Review of My Haunted Blender’s Gay Love Affair, and Other Twisted Tales

cover52086-mediumMy Haunted Blender’s Gay Love Affair, and Other Twisted Tales by Abigail Roux, Andrea Speed, and Anne Tenino

Thanks to NetGalley and Riptide Publishing for the review copy.

So, I already reviewed one of the stories in this trilogy, and I am damn glad that Riptide decided to release the whole book, because my review of the collection is significantly better than the one story by itself.

The other two stories, The Bone Orchard and Horny really round out City of Monsters, and as a package, the book is way more than the sum of its parts.

Bone Orchard is a beautiful story about two crazy ghosts in love through the ages, locked in immortal battle with the man who killed them. Those familiar with Abigail Roux’s popular Cut and Run and Sidewinder series will recognize some secondary characters.

Horny is an adorable ensemble comedy about a group of Greek Gods who come to earth in search of the wayward Zeus and get a more than they bargained for. I was glad to be introduced to Anne Tenino, as this was the first story of hers that I’ve read

And, for the package cost of $7.99, my previous stingy book buyer objections based on price are null and void. This is a steal, the stories are cute and funny.

4 stars out of 5

Review of Venomoid by J.A. Kossler

cover49254-mediumVenomoid by J.A. Kossler

Thanks to Netgalley and Riverdale Avenue Books for the review copy.

Teenage vampire cop Lorin lives in a dangerous world. His duties as an enforcer for the IPO make him an enemy to his own kind, and his non-human status within the very organization he serves give them carte blanche to kill him for any reason, up to and including a poor performance report. To add insult to injury, the only way an adult vampire can be allowed to live, even as non-human non-citizens is if they become “venomoid” through the surgical removal of their fangs and venom glands.

His life gets even more complicated when he meets Lex the zombie, a member of a newly discovered unkillable race of hunters who must devour living human flesh in order to maintain their sanity. As you might imagine, it’s love at first sight, and the two quickly begin planning their life together. Away from the IPO, and away from the zombies and their strict tribal hierarchies. But will the villains on either side of what passes for law in these parts really let them be happy together?

Every couple of years women in the West will remember that women in other parts of the world endure the ritual removal of their clitori in various stages of horrific and gorey agony, and there will be a spat of articles written about it. Many of them detailing, not only the process of the operation in great detail, but the culture that makes it okay, and even the hours or days leading up to it. I have to say that this book reads eerily similarly.

Lorin, who became a Vampire at an extremely young age has been told nothing about his own physiology. Like women who live in clitorectormy cultures, he has virtually no knowledge about what function his own fangs serve. And like women who live in clitorectomy cultures, it seems like in this universe vampire fangs are largely a sexual organ.

Reading this book was like reading one of those articles, just waiting for the proverbial (and sometimes literal) ax to fall. It was fucking tense.

Outside of the physical and emotional oppression through cruel and unnecessary surgery storyline, I was nonplused by the rest of the plot. Not to spoil it, but there’s a pretty serious emergency event that the main character tries to solve through none other than grassroots activism, which is just weird. It’s the equivalent of trying to cure a venomous snake bite through a careful plan to fund the preservation of the natural habitat the snake would have lived and hunted in, far away from bite-able people.

It’s saccharine sweet. Which works in it’s favor, especially considering the fact that so many horrible things happen to this poor kid. But I can’t help but think that if somebody had flattened out the peaks and valleys and replaced them with character development, this would have been a much better read.

3 stars out of 5

Always Get Your Man – Review of “The Return of Jake Slater” by Zavo

cover51028-mediumThe Return of Jake Slater by Zavo

Thanks to NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for the review copy. The Return of Jake Slater will be available Sept. 15, 2014

As the title implies, Jake Slater is back. Freshly recovered from the vicious attack that nearly ended his incredible, sex-soaked life, Jake is once again on a man hunt. Same man, different hunt.

Jake’s equally lusty lover Ben has been kidnapped by the evil Sheriff, and Jake is aching to reunite with his beloved so they can begin their lives together.

As before, something goes wrong, and Ben and Jake spend most of the book in deathly danger, neither sure if the other is dead or alive. Fucking throughout, of course. After all, certain peril is an excellent reason to fuck a stranger.

The Return grants the boys more agency than they seemed to have in book one, and all the better for it. And, since Ben and Jake were separated for most of the book, there was just a lot more plot going on, and I didn’t worry so much about them because I knew they’d be fine until they were reunited.

One weird issue I came across was at the end of the book. The first person present narration that had been switching from Ben to Jake sort of blended together in the last few chapters such that I couldn’t tell who was narrating. In fact, one section has the narrator saying “I” and acting on both Ben and Jake in the same paragraph. For example, “I replied to Jake… then I grabbed Ben’s hand.” it’s pretty confusing. Jake and Ben are this weird amalgam that acts as one entity. Which could have been a stylistic choice.

Altogether, another great one from Zavo. The man knows how to make light-hearted sex adventure stories come alive.

5 out of 5 stars

Big Country Lovin’ – Review of “Stripped Away” by Ellis Carrington

cover51012-mediumStripped Away (The Escapade #2) by Ellis Carrington

Thanks to Netgalley and Ellis Carrington for the review copy.

This is the second in a series, but you really don’t need to read the first one to get the lay of the land. David is the son of a now disgraced preacher man, Ricky is a bisexual strip club owner looking for anything, as long as it’s not serious.

After a contentious start, the boys go from battling it out to sticking it in, but can their relationship really last? Crazy exes, family emergencies, and the rigors of everyday life in the heartland conspire against them. Will their love shine through?

This is kind of standard, enemies to lovers track. Nothing’s really ventured between the dudes involved, and nothing’s really gained. The good thing about Stripped Away is that the emotional “I can’t… but I want to… but I’m not sure… but does he even want to… but but but etc.” that so many erotica writers tend to fall back on for drama is mostly internal. So there’s no dramatic storming out followed by dramatic declarations followed by even more storming out. Thank God. But there is a lot of uncertainty that seems to simmer but not quite boil in this weird way.

The tension didn’t strike me as being that high, despite the plot having a lot of things to be really tense about. I can’t put my finger on it. But even the very dramatic scenes where the characters were in danger, or enthralled with each other were sort of hazy. I think the issue is with the narrator. For example, David’s heart is described as pounding in his ears, or something like that, but I’m not seeing a lot of David himself feeling his heart pounding in his ears. It’s a subtle difference, but I think it’s what’s bothering me.

When a narrator describes the actions or the effects of the story on the characters without getting inside them, they all end up with this lacquered feeling, like a diorama of a story. The dialog in Stripped Away is great. The characters talk like real people, and they actually speak to each other, which I love. But they don’t relate to each other because of this lack of internal narration. That small edition to the next book should be the missing piece that ties this whole thing together.

3.5 stars out of 5

Dat Spoiled Brat Lyfe – Review of “The Before Now and After Then”

cover50977-mediumThe Before Now and After Then by Peter Monn

Thanks to NetGalley and Pen Name Publishing for the review copy.

I keep seeing article after article on how YA is the new thing, how they’re supposed to be better than regular novels. I’ve tried to read John Green, arguably the undisputed king of YA right now, and I can’t fucking stand it. It’s all about these spoiled white brats in the middle of the country whose pain I’m supposed to take seriously? GIVE ME A BREAK.

In the case of The Before Now and After Then, it’s annoying, whiney characters are only part of what bothers me. The books starts off with a dramatic loss, for which I am supposed to feel so sorry for the main character that I totally don’t care about what a tool he is for the rest of the book. His parents give him a car, his parents have two amazing houses, at least one of which has a pool. His parents give him a puppy, but all he wants is a boyfriend. So he finds another sad, tortured bastard to foist his drama on, and doesn’t it just follow that it turns out to be true love.

If you ever wanted to go to a place where the parents act like petulant children, and the children act like those nightmares where you’re back in high school but all your friends have needles instead of teeth, by all means come into the magical world of The Before Now and After Then. Nonsense made over to sound like truth, codependency and bad choices recharacterized as good living. A veritable smorgasbord of awful, all in one amazing little screaming, crying package.

Needless to say, I was not enamored of this book. The fact that they kill off one character at the beginning of the book instead of dealing with the complexity his presence would add, the fact that they try to pass teenage angst off as real drama, and the fact that throughout the whole thing, the people who are supposed to be mentors and leaders are, in fact, some of the most ridiculous and stupid characters in this whole thing had me finishing it on principal just so I could say that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know it earned this rating.

If a friend of mine had written this book, I would tell them, obviously, to try again, but to focus on what they know, not on what they think they should know. Don’t write for everybody else, for some imagined audience, but for yourself. For example, if this review doesn’t ring true at all, feel free to disregard. The book obviously wasn’t for me in the first place.

1 star out of 5 for at least not being written in first person principal on top of everything else.

New Kid Saves the Day – Review of City of Monsters by Andrea Speed

cover50704-mediumCity of Monsters by Andrea Speed

Thanks to NetGalley and Riptide for the review copy. City of Monsters will be out August 11, 2014 in My Haunted Blender’s Gay Love Affair, and Other Twisted Tales

This short story is one of three haunted comedies to be published as a set. Main character Hunter is a man in a depression. He’s an underemployed private eye with a gambling problem, and a pesky ability to shift into an as-yet undiscovered animal form (he’s never let anyone watch, and he himself can’t remember the shift) who’s hot on the trail of a reverse tooth-fairy when sexy journalist Sakari turns an already bad day slightly more interesting. Maybe too interesting.

The eponymous blender (unless the other two stories also have haunted blenders) makes it’s appearance in this story, and while I like him, I wonder about his potential for comic relief. The story itself has more silliness than hilarity, which isn’t to say it isn’t fun. I do wish that there was more time spent on the pulpy bits, but as there wasn’t. It’s still an alright little short, although 3.99 is a little pricey. Minus one star for being kind of expensive.

3 out of 5 stars for having nothing wrong with it whatsoever.

UPDATE: I reviewed the whole book here.