Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full (294 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Escape into a supernatural world of love, revenge and redemption, where vampires are both predator and prey.

1960s London. Kathy is a seductive singer. But she’s also human. Light knows his passion for her is reckless but he’s enchanted. Yet such a romance is forbidden. When the two worlds collide, it could mean the end. For both species.

When Light discovers his ruthless family’s horrifying experiments, he questions whether he should be slaying or saving the humans he’s always feared. What dark revelations will Light reveal at the heart of the experiments? Will he be able to stop them in time? The consequences of failure are unimaginable. Unless Light plays the part of hero, he risks losing everything. Including the two women he loves.

A rebel, a red-haired devil and a Moon Girl battle to save the world – or tear it apart.

Blood Dragons is the explosive first instalment of the new fantasy series Rebel Vampires from the critically acclaimed author Rosemary A Johns. Experience a thrilling new twist on urban fantasy with vampires, Rockers and dark romance.

First off, I need to state that I’m not calling this a romance, despite being (somewhat) marketed as one. More, it’s an autobiographical novel written by Light, a vampire. It’s written (ala the Notebook by Nicholas Sparks) in order to remind his human love, who is aged and suffering from dementia, of their past. Much of the book doesn’t even really include Kathy.

The author has done a stellar job, though, of capturing Light’s unique voice. Given that it’s in first person and essentially being “told” to us, it’s remarkably engaging and well written. He’s a tough character to like, at least at first. He’s so angry and rough… but as we get to know where he’s from and how he became who he is now, it’s understandable and he becomes more sympathetic. I’m honestly surprised at the depth of skill shown by the author to write the book in such a fashion and make it ultimately so readable.

I did, however, truly struggle with the abundance of British slang. I’m familiar with much of the commonly used words (like “chuffed”, or the fact that in the UK what we call a trunk here in the US is the boot). However, in this book, nearly ever page is packed with slang/British words I simply didn’t understand and often times couldn’t infer their meaning from the use. It was exceptionally frustrating and pulled me out of the story constantly. It made reading the book, which should have been a joy because of the author’s talent, more of a chore than I would have liked.

Additionally, I’m a big fan of happy endings. I don’t read Mr. Sparks’ books for that reason. This book tugs deeply at the heart-strings, and really can’t possibly end well (immortal in love with a mortal is just asking for heartbreak, yes?).

However, I’m still in awe of the writing itself. Descriptive, interesting, evocative. For folks who enjoy perhaps more “literary” paranormal fiction that will challenge the brain a bit, and creates an entirely new vampire mythology, then I highly recommend it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the slang, and the impossible-to-be-truly-happy but understandable and ultimately, the only ending it could have in order to be satisfying, this author has writing chops.

Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas

Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (295 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Irish Traveler Éamonn loves gambling, women, and drinking, not necessarily in that order. But he’s entangled in a true mess when he falls for fiery redhead, Katie. When she’s married to a Scottish Traveler, Éamonn travels to Scotland to find her, with the help of Katie’s sister and cousin, and the magical brooch gifted by his father. Their quest takes them across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Skye, encountering war, betrayal, death. In the end, Éamonn must make his own luck.

This is listed as the third book in the series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for all things Irish and this book does not disappoint in that area.

The story centers around Éamonn and Katie—Irish Travelers who meet each other at a horse trading fair and fall in love. The story is very plot-driven and I could see it very well as a movie. In fact, reading the book was a lot like watching a movie. There was a bit of separation between this reader and the book itself. It was a good story, but I didn’t feel drawn into the book in a way that I felt part of the story itself.

It has romantic elements, but does not classify as a romance because the story is not about the relationship between Éamonn and Katie, but instead around the quest of Éamonn to find and rescue her after her father marries her off to another man.

The story is part of the Druid’s Brooch series, but the brooch itself is given only a passing mention—however, the gift that Éamonn is given by the fae does help in, but also almost gets him killed, so like any fae-given gift, should be handled lightly. I would have liked to have delved a little more deeply into this aspect of the story.

This was a light, easy read and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll be looking for the other two books in the series. There was a lot of information about the Irish and Scottish Travelers that I didn’t know before and really appreciated the research the author did into this period of Irish history.

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The Moreva of Astoreth by Roxanne Bland

The Moreva of Astoreth by Roxanne Bland
Publisher: Blackrose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (453 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

In the service of the Goddess…

The stubborn, spoiled, favored granddaughter of the Devi goddess Astoreth, Moreva Tehi has neglected to perform her sacred duty and now she must be punished for her transgression. Temporarily banished from Temple life, she is dispatched to Mjor—a backwater village in the Syren Perritory—to assume the roles of custodian of the landing beacon as well as the spiritual leader and commander of Astoreth’s garrison stationed there. In this perilous place of wild beasts, outmoded technologies, and harsh seasonal change, a fragile peace exists between the distrustful hakoi and the hated Devi, held together by an iron-clad Protocol—whose laws, if broken, could lead to war.

She will discover an ally in the kindly village healer Hyme and a dangerous adversary in Kepten Yose, her subordinate. But the gravest threat to Tehi’s future is the Mjoran chief, the charismatic, golden-haired Laerd Teger, whose elusiveness and cool disdain the Moreva finds both infuriating and fascinating. For it is he who will impel her to break her most sacred vows and seek out the dark secrets of her gods and her world, setting them both on a course that can only lead to damnation and death.

Tehi, Morev of the Devi God Astoreth, is sent to Astoreth 69 in the Syren Perritory for blasphemy against the Gods. Her punishment would have been worse if she hadn’t been the granddaughter of Astoreth. At the back of beyond outpost, she discovers a world previously unknown to her and gets into even more trouble.

The story follows her through a settling in period, antagonism from the villagers, helping the healer, learning unpalatable truths and then the book arrives at a dramatic climax. Woven into the story is romance and deception.

An original story, well written and engaged me right from the beginning. The only problem I had with the book was the length. It could easily have been one hundred pages shorter and still been the same exciting story. Being so long it runs the risk of the reader giving up before the end.

Definitely a true science fiction tale with conflict, romance and a brilliant ending.

Lost Among the Stars by Paul Di Filippo

Lost Among the Stars by Paul Di Filippo
Publisher: WordFire Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Full Length (201 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this astonishing, variegated assortment of tales, award-winning author Paul Di Filippo covers all the themes and modes he is best-known for, and ventures into new territory as well.

—Visit a hermetic city where beauty is the only currency.

—Experience a steampunk fable in which nothing is what it first seems, and a young man’s future rests on finding his true father.

—Hang out with the techno-savvy, social-media gypsies who form the new elite in the not-too-distant future.

—Ride a wild ribofunk express train into the badlands where a man’s skin is not his own.

—Experience a counterfacutal World War II where victory is acheived by amazing rays.

—Vist a haunted Italian city where the Neolithic and the present live side-by-side, and a hero who falls in love with a goddess must battle her ancient foe.

—Visit an Orwellian future redeemed only by the imagination and love of a tortured dissenter.

These are just some of the uncanny tales contained in this collection, incorporating comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears!

Sometimes science makes the world a better place, but it’s impossible to tell in advance if this will actually happen.

My favourite tale was “Desperados of the Badlands.” It followed a man named Ruy who wore a manufactured suit of skin that kept his body safe and helped him track down bad guys. What I found most interesting about his adventures was how dangerous they were even with the assistance of such advanced technology. He experienced thing that no regular person would ever expect to feel. This made it really hard to stop reading because I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Ruy next.

One of the things I noticed about many of the stories in this collection is that they had incredibly abrupt endings. I was enamoured by how all of them began, but their final scenes often left me feeling confused because of how many loose ends they left untied. The biggest example of this was “City of Beauty, City of Scars.” It followed Tono from his birth to a woman who had very low status to his ascension to the upper classes in a society that harshly judged and sorted everyone based on their physical attractiveness. I was excited to find out what would happen to this character if he made it to the highest level of Aesthetica, so it was disappointing to reach the end with so many unanswered questions about him and the culture he was born into.

The main character in “Ghostless” was woman named Ilona who could see and communicate with spirits. When she’d caught the attention of several dozen of them who all crave her attention, she had to decide what to do with them. What I liked the most about this one is how much creativity was folded into the plot. There were things that happened in it that I never would have thought to include if I were writing about ghosts and what happens after someone dies, but they all worked incredibly well for all of the characters who were involved in it.

Lost Among the Stars should be read by anyone who is a die-hard fan of science fiction.

The Golden Tup by Leslie W P Garland

The Golden Tup by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (88 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Golden Tup: A dreadful tale of a young couple’s paradise being cruelly taken from them by latent evil.

“But whom sent I to judge them?”

Can evil be in a place? The tale opens with Verity, a farmer’s wife, recalling how a young couple were arrested a few years previously for killing their new born baby. How could such a nice young couple have done such a dreadful thing? Through a series of flashbacks we learn how they had created their rural idyll, how an enigmatic man had come into their lives and how their idyll and relationship had gradually fallen apart – how, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost, their paradise was lost. Gradually the young wife reveals a dreadful past, but Verity realises that she is holding something back, but what? What is the terrible truth that caused her and her husband to kill their baby?

Small communities have long memories. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on what they’re remembering.

Gossip is everywhere. One of my favorite parts of the plot was when it showed just how eager some people are to believe anything they’re told as well as to spread it along to as many of their friends as possible. This wasn’t a topic I was at all expecting to see mentioned in a horror tale, so it was fascinating to see how the author tied together everything together. It is yet another reason why I enjoy his tales so much.

I would have liked to have a few more details about Constance and Matthew’s reaction to the evil they encountered. This was such an important part of the plot that I was a little surprised that it wasn’t given more attention. I always enjoy the challenge of figuring out what a narrator is hinting at without being directly told what’s going on, but I would have loved it even more if I’d had a few more hints to work with here.

With that being said, this is one of the scariest stories I’ve read in ages. One of the things I appreciate the most about Mr. Garland’s work is how much time he gives his characters to reveal their deepest secrets to the audience. This is the kind of horror that slowly sneaks up on a reader, and that makes it so much fun to read. I actually found myself getting more frightened after I’d finished the last scene and started thinking about that strange farm where Matthew and Constance lived again. There were so many details of their lives there that became much more alarming once I knew how those things fit together and what they meant. Sometimes there’s a good reason why old buildings have been abandoned, after all!

This book is part of the Red Grouse series, but it can be read on its own or out of order.

Give The Golden Tup a try if you’re in the mood for something bone-chillingly creepy.

Transcendence: First Letter to Ka-tulong by Roger Anthony Farinha

Transcendence: First Letter to Ka-tulong by Roger Anthony Farinha
Publisher: New American Spring
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (7 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Human history is more mysterious than you might realize!

A human agent’s communique (in letter form) to the representative of a big-brother alien species which have been assisting human technological progress in the interest of sparking our own species’ spiritual transcendence–

This is a fictional invention created to convey a non-fiction, social-political message…

Can a letter change humanity’s destiny?

The premise of this tale caught my attention right way. I really liked the creativity the author showed by writing the entire thing in the form of a letter. There were times when I had to read between the lines in order to understand what had recently been going on between Utusan, the person who wrote the letter, and Ka-tulong. It was entertaining to figure those sections out as they made me curious to know more about the world these characters lived in.

The run-on sentences made it difficult to understand. There were times when I needed to read the same passage over again a few times to understand what the main character was trying to communicate. While I understand that the protagonist was writing in a flowery and stylized way, it would have been a lot easier to get what he was saying if some of his sentences had been shorter.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this story were all of the references to things have have recently happened it included. Mentioning specific politicians and events made Utusan’s update on the status of humanity even more powerful than it would have been otherwise. This was a very good decision on Mr. Farinha’s part. The preface said there is a full length book coming about these characters, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this snapshot of their lives is expanded there.

Transcendence: First Letter to Ka-tulong was a highly imaginative piece of writing that I’d recommend to anyone who likes the science fiction genre.

His Holiday Miracle by Candace Sams

His Holiday Miracle by Candace Sams
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (70 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Rorn T’Kar, Commander of Earth ship Verdon, returns home after battling Earth’s enemies for five long years. His one regret is that the woman he still loves, and who broke their engagement, was killed in battle.

Lyra Dench broke her engagement to the handsome Rorn so she could join the Infiltration Corps. Due to the secrecy of her mission she couldn’t tell Rorn why she left him almost at the altar.

Five years later Rorn finds himself home again on Armistice Day. The allies have won, but he’s lost his heart. For him, homecoming is a bittersweet experience until the love of his life suddenly arrives back home, on his front lawn. Rorn makes a vow. Whatever it takes, he’s not letting her walk away again. He’s got the second chance he’d hoped for; he’s got his holiday miracle.

Rorn has finally completed his tour of duty and has helped win the war and bring by peace. If only he could find peace for himself…

Imagine losing the one you love. First she blows him off in a public place and throws his ring back at him. Then she disappears. And then she dies. All he can do is go home, be with his family in their new home on a new planet and try to find an interesting and challenging job. He wants no women in his life. He’s done with that.

Wars are always bad things and even in the future with more planets settled and more aliens around, war is still bad. The warriors carry baggage in the form of memories of men lost and battles both won and lost. After all, the planet that Rorn’s parents lived on was destroyed and they just barely got away.

Both Rorn and Lyra saw and did things they don’t want to talk about or just plain can’t talk about. When you go undercover, you protect yourself by keeping secrets. Happily that is all behind them now.

Ms. Sams writes a tale that flows well, it’s short and sweet and it’s touching. It skims the war, talks about his family and his shock at finding Lyra alive. It’s an entertaining read (do you want to survive by eating lizards?) and it’s also sweet. The ending made me happy. It’s a good thing they talk to each other. This was a feel good story and I liked it.

January Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ An Act of Murder by Mary Angela

An Act of Murder by Mary Angela
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (228 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In the sleepy college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, English professor Emmeline Prather is enjoying the start of a new semester. But when one of her students dies working on the fall musical, it disrupts life on the small, quiet campus. Although the police rule the death accidental, Prof. Prather has good reason to suspect foul play.

Unmasking the murderer proves much more challenging than finding dangling participles, so Em recruits fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins for assistance. Together, they comb the campus and vicinity for clues, risking their reputations and possibly their jobs. After an intruder breaks into Em’s house, Lenny advises caution—and perhaps a change of address. Em, on the other hand, is all the more determined to forge ahead, convinced they’re on the brink of an important breakthrough.


Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen

Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen
Publisher: Star Pine Books
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi
Length: Full (272 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

…Here again, his natural figure crouched beside her in the dank darkness of the cave, watching her in silence as she slept, struggling with cravings which were new to him, both tender and violent, and which he could only really compare to hunger… (from ASMODEUS)

On the cusp of the Great War, an even more pitched battle is waged in the furthest corner of the Nordic highlands, the final chapter of a centuries-old rivalry, pitting a troubled bloodline of thieves, journeyman, and politicians against the last and greatest dragon of the hemisphere, Asmodeus.

Until now, the source of this antagonism has been a single gemstone, the fabled shamir, whose history traces to the coffers of King Solomon. The present clash, however, has been sparked by the emergence of an even more desirable, more defiant, and more powerful force than that.

Inspired by the golden legend of St. Margaret, Brooks Hansen’s Asmodeus is a masterfully woven tapestry of history, myth, and fantasy, in the tradition of J.R.R.Tolkien, Bram Stoker, and C.S. Lewis. By turns a romance, an adventure, and the darkest imaginable Gothic, his tale is also, as seen through the eyes of the maiden Margrét, an unflinching exploration of our divided nature — what makes us beasts, what makes us human, and what makes us divine.

Mr. Hansen offers a retelling of the legend of St. Margaret of Antioch. In his version, we get “the other side of the story.”

He explains how the dragon (Asmodeus) originally loses his special jewel (the shamir) and how the family that stole it from him regarded it as something almost sacred; something to be protected for all time.

Centuries pass and it’s the early 20th century– and a young shepherdess named Margrét comes to the attention of the Provost of the area, and he steals the shamir from his brother in order to use it to seduce her.

The book is well-written and the author tells a good story– I say “tells” because it was like reading a story from mythology. There’s plenty of detail, and we get to see what the various characters are thinking, but I didn’t really get the sensation of being lost in any of the characters.  The story-telling was a little distant for me.

The story itself is very interesting, however. It has some moments of slowness as the author sets up the story, but once I got past those areas, I really enjoyed the story itself. And there was some beautiful, lyrical writing.

One thing the book accomplished was to awaken my interest in St. Margaret herself… I would like to learn more about her. And, I will be looking for more of this author’s books.

The Pact by Brantwijn Serrah

The Pact by Brantwijn Serrah
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (243 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Fleshlings and darklings… Rune-weavers and demons… When you walk in the land of the Reaper, who will survive?

Serenity Walker has cast runes for as long as she can remember. Her teachers call her a prodigy, and her secret studies hold the key to unlimited potential. Once an orphan left on an old woman’s doorstep, Serenity finally belongs. But when her mentor is murdered right in front of her, her hopes of a home die with him.

Her quest for vengeance leads her into a dangerous deal with a demon. Armed with its dark power and her own talent with the runes, she blazes a trail across the lands where ranchers and railroad men are kings, where the prevailing law is the law of the gun. To find the man who reshaped her past, Serenity offers up her future. She’ll face a world where weavers are hunted down to be hanged, whipped, or burned alive…but she won’t face it alone.

As Serenity’s mission takes her farther than most weavers are willing to go, she’ll have to decide who her true enemy is: the wicked men of the world, or the powerful demon inside her.

Serenity Walker is an orphan and rune caster who learns how to be a weaver of runes from Jack, the local Sheriff. When Jack gets killed she makes it her life’s work to wander the world and find the man who shot Jack and give him the most horrendous death possible. To do this she must become a member of the Black Guild of weavers and bind herself to a darkling demon.

This was an interesting book and well written. Usually a story with a lot of flashbacks can be a bit disconcerting, but the change of timing from past to present in The Pact only enhances the story. Serenity is a very strong character who has a goal in life and will pursue it no matter what. Even an attraction to another Black Guild weaver does not make her stray from her path. At times the story sent a shiver down my spine, but I had to finish reading the book.

I’m not sure whether I liked this book, but the story certainly made me want to carry on reading. It had depth and passion, not romantic passion, but the type of determination and fieriness which makes the strong, but likable character that is Serenity.