Book #47: Small Town Terrors by Roger Alderman Jr

A carefully crafted collection of southern gothic short stories derived from the urban legends of small-town America. Each fictional supernatural thriller inside was made to get your heart racing and question whether they were in fact stories or something far more sinister.

I received an Audible code for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.

Small Town Terrors is a collection of horror stories all centered around a small town in Florida and its residents. If you think the news stories about Floridians are scary, wait until you read or listen to this book.

There were some short stories that didn’t resonate with me and I felt were used often, but Alderman started and ended the book on a strong note. He left the mythos open for something more and I wouldn’t mind seeing a more expanded universe of the small town he crafted in this collection of short stories.

There were two in particular that really stood out for me. One about a family who are having money and food troubles and the other is about a girl during Halloween night. With the first story, I’m not sure how it fits with the small town. It felt like it belonged in a more dystopian like horror book, but I do think it was unique. I would love to see that expanded and made into something more full length or even see more of that strange setting.

The same goes for the Halloween story. It would make for a great book. It had a mythology to it that I wanted to know more of and fits perfectly with the small town Alderman crafted.

This was a good quick horror collection with a bit of something for all types of horror fans. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the small town or even a full-length book based off of one of Alderman’s stories (there seemed to be a hint of something like that in the last two stories).

Final Rating: 3/5

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Book #46: Enhancer 3 by Wyatt Kane

Ty Wilcox has leveled up. Unfortunately, so have his enemies. 
Ty is no longer the loser he had once been. He’s gone from zero to superhero, all thanks to a device on his wrist that brings a hidden power out into the light.

Before Ty came along, only a few of the devices existed. But a secretive villain has learned how to make them, and one of New Lincoln’s most dangerous crime lords has a supply of them as well.

And now, superpowered villains even stronger than Ty are stepping out of the dark.

The balance of power is changing, and not for the better.

Does Ty have the power to stop it, even with his growing team of superheroines at his side?

Warning and minor spoilers: “Enhancer 3” is an 18+ book intended for mature readers. It contains sex, violence, and nudity, but it’s all very tastefully done. It includes very light gamelit elements, occasional bad language, and is set in a cyberpunk alternate future. Most of all, you will find an engaging superhero adventure story with a few unexpected twists.

The Enhancer series was written with one thing in mind: fun. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.

I received an Audible code via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.

I have been hooked on the Enhancer series since book one. It is geeky, packed with action, and fun.  Enhancer 3 begins where the second one ends. Ty and team are unsure about Lilith. They are also given a new set of villains and have a ton of devices to find.

I enjoyed this one about as much as I enjoyed the second, possibly more. The characters are growing and there are twists I wasn’t completely expecting. I did not care for Ty’s decisions in this book, but I felt it was true with the character and story. I just hope that what he has done doesn’t end up messing things up in the end.

The twists are making me wonder just what The Master does have planned. I’m also interested to see how the team grows.

The narrator, Chris Graves, is great. However, there was a moment where it seemed Lilith sounded too much like Dinah or the other way around. It was enough to make a mental note of it, but doesn’t take away from the story.  Like the other books previously, there are sex scenes, so take note of that if it bothers you. Honestly, the dynamic of all the characters and their personal lives didn’t bother me as much as I might have thought before starting this series.

I feel Wyatt Kane has written a good group of people who are open with each other for the most part. Except for one individual, but it goes with the story and character development. So, I’m okay with that. All in all, I am definitely going to request book four once it is out.

Final Rating: 4/5

Book #38: The Last Vampire Book 3 by R.A. Steffan & Jaelynn Woolf

I never thought I’d see home again.
Now, I almost wish I hadn’t.

After giving myself up to the Fae, I expected to become the latest casualty of a war that should have ended centuries ago. Instead, I ended up inextricably bound to the last vampire on earth.

My life since the Fae marked me has become unrecognizable. Inside, I’m still the 26-year-old waitress who struggled with working two jobs while being serially dumped by a parade of disgruntled boyfriends. Now, I’ve somehow become a figurehead, coveted and despised in equal measure by two warring supernatural races.

Can I trust the fragile bond connecting my heart to the unbeating heart of a vampire? Every instinct I possess tells me to pull back… protect myself… protect him. But every time I try to run away, I end up back in his arms.

Alliances are shifting. Old resentments are flaring. Both my father and I are now chess pieces in someone else’s grand strategy.

No more. I’m done with being a pawn.
It’s time to up my game.

* * *

The Last Vampire is a steamy new urban fantasy romance series from USA Today Bestseller R. A. Steffan and Jaelynn Woolf, co-authors of the Circle of Blood saga. 

Download Book Three today, and enter a world shared by humans, fae, demons, and one very reluctant vampire. It’s a place where the supernatural threatens the mundane, nothing is as it seems, and love will either be the world’s downfall—or its salvation.

I received an Audible Code via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.

This is the third book in an ongoing paranormal romance series about a young woman named Zora navigating her now crazy life. Everyone seems to be out to get her and she only wants one thing, the safety of her estranged father.

I have listened to the previous books and writing wise, I liked the first one but wasn’t impressed with the second. This one, however, is more up to par with the first or slightly better. We get to see the way the demons live and get a larger idea of the world. Events of book one are referenced in a twist I should have seen coming, but didn’t.

The narration is still good and I was pulled into the world. As I stated before, the story itself is better in this one than in the second. It doesn’t feel like a long-winded wait fest and I was actually invested in Zora’s journey again.  I definitely want to know what happens in the future and cannot imagine how Zora and Rains are going to get out of the situation they are currently in.

Final Rating: 3/5

Book #35: Division Zero by Matthew S. Cox

Most cops get to deal with living criminals, but Agent Kirsten Wren isn’t most cops.

A gifted psionic with a troubled past, she possesses a rare combination of abilities that makes her a powerful weapon against paranormal threats. Adrift in a society that fears people like her, she feels alone in a city of millions.

In 2418, rampant violence and corporate warfare have left no shortage of angry wraiths. Most are little more than fleeting shadows or eerie whispers in the darkness, but every so often, one gathers enough strength to threaten the living.

A series of attacks by androids known as dolls leave the normal police baffled. Unable to explain what made the machines malfunction, they punt the case to Division 0. Kirsten’s investigation into who – or what – is behind the random murders soon makes her a target for corporate assassins.

Despite her past, and the cynical city around her, she clings to the belief that no one is beyond redemption. Alas, the killer is desperate to claim as many innocent souls as possible, and one might just be hers.

I received an Audible code from the author via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my honest opinion of the work. I have not been compensated for this review.

This is not my first Cox book nor is it my first book in this scifi/post-apocalyptic world. But I wish it was. The books set in the same world weren’t bad and I still highly recommend, but this one helps set the world better. You get a feel of who psionics are and what the government is like. You get a feel of the underbelly of the West City and the beginnings of a larger mythos. In all, I suggest starting with this book and then branching into the others set in the same world.

This book is a mix of scifi, post-apocalyptic, and paranormal. It pulls you in every direction and opens you to an interesting world. Most of all though, is Kirsten Wren. I love how Cox writes his female leads. I can gush forever about how they are portrayed.

Agent Wren has PTSD from the broken and horrible childhood she lived with. But she doesn’t let that stop her from saving lives and helping the dead cross over. She’s probably my favorite lead from Cox. Next to Emma and Kit (from two different books).

The narrator for the audiobook is a good choice. I feel she did a good job. That said, when you listen to it on Audible at 1.0x, it can feel like she’s very slow when she’s ready. I found 1.25x being the best listen speed.

All in all, I’m definitely going to want to listen to the rest of the series if they get to be audiobooks.

Final Rating: 4/5

Book #26: Black Acres by Ambrose Ibsen

There’s No Place Like Home… 
Kim and Julian Taylor are in the market for their first home, and a visit to the secluded Beacon estate finds them enamored. It’s a peculiar home, rather large and in need of some renovations. The price is right however, and after a tour, they snap the house up without hesitation. 

The man who sells them the house has one last detail to share before they sign on the dotted line. The previous owners of the home disappeared under mysterious circumstances nearly eight years ago and have recently been declared dead in absentia. Unperturbed by this fact, Kim and Julian set about making the home their own. 

It quickly becomes clear that the two of them are not alone there, however. 

This volume contains all four installments of the serialized novel Black Acres: In Absentia, The Borderland, The Amber Lightand In Darkness. It also contains a brief preface by the author.

I received an Audible Code via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.

Black Acres is a suspenseful horror that centers on a young couple and their new life in an estate in the country. The price was too good to pass up. The house may needed some TLC and renovations, but they were up for the challenge.

And like all horrors that have an estate in its epicenter, there are ghosts.

The horror aspect is actually a slow burn. You get bits and pieces of creepy moments, trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t. It’s not until about 75% into the book that everything makes a dramatic change and leaves you freaked out.

I’m not easily scared when reading horror books. Sure, there’s a moment of psychological “oh that was creepy” but nothing so bad that I keep thinking about it and wonder about the inspiration behind the book. Black Acres legitimately freaked me out. There is something far more horrifying than the ghosts in the house and I would tell you, but that is a spoiler.

This is a great slow burn horror that has you thinking and once it ends, you’re going to want to listen again or maybe convince someone to get the movie rights. Because, right now, I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing this as a movie or horror miniseries.

Final rating: 4/5

 

Book #16: The Last Vampire (Book Two): R.A. Steffan and Jaelynn Woolf


My father has been kidnapped by my worst enemies.
Either that, or he willingly sold me out to them.

Whatever the case, I’m going to find him. Mind you, this would be a lot easier if every Fae in Chicago wasn’t already out for my blood.

They’re not getting it, though.

The only one who’s getting anywhere near my blood is the seven-hundred-year-old vampire who saved me. Yes, there are times when I’m convinced he’s not quite right in the head, but so far he’s the only supernatural being I’ve met who sees me as a person rather than a chess piece.

To the rest of them, I’m nothing more than the walking, talking evidence of a war crime. To him, I’m something else. He calls me a loose thread in the tapestry of his forgotten past, but he looks at me like I might be the key to his future.

The rest of them tell me I’m demonkin. They say I’m a succubus-human hybrid who shouldn’t exist.

One thing is very clear, though. My father is carrying a secret bigger than I ever dreamed, and I’m damn well going to pry it out of him.

I just have to get him back from the Fae first.
Because, hey—what could possibly go wrong?

I received an Audible code for an honest review via Audiobook Boom. There was no compensation made in the making of this review. Everything that follows is my opinion and mine alone.

As the title says, this is book two in an urban fantasy paranormal romance. It starts closely after the events of the first book. As with the last audiobook, the narrator did a good job and I did like the story.

It just wasn’t the best. I actually preferred book one in comparison.

Book Two did reveal more of the fae world and introduced a political dynamic between the Fae and Demons. The world expansion was interesting. That said, everything else just seemed to be less. That isn’t to say that I won’t listen or read Book three, I hope to. I just don’t think this one was as good as Book One.

Final Rating: 2/5

Book #15: Little Killers A to Z by Howard Odentz

Bad things come in small packages . . .
EPIC Award finalist Howard Odentz has penned twenty-six disturbingly fascinating horror stories about the youngest predators among us.
From Andy and Boris to Yuri and Zena, this eclectic anthology is filled, A to Z, with psychopaths, monsters, and murderers!
So turn on the lights and huddle under your blankets because murder isn’t just for grown-ups anymore. Come meet our gallery of little killers.
After all, they’re dying to meet you!
Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.
5 Stars “a relentless, thrilling ride” – Court Street Literary, on Bloody Bloody Apple.
“Howard Odentz takes this mis-mosh of dysfunctional characters and puts together a wonderful story that is equal parts horror and love.” – Scared Stiff Reviews, on Bloody Bloody Apple.
 

I received a copy of this book via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone.

From the first chapter, I was a bit hesitant about this book. The first chapter is a poem that hints at what each character’s story was about. It worried me for two reasons. I was a bit worried that every story would be in some kind of poem form. Which is a cool concept but I have some trouble reading things in poem form. The other reason was that I had just realized how many letters were in the alphabet and despite the Audible app saying that the book wasn’t very long, I was envisioning a long book.

These worries were silly.

Each story is well written, unique, and pulled you into their own world. I found myself trying to fit them all into my own headcanon universe, and, I still think it could work. There are some darker ones, some lighter ones, some that are supernatural, and others that make you question sanity.

Another thing I liked about the stories is the broad range of ages, racial identity, and sexualities. It made even the most unusual story that bit of possible.

As for the narrator and audiobook as a whole, it was well executed. The narrator’s voice didn’t sway me away from the story and the background music between stories only helped the experience along.

All in all, Odentz wrote a great collection of short stories each one able to hold on their own and be entertaining. I might reread this one in October. It is definitely an October read.

Final Rating: 4/5

Book #8: A Temple of Forgotten Spirits by William F. Wu

A young guy named Jack Hong hitchhikes throughout America following the keilin, a mystical unicorn out of Chinese mythology. The keilin leads him to ten adventures with ghosts and other supernatural figures. These experiences reveal to him not only parts of American history he never knew, but also his own identity and the role he will choose for his life. 

~~~~~ Description ~~~~~ 

The moonlight was still strong, and Lo Man Gong still sat up on the overhead window, where few people and no old men could ever get. 

“Feel better, Chinaman?” he asked mildly. 

The night before, my resistance had been low, and his presence had somehow seemed tolerable, if not rational. Now I was more clear-headed … yet he was still here. I didn’t like him as much. 

I let my eyes drop closed again. Once I was cured of malaria, I’d be free of him. I had eaten twice today; now, if I slept well, I’d be in sound shape pretty soon. 

“You know the keilin, Chinaman Jack?” 

That was the Chinese unicorn, a mystical animal whose rare appearances were highly auspicious. In the Cantonese I normally heard, it was pronounced “keilun.” It wasn’t like European ones, though. This unicorn had the body of a deer, the hooves of a horse, the tail of an ox, and a fleshy horn. I knew that much. 

“The unicorn?” I opened my eyes and looked at him. As before, the moonlight glowed through his shape. 

“Ah, you know the keilin. He smiled and nodded thoughtfully. “The keilin means good things happen. It’s very powerful.” 

I watched him silently. 

After a while, he looked into my eyes again. “Nobody remember me, Jack. Some people remember, some of my frien’. A few of them. Most, nobody remember at all. No children, no relative. You, Jack. You like me. Unless you change.” 

Yes, I knew that. I had already come to understand that. And I knew that he had come for me, here in the middle of the country, away from his home as longtime Californ’. But I didn’t know why.

I received an audible code via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.

A Temple of Forgotten Spirits is a full-length novel that is comprised of multiple short stories. It tells the story of a Chinese-American man and his journey across the United States on his search for a mythical unicorn. He is introduced to the history of the Chinese in America little by little.

I am a third generation Filippino-American (25% Filippino, if we get nitty-gritty). Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about that part of my family and what I do know is just the history that my grandmother remembers. I don’t know the culture and I’m still undecided about learning it. After all, is the history that rich in American culture?

So, I asked for this book because I already felt some kind of connection with the main character. He doesn’t know his family background or the culture. He doesn’t understand the intertwining history of being Chinese and Chinese-American. Just like I don’t know anything about that part of my family.

Now… I honestly didn’t start liking the book. The main character, though having a similar cultural ignorance as me, didn’t feel like there was any emotion behind him. I didn’t like him as a person. I did like the other characters we meet in each story. They had substance, there was a struggle with them. Jack was… a witness.

And in retrospect, I think that was Wu’s intention. He wanted Jack to be a blank slate. If Jack wasn’t, he would fight what is new to him just like we fight what is new for us. By making him into a blank slate, Wu not only made the reader into the character but was making a point that Jack was on a journey to a rebirth of sorts.

With each passing story, Jack grows a personality. We may not know the Jack of the past but we are learning about the Jack of the present and future. It is the past of Chinese America that is important, not the vehicle we are using to view it.

It was because of this that I needed to sit back and think. I couldn’t write a review right away because I would have made it into a 2 (because of Jack’s lack of personality) or a 3 (because the stories we learn). Now, I think a 4 is more appropriate.

The narrator does a decent job, though I did have trouble listening to him from time to time. The literary prose is good, it pulled me in and the minor characters meant something to me. But it is the emotional realization I have gained that seems to make a bigger impact for me. I’m growing more and more interested in learning about my own hidden culture after listening to this audiobook.

I recommend this for someone who doesn’t know as much as they think about Chinese American history and for the people who don’t know the history that is in their own blood and soul.

Final Rating: 4/5

Book #6: The Last Vampire Book One by R.A. Steffan and Jaelynn Woolf

There’s a smokin’ hot dead guy locked in my garden shed.
That part’s bad enough. But now, he’s trying to get out.

Growing up, my father always told me that I’d come to a bad end, just like my mom did when I was a kid. Hearing that kind of shit when you’re little eventually gets to a girl, but I can’t say I ever expected my ‘bad end’ to involve an angry vampire with a severe case of iron deficiency and a panty-melting English accent.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Ever since my mother was assassinated, I’ve felt like there was something vast and frightening hidden beneath the fabric of the world. Something none of us are supposed to know about.

So far, finding out I was right hasn’t been nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped. I guess the trick will be staying alive long enough to shout ‘I told you so’ from the rooftops.

But before I can do that, I really need to figure out if the vampire who just bit me is one of the good guys or not. 

I received an Audible copy for an honest review via Audiobook Boom. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.

The Last Vampire: Book One is the first in a trilogy about a 26 year old woman who is thrust into the paranormal world after a brief bitten encounter with a vampire. The last vampire in fact. Go fig.

The story is what I consider a slow burn. Our love interest and MC just barely know each other in the events of the book. In fact, they are only with each other in three solid instances. That says something there. It makes me label this book more on the urban fantasy versus romance field.

There is some sex going on near the last quarter of the book that I have read is more clinical than steamy. I personally found it to be both and I found the reason for that to be logical and interesting.

The MC is a “girl with unknown power” and does do the enigma trope well but I feel she could get better as the books progress. If anything, I’m not ready to pass judgment on her completely even if the book ended.

The writing is easy to get into and there were parts that were funny, as intended. I did find the book to be enjoyable and wouldn’t mind reading book two. There were moments I was scratching my head trying to figure out where the authors were going and I was super stoked at who the baddies were. Honestly, these guys are hardly ever the baddies… THANK YOU!

I did have an issue with the way it ended. It seemed to just end instead of having a climactic moment and solid resolution. That said, there is a second book and I do hope that book has a better ending in comparison.

All in all, it was a fun romp and I could see myself continuing the series.

Final Rating: 3/5