February Mystery/Supense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Battle Cry by Melissa Snark

CRY
Battle Cry by Melissa Snark
Loki’s Wolves Book 2
Publisher: Nordic Lights Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (363 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

One man dares defy Fate.

Survival demands sacrifices; healing requires forgiveness.

Men revere him; monsters fear him. Jake Barrett, the notorious Hunter King, values loyalty to family and followers above all else. When the daughter of his closest ally murders Daniel, his oldest son, it sets off a chain reaction of violence and destruction that claims the lives of both wolves and hunters. Determined to avenge his son, Jake seeks the truth at any cost.

After losing her lover and then her mate, Victoria Storm simply wants to get on with building a new life in Sierra Pines, California. A vengeful Jake Barrett and his organization aren’t going to make that easy, especially with the unwelcome attraction between her and the Hunter King’s second son. Perils beyond the mortal coil plague Victoria.

When the Norse Fates predict Victoria will destroy the world, her duties as a priestess of Freya come into conflict with her responsibilities as a Valkyrie of Odin. When they tell her she will do it to save her unborn child, she’s not so sure they are wrong.

Sawyer Barrett has been trying to kill Victoria for so long, he doesn’t know whether he loves her or hates her. Desperate to end the war, he’s willing to take chances with everything–except his heart. The hunter harbors a deadly secret he can’t reveal without risking the ceasefire and his life.

At Sawyer’s urging, Victoria agrees to peace talks with Jake. All the while, an ancient vampire plots the destruction of wolves and hunters alike. If the embittered rivalry between hunters and wolves doesn’t end—and fast—there is no hope for Victoria’s pack… or for their world.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Faith by Angelique Voisen

FAITH
Faith by Angelique Voisen
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (55 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In a society where a common servant girl doesn’t have much in the way of prospects, Faith’s plain appearance and sharp tongue make a good match even more unlikely. But finding a husband is the least of Faith’s worries when she finds herself caught between a beautiful swordswoman and her grotesque, monstrous prey.

Given as a reward to the huntress, Faith is beyond terrified. According to rumors, these less-than-human slayers share too many qualities with the creatures they kill for a living, but Faith can’t deny the strange spark between Valac and her.

Val used to think cutting away parts of her humanity was a worthwhile exchange for wreaking vengeance on the monsters who threaten her people, but lately she’s gotten tired of her profession. Val believes her assignment in a remote city in the mountains is simple until a servant girl’s arrival stirs emotions Val thought she’d abandoned long ago. If Faith is capable of invoking unbridled passion then the best thing Val could do is stay away, but when Faith’s life hangs on the balance, can Val risk all to save her?

Sometimes love shows up when you least expect it.

This book had a strong opening scene that described the main character gathering mushrooms early one morning outside of the city gates. What I found most appealing about it was how much it revealed about Faith and her society to anyone who paid close attention to what the narrator did and did not say about them. Within the span of a few pages I had a good first impression of Faith’s personality as well as a few theories about why the people in her community were so afraid to wander away from the gates. There is definitely something to be said for such subtle foreshadowing.

I would have preferred to meet a smaller number of characters in this story so that there could be enough time for their personalities to fully develop. Alternatively, the plot could have been stretched out into a full-length novel in order to explain the character’s backstories and relationships in greater depth. Getting to know so many characters in such a short period of time was overwhelming, though.

The monsters were creepy. They were described in ways that briefly sketched out what they looked like and how they could be expected to behave, but I was happy to see that there was still plenty of room for me as a reader to imagine what it would be like to stand next to one. In this case, that was a smart decision. While I don’t know if the author is planning to write a sequel, it would be interesting to see how she approaches these creatures in the future if she does.

I’d recommend Faith to anyone who likes sexy science fiction.

Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor and the Case of the Dark Lords Conspiracy by Dan Ehl

PRIVATE
Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor and the Case of the Dark Lords Conspiracy by Dan Ehl
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (197 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Private inquisitor Jak Barley is ready for some down time after battling Ghennison Viper Mages, being attacked by piss dragons, and fighting off priests of Dorga the Fished Headed God of Death. That is why Jak was not a bit amused to have a scruffy mage insist that he is to be one of a group of questers decreed in an ancient prophecy that must cross the icy Alf Mountains to foil the return of the Old Gods. To do so meant using a map all too heavily dotted with “Here Be…” warnings that read like an “Idiot’s Guide to Monsters.”

And why are Westian Lizard Wizards targeting young red-headed maidens and who is behind the numerous and bizarre attacks upon Jak? Once gain Jak finds himself saying, “I hate adventures.”

Jak Barley gets caught up once again in a dangerous quest, in order to fulfill an ancient prophesy and save the world from certain destruction. When a pair of Djork Ship Rats from Aghjem’s Litter ask to join the quest, Jak finds it most peculiar. His friend and fellow quester, Lorenzo sighs and says, “Tell me what isn’t peculiar about heading through the frozen north mountains based upon gibberish verses dealing with crazed wizards, a stone with purported powers, and ancient deities bent on world destruction? What’s a couple rats thrown in that makes it any crazier?” And so the group heads on their way, with one hair-raising adventure after another.

Jak is a very likeable protagonist. He isn’t always brave, but he is loyal and true. He really doesn’t like adventures, and he gets tired of being told that “If quests were meant to be easy they would be called vacations.”

There is plenty of humor in this story, as well as some very bizarre hexes and spells. My favorite of these is when Jak is hexed so that he is upside-down. The description of this malady is very well done as the reader sees things from Jak’s perspective as well as from the normal world’s, if there is such a thing in this delightful book.

There are many interesting characters along the way, and the hideous monsters are as unique as they are terrifying. Jak has plenty of reason not to like adventures of this sort. The quest seems impossible, especially once it is learned that “a small throng of Blackwatch Goblins are in possession of the gem of Hinay and Book of Necrothaumaturgy and will reach the icy Hall of the Dark Lords within a month.” Nevertheless, Jak and his fellow questers stay on the trail, no matter what the dangers.

Fantasy lovers are sure to enjoy traveling with Jak as he attempts to fulfill the prophecy, stop the Dark Lords, and save the world.

Camouflaged Encounters by David Englund

CamouflagedEncounters
Camouflaged Encounters by David Englund
Publisher: self
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (260 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Forget what you think you know. How well do you really know your neighbors or fellow workers? Do you trust your boss? What about politicians? The fabric of our society is under attack. Our way of life, our livelihood, our very existence is under full assault. No one even realizes that it’s happening. Disguised as horrible natural disasters on the news, the world is caught unsuspecting as events draw us ever nearer to extinction. As “natural disasters” escalate and tensions between nations mount, one man hears a whisper. It has begun . . .

David Englund brings us a new episode in his science fiction series about Clark Jackson, a mild-mannered, every-man accountant who has discovered the existence of portals from our world to other, intergalactic worlds. In this book, he utilizes the portals some, but mostly to discover what he can about a race of alien creatures who have taken up residence on earth—and their attentions are not friendly.

There are only a few people aware that aliens are camouflaged as friends, family, and neighbors and Clark, along with his girlfriend, a co-worker (who is not quite what he seems), and a reporter have to work together to save the world from disaster. Clever characterizations and descriptive writing make this book a joy to read.

This book can be read as a standalone, but the reader would get a lot more enjoyment out of it by reading the series in order. There are some things that happen in this book that would gain from having some exposure by what comes before. All in all, an enjoyable read.

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Angel’s Keeping by Brantwijn Serrah

 

KEEPING
Angel’s Keeping by Brantwijn Serrah
Publisher: Breathless Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (68 pages)
Other: F/F, M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Why would the King of Incubi send one of his spies out on Christmas Eve? Unless it is to break her heart…

As a succubus, preying on humans is Raschael’s business, and mortal holidays are a frivolous waste of time. So maybe her king meant to punish her when he sent her out to hunt on Christmas Eve. Or maybe he just wanted her far, far away, so he could banish Raschael’s one trusted friend.

Your little pet has run off.

Now Raschael must track down a missing fallen angel, and she doesn’t have a clue where to start. Bigger predators are closing in, and Rasche’s only lead is a Christmas stripper named Noelle.

Sometimes the rules need to be bent a little.

What surprised me the most about the sex scenes was how effortlessly the author used some of them to move the plot forward. They were hot and informative! That isn’t something I generally see in these types of stories, so it was a lot of fun to see how this technique can work.

Raschael lives in an incredibly complex society whose rules often have little to nothing in common with how humans live. While the world-building in this tale was strong, there were several times when I felt confused about what was going on. Certain terms were used for a long time before they were defined, yet knowing what they meant was important to understanding why certain characters reacted to them the way they did. I would have really liked to have either learned their definitions right away or to have access to a short glossary at the end of this e-book that explained what these words meant.

With that being said, Ms. Serrah has a smooth writing style that made it hard for me to tear my eyes away from the page. The world she created was fascinating. I read this whole book in one sitting because I was so curious to see how it would end. Based on how much I enjoyed it, I will be on the lookout for what she comes up with next.

Angel’s Keeping is a good choice for anyone in the mood for something steamy.

Under the Full Moon and Other Stories by Charles Schilling

MOON
Under the Full Moon and Other Stories by Charles Schilling
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (52 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A collection of short stories that roams through several genres from comedy, drama, fantasy and suspense. There are a couple of whimsical looks at murder, a tragic game of hide and seek, a lesson on when not to make a slip of the tongue and a look at what happens when you break 113 out of 206 bones.

Not everything is always as it appears at first glance.

“Tourist Trap” begins with a confused man named Arnold whose travel plans have been seriously disrupted. He’s not a patient person, so trying to get the clerk to explain all of his options is only making Arnold more angry. This was by far my favourite story in the collection due to how the main character’s predicament was revealed so quickly. The already intriguing premise was made even stronger by keeping the pacing fast and the ending under wraps until the last possible moment.

I predicted the twists in a few of these tales immediately. “To Thine Own Self Be True” is one example of this. It begins with a young woman who was standing next to the ocean and grieving the loss of her husband when a stranger approached her. My first assumption about what was happening was the correct one. While the writing style was engaging, I would have preferred to have far fewer clues about what was coming. Knowing how it would end so soon dampened my enthusiasm for finishing this piece.

“In Silence Sealed” follows Ben’s train of thought. His wife, Emily, has been extremely talkative throughout their marriage. He resents her constant commentary on everything she’s seen and done and wishes he could have a few hours of silence. What I enjoyed the most about getting to know this couple was how much I figured out about them by reading between the lines. By paying attention to what they left unsaid I was able to pinpoint the genre this story is best suited for. That information wasn’t immediately obvious, but piecing together all of the hints was definitely worthwhile.

Under the Full Moon and Other Stories is a good choice for anyone who likes to dabble in more than one genre. There’s something here for fans of the science fiction and mystery genres alike.

Prophecy Revealed by Ron Hartman

REVEALED
Prophecy Revealed by Ron Hartman
The Prophecy Chronicles 2
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (206 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Daniel Marten crossed the Burning Sea and convinced himself that he is the Prophesied One. But what does that mean? In this second installment of the Prophecy Chronicles trilogy, Daniel forges new alliances in his bid to save Naphthali from the Emperor. He meets the Tene’breon, a magical race that has evolved to use the Weave as effortlessly as he breathes air. The leaders of this race recognize him for what he is…but they also see something more. Naphthali has been dramatically altered by the rule of a new governor, a man whose power is tied to Daniel in a horrifying way. How far will Daniel go to save Naphthali? And what is the secret that binds his destiny with his new allies? Only time will tell in The Prophecy Chronicles: Prophecy Revealed.

Daniel Marten really wants to be back in his own world, with his beloved wife and three children, looking after his pharmacy. But for some reason, he has been chosen as the Prophesied One and transported to an entirely different world. He now has the appointed mission to save the Naphthali from the Emperor. He has chosen to save the many even if that means he never returns to his own world.

Daniel is a very likeable character, at times hesitant and unsure, but with an underlying strength which helps him maintain his determination to defeat the Emperor in spite of all the loss and pain he has endured. He meets the Tene’breon, a magical race of people the Emperor has tried to eradicate. Three members of the Tene’breon, Broken Bow, Bastion, and Meadow Song, become his allies as they also share a part in the prophecy.

The world Daniel has entered is fully described and feels very real. It is a rich world, filled with beauty and despair. I had no trouble entering into it with Daniel and I certainly understand why he feels that he must do all that he can to help the Naphthali.

The action is intense and riveting. I read Prophecy Revealed in one sitting. I simply could not put it down. I had to know what was going to happen next. This is the second in The Prophecy Chronicles Trilogy but it can certainly be read without any prior knowledge. Personally, I have read the first book, Prophecy Revealed, which I recommend as well. And I am eagerly awaiting the final book in the trilogy, which I hope will be published soon.

Fantasy lovers are in for a real treat with Prophecy Revealed. It never disappoints.

Phoenix Rising by Cara Carnes

RISING
Phoenix Rising by Cara Carnes
ROAR series Book #1
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (127 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Sometimes you have to crumble to ashes before you can fly.

Riletta knew hardship. As a shifter who couldn’t shift, she was raised in a wolf pack that ostracized her. She was ready to tackle the world when she was dropped off at the university with no identity, very little cash, and the only thing she wanted—freedom. The last thing she expected was for the university’s resident Alpha wolf to stake a claim.

Macen Giordano hadn’t expected the little female to bring out his protective wolf, but he’s not about to let university politics harm the innocent shifter. Riles may not be wolf, but she is his.

When prejudices threaten them both and shed light on her true nature, the two must survive the impossible to earn their destiny.

“It’s a library. What’s she going to do? Research you to death?”

Riletta is a shifter with no identity. She was found abandoned by a wolf pack that had no idea who she was or which species she was. She was dropped off by her no good alpha at the university. From then on starts her life to freedom and self-discovery.

When Macen meets Riletta on the very first day in the university Macen has this overwhelming feeling to protect her.

This is about a shifter who has been demeaned, degraded and kept in less than tasteful conditions, and her flight to freedom and love.

For me the one thing that makes this whole series or book different than any other book was Riletta and who she really was. Not to say that the book as a whole was not engaging. I multitask a lot, even when I am reading a book. Rare is a book nowadays that could pull me in completely and make me come back again and again. The author did a wonderful job doing that.

However, I have one small problem with the wordings in the whole book. This is a New Adult erotic book. Not a young adult. But every now and then some of the characters would slip into dialogue that reminded me of children or young adults or teenagers. I understand that Phoenix Rising is set at a university and both the main characters are students. But somehow I kept thinking that the way they talked was not in complete synch with the whole story and their characters.

Ms. Carnes did a wonderful job of portraying the different sides of Macen that endeared me to him. At the same time it was touching to see the progress in Riletta with the help of some special characters. I do hope there is a second book in this in the near future. I will be looking out for the latest book. I want to know more about who Riletta is and what she could do.

I enjoyed this story about an alpha with a protective instinct and a shifter who has yet to find her true potential.

The Dryads’ Tower by Judy Mays

DRYADS
The Dryads’ Tower by Judy Mays
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/F/M, Ménage, Multiple Partners, Toys, Voyeurism, Anal Play, Masturbation, Exhibitionism
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

For twenty long years, no druid has inhabited the tower in the dryad’s valley, leaving them vulnerable to humans who’d cut down their trees. Finally, though, a mage who can protect their sacred grove has arrived seeking the magical knowledge the tower contains. Navaar isn’t a druid but they’ve waited long enough. No children have been born to them in too long because a dryad’s tree consort, after all, cannot sire her children. A human male is needed for that. The mage Navaar is perfect, for the night they captured and seduced him, three of the dryads became pregnant. Yes, Navaar is a worthy successor to the druid who left them so long ago. But then Navaar rescues a druidess from a Blood mage who’d wanted the tower for himself. Dylana, daughter of the durid who’d last inhabited the tower and a dryad mother, has returned to the place of her birth; and she wants the tower for herself, and no man, even if he is a powerful — and enticing — sex mage, is going to keep her from claiming it.

A dryad and a sex mage. Both with one mission.

It was a simple plot with a lot of detail in them that made me picture every scene clearly. Navaar is a sex mage who intends to claim the Dryad’s Tower as his own. Dylana has come back to her home for the same thing. The author added a lot of intricate and interesting information that kept me coming back every time.

It was if I was transported into a different world. The Dryad’s Tower was spell-binding. This was a short story but it added a lot of history and different small stories into it.

Everyone had their own story and it was a curious thing to see how it all came back into one. Plus, Navaar is a sex mage. That in itself stirred my imagination.

One small problem I had was that I kept confusing Druids and Dryads. I keep mixing the names, likely because they are so similar, but that was a problem others might not have.

I think I should mention one other aspect of this that surprised me a lot. Dryads have consorts or live tree partners who they actually have relationships with. It was shocking and it was very difficult for me to get the images out of my mind. With where I live, and where ever I go, I see trees so this story has kind of changed my perspective a lot.

This erotic story is unlike any I have read and I would recommend it to anyone who loves erotic with fantasy.

My Life as a Sperm by William Darrah Whitaker

IFE
My Life as a Sperm by William Darrah Whitaker
Publisher: QAV Media
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (264 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Hollywood agent, Buddy Price, dies in a car accident, he ascends to Heaven and finds out God’s ready to pull the plug if we can’t learn to get along – a ‘Love thy neighbor or else’ sort of message. Recognizing an opportunity, Buddy negotiates a second chance to help make things right back on Earth. Initially unconvinced of his experience, he soon spots a mysterious box on a late-night televangelist show that changes his mind.

However, the path to saving mankind is not so straightforward. After the preacher lands in jail, Buddy ends up with the Box, but lost and disillusioned. He ignores God’s repeated warnings that time is running out and, instead, tries to refocus on work and his client list. Others, though, recognize the Box’s potential, and they’ll do anything to control it and the secret held within. The fate of the world rests in Buddy’s hands… or, who knows, maybe he’s just crazy and needs lithium or something.

Every action has a consequence, although not all consequences show up right away.

How do you tell the difference between someone who is genuinely devout and someone who pretends to be pious for social or financial reasons? This question was returned to again and again during the course of this tale. One of the things I appreciate the most about the science fiction genre is how willing it is to explore potentially controversial topics like this one without insisting that everyone come to the same conclusion. What was particularly interesting about this line of thought, though, was how it was woven into such a fast-paced storyline. Not every novel that asks philosophical questions dwells on them. Sometimes bringing these things up to begin with is more than enough to make a reader consider all of the possibilities.

Many of the characters had fascinating backstories, but I had a hard time figuring out what their personalities were like or how certain events affected him. This was particularly noticeable when it came to Buddy. Even though he was the protagonist, I never felt like I got to know him as well as I would have expected for a full length novel. Had I known more about his personality and personal growth, I would have felt comfortable giving this story a much higher rating.

The title and premise of this book were both definitely eye-catching. As soon as I read the blurb, I knew this was something that I wanted to read. Mr. Whitaker takes a playful, tongue-in-cheek approach to topics that are usually only discussed seriously, and he does so effortlessly. I’m drawn to this writing style and will be keeping an eye out for what he comes up with next.

My Life as a Sperm was a fun ride. I’d recommend it to anyone who prefers their science fiction to be cheeky and imaginative.