The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar


The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (22 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

A collection of short stories dealing with different kinds of scars we keep. They never said being human could be this hard. they never told us about the scars we would carry. they only told us that this is what it means to be alive

Have you every truly looked into the darker side of your psyche?

The Itching Scars is a collection of three short stories that examine the thoughts, actions and reality of humanity that many of us choose to ignore in our daily lives. To Court Death is the first short story that you will encounter and just like the title implies, it is a look at the courtship of death. Keep in mind that this is not the courtship of the character Death, but a courtship or love of the idea and symbolism of death. This story is primarily narrative with very little dialogue; yet the story is very clear from this vantage point. The reader obtains a fantastic view of death and the hold it has on the individual psyche.

The second story in the three story collection is called The Space Above, The Space Within. This story is told from a third person point of view and includes quite a bit more dialogue. This story takes a deep difficult look at governmental and societal controls. Votum is the main character in this story and it follows his life from the point when his father begins taking a stand against the thought control that their society enforces. The author does a fantastic job at making this world a real, believable construct and in effect, works to cause the reader to question how a society could become so focused that humanity is lost in the daily lives.

The final story is called Under The Rust. The title deceived me at first, but the story was epic. I especially loved the twist at the end, which I did not foresee coming. Under the Rust has a great amount of dialogue and interaction, this comes from a first person narrative encounter. This story is great to be set as last, because it ties the other two stories up to give a total glimpse into the human mind. Out of the three stories, this by far was my favorite.

The author has a great knack for storytelling and understands the use of the various points of view to bring about the best story. Where there was less dialogue, this was certainly cleanly replaced with important description and narration. The length of the book overall was shorter, I feel that none of the stories felt rushed or that anything was left out. I had a great time and enjoyed all three stories.

If you would like to consider looking into your own dark humanity by examining another individual’s dark thoughts and perceptions, this is definitely the book for you!

Spell Caster by Leah Hamrick


Spell Caster by Leah Hamrick
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (165 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Three paranormal short stories. One sweet, one dark, one fun. Which one will be your favorite?

Love Caster: There is nothing greater than pure, sweet love, and that’s something Anna Bowden knows all about. While trying to get the courage to kiss her boyfriend Killian, she has to deal with her overbearing dad, who will stop at nothing to tear them apart.

In the Darkness: After Anna Bowden witnesses someone—or something—lurking in her backyard, it starts a chain of frightening events that leads to a gruesome discovery.

First Holiday: Featuring the characters from Frost On My Pillow—be prepared for a sweet, fun, wild ride. While Ethan gives Lyla—who has never celebrated Christmas before— the task of finding out the true meaning of the holiday, he surreptitiously tries to tell her how he really feels, but before that can occur, a lot of decorating and snowball fights has to happen!

Three stories can be better than one!

Spell Caster is a collection of three paranormal short stories. The first two stories focus on Anna and Killian and the special powers they possess. The two stories are interesting in that they look at the world from the eyes of youth with special powers. Anna has the genealogy of witchcraft which is shunned by her parents, so she must hide her own powers from all of those around her. Strange things and strange interactions do occur and there is often little that she can do about it.

The third story involves paranormal aspects, but is much heavier on the beliefs and customs of those who walk the world without special powers. This story has two completely different characters who are at two completely different points in their lives than Anna and Killian. Though this story is very engaging it felt very out of place after reading the first two stories.

I did enjoy the characters from the first two stories, I feel that the two stories taken as one longer-continuous story would have the greatest benefit. Although the third story was enjoyable, I feel that I was left out in the cold. The character development from the first two stories greatly surpassed the character development in the third story. The backstory and history of the characters and the involvement of the supportive characters in the first two stories led to a more dynamic and involving tone. The title of the book is even slipped into the first story and is played on in the second story. Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of minor instances in the third story, it seems almost completely separate.

Some of the dialog felt forced and did not flow smoothly. Some of the storyline in all three stories felt rushed and I feel that much detail had been left out, which in turn hurt the overall flow of the stories. I feel that one longer more involved and continuous story would have benefitted the overall theme and focus that the author is working to convey. I do appreciate and support the direction that the author has positioned the book as a whole, but I feel that a stronger and more involved story line would have done these characters more justice.

If you are in the mood for three fun stories that will challenge how you look at the world around you, I recommend picking up a copy of Spell Caster!

If We Had No Winter by D.L. Pitchford


If We Had No Winter by D.L. Pitchford
Publisher: Straight on till Morningside Prints
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (245 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Can a father who turned his back on a child want her when she’s an adult?
College freshman Billie Dixon has always found solace in calculations and her secret drawings, hiding from the more difficult parts of life—her mother’s alcoholism, her inability to connect, and of course, her estranged father. That is, until she arrives at Bradford College in Vermont, where the Math Department Head is her father.

After a semester of avoiding him, her father insists she join him for the winter holidays to rekindle their relationship, and Billie is at a loss. While she tries to uphold the status quo, her father refuses to be pushed to the sidelines and forgotten. Just as she realizes she doesn’t want to lose him, her meek and shy father kicks her out of his home during an argument. Can Billie swallow her pride and make amends with her father or will she lose him forever?

If We Had No Winter is a gritty coming-of-age tale about loss, love, and learning to try again.

College is a time of exploration and learning about one’s self and the world; Billie Dixon is about to meet these challenges head on.

Billie struggles with her shattered family life and with her first year college classes at Bradford College, where her estranged father is the head of the Math Department-which happens to be the major that Billie is interested in. The good news is that Jimmy, Billie’s best friend from school, is in the dorm room across the hall from her. Unfortunately, the bad news is that Billie can’t stand his roommate Xander. Billie is focused on academics and lets out her frustration in the form of artwork, but this becomes problematic when a student Billie begins to tutor has a romantic interest in her. Still, there is the issue of her difficult relationship with her father.

If We Had No Winter is a strong story that looks at the home we leave when we go to college, the life we want to make, and then what happens when everything comes crashing down. Billie is a relatable character that has her own passions, concerns, challenges to social acceptance and from time to time, even severe difficulty connecting socially with those around her. The first person perspective is fantastic to give the reader a glimpse inside the head of a girl that on the outside has everything figured out-but on the inside is struggling to keep it together.

The character dialogue flows smoothly and Billie’s social awkwardness is understandable. The actions from main characters to supporting characters is relatable for the reader and the plot is deep. The focus does not always rest on relationships or family ties, but the author blends everything together to make it “real life” and believable.

Near the end of the story, a dramatic turn occurs which is completely unexpected. This turn ties everything together and we see a side of Billie that is both unexpected and deeply real. The reader is then tasked with wondering “what would I have done?” as Billie’s actions play out.

Be sure not to miss If We Had No Winter-this deep story will be sure to make a personal connection that you will not easily forget!

Didn’t Get Frazzled by David Z. Hirsch


Didn’t Get Frazzled by David Z. Hirsch
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (284 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Medical student Seth Levine faces escalating stress and gallows humor as he struggles with the collapse of his romantic relationships and all preconceived notions of what it means to be a doctor. It doesn’t take long before he realizes not getting frazzled is the least of his problems.

Seth encounters a student so arrogant he boasts that he’ll eat any cadaver part he can’t name, an instructor so dedicated she tests the student’s ability to perform a gynecological exam on herself, and a woman so captivating that Seth will do whatever it takes to make her laugh, including regale her with a story about a diagnostic squabble over an erection.

Didn’t Get Frazzled captures with distressing accuracy the gauntlet idealistic college grads must face to secure an MD and, against the odds, come out of it a better human being.

Every now and then a book comes along that makes you question the career path you chose as well as cause you to wonder why you didn’t follow another path. Then, there are those that remind you of why you chose not to follow a different path.

Didn’t Get Frazzled is an amazing story told from the first person perspective of medical student Seth Levine. From Medical School Year One until Match day and a little after, the author takes the reader on an amazing journey of the crazy adventures, ridiculous expectations, and complex personal lives of those that choose the medical profession in the United States.

The author has an astounding sense of humor and the characters flow with a smoothness that brings the reader into their world. From the very highs to the lowest lows, the author creates a world in which the reader is fully enveloped. If the reader has ever considered becoming a medical doctor and then shied away, this book at best will reinforce the decision or at worst, make the reader desire to re-enter that world. I will not tell you what the book caused me to think about, but just know it made some decisions come back to my mind for re-evaluation. I will tell you that my own time in the medical field sheds light on the reality of the patient interactions which, as they should be, are at the heart of the story.

Since life is not lived in a vacuum, the supporting characters in Seth’s personal life have their own struggles. From his girlfriend, April, and her changing jobs and then rethinking their relationship to Seth’s friends outside of clinical rotations that bring him back to the real world-there is so much depth to the story that the reader almost feels lost after the story ends. The lives of those medical students who have stuck through the years now move off to greater adventures, but unfortunately, cause them to move to different parts of the country.

This was a fantastic story told from an amazing story teller. I cannot emphasize enough that if you have aver had an interest in the medical field you need to pick up a copy of this book!

First Hunt by Ima Erthwitch


First Hunt by Ima Erthwitch
Publisher: Wild Ozark, LLC
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (91 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

The whole world went a little sideways after the global collapse. Aside from the general mayhem caused when TEOTWAWKI finally struck, there were other unexpected problems. The fabric of the universe ripped and portals to other dimensions sprang from the rifts. Treya signs on to be a bounty hunter with ARSA and has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. In a world where criminals are hunted three times each, bad karma builds fast. Sooner or later, the hunters become the hunted.

Set in the upper Buffalo River wilderness area in northwest Arkansas. Martial law is in effect and the government has secrets. Perhaps it is the knowledge gained by the ARSA team that leads to their demise more than the karma. Luckily, Treya’s mentor has outside connections to a rebel stronghold guarding a portal deep in the hollers of the Ozarks. Together they might all be able to escape the system.

Set in a near future, the existence that Americans currently enjoy is about to change.

After the collapse of the United States and the military law and NATO takeover, Treya watches, helpless as solders take her parents away. She is given a special card and told she should apply for a job with the government as a bounty hunter, but why would she want to work for the same government that took her parents? When her life falls apart more than it had, Treya has to make a choice to either work for the government or starve. In this decision, Treya learns much more about what she holds inside than she has ever imagined.

The character development and between Treya and her mentor is an ongoing process, one which will leave the reader speechless at times. Initially, the gruff individual seems to care for nothing but getting the job done, even to the effect of failing to actually teach Treya as they go along. Yet, after several events, the reader begins to see a completely different side of both characters.

The events that the author describes and the reality that the characters live in is not too far from what could be. The shift from a life of choices to one of regulated military guard is one that is often feared and discussed. The reader will not only be able to understand where the author is coming from, but also understand the decisions that each of the characters make.

I really like the flow of the story. While the story sets up for follow-up sequels, the reader is not left with a bad taste in their mouth from an abrupt ending. In fact, the ending almost has a smooth transition into wanting to continue the journey without feeling forced or compelled.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of First Hunt! This is a Science Fiction story that is not too far out from what could truly be!

Better to Give by K.K. Weil


Better to Give by K.K. Weil
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (106 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

For most people, the holidays are a time of warmth, happiness and celebration. But to Jenna Samuels, they mean only one thing. Mounting debt. A single mother, Jenna struggles to make ends meet and to her, it’s a season of excess and distress.

James Garrison is in over his head, too. His ex-wife said he wasn’t equipped to take care of his twins, and now that he’s got joint custody, he fears she was right. They’re wild, spoiled, and always fighting. When they knock Jenna’s daughter into the “Gifting Tree,”—a part of their town’s charity collection—the parents are immediately attracted to each other. But James has had his fill of cold women and Jenna won’t make the mistake of falling for another man who disappears when life gets too heavy.

As their paths cross, James and Jenna must decide whether first impressions are accurate, or if sometimes, people are not what you assume at all.

Our past experiences should not always shape our future outlook.

Jenna has had her share of men that run off and James has had his share of women that are manipulative and have their own agenda. But, when both of these parents meet, the sparks fly. But the sparks flying are not only in love interest but also in temper when James’s twins knock Jenna’s daughter into the Giving Tree.

K.K. Weil tells this fun, romantic story from both the perspective of Jenna as well as from the perspective of James. The reader is able to climb into the head and the mindset of both in order to fully understand what is happening. The author pays special attention to the past experiences of both characters with their previous failed relationships while keeping a true honesty that not everything is perfect between the two characters.

Misunderstandings threaten the budding relationship and add on top of that the mixture of children from previous relationships. Then, financial woes and ex-spouse intrusion creates a mix that is ripe for discord. K.K. Weil handles these situations elegantly, keeping the story moving and the conflict believable. The tension that arises between both characters is relatable to the readers and is one in which engrosses the overall plot. The interaction and bond between the children is believable and fun.

This was a fun story of love and overcoming initial complications in a relationship. K.K. Weil does a great job at keeping the Giving Tree at the heart of the story from beginning to end, which ties in the title Better to Give. Overall the story was heartwarming and gives the reader a separate and distinct view of the world of love.

If you are looking for a fun romantic story with love at the center, then be sure not to miss Better to Give!

Deception by John Paulits


Deception by John Paulits
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (146 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Lanyon takes on the job of recovering a shipment of rators, weapons imported from Earth, which have gone missing from the spaceport. A not-so-merry chase begins as Lanyon has trouble detecting the true trail to follow from the false. Jophena, his 12-year-old friend from Selenia, tags along and the complications multiply. The Malcosian Over-minister then hires Lanyon to track down his daughter Meihon again, but Tellurians will have something to say about whether Meihon gets back home or not, and Lanyon soon regrets his decision to take on the assignment.

Working and living for hire means you are always at someone’s beck and call.

Lanyon is who you would call when something needs done right. Quick thinking, easy going but always right on target is how Lanyon operates. When one simple job turns out to be a little more complex than he desired, Lanyon takes a side job that happens to be on the same planet. Things start to heat up and Lanyon tries to smooth things over but things don’t go to plan.

Deception is a fast-paced futuristic story set across the galaxy. Incorporating alien races, advanced technology and a sense of humor, John Paulits makes the world of working for hire in the future an adventure like no other.

Deception is the fifth novel in the Lanyon For Hire series. While I had not read any of the other novels, I did not feel I was left behind. The author does a great job bringing forth events that had happened in the previous novels and how they apply to the current events facing Lanyon and his friend, Jophena.

This book is a great adventure in the world of working odd jobs to keep the galaxy moving smoothly. Lanyon had several situations where it seemed nearly impossible to resolve, yet a bit of luck and some quick thinking puts Lanyon back on the fast track to finishing the job at hand.

Deception, just like the title, means that there is something deeper going on under the surface. Throughout the novel, the author does a great job keeping the reader guessing at who or what is behind the strange events that seem too interconnected to be random.

I truly enjoyed the futuristic adventure of Deception and if you enjoy Science Fiction, I believe you have a great read ahead of you if you pick up a copy of Deception!

Shattering Glass by Conner Coyne


Shattering Glass by Conner Coyne
Publisher: Gothic Funk Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (328 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Just when the whole world has written off the city of Arkaic, Michigan, billionaire A. Olan puts up funds for a new university in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. There, strange engines turn human memories into electrical power. Join students Samo, Monty, Ezzie, and Dunya as they study, work, flirt, explore, and battle powers of ancient evil. Will they survive their first year of college?

Get ready for a mind-bending adventure!

Shattering Glass by Conner Coyne is one of the most unique reads that a person can read and still grasp the underlying story. The primary focus of the story is four students from various walks of life who begin their first undergraduate years at Arkaic University in the struggling town of Arkaic Michigan. The university is essentially a previously decommissioned asylum, which leads to some unique and fascinating descriptions of architecture that still haunt the school.

The author takes the point of view of the various students and a couple of secondary characters to tell the tale in depth. Fascinating and strange events begin even on the first day of registration and the students will often shrug off or accept these strange events. At first, I was almost put off by the blatant strangeness, but recalling my own undergraduate years, I can see how perception is often held to be determined by the person doing the viewing.

The lives and interactions of Samo (ironically whose name changes after his roommate decides that Samo is more relevant), Ezzie, Monty and Dunya are fun and adventurous-nearly as strange and unique as their own names. Their reactions to things that happen, their perseverance and the constant strange events lead to a fascinating take of the college world and college experiences. The dialogue is structured and strong and the descriptions of strange events makes the reader feel deeply entwined within the story itself.

I must admit, that midway through the story I felt lost and I struggled to find the core root of what was happening, and I feel that this was actually an intentional twist with the way the author interacts with the readers to pull them deeper into the plot. Almost like making it through mid-term the story then picks up in believability and straps the reader back in for another roller coaster ride.

As the story moves along, the reader grasps what is in essence, one of the most colorful and unique stories written, with events that seems so strange and complex, that they could never happen. Upon finishing the book, the author explains the rational for the layout, the various events and the inspiration for the story itself. Suddenly, the events and experiences that the four students have do not seem so obscure. Then, when one takes into consideration previous academic and undergraduate years-the entire story base seems nearly plausible.

If you want to take a break from everyday life and re-experience the first year jubilation, confusion and near insanity that a freshman at a four year university experiences, this is the book to bring those feelings to life!

What Lies Beyond the Fence by L.C. Hayden


What Lies Beyond the Fence by L.C. Hayden
Publisher: Angel’s Trumpet Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

For Bronson, this was going to be an easy assignment. Find Roger and Norma, the teens that stole an important book and return it to its original owners. But when Bronson locates the book, Roger reveals the truth behind the book’s existence—a truth so shocking that Bronson is forced to help them escape.
Then Ellen, his partner’s ex, gets kidnapped and Bronson is forced to decide who he will save: Ellen or two stranded teenagers who look up at him for their survival.
Who will he choose? His decision will determine who lives—and who dies.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a Utopia?

Beyond the Fence offers the reader a unique view of life where there is no concern and no worries. When retired detective Harry Bronson is requested to help locate two missing teens and a book, the job can’t be too difficult, can it? But what Harry doesn’t know is that he is being brought into a world much different from his own. Eric’s Landing is a place, far from the normal hubbub of life and offers a respite for those who have had a tough time growing up. But there are some inconstancies that Harry notices. Being a trained detective; this new world is not all that it seems.

L.C. Hayden has a great adventuring retired detective, who lives like he is not at all retired. Rather than being fraught with declining health and other ailments, it seems as though Harry is at the top of his game and the peak of his life. From noticing subtle incongruities to physical altercations and never feeling tired-the believability of the character becomes a little lost. Though there are those who keep themselves at the peak of fitness in their golden years, Harry does not show any of the zeal of eating right, exercising or maintaining his health.

I enjoyed the unique plot that dealt with current events in a realistic manner. The presence of Stockholm Syndrome and the difficulty to break the hold is one item that is addressed in the book. I did feel that the plot was often rushed; events happened one right after another; rather than following an action-adventure cycle it felt as though the plot was rushed to completion. In this rush-perfect events seemed to line up-perfectly. Even when Harry lost his upper hand, he seems to immediately gain the advantage again.

Character dialogue often felt stilted and at times even forced. I would have liked to have seen much more description and a dive into the psychological aspect surrounding Eric’s Landing. I would also like to know more about the backgrounds of the characters involved, especially the Elders of Eric’s Landing-what would cause them to bring in an outside detective. While they had difficulty locating the missing teens, most self-contained Utopic communities will shun any outside intervention-if there is outside intervention, the one brought in from the outside will essentially have no privacy and no alone time with anyone else in the community-which is not the case in this story.

While this was a wild ride in parts, the rushed plot with some unbelievable moments and missed character development stuck me the most. This is a good read if you would like to experience a world outside everyday life.

Passing Shadows by Anna Butler


Passing Shadows by Anna Butler
Publisher: Glass Hat Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (75 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Li Liang has found a berth to suit her: chief pilot and first officer of the all-female crew of an old space freighter, the Sappho. Then one ordinary, unremarkable morning, Liang retunes the Sappho’s communications systems just in time to catch the breathless, terrible accounts from Mars of the total destruction of Earth.

Earth’s a cinder. The unknown alien race that destroyed it has left Mars, too, in flames and is ravening outward from the solar system, devouring every human colony on the way.

Liang’s one of the few survivors, racing ahead of the Devourers, rescuing as many frightened, shocked people as she can. Will Liang and the pitiful remnants of humanity find a new haven, somewhere to start again? Or will she, too, echo the dreadful last message coming out of their dead home?

They’re coming. Oh God, they’re coming.

What happens when everything you know is obliterated?

Passing Shadows is a dark take on humanity’s future. Set in the distant future, Li Liang is the chief pilot and first officer of an older space freighter. Enjoying life and the exploration (or more transport of cargo through space) is what Liang focuses on. Then one day, a transmission from the Mars colony details the destruction of Earth. The final transmission from Mars is now that the unknown faceless destroyer is coming directly to Mars next. Events simply spiral from there, without even knowing who is destroying humanity, the crew of the Sappho begin working to transport those living in colonies near their position to safety.

Passing Shadows does more than set the stage and leave the reader hanging. Anna Butler brings the reader into the life of Li Liang. The reader experiences firsthand how the destruction of humanity’s home world pushes emotions to the brink. Crew members work in order to ignore thoughts and memories. The crew buries themselves in working to save what is left of humanity but never truly know what is lurking out there.

Anna Butler uses the fear of the unknown to draw the reader more deeply into the dark abyss of fear. Never knowing where the enemy is or who the enemy is becomes paramount to the tension. One close encounter leave Liang questioning the lives of those left behind and the reader is left to question just how far away the other ship was.

Passing Shadows is a psychological take on the survival after the destruction of Earth. The toll of setting up another home planet and the fear that tomorrow it may all be gone again. Anna Butler does a fantastic job at closing the story. Where some readers may yearn for more, the true questions of humanity are firmly answered.

The writing style was strong, although from time to time it was hard to tell just how long time had passed. Editing was crisp and dialogue was engaging. There were parts where the story read similar to a diary and some readers may get lost in the jump back to current time from the reminiscing of Liang.

In all, this was a fantastic story that looked at the side of humanity after a faceless enemy destroys what we have identified as home. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Passing Shadows if you want a glimpse inside the darker side of humanity’s future!