Touching Water by Viola Grace


Touching Water by Viola Grace
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (58 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lydra wanted to live a life as a researcher and focus on solving mysteries of genetics. She never intended to become one of those mysteries.

Trapped in an experiment gone wrong, she ends up blue and powerless on her own world, so she decides to be a freak amongst freaks elsewhere.

Locals populate guardian Base Vidiaro, but Lydra gets by by doing her crime scene analysis until the day that the experiment that started on her own world takes its course. She goes from an anomaly to a hero and isn’t sure which she really wants to be.

Not every superpower is created equally.

Lydra was such an interesting main character. I was fascinated by the fact that she was so embarrassed over the color her skin after the science experiment she was participating in didn’t end the way she was expecting it to. It was knowing this fact about her that made her courage later on on the tale even more remarkable that it might have otherwise been. Facing what you perceive to be a weakness is never easy, but the way she handled it only made me like her twice as much as I did before.

The romantic subplot didn’t work for me at all. While I liked both of the characters involved in it quite a bit, I had trouble imagining them as a couple. The chemistry between them also never felt quite right. I could have seen them possibly becoming friends by the end, but I would have preferred to see more time spent developing their relationship before anything other than a completely platonic friendship was on the table. With that being said, I love romances that begin with a genuine and solid friendship, so I would have happily rooted for them if I could have seen more examples of why they’d make a good match.

The battles were nicely written. I especially enjoyed the fact that Ms. Grace spent so much time keeping them moving along smoothly. There was a lot going on during some of them, but I always remained on top of what everyone was doing and which science fiction or high tech devices were currently being used.

I’d recommend Touching Water to anyone who likes science fiction with a side of romance.

Catnip by J.S. Frankel

CATNIP
Catnip by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (204 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Harry Goldman, a teenage prodigy thrown into jail for illegal research, is teamed up with a transgenic cat-girl and soon finds himself in love and running for his life.

Harry Goldman, teenage DNA researcher, genius, and total nerd, is thrown into jail for illegal transgenic research. Freed by the FBI on the condition he works under their aegis, Harry is taken to New York where he meets Anastasia, a cat-girl and the product of transgenic engineering. No sooner do they get acquainted then they are attacked by another creature, a bear which is more than a bear, and are forced to flee for their lives. Along the way, they encounter furries, Doug the Dog, find out that they are more into each other emotionally than they’re willing to admit, and end up in the Catskill Mountains where Harry finds out the shocking truth about how Anastasia was created…and what she was created for.

Everyone is capable of doing things that may not be ethical, but not everyone is willing to admit when they’ve crossed that line.

Mr. Frankel pulled me into the plot through the use of one of the most exciting opening scenes I’ve read in a long time. Imagine two homeless men suddenly coming across something incredibly strange in the fetid, garbage-strewn alley they call home. It was most definitely not the introduction to this tale I was expecting. Not knowing what was happening made me eager to find out more.

I would have liked to see more character development, especially when it came to Harry. He experienced a few different traumatic events growing up that never quite had as much of an affect on his personality as I would have expected. His dazed reaction was completely understandable in the beginning, but this book would have easily earned a higher rating had the author spent more time exploring what happens when Harry’s numbness wears off. It would have been especially interesting to see which, if any, of his negative personality traits stem from this emotional paralysis.

Strong pacing from beginning to end made it hard for me to put this story down. I really liked how the author embedded crucial clues about Anastasia’s background into scenes that also had a lot of other exciting stuff going on in them. At times it felt like I was watching an action movie instead of reading a book. This was a smart approach for such an action-heavy plot.

Catnip is one of the most adrenaline-inducing tales I’ve read so far in 2014. This is a good choice for anyone who likes being perched on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what might happen next for 200+ pages.

Shifting Targets by Austina Love

TARGETS
Shifting Targets by Austina Love
Sweet Hitchhiker 3
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (89 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

You can chase a shadow but you can never catch it—especially if it’s chasing you!

Trapped deep in the woods of South Dakota, Shye must find a way to escape the posse chasing her. She employs her gift as a shifter in a new way that takes Trip off guard, causing him to wreck his bike. With the help of an old friend, the two lovers wreak havoc on a small town while shifting the eyes of the law in the right direction.

Thinking the worst is over—she rides into town seeking to regain ownership of her family’s farm. What she uncovers is more shocking than anything she imagined. Will she make the ultimate sacrifice to right a wrong committed against her people? Or will Trip convince her that he has a better way?

A fascinating book with Native American influence as well as paranormal. Shye is trying to recover her parents land and home which the local banker, Carter, has tricked them into selling. To do this she must discredit the banker and his partner Pike. In a previous book she has met Trip who wants revenge on Pike who killed his brother.

Shye’s ability to borrow shadows of animals and humans and become them for a short period helps them in both their quests. They have also fallen helplessly in love and consider themselves soul mates.

I really enjoyed reading this book, but – there’s always a but isn’t there – I got a bit lost as I haven’t read the previous two books. In fact until I originally thought there was only one previous book until I looked at the title page. As these are short books I feel the excitement and tenseness of the quest is lost by not knowing what happened before or having the sequel to hand. This would be much better as a complete book instead of a series.

That said, I loved the way Shye is Native American but with a modern day twist as she has served in the Armed Forces. Shye and Trip are the heroes and Carter and Pike the villains. The schemes Shye invents to work her way round her problems are unique and can only be solved by using her shadowing talents. Trip is her able backup. Both characters have been alone in their adult lives but together they make a whole. Wonderfully written and very descriptive which allowed me to see every scene in detail. Great book to while away the afternoon.

Life Eludes Him by Jen Suits

HIM
Life Eludes Him by Jen Suits
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When the desire for life and love surpasses death…

A man finds love anew when he meets a woman several hundred years later. A different time for each, both wrapped up with intrigue for one another. They develop a friendship that withstands their differences. Plagued by his past full of hurt, a local ghost haunts the rooms of a dilapidated mansion set in the recesses far from modern civilization. Plagued by the normal every day humdrum, she takes on a case to survey an old, time worn mansion. Her interest is piqued. Armed with tidbits of the building’s history, she steps over the threshold and into adventure.

One of the things that has always puzzled me about the concept of soul mates is the question of what happens to would-be couples who never end up together. Are people like this doomed to be alone forever?

Claire is an intelligent, decisive property assessor who takes her work seriously. Her no-nonsense approach to her professional life works well with the plot. I quickly grew to like her and root for her success, especially once the paranormal elements of the plot begin to become more visible.

With that being said, there were things about Claire’s personality that I never understood. Her decision-making abilities are tested early on in the plot, and she doesn’t spend much time mulling over the very real risks involved in her options. Her risk-taking tendencies seem to clash with everything else I learned about this character. It would have been helpful if both sides of her personality were given more time to complement one another.

If there’s one thing I learned from Life Eludes Him it is that one should never underestimate the longterm memory of a community. Nearly every small town has its own set of local legends. One of the pleasures of visiting a new place is listening to the locals talk about the people and places within them that outsiders have never heard of, and this book are no exception to that rule. It was quite interesting to piece together what happened in the mansion based on what the surrounding community has remembered over the years.

I also would have liked to see more time spent explaining the science fiction elements of this short story. The paranormal themes are given more than enough time to develop, but I can’t say the same thing about the science fiction themes. What I did learn about them was fascinating, and this tale would have earned a higher rating had the brief allusions to certain phenomenon been explained more thoroughly.

The mansion was described in such detail that it quickly became my favourite part of the narrative. Old, abandoned houses often feel a little melancholy to me, and this one is no exception to that rule. What made this setting even more intruding was how much it has declined since it was abandoned. Even the most beautiful property will decay if it’s not taken care of properly, sometimes to the point that it’s difficult to see potential of it behind the mildew, dust, and broken or missing elements.

Life Eludes Him is a quick, satisfying short story that is a good choice for anyone in the mood for something supernatural and lighthearted.

An Ecstatic Rendezvous by David Russell

AN
An Ecstatic Rendezvous by David Russell
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (30 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A very handsome but shy man yearns to have a one-night stand with a sexy woman. One day he decided to step out of his comfort zone and gained enough courage to ask a girl out.

This is an interesting short story, told in the first person from the male protagonist’s point of view. I enjoyed how it was somewhat like one of those “tell a secret” confession letters, but still rich in detail and descriptions. There’s quite a bit of internal discussion – as one would expect from a first-person tale – and I was pleased that for a change we got to see and experience everything from the man’s point of view. It was different to how a woman would have told the story, and I found this made the story fresh and quite interesting.

I found the dialogue a little stilted, almost oddly formal in places considering it was a sexual experience – for example “At last, your courage has fused with your admirable circumspection”. I wondered if this was written on purpose – to add to the air of an old film, or perhaps the unreality of a fantasy come to life. The slight off-beat language jarred me now and then, but wasn’t strong enough to make me want to stop reading, and certainly didn’t dampen my curiosity about how it would all end up.

I was also a little surprised at the dichotomy of the protagonist. In his opening sentence he declares “Yes, I’m a narcissist and proud of it”, yet he’s too shy to ask a woman out for a date. He’s spent months exercising and buffing his body up to perfection, but can’t gather the courage to ask a still-life model out for dinner and a date. While this paradox confused me, it also intrigued me. I’ll admit to still being a little confused even by the ending, but as this was his first experience and he later explains further about his shyness, I came away with the feeling that the protagonist was a lot more complicated than we could get to understand in the briefness of the story.

This was a very different style of story and probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Still I have to admit I really enjoyed it. I liked the different perspective, the feel of a romantic confession and the fact it was unlike practically every other story I’ve read. It’s fresh and different and that alone made it well worth the read. There is one very tastefully written sex scene, quite graphic but nothing I found remotely offensive. I think readers interested in a take on a man’s sexual experience and fantasy, or those who enjoy “confessions of” style tales should find this quite enjoyable.

Feather’s Blossom by Viola Grace

BLOSSOM
Feather’s Blossom by Viola Grace
Publisher: Divine Destinies
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (49 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Rescuing a crashed ship, she never expected to meet one of her own kind, and she certainly never expected to fall in love.

Tyhana has lived her life in a farming community; the only winged person she has ever seen is in the mirror. Her family has been a joy and feeling the love of her adopted clan has given her the confidence to become all she could.

When she is watching a meteor shower and a star comes directly toward the valley where she lives, she finds a man inside the ship who needs her help. He has a dislocated wing.

Seldrin was on his way to take a post as ambassador when he ran afoul of a meteor. It knocked him out of the sky and into the path of an angel. An angel who snaps his wing back in place like it was the most normal thing for her to do.

Good deeds may be their own rewards, but sometimes the consequences of helping someone else aren’t necessarily what one would expect them to be.

I really liked the descriptions of Tyhana’s playful, loving relationship with her six younger siblings. They have clearly been raised in a happy home, and it was nice to see siblings from such a wide range of ages maintain such close bonds with one another. Portraying this part of her life shows the where the nurturing side of Tyhana’s personality might have developed. It also adds a touch of humour to her tale that makes it difficult to stop reading.

Unfortunately, this story includes multiple grammar and punctuation errors. While the vast majority of them didn’t alter the meaning of the text, the errors happened often enough that I was distracted from the plot. Had this not been the case this tale would have easily earned a much higher rating as the characters, setting, and plot were quite well written.

The fast-paced plot was perfect for this piece. It works so well in large part because of the heavy emphasis on exploring certain questions that are raised early on. I didn’t want Tyhana’s adventures to end. While I don’t know if Ms. Grace is planning to write a sequel, these characters have only begun to reveal their true selves and I would be quite interested in getting to know them better in a sequel.

Feather’s Blossom is a great choice for anyone who loves stories about winged people. It reads like a fairy tale for adults, and I am looking forward to revisiting it soon.

Rhoe’s Request BY Viola Grace

RHOE
Rhoe’s Request by Viola Grace
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: Short Story (54 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

A half-breed swan chases a dream of flight and finds love in the arms of a dark swan shifter of her very own.

Rhoe wants to fly but being born a half-breed dark swan; feathers are not something she can ever achieve. She asks her father for permission to join the flight academy of the planetary defense corps and to her surprise, he agrees.

Her father gives her more than his agreement, he tells her about her mother and warns her that she may run into the legendary pilot herself.

Rhoe runs into more than her mother, she meets a captain who sends her heart fluttering, and it is that first flutter that will carry her into the sky.

Shape changing swans, what a novel idea!

Rhoe is half human, half swan who cannot change her shape. Desperate to fly, she asks for permission to join the flight academy of the planetary defense corps. Her father agrees and warns her she might run into her mother, who she has never met.

Her natural abilities see her through the trial and also make her more advanced than the other cadets. Her mother is Colonel Whisk, her ultimate superior, but on a daily basis she answers to Captain Hiiron. When their world is attacked Rhoe and Hiiron help fight off the assailants.

I enjoyed reading this book. It may be short but it’s packed with a wealth of information written in such a way it’s impossible not to keep on reading. Cheerful Rhoe makes the best of the fact she will probably never mate as who wants a half breed who can’t shape change? Her mother’s open armed welcome fills the need to know about the other half of her parentage and she is content with this. Her mother and father have other ideas about her future, but will her growing feelings for Hiiron interfere with her parents plans?

Short but with a great impact.

Lady Mechatronic and the Bordeaux Locked Room Mystery by Arabella Wyatt

LADY
Lady Mechatronic and the Bordeaux Locked Room Mystery by Arabella Wyatt
The Steampunk Pirates
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (88 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Advanced technology makes short work of a locked room mystery as Captain Hartwell and Lady Mechatronic find themselves with a body in a library…

Bordeaux! City of beauty, inspiration of Paris, source of exquisite wine! Unfortunately, Captain Hartwell is going to miss all of it.

Taking his crewman, Francois Bardon, home to Bordeaux ought to have been a short journey for the captain and the mysterious Lady Mechatronic, a silver star woman fallen from the skies, but rancorous relatives and an unexpected murder will make this visit to France an unexpectedly fraught experience.

The profoundly unpopular Lady Mechatronic series limps on with The Bordeaux Locked Room Mystery. Containing the fastest ever resolution to a locked room mystery.

The sailors of the ancient galleon and Captain James Hartwell don’t realize when they rescue a mechanical silver lady from the sea, that their lives have changed forever. Lady Mechatronic is able to send her nanobots to change, grow and repair the ship, and the deficiencies of the crew.

This is the fifth of the Lady Mechatronic books and the story continues with a trip to crewman Francois Bardon’s home in Bordeaux, France where they find desolation everywhere. While the Captain, the Lady and Bardon are away the sailors in their advanced alien tech ship defy their captain’s orders and attack three slave ships to rescue the poor unfortunate prisoners.

The Lady Mechatronic stories are filled with adventure and intrigue, but at the core is the doomed love of Hartwell and Mechatronic. They each think the other doesn’t love them and are unhappy with the situation but unable to find a way to resolve their differences of a human and robot being in love.

I have read the first in this series and found James Hartwell to be a typical navy captain of the nineteenth century. However the twist of being in love with a robot adds an extra dimension to the historical era. Lady Mechatronic is delightful. She struggles to understand the human words as their meanings are not always what they seem. The poor female also struggles with unexpected emotions as she finds herself jealous of James’ attention to another woman.

A good continuation of this series, each book giving a fresh outlook on the century and the problems affecting in the main characters. I keep reading more of these books as I’m longing to know how the captain and the lady resolve their seemingly impossible love tangle.

Pandora by Arabella Wyatt

PANDORA
Pandora by Arabella Wyatt
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (155 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Willowcombe Clatford. The perfect place to live. A village with standards. A village with morals. A village where everyone knows what is best for you…

Fourteen year old Pandora Laskaris moves with her family to Willowcombe Clatford, an idyllic village full of friendly neighbours and upright citizens, where the children are always well behaved, there are never any disagreements, and crime doesn’t exist.

Yet within this calm and beautiful place, Pandora comes to recognise that there is something wrong. What is happening behind the scenes at the village? Why do those who defy village opinion disappear? What part does Pandora’s traditionalist aunt, Mabel Whitemarsh, play in the sinister atmosphere that keeps the village quiet and obedient? And what is the link to the legendary Pandora’s Box of Greek mythology?

Willowcombe Clatford. The perfect place to live. A village with standards. A village with morals. A village where everyone knows what is best for you…

Is obedience a virtue? Who wouldn’t want to live in a quiet, peaceful village?

Pandora is an incredibly intelligent and likeable protagonist whose desire to get to the bottom of what is really happening in her new community propels the plot forward. One of the highlights in her character development comes when the reader is introduced to her two younger sisters early on in the plot. The warm relationship between all three siblings adds depth to Pandora’s personality and shows the soft edges of an otherwise tough and sometimes sharp-tongued teenager.

An in-depth description of the community that Pandora and her family live in before moving to Willowcombe Clatford makes for a slow start for this novel. While certain details are absolutely necessary in order to understand why Pandora’s parents are so eager to move, I would have preferred to jump into Pandora’s new environment a little more quickly. Using so much space to describe her old life compresses the development of later plot points and made the pacing uneven.

The rules governing Willowcombe Clatford were also confusing for me. It was difficult to predict what would happen to characters who pushed against them because the consequences vary so much from one person to the next. While some of these differences are eventually explained, I still had trouble understanding the exceptions to the rules as well as the logical limits that should apply to certain phenomenon.

This book is most appropriate for the 14+ age range due to violent content and mature subject matter. Pandora is a skeptical and inquisitive teen who asks great questions, but I would not recommend sharing her adventure to younger readers.

At the end there are hints that a sequel may be on the way. The ideas Ms. Wyatt introduces earlier on in the plot are a fascinating mixture of genres, and I hope that she will be able to spend more time exploring them in future novels. There is a lot of good material in this piece that is ripe for further exploration, and I would be excited to see how she develops it.

I’d recommend Pandora to anyone in the mood for a dystopian novel with an intriguing premise.

Treasure of a Thousand Worlds by Shannon Rouchelle

WORLDS
Treasure of a Thousand Worlds by Shannon Rouchelle
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (158 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The key to adventure begins.

After the tragic death of their mother, Daniel and Ben Dalton are left orphaned and forced to move in with a neighbor.

Soon after, questions about their past begin to surface. The boys discover an eagle key and map that takes them from their home in New York to a pirate world. This startling discovery opens the doors to a whirlwind adventure filled with mystery and danger.

With fierce pirates in search of the lost treasure, Daniel and Ben must cross the high seas, battle evil villains and trek through dangerous jungles, to unlock the mystery of a thousand worlds.

Adventures are supposed to include a little danger. What Daniel and Ben don’t know is that some of them are far more dangerous than others.

The boys’ reactions to all of the strange things they encounter during the course of this story were what kept me so interested in their fate. Ben and Daniel have experienced a lot of grief during their short lives, but neither one of them has any interest in feeling sorry for himself. It was rewarding to see how their positive outlooks influence their behaviour during the scariest scenes in the book. It was even better to tease out the personality differences between the two brothers. Being twins certainly doesn’t mean they have the same opinions about everything.

There were a few instances in which I wished more time was spent explaining the rules of the pirate world. The fast pace works really well for the majority of this novel, but it did make it difficult for the author to fully explain what was going on in certain scenes. Due to how it was plotted it wouldn’t have been easy to go back and describe these scenes in more detail later on.

I also had trouble determining if this tale is set in the past or present. Due to the social mores and types of technology present in Daniel and Ben’s life I believe it is set in roughly the mid-20th century, but it was never quite clear to me if this assumption is correct. From what I understand this is the beginning of a new series, so I hope that future books will cover this topic in greater detail.

With that being said, the high energy of the plot is contagious. The places Ben and Daniel visit and the people and creatures they meet are as colorful as they are unpredictable. This is a good choice for reluctant readers due to the wide variety of genres represented in it as well as the instant likability of the main characters.

Treasure of a Thousand Worlds is an intriguing introduction to the adventures of Ben and Daniel. I definitely recommend checking it out to anyone who loves exploring action-packed new worlds.