Bark's Book Reviews

Stay chill, it's only a silly book review.

I read the good, the awful & all of the "meh" in the middle. Mostly horror & romance of all kinds.

Servant of the Undead by Isabelle Drake

Servant of the Undead - Isabelle Drake

I don’t think this book is going to be a book for everyone but if you like a little monster mixed in with your erotica it may just be the book for you.

 

Hayden is a young guy doing a little zombie sex-cult research for a junk rag in the library when he is approached by a gorgeous woman wearing little more than a mini-skirt and a few scraps of rags. She’s dripping (it’s storming out, you pervs), she is icy cold and she smells weird. He knows deep down that something is not quite right here but he has sex with her anyway (hey, she offered!) and now he’s in way over his head. Turns out she’s the sort of zombie that he has just been researching. What are the odds, do you think?! She lets him know that he is her newest sex pet and he must perform whenever she feels the need to “feed” which is quite often, it turns out. She feeds off of sex, by the way, instead of brains and he has no way to fend her off because she easily compels him with her eyes and her beautiful body.

 

“You don’t understand yet, do you? Let me explain. You belong to me now. Until I’m done with you, that is.”


She chains him, she drugs him and, if you ask me, it serves him right! He has a girlfriend who he has cheated on and now because of his dick and his weakness, she’s caught up in all of this weirdness. He is one of the world’s worst boyfriends and feels bad for brief moments but not bad enough to figure a way out of the situation. And nearly not bad enough for me to feel bad for him as I reveled in his debasement!

 

This book is something else. I cannot honestly say that I liked any of the characters with the exception of Rachelle, the cuckolded but good-natured girlfriend, because they’re all pretty despicable creatures who do terrible things and think terrible thoughts but I couldn’t put it down. It’s a sexy, strange read with loads of dubious consent and a few humiliating episodes but nothing overly gross or truly disturbing (says me who has read some AWFUL stuff in the past, pee & poo stuff if you must know, so your mileage may vary). Be warned though, if dubious consent or the inability to consent scares you off because that stuff is here in several scenes. None of it gets too dark or disgusting and it’s not filled with angst and emotional despair. It was all rather amusing in a dark, dubiously sexy sort of way.

 

I’d give it a 3 1/2 because the story did get a wee bit convoluted towards the last half but it still managed to keep me entertained.

 

Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for providing me with an ARC.

Friday Reads & Stuff

Reading progress update: I've listened 30 out of 619 minutes.

Naked in Death  - J.D. Robb, Susan Ericksen

I'm rereading on audio. I read this book back when it was first released and as I started the audio I quickly realized my memory is not at all good! I wonder if it'll live up to my painfully vague memories of it?

 

 

The Axeman of New Orleans: The (boring) True Story

The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story - Miriam C. Davis, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I am DNFing this book. For a story about the axeman, it is so incredibly dull. The author has clearly done her homework but she's included too many sidelines that have nothing to do with the murders. If I wanted to learn about the origins of the Italian Mafia in New Orleans I would've picked up a different book.

 

This story was also one of the subplots in American Horror Story’s season of “Coven”. The "axeman" is the guy Jessica Lange gets cozy with. The gals over at MY FAVORITE MURDER also covered the case in one of their many disturbingly amusing podcasts. I’d say listen to that instead. Life's too short and stressful so I'm picking up something else rather than struggling to stay awake during this one.

Worship Me by Craig Stewart

Worship Me - Craig Stewart

We all need a little darkness in our reading lives, if only to escape the darkness of reality, right? Well, I sure do and this book was gruesomely dark, unrelentingly evil and I loved nearly every black page but especially those where selfish hearted people meet their demise most painfully. 

Does that make me evil too? 

The story begins when a horrible wife abusing man named Rick finds his bliss while praying to a structure in the woods. That structure houses The Behemoth, the one and true God, the God of hellfire, damnation and exquisite pain to all who fail to bow down properly. Rick and The Behemoth infest a local church filled with loyal devotees and demand fealty to their new God as well as make an offering of an innocent child or they all die . . . Just one child though, this Behemoth is not greedy even though there is a basement filled with kiddos.



So, what follows is the evil that happens when humans are asked to make such a terrible decision to save their own hides. All of their ugliness, self-preservation and selfishness come crashing to the surface and spewing through their mouths and thoughts. Some become sheep, just going along with what they know instinctively is very wrong. This all feels so very real and the author does a fantastic job of bringing this terror-filled this scenario to life.

“All was not right in the house of God.”

Terrible, gory things happen at the level of early Clive Barker gruesomeness, mostly to people who deserve it but just know that no one is truly safe, even if they’re not a jerk. I enjoyed the spontaneity of the murders even when I was sad to see someone decent go because it upped the odds. The characters were well drawn and the brief moments of light and hope make the darker bits stand out all the more. My only minor complaint is that there is a bit of head hopping which I noticed most nearest the end. I don’t typically notice such things but there were a few pages that I had to go back and reread to clarify who was speaking.

The ending was very fitting and one I didn’t see coming. I loved the visceral brutality of it all and the picture it paints of the most horrible creature of all: humans. 

Read this one if you dare!

The Outsider by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton

The Outsider - Will Patton, Stephen King

This is the story of an atrocious murder of an innocent and the investigation that turns into a “ f*cked up nightmare of a case” for all of those involved. 

That description about sums it all up. The murder, the ensuing rush to jail a suspect and the follow up are all horrific. To say anything more about the plot, truly, is to ruin it for anyone wishing to read it. It’s not just me being lazy! I’m seriously tired of having things spoiled for me so I’m refusing to say much of anything. If you want to know more, check out one of the zillion spoilery reviews out here in the internets. 

If you want to read a book by a master storyteller who grabs you early and doesn’t really let you up for air until well into its second half, I cannot recommend this audiobook highly enough. I was hooked into the story so hard that I found myself making up chores so I could stay plugged in and listen to “just a bit more” before I had to return to reality. I even took my lazy dog for a long neglected walk in order to have an excuse to keep going. He pooped out way before I was ready to call it quits on The Outsider and pull out my earbuds.

This isn’t a straight up murder mystery and you need to know that before going in. It has a horror angle and a tie-in to a previous series. If you don’t like either of those two things in your books, you might not be overly thrilled with the second half of the book. Me? I loved it. I want more books like these and I want them all to be narrated by Will Patton! His voice is just so down to earth, calming and listenable (is that a word?). He breathes life into the characters and that’s a skill that isn’t an easy one to master. 

I’m not giving this book five stars because:

1. I’m a jerk and only give fives out to the rare book that I personally feel fit my idea of perfection.
2. It gets a little sloggy in its last few acts. 
3. It made me sad and horrified but I never felt fear or creeping dread as I did in The Shining or Pet Sematary. 

Instead I give it 4 ½ stars which is the next to best thing, and a very high recommendation. 

Fear University by Meg Collett, narrated by Lidia Dornet

Fear University - Meg Collett, Lidia Dornet

I’m not fond of the title of this one. It gives the book a generic feeling of YA or NA and does the book a disservice because it’s a gritty, violent and action-packed story that deserves a title such as Aswang: Demon Dogs! That’s catchier, don’t you think? Or maybe Devil Dogs Want to Eat Your Tasty Bits. Yeah, I like that one but maybe that’s why they don’t ask me. Anyway, I grabbed this because the blurb caught my attention and I’m glad I did because it was pretty darn good.

Ollie has never been able to feel physical pain. Because of this, she ended up abandoned by her mother and was tormented by those who should’ve protected her. She’s grown up tough and resilient and has been living on her own since becoming a young adult. One day she is attacked by a dog-like creature and wins the fight as two young men watch. They can’t believe their eyes. Average humans, AKA civvies, aren’t supposed to win fights against the “aswang”, they’re supposed to become their dinner. They kidnap her and bring her back to “Fear University” where only select families are training to fight a secret war against the aswang beasties. She’s soon entrenched in training for the war by a handsome but all business guy named Luke who is reputed to abstain from sexy times because he likes it too rough. She feels no pain. She is intrigued!

So all that’s going on and a whole lot of other stuff that I will not spoil. This book is definitely more urban fantasy than NA angst or romance and I liked that about it. There’s action, the pace is fast, there are many revelations and surprises, the characters are imperfect and their interactions are interesting. But it’s Ollie who makes the book sing for me. She’s carrying the weight of a painful past and she’s sarcastic, cynical and doesn’t take any crap from anyone but she’s also funny and reminded me a bit of Liv from IZombie.

“I didn’t like Luke or his stupid dick.”

She lies too :)

This was a very good urban fantasy but I recommend picking up the next book (and maybe the one after that) in the series if you’re like me and prefer to have all of your questions answered. This book leaves things a-dangling and may leave you pulling out your hair if you don’t have book two all lined up and ready to go. My library does NOT so arrrrgggh!



The narrator is most excellent. She sounds youthful and tough and exudes emotion exactly where needed.

I received a copy of this audio from Tantor Media. Thanks, Tantor!

Friday Reads!

My Tardy May Wrap-up

I just realized I haven't done one of these since March of 2017. I am nothing if not inconsistent!

 
May 2018
 
New Reviews Posted
(clicking on cover will bring you to my review @ my Blogger blog because I'm too lazy to change all the links)
 
My Favorites
        
 
The Good Reads
            
 
The Eh
 
The Sexy
   
 
The DNF


Well, looks like I read mostly great books so yay but only three of them were from my physical TBR pile. Better than zero, I suppose! I learned a few things when looking back at my books in May, mainly that I am pretty much finished with any sort of thriller written from the FBI or investigators POV and that I need to weed my tbr of most of the YA titles hiding in there because they don't grab me. Horror is still my first and forever love and twisted serial killers are still working for me but I do need a little romance thrown in to break up the darkness.

 

Reviews Coming Soon:
 
Now ReadingCurrent Listen40236914
 
 
This month I'm hoping to catch up on my review copies, both audio & print, and maybe read at least one TBR book but that's not looking too good :) How's your June looking?

Short Story Month Draws to a Close: Free Short Fiction

Reblogged from Gregor Xane:
 

I kicked off Short Story Month by offering my short, "Mr. Tucker & Me," for free, and I am closing out Short Story Month by offering my short, "Mr. Tucker & Me," for free.

 

You can also still grab another of my shorts, "Tipping," (at no cost to you) at your favorite Amazon online store.

 

And, as always, my little ditty, "It Came From Hell and Smashed the Angels" is free to download just about anywhere you go.

 

My weird fairy tale, "I Will Tell You About Knoist," is FREEish, if you choose to sign up for my (spam-free) New Release Mailing List. But, if you don't want more e-mail, you can just go to the HorrorBabble YouTube channel and listen to an audio version of this story for FREE.

 

DNF: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Unbury Carol: A Novel - Josh Malerman

I gave it my best try and read a third before throwing in the towel. This book was just so incredibly not for me. I like weird and dark little stories but this tale about a woman afflicted by a condition where she falls into a death-like state and the dastardly bastard of a man she trusted, who naturally is doing her all kinds of wrong, isn't working for me in any way. The characters are not engaging me and the plot is not interesting to me so I'm calling it quits and starting something else. 

 

I sure hope future Noctural Reader's Box picks are better than this or I'll have to call it quits on them too.

The Shining by Stephen King (audiobook)

The Shining - Stephen King, Campbell Scott

I reread this on audio, narrated by Campbell Scott. I was a kid when I read it the first time and it helped solidify my lifelong love of the horror genre. I hoped it would be as scary as I remembered. 

Knowing what I now know about Jack after reading Doctor Sleep (if you haven’t read it, you should) helped give me a different slant on his character making him a wee bit more sympathetic instead of the flat out villain I remembered. It also helped that he wasn’t actually written as an unhinged loon from the get go but as a flawed man struggling to keep his family afloat and intact while he battled with the dangerous demons of addiction, anger and regret. I had forgotten all of that or it likely went over my head when I first read it and Jack Nicholson’s performance lingered in my brain instead. Wendy is a better character in the book, for certain, because we get her inner thoughts instead of all of the endless screaming and Danny was such a wise little boy which makes sense considering his gift/curse. I didn’t catch that on the first read because I had never been around kids his age.

It’s most definitely a frightening book but in a very different way than the film. Much of the horror is internal with the dread and ghosts of the hotel slowly creeping up on you rather than smacking you in the face with their presence (and floppy boobs!). I enjoyed all of the backstory of the hotel (even dog-man is there!) and there’s quite a bit of it and the sense of utter isolation and helplessness amidst the storm is terrifying. 

My 12 year old self would’ve given it a five. My grumpy, grown up self gives it 4 ½. Campbell Scott is an excellent narrator and does a low-key performance that doesn’t over-exaggerate the scenes or dialogue which worked for me.

Mind Wreck by J.Z. Foster

Mind Wreck: Shadow Games - J.Z. Foster

This book arrived in the mail and before I could warn her, my daughter picks it up and says, “You’re reading a book with a kitty on the cover!” Then she peers closer and with a look of horror on her face sighs, “oh, of course, it’s bleeding” and drops it like a hot potato as I laughed. OF COURSE! Sheesh, what kind of monster must she think I am? And how is this child even mine?! 

Haha.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book after reading the synopsis but it intrigued me enough to accept a review copy. It’s more dark urban fantasy than it is horror but there are enough horrific and terrifying scenarios and graphic scenes to please the dark heart of most any horror fan too. 

Matthew is going about his life unaware that life as he knows it is about to end. He’s been having scary dreams and seeing things that may or may not be there. Things that linger in dark corners. Then one not-so-fine day a talking cat enters his life. A talking cat that looks and smells a little like death and claims it is his father! As if that weren’t enough to digest, he’s told he is about to go through the “Mind Wreck” and come into powers that will force him to go on the run from a group who wants to use them for their own nefarious goings-on. Matthew is ill equipped to enter this sinister game but his daddy cat sticks around to help him out and offer advice and sarcasm. I loved the sarcasm coming from a bedraggled cat body so much.

“I just really miss having thumbs.”

This isn’t my typical kind of read but I enjoyed it. Matthew is a relatable character who just wants to meet up with his dream girl but is caught up in all of this crazy. His cat-dad is a sarcastic smart-ass who is sketchy, a little mean, secretive and always unpredictable. It kept me on my toes guessing what would happen next, it was a little gross and a little funny and it never bored me which is more than I can say for a lot of books! 

4 ½ stars

I received a copy from the author. Thanks!

Long (yay!!) Weekend Reads!

The Woman In the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window: A Novel - A. J. Finn, Ann Marie Lee

“What is it about that house? It’s where love goes to die.”

Anna loves peeking in on her neighbors and making these fun little observations. She suffers from agoraphobia and hasn’t left the house in ten months and has nothing much else to do really. She watches old thrillers, drinks far too much Merlot, and downs enough pills to keep her mail-in pharmacy in business all while staring at the wealthy neighbors who are apparently all too cheap to buy curtains.

“I am the woman who viewed too much.”

After I patiently listened to three or four hours of audio with nothing much of anything happening, Anna’s peeping finally pays off and she sees something interesting! Her new neighbor and brand new friend gets knifed but she doesn’t see who does the stabbing. Too scared to venture outside, she calls 911 but as she’s sloshed off her butt and slurring her words they don’t believe her. 

From here accusations are made, red herrings weave in and out of her blurry vision and everyone feels bad for Anna for reasons that I guessed from the very beginning. That reveal was a complete dud but the one at the very end was perfectly evil and I loved it. 

Anna is a mess. She has reason to be a mess but it is rough reading about someone in complete self-destruct mode for an entire story. I also found it incredibly hard to sympathize with her due to reasons I cannot reveal but mostly due to the fact that I can be a little heartless and unforgiving sometimes. This was definitely one of those times. I also think I’m getting a little fatigued with drunken woman who sees a crime syndrome. I didn’t trust her and I wasn’t supposed to but at least she really was on to something, if you were wondering. 

I can only give this book a three because I found most of it not very thrilling. And with a book like this, aren’t I supposed to be thrilled and chilled and all tensed up? This never happened but maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll happen to you.

 

The narration was decent. Nothing screamed out at me to take notes so that's a good thing.

The Air He Breathes by Brittainy C. Cherry

The Air He Breathes - Brittainy C. Cherry, Brian Pallino, Erin Mallon

I’ve had this sucker downloaded to my phone for over a year so figured it was about time to get it done. Note to all: I knew nothing of the plot before going into it because I bought it a year ago and my memory is crap. The guy on the cover looked promising though. So what follows is likely ALL my fault. Or mostly my fault. I will not accept the blame for all of this. Namely the last ¼ when something I anticipated in the first hour comes true. This is the rare case that I will admit that it sucks to be right.


Tristan and Elizabeth do not meet cute. They meet when she hits his golden retriever (which is later described as a “small/med dog” so I am confused. My golden’s have both been large/x-large but maybe I fed them too many treats!). I will admit that I almost deleted the thing off my phone when this happened because I was not up for this, would never be up for this, truth be told. Elizabeth does the right thing and drives him to the vet since he’s running around town without shoes and the vet is a mile away. He verbally abuses her for most of the ride in front of her five year old daughter. Apparently she just ran into the town asshole. Of all the luck. He’s scared and I felt for him but he was being a real dick all the same. Fortunately the poor dog only has a fracture but what a completely crappy way to start out a romance! Tristan is so emotionally fragile that he breaks down into big heaving sobs when he hears that his dog is ok. Yikes. My heart was not ready for this level of heartbreaking sorrow and it only gets more crushing from there.


These two are so broken and so emotionally raw that it is painful to read their stories. Both have lost their spouses in a car accident. Tristan actually lost his 8 year old son and his wife. Neither are dealing with their grief very well. He has channeled his into anger and she is a walking zombie. The first half is so grief laden it is almost physically painful to read. They forge an unhealthy relationship based on sadness and sex. It’s frankly creepy and very freaking sad and it continues to hurt to read about these two. They eventually realize what they’ve been doing is not a good idea and forge a real friendship that turns into something more and I LOVED this. I was ready to give it 4 ½ stars. It was gorgeous and heartfelt and full of healing goodness. The book should’ve ended right here but sadly it didn’t.


Someone mistakenly thought that adding in some crazy plot twists, suspense and loads of unneeded drama were needed and turned the lovely ending into a shitshow of epic proportions before finally giving us a HEA in the epilogue. I’m bumping off a full point for all of this nonsense.


So anyway, if you want some drama in your reading life and need to shed a few tears then read this. The characters are very well written, well matched and the romance believably developed. The little girl, Emma, was the kind of child that I actually enjoy reading about in romance. She’s funny and loves scary movies and monsters and dogs. She is awesome and I want to read her book someday. There’s also an ongoing thread featuring feathers that will gut you every time they appear. It’s all worth reading. Just be warned that the first third, as my notes say, and my notes do not lie, is “so fucking depressing I may as well be reading a bleak horror novel.” The next bit is five star material and so beautifully cleansing after all of the pain but argh that last bit before the very end needed to be exorcised right out of the book!

Currently reading

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb, Susan Ericksen
Progress: 30/619minutes
The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook: 500 Vibrant, Kitchen-Tested Recipes for Living and Eating Well Every Day by The Editors at America's Test Kitchen, The Editors at America's Test Kitchen
Progress: 20/440pages
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix