Visible Through Darkness by Auden Johnson

VISIBLE
Visible Through Darkness by Auden Johnson
Publisher: Aubey LLC
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (67 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What if you were the only one? How strong would you be?

Jade Greer’s parents taught her the old, moral, ways. She still clings to their teachings ten years after their deaths. Because of this, she became an outcast. The vulgar world rejects her, abuses her. She has suffered. But, her storm is over. Or, is it? An unusual call leads her to Serin, a prisoner trapped in darkness for twenty years. Saving him leads Jade to a world for beings with power. A world that may hold the acceptance she has never known. A world her parents were once a part of. Jura is dying. Jade and Serin have no homes to go back to.They move forward with hope because they’re no longer alone.

Danger surrounds Jade at every turn. Will she be able to escape it?

The dialogue was well done. The characters had a unique way of speaking. They only seemed to talk when their body language wasn’t nuanced enough to share what they wanted to communicate. This made their conversations shorter than I’d normally expect to find in a tale of this length, but it also made every single word valuable. Once I adjusted to this, I ended up really liking this style of communication. It fit both the characters and the unusual society they lived in quite nicely.

This story would have benefited from having more details in general. I had trouble imagining the places Jade visited because of how little time was spent describing what they were like. There were also times when I struggled to keep track of the different characters because I didn’t know quite enough about their physical appearances or personalities. It would have been helpful to have a clearer picture in my mind of what these people were like so that I could remember all of them more easily.

What I appreciated the most about the world building in this book was how quickly it was put together. It only took a few pages for me to understand why Jade had such a pessimistic understanding of life. While there is definitely plenty of room to expand on this universe in upcoming sequels, the information I was given about how it all worked was enough to spark my interest in the meantime.

I’d recommend Visible Through Darkness to anyone who enjoys dark fantasy.

Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale by David Andrew Crawford

OSUSL
Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale by David Andrew Crawford
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (111 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

This dark fantasy novel is set in a world ruled by magic, in a time before solid boundaries formed between the mystical kingdoms of Faerie and the mortal world of man. Mythological creatures and deadly assassins armed with magical lethal devices abound in this dark tale where one lone man will exact his revenge for the merciless execution of his parents when he was just a boy. Trained in the black arts by Mephisto, an ancient silver dragon and by the shadow assassin that guards the very gates to Hell, Dark prepares for his lone mission and has set himself only one goal…to kill them all!

The Demon Raider, otherwise known as Dark Solus, sets out to avenge the death of his parents. His mother was a half-elf and daughter of the Witch Queen and Mephisto the ancient wizard. His father was the demon lord who was also an assassin. They were betrayed by one they trusted. The thirteen year-old boy destroys his immediate enemy, but knows he must ultimately kill those truly responsible for the deaths of those he loved.

This book starts slowly and at times it’s difficult to really empathize with the characters or get into the story. It required perseverance for me to continue reading but eventually I was rewarded. Dark emerges from a thirteen year-old boy to a man in his twenties who is a fully trained assassin ready and willing to take revenge. As he seeks out the magical items he needs to attack the Shadow Lord he is helped by his grandfather Mephisto.

Dark is a deep character who really got into my mind, while Mephisto provided the hint of humor needed to keep this from becoming a truly dark story.

The author has written a gripping novel of magic and ferocious creatures, not least of which is Dark. By the end of the book I felt exhausted, as if I had travelled with Dark on all his many quests to reach his aim of collecting all the magical items for the next stage of his revenge.

Aunt Toffy and the Ghost by Linda Lea Castle

GHOST
Aunt Toffy and the Ghost by Linda Lea Castle
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Young widow, Adorna Miggins is running a lodging house in 1829 Edinburgh which has just been rocked by the Burke and Hare murders. The income from her business keeps her and Aunt Toffy fed and housed. But lately her aunt has been communicating with a spirit — a feisty Roman named Meridius with a taste for bannocks and mischief. Adorna is afraid if her aunt’s eccentric behavior becomes common knowledge it will destroy her reputation and that of her boarding house.

Tobias Rawlings is newly returned to Scotland on a secret quest he doesn’t wish to share. He sparks everyone’s curiosity when he goes out each day and returns covered in dirt and will not say what he is up to. Is it larceny? Ditch digging? Grave robbing? He is a mystery that occupies Adorna and Toffy’s interest.

Soon Toffy begins to find lost items and solve the unsolvable with the help of her spiritual advisor. Adorna simply cannot believe that ghosts exist and even if they did why would a Roman ghost be residing in her humble lodging house?

Adorna is running a bed and breakfast to keep her household running and allowing her to take care of her aunt. Her husband has died and left her a bit of money but not enough. Now if she could just get Aunt Toffy to stop talking about a ghost she visits with…

This the beginning of a cozy mystery series and it’s a very good start. The author gives you interesting characters, builds lot of quirks in and even throws a bit romance in for good measure. It’s not a long but a lot happens and you will sit in one place until you’ve finished the story. It’s too much fun to read to leave it.

She ends up with an odd fella that wants a room and hauls a duffle bag along with him. He goes out early each morning and comes back dirty and sometimes wet. He won’t tell anyone what he is doing.

Adorna has regular tenants and she’s very thankful for that. They’re like family. But the gods are conspiring against her. When Rawlings grandfather suddenly decides he must get married and have children NOW, it makes the story all that much more interesting. Especially since the ghost doesn’t like and pinches the bottoms of the ladies his grandfather is interviewing. Then word gets out that they have a ghost. Soon she has no one staying at her inn and lots of people gawking.

There is a ghost. Rawlings has one at his house, too. This story is fanciful but its great fun to read. I’ll be watching for the one in this series. After all, Rawlings is still a bachelor and he hasn’t solved his quest yet. If you like cozy mysteries, you’ll love this one. Rawlings’ grandfather is a unique individual.

Saved by the Demon by Ela Stein

DEMON
Saved by the Demon by Ela Stein
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (209 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Bittersweet

In a world where gods and demons walk the earth, a pirate attack on a seaside village tears Luna away from the safe life she has known. Thrust on a perilous journey, she is accompanied by a reluctant companion. Dario, a bloodthirsty demon, is tasked with keeping her safe and he is dedicated to his job, but how can he prevail when he is the one person that can hurt her the most?

Forced together against their wills, their attraction and mutual admiration grow with each hurdle they overcome. Although their relationship is forbidden, the strength of their desire just might override all obstacles, including their pasts and the dark forces that conspire against them.

I really enjoyed Saved by the Demon by Ela Stein. It was an original, lightly erotic, romantic-adventure.

Ms. Stein’s writing flowed easily so that I quickly immersed myself into the Steampunk-fantasy world she created. Furthermore, her descriptions were vivid, so that I truly felt as if I were there with the characters.

The two main characters, Luna and Dario, are well rounded, with different, yet similar pasts full of conflict.

Luna, the main character, was a bit naive at times, but made up for it with a good dose of bravery and inner strength.

Dario, on the other side, has a dark side to him, but he is nothing short of sweet. His struggles between what his mind dictates him compared to his heart (and body), made me fall in love with him. He is a true gentleman.

Although, Saved by the Demon is a long novel, Ms. Stein was capable of building the anticipation between the characters. As a matter a fact,, one of my favorite scenes is when Luna and Dario finally share their first kiss. It’s worth mentioning, that when sex does occur it is a mix between oh-so-hot and sweet.

This is such an amazing world that I will be on the lookout in case Ms. Stein decides to revisit it, as the ending left me feeling as if there could be a promise of more adventures to come.

Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo

KITCHEN
Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (81 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

With the Vacation Jury Duty system, jurors can lounge on a comfortable beach while watching the trial via virtual reality. Julio is loving the beach, as well as the views of a curvy fellow juror with a rainbow-lacquered skin modification who seems to be the exact opposite of his recent ex-girlfriend back in Chicago. Because of jury sequestration rules, they can’t talk to each other at all, or else they’ll have to pay full price for this Acapulco vacation. Still, Julio is desperate to catch her attention. But while he struts and tries to catch her eye, he also becomes fascinated by the trial at hand.

At first it seemed a foregone conclusion that the woman on trial used a high-tech generative kitchen to feed her husband a poisonous meal, but the more evidence mounts, the more Julio starts to suspect the kitchen may have made the decision on its own.

Wow, what a fun novella. I don’t read that much sci-fi but as this was part murder mystery story I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did.

The story is set in 2060 and lots of things have changed in the world. Jurors no longer have to be present in courtrooms and can instead take luxury vacations while viewing the proceedings. Even bots have replaced attorneys.

Sound like fun? Well it is until the main character, Julio, sets his sights on a fellow juror, Iris, but it’s a no-no to interact with one another during the trial. Part of the fun of the story is how Julio tries to find ways around the situation to get Iris’ attention.

However, the real focus of the story is the trial. A woman is accused of poisoning her husband with the help of her generative kitchen. A state of the art, futuristic one that reads the person’s biometrics and adjusts the food accordingly. While it looks like an open and shut case, Julio isn’t convinced that the wife is the guilty party and could technology have played a role?

I loved the intermingling of the murder mystery with the sci fi elements. I thought it was a refreshing change to the usual whodunit. I loved all the information the author provided about this kitchen of the future. It was almost like it was another character in the story.

I won’t give away the ending but if like me you’re always on the look-out for something different to read in the mystery genre, I say give this novella a try.

Sonar The Surge by B. Truly

mediakit_bookcover_sonarthesurge
Sonar The Surge by B. Truly
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure
Length: Full (275 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

Eclipsed by darkness, the Romelands must face the ultimate quest. If they are forced toward the umbra peak, they will be completely obscured.

Symone struggles with her most challenging battles … the conflict within herself. Losing loved ones steals part of her soul. Despair has created a gaping hole where her heart should be. Symone doesn’t even recognize herself. She has to determine if this is the person she’s turned into, or if it is who she has always been.

Nile is an attractive aristocrat whose charm and arrogance drives Symone insane. Beyond Symone’s control, Nile is spun into her life. But she’s not sure if she can have a relationship with him or where that could lead her. Embracing love could make her whole again, but it may also destroy her. Symone must travel through the opaque light in order to find where her destiny lies.

Symone’s family, Shiray and Syira, continue to fight in the feuds of their galaxy. Together they have to find the balance between compassion and sacrifice. Kadanans are being held captive, and they hold the fate of their world in their hands. They have only begun to understand the consequences of the devastating realities of war.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, is the philosophy the Romelands now abide by. With chaos and turmoil at every corner, they may forget what is worth fighting for. The surge for power has erupted. Only the strongest race will be left standing.

This book is the last of a trilogy and is the culmination of action that occurred during the first two books – the end of a war that has been raging between two different worlds. While it would probably increase your enjoyment of the book to have read the previous two books, it’s not completely necessary.  There’s character development and responses between the characters from this book that starts in the previous books, but this one was still enjoyable and understandable as it stands.

I did not get as fully immersed in the story as I would have liked, but instead I felt more like I was on the outside looking in.  That’s a result of the story having too much “telling” and not enough “showing”. That said, I enjoyed the story itself and could definitely see this as a television show or movie. It reminded me in tone of some of the space operas I’ve enjoyed in the past.

The plot line was interesting and held my attention, even though I did not connect with the characters as much as I’d hoped—it would be interesting to this reader to go back and discover what the war was actually all about in the beginning.

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Pandora’s Passion by Amy Hahn

PASSION
Pandora’s Passion by Amy Hahn
Publisher: Satin Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (46 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Rora is the Pandora of Greek legend who released evil onto the world, but kept hopelessness from escaping. For centuries she protected The Box, but now Prometheus has appeared and issued a warning that Eris, goddess of discord, and Nemesis, god of revenge, have sent the infamous Gorgons after The Box. Seeing him again sets Rora’s emotions into a tailspin and dredges up memories of a painful and passionate past. The Titan and she share centuries of relationship baggage. And she loves him, but he’s never confessed to loving her. The tension is thick between them, the energy electric. In no time they’ve surrendered to their passion, but the arrival of the Gorgons puts them, The Box, and mankind in danger.

How much longer can Pandora bear the burden of The Box?

The story of Pandora and The Box is a familiar story from Greek mythology, but even if you haven’t read it, the history of Pandora, The Box, and Prometheus is explained very clearly. I was intrigued by the idea of Pandora living an endless life still bound to The Box. What would that kind of responsibility do to a person and the people they care about? I started reading eager to learn the answer.

Pandora, now known as Rora, has lived centuries protecting The Box from those who wish to harm humans, and now she has reached her breaking point. Prometheus is the only man Rora has ever loved, though their relationship has been tumultuous to say the least. Every time they’ve tried to make their relationship work, The Box and their history managed to drive them apart. It is a frustrating, never ending cycle, and it is easy to see why Rora is exhausted and practically ready to give up. Now Prometheus has learned of a new threat to Rora and The Box and once again they are drawn together. Rora has always loved Prometheus, but can she’s not sure he feels the same way. Does he come back for her, or The Box?

I do wish there had been more time for Rora and Prometheus to reconnect. While they have centuries of history, there weren’t many details provided to make it come alive. I truly wanted to feel the weight of Rora and Prometheus’ bond, but from the moment he walks through Rora’s door, everything happens so quickly that their relationship wasn’t as compelling as it could have been. I liked them, but when I finished reading I didn’t feel as if I truly knew them.

Prometheus makes some big decisions regarding his relationship with Rora and the path their future will take. While I have no doubt that these changes will be for the better, I was left wondering why now? This isn’t the first time they’ve found themselves in danger, so why the change or heart? Was it simply the right time, or something else? I just wish I could have had more insight into Promethus’ thought process.

Despite these issues, I had fun reading Pandora’s Passion. It is a quick, fast paced, entertaining short story that can easily be read in one sitting. I recommend this romance to anyone looking for a snapshot in the life of a passionate couple.

The SHIVA Syndrome by Alan Joshua

SHIVA
The SHIVA Syndrome by Alan Joshua
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (467 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Beau Walker is a man without a field. Teaching at a backwater university after being dismissed from a government project because of his ethical concerns and bureaucratic maneuvers on the part of a one-time friend, Walker is an academic pariah until two soldiers appear one day. His former friend needs Walker’s expertise, and the professor—who is haunted by both his empathic abilities and the memory of the one time they failed him—has little choice but to cooperate
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In the Russian city of Podol’sk, a project partially based on Walker’s work has gone horribly awry, killing thousands and leaving traces of mysteries that threaten humanity’s scientific understanding. Discovering what occurred, and how to prevent it from happening again, falls on Walker and his new friends…But as secrets and revelations accumulate, the team’s combined knowledge and abilities may be inadequate to stop what’s coming.

What happens when science kicks open the door for humans to reach god-like powers of creation and destruction? When human consciousness is made so powerful that it annihilates a city of thousands and impacts the moon’s orbit? Blending the paranormal and science fiction in a thrilling mystery, Walker and his team race to find the key to SHIVA facing military intrigues and supernormal assassins. What is at stake? The eradication of life on earth by thought alone.

Are you equipped to face the unthinkable?

Would you like to read a book that not only entertains but causes you to rethink the human mind?

The SHIVA Syndrome is a read that draws the reader in from the first page. The story follows the nation’s top scientists as they research the devastating effects of the human mind gone awry. Beau Walker is a scientist with a secret, he is an extremely powerful empath and this research is right up his alley. As Beau and his team get closer to cracking the secret of what happened in Russia, they begin to realize that it is not too far out of the question that it can happen right in the United States.

The author lays out a solid storyline with strong characters and powerful backstories. As the story progresses, characters that blended into the background begin to take development and soon the reader is immersed in a world of espionage, secrets and lies. The descriptions, dialogue, and events portray the reality that this novel could be happening in reality right now. The research was strong and had a solid foundation leading the reader to understand that the author has immersed himself in research or has a background in the topics he is writing about.

I personally loved the deep descriptions of the medical/biological components of the story. It is evident that the author has a strong background in the sciences and this cannot go unnoticed by the reader. Nothing is left lacking and the story flows smoothly without feeling forced. I found myself having a difficult time putting the book down since once the excitement began, it would rarely even taper off. I also found myself drawn to the characters; following their lives and being drawn in by their stresses and theories. The suspense from the plot was one that resonates with the reader long after the book is put down for the evening.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a science fiction journey that is so well researched that it truly could be happening right now! This was one book that caused me to rethink what happens behind closed doors.

Moon, Mist and Magic by Maureen L. Bonatch, L.A. Kelley, J.C. McKenzie, Abigail Owen, and Sharon Saracino

BOOK
Moon, Mist and Magic by Maureen L. Bonatch, L.A. Kelley, J.C. McKenzie, Abigail Owen, and Sharon Saracino
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (151 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Get ready to be enchanted by mythical beasts, magical creatures, and moonlit nights. Enjoy your favorite author, and perhaps discover someone new, in these five fantastic tales of paranormal romance woven with moon, mist, and magic…

A Ghost of a Chance, by Abigail Owen
What’s a girl to do when her brother’s ghost appears asking for help? If that wasn’t bad enough, finding her not-dead-yet brother’s body before he becomes permanently spectral isn’t her only problem. Josie can’t save him on her own. The only person who can help is the last person who would want to. Bryce Evans, a man she once wrapped hopes of her future around, can’t stand to be near her. How can she convince him when her evidence is a ghost he can’t see?

Dangerous Dreams, by J.C. McKenzie
As a dragon shifter in hiding, Lara Stone wants nothing to do with others of her kind or finding a mate. No way, no how. She’s perfectly content to work for a security company, masquerading as a simple mage. When the leader of all the dragon clans personally requests her as a bodyguard, Lara fears her secret is blown, or worse. What danger could possibly make Rafael Dragoi, the powerful Astarot, seek protection?

Myths and Legends 101, by L.A. Kelley
Flickering lights. Strange drifting shadows. Unnatural cold. Anthropology professor Jim Calloway is convinced the recent eerie phenomena at Octavian College are due to his overactive imagination until he meets Keilana Yamada and her eccentric grandfather, Toshi. Dazzled by the beautiful Keilani, Jim volunteers to help hunt for an ancient evil roaming the ivied halls. Can a mild-mannered academic find his inner demon hunter and a way into Keilani’s heart? Or will a supernatural predator with an insatiable hunger destroy them first?

The Keeper, by Sharon Saracino
When a stranger lands on her slab, poisoned with silver and reeking of vampire, Medical Examiner Olivia Duncan fears someone’s discovered her dangerous secret. Enter Nick Alexios, a mysterious man with a hidden agenda of his own. Olivia ignites his passion and challenges his loyalties, making him question his duty. Nick might be Olivia’s salvation…or her downfall. Will honor-bound promises drive them apart or unite them against threats from both near and far?

Witch You Were Here, by Maureen L. Bonatch
Lucy is a witch with a successful business righting magical mischief. A call for help from her high-school heartache, Shane, prompts Lucy to manage his magical mayhem herself. No longer a nervous, hormonal, teenager, Lucy takes the case to force an apology and bury her past humiliation. To her surprise, Shane insists he couldn’t forget Lucy—because she hexed him ten years ago. Will Shane and Lucy put their past behind them, or will the spell prove permanent?

If you love magic, shapeshifters, ghosts, demons and romance as well as little bit of everything else all in one place, look no further!

Moon, Mist and Magic is a collection of five stories of romance that stretch the borders of imagination and will cause the reader to dive into a world that movies can only attempt to replicate. The five stories have one common thread, they involve the paranormal and an element of romance. Each story is written by a different author, while they all are collected into one book they are not bound to one another by a common story line.

Personally I found the collection to be great; the condensed stories do not leave the reader lacking as they all find completion by the end. The detail for each story resonates strongly with the reader. Each story had a little to offer the reader in various ways, for example, A Ghost of a Chance looks at family secrets and family ties, which also resonates strongly with The Keeper which also pulls very strongly on family lineage and secrets that are held. Myths and Legends 101 can cause the reader to focus on their own perception of the world in which we reside in a more mundane sense while Dangerous Dreams and Witch You Were Here challenge the reader’s perception of the realized world that we tend to take for granted.

The editing was clean, the story lines were clear and character interaction and development-even for shorter stories was great. When I found one story was ending I was elated to begin the next story! Each author has a great skill at drawing the reader in and entertaining with an out-of-this-world story.

This was one collection of stories that you don’t want to miss! Do you want to know the best part? All of the proceeds are donated to the World Wildlife Fund so you can even feel better in supporting the purchase of the book by knowing you are supporting the world in which we all share!

Precious Cargo by Sarah Marsh

PRECIOUSCARGOE
Precious Cargo by Sarah Marsh
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (88 Pages)
Other: M/F, M/M , M/F/M, Ménage, Multiple Partners, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

What would you do if you woke up to a nightmare, complete with monsters? Alison Baker deals with it the best way she knows how—one day at a time. When it comes to her future, she’ll need to learn to open up her mind and her heart if she hopes to survive.

When Clan Drogan’s ship gets attacked by pirates, their spoils of war come in the most unexpected of packages. They’ve never met any female like Ali before, and her sweet, caring nature draws them to her like moths to a flame. But they have commitments of their own. Will the three of them be able to decide once and for all if the woman they’re promised to is right for them? Or will they risk it all on their attraction to Ali?

Ali knows that Conn, Kal, and Tannen are spoken for, but she can’t seem to help herself. They introduce her to pleasures she’s never even imagined, so how could just a taste ever be enough? Will Ali find the strength to stand up and fight for what she wants, or will she lose Clan Drogan altogether?

I really enjoyed this delightful fantasy frolic.

Precious Cargo begins a promising new series by Sarah Marsh. The characters were amazing. The story starts out on earth where Alison Baker is a lonely woman who gets abducted from her home and then wakes up somewhere in a far away galaxy. The space pirates, or Wargs as they were called, intend to sell her as a pleasure slave but their luck runs out when they attack the trade ship of Clan Drogan. Conn, Tannen and Kal rescued Alison from the pirates and were surpised at how different she was from the females of their planet. They are relationship partners and soon they realize that Alison would be the perfect bond mate for them. The main problem being that they are already committed to another female back on their home planet.

This was a very entertaining and sexy story. It was fast paced and incredibly descriptive. Sarah Marsh painted a vivid picture of everyone and this helped to pull me into the story. I really liked the main characters and how sweet and protective that Conn, Tannen and Kal grew of Alison. I also enjoyed the hot menage sex scenes, of course.

Precious Cargo is the first book that I’ve read by Sarah Marsh. I was very impressed with her amazing writing and look forward to more fabulous books in this series.