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Science Fiction & Fantasy

Rites of Azathoth by Frank Cavallo

four stars

ritesDiana Mancuso is retired from dangerous field work and is mostly teaching for the Behavioral Sciences Department at Quantico. At first glance, her life might seem a little unfulfilling, maybe even boring, but sometimes a break from the action is just what the doctor ordered. However, when Luther Vayne, a murderer convicted of thirteen double homicides, escapes his prison cell and brutally murders a friend of the Assistant Director of the F.B.I., Diana’s retirement from the field reaches a quick end. Carter Shaw unwittingly joins the plot when a mysterious employer offers him a large sum of money to help him translate cuneiform on an artifact so old that it should not even exist. As worlds collide the fight against evil becomes murky and it is hard to tell whose side is the right one to be on. Rites of Azathoth by Frank Cavallo is more exciting than the average archaeological find, keeping you guessing until the very last page.

Rites of Azathoth is reminiscent of Stephen King, with a world which at first glance appears very much like the one we live in, but under the surface is filled with magical fights of good against evil. Cavallo’s writing is detailed and intricate, with descriptions that could be easily translated from the pages of a novel to the big screen. While there is not much character development and one is left with many questions about characters’ pasts and futures, one becomes invested in the plot enough to keep rooting for the good guy, whoever that may be. Rites of Azathoth is a page turner that will leave you hoping for a sequel.

 

The Lupin Effect by Kayla Speciale

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lupinEllie Ringer has a difficult life. At a young age both of her parents die of freak heart attacks, stemming from an unknown and undiagnosed disease. This leaves young Ellie, confused and saddened, to try to begin a new life with her grandparents. Ellie soon starts to suffer from inexplicable mood swings, temper tantrums, and bouts of sullenness that cause her grandparents to feel bewildered, nervous, and helpless. When Ellie is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and shows no signs of improving, she is sent to a psychiatric ward for years of around the clock care. At the age of sixteen, Ellie finally gets a pass to leave the ward, except her grandparents have passed away and she is now an orphan. Possibly the only thing worse than being a teenage girl living in a psychiatric ward is being a teenage girl living in an orphanage. Then things start to get weird. Ellie wakes up in the middle of the night feeling ill and soon discovers that she has the ability to turn into a wolf. In that moment, Ellie is no longer Ellie Ringer, troubled orphan child with an unknown future, she is Ellie Ringer, a powerful human wolf-hybrid with a mission to learn more about herself and maybe even discover what happened to her parents. Throw in some cute boys with nice abs, a dangerous villain, and some double-crossing and Kayla Speciale’s The Lupin Effect is a howling good time.

The Lupin Effect is an easy-to-read young adult novel about discovering one’s true self and finding meaning in a world that does not initially seem willing to accept you. Speciale’s writing is simple and straightforward, at times overly so. The dialogue is sometimes a little bit stiff and can read rather uninspiring during certain scenes, but it serves the purpose of propelling the plot along at a steady pace. Often the writing feels like Speciale intends it for a film script instead of for a novel, leaving the reader wanting more depth, diversity, and character development with fewer grammatical errors. Nevertheless, while the writing leaves a little more to be desired, the themes of acceptance, family, and uniqueness are all relevant to today’s young adults and will make readers connect with the story.

 

The Speaker by Andi O’Connor

5redstars

51afmescl-_sx312_bo1204203200_Andi O’Connor’s The Speaker is the second installment in her Vaelinel Trilogy and picks up where the first book left off. Princess Irewen is on her way to the northern country of Lündvelle in hopes of reading a prophecy in the archives of the light elves. However, she is being pursued by the Drulaack–evil spirits capable of possessing elves. These spirits are being controlled by the Corrupter, an ancient evil wizard set on revenge against the elves. With at least a month remaining in her journey, Irewen fears that she will not reach her destination in time, but she is a speaker, capable of communicating with spirits. She makes contact with her deceased parents and takes refuge in the spirit world, where they can safely carry her along. Her guardian, Silevethiel (a lion with whom she shares a spiritual connection and that can sense her presence) realizes something is wrong when she can no longer sense Irewen. At the same time, Laegeon, Irewen’s partner, decides to follow Irewen and assembles a party to pursue and protect her.

This series is in many ways reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One such similarity lies in the excellent world building, especially with regards to the different races of beings having distinctive cultures. There is plenty of focus on the different creatures and their powers, appearances, personalities, and even coins, however, the book may have benefited from more focus on physical setting and geography. Also, interesting are the encounters with the somdyrr, or sea giants–creatures that seem to be of O’Connor’s own invention. Like middle books of trilogies often do, this book seemed to drag a bit and is sometimes excessively introspective. However, the thrilling conclusion and feminist touches bode well for the trilogy’s finale.

 

Your Body is My Prison by Oksana Leslie

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oksanaOksana Leslie’s Your Body is My Prison begins in the midst of a horrifyingly violent and sexual dream. Michelle, the protagonist of the tale and star of the terrible, vivid dream, may seem like your average teenager, living in sunny Pensacola, Florida—but the truth ends up being far stranger. She suffers from antisocial personality disorder and finds herself plagued by horrific nightmares. To make matters worse, bizarre circumstances prompt the sudden death of her brother, Austin. She spoke the actions of the car accident that killed him into existence, and thus, she feels guilty for causing his death—though she’s not quite sure how she did it. Following the wreck, Michelle dips in and out of her own reality and, more often than not, inhabits the body of a purple-haired alien-murderer named Tavy. Through trial and error, Michelle learns to harness this ability to exist in another realm, to live an alternate life while sleeping. Throughout the narrative, questions of freedom, sacrifice, and consciousness are raised. All Michelle knows is that she would do anything for those she loves, something she remarkably has in common with Tavy, the viciously murderous alien being.

Your Body is My Prison never once slows down to hold the reader’s hand. In fact, in that way, it mirrors the narrative that it maps out. The novel immediately drops its readers into an alternative consciousness and thereby forces them to adopt two brand new, unique mentalities: Michelle’s and Tavy’s. Your Body is My Prison is a thrilling work that captivates and enraptures the mind while exploring the intricacies of the human brain.

 

Caught by M.L.S. Weech

four stars

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-2-59-44-pmCaught by M.L.S. Weech wastes no time in ensnaring the reader in its web of mystery, deceit, and horror. Immediately out of the gate, supernatural forces seem to be at work. Caden Carroll, the first character introduced in the narrative, finds himself trapped in what feels like a horrific reverie in which his mother has been revived as a deceptive demon: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Before the end of the first chapter, Caden dies in a tragic fashion—leading the way for the hero of the tale to step in and introduce himself. In a very post-apocalyptic, dystopian turn of events, Sal, the ostensible hero of the novel, jars awake, fettered by chains and IVs in a hospital bed. Little does he know, this is just among the first of the horrifying fates to befall him during the course of the story. The nature of reality itself comes into question several times, causing the reader to question—as the characters do quite often—Is this a dream?

The elaborate web of Caught weaves itself tighter and tighter around Sal and his ill-fated accomplices, Kaitlyn, Caden, and Chris, until it is unclear which way is up, who is alive, and what counts as waking up. Monsters and mayhem abound as the unlikely few fight for their freedom from within their own consciousnesses. Doubtless, Caught by M.L.S. Weech will catch you off-guard at every turn. As soon as you start to think you have it all figured out, prepare to be flipped upside-down once again, as this harrowing tale gives no rest, respite, or reprieve from the terrors that haunt and hunt its main characters. Buckle in for a thrilling ride; Caught will have your head spinning for days, trying to decide if you’re dreaming…or dead.

 

The Search by Bridget McGowan

four stars

When a King is informed that his son is far weaker than he ought to be, he decides to send him on a quest that will forever shape the rest of his life. This epic fantasy opens when King Dulglan II receives multiple reports from masters across the kingdom that his eldest son, Balidhe, is almost certain to be a disappointment. It is said that even his twin sister could beat him at nearly every kind of competition you could think of! Deciding it would be remiss to do nothing, the king sends Balidhe to each master, one after the other, so that he can learn how to use an assortment of weapons, assisting the other realms in whatever capacity necessary. If Balidhe fails at any point along his quest, he will be stripped of his title, therefore never given the chance to succeed his father, the king. Resentful of the treatment he’s received, Balidhe is angered that he has to go through such a challenge, but in time he comes to accept that there is much to learn from each master, discovering his inner potential along the way. Just as things are starting to look up, he nearly loses everything, only to survive by the skin of his teeth, and realize that he must undertake a difficult search, something no other royal has ever done. What will he find when he reaches his destination?

By creating complicated, multi-layered characters who evolve over the course of her novel, McGowan succeeds at delivering fully-formed personalities on the page. Readers are sure to be both rooting for, and at times, against, the decisions Balidhe makes along his search. Important lessons are littered throughout the narrative, as the main character comes to find his own inner strength, regardless of the doubts others may have of him. The danger that is present at nearly every turn during his journey is sure to keep readers on their toes, as this fantastical world the author has so expertly constructed comes alive. The pacing of the story moves quickly, but still gives readers enough time to connect with the conflicted protagonist. Overall, this is a highly enjoyable read.

 

To Be a Raven by M. J. Natali

four stars

ravenContinuing where The Stone of Acumen: Raina’s Vow left off, book two opens with the sudden disappearance of Helga. Master Horas includes Raina in the search and rescue, since her powerful gifts and the Raven team are needed to locate Helga. The team heads out soon after Lanai and Charles’ wedding. As romance blossoms between Raina and Mark, jealously weasels its way into their relationship when Marcus enters the picture. Yet amid romantic tension and Raven training, the team discovers a package with Helga’s clothing–certainly not an encouraging sign. Unfortunately, that is just the beginning of a stream of disturbing news, especially when the team learns of a madman who is more deadly than Amerdan.

Natali pens another riveting read in the second book of The Wendael Ravens series. Fans who found themselves caught up following the ventures of the courageous trio (Raina, Lanai, and Charles) in Raina’s Vow will certainly be interested in their latest mission to conquer evil as they join forces with fellow Ravens—Master Horas, Raina’s childhood friend Marcus, and of course Mark, Raina’s boyfriend. Natali follows the same alternating-first-person-narrative pattern that she used in Raina’s Vow. But instead of shifting scenes between Raina, Lanai, and Charles, Natali replaces Charles with Helga. Another consistency is Natali’s inclusion of romance. This time the scenes are more intense and intimate. Those new to the series may find themselves totally lost if they begin with the series’ second read since the plot offers no backstories. That said, it is highly recommended to begin with book one. Overall, Natali’s storyline is fascinating and her well-defined characters, appealing. The book closes on a great cliffhanger—the type that will make audiences anxiously awaiting the next installment in the series.

 

Worldweaver: Book 2 in the Eld Creatures Series by Emily Schroeder

four stars

worldThe second book in the Eld Creature Series, Worldweaver, continues the story of Morgan and Roden that began in Windkeeper, the first book in the series. The war that tore this magical world apart, where the various elemental kingdoms were on different sides, has ended, and a thin agreement of peace has been put into place. The balance of this all rests on the marriage alliance between Princess Vivian of Gealgath and King Adonyss IV of Norbane. Problems arise when Vivian decides that her other plans for the future may take precedent, as she has no real interest in marrying a king from a land that is not her own. Yet her wishes are not just up to her, and it’s not long before she is forced on a difficult journey to Norbane to maintain the peace by marrying a man she doesn’t want. Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, we follow Morgan, Roden, and Heliodor struggling with their own issues. Doing everything they can to break the Great Segregation Spell, with what little chance they have. Since the eld creatures prove to be of no help in their mission, the three decide to embark on a harrowing escapade to find the fabled Worldweaver, who is said to know a great deal about ancient spells, and have the ability to control time.

Continuing with the complex world she built in Windkeeper, Schroeder deepens her magical world in the second novel in the Eld Creature Series. By adding new elements, unforgettable characters, an arranged marriage, and a suspenseful quest to break a powerful spell, this tale has every component a reader could want. The relationships between her main characters deepen, as the narrative trods along quickly in both plot lines. By balancing the backstory of what has come before this novel, and creating a piece that can be enjoyed even if you haven’t read the first book in the series, Worldweaver is a delightful fantasy that excites and surprises.

 

Earth Escape: Odyssey to the Edge of the Universe by Real Laplaine

four stars

earthA fast-paced science-fiction novel that intertwines elements of suspense, romance, while tackling some of life’s biggest questions, Earth Escape: Odyssey to the Edge of the Universe by Real Laplaine is an engaging, thought-provoking read. We follow our protagonist, Jim Tale, as he embarks on a three-decade long journey into outer space, as the captain of the interstellar ship, the Evolution. Earth’s resources are dwindling, and chaos abounds across the planet, thus the need to search for a new world to colonize. Jim is tasked with finding a sister-planet to Earth some 1,400 light years away, where humanity can start anew. Constantly haunted by his wife’s death, Jim has to deal with nightmares while asleep, and awake, when he receives news that Earth is on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. His companion, the extremely advanced android, CASS, continuously challenges his beliefs, all while guiding the ship toward its hopeful salvation. While pondering how life came to be, Jim is confronted with an abundance of threats and surprises, including dangerous missions, thrilling space-walks, and encounters with extraterrestrial life.

This high-stakes story takes place in the not-too-distant future, where Earth is a mess, and astronauts and space explorers are given the seemingly impossible task of finding a new planet that mankind can call home. The writing is quick, imaginative, and inventive. Jim Tale is a strong lead character, who is multifaceted and relatable, as he seems like a somewhat ordinary guy who just so happened to land in the position of commanding a spaceship on one of the most important missions ever undertaken. There is a great deal of dialogue in the novel, so a lot of the information and experiences are told through the voices of the main characters, which at times can be enjoyable, but also can somewhat overwhelm during certain scenes. The author is great at world-building, we just wish there was more time spent describing the complex and intriguing settings that keep these voices ingrained in reality, albeit a very sleek, futuristic one, where danger seemingly lurks at every turn.

 

Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo

four stars

frankAnthropologist Dr. Anna Fayne and paranormal adventurer Eric Slade head up an expedition to Kyrgyzstan in search of 25,000-year-old Neanderthals. Their mission to find prehistoric life in the mountainous region seems to go nowhere until Anna, Eric, and their crew suddenly find themselves caught in the vortex of a tornado that transports them to another realm. Two years pass and the only remaining crew stranded in the Jurassic Park-like environ are Anna and Eric. The duo is taken captive and turned into slaves for a kingdom that is on the verge of war to lay claim to a powerful treasure, the Eye of the Storm—the port that will get them back to their world. That’s if they manage to survive.

Horror and dark fantasy author Frank Cavallo spins a fast-paced tale in his latest read. Bringing together the past and the present, Cavallo surrounds Anna and Eric—his main characters—with a unique cast and setting. Cavallo mixes the prehistoric with elements of Ancient Rome to produce a host of intelligent and sophisticated Neanderthal-ish characters. Equally odd yet interesting is their kingdom, which is combination of Romanesque architecture and primitive beasts. Cavallo keeps his narrative fresh and flowing by his constant use of contrast. Aside of his distinctive cast and setting design, Cavallo throws in moments of humor amid drama (i.e., language differences between the time period characters while dealing with slavery), and highlights the forces of good and evil—to name a few examples. Of course, top on the evil chart is the powerful wizard Tarquin. Cavallo’s use of this particular antagonist throws a flurry of twists and turns into his narrative, especially as Tarquin obsessively searches for the legendary treasure. Quite a page-turner, Eye of the Storm is bound to be a favorite among fantasy enthusiasts.

 

Storm Wolf by Stephen Morris

5redstars

storm“‘I remember the celebrations when we were given our freedom in 1816, a year after I killed the great wolf and skinned it,’ Edvin told his grandson. ‘Don’t let the wolf skin make you a serf again, bound to it rather than the land. It should serve you, not you serve it.'” Remembering his dream, Alexei knows that he disobeyed his grandfather’s warnings about how to use the wolf skin he passed onto Alexei before his death. The pelt’s transformative powers are intended to help protect Alexei’s Estonian villages. Alexei’s selfish choice results in enough destruction that he has to leave his beloved land in search of anyone who knows the old practices from his grandfather’s generation, which can be used to heal Alexei. But en route to find that certain someone, Alexei is unaware of the many challenges he will have to face before he can be healed, if that’s possible.

Morris puts a new spin on Baltic folklore in his latest novel. A unique coming of age story set in the latter part of the nineteenth century, Morris’ plot features Alexei, a young man whose lack of understanding in old-world traditions gets him in Lycanthropic trouble. Basically, Alexei has the ability to transform into a werewolf. Morris surrounds his unseasoned character with an interesting cast made up of thunder dragons, wind hags, and storm goblins, to name a few, as his journey takes him through Latvia, Lithuania, Silesia (Poland), and Bohemia (the Czech Republic). Morris even includes the legendary Frau Bertha (or from the German, Perchta). Sprinkled with Estonian language, Morris’ narrative follows typical folktale storytelling. Replete with all the whimsical trappings, readers can expect a flurry of surprises amid anticipated scenes. A fantastical read that appeals to young and old alike.

 

The Hum by Sharon Mikeworth

four stars

THumevLee Bennett and his wife Shelby have just moved into a house in the country, so Lee expects life to slow down for the couple. But something is happening in the woods behind their house – something not of this world. After following the trail of an inexplicable noise, Lee comes face to face with a horror beyond description. Can he believe his own eyes? Or is it a mere hallucination? Meanwhile, a mysterious girl has been seen around town, though no one knows a thing about her. Where did she come from? And why did she show up right when the trouble all started?

The Hum is a well-paced thriller that punches through into unexpected territory as the story progresses. Taking inspiration from futuristic films like Twelve Monkeys, Mikeworth’s novel expertly blends mystery with science fiction, plunging her characters into a world teeming with very real terrors. While Lee himself is a fascinating character, the true star of the show here is Tia, the young stranger from out of town who is somehow tied to everything that is going on. Mikeworth ties her characters together with common interests: the desire for safety, for family, and for warmth and love. The Hum is a hybrid horror tale that is as much about the dark, unexplored corners of our planet as it is about the undying light in all our hearts.

 

Strain of Resistance Book 1 by Michelle Bryan

5redstars

strainIn a market that has been positively overwhelmed with post-apocalyptic stories, Strain of Resistance is one that should not be overlooked. Michelle Bryan envisions a place where the end of the world is not quite what we had imagined. No comet destroying the earth, no nuclear fallout, and, no, not even zombies. Bryan’s work is an interesting take on what could put an end to human-kind once and for all, and perhaps it is a little more human than we had ever thought possible. Emma Bixby, twelve years old at the end of the world, has learned to be a survivor. Even after watching her father physically abuse her mother for years, Bix, as she is affectionately nicknamed, is not ready to shoot him in the head when his body ceases to belong to him. But she does. She learns to fight to protect her life, to protect her friends, and to protect humankind as she knows it. However, in Book 1 of the Strain of Resistance series, human life is on its way to becoming even harder to protect.

Michelle Bryan’s writing is brilliant, eloquent, and, at times, grotesque and downright disgusting– the perfect combination to create a novel about surviving the end of the world. With likable characters, uncertain futures, and a desire to know what happens next, the novel is easily finished in a day, and skipping work is highly recommended. With more books in the series, readers are sure not to be disappointed with Bix’s journey.

 

Robo Divine by Will Hastings

four stars

robo divineAn anthology of science fiction short stories, ROBO DIVINE: Techno Tales from the Distal Axis of Tomorrow presents 21 dark, direct, and clever pieces. With stories varying in length from just about a page to more involved tales comprised of several subsections, author Will Silver Hastings (Courtland Shakespeare) creates imaginative works that are reminiscent of the classic sci-fi of The Twilight Zone, the short fiction of the great Ray Bradbury, and even video games.

Hastings style is simple and matter-of-fact, with the intelligent content delivered in a straight-forward manner. A sense of reality and believability is further conveyed by Robo Divine’s true-to-life conversations and banter, flourishes of humanity, and informed tone on technological concepts. Hastings’ writing is often sharp, and peppered with wry and subtle humor amidst the prevailing forays into pseudo-documentarian realism, high science, and occult mysticism. Although Robo Divine’s pragmatic approach is laden with evocative descriptions and dense conceptual studies, readers searching for a high-art literary experience may still feel a bit discouraged by some heavy-handed metaphors and moral statements that lack subtlety. As Hastings’ stories are largely economical and well-contained, they also may never dare to be deep or dark enough for some genre fans, while still providing expository details that add interest to the story without amounting to any resonant impact. The greatest asset of this collection is the way in which each story provokes the reader to reflection; many of the tales build and become more complex as underlying situations are revealed, and the thin fabric between our reality and the fantastic is imperceptibly shorn. With a final “twist” often yielding additional resonance, the tales in Robo Divine are sure to please fans of sturdy, relevant science fiction.

 

Adara—I Gave My Heart to the Reaper by M J Natali

four stars

adaraIn the wrong place at the wrong time, Adara—a lead singer in a band—is one in a series of women who is viciously beaten, stabbed, and raped. Coming to her rescue is a Rogue Reaper simply named Grimm. Adara and Grimm fall in love. But because he is an angel, Grimm can only have contact with her through a host body, or when Adara is spirited into the Between Realm. Grimm’s contact with a human creates an ill-fated domino effect in the heavenly realm as more and more Rogue Reapers are following their desires rather than crossing souls to their final destinations. It only gets worse when Adara and Grimm decide to marry, especially when Adara is assaulted a second time by the same attackers.

Marina J. Natali scripts a twisted Romeo-Juliet love story in her second novel. Unique to Natali’s dark fantasy are various literary elements. Written in first person, Natali’s plot features Adara, a young woman whose life drastically changes when she falls in love with a supernatural being. Natali builds her main character by surrounding her with a well-defined foiled cast. While a clichéd concept in fantasy settings, Natali brightens up her plot by using a narrative monologue, engaging readers from the get-go. As Adara relays her story, she periodically speaks directly to her audience, many times apologizing for getting ahead of herself and then backtracking to offer more narrative details. Natali also keeps her dark narrative balanced by including plenty of steamy scenes and sprinkling light bantering within sections of dialogue while weaving in spiritual themes of love, forgiveness, and healing amid a flurry of terrestrial and celestial tension. An intriguing read well suited for romance, erotica, and fantasy enthusiasts.

 

Handy Andy Saves the World by EJ Altbacker

four stars

andyLately Andy the handyman has been struggling at work, often making things worse while attempting to improve them, and the tiny company he inherited from his father is threatened by a larger company. One evening, he sees a spaceship crash. The ship is full of adorable aliens, called Oorts, and one creepy squid-like creature. He tries to go to the police, but they convince him that he must be hallucinating. Then he finds his son talking to one of the aliens. The alien tells Andy that he must repair their spaceship because they don’t do “menial labor”, which is considered disgraceful to them. After repairing the ship, Andy takes an Oort tool to work and uses it make everything better than it was before. Andy thinks that he is done with aliens and that things are looking up until he is visited by Ron, the squid-like alien. Ron reveals that the Oorts are on a “peace mission”, but that their idea of a peace mission is to destroy any planet with sentient life in order avoid future conflict. The Oorts abduct Andy and his family. Andy will be their full-time handyman, Andy’s wife will be their leader’s “dancing queen”, and the children will be in their museum of freaks. Once the ship, Andy tries to use the escape pods to rescue his family, but learns that they will only launch if the ship is damaged beyond repair. Once Andy successfully damages the ship, the Oorts escape in the pods and Andy must repair the ship with his limited tools. After he is successful, they steer back to earth. A year later, Andy has set up a new workshop where he repairs spaceships from around the galaxy. Meanwhile, the Oorts are still drifting in their escape pod, unwilling to do the menial labor required to fix it. They feel warmer and then notice that they are heading directly for the sun.

The human characters in the book are fairly stereotypical. For instance, Andy is a standard hard-working, but clumsy dad and his daughter is a typical embarrassed-by-her-parents teenage girl. However, the aliens’ personalities more than make up for this. Altbacker does an excellent job of creating a distinctive and convincing alien culture, which leads to an interesting cultural clash and humorous miscommunications between the humans and aliens. Altbacker is a seasoned screenwriter, which is apparent from the book’s hilarious dialogue and word-play. Handy Andy Saves the World makes for an enjoyable read, especially for YA readers.

 

Into the Night by Jerry J.C. Veit

threestars

nightWritten in three acts, Into the Night is a screenplay by Jerry J.C. Veit which follows the rip-roaring adventures of unlikely duo Valencia and Samuel. Into the Night takes place in England, 1325, and features a violent clash of rapacious enemies that ends up sweeping Valencia and Samuel into the mix. Samuel, a wanderer with no particular path or direction, finds himself suddenly paired with the direct and powerful Valencia, a woman with a tragic backstory. Together they traverse the dangerous landscape of an England infested with heartless barbarians and dogged vampires. Scenes of friendship, terror, and hope alike are strewn across the roadways of their journey as they fend off evil foes. Veit weaves a story in a screenplay format that alternately quickens your pulse and tugs at your heartstrings in Into the Night.

A quick-paced tale full of action sequences and clipped dialogue, Veit’s screenplay is readily accessible and easy to pick up. Both young audiences and older readers will be able to identify with the characters and be drawn into the plot. That being said, the screenplay is rife with vampire clichés and unbelievable feats of strength and skill shown by its main characters. The story, while structured as a classical screenplay, could also easily have been transitioned into a full-fledged novel, which would have the potential for snapping up readers who may not normally enjoy screenplays. There is a good deal of emphasis on plot speed versus character development as well, but regardless: Into the Night represents a colorful and exciting foray into medieval England populated by blood-thirsty adversaries and indefatigable heroes.

 

Apocalypsia by Jerry J. C. Veit

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apocThis is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a demonic uprising. And it isn’t pretty. Enter Kito, Amiku, Adrian, and Nydia into the remains of a land gone rogue: welcome to Apocalypsia. Jerry J.C. Veit’s screenplay literally brings the black messengers of death from Hell to what once was Earth. Through internal sabotage, humanity lost their last great war and civilization has dissolved. Four strangers stumble into each other and form a shaky alliance in order to fight back once more. Just when their band seems to be making progress, evidence arises that suggests the true enemy has yet to reveal themselves. When the threat fully unleashes, friend will turn into foe, and the era of man may truly be over. The foursome must put aside their distrust and awaken their own innate abilities in order to survive. Unbeknownst to them, Kito has a few demons of his own to conquer, and the enemy won’t hesitate to take advantage of that deadly fact.

What J. C. Veit does in the time of dystopian action movies is fully dive into the fantastical element without losing the Earthen setting. Goblins, zombies, spirits, and demons have had their run of the world, carving an unnatural wasteland out of it and wiping out much of the population. The humans that are left fight in any way they know how. Combining makeshift weapons and swords with AKVs, the effort is very human. Instead of simply cutting down mindless monsters, they soon uncover a larger plot and make a last stand against the horde once and for all. However, there are a few drawbacks to the screenplay format. Fantasy fans may find the switch between lines of dialogue and description a little bare. Most of the characters’ feelings and actions are clearly explained to the reader, which removes the element of surprise from the story. Problems are dealt with in a straightforward test of strength, but on paper it is harder to visualize the battles. In this case, longtime fantasy fans might desire a more complex structure and unexpected twists to the apocalypse story they know well. Still, Veit tracks each character arc from infancy to redemption so no strings are left hanging. Apocalypisa is a wild ride through magic and bullet fights.

 

Dark Faery I: The Benevolents by Bridget McGowan

four stars

faeryTeilo Feather has a perilous night job, dangerous even for a talented, canny Faery: he’s the one behind the vanishings of lost teeth, and the conjuring of the precious money under your pillow. Would you guess, though, that the stealthy exchange is actually a coin for a coin? For the Benevolents of the South Wood, your teeth become their Faery gold. On a dead end track to become only the lesser second son in a family of tooth collectors, Teilo just can’t help running into trouble. Perhaps he’s looking for it. When the strangely hypnotic musical troupe, Shauna Faun, invite the highly impressionable Teilo into the darker side of a Faery’s existence, he must decide whether or not to indulge his curiosities—or rather, decide how to get away with it.

In Dark Faery I: The Benevolents, the Faery clans of Bridget McGowan’s making carry out lives not so unlike our own; she crafts a curious miniature world out of view, rooted in natural Celtic themes and spiritualties. Winking in and out of sight, her fantastical and prismatic characters find purpose, movement, and growth in the narrative as Teilo struggles to define his loyalty stretched between the Benevolents and the Vampyre Faerys. The prose effortlessly details action, emotion, and the building blocks of a new world—a crucial element of a successful fantasy. Though the writing tips toward an excess of dialogue at points, and some factual inconsistencies blemish a few parts of the story, fantasy readers will fully enjoy McGowan’s original take on the character of a longtime favorite mythological creature.

 

Sword of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

threestars

sword“Suzie Sarnio was a Death.” Christopher Mannino’s second installation in the Sword of Deaths series, The Scythe Wielder’s Secret: Book Two, starts off strong and swift. It’s Suzie’s second year as a Death, and she’s still getting used to being the only female Death in the entire realm. In fact, she’s the only female Death for the past few millennia. Needless to say, this engenders some hatred, jealousy, and, of course: a lot of male attention. It seems that every male friend Suzie has is absurdly infatuated with her. Those who aren’t, however, are out for blood. Suzie has a lot to prove, but is she fully up to all of the challenges that face her this year? With the help of her motley crew of friends, she will try to balance strength and serenity in the face of an impending war with the Elementals. The big issues of prejudice and the duality of good and evil pervade the entire narrative, as it seems wholly unclear whom the Deaths can and cannot trust. Being a death is an elite calling, but does that give them the right to look down on Elementals—much less accuse them of terrorism? Suzie is particularly torn, having attached herself at the hip with a boy who’s an Elemental parading around as a Death. Regardless, Suzie and her friends must all forge into battle. Even with a shattered scythe holding her back, this remarkable girl is able to maintain composure and do her duty to guide souls into the next realm, but the adventure hardly stops there. The story remains to be continued.

There’s a sharp sense of humor that spices up the text. The narrator is intimately familiar with irony, which makes for a refreshing read. A little explication is necessary, as it’s the second in a series, and some readers may or may not be familiar with the characters or previous plot lines. That said, there are times when the narrator tells more than he shows, which can be irritating. All things considered, it’s a deeply enjoyable fantasy read and worth checking out if you’re into swordplay or the Grim Reaper.

 

School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

four stars

deathsA gripping tale like no other, School of Deaths is sure to have readers turning pages with bated breath. Christopher Mannino’s The Scythe Wielder’s series is a fascinating science fiction fantasy. Some would even call it dark fantasy. School of Deaths is the first book in the series, and takes readers along with Susan Sarnio as she comes to realize that not only is she a Death, but the only female Death to step foot in the World of Deaths in a million years. The challenges new Deaths face as they attend the College of Deaths is difficult enough, but Susan’s is exceptionally more difficult because most of the male Deaths, especially the older ones, are not willing to accept a female Death into their midst. Soon, Susan discovers deep secrets that may be her saving grace, but at the same time these same secrets may be far more dangerous than she anticipates. From her first few days in the World of Deaths, she occasionally experiences a burning, fiery sensation in her body and sees a pair of green eyes. Discovering who she really is, who those green eyes belong to and why she is the first woman to be in the World of Deaths after a million years is only part of her frightening journey.

Christopher Mannino’s creation of a fantastical world in which Deaths, or Grim Reapers as most would call them, is a very unique take on an old story. School of Deaths is a page turner without a doubt. Yet, Mannino’s description of the scenes are a bit lacking. The scenes from the first moment Susan arrives in the World of Deaths to her first experiences at the College of Deaths leave a bit to be desired. They are written in a way that doesn’t make them super easy to visualize within one’s imagination. Readers need the opportunity to feel this story as a potential reality, so that they become more connected to it. On the one hand, Mannino does that through the friendships Susan creates alongside those who choose to be her enemies. Friendship and trust, or the lack there of, is a strongly evident piece to School of Deaths. Even lacking in some areas, readers won’t want to put School of Deaths down as they anxiously want to discover the answers just as Susan does.

 

Just Marked by Kevin Fahsholtz

four stars

markedJust Marked tells the story of the “Marked,” a group of people in each generation sent back in time. Each person retains their knowledge of the future, but wind up back in their teenage bodies; their purpose to guide the present to a better future. When a serial rapist and murderer starts attacking women in 1980’s Seattle, Detectives Alex Jolley and Carl Williams work the case. While the crimes are happening Matt Lowenson, the newest Marked, struggles to make sense of his new life. When he hears of the crimes Matt begins providing information to the police he shouldn’t know, and together they must race to catch the murderer before anyone else gets hurt.

Author Kevin Fahsholtz has created something truly unique with Just Marked, a fantasy-driven mystery novel. The fantastic parts are at the forefront of this novel; forced time travel and Biblical heritage blend to tell the story of modern-day prophets affecting change in the world. There is a second layer of story, the detective novel, interweaving with the fantastic. In similar stories one of the genres tends to be weak, added on by an inexperienced writer. Fahsholtz however deftly tells both stories and stitches them together into a captivating story. Getting in the way of enjoying the story are occasional typos throughout the text; missing words, jumbled sentences, and misspelled words are all present. The author also has a tendency to repeat aspects of the story, an unfortunate side effect of the detectives rehashing the facts in the case. These minor annoyances don’t detract from the overall story though, and shouldn’t hinder anyone from picking up this novel. Whether a fan of fantasy, mysteries, or just good writing, be sure to make Just Marked your next read.

 

The Saeshell Book of Time: Part 5: The Owl from Oblivion by Rusty Biesele

rsz_four-stars

owlBook 5 in the Children of Sophista Series, The Owl from Oblivion by Rusty Biesele continues the dark and magical saga from the previous four books, following the characters we have already come to know. In this book, the previous timeline that was in place is shaken to it’s core, as it is completely altered into something new. Stefan’s son, Syon, who is from the future and acting as the Master of Time, causes a disturbance that creates a universe wide catastrophe. This brings about a new timeline that is completely different from the character’s former lives.  Stefan is now an extremely intelligent seven year old, while Syon is part of another family, the twelve year old son of an abusive father. If Syon’s new dad ends up killing him, the portal of time will close, thereby making it impossible for anyone to get back to their right and truthful lives. Parallel realities, magic, supernatural powers, the thirst to rule, friends, and foes, all come to a head in this lengthy, yet gripping installment.

Once again, Biesele has created a highly imaginative and engrossing tale that is sure to delight and entertain. The world is much more immersive in this book due to the fact that it is a much longer story, thereby bringing the world of magic, time travel, and the supernatural even more to the forefront, the reader being drawn in for quite some time. It is by no means light reading, as the plot is complex, and readers will need to have read previous installments in order to be truly rewarded with this story of the saga. This book is comparative to other episodes in fantasy series intended for children, as it builds upon what has come before, creating a universe that is transcendent, and utterly magical.

 

I Could by E.B. Tatby

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tatbyKenza Atlas thought she had a normal teenaged life. As an only child living in Omaha with somewhat nagging parents, she did not exactly sound like the best candidate for anything too exciting. But after attending a summer camp where Kenza discovers that the Moroccan myths and legends that her father told her are actually real stories that involve her, her life will be anything but normal. Hunted by an evil spirit, Mazin, Kenza must work to protect her life as she knows it, saving her family, her friends, and Ian, her soul mate. When Kenza discovers another dimension, it becomes clear that her life will be anything but boring. She is a hero, fighting the supernatural with unexpected powers, and maybe doing a little homework and tutoring in between.

I Could by E.B. Tatby is a cross between the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia with some Moroccan legends sprinkled in for flavor. Tatby’s writing is smooth and easy, but can often feel a bit too bland and safe. The characters, while endearing, fail to really jump from the page and develop into the kind of characters who are truly unforgettable. Kenza’s modern day life entwined with ancient Moroccan legends is a promising storyline which I Could fails to completely take across the finish line. However, Tatby ends the novel on an unfinished note, so perhaps there will be another novel coming soon.

 

After Midnight by A. Martin

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After Midnight is a collection of short stories by author A. Martin, focusing on themes of horror and science fiction. Previously published through a variety of websites and fiction-writing contests, the collection is a complete compilation of Martin’s short story work spanning several years. The story’s plots include something for every kind of horror fan: a couple struggle through a twisted experience when they spontaneously agree to compete on a televised game show; a man who takes suspicious pills he purchased from an infomercial in hopes of communicating with his dog; an office worker who is pursued by mysterious text messages and emails during a power outage; and a young woman who finds herself surrounded by portraits of the recently dead and the excitable artist responsible for them. The scares are diverse and plentiful in this collection.

One of the most impressive aspects of Martin’s writing, and of course, one of the most important aspects of the horror genre, is how speedily each story grabs the reader’s attention and throws him or her off balance. The first sentence or two is always enough to inspire that unsettling but pressing desire to figure out what’s going on, what has happened to these characters, or what frights are about to befall them. Similarly, the tales seem to end at the perfect moment, either just after the reader has made the necessary shocking discovery, or just as the protagonists have realized that they’re doomed. Martin’s collection leaves the reader chilled and wanting more, eagerly turning the page for the next creepy experience.

 

The Passer by Robin Christophersen

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passerAfter a year of desperately mourning her deceased boyfriend, Dr. Eleanor Bouchard, a theater professor and acclaimed Shakespearean actress, is ready to move past the despair that nearly destroyed her. But, on the anniversary of her beloved’s death she is summoned by a frightening apparition with a message: Help him believe… As she attempts to unravel her ghostly messenger’s meaning, she begins to experience harrowing visions of a missing woman and discovers she possesses otherworldly powers that have been lying dormant within her, waiting for her to awaken. While Eleanor struggles against her emerging powers, Daniel Archer, her former love, has troubles of his own. His wife has recently died tragically. Daniel and his precocious step-daughter, Amelia, find sanctuary in Eleanor’s alluring home in River Mist, California. As their lives intertwine, Eleanor discovers a fateful connection to Daniel and Amelia and suspects that the haunting events that brought them together quite possibly were destined to be.

The Passer is an eloquent example of modern day mysticism and romance. With the supernatural interwoven throughout the story, Christophersen has created a unique and complex world with a touch of glamor for good measure. Eleanor is an instantly likable heroine exhibiting strength and vulnerability simultaneously. The author’s attention to detail and depth of each character is stunning. With a web of a plot, Christophersen pulls you in and entraps you to the end. The Passer explores the effects of grief on the human psyche and our ability to cope with loss. Christophersen has created a compelling tale of love, loss, and moving on.

 

Silenced by Darcie Peck

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silencedLeah was raised in darkness and isolation, removed from society and forcibly stripped of her ability to speak aloud. She has suffered through abuse both mentally and physically, only to escape captivity and then be struck by a Range Rover. Flashes of light speckle Leah’s unconscious mind, opening it to streaks of a world alien to her. Electric vibrations and shocks reverberate through her very core as the driver of the car rushes the two of them to his pack’s doctor. Devin, Alpha of the local werewolf pack, who’s accidental wreck with this girl opens his inner wolf’s eyes to a similar electrifying current which is known to the werewolf kind as finding one’s soul ‘mate.’ The two discover a kindred spirits within each other following the days and weeks of her hospital stay. Leah’s life of abuse and torture has been forgotten by a case of amnesia. Devin now attempts to reintroduce her to “normal” werewolf life, only to find, Leah’s forgotten past, is not so distant after all.

Darcie Peck puts Silenced of the Bound Trilogy – Book One, at the top of personal genre favorites. So often werewolf story lines become muddled, broken, and strung out. Silenced is not that. The point of view shifts used to change perspective is brilliant, opening a new method of reading that can encourage other writers to do so in a similar fashion. Silenced is hands down a great read, five stars does not do it its due justice. With non-stop action, suspenseful drama and a love story that will forever get your inner wolf snuggling, Silenced will touch the inner wolf in all of us.

 

The Ring of Life, Book One: The Assembly by Jim Ross

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ringOn the planet Gaia, fate is gathering a band of unusual misfits for something greater than them all. Fittingly titled The Assembly, Book One of Jim Ross’s The Ring of Life series opens up in a familiar high fantasy fashion. Within the city of Hardig, the wise Raylene knows the value of patience as she waits for fate to play its hand. Living as a simple shopkeeper, she watches over the large but gentle healer Walf, the dutiful but displaced Elite Guard Eldin, the mysterious amnesiac Arianna, and her rescuer, the talented but noble thief Silvre. Joining them is Raylene’s own daughter, the small but feisty Fylene, whose latent potential may be more than she can handle. When dark influences start shrouding the Guard compounds of Hardig, Eldin’s old comrades act out and change the law to suit themselves. It is up to the five new acquaintances to put aside their mistrust and save one of their own. What they soon find out is controlling their powers is no simple task, and someone out there is making sure of it.

The story introduces all five unsuspecting protagonists in chapters that switch point-of-view without being too jarring. The book is divided into parts, so that while the time frame moves consistently, each character is at different points in their lives. The reader gets to know them as likable individuals as their friendships emerge out of trials, and often trial and error. Although it is set in a fantasy world with new races, this Gaia does not diverge much from a medieval Europe landscape; fans can take this for better or worse depending on their preference of high fantasy. The strength of the novel lies in its distinct cast of characters with good intentions that don’t always see eye-to-eye. While the plot is eventful, the page length does feel drawn-out for a first installment that only scratches the surface of a much longer quest. Some dialogue usurps the action and the narrative hurts from a lack of initiative. Still, once you feel drawn to each character, it’s only normal to be impatient with their development. Ross delivers weapons, magical artifacts, and a taste of magic and destiny within the pages. The unspoken reveal of the villain’s true motivations is sure to keep more books coming.

 

Rex: Paired Part One by Renee Phoenix

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reneeIvania has experienced suffering so few high school girls should have to live through. Life however resumes miles away from the tragedy stemming three years before. Her solace and comfort now are found through her walking paths, riddled amongst her new adopted home. Her desires; to find escape from the torment of her past. Yet the comforts of her walking-paths open to a new escape, one that leads to a realm where the loss of her past is filled anew, all from one single kiss. Ivania wakes in a world where her known reality, is left on the walking path. Lion’s become abundant, personal features become skewed, wolfs threaten in numbers and what a life once took is repaid in full.

True to its Latin translation, Rex: Paired Part One by Renee Phoenix edited by Kali Maddox, is destined to be at the top of sci-fi hierarchy. Writing about such a personal and tragic loss then giving it a twist, all in an epic short form novella, is hard to accomplish. However, in this case Renee Phoenix does just that. As short stories go this works brilliantly, personal-loss coupled with science fiction genius, vengeful royalty and mental bonds, stem what will be a stalking-good read. Science fiction is stronger as a genre when stories like this one are added into the mix. Giving life to a tried and tried again failure of human-animal adaptations, Renee Phoenix delivers a solid performance to the idea and destroys the former stereotypical genre. Readers will be looking forward to the further installations of Rex.

 

The Saeshell Book of Time: Part 2: The Rebirth of Innocents by Randy Biesele

rsz_four-stars

sophista

In the second book of the Children of Sophista Series, author Rusty Biesele picks up the story where it last left off, where we find that Tova2 and Stefan have discovered immortal love, a new species that is so lonely is is vulnerable to become extinct. The Queen of Sophista twists Stefan’s mind, brainwashing him into performing nefarious activities. Tova2, as the new chief enforcer may just have to kill the Queen to protect the love of her life. Stefan on the other hand is becoming more and more unstable, as his teenage meltdowns threaten to release his immense magical power upon all those around him, creating a dangerous situation that could result in death and destruction. With new characters introduced and the same memorable ones from the first book coming alive across the page, The Saeshell Book of Time: Part 2: The Rebirth of Innocents is imaginative, intriguing, and a lasting tale about the kinds of complicated relationships young people can have.

Just like in the first book, The Death of Innocents, this book has a large trim size and a full color interior. The original color illustrations are very fun to look at, and add greatly to the text of the story. Once again, there is text in different colors, that showcases how the characters are speaking either to one another, or themselves, out loud, or telekinetically. While this series is mostly aimed towards children, it seems overly complicated at times, and the large pages that are full of text may be overwhelming at times to younger readers. The storyline is certainly entertaining and contains many engaging elements of magic that will keep readers stimulated, but there are many characters to remember and it can be difficult to keep them distinct from one another. Nevertheless, we commend Biesele’s creative storytelling and the passion his writing expresses for this world he has so thoughtfully dreamt up.

 

Blind Passion by Malena Paltero

rsz_four-stars

blind passionMalena Paltero’s Blind Passion: A Supernatural Love Affair is most certainly not of the world that most people recognize as real and practical. Dr. Manuela Rowan, better known as Ella, meets Singur or Milan via an online game. She can’t actually see him nor can he see her, but they quickly fall in love with one another. Yet, both of them are in relationships. In fact, Ella is married. Even though Ella and Singur seem to engage in an astral love affair via dreams and an emotional affair via the internet they feel their love and passion is deeply powerful. They begin to share stories and experiences from their backgrounds and are surprised to discover amazing similarities and synchronicities. Yet, Ella has to make some decisions. What will she do about her marriage to John, and should she consider meeting Singur/Milan in real life? The opportunity to have a real face-to-face relationship with him seems to be snatched from them, but Paltero keeps the reader in suspense as Ella continues to sense Milan’s presence in her life.

Blind Passion: A Supernatural Love Affair focuses almost solely on Ella and Milan’s communication and supernatural experiences. Malena Paltero offers little insight into the characters of John and their twin sons. There are only snippets of John, their sons or even Jasmine, Milan’s lover, throughout the entire story. Depending on the reader, this can take a lot away from the story or it can help keep the reader focused on the sexy adventure of the emotional and spiritual rollercoaster that Ella and Milan seem to be riding. Paltero does an excellent job of keeping a reader wanting more – anxiously waiting to discover what will happen next. With such skill Paltero wraps up Blind Passion with a cliffhanger that will have readers salivating for the sequel, so that they can discover what might become of this supernatural romantic escapade.

 

Dark Locks and Hidden Treasures by Teto Peck

rsz_four-stars

Teto Peck artistically melds and vibrantly illuminates fantasy with science-fiction fun, having mystifying characters at a variety of mental levels for any reader alike. Peck reiterates exceptional means of portraying the menagerie of characters in this second book of the Black Cloth Series, Dark Lock and Hidden Treasures. You can truly feel the dynamics of the situation, as tensions build and the weariness of danger looms. Dwarves, Druids, Elves, and the undead riddle this story with curiosity, danger and adventure. With mystical interactions, talking crows, giants, and trolls, this quick paced adventure will leave you with hope, distress, and even moments of shear surprise. The reader’s mind will be ensnared by the ever-changing scenery and the constant shifting character behavior. Peck delivers an adventure of the mind and the spirit.

A great tragedy erupted in the Silver Forest, forcing an unlikely allegiance to fruition with the Black Cloth Mythel Prince, Bariad. While Ashara the Evil Priestess seeks to further her dark powers by igniting a war amongst the humans, Bariad’s companions must strive through the questioning seas, the squelching deserts and even back into the Silver Forest without falling in to the web of torturous evil set forth by the priestess or any Elven treachery. Will the word’s army be ready to answer evil’s malicious War Cry or will Bariad loose his mind and magic to the dark priestess? Adventure, mystery and fantasy await the next reader of the second installation of the Black Cloth Trilogy.

 

Cold Bill by R. A. Mello

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coldbillWilliam Blake Colden, stationed in the Middle East with four of his Marine buddies, is eagerly awaiting the imminent day when he can return home to his beloved girlfriend Abigail after two years at war. But suddenly, a surprise grenade attack renders he and his comrades near death; bleeding out and quickly fading, the four are approached by the legendary evil spirit Malsum, a decaying demonic wolf from Native American lore. Taken in by the wolf’s promise for healing and immortality, the four seal their fate by devouring the flesh of their Saudi attacker, bringing strength into their bodies and evil into their souls. Over the course of the next few months, the four transform into wendigo, soulless and horrific half-beasts with a thirst for human flesh. Only Bill Colden retains an ounce of his humanity, keeping his soul alive with thoughts of Abigail, even as his inner beast – Cold Bill – devours his human prey with the strategy and cunning of the most methodical serial killer.

It would be remiss to say that Cold Bill is anything less than positively gripping. The intrigue and suspense is perfectly crafted, and the confusing chaos of the first hundred pages emerges more from a place of intentional narrative manipulation than poor storytelling. However, the aura of gruesome and unsettling suspense created by Mello comes at the expense of his command of language. Mello has not quite grasped the adage of “show, don’t tell” in his narrative voice, and an additional editorial eye could greatly benefit the book in terms of its specific language use and issues of tense agreement. Mello would also do well to reconsider the lack of depth that he gives his female characters; that they are largely only prized for (and described in relation to) their beauty and sexuality underlies a vague misogyny that may be off-putting for many readers. However, despite the difficulties in establishing a clear and authoritative narrative voice, Mello’s research into Ojibwe mythology, gory description, and natural knack for creating suspense has shaped Cold Bill into a genuinely thrilling read.

 

Remotely Unplugged by Andrea Perno

rsz_four-stars

remotelyBuilding upon today’s obsession with technological advancement and the ubiquity of personal computerized devices while playing into society’s underlying fears about the potentially dark ramifications of this tech-addiction, Andrea Perno’s Remotely Unplugged presents us with a vision of a society that has become entirely dependent upon and connected to its technologies. It is a world where every human has a chip implanted into their head, plugging them directly into the omnipresent Civilnet – in addition to allowing a user’s brain immediate access to desired information, Civilnet controls all functions of society and provides chip-wearers with a feed of constant unsolicited advice and data, aimed at enforcing good behavior and fostering a peaceful society. In the midst of this cold domination, Sarah finds herself impulsively craving change and rebelling against the status quo. To remedy Sarah’s increasingly violent and unstable attitude of nonconformity, she is flown to a remote mountain lodge outside of Civilnet’s reach to participate in an unplugging from the grid. Sarah is told that she is going on a peaceful spa retreat that will help her mind to reset and facilitate her reintegration into society. However, Sarah will soon find herself in a nightmare of anxiety and torment, as she discovers more about the true nature of Civilnet and her role within it.

What at first promises to be a gritty and philosophical science-fiction adventure quickly transforms into more of a story of raw survivalism as Sarah fights for the truth and her own life out in the wilderness across a series of cat-and-mouse chamber pieces. Although some readers might find that this results in one story getting lost inside of the other, it does create an interesting and unusual sort of dual narrative that is bolstered by Perno’s clear and precise writing, including sturdy descriptions that largely eschew lofty flourishes in favor of a frank, direct, and believably conversational first-person narration. Like Sarah, we are thrown into a world without understanding it well and we piece reality together bit-by-bit as it comes to us. This may leave some readers wishing for a broader and more crystalized vision of a technological dystopia, while, on the other hand, the instances of memory-altering reprogramming that Sarah endures ensures that the reader is often several steps ahead of the hero, especially toward the beginning. In particular, the psychopathic nature of one of the key characters is revealed to the reader far earlier than to Sarah. While this might diffuse some of the tension, the novel is engrossing and exciting overall, brimming with a delicious and brutal darkness. This includes plenty of depictions of emotional and physical abuse, even rape, and more sensitive and impatient readers might wonder how much of this is really necessary to progress the narrative. If some find that the survivalist tale is harrowing and overlong, Remotely Unplugged delivers a powerful and chilling conclusion that ties everything together while delivering more than one thrilling twist, uniting the disparate narrative realms into a novel that feels as gripping as it does fresh.

 

The Age of Women by Joyce Martin

rsz_four-stars

womenThe year is 2,300; war has ripped across the world. The armies have discovered a gene-targeted weapon, and they let loose it’s furry. The population of the world is cut into half, killing all male inhabitants, what remains? Women. The Age of Women to be precise, women have brought the world out of war, eradicated pollution, and devalued materialistic attitudes. In the same breath women have stripped all remaining men of their former powers, forcing them to serve the remaining female population as concubines and for furthering the race of women through impregnation. Romance and love are but pages in a torn and tattered history book of the forgotten Age of Man. Where love and romance were once cherished, now lay forbidden in the new world. Yet, a woman, Tara who longs for something more, discovers she and her friends are torn amongst their present world of splendor in the fractured and obviously still present world of man’s past. A past ruled through uncertainty and danger, all the while possessing the potential destructive nature to echo itself.

A telling of history, salaciousness, mystery, and mild humor, The Age of Women by Joyce Martin will make your head slant while reevaluating the meaning of the roles of men and women in today’s society. What you will walk away with is a newly developed questionable belief system that will force you to reevaluate how you teach your children about gender roles and the differences amongst the two sexes. In this book, the patriarchal female and male roles are distorted, giving forth a new meaning of the typical viewpoint, that elicits the reader to ponder over how they view the current age in which we live.

 

The Dreams by B. Michael Fee

rsz_four-stars

When the President of the United States and numerous other world leaders all fall into a comatose-like sleep at the same time, life as we know it begins to unravel. Top-notch medical teams are assembled around the globe, but none can find a cause, cure, or explanation; investigative agencies are doing their best to discover when, where, and how the leaders were compromised; and, apple-eyed forces within individual governments are eager to take advantage of the political unease around them. But, as bad as all that sounds, it’s nothing compared to what the leaders themselves are going through, in their “unconscious state.” The Dreams by B. Michael Fee is an incredibly diverse work of fiction that incorporates elements from the political thriller, medical suspense, metaphysical, and sci-fi genres. The meat of the story is fleshed out through several different, alternating plot lines, the most compelling of which focuses on the physicians and staff tending to the leaders and on the dreams the leaders are experiencing in their inexplicably sustained slumber. As these story lines progress, The Dreams carries readers through both real and surreal worlds, where metaphysical, moral, and mundane matters are explored in a highly informed and insightful manner. The whole while, the clock is ticking; tensions are mounting; more questions are being asked than answered; and life as we know it continues to unravel…but that may not be a bad thing.

All told, The Dreams by B. Michael Fee is a riveting, fast-paced novel with moments of sheer eloquence and genius; yet those moments, unfortunately, are frequently lost in its writing. The text is full of long run-on sentences and paragraphs that don’t adhere to conventional grammar, punctuation, and syntax standards. Arguably, this unconventional writing style lends to the literary value of Fee’s work and gives it an urgent, on-the-cusp-of-thinking feel. But, at the same time, at times, it makes the plotline downright confusing, particularly where there are multiple characters discussing technical topics. It’s likely that some readers will lose patience trying to sort through the run-ons, difficult dialogue, and sentence splices—but, those who stick around are in for a real treat.

 

Strike! Sixth Part: Marilyn Carter, Daughter of Hairy Pig, Human Engineer by John Francis Sissons

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John Francis Sissons’ Strike! Sixth Part: Marilyn Carter, Daughter of Hairy Pig, Human Engineer introduces us to the Galleries, an underground, technologically advanced world that survives and flourishes in the wake of fallout and destruction on the Earth’s Surface. This also home to the Hansa people and a place where people regularly live to 120, where rational thought and a harmonious way of life prevail, and where the conflict and war of the Surface people are only distant, ancient memories… Marilyn Carter, however, has not forgotten. As a half Hansa half Surface person, Marilyn is already somewhat of an anomaly across the spheres of the Galleries, but her telepathic ability (known as mind-talk), the connection in her mind to ancient souls who serve as mentors and guides, and her destiny as a Shaman throw her plans to enter the police force into sudden disarray. How will Marilyn’s growing renown as a prodigal commanding police officer and innovative brain surgeon give her the privacy and space needed to pursue her destiny and her duty to her family, and especially to her father, the storied Surface soldier Hairy Pig?

This is an adventurous work that looks critically at the role of the law, the notion of justice, and the moral concern that Marilyn faces as a public servant: sacrificing her self for the good of the public, or placing individual desires above her duty to society. However, as much as these questions are asked, they are unfortunately not all given the necessary space to be answered in full. While the breadth of the plot is sweeping and ambitious, it at times falls short of its potential to fully engage the reader. The interiority of Marilyn’s ‘mind-talk’ with her father and her other spiritual guides does allow us to witness moments of doubt or trouble more viscerally, but they are so frequently woven into the narrative that they overshadow the action at hand from time to time. Sissons has crafted a world that definitely lives by its own rules, yet some of the schema in place could be loosened for the sake of the story unfolding.

 

Ascension by Michelle Bryan

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Tara is still getting used to being…different. There is simply no way she can have the luxury of feeling like a normal, average eighteen year old girl. The world is in turmoil, innocent people are being murdered, and the people that Tara loves the most are being kidnapped and annihilated. As a New Blood she has special powers, powers that no one has ever seen before, powers that could potentially defeat the corrupt Prezedent and save not just her kin, but the whole dystopia that the world has become. But first she must to learn to control her powers– her ‘chi,’ get her confusing feelings for Jax under control, learn to work with her friends, and maybe even wear a dress. Saving the world is never easy, but with the right people on your side, it might just be possible.

Michelle Bryan’s second novel in her trilogy, Ascension, is fast-paced and exciting, with a fun host of personalities. While the protagonist, Tara, sometimes fails to surprise or be very different from other teenaged heroines, Tara’s companions are interesting and complex and their stories keep us guessing, hoping, and wishing for the best. Ascension is a fun weekend read that will leave you wanting to get your hands on the next book, discover all of the secrets in Tara’s past, and see exactly what Tara’s powers are capable of accomplishing.

 

Spirit of the Sword: Pride and Fury by Frances Smith

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Michael Callistus and his sister Miranda, sole survivors of the Old Corona bloodline, part ways after the death of their mother and brother. The siblings are unaware of the extent of their gifts and destinies. Miranda is suddenly transported to Eternal Patheia. Under Quirian’s command, Miranda is trained in the magic arts and uses her gift of healing to create an army from golems. A mass slaughter follows after Miranda heals one of Quirian’s opponents, and she suspects that someone in Quirian’s court planned the attack. When Michael learns the truth about Quirian, he has to convince Miranda that he is a genuine warrior.

First time author spins an original medieval fantasy set within a world of good versus evil. Smith’s first person narrative may feature Michael and Miranda as her principal cast, yet she surrounds her protagonists with an interesting combination of foiled characters. Most notable of the darker characters include The Voice and the mysterious hooded man, while Abigail and Octavia, servants to Miranda, add a lighter splash to dialogues and overall character development, as well as provide freshness to the plot. Yet what makes the first novel in the First Sword Chronicles truly unique is Smith’s underpinning theme of sibling tension between two stubborn adults who are earmarked for greatness. In the midst of the tension, Smith incorporates a host of good/evil twists and turns amid alternating un-clichéd character scenes that are replete with all the archaic elements of gore, valor, and deviant antagonists. A coming-of-age tale with its anticipated cliffhanger closure, Spirit of the Sword: Pride and Fury is not only an engaging read, but also a great addition to fantasy aficionado collections. Keep a lookout for the next installment of the Michael-and-Miranda saga: Spirit of the Sword: Faith and Virtue.

 

The Saeshell Book of Time: Part 1: The Death of Innocents by Rusty Biesele

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timeA complex mix of both science fiction and fantasy, The Saeshell Book of Time: Part 1: The Death of Innocents is a highly inventive book that will appeal to young readers and adults alike. As book one of the five part Children of Sophista series, author Rusty Biesele has imagined a world where magic, immortality, and aliens are all part of reality. The main part of the storyline follows two teenagers named Stefan and Tova who discover that they are not human and are destined to wield great power. In order to protect Earth from unwanted alien intrusions, Stefan and Tova must use their newly found magic to protect the planet they’ve grown up on. To make matters more complicated, the two have been promised to one another, betrothed since birth without their knowledge. There is also an older character named Elof who must teach the children how to use their powers, including Ty and Tyco who must learn to use their talents for good. The first book of this series introduces the reader to this world and draws them deeply into the lives of the characters the author has created.

Throughout the book there are many engaging colorful illustrations that depict certain scenes and characters that appear in the text. The artwork is all original and adds a nice touch to the narrative, giving it a little something extra, helping to bring this complicated and magical world alive. Throughout the book there is always something going on, and it never reads slow, however, it does seem a little bit too complicated at times, especially since it is aiming to appeal to young readers. There are a great number of characters to keep track of. The colored text and formatting of the story itself is also a bit strange, even though it is explained in the prologue what each color means, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. Nevertheless, this is a very inventive book, and many readers will love the colorful aspects that set it apart from your average reading experience. Biesele clearly has a vast imagination, which only bodes well for what will come next in this ongoing and original series.

 

Crystal Universe by Martin Sadler

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crystalA creation myth and supernatural adventure worthy of the attention of modern audiences unfolds at the confluence of the predestined characters in Martin Sadler’s absorbing novel Crystal Universe. A cosmic seed beckons its guardians to the North Shore of Hawaii’s big island, where a battle between good and evil engulfs them, elevating their connection to one another and the world around them to new heights. As their consciousness expands, and the strings that bind them together are illuminated, so too is an inevitable power struggle between strong archetypal themes of life and death, light and darkness, as well as good and evil.

Sadler’s novel offers an exploration of the creation and nature of mankind that does not overextend or come across as presumptuous. The characters, and there are many, are all very well developed, and it is easy to engage with them, even at the quick pace with which they are presented. Shifting the focus of each chapter among the deck of characters keeps the reader entertained and wondering who will contribute next and what that contribution will be. The author’s experience as a songwriter and musician surely contributed to the complex and interesting structure of the novel. As the crystals that draw his characters together do, Sadler’s novel will leave the reader enthusiastically questioning their place in the universe with a fascinating new lens through which to look.

 

The Windkeeper by Emily Schroeder

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Fantasy, magic, secrets, war, and love abound in The Windkeeper: Book One in the Eld Creatures Series. Emily Schroeder takes you, the reader, on a charming tale of science fiction and suspense. Morgan at the tender age of 15 suddenly learns that her entire life has been a lie, and Roden, also known as Ravenstorm, shows up unexpectedly during the kingdom’s annual festival and simultaneously answers her prayers and yanks the proverbial rug out from under her feet. Roden is like no other and nearly two decades ahead of Morgan he has to teach her not only what her hidden powers are but how to use them. From the get go, you are teased with the possibility that the two will fall in love even with such a great age gap and the impending war they are anticipating. It is up to the two of them to ultimately save their beloved home of Norbane. However, they have to brazenly search out help from merlins, which are dragon-like creatures. The secrets they must keep and they devastating experiences they must face will try them time and time again. Destiny is a powerful ally while sometimes an intimidating foe, but Roden’s vision of the prophecy so many years prior is about to manifest into real life.

Schroeder does a very nice job carrying the reader to another place and time in The Windkeeper. It is easy to fall in love with Morgan and Roden even though he comes off as an unfeeling, cold, brash man in the beginning. More over, Schroeder makes it easy to connect with the various creatures just as Morgan can and does. You just feel as though you are there in the moment with them. Your heart will race once moment and sing the next. Embrace the magic of The Windkeeper and Emily Schroeder’s fantastical prose as you travel alongside Morgan, Roden and their creature allies in an effort to save their beloved Norbane.

 

The Commons: Book 1, The Journeyman by Michael Alan Peck

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commonsWhat happens after we die? Where, if anywhere, do we go from here? And, how much do our earthly choices influence our ultimate fate? For centuries, questions like these have fed scientific, philosophical, and religious thought, giving rise to countless theories, a number of which author Michael Alan Peck weaves together to create the spiritual backdrop, and ethereal setting, of his debut book. A fantastic work of fiction, The Commons: Book 1, The Journeyman finds 17-year-old Paul Reid dead on a snowy hillside—but even though his life is over, his journey has just begun. With the help of a graying grey Envoy named Porter, Paul is transported from our world to a similar one that’s not at all the same. This place—The Commons—operates under its own rules, and its “people” (if you can call them that) are unlike any Paul has encountered before. From hazy film images and men constructed of their vices to larger-than-life bugs and folks who’re half-human, half-machine, The Commons is populated by oddities who have but for one thing in common: They all fear Mr. Brill, a selfish soul-sucking tyrant who’s found a way to exploit the afterlife and maintain a stronghold over The Commons. But there is hope that Brill’s stronghold will come undone, and that hope comes in the form of a boy who died on a snowy hillside, along with a few other misfit travelers who must make difficult decisions of their own.

The Commons: Book 1, The Journeyman by Michael Alan Peck is a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy adventure that’s as profound as it is profoundly entertaining. The multilayered plotline follows a central cast of characters as they forge their paths across a highly imaginative landscape pocked with ancient wisdoms, mindboggling puzzles, and sci-fi surprises that will keep you turning pages until the very end. Peck’s writing style is fluid, eloquent, and easy to read, yet highly structured and infused with insight, understanding, and knowledge that’s sure to leave readers pondering the basic questions at the foundation of this compelling novel, which is the first in a forthcoming series that promises to be well worth the read.

 

Prophecy of the Immortals by Ryan London

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A science fiction adventure of staggering proportions, Ryan London’s Prophecy of the Immortals charts the journey of hero Exos Starblood, a human in a multi-species universe who awakes in a desert to find that he has been stripped of all memory. With the aid of a host of sometimes-dangerous and always-charming new acquaintances, Exos soon uncovers a personal history that jettisons him into the heart of a battle for the universe itself and the very souls of its inhabitants, ultimately plunging him into pretty dark thematic territory. London combines the high-tech, interplanetary grandeur of a classic space opera with an expansive saga rich with fantasy undertones to create an accomplished sci-fi epic.

With a number of little twists within its largely straightforward plotting, Exos’s trajectory is almost inexhaustibly intriguing. Prophecy is intellectually wealthy, treading deftly into deep and engaging philosophical territory; Exos’s travels and ruminations are accompanied by an abundance of insightful metaphysics and moments of startling wisdom – despite the tale’s otherworldliness, London’s themes are not without meaningful resonance with the reader and contemporary life on earth (even if these musings are not as integrated into the fabric of the narrative as one might want). Prophecy owes much of its success to London’s clear and fluid writing; there is a solid and literate sense of forward motion always at work. If sometimes stilted and rarely clumsy, the narrative voice is very often poetic, and the descriptions are full of beauty; only occasionally employed awkwardly, London’s use of figurative language is strong and deeply evocative. London’s universe is wonderfully imaginative, teeming with interesting interstellar cultures and traditions, and full of magnificent technologies and celestial formations. Although we may at times feel that some of the imagery, concepts, and dynamics have been seen before, they are nonetheless ceaselessly effective and arresting. The brilliance of Prophecy is at times a double-edged sword: it is unsurprising that, in a universe so detailed and conceptual, certain descriptions of lofty ideas become confusing or feel inconsistent and imbalanced. Likewise, when the character roster contains such a diverse array of compelling creatures – human and alien – it’s not unusual that the reader might feel that certain individuals disappear or become neglected, never to be properly explained or fleshed out. While the fantastic details do add layers of fanciful flavor to the narrative, an overabundance of sci-fi pretentions can seem superfluous and begin to confuse and chafe the reader. Similarly, Prophecy’s formidable scope is both a boon and a curse: the breadth of the novel is breathtaking and allows for a fullness and multi-dimensionality in its narrative, but at times Prophecy can feel overextended, buckling under its own weight and dragging itself along. Most frustrating for this reviewer is the weird subtext dialogue of a male-power agenda that emerges over the course of the novel. London’s sustained – if subdued – gender and sexual dynamics are fundamentally troubled: Prophecy presents a misguided homosocial realm rife with indulgent male fantasy, highlighted by antiquated machismo and the constant sexual evaluation, objectification, and subjugation of females. This is at best narrow and disappointing, and at worst disturbingly misogynistic. A far cry from the likes of Ursula K Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, and Octavia Butler at the end of the day, Prophecy is nonetheless evidence of a prodigious talent and gives fans of science fiction (or simply a good, solid read) a name to watch out for as London’s sharp storytelling craft is honed.

 

The First: EVO Uprising by Kipjo K. Ewers

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Average, every day people have been turned into superheroes and supervillans as a seemingly out-of-this world virus spreads across the globe in Kipjo K. Ewers book series, The First. In the second book in the series, The First: EVO Uprising, governments come to realize the need for superhero teams on their side as EVOs are now being born naturally, and many are turning evil. Former Marine, Sergeant Abe Rogers, gets selected to lead the first United States team, but his team only consists of five supernaturals including himself. He seeks the help of Sophia Dennison, Earth’s original superhuman, to train his team, but she doesn’t want to be overly involved in the world war between heroes and villians. With a team of people that Rogers considers to be meer babies with superhuman powers – a team that is not ready to fight – he is forced to take all of them straight to ground zero as supernatural satanic worshippers tear Manhattan and other heroes to shreds. As the supernatural war continues to rage, the connections and emotional bonds between these superhero team members and even Ms. Dennison may surprise you while the supsenseful ferocious action will make your heart race and keep your mind on its mental toes. And, the final pages will leave you waiting with bated breath for more.

The First EVO Uprising is filled with powerful scenes that elicit anxiety bubbling up within you as you grow attached to each and every superhero Kipjo Ewers shares with you. He has a way with expressing their deepest individual essences that easily draws you in. Be prepared though as there is a good deal of graphic violence and foul language within the story. But, Ewers interweaves the depth of friendship, love, and a powerful sense of team in a way that reminds you, the reader, that good will somehow always prevail over evil. He even brings into play snippets of unexpected humor as well as unexpected personal challenges for the characters. Reading The First: EVO Uprising can open your mind and heart to the value of respecting one’s skills, powers, and wisdom no matter his or her age, gender, or history. Kipjo Ewer did a superhero job in making The First EVO Uprising a powerfully entertaining sci-fi thriller.

 

The Wild East: Drunk on Power by James Hunter

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James Hunter’s The Wild East: Drunk on Power begins the story of 21 year old Dustin Trent, a young man coming of age in the post-Civil War town of East, Texas. In Dustin’s world there exist a range of special powers bestowed upon certain individuals. These powers are called “vices” and are activated by the use of a specific substance, such as sage root, seawater, Rattlesnake venom, or in Dustin’s case, alcohol. Those born with these special abilities are encouraged to make use of them, and join up with either the Rangers, or the Vice Lords. The Vice Lords, a group of feared vice-wielding criminals, hold Dustin’s town of East in a reign of terror. All citizens of East must pay fealty to this group in exchange for “protection” from crime and vandalism. Opposed to the Vice Lords are the benevolent Rangers, another group of men with vices. Instead of striking fear and hate in those under their protection, the Rangers have been trying to eradicate the Vice Lords for as long as history can remember. As the story unfolds, we learn that Dustin lives with his adopted parents, Dalton and June, proprietors of the Sunrise Saloon. Dustin never knew his biological parents, a fact which has haunted him into adulthood, nor has he ever been told the true story of his orphaning. However, when Dalton and June decide it’s time for Dustin learn who he really is, the knowledge launches Dustin into a new world full of peril, evil, beauty – and the discovery of his own, quite powerful, vice. The consumption of alcohol gives Dustin superhuman strength and agility, and also doubles as a cure-all, completely healing Dustin of any injuries no matter the severity. We discover that the more alcohol Dustin drinks, the more acute his powers become. This is complicated by the fact that Dustin begins to use alcohol as a crutch for processing and dealing with his deep emotional wounds.

Pushing past the bounds of a conventional historical/fantasy novel, Hunter delves into the nuanced complications of addiction and the delicate balance of friendship and patriotic duty. The focus on the moral complexities of Dustin’s vice is warranted, though the narrative is by and large deficient in providing adequate explanation of Dustin’s interior life, as well as that of the other key characters. The hairpin action of The Wild East: Drunk on Power will have you turning pages rapidly, following Dustin’s drunken antics as well as the riveting possibilities of an alternate American history. This first installment brings the book to a culmination that not only shocks, but also propels the narrative into the sequel.

 

Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel by Toi Thomas

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Toi Thomas’ Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel is the first in a series of novels chronicling Giovanni’s (an angel) and Mira’s (Giovanni’s love interest) experiences. A science-fiction version of Beauty and the Beast with a strong Christian bent to it, Giovanni’s Angel tells the story of the start of Giovanni and Mira’s relationship. Mira, a successful but lonely doctor, meets Giovanni in an online chatroom and the two begin an unlikely friendship. When Mira goes to visit Giovanni to research his curious “ailment,” she discovers Giovanni is actually an angel. Guided by Giovanni’s trusty live-in friend, Abraham, Giovanni and Mira learn to let go of their pasts and fall in love.

The thought Thomas has put into her protagonist’s backstories is apparent and impressive. Large swaths of her novel are dedicated to explaining how each of Giovanni, Mira, and Abraham have ended up where they are in life—Thomas’ investment in these characters is clear and laudable. However, these in-depth descriptions give way to a critique of the novel: Thomas spends far too much time telling as opposed to showing. Instead of utilizing flashbacks or any other sort of variation in form that could characterize her protagonists, Thomas either has the characters narrate their pasts to each, creating significant sections of dense, unrealistic dialogue. This form of characterization makes the central conflict of the narrative (Giovanni and Mira learning to love), at times, difficult to locate as the reader does not receive a gradual characterization experience that truly shows change. While the conflict of this story is internal, there are a number of external conflicts that arise, but due to pacing, Thomas does not fully flesh out these conflicts. These external conflicts would be great moments to demonstrate changes in the characters’ psyches; however, the conflicts occur and resolve too quickly and effortlessly to really convince a reader. While there are flaws in Giovanni’s Angel, Thomas’ clear love for her characters and story may be enough to convince some readers to continue reading the series to see what happens with Giovanni and Mira after this installation’s happy ending.

 

The Bad Specimens by T.D. Clare

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Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 11.23.55 AMA few hundred years from now, a random sample of humans will be extracted from points across their planet. They will be held captive, in varying degrees of isolation both physically and emotional from other humans. Their captors will perform unspeakable experiments that will challenge their humanity and physical abilities. In their new world, the humans cannot refuse or consent anything, and there are no such things as human rights. While attempting to cope with previously unimaginable pain, the human specimens must individually determine if and how they desire to continue to live. Which of their human trials will aid in their survival, and which must they relinquish? Some of the humans that were taken are: Ian, an actor in his past with possibly no skills to help him survive; Elizabeth, a diplomat in her former life; Gaia the mid-wife, and Kate whose will to survive won’t be based on the children she is forced to carry and then give up. Once you take away the identity of a person, and their purpose, what is left?

A thought-provoking and gripping page-turner from page one, The Bad Specimens may keep you up at night. This work explores our basest tendencies as human beings against a harsh backdrop devoid of any feeling. This provides a colorful landscape of fear, grief, anger, and unfathomable sadness. In a world of emotional darkness, the smallest sparks of happiness, hope, and friendship glow brighter than here on Earth. We have had a longtime love affair with aliens and what it would ultimately look like. Now we have the ultimate trifecta in The Bad Specimens: alien abduction, loss of human rights and loss of human interaction. Clare’s exploration of the human psyche is well worth the read.

 

Purgatory’s Full by The Gemini Rising

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purgPurgatory’s Full: A Song, A Dream or A Cold Hard Reality in Thirty-Six Parts written by The Gemini Rising Rockin’ Machine is a one of a kind book that follows the character Kayden Hart after his death. Kayden finds himself trapped in purgatory, the last half dead human with a soul to be allowed to enter. Now that purgatory is full, only one more purgatorian will be granted their wings and be allowed to ascend to Heaven. Chaos ensues as everyone wants to be that one special soul to escape the disorder of purgatory. As we follow along with Kayden on his journey to leave purgatory, he goes through all different kinds of pain and emotions, even though he is no longer living he still feels as if he is alive. Memorable and terrifying characters such as a Hell Witch with a mouth full of purgatorian eating teeth, as well as the Devil himself make an appearance. This book is dark and philosophical in its nature, and uses a playful enticing manner to tell a story about what a nightmare scenario for the afterlife could really be like.

While this novel is plenty inventive and engaging, the overall format of the novel is lacking. The text is organized in long paragraphs that run on for too long, and there is barely any dialogue present. When dialogue does show up, it is not formatted correctly. The author uses songs/reprises to deliver emotions and further comment on the situations going on in the book throughout the story, which while at times are powerful, seem to slow down the overall pace. We also felt as if we did not get to know Kayden as a character as well as we wanted to. With further editing and a restructuring of the setup, this book could greatly improve, as the heart of the story and its ideas are its strongest part, and could shine further if better organized.

 

Heliocentric by J.W. Lolite

helioHeliocentric takes place two months after the novel, Circumstellar, ends. Ingrid, Ty and their companions have already saved the gate keeper and protected the world from the Anikda from reaching out from the shadows, but that does not mean these aliens will not make an attempt again. In the midst of training and learning how to use each of their abilities, Ingrid and her friends begin their search for the remaining keystones and lock keepers, so that they may have an upper hand against the Anikda for when they attack once more. Their task will not be easy with various obstacles in their way including nosey law enforcement, frightened parents, and teenage drama. Through all of the obstacles being thrown at them, will everyone be able to overcome their own distractions to work together to defeat those who threaten the existence of the world they live in?

J. W. Lolite is a remarkable storyteller. The beginning of the book has Ingrid reflecting on the events that happened two months ago and in those months leading to the start of Heliocentric. This not only refreshes the reader’s memory, but also sets the stage for what will transpire in the novel. The story is highly descriptive, but not in a way that is overbearing. When Master Meissa is introduced, rather than simply describing her general features, Lolite describes the movement of her green robed hand as she holds the railing, to lifting a cigarette to her mouth. This presents the image of someone with elegance and poise. With the character of Ryuji, Lolite adds in Asian influences with the legends and folklore he speaks about and his references to every with san or kun after their names to show respect and formality. With Ingrid he doesn’t use those titles because he considers her a close personal friend. This characteristic of Ryuji gives him the appearance of being a wise sage, could he possibly become a Master? Readers will have to read more to find out. One interesting element of the story is the character development. Rather than focusing on inner thoughts and actions, characters are developed through their interactions with each other. In the beginning of the story there is hatred and conflict between Kaira and Ingrid, but as they interact and Kaira becomes Ingrid’s mentor, things change. They evolve from hating one another to learning to become a team and respect each other for their differences. Heliocentric is full of twists and turns, causing readers to never know what will happen next.

 

Circumstellar by J.W. Lolite

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They say that the eyes are windows to the soul, but in Circumstellar by J. W. Lolite, they’re a lot more than that. Part fantasy adventure, part coming-of-age saga, this completely captivating novel follows purple-eyed 16-year-old Ingrid Farheit as she comes to terms with who she is, where she came from, and what her future holds. But, Ingrid’s story is not your typical teenaged drama—it’s filled with secrets, surprises, strange beings, martial arts, myths, mysticism, and much, much more. Left to live with her dear-old, drunken “Auntie” after her mother passed, Ingrid is constantly struggling to feel confident and comfortable with herself—and, to get to school on time. But, when she is attacked on her way home from hanging out with her best friends Lesia and Ty, these things become the least of her concerns. After realizing that her attackers were not necessarily human, Ingrid is introduced to a clandestine community of powerful people, and is schooled in a history that can’t be found in any textbook. She trains physically, gets a boost of self-esteem, and develops an open mind, and her connection with Lesia and Ty deepens as, together, they discover amazing things about themselves, the universe, and each other. Yet, is all of this enough when lives are on the line and the fate of the universe is uncertain? You will have to read Circumstellar to find out—and, when you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Circumstellar is one of those books that is hard to put down. Both the story and the storytelling are of superior quality, and will hook you from the very beginning. The plotline is fast-paced, action-packed, and full of intriguing moments that beg you to keep reading. Lolite’s writing style is incredibly clever, rich, and vibrant, with great attention to detail and a frequently flippant tone that’s downright delightful. All told, this, the premiere book in J. W. Lolite’s new series, is sure to thoroughly entertain you and leave you eagerly awaiting its follow-up.

 

The Journals of Bob Drifter by M.L.S. Weech

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51HKN74h3NL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Bob Drifter is a substitute teacher, but there’s a bit more to him than that. You see, the teaching gig is just a way for him to earn money; his real profession is called being a Journeyman. Drawn towards those who are on the verge of dying, Bob’s task is to guide their souls into the afterlife (although wherever that may be, he really has no idea). Without people like Bob, our souls would simply cease to exist after death, and the world would lose a small piece of itself each time a person passes on. But people rarely understand the true purpose of Journeymen, which is why Bob is forbidden from telling anyone about what it is he does. Yet when Bob becomes close to the family of one of his students, his secret inadvertently becomes uncovered. Elsewhere, a duo of detectives has begun investigating a string of mysterious deaths that all seem to have a link to Bob, while a villain who ought to be saving souls has instead found power in letting them “sour.” Now, Bob must find a way to make amends with the people close to him and at the same time put a stop to the monster known only as Grimm.

With equal parts humor and horror, Weech creates a world in The Journals of Bob Drifter that is populated by both a peculiarly intriguing mythos and masterfully drawn characters. Readers will certainly have read stories about the Angel of Death, or the Grim Reaper, ideas which were used to inspire this supernatural thriller. But where other novels simply take these tropes and run with them, Weech has created a character that at once personifies and rails against what little knowledge our species has regarding death and the afterlife. Bob teaches us, again and again, that death is not simply something to be feared; sometimes it is also a release. And even after a loved one has passed on, a piece of their soul can live on in our hearts for years to come.

 

Green Eyes by Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan Gardner takes you on a twisting, winding, and magical journey in times far older than our modern era. His book, Green Eyes, opens with a young woman who is shunned by her community. Selene, the young woman, is exceptionally different from everyone around her. She does not understand why other than the fact that she has dazzling green eyes. Every other person she knows has brown eyes, until one day a stranger comes to her community, different from the rest. This secretive, cloaked individual has vibrant blue eyes. Unbeknownst to Selene, he knows secrets about her. Selene’s father has sacrificed much of his life to protect her, and has always thought it was best to keep those deep dark secrets well hidden even from Selene herself. You will soon wonder if this stranger, Jared, is a friend or foe. You will soon discover that he might just be a hero that Selene will ultimately come to rely on to save her life and help her uncover the truth about her, her past, and her future.

The twists and turns in this science fiction fantasy novel keep you guessing from the beginning all the way through to the very end. Gardner opens doors for evil to abound upon the pages of Green Eyes. With an elegant craftiness he shares a captivating story that explores the beautiful, but naïve life, of Selene. Sorcery, ghosts from the past, lives lost, beings sent by the ultimate Creator keep you in a constant state of suspense. Gardner’s Green Eyes is the first book in the Kalashonian duology. Though it is a relatively long book more than likely it is one you will not want to put down. On top of that, you will be anxiously awaiting the second book in this duology. With a unique concept regarding the color of one’s eyes, Jonathan Gardner has done a wonderful job writing a magical fantasy that will have you taking a second look at the eyes of everyone you meet.

 

The Krakow Club by Philip C. Elrod

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.32.26 AMThe United States government is under siege. One man has the power to stop it. But will he? A secret cabal of super rich elitists, the Krakow Klub, has initiated the final phase of its long-range plan to take over the USA from within. They have secretly gained control of key players throughout the US government and the military. Only one man has the power to stop the Krakow Klub. His name is John F. Scott. He is part human and part Mylean, an alien race that has been all but wiped from the universe. The power he is able to yield originates from alien technology. Can he be trusted to use his extraordinary alien technology to stop the take-over and return power to a lawful government after stopping the coup? Can he control his power once he unleashes it? Will he take the risk? The fate of freedom in America, perhaps for the entire world, depends on him.

John F. Scott is a somewhat unlikely hero. After achieving his lifelong dream of freedom from the shackles of his origins, he finds himself in an impossible situation. Faced with the opportunity to turn his back on his country or save it from the hidden powers that be lurking in the shadows, John will face the truth of who he really is at his core. Elrod deftly explores the depths of human nature and how people will find themselves even in the darkest corners of life. Forcing a character to act unselfishly in a truly selfish world causes unrivaled ripples and subsequent waves throughout the plot. This author has mastered the art of revealing the characters strengths and weaknesses through decisive action. A thoroughly thrilling read, The Krakow Klub depicts a world that may not be all that far away.

 

Bones of the Emperor: A Theology of Humanity in the Universe by Richard K. Perkins

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41VSM2rOYjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Two hundred years in the future, humankind has developed interstellar warp technology, thanks to a clueless architect’s unknowingly dangerous backyard research.  Second Lieutenant Zhou Wen is just a single soul aboard the HMS Fuji, a massive battleship patrolling and monitoring the depths of space far away from Earth.  Assuming control of the ship’s command deck one night, Wen expects to be forced to endure a brutally boring watch shift, with only dry status reports to keep him company.  What he doesn’t expect is an all-out attack from a previously unheard-of alien enemy. Yet this enemy seems to exhibit technology even more advanced than humanity’s own, and they have decided to use it to eradicate our species. Now, in the aftermath of a disastrously mismatched space battle, Wen and a handful of human survivors must figure out how to warn the rest of their kind of the looming alien invasion.  Failure will spell doom for everyone and everything humankind has ever known.

Bones of the Emperor begins like many standard sci-fi epics but quickly veers off into virgin territory, exploring the human psyche and measuring the very weight of what we know about the universe we inhabit against all that we still do not comprehend. Though it is entertaining, Perkins’ novel is not merely another science fiction novel; he attempts, in writing, to shed light on questions that have plagued our species since its very birth. Bones of the Emperor offers an intriguing solution to the endless debate between science and religion that is seductive in its simplicity – and in its likelihood.  This story suggests that if another species were in fact to visit our planet, it might not be as alien as we think. In fact, it might just be an enemy we have encountered before.  Through top-notch storytelling and fully realized characters, Perkins delivers a new sci-fi odyssey that is both original and insightful.

 

Guarded by Carmen Fox

A saucy, urban thriller for adult eyes only, Guarded by Carmen Fox relies heavily on sexual plot twists, however the sharp writing makes for a heck of a ride. With a plot steeped in science fiction, the novel’s protagonist navigates a world in which her neighbors are vampires, werewolves and demons, and boy, do they look good! As Ivy Bell investigates the disappearance of her boss’ daughter, she encounters a trio of men who may not only lend their assistance to their case, but perhaps a little sexual healing as well. Given Ivy’s physical and genetic make-up, she’s literally irresistible and unable to ignore her sexual attractions towards other men. Of course, this simple fact ensures that business often mixes with pleasure in order to reach a greater good.

At first glance, one may be led to believe that Fox created a weak protagonist, as there are moments when Ivy inexplicably swoons over any type of sensual glance from the opposite sex. However, the character makeup is rather brilliant, because it allows the author to fully dive into sexually explicit scenes without apologizing for Ivy’s actions. Sure, there are a few unintentionally comedic moments, but for the most part, Fox sticks to her plot without veering off into erotic fantasies. All in all, Ivy comes across as a hilarious but deeply flawed woman, and therein lies the drama as she must embrace her own flaws to save lives. A few extra female characters might have given more depth to Fox’s lead, however the complexity of Ivy provides much to contemplate, along with her collection of supporting characters whom are coming to terms with their own haunting realities.

 

The Outworlds: War Torrent by Daniel P. Douglas

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Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 7.12.56 PMAngorgals are a reptilian race thought to have been extinct, but there have been recent discoveries that not only prove that they do exist, but that they came to Earth centuries ago, not merely as visitors. Could Earth have been colonized by these creatures? Mokisia is taken by surprise at the Sekkalan, attacked by them during a recon mission, a mission that was a trap. A young teenage war priest in training, Zy K’Olt needs to learn how to overcome his fears and doubts in addition to accepting his spiritual powers in order to confront and defeat the Sekkalan. While Zy struggles with his abilities, the invasion destroys Major Krajenar Attazahal’s reputation as an officer. She struggles to find redemption and survival to protect her home. Mokisiaans quickly learn the attack on their home is only the beginning to the sinister plans of the Sekkalan. Could Earth’s inhabitants be next?

The first few chapters rely heavily on the historical background of the Sceytera system and the Mokisia. It gives great detail about their world and how there became a distinct difference between each inhabitant of the moons. Then it opens to a platoon, preparing for a recon mission and possible battle once they enter a portal leading to another moon. The story starts out with Zy exploring the forest and thinking about nightly visions and the path he needs to take in life when he gets kidnapped. Then the story turns to Captain Thotka-Luen’s platoon entering the gate to another moon and being ambushed. Once the narrative gets back to Zy it’s just a brief summary of what happened to him. We feel there could have been a little more done with that storyline as well as more development during his training to become a Kal’iveth. The novel is very military and technically base in descriptions and uses some heavy jargon, especially where Krajenar is concerned. There were points of the novel that it became hard to understand what was being said such as after Krajenar’s surgery. There is a lot of information thrown at readers all at once. Once you get past the jargon and descriptions the plot of the novel is entertaining and easier to follow. Daniel Douglas creates a world of reptilian warriors concerned on saving their homelands.

 

Digital Death Panel by Dr. R. David Udy

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A sort of techno murder mystery, Dr. R. David Udy’s Digital Death Panel follows the adventures of a wheelchair-bound, PTSD-ridden, medical marijuana toking, Gulf War veteran: Bruce MaComb. Our unlikely hero has been charged with overseeing the implementation of a new self-learning technology at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Las Vegas; intended to dramatically streamline operations and cut costs, this technology learns to determine which patients will end up being the most expensive overall and finds surreptitious means to terminate them, unbeknown to hospital staff. As the number of suspicious deaths increases, Bruce must enlist the help of a colorful group of friends – from chummy old colleagues, to a seductive new lover, to a brilliant young hospital patient – to uncover what is really going on and ultimately fight back against the malicious digital entity.

Dr. Udy manages to create some real excitement in this interesting near-future medical society; there is a sense of tension and anxiety and a taste of the genuine stress and sadness that must be part and parcel of hospital life. The narrative voice is warm and good-natured, which results in a storytelling style that is, overall, quite charming. Despite the genre elements of science-fiction, action, and even horror, things are largely kept on a realistic and believable scale, which is complimented nicely by the naturalistic chatter of the characters. It is, in fact, with a sense of fun comradery, highlighted with repartee, that the novel really succeeds – the characters and their dynamics really sparkle. This manages to arise despite somewhat mediocre descriptions and clunky writing; Dr. Udy’s penchant for presenting whole conversations as dense blocks of text can become burdensome and confusing for the reader, and there is a lot of obtuse jargon and technical descriptions that are thinly masked as dialogue and often repeated, which can dampen the thrills and horrors inherent in the novel’s premise. Tension is furthermore diffused by an awkward pacing – the novel rarely seems to build or arc properly, and it can become frustrating when the reader is able to understand almost everything about the menace from the onset – with a sort of status quo of malicious problems established and maintained from page one – whereas it takes the characters more than half of the novel to really begin to figure anything out. Perhaps most disappointing is the novel’s failure to really fully explore the political, moral, and metaphysical implications of so many of the potentially compelling issues that Dr. Udy brings up, like living with serious disability, the troublesome links between wealth and quality of life, or the value of one life over another in a society exhausting its resources. It is hard to really hold any of this against Digital Death Panel, as Dr. Udy’s vision – quaint and perhaps tinged with male fantasy as it is – is so idiosyncratically cordial that Bruce and his costars can easily endear themselves to the reader.

 

The Darkness of Strangers by C. William Giles

In a near future where the lines between good and evil are as thin as ever, C. William Giles creates a world complete with enthralling and interweaving stories. As the novel opens, we are introduced to main characters Elisabeth Ravenscroft, Abigail Haldane, and Balthazar Reich. When a flaming creature suddenly falls from the sky, the events of Giles’ novel begin to take their shape: Balthazar orders his cronies to remove the creature’s wings, Detective Ravenscroft begins her investigation of the mysterious “man,” and Abigail is called to the hospital to heal him. When the purple-eyed creature escapes, it becomes a game of tracking him down for some, and keeping him safe for others. As word begins to spread about this fallen man, readers are let in on the relationships between each of the characters. When the status of the elite falls as we know it, evil in the form of Balthazar finds himself in control. With a hand in the roles of many of the citizens, he creates a line of employees that essentially work to continue his vision. Ravenscroft is revealed to be the daughter of Balthazar, while Abigail works in his castle with patients of his choosing. With his control, we find that Balthazar’s goal is to remove the threat of this creature. On a night when Abigail is in danger, however, the creature comes to her rescue, revealing himself to be an angel who has been watching over Abigail. With a new distinction drawn for Abigail and Azriel, the angel between the overall good and the epitome of evil, the two decide that they must remove the threat of Balthazar. In events that involve the remainder of those under the control of Balthazar, Giles’ story follows the struggle to destroy Balthazar Reich.

Interwoven with various characters, thorough histories, and action throughout, C. William Giles efficiently creates a story that draws in readers and immerses them into the minds and thoughts of the characters. With backgrounds to the characters that are revealed throughout the story, the development of each character begins to enrich the story and the meanings behind the actions. The information that is provided as to the background of the current, near-future world also provides the history needed to understand the story as it is presented. The voices of the characters are all distinct from each other, and each one has their own independent storyline, in addition to the one linked to each of the other characters. The only trait that is lacking or sub-par in the novel is that of the grammar of the author, which is sometimes less than perfect; otherwise, the novel is creative and entertaining, and is sure to draw the readers into the world of good versus evil in such a modern time, especially as it is a breath of fresh air from the typical and numerous post-apocalyptic novels of today.

 

The Stonegate Sword by Harry James Fox

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.49.25 AMThe Stonegate Sword by Harry James Fox blends together everything a fantasy reader enjoys. The story takes place in the future but harkens back to the Middle Ages with warriors racing on horses and fighting in armor. The novel introduces the reader to its protagonist, Donald of Fisher, who, in the beginning, appears to be the least likely of heroes. More accustomed to reading and having never picked up a weapon, Don’s life is quickly thrown forward when he becomes a sword-wielding fighter. He shows great natural ability as a warrior, proving himself in his first battle. However, events take a turn for the worse when a tragic mishap occurs, resulting in the kidnapping of Don’s beloved Rachel at the hands of the dark forces, the Prophet and his evil Raiders. Still, rescuing Rachel is only the beginning of Don’s dealings with the Prophet’s followers: as a classic war of good versus evil ensues.

Fox’s novel is very well written. He has a keen eye for detail in everything from describing a character’s physical appearance, to the surrounding landscape, to the sounds of battle. This skill allows the reader to easily escape into the world he has created. The second half of the novel is heavy with war tactics, descriptions of weapons, and battle scenes. This may be enjoyable for some readers; however, others might find it a bit tedious. Nonetheless, this novel definitely has something for everyone. There’s romance, action, humor, and even some religion. Fox displays adept writing skills, creating a novel that does not disappoint.

 

The Diary by Nancy Crofoot

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diaryOn his way home from work, Mark sees a meteor crash into the Earth. Upon further investigation Mark finds the diary of a young girl. The contents of this diary tell the story of a young girl’s quest to keep her family together. Nora and her family find themselves in an impossible situation. One day they are on their farm and the next thing they know they have been kidnapped by aliens. They must come together and be stronger than they ever have before. Given the opportunity to explore their surroundings, the families find that their fellow captives have been there for many years. Faced with the possibility that they may never escape, the family resolves to make one of the hardest choices they have ever been faced with. Will they be able to pull off their ambitious plan, or will their alien kidnappers discover their plot?

Told with detail and imagination The Diary chronicles one family’s struggle to maintain their identity and sanity. While others around them have lost hope, they find the courage to defy their captors. Crofoot has crafted a compelling story set in a rich foreign landscape. The author has painted a vivid picture of the family’s self-discovery and what they are able to do when they come together. The descriptive imagery and stark comparisons to the zoos we have here on Earth offers a tragic picture for our current zoo residents. While the book’s pace and writing could be improved upon and the slow character development hampers the plot line somewhat, overall the story is an enjoyable and entertaining read.

 

Ceres Dreams by Jon Kalantjakos

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Jon Kalantjakos’ science fiction novel, Ceres Dreams, had us anticipating stepping into a whole new world.  Reading about one young man’s first experiences of being out on his own with the twist of moving to a completely different planet was intriguing.  Unfortunately, slogging through a large number of unimportant and uninteresting details simply did not satisfy our desire for sci-fi.  The main character occasionally had odd dreams that seemed life-like.  Often, it was confusing to discern whether or not he was dreaming or actually experiencing the events in his waking life.  There had been a hint about his excessive dream experiences before he left Earth, and how he needed medication to prevent those types of dreams, but that part of the of plot seemed to wither as the story continued.  Eventually, Kalantjakos puts the main character into a more intense sense of crisis, but this did not happen until nearly halfway into the story.

With hints dropped here and there about prisons, corrupt governments and odd dream experiences, the story felt disjointed to some extent.  It was as if there were puzzle pieces missing or pieces that just didn’t fit into place now and again.  Ceres Dreams left us wanting far more than what we got.  We were ready to explore a new planet and a variety of new life forms via the author’s imagination.  Page after page, we kept waiting for these more exciting scenes, and unfortunately the narrative just didn’t deliver.  The fascinating idea buried within Ceres Dreams never came to its full potential.  As we read the last few lines, we were again left wanting more. Although we feel there is a great story buried here, it was never able to fully break above the surface.

 

A Demon’s Quest – The Beginning of the End by Charles Carfagno Jr.

four-stars

From page one of A Demon’s Quest author Charles Carfango Jr. redefines good and evil as we are introduced to a world of merciless battle, unflinching quests of survival, the complex relationship between man and animal, and astonishing acts of brotherhood. In the first chapter, a band of warriors, all with their own respective personalities and skill sets, set about to find the Circle of Demise when giant bug creatures emerge from the treacherous forest, aimed to kill anyone they see. While the crew successfully wards of these deadly creatures, this comes at a serious cost to the state of the men’s morality and health. Carfango so expertly draws in the reader as he describes several of the men’s journey as some search for help while others quickly fall into their own downward spirals into a cult-like world filled with bizarre rituals that we can begin to get confused as to who is the right and who is wrong.

As the story continues, each chapter focuses on a different situation, all happening within this Shakespearean-esque medieval forest. One chapter in particular follows the story of Jacko, a young and modest warrior who is seeking further training and is assigned to the all-knowing, yet affectionate, Teacher Ma. Their relationship could be seen as a parallel to a Luke Skywalker and Yoda in Star Wars as Teacher takes Jacko through several extensive training exercises and instills in Jacko that honor and respect for your opponent are the most valuable skill any warrior learn. Of course, as Jacko’s story progresses, he must become his own teacher and in doing so, Carfango tells us that what is right and what is easy are not mutually exclusive. These varied perspectives create tension as we are never sure how all of these characters will come together. Ultimately, these stories lead up to Torhan, who gets wrongly accused of stealing and must conceal his own identity in order to get his reputation restored. The paradoxes that Carfango creates are what make A Demon’s Quest so fascinating and the suspenseful action and witty dialogue essentially beg for a sequel. While the author is a bit ambitious in the amount of personas he creates, this is a wonderful fantasy novel for readers of all ages and definitely makes us all question the way we look at good and evil.

 

Beat by Aaron Thom

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In the near future, scientists determine that every individual has a unique and predetermined number of beats that their heart can endure before failing. “The Discovery” leads to great shifts in culture and policy under the shadow of the monolithic Heartbeat Management and Reduction Association, which gains a monopoly in much sought-after lifestyle, career, and relationship consulting services aimed at reducing heart rates and thus extending lifespans. Aaron Thom’s novel, Beat, charts the decades-long trajectories of a cast of motley characters – each connected through the Association – as they grapple with the implications of the Discovery and the new quasi-dystopian world order on their personal quests for happiness.

With a premise full of promise and intrigue, Thom’s novel suffers under its execution. A questioning of the new order begins so early on that a suspension of disbelief must be entertained to swallow the pervasive obsession with heart rate that saturates culture, politics, and personal relationships throughout the novel. The story’s pseudo-intellectual pretenses and affectations quickly become burdensome – from the onset, we are barraged with a surplus of rehashed information and arguments that dictate the world rather than letting us feel and believe in it, quickly lending the novel an overly didactic approach at the expense of much-needed subtlety. The result is stilted rather than rapturous; Beat often reads more like an elliptical series of essays with a thin patchwork of novel skin stretched across it. This narrative is riddled with characters that appear and dissolve like specters in a hazy dream, awkward scene transitions, confusing or missing temporal and geographical details, and clunky attempts at a crisp literary voice. Most irritatingly, several characters seem to switch names and even genders mid-passage with such persistent reoccurrence that it becomes impossible to tell if it’s actually all a daring and chafing sci-fi pretension – jarring with the narrative’s otherwise vanilla straightforwardness – instead of just a pathological error in the health of the novel.

Beyond these frustrations, Thom’s novel glimmers with potential. The very nature of the subject matter easily creates the feelings of anxiety and hysteria that plague Beat’s new society – you can’t help but find yourself worrying about your own beats, too – and warmly invites the philosophizing and moralizing that define Thom’s approach to the subject matter. Although it diffuses, the homophobic vacuum created by the unaddressed rejection of heteronormativity during the first half of the novel is genuinely exciting. The novel’s concepts are commendably clever and well-informed – keenly aware of the dynamics of science and society. There are many meditations on some powerful truths throughout, complemented by some authentically compelling images and ideas; when Beat attempts to capture the charm, richness, majesty, and mystery of life, there are some moments of real beauty – metaphysical, eerie, and quaint (a haunting discovery in the now-sunken city of Venice springs to mind). The power and fertility of Thom’s intellect and imagination are confirmed, and the reader is left looking forward to what he can cook up next as he refines his literary technique.

 

Knight in Shining Alien? by Ginger Branch

four-stars

Hailey is your average single girl. With more than a few relationship battle scars her attitude toward the opposite sex is less than genial. After being treated horribly and having a breakdown she has retreated from the dating scene and resolved never to fall in love again. However, one morning her life changes forever. Thrust rudely and unexpectedly into a completely different world she struggles to find her bearings. With no one in sight to come to the rescue she attempts to free herself until a fine specimen of an alien is placed in a nearby cell. Suddenly she finds herself drawn to an otherworldly creature wholly unlike any man she ever encountered on Earth. Will Jarrek free his would be beloved and tame her wild nature or will the Krakill, sworn enemy of Jarrek’s people, concur the galaxy and wipe the face of the Earth in the process? Only the Goddess of Life can determine the ever intertwining fates of Hailey and Jarrek the future King of Athria.

An entertaining read, Knight in Shining Alien pulls together a myriad of things that make a book worth reading. While the characters could have had more depth, they were believable and warranted your attention. Our heroine shows character growth throughout the story which is a wonderful way to move the action along, which there is plenty of in this book. From start to finish the author takes you on a wild ride through the far reaches of space featuring alien battles and ritualistic torture, things that have long captured the imagination of the human race. Along the way Branch humanizes the whole experience by lining the story with two things we all can identify with, lust and love.

 

Come Hell or High Water: The Complete Trilogy by Stephen Morris

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Come Hell or High Water: The Complete Trilogy opens its tale in Prague in the year 1356, with the story of an old woman Fen’ka, who has been accused of witchcraft by the townsfolk and burned alive at the stake. In her last moments, she cries to the skies for a curse to plague Prague and for nightmares to come alive for all of those who remain. The remainder of these stories bounces back and forth between Prague in 1356 and Prague in 2002, linking the past and the present, and bringing the curse to life. Fen’ka begins to present herself subtly in the contemporary world, bringing ominous messages to those she encounters in 2002. The medieval and modern tales work parallel yet against each other in this novel, as each story works with the disaster that was set forth by Fen’ka. While a Rabbi and a young woman Nadezhda work in 1356 to counter the jinx and relieve Prague of the doom, a priest and a professor (who is also a cursed creature) in 2002 manipulate and twist their way into the reawakening Fen’ka’s hex. Where there is evil, however, there is good – and the success of the revitalization can only proceed so far without opposition. Survival of Prague in the present day lies on the shoulders of a small group of underdogs – inexperienced academics.

In Come Hell or High Water, Stephen Morris creates a world that is both our own and one that we do not recognize. With descriptive language and flowery details, the image that is created by Morris is thorough and full, and little is left undetailed or undescribed. This works with the reader to establish that the Prague in the story is the one that we know in the present day – but with subtle differences. Readers know an Earth without magic; however, Morris creates a magic that not only exists within our world, but is believable. Without an author who is able to create a realistic world, Come Hell or High Water would not have been as successful in storytelling as it was. An understanding by Morris of the readers also allowed him to create a story that was thrilling from the beginning: when Fen’ka opened her narrative as the townsfolk began an uprising against her, it was able to draw the attention of the audience and immediately immerse them in 1356 Prague. Without this ability of the author, the novel may have fell flat from the opening. The writing of the trilogy is comprehensive and appeals to an educated audience, leaving a novel that is entertaining, intelligent, and exciting.

 

Utopia by Jerry J.C. Veit

four-stars

Brian Troth fell asleep in one world and woke up in another. A shot to the head put him in a coma that lasted 30 years, and in that time everything changed. Before there was poverty, hunger, and violence, but now the world is perfect. Everyone has the perfect job, the perfect home, and the perfect spouse. Utopia has been created, but can it really be true? Brian has a hard time believing it and starts asking questions…questions that could threaten not only his life, but the lives of those he cares about.

Jerry J.C. Veit has created the perfect world…with a catch. Utopia explores the possibility of perfection and the price we must pay to achieve it. Brian is a complex character with complex emotions. He is very believable and relatable. He reacts in ways that many of us would if we were suddenly thrown into the same situation. He wants to believe. He wants to just go with the flow like everybody else, but deep inside he knows something isn’t right. The rest of the world had time to get used to this new world so it isn’t a big deal for them, it’s just how things are. But Brian is thrown into the mix with no real time to adjust. He still has the mindset of the old world, our world, and it clashes dangerously with the way things are supposed to be in this new “perfect” world. It is a tough place to be-wanting the truth but wanting to have the perfect life. He is conflicted, and Veit writes through all of his emotions with the perfect amount of gusto. The reader is put in the middle of Brian’s internal (and external) conflicts while being surrounded by a perfect peaceful world. Veit’s style is very straightforward, without the extraneous details that aren’t needed, but you generally don’t feel cheated or like anything is missing. However, the style and structure of the book does take some getting used to. Utopia is written like a screenplay, so the scene setting, dialogue, etc. may be different than what most people expect. Regardless, there is a riveting story within these pages that readers are sure to enjoy.

 

Exigency by Michael Siemsen

four-stars

Many years’ travel from Earth, the planet of Epsilon C has given rise to two dominant lifeforms: the Threck – resembling amphibious ancient Romans – and the vicious, predatory Hynka. Above, a ragtag team of human researchers studies the alien world, orbiting in comfort until a suspicious disaster forces them to evacuate their station. Separated and stranded on the inhospitable surface of “Epsy,” they will fight for survival and reunion while uncovering secrets about the surprising true nature of life on the planet – just another day in Michael Siemsen’s fantastic sci-fi thriller, Exigency.

Like the novel’s title suggests, the book is chock-full of emergency situations – we are swiftly drawn deep into the action, thrills, and anxieties of Exigency, which is strongly flavored with the best elements of sci-fi action and a tinge of horror. The story is well paced and has a good dramatic arc, bolstered by the complex, rich, and sustained ideas surrounding Exigency’s vision of science, biology, and history; the novel’s fascinating pseudo-science and advanced technologies really shine from the page. Blessedly, Siemsen doesn’t spend too much time explaining his book’s sci-fi world, but lets us live and explore it, presenting the story and its universe to us as a mystery, ever unfolding and deepening. Although there are moments when it becomes a bit difficult to see precisely what is happening, it is also usually wonderfully impossible to tell where, exactly, things are going – Exigency is laden with surprises, yielding some marvelously magical and touching moments. Many of the lead characters are likewise compelling and well-defined, and there is a strong development of the dynamics between them. This is in large part thanks to flourishes of realistic human psychology and the quirky lingo and argot whose consistent use quickly feels logical and natural. The narrative voice also adopts the perspectives of multiple characters for a variety of insight, maintaining cadences that are witty, playful, and – above all – wise. A fun story of survival and endurance that hits some metaphysical high notes and exudes a special feeling of “cool”, Exigency is highly recommended to any big-hearted and sharp-minded reader in search of a sturdy sci-fi page-turner.

 

Divide and Conquer by Carmen Fox

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Lea is just a normal girl trying to find her place in the world. Her job as a translator leaves much to be desired, but it’s a start. She’s just found a cute guy who seems to be interested in her. Things are looking up, until she crosses paths with a woman who will turn her life upside down. Nieve has always lived her life for her king and her country. And as the threat they have been worried about comes even closer, she knows the end must justify the means. But when it all goes wrong can she pull herself together for one last stand?

The synopsis of Divide and Conquer alone grabs your attention, and once you start reading you are not disappointed. Nieve and Lea’s fight to save their worlds (and ultimately their minds and memories) will keep you on your toes trying to put pieces together and waiting to see what happens next. Author Carmen Fox takes urban fantasy (and the fantasy genre in general) to a whole new level. The characters of Divide And Conquer are all fully developed, relatable, and-more importantly-believable. Fox lets you get to know them on a much deeper level and peek into their hearts and souls. The two main characters have been put into an impossible situation and they both react very differently- Nieve is a fighter and ready for anything, while Lea is still hoping for a way out. Throughout it all, her characters feel like people instead of just characters. The world Fox has created is rich with detail-making it easy to see everything in your head as you read, but not too much detail that it slows down the story. She writes from both Lea’s and Nieve’s points of view; adding a depth to the story and immersing you deeper into the world. Going back and forth between characters could easily get confusing or interrupt the flow of the book, but Fox does it with skill. Long story short, this is a must-read book whether you like urban fantasy or not, and if you aren’t sure about fantasy in general, it’s likely that Fox will change your mind.

 

Planet Woman by Anne Hodgson

5redstars

Heart-warming and passionate, Anne Hodgson’s Planet Woman offers an intergalactic love affair with a poignant twist. As a resident of the planet Circe, Tethyn or “planet woman” lives an organized and fearless life while protecting the speaking being that is her home. With loving parents, a lively brother and devoted best friend, Tethyn prepares for the next chapter of life but finds her ideals disrupted when the First Peer of the esteemed Haute-Forêt family arrives to investigate the strange land. Despite their different backgrounds, Tethyn and Lewis discover they have magnetic chemistry and learn to appreciate each other’s peculiar ways. Only enemy invaders can disrupt their love, and a day of reckoning soon approaches.

Hodgson weaves together a passionate love affair in Planet Woman, and one can certainly root for poetic characters like Tethyn and Lewis Black. By addressing themes of women’s rights and family traditions, Hodgson allows her character to hope for a promising future while still acknowledging the truth of their current world. With a textured supporting cast and the fascinating world of Circe, Planet Woman flourishes with creation tales and an abundance of humor. While some readers may wish for longer battle sequences, Hodgson stays loyal to her light tone and produces a heroine willing to confront her fears – once she actually discovers the emotion. Planet Woman opens the mind with classical themes and futuristic flair.

 

The Nightmares of God by Michael Davies

four stars

Michael Davies’ The Nightmares of God begins in the early twenty-first century as the world is coming to an end. No one is sure, at first, what is happening, as things improve in one corner of the globe, only to deteriorate in others. In some areas, people are happier and crime rates fall, while in others, violence and bloodshed skyrockets. As one character remarks, “It is almost as if some band is playing music which some love and some hate. But not everybody can hear it.” As this music grows louder, an age-old battle between good and evil on a grand scale unfolds. Told through a variety of characters and story lines, Davies’ poetic and complex language leads the reader on a difficult but rewarding journey, in which they will come to understand what Davies calls the “Oneness,” the idea that all living creatures are connected, and always have been.

Davies’ novel is an ambitious exploration, not only of the end of days, but also of the paramount questions with which humanity has struggled since the beginning of time: why do we exist? What is our purpose? Why is there evil in the world? Davies’ engagement with these questions draws on traditional religious, spiritual, and philosophical concepts. Davies reconfigures these traditions in new and unexpected ways; for example, the reader comes to understand the great spiritual leaders of humanity, seemingly so different, as different incarnations of the same being, sent to guide humanity through troubled times. Davies provides a story like no other that brings the reader full circle, and leaves us with yet more questions to ponder.

 

Gwendolyn’s Sword by E.A. Haltom

5redstars

When Gwendolyn’s husband left to fight in the crusades he made her promise to protect their home and all of the people that rely on them for protection. Although she took this promise very seriously, she thought they were far enough away so she wouldn’t have many problems, but she was wrong. After defending herself against mercenaries in the forest she realizes the conflict is finally making its way to her. With more mercenaries on the way, she needs all the help she can get, so when she is told King Arthur’s sword is meant for her she jumps at the opportunity. She quickly makes her way to London with her constable, carrying a secret along with her, a secret that could end up costing lives if anyone finds out. Is the risk worth it? Only she knows…

E.A. Haltom takes one of the most turbulent times in English history and adds her own twist to it. Gwendolyn’s Sword is an amazing story of one woman’s fight to protect her home and the lengths she will go to make sure it happens. This is the kind of book that is hard to put down one you start reading. Haltom’s writing brings Gwendolyn and her world to life. You can see everything with such clarity you feel like you are there with Gwendolyn on her journey. You can also tell she did her research when coming up with the concept for this book. The historical facts are intertwined into the narrative and because of this, it takes the book to the next level. There weren’t too many strong willed women in those days that fought like men the way Gwendolyn does. Then there’s the King Arthur angle the author added in-what if King Arthur came back as a woman? It just adds more depth to an already great book. Gwendolyn is a strong character that goes against the grain, but she has a softer side too. The constable William Rufus is another example of great character development- head of security, and a hardened soldier that would lay down his life to protect Gwendolyn if necessary, but he doesn’t always take orders blindly. He will butt heads with her when he doesn’t agree. All of the characters are like that-complex and human and you believe them and the things they go through while on this journey. If you are a fan of historical fiction you will certainly enjoy this book. Haltom didn’t sacrifice fact for fiction, but wove them together seamlessly to create a memorable and entertaining story.

 

The Stone Of Acumen: Raina’s Vow by M J Natali

5redstars

Raina was ten years old at the time that her mother was unexpectedly attacked by two black-cloaked figures. Her mother’s final words were filled with urgency for Raina to promise never to tell anyone about her secret. Ten years later, a war ensues when the notorious Amerdan Cimmerian insists of the Council of Elders that people should have the freedom to choose dark magic. Warriors are desperately needed, and fortunately Raina is old enough to be trained by the Council of Elders to become both a Keeper and a Raven, like her mother. Raina’s role as Keeper means that she has to make sure the Stone of Acumen, her mother’s secret, remains hidden from Amerdan. While Amerdan has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, Raina is unaware that she is the prime target of his devious plans.

The Stone of Acumen – Raina’s Vow is the first book in The Wendael Ravens series. Rising author M J Natali has fashioned her riveting debut fantasy novel with a balanced blend of skill, earthly elements, and magic set within otherworldly environs. Undoubtedly, her novel definitely follows a “good versus evil” theme — typical of fantasy literature. Yet Natali’s inimitable plot does not always zero in on Raina, her main character. Among her supporting cast, Natali introduces two critical characters, Lanai and Charles, who together with Raina create a tightly knit threesome. Natali’s writing style uses first person narration for Raina, but also for Lanai and Charles. This type of literary design allows Natali to freely and meticulously develop each character. It also assists in narrative movement since Natali deftly alternates character scenes that are filled with plenty of action as well as romance. Although there isn’t much of a cliffhanger at the end of the novel, there is a definite sense that there is much more to come from this courageous trio.

 

The Anmorian Legends: The Wrath of the Exiled by Dhesan Pillay

5redstars

Young Rezaaran Valhara is stripped from his home of Zenor by the uncontested Dominion, who are under the indomitable leadership of Lord Silvermire. Enslaved to mine ores, ninety-two years pass before Rezaaran is mysteriously kidnapped and taken to the Intergalactic Revolution of Independent Systems (IRIS), where he is trained to fulfill his destiny of becoming the only mage who can defeat Lord Silvermire and crush his dark rule upon the galaxy. Silvermire learns of the ancient sword that can give him ultimate power. But when he learns that this precious artifact is under the possession of Rezaaran, Silvermire plots Rezaaran’s demise.

Rising fantasy author Dhesan Pillay has created the first in a series of stories that has a delightful Star Wars and Marvel Comics feel to it. A cross between Luke Skywalker and Spiderman (Peter Parker), Rezaaran is cantankerous (Luke), constantly troubled with doubts (Peter), and dealing with vengeance (both). And like Luke and Peter, Pillay’s protagonist is maturing – indeed earmarking him as a dynamic character. Aside of the similarities, Pillay includes a well-developed supporting cast set within unique surroundings that are clearly otherworldly. Chapters flow seamlessly from one scene to the next, alternating between Rezaaran’s adventures and Lord Silvermire’s diabolical plans. Obviously, with a war raging there is a great deal of dark scenes. Pillay lightens these dismal moments with Rezaaran’s snarky comebacks and derisive bantering with characters such as Cosmonox (a cyborg) and one of Rezaaran’s commanding officers, Ashana. Additionally, Pillay includes a bit of mystique by opening and closing his third person narrative with a prologue and epilogue that are set in first person point of view. The Anmorian Legends:  The Wrath of the Exiled is entertaining, riveting, and ends with a huge cliffhanger that is a great lead into Pillay’s upcoming sequel, Legacy of the Sentinels.

 

The Arrow by Maureen O’Leary

5redstars

the arrowAs a child, Fynn Kildare lived a charmed life in Brigid’s Keep-a commune by the sea full of the Divine ones living in secret-until one day when a healing went terribly wrong. A woman implanted with a demon virus snuck in and infected Fynn, which forever changed her. Now, as an adult, she has made her own way in the world. She uses her knowledge to create cures instead of actual healing. But no matter what she does, she can’t break the ties that bind her and her family. There is a war coming. Demons are at the doors of the Keep, and they only have one thing on their mind-complete and total control of the humans as well as the divine. Fynn must choose between her new life and joining with her family once again in order to save everyone.

Maureen O’Leary brings a story that will captivate you from page one. The Arrow is a roller-coaster ride of emotion that will keep you turning pages and then waiting with bated breath for more. O’Leary writes with a passion for storytelling that you can easily see in this book. The attention to detail is amazing-even the smallest thing has been completely thought out with a reasoning and back-story. They mythology aspect is also done spot-on. You can tell she has done her research while writing this. O’Leary has written fully developed characters that are very human and are dealing with very human emotions, particularly Fynn. She began life knowing nothing but love and happiness. The darker emotions were something she had never experienced until she was infected with the demon virus. Then she was filled with hate, pain, anger, jealousy-all of the things we try to fight. She didn’t know how to deal with these things and they consumed her. Eventually Fynn was able to learn how to process them but she was never the same. She has to deal with them every day and it is a journey that we take with her as she confronts them head on while also dealing with the betrayal she feels from her family. Mythology, betrayal, corporate espionage, romance; all of this and more has been melded together flawlessly in this novel.

 

Twilight Visitor by Real Laplaine

four stars

With the world caught up in a web of political struggle, disappearing energy resources, and the potential of no longer being able to sustain life as we know it, a seemingly average man, Mateus, faces the culmination of a thirty-four year long series of nightmares in Twilight Visitor: A Global Thriller. Author Réal Laplaine writes a tale of impending nuclear war while merging it with out of this world knowledge. After all, the visitor, who comes to Mateus, is not from the planet Earth. Mateus has been chosen by this extraterrestrial visitor and her world to help save Earth while governments across the globe plan their military strategies. But, will Mateus, a man of logical black and white thinking, accept that the visitor is from beyond our world? If he does, what can he do to help save his home planet – Earth?

Even though you may need a dictionary to keep up with the complexity of the vocabulary the author uses throughout the story, you will most likely be deeply enthralled with the plot. Laplaine does a wonderful job painting a very descriptive picture for you, and helps you immerse yourself into the story’s scenes. There is a great deal of political and military strategy within Twilight Visitor while you, as the reader, are asked to open your mind to the possibility of other worldly governments keeping an eye on planets throughout the galaxy. Laplaine asks you to open your mind and expand your consciousness just as Mateus is asked to do the same by the Twilight Visitor.

 

Once There Were Dragons by Ken Coomes

four stars

dragonsThe first book in one of two parallel trilogies, Once There Were Dragons is a solid fantasy epic from novelist Ken Coomes. The action is set on a planet called Arthe, a world that was once teeming with magical properties and fire-breathing dragons, but had been visited by some race of interplanetary visitors who used their own technologies to lock away the mythical beasts and magical powers before departing. However, these “New Gods” also left a portal on each of Arthe’s principal lands, allowing for instantaneous travel between countries in compensation. In the present day, many decades later, the actions of the New Gods are the foodstuff of myths, and the portals have fallen out of use. As the foreign power that holds the barriers in place and governs the portals now begins to degrade, a deadly species of bellicose arachnidan humanoid begins to invade the lands of Arthe through these gateways. Independently at first, various rag-tag teams of adventurers undertake the mission of collecting various keys from across their world that can be used to lock the portals and save Arthe from destruction.

The brilliance of the novel is belied by its unassuming title; from the onset, the reader is warmly invited to a book that is fun, engaging, and intelligent. The action is good and the thrills genuine – for the most part, the book succeeds where so many others fall sadly short in the very difficult task of describing conflict and battle, and rendering these interesting. The world of OTWD is rich with imagery and culture, history and tradition – across the well-balanced story arcs of the novel’s motley lead characters, we are delighted to encounter different cultures and a generosity of perspectives that interact with rich and believable dynamics. There is a lot of fun play on recognizable things from our own world, although that occasionally doesn’t go far enough: the fantasy world could sometimes could feel more inspired – the parallels between life on Arthe and our own world can on rare occasion feel trite and bland. The groan-worthy moments of stilted cheese are few and far between – overall, OTWD is as clever and witty as it is fun: the novel is littered with thought-provoking, pop-folk wisdom and moments of pensiveness and poignancy the call on us to reflect and sympathize with the characters.

 

The Exemeus by Folami Morris and Abeni Morris

four stars

the exemeusFolami and Abeni Morris spin a supernatural tale focused on a young man, Dephon and the woman in his dreams. Just who is the blue haired, multi-color eyed woman in his dreams? When he finds out, even more questions arise. From the very beginning the authors, Folami and Abeni, pull the reader in and leave them waiting with bated breath to turn the next page. Written from the perspective of a teenager, adults and teens alike can thoroughly enjoy this fascinating science fiction story. There is a bit of everything from magic, to mystery, to physical attraction, to keeping secrets from one another, to kidnapping, to military control and impending war.  What more could a reader ask for? If one were to rate The Exemeus, it would get a PG-13 rating. In fact, this story would make a wonderful movie for school age kids.  The authors do a great job of offering colorful and fun details that allow the reader to easily visualize the scenes in his/her mind’s eye.

The Exemeus is extremely well written. With just the right number of characters the story line is clear and easy to follow for the most part. The reader must pay attention though as the story switches back and forth between Dephon and the blue haired woman of his dreams. The story is shared from the first person perspective of Dephon as well as the woman. That is why one must pay close attention, but it is fairly obvious. This exciting story is one that offers hours of thrilling enjoyment. Folami and Abeni know how to craft a story that can hold a reader’s interest until the very end.

 

The Dark War Chronicles by Kurt Kramer

5redstars

Red is a dragon full of rage. It is like a living, breathing creature inside of him. He is the biggest and the strongest of all the dragons, but he is also alone. His anger and hatred has driven everyone away. One day, while wandering the sands of the desert, he sees a man walking alone. Excited at the prospect of bloodshed, he doesn’t notice what the man has in his hands until it is too late. It is the Dragonstaff- a piece of wood that gives the holder the ability to control a dragon completely. Bound by magic, Red has no choice but to follow and obey this man…whatever the cost. Kam is a desperate man on a desperate mission. There is a darkness spreading throughout the land devouring everything in its path. The evil sage Gogam has declared war on all that is good and has called many dark and disturbing creatures to his aid. Kam is one of many fighting against this evil, but they are losing. People are dying everywhere and something has to change soon. So he goes on a possible suicide mission- to find a dragon and convince him to help them fight the war. Kam isn’t sure how well the Dragonstaff will work (or if he will even find a dragon) but he feels that he has no choice.

The Dark War Chronicles is a book that has everything you need to make a good fantasy series. Kurt Kramer has brought us a new world that draws you in with the first chapter.The two main characters are written with amazing detail and realism. On the surface, Red is evil and bloodthirsty and Kam is a scared man trying to fight for the greater good, but once you dig a little deeper you realize that there is more to both characters than you first see. Red is more than just angry, he’s also lonely. Kam is a good man, but he also has a darkness in him that he is trying to suppress. These are just a few of the things you learn about them as they go on their journey together. Everything is written with a style that is easy to read and draws you in. It doesn’t take you long to realize that you are invested in the characters and want to know where the story goes. There are a lot of twists and turns to keep you guessing and not knowing who to trust or what to believe. The Dark War Chronicles will keep you entertained from the first page to the last. Kramer has started something great, and there is more than enough to go around for more!

 

The Zombie Chapters by Daniel Fite

5redstars

Daniel Fite has created a fascinating storyline that is actually more than just a book, it is a series, and The Zombie Chapters, is the compilation of the first season. From the very beginning the reader is sucked into a frightening experience as an out-of-this-world storm takes place. There is mystery and terror pulsating through every page. The author shares a variety of different characters experiences of the same event. This gives the reader a well-rounded view of the plot while further peaking his/her curiosity. There is an evil that has descended upon the earth from outer space, but just what is it and where did it come from? It is as though the entire nation and beyond are at war with an unknown assailant who feeds upon human flesh.

The Zombie Chapters is one of those stories you may not want to read late at night or right before bed. If you do, you may end up leaving all the lights on. Daniel Fite does a wonderful job pulling the reader into each of the scenes he has written. One can feel as if they are actually there. The intense frustration, confusion and terror emitted by the characters come through clearly in Fite’s writing. From page to page and chapter to chapter, the reader anxiously needs to turn the page. There is consistently a pull to find out what is about to happen next. The Zombie Chapters is actually designed to be a serial story and prompt the reader to get the next set of chapters in the following season. Remember, this book is a compilation of the first season. By reading this volume, the reader can catch up and be ready to read the chapters of the next season. With a fascinating and heart-pounding story line, readers are highly likely to do just that…catch up and anxiously anticipate the next set of chapters.

 

Epitome by Elisa O’Donnell

5redstars

Epitome is the sequel to Elisa O’Donnell’s Enigma. Continuing the fascinating tale of living beyond Earth, yet not past the moon, this book starts off with mystery and intrigue from the first few pages. Genesis Velorum awakens in the spacecraft world in which she inhabits after successfully leading a rescue mission to Earth. But, all is not as it seems. Enigma is not the only spacecraft world after all, and Genesis and a handful of others must leave it behind. The shocking twists and turns throughout this story will keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat. Consider for a moment the definition of ‘enigma.’ It means something or someone that is mysterious or puzzling. Therefore, naming a spacecraft world this leaves one’s mind spinning. Now, consider what the definition of ‘epitome’ is. It means a perfect example. So, just where are Velorum and her shipmates headed? To a perfect version of a new place to live, thrive and promulgate life? Another question for the reader to ponder might be what is the concept of perfection? What one person or inhabitant, as they are called in the spacecraft worlds, views as flawlessness may be a far cry from someone else’s perception. O’Donnell leads the reader on a wild ride as the epitome of life is challenged.

Author, Elisa O’Donnell, does a wonderful job of writing the narrative of this novel. Epitome holds the reader’s interest with its intricate story line from beginning to end. The plot is easy to follow and understand while stimulating the reader’s mind with a highly entertaining tale. From living in space, to cryogenics, to supposedly perfect beings, the overall premise appears to be sustaining life. O’Donnell’s draws an excellent picture for the reader, and holds one’s interest until the conclusion of this fascinating story.

 

The Abduction of Joshua Bloom by Michael Thal

The Abduction of Joshua Bloom is an action-packed, fun-filled adventure. The protagonist, Joshua Bloom, begins his journey running from a tiger in Central Park, and the further excitement only grows and grows. To save Joshua from his imminent death, aliens from the far-away planet Oceania abduct the runner onto their spacecraft, leaving Joshua in a state of confusion and anger. Throughout the journey, though, Joshua becomes a part of the crew: he assists with missions to other planets, explores unknown lands, befriends “monsters,” and even dodges dinosaurs. When Joshua finally lands on Oceania, he learns of his true importance to the survival of the Oceanians, and the meaning behind why he is “the chosen one.” With one final journey back to Earth, Joshua must play his most important role yet.

Michael L. Thal’s The Abduction of Joshua Bloom is a book filled with excitement and constant intrigue. The action in the novel never reaches slow points, and the reader is always shocked and surprised with the twists and turns throughout. In some areas, the descriptions of the events seem underdeveloped; however, overall, the events are gripping, the scenery is descriptive, and the characters are well-developed. Readers will be sure to empathize with the emotions Joshua undergoes throughout his years away from home, just as they are sure to really feel for him during his return to Earth. Combining elements of love, loss, and legacy, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom is a read for those of all ages and interests.

 

Ancient Echoes by Loretta May Holmes

51P48tBITvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In the very distant past, there exist two nations with ideals that are at complete odds with each other.  In the land called “Lemuria,” people live in complete harmony with each other.  There is no discord, no hatred, no greed – truly, it is paradise.  The kindest and most popular inhabitants of Lemuria is Anna, a young woman with two pet dogs named Punkin and Patches.  Her closest friend, Anunnaki, comes a different planet, and has asked Anna for her help in staving off the planet’s impending destruction, the specifics of which Anunnaki is not at liberty to disclose.  What he also can’t tell Anna is that this has all happened before.  For eons, our species has lived in a series of cycles, fall and rise, fall and rise, though humans are none the wiser.  Anunnaki believes it is his duty to help Anna and her people break the cycle and find true peace.  On the opposite side of the world, in the fabled city of Atlantis, there lives a brilliant and handsome young man named Charles.  His brother, Trent, deeply resents Charles’s success and has created a time machine that he intends to use to whisk Charles into the far future.  But fate intervenes, and Charles wakes up in Lemuria, where he meets Anna.  At odds, the pair initial rankles, but they soon develop an ineluctable bond.  Together, they search for answers about the planet’s coming destruction.  Is there any way to prevent it?

Ancient Echoes is a fun and deeply imaginative science fiction novel that hums with heart, thoughtful insight into the human condition, and suspense.  Holmes has created here a unique premise that takes a careful look at what makes us human and how, in the end, many of our habits and desires will contribute to our very undoing.  Beyond that, this is a story of redemption that illustrates the fact that it is never too late to change.  All one needs is a proper push and an open heart.

 

The Last Drop by Andrea Perno

The Last Drop by Andrea Perno will have you pinned to your seat and gripping the edge.  With intense and graphic detail Perno paints you a picture that will put fear in your belly and tug at your heartstrings.  Moving through the storyline you will feel the dirt on your skin and grit in your throat, but the author also quenches your thirst with sparkling, crystal clear water.  Be prepared for shock and deep sadness throughout the plot as well as an innate desire for power and control from many of the characters.  Working together as a whole instead of conquering other societies and taking over is a prominent theme within The Last Drop.  Earth’s water supply becomes used up, and traveling to another inhabitable planet seems the only possibility of survival.  Yet, the water supply is not what some think it is on the new planet, and the natives are not pleased at the arrival of Earthlings.

Andrea Perno offers you a very well written and colorfully imaginative tale within The Last Drop.  You, the reader, are given numerous details to better understand the what, the why, the where, and the how of the story from beginning to end.  There are most certainly graphic and sometimes gory details, but this style of writing takes you further into the mind of the main character, Avery.  As the story is written from Avery’s point of view, Perno does a fabulous job of helping you feel Avery’s pain, and see, hear, smell, and taste his environment.  If you enjoy reading science fiction and don’t mind the gory details, you will love this book.  Make note that after reading it, you will probably want a cool and refreshing glass of ice water.

 

The Betrayal by Ashley Paulsen

threestars

A heady romance with a strong dash of adventure, Ashley Paulsen’s The Betrayal relates leading man Alex Moyer’s tale as he pursues, woos, and wins over the object of his obsessive affection, the irresistible Piper. Set in what seems to be a post-revolution USA in which only two autonomous towns appear to constitute the new order, the story unfolds in a world where Alex’s father has been transformed from a family man into a power-hungry dictator intent upon ruling over both Ukuthlia and neighboring Amandla. We see through Alex’s eyes as he navigates the emotional waters with Piper and works with a small group of dedicated comrades to fight for the independence of their towns.

The Betrayal is the follow-up to Paulsen’s first novel and appears to pick up right where the action must have left off; Paulsen takes it for very much for granted that we’re already familiar with Alex’s world upon opening the The Betrayal, so this second installment does not stand strongly on its own. The simplistic plot, though, ensures that a new reader is never in too deep, and the tone is immediately inviting; conversational and warm, but without sparkle. The narrative similarly wants for a splash of genuine magic and intrigue; for a story that situates itself in a sort of escapist adventure context, little of interest occurs. Characters tend to mull over the same thoughts and have the same conversations ad nauseam, and the relationships between them don’t develop or bring many varying shades of vice or virtue – or personality – to light. We never have a clear vision of what Paulsen’s post-apocalyptic world really is, either – how it looks, what it feels like, how it functions. The novel is surreally ignorant of the nature of so many key forces ostensibly at work: politics, power vacuums, dictatorships, military tactics, insurrection, and democracy all play key roles in the shaping of the narrative, but their real dynamics are missing. At the heart of this all, Paulsen’s dedication to the cheesier side of the romance – which really occupies the center stage throughout the length of the novel – with an unevolving insistence and relentlessness can be off-putting for many readers, but may also charm and comfort others with its kosher fantasy. Ultimately, this is a book of few surprises; from the opening pages, you can foresee the facile architecture of the story replicating itself into the distance toward the most obvious and convenient conclusions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – The Betrayal mixes ease and familiarity with beguiling genuineness and confidence in itself; the journey through Paulsen’s book is just breezy and pleasant enough to entice readers to crack open the first volume and find out how it all started.

 

Motes by Tilmer Wright Jr.

Thom Finch has an active imagination, too active sometimes, according to his father. He can lose himself for hours in his daydreams: commanding armies, saving other planets, or just watching the action unfold. It was on one such occasion that Thom notices something strange. While watching the dust motes float in the sunlight streaming through his window (two armies battling each other for love and honor) he realizes that one of them isn’t moving…at all. But how is that possible? He tries to convince himself he is (once again) imagining things, but the more he tries to convince himself the more he realizes it actually is stationary. He wants to show people, but how does he prove it? Who will believe him? His journey to separate fact from fiction will take him places even he couldn’t imagine. The Mu’ahi are a miniscule alien race no bigger than a speck of dust. They are devoted to their faith and their creator, and they have a strong sense of survival, but there is a problem- their planet is dying. They are out of the resources they desperately need. So they send out scavenger teams to find what they need to survive. Little do they know this trip will test them in more ways than one. Adventure is waiting whether they are ready or not, and their sense of faith and duty will be pushed to the limit.

Motes is a sci-fi adventure full of life, faith, family, and duty. The writing is superb: Tilmer Wright Jr has written Motes in a very easy, free-flowing way that doesn’t get confusing when going between dreams and reality, Thom and the Mu’ahi. He bridges the gap between reality and fantasy in a very genuine, intelligent, and amusing way. The main characters all bring a different feel and point of view to the story, but it doesn’t get distracting. One of the best things about Motes is it brings us a hero that has always wanted to be a hero; someone who has always wanted to be a part of the story. That is Thom. Growing up with an artistic mother and an academic father has both expanded and stifled Thom’s imagination. His mother fully supports him, but his dad thinks he is wasting his time. He wants to make his dad happy, but he can’t change who he is. Thom escapes into his imagination and loves making up stories and adventures. So it is perfect that he winds up being the hero that is needed. The Mu’ahi’s faith and sense of duty is very present; you know at once those are the most important things in a Mu’ahi’s life, but you also understand their struggle to hold on to that when things get tough. We have all been in these characters’ shoes at one point in life and it makes it that much easier to empathize with them. Aliens and knights, academics and dreamers, Motes has them all. A wonderful read, Wright brings together science, technology, and faith seamlessly to bring us a thrilling adventure.

 

Lycanthrope by Conway Rowell

Lycanthrope by Conway Rowell puts an urban twist on the typical supernatural story line. Each month the city of Megapolis finds itself victim to two seemingly unconnected monthly events – murders and a Lamborghini speeding through town. Agents at the local police department, however, begin to see more than coincidence in the fact that it is only during the full moon that the mysterious Bronson checks into the luxury hotel for two days – the same days during which murders occur throughout town. Bronson is not the only one hiding a secret, as main character Ebony soon finds out. Ebony, unknowingly, is about to find herself in the midst of a mess but she might uncover some important things about her family as well.

Lycanthrope, unfortunately, is a novel that falls short of its potential. Though the story line is unique, the execution is poor. The narration is very difficult to follow as it jumps between several characters and settings. Even halfway through the novel it is still difficult to keep track of the characters and the connections between them, as well as the events and history of the story. This is disappointing because the mythology surrounding the characters are truly interesting – in fact, it can be argued that the history of Bronson’s family and lineage is the most exciting aspect of the story. Despite this, the intrigue to the story is real – Luken in particular is a fascinating character and even as you may struggle to keep track of the plot and characters readers will find themselves continuing on simply to learn more about Ebony and Bronson. The plot and the characters are in place for a stellar novel – the execution just needs some improvement.

 

Awaken by Michelle Bryan

awakenTara lives in a world that‘s dead. It‘s hard, but she still loves her life. She loves her little village of Rivercross, she loves the people, and most of all she loves her Grada- the man who brought her into his home as a baby and raised her as his own. On her 18th Born Day, everything changes. While out hunting and checking traps, Tara and Ben see a large dust cloud in the distance. They know this is no dust storm, but question what it could be. As the ominous cloud nears, they soon realize it is being caused by several massive machines heading straight for Rivercross. Grada forces Tara to hide and gives her some cryptic advice on what to do next. Then, he knocks her out and hides her in the cellar. When Tara comes to, she finds complete devastation. The machines have slaughtered everyone and kidnapped the kids. After grieving for a time, she finally picks herself up and does the only thing she can do…try to find her people. This journey sets Tara on a course that introduces her to some interesting characters, and puts her on a path that changes her life. She always knew she was a little different, but nothing could prepare her for the truth.

Michelle Bryan shows us her world with such perfection. You can see everything in your mind while you read. It is almost like watching a movie instead of reading a book. Bryan uses her descriptions flawlessly: they aren’t distracting, they fit seamlessly into the dialogue, and you can immediately understand what she is saying. When you first start reading, you are slightly taken aback by some of the words. You wonder if it is a typo, but you quickly learn it isn’t. It’s just the way the characters speak. That could easily make things confusing, but the author uses her talent so that it makes sense. Tara is one reason this story works as well as it does. You immediately care about her as she is both strong and weak, caring and cranky, fearless and scared. She has flaws, she is human. The rest of the characters in Awaken are just as fully developed and layered as Tara. Finn, Tater, and Jax all have their own history and personality. The journey that they are on is a dangerous one, and they all react differently to it. The reader gets to watch them grow and change as they face adversity, and you wind up invested in their futures. Awaken is our first glimpse of the New Bloods Trilogy and if the next two books are anything like this one we are all in for one wild ride!

 

The Eater of Laments by Aaron Engelbeck

The Eater of the Laments starts off at a slow pace. Moving through the first chapters the reader is likely to feel confused. Who is the mysterious creature? What is real and what is not? Or, rather what is reality? Yet, if you enjoy reading stories with a plot of war, then this book may be for you. The main character, Joseph, jumps from contemplating his potential regrets in life to planning an attack on the evil Tyrant.  Though he claims, during the encounter with the unknown creature in the beginning, that he has no regrets, the reader will see as the story unfolds that Joseph does have regrets. He has regrets that cause tears to run down his face. Before long the storyline carries the reader back into a scene with the unknown being. This is where more information is fed bit by bit to entice one to turn the page, and find out just what the heck is going on. Then, the scene tosses the reader back into war. This tossing back and forth may entice page turning or it may make the reader a bit seasick.

The author, Aaron M. Engelbeck, floods the imagination with almost too many details in a way that leads to further confusion. It is almost as though he is trying to force feed a picture into the reader’s mind.  If that style of writing does not deter you, as the reader, and if you enjoy reading a war-based story with a touch of science fiction, then you may very well fully enjoy The Eater of the Laments. It certainly has a twist to it with out-of-this-world connections to the main character.

 

Empire City: No Woman’s Land by George Valvis

In the true tradition of young adult literature, author George Valvis has created a moving portrait of young people trying to make sense of the world around them. In a post-apocalyptic setting, Jason Brown is the future leader of his city and is bound by generations of tradition to follow in his father’s footsteps. The Empire City has been built on the belief that women are evil and the enemy of man. In Valvis’ world, there are many enemies that plague the Empire and the young men that must survive their Crii in order to become men and take their place next to their fathers as equals. Jason and his best friend Mattie are apprehensive for their Crii. It will surely throw them into opposite corners of the country and be fraught with danger. As the story develops, the reader begins to realize that the Crii is the very thing that will bring Jason and Benedetta together in an incredible change of fate. Together Jason and Benedetta bravely choose to reveal the truth to Empire City, putting in jeopardy their future together and even their very lives. In a heroic deed and with one foul swoop, Jason is able to bring about a change that will rock the city to its core.

A talented storyteller, George Valvis has created a vivid landscape rich with romance, adventure, and self-discovery. The author’s portrayal of Jason’s growth in character and self-awareness is refreshing with a genuine air. A new addition to the world of young adult literature that is most welcome, Empire City: No Woman’s Land is well worth the read.

 

For One Nen by Capri S. Bard

For One Nen by Capri S. Bard is a science fiction novel that takes place on board a spaceship called The Egress. The ship’s inhabitants are comprised of many different species. One of the ship’s residents, Tala, discovers some dusty old books in a crate and shares this discovery with her girlfriend, Deni. When Tala and Deni catch one of the ship’s students, Teltel, listening in the garden, they ask him to join them. Eventually, Teltel invites the rest of his class to these readings. These journals turn out to tell a very different history than they ones they have been taught by their teacher. Not every villain is actually bad; in fact, he may be the hero, but certain political agendas have altered the story. Inviting students to listen to Tala’s readings leads many of them to seek out the truth. A few students even uncover unseen firsthand account videos. However, the truth is threatened by the students’ teacher and the approaching nova that is threatening to wipe out everyone onboard the ship.

For One Nen is great for those who love action and the reader who likes to try to figure out how everything fits together before the book ends. Due to the complexities of the narrative and the abundance of characters present, this cannot be classified as an easy read. The book introduces a lot of different species, who all live onboard the spaceship, so the reader should pay attention to the details presented to keep the species differentiated from each other. The plot focuses around the main storyline of the students discovering the journals and will revert to the past whenever Tala reads. In a way, this is a story inside of a story, as the narrative ebbs and flows across the page. The writing style is engaging and creative, just as the plot itself offers up plenty of ideas to ponder. For One Nen is sure to be a hit with those who love science fiction, lots of material to digest, and a book that will challenge their senses.

 

Dystopian Daily Announcements by Robin Candelario

dysDystopian Daily Announcements: Europe Nation Nigel and Nancy 2144 AD is a brief work that begins by explaining how the world has been divided into two countries, the Marlboro Squid Administration and Europe Nation. It is 2118 AD and there is damage worldwide due to environmental conditions, and times are desperate. The first few chapters in the story revolve around a talk show hosted by characters named Nigel and Nancy, where they mostly discuss current events. In the prologue, the reader learns of a time travelling family and the first time travelling fetus from the hosts of the show. The first chapter has the hosts further discussing the time travelers as well as the death of a famous scientist who studied DNA. Everything from pets, food, music, exercise regimens, crime, and a wide variety of other topics are written about in well worded and dynamic way throughout the book. Dystopian Daily Announcements is filled with snippets of the future world and life in it, with a quirky mixture of science, humor, and creativity.

The chapters within Dystopian Daily Announcements at first don’t seem to blend smoothly, and though they each have a story that is highly interesting, the epilogue is what ties them together. The entire work is a quick read because of its brevity, but also because of its unique and fun style. The story, though often dealing with serious subject matter, manages to remain light-hearted and fast-paced as well as thought provoking and entertaining.  The author creates an intriguing view of the future and the reader will surely look forward to the next work in the series.

 

Connection Point by Judith Rook

For many years, Peter Williams led a quiet, ordinary life of solitude free of trouble in Western Australia, but soon we discover that Peter is not, it would seem, an ordinary person. When he receives a newspaper clipping from his cousin in the mail concerning the disappearance of someone named Mrs. Bentham, the name draws him back several decades to the rural European town of Bradford, where Peter lived for a time thirty years prior. Pulled by some implicit sense of duty and a waxing nostalgia, he returns to the United Kingdom and to the echoes of his previous life. Upon his return, we are quickly introduced to Peter’s very extraordinary, extraterrestrial past where Sheila and Graham Bentham are only code words for Silce and Grayne, members of an alien race with whom Peter was closely connected. Once cast off from their ranks, Peter is asked once again to take up arms in a battle of extraordinary proportions, the outcome of which threatens to affect the entire human race.

Connection Point is a fast, engaging, and entertaining read. Rook balances her seemingly mundane descriptions of life in the rural countryside, with extraterrestrial elements that soon take readers out of this reality. The characters and plot, while simple, offer an interesting look at humanity from the perspective of the other, calling up questions of the lines between alien and human and the question of who has control. This is a relatable read for sci-fi fans and general readers alike.

 

Eye Spy by Kevin J. Hallock

CJ Campbell is agoraphobic. Ever since his parents were murdered he is too afraid to step foot outside. The only time he sees the outside world is when he uses his power to “sojourn” with other people. He is able to join someone else’s mind and see what they see, feel what they feel, etc. This ability lets CJ experience the world in ways he could never do otherwise. It also allows him to help the police solve crimes they weren’t able to solve. Steph worries about her brother. His sojourning takes a toll on him physically and emotionally, and now he is getting careless. He is staying away longer and not being as careful as he should about not being noticed. Their current case- finding a kidnapped girl named Lauren- is pushing both of them to the limit. She just hopes they can find Lauren alive…and not lose each other in the process.

Eye Spy is a murder-mystery psychological thriller. The thought process behind the story is amazing and not something we have really seen before. The way CJ can experience everything his host does (even tasting the food they eat) helps bring it to another level. Writing the book from each main character’s point of view was a great way to stay involved in every aspect of the story. You got to know the characters on a deeper level and you knew what was happening (almost) every step of the way. You were able to really feel Lauren’s fear, Steph’s stress and anxiety, and CJ’s determination; you see it the way they saw it. Kevin J. Hallock has created a story that draws you in and keeps you guessing. You know almost from the beginning that something is going to go wrong at some point and CJ is going to be caught. But Hallock still managed to set it up so that you are surprised when it happens and you are afraid that he will not survive it. The characters are what make the story. All the good writing doesn’t matter if you don’t care about the people you’re reading about. Watching them grow and change, seeing how they react to adversity, making you cheer (or cry) for them…all of these things are important and Hallock manages to bring all of this. He also dealt with CJ’s agoraphobia in a very tactful and real way. You saw how debilitating it was but you also saw how CJ grew through it and how he changes as the narrative goes on. Eye Spy is a great read for every fan of this genre.

 

In the Light of the Eclipse by Bryan Caron

Bryan Caron’s novel In the Light of the Eclipse is set in a dystopian universe, ruled by Heather, “the goddess of condemnation.” Caron unravels this world through the story of Kayla and Zoe’s friendship. Zoe lives on Pastor Ranch, a farm, considered sacred land in this universe, while Kayla is from Industry Corners or, as she calls it, “Industry Squalors,” supposedly the best place to live, but widely considered a slum. The two girls bond despite their differences, which are not limited to just their living situations. Zoe is a careful and prudent girl who accepts the rules and restrictions of their culture even when they do not seem to make sense. Kayla, on the other hand, rebels in ways both large and small. Zoe understands Kayla’s mutinous feelings, because Kayla, like many of the other inhabitants of this world, will only live until the next eclipse. During these eclipses, which recur every seventeen years, all of the souls born since the previous eclipse are removed. The only exceptions are the children of the eclipse, like Zoe, who live until thirty-four. As Kayla nears the end of her seventeenth year, she becomes even more defiant and determined to outwit Heather and survive the eclipse. Zoe’s love for Kayla embroils her in Kayla’s rebellion and leads her on an unexpected journey, during which she learns to question everything she has ever known.

In the Light of the Eclipse follows in the footsteps of groundbreaking works like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Both of these series take place in universes similar to that which Caron has created. Caron, however, could do a better job of laying the groundwork for the novel’s setting, which is often confusing and inaccessible. The novel begins with a brief anecdote detailing how Kayla and Zoe became friends, but it might have been better to begin with an explanation of this interesting universe. In addition, the diction and word choice are occasionally unclear and difficult to understand. Nevertheless, the story is fast-paced and interesting and Kayla and Zoe are compelling and sympathetic characters who will keep readers interested until the very end.

 

Awakening by Andi O’Connor

In the second installment of the Dragonrath Chronicles, Darrak finds himself thrust unwittingly into a conflict older than the most ancient memories of Earth, as he leaves his home behind in order to save it from utter destruction. Surrounded by his closest companions, he endeavors to become the kind of leader and Chosen One he believes he needs to be.  His journey is fraught with danger, magic, and betrayal. Along the way his friendships and budding romances are tested and brought to the brink of breaking.  In the midst of a particularly astonishing betrayal, Darrak and his remaining companions discover that the powers they are fighting against are even greater and more powerful than they could ever have imagined. Darrak also discovers that Mionee is not in fact behind the new evil now growing in Dragonrath. An older and wiser companion emerges bringing to light the egregious actions of past kings. This new element may just turn the tide in their favor. This time Darrak has the power to finish what he started.

Andi O’Connor has created a beautiful world full of magic, friendship, and of course the most evil of villains. The blend of fantasy, adventure, and romance is immensely refreshing without being overdone.  O’Connor’s writing immediately draws you and makes you want to keep reading. Throughout the book the characters are able to express the inner workings of human nature and man’s ability to have empathy, change their hearts, and restore faith in one another.  The strong female cast is a boon to the story line and adds a wonderful depth. The book is mostly well written and a fun read.

 

A Shadow of the Light by Teto Peck

Teto Peck creates an intriguing thriller filled with both sides of magical and spiritual powers. In A Shadow of the Light, the reader will discover cruelty dealt out by sorcerers and royalty, alike, in an effort to maintain control and escape from one’s own fears. There are also commands handed down by powerful spirits, and these commands must be abided by if the world is to be saved. A desperate search for the truth and for innocence ensues from both sides, but what is real? And, what is only a trick? As the White Fairy in the story says, “…what we think is reality is really an illusion hiding the truth.” Family bonds are strong enough to save one’s soul, but being bound to the law can force one to sentence his or her own family to face the executioner. As the reader immerses him/herself into A Shadow of the Light, suspense will grip the throat and make the heart race while the mind spins with possibilities.

It is easy to envision the different characters and scenes in A Shadow of the Light as Peck does a very nice job of offering the reader colorful descriptions. Peck boldly guides the reader’s imagination through graphic details of the physical traits, emotional characteristics, and enhances one’s visual, auditory and olfactory senses almost to the point of moving beyond the story only being in the thoughts of the reader. With fanciful resourcefulness, the author creates an opportunity for the reader to see, hear and smell each scene as if it were happening in his/her own reality. This fascinating and magical tale is not one to be missed.

 

The Red by Aiden Riley

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The Year is 2020 and a small band of survivors wanders around a devastated northern England in Book One of Aiden Riley’s The Red – a terrible virus has ravaged humanity, transforming the infected into cannibalistic zombies and plunging the small remainder of mankind into an apocalyptic existence defined by roaming and fighting. With graphic violence, crude language, and some strong sexual references, this not a story not for everyone. The action is heart-pounding and draws the reader in immediately, but Riley’s high-aiming prose and moody descriptions still allow for romanticism in the grim, wind-swept tale of survival, rivalry, and comradery. The novel balances the bleak and brutal present with golden reminiscences from life before the disaster – each character is dreaming about the past and missing someone. While the title literally refers to the red eyes of the infected enemy, it also resonates strongly with the forces of love and violence that drive the plot.

Symbolic language like this is crucial here – Riley’s lofty manner of writing adds a special charm to the narrative voice. The innumerable figurative qualities in the descriptions are a strong suit of the author, and the prose builds its own character through its idiosyncrasies. It is a style of writing, however, that is shockingly awkward – although Riley’s voice is special, the novel is weighed down by the tiring insistence on this adjective-heavy, figurative speech. The reader cannot help but trip up along the constant issues of misspellings and improper punctuations that riddle the entire text. The narration is ceaselessly heavy, convoluted, and redundant. At times, the clumsy writing makes it impossible to discern who is doing what to whom in a flurry of gender pronouns. Riley’s feverish narration so muddles the action as to turn it into a distraction, but it still has a very alluring flare. The dynamics between the characters are also a highlight; we are drawn into their joys and sufferings, even if we’ve seen it all before, and better. Despite the rare and obvious attempts to create character through quirks in dialogue, everyone ends up talking in the narrator’s stilted fashion. Everything about the plot, really, is a hackneyed regurgitation of films, books, and video games, and is watered down to convention – the result is muddy. The fighting mushes into one extended description of the same heroism, gore, and eleventh-hour rescues. There is no pacing of action or defined story arc in the overall structure of the novel – it is essentially an uneven alternation between similar battles and nostalgic reminiscences. Although it is translated poorly into awkward prose, The Red still has a very strong cinematic quality and is full of potential beneath its ruins. It’s an undeniably arresting read and, while Book One may not achieve the highs it aims for, it leaves us hopeful for Book Two.

 

Retaining Blue by Lacy Sorrells

Erika has always felt like an outsider. Even though the Northern Woods Pack is full of kind-hearted wolves, she was too gentle, even for them. So when Blizzard (the Alpha female) chooses Erika as her successor, there are those who doubt her worthiness, but nowhere is this felt more keenly than in Erika’s heart and mind. Alexis has always hated Erika. She felt Blizzard favored Erika more than she cared for her, even though they were family. So when Erika is chosen as the next Alpha, Alexis sees it as the last betrayal; that position should have been hers by right. Full of hatred, rage, and Dark Magic, she makes her way to the territory of the Southern Blood Pack with only one thing on her mind…revenge. The Southern Blood Pack is full of violence and meanness. Led by a black wolf called Victor, they want nothing more than total dominance over the entire forest. With Alexis by his side, Victor makes plans to finally achieve his goals.

Retaining Blue takes the story of magic and brings a fresh new spin on it. Simply by making the main characters wolves, Lacy Sorrell has taken her narrative to a new level. Written with maturity beyond her fourteen years, Sorrell has created an original and exciting world for readers of all ages. The story flows along naturally, with details and descriptions that paint a picture in your mind as you read. Sorrell also writes a complete story- there are no loose ends or confusion at any point in the book. The ending is also very well written and feels like a true completion. Her characters are fully and perfectly developed; you forget that they are fictional (and wolves) and find yourself completely absorbed in them and their well-being. You become invested in them. When they hurt, you hurt. When they’re happy, you’re happy. You truly feel the emotion in Sorrell’s writing and her characters.

 

The Stable Maid’s Secret by Troy Lee Henderson

A riveting tale of deception and danger, The Stable Maid’s Secret, written by Troy Lee Henderson introduces us to Princess Brianne Becuma. Brianne is set to marry a prince she has never met, and even though she has never seen him, she believes that he is her true love, the man she is supposed to spend the rest of her life with. However, happiness doesn’t come easily for Brianne, because as she is on the way to met and marry her Prince, she is forced to exchange places with her handmaiden, Gwynth, who has constructed a plot to marry the Prince herself. With the terrifying carriage driver, Conrad, functioning as Gwynyth’s accomplice, Brianne is intimidated to remain silent, so that the Prince who has never met his future wife, will end up marrying a girl who is not even of royal blood. With only her beloved pets at her side, a horse named Falada and an old dog named Hollen, Brianne has to find a way to reveal the truth and ensure that she doesn’t lose her prince to the conniving Gwynth, the stable maid who has taken the princess’ place.

Although this is not an overly original idea, that of a royal unwillingly switching places with a lower class citizen, Henderson constructs this tale in a wonderfully imaginative manner. By appealing to younger readers, the narrative escalates quickly, and barrels ahead towards a satisfying end. The length of the book is a perfect length for the young adult audience that the author is aiming to appeal to. Having everything you’ve ever dreamed of taken away from you is an experience that many can relate to, and since Princess Brianne is such a strong and likeable character, readers are bound to root for her.

 

Raven’s Awakening by Ella J. Phoenix

In order to move forward, one must come to terms with his or her past. For most of us, that “past” is a few years, maybe a few decades, behind us – but for the characters in ‘Raven’s Awakening’ by Ella J. Phoenix the “past” stretches back much further than that. ‘Raven’s Awakening’ finds a young woman named Chloe working at the famed Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. She’s good-looking, hard-working, and intelligent, and mostly just goes with the flow. But the flow is interrupted when she comes across a pre-Columbian Native American relic during the course of her work. The curiously inscribed totem stone awakens something powerful in her, which invokes memories of her childhood imaginary friend and recalls the pervasive dreams she’s had since youth. Enlivened like never before, Chloe sets out on a mission to find the relic’s birthplace and figure out how it is related to her. Her mission takes her to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where she crosses paths with Mason Green, a handsome Native American antiques dealer from New York. Mason is in Hot Springs investigating a suspicious client, but no sooner than he meets Chloe, he is pulled into her search. There’s something strange about this stranger, however, and Chloe is ensnared – and she’s not the only one. As the pair hunts out the relic’s source, they too are being hunted and are in for many surprises ahead.

‘Raven’s Awakening’ carries readers through the ancient past and modern times, across the nation’s most sacred lands and contemporary hallmarks, to explore spirituality, sensuality, redemption, and growth. Combining elements of action, adventure, romance, mystery, and lore, this fast-paced thrill ride is full of shocking twists, turns, and discoveries, both of the physical and metaphysical ilk. Rich with references to Native American history and culture, it’s a very sincere work, though also quite sexy…to say the least. The hot and heavy sex scenes are graphically told, but sure enough, for good cause – they too speak to the central themes of this novel and, in most instances, demonstrate how two souls can be delicately intertwined.

 

Blood Fest: Cursing Fate by Pepper O’Neal

Blood Fest: Cursing Fate tells the story of Tabitha Norkus and Drake Gatos. Tabbi is a weretiger being held in a Lithuanian compound. After being abused for most of her life, she finally has the means to escape and take some of the others with her. She grabs three of the most vulnerable, steals what money she can, and runs. Her plan is to go to England in hopes that her distant cousin Chase will help them. Drake Gatos is the pride leader in England. He has strict rules, but he is fair and his people love him. When he finds Tabbi and her runaways hiding in a barn he immediately knows something is wrong. He also knows that Tabbi is hiding the truth. Not knowing if he can trust her, but also knowing he has to help her, he is drawn into a dangerous rescue mission. Through it all, there is an instant attraction between Tabbi and Drake. Terrified to admit she is drawn to him, Tabbi tries to push him away. Drake is more accepting of his feelings, but needs to know what secrets she is hiding from him.

This book was addicting read. Pepper O’Neal has crafted an amazingly real world that draws you in and does not want to let you go. The characters are real and relatable, the scenes and backdrop are perfectly portrayed, the conversations and the story flow naturally. Even the relationship between Drake and Tabbi seems real and unforced. Blood Fest is great writing. The author has managed to take a supernatural theme and make it seem perfectly normal. She also filled in all of the details- there was never a time that you didn’t understand what was going on or why something happened the way it did. O’Neal has thought everything out. I also liked the way she took a common theme and managed to make it her own. This is not your typical book about lycans or weres or vampires or humans. This is an amazing combination of them all. Whether you like paranormal romance or simply love a good book you will find everything you need here!

 

One Shot by Tom Conyers

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Thrilling, chilling, profound, and alarming – these are but a few of the words one could use to describe One Shot by Tom Conyers. Though, if this reviewer had to choose just one word, it’d be… “Wow!” (exclamation point included). The story starts out in a somewhat familiar fashion – humankind has been carried to the brink of extinction due to the rapid spread of what’s more or less a zombie virus – but, from there, it takes off in unexpected, deliciously deep directions that guide readers through the darkest expanses of the human condition. As expected, the storyline itself, is rather sensational and is full of fights, flights, strange encounters, and unthinkable behaviors. But the thread of psychological fiction that runs through the plot is truly exceptional, and it gives One Shot an undeniably moving momentum. As main character Rex confronts challenge after challenge in his post-apocalyptic surroundings, he teeters between an existentialist dilemma and an altruistic mission, determined to die but stay alive long enough to save others – first his dog, and then a young child – from suffering before their inevitable deaths. All the while, he is haunted by memories and dreams of his former life, each of which foreshadow the totality of grim circumstances that seem only to damn him and further blur the lines between reality and delusion, between life and death, and between this universe and countless others.

One Shot is a masterpiece of literary fiction that’s sure to appeal to readers on many different levels. It explores urgency, futility, purpose, and reflection in an uncanny way and tells a tale that’ll really make your jaw drop. There’s plenty of action and plenty of inner thought, and both are achieved in perfect balance, through eloquent writing that’s otherwise been lamentably lost in the modern market.  At the risk of sounding cliché, One Shot deserves way more than five stars.

 

Enigma by Elisa O’Donnell

Imagine surviving a nuclear war, living as inhabitants on a world that is between what is known as Earth, and its moon. This is a planet that is uniquely designed to have equality of all measure by means of genetic testing of its inhabitants. Each citizen of Enigma must contribute and support the longevity, ingenuity, fertility, and always equality, as they are placed within society with their own specific purpose to contribute to Enigma. To chose your own destiny would be a fantasy, as every person’s job is chosen for them. What if you could chose your own fate or destiny? Would you follow the designated plan and future expected of you, even if you knew a secret that could destroy everything? Would you defy everything expected of you for a greater purpose of your fellow inhabitants? These are the questions that are explored within this thrilling narrative.

Enigma written by Elisa O’Donnell is a phenomenal science fiction novel introducing readers to the concepts of a society similar to how one would be run if it was functioning as a socialistic state. The author writes with so much skill and creativity, building suspense and the imagination of readers throughout the entirety of the book. Character scenes, strong personalities, and the plot of the story itself, are all very well described and detailed. The book contains some content or concepts within that may be a little uneasy or difficult for some younger generation readers to grasp or fully comprehend, but none the less, the book is a wonderful read allowing for no dull moments. I look forward to reading more of Elisa O’Donnell’s work in the future.

 

The Opree Legacy: Book One: The Promise by L. Anna Lenz

Book One in The Opree Legacy by L. Anna Lenz is set in a dystopian world and follows several main characters as they deal with the harsh realities surrounding them. A vicious war waged by an unknown and seemingly invincible enemy destroyed most of what everyone knew. Millions of people were slaughtered, towns were razed, and entire colonies were wiped out. Everything was destroyed. Nearly 20 years later the rebuilding is still an ongoing process and the monsters of the past have become little more than a myth to many people. The Shadows are the last line of defense against this still largely unknown enemy, but the politicians question if they are still needed. Colonel Cyrus Mason is the leader and founder of the Shadows, but he is beginning to question if the price they are paying to defend the Empire- an empire that has forgotten and abandoned them- is worth it. Nathaniel was only 4 years old when the Navat attacked and slaughtered his entire family. Sent to military school, he is determined to show he belongs there and becomes the best in his class. But he is the outsider; he still doesn’t belong. And the older he gets, the harder it is to find the balance between staying true to his family’s heritage and proving his loyalty to the Empire he serves. Lilly was born into a wealthy family. After being torn from her family and sold into slavery, she escapes and joins a group of freedom fighters. But it doesn’t take long for her to realize something: the cost she has to pay may be too high.

‘The Promise’ is very intense. I actually had to put it down a couple of times, starting with the prologue! I won’t ruin anything by saying why…just be prepared. There are a few times when the writing seems a little disjointed but overall this is a good book. L. Anna Lenz has opened up an amazing new world for us to discover. With three main characters you would think it would get confusing, but she has made it so the story is usually very easy to follow. Even though this takes place in a sci-fi world, the themes and problems are those that most of us can relate to. The characters draw you in, and you are concerned about their plights. You become invested in them- even if you don’t always like them. Although there are some flaws in this book, the potential for an epic series is definitely there. The Opree Legacy is a series that I want to continue reading; I want to find out what happens next!

 

The Chronicles of Mathew: Frozen Soul by Jacob Rensfeldt

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The Chronicles of Mathew: Frozen Soul by Jacob Rensfeldt introduces the reader to Mathew Clarunde, a depressed teenager struggling with the death of his best friend and how to build new relationships. However, Mathew’s life is quickly cut short during a school skiing trip when he dies in a freak accident. Mathew is then confronted with the decision of whether to choose life or death. Mathew’s choice turns him into an Ice Elemental, a mythical being with the power to control ice and snow. As an Elemental, Mathew is introduced to a world that regular human beings only believe exists in fairy tales and their nightmares. In a world inhabited by yetis, succubus, vampires, and dragons, Mathew doesn’t shy away from becoming friends with almost everyone he encounters. Even though Mathew appears more fitted to this new world, he becomes the center of controversy when a dire situation calls for swift action on the part of his new friends, which results in his elemental powers taking new shape. His notoriety only leads him to find himself in entanglements with the law, murder plots, and, ultimately, war.

Rensfeldt’s storytelling ability grows with the book. The beginning is slow and uneventful with some of the scenes feeling forced, but as the book reaches its climax, it becomes a quick read, with an ending that is touching and heartwarming. Although the dialogue is sophomoric at times, the action sequences are highly descriptive and carefully planned. Overall, Rensfeldt has a clever and unique story; however, gaps in logic and the time sequence stop it from reaching its full potential.

 

The Sovereign of the Hucens by Ashley Lee Hemmings Jr.

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The Creator made the Centurians to be a powerful, immortal race that was capable of protecting others and keeping peace. However, once Centurians and Humans meet and begin to intermingle, a new race is created. Hucens are the offspring of Centurians and Humans and, as such, have some of the qualities and powers of both. It is not long before distrust and hate begin to fester and a group called the Sentinels sets out to destroy these ‘half-breeds’ in a genocide. While a tenuous treaty is eventually reached, it is only a matter of time before the Sentinels strike again and a strong warrior is needed to protect the lives of many innocents. Irene is a young Hucen with no memory of her past, but in her quest to discover who she is, she becomes embroiled in the age old battle of her people. Will she be the one to save her people or will the discovery of her path reveal something else?

In Ashley Lee Hemmings Jr’s novel, The Sovereign of the Hucens, an interestingly brand new universe is brought to life. However, at over four hundred pages, Hemmings’ novel should not be undertaken lightly– the background set-up for Irene’s journey takes several hundred pages and the going can be a little slow. While the plot is engaging and has one constantly wondering what will happen next, the language and grammar can at times be a barrier to enjoyment. This being said, one can hope for more books detailing Irene’s future adventures to flow more smoothly but have all the same details and dialogue that make The Sovereign of the Hucens tough to put down.

 

The Dark Tales of Antler Grove by Rand Inskip

Fifty miles west of Denver, Colorado, nestled in the bosom of the majestic Rocky Mountains, there sits a small town called Antler Grove. From the outside, it looks like any other quaint, rural town – the lush landscape of trees, grass, and dirt roads on its outskirts flush inward to the town proper, where local businesses buzz with activity, human traffic, and not-so idle chitchat. But, for those who live in Antler Grove, there’s much more to this small town than meets the eye – strange things have been known to happen from time to time, and certain secrets have been tightly kept…until now. The Dark Tales of Antler Grove by Rand Inskip is a creepy and completely captivating collection of four short stories about the secret goings-on in this mysterious mountain town. From unexpected interactions with tiny tree-dwelling creatures and encounters with ethereal entities, to books that carry on conversations and a mirror that captures more than one’s image, the tales in this delightfully dark work of fiction feature supernatural surprises that will make your jaw drop and leave your spine tingling.

Each story in The Dark Tales of Antler Grove has the power to stand alone, though they are all the more powerful as a collection because of how they are intricately interwoven. The tales are tied together by a common cast of characters and the persistent presence of particular plot points, which presents a comprehensive composite of the town and gives the collection a cozy, albeit chilling, feel. This title is appropriate for readers of all ages, including youngsters. Though scary and shocking for sure, the stories are not too ghastly, gory, or graphic, but, instead, are akin to the type of tales you’d tell around a campfire or incorporate into your litany of local lore and legend. Inskip’s writing is easy to read, refreshing, and thoughtful – and, once you’re done with The Dark Tales of Antler Grove, you’ll be hungry for more, and eagerly awaiting his next title.

 

Adopted by the Undergrowth by Rand Inskip

Adopted by the Undergrowth is a story about how animals should be held responsible for their actions like humans. Any being with a consciousness should have to uphold the laws that govern them like the Law of Oak for deer. If an animal kills another animal then he is responsible for the consequences of his actions. His community has the right to ban him and make him and his family suffer. The story is about guidelines that animals follow as if they were able to communicate with each other with the same level of intelligence as human. Their version of God is the Great Spirit of the Forest who sets the laws of the land for them to have a peaceful environment to live in. When one of their own dies, they see the light at the end of time and they experience a sort of purgatory where the worthy end up in a peaceful place but the bad creatures lose their soul.

If the purpose of the story was to educate humans on why they shouldn’t sin or break laws, then I think this story would teach valuable lessons to readers. However, holding animals responsible for their actions when they actually act on instinct because they haven’t been taught to control their emotions by their elders isn’t too fair. I think the idea in theory is interesting which makes the story entertaining. If we take the animals out of the equation and talk about people instead, you begin to realize that the children of parents who commit crimes are the innocent ones who suffer consequences for doing no wrong. An interesting point of discussion is determining what’s worse committing several small crimes or committing only one big one. If for the majority of our lives we do everything perfectly why do we punish someone when they act on their emotions only once? Nevertheless, Inskip has created an engrossing read about ethics and religion.

 

Tracer by Michael Cassata

Set in a future where the government is able to tell you who you were in past lives based simply on the fingerprint they require you to give at the end of your junior year, Tracer follows high school senior Trenton. Unlike most others, he has no interest in receiving his Past Life Letter, wanting instead to create his own destiny without the persuasion from who he may have been in the past. He’s still struggling with the untimely death of his mother, and a best friend who may or may not be up to no good, when he finds himself not only running from his past, but also his government. It turns out that who he was in a past life may hold the secret to saving the future.

Tracer, overall, is an impressive novel. Cassata has created an intriguing world – one that is not too far-fetched to find realistic. One thing I found particularly interesting was the continued references to present-day issues, such as US relations with China. Even in this particular future, the government is in constant competition with the rest of the world to be the first to discover, or develop new technology. Trenton is an interesting character as he not only deals with being chased by the government but also having a girlfriend, a best friend whose actions he finds concerning, and family issues. The character relationships throughout the novel were both well developed and realistic. Though the writing fell flat at times, the unique world Cassata created and the character dynamics more than make up for it.

 

The First by Kipjo Ewers

Sophia Dennison, a convicted murderer, has just been executed in a facility outside of Houston, Texas. Sophia Dennison thus, is deceased. However, she doesn’t stay that way for long. ‘The First’ by Kipjo Ewers tells the story of a resurrected misunderstood rebel, a heroine in her own right; this is an origin story of what it means to be superhuman. After coming back to life, Sophia creates havoc and escapes the facility that previously held her captive. FBI Agent Mark Armitage arrives on the scene only to witness the destruction Sophia has caused. It’s not long before his pursuit of Sophia begins, as he aims to catch her and understand how in the hell all of this has happened.

This book expertly combines the super-hero genre with elements of science fiction and the idea of humans evolving into something more complex than what they were previously. Sophia’s powers and how they developed over time are reminiscent of how mutants came to exist in the modern world in the classic comic series ‘X-Men.’ The blend of genres creates an engaging world that brings the reader deeply within its realm. The character development of Sophia is well done, showing how she has changed, from a loving wife and neurosurgeon to something else entirely. The book is not without mistakes as it does have some editing errors, but luckily the author’s imagination makes up for some of the polishing that could be used to spruce up this story and make it shine even more. If you’re a fan of origin stories of supernatural beings, or just love a good story about a misunderstood hero, then check out ‘The First’ and follow Sophia on this wild ride that Ewers has dreamt up!

 

The Spirit: Awakening by K.M. Riley

The Spirit: Awakening by K.M. Riley is an enchanting story about Princess Adele who discovers that she’s a spirit who’s about to be awakened. Adele is capable of shape shifting which is unknown to her uncle, as both of her parents are deceased, who manages the kingdom and tries to protect the princess.  Adele has a youthful innocence about her but she is also confident and knows who she is and what she wants. She is passionate about protecting the kingdom and will go through lengths to protect it. On her birthday, she discovers that Locien, the ruler of rival country, has trespassed onto their land and into their kingdom though welcomed by her uncle. She later discovers that Locien is a murderer as he only climbed the ranks by murdering his land’s royal family and forced his way into power. Princess Adele must do what it takes to protect her family and kingdom by awakening her inner spirit.

K.M. Riley does an outstanding job crafting an interesting and well-written story. Each character has a distinct voice and characteristics to making it apparent that each is their own person. Readers get to watch Adele grow into her own person and live out her duty to protect the kingdom which makes sense this more of a coming of age story. The only downside is that there are some clichés such as death of both parents. However, instead of an evil relative living with her it’s a loving and caring one, which helps make it a bit more unique. Readers are taken on an adventure with this action-packed, inspirational read. K.M. Riley challenges stereotypes with a strong female protagonist who does what it takes to protect her family and quickly becomes a woman who can make her own decisions.

 

The Lunar Wolf Chronicles: Mary’s Tale by Alexander Mescavage and Eunice Taylor

wolfAlexander Mescavage and Eunice Taylor’s novel, ‘The Lunar Wolf Chronicles: Mary’s Tale,’ tells the story of Mary Young, an abused wife of a rich and hardened man.  Mary is taken captive by psychologists who are claiming to help her overcome her “mental disorder,” but who truly only seek to sexually abuse Mary until she is forced into submission – or worse.  The story takes a turn when one of the doctors, Dr. Van Gentlesse, suspects the psychologists and promises Mary to save her one fateful night.  Mary soon discovers that Dr. Gentlesse is not a psychologist, but instead a nearly three-thousand year-old werewolf, and one with a strange attraction to Mary herself.  Mary narrates this story through her experiences, and readers are taken into the world of Mary, Van, and the beginnings of ancient Rome.  The duo encounter demons, magical species, Greek mythology, and various battles between overall good and evil – along with encountering some romantic situations with each other.

‘The Lunar Wolf Chronicles: Mary’s Tale’ is thrilling, captivating, and a can’t-put-down read.  Taylor and Mescavage easily enchant readers with their story, drawing the in from the very beginning.  As the story continues, the spark between Mary and Van can’t be denied, and the chemistry between them leads to enthralling and passionate exchanges.  The progression of the battle between the werewolves and the demon builds throughout the novel, exploding with action and resolution towards the end.  From the first page of the book to the last of the epilogue, the authors and characters bring readers directly into their world, packing the novel rich with education, excitement, and enjoyment.

 

The Legends of Demetria: Book I by R.S. Compton

The Legends of Demetria is a story about Volic, whose father dies by the sword of an enemy. Committed to seeking revenge, for his father’s sudden death, he heads off to take the Tai-Zerjin Trials so that he will gain the power needed to fight the King and his army men. To reach the Trials, Volic needs to survive the dangerous Valley of Ash forest where he encounters vicious animals like white panthers. After surviving the journey, he is informed, by Elder Dijiri, that the Trials are challenging and a small percentage of people are able to complete them. In order to successfully complete the challenges up ahead, Volic will need to be able to suppress his rage and understand that revenge isn’t the best approach. Volic, confident in his capabilities, decides to face and beat the Trials, which test his character and challenge him to control his anger.

This plot of this story has been carefully crafted to deliver a positive message about controlling your anger. The theme is brought up through several characters that strive to teach Volic that seeking revenge is unwise. Towards the end of the book, a surprising plot twist occurs, which helps Volic learn how to suppress his rage. The author has brilliantly created an imaginary world that is fun for readers to envision.  His strong use of descriptive language allows you to get in on the action. The only downside to this book is that it ended too soon. However, it has a strong potential for a viable sequel.

 

Chasms: Gospel of Freeman by G.J.O. Smith

Chasms: Gospel of Freeman, by G.J.O Smith, is a sci-fi novel that tries to figure out who you would want to become if you had the power to be anything. When humans become ill or are near death, in fear, they go to the Aquarius Corporation. The Aquarius Corporation gives humans the opportunity to live for eternity, under the condition that they leave their old life behind and change everything they are. Participants have the freedom to choose how they look, e.g., like a celebrity, gain a tail, or have a green body, etc. It’s similar to present day plastic surgery, but on a more advanced scale and with DNA restructuring. While this is a futuristic story, it is interesting to note that the government banned computers; they are seen as subversive devices. The protagonist Bastion Del Freeman is desperate to join Aquarius Corporation, as he’s an atheist and accidentally told his girlfriend this. He’s the kind of guy that rebels against authority, by telling lies to your face twice, when you ask if he has read the Terms of Service for the contract.  He acts like he’s from the hood, but the truth is a successful graduate student coping with the loss of his parents. As the story develops, Bastion realizes he wants to escape, but gets caught up in a war against humans to get rid of all life on earth. The religious tone is strong, as the story deals with the battle between science and religion. Throughout the novel, biblical quotes connect the storyline to religion to show just how relevant religion is despite how dated it may appear to some. Even in a world where you can change everything about who you are, and play the role of God, religion can still play a role.

The writing of this novel is insightful and thought provoking. Smith illustrates the battle between science and religion in a unique way that doesn’t seem too far off from present day. The storyline may appear too implausible for some, but there are many present-day comparisons. While we may not be able to restructure our DNA, we can have cosmetic surgery and we can travel to a place where no one knows us. As more advanced medications are created, we’ll be able to combat diseases that were previously fatal. Science allows us to transform who we are and play the role of God. And what Smith does well in talking about these things, is capture the essence of our society in a futuristic setting to allow people to draw their own conclusions. He clearly illustrates the relevance of religion, despite scientific advancements, by blatantly adding quotes throughout the novel to allow people to draw connections. The only downside of this book is that it runs quite long and could have relayed the key messages in much fewer words. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book, as it was quite difficult to put down. It captures your attention right from the beginning and holds it until the end. There are several lessons that can be learned and it really forces you to think about how you should live your own life.

 

Exiled by Elaine Herrick and Callie Proffitt Christiansen

Discovering their own unique and special natural accelerants or abilities, the people of Kolar work together as a whole for the greater good of their government and people. But what if you were born with two special abilities, that made you extraordinary from the rest of society? Would you use if for the good of everyone around you or would the excitement of the power you hold take over, and you become selfish? Ravic and three of his friends are on a space exploration when their sudden chaos erupts and they realize they cannot return home. Stranded in space, the 2 emotes- having the ability to sense emotions, the psychic-intelligent, ability to learn quick, and sense the future outcome of situations, and a Mentor, an overly super intelligent accelerants allowing for extreme ability to retain information and be very analytical of situations, try to figure out what they are going to do to save their home planet and escape the dangers in space. Deciding to land on Earth in Australia the group studies their habits, language, and life style during the long trip. A glitch in their ship’s system changes their plans and they find themselves on earth’s California state in America and not Australia. Having to adapt as foreign exchange students, the group tries to blend in with the Earthlings in hope to find the answers they seek to save their home planet. When romance and scandals are intertwined into that plan, it is slightly altered. Will the group find their answers on Earth? Will they ever return to their home planet? Will the earthlings discover their true identities?

Exiled written by Elaine Herrick in close collaboration with Caroline Proffitt is an exciting romance-sci-fi type of novel introducing readers to futuristic space travel, Australian lifestyle, high school teenager emotions, lifestyle, and actions. The authors have combined romance and sci-fi skillfully and uniquely into one novel. The text and dialogue is easily comprehendible, thus making it a comfortable read. The plot of the story itself is brilliant. What teenager or young reader has not wonder what it would be like to live in space, and have super power abilities? Mix that with a common secondary romance plot and you have the ultimate book for pre-teen and teenagers. I loved everything about this adventurous, exciting, sci-fi, and romantic genre book. I would however, have loved to see a few pictures added.

 

Come Hell or High Water: Part One: Wellspring by Stephen Morris

In 1356, an entire town turned against one woman. Driven by religious fervor, they proclaimed her a witch and put her to death without a proper trial or formal sentence. But, as Fen’ka inhaled the smoke surrounding her on the stake to which she was affixed, she issued her own verdict – and with it came a punishment that would endure for centuries… until justice, however harsh, was once and for all served. ‘Come Hell or High Water: Part One: Wellspring’ by Stephen Morris carries readers back in time to witness this age-old injustice and follow the consequences, and culmination, of Fen’ka’s curse on the city of Prague. The chapters alternate between this fourteenth century storyline and another, set in 2002, centered on a young girl named Magdalena, whose fascination with the occult and determination to do more with her life have inexorably drawn her into Fen’ka’s post-mortem quest for justice. As Magdalena comes to terms with her otherworldly assignment in one chapter, the ways Fen’ka’s final words came back to haunt the villagers of Prague is explored in the next – and, so on and so forth it goes, masterfully, until the end of this, the first installment in the Come Hell or High Water trilogy.

‘Wellspring’ is an entirely enthralling, incredibly intense novel that seamlessly weaves together elements of history, folklore, popular culture, and religious, spiritual, and occult practices and beliefs – among other things. Author Stephen Morris’ passion for, and commitment to, his cast of characters is evident in his prose, which is fluid, dynamic, and absolutely haunting at times. As eloquently told as it is informative and thought-provoking, ‘Wellspring’ is a title worthy of standing on the shelf alongside acclaimed works such as those in The Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witches series penned by the mother of all things occult, Anne Rice. It’s definitely a page-turner and will hold your interest from start to end, though its end isn’t really and ending, but, rather, an invitation to the next book.

 

King and Crown by Peter Fifield

Peter Fifield’s King and Crown is one adventure after another right from the get-go. When struck on the back of the head by a tree, Robert Wheeler finds himself magically transported to Glastonbury, England in the 1700’s with no memory of his previous life or purpose. He unwittingly finds himself embroiled in a long dispute between a family of dwarves and the crown of England. In order to allow the unusual family to live a life of freedom and happiness, Robert must make a journey to see the king of England and restore a priceless treasure to its rightful owner. However, no good deed goes unpunished and Robert’s journey takes some unexpected twists, which end with him spending some time as a ‘guest’ in the king’s dungeons. So it comes to be that Robert’s noble quest is passed along through generations until the right ruler sits upon the throne and the right hero makes his case.

Fifield’s novel is an easy and fun read, though at times it borders on positively cheesy. The world of King and Crown is one where love at first sight is not just a myth, the good guy wins in the end, and most of those involved do actually live something close to happily ever after. There are no earth-shattering surprises and the characters are all exactly what they claim to be. The novel is a pleasant way to spend an evening and it reminds one to appreciate good fortune and make the best of what might initially seem to be bad.

 

Right On Schedule by Don Preston

Preston’s premier novel isn’t easy to pin down.  Both humorous and ponderous, the main character here is an ex-tech specialist named Josh Morgen who discovers he has a unique ability: he can determine the time and day that any individual will die – except himself.  So what does one do with a gift like that?  For Josh, the answer is to go into business, building a massive corporation from the ground up by becoming a plaything of politicians, movie stars, and other bigwigs all across the country.  But greed soon gets the better of him, and Josh finds himself caught up in a web of lies, his talent for making deadly accurate “Mortality Revelations” his only weapon.  Not to mention that Josh has noticed a startling trend in his predictions; the death dates all seem to cluster around the year 2044, with nothing occurring afterwards.  Is Josh predicting the End of Times?  Or could it mean something else entirely?

For an author’s first novel, Right On Schedule is impressively well formed.  The premise is unique and compelling, the characters numerous and, oftentimes, hilariously off-kilter.  There’s Josh’s psychiatrist, who isn’t everything she appears to be; his well-to-do girlfriend, Lindsay, whom Josh meets after she requests Mortality Revelations for her and her gal pals; a high-profile nun named Sister Bridget, whose intensity has less to do with her love for the Lord and everything to do with money; and many more.  Right On Schedule uses its intriguing premise to draw real thought and reflection from its readers.  If you knew when you were going to die, what would you do with the information?  Would you try to avoid death at all costs?  Or perhaps speed up the process by taking events into your own hands?  Ultimately, this novel is a statement on the futility of mankind to affect its own fate – and it’s a laugh-out-loud funny one at that.

 

The Oasis of Filth (The Complete Series) by Keith Soares

First Prize Winner – The 2014 Red City Review Book Awards  – Science Fiction/Fantasy

This trilogy tells the story of a distinguished doctor who one day encounters an unknown illness, which he correctly (but only partially) classifies as leprosy.  RL2013, the disease in question, is a bit more complicated than that.  In fact, it turns out that this single illness, never before seen by our species, might just result in our total destruction.  In the not-so-distant future, society has retreated behind walled cities dotted across the United States, while others have become completely overrun by diseased and zombified humans.  The doctor finds himself living inside one of these walled-off cities and working as a pharmacist, though his life is forever changed when he intervenes on a mysterious young woman’s behalf and rescues her from being tormented by a group of thugs.  Her name is Rosa, and she’s a brilliant microbiologist who believes that there is a secret paradise hidden somewhere across the country: the so-called Oasis of Filth.  Together, Rosa and the doctor make the decision to leave the safety of their city and set off on a journey to track down the rumored camp while somehow avoiding the dangers – both human and otherwise – that spring up at every turn.

Keith Soares’s Oasis of Filth trilogy breathes new life (no pun intended) into a stale genre.  In the last decade or so, zombies have successfully infected pop culture, giving rise to books, movies, TV shows, and video games that essentially deal with the same subject matter: the end of civilization brought on by a deadly virus that turns friends and family into flesh-eating monsters.  In that regard, The Oasis of Filth isn’t truly ground-breaking, but the really awesome bits have to do with the characters and the world that Soares has written about.  The doctor is a unique hero: in his sixties, he’s already older than you’d expect, not to mention that, though brilliant, he doesn’t have the expertise to concoct a cure for RL2013.  But if I ever end up in a post-apocalyptic scenario, I want this guy on my team.  Loyal, brave, and kind-hearted, the doctor serves as our guide in a world that’s been eerily changed by the advent of RL2013.  The setting – essentially a ruined landscape with pockets of survivors – is surprisingly realized and haunting in its unexpected moments of beauty.  This is one story you definitely need to read before you die (and reanimate).

 

Dimension by Shay Zana

The first installment in a series of novels, Shay Zana’s Dimension is an exciting and fresh science fiction novel. When stars begin dying and no explanation can be found, it seems that not just one world, but all life, is coming to a devastating apocalyptic end. A group of the five most capable and uncommon beings are brought together with the overwhelming task of saving their dimension and forever changing the course of sapient history. Kitera is a Cipher, a unique being who is born with a special genetic structure that allows her to be so deeply in touch with her spirituality that she can communicate with the godlike Zodiacs. With her sometimes clouded guidance and wisdom, Kitera’s powerful super-soldier Paragons travel through many galaxies, hoping to find the key to saving all life while also struggling to find meaning in their own lives, knowing that in order for the mission to succeed they will have to sacrifice their lives. No pressure, right?

Dimension is not just an exciting novel about friendship, romance, and the cost of honor, but it is a genuine pleasure to read. Zana’s writing is rich and detailed, easily keeping the reader flipping pages to know more. While Dimension has many of the classic traits of a science fiction novel, it also breathes new life into the genre, painting pictures of worlds and heroes unknown. Best to read Dimension now before the movie rights are sold and you are pre-ordering your tickets!

 

Capricorn by Jerry J.C. Veit

Front Cover

“Capricorn,” a play in three acts by Jerry J.C. Veit, tells the story of Montague, a young man who seeks vengeance for his mother’s death, but risks being transformed by his own heartlessness and anger into the very monster he hunts.  Montague lives in a ruined dystopia, a city left to rot, decay, and tear itself to pieces in the wake of a brutal civil war.  Going by the name of “the Heretic,” Montague patrols the city, laying waste to thieves, murderers, and rapists alike, all the while searching endlessly for the beast known simply as “the Demon.”  The two meet in a battle to the death that thrusts Montague quite suddenly into the path of a beautiful – but deadly – girl named Capricorn who lives by herself in the sewers deep beneath the broken city.  Drawn into Montague’s eternal conflict with the Demon, Capricorn is abducted by the Demon’s thugs and held against her will in the Underworld, where Montague must save her.  But first he will have to face is own demons, manifesting themselves as a series of trials that will ultimately test his very humanity.  For Montague, failure is not an option.

Filled with unexpected humor, including the scene in which Capricorn first meets – and nearly kills – poor Montague, “Capricorn” is a creative, action-packed delight that reads nicely on paper but practically begs to be put on stage.  Veit’s dialogue is peppy, well crafted, and lends his characters a surprising depth of soul.  Furthermore, Capricorn and Montague make a dynamic couple, their heartfelt romance calling Montague back from the edge of a damning emotional void.  Yet despite its serious subject matter, Veit employs an overall tone of innocent, young love and jaunty adventurism to balance a tale that might otherwise have become overwhelmed by its darker elements – unsurprising, really, for a play that serves as a welcome commentary on the duality of the human soul.

 

Alchemist Gift by Mark Giglio

Alchemist-Gift-Book-Cover-front-sm-203x300Mark Giglio’s Alchemist Gift is a thought-provoking journey through time and the small events that make up the human experience, imperceptibly changing the course of an entire life. Beginning in present day San Diego, Liz and Roland are experiencing the curses of the modern relationship: unanswered text messages, undeclared majors, and, perhaps worst of them all, an unsatisfying sex life. Liz and Roland’s individual travels to happiness are frustrating, mysterious, confusing, and more than a little magical. Alchemist Gift  reminds us that while we may all experience the passage of time in different ways, time is of the utmost importance and is, perhaps, not as concrete as we may believe. Time connects all human beings and Giglio’s novel pushes us to savor and remember as many moments as we can because this allows those moments to live on, long after they have happened. Alchemist Gift is a fun romp through a magical world where fiction becomes fact, present becomes past, and love becomes lust.

While Alchemist Gift is a fun and incredible read, it is not for the faint of heart. In a style reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism, the twists and turns, as well as the many similar character names, can leave one wishing to be on the second read-through, or at least reviewing a detailed family tree. However, the magic, mystery, romance, and passion are all enough to keep the pages turning and the mysteries unfolding until the veil is lifted and the reality of Mark Giglio’s intricate and enigmatic world is revealed.

 

Spartanica (Book 1 of ‘The Survivors of Sapertys’) by Powers Molinar

Indie Author News - Spartanica (Powers Molinar)BFTy and Marcus are two brothers whose lives seem pretty normal – boring, even.  That is, up until the day they discover an alien artifact in their basement that transports them to a dark and dangerous planet called Sapertys.  The boys stumble upon the ruins of Spartanica, once the planet’s capital city but now an utterly barren stretch of broken buildings, its inhabitants long since vanished without a trace – except for one.  Bellana, the young daughter of Spartanica’s elected ruler, lives alone among the ruins of her beloved city, but her life takes a sudden turn the day she meets Ty and Marcus.  Soon, the trio encounters a group of refugees from the fabled city of Atlantis, and together they set out on a journey to return Ty and Marcus to their own distant planet.  But just how they’re going to achieve that isn’t entirely clear, not to mention that a few of Sapertys’ darker denizens have their sights set on Ty and Marcus.  Suddenly, middle school is looking like the least of the boys’ problems.

Spartanica, the first book in Powers Molinar’s new series entitled ‘The Survivors of Sapertys, is pure magic.  This novel takes some of the best qualities of current hit children’s series (like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and mixes in numerous creative flairs, not the least of which is the world of Sapertys itself.  The result is a science fiction saga unlike anything in recent history.  Spartanica is a great choice for younger readers, especially boys, but the book’s true strength lies in its universal appeal: this is a humorous, peppy page-turner with quirky characters and a truly unique premise.  Perhaps the most intriguing part of this new series is the setting that Molinar has so cleverly thought up for us.  The people of Sapertys have a language and culture all their own, to the point where Ty and Marcus often have no clue what their new friends are talking about.  Half the fun of Spartanica is discovering this new world alongside the story’s main characters.

 

Dark Indiscretions by Shakuita Johnson

‘Dark Indiscretions’ by Shakuita Johnson is a paranormal tale that shifts the generic mold of these kinds of narratives and offers up a new story to bite onto. Jennifer Johnston is a girl struggling with her identity, surrounded by a terrifying family who causes nightmares in all those who encounter them. She is a mystic, a vampyra with the talents of a shape-shifting witch. When her family tries to force her to marry her brother to keep their bloodline pure, she refuses, but this only sets off a sequence of events that causes even greater fears. Meanwhile, two dylias, (commonly referred to as werewolves,) named Jackson and Taylor, who are pack mates and lovers, move forward in life as they live in fear of the mystics. Eventually, the two werewolves reunite with Jennifer, joining forces, aiming to bring balance to their world.

This is an interesting story because it brings up new dynamics that have previously been unexplored in the realm of paranormal fantasy and romance. It was especially refreshing to see two male werewolves in a relationship with one another. The tension in the story builds up from the start, as the reader is introduced to Jennifer and the dysfunctional family that she is a part of. The beginning of the narrative contains a lot of information and at times is confusing, but Johnson builds upon her story and explains all that is unforeseen by the end of the tale. If you are a fan of vampires and werewolves, then this would be a great read for you, as it brings a strong new voice to the already overflowing market of paranormal fiction.

 

Locker Rooms by Patty Lesser

‘Locker Rooms’ by Patty Lesser asks some of the most important questions we all wonder about: What happens to us after we die? Is there a heaven and a hell? Do the good deeds and the sins we commit during our life affect what happens to us after we’re gone? Unfortunately, as Alida discovers, sometimes even the good souls of earth are forced to suffer in the afterlife, as she finds these beings are imprisoned by vengeful demons. Alida has to battle a wicked devil in order to try to free these good souls and return them to their burial grounds, where they can rest in peace. Alida puts her life at stake in order to turn the wrongs right, and give those who have passed on the eternal warmth that they deserve. This is a book that covers it all, ranging from characters with hearts of gold, to evil creatures that are only bent on causing others pain and suffering. Lesser develops a strong character in that of Alida, who is a protagonist that readers will be rooting for until the very end. Not only does the narrative focus on what happens to us after we pass, it also explores the difference between how religion and history have shaped the world, and how good and evil will always be battling against each other. Alida changes a great deal from the beginning until the conclusion of this tale, and her development is a sure sign of Lesser’s talent, as she crafts a cunning strong female heroine to be the anchor of her story. All in all, ‘Locker Rooms’ is a supernatural novel that will both delight and cause fright for anyone who explores its pages.

Catharsis by D. Andrew Campbell

Catharsis by D. Andrew Campbell tells the story of a teenage girl named Catarina whose life changes forever one night when, after getting into an argument with her family and storming out on them, she wakes up in an alley, not remembering how she got there, to find herself covered in blood and a dead body lying next to her. Running away from the scene out of disbelief and fear, Cat’s body starts to go through unbelievable transformations, as her speed, strength, and senses all develop to unusual levels, resembling superhuman abilities. She can hear things across far distances, see everything in the dark of night, and punch through solid objects without any difficulty. Soon though, her newfound powers start to have their drawbacks, as she realizes they are beginning to impede her everyday life. The worst problem of all however, is that she has acquired a newly insatiable appetite for human flesh. As Cat struggles to keep her new abilities under control, she searches to find a balance between accepting evil urges, and finding the good in her newly discovered gifts.

Although this novel has dark themes, it is written in a way that causes the reader to root for Cat, as she navigates through the story, each short chapter ending upon a cliffhanger, begging the person reading to continue on until the answers of the narrative are discovered. The action in the tale is palpable, but Campbell also focuses a great deal on Cat herself, and her fight to come to terms with morality while simultaneously trying to deal with her newfound powers. This is a superb supernatural story that crosses genres and builds up a mystifying tale that will be hard for anyone to put down.

 

Black Moon Rising by John Blenkush

In Black Moon Rising, the third book of the epic Solstice Series by John Blenkush, the new vampire Julissa is caught in an area of dismay when she starts drifting from the Law Of One, due to the fact that the love of her life, Aaron Delmon has gone missing. As she goes on a journey to find him, she searches high and low, all the while she is continuously influenced by the mysterious order known as the Sons and Daughters of Belial. Her quest leads her into a world unlike anything else she has ever experienced before. Julissa has to use her recently acquired vampirism to control and meld the delicate life-force energy to gain the power she needs to be reunited with Aaron once again. It isn’t long before Julissa’s mission is knocked off kilter, as she realizes the errors she has made, causing about a string of horrific consequences, that have the ability to rock her very existence to it’s delicate core.

In recent years, there have been a great deal of fantasy books that focus on vampires and the tangled love lines they so often leave amongst the people they come across. However, in Black Moon Rising, which is the third book of a planned five book series, Blenkush has created a universe that stands out from the rest, wrapping his main characters up in narratives that are full of mystery, passion, and inspiration. The writing is immersive and descriptive, his characters truly come alive on the page. This book has the ability to grab the reader and never let them go, begging to always just read one more page before putting the story down. Julissa is an interesting character, whose traits are used in the utmost extent to deliver a story that is an undeniably good read.

 

Short Pathways in a Room of Imagination by John Needham

Short Pathways in a Room of Imagination by John Needham is a collection of mind-bending short stories that start off in our seemingly normal real world, only to quickly turn off the deep end into situations that could only occur in a make-believe place of the most wondering imagination. The fifteen stories contained within this book have a wide range of different narratives, from ‘The Old Lady’ to ‘A Knock on the Door’ to the final story ‘Church of the Modern Apostles.’ The stories stand alone, and each can be enjoyed one at a time, but the themes and narrative styles present compliment each other nicely.

Mostly all of the stories are told in the first person, placing the reader right within the imagined tale that is taking place. As Needham describes in the book’s introduction, these stories were written with a purpose, to broaden the reader’s imagination and cause them to delve into each of these short stories fully. He requests each story to be looked upon individually, fully immersing yourself into each of the tales he has spun. The characters range from all sorts of different people, but each one is fully developed and makes the story he or she is entwined within matter, affecting the reader in an intrinsic way. Needham excels at the short narrative, although from the vast amount of content imagined within each tale, it is likely that he would succeed at writing a full-length novel as well. If you are looking to get lost for a while in stories that twist reality and offer up notions to ponder, then this is the book for you.

 

Attrition: The First Act of Penance by SG Night

A spellbinding blend of action, science fiction, and fantasy, author SG Night creates a fascinating world within his debut novel, ‘Attrition: The First Act of Penance.’ The nation of Io has been held captive for over a century by the Demonic Dominion. Humans are kept as prisoners, and the Majiski, a race of battle-mages have almost become extinct due to the evil nature of the demons and their minions. Here enters our hero, Racath Thanjel, who is one of the few remaining Majiski who has been able to survive only by keeping himself hidden away. Throughout this novel, Racath emerges, and strives to defeat the Demons, as he is confronted with shocking secrets and ancient prophecies that aim to push him away from his mission. In the end, he has to decide whether or not he can become the long awaited savior the people of Io have been waiting for, or if he is not strong enough to overcome the evil forces that threaten to conquer all.

The fantasy world that Night creates is not only dark and intriguing, but it is intricate and fully realized in sophisticated ways that flows freely, causing the surprises and turns that occur in the story to come together wonderfully. The cast of characters and species that reside in this world are constructed in a newly imagined way, as Night takes the usual fantasy genre and gives it his own take, offering something unique for the reader to experience. This is by no means a short read, but this young author clearly takes pride in his craft, and no words on the page are wasted. From beginning to end, the narrative follows Racath’s story, which unfolds long after the first battles have ended. Although this is only the first book in a planned series, the deceptions revealed and the traitors to the realm that are uncovered throughout this story’s pages are enough to keep any reader thoroughly enthralled.

 

The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp by Michael Siemsen

In the realm of this novel, demons comes to exist when a soul decides to stay after its death. They are demons by name, but in reality they are everyday beings just like you and I. They remain in our world without the memories of who they are or why they have stayed, all they know is that they have to inhabit the bodies of other people in order to continue on. For the most part, the demon does not remain within one host for long, rather, they move from one person to another, until they find an adequate body in which to stay. ‘The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp’ by Michael Siemsen is a richly written and dramatic narrative that weaves an interesting world in which its characters may thrive and destroy. This novel is a prequel to ‘A Warm Place to Call Home,’ but it is a great story all on its own. Samuel is a demon, but he has a moral code, and he uses it once he settles within the life of a certain host, complete with a girlfriend and other friends he can call his own. The novel is written from the demon’s point of view, but as the pages go on, the reader comes to realize that the demon, Samuel, who has been dead for more than twenty-seven years, is still living and breathing in such unique ways, not because he wants to terrorize others, but due to the fact that his spirit has so much left to offer the world. Siemsen has created a distinct universe where demons are not so much evil creatures who thrive off of the senses of the weak, but instead they are lost souls who must use others to host their entities in order to survive. The reason this book is such an enthralling tale is because of the conviction of the author’s writing. He has constructed a paranormal novel that filters into the everyday affair, creating drama through relationships, yet never losing sight of the kinds of shocking surprises that every reader enjoys. It’s an interesting read because of the overall concept alone, but the reason this novel succeeds so thoroughly at keeping the reader’s attention is due to the talented writing Siemsen offers on the page, crafting a descriptive and enticing story that both surprises and confounds in such a pleasing way.

 

Shadows of the Midnight Sun by Graham Brown and Spencer J. Andrews

Kate Pfeiffer is caught in the crossfire, trapped between two powerful forces, one a holy order called The Righteous Fire, the other a group of vicious immortal beings known as The Fallen. In ‘Shadows of the Midnight Sun’ by Graham Brown and Spencer J. Andrews, Kate must align with a mysterious warrior named Christian, as pairing up with him is her only real chance of survival. The history between the two sides runs deep, their legacies and hatred towards one another described as a mixed up history that has lasted thousands of years. The battle of good versus evil rages on, transpiring in locations across the world while Kate tries her best to sort out what exactly is going on. Time may almost be out for all involved, as the journey ahead foreshadows an ancient prophecy that may bring about the end to everything that’s ever been known.

This book is jam-packed with entertaining elements, containing characters that are both FBI agents and vampires, setting the action in so many various cities, and bringing forth twists and turns on every page. The action is nonstop and will bring the reader in and not let them go. This is the first book of a planned trilogy, and even though not everything is resolved in the end, it is still a great read in its own right. What starts out as what appears to be a murder mystery quickly morphs into a supernatural thriller. The characters are all well developed, especially Kate, who serves as the unlikely hero of the tale. The authors’ use of description fully pulls the narrative along as it continues on. Without a doubt, this is a great piece of suspenseful fiction.

 

The Perfect Round by Will Silver Hastings

9781626751743_p0_v1_s260x420Kele is an advanced, super-computing robot whose many ingenious and innovative mechanics allow him to analyze the world around him with unbelievable speed and accuracy.  His creator, Professor Vernon, puts Kele in charge of an important data-collecting mission onboard the eccentric inventor’s prototype turbojet.  Things take a turn, however, when the turbojet’s flight path brings Kele directly overhead a nuclear research facility, which just so happens to be gearing up for an important experiment.  Kele soon finds himself dropped into a world he was never prepared for: our own.  Protected by his advanced defense systems, he lands unharmed on a golf course, right in the middle of a foursome’s current game.  The humans’ surprise upon meeting the robot quickly becomes curiosity when Kele attempts to put his gifts to good use and play a perfect round of golf.

‘The Perfect Round,’ by Will Silver Hastings, is a meditation on the unlikelihood of perfection in our human world.  This beautifully illustrated children’s book contains over a hundred original digital drawings from artist Courtland Shakespeare that lend significant depth to the accompanying story.  Bright colors and humorous expressions abound here – plenty to satisfy any budding young reader – but don’t let that distract you from the serious thought at the heart of this book.  Children will of course want to know where Kele comes from, and why he decides to try his hand at golf.  Why would a robot want to play a human game?  What’s the fun of winning when you aren’t able to lose?  These are questions that arise in ‘The Perfect Round’ but are never clearly answered.  If you’re looking for a contemplative and entertaining story to read with your kids, then this is the book for you.

 

When the Chips are Down by Anne Rasico

Every action we make nowadays seems to be monitored or controlled in some way, but how we are watched currently pales in comparison to the horrors described in Anne Rasico’s novella, ‘When the Chips are Down.’  The story follows a young woman named Brooklyn, who has just woken up from a two year coma to find that the world around her has significantly changed, and not for the better. Everyone is now required to have a microchip implanted within their arms by the government; a chip that Brooklyn becomes convinced has the ability to control how people behave. Shortly after she awakes, Brooklyn finds herself tangled in a secret plot that has the potential to destroy life as she knows it. With the help of her friends, she must rebel against the controlling state which everyone is enraptured within in order to save the world from its possible destruction, before it’s too late.

This book is a quick and easy read, only coming in at a little over a hundred pages. The story is an interesting one, and it makes you think about the recent developments in the world, with technologies spreading as we connect ourselves together more and more through social media and the internet. Not only that, but because of the recent various governments that have been caught spying on their citizens, this story hits home even more so. The narrative that unfolds is thus not hard to imagine as a reality in the near future, which is helped even further by the descriptive and fast-paced way that Rasico tells her tale. The story could have benefited from better developed characters, but since it is meant to be a novella, their unexplored backgrounds do not affect the overall story much. In the end, ‘When the Chips are Down,’ functions exactly as the author wants it to, as a chilling science fiction thriller that will cause you to keep the pages turning.

 

The Garden of Good and Eden by Paulette Oakes

In the novel, ‘The Garden of Good and Eden’ by Paulette Oakes, the reader is introduced to a young woman by the name of Eden Daire, who has always felt as if she was different from everyone else around her. Adopted by a large Catholic family in Kentucky as a little girl, Eden has always felt out of place, but it’s not just due to the fact that she wasn’t raised by her biological parents. You see, Eden has powers that grant her abilities to perform amazing feats that no one else can achieve. She has the gift to make plants grow at an alarming rate, can talk with other animals as if they speak English and can even heal them when their bodies are ailing. Her adoptive family is unable to give Eden the answers to the questions she aims to solve, and her best friend Amara isn’t much help either. Everything changes the night before her twenty-fifth birthday however, when the secrets to her abilities are revealed. Mythical creatures appear and profess a prophecy that claims Eden is the one who will bring about a new order that will destroy kingdoms. As if that wasn’t enough, another threat is aiming to overtake her family and she’s the only one who can stop it’s damaging path from going on.

In this gripping magical tale, Eden has to find a way to balance her powers and the responsibility that comes with them, while trying to make sure that her adoptive family’s lives aren’t at risk. It’s not an easy task, and so arises the quandary that the main character of this engrossing narrative has to undertake. Oakes has a very inventive imagination, which is clear from the descriptions on the page that paint a mystical picture about the scenarios that her fantastical characters undergo. This is a great starting point for what is sure to be a very spellbinding series, complete with a fully dimensional lead such as Eden Daire to lead the way, it’s bound to be an engaging ride.

 

The Rivalry for Alsatia by Justice Shepherd and Reggit Dogger

This magical novel tells the tale of Catalina Dewin, an aspiring mage who is forced to overcome a variety of obstacles and difficult choices in order to figure out what kind of person she wants to become. Magic isn’t an abundant resource in Alsatia, sometimes the thin balance between peace and pandemonium has the possibility to come undone and force everyone to choose a side. When Catalina accidentally forces her brother into a hole in the space-time continuum, she is kicked out of school, leading her to become the apprentice of the strange Archmage Kalron Castellan. Through her experiences with Kalron she meets an interesting cast of characters that includes an erratic fire-wright, a futile paladin, an intelligent illusionist and a knight of the undead. This unlikely group of misfits bands together to fight against the powerful wizards whose misguided ideas about the nature of the world threaten to take everything over the edge. Catalina and her friends have to fight off attacks from a variety of terrible creatures and traipse across treacherous terrain in order to find a sacred enchanted key that has the power to save the world from erupting into unending chaos.

The Rivalry for Alsatia by Justice Shepherd and Reggit Dogger is the first of a planned seven book series of adventure that takes place in a dangerously magical world. Although this book is just the first of many more to come, it is enjoyable in its own right as a standalone tale that keeps the pages turning as suspense continues to mount while Catalina and her crew journey on in their mission of bravery. This book is written in such a way that certain essential plot points are not revealed all at once, instead the mysteries of magic are delivered at a balanced and delightful pace. The plot has just the right amount of tension, separated by well-placed times of rest and conversation. The tale itself is very creative and imaginative, but at times the story does feel a little bit bloated. Nevertheless, The Rivalry for Alsatia is sure to be only the first engaging novel of what promises to be a truly visionary series.

 

Leprechaun Sorrows by Quentin Donoghue

Depicting the Irish countryside in a manner of splendor and glory, ‘Leprechaun Sorrows: A Magical History of Ireland’ by Quentin Donoghue is a delightful tale about a lustful little leprechaun by the name of Cullen. This complex story follows the titular character on his journey to find the fairy spirit which caused him to be so overcome with physical longing in the first place. His adventure takes him through the country of Ireland which is described in a thoughtful and beautiful way, ranging through both place and time as the story meanders on across the lush green landscape. The tale is full of quite a number of characters and interesting happenings, amusingly filtered through the lenses of romance, comedy and magic.

Donoghue has worked a great deal of material into this book, filling its pages with humor and adventure, whiling also slipping in scenes of eroticism and violence. Although the main character is a tiny little leprechaun, it is not a book for young readers; rather the narrative is a somewhat complex one that should be tackled by adults who enjoy a comical tale told in the scope of a magical place. The story does jump around a lot, but the characters and storyline that Donoghue has crafted are creative and imaginative enough to keep the reader entertained. By reading this work, it is easy to tell his great love for Ireland, which is so lovingly defined throughout the book. As the book’s description states, this novel is the kind of story that will upset a few, entertain and charm most of those who read it, and become a precious gem in the minds of the Irish and those who wish they were.

 

Purgatory: Soldiers of Misfortune by Darryl Olsen

When Harry Taylor wakes up in an unthinkable place that is unlike any other he has ever seen before, he is unaware that it is only just the beginning of his journey through a place filled with the kinds of horrors he had only dreamt of previously. The novel, Purgatory: Soldiers of Misfortune, by Darryl Olsen is a fantasy-tinged thriller that is mixed with philosophical themes, which play out continuously throughout the course of the novel. The purgatory that Harry is a part of is an ancient place where all the wrongs of the world have come together. This place is controlled by a merciless group of warriors called Leviathan, whose main goal is to capture and enslave the lost souls that reside there. In order for Harry to escape the clutches of these warriors, he has to form alliances with the other desperate souls that are also trapped in this hellish realm of nightmares.

The main reason that this novel is such an interesting story is because Olsen does a great job of leaving the reader wondering about what is actually going on as where purgatory actually is, or what it actually is, is a question that is left open-ended. The citizens of this so-called purgatory seem as if they are still living and breathing human beings, as they eat and bleed just like normal humans do. The main characters are all fully developed and believable, some are honorable, while others are despicable. There is mystery that surrounds not only the location of the tale, but also what is driving the characters to obtain their goals. Questions of morality, space, time, and what our lives truly mean all come together through the well written descriptions and dialogues that keep coming page after page in the first book of this inventive and thought provoking series that Olsen has created.

 

For Gods and For Men by James Johnson

In Ancient Rome, Marcus Tegerius Castimus finds out that he is immortal. This cosmic realization sends him on a quest to save the world from an unjust plan that a group of individuals called the Lifebloods had put into order many years before. With the help of a mixed assortment of unlikely individuals, Castimus journeys onward through villages, castles, and forests, coming into contact with multiple forays of dismay that aim to stop him. When interests on either side of his own morality aim to sway him towards their cause, Castimus has to choose between helping the Lifebloods and living a life of privilege and power, or fighting to save humanity from being wiped out. Choosing the right thing doesn’t come easily, as Castimus falls into the trap that the Lifebloods have set up for him, one that he has to fight against with all of his will in order to survive.

James Johnson creates a visually stunning adventure in his debut novel, For Gods and For Men, painting an expressive world with the words he chooses for the reader to witness. The dilemma his main character is put in creates a fast paced tale that makes the story progress nicely, as twists and turns come at every suspenseful corner. Castimus, the immortal center point of this tale, is fully developed, as are the supporting characters that come to his aid, and those that fight against him. This book was so rich with action and adventure there could easily be many more novels and journeys for Castimus to venture on. For Gods and For Men is an epic tale set in a mythological version of the ancient times we thought we once knew.

 

Product by Ian McCain

At the beginning of the novel, Product, by Ian McCain, Ernie Chase is a decrepit and decaying man whose alcoholism has led him to a dilapidated life on the streets, where his thoughts wonder in vague directions as he stumbles from place to place. His only ray of hope remains in the fact that his daughter Marie still cares for him, even though he continues to linger on in life without contacting her much. He knows she loves him, but he is embarrassed of the current state his life is in. That state changes even further when Ernie witnesses a drug deal in a dark back alley and is shot, causing him to lose consciousness. When he wakes up, he is healthy, sober, and looks half his age. Confused about what has happened, Ernie is informed that he has been infected with a virus that requires him to intake human blood to stay alive. In order to gain access to this blood supply, Ernie makes a deal to serve his captor, but this causes him to end up in a dangerous situation, as others who are infected start to descend upon the streets of New York City, looking for their next fix.

Product succeeds because McCain has created a universe where vampires exist as more realistic beings. They are not the mythical blood sucking pale ghosts as so often described in literature, but instead they are presented as infected souls who have to take in amounts of human blood to stay alive. This novel focuses on Ernie and what he undergoes for most of the narrative, as he changes from a homeless drunk to an infected mercenary of the streets, but it also develops a lot of other strong characters, and includes background information from the past, which is very helpful in accentuating the tale further. The imagery is dark and the words used paint graphic images within the readers mind, but it all fits together coherently in the world that McCain has created. This is not just another vampire book, instead it is a refreshing take on a genre that has been so frequently misused in recent times.