Equus by Rhonda Parrish (editor)

Equus by Rhonda Parrish (editor)
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (331 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

There’s always something magical about horses, isn’t there? Whether winged or at home in the water, mechanical or mythological, the equines that gallop through these pages span the fantasy spectrum. In one story a woman knits her way up to the stars and in another Loki’s descendant grapples with bizarre transformations while fighting for their life. A woman races on a unique horse to save herself from servitude, while a man rides a chariot through the stars to reclaim his self-worth. From steampunk-inspired stories and tales that brush up against horror to straight-up fantasy, one theme connects them all: freedom.

Featuring nineteen fantastic stories of equines both real and imagined by J.G. Formato, Diana Hurlburt, Tamsin Showbrook, M.L.D Curelas, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, VF LeSann, Dan Koboldt, J.J. Roth, Susan MacGregor, Pat Flewwelling, Angela Rega, Michael Leonberger, Sandra Wickham, Stephanie A. Cain, Cat McDonald, Andrew Bourelle, Chadwick Ginther, K.T. Ivanrest, and Jane Yolen.

What it means to be a horse, unicorn, or other horse-like creature is about to be redefined.

In “A Complete Mare,” a girl named Vez discovered that she was part Norse deity after that part of her bloodline activated and her body began to change. What I liked the most about her transformation was her reaction to it. There was so much time spent developing Vez’s personality that her reaction to her previously unknown lineage made perfect sense. I wouldn’t have expected her to behave in any other way.

While I enjoyed all of the tales in this anthology, some of them could have used some more development. For example, the main character in “Different” travelled a long distance and spent a great deal of money to ask a unicorn to heal her disabled daughter. The unicorn’s response wasn’t anything like she had expected it to be. While I loved the premise, I couldn’t help but to wonder why the main character hadn’t spent more time researching how unicorn healings work. It’s one of the first things I would have done in that situation, so it struck me as odd that someone would go through all of that effort without figuring out in advance what to expect from such a journey.

One of my favorite stories was “Rue the Day.” Gaylene, the main character, was a unicorn trainer who regularly rode into battle with her unicorns. When something threatened to end her career forever, she had to decide how to respond to it. While I figured out what was going on in Gaylene’s life pretty quickly, but that only made me more curious to see how her dilemma would be resolved. This could have easily been expanded into a full-length novel. With that being said, I was satisfied with how it ended.

Equus should be read by anyone who loves everything equestrian.

After Burn: Big Sky Mail Order Brides by Elsa Jade

After Burn: Big Sky Mail Order Brides by Elsa Jade
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (144 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When Vaughn Quaye’s older sister goes missing in Big Sky Country, she’s willing to risk everything to hunt down the only man who seems to know anything about the mysterious mail order bride agency that closed under suspicious circumstances. Except Vaughn is risking more than her life—she’s discovering a universe of danger and desire she never knew existed.

Dejo Jinn, sole proprietor of Jinn Data Recovery, just wants to steal—no, sorry, not steal, recover—the data left behind at the abandoned Intergalactic Dating Agency when it was forced to close after mistakenly losing some brides. He has no interest in revealing his extraterrestrialness to a clueless if distractingly curvy Earther, but after they are attacked and she sees his green blood, his secret is outed.

Now reluctant partners, he’ll have the chance to steal—sorry, recover—the valuable data and she’ll get her sister back. Assuming they don’t end up dead.

Or worse yet, end up dating.

The Intergalactic Dating Agency might be closed here in Big Sky Country, but some hearts are still dreaming of the stars.

I really like the name Dejo Jinn; it sounds exotic and mysterious. It’s apt since the hero is a species of alien that I’ve never seen in books before. The whole concept of how his kind is born and their growing stages was truly imaginative and fascinating. Dejo is also a character easy to sympathize with the more I got to know him. His life is what he made of it and that’s a character strength that the heroine, Vaughn, will eventually come to not only appreciate but love.

What surprised me is that even though we were on Earth, which aliens call ‘Dirt’ and made me snort every time, things that are familiar were not all as they seem. The author surprised me with a curve ball. What should have been ordinary was anything but. I liked that twist because that led to some serious drama and suspense that had the capacity to destroy Dejo and Vaughn’s future forever.

Even though the main characters were different species, that didn’t stop sexy shenanigans from steaming up the pages and giving readers proof that Dejo and Vaughn are more than sexually compatible. What I found very telling was what the computer said. Something tells me that they won’t be 100% alien to each other by the time they finish falling in love. I wonder if anyone else will catch that.

Vaughn’s involvement in this story is personal and I could feel her determination and desperation to find her missing sister. She has a strong personality which meshed nicely with Dejo’s.

Language and alien terminology weren’t totally awkward in this story. I think the author did a nice job of inserting odd terms so smoothly that I didn’t get stuck or distracted by them. Many times they were perfect for the scene. There were a few instances that made me pause but on the whole, it worked.

The dramatic conclusion was more than satisfying and I liked the future that seems to be opening for Vaughn and Dejo. Based on what I know now about the hero, if anyone can make things work to their advantage, it’ll be Dejo Jinn. Vaughn couldn’t be in better hands.

After Burn is a wonderful romance story with an exciting exotic touch. I’m glad I read it and enjoyed myself immensely. I wonder; will the kidnapped brides be found in the next book? I can’t wait to find out!

The Vessel by Nancy Fraser

The Vessel by Nancy Fraser
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (85 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Major Liam McGregor is a career soldier. Chosen by the leader of the United Republic to transport a government protectee to safety, Liam takes on a task that has cost his predecessors their very lives.

Alora of Delawon is an alien princess who holds the key to the survival of mankind. With the women of the United Republic left barren by previous chemical warfare, Alora’s ability to bear humanoid children makes her the government’s most valuable commodity.

Together, Liam and Alora make the trek from the government’s safe house back toward the current capitol, fighting off raiders, survivalists, and an unexpected attraction to one another.

Will their desires put them in danger? Or, will their being together become more important than the mission?

Sometimes danger is the best aphrodisiac.

The chemistry between Liam and Alora was sizzling hot. Watching them take plenty of time to get to know each other before anything sexual happened between them only made me more interested in following their journey. I actually read this whole story in one sitting because I was so eager to see what would happen between these characters next and if the spark between them would ignite into something that would last longer than one night.

There was one part of the plot that I would have liked to see more time spent on. Liam went from being a soldier who followed every order he was given in the beginning to someone who was much more willing to break the rules by the end. While it was interesting to see this transformation, I was a little confused by why he changed so much. It would have been nice for him to have a conversation with himself or someone else about why he was suddenly so willing to disobey direct orders.

The dialogue was witty and fabulous. There were many parts of human society that Alora didn’t understand, from how sex worked to what words people used to describe certain things. I giggled every single time she misunderstood something, and I laughed even harder when Liam would get embarrassed and finally sputter out the right answer for her.

The Vessel is a must-read for fans of erotica and science fiction alike. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

June Sci-Fi/Fantasy or Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Icarus by David

Icarus by David Hulegaard
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (271 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

It’s the winter of 1947 in Ashley Falls, West Virginia, and a teenage girl has gone missing. Local private detective Miller Brinkman takes the case, quickly uncovering a string of bizarre clues. A hidden diary, cryptic riddles, and buried secrets all pique Miller’s interest, but one key detail gives him pause: the girl’s parents haven’t reported her disappearance to the authorities.

As the case deepens, Miller’s investigation begins to poke holes in the idyllic picture of his beloved hometown. No longer certain whether anyone in his community can be trusted, Miller dives headfirst into a desperate search for the truth that extends far beyond the borders of Ashley Falls. He soon discovers that his missing persons case is not an isolated incident, but part of an otherworldly mystery—one that, if confronted, may threaten the very future of humanity.


Repossession by Mychael Black

Repossession by Mychael Black
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (34 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, Double Penetration
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When Aaron Jacobs’ twin makes a deal with the Devil, it can’t possibly end well. Then Aaron’s twin skips town, leaving Aaron to pay the debt himself. Aaron has no idea what to expect, but it sure as hell isn’t the cloven-hooved, horned wet dream who’s come to collect.

This demon isn’t backing down.

I love the Soul Debt books. Each one is a different take on the devil coming to collect his due. I also love the work of Mychael Black. There is always heat and a blistering pace for the story. This one was no different. The heat involved between Roan and Aaron is great. I felt the connection along with them. Yes, Aaron is paying the debt, but is it really such a hardship? This is a quick read with lots of sex. I wanted something hot for an unusually cold summer day and this fit the bill. I wish it would’ve been longer because I wanted to see what would happen next, but it wasn’t a deterrent to the current story.

If you’re looking for a short story that’s high on heat and deep on connection, then this might be the book for you.

Temptation Trials by B. Truly

Temptation Trials (Part 1) by B. Truly
Publisher: Self
Genre: Sci-Fi (dystopian/futuristic)
Length: Full (261 pgs)
Heat: Hot
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Will You Be Tempted? Will Love Save Your Soul?

One nation under his reign.

Cardinal sins of man caused humanity to pay the price. Cali Nasser grew up in a world succeeding World War III. The aftermath forced the world dictatorship that she must now live in. A new Regime arose from the ashes. They demanded obedience and cooperation from every citizen, even in matters of the heart.

One domain … One accord … One nation. That is the moral code. In Cali’s eyes, it all revolves around a twisted plot for control.

It used to sicken Cali how people would allow the Regime to test their love through the Temptation Trials. That is, until she met Kincade. Cali’s entire point of view changes when she falls for him. She struggles with herself, debating if she should challenge the government’s law of arranged marriage.

Cali’s childhood friend, Stefani, always kept a positive perspective about their lives until she was threatened with the same dilemma, at odds over the man she loves.

Now Cali and Stefani face a desperate choice—submit to the Regime’s will, or fight for what they value most—love. Although lust, mistaken for love, could lead to damnation. Do they give up on love or sign up for the Temptation Trials, a reality TV show where every temptation is laid before them?

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Can love save their souls?

An interesting premise … sort of “The Bachelor” meets “Temptation Island” with a touch of the Hunger Games.

Set in our future, post-WWIII, there is a all-powerful leader who’s set down a number of rules in order to maintain order and control. One of these rules involves who you can marry. No one gets to marry for love anymore, but all marriages are assigned based on assumed compatibility. However, if you think you’re in love with someone, you can marry them if you make it through the Temptation Trials.

Cleanly written, the story certainly has an interesting premise. I liked our heroines (and heroes, though we don’t see them as much once the trials start — the story is told through alternating POV of two heroines) and admired their determination to do what they thought was right. But weeks in the company of other men, being forced into dating several of them and then having to choose one to spend the last part of the trials with … it’s more than most people would be able to resist. Our ladies are no exception.

I did find the story a little sparsely written … the author seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to get from place to place, and some description was lacking. Also, though there weren’t overt grammar errors or typos, there’s more to good editing than that. The story had a bit too much “telling” instead of “showing” and I don’t think a character ever “said” anything. It was blurted, screamed, announced, shouted, pointed out, etc. I have to admit it drove me a little nuts, but it may not be the same for you.

That said, though, I definitely got caught up in the characters. There are quite a few to keep track of, but their names and personalities are unique enough it’s not too hard. There is lots of sex talk and plenty of sexual action (not all intercourse) but this isn’t surprising. The idea of the trials is to show people that love isn’t true and they should fall in with the ruler’s decisions.

There is some mystery involved as well, and the story ends in a cliffhanger, so be warned. However, if you’re looking for a smoking hot, futuristic story to sink your teeth into, this one is a decent choice for you. I’d read the second one, if only to find out who ends up with who!

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Darkness Upon the Deep by Hristo Goshev


Darkness Upon the Deep by Hristo Goshev
Publisher: Aurora Wolf Literary Journal
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (22 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Nikolai is gone. I still can’t come to terms with this, even though the honorary list of names on the hangar wall is a constant reminder of the stark reality. My dearest friend, my loyal brother in arms, the most skilled pilot and the noblest person I’ve ever known—dead, sacrificed upon the altar of this unfathomable abyss in which we’ve now been drifting for more than two solar days.

Sometimes the scariest thing in the universe is being surrounded by nothing at all.

Imagine slowing down from warp speed only to discover that your battleship has wandered into a place where no stars or planets can be found, physics as we know it is completely meaningless, and your ship seems to be the only thing that exists there at all. I was hooked on this tale as soon as I realized that all of the assumptions I’d normally make about how the universe works were meaningless in this place. This is the kind of storytelling that first got me interested in the science fiction genre in general, so I couldn’t wait to find out where the characters had ended up and if they’d ever figure out how to get back to our plane of reality.

The opening scene was a little confusing for me because the narrator jumped straight into the action without explaining who anyone was or what was going on. While I did figure it all out quickly, it would have been nice to at least know the main character’s name a little sooner. With that being said, this is a minor criticism of a story that I otherwise loved.

This was some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read in a long time. It definitely isn’t easy to find the terrifying side of a place that doesn’t seem to have any corporeal monsters, but that didn’t make me any less frightened for the characters. The author did an amazing job of both describing what that place felt like and showing why it was so dangerous for the people who accidentally ended up there.

Darkness Upon the Deep was a wild ride. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who loves hard science fiction.

Santa’s Slay by Stephanie Burke

Santa’s Slay by Stephanie Burke
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (61 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play, Forced Seduction, Fetish, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Jack Frost doesn’t nip. He bites — and bites hard.

When reporter Peter Winston gets too close to the secrets of Chris Cringle and North Pole industries, he’s gifted to Chris’s bodyguard and ex-lover Jack Frost. Now it’s a matter of time before he gives into the delicious demands of the sadistic dominant, learning that being naughty can be so nice.

Everybody knows the jolly old elf of Christmas and his good buddy Jack, the guy who brings winter with him…right? Well the sweet and fun loving characters that we all know are far from the truth. Reporter Peter Winston has gotten too close to the truth and must now pay for his curiosity.

Jack Frost is more than ready to make Peter pay but is his payment too harsh or just what Peter needs? You see Jack is not what he shows the world and those that see his true form are never the same again–that is if they are lucky enough to live through the encounter. Peter may just be lucky enough to be what Jack is looking for and what he wants. Will this be Peter’s saving grace or will he miss his opportunity to get what he has always longed for? This novella isn’t about the romance. This is dark BDSM, heavy on the S/M fantasy.

Peter is taken on an intense sexual ride by Jack Frost and he must make some hard decisions. Jack makes Peter look inward and realize what he is truly doing with his life. Jack is a dominant with a mean streak but he gives Peter what he needs. Peter is just as strong and the two make a good couple. Peter longs for the harshness of Jack and we see the emotions that Jack has about Peter. Jack may be a scary and imposing creature but Peter is drawn to him. Jack subjects Peter to some intense scenes and Peter learns what his body wants. The two give each other just what they need physically and must see if their hearts will follow. I enjoyed watching their relationship unfold and turn into something more. Their story is a quick read that moves along nicely. The author does a nice job of mixing the right amount of emotion and sex together to give the reader a strong hot read.

Arjun’s Pup by H. C. Brown

Arjun’s Pups by H. C. Brown
Publisher: Luminosity Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (82 pgs)
Other: M/M, Ménage, BDSM, Toys, Anal Play, M/M/M
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Big Brother is watching every kinky move they make.

After Deon’s Artificial Intelligence module breaks down, Arjun must travel back to the future to collect the alloy he needs for the repair.

To gain access to a probe due to land on Amun 2 in the next few days, he must volunteer as a Dom in an experiment in multiple partner male-on-male sex run by the Klebs.

Arjun discovers the Klebs are using the “experiment” as an excuse to run a live feed BDSM porno channel around their world and gives them a performance they will never forget.

I was excited to see a second book in the STARMEN series from H. C. Brown. In Arjun’s Pups, the series continues with Arjun having to travel through time and space in order to save his good friend Deon, who’s in the first story. I quickly found myself immersed in Arjun’s story. He goes to a place that is using humans as cattle in their so called sexual experiments. The humans do not know and Arjun must make a choice to help them or let them remain unaware and hurting. As Arjun goes about his mission he meets two men that pull at him more than any others ever have and he cannot let them go. Will Arjun find a balance and be able to stop the aliens from experimenting on the humans and save Deon?

Arjun’s story moves along quickly and brings together three good men. Each character is strong on his own and when the three men work together there is no stopping them. Mason and Rhy are good matches for Arjun, both men add something different and special to their relationship. Rhy and Mason must also figure out just where they fit in with Arjun. Will they make the choice for love or go their separate ways? I enjoyed watching the three men find their way to a happy ending.

Their story is a nice mix of emotion and adventure. The author brings their world to life nicely. This was a nice peek at how these three men come to be together and I hope that we get to see more from them and this world in the future.

Sticky Sweet by JJ Lore

Sticky Sweet by JJ Lore
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (39 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From a race known for their hedonistic delight in life and emphasis on pleasure and amusement, Artem is a frustrated chef serving prepackaged meals to bored customers on the space station. His one true pleasure comes in the form of an end-of-shift dinner-visit from Constable Driver, once every third day. For months, Artem’s been dreaming about serving the Constable a more physical dessert. When he thinks Driver’s been reassigned, Artem grabs what might be his only chance and woos Driver by palate. If he’s lucky, it might just end up sticky sweet.

Two lonely souls, a diner and a chance to open up. Who wouldn’t want to take the chance?

I wasn’t sure what I was getting when I picked up this short book. I mean, Sticky Sweet. It’s an interesting title, but will the story be overly cutesy or will there be something more? I’m glad to say there was a lot more.

JJ Lore has written a fun, yes fun, story in a few pages. The characters are complex and the plot, while it maybe isn’t so complex, it drew me right in. The writing was tight and I enjoyed myself. This is a quick read, but I had to pay attention. I didn’t want to miss a moment…or a morsel. I like stories with mismatches and Artem and Driver are such characters. But the way they’re written, I could see them being together before they screwed up the courage to try to make it so. I loved how Artem finally opened up and his skills in the kitchen are…yeah, out of this world. Then there’s Driver. He’s in law enforcement. Lore totally got the loneliness and the questioning of a man in Driver’s position, but wrote him with a rich balance of questioning and concern for Artem. I liked these characters and will be on the look out for more featuring them.

If you want a hot, sweet book for a lunch hour read, then this might be the book for you. Recommended.