I read a book: I’m in Love with Mothman, by Paige Lavoie

What’s a girl to do when she’s got 4 books started and an out of control TBR? Go looking for another ARC, of course. And why not one with a short deadline. I mean, that probably wasn’t a great idea, but here we are. Story of my life.

Fortunately for me, this book was a joy to read right from the start. I’m in Love with Mothman is the story of an influencer who’s had her fill of that public life and buys a cabin in the middle of nowhere on a whim. I guess she’s loaded because there’s no indication of a job to pay the bills, but that isn’t important to the story. It’s just one of those little holes in a story that my brain tries to fill in. I loved watching Heather frame all her new experiences as she would have on social media as she adjusts to her new surroundings. She describes her newly acquired cabin in the woods as her Pinterest board come alive. She’s determined to have her little moments that she would normally post on social media. One such moment is brought on by some ribbing of local what are boundaries guy Chris. Chris rubbed me the wrong way immediately and my feelings about him are validated by his increasingly creepy interactions with Heather as the story progresses.

Anyway. Heather meets Mothman during her attempt at proving to herself that Chris is wrong about her not being able to climb a tree. She gets up there and realizes she didn’t factor in how she would get back down. This is how she meets Mothman. This is the beginning of a super cute love story. It’s not an easy start and they have more than their share of challenges.

There were some things I didn’t love. The totally predictable Chris factor. The spice level (mild). I prefer more descriptive scenes. No real build up to the pair falling in love. Not much build up to Heather becoming attracted to Moth. She’s afraid of him and suddenly she’s not.

There was a lot that I did love though. Heather is delightful, not at all what I expect a social media queen to be like. Moth is initially wary and standoffish, but he is never malicious and once he feels safe letting down his guard, he is all in. And he’s adorable! I loved most of the characters.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. All in all, a good book. I will be reading the sequel when that comes out. This one ended on a cliffhanger and while I’m not sure I like the direction this is going once Moth started to remember parts of his past, I really do want to know more. It’s fairly cutesy for the most part. Some conflict to keep you from getting bored from all the cute. Not a super satisfying resolution to that conflict, but I still feel good about this book. Looking forward to seeing where Paige Lavoie takes this story in the next book.

Big thanks to Paige Lavoie and Booksprout for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy I’m in Love with Mothman, by Paige Lavoie on Amazon for a couple bucks.

I read a book: Mantis, by Matthew A. Clarke

I have the bad habit of not always checking if I already own a book before buying a new one. I actually own Mantis, by Matthew A. Clarke under it’s previous title, Things Were Easier Before You Became a Giant Fucking Mantis. This is not the first time I’ve acquired second copies of re-released books, but this post isn’t about those.

The cover art on the two editions couldn’t be more different, but both are amazing and eye catching enough that I bought it twice. The first cover shows a somewhat ghastly looking manti-woman’s face. Having read the descriptions of manti-people, I believe that cover is a more accurate representation of what they look like. The cover on the re-release, Mantis, is actually quite beautiful. In my head, the different covers represent how Jacoboby sees the love of his life, Millie, right after she turns (first cover) and how he sees her years afterward when he’s fully accepted their new life together. After all, I think we all see the people with whom we are in love in a rosier hue.

Teenagers Jacoboby and Millie live in a world where some people carry a gene that turns them into giant mantis people. Jacoboby’s mom leads a hate group called Super Mantis Killas who spends their time beating up and murdering manti-people and just being jackasses. As the son of the leader of this group, Jacoboby is dubbed Master of the mantis hating dudebros. One day, his best friend and girlfriend Millie starts to turn. He knew she carried the gene because he knew her sister was a mantis, but her transformation is still a shock to him. He is forced to reexamine everything he’s ever known and decide whether he will continue his life as an SMK Master or start a new life with his mantis girlfriend.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This bizarre story tackles some surprisingly heavy themes. You’ll find yourself making mantis parallels to real world subjects like racism, loyalty, love, and family. It is well written and thought provoking. It’s imaginative and totally bizarre. It’s got everything I expect from a good bizarro novel. If you’re a fan of bizarro, you’ll love it.

You can buy Mantis, by Matthew A. Clarke on Amazon for a couple bucks or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Monthly roundup – November 2022

November was a month of great reads. I got in a good amount of horror and poetry, and even some with seasonal themes. And I read 6 ARCs, which is super productive for me. Nevermind that two of their reviews are incomplete. I’ll get them published eventually. Since I rated so many of them ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, I’m not going to do a full breakdown. However, I will talk a little about my favorites.

My favorite in the monster romance category was Desire in His Blood, by Zoey Draven. Draven is already an author I know I like, so when I saw this first volume of a new series, it was a no brainer. Downloaded it immediately. There’s so much I like about this book. The heroine is so great. Able to adapt to any situation. Gemma takes care of her father’s financial problems and shields her sisters from all the things that are stressing her out. This whole marriage to a wealthy (scary) alien was her way of protecting them in the long term. She learns to navigate her new, sometimes frightening, husband and her new home. Of course she didn’t understand what she was getting into and what secrets she’d learn and what wrongdoings she’d eventually find a way to fix. Because that’s who she is. She’ll do whatever it takes to make things right. Azur is hard and cold on the beginning, having arranged this marriage with nefarious intentions. It doesn’t take long for him to catch feelings and he spends a lot of time wrestling with his emotions. There’s a lot of conflict. And spice. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t continue. But I will say they get their HEA and we get more of Gemma’s cleverness and Azur’s heart. Her Orc Warrior, by Zoe Ashwood was also really enjoyable! You can read my full review here.

In the horror category, Night Stockers was the standout. I haven’t read a book with Kristopher Triana’s name on it that I didn’t love, and now I want to read more Ryan Harding. It is an extreme horror offering, but it’s more than just torture porn. Don’t get me wrong, it is brutal af, but the characters and the story are interesting and honestly pretty fucking funny. If that makes me a weirdo, so be it. This was a tough category though because all of them were so great. Several were my first tastes of new (to me) authors and they all left me wanting more.

The poetry was also mostly great. I would say The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On was probably my favorite because I found it most relatable. I found myself rereading poems in nearly every collection though. 4 out of 6 poetry collections I read in November were ARCs and all but one were fantastic.

As I mentioned earlier, I read 6 ARCs in November. That’s some kind of record for me. Even more impressive to me is that 5 out of 6 of them were amazing! Poetry ARCs are hit or miss for me but these were so good. Only one was underwhelming. Anyway, no one is reading this. I’m done rambling. Read some books.

An extreme horror Turkey Day

I love Thanksgiving.

I love turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pies, and those little brown and serve dinner rolls. Gravy. Oh, the gravy. I love the food and the subsequent turkey coma. I love the long weekend.

But there is a dark history surrounding Thanksgiving. It is a day of mourning for some Indigenous Americans. I have a lot of thoughts regarding that history and the way it is perpetuated still, but this post isn’t about that. So when I say that I love Thanksgiving, know that I am referring to the food (both eating and cooking) and long weekend, not the actual holiday.

Long weekends mean time to catch up on chores, get the kid out of the house, and more time for reading. A splatterpunk Thanksgiving reading list feels appropriate for a holiday with bloody beginnings. I’ll get to the chores and outings tomorrow. Tonight is for turkey coma and books!

In preparation for the holiday weekend, I scoured the horror book groups for seasonal reads and picked up the three most recommended titles. Thanksgiving Day Massacre, by Brian G. Berry, Gobbler: F*ck Your Thanksgiving, by Judith Sonnet, and Am Extreme Turkey Dinner, by Sea Caummisar. Three short and brutal bites to satisfy my hunger for holiday horror.

I started with Thanksgiving Day Massacre. This is my first Brian G. Berry book, but it won’t be my last. Holy cow. This one hit the ground running. This tiny town is busy prepping for the Thanksgiving Day parade when a guy wearing a turkey mask goes on a murder spree. From the moment he strolls into town, it’s just blood and guts everywhere. You know it’s gonna be brutal when the very first kill scene involves a guy’s scalp used as a cum rag and a woman cut in half right down the middle of her body. The cover looks like a cheesy 80s slasher flick (which I love!), but this book is not that at all.

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃 for me. Berry is a master of graphic imagery. Some of the dialog felt a little clunky, but that added to the slasher appeal. There are scenes that will push your limits. Splatterpunk is supposed to do that.

Next up, I bit into Gobbler: F*ck Your Thanksgiving. This is a brand new novella by Judith Sonnet. She’s been on my radar for a while but I hadn’t read any of the handful of her books in my kindle library yet. What can I say, my TBR is out of control. I admit that part of my decision to read this one was the title. It reminded me of a local pie shop that sells lunches along with their many sweet treats. My favorite savory pie is called The Gobbler, a turkey pot pie sitting on a bed of stuffing and topped with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a cranberry compote. The Gobbler in this story was nothing like that tasty pie, but the story was a treat. We meet the Gobbler immediately. He’s preparing his costume and thinking back to his own tragic backstory. His family forgot to say Grace before cutting into the turkey one year and he believes that they were slaughtered by god to teach him a lesson. Each year after, he dons his weird costume and sets out to teach another family a lesson about celebrating the holiday the way god intended. This novella is the story of one such lesson. The Gobbler is…an artist. His lessons are tailored to his students masterfully.

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃 for me. If splatterpunk and extreme horror is your thing, if you like vivid gory imagery, don’t sleep on Judith Sonnet.

My last Thanksgiving treat was An Extreme Turkey Dinner, by Sea Caummisar. This one has been sitting in my kindle library for a while now. Caummisar is a very prolific author, and I own many of her books, having picked them up on various sales over the course of the last year. This is the first one I’ve read. This is the story of a woman with a lot of trauma who decides to go the revenge route rather than forgiveness. She’s been through so much and her revenge is unexpected, exacting, and brutal. It’s a bloodbath, much to Angie’s dismay. It’s great.

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃 for me. I really need to read more of the Caummisar books in my kindle library. Truly enjoyed this one.

My long weekend is over. I’ve finished my Turkey Day horror reading list. This was my first experience with each author and I feel like I’ve been sleeping on all three. Splatterpunk and extreme horror are not for everyone, but if that’s your things, add these books to your holiday reading list.

I read a book: The Flock, by J. Todd Scott

The Flock, by J. Todd Scott was Book Lovers Cafe’s November book club selection. It was not the one I voted for, but it was already in my kindle library from a previous Amazon First Reads. Book club seems to be the only way I care enough to read those even though they are usually pretty good. Usually.

This one has an interesting premise. It’s the story of a former cult member making a new life for herself and her daughter long after her cult days. She has a whole new identity, but her old life catches up to her and the rest of the book takes us back to the remaining bits of the cult. Sounds interesting, right?

I’m not sure why, but I expected this to be more firmly rooted in reality (despite being fiction). Like one of those biographies of real former cult members. A tell all type thing. It is not. Stuff that the cult believes in starts happening. Birds are falling out of the sky dead, the world is on fire, and a kid is performing miracles. The story jumps between time periods and narrators and it’s not really difficult to follow, but I found myself having a hard time caring about some of them. Meh. Maybe my reception of this book is a result of my expectations. I expected it to be something it never claimed to be and I didn’t particularly enjoy what it is.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Not bad really, despite my gripes. Some of my book club really enjoyed it. It just wasn’t for me. If you like thrillers with a religious/cult flare, it might be right up your alley.

You can buy The Flock, by J. Todd Scott on Amazon for a couple bucks or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Popsicle, by Christa Wojciechowski

This book is weird and wonderful. I love it. We meet the main character, Andre, gnawing on a man’s face with his pants down in a sewer. He doesn’t know what he’s doing or how he got there, or even who the man is, but he knows something is terribly wrong and he needs to figure out how he ended up in this predicament. He finds something implanted in the guy’s neck and realizes that he has the same implant. In an effort to piece together the events that lead to this moment, he starts going through his internet history and social media posts.

The implant. Have you ever read The Murderbot Diaries? You know how everyone is connected to a network via tech and Murderbot hacks his way through the universe and so on? The implant in Andre’s neck is sort of like an alpha tester of that kind of device. We learn that he is participating in the testing phase for a big fat paycheck. At this stage, no one is hacking security systems. They’re mostly vegging out doing internet things like googling shit and participating in social media.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Popsicle is exciting and well written. Wojciechowski’s writing makes the reader feel like they’re a part of Andre’s journey. The pacing fits the novella length and the author leaves out no details. Sometimes novellas of this length move too quickly and leave a lot of gaps, but that is not a problem present in this one. The story is imaginative and absurd and full of dark humor that matches my own sense of humor.

Big thanks to Christa Wojciechowski and BookSirens for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Popsicle, by Christa Wojciechowski on Amazon for a couple bucks.

I read a book: Her Orc Warrior (Black Bear Clan #3), by Zoe Ashwood

This is the third book in the Black Bear Clan series by Zoe Ashwood. Normally I wouldn’t start a series at book 3, but this is an ARC and I’m on a deadline. That said, books in this series read well on their own. While there are references to characters from other books, the stories stand alone fine.

As I’ve mentioned in most of my monster romance reviews, I read Ruby Dixon’s entire catalog over the course of a year and have been chasing that vibe ever since. I’m looking for well written stories with cinnamon roll male main characters and interesting female leads. They can be grumpy. They can have issues they need to work through. In fact, I prefer it. But I don’t like the whole alphahole trope that seems to be wildly popular. That extreme possessiveness and jealousy just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t want to read about men who are unkind to women, even if they don’t mean to be. I have come across that with other orc or alien series and didn’t continue beyond the first books of those series. It’s so nice to come across orcs that are kind and loving but still fierce warriors bent on protecting their own. Ashwood’s Black Bear Clan checks off a lot of boxes for me.

This is the story of a woman (Hazel) who grabs her young child (Wren) and runs in hopes of escaping her life of crime and abuse and sparing her daughter of the same. They hide in covered wagon, hitching a ride out of town unnoticed by her gang boss and authorities. She is not unnoticed by the driver though, an orc named Vark. Naturally Hazel is frightened and plans to run from him as soon as possible. She only knows orcs by the stories she’d grown up hearing and none paint orcs in a positive light. It takes her a while to trust the orcs, especially after Vark tells her that she is his fated mate, but she gives it a chance.

I loved most of the characters. Hazel is strong and independent. She finds herself attracted to Vark but doesn’t jump straight to the HEA. She struggles with her feelings. Vark is kind and attentive in all things. He is also dealing with his own feelings of inadequacy. He knows that she is his mate but does not push her. He never tells her that this is how it is and she has to deal with it, as is often the case in other fated mates type stories. He and the other orcs slip into caregiver roles for Wren naturally. There is no big conversation about it, it just happens. Hazel and Wren need help and the orcs take them in happily. Vark is drawn to Hazel by the fated mates thing, but there is never any condition on her to cooperate in exchange for their safety. I also liked that it doesn’t end in pregnancy. A fated mate that isn’t all about popping out more babies is my kind of HEA.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I really liked this book. It left me feeling happy and hopeful and that’s the best way to feel after reading a romance book. I’ll be going back to read the first two and following the series as it moves forward.

Big thanks to Zoe Ashwood and Booksprout for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Her Orc Warrior on Amazon and begin reading it on November 11. This will also be available as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Musical Tables, by Billy Collins

I picked up this book because of the cow on the chair and the color scheme of the cover art. The muted green adds to the serenity of the cow seated with its legs tucked beneath its body, looking comfortable like a cat in loaf mode. Billy Collins is a familiar name to me, but I hate to admit that it is only the barest familiarity.

“Whenever I pick up a new book of poems, I flip through the pages looking for small ones. Just as I might have trust in an abstract painter more if I knew he or she could draw a credible chicken, I have faith in poets who can go short.”

Billy Collins

I admit I do the same when I pick up a book of poetry at a bookstore. I flip and read a couple of the shorter poems, and if they make me feel things, the book comes home with me. This method rarely fails me and I have loved nearly every book chosen in this way.

Unfortunately I don’t think the short form works so well as a complete collection. Most of these poems are a couple lines long, mere quips rather than fully formed thoughts. Some are amusing and made me crack a grin. Others are more heavy hitting. Some of my favorites are Headstones, The Code of the West, Teenager, A Small Hotel, Jazz Man, Divorce, and Carpe Diem.

No more heavy ball,
just the sound
of the dragged chain
with every other step.

Divorce

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This wasn’t my favorite, but there are some real standouts that make it a worthwhile read. Billy Collins is a former United States Poet Laureate and prolific writer and I don’t believe this is representative of his work, so I will be reading more to get a better feel for him. If you like short form poetry that isn’t haiku nor limerick, you’ll enjoy this.

Big thanks to Billy Collins, Random House Publishing Group, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Musical Tables on Amazon and begin reading it on November 15, 2022.

Monthly roundup – October 2022

Spooktober was filled with mostly great reads. I read horror year round, so this month wasn’t really different except that I hosted two Book Lovers Cafe group reads because my first choice didn’t win. My insistence on exposing the masses to extreme horror (and doing 31 days of horror movies) did get in the way of my usual schedule, so I didn’t get to everything I had planned. However, I did get to a bunch that have been on my tbr for a while (and they were amazing!) so I consider it a win.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
A Soul to Keep, by Opal Reyne
Full Brutal, by Kristopher Triana
The Troop, by Nick Cutter
Gyo, by Junji Ito
The Girl on the Glider, by Brian Keene

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano
The Haunting of Ashburn House, by Darcy Coates
Lil’ Bastard, by Matt Shaw
The People Look Like Flowers at Last, by Charles Bukowski
Morning Glory Milking Farm, by C.M. Nascosta

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Against the Lockers, by Aiden E. Messner
Jokes to Offend Men, by Allison Kelley, etc
When the Dark Spoke to Me, by Christabelle Marbun
Heartstopper Vol 4, by Alice Oseman

The rest kinda sucked. Two were Halloween themed monster romances that are actually pretty well liked on Goodreads. They just didn’t do it for me. One was straight up bad. Honestly don’t even remember how I came across the Hucow stuff. I don’t think I’ll do that again. And the last one was Little Women, but with vampire references woven in. I was not impressed.

Pictured but not rated: Island of the Dead, by Brian Keene. This is not actually a book, it is a Kindle Vella series. The story was interesting, but I kinda hate the serial format.

All of my four and five star reads have been on my tbr for a while and all were amazing. Several of those authors were already on my insta-buy list and now the rest are as well. Beyond that, the only one I’m interested in reading again is Messner. I feel like they’re gonna be one of those writers who just gets better. Time will tell.

On the agenda for November? One book club read (thriller), two Cool Ghouls books, the backlog of loaners from my enabler, the next Duskwalker Bride book, and hopefully several from my NetGalley shelf. I have a few Thanksgiving themed horror books and movies to share. Holiday baking. Dragonflight! Lots of fun stuff coming up.

I read a book: The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On, by Franny Choi

If the title sounds familiar, that’s because the titular poem of those collection was published in Poetry Magazine December 2019 issue. That said, I was not familiar with Franny Choi’s poetry before picking up this book. I chose it based on the title alone because I think that the idea of constantly feeling like the world is ending but then carrying on is something we can all relate to. It felt like words I’d spoken myself. My kiddo likes to ask me how it feels to live through big life changing events every time something happens (another school shooting, pandemic, war, racial injustice and protests, political attacks on basic human rights for marginalized people) and I always tell her that the world has been ending my entire life. I was her age when the shooting in Columbine happened, a little older for 9/11, and there’s a different outbreak every other year. Certain lawmakers and special interest groups have been working hard at erasing social progress for years. How do you know so much about such and such, she’ll ask. And I’ll respond, because it’s not a new fight.

Every once in a while I read a book that makes me want to go back and read every word the author has ever written. This is one such book. I don’t usually read collections of poetry in order, or even in full, but this one is something else. Choi covers a lot of hard hitting themes in ways that don’t make you feel like you’ve read these poems before. Lots of people write about things like war and race and social justice, but not everyone gets it right. There’s also the idea of where one fits in and togetherness strung throughout. Who are we? Who am I?

Lord, I confess I want the clarity of catastrophe but
not the catastrophe.
Like everyone else, I want a storm I can dance in.
I want an excuse to change my life

Catastrophe is Next to Godliness

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Poetry can be difficult to rate because it doesn’t follow the same structural and grammatical rules as novels. There is no plot to follow, no twists to surprise you. So I rate poetry based on how I feel when I’m finished and how often I find myself thinking about it during and going forward. Topics are both relatable and timely. I truly enjoyed this collection.

Big thanks to Franny Choi, Ecco, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Book The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On directly from the publisher, or on Amazon in multiple formats and begin reading it on November 1, 2022.