Pulse: When Gravity Fails by John Freitas

Pulse: When Gravity Fails by John Freitas
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasyt
Length: Short Story (90 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The Alpha Centauri star system begins to collapse and the resulting gravitational waves reach our planet, creating strange phenomena around the globe, leaving the people who are affected by them wondering what in the world is going on.

A scientist in an isolated observatory sees clues that tell him what is happening to the world may be bigger and more deadly than a few earthquakes and a few floating objects.

Dr. Paulo Restrepo will have to race against time and the doubts of a world used to gravity behaving the same everywhere at every time. By the time he figures out the cause and what that means for the final approaching event, it might be too late, but he has to try.

There is a lot of intense suspense and drama packed into the 90 pages of the novella, Pulse: When Gravity Fails and it’s a wild ride. For fans of disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow, which just happens to be one of my absolute favorites to rewatch, this book should appeal.

The format is basically taking each chapter to showcase a different person/situation and how they’re affected by the earth’s gravity not working like Sir Isaac Newton said it did. There’s the firefighter, the pilot, the child, and the scientist. Sean is the firefighter who provides the best emotional conflict; Michael, the pilot that crashed behind enemy lines and somehow has to survive and live to see another day, provides the action and suspense aspect of the conflict; and Holden is the child with the insight the adults ignore and his point of view gives readers a chance to look at the crisis in a magical, although still worrisome, way. As far as the scientist goes, the blurb gives him a much bigger role than he actually has in the book. Dr. Restrepo’s presence is extremely important as far as providing the cast and readers with the skinny as to what is actually happening. His role as the canary in the mine is reminiscent of Terry Rapson’s role in The Day After Tomorrow, but not as convincing or evolved. The plot definitely benefits from having someone of science back up the findings and gives credence to the announcement to the world that comes later.

I like how the book starts, like a movie. It’s an innocent preview of what is about to happen. It seems innocuous, certainly from the point of view of the kids but like all great disaster films, it’s only the beginning. And that’s what I found so enjoyable about this story, it reads like a movie and it was easy to envision the action in my head. Everything built from there.

I’d read a couple of reviews about this novella after I’d read it and someone mentioned editing issues. Honestly, I never saw any. I was so completely engrossed in the plot, the action surrounding the characters and the way things built and built, it kept me on the edge of my seat reading as fast as I could. Nothing bumped me out of the story, nothing undermined my enjoyment and I actually liked the formatting of the storytelling. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was Dr. Restropo’s role; it was necessary but not developed enough to carry the weight of the responsibilities that his role was imbued with. It was cluttered with unnecessary details like the shiny nose.

The funniest scene and a true creative lark was the chocolate flatulence. I outright laughed at that and thought it comic genius. The emotional conflict between Sean and Jenny, Carter was the main thread that wove through the entire tale and it felt realistic to me. Love and all its messy complications, of loss and healing, trust and redemption are what gave this book heart and the reason to survive. The complicated romance situation was not the center of the story, the potential catastrophe was, but the romantic elements certainly gave readers a connection to the main characters.

I truly enjoyed reading Pulse: When Gravity Fails and give it a thumbs up for readers of science fiction disaster themes and of stories about people who survive against incredible odds. I would like to see this be turned into a movie, even if it only ever aired on the SyFy channel. It has the right elements to be an entertainment success.

Screaming Down Splitsville by Kayla Bashe

Screaming Down Splitsville by Kayla Bashe
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Length: Short Story (41 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet, F/F
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Screaming Down Splitsville takes place in an alternate 1950s where two groups of people with magical powers fight for dominance. Flip, a young lesbian, thinks her healing powers are completely useless. After her escape from a lab, she’s been grounded to a safe base, and while everyone else is on important missions, she keeps the fridge stocked and fixes the plumbing. However, when a chance coincidence sends her on a solo rescue mission, Flip has a surprising reunion with a woman from her past.

Unable to speak after a botched cleft palate surgery, Emma-Rose grew up half-wild in the Southern backwoods- until strangers discovered her magical powers and imprisoned her in a laboratory of torture. Her one salvation was the woman in the next cell, Flip. Now Flip’s returned, and according to her, they’ll both make it to safety. But Emma’s plans have failed so many times that she has no hope left to lose.

As the two women seek to evade their pursuers, their friendship rekindles, and they are forced to confront both enemies and insecurities.

Rescue comes in many forms.

Wow, what an intense story. Everything from the torture chamber to the big chase later on made it impossible for me to stop reading. The fast pacing worked well how energetically the plot was written. I simply had to know what would happen next and if Emma-Rose would get away from her captors. This is the kind of world I deeply enjoy discovering when I crack open a new book because of how much fun it is to explore.

The romantic elements of this tale didn’t work so well for me. They didn’t show up until very late in the plot, and there wasn’t much foreshadowing going on for them before then. I absolutely loved both the characters involved in this part of the storyline, and I was excited to see what would happen to them next. With that being said, I would have liked to see much more time spent building up the romantic tension between them before anything flirtatious happened.

Ms. Bashe did some interesting things with her flashbacks that made me smile. I barely knew anything about the two main characters in the beginning, and she didn’t reveal very much about them until several scenes had flown by. It was fascinating to get to know them so well before learning anything about their previous lives. I also liked seeing how the author tied even the smallest and simplest memories to what was currently going on in the characters’ lives. This isn’t something I’ve seen done very often in this genre.

I’d recommend Screaming Down Splitsville to anyone who enjoys a little romance in their science fiction.

Lucky’s Seven by Keely Jakes

Lucky’s Seven by Keely Jakes
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (70 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Team Paladin, 1

While recovering, Marine special unit Team Paladin wins a $565-million dollar lottery. The first thing they do is hire a personal assistant to deal with the insanity that much money will bring.

Desperate for a job, Lucky Duvall responds to an advertisement for a personal assistant. He is hoping that seven is his lucky number as this will be his seventh job interview for the week. The god of a man who interviews him makes him long for more than just a job with the team.

Lion shifter Shane Thomas has more on his hands than he can handle. He has a team of battle scarred interspecies shifters who have decided to move away from the civilized world. Then he meets Lucky, his mate. Will he be able to convince Lucky to take a chance on him and the team and their crazy dream of moving to Montana?

Shane Thomas and his Marine Force Recon buddies had all been chipping in to buy a bunch of lotto tickets each week. Shane was dubious at best with their chances, but didn’t see the harm in joining in. After they each complete their rehab the only shifter-Marine team has been promised their freedom, and winning the jackpot is the icing on the cake as far as Shane is concerned. The main problem is the team now needs an assistant to help with all the technical issues – booking hotel rooms, helping them manage their accounts and all the day-to-day stuff none of the shifters are able to do themselves while recuperating from their wounds. That’s when Shane met Lucky and his world turned upside down.

I found this to be an interesting story and a great set-up for the rest of the series. With a whole bunch of ex-Marine shifters (including a lion, a panther and a bear – oh my!) there are plenty of personalities in the mix and clearly the author plans to write further stories about the other team members. There’s a definite hook in the ending, designed to entice purchasing the next story and plenty of the main plot left hanging to tempt readers.

I liked Lucky – a slightly odd young man determined to walk his own path. I felt him easily relatable and enjoyed his quirks. Shane’s character was a little more difficult for me to get a handle on. While clearly the team leader, I never fully understood exactly why. As a lion shifter I could easily understand his enjoyment of the warmth and sunshine. I also understood his alpha tendencies, but his team mates were just as alpha-orientated and I began to wonder if it was his Marine rank that led him to be the leader and not his personal characteristics as such.

I enjoyed reading the story and getting to know both Shane and Lucky, but couldn’t help feel that much of the plot was bogged down in the “setting up” aspect of the story. Things like dodging the reporters and actually getting their lottery winnings, explaining about mates and shifters and so forth. A large chunk of the story felt very much to me as if it were laying the groundwork for all the following stories to come, and that was a shame because Lucky and Shane were both really interesting characters and a lot of fun together. I would have preferred had their relationship moved a little faster and be seen a bit more – to help make the details and slow-moving plot aspect seem like it dragged slightly less.

With fun characters and a fair bit of snarky humor this is a good story and well written. I enjoyed it and apart from a bit of lagging in places feel this is a great read. With six more characters to go there’s sure to be plenty more for readers to enjoy.

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Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnès Martin-Lugand

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnès Martin-Lugand
Publisher: Weinstein Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (214 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

She fled Paris to lose herself. The love she found would change everything.
Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, a mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary cafe in Paris. But when she suddenly loses her husband and daughter in a car accident, her life is overturned and the world as she knows it instantly disappears. Trapped and haunted by her memories, Diane closes her shop and retreats from her friends and family, unable and unwilling to move forward.

But one year later, Diane shocks her loved ones and makes the surprising decision to move to a small town on the Irish coast, finally determined to heal by rebuilding her life alone-until she meets Edward, a handsome and moody Irish photographer who lives next door. At first abrasive and unwelcoming, Edward initially resents Diane’s intrusion into his life of solitude . . . until he can no longer keep her at arm’s length. Along windy shores and cobbled streets, Diane falls into a surprising and tumultuous romance. As she works to overcome her painful memories and truly heal, Diane and Edward’s once-in-a-lifetime connection inspires her to love herself and the world around her with newfound inner strength and happiness. But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland, and Edward, for good?

At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane’s story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring.

Diane is a woman who has it all. A happy family and a bookshop, she is living a dream in the middle of Paris. But tragedy strikes when her husband and daughter are killed in a car accident. Torn apart by grief, she withdraws from everyone and everything-except her best friend. Searching for meaning in her life now that everything she loved is gone, she decides to move to a small town on the Irish coast and what she finds there will forever shape her destiny.

Edward is a bitter man who knows loss only too well. When he and Diane meet, it is a combustible moment of fire and gasoline, leaving both of them reeling from the impact. Slowly, Diane crawls out of her grief stricken stage and she learns to feel again-even if it is rather a form of hate for her new neighbor that quickly turns into a burning hot romance. But when it comes time for Diane to leave, what will become of her new romance with the enigmatic Edward? You’ll have to read this book to find out.

This book grabbed me and didn’t let me go. In one sitting, I devoured the pages in one breathless gulp. More women’s fiction than romance, the tale showcases the evolution of a woman who is hanging on to her old life by the skin of her teeth and the courage it takes to forge ahead when you don’t know that you have anything left to live for. All of the raw human emotions are there and the book leaves you with a breathless precipice of possibilities that will appeal to fans of Meave Binchy, Jan Karon and Debbie Macomber.

I enjoyed the emotional roller coaster and the light touch of romance-not enough to classify the book as romance but it was still there. I was also excited to learn that it is being made into a movie. Think Tuscan Sun meets the Irish coast and you have the story in a nutshell-and what a good one it was.

I highly recommend Happy People Read and Drink Coffee for a nice beach read or just something to get you out of your own head for awhile.

Wolf’s Lady by Jessica Marting

Wolf’s Lady by Jessica Marting
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (109 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

The only mistake Lady Adelle Thornber ever made turned into a scandal that rocked London and saw her banished to Scotland, the reluctant bride of a reclusive baron. But Lord Henry MacAulay isn’t what she expected: he cares deeply for his barony and for her.

As the sole heir to the Roseheath title and werewolf alpha, Henry knew that he had to take a mate someday. He just didn’t expect to find her in a disgraced noble’s daughter forced into marriage with him. But as he falls more deeply in love with Adelle, he can’t bring himself to tell her what he really is. But when he can, it isn’t his werewolf nature that may tear them apart.

Her parents meant for the exile to be punishment. Instead, Adelle found a love she never expected as the Wolf’s Lady.

This is an interesting take on a historical even without the paranormal aspect. Henry isn’t a normal minor noble. He doesn’t just say he cares for his tenants, he works to give them a better life by teaching them skills. In a land where farming isn’t an option as the primary source of income, Henry creates inventions that are ahead of their time. In short, he’s a tinker…who also happens to be a werewolf. See? Clever!

I liked Adelle’s character, too. She could have been totally appalled by the conditions of the manor, the lack of parties and entertainment, and the constant cold and snow but, she’s comes off less materialistic and smarter than the normal debutante. Maybe it’s the fact that she isn’t just out of the school room but I liked that she was more mature. I don’t think, actually I’m sure, Henry wouldn’t have fallen in love so quickly with someone who was constantly complaining and having temper tantrums.

Then there’s the whole “by the way, I’m a wolf once a month” aspect. I liked the wolf history the author threw in at different times and wondered how Adelle was going to take the news. It doesn’t come out until later in the book so, after getting to know Adelle, I felt that she was going to take it much better than Henry imagined.

As if the whole big wolf reveal wasn’t enough tension for the story, there’s this duke, Wexfield, he’s a weasel of an antagonist. I kept picturing the Duke Wesselton from Frozen. Everyone in that movie kept referring to him as Weaselton and it fit. Our story’s duke could have been named Weaselton. I just knew he was going to get what was coming to him.

There’s a little bit of repetition in the story regarding Henry’s reason for agreeing to marry Adelle and her dowry. It made me pause to figure out if I had imagined reading something already or if it was simply being repeated, I quickly decided on repeat and moved on. It doesn’t ruin the story, just pulled me out for a bit. Besides some minor editing issues, the only other issue was that, beyond the paranormal aspect, there’s still some “suspend disbelief” pieces to this story. For one, while the story isn’t marketed as steampunk, the Duke manages to have a repeating handgun that I don’t think was present during the time period. Maybe steampunk is implied since Henry is a tinker and the Duke also has a dirigible.

Adelle and Henry make a sweet couple. I loved that he couldn’t stay away from her and that she wasn’t afraid to push him a little, especially in regards to their mutual attraction.

Readers who enjoy a good historical with a paranormal twist should give this one a try. The characters are interesting and the story is clever. A short read and worth the time.

Carnal Sacrifice by Angelika Helsing

Carnal Sacrifice by Angelika Helsing
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Historical
Length: Short Story (126 Pages)
Other: M/M/M/F, Multiple Partners, Menage
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

To lift a curse, she must survive an orgy of pleasure.

Delaney Jones dedicates her life to the Peace Corps—up at dawn, work past dusk. On a mountain overlooking the Sacred Valley in Peru, she’s thousands of miles away from the real reason she fled her home. Her stepbrother, rock god Jaden Seavers.

But half a world isn’t far enough to outrun the strange, erotic visions of him that disturb her dreams. When she unexpectedly encounters Jaden on a desolate Peruvian road, their mutual hunger is stronger than ever.

In the uncontrollable rush of desire, Jaden can no longer hide the truth. He is a vampire—and he’s not alone. Many of his kind have come to Peru to take part in a ritual that will make them mortal.

All they need is a vessel strong enough to withstand the power of five vampires gone wild with an unholy craving. And when the eruption of lust is over, survive to fill the emptiness of the one man who loves her more than life itself…

Delaney has always had something for her stepbrother. She felt that there was no way it could work between her and Jaden. To move on with her life and away from what couldn’t have, she joined the Peace Corps and moved to the opposite side of the earth. But did it work?

No, it did not. Her dreams were filled with him.

Carnal Sacrifice is an erotic story that revolves around an ancient ritual, a sacrifice.

The story, plot was not what I thought it would be. On the surface, this story was all about sex and pleasure. I was pleasantly surprised to see that that she did have chemistry with all of the other men. But there is a love story in this. In spite of what she agrees to do and with whom, it seemed that not only her heart but also her body seemed to prefer Jaden over everyone else. I think the love story just enhanced and made this one better.

An action packed erotic story with a climactic ending. This book is about how far someone would go for love. What they are willing to go through, to be with their one and only.

Down the River by David Wilma

Down the River by David Wilma
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (279 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

On the Kentucky frontier in 1810, ambitious men struggle for power over a young, gritty society based on slavery. Ruthless planter and politician David Morgan chooses his young servant Phyllis to gather information on his friends and rivals from other slaves. He also finds her a husband, the love of her life. She develops a keen sense of observation as well as knowledge that there is more to the world beyond the isolated valleys and a system that regards her as property. Despite her warnings, Morgan’s fortunes wane and she and her husband and their children are sold to Edward Osborn, Morgan’s enemy.
Osborn’s ego and the War of 1812 bring more tragedy into Phyllis’s world. Morgan and his son are murdered, and Phyllis is the only eyewitness to the crimes. Her experience as a spy and her own wits help her survive a lynch mob, but may not be enough to reunite her family.

The story is realistic and heart aching but true to the era.

This book may not be suitable for some readers. Even though the detail description of physical abuse to human was known for this time era, reading about the great length of hardship could be a bit much for some. The author has a talent for telling a story and has no problem getting in to character to tell the story. I was surprised that the male author could portray the feelings, thoughts and experience of a female slave girl. The author gives a day to day account of Phyllis Wallace Lewis, a slave girl working on the plantation of David Morgan. David Morgan is describe to be a fair slave owner, with ambition to be a politician but some how his actions shown in the book didn’t really seem fair, especially since it seemed he was the cause for the hardship brought about in Phyllis’s life.

The story is told in Phyllis’s voice. Her voice tells of her documented journey to her children. Her story was one that is truly amazing but I felt it lacked more about her personal story; a story of her family history of why she was set apart from the others. At the start of the book Phyllis’s mother was present but was later sold off the plantation, leaving Phyllis a orphan. Phyllis pretty much was kept apart from the other slave hands. For this story to have been her voice to her children I would have liked to have read more on her mother and her story. What mother wouldn’t want to tell their children where they came from and who their people are? Phyllis knowingly looked different than the others but no one spoke about her blue eyes and fair skin complexion. Later in the book a brief mention that she was white but not much more was elaborated on who she was, who was her father and she didn’t question who she was; she just accepted that she was different and it didn’t seem to bother her.

The author has a talent for writing and telling a story. I’ve read The Guardian and thoroughly enjoyed that book, but for this one I just want something more to happen. Or maybe too much was happening. The first part of the book tells of Phyllis at a young age, the plantation moving and then settling into a new land. Due to near tragic circumstances, Phyllis is assigned to the kitchen to cook, then she was partnered with Esther to sell produce around the town area and gather information for master David to help him in his political run for office. She marries and then is sold. It’s a life full of crisis after crisis and Phyllis is a strong woman the book depicts her endurance and growth in her Christian journey. Reading Phyllis’s story and seeing her growth from thinking her life would be spent under some one’s thumb and to only see that a slave has no rights except to suffer. Her interpersonal growth she soon realizes there is other forces beyond white men and weather. This is a heart warming story to tell her children about. Passing along her struggle and how she overcame to become the strong woman that her children would know and see her as.

The story is well constructed even though there are parts that kept my interest there also were parts of the book that I found to be slow as well. Phyllis’s journey didn’t so much end with a destination but brought about a memorable life of tragedy, heartbreak, love, lost and in the end forgiveness. This book wasn’t the best to me as a reader but I wouldn’t want to discourage someone from reading it. The journey of Phyllis’s life could be an inspiration to some reader that crisis may rise in life but you can’t give up, you definitely can’t stop fighting and ultimately that forgiving may sometimes bring about freedom.

Color of Danger by Ruth J. Hartman

Color of Danger by Ruth J. Hartman
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (137 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When Patience Sullyard finds a mysterious note tied to a pigeon’s leg, her commissioned panorama at a falconry flies the coop. Instead of painting in hues of brown and beige, her focus shifts to saving a troubled stranger.

Walter Bexley craves adventure from his boring life. Insinuating himself into Patience’s problem by accompanying her to the falconry might be just the answer.

Will the risk they take be worth the exhilaration, or will Patience and Walter discover the threat is too dangerous?

Patience, the youngest of the Sullyard sisters, is trying to convince her sisters she is now grown up. Her brothers-in-law’s younger relative is quite willing to help her show her sisters she is no longer a baby, but Patience believes Walter is a rake as he is always teasing her.

As talented as her sisters, Patience goes to a falconry to paint a panorama of the birds for their owner. Walter, considered a relative, is her escort. The closeness of several days alone together brings about more than friendship.

I have read the previous two books of this trilogy and found them captivating. This one was equally so, but I felt the title to be a little misleading. There was a little danger, but nothing like the intense scenes of the previous novels. The danger scene could have been a little longer and more intense as it was over far too quickly, and the explanation behind the reason for the situation fell a little flat. A few amusing incidents interspersed with edgy conversations and scenes held the story together and kept me reading.

A good book with bright characters who got me on their side as I wanted them to win their heart’s desire.