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text 2016-06-10 12:13
WTF Friday: One Good Turn by Bryce Calderwood
One Good Turn: A Futanari Vampires Standalone Story - Bryce Calderwood
Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

There are books that you read, books that you enjoy, and books that you experience. It's the difference between merely consuming the random assembly of dead letters on a page, and being consumed by the illusionary world they create. For the all-too-brief span of a single evening, One Good Turn was one of those books, sinking its teeth into me, holding me close, and refusing to let go until we both lay spent and empty upon the final page.

Bryce Calderwood is, quite simply, a true master of erotic horror. The imagination demonstrated here is astounding, but the quality of the writing is even better. It's a combination that makes for a deliciously deceptive read, with the writing itself almost too good for such weird, wild, wanton material. There's a passion to the storytelling that doesn't often make it through the interference of mainstream editors and publicists.

There are two narrative threads here, one dealing with supernatural monsters, and the other with human monstrosity. Ashima is a fascinating character, and one who embodies the very idea of rebirth and transformation. The greed and cruelty of a Saudi Arabian sex-slave ring transformed her the first time; the wealth and perversity of Japanese businessmen transformed her the second time; and the hunger and lust of Futanari* Vampires transformed her the final time. She is a complex woman, mentally and emotionally scarred from her childhood experiences, with the issues of power and control driving her in interesting ways. Her final transformation is not one that comes easily or instantly, and the way that supernatural seduction plays out is really the heart of the story.

This is a story that has its bloody, chilling, violent moments. As erotic and seductive as the vampires may be, Calderwood doesn't let us forget that they are monsters first - impossibly strong, bloodthirsty, dangerous creatures. Making them futanari vampires adds a whole new level of kink to their erotic aspect, however, and that's where the imagination of the story shines brightest. It's also where the theme of transformation gets a twist, in that the vampires looking to transform Ashima were themselves transformed into futanari by the doctor. Musette and Ashlyn's seduction of Ashima is breathtaking in its perversity, with acts that are as intoxicating as they are impossible, but the narrative strengths keep it from ever descending into mere literary porn.

If you have an open mind, a sense of erotic adventure, and an admiration for the beauty of imagination, then One Good Turn is worth checking out - and, if your first taste is to your liking, the full length novelEnthralled is already available, with sequel on the way later this year.

Kindle Edition
Published May 31st 2016 by Bryce Calderwood




* If you are unfamiliar with the term, futanari is a Japanese word meaning 'dual form', and it most commonly relates to women with both male and female sex organs. It's a mythological, imaginary third gender, only found in fiction.
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review 2016-03-07 12:52
Horror Review: Drop Dead Gorgeous by Donald Allen Kirch
Drop Dead Gorgeous - Donald Allen Kirch

While it opens with a scene that's reminiscent of a Criminal Minds episode,Drop Dead Gorgeous quickly veers into something more akin to a Roger Corman movie, before reaching a conclusion that could have come straight out of theTwilight Zone.

What Donald Allen Kirch weaves here is a twisted story of revenge, medical experimentation, and outright insanity that only gets more intense as it races along. Here we have a young man who wakes up in a strange basement, surrounded by stacks of rotting bodies, bound and gagged, with no memory of how he got there. The revelation that his kidnapper is an impossibly beautiful woman is certainly an interesting twist, but her backstory is the biggest twist of all.

You see, 7 years ago Eve Doe - the world's most perfect woman - was a man known by the name of Steve Kane. Forget the usual horror cliches, because Eve is neither a crazy drag queen nor a tormented transsexual. Instead, she is a perfect punishment, a genetic life sentence for cheating on Steve's mad scientist wife.

That's about as much as I want to say about the plot, as you really need to discover it for yourself. It's the interplay between Ray and Eve, between captive and captor, that is at the heart of the story. Kirch establishes them both very well, allowing their own fears and failings to play off one another. It's not often a book like this successfully manages to switch the roles of monster and victim so many times so successfully, but be prepared to have your assumptions challenged.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a book that goes to some very dark places, with some of the most imaginative scenes of torture and transformation that I've encountered in some time. It's not the book I expected it to be, and the reading experience is that much better for it.

Kindle Edition, 169 pages
Published February 5th 2016 by Double Dragon Publishing

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.
Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/03/horror-review-drop-dead-gorgeous-by.html
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review 2016-02-25 13:14
Sci-Fi Review: The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again by A.C. Wise
The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves The World Again - A. C. Wise

While it initially appears to be nothing more than a pulp adventure tale filled with comically flamboyant superheroes, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again is actually a book with a surprising amount of diversity and depth.A.C. Wise has crafted a layered series of interconnected stories with as much heart and soul as action and drama.

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron itself is a group of women from across the spectrum of gender and sexuality. It's a level of diversity that should feel awkward and forced, but Wise pulls if off smoothly but giving each of them - with the exception of the mysterious pain loving M - a heartfelt origin story. Outcasts, loners, and victims one and all, they've found a common cause in embracing the glitter and glam of drag, choosing to become the kind of heroes the world so desperately needs.

As for that heroism, it pits them against everything from gorilla men on Mars, to tentacle monsters from beneath the sea, space eels, killer scarabs, winged harpies, demons, ghosts, and massive monstrous beetles from deep beneath the Earth. There are mad scientists along the way, a crisis aboard Air Force One, run-of-the-mill bullies at a roller rink, and even a gang of superhero strippers known as the G-String Men. It all sounds silly, pulpish, and over-the-top, but the strength (and depth) of the characters keeps it all grounded.

Beneath all the monstrous mayhem and superhero silliness lies a heart of shared pain, suffering, and hurt. Wise makes us care about these women, sympathize with their struggles, and root for their personal triumphs as much as their professional ones. It's not in-your-face, but the message here about accepting and embracing your true identity is one that I'd hope any reader can relate to. My only complaint would be that the collection ends just as Wise introduces some real tension within the group, putting Bunny and Penny at odds with one another, but that just means I'll be on the hook for the next chapter.

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/02/sci-fi-review-ultra-fabulous-glitter.html
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review 2015-09-30 13:41
Review: Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
Empire Ascendant: Worldbreaker Saga #2 (The Worldbreaker Saga) - Kameron Hurley

This review originally appeared on The Speculative Herald.


Last year’s The Mirror Empire was one of the most exciting (and sometimes divisive) entries in an already stellar year of fantasy fiction. Kameron Hurley crafted a book that was daring, original, and even challenging. While putting her own spin on the idea of parallel worlds in a post-apocalyptic sort of portal fantasy, she turned gender roles and relationships on their head. It was the most brutally violent female-led fantasy I had ever encountered. It was ambitious, awesome, imaginative, and exhausting in equal measure . . . and I had serious concerns as to how a sequel would fare. Fortunately, the depth she established there proves to have even more layers than we thought, making Empire Ascendant a more than worthy follow-up.


Having brought the two pivotal universes together at the end of the first book, Hurley continues to develop her worlds here. We already had a pretty good idea of the geographies and societies, but this time around we get a much deeper understanding of the politics involved. What impressed me most was the fact that she let both sides have their moments in the spotlight, questioning the means and motives of each. Conflicts both personal and political are dealt with here, and they are as complicated and confusing as you might expect when mirror universes and doppelgangers are involved. There’s no question that the Dhai are the victims here, but beyond that, there are no clear moral or ethical lines. As much as I thought I knew who to root for going in, I came out of the book feeling dirty for rooting quite so hard.


Readers who were concerned that the first book had too many characters and too many points-of-view will find no respite here. Hurley throws even more into the mix, and elevates secondary characters from the first book to positions of significance here. Fortunately, what’s a challenge for some is a reward for others. Even though it’s been a year between books, I immediately reconnected with the characters and was pleased to see them grow and develop even more. Zezili was a dark, deplorable highlight of the first book, but she takes on even more of an edge here. Lilia started to grow stale for me in the first book, serving more as a POV than a character, but we see new life in her here that adds to the overall drama of the tale. In a book defined by its damaged characters, Anavha probably surprised me the most, rising above his victim status in the first book to begin his own significant arc here.


Although this is a second (or middle) book, things actually happen here. With the world, the scenario, and the characters already established, Hurley is free to focus on the action – and she delivers that in spades. This is a fast-paced tale that carries a sense of urgency from page one. You can feel the tension oozing off the page as the characters clash, cultures collide, and worlds approach an end. The plot develops as much, if not more so, than in the first book – and not always in ways you’d expect. There are twists and turns to the tale that even the most jaded readers won’t see coming, as the story careens downhill towards an uncomfortable precipice. Not all of the characters will make it through to to end, and those that do will be irrevocably changed.


While Empire Ascendant won’t win back any fans who were turned off by the violent, reverse sort of sexism and gender-bent sadism of the first book, those who enjoyed The Mirror Empire will come away entirely satisfied.


Paperback, 464 pages

Expected publication: October 6th 2015 by Angry Robot


Disclaimer: Thanks to Angry Robot for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Source: www.speculativeherald.com/2015/09/30/review-empire-ascendant-by-kameron-hurley
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review 2015-08-21 13:18
WTF Friday: Muscle Memory by Steve Lowe
Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!
I shoulda known something was up when the dog meowed at me.

As so begins a simple little tale that's moreTwilight Zone or Tales from the Darksidethan what you might expect from theBizarro genre. Yes, Muscle Memory is fun, twisted, and just a tad perverse, but it's also a thoughtful, deeply reflective tale from the pen of Steve Lowe.

It starts off on a suitably surreal note, with a body swap discovered in bits and pieces, the clues slowly assaulting an already suffering mind. Billy has woken up in the body of his wife, Tina, a new mother suffering from postpartum depression and a strained marriage. The fact that it takes the intervention of his body-swapped neighbors to make him aware of those facts is sad, but the eventual discovery of why his wife lies dead upon their bed, trapped inside his body, is absolutely tragic.

There are most definitely patented moments of Bizarro humor here - Tucker's far-too-long bathroom break of self-exploration, the neighbor who has seemingly confirmed everyone's suspicions by waking up as one of his sheep, and the odd afternoon of drinking among familiar friends in unfamiliar faces at the bar - but they're not the focus. For much of the story, Lowe leads along in search for answers as to how/why it all happened, but that's not the focus either. Ultimately Muscle Memory is a story about what Billy did to deserve it . . . and what he'll take away from the experience.

Paperback, 62 pages
Published October 13th 2010 by Eraserhead Press

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2015/08/wtf-friday-muscle-memory-by-steve-lowe.html
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