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.

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 Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano

Today’s theme is dentophobia. Earlier I watched a movie called The Dentist. Now I’m finishing up my review of The Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano.

Remember that episode of Ren and Stimpy where Ren has a toothache and ends up grinding his teeth and waking with broken shards that shatter and fall out completely, leaving behind stinking gum holes? Listen, I don’t really fear dental work, but I have had that dream. The one where your teeth all fall out. You know the one.

The Tooth Fairy is the story of two people from different worlds who end up crossing paths, both getting more than they bargained for. Johnny Hawk is trying to get a fresh start after finding his wife with another man. He gets his business partner to buy him out so he can go road tripping until he figures out how he’s going to start over. Somewhere along the way, a niggling tooth pain becomes a big deal and he needs a dentist asap. He meets Wendy and things start looking up for him. What he doesn’t know is that she is a deeply disturbed woman with a dark past that is threatening to resurface. When he sees through her facade, he finds himself drugged and strapped to a dentist chair. I could tell you more, but where’s the fun in that.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This was a pretty good read. I was a little worried that it was going to be some kind of supernatural story with a tooth fairy boogeyman but it’s actually a psychological thriller humans are the monsters type horror story, and I love those. I look forward to Tarsitano’s future work.

Big thanks to Davide Tarsitano and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy The Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano on Amazon for a couple bucks or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: The Haunting of Ashburn House, by Darcy Coates

This is the book that Book Lovers Cafe chose for October book club. It wasn’t the one that I wanted, so I’ve been reading just about everything else before deciding to start this one. I started this morning and probably would have finished before the work day is over if it wasn’t for an afternoon staff meeting. It is way more interesting than I expected. Fair warning, there may be spoilers in this review.

I’m generally not into ghost stories. Ghosts are one of those things that I have trouble suspending disbelief enough to enjoy. Other monsters are fantastical. No one believes zombies or vampires are real. But there are plenty of people who believe in ghosts, because most religions include some kind of afterlife. I am still nowhere near on board with the whole afterlife thing, but I’m loosening up on my stance on ghost stories. After all, I did love the show Supernatural, including the huge angels vs demons arc. Maybe I can accept ghosts as a fictional monster without considering the real life implications.

That said, (minor spoiler) this isn’t even a ghost story. It’s not a haunting in that sense. Not really. I mean it is, and it isn’t. This is the story of a young woman named Adrienne who inherits an old house in a little town from an old relative she met only once as a small child. Because of the tragic deaths of the family who once lived there (her elderly aunt’s family), the townspeople believe the house is haunted. After a series of strange inexplicable (and terrifying) events, Adrienne learns that the house is in fact haunted, just not in the way she thinks. Things get pretty scary for our heroine for a while. Will the evil forces at work triumph? There were parts that I definitely didn’t see coming. I engaged in discussion before getting too far into the book and a big part of it was revealed to me, which was fine by me because I actually love spoilers. I actively seek them out. This spoiler fueled my interest, because as I mentioned earlier, I’m not big on ghost stories.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I’m glad I read this book, despite the fact that it wasn’t my first choice. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m happy to see that Darcy Coates has a large catalog and many of her books are available as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Lil Bastard, by Matt Shaw

Just finished one of Matt Shaw’s many novellas. Lil Bastard is told from the perspective of a baby who remembers being being other people and is bitter and angry as fuck. He spends his days plotting to kill, but of course he is a baby so his options are limited. That doesn’t discourage him though. The story takes an unexpected turn, but comes full circle. I laughed out loud at several points. The baby talk translations cracked me up.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 read for me. This is not for everyone, but it is for me. If you like extreme horror and dark (really dark) humor, you’ll like this.

You can read lots of Matt Shaw’s work through your Kindle Unlimited subscription, or buy his books on Amazon.

I read a book: Morning Glory Milking Farm, by C.M. Nascosta

I’m starting this review before I’ve even started the book because the difference between the Audible cover, which is the one I saw when I came across this book in a recommendation thread, and the one I got with the kindle download is so striking and just plain funny to me. The one on the left looks like a romantic fantasy. The one on the right looks more like the extreme/splatter stuff I like. It looks raunchy. Naturally, I am intrigued. I need to know which cover is more fitting. And having read some reviews and the description, I need to know how both are accurate, because it doesn’t seem likely.

Here we go.

The first thing that stood out to me was the skillful writing. Sometimes these very specific genres suffer from amateurish writing. That doesn’t bother me if the story is good, but it’s still nice when you don’t have to autocorrect as you read. C.M. Nascosta is great at her craft. It’s kind of amazing how a story about a young lady who takes a job giving handjobs to minotaurs for science turns into something sweet and romantic. I especially appreciate the fact that the minotaur didn’t turn into the kind of alpha personality that is less alpha and mostly just a jerk. I think I finally found that Ruby Dixon vibe I’ve been looking for. We’ll see if this one was a fluke. I’ve got the sequel waiting for me on my kindle.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for me. This was great. The characters were charming and their relationship progressed at a reasonable pace. Their HEA wasn’t mated for life and baby on the way, it was more realistic. New job, new apartment, new dynamic, both retain their independence. I like that.

You can get Morning Glory Milk Farm, by C.M. Nascosta on Amazon in multiple formats. I borrowed it from Kindle Unlimited. If you’re into monster romance, read it.

Monthly roundup – September 2022

September reads. So many good ones, it’s hard to pick favorites…but I will anyway! Uzumaki, Future Skinny, The Obituaries, and Motherthing were soooooo good. Highly recommend them to lovers of all things weird and creepy. Also super excited that the author of one of my September favorites, Peter Rosch, shared my post to his insta story. I write my reviews mostly because it helps me remember the books better, and I like to share the ones I loved. I know most of the time I’m the only one reading my full posts. But I get a little thrill when an author I like takes notice, even if it’s something as minor as a like on my post. Shout out to Peter Rosch, both for his fan interaction and his mad storytelling skills. Anyway, here’s a breakdown of my September reads.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Uzumaki, by Junji Ito
The Obituaries Issue #1, by Aron Beauregard, Kristopher Triana, and Daniel J. Volpe

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch
Motherthing, by Ainslie Hogarth
Flor’s Fiasco, by Ruby Dixon
The Alien’s Mail-Order Bride, by Ruby Dixon
Heartstopper Vol. 2, by Alice Oseman
Like Me, by Hayley Phelan
Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse, by David Mitchell
The Way Back Home, by Courtney Peppernell
The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young
The Creeper, by A.M. Shine
The Librarian and the Orc, by Finley Fenn
Heartstopper Vol. 3, by Alice Oseman
Unknowing, I Sink, by Timothy G. Huguenin

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Everything else. Well, most of them.

A couple of those ratings are spoilers for reviews I haven’t finished yet. I got distracted for a couple days, then sick for a couple more, and I fell way behind my self imposed review schedule. I may not meet the deadlines I laid out, but I’ll make an effort to catch up before the end of the month. This is the busiest month for my NetGalley queue.

So you may notice that some of my favorites were not top rated. I have to say that most of my 4 star ratings are actually pretty close to 5 stars, but I am sometimes a bit judicious with my stars. Sometimes less so. I mean, splatterpunk and orc porn aren’t exactly highbrow literature, but they make me happy. I guess what I’m saying is take my star ratings with a grain of salt. A 4 today might be a 3 or 5 tomorrow, but I’m not going to go changing my posted ratings every time I think about it. What you get is my initial reaction. Pretty much all of the books on my collage were pretty great. You should read them.

On the agenda for October? Six horror ARCs, one poetry ARC, two book club reads, two more Cool Ghouls books. A deeper dive into the monster romance genre. It’s about to get weirder ’round these parts.

I read a book: Unknowing, I Sink, by Timothy G. Huguenin

I was initially drawn in by the cover art and interesting title. And if I’m honest, Nick Roberts’ blurb calling him a “Southern-fried Clive Barker”. Bring it on.

This was a short read, coming in at a scant 92 pages. But as the saying goes, good things come in small packages. Unknowing, I Sink is the story of a young man named Julian who takes a summer job cleaning the mansion of an old eccentric recluse. The job is strange from the start. Julian performs his job duties while being instructed via intercom. His first in person interaction with his employer is at lunch time, and it is thoroughly strange. He becomes aware of his employer’s mysterious medical condition, but doesn’t really know what’s going on. He’s just happy to get out of that room and back to work. He feels like something is a little off, but he has no idea.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This book is delightfully creepy. Huguenin really pulls off the whole impending doom thing, as I felt the tension and dread right along with Julian. It checked off a lot of boxes for me. Interesting cover? Check. Well written? Check. Creep factor? Double check. Ick factor? Oh yes, check. I’ll be reading more of Huguenin’s work for sure. I’ve already signed up for his newsletter.

Big thanks to Timothy G. Huguenin and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Unknowing, I Sink on Amazon and begin reading it on October 1, 2022. This will also be available via Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

I read a book: The Librarian and the Orc (Orc Sworn #3), by Finley Fenn

It’s taken me a minute to finish this book. I’m not sure I’m into this series anymore. I really wanted to like this one because the heroine is a librarian and the orc is a scholar named John. Yeah, there are orc scholars and yes some of them have human names. If you consider the fact that these orcs need human women to procreate, it’s a wonder that a larger percentage of them don’t have human names.

So let’s start with our heroine, a young librarian named Rosa who is given the task of reading all she can about orcs and digging up some dirt that will be scandalous enough to spark a peasant rebellion. The nobles don’t want to spend money on a war, so they plot to find a way to make the peasants do all the dirty work without the expectation of a paycheck or supplies. Shortly after receiving this assignment from her creeper of a patron, she encounters an orc named John reading in the back of the library. Because of the peace treaty negotiated in the first book, John has that right and Rosa really shouldn’t ask him to leave, but she does so anyway. They come to a compromise and he is allowed to take his studies to a private room.

Of course that is not the end of it and Rosa continues to push the issue. She sees this as an opportunity to get some insider information, so she turns her negotiation to a more personal nature and offers herself up to John in exchange for information. They come to an agreement that involves some library sex and a field trip to Orc Mountain in which John vows to keep her safe and answer all her questions. The reader knows Rosa is acting as a spy and John’s motivation is unclear, though if what we know about orcs is any indication, he probably wants a mate to bear his sons.

There is a lot that I liked about this book. The relationships between orcs is expanded upon. Because they have no females and gaining the trust of human women is difficult, many orcs choose to take pleasure with one another. In the previous books, the dynamic was more like they were biding their time until they found human women to mate with. But in this book, we learn that some just prefer other orcs and take each other as their life mates. This is all very strange to each of the women we’ve met so far (I guess there are no homosexual humans?) and they are shocked to learn that their orcs have partaken in pleasure with other orcs. We get to witness healing (and sex) between one such couple, a side story that almost overshadows the main story. I know Tristan and Salvi worked things out, but I would have loved for them to have their own book. I also loved the way Rosa solved the Lord Kaspar problem and avoided the war she was assigned to start.

And then there are things that aren’t working for me anymore. The heroine gets so wrapped up in the idea that she’s been lied to when the entire purpose of her visit is a giant lie. The only thing she manages to be real about is the BDSM theme. At first she is scandalized and talks about how shameful it is to want to be afraid and want to be conquered etc. John helps her come to terms with herself and accept her truth. Cool. BDSM isn’t my thing and I am most definitely not the submissive type, so that part of the book didn’t speak to me (or titillate me). Every time she cried and ran off into the dark because she felt he’d lied to her, I rolled my eyes and sighed. Girl, everything about you is a lie. And somehow John and the orcs have known all along and forgive her and welcome her into their clan because she’s redeemed herself with her actions. There’s this big emphasis on how John’s clan does not speak vows because words can be broken and how one should be judged on their actions instead. Which, I guess. I guess I’ve just grown weary of the miscommunication trope. Why doesn’t Jule take aside all the new women and tell them that orcs don’t communicate the way humans do and you can’t expect them to understand if you don’t tell them. And at some point, maybe the women should start teaching unmated orcs how to talk to human women so they can avoid all the bullshit in the first place. I could do without all the cum guzzling though. Seriously, so many mentions of orc seed and Rosa’s amazing deep throating skill. Buckets and buckets of thick white seed. The spicy scenes are not doing it for me at all. And I find myself taken out of the moment anytime modern conversational language is slipped in with the anachronistic language used throughout. It’s a little jarring when you have orcs using words and phrases like naught and I shall and you wished but also phrases like macking on.

Still, this was a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for me. Tristan and Salvi, and Simon to an extent, saved this one. The relationship between Tristan and Salvi was a shining spot in this story. The way Simon listened and learned from them and agreed to talk to his clan to work toward mending clan relations was really nice to read. And I do love a story where the heroine finds her spine (and herself) and ends up saving the day and gets the happily ever after she truly wants. Rosa and John grow individually and as a couple and when it was over, I found myself rooting for them.

That said, I think I’m going to take a break from the orcs. I did check out the next volume from KU, but it’s not a priority. I guess I’m still chasing that Ruby Dixon vibe that’s missing from my monster romance now that I’ve caught up on her entire catalog.

I read a book: Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and didn’t get around to it until long after it had been published. So I was reading the e-arc and completely engrossed because the idea of someone who can tell the future when he binge eats is such an interesting and unique plot. When I became aware of the up to 85% off everything Audible sale, naturally I looked for this book and bought it.

I’m a terrible reviewer, I know. But in my defense, I try to write honest and thoughtful reviews and I end up buying the audio companions to the ones I loved. This is one such book.

As I often do, I listened to the audiobook as I read along. Quick note about the audiobook, this is my first experience with the narrator T.W. Robbert. His reading is crisp and clear and while not overly emotive, it is just enough to accentuate this story perfectly. His vocal shifts between characters is enough to differentiate them but not so dramatic that it’s annoying. I know a lot of readers love full cast audiobooks or those whose narrators do elaborate voices, but I just find that distracting. T.W. Robbert has a talent that I can appreciate.

This is the story of an anorexic man who discovers future seeing abilities aided by bulimia, binge eating and purging. Eat to see, see to live. The story is told from the points of view of alternating narrators, one in the moment and one as an interview at an institution. We meet Casey Banks and Lylian Ayer (Spanish for yesterday…intentional?) in the middle of a reading. Casey is stuffing his face with fervor, trying to cram more and more because he believes that the more he eats, the more he will see. We learn that Casey and Lylian do readings from time to time to make money. Eventually, the criminal element (who happens to be Lyl’s ex) gets word of his ability and compels him to work for them, to read for them. As expected, things get complicated and weird and I’m here for it.

If descriptions of body dysmorphia and eating disorders are triggers for you, maybe skip this one. I have no experience with either and can’t say if the descriptions are super realistic, but I found this book to be overall well written. The imagery is top notch. I read a lot of extreme horror. Descriptions of blood and gore barely phase me but some of the descriptions of eating and purging scenes are both beautiful and disgusting. As I read, I found myself appreciating the interview sections more and more. I loved getting to dig in Casey’s head. And this is a minor thing, but I appreciate the little Texas references scattered throughout. A quick look at Peter Rosch’s Goodreads profile shows that this is his first novel in a while. I hope it won’t be his last.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for me. The story is original and engaging and layered with surprising depth. There are twists and turns throughout that make this one difficult to put down. If you can stomach the eating scenes, you should read this book.

Big thanks to Peter Rosch, Art Cult Books, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch on Amazon or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Go on now, read it!