Sirens by Rhonda Parrish (editor)

SIRENS
Sirens by Rhonda Parrish (editor)
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (277 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.

Featuring stories by Kelly Sandoval, Amanda Kespohl, L.S. Johnson, Pat Flewwelling, Gabriel F. Cuellar, Randall G. Arnold, Michael Leonberger, V. F. LeSann, Tamsin Showbrook, Simon Kewin, Cat McDonald, Sandra Wickham, K.T. Ivanrest, Adam L. Bealby, Eliza Chan, and Tabitha Lord, these siren songs will both exemplify and defy your expectations.

The ocean is full of creatures we haven’t figured out yet.

In “The Fisherman and the Golem,” Ged purchased an unusual-looking golem to do his housekeeping while he was out fishing. He named the golem Lucette and soon grew quite attached to her. What I liked the most about his tale were all of the twists in it. There were a lot of surprises packed into a pretty short amount of space, and that made it impossible for me to stop reading until I’d discovered everything that happened to Ged and Lucette.

Nearly all of the stories in this collection were extremely well done. There were a few, though, that could have used a little more development. “Safe Waters” was one of them. The plot followed a woman named Lina who downloaded her consciousness into a synthetic mermaid body while on vacation. The lagoon she swam around was safe and beautiful, but she soon discovered something about it that none of the advertisements for this get-away had mentioned. I really enjoyed the storyline itself, but there were certain parts of Lina’s character development that never made sense to me because there wasn’t a lot of time spent on her personality. I would have liked to get to know her better as an individual so that I could have more clearly understood certain choices that she made. The choices themselves fit in perfectly with what was going on. What I didn’t understand was why she thought they were the best decisions for her.

My favourite part of “The Fisherman’s Catch” was watching Jim, the main character, react to meeting his old friend Burt’s new girlfriend. Jim and Burt had known each other for so many years that they could tell what their buddy was thinking with a single glance. This brought out a great deal of the humor in those scenes that I might not have otherwise noticed. I also appreciated the fact that Jim was so open with the audience about what he was thinking and feeling. Knowing so much about him made me unbelievably curious to see what he would do next.

Sirens is an imaginative anthology that I’d heartily recommend to anyone who wants to be swept away to another time and place.

Beyond the Fence: A Short Collection of Stories by Marilyn Horn

FENCE
Beyond the Fence: A Short Collection of Stories by Marilyn Horn
Publisher: Thinking Ink Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The worlds in Marilyn Horn’s stories are sometimes dark, sometimes surreal, and sometimes both—and yet not so unfamiliar. No matter how fantastic the world, loneliness is the enemy, connection the goal. The stories in this short collection will haunt you and comfort you long after you finish the last page.

Don’t blink. You might miss something.

In “Don’t Mind the Vet,” Bettina’s mother convinced her to take the mother’s sick dog to the veterinarian. Before Bettina left, though, her mother gave her a strange and incomprehensible warning. What I liked the most about the plot was how long it waited before offering any kind of explanation about what was going on to the audience. That delay made me curious to know what would happen at the vet’s office and why the mother said what she did. It was a lot of fun to come up with possible answers while I was reading.

There were several stories in this collection that needed more development. Their concepts were fantastic, but I struggled to figure out what they were trying to say to the audience because they were so short and mysterious. “So Many Shoes” was a good example of this. The narrator had been working on a complicated and longterm shoe project for reasons that weren’t revealed right way to the audience. While I was fascinated by the idea of anyone paying that much attention to shoes, it would have been helpful to have more information about the narrator’s backstory and why they picked this particular project. The hints that were provided were so subtle that I wasn’t always sure if I was understanding them the way the author wanted me to.

Jeff D. Karnes had been waiting for ages for his better half to show up in the afterlife in “Soul Mate.” What I found most interesting about this tale was how Jeff reacted to his previous lifetime. It wasn’t at all the reaction I was expecting him to have, but it did show me many sides of his personality that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. This could have easily been expanded into a full-length novel, although it worked really well in the short story form.

I’d recommend Beyond the Fence: A Short Collection of Stories to anyone who enjoys flash fiction.

Kellen’s Awakening by Angel Martinez & Bellora Quinn

AWAKENING
Kellen’s Awakening by Angel Martinez & Bellora Quinn
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (264 pgs)
Other: M/M, Multiple Partners, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

The staff at AURA has had a busy summer. Between chronic understaffing, dealing with warring goblin factions and an unusual number of hazardous Events, everyone is overworked. Sinistrus the incubus, newly hired as an AURA medic, actually enjoys his busy new life of responsible employee and faithful lover to his gorgeous police sergeant, Ness the centaur. Life would be perfect, except for a niggling suspicion about a colleague. Everyone else seems to disagree, but Sin’s certain something’s not right with that pixie.

Kellen, a pixie crossover, loves his job working in AURA medical, even if he is something of an outsider. His job and the friends he manages to make are happy spots in an otherwise dark and secretive life. As the rest of AURA tries to discover the root of the inexplicable rise in violence and large scale Events, Kellen fights to preserve his own life and what dignity he has left.

These two unlikely heroes must put their differences aside and navigate tragedy and ever-escalating disaster together in order to stop the sinister forces that hold Kellen in thrall.

With an unusual increase in events AURA finds itself even busier than ever. As more and more otherworldly beings arrive, the staff is more than a little overworked. When incubus Sin is forced to deal with the newly crossed-over pixie, Kellen, sparks fly – but not of the pleasant sort. Sin is a ball of sarcasm and Kellen’s an awkward pixie with a secret. When disaster strikes, will they be able to put their differences aside and work together or will they let everything fall apart around them?

The incubus, Sinistrus, has been one of my favorite characters since the beginning. I was elated to find he had such a large role in this third installment. He’s an aggravating mixture of sexy and sarcastic, always quick with a quip or a heated smile. But that’s just part of being an incubus, I suppose. His relationship with the centaur, Nestor, is an interesting one and although an unlikely pairing, they really do balance each other out.

Kellen, a pixie crossover, is the newest addition to the AURA cast. From the very beginning, you know that he’s holding something back, but whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen. As his story began to unfold, I found myself feeling more and more sympathy towards him. By the end, I just wanted to give him a big hug. I was happy to see that, although he’s a pixie, Kellen is a regular-sized being instead of a Tinkerbell sized dragonfly. It makes him more relatable in a sense to have him be the same height and build as an averaged-sized human male.

Kellen’s Awakening is an intense and action packed novel that starts with a jolt and continues on through to the end. There was a character death near the beginning that caught me by surprise and colors the tone of much of the novel, making this a sadder story that the two prior. However, it’s not a depressing story by any stretch because there is so much going on, there isn’t time to get caught up in the loss. It actually makes for a deeper, more emotional story in the end. Each installment brings a better story and more interesting and diverse characters. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next novel.

Saint Underground by Adam Dunn

SAINT
Saint Underground by Adam Dunn
Publisher: Dunn Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Election 2016—The Democratic and Republican parties are holding their conventions in NYC—simultaneously. Illicit campaign money pours through a new underground bank in the city’s newest subway tunnel. But this campaign isn’t about votes—the parties are at war. Santiago and More have uncovered a plot to hijack not just the presidential conventions, but the nation itself. As the feud erupts into open warfare, an embittered veteran turned high-tech warrior, enters the fray. Codenamed ODIN, he is More’s nemesis and they rock the city from the spires of Saint John the Divine to the bowels of the city’s subways. There is no judgment, only survival, for both sinners and saints—underground.

With his cover blown and everything up in the air, Special Agent Everett More is back at the NYPD with Detective Sixto Santiago, much to Santiago’s irritation. So when the presidential election of 2016 heats up and the feud begins, it’s up to More and Santiago to get to the bottom of the corruption coloring the election. But will they be able to set old grievances aside long enough to put things right? Or will their version of New York City fall into an even darker depression?

In this third installment of Adam Dunn’s “More” series, things get even more crazy and convoluted. I wasn’t sure that anything could get more insane than the previous two books, but I underestimated the power of Everett “Ever” More. Now that his cover has been blown, he has no real need to be as secretive as he had before. As over the top as More can be, he’s always intriguing in an ‘oh my god what next’ kind of way. His relationship with Santiago is one of the best parts of this series.

NYPD Detective Sixto “Six” Santiago is both amusing and aggravating. He tends to grouch a lot, but when you consider who he’s partnered with, you begin to understand his constant state of annoyance. But he’s a good guy at heart, trying to better himself and get away from More at all costs. Although their relationship is a bit antagonistic, they work well together, even when More has gone a bit off the deep end. His ability not to strangle his partner is probably his greatest strength.

As ever, Saint Underground is an exhilarating rollercoaster ride of a novel. Once the action starts, it doesn’t stop until the end. It’s obvious that the author has done his research although, at times, he’s done too much. When he gets into describing More’s weapons or any of a handful of other items, he does get a bit carried away. The overly detailed passages tend to disrupt the flow of the story for me, detaching me from the action. However, if you’re more familiar with the kinds of weapons and vehicles that the author’s discussing, it might not be as much of a knee-jerk for you. Full of intrigue and politics, this series might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like a thriller with political elements then it’s definitely a good choice.

The Kura by Mary Patterson Thornburg

KIRA
The Kura by Mary Patterson Thornburg
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (393 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Alyssha promised her father she wouldn’t return to Bandor, and for six years she has kept that promise. But the hit-and-run victim she found dying on a Granville street was a man she met in that other world, and his family won’t know what happened to him unless she goes back to tell them. She really has no choice, has she?

And the other dead man, the body lying in a willow grove near the road to Bandor Gan… Finding him there was just a terrible coincidence, wasn’t it?

Alyssha fervently hopes so. Yes, six years ago Bandor had troubles – cruel and repressive laws, workers exploited in the city’s woolen mills and the northern mines. Growing pains of the budding industrial revolution. Some people were angry, ready to fight. But these problems seem smaller and easier to solve, somehow, than the problems she’s left behind. Bandor is cleaner, kinder, more peaceful, more right, than the frantic world she inherited in 21st Century America.
Anyway, the problems aren’t hers to solve. There’s so much country here that these troubles don’t touch. She’ll go to the nomadic village where her friends are, where she was happy all those years ago. She’ll study with the old kura, learning to be a teacher, a healer. Her life will mean more, here among these cheerful, pleasant people, than it would mean in Granville. She’ll find her home here, and she’ll be content.

And, as in a fairy tale, there’ll be a happy ending. She and Kardl loved each other back then, when they were children. Now they’re grown up, and the daydreams that sustained her in Granville will come true at last. Kardl will be here, waiting for her, as she’s waited all these years for him…

Won’t he?

Can the reality of Bandor ever live up to Alyssha’s dreams?

Alyssha’s life has been on hold ever since her visit to Bandor. Even though she was only twelve when she went through the door to Bandor, she knew in her heart that the other universe was her home. Only a promise to her father has kept her from crossing over again. I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Alyssha’s situation. On one hand, I admire her patience and determination. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that Alyssha has missed out on so much. By living in her dreams, she essentially withdrew from the real world. However, Alyssha seems to be okay with this, and despite her lack of close relationships, she is a sweet young woman, and I looked forward to getting to know her as I read.

Ms. Thornburg did an excellent job of creating an alternate universe. I found the similarities and differences between the two universes interesting. However, I must let readers know that this is not a book to race through. In order to truly appreciate this book, readers need to take their time and really soak up the atmosphere of the world that Ms. Thornburg has created. That being said, I did find the sections detailing the political situation and the various clans and factions a little slow. While it definitely provided useful information key to understanding the world Alyssha was living in, it was a bit hard to get into those sections.

Once in Bandor, Alyssha finds herself in a strange love triangle. Kardl has changed quite a bit since she last saw him, and Alyssha isn’t sure if anything remains of the boy she fell in love with. Another man has also attracted her attention. I must say that Alyssha’s romantic dilemmas are resolved in unexpected ways, and I enjoyed watching Alyssha mature and learn to live and love in the real Bandor, and not just the one in her fantasies.

I must say that I loved the ending of this tale. I can’t say much without spoiling it, but I will say that someone very important to Alyssha makes a decision that I never foresaw and yet it made complete sense. It definitely left me with a smile on my face.

The Kura is certainly an enjoyable tale. Readers looking to lose themselves in a tale of love and friendship should definitely give The Kura a try.

Fighting Mad by Kathy Bryson

MAD
Fighting Mad by Kathy Bryson
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (291 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Laid off from her job at the bank, Carla turns to her friends for support only to find they’re more concerned about their jobs. The one person she can count on is local bartender Murphy, but what kind of example is that to set for her daughters? Having learned the hard way, Carla’s not depending on any man, even if he is cute, charming, very kind, and some kind of leprechaun?

Murphy is used to sneers. Clurichauns are the redheaded stepchildren of the leprechaun world and then there are the late-night throw-downs at his bar. What he wants, however, is to protect the dainty little mom who ogles him when she thinks no one’s looking. He knows she’s fighting overwhelming odds, but she’ll need more than bravery when the conflict between the King and Queen of the Fairies becomes outright civil war!

Carla is a single mother with two teenage girls. Her struggle to make ends meet becomes worse when she is downsized from her part-time job at the bank. From that moment on her life becomes haywire with strange happenings, weird comments from her friends and her new wedding planner business seems doomed before it’s even started.

The background of the book appears to be based on Shakespeare’s plays, in particular Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the author has woven this delicately into a modern setting. Leprechaun’s, clurichauns, fairies and many other beings from the Fey world populate the town of Fayettville, but Carla is oblivious to them all.

At times I wondered how Carla could not realize she was living in a fairy tale, not a pleasant one admittedly, but nonetheless a world of mythical beings. Even her daughters knew Murphy, the bar owner who Carla had an infatuation for, was not of this world.

I could sympathize with her when her world seemed to be going right, only to take a turn for the worse. The number of times this happened seemed to cast doom over her life, but she carried on trying.

Things come to a head when the Fey decide to go to battle on Earth, rather than their own domain. I did wonder if Carla would sit back and let things happen without any protest, especially as Murphy seemed determined to protect her no matter what. A satisfactory but unexpected ending ties up the story nicely.

I believe this is part of a series, but this book has a strong storyline is definitely a stand alone novel.

Devoted Alpha by DC Juris

ALPHA
Devoted Alpha by DC Juris
Publisher: Torquere Press LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (47 pgs)
Other: M/M, Fetish (Breastfeeding, Daddy Play)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Sokel and Sebastian from “Broken Alpha” are back. Sokel has long known his Human mate has harbored certain hidden fantasies and desires, but he’s not the kind of Alpha to demand anything of his omega. One night, a whispered word slips past Sebastian’s lips — daddy. Ever the devoted Alpha, Sokel sets out to help his mate understand that these cravings don’t make him a deviant. But when Sokel visits a fellow healer in an attempt to please his mate, has he gone too far? And will their best friends and housemates, Korden and Rennett, be able to accept this new twist to their lifestyle?

As a couple Sokel and Sebastian could not be more devoted to each other. Yet Sebastian hides a secret, a kink that he thinks will make others see him as dirty and no longer wish to be friends with him. What if it costs him Sokel’s love? Sometimes secrets cannot stay hidden especially from your Alpha mate. When Sokel figures out what may be the cause of Sebastian’s worries he decides to tackle them head on and give his mate what he truly wants and needs. Could he have gone to far? What will Sebastian’s reaction be? He loves him no matter what but is he pushing to hard? Should he just let it remain a fantasy?

This is a beautiful story that shows just how far someone will go for the person that they love. Sokel goes to lengths to fulfill Sebastian’s needs. Even going as far as figuring out how to breastfeed the man. As Sokel goes about finding a way to give Sebastian his needs we see the deep love and the connection that the two men have. The two begin to be connected even more as they indulge themselves. Sebastian learns that trusting and loving his Alpha is the right thing to do. Sokel goes above and beyond to help the man that he loves.

This new part of their adventure moves at a good pace and had me more than intrigued and cheering for the love that is between them. Readers are treated to a wonderful story that centers around Sebastian’s Daddy kink which does involve male breast feeding but gives you so much more. You never doubt the love and devotion from this couple and I am glad to see the bond and love grow deeper as the men explore.

Kaavl Conspiracy by Jennette Green

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Kaavl Conspiracy by Jennette Green
Publisher: Diamond Press
Genre: Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (470 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Framed…

When eighteen-year-old Methusal Maahr is framed for the murder of her oldest friend, she will do anything to expose the true killer and clear her name, including team up with her arch rival in the Kaavl Games, Behran. But all clues point to her guilt…and appear to tie into a conspiracy regarding the new peace talks with their oldest enemies from Dehre.

While peace looms on the horizon, Methusal doesn’t trust it. Mentàll Solboshn, Chief of Dehre, is not what he appears to be. Her determination to discover the truth soon pits her against the formidable Chief. Not only is he the best kaavl player in the land, but he is determined that the peace plan will pass. Can Methusal’s rare kaavl skills possibly outmatch him, and stop him from succeeding with his devious plans?

Methusal is ready and willing to do anything to protect her community of Rolban–even put her own life on the line to expose and defeat a dangerous political foe. But little does she realize the true danger may lie within her own community…

I love fantasy, so was excited when I had the chance to review this book—and I was not disappointed!

It begins a little slow, which is not surprising in a new series as the author is building her world, but it quickly picks up pace once you get into the story itself. That’s not to say that the author drags out the action… from the first couple of chapters, the main character, Methusal, finds herself accused of a crime she didn’t commit and nobody seems interested in helping her prove her innocence.

The characters were well-written, and I really enjoyed getting to know them—even the not-so-nice ones! The relationships seemed very realistic, although in the beginning I had trouble understanding why her family members were so sure she was guilty.

This is my first book by Ms. Green, but it will not be my last—after all, this is only the first book of a planned four-book series, and I am already invested enough in the characters that I want to find out what happens! Good job!

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The Other Side: Trent’s Story by Starr Gardinier

OTHER
The Other Side: Trent’s Story by Starr Gardinier
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (322 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Melinda James is finally out of Skyview Haven—an asylum where she was confined for years—and is living her life, free at last. However, things are not going as planned; harassed by unexplained paranormal experiences, she doesn’t feel safe in her own home. And when she turns to her best friend Trent for help and support, she is surprised to find her feelings for him have grown far beyond a simple friendship.

Trent Miller isn’t prepared to fight evil, but he will do whatever it takes to save Melinda from an evil entity that is seeking revenge for past events. Armed with knowledge gleaned from television shows, a team of paranormal investigators, and the prayers of family and friends, he is ready to face anything.

The question is, does he tell her about his feelings for her before or after he fights a battle with evil for Melinda’s very soul?

Love is Strong.

Nothing worth having is ever easy. This story shows that love can be strong and worth all of the bad we go through to find it.

Melinda has been out of the asylum, where she has been wrongfully admitted, for two years. She has her own house, a roommate and goes to university for her classes. However, her new life with Trent, who may or may not be the love of her life, comes with a couple of hiccups.

Trent and Melinda start experiencing events and accidents that are not only improbable but down right paranormal. They know that what they are experiencing is a paranormal event, they are being haunted or the house is haunted. When Melinda disappears, Trent knows that he has to get her back from where ever she is and he will do anything to bring her back alive.

Trent and Melinda are first shown as just friends. I just think it would have been nice to read about how they become friends and then how Trent fell in love with Melinda. This book did show their attraction towards each other and their concern or love for each other with a couple of almost kisses and a whole lot of heat between each other, perfect for readers who aren’t interested in being in the bedroom with the main characters.

The Other Side is a ghost story. The first half of the book was pure ghost story and slowly the story starts evolving and the other elements of the plot began to appear. Then it starts becoming more fantasy than ghost story. I think what surprised me was how much of fantasy elements I saw in this books because it is not what I expected.

My expectation was of a typical paranormal. The main characters are being haunted, threatened by unseen forces who want their death for some reason and they find a way to eventually save themselves. This book showed the other side to the haunting that I don’t normally get to experience in a book. I liked it. It was different. Readers who enjoy a good paranormal experience but want something new should give this one a try.

A Covert Conquest by Ravenna Tate

CONQUEST
A Covert Conquest by Ravenna Tate
The Weathermen Book 7
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (124 Pages)
Other: M/F, BDSM, Spanking, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

When Rissa Kerry overhears harmful gossip about the CEO of the company she works for, she makes a phone call to Barclay Hampton. What follows is the adventure of a lifetime for Rissa as she becomes Barclay’s assistant in data recovery from a laptop that might reveal the hackers of The Madeline Project.

But she never counted on falling in love with the CEO along the way. Will she become his next flavor of the month, or this is the real thing for Rissa and Barclay?

Barclay is part of a group of friends financing the efforts to put a stop to The Madeline Project. The program now has a mind of its own, thanks to a virus called Tommy Twister. These men have power, resources, and money, but they’re as ruthless and possessive as the storms ravaging Earth.

“He’d cave one day, too, after the rest of them did.”

This is my first Ravenna Tate story and I loved it.

It has been some time since I read a science fiction story, and this was one that I couldn’t put down.

A Covert Conquest is the 7th book in the Weathermen Series, though it did not feel like this at all. It can definitely be read as a standalone.

This is not an over the top science fiction. The story is set in the future. Barclay is part of an elite group of men who wants to put a stop to the Madeline Project as soon as possible so they can go back to the life they had years ago.

When Rissa overhears a conversation that she thinks the CEO of her company, Barclay, should know about and will appreciate knowing about. It may at first seem that if she hadn’t informed Barclay about this conversation they would never have fallen in love. But I think if she had not informed about that conversation Barclay would have eventually found a way to meet her or be with her. They were meant to be together.

Rissa and Barclay have passionate chemistry, but that’s not only thing between them. Barclay understands her and how good her work is.

The only thing that I did not like was it was a little too short. It felt the beginning was a little rushed but at the end it did not matter at all. The story more than made up for it. This is a short story with a mystery and suspense that becomes a highlight at the climax. The Weathermen are closing in on the hackers. It’s a good time to join them on the hunt.