Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird versus Dr. Don’t Know in a Battle for all the Life of all the Planets by Barnaby Taylor

FALCON
Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird versus Dr. Don’t Know in a Battle for all the Life of all the Planets by Barnaby Taylor
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (167 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The world is going to be destroyed.

Everyone you know and love will be gone.

The world needs someone to step forward.

Falcon Boy is that someone.

You must read Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird versus Dr Don’t Know in a Battle for all the Life of all the Planets.

It’s much easier to talk about saving the world than it is to actually try to do it.

One of the most interesting things about this book has to do with how the narrator jumps from one scene to the next. Sometimes the connections between them weren’t immediately apparent. The narrator isn’t any of the main characters, so he or she has access to information that Falcon Boy and his friends do not. Some of the funniest sections involve the narrator anticipating the audience’s reaction to what is about to happen and explaining why it’s unfolding in that particular way.

There were a lot of characters in this story. At times I had trouble remembering who was who because there were so often introduced in groups. I chuckled at the short, funny backstories the author provided about them, but there were simply too many characters in the plot for something of this length and for this audience.

Speaking of a sense of humour, this book has a great one. It was clearly written for kids based on the subject matter, but there is plenty of humor to be found for adult readers as well. None of the innuendoes are at all inappropriate for its primary audience, but some of them make references that are much more likely to amuse adults than they will elementary students.

Due to the large number of characters there were some pacing issues that began about a third of the way through the plot. So many new faces were introduced one after the other that I had trouble adjusting to Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird’s predicament once they came back into the plot. A glossary or appendix of some sort would have helped me keep the characters straight without slowing down the action.

The pop culture references were amusing. Almost all of them were general enough that they’ll apply to the tropes found in music and television for many years to come. The few that were more specific talk about things that I expect will remain well known for a long time.

Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird versus Dr. Don’t Know in a Battle for all the Life of all the Planets has by far the longest title of any book I’ve reviewed here so far. Sometimes fun things come in big packages!

September Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense, YA Book of the Month Poll

Toh’s Saga by Edward Eaton

TOH
Toh’s Saga by Edward Eaton
Publisher: Dragonfly
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (80 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Inspired by the writings of famed astronomer Carl Sagan, TOH’S SAGA is the tale in verse of the life and times of a sentient bubble. Toh is magnificent. Toh is powerful. Toh is feared, respected. But when its ambition gets out of control, Toh’s group casts it out to face the ravages of a desolate and hostile world with out friends, without family — alone.

Toh lives in a violently unpredictable world, but by far the biggest danger in it is developing a big ego.

As soon as I read the blurb, I couldn’t wait to dive into this incredibly unique book. I was particularly interested in learning what kind of creature Toh was and where this was all taking place. There were a few hints in the blurb that I found irresistible because I’m such a big fan of Carl Sagan.

The page number count is a little misleading because this story is written in the form of a poem. There were also some pages that only contained the last stanza or two of a particular verse. I was easily able to read it in one sitting.

I was blown away by amount of detail that Mr. Eaton included in his storytelling. Most of the stanzas are pretty short even for the poetry genre. Many lines only include a single word in them, so it was incredible to see Toh’s world reveal itself so vividly in my imagination. At times it felt like I was watching a movie instead of reading words on a page.

The character development was equally surprising. Without giving away spoilers, Toh’s species is nothing at all like ours. Many of the things we take for granted are unthinkable in that world, just as their rules would make no sense to humans. I was caught off guard, then, by just how much Toh changes as a result of certain plot twists early on. This tale was my first introduction to Mr. Eaton’s work. Based on how much I loved it, I will be eagerly combing through his backlist as well as keeping a keen eye out for what he comes up with next.

Toh’s Saga is a must-read. I devoured it and immediately went back to the beginning to start again. It was just as thrilling the second time around!

Twice the Growl by Milly Taiden

Sexy love couple
Twice the Growl by Milly Taiden
Paranormal Dating Agency 1
Publisher: Latin Goddess Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (110 pgs)
Other: M/F/M, Anal Play, Menage
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Waratah

Talia Barca needs a date. Badly. She uses the services of the Paranormal Dating Agency hoping for a decent guy to take to a family wedding. A wedding her ex-husband has wormed his way into as a guest.

Connor and Theron want Tally to complete their Alpha triad. She’s sexy, curvy and funny. But she’s human. And they’re not sure she’ll go for a relationship with two men at the same time.

As if deciding to give two men a shot wasn’t difficult enough, Tally will also need to deal with a threat from the pack. She’ll either prove she’s strong enough to be an Alpha mate or find herself at the mercy of a vicious opponent.

 

It’s sad when your own family is being disinterested and mean. The way Talia (Tally) thought life was supposed to be, isn’t, so she was going to make sure she doesn’t end up like her parents. Her luck in men and relationships pretty much sucks. So much so, she would be swearing off men entirely if she didn’t need a date.

I adored Aunt Gerri. She was full of sass and knowing, oh and Grandma Kate…absolutely amazing, loved her at first meeting. Those were the secondary characters, so it’s not surprising that I simply loved the lead characters.

A pair of shifters looking for their third, decide to go on a date with Tally and they completely set the world as she knows it on tilt. It’s amazing how one can be taken out of their norm, or what most see as normal. Theron and Connor complement each other and their third will be the balance. It was amazing how it all fit, the needs, the wants, the patience that both men showed Tally giving her time to either accept or move on.

All three eat, slept and breathed sex in the whole time they were in the “get to knowing stage”.  It was complete, hot and intense and worded perfectly. The descriptions were so “brings you into the room” vivid, it even make me squirm a bit but in the best possible way. Awesome job.

The only thing I can find wrong with this is that I have to wait for the second book, but thankfully not too long. Geek Bearing Gifts should be available soon.  Don’t worry, Twice the Growl is pretty much a stand-alone, but it was easy to guess that there is another character’s story coming. Ms. Taiden is a first time author for me and I loved her style and writing. I found this short story to be an almost perfect length to read, and kept me interested enough to read it in one sitting. I’d recommend this to anyone one that loves paranormal and shifters in particular. Enjoy

Ennara and the Fallen Druid by Angela Myron

DRUID
Ennara and the Fallen Druid by Angela Myron
Publisher: Stardance Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (122 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When a mysterious curse threatens to transform everyone into shadowy demons, a magical eleven year-old girl must travel to a sunken city ruin—fighting pirates, monsters, and an undead sorcerer along the way—to find a weapon that can save her world.

Sometimes you choose the quest. Sometimes the quest chooses you.

I liked Ennara immediately. She’s brave and resourceful, but she also isn’t afraid to admit it when she doesn’t know something. The explanation for why she knows so much about magic was as satisfying as it was useful. It was even more interesting to see how she reacted to spells and other incantations that she hadn’t actually tried before. I know there is a sequel in the works for this book and am looking forward to seeing what sort of adventures she has next!

There was a lot of backstory that needed to be explained before Ennara’s adventures can begin. The first twenty pages or so were dedicated to explaining her society as well as why people like her are so highly valued. In a full-length novel this amount of detail would have been perfect, but explaining all of it at the beginning of a novella weighed down the pacing at a time when I would have otherwise expected things to move along quickly.

With that being said, the worldbuilding itself was fascinating. The bad guys were deliciously scary. What made them even better was how much about them was left up to the imagination. There were basic descriptions of their abilities and looks, of course, but I liked having a few of my questions about them unanswered because it allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks. It’s rare for me to be just as interested in the villains as I am in the protagonists, but all of the ones in this tale were well worth my time.

Ennara and the Fallen Druid was a fun read. I’d especially recommend it to anyone who enjoys action-heavy fantasy.

As Good As Gold by Heidi Wessman Kneale

GOLD
As Good As Gold by Heidi Wessman Kneale
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (50 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Daywen Athalia wants love–true and lasting. Fearing a future of bitter loneliness, she seeks help from a gypsy woman. The price: a hundred pieces of gold. Daywen’s never had two shillings to rub together in her life. Where’s she going to find a hundred gold pieces?

Bel MacEuros made a career of theft from fey creatures. When the cursed gold he rightfully stole from a gnome is taken from him by Daywen, the consequences could bless or break his life.

It is not the gnome’s curse or a gypsy’s blessing but another magic, far deeper and more powerful, that will change their lives forever.

The choice:  Loneliness or rob a rich man? Daywen thinks there is no choice. Theft is the only way to go.

She robs the rich man who has entered town so she can pay the gypsy in the woods for the Enchanted Faerie. The gold is cursed but Daywen is unaware of this.

This is a lovely story, short but with everything included. Love, magic and internal questioning by Daywen and Bel MacEuros, the man the Enchanted Faerie chooses for her. Neither wishes to fall in love with the other, and their anger rises as Bel tries to retrieve his money and Daywen tries to stop him taking the Faerie.

I enjoyed the book, well written and with well rounded characters. Bel is the strong male hero, Daywen the seemingly docile young woman who is desperate enough to do anything. The gypsy is not your typical old crone, more a herbal woman who likes to help. Bel’s mother is really lovely and talks sense to her son.

I enjoyed spending an hour with this story. It caught my interest and held me right to the end. Good book.

Frostbitten by Heather Beck

BITTEN
Frostbitten by Heather Beck
Publisher: Enchanted Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (296 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Great beauty hides dark secrets…

Seventeen-year-old Anastasia Lockhart has never led an easy life, but when she starts getting into serious trouble, she’s sent to live with her grandparents in Cedar Falls. The small, picturesque town hasn’t changed since she visited four years ago, with one exception – the presence of a handsome, mysterious boy named Frost. Despite warnings from her grandparents and friends to stay away from Frost, Anastasia can’t deny their attraction, and the more time they spend together, the deeper in love they fall. Unfortunately, Frost has a secret that is beyond Anastasia’s wildest imagination, and she soon finds herself in the midst of a supernatural legend that has haunted Cedar Falls for years.

Can Anastasia and Frost’s love really overcome anything, or are their fates much darker?

They say that moving to a new town can give you a fresh start in life. If only Anastasia knew what to do with hers.

The worldbuilding in this story was strong. Cedar Falls is so insular that it can be incredibly difficult for outsiders to feel welcomed there. The idea of a small town being suspicious of new people and resistant to change is a stereotype, of course, but Ms. Beck fleshed out why this particular community behaves this way so well that I never felt like anyone was being pigeonholed. The reasons provide so much fodder for plot development that Cedar Falls felt like a real place to me.

I was initially interested in Anastasia’s tale because the hints about her past were so tantalizing. Serious trouble could mean just about anything, and I couldn’t wait to figure out what it was she did that damaged her mother’s trust so completely. It was disappointing to discover what it was she did due to how little she seemed to have learned from it. There was minimal character development for anyone in this tale.

Bigotry comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s a blatantly obvious act of hostility, but it can also be communicated in incredibly subtle ways. I enjoyed this book’s exploration of what it’s like to live in a community that rejects people who stand out in some way from the crowd. The anxiety and fear that this experience can create was reproduced incredibly accurately within the characters who are dealing with it.

Frostbitten introduced me to a world that I wish I could visit again. This is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a fun, paranormal romance.

My Sugar Daddy by Trinity Blacio

DADDy
My Sugar Daddy by Trinity Blacio
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (94 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F/M, Ménage, Multiple Partners, Anal Play, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Struggling single mother Laura McGill figures she has nothing to lose and everything to gain when she impulsively signs up online to meet a sugar daddy. After losing her virginity to a two-timing married man, she’s out to find security for herself and her infant son Max—and hopefully a man she can love.

Brothers Daniel and Grant Wilmot are handsome and rich—and seeking a Rubenesque beauty whose lush curves will cushion their hard loving. Leaders of a security team comprising former Special Forces operatives and a dating website that serves as a cover for their military activities, Daniel and Grant—and another brother, Roman—are smitten by Laura’s generous proportions and sweet manner.

But before the relationship can get too far, a classified government project goes awry—and the Wilmot brothers are forced to pick up the pieces. But will Laura reject them when she learns the truth of the secret they carry?

Tired of having a non existent love life, Laura decides to take a chance on a dating website but the site she has chosen is much more than just a dating service. The men on this site are not only looking for big beautiful women but they are also using this site for so much more. Will Laura find love or will the men and their secret scare her away? How will her child factor into all of this? Can Laura and her men can find a way to save more than just their own lives?

I enjoyed meeting Laura and her men as well as the many secondary characters in this story. Yet while I did enjoy the characters I did not feel myself getting lost in their story. One thing seemed to lead to another stranger thing or action. Laura meets one man who introduces her to his brother and than later in the story another brother is introduced to her and she does not even bat an eye. It seems it is just a given fact that she belongs to him as well. I have no problem with how many men she has, just with the way it happens.

These men are very domineering and make no exceptions; they are alpha males to the max. I enjoy alpha males very much but at times these men seemed to go overboard. Yet they love with their whole heart and will never let anything hurt the ones that they love. Roman, Daniel and Grant are each great men on their own and together they are a force to be reckoned with. Seeing their love for Laura made for a nice read. I also enjoyed meeting many of the other men and the brothers family. I loved their mother, she is a great character. Some characters like Laura’s ex were really just filler for me. It seemed that they were there just to tie up lose ends. Laura and her friend are both strong women and can hold their own against such strong alpha men. I also enjoyed the fact that these women were not tiny and the so called perfect size and such that woman are portrayed as a lot in society and literature.

As the story progresses I found I started to think that Laura’s story just got stranger and stranger and wondered what would come next. This is a fast paced story and the twists and turns in it did pique my interest enough to wonder if it is a start to a series or connected to others from this author and will have me searching for more from this author in the future to see.

The Stone of Kings by Shea McIntosh Ford

KINGS
The Stone of Kings by Shea McIntosh Ford
Publisher: Astraea Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (242 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Twelve year old Ardan is hopelessly distracted because he wants to meet a real faerie. But when he gets his hands on a mysterious red book loaded with faerie spells and accidentally sends himself three hundred years into Ireland’s future, he soon learns that there are more important things on which to focus his attention. Throw in some immortal druids, fun storytelling, a touch of forbidden romance, along with the music and antics of the legendary Irish harper, Turlough O’Carolan, and you’ll become swept up in a very real Irish mythological adventure.

The problem with magical objects is that they don’t always do what’s expected of them.

I’d never heard of Turlough O’Carolan before, so it was a little bit of a surprise when I realized that this character actually represents a real person instead of a mythical or legendary one. His backstory is clearly explained early on in this tale for which I was grateful. I would have never caught the reference otherwise, and it only took a few pages to catch me up on the most important details of his life.

The plot regularly jumps between two story lines that are set a few hundred years apart from one another. The transitions between these settings were sometimes abrupt. At times I had trouble settling into what was happening next because my focus had been pulled away from the characters in the distant past (or future) at such a tense time in their journey.

It was fascinating to see how Ardan reacts to being thrown so far into the future. He is mesmerized by many things that I take for granted in my everyday life, from the Internet to painkillers. The author did a great job at focusing this reader’s attention on just how strange our world would be to someone deeply unfamiliar with it

At times the romantic subplot clashed with everything else that was going on. It’s not typically something I expect to find in books written for this age group anyway, but the particulars of this specific relationship were extra puzzling for me. I never would have thought that the characters involved in it would have found one another attractive given all of the differences between them.

Faeries have always fascinated me. Knowing that they play such an integral part in this story was one of the reasons why I was so interested in reading it. While I already knew almost all of the superstitions about them that were mentioned in the plot, it was fun to see how the Irish culture’s ideas about them differ from the legends of other lands.

I’d recommend The Stone of Kings to middle grade and adult readers alike. This is the kind of fantasy story that I’d expect to appeal to a wide age range. It’s something I’d suggest to anyone who doesn’t typically read children’s fiction.

Best Kept Secrets by Evangeline Anderson

SECRETS
Best Kept Secrets by Evangeline Anderson
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (90 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Cassandra and Josh are xenobiologists. Traveling around the universe searching for new forms of life is exciting and Cass is never lonely because Josh is there. He is sweet, funny, kind and handsome…everything Cass has ever wanted in a man. But he’s also her stepbrother. There’s never been anything but normal affection between the two of them…until they encounter the truth plant of Svortza 6.

The truth plant is said to have strange properties—it forces all who come in contact with it to act on their deepest emotions. Cass is skeptical of the rumors until Josh is sprayed with the plant’s secretions and begins having fugue states where he is a mindless creature bent only on satisfying his sexual hunger.

Now, trapped on an alien world, Cassandra is learning a lesson in submission and forbidden lust. She knows she must keep Josh’s actions secret from him or he will hate himself forever. But some secrets are just too big to keep…

Often the most taboo desires are the hardest to ignore. Cass and Josh have been together for years. Her mother married his father and then almost immediately died in a horrible accident. Since Cass was only seventeen, her step-brother Josh made sure he took care of her. In the years that followed the two have mostly been alone flying through space and researching various plants. When Cass finally develops into a woman, her ill-fitting clothes start to cause problems for her step-brother. However, both Josh and Cass are determined that nothing come between their familial bond, not even their own desire for each other.

Best Kept Secret is a fun read but it’s total erotica. The plot revolves around Josh being infected by a plant toxin that brings out true feelings and thoughts. Thus he turns into the “beast” and basically ravages Cass when he gets horny. She puts up a few weak protests but justifies that she has to give in because it’s the best thing for her step-brother. I found this rationalization weak and ineffective. Josh basically rapes Cass but it’s okay because she secretly wants it. But when he’s himself, she has to hide what they’ve been doing and pretend nothing’s changed. It’s a plot device that is well used and most readers should have no problems with it, myself included. It just doesn’t make for a compelling and well-written story is all. The back and forth didn’t generate tension so much as a silly way of keeping the two from having sex immediately and the story ends.

I thought the sex scenes were pretty hot and that’s what saved the story for me. The end scene where Josh and Cass finally have sex was honestly kind of laughable. I rolled my eyes several times at the dialogue and pretense, which carried on through the entire act making it neither hot nor erotic. That said I didn’t mind the book so much once I just ignored the silly plot. The sex scenes were plentiful and entertaining and since clearly the book was more erotica than erotic romance, I was ok with that. It’s not a well-written book unfortunately but I had set my expectations low and wasn’t disappointed.

This is definitely not a book I’d read again but I have to say I didn’t mind reading it. The characters are flat as a board and not well developed in my opinion. I also didn’t think their relationship was all that taboo. They spent literally no time as brother and sister, there was no growing up feeling that way and they live alone on a spaceship with just the two of them. So I felt the attempt at tension in this area lacking. There really was nothing stopping the two of them from having a relationship at the very beginning. That said, I enjoyed the erotica and would recommend this only if the reader knows going in that it’s hot sex but not a great story.