Let it Snow! Season's Readings for a Super-Cool Yule! is a collection of 10 short stories. The only thing all the tales have in common is the time of year they're each set around, i.e. Christmas.
There's also the interesting addition that each story contains one or more characters from the relevant author's other books. So if you like a certain character, you can find more stories about them. If you do, all the links are helpfully provided in Let in Snow!, at the end of each author's contribution.
The first story is "A Laurents County Landfill Christmas" by Red Tash.
"Winter in Laurents County, Indiana is cold, damp, and gray.
Set around a rather eccentric troll, who decides to throw a Christmas bash for all his friends. Set in a world of pixies, wizards, changelings and trolls (among other things), who co-exist with humans much the same way muggles and magic do in the Harry Potter series. Either you know it exists or you don't.
This story was a little confusing. There were so many references to characters and events from previous books that it was difficult to tell who people were or what their relationships to each other were. Half the time I didn't know what was going on. However, I enjoyed the world it's set in and the characters too. Once you get past the whole "who's who?" and reach the story, it becomes an enjoyable little tale about spending Christmas with the people you love, with a little magic thrown in.
Next is "Silent Night" by Jack Wallen.
"Silent night. Holy night. All is calm, all is quiet."
This is a story with a darker tone. John Burgess is the leader of the Zero Day Collective. Run by the some of the most wealthy and influential people around the globe, their main goal is to make money. How are they going to go about this? Well, they've created a machine that is going to "cleanse" the human race- all under the guise of producing a source of renewable energy. They're not aiming for anyone in particular- just the entire globe. Saying anymore would be a spoiler, so I'll just end on this note- John Burgess is a ruthless, charismatic (aren't they always) man. Money is his only objective and he cares little how he acquires it. A delightfully dark story, that'll leave you uneasy long after it's over.
Third is "Crazed in Christmas City" by Jessica McHugh.
"The only gift Avery Norton received during her first Christmas in Taunton State Lunatic Asylum was a heavy dose of sedatives."
Another darker tale- this one is set in Taunton State Lunatic Asylum. Avery Norton spent her last Christmas so heavily sedated she may as well have been unconscious. This year she plans to actually attend the celebrations. Why is she in an asylum? Well Avery is accused of murdering quite a few people, though she doesn't believe it herself. It's left fairly ambiguous whether or not she actually is innocent or guilty. Her mother enjoys taunting her about it (with Christmas cards), in a rather passive-aggressive way and there is the question of if her mother is really the killer, but nothing is revealed.
This was one of the stories that stood out the most to me. I'm a sucker for a mystery and Avery is an interesting protagonist. As the main character, we want to trust her and get behind her, but we're constantly unsure whether she's as innocent as she claims. There's certainly a quality about her that makes you a little nervous. She has a few psychotic tendencies, but whether she developed those as a result of being incarcerated is unclear. I'll definitely be checking out the full story in the related book.
Next is another off-beat story. "A Manlove and Kickerdick Xmess" by Axel Howerton, pretty much tells you what the tone is going to be with the title alone.
"So what the hell do you want, you big fucking baby?"
Arthur Menlowe and Jurgen Kierkedoek are stage performers who act out explicit scenes under their pseudonyms. I get the feeling that this short story is kept pretty tame for the book, because in this story our two lovers are chauffeuring a rather obnoxious politician to dinner (rather than focusing on their other job). Though the senator does want to conclude dinner by taking his son somewhere special to "make him a man."
The whole time our main characters are trying to keep themselves in check, while the rather homophobic senator makes crass comments about his son being gay (because he's a virgin). There is a rather satisfying ending, that puts the senator in his place and takes the tension out of the unpleasant Christmas Eve everyone had been experiencing. A rather short story, that leaves a lot untold, but tells you enough to know whether these characters are for you. On the one hand you have the very punk Jurgen and on the other, the very camp Arthur. A curiously well-fighting couple.
Next up is "The Snow Wolf's Gift" by Tim Tash.
"Sayenne stepped out of the blue glow, taking a deep breath as the portal closed behind her."
Another fantasy tale, this one about a shape-shifter named Sayenne. She crosses the portal between her world and ours, coming across a wizard named Gandira, who has unfortunately broken his leg. Whilst helping him, they are attacked by a dragon and Sayenne is forced to run.
The plot of this one is a little vague and I think would make more sense in context. Again, we don't know the characters, we don't know Sayenne's reasoning, we don't know why she's being chased, but on the whole, there is enough of her story described to figure out whether or not you want to know more. I can't really say more about the characters or plot, as the story didn't reveal a lot about them.
Sixth in the book was "A Serial Killer Christmas" by Mercedes Yardley.
"Something about the holidays made our dear Peter sad."
This one features a very insane, but also very likeable, serial killer named Peter. The whole plot is him preparing his apartment for his "guest" that evening. His MO is killing young women, but he wants them to die beautifully, so he has to decorate his apartment and get his intended victim (his "beloved") gifts before she arrives.
Peter has quite a young mind. His mother was murdered when he was a child, which may explain it a little, as well as his "hobby". The things he wants to do or tell his "beloved" are very childish. Showing her a photo he took, or some of the mannerisms he uses are similar to a child communicating with their mother, wanting attention and praise. He has a quality that makes his very endearing, though psychotic. He sincerely wants to make his "guests" happy. He wants them to be beautiful and he believed it with all his heart, but he is a killer.
This was another story that I really enjoyed and I plan on discovering more about in the full book. Like I said before, I'm a sucker for a mystery. Even if the protagonist is the one creating them.
Now we come to " Old Mexia Christmas Brew" by Claudia Lefeve.
"After dinner, everyone left the Everett residence and headed back to their respective homes- with the exception of Jenny and Chase, who loitered just a little too long saying goodbye to their friends."
Again we have a story with confusing elements to it. It's set in the future, but also in another reality, but there's more than one reality, one of which is a few years ahead of our time and one of which is hundreds of years in the future and there's a war going on in it, but some characters can travel between realities and time with a portal and they're part of a rebellion. Honestly, there were so many details that I had no idea what to do with them. I'm pretty sure I got some of the above points wrong, but can you blame me?
On a simpler note, the plot revolves around Jenny and Chase- who come from different realities, but are now in the same reality fighting in the rebellion, but it's a different reality from either of their own realities and our own reality and - I'm just going to stop trying to understand the plot from another book, that we are only given vague references to. The plot is that Chase likes Jenny. He wants to impress her, so when she asks to time-travel and "reality hop?" to Mexico, December 20, 2012, he agrees. There's also something about him being able to see the future, but basically Jenny wants to travel to her country on the night that everyone believed would end in the apocalypse. Why? To bring a little Christmas cheer to people fearing for their lives.
A nice, simple story (once you get past all the confusing parts) about their first date and bringing joy to those around you.
Our next story is "The Pratty Who Saved Christmas" by Marian Allen.
"Dickens O'Henry was mad to begin with."
Dickens O'Henry is a creditor (who also runs a pub) from the planet Llannonn. This is not his real name by the way, it is his assumed Earth name, though I don't believe this story is set on Earth.
He and his assistant, Humbug Plugugly (can you see the Christmas theme?) are trying to track down Nittleigh Witterr, who is late on his payment. They plan to catch him as he heads home for the Anti-Hot Solemnities (Christmas to you and me) to be with his family. Unfortunately, they miss him and are forced to follow his cousin, Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri, to try find him. Holly discovers their plan and decides having her cousin attacked and possibly killed during the holidays would be a bit of a downer, so she tries to distract the two crooks. Helping her is the Living Book A Compendium of Christmas Classics, who explains what Christmas is and what it means.
What is a Pratty and what does it have to do with the story? Well, you'll just have to read it to find out. Ending on a line that will have you joyfully cringing in the same manner we do reading a Christmas cracker joke. Possibly the most Christmassy feeling story of them all.
Ninth on the list is "Believe" by Connie Roberts-Huth.
"Somewhere behind me, I could hear the faintest notes of Joy to the World breaking through the otherwise painful silence around me."
Zoe Delante experienced an unexplained (at least in this book) tragedy during her last case. To escape the pain, she travelled from Baltimore to a small town in Arizona to help herself heal. But, she soon found money running low and decided to start working again.
Her profession is a psychic, who works with the police during murder investigations. She can both see and speak to the dead, which often helps her find the truth. Her case at the moment is helping find a young girl's killer, which involves talking to the young girl, Eloise. Finding out the truth can be just as unsavoury as you'd imagine and especially when children are involved. Who is the mysterious killer that Eloise refers to as the "fake Santa" and what were his motives?
This was another story that stood out for me. The ending is a little rushed, but what I most enjoyed about the story was Eloise. I'm not sure why I liked her character so much, maybe it's because she is so childlike. There are times when she tries to act very adult (as children sometimes do) and she sees and understands a lot more than most people would give her credit for. But, she also breaks sometimes. She's a little girl who's just been murdered and is scared and alone. She wants her mother, but is determined to help Zoe, as she believes the "fake Santa" will try to kill her mother next. A very endearing character, whose story you want to know the conclusion of.
Finally, we come to " Hau'oli Hannukkah" by T. Lee Harris.
"Hard to believe it was December."
Set (as you might have guessed) in Hawaii, we meet Josh Katzen, an ex-covert operative who now works as a photographer of archeological finds. He finds himself stuck in Hawaii and unable to go home for the holidays, as all flights to his hometown have been cancelled due to snow. Feeling a little homesick, he accepts an offer from his friend Dora, to crash at her place for the holidays. She also has a plan to take his mind of things with a surprise she knows he'll love. But Josh is about to find out that the holidays in Hawaii aren't always as relaxing as they may sound and maybe his covert-op skills will be needed once more.
A nice story about being home for the holidays, with a little espionage thrown in.
All in all, Let it Snow! is a delightful collection of short stories, with a diverse and eclectic range of topics explored. Whether you want a mystery, a dark tale, fantasy, sic-fi, slice of life or just a little Christmas spirit, you'll find it in this book. Something for everyone, that can be enjoyed at anytime of year, especially around the holidays.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by one of the authors through the giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.