Tag Archives: novelettes

Review Request Novellas

You know, for someone who says they don’t tend toward reading short stories I sure read a lot of them. This year especially, since I’ve set myself a goal of clearing them off my shelves.

I’ve been clustering them into individual posts, mostly by page lengths but occasionally other themes like duologies or shorts I’ve received as review requests. That’s what this post is. ‘Books’ fewer than 100 pages (most of which are technically novellas, but I still call them short stories in my head) that have come to me from authors with a request for review.

review request novellas

I won’t lie, none of these really grabbed my attention before reading them. I mean, three are children’s stories, one is a third in a series and one is ‘spiritual,’ which I suspected meant religious (a no-go in my reading preferences). So, they started with a little bit of a challenge. But I promised to give them a fair chance at impressing me, judging them on quality not necessarily my own enjoyment.

This turned out to be harder than I expected. Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but I seemed to encounter more problems than normal among this particular selections of texts—everything from poor editing to incomplete files—so much so that at one point I considered scrapping the whole post. Unfortunately, I’m not the sort who likes to give up on something once started.

Nadia’s Heart (Evergreen Series), by Wendy Altshuler: I’m afraid I gave up on this at 37%. And while I wouldn’t normally include a DNF here on the blog, I am now since it was part of a preselected cluster. I had numerous problems with this, but the most important of which was that things happened out of the blue with no explanation and I was simply lost for the vast majority of the time I was reading.

Secondarily, I never felt I connected with Nadia or anyone else. While I’m not someone who holds that the show-don’t-tell dictum is a universal, this story is almost wholly tell and I think this was to its detriment. Tell is difficult to engage a character through and that just exacerbated the fact that the reader doesn’t get to know Nadia before she goes on her trek. The story starts with an info-dump about her. We learn she’s 12, she’s inquisitive, she’s a tomboy, she thinks she has no heart, and she lives with an old man and old woman. We learn about her, but we don’t get to know her. All of which makes it hard to care about the mysterious journey she goes on.

In the course of that mysterious mission, I often didn’t know who people were, characters reacted to events we weren’t told happened, groups of people were so poorly differentiated that I didn’t immediately recognize that there were two, let alone which was doing what, and shadow characters were presented and disappear without explanation.

None of this is helped by the total dearth of world-building. It’s so scarce that I couldn’t even decide on what type of world it was. Modern, Steam, Victorian, Medieval, something new?  I was also utterly baffled by the anachronisms, both in language and in the world itself. They knew about electricity, detailed human anatomy and astronomy to a degree that would require fairly modern technology but didn’t have running water. I sensed that this was all a case of simply not having been considered.

Mechanically the writing is fine, but structurally the story is a mess.

Come Along With Me (Gracie series #1), by Linda Lee Schell: I was sent this book for review…or I thought I was. Turns out I was sent the first chapter. Based on that I’d give this a two out of five stars. The problem I see is that it doesn’t seem to know what age range it wants to aim for. It says it’s or 8-12 year olds, but I have an 8yo and she would struggle with some of the language of the book and be disturbed by some of the events. But anyone older would likely be put off by how fluffy it is.

Soul Exchangeby Laura Haynes: Perhaps I have an old, uncorrected copy (though nothing identifies it as such) but the best I can say for this is that it’s an interesting idea that needs quite a lot more development and editing before it’s ready for publication and consumption by the public.

The Silent Years: Motherby Jennifer R. Povey: This was a really good character-driven zombie apocalypse story…or at least zombie-like. Dorothy is a bit of a Scarlet O’Hara, eminently dislikable but with a strength and fortitude that you just have to appreciate. You may not like her, may not even want to know her, but when the shit hits the fan you want her on your side. Not because she’s some tough as nails bad-ass bitch, which is the way so many authors think they have to write a woman to make her “strong.” No, it’s because she’s practical to a fault, practical to the point of survival, despite herself. And it seems to me that in the face of the end of the civilized world, this is what we’ll need. Also, to be fair, a lot of what makes her so dislikable she does grow out of by the end of the book. All-in-all, a full on success, I’ll be looking for more of Povey’s writing.

The Clockwork Mechanicalby Peter R. Stone: Fairly simplistic, but passable as it is intended for elementary aged children. I’d have been more pleased with it if the gendered characterization of the characters wasn’t so painfully clichéd, the girl especially. I’d intended to pass this to my kids when I finished, but I’d rather they not have to read the reinforcement that girls are silly, unintelligent, distractible, talk too much, and need constant rescue from disasters of their own making. The larger cultural script this plays into is of course, “See boys, this is what happens when you let silly little women have too much independence. Thy just can’t help themselves and it falls to you to rescue them in the end. Best to just keep them under thumb from the beginning.” Ugh, we can do so much better. The boy of course, is honorable, smart beyond his years, heroic and brave.

Not Just a Friend (Toronto), by Laura Jardine: This was a cute little contemporary romance. I liked Liam. He was a refreshingly non-alpha-A-hole hero. I appreciated that Maya was allowed a sex life without being painted as a slut. But I also thought the story was repetitive, her bad dates were over-played and the whole thing seemed to go on longer than necessary.

Might as well keep going

At the start of this year I set out to clear off my novelette/novella shelf, basically read everything I have that is less than 100 pages and not part of a series that I have. And while I started this because of a pesky broken wrist that kept me from typing, I can’t help but want to finish what I began, even though my wrist is mostly healed now.

So, I’ve made it up to stories that are  70-79 pages in length.* Some of these have been on my TBR for a long time and I’m glad to see them get read. I should also apologize in advance. This turned into a very long post, even with a few DNFs in there. My life would probably be easier if I didn’t have a tendency to do things like double check books’ page lengths against Amazon, “just to be sure.” I kept finding more and more and more that fit here. I thought I had finished three times.

Maps (Life According to Maps, #1)by Nash Summers:
I completely adored this. It occasionally tripped over the line between funny and ridiculous, but not too often to make it anything but a fun read. I laughed so hard and so often that my cheeks cramped.

Wolf & Bear (Omega Heart, #1)by G.G. Géricault:
I flipping HATE serials. Seriously, what is the point? Why would I want just part of a story, with no conclusion? *sigh* Outside of wasting an hour on a story that ends before it accomplishes anything, the writing was fine and I liked the characters and story. If it was a whole story, I’d probably rate it fairly highly. But it’s not, so…

Still Watersby Alex Gabriel:
I enjoyed this a lot. I liked that it’s told from the Nix’s perspective, complete with his confusion over human actions. I liked that it’s just barely a romance. Actually, it almost isn’t. What it is is an example of sex=love. The two heroes  distrustfully circle each-other until they have sex and then it’s all good between them. But that’s really only a small part of the story. The writing is sharp and the editing clean. A+

Return of the Warrior (Sleag’s Quest, #1)by G.K. Hayes:
Return of the Warrior isn’t so much a story on its own as the first couple chapters in a longer adventure fantasy story. It reads well enough, though also in the tradition of adventure fantasy everywhere, I (as a female reader) was disappointed to find women only relevant in so much as they gave men reason to do things. All topped off with casual references to the indecipherable, turbulently emotional female mind. On the flip side, I was pleased that Sleag had his own moments of indecision and even tears at one point, though he wasn’t likened to the insane for them. All in all, if you’re the sort who liked quest fantasy and don’t mind the serialized format, it’s worth picking up.

70s 1

Stranger at the Hell Gateby Ash Krafton:
I think if this had been further developed, given more character depth and world building it could have been something really nice. Instead, it just felt rushed and incidental. I didn’t feel any connection to any of the characters or the conflict and the ending was anticlimactic. The mechanical writing is fine, but the story just isn’t all that.

A New Beginning: Elyograg = Gargoyleby Lorraine Beaumont 
This is not a stand alone book AT ALL. In fact, another reviewer who read the rest of the series stated that this is literally the first chapter of the first book, so it’s not even its own piece of writing. Talk about a waste of time! What’s more, while the actual writing is fine the story if not. It starts out with something mildly interesting and then moves backwards through the day leading up to that point, getting progressively less interesting, until it is reduced to describing bedrooms and where people buy make-up brushes. Boring. And of course, you never learn anything more about the mildly interesting, unexplained thing that happened in the beginning.

Safe, by C. Kennedy
Basically just a laundry list of what two boys do while exploring their sexuality form age 12-18. Unfortunately, it’s about as erotic as a laundry list too. All topped off with repetitive writing, heavy dependance on cliches such as the wealthy, larger, blond boy with a supportive family who protects the working class, smaller, Italian boy from an abusive family, and a sickly sweet, forced happy ending.

The First Nightby M.S. Fowle:
An interesting idea that I don’t think was particularly well executed. There seemed to be a problem with the timeline and the whole reason behind the roaming chimera never sat well with me. It was like a straw man set up to fight. The whole thing felt rushed and unfounded. The story could also do with a bit more editing. There were some odd word uses, like maybe English wasn’t the author’s first language (though I see from her bio that she’s from Maine). Like I said, interesting idea and twist on vampires, but ultimately a bit of a fail for me.

70s 2

Elemental Inferno, by A.J. Locke:
Ugh, insta-lust followed by a series of dry sexual descriptions—we did this and then this and then this, instead of any sort of meaningful, buildup of tension and feeling—a paper thin plot, flat,undeveloped characters and a hero who is wholly without flaws. Not much to recommend it, honestly.

Lifeline, by Kit Power:
I don’t know that enjoyable is the right word for this one. It is, after all, a story of a man who is kidnapped for the purpose of being tortured to death. But it certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat. With the exception of one scene in the middle, which I thought dragged a bit, it was wire taut for the entirety.

Once Upon a Tiger (Tiger Shifters, #1), by Kat Simons:
The writing is fine here, but I’m afraid I’m just opposed to most of the plot on principle. We’re supposed to respect the heroine because she so strong that she refuses the mating run (which is basically an institutionalized rape of any women in estrus), but that ignores the fact every other female in the society is basically a broodmare who has no right to refuse to have sex when fertile and apparently has to submit to whomever can catch her (again, without the right to refusal). I mean that the whole act is predicated on running away kind of highlights that. And this run was instituted to prevent rapes……..um…….she (any she) can’t refuse……the main character here faces five men sent to mate with her against her will……..who will chase and mate her, even if she tries to refuse……even if she fights against it…..um………THAT IS RAPE. I suppose we’re supposed to assume no other woman wants to refuse. But really am I really supposed to believe that no other woman wants a career or wants to start bearing children as soon as she starts menses? Beyond all that, I didn’t feel the characters’ chemistry at all. They were supposed to have loved each-other for years, but they avoid each-other, basically almost never spoke. So, what was that love based on? The repeated “I love you” got incredibly redundant, the sex was abortive and formulaic and, if the need for child-bearing woman was so severe, I don’t buy she’d have been allowed to avoid mating in the first place, making the events of the book unbelievable to boot.

She’s Got Ballsby Mia Watts:
The plot is utterly contrived and unrealistic. It’s also probably an affront to women, because, really, with all of the FBI and police department to choose from, they couldn’t find a single woman more suited to go undercover AS A WOMAN than a man in drag? Not to mention the inability of the author to let a drug ring of suburban wives go without a man to lead and think for them. Grr. Why? But if I look past that, I found it an amusing read. Though I thought it would have been stronger without the rushed declarations of love.

70s 3

1301: The Marquis (The 13th Floor, #1)by Christine Rains:
An interesting start to a new series of novelettes. (It’s also a stand alone. I think each story is a different resident of floor 13.) I liked the idea and the characters. I especially appreciated that the heroine was a mature woman. But I thought the writing itself was only so-so. It was heavy handed and somewhat repetitive. But I’d be willing to read another if I came across it.

Hell Hounds Are For Suckersby Jessica McBrayer:
This was a passable read. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. But that was part of its charm, purposeful on the part of the author, I think. But that fell apart towards then end, when characters had drastic changes in behavior, the whole ‘romance’ element was thrown in and was just clumsily handled. I did think the writing was all right, except for one thing. Why do authors so often need to use names in dialogue so much? It’s like the fastest way to take otherwise passable dialogue and make it stiff and unnatural.

Adam’s Flight, by Penny Wilder:
An interesting set up and, I believe, faithful to the prompt, but I didn’t think the story flowed well. It seemed rushed in some parts and dragged in others. I appreciated the twist with Eli’s characters. It’s nice to see trans characters, but it didn’t seem relevant to the plot. Which to be honest wouldn’t have bothered me (because diversity is good and that’s a good enough reason to be there) except that it felt like just one more, ‘why is this here’ aspect. There seemed to be a lot of things that happened or were thrown in that were not particularly relevant and it made the story feel unfocused. I love dragons and dragon shifters, but I didn’t feel connected to Frost or Flint. I was excited about the romance, but it felt forced and sudden. All in all, I liked the idea of this story a lot more than the actual story.

A Fairy for Bin Laden, by Stephen M. Holak:
Short stories is not a genre I am overly fond of, but this one managed to be tightly compacted enough that I ended it happy. There is humor here and just enough description to carry you through. I don’t think it’s as long as it’s listed as, I finished it in about 1/2 an hour, but a fun read all the same. (Just don’t think too deeply about the logistics of it.)

70s 4

Drago Star (Toy Soldier Book 1)by J. Johanis:
Rape/torture porn. Yes, I knew going in that this was a kinky read by the BDSM group. I like an occasional kinky read. But this was just 65 pages of gang rape, topped off with a far too quick Oh Never Mind. This was way beyond my comfort level and I was just like nope, nope, nope, nope, nope all over the place.

Rage (Karen Bechard Adventures)by J. Carrell Jones:
The writing here was fine. It could do with a bit more editing, but mechanically it is fine. However, as much as I love a kickass heroine, even action can get boring if there is nothing else in a book. Rage is basically just Karen running from one heroic, action packed scene to another. She is just too calm and perfect at all times. There is nothing to her character but fighting, making yippee ki-yay type comments, defeating endless foes easily, getting the girl (and the guy and the job) and riding off into the sunset. Similarly, there is no reason given that the super-genius suddenly started an apocalypse or was utterly unable to maintain sanity in the face of Karen’s mere presence.

My Husband and the Fireman, by Sara Sizemore:
I do get my hands on some unexpected things sometimes and I’m not even sure how this made it onto my kindle. But it is exactly what the title suggests, no elaboration. The writing is simplistic, but it’s surprisingly enjoyable in that it happily glorifies in itself. It’s not trying to be gritty or literary or meaningful it is just married woman fluff with a happy ending. It’s a little problematic in that it’s unabashedly using gay m/m sex for the amusement and satisfaction of straight women (one in particular), which is appropriative, but in this too it is so up front about it that I have trouble remembering to be cross.

Seconds, by Megan Derr:
I do not think I’ve read a Megan Derr story that I didn’t enjoy. This was no exception. Cute.

70s 5

*There are a couple in here with approximated lengths, as well as one or two catch-ups that should have been read for previous posts but got missed or updated page lengths.

marching two by two

Soooo, since I still have a broken wrist and still don’t want to write long reviews, I’m still working my way through all the novelettes on my bookshelves. This is the fifth such post. Surely these things multiply in the cloud. I can’t honestly believe I downloaded so many, especially since I generally only do so when I’ve not thought to check the page length of a work and one-click thinking the story is a full novel.

I’ve mostly just been working my way through the list, shortest to longest. I’m up to 70-79 pages long. But I’m bored by so many short pieces. I much prefer to sink into something more substantial. So, I’m doing something a little different here. I went through and picked out all of the pairs. That would be any true duologies, a series that may be longer but only two books are currently out, or a longer series that I only have the first two books of. There weren’t as many as I expected there would be and it was entirely accidental that they all happened to be erotic.

two by two

Mission Xby Kim Alan

Mission: X: Basically ok, but nothing exceptional. I thought it was nice to see the dom as the one pining for a change, but I bore easily of the common, apparently scripted dom role and speech. The use of ‘boy’ seems to especially make me groan, “not again.” (Maybe it mimics some real-world play or something, but it shows up so regularly that it’s essentially been stripped of impact for me.) There were some hot bits and sweet bits and I found it generally enjoyable, but that’s about it.

The Bigger They Are: Meh, basically just one long, overwrought and unrealistic sex scene. Entertaining but not much more.

Monster Farm Saga/New Gotham Fairy Tales), by Sophie Avett

Cry Wolf: It’s utterly ridiculous. It is. It’s a mash-up of several myths and fairy tales (I think that’s the series schtick). But despite being strung together, just this side of too much and minimally developed, I did enjoy it (probably more than it warranted). It’s also, surprisingly, a pretty clean read.

Cry Wolf: The Hunt: Much like the first one, I enjoyed it more than I think the skill of the writing deserves. But I prioritize enjoying myself, so, whatever. I did have a huge problem with the fact that the initial problem that caused discord was one character started pushing for sex and the other felt he was being forced and had no expectation that the other would respect his wishes (essentially raping him if he didn’t leave), but by the end, the problem they solved was the first finally agreeing to have sex. Ummm, seems the bigger issue got dropped in there somewhere!

Wiccan-Were-Bear, by R.E. Butler

A Curve of Claw: I suppose my dislike of this book might just be a matter of taste. I dislike slut shaming and you would think that the fact that this MC was sleeping with 7 men and standing up for her right do so would be a good thing, but it wasn’t. It rubbed me wrong for a couple reasons. First, they were the 7 most powerful men in the area, all fighting for her attention (the old she’s so special for some unknown reason trope). Second, they bought her expensive gifts, like cars, and sent her the clothing they wanted her to wear on their ‘dates.’ By 25% I’d decided she read like a high class prostitute instead of a sexually liberated woman, like she was the cliche sexually available woman who therefore must be available to all powerful men. Third, she’d described as 18+3, so basically 18 (this is stressed that she’s 18), making her a sexually promiscuous girl instead of woman. Fourth, the antagonist of the story is one of her jilted lovers and it’s suggested that her sexual activity was to blame for the coven’s problems (basically shaming her past activities). All this countered by five, after one good f_ck she settles down into marital bliss and it’s ever so much better than playing the field. So the whole story is basically framed around how much better being in a committed relationship is than not. Maybe not slut shaming, but at the least admonishing. Then we have the oddity of it being stressed that bears DO NOT SHARE, therefore her sexual behavior would have to stop when she mated. Then she mated two bears who SHARE her. The MC’s personality is only as deep as her bed sheets and the mates have none at all.

A Flash of Fang: Better than the first, but very much an intermediate book—half a lead-in to book 3 and half wrapping up book one (and maybe setting up a future/second generation book). I was irritated that she had to give up her life and position in order to have a happy future. How cliche that a woman can’t be powerful, have a happy marriage and children.

Ward of the Vampire, by Kallysten

Ward of the Vampire: An interesting start to a series, with a first person narrative I didn’t find too horrendously annoying. (I am not generally a first person POV fan.) Flawed however, as so many serials are, by just randomly ending without accomplishing anything notable.

My Reluctant WardenFar, far too little progression for almost 100 pages and part of a serial; no where near enough to tempt me into the next installment. I forgave the ‘it only happened in a dream’ once, in the first episode, pulling it a second time was cheap and unsatisfying. Not to mention how very very jarring it was to go from the two of them clashing to the two of them being polite and flirtatious. I thought the woo-her-with-your-wealth trope was distasteful and again with the random endings.

Sons of Thunder MC by Deva Long

Alpha Heat: A @#$&* cliffy! I cannot stress strongly enough how much I hate the influx of serials and the apparent acceptance of breaking a SINGLE story into several chunks that don’t have endings. Beyond that, this is standard erotica. A sexually exploratory and nympho-like virgin (of course and that’s not at all a contradiction apparently) gets kidnapped and then rescued. Sex ensues almost immediately, full of pointless bondage (the day after she’s been kidnaped, tied up and traumatized to boot) and sudden paranormal elements are thrown in at the last second. Oh, and her internal angle/devil talking to her all the time was horrendously intrusive to the narrative. Nothing in this was anything but bog standard.

Alpha Howl: On Amazon this book’s title reads like this: BBW Billionaire Shifter Werewolf Romance: Alpha Howl (Sons of Thunder MC Book 2). Let’s break that down. It has a big beautiful woman. It’s paranormal, has a billionaire alpha-asshole, who’s also in a motorcycle club. (It also happens to have BDSM in it.) It’s like the author Googled what was hot in erotica at the time of publication and wrote a series that had ALL of it in it. The fact that some of them make no sense together, let alone ALL of them, seems to have been irrelevant, especially since most of them are actually irrelevant. The shifter? He gets furry when he climaxes. That’s about it. The MC? One guy road a motorcycle for about two sentences in the last book and the last 3 or so pages here have some others show up on bikes. That’s about it. The billionaire aspect? He has a black card. That’s it. The whole thing is a chaotic mash-up of half ideas. Plus, it’s cheesy sex.

Eagle’s Honor: Banished (the serial), by Sandra Schwab

Part 1 & 2: I’m afraid this taught me that, even when written well (which it is), I’m just not in to Roman slave/centurion erotica.

Blood Genies, by Sheri Whitefeather

The Vampire Pendant: Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Flat, overly simplistic writing, no tension—not even in the sex scenes (since they held conversations throughout them)—no chemistry, predictable, no character development or world-building, boring. I really wish I didn’t have the next one in the series to read.

The Vampire BraceletWell, if you ever wanted to know what BDSM erotica written by a giggling school girl who thinks french kissing the height of hot, dirty, naughty sex might be like, now is your chance. This was better than the first in the series, though it repeated all the same info-dumps, but still not good.