he knew about love, he wasn’t telling, which rather sucked for me, as I’d hooked up with him to learn more about the world I was traveling and life in general. I tried to learn from everyone I’d teamed up with. So far all I’d learned from Bartholomew about love was that he didn’t much care for it. Correction: he didn’t much care for it unless he could twist it to his benefit.

Like he was thinking about with Becca.

Becca, who was too young to know better.

“Bartholomew, I want you to stay the hell away from my little sister.”

Her sister, though, she knew about the big bad wolves in the world. And where the huntsman would carry an axe, she would carry a shotgun.

Bart looked up from his plate with rage. Unadulterated fury that someone would dare tell him what to do. I looked up and . . . shit . . . I was head over heels. Love. There it was. There she was, and nothing in all my rambles had prepared me for it.

“Whatcha talking about, Starling my darling?” His hand white-knuckled around his plastic fork, but his voice was smooth as honey and slippery as butter. “Becca came over for change and to see my buddy, Doodle. She’s a kid, for God’s sake. What? You think I don’t know that?” Bart was probably smirking on the inside about how very well he did know that . . . about how much he liked that.

I’d picked up on Becca having an older sister who played the psychic, but I hadn’t seen her in my few days at the midway. Bart didn’t cross her path . . . or maybe she didn’t cross his. Didn’t want to. As she sat down opposite him, I saw it in her eyes when she looked at him. . . . Here There Be Monsters reflected in onyx mirrors. It might as well have been painted on Bart, which was rather ironic, to her gaze at least. She knew. She knew about wolves and monsters and how a man could be all that and worse.

Starling’s dark eyes passed over me. “Doodle?” There was scorn in her voice, but it was for Bart, not me. I hoped. “Do you think your buddy there is going to have me thinking you’re nothing but a puppy, all big eyes and milk breath? Sugar, you’re trying to pull the wool over the wrong set of eyes. I know wickedness when I smell it, and you are rank with it.”

I hadn’t noticed it in Becca, but Starling had a trace of a southern accent. Around twenty-four or twenty-five, she had hair that wasn’t long like Becca’s, but a short cap of dark red streaked with the black stripes of a tiger. It cupped her head less like a gentle hand and more like a warrior’s sleek helmet. Her eyes were dark and fierce, but she had the same five freckles. It was incongruous—the same as if you walked the plains of Africa and a tiger lifted its head from its kill to show a spattering of shooting-star freckles across its bloodied muzzle.

Sappy, yeah?

Head-over-heels. What can I say?

Can you blame me? I mean, seriously, a tiger with freckles. Who wouldn’t fall for that?

“Wicked? Jesus, Starling, you’ve known me six months now.” And it wouldn’t be any longer than that. Bart was the type to piss where he lived. His stays would be short and his exits in the middle of the night, leaving pain and regret in his wake. Sometimes maybe worse. “What have I ever done to you? What have I ever done to anyone?”

His hand relaxed on the fork, but it twitched. It was the kind of movement that made me think that had he had metal instead of plastic, she might have been stabbed with it.

“I don’t know. What did you do to Mr. Murphy? How’d you come by his booth? One day he’s there, the next he’s gone, and there you are with your easy smile, pretty talk, and dead eyes. And don’t tell me he sold it to you. Murph loved the carnival, and as far as I can tell, you don’t love anything but yourself.” A short fingernail painted copper hit Bart in the chest. “So, here it is, Bar-tho-lo-mew, you don’t touch Becca or I’ll get my daddy’s old bowie knife out and make sure you don’t have a damn thing left to touch anyone with ever again.”

Eyes narrowed, face flushed with anger, unpainted lips peeled back from her tiger’s teeth, she was . . . amazing. And then she was gone, turned and striding out of the tent with her long silk skirt doing nothing to conceal long legs loping after another gazelle to take down.

Bart, unfortunately, was no gazelle. He wasn’t a tiger, either. Bart was a hyena through and through. He only took down the weak and the vulnerable, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous. If anything, this adversary would make him more dangerous . . . thinking, plotting, and full of an ego that was not going to take this lying down.

And Starling, as demanding and feisty as the bird she was named for, knew him. No one else at the carnival did, but she knew. She might actually be a little psychic, putting truth to that label on her booth. If I’d learned anything in this world, it was that things you think are aren’t, and things you think aren’t can be. Everything under the sun . . .

Mr. Murphy . . . That was a new name I didn’t know anything about. Bart could be a bigger predator than I’d thought, a pack of hyenas all on his own. Which wasn’t good—not for Becca. Starling had tried to push around Bart, command him. Bart was a man . . . (a thing) . . . you didn’t tell what to do, because sure as shit, he’d do exactly the opposite for spite alone.

Well, fuck.

What did I do about that? About little Becca? About her gloriously wild sister? I was Doodle. While the Barts of life walked around with hands dripping pain or blood, Doodles, we didn’t get involved. I was always on the outside looking in. I wanted to see the world, I didn’t want to be the world. It was too complicated. Standing up for something, I didn’t know how to do that, to be that. I was content being the camera, not the subject.

I only wanted to watch. I only wanted to see.

What about Starling, anyway? She’d watched me, but she hadn’t seen me, not really. Sometimes I blended in a little too well, and blending in with Bart’s kind wasn’t the way to her heart, that was for damn certain. I shifted a little and grimaced at how that had come back to bite me in the ass. Bart hissed and glared at me, raising a hand to aim a slap in my direction.

Stopping at the last moment, he snapped, low and mean, “Son of a bitch.” Then he stared at where Starling had sat. “Or just a fucking bitch—period.”

The rest of the evening and night, Bart spent thinking. What he was thinking, he didn’t say out loud. I wasn’t surprised. If it was close to the thoughts I was working through, words like that . . . they do something to the air. They taint it with shadows and the smell of week-old roadkill. Words like that—I’d heard enough of them in my life, and I didn’t care to hear any more of them.

When Bart went to bed that night, I left as I always did. Sometimes I lay in the grass and watched the stars. I waved to them, too, like I did the reflections in the mirror maze . . . just in case. Sometimes I’d investigate the carnival further, which was how I discovered that the magician had four arms and his hat had teeth. No wonder he kept a giant cage constantly full of at least twenty-five doomed rabbits. I let them go. That wasn’t much interference.

Tonight I found a family sitting outside their trailer. The mother and father were listening to music, drinking wine, kissing, and laughing, laughing, laughing. Here was the love Bart knew nothing about. I watched from the dark, then wandered behind the trailer, where someone else had wandered as well. Their little boy. He was two, two and a half. Baby ages are hard. Strawberry-blond hair stood on end and pudgy hands were waving in a vain attempt to catch fireflies. He saw me, pointed, and laughed.

I smiled at him and whispered, “Hi.” I pointed to my chest. “Doodle.”

He pressed his finger against my nose. “Doodle!” He laughed again.

“Doodle,” I agreed. I liked kids. Kids were uncomplicated and easy to understand. I didn’t have to worry about keeping my head down and not being noticed. Kids accepted. They weren’t suspicious or judgmental. They took me at face value and it didn’t matter what I knew or didn’t know. If I wasn’t always sure how to behave, because I was a little different, it didn’t matter. To them being Doodle was enough. I was about to ask what his name was, although I wasn’t so good with talking—words were difficult to get out for me—when I heard his mother calling. Reluctantly, I trudged back into the dark.

He called after me. “Doodle! Doodle!”

I heard his mother laugh at him. “Who are you talking to, silly bear?”

Those were two nice memories. Love and wine; a little boy and fireflies. I’d keep those when I moved on.

I wandered some more, watched the stars, and got back to Bart’s trailer by morning. It was important, as a professional hanger-on, not to be gone long enough to be noticeably absent. That led to second thoughts about poor Doodle. I wouldn’t want Bart to get too used to being without me—not yet.

I expected him to start a campaign to win Becca’s trust. Buy her a gooey, sugary pastry, all fried dough, cherries, and powdered sugar. Talk to her as if she were a grown woman, not a fourteen-year-old. Try to get her to brush off Starling’s warnings as an over-protective big-sister reaction. It would’ve been typical pedophile behavior.

But Bart proved me wrong. Bart showed he wasn’t typical . . . not in this case. Maybe he would be normally, but Starling had stood up to him, beat him down, and seen him for what he really was. She saw through his mask, and of all the things she’d done, that was the worst. No one saw Bart for what he was. If they did, how could he continue being what he was? How could he get away with it?

He couldn’t.

She might tell others. They might believe her. Bart couldn’t have that.

No, he could not.

While he sulked among the teddy bears, taking dollars in exchange for guaranteed failure, he kept his fake smile plastered to his face, though he mumbled under his breath. I couldn’t make out words—just the static buzz of what were likely psychotic ravings.

Bart had been a mistake. I should go now. Before I spent the next night and the one after peeking in the window of Starling and Becca’s trailer.

Too late.

No self-will at all, that was me. When Bart turned in, I was at their trailer window. The curtains were the brilliant green of Irish fields, with a crack between the two halves. It wasn’t a large one, but large enough that I could see through. It was late, with Bart exhausted by his porn for the night and already asleep. But Starling was still up. She was curled up on a tiny couch with a cup of tea, wearing pajamas patterned with ice cream cones. Her bare feet were pink with copper-painted toenails, her smooth cap of hair was ruffled in completely ridiculous spikes and cowlicks, and the curve of her lips was relaxed. She was a long way from the “gypsy psychic” she’d been while facing down Bart, when she was dressed in silk and beads with black ice for eyes, nails the color of a Burmese sunset, and teeth bared in threat. It was different now, a picture of domestic bliss. . . .

Until you noticed the giant bowie knife that was cradled on the cushion next to her. That made it even better.

Perfect domestic bliss.

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. A she-tiger sat in ridiculous pajamas, drinking tea, studying her toenails to see if they needed repainting—and had her knife at the ready for Bart in case some wicked piece of anatomy needed to be treated like a breakfast sausage.

Love could be wine under the stars, but love could be this too.

I’d never felt it before, not really, but love . . . I didn’t have the words for how it made me feel. I was Doodle and words weren’t my thing. But I felt and I wanted and I dreamed and Starling, she was all of that. She was a tiger, my tiger, and she wouldn’t ever back down from anything.

Laughing had been a mistake, though. She whipped her head toward the window and was up and moving. She was fast, but I was faster. I’d traveled far and wide and learned you had to be fast to survive.

Later I returned and tried the back where the bedroom would be. It was a small trailer, only big enough for one foldout bed. I saw Starling and Becca tangled up like children under the blankets. Becca slept curled up on her side, doing her unconscious best to scoot Starling out of the bed onto the floor. Starling slept—out of self-preservation, probably—on her stomach with one arm hooked around the edge of the mattress as if it were a lover of last hope. Lavender and tiger-striped hair mixed together in the dark, inseparable.

My heart warmed. Becca was less Starling’s sister and more her cub. Starling would kill Bart and wouldn’t shed a tear over it. Such was the way of the wild, and that was another good thought and memory to keep. Fierce protection and soft hair mixed under piles of blankets.

It was enough. I didn’t spy anymore. I wanted to see new things, but I didn’t want to dirty them . . . unless they were already dirty, and then there wasn’t much more I could do there anyway. I learned that when one of the poodles chased me back to Bart’s trailer. I nearly lost a strip of my hide to a fast-moving tentacle, but I still loved the little monsters. They were so damn funny.



THE NEXT DAY was the same as the others. Or so I thought until that night, when Bart spent three hours digging up Mr. Murphy and moving him farther away into the woods. Starling had spooked him. And Bart spooked me. He didn’t know I was there, watching. He wouldn’t have known if the whole carnival was there, cheering him on. He was muttering to himself with flecks of saliva flying from his mouth and a body tense with absolute molten rage. This time I could hear what he was saying: “Bitch, bitch, bitch. Fucking whore. Telling me. Telling me what I can do. She’ll be sorry. She’ll be so fucking sorry, she’ll beg. She’ll beg and beg and beg—she’ll beg. . . .” After that it was more incoherent, the rage a language all its own.

Shit, Doodle, I thought with grim resignation, what have you gotten yourself into now?

Breakfast was not good. I kept wondering why I was still here and not in the wind. That was my number one rule, the Doodle motto: Watch but don’t participate. Don’t get involved. You’re different, you’re weird, and no matter how harmless I tried to look, people wouldn’t want me around once they knew me—the real me. I was a freak.

Wasn’t that ironic? In a carnival where there were no freaks anymore and the word itself was now bad and wrong, I was still a freak. Just a different kind of one.

Facts were facts: if people knew me, they would shun me. That meant I couldn’t let anyone see behind the mask or through the reflection. I wanted to talk to Starling and tell her all the places and things I’d seen. The world was huge and its mysteries and secrets never-ending. I wanted to see her small, fiercely suspicious face smooth into smiles. I wanted to see her throw that neatly shaped head back in reckless laughter. I wanted to make fun of her pajamas and have her make up an outrageous fortune for me. Most of all, I wanted to sharpen her bowie knife for her and tell her never to warn men like Bart first, to just go ahead and put them down.

I wanted all those things, but I knew that Starling, for all her wild ways, wouldn’t react differently from anyone else when it came to me. I was too different, and while the world changed all the time, that wouldn’t.

Couldn’t.

I watched as Bart shoveled down his breakfast. Wondering. Wondering. What should I . . . The thought was interrupted. The couple from three nights ago walked by, swinging their little boy hand in hand. He saw me and squealed, “Doodle!”

His mother, ponytail swinging, looked over and smiled. “There is a Doodle, isn’t there? Hey, Doodle.” She laughed cheerfully. It wasn’t the throaty wine laugh from before, but I still liked it.

Bart was not thrilled. “You get more action than I do, asshole,” he mumbled under his breath while waving at them and giving them the patented Bart smile, that cork against a human bottle of psychopathic rage and hate. See the smile, but never look past it.

The mother didn’t, and they were past us and gone. I relaxed slightly. Bart had something planned for either Becca or Starling, I knew that. I didn’t want to add any further collateral damage.

By that time Bart was done. He left his plate and cup on the table, uncaring, which wasn’t a good sign. You didn’t do that in the carnival. You cleaned up after yourself—always. The mask was slipping.



THAT NIGHT IT dissolved and Bart—the real Bart—came out to play.

I could hear a thousand crickets when Becca slipped out the trailer door and Bart approached her with, “Hey, sweetheart, where you going?”

I saw the flash of wariness in her eyes. Her sister had told her about Bart and, unlike most girls Becca’s age, she believed. She listened to her big sister, and now she wanted nothing to do with Bart.

“Oh . . . Bart . . . and Doodle.” Her smile was a small, pained thing, because it was meant to include me. But as everyone had seen that I stood with and behind Bart since I’d arrived, it didn’t throw Bart off. Her voice wasn’t casual and breezy as she hoped. It only showed her fear and her weakness, and I could see Bart was already high at the sight of both. “I’m just going to Bartleby’s.” She tilted her head toward the next trailer. “We’re out of milk for Star’s tea.”

It was barely dark. It was just next door, but even so, I found it hard to believe Starling would let her go alone . . . not when the big bad wolf lived just across the way.

“Tea.” Bart rolled the word around his mouth. “She drinks tea. The bitch drinks tea. How fucking boring. I’m surprised she doesn’t drink acid, for all the shit that comes out of her mouth.”

Becca was frozen. In her life probably no one had ever talked to her that way, not even in a carnival. Bart used that. And he clubbed her down with one blow of his fist. She was a puddle of green and heather and ivory silk at his feet.

I hissed. This was wrong. Wrong. The world could be a bad place. I knew that. From the beginning I knew and had promised to stay out of it—for the very reason that I was as wrong in my way and my help might not be any better than the things I tried to stop. I watched. That’s all. That’s . . .

Why, Bart? Why, you asshole? Why’d you have to go and screw everything up?

He buried a hand in Becca’s hair and dragged her back into the trailer, dropping her on the floor and locking the flimsy door behind us.

“Doodle this and Doodle that,” he sneered at her. “You never had a word to say to me until goddamn Doodle came along.”

That was why. It was why Bart had messed things up for me and Becca, and it was why I had to fix it. If I hadn’t been here, this wouldn’t have happened. Mr. Murphy would’ve—already had—but not this.

“Becca? Did you open the door? I told you not to go outside after dark without me.” Starling came out of the tiny bathroom and stopped short at the sight of the unconscious bundle that was her sister. “Becca?”

She sounded lost, but she wasn’t. I don’t think Starling had ever been lost in her life. She stood, short hair damp, the wet gloss of red-and-black stripes screaming “Beware!” Wrapped in a scarlet robe, feet bare like before, she was a queen and Bart should’ve feared her. But Bart was an idiot.

I wasn’t. When she whipped that man-eating knife from behind her back and lunged to stab him in the chest, I applauded, unnoticed. Bart spat curses and grabbed her neck to throw her to the ground, the knife still in him. Starling was a fighter, but she was small. Five foot three at best. Barely a hundred pounds. But no matter the size, a tiger is still a tiger. She was back on her feet in a fraction of a second, her hands back on the handle of the knife, trying to shove it in deeper. It had gotten hung up on a rib bone, more’s the pity.

This time Bart grabbed her throat and held on, choking fast any screams she might’ve made. With the other hand he pulled the blade out of his flesh. “You fucking bitch.” His teeth were bared, his eyes full of fury, but a cold fury. When rage burns, at least it’s quick. When it’s cold, it can make a death last forever. Slice by slice by slice.

Holding the knife just under her chin and above his hand, he seethed curses that seemed to crawl over both of their bodies. “I’m going to kill you—don’t think for a second there’s a way out of that. But first I’m going to hurt your little sister. Hurt your Becca. I’m going to fuck her five ways to Sunday and then I’m going to cut every inch of her so the next man that looks at her pukes from the sight. And then I’m going to leave her alive on top of your fucking entrails. If ‘alive’ is what you can call that. In fact, I’ll call her up in a few years, ask her. Ask her if she’s alive or if she’s a corpse walking around with a beating heart. How’s that sound, Starling my darling? Well? How’s that sound? Fucking answer me, bitch!”

I was different. I was a freak, maybe. I was the passive watcher, blending in and never getting involved. Speaking only to kids too little to know how strange I was. That’s who Doodle was. That’s who Doodle had always been.

Until now.

Now . . . now I got involved.

Now I spoke.

Because now I was fucking pissed.

“Time to go home, Bart,” I said, stretching against the tightness of being still. Shedding the inertia of blending in.

Past Starling and the knife I could see the three of us in the bathroom mirror. I could see the surprise on Bart’s face, the bulge of his bicep where he all but held Starling off her feet. And I could see me.

On his bicep. On his skin.

A cute, happy monkey with a cheerful grin, the hat of a clown, several balloons of red, blue, and green held in one paw, the tail wrapped around Bart’s arm and below that, my name: Doodle.

Bart’s drunken vacation had him waking up with a tattoo he couldn’t even remember getting. Everyone in the carnival had loved it, though. Loved me. Joked about his new friend with the funny name, Doodle. Bart had been pissed about me, thought I was goofy and stupid, until people started talking to him to look at me. He regretted it less then, that mysterious tattoo. Bart, who’d take any advantage he could get.

Me? I’d just wanted to see life in a carnival. See this world. I’d spent millions of years in a different place and, once out, I wanted to see it all. It was brand-new to me and much better than home. Home . . . well, home was hell. Plain as it came.

Once, when especially bored, a demon had sketched me in the burning sand. Hence my name—hilarious, huh? I was a demonic doodle, who after endless years had finally escaped Hell, snaking through the smallest of cracks. I was a line of sulfur and will, and I could shape myself into any form and color. I thought a monkey was good for a carnival and particularly appropriate for Bart. He didn’t fling his feces, but he bit and he bit hard.

So did I.

I slithered out of the monkey shape, shed those colors, and went up Bart’s arm, winding back and forth at a speed even a rattlesnake couldn’t have managed. In less than a breath I was wrapped several times around Bart’s neck and that breath . . . it wasn’t something he had to worry about any longer.

I tightened until he turned blue and dropped the knife from Starling’s throat. I tightened again until he was purple and dropped himself, too, beside the knife. He foamed at the mouth a bit, like they do, and then he died and shot straight down to the burning sands I’d escaped.

Of all the predators that prowled the carnival with strange appetites and stranger shapes, the human was the truest monster of them all. The truest evil.

I know what people would think. I’m from Hell. Big H, little e, double-hockey-sticks Hell. I should be evil myself, pure malevolence, every part of me. Eh, not so much. You live in Hell for millions of years and you realize something about evil: it’s boring. You can say it’s wrong and morally reprehensible and all that, and you’d be right. But mainly it’s just so damn boring that after a while you don’t ever want to see it again. Life, even when it lasts millions of years, is too short for boring.

I wasn’t putting up with boring again.

Bart was wrong. Bart was boring. And now Bart was gone.

“Doodle?” Starling was crouched on the floor, staring at the tattoo line garroting Bart, finally seeing me.

I slid from around Bart’s neck and re-created the monkey shape and offered her the balloons.

“Doodle,” I confirmed.

She reached out and took them. Hesitantly, but she was a tiger and feared nothing, so she accepted them. The painted colors poured over her hand like a melting rainbow before disappearing.

“You . . . what are . . . ?” She shook her head, because this was Starling and even if I’d known her only days, I knew her still. She was infinitely practical. She didn’t second-guess, she definitely didn’t look a gift Doodle in the mouth. “You saved us. Thank you.”

My monkey tail curled around her wrist, black and brown lines of ink. “Doodle loves you.” I couldn’t talk much. Throats and voice boxes and tongues, they’re beyond a simple doodle, and I hadn’t regretted it before, but I did now. I eked out the words anyway. I couldn’t have held them back.

Because, yes, love is a bitch and doodles and tigers can’t be together, but love is still worth saying aloud.

“Doodle loves you.” I let go of her wrist, unraveled this shape, and slipped away through the small crack under the door and into the night.

Soon enough I’d find someone else to hitch a ride with, see something new, and maybe fall in love again. It was possible. Evil was boring, but love was interesting and exciting—everything I could imagine—and covered the world. I could meet love over and over.

Love is a bitch, I thought sadly, yet fondly, too, as I disappeared from the carnival and into a promising darkness.

Love is a bitch.

But she’s my bitch, and I couldn’t wait to see her again.

Pr??sentation de l'??diteur

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.”

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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  82 commentaires
11 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An excellent urban fantasy sampler 23 juillet 2013
Par Kimberly - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
"Painted Love" by Rob Thurman
Marvelous surprises await you in "Painted Love." Told from the point of view of a supernatural hitchhiker, "Painted Love" takes readers on an exploration of love and evil. Rob Thurman gave Doodle such an interesting, unique voice that I was drawn into the story from the start and couldn't stop reading until I learned what was going on. I'm afraid I can't say much about this story without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that you're in for a fascinating journey. "Painted Love" stayed with me long after I finished reading it and I'm looking forward to reading more of Rob Thurman's work.

***

"The Three Lives of Lydia" by Delilah S. Dawson
I admit, I picked up the Carniepunk anthology for this story. I love Delilah S. Dawson's Blud series and thus was eager to delve into the world of the Bludmen once more. Ms. Dawson does not disappoint. "The Three Lives of Lydia" explores the terrible beauty of Sang and of Criminy's Clockwork Caravan as seen through the eyes of Lydia, a human from our world who wakes up in Sang. I loved the vibrancy of the carnival, the darker undertones of the world, and seeing Sang -- not to mention curious Bludman Charlie Dregs -- through Lydia's eyes. The twists and turns the story took were interesting, leaving me to ponder the implications of what Ms. Dawson revealed.

If you haven't read the Blud series, "The Three Lives of Lydia" is a good introduction to the world of Sang. Chronologically, it takes place before the first book, Wicked As They Come, so fans of the series will undoubtedly be thrilled to see the caravan and its members (including Blud heroes Criminy and Casper) before Tish's arrival. I hope to be seeing more of Charlie now that I've read this story, and all in all "The Three Lives of Lydia" sated my need for a Blud fix.

***

"The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" by Kevin Hearne
What should be a rather ordinary wheat festival turns into a life or death battle against demons and ghouls in "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street." Follow the Iron Druid, Atticus, his apprentice Granuaile, and Atticus's Irish wolfhound Oberon to Granuaile's hometown, where the trio must rescue themselves and others from some hellish (literally) carnies. I delighted in the mix of action, humor, and garish visuals in "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street." Kevin Hearne has a deft hand with all three and I loved that I could be laughing at Oberon's commentary one minute, and then be wrinkling my nose at a gruesome ghoul the next.

"The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" is part of Mr. Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, but as I have not read the series (yet), I can safely say that readers unfamiliar with the Iron Druid books will easily be able to follow along. Fans of the series will surely be pleased with this short glimpse into Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon's lives.

Aside from the fact that I haven't been able to get Sondheim out of my head since I first read the title of this story, there's nothing I didn't love about "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street." I've wanted to read Mr. Hearne's work for a while, but now I'm definitely in a hurry to start the Iron Druid Chronicles!

***

"The Cold Girl" by Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine delivers heart-pounding suspense as a teenage girl's world comes crashing down around her. There are multiple kinds of monsters in "The Cold Girl," the worst of whom are human. At first, I wasn't sure I'd like "The Cold Girl," but Kiley's dying journey was enthralling in its sadness and had me turning the pages as Ms. Caine brought Kiley's terror to life. Though I won't spoil the story, I will say that readers better get ready for a haunting tale that will keep you guessing until the very end. I really enjoy Ms. Caine's writing and the outcome of "The Cold Girl" left me a well-satisfied reader.

***

"Freak House" by Kelly Meding
When half-djinn Shiloh Harrison's father is kidnapped by a magic abuser, it's up to her and two new allies to free him and other Paras from their freak show prison. "Freak House" provides a captivating introduction to Kelly Meding's Strays series. I absolutely loved this story. Ms. Meding gives Shiloh the right amount of intelligence, bravery, and magic to make her intriguing without going overboard (as sometimes happens in urban fantasy) and making our intrepid heroine difficult to relate to. I instantly adored Shiloh and I hope to learn much more about her and her two compatriots, former Army Ranger Julius and forced werewolf Will, in future Strays stories.

The world-building in "Freak House" was expertly done, providing all the information readers need without straying into what I call "info dump" territory. Kelly Meding is a marvelous storyteller and I cannot wait to read more about the world of Strays. Though I haven't read Ms. Meding's work before, after reading "Freak House" the four books of hers I have are going to the top of my to-be-read pile.

***

Carniepunk is an excellent urban fantasy sampler featuring some of the best authors in the genre today. Each author has a distinctive voice, but on the whole Carniepunk feels like a cohesive anthology.

To save this from becoming too lengthy a review, I highlighted my five favorite tales of carnie magic in the anthology. That doesn't mean that the other nine stories aren't worth talking about. As one might expect from an anthology featuring fourteen stories, Carniepunk can be a bit of a grab bag, depending on your tastes. Mark Henry's "The Sweeter the Juice" was the one story that was more horror than urban fantasy. His tale of drugs, transsexuals, and zombie babies in post-zombie apocalypse New York simply wasn't my cup of tea, though I must give Mr. Henry high marks for his talent as a writer (there are some truly haunting visuals in "The Sweeter the Juice"). Jaye Wells's "The Werewife," Hillary Jacques's "Recession of the Divine," and Seanin McGuire's "Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea" were also interesting, well-written stories that simply didn't speak to me personally.

A good number of the Carniepunk tales are set in established universes. That being said, I could follow along and enjoy every story, regardless of whether or not I've read the series it stemmed from. However, Allison Pang's "A Duet with Darkness," Jennifer Estep's "Parlor Tricks," Nicole Peeler's "Inside Man," Jackie Kessler's "A Chance in Hell," and Kelly Gay's "Hell's Menagerie" are all stories I think I'd enjoy more were I invested in their literary worlds. I do look forward to going back to these particular stories after I've read at least the first book in each series (the Abby Sinclair, Elemental Assassin, Jane True, Hell on Earth, and Charlie Madigan series, respectively).

Carniepunk is filled with fantastical and frightening delights. Whether you are a fan of one or more of the authors in this anthology already or are simply looking to try something new, Carniepunk is for you. One note of caution: you'll never look at a circus tent the same way again.

Kimberly
Review courtesy of Wit and Sin
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Worth the price of admission 23 juillet 2013
Par Lowcountry Book Lover - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
I've never been a big fan of anthologies. There is limited reading time (sad, I know) so I stick to novels where I can find character development and a depth to the story. However, in the past several months I decided to read more short stories. Earlier this year I read and reviewed a book of short stories / novellas by one of my favorite authors. And, my husband surprised me with an anthology of zombie shorts that I have enjoyed to the halfway point. So, when I saw this group of authors (many very well-known for their paranormal writing) and, hello, CARNIVALS - I really wanted to give this one a shot. Am I glad I did? You betcha!

As with any eclectic group, some of the stories are definitely better than others. I won't review each one separately here but if you are interested, I did rate each one with my Goodreads status updates while reading. The ratings varied from 1 to 5 stars with most receiving 3.5-4.

My favorite was definitely "The Cold Girl" by Rachel Caine. It was scary and sad - abusive teenage relationships, fortune tellers and the reaper. About 30 pages but better character development than many full length paranormal novels out right now.

Least favorite was "The Sweeter the Juice" by Mark Henry. I can't even describe it. Just weird. And, I hate to say but not good at all.

Overall, 4/5 stars and worth the price of admission.

Thank you to the Gallery Books for providing a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A perfect anthology 2 août 2013
Par Maja (The Nocturnal Library) - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Carnivals! As someone who dislikes crowds and cheap, unhealthy food, I must admit I am not a fan. But in the hands of my favorite urban fantasy authors, even a carnival can become the most exhilarating thing. Leave it to Rob Thurman, Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Rachel Caine, Allison Pang, Hillary Jacques, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Gay and Seanan McGuire to make even crowds seem suddenly appealing.

It seems that Kevin Hearne functions much better in the short story format. Deprived of the chance to indulge in long and dull mythology lectures, he focuses on his characters and action. In his story, Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon visit Granuaile's home town in disguise, but instead of family, they end up facing demons. Oberon plays a pretty big role in the story and he is as entertaining as ever so fans of the Irish Wolfhound have a lot to look forward to.

I gave up on the Elemental Assassin series ages ago, when things between Gin and Owen became unnecessarily complicated, but I must admit I enjoyed Parlor Tricks, Jennifer Estep's contribution to this anthology. In it, Gin and her sister Bria search for a missing girl, last seen visiting the carnival the previous night. Those who follow the series and know about the strained relationship between the sisters will thoroughly enjoy their easy banter and partnership in this story. And of course, as a special treat, Gin's sarcasm gets unleashed as her disdain for carnivals comes to light.

Hell's Menagerie by Kelly Gay brings us back to the amazing Charlie Madigan series. I was devastated when this series ended so a short story from Rex's perspective was like a balm for my wounds. Rex was always my favorite and his relationship with Emma never failed to bring a smile to my face. This story takes place during Charlie's quest to Elysia (no spoilers), so it's just Rex and Emma, saving their exotic hellhound puppies from a traveling circus.

The Jane True story doesn't focus on Jane or Anyan, but on the secondary (well, tertiary) characters Capitola, Moo and Shar. The girls are investigating a rather interesting case that takes them straight to a carnival. The story is told in Capitola's point of view and is both energetic and hilarious.

Another noteworthy story is The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry. Transsexuals, sex reassignment surgeries, hysterical pregnancies, all in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Sounds interesting? I thought so. The first half of this story is an exercise in hilarity, and the second half combines humor, gore and non stop action. My recommendation? Read it, or better yet, listen to it. The audio narrator contributed a great deal to Mark Henry's brisk humor.

I've only mentioned the stories that stood out in some way, but I enjoyed every one of them, which is SO rare with anthologies. In fact, I dare say this is the best anthology I've ever come across. I highly recommend Carniepunk to all urban fantasy fans, and if you get a chance, do yourselves a favor and get the audiobook.
18 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Good but Not Great and NOT Worth The Money (Update 16 Oct 2013) 23 juillet 2013
Par Douglas C. Meeks - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
"Painted Love" - Rob Thurman - A tale a bit creepy but not as depressing as her normal works. Would have made a great Twilight Zone episode 3.5/5

"The Three Lives of Lydia" - Delilah S Dawson - A bit of a urban fantasy/horror combo that left me flat because it had no real ending or if you wish the ending was depressing at best. 2/5

"The Demon Barker of Wheat Street"- Kevin Hearne - I skipped this story because I am behind of the series and did not want any possible spoilers but based on everything he has written this could not be worse than 4/5 and probably 5/5

"The Sweeter the Juice"- Mark Henry - Post-apocalyptic zombie horror-comedy, with drug-addicted trannies and possibly the most disgusting story in the book, the gore level and storyline were only equaled by the writing. I started scanning about a third of the way through and got the story and did not miss anything worth remembering (if you think the trannys made it disgusting, think again) 1/5

"The Werewife" - Jaye Wells - A different type werewolf story and not too shabby. Bit of a surprise ending. - 3.5/5

"The Cold Girl" - Rachel Caine - Even with all my reading I have never read anything but a short story by Ms Caine but this was one of the better stories in the book and since I love a good revenge story this was perfect and even had a bit of happy ending 4.5/5

"A Duet with Darkness" - Allison Pang - This one is a bit harder to review because it was a good story but the ending was clunky and no resolution. I HATE being fed a hook for another book in these type collections and that is what this felt like since they gave you no ending but a "hope for the future" type ending that was no ending at all unless you grab the Abby Sinclair series which hopefully has the rest of this story. Rated as a story in this book, felt more like a teaser for a novel ... 2.5/5 at best, maybe less

"Recession of the Divine" - Hillary Jacques - This is another hard one, good story confusing writing style had me backtracking to make sure where/who I was, I give it, decent ending. 3.5/5

"Parlor tricks" - Jennifer Estep - What can I say, great story even if you are not familiar with the Elemental Assassin series it is from, Bria and Gin are taken and the kidnapper has no clue what a terrible mistake that is going to be. 4.5/5

"Freak House" - Kelly Meding - Shiloh's djinn father is missing and she gets a lead on him in Denver and has to hook up with Julius when they learn of an exclusive traveling show of freaks that only the rich are invited to see. As far as standalone story, this one may have been the best since you feel no need to buy another book (I might though), think this from a series called Strays. 4.5/5

"The Inside Man" - Nicole Peeler - From the Jane True series. The biggest supernatural gangster in Chicago tells the ladies they need to discover why his sister and everyone in her town seems to have become human husks, they find a clown demon taking over entire towns and taking their memories. Good story, kept my interest. 3.5/5

"A Chance in Hell" - Jackie Kessler - From the Hell on Earth storyline. A reformed succubus is dragged to the carnival by her best friend who is teaching her how to be more human. The barker is a demon of greed who would like nothing more than getting his hands on her new soul. A bit of humor and general sluttyness make this one new and different. 3/5

"Hell's Menagerie" - Kelly Gay - Teenage Emma heads off into Hades, but the puppies and their mother of a hellhound she's close to have been kidnapped, her hellhound tracks them to a carnival filled with creatures that don't exist on Earth. Emma decides to release all of the creatures with less than stellar results. Good story from the Charlie Madigan series. 4/5

"Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea" - Seanan McGuire - Ada grew up in the Miller Family Carnival, the daughter of a mermaid who is a headliner in the small family carnival . The story takes a spin when they return to the place her mother left to join the carnival over 18 years ago and the townies are creepy to say the least. (NOTE: I had a hard time with this story because they used my hometown as a setting and instead of anything factual she just used southern stereotypes to represent a Huntsville, Alabama that never existed). If you know nothing about the actual location this was a story with some emotional impact, one of the top 3-4 stories in the book. 4.5/5
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 This exciting carnival-themed anthology is a great book bursting with creative and original stories. 17 novembre 2013
Par Dark Faerie Tales - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

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

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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