Unabridged Chick

I'm Audra, a 30-something married lesbian. I love interesting heroines, gorgeous prose, place as character, and the occasional werewolf.
Belle Noir: Tales of Love and Magic - Ava Zavora This slender collection of five short stories is familiar (three of the five stories were inspired by Beauty and the Beast) and darkly bittersweet. More in the Grimm vein (pun!) than Disney, Zavora leaves the reader feeling uneasy and discomforted -- which is a surprisingly fun state to be in!Each story lingered with me and, frankly, got under my skin (although I will say, the titular story 'Belle Noir' is the one I really can't shake!). The opening story, 'Transfigured', is the most fairy tale-ish in nature while 'No Loyal Knight and True' has the opening of a crime thriller but takes a delightful direction toward Lady of Shallot. 'Belle Noir' is just straight up creepy while 'Grotesque' -- the only story not specifically based on a fairy tale, I believe -- is moody and modern. 'Mirabilis' is more of a fantasy, but I was immediately captivated by the world Zavora wrought and I would love a novel about this place/our heroine.  The volume closes with a copy of Tennyson's poem, 'The Lady of Shalott'.  Zavora includes an 'Afterword' where she talks about some aspect of each story -- a rather fun inclusion I wouldn't mind in every volume of short stories I read!  (For those who love geeky extras, Zavora has a video playlist for each of her stories!)While the book blurb has an 18+ 'mature' warning in it, there's nothing particularly 'adult' in the stories, and I had to wrack my brain for what might be construed as 'mature'. There are two moments, perhaps, in different stories, that are vaguely disturbing, but no more so than anything you'd find in any other novel. And it's a brief allusion, nothing graphic, so don't let the warning scare you off. This isn't erotica or even sexytimes.   Dark, punchy, and fun, Belle Noir is perfect for when you're in the mood for a beach read that isn't cheery. Those of you who want something dark and fast for either RIP or Dewey's Readathon in October, consider this collection.  And of course, if you like fairy tales retold, give these a try.