Group Review: Tall, Dark and Wriggly Anthology by Various Authors

What is it about tentacles that capture the imagination like nothing else? From The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife to the eldritch horrors of Lovecraft, what horrifies us often arouses us, too. Whether it's the taboo, the inherent wrongness, or something that can't be defined, tentacles capture the imagination, and these stories wrap their slippery appendages around our minds and won't let go. 

Julian has the salt of the sea in his blood, but his father spurns him as weak and the others in the fishing village whisper that he is cursed. He's willing to do anything to prove himself and to make his life on the water, including "A Bargain" with a strange man of the sea... a man who has tentacles instead of legs and untold wealth to tempt him. 

Niall is a Netrunner also known as the Timberwolf, fierce and cunning in his information raids. But when he's captured in the real world by tech giant Erik, also known as The Wheelman, Niall is "Chained to the Wheel" in real space and used for Erik's pleasure in the Net. And when Erik comes to test him, it will be with the awe-inspiring lower body of an octopus and a mingling of pain and pleasure that Niall no longer wants to escape. 

Aaron might be innocent to the ways of the larger universe, but when he escapes his luddite world to make his way on a space station, that innocence becomes a slight asset. His arranged employer, Ilyan, is charmed by his wide-eyed purity and his acceptance of others, no matter how strange. And as their bond grows, Aaron begins to find his "Home Among the Stars". 

Jonah is a human researcher on an alien world, making his way with the help of his lover, Othosh, but when the two fail to check in for a "Deadline" or two, they may have to answer to the Earth Corps forces who look at the two mated males and see only a tentacled monster and his kidnapped human hostage.

I don't read many anthologies, the shorter stories usually not enough to satisfy me, but when Justin brought this intriguing book to my attention, I couldn't resist, and I invited like-minded unicorns to join me in a group review of this tentacle extravaganza. Read on to see if this anthology is for you!

A Bargain by D.K. Jernigan
Average 4 stars

Sunny: 3.5 Hearts: A simple tale, with wonderfully sexy tentacle love. Kith was awesome and I loved how we were shown his reactions to Julian.
Historical Fantasy, Paranormal

Ann: 4 HeartsA really good story set in the true vein of an old fashioned fairy tale. Dark, but not hopeless and with a tragic MC that broke my heart and made me feel every wrong that was thrown at him. The bargain Julian strikes with the sea-man (yeah, I snickered a little like a 12 year old at that), is supposed to ingratiate him with his father once again. It starts out promising for Julian, but his old man is one cold hearted bastard and the bargain with the sea-man, Kith, turns into something completely different than what Julian had planned. As with any good fairy tale, it gets much worse before it gets better and just when I thought Julian was a goner, the sea-man and his tentacles show up. Even though there was fairy tale insta-love/lust the connection between Julian and Kith was pretty hot and I liked it muchly.

Breann: 3.5 Hearts I really liked the premise of this story with Julian, *sob* poor Julian, and his effort to please his father. What I liked the most (besides the tentacles) was the sea-man and his vulnerability towards Julian. Julian may have been striking deals for his own good but it was obvious that Kith really just wanted Julian all to himself.

It was a sweet story with the added bonus of tentacles.

SheReadsALot: 5 Hearts:  This. This is what I am looking for in tentaclesex books. It's quite a tale with a historical/fantasy feel. Julian is the unwanted second son of a grieving fisherman family. His older brother Paul was the perfect specimen of manliness...unfortunately Paul died at sea. His father thinks Julian is useless and bars him from fishing with his crew due to being weak, skinny and not manly enough. The sea is in Julian's bones. He wants nothing more to prove his worth to his hateful father and get on his father's ship. One night feeling morose for himself, Julian spies a sea creature, a leviathan named Kith. Kith bargains with Julian, a kiss for a gold ring. Julian sees the ring as his ticket back into his unpleasable father's good graces. Once they kiss, Julian finally acknowledges the secret part of himself that desires men. He and Kith develop a friendship with the promise of more through bartering sexual favors for baubles. However, Julian's plans backfire. Kith and Julian's relationship development was quick, their sex was extremely hot and I dug the ending. Strong start to the anthology. Plan on checking out other work from this author.
*Award: Favorite Couple of the Anthology*

Chained to the Wheel by Angelia Sparrow
Average 2.19 Hearts

Sunny: 2 HeartsThere was a lot of world building going on, maybe too much for such a short story. Much of the story takes place in a virtual environment which had some interesting aspects, but I didn't like the real world at all.

The MCs weren't likeable, either. Especially Ezekial, who was creepy and cruel. *shudders* It was difficult to grasp Niall's character at first, as the things he did online did not match his real life personality. As his personality became more clear, I found it difficult to connect with him, which is odd, because I've liked similar characters in other stories.

Despite all that, there was one scene that was so freakishly, creepily pervy, that I gave this story an extra star. I wasn't sure if I hated it or loved it, but I was definitely fascinated, and uncomfortable. 
Overall, though, I think this was just too dark for me.
Dystopia, dub-con, slave

Ann: 2 HeartsThis one started out . . . strangely. There was a lot of information on the world this was set in, but not a lot of explanation. So it felt like the first part was information overload, too much for a short story, so that I felt there was no way ALL of this was going to end up being relevant and for me, it wasn’t. I really should have felt worse for Niall than I did, but there wasn’t enough about the characters to get me invested into their futures.

Breann: 1 Heart: To be perfectly honest... I was completely clueless as to what the actual fuck was going on. There was way too much world building, I couldn't even tell you which character was who. That is all.

SheReadsALot: 3.75 Hearts: A story told from the bad guy's perspective! In a futuristic setting, Erik "The Wheelman" Ezekiel is a paralyzed, wheelchair bound cyber-evil geniu, a lord in cyberspace, feared in both real life and on the Net. He runs EIT, a cyber net company that rules with an iron first. His most devoted followers are called Immortals, voluntary quadruple amputees on life support tubes that live on the Net (cyberspace) and follow the Wheelman's every command and wish. A cyber-thief named Timberwolf has broken into EIT's codes and Erik wants Timberwolf found, his real identity revealed and brought to him in real life. What a cyber-evil genius wants, a cyber-evil genius gets. Timberwolf is revealed to be Niall O'Neill, a young gay submissive with puppy dog blue eyes that needs to be serve to a Master. Erik is cruel, of course and forces Niall to serve him as his personal slave, become an Immortal or die. Niall chooses to serve him.

Are you wondering when the tentacles come into play? On the Net, where Erik can change his body at his whim and he comes up with some inventive tentacles. Hands down best use of tentacles as cock and ball torture. A tentacle sound inserted in a...well you catch the drift. However, the story was confusing at first which lowered my rating. But I can muddle through the weird and confusing a lot and find something that works. In this case, the Master/slave relationship worked for me. Erik is not someone that could be romanticized. He's evil, takes good care of his pet and devises some kinky ways to play. I got what the author tried to portray. Overall enjoyable with the exclusion of the rough start.
*Award: Kinkiest use of a penis sound and cock ring!*

A Home Among the Stars by Gryvon
Average 3.75 Hearts

Sunny: 4 Hearts: Awesome world building. I would love to read more stories in this universe. Great characters and nice tentacle action, too. The ending was a bit too rushed, though. I needed answers! Like how did that even happen?! I definitely needed more. Minor editing issues, but I didn't even care.
Science fiction, aliens

Ann: 3.5 HeartsNow this one had some good world building. There was enough information so I knew exactly why Aaron had to leave his home planet and I felt all his hopes and fears he felt as he was rocketed off to a new life. Even though Ilyan, his employer doesn’t have a lot of page time, I still liked his character and how he was with Aaron. The whole sci fi setting of the story was really interesting and I would love to read a full length story based on this short. Ilyan may not have been the typical lead I read about and I had a bit of a Jabba the Hut picture in my head about him, Aaron loved him and that was good enough for me. The ending was too rushed, a LOT happened in the last bit of the story. I would have liked a bit more of a fleshed out ending because I liked the character and the world and wanted more of it.

Breann: 3.5 HeartsWhen Aaron went off-planet to work for a man(?) named Ilyan, he didn't really know what he was getting into. Heh heh. Luckily, he couldn't resist those alien tentacles and the way they held him. There was some good scenes between the two but I especially enjoyed the ending. I wish it were just a tad longer and I think I could have really believed in their HEA.

SheReadsALot: 4 Hearts: Not my first time in the Gryvon tentacle rodeo and this one is definitely the stronger of the two. But there's a recurring issue I'll bring up later. Aaron, is a young human alien from the puritanical planet called Opus Dei. Aaron ran away from his home planet because he was gay and did not want to be found and/or killed. He escapes with help to a different planet with a job lined up with Ilyan Osserman, an ancient hedonistic alien with a serpentine-like scaled upper body and huge tentacles on the lower body. Aaron is so happy to escape the oppression on Opus Dei that working for his surly boss doesn't faze him in the least. With help from the sneaky alien Tiberius and funny humanoid alien bartender Liana, Aaron gets to learn about a wilder side of life. Aaron is a virgin after all and innocent in a lot of things. His naievete, the characters (it's the best use of multiple characters, IMO) and of course the sex were the strong points of the story. And it's also mpreg. But no clear explanation is given about the mpreg which is disappointing.

This is the second Gryvon tentacle story where the ending is rushed, great ideas are introduced but the follow through comes up lacking. I wished the same detail given into the beginning and world building would have been given for the crux of the story. It was a rushed, fading in and out jumble. I'd think detail into the birthing process and the entire pregnancy would have been great. And even with my complaints...I'm still rating high because everything else was that good. The lone sex scene is my favorite sex scene of the entire anthology. Hint: Three tentacles, creative stretching and penetration. *shudders*
*Award: Favorite Tentacle Penetration*

Deadline by Peter Hansen 
Average 4.19 Hearts

Sunny: 4 Hearts: It's hard to choose, but this might be my favorite story in the collection. Othosh was a fantastic character and Jonah made a great narrator. I loved them as a couple; their relationship was sweet, tender and very steamy. I also loved all the little details that showed us how hot they were together. And bonus points for the humor that made me grin. *remembers Othosh learning what porn was*
Science Fiction, Aliens

Ann: 4.5 HeartsWith a line like, “Porn is the artistic representation of recreational sex”, is it any wonder that this was my favorite story in the anthology? Deadline could have been five times as long and I still would have wanted more. The banter between Othosh and Jonah was witty, smart and sexy. As much as Jonah taught Othosh about humans, Othosh taught Jonah just as much with his insight and observations. I loved the two of them together and the loyalty they had for one another. There was just the right amount of information about the world they lived in and the mission they were on to read easily without being overburdened by too much detail. This would make a great full length story and reading more about Othosh and Jonah would be something I would look forward to.

Breann: 4.5 HeartsHands down... err... tentacles down, my favorite in this anthology. This was the most loving of the stories since the characters were an established couple. Not only did I like the relationship better but the sex was better. They had experience with the tentacles and they knew how to use 'em! And the dirty talk was a definite plus.

SheReadsALot: 3.75 Hearts: This is the only story that features an established couple (not my go-to-type of read), a mated team of human and alien. Dr. Jonah Cheng and his alien husband Othosh are on Oshoth's home planet. Jonah has been stationed in Othosh's home planet for years and fell for a native. Jonah was the only one stationed on the exploratory team. He was charged with cataloging Othosh's people, culture and anything other information he could find on the planet. The couple have great dialogue, snarky and sexy. Othosh's innocence about the human culture and his disdain for working all the time was adorable. I love the alien's stance on porn too. The couple gets discovered and a human team mistakes an incident that happens between the married pair. Luckily it's quickly resolved. They have sex. The end. There wasn't any backstory on how the two first met or married. There was a brief mention of the alien's nervousness in their earlier months. I must say the tentacle anatomy was the strongest. The author has them all over the body, not just the bottom half. It's a cute, romantic, funny finish for a strong tentacle anthology. No duds among the lot, some hiccups and minor gripes but overall a recommended read for tentacle enthusiasts especially
*Award: Best Tentacled Body (most inventive with alien tentacle anatomy)*

I think fans of tentaclesex will not be disappointed.This is more than an anthology of one offs. It has a little bit of everything - sweet to kinky, fantasy to futuristic, virgins being plucked to couples reaffirming their love. know tentaclesex.

Happy Reading!!

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment:

  1. I love this review! *gives tentacles the side eye*