Never Chase Space Potatoes with Teenage Girls by Mack Moyer

Never Chase Space Potatoes with Teenage Girls by Mack Moyer
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (13 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Mike takes his dying mother to a desolate island resort, eagerly awaiting his inheritance once the old gal kicks the bucket, then finds himself in the company of a beautiful teenage girl. Naturally, Mike and his new friend are visited by what could only be described as the cutest space potato of all time.

Not everyone makes it out alive.


Few people expect an alien invasion while they’re on vacation. Even fewer are prepared for what Mike is about to experience.

The dialogue was a lot of fun. This was the kind of tale that required a great deal of speaking, so I was happy to see that the characters weren’t shy about saying what was on their minds. When they weren’t talking, I knew there was a reason for it and made sure to pay close attention to whatever it was that was going on in that scene instead. Writing it this way was a smart decision given how important the conversations were to imagining what was happening.

There were pacing issues. The narrator spent so much time describing why Mike and his mom decided to visit the resort that the ending didn’t have the time it needed to be fully developed. This technique would have worked well for novella, but it wasn’t as effective for something as short as this. There simply wasn’t enough space to show how the conflict between the main character and the space potato was escalating.

With that being said, I really enjoyed the zaniness of this story. Mr. Moyer has a tongue-in-cheek writing style that worked well with both the humor and the horror elements of the storyline. I laughed and cringed at the same time, and that’s something I like to see in books that explore the lighthearted sides of the things that frighten people.

Never Chase Space Potatoes with Teenage Girls is a good choice for anyone who is in the mood for something campy.

Holly and Ivy by Selah Janel

Holly and Ivy by Selah Janel
Publisher: Mocha Memoirs Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (34 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong opinions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keeping
a promise to an old friend?

Life doesn’t always offer easy choices. Sometimes, in fact, none of the options it comes up with seem quite right.

Holly was such an interesting protagonist. Her reactions to the unfair things that had happened to her recently only made me like this character more because of how realistically those scenes were written. I empathized with her unhappiness in the beginning and really hoped that she’d figure out a way to start her life over again. It was a lot of fun to see what she did with her life after she moved back home with her parents.

There was a plot hole that was only ever partially explained. I would have really liked to read a full explanation of how it worked so that I could understand why the author chose to write it this way. All of the other elements of this tale were irresistible to me. Had I been able to figure out why this one part of it seemed to contradict other details that the narrator had shared earlier on, I would have selected a much higher rating for it.

One of the things I appreciated the most about Ivy was how unusual her thought processes were. Her assumptions about how the world works weren’t the same as the ones Holly made at all, and that is exactly what I would expect to see from a dryad. She was definitely one of the highlights of this story for me!

I’d recommend Holly and Ivy to anyone who enjoys contemporary fantasy.

Witch, Cat, and Cobb by J.K. Pendragon

Witch, Cat, and Cobb by J.K. Pendragon
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (72 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Destined for an arranged marriage she wants nothing to do with, Princess Breanwynne decides that the only option for escape is to run away. Upon the announcement of this plan, her trusted pet cat reveals he can talk by asking that she take him along. Listening to his suggestion to venture into the lair of the Swamp Witch proves to be a very bad idea, but Breanwynne would rather face a witch any day than be forced to marry a prince.

They say you can’t outrun your problems, but that isn’t stopping Breanwynne from trying to leave them in her dust.

I adored the dialogue. Every character had such a unique tone that I was soon able to tell who was talking based on their speech patterns alone. Writing their conversations this way made it easy for me to get to know the characters. The dialogue gave me many hints about their personalities and interests which was yet another reason why I liked it so much!

There was a little too much foreshadowing in the beginning of this book. I was able to figure out a big plot twist almost immediately because so many clues were provided about what was going on with it. It would have been helpful to have fewer hints to work with so that I could have had a higher chance of being surprised by the scene that revealed what was happening.

The world building was quite well done. When I read it I felt as though I really was walking alongside Breanwynne after she left home. For a little while I actually wondered if this book was part of a series because of how rich and detailed the descriptions were of everything. While this turned out not to be the case as far as I can tell, it was a lot of fun to explore the world that these characters lived in.

Witch, Cat, and Cobb made me smile. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy stories that are set in the past.

Witches & Wolves by Kelly D. Smith

Witches & Wolves by Kelly D. Smith
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Life in the woods is usually fairly quiet, which suits Tory perfectly. She can focus on her witchcraft without the noise of the city or nosy neighbors, and the only visitor she gets is her ex-boyfriend—until late one night when she opens the door to find an unfamiliar wolf who promptly curls up in Tory’s bed and falls fast asleep.

Long used to wolves, Tory lets her be, and has no complaints at all when the morning reveals the wolf to be a beautiful woman. New to being a wolf, out in the woods to learn control and get more comfortable with her new life, Gee eagerly accepts when Tory offers to help her—and she doesn’t seem opposed to any other offers Tory might make.

But not everyone approves of werewolves, and Gee isn’t the only new visitor to the woods…

Living in the countryside can be peaceful. It can also be incredibly dangerous.

I liked how the dialogue was mixed in with the narrator’s descriptions of what the characters were doing. There were enough conversations to tell what was happening, but they always allowed the main storyline to continue moving along smoothly. Given how quickly the plot was paced, this was a smart choice.

The romance in this tale developed too quickly. It would have been helpful to have more hints about why the characters fell for each other so easily as neither one of them seemed like the kind of person who would be interested in that sort of thing. Knowing more about their personalities would have helped me to understand if this was out of character for them or if they both had well-hidden romantic tendencies. As it was written, though, I was never quite sure which one of these theories was the one the author was trying to share with her audience.

The plot twist halfway through the story was nicely done. While I did see it coming in advance, it was still fun to see how this twist was revealed to the audience. I also liked seeing how the characters reacted to it. Their responses to this scene made sense based on what I had been able to figure out about their personalities.

Witches & Wolves is a good choice for anyone who is in the mood for a whirlwind romance in a contemporary fantasy setting.

Fortune’s Star by Morgan Hawke

Fortune’s Star by Morgan Hawke
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (154 pages)
Other: BDSM, M/M, F/M/M, Ménage, Anal Play
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Lisianthus

In the heart of the Imperial Stars, past and future collide, as ghosts converge in battle for a fortune-teller’s soul…on Port Destiny Station.

Luxi Emery was perfectly happy with her position as the receptionist for Armored Media Corp. Then her hidden talent for seeing the future awakened–and exposed a black-mailing con-artist haunted by a malevolent ghost. It was a lose-lose situation, and Luxi had only a single shred of hope. Her future awaits on Port Destiny Station. A future intertwined with Amun, the handsome diplomatic telepath, and Leto, a ghost-haunted cyborg with very human carnal appetites. If they can resolve a few…intimate…details. Yet a darker future is chases Luxi: they are not alone, and Leto’s is not the only hungry ghost.

A fast paced novella set in outer space with a love story between three people who find and connect in a world that the future is constantly changing. Both sci-fi with a touch of paranormal because of the ghosts, I definitely loved Luxi as a character. She’s a great character because she knows what she wants from her future, rescues herself and yet is able to bend a bit in order to change her destiny and fall in love.

Amun is suave, capable and definitely in control of both of his lovers. Leto is a unique character because he has a human soul/ghost inside of a cyborg. I kind of loved that about him, that he was very human and yet not. I also loved the way Luxi meets both men separately and yet falls for them both, and it helps the triad work well for them.

This is a novella, set in a world I’ve visited before, yet it is easily read as a delicious stand alone. There is a relationship between all three characters including some very sexy scenes between Amun and Leto. I enjoyed every scene, and I would gladly read a full length story with these three.

I highly recommend this story to fans of sci-fi menage romance who like when all three characters fully love each other.

Through a Mirror, Darkly by Kevin Lucia

Through a Mirror, Darkly by Kevin Lucia
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (146 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Through a Mirror, Darkly is a Supernatural Thriller collection masked as a novel. With elements of mystery, suspense, and otherworldly horror, Through a Mirror, Darkly successfully delves into the worlds of Lovecraft, Grant, and the mysterious Carcosa.

“Arcane Delights. Clifton Heights’ premier rare and used bookstore. In it, new owner Kevin Ellison has inherited far more than a family legacy, for inside are tales that will amaze, astound, thrill…and terrify.

An ancient evil thirsty for lost souls. A very different kind of taxi service with destinations not on any known map. Three coins that grant the bearer’s fondest wish, and a father whose crippling grief gives birth to something dark and hungry.

Every town harbors secrets. Kevin Ellison is about to discover those that lurk in the shadows of Clifton Heights.”

Through a Mirror, Darkly is a Supernatural Thriller collection masked as a novel. With elements of mystery, suspense, and otherworldly horror, Through a Mirror, Darkly successfully delves into the worlds of Lovecraft, Grant, and the mysterious Carcosa.

Have you ever wished you could peek into the corners of other people’s lives that they don’t want anyone to see? Not everyone is honest about what’s really going on with them, after all.

All of the stories in this anthology are set in the same small town. It was such a clever way to organize them. Because of this, though, I strongly recommend reading these tales in order. This isn’t the kind of collection that one should skip around in.

“Suffer the Children Come Unto Me” is about a priest name Bill Ward who is wrestling with a dark secret while also attempting to figure out who or what is threatening the students at the school where he works. One of the reasons why this story worked so incredibly well for me is that it took its time to reveal clues about what was going on. Slowly building up the tension like this was a smart choice for the subject matter. It made Bill’s dilemma much more frightening than it would have been otherwise.

It took me a while to get into “Yellow Cab.” The narrator is a cab driver who keeps experiencing hours of lost time while on the job, and his memory loss only seems to be getting worse as the plot progresses. While the premise was fascinating, the pacing was so slow in the beginning that I had trouble staying interested in what would happen to the main character next. It would have been helpful to have a few more hints about what was going on in the early scenes. The ending would have been even more fantastic than it already was if I had a few more hints of what was coming along the way.

I would have liked to see more character development in “Admit One.” Bobby Maskel’s thoughts about his working at a metal salvaging yard were interesting, but I never felt like I got to know him well enough to truly be intrigued by what was going on when he discovered something bizarre in the piles of junk that customers had dumped off at his job.

“And I Watered It, With Tears” shows what happened to a man named Andrew after his marriage disintegrated and his life fell apart. Something inexplicable happens while Andrew is waiting in line to pay a long-overdue bill. The plot twists were incredibly well done. While I enjoyed the whole book, “And I Watered It, With Tears” was definitely my favorite entry because of how much time the narrator spent showing the audience what was going on in Andrew’s mind.

Through a Mirror, Darkly made me shiver. This is a good choice for anyone who is in the mood for something chilling.

Her Immortal Viking by Adele Downs

Her Immortal Viking by Adele Downs
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (90 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Divine intervention. That’s all Penny asks. Freedom from overwork and mountainous debt. She sings songs of praise, chants like a yogi, and rubs her belly like Buddha until the crystal charm on her navel shimmers, all hoping to draw the attention of someone—anyone—“up there.”

In the west, beyond the seas, from the place between Heaven and Earth, an immortal hears Penny’s cries. Once a renowned Viking warrior, Gunnar has been cast into eternal servitude by an angry god. Now, while Penny sleeps, he comes to Earth to grant her wishes. But Penny is about to wake up, and so is every desire she’s ever known. To claim their fairy-tale ending, Gunnar must find a way to clear his name. Not only must his sword arm and courage stay strong, but their powerful love must cross the divide of a thousand years.

Gunnar does dishes! Penny makes a wish and it comes true beyond her wildest dreams. If only we could all be so lucky.

Beautiful Penny Farnsworth is a hardworking waitress and college student trying to make ends meet, but with a student loan hanging over her head and a worthless boyfriend in tow, life is spiraling downward.

Swoon-worthy Miguel, boyfriend and hopeful male model, has it made with Penny. She cooks, cleans, and financially supports him – she evens lusts after him. But when the story opens, Penny has already decided that her “slob and a mooch” of a boyfriend needs to get out of her trailer and out of her life. She wastes no time in throwing his belongings out the door. “Adios, Miguel.”

As a student of literature and mythology, exasperated Penny stands amid the mess in her trailer left by Miguel and looks to the heavens pleading, “Can anyone up there hear me? Will someone help me out?” The author explains, “She asked the questions as if up there held mystical realms where gods, elves, and fairies took pity on human suffering.” Excellent!

Soon, Penny begins to rub the “crystal pendant at her navel” while chanting “Om.” This scene is sure to make any reader smile, but we all know what happens next … Disappointed Penny goes to bed, alone, a little weepy, exhausted, and no better off than she was before.

However, later that night the sounds of banging pots and pans startle Penny out of a deep sleep. She is up and headed for the kitchen with plans of giving her ex-boyfriend a good tongue-lashing for coming back, but instead of Miguel, she finds a gorgeous goddess of a man – and he’s doing her dishes! Meet Gunnar, an immortal who once was a Viking warrior, now cast into servitude as a Light Elf, who has been sent by the god Freyr in answer to Penny’s call.

If you’ve ever dreamed of the perfect man, Gunnar is probably him. He is kind, compassionate, brave, and loyal. He is also beautiful, both inside and out, and his talents are unsurpassed, none more so than in Penny’s bedroom.

On the downside, the romance between Penny and Gunnar felt too rushed for my tastes. I would have preferred more buildup before they found their way to the bedroom. I’m not even sure I had a clear picture of what they were wearing, or know much about Penny’s overall appearance. So, a few more pages adding visualizations would have been especially nice. There were also a few minor formatting mishaps and editing slip-ups, such as some omitted and/or extraneous words, which have a way of proving to your subconscious that you’re reading a story rather than living it.

Plain and simple, this story is FUN! It is a quick read (only 90 pages) and is hard to beat when looking for a lively and sensual tale. If you like romance, mythology, or real-life relationship stories (Miguel) or tales of godlike immortal love (Gunnar), this story should not be missed!

Hearts Akilter by Catherine E. McLean

Hearts Akilter by Catherine E. McLean
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (91 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb . . . No reason to panic.

When a medical robot insists he’s having a heart attack, Marlee Evans, a pragmatic maintenance technician, has every reason to panic. There’s a bomb inside him. Since Marlee can’t risk the bomber discovering she’s found the device, her only option is to kidnap Deacon Black, an unflappable bomb expert, and secretly convince him to disarm it.

Things go slightly awry when Deacon sets a trap for someone who is trying to kill him, and inadvertently, captures Marlee instead. Instantly intrigued by her refreshingly forthright and gutsy attitude, he’s smitten. Unfortunately for Deacon, Marlee recently hardened her heart and swore off men, especially handsome ones with boy-next-door grins. But as Marlee and Deacon attempt to identify and prevent the bomber from detonating the device, they discover that love may be the most explosive force of all.

Bombs are dangerous everywhere, but they’re even more deadly on a space station. Will Marlee and Deacon Black be able to diffuse this one before its too late?

Henry was a hilarious little robot. I especially liked hearing him talk about what he thought was happening when he first reported his robotic heart attack to Marlee. It was both a fun conversation and a nice glimpse of things to come. The scenes that included him in any way were by far the best ones in the story. Henry really was the heart and soul of this tale.

The main human characters often made illogical decisions that I didn’t understand at all. I would have like to see more attention paid to why they made these choices and whether my impressions of what kind of people they were based on their reactions to these scenes were actually what the author was intending to show the audience. It was never quiet clear to me if my assumptions about these characters were accurate based on the clues I found in how they did and didn’t handle certain situations.

The dialogue was well done. This isn’t the kind of situation that lends itself to a great deal of talking, so I was glad to see the characters keep their conversations short and to the point. They said exactly what they needed to say and then moved on to trying to solve the problem at hand. This was a smart way to write it!

I’d recommend Hearts Akilter to anyone who likes humorous science fiction.

Saving Her Destiny by Candice Gilmer

Saving Her Destiny by Candice Gilmer
The Mysticals Book One
Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (167 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Sometimes the future comes knocking. Sometimes it knocks you into next week.

Fairy-In-Distress team member Duncan Molar’s mission is as simple as it is desperate. Find his missing best friend, banshee Cara Wallace, before an assassin lights the magical fuse that will unlock her scream, wiping out the last merrow colony on earth.

Since the day he rescued her from a fishing net, the near-victim of her very first scream, they’ve been joined at the hip, he helping her with her telepathy, she helping him remember the beautiful side of being a fairy.

When he finds her, the crisis isn’t over, for the unreleased scream could kill her…unless he gets her to a remote location and figures out a way to release it safely. The solution blows them so far apart, Duncan’s back to square one. Doing whatever he has to—including sacrificing his job with the FID—in order to save her.

Because secretly, he’s been in love with her for a decade.

Warning: A determined fairy, a banshee-in-distress, and a djinn that will only make matters worse.

Part banshee, part mermaid. An unusual mixture of genes makes Cara different. Her banshee side is dominant and she takes her job seriously. The Merrow Kingdom of the mer people are her responsibility. As a teenager she makes friends with Duncan, a fairy from the Fairies in Distress unit otherwise known as the FID. Years later Cara is kidnapped when she visits the Merrow Kingdom to give a banshee cry to announce death is coming. Duncan is determined to find her before her cry explodes inside her, a phenomenon that happens when a banshee is unable to do her job.

Both Cara and Duncan have deep feelings for each other, but neither wants to admit it to the other in case their feelings aren’t reciprocated. It takes the extreme danger threatening Cara to bring out the truth, but will it be too late?

Cara is delightful, a typical teenager at first she matures into a thoughtful young woman, who does herself a disservice by overthinking things. Duncan is mature, he’s several hundred years old, and acts as an adult to Cara’s light hearted banter. Their interaction is lovely and I truly enjoyed this book, especially when it got to the spicy, hot bits.

The book has a nice blend of friendship, romance and light heartedness, along with intrigue and danger from another source. Looks like this is going to be a good series.

September Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Shadows of Deceit by Mell Corcoran

Shadows of Deceit by Mell Corcoran
Publisher: Mill City Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (494 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Three bodies. No clues. No heads.

It takes more than a near-death experience to keep Detective Lou Donovan off the job. Three decapitated bodies are discovered in the empty house of a high-profile Colombian coffee mogul putting a drug cartel at the top of the suspect list. Or is that the perpetrator’s intent?

Lou and her team find themselves dancing on the edge of an international incident where every twist and turn uncovers a tangled web of murderous lies. When the absence of evidence is their strongest lead, Lou must find a way to solve the case while navigating a minefield that threatens to expose the people she has come to love.