Reviewed by Carissa
I tend to stay away from reviewing anthologies, mainly because they take so damn long to get thru. But I’m also a sucker for anything that I don’t see a lot of in this genre, and when I saw that this anthology, full of bears and the guys that love ‘em, I couldn’t pass it up. And let’s face it, that cover is freaking hot. I’m pretty sure it could get me to do a whole host of things I wouldn’t normally even think of.
Underneath the cover, however, is something I didn’t expect. Good, funny, heartfelt–and probably a touch odd at times–stories. I am in the habit of expecting very little from anthologies, especially ones that don’t have a lot of authors that I know and love. I think it might be a defense mechanism. If you don’t expect a lot, then when it comes crashing down in whirlwind of overused clichés and choppy writing…well then you can’t really be all that disappointed. But it also means that sometimes you get blown away. Sometimes stories sweep you off your feet in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes you find yourself falling quite a bit in love with something you didn’t think would move you in the slightest.
And that is pretty much what happened here.
Yes, there are some stories I liked more than others. Some stories that made me want to shake the MC and beg him to run away from the crazy dude who thinks he’s a bear-shifter. But on the whole this was a really enjoyable read. And while I fully expected to love the couple of authors in here that I knew, it was the ones that I have never heard of, or never liked before, that blew me away.
So, because I don’t really want to write a review for all fourteen stories (because I don’t want to spend all day writing this and not making blueberry muffins like I intend to), I picked out three stories that surprised me in some way, to share with you. But there are so many more stories in this anthology that I loved, so I really do think that you should read them all. Even the one with the nut-case bear-shifter.
(Oh, and I would just add real quick: Don’t skip the intro to this anthology. It was very interesting and will probably give you enough background info–if you know nothing about the bear culture–to set you up for some of the stories in the book. Plus I just really liked it, and if I liked it, that is something pretty good.)
“Amped” by Zoe X. Rider (4 stars)
At the ripe ol age of 20.95 years old, Toby is bit pissed at the world–especially the parts that won’t sell him a fucking beer. At a concert to see Firesiren, a band he likes, he runs into Wolf…who is a bit of an enigma. A hot, round, hairy enigma. With the warm-up bands sucking (and clearly not in any way that is good) Toby decides to take his chances with Wolf. And hey, if nothing else, maybe he can get the dude to buy him that fucking beer.
This story was a bit grittier than the kind I normally go for. Drugs, sex, loud music that probably makes no sense at all but everyone will love anyways…this is so not my scene. But there was something about all that grit that made it mesmerizing. While I don’t really care for getting high on speed, drinking piddling beer out of plastic cups and then giving some head in the alley next to the tour bus…Toby and Wolf clearly do. And that makes it worth reading. It might not be something I get really, but it was something I enjoyed reading.
“Golden Bear” by G.P. Keith (5 stars)
A snowstorm has come into town, his friend has gone out of town, and Norm is stuck in their house all on his lonesome. That is until last night’s storm brought part of a tree down on the shed out back (killing Norm’s internet) and Winston comes to help fix his wood problem. Winston may not be what Norm normally craves in a man, but Bear might just be his new flavor.
Yeah, this was my favorite story in the anthology. There is nothing overtly spectacular about this short story, but I just found myself loving it anyways. The way that Norm finds himself falling for Winston–even though he has never found bears to be what he finds attractive, before–is just perfect. The way he oscillates between seeing Winston as hot, and finding himself disappointed when he sees his flaws, just feels so real. It wasn’t a perfect romance between them. No one swooned and pledged eternal devotion at first sight…but it was a thousand times better than that could ever be. The two guys just fit each other, even if it took them a bit to realize how much.
And, my god, that blowjob was freaking hot. Just the way Norm reacted to Winston and his body just blew me away.
“Hunting Bear: A Fairy Tale With a Very Happy Ending” by Edmond Manning (4.5 stars)
Tyler may have only seen his perfect bear once in a piano bar, but he is convinced the man is ‘it.’ And if he is going to need to hunt that bear down and make him see that Tyler is perfect for him too, well that is no problem at all. With a little help from his old friend, Derrick, and his new friends, the three coffee bears, Tyler is sure to capture, win, and keep his Great White Bear. Little does Tyler know the path to true love has more twists and turns than twizzler caught in a merry-go-round.
I am, it must be admitted, not a big fan of Edmond Manning’s stories. There is nothing wrong with them, they just don’t click with me the way other authors’ stories do. So color me surprised when I found myself absolutely in love with this story. I had a hard time getting into it, at first. The whole ‘fairytale’ talk was a bit grating, but as the story progressed, that stopped mattering. Because it is a really good story. Just when I think it is going one way, it turns and takes a different path, the right path, and blows me away. I love that. Because I didn’t see it coming. Because it made me freaking cry. Because, when it comes down to it, surprising me is all I really ask of a story but so rarely get. And this one surprised me. A lot.
Overall, this was a really good anthology. A lot of the stories were fun to read, and even the few that sat at middling, were interesting in some way. When I did the whole math thing to find out the average star rating for this book it landed somewhere around 3.8, but I am going to round up just because of that cover. Which I still love. I enjoyed reading this, and I hope you do to.
RATING: Four Stars
For original posting see: http://lovebytesreviews.com/2014/08/23/recent-release-review-a-taste-of-honey-anthology/
PS: Is it okay that I am psyched that so many people are saying don’t skip my review? It that pure ego?