Category Archives: books/book review

chipping away at the short story shelf

More Short Stories…Maybe Not So Short Ones This Time

The other day, I set out to read some of the short stories that have been hanging out on my Goodreads shelves (some of them for a very long time). I focused on quantity. I chose the shortest ones so that I could get as many read as possible before I lost interest. (Ah, the life of a mood reader.) I read 18. I was happy with that. I’d initially set out to read 10. Mostly, it was the repeated joy of marking one and then another and another as finished. (Ah, the life of being a list-maker…marker-off-er.)

So, I thought about it for a bit and decided to do another similar post, but this time focusing on the longer stories. You see, for the sake of logistic simplicity, I generally consider anything under 100 pages a ‘short story.’ What that generally means is that I don’t give anything with less than 100 pages a blog post of its own. But I also tend to read shorter stories when I do collective short story posts. So, the stories with 80-99 pages get inadvertently ignored.

I decided to read some of those that have been hanging out on my TBR. I aimed for six because that is a convenient row on Goodreads’ shelves. Here’s what I read:

longer short stories

Forked Tongues Are Fun, by Holly Ryan
Look, I wanted to like this. I did like certain aspects of it. But, even if you only consider it a starting point to the series, it lacks enough world-building to make it understandable. (Is it a spinoff with world-building somewhere else? I don’t know. I don’t care.) But the whole thing felt sketched out.

My main complaint is the sexy time, though. You know how sometimes, if you have a full schedule and don’t really have time to eat, you might grab a sandwich and eat it on your way to your next appointment? (Walking while you eat is considered really rude in some cultures, BTW, which feels relevant to what I’m about to say next.) That’s how all the spice in this book felt. It was literally so squeezed in between (or during) other things that it never felt like an appreciable event on its own.

Selected for the Shifters, Sakura Black
This is porn with plot. But the whole thing is unbalanced and unfocused. Too much of the page length is dedicated to stuff that is irrelevant to the point, which is the porn (and that only happens at the end). There are two groups of men introduced before the shifters of the title show up. Frankly, there was more description given to the irrelevant second group than the eventual main group. These were perhaps meant as red herrings, but they just felt like a distraction from the story that mattered. Ultimately, the problem was that the shifter pack only shows up at the end for the sex, and the reader has no connection to them whatsoever (they barely even have names). The reader is simultaneously left wondering what happened to all of the other named male characters who apparently play no apparent role.

Once the smexy time started, I wasn’t keen on the fact that the heroine was both non-consenting but also somehow desperate for the act. (Make up your mind, authors). Plus, the dirty talk dialogue was horrendous. So cheesy.

Hunted by the Minotaur, by Sakura Black
I read another review of this series in which the reader promised it would get better after book one. So, I gave it a chance and read this second book. Okay, yes, it is better than book one. It picks up exactly where the last one ended (which makes me wonder why these are all broken up into sub-100 page novellas) and is better-paced. The sex isn’t quite a problematically wanted and non-wanted, which annoyed me in the first book (make up your mind), and I now realize that the characters that were mysteriously dropped in book one are showing up further in the series, giving them a purpose that was missing in book one.

However, I still didn’t love this. I liked it—Paisely’s snark and backbone are to be appreciated. Too bad the author keeps destroying the image with D/s BS that isn’t stitched into the plot. (This happens in both books.) At least in book one, the reader understands how Paisley knows that Alpha wants her to say “Yes, Alpha.” Here, I have no idea how, when Finn said, “Yes, what?” she knew he wanted “Yes, Master.” There was no hint before that. Plus, it doesn’t even fit the rest of her personality.

Small gripes: the dirty talk is cringy, and absolutely not on oral after anal.
It’s not horrible for Porn with Plot. But I think I’m done with this series.

With You In Spirit, by Miranda Stork
This book has been in my Kindle Cloud since January of 2013. Yeah, more than a decade! (OMG, how can that be true? But Amazon says that’s when I purchased it.) It’s a good thing that I get so much satisfaction from finally marking it as read because I honestly didn’t think it was very good. It had a pretty decent plot idea. But it needed to be a novel (instead of a 96-page novella) to develop it enough. As it is, it feels rushed and sketched out (and then ends on a cliffhanger). Plus, the characters are pretty cliched, and the book needs another editing pass (and I don’t mean because of the occasional British phrasing.) All in all, this might be someone’s cup of tea. But it wasn’t mine.

All Things Wild, J.P. Uvalle
Sigh. This started off well enough, with an interesting hook. Someone leading something called the Shifter Elite was rampaging around, killing everyone who wouldn’t join his campaign and hunting the heroine particularly. But then it all just fell apart. Suddenly, Uvalle was throwing in everything but the kitchen sink with no explanation. Suddenly, there were supersoldiers who were not shifters, which made me worry that I’d misunderstood and that the Shifter Elites were actually hunting shifters, not shifters themselves. Then cyborgs. Then, a prophecied female shifter with three mates to control and save everyone. All without explanation. It was too much.

Then all of that has to be added to the three mates being given drastically different attention, one not wanting to be part of a poly group at all and her treating him like he is her true mate, and they just have to accommodate the other two Plus, the dialogue during the spicey scenes was super cringy.

I did think Luther (the himbo) was funny. And while the editing was a little rough, the writing was perfectly readable.

Junkyard, Lindsay Buroker
I haven’t read anything by Buroker for quite a while, but I’ve enjoyed everything I have read. This was no exception. I finished this story, which is a prequel to a series, and then went and bought book one of the series.

chipping away at the short story shelf

Chipping Away at the Short Story Self

I do one of these posts once or twice a year, it seems, saying the same things. But they remain true. So, I’ll continue doing so into the future, no doubt.

I am not a huge fan of short stories. It would be an exaggeration to say that I never knowingly and purposefully downloaded them, but it is a rarity. More often, if I download a short story, it is for one of two reasons. One, it’s part of a larger series that I intend to read all together. These cause me no consternation. Or two, I forgot to check the page length when I grabbed a freebie and thought it was a book as opposed to a story. (For logistic simplicity, here on the blog, I consider anything less than 100 pages a short story and anything over a novel.)

Without fail, I am disappointed in these second circumstances. I invariably plop the stories on my short story shelf and largely forget them. (Yes, just deleting them would be smarter. But I have some internal resistance to doing so.) Then, there comes a point when I think, “I need to knock some of these out and clear my shelves.” This usually happens after I’ve had cause to be reordering shelves on Goodreads and, therefore, notice all the short stories that have added up.

Well, this time, it was the Stuff Your Kindle event. I downloaded a ton of books (as I always do) and then spent days on Goodreads making sure they were on the right shelves; each has a listed page length (adding, if not, if I can find one), making sure series names are correlated, etc. Stuff Your Kindle is always a whole organizational thing for me. I love it, but there is labor involved.

As I do every year, I picked up a few books that don’t make the 100-page limit for the blog, and I added them to the ever-growing short story pile. Then, since I was between books anyhow, I decided to read some of them rather than pick out a longer book for the night. I was aiming for 10 and chose them simply by looking for the shortest ones that were not part of a larger series (prequels or bonus stories).

So, here’s what I read (in no particular order), along with a brief review. But keep in mind, as I mentioned, short stories are not a genre I truly lean toward. Also, as a side note, I know some of these have gotten new covers since I picked them up. (One even had a title change.) But I’m too lazy to change them. So, you get whatever is currently listed as the cover on Goodreads.

short stories

Witchmark, by Meredith Medina
Meh. It’s a pretty middle-of-the-road prequel to a larger story. Nothing particularly grabbed my attention. But nothing really put me off, either.

Miss January, by Kelsie Calloway
Bad, even by erotica standards. Dude was 14 years older than her and had her 18th birthday circled on his calendar as he fantasized about her since she was like 15 (while he was in prison). He was possessive and overly committed from the moment they encountered each other and it just left him feeling super stalker creepy.

And it had lines like this: “That’s right, baby girl, take all of me deep inside of you. Feel my love muscle throbbing for you,” he growls as he breaks past the thin barrier of my virginity.


An Angel in My Teacup, by Kate Moseman
Sweet, but too rushed at the end. I did think Justinian was adorable, though.

Hot and Dangerous, by Rebecca York
Meh, not enough of any of the things it’s trying to be. Plus, I’m just fundamentally against the use of ‘making love’ to describe having sex with a man you’ve literally—LITERALLY—just met and had sex with (while fleeing terrorists) before even exchanging basic information. The language didn’t fit the tone of the story. But this had been in my Kindle cloud since 2013, and I’m thrilled to mark it as read.

Fall: Scheherazade Retold, by Demelza Carlton
This was a cute little Yule/Christmas short story (and I didn’t even have it in my Christmas reading challenge). There’s not a lot to it. But it’s sweet, and it was nice to read about a man who wasn’t all alpha-y, as is all the rage at the moment.

Her Donut Shifters, by Mia Harlan
Jesus Christ! That has to be the single stupidest thing I have ever read. Even if I tell myself it’s purposefully absurd, I can’t get over how ridiculous (and not in a good way) it was.

His Curious Mate, by Charli Mac
Much sweeter than I expected, considering it starts as a one-night stand and moves on to a D/S dynamic. But, honestly (once I got over him calling her a whore, which she liked and I know is a whole kink thing, but it’s not at all my kink thing, and I dislike it), I thought this was surprisingly sweet.

Turned, by Michelle Fox
Meh, I didn’t much care for this. If it was going for romance, it missed the mark by a mile. They had sex, sure, but there was no romance. Worse, I found Malachi skeevy. I didn’t like or even trust him on Dawn’s behalf.

Any Way the Wind Blows, Seanan McGuire
Short and sparse but with a fun tone. I enjoyed it.

A Strip of Velvet, Rien Gray
I liked the first half significantly more than the second. There was an eery quality to it that I appreciate a lot. The second half lost a lot of what made the first half interesting. But all in all, I enjoyed this.

How to Keep an Author (Alive), by A.J. Sherwood
I thought this was cute. Some of the important bits disappointingly happened off-page. But my general takeaway is enjoyably cuddly.

The Demon You Know, by Julie Kenner
This short story has been floating around in my Kindle cloud since 2014! I kept not reading it because it’s part of a series. Turns out that it stood alone just fine. It’s a just short little taster, but I enjoyed it well enough.

My Last Husband, by Alexis Hall
I found this hiding out in my Calibre. Who knows how long I’ve had it or even where I got it. But it’s old-school Hall, and I adored it. He always manages to do so much with so little.

The Last Sacrifice, by V.T. Bonds
This was nothing more than a bad acid trip followed by a gang rape. No, thank you. Not interested in anything further from this series.

How White Men Assist in Smuggling Chinamen Across the Border in Puget Sound Country, by Edith Maude Eaton/Mahlon T. Wing
Originally published (I think) 1904. It’s full of the language and casual racism of the time. But otherwise, an interesting, if short, story matching the title exactly.

Monster’s Find, by Leann Ryans
Meh, basically just one extended sex scene. She was in heat and unable to decline the sex, though I wouldn’t go far as to call it dub-con. He was as respectful as he could be in the circumstances while admittedly manipulating the circumstances to ensure she needed him too badly to refuse his ‘help.’ If you want a short spice-only read, it’s not a bad one.

The River and the World Remade, by E. Lily Yu
I admit that I am not generally a lover of short stories. But sometimes, I read one and am just amazed by how much an author can do with so little. Yu does that here. This story is only a dozen or so pages long, but it packs a punch.

Tea and Tentacle Porn, by Chloe Archer
I didn’t care for this. Even as I agreed with what the characters were saying, I found the story too didactic and moralistic. Plus, it’s a story about an author writing gay tentacle porn. I’d have rather had the tentacle porn itself. I was mostly bored, and, honestly, it felt more like a self-insert author advertisement for the larger series than anything else. meh

courting her monsters banner

Book Review: Courting Her Monsters, by Erin Bedford

I picked up a freebie copy of Erin Bedford‘s Courting Her Monsters during the Stuff Your Kindle event (along with about a million other books).
courting her monsters cover
Unable to hear, I live my life in silence.
Unable to argue with my father, I live my life in service, married off to the highest bidder.

Now, to save myself and my kingdom, I will have to play the part of their prisoner.
But I’m not playing anymore, and my new betrothed is more than happy to push the limits of my body and mind. He’s a monster with a handsome face…

But truer monsters wait for me, and they’re ready to give me so much more than I was prepared for.
What makes a monster and what makes a man? Only I can find that out…
And my life isn’t so silent anymore.

my review

God, what a disappointment. This was a Stuff Your Kindle freebie, and I wanted to love it. I honestly enjoyed aspects of it. Yes, it’s got some pretty significant plot holes. Yes, the heroine does some too-stupid-to-live things. Yes, it’s completely unbelievable that if the abuse she was suffering was so severe, no one noticed (and she was up and moving around with ease). Yes, it’s unbelievable that the mind-reading drake didn’t know exactly what she was up to. All true. But it was still silly, fluffy fun. I would have happily said it was a three-star, nothing serious read. But good lord, the editing. I can’t figure out how more people haven’t mentioned it in previous reviews. Maybe they were all pre-publication and thought the problems would get fixed before it went to print. Maybe they’re fake, IDK. But the fact that it’s not been mentioned by more people is…odd because it’s a significant issue.

Look, it’s one thing to not pick up on the occasional homophone, missing word, or if the spellcheck didn’t catch the use of ‘up’ instead of ‘us.’ But this book has characters who speak telepathically. This is indicated by italics, with no quotation marks or dialogue tag. But in the last 1/4 of the book, the italics just stop. So, you have dialogue with nothing to indicate it as so. In the first 3/4 of the book, there are several instances of dialogue being italicized, along with the next 3 or 4 paragraphs of the narrative. It’s clear the author simply forgot to turn italics off.

Now, I’m usually pretty forgiving about editing. It’s easy enough to miss the small stuff, even repeatedly. But if no one is noticing multiple instances of several paragraphs of erroneous courting her monsters photoitalicization, then no one read this book after the first draft, not even the author, and that’s unforgivable. Thank god it was free. I’d be incensed if I’d paid for it.

The thing is, I liked the story (as ridiculous as it was). I liked that the heroine was deaf. I liked her snark and that she refused to be a perpetual victim. I liked that one of the important men is visibly marred. I liked the dragon-men and world. I might have even read the next one. But I’m not willing to pay for someone’s drafts.

Other Reviews: