The Pact by Brantwijn Serrah


The Pact by Brantwijn Serrah
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (243 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Fleshlings and darklings… Rune-weavers and demons… When you walk in the land of the Reaper, who will survive?

Serenity Walker has cast runes for as long as she can remember. Her teachers call her a prodigy, and her secret studies hold the key to unlimited potential. Once an orphan left on an old woman’s doorstep, Serenity finally belongs. But when her mentor is murdered right in front of her, her hopes of a home die with him.

Her quest for vengeance leads her into a dangerous deal with a demon. Armed with its dark power and her own talent with the runes, she blazes a trail across the lands where ranchers and railroad men are kings, where the prevailing law is the law of the gun. To find the man who reshaped her past, Serenity offers up her future. She’ll face a world where weavers are hunted down to be hanged, whipped, or burned alive…but she won’t face it alone.

As Serenity’s mission takes her farther than most weavers are willing to go, she’ll have to decide who her true enemy is: the wicked men of the world, or the powerful demon inside her.

Serenity Walker is an orphan and rune caster who learns how to be a weaver of runes from Jack, the local Sheriff. When Jack gets killed she makes it her life’s work to wander the world and find the man who shot Jack and give him the most horrendous death possible. To do this she must become a member of the Black Guild of weavers and bind herself to a darkling demon.

This was an interesting book and well written. Usually a story with a lot of flashbacks can be a bit disconcerting, but the change of timing from past to present in The Pact only enhances the story. Serenity is a very strong character who has a goal in life and will pursue it no matter what. Even an attraction to another Black Guild weaver does not make her stray from her path. At times the story sent a shiver down my spine, but I had to finish reading the book.

I’m not sure whether I liked this book, but the story certainly made me want to carry on reading. It had depth and passion, not romantic passion, but the type of determination and fieriness which makes the strong, but likable character that is Serenity.

Fate Forgotten by J.L. Sheppard


Fate Forgotten by J.L. Sheppard
Fated Immortals Book 2
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (325 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Valerie Matlock’s life revolves around her coven. Young and naïve, she knows little about the immortal war brewing until the night her coven is attacked. In the blink of an eye, the family she loves is gone. Devastated, she lays eyes on the angry demon warrior, Jacob Rhodes. A Guardian, he means her no harm, but she fears him as deeply as she craves him. She has to stay away. She just doesn’t know if she can.

The pain of Jacob’s losses have hardened him. He lives for revenge and uses anger like a shield, keeping everyone at arm’s length. He can’t risk losing more. Tragedy strikes, again, and he’s left caring for his four-year-old niece, Annie. The bright girl deserves better than him. But he can’t give her up, not ever. When he sets his eyes on his fated mate, the powerful witch, Valerie, his life gets twice as complicated. Will she accept him, a demon she fears and his adopted child?

Are you looking for an intense adventure that draws you deeply into the lives of the characters?

Fate Forgotten is the second book in the Fated Immortals series. The lives of Jacob, Valarie and Annie are so entwined that the loss of one could become the death of them all. Jacob, a Guardian, finds that he is intensely drawn to Valarie, whom he comes to believe is his fated mate. Annie, Jacob’s four year old niece adds a more complicated dynamic to the picture. Considering Jacob’s dark past and the lost family that steps forward to claim Annie, Valarie has much more to contend with than she had initially considered.

J.L. Sheppard weaves a deep and enveloping plot that brings the reader to the forefront of the action. The dialogue, misunderstandings and the reactions of the characters are so well crafted that the reader feels that they are watching the events unfold rather than just reading about them. The events that occur are believable and the world line of the main characters and secondary characters is so strong that is a reader picked up Fate Forgotten without reading the prior book, they would not be lost in the story.

This is a fantastic read and all of the characters have dynamic lives. The descriptive feelings that the characters experience are completely explained and the reader sees the amazing world from the point of view of the character. The author does a phenomenal job blending the storyline to make it believable and to give the reader an opportunity to look into a world that would not normally be visible to mortal eyes!

Be sure to take an adventure with Fate Forgotten, it is one in-depth story that should not be missed!

Wrathbone and Other Stories by Jason Parent


Wrathbone and Other Stories by Jason Parent
Publisher: Comet Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (160 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Terror follows those who let it into their hearts.

Wrathbone

Guests of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris attend a showing of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. On that fateful night, a great man falls, but he is not alone. For Henry and Clara, the night is only the beginning of lives wrought with jealousy, madness, and horror.

The Only Good Lawyer

Bradley is a savvy defense attorney with no scruples. Under his representation, many a guilty man has gone free. But when a voodoo priest takes the stand, Bradley soon discovers that he, too, is on trial, and the punishment for guilt may be more than he could bear.

Dorian’s Mirror

Dorian loves himself, and why wouldn’t he? Every guy wants to be him, and every girl wants to be with him. He would trade all he has to make his looks last forever, but bargaining with the devil may leave him short a soul.

For the Birds

Nev’s best friend is his parrot. In fact, it’s his only friend… and his only ally when his home is invaded.

Revenge is a Dish

Maurice has landed a dream job, chef for a rich couple on their yacht. The wife has carnal desires for him. Maurice has some carnal desires of his own.

Who would have imagined that thoughts could be this scary?

The main character in “Wrathbone” was a man named Henry who was dangerously obsessed with the strange circumstances surrounding the death of President Lincoln. What I liked the most about him was how much time he spent talking about his theories about what really happened when the president died and what he wished he would have done differently that day. I can’t say much else about this part of the plot without giving away spoilers, but it sure did bring out a chilling side to the main character’s life. It was also interesting to compare the logical and supernatural explanations for why Henry behaved the way he did. There was plenty of evidence for both interpretations of what was going on, so I was able to pick the one I personally thought made for a better story.

One of the first things I noticed about Bradley in “The Only Good Lawyer” was how determined he was to fight for the accused murdered he was defending. This character had a strong desire to win that shaped so many different parts of his personality. I was also surprised by how meekly he reacted to the voodoo priest who was called to the stand by the prosecution. It wasn’t something I was expecting from him at all, but that scene made me incredibly curious to find out what actually happened the night the victim died and if Bradley’s assumptions about what going on with the priest were true. This was my favourite tale in the collection.

Dorian, the main character in “Dorian’s Mirror,” wasn’t an easy guy to like at all. His arrogance and narcissism gave me such a negative first impression of him that I struggled to stay interested in his life. It would have been nice if the narrator’s description of him had included positive or even neutral aspects to it as well to balance Dorian out a bit. With that being said, I enjoyed seeing how he reacted to all of the bizarre things that began happening to him. They were so out of the ordinary that his horrified responses made perfect sense.

The relationship between a man and his parrot is like nothing else on earth. In “For the Birds,” Nev’s bond with his bird, Joji, is tested by a violent robbery in ways that have to be read to be believed. The dialogue was by far my favorite part of their home invasion. I never would have guessed that a parrot spoke and understood as many different words as Joji did. Including a non-human character who was this talkative was such a creative decision.

“Revenge Is a Dish” followed a man named Maurice after he made the biggest mistake of his career by accepting his dream job as a chef on a yacht and then having an affair with the boss’ wife. The best part of this one was how the plot kept on moving every time I was sure I’d reached the end. There were a lot of grisly surprises tucked into it, and that made it a great deal of fun to read.

I’d recommend Wrathbone and Other Stories to anyone who is in the mood for something truly frightening.

First Contact by Kat Green


First Contact by Kat Green
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

Sloane Osborne is a paranormal realtor in the business of selling haunted houses but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out. It’s the 366th day after her fiancé’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day”—so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her. Sloane is dead wrong.

Haunted houses don’t sell well, but Sloane isn’t slogging them for the money. No, she’s on a single-minded, desperate quest to track down her dead fiancé’s ghost and open her eyes to the supernatural. She is not letting death part her from the love of her life, and her travel to find him is nail-bitingly good. I was zooming through the pages from start to finish.

Not only did this story have ghosts, it also had a mystery to solve, the truth behind why so many ghosts are inside one home. I guessed who was at fault in the first third to half of the book, but this was not a problem. The real mystery and interest to the book is in the twist on how they did it, and the history behind their criminal activity. This was fascinating to uncover and completely unexpected. This discovery and the bonds between ghosts and the human characters kept me wondering which side would win and survive to see another book, and whether the ghosts would ever be at peace.

Sloane as a character starts one-dimensional. She has one need and lets little else get in her way. This makes her foolish, and she jumps into bad situations too quickly. It’s also realistic. She is in the depths of mourning for the man she grew close to and, after his death, convinced herself was perfect.

Sloane’s partner in solving crime, Jonah, is an FBI agent and so not always at hand to help her out of her emotional crisis, and this story’s crisis. However, he is loyal, patient, clever and comes across as very attractive. The problem? She’s not only hung up on her dead ex, but Jonah is also her ex’s best friend. This creates a romantic crisis to go along with the plot’s tumultuous ride through a murder mystery. (Be warned: violence and neglect are explored in the telling of the murders and could cause upset.)

In terms of sexual content, the only fully fulfilled sexual acts are with the dead romantic interest, Michael, in a kind of alternate reality which Sloane reaches during her darkest moments. I found that it was written well but I could not immerse myself in the story as it was written as if it was between a memory and the present, as well as with a person who is now dead, which makes the whole process somewhat odd.

However, the new, dreamy FBI agent is clamouring for Sloane as much as she is in denial over enjoying his company and I foresee a sequel with as much thrilling action and fulfilling mystery as this book, only with the addition of blisteringly hot trysts with a new partner. Bring it on!

Assassin’s Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden


Assassin’s Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden
Publisher: Ubisoft Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Lupine

An endless conflict. An old wrong. A new revelation.

Simon Hathaway, member of the Templar Inner Sanctum, brings a cool head and detached manner to his new role as Head of Abstergo Industry’s Historical Research Division.

But Simon also has an insatiable curiosity, and is fascinated by the thought of experiencing history first-hand through his ancestor–Gabriel Laxart, who fought alongside the legendary Joan of Arc.

When he enters the newly-designed Animus for its initial project, Simon finds himself unprepared for what he discovers: How deep the conflict between the Templars and the Assassins goes. What Gabriel will do for the woman he both loves and reveres.

And the most dangerous truth of all: Who is the heretic…and who is the true believer.

When I saw that there was an Assassin’s Creed book being written, I of course had to read it because I LOVE Assassin’s Creed. What makes this book different is that it’s coming from the perspective of the modern day Templars, which is the organization that fights against the Assassins. Normally in the Assassin’s Creed games, the point of view comes from the assassin, so it’s an interesting twist in getting to see what the other side thinks and how they operate.

This particular book was about the history of Joan of Arc. The Templars are trying to find pieces of Eden, which are basically super powerful objects that both the Templars and the Assassins want possession of. They’re hard to come by, so it’s a bit of a race to find them. I liked being able to read from the perspective of Simon Hathaway, who is part of Abstergo industries (the business the Templars hide behind) and understanding a different side to the story. We get to follow him as he experiences the Animus, which is a high tech device used by both the Assassins and the Templars to access their ancestors memories. It does get a little confusing flip flopping between the ancient world of Joan of Arc and the modern day world, but the games are much the same.

I thought the book provided some key insight into history as well – though a work of fiction, it was still interesting to read about Joan of Arc, especially from an emotional standpoint. The book is also a little more in depth than the game, which I appreciate, but it is a difficult transition for me to remember that I’m not interacting with the characters.

The interpersonal relations between Gabriel and Joan and Simon and Anaya are enjoyable, but are certainly adult. The game is similar; it’s marketed to teens, but it uses adult characters. I tend to dismiss that as I’m playing, because it doesn’t arise often.

All-in-all, this was a good book that honors the Assassin’s Creed legacy. If you’re a fan of the game, grab this book for an interesting look at how the other side thinks.

The Gathering Dark by Charles O’Keefe


The Gathering Dark by Charles O’Keefe
Publisher: Four Phoenixes Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full (224 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Newly-made vampire Joseph O’Reily has rejected his vampire lover Cassandra and declared their relationship at an end. Although he loves Cassandra – and she loves him – he knows their relationship cannot survive because she places such low worth on human life and morals.

Former pirate and vampire sire Anne Bonny is bored from spending almost a century on a tropical island and makes her way to St. John’s after receiving the last thoughts of her creation, John Snow. Once in Newfoundland she engages with Joseph and Cassandra, both of them surprised to see a vampire that doesn’t wish them harm.

Joseph, who is dealing with his failed relationship with Cassandra and his new one with Anne, has forgotten a human figure from his past, Augustus Green, a pimp and murderer. Green plans revenge for the brutal beating Joseph and Cassandra gave him months ago.

The Emperor Commodus, leader of the vampire council, has commanded his subjects, Count Dracula, Countess Elizabeth Bathory and others, to swell the ranks of his evil army by creating brainwashed vampires. Hope is not lost though as other vampires secretly prepare for the war to fight for their survival and humanity’s. Anne Bonny devises a plan that would mean the death of the Countess and replacing her. Joseph must make the decision to join Anne on his own. As his enemies gather, so do his friends, and Joseph discovers he has allies he never even knew about. The good side of the Council holds its own meeting that Joseph and Cassandra are secretly invited to.

With Anne and Cassandra at his side, they wage a desperate battle against the Countess, in the hopes of not just defeating her but striking a pre-emptive blow against the forces of evil. Joseph is ready to take on his greatest challenge yet. If he wins, good will prevail. If he fails, he will enable the destruction of the entire world. With a lot riding on him, Joseph can only hope for help from old friends and old flames alike, if he is to turn the tide of destiny.

This is the third book in the series and while it can be read as a standalone for the most part, I feel I would have enjoyed the book more had I read the first two in the series. I’ve bought them and look forward to reading the series from the beginning.

Because the book has a history, there was some confusion at times as I tried to work out the different relationships. But that eased out as I got into the story.

The characters are complex and well-drawn–they are definitely not one-dimensional copies of vampires. They have their faults and foibles, and all is not fun and games in the vampire camps. In fact, they take great joy in killing each other. There is a side that fights for right and a side that fights for evil and this is where this book has us.

Joseph, a reluctant vampire at best, is doing his best to get on with his life and studies. Unfortunately life had different plans, and he is caught up in a battle to help save the world. The intricacies of his relationships with a former love and a new love set up an interesting dilemma of its own. While it’s not a romance, there were a couple of sex scenes that, in my opinion, did not add much to the book.

The book is easy to read, but I do suggest reading the entire series in order. I think you would find it a richer experience.

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Under Her Skin by Margo Bond Collins


Under Her Skin by Margo Bond Collins
Publisher: Bathory Gate Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (268 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

Lindi Parker works hard at being human, not an easy task for a weresnake. She has no desire to search for others like her—until a new case changes everything. When Lindi learns that she’s not the only shapeshifter in the world, she realizes she might be next on a killer’s list.

In order to save herself and the abused children she works with, she will have to team up with Dr. Kade Nevala, a member of the shifter tribe responsible for eradicating weresnakes—and the most attractive man Lindi’s ever met. Even more terrifying, she’ll need to embrace her serpent side, a choice that has enormous consequences for Lindi, and for everyone around her.

Snakes are an unusual animal for the shifter subgenre, and the book has an extra twist – Margo Bond Collins knows her snakes inside out, and this is what makes the book fascinating. I learned a lot about snake characteristics and enjoyed the application of these to a shifter, and a greater shifter world. The neutral treatment of the species was refreshing for an animal often vilified in fiction. I also learned they have a nemesis: the mongoose.

My one complaint about the subject matter was that it is difficult to put a new spin on the tired shifter concept and that, although the unusual animals goes a long way toward doing this, I had no idea what a mongoose was and could have done with more explanatory imagery.

The characters themselves are well drawn and often morally grey in their choices. The protagonist, Lindi, is working against her base instincts and has put herself in a job where she is forced to be empathetic toward humans, pushing her predatory instincts to the back of her mind. Her reactions to fears of her true nature and towards prejudice in the shifter world are realistic and avoid being whiny. I enjoyed seeing her bravery and determination to do the right thing for vulnerable women and children. I one hundred percent trusted her character, and that she would not deviate from her caring tendencies. This kept me turning the pages, hoping she found a second home in the shifter community, and mentally berating those that would oppose her so rudely.

The romantic interest, Kade, is attractive and intelligent, with his own important job. However, I felt he was clever enough to realise he should have explained more about the shifter world to the clueless Lindi earlier on. This lapse was one of the only places I lost believability in both Lindi and Kade’s reactions and decisions. In line with this, I wasn’t keen on how Lindi was pushed into the shifter world with little preparation. All too often characters in shifter stories think their choice is the best and don’t consult with the individual involved. I was surprised that Lindi didn’t take more offence to this.

Romantically, Lindi and Kade should be at loggerheads due to their opposing animal natures, but they can barely keep their hands off each other. It is as if there is a mating call between them – though this is never stated. In fact, by the end of the book, I was still unsure if their attraction was a natural, human, first sight attraction or whether it was an animal instinct amplifying their feelings. I feel this could have been better explained and was waylaid by the plot. However, the steamy sexual tension between these two makes up for it. There is a constant danger in their intimate sessions, their bodies on the edge between human and animal (without crossing the line into bestiality). This heightens the emotion and tension behind the scenes, as does their relatively short length.

The non-romantic plot kept me on my toes and kept Lindi from escaping Kade’s advances. It pushed the main characters into their relationship and showed each of them how strong the other was, and how strong their emotions were. The final fight scene had me wondering who would survive, and turning pages as quickly as I could to get to the end, despite having guessed the culprit from 50-65% of the way through the book. This makes the novel perfect for a romance, but not ideal for mystery lovers.

Under Her Skin, in short, is a new twist on shifter tropes of romance, control, and a council-ruled hidden society within the human world. The romance is tense and slitheringly hot, the plot fast-paced and full of both intrigue and high emotions. There’s also a lot of mileage for a sequel where the shifter world adjusts to its new additions. If you like paranormal romance, this is not one to miss.

December Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Death on Windmill Way by Carrie Doyle

death
Death on Windmill Way by Carrie Doyle
Publisher: Dunemere Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (350 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

The Hamptons are known for beautiful beaches, luxurious living, millionaire mansions, and now…murder!

Antonia Bingham, a renowned chef and the new owner of East Hampton’s Windmill Inn, escaped to the Hamptons to get away from a harrowing past. Yet now she finds herself in more danger than ever when she discovers the inn’s previous owners may have been victims of murder. Will her overly inquisitive personality be her downfall as she digs up secrets in her attempt to solve the crime?

In the first book of the “Hamptons Murder Mystery” series, bestselling author Carrie Doyle Karasyov (The Right Address; Wolves in Chic Clothing) brings readers behind the scenes for an exclusive glimpse of life within one of the most spectacular playgrounds of the rich and famous. Antonia’s investigation weaves through the lives of the celebrities, year-round locals and the wealthy summer residents who all call the Hamptons home in her quest to reveal a dangerous killer.

Prepare a hearty snack and snuggle in for this compelling but cozy page-turner with mouth-watering food descriptions, nail-biting scenes of suspense, a winning heroine, and a captivating cast of characters who are sure to entertain readers for years to come.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Snake Eyes by Anne Kane


Snake Eyes by Anne Kane
Mercenaries Book 5
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (43 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Snake may not be the nicest guy you ever met, but he has his own code of honor, and he does everything in his power to live up to it. Keeping his hands off his Sergeant’s sister-in-law, no matter how sexy she is, is definitely in the code.

Wren has the hots for Snake but is frustrated that he can’t seem to see her as anything other than Dee’s kid sister. When she sees him sneak out after dark, she suspects he’s going to meet a lover and follows him, determined to finally make him see her as the mature sexy woman she is.

Unfortunately, things don’t go exactly according to plan. She manages to get herself captured and Snake is forced to come to her rescue.

Wren wasn’t scared by Snake, not his scars, not the haunted look in his eyes. She saw the grace and strength in his walk, the sensual appeal of his mouth. Wren has waited forever for Snake to see her as more than the kid sister of his friend’s woman. When they finally come together it’s everything and more she could have hoped for, dreamed of. Can they make this new thing between them work?

I liked how this book started straight off the bat. In the opening paragraph Snake and Wren come together intimately, consummating months of pent-up need and desire on both their parts. I didn’t mind this as the story is quite short, but I know many readers often prefer a slower build up to their stories. Personally, I liked that the story started hot and then after that first sex scene we can see Wren and Snake begin to build their relationship together properly.

Having not read any of the previous book in this series, I was pleased to find I caught on to the plot and background fairly quickly. I was a little surprised to find the story is set in a sort of futuristic/alternate Earth style setting (with quite simple to understand differences, like “cred chip”, “Alliance members” and “com unit” – those sorts of things). I found the explanations were crisp and didn’t feel too much to me like info-dumping.

There was an interesting amount of plot in the middle of the book – and I feel there were clear indications of where future stories in this series might be heading. While I loved the plot – the story felt a little like the sex scenes were just sandwiched in before and after the actual story itself. Indeed, I personally feel if the first chapter sex scene and the final couple of pages (also a sex scene) had been deleted this wouldn’t have been an erotic romance at all, but more an action/adventure futuristic style story with just a hint of spicy chemistry between the hero and heroine. Readers wanting a full-blown erotic romance story might not find the erotic element quite as satisfying as those happier with the action-based plot element. Personally I found the story is a good one, just slightly imbalanced for an erotic romance.

A great, strongly plotted story with two very interesting characters and a great, fresh premise. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

Cubeball by Michael Leon


Cubeball by Michael Leon
Publisher: self
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (286 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Rose

A naturally gifted ex-national champion and a savant with a computer-like mind compete against the world’s best in the 22nd century’s most popular sport – CUBEBALL – the chess-like, technology-enhanced, snooker of the future where the world stage is dominated by gambling, drugs and massive audiences.

Mr. Leon has done it again – brought us an exciting story with some wonderful characters. As the story is not told linearly, we get a chance to see Mickey’s background while at the same time living his present day live with him. We get a chance to see the underside of the professional sports heroes (and wonder if our own professional sports heroes fall prey to some of the same kinds of things).

The characters are where Mr. Leon really shines through—they are richly drawn and by the end of the book you feel like you really know them.

The world building is wonderful – I feel like I was really there. I hope Mr. Leon sets future books in this world. I would love to revisit it.

This author is quickly becoming part of my “look for new releases” list!

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