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!

Century Run by Michael W. Davis


Century Run by Michael W. Davis
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (168 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Losing his family to an alien invasion was the single most horrific thing in young Lex’s life. Joining Omni Corps, an elite fighting force with technology that allows the soldiers to live indefinitely, gives Lex and his team the chance to kill the beasts that destroyed old Earth. But as hundreds of years pass, Lex questions the validity of their missions and begins to long for a normal life.

But Omni Corps is big business, and the bureaucrats want to hold onto power. Can Lex and the members of his squad invoke the Century Run clause of their contracts, or will the people they’ve been protecting for so long find a way to have them terminated?

When you lose everything and humanity is on the brink of extinction, what is it that makes us human?

Lex Olson lost everything and vowed to destroy the alien race that devoured Earth. By joining Omni Corps, Lex and his best friend Cassie, give up one of the most important things about being human-mortality. New technology allows the Omni Corps soldiers to transcend years and essentially remain ageless. Yet, as decades and then centuries pass, the soldiers begin to feel separated from those that they protect.

Michael W. Davis drives home what it means to be human. From seeing the events in Lex’s life to understanding the catastrophic effects both physically and psychologically that the destruction of the human home world has held-the reader comes face to face with the reality that the universe still marches on. The story drives home the reality that technological advances, scientific achievement and world saving missions are unable to satisfy the deep human longing that Lex and Cassie feel.

Century Run is an amazing story that tells the story of the human race, balanced on the edge of extinction, rebounding and then rebuilding. Yet, this story is seen through the eyes of individuals who live outside the confines years of existence. Lex and his squad see generations of humans come and go, they are only awakened and brought back into the timeline to be the heroes, to save a world from the alien invaders or to settle colony disputes.

Yet, Lex finds himself questioning what he stands for and Michael W. Davis causes the reader to examine what is it that truly makes us human? As more centuries pass and there is a stronger disconnect from the human race, the reader begins to consider what is happening behind closed doors. The dialogue between characters is strong and the emotions are written so that they keep the reader connected with the characters. Century Run keeps the reader focused and unable to put the book down! The reader becomes one with Lex in the search for answers and the desire to implement the Century Run clause and rejoin the human timeline.

If you enjoy stories that cause you to question your own humanity, do not miss this epic book from Michael W. Davis!

Shares the Darkness by J.R. Lindermuth


Shares the Darkness by J.R. Lindermuth
Publisher: Torid Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (225 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Office Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.

When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods, Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman’s life, as she searches for clues.

As usual, the police have more than one crime to deal with. There’s illegal timbering and a series of vehicle thefts taking up their time.And there are other issues to deal with. Flora is concerned there’s some shakiness in her relationship with Cpl. Harry Minnich, who seems to be making a lot of secretive phone calls.

Still, Flora maintains focus on the murder, and despite evidence implicating other suspects, the odd behavior of another former classmate rouses Flora’s suspicion. Flora’s probing opens personal wounds, as she observes the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.

Everyone has their secrets, and secrets have a way of being found out.

When Jan Kepler doesn’t return home from a birding excursion the day before, a search reveals that she is dead. This is huge news for a small town and Officer Flora Vastine and the Swatara Creek Police Department have their hands more than full with illegal timbering and a rash of car thefts in the area. When an old classmate that has his own skeletons in the closet reappears, Flora struggles to keep her past from influencing her job.

J.R. Lindermuth does a great job at weaving the private and professional lives of the citizens of Swatara Creek together. Each character has a deep back story and it seems that everyone has something to hide. From Peg, Jan’s only close friend, to Flora’s boyfriend Harry, who seems to be acting a little more secretive than he should be, each character makes the reader re-evaluate what is happening within the story. The depth of emotions and the interconnectedness of each individual shows the complex diversity that J.R. Lindermuth has struggled to incorporate within the story.

The multiple events that occur pull the police officers in different directions and the reader is easily caught up in the small town life and various focuses of the Swatara Creek Police Department. J.R. Lindermuth uses great foreshadowing and strong dialogue to promote a strong story line. Some notable editing errors take away slightly from the flow of the read. Overall the various interwoven plots and strong character backgrounds drive home the depth of the story and draw the reader into the lives of those in Swatara Creek.

If you are a fan of a good mystery, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Shares the Darkness!

Tokyo Love by Diana Jean


Tokyo Love by Diana Jean
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (169 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual, F/F Interaction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

When Kathleen Schmitt is promoted to project lead at Mashida INTL for the Personal Love Companion (PLC), a life-sized, hyper-realistic dating doll, she must relocate to Tokyo. Trying not to get lost in translation is quite the culture shock for this born-and-bred Midwesterner.

She’s surprised when her boss asks her to beta test the new dolls—an assignment that requires having her brain scanned so the company can fashion a personalized doll based on her innermost desires. But most surprising of all: her test PLC turns out to be a woman—one who looks and acts remarkably like her neighbor and coworker, Yuriko Vellucci.

American-born Yuriko is a former transplant herself and is sympathetic to the difficulties of adjustment—to a point. Kathleen is about the most pathetic foreigner this engineer’s ever met. She clearly needs Yuriko’s help and expertise if this transition—and the PLC project—is to be a success.

With Yuriko to show her the way, Kathleen will learn to socialize at an izakaya, find the best onsen in Nikko, party at a matsuri, buy doujinshii in Akihabara, and fall in love with a country so very different from her own.

But can she also learn how to confess her love for the person who showed it to her?

In the not so distant future, will robots make the perfect companion-both in conversation and in love?

Tokyo Love is a deep story the looks into the depth of society and human nature and takes into account that modern technology can find a replacement for almost anything. In fact the main character, Kathleen Schmitt, is the head of a project designed to produce Personal Love Companions (PLC)-essentially robots that can tend to our every need that look, act and learn just like humans. With a rushed timeline and her job on the line, Kathleen is tasked with testing the very first PLC released. The companion, built after a specialized cortex scan is supposed to be everything that Kathleen finds attractive in the human species.

The twist, the PLC looks and acts just like Kathleen’s neighbor! But it doesn’t end there, her neighbor happens to be female causing a mess of emotions and confusion for Kathleen. Kathleen is convinced there must be a glitch in the cortex scan and the gender was wrong with the PLC. Since only a handful of people know about the PLC test, when issues with the PLC arise, from technical complications to severe errors in data processing there are only a few individuals that Kathleen can call on for help-with one of them being her neighbor.

This is a great story that takes into consideration the direction of technology, cultural traditions and human nature. The author, Diana, does a fantastic job at creating real emotions and stirring up conflict. The actions and conversations of the PLC named Ai, and Yuriko, the neighbor are humorous and the constant struggle with Kathleen’s identity and perception of self add to the plot and depth of the story.

The plot is smooth and works in the concerns and stress of work, life-balance, and even how a simple cold can throw everything into a tailspin. Diana does a great job at making the world of the characters-a world in a not too distant future-feel like it is happening right now. The overall questioning of human nature and the capacity to love are the pivotal questions that the author works to answer.

I highly recommend this book if you want to add some technology to your romance reading!

Horror in Jordan’s Bank by Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley and Wayne J. Keeley


Horror in Jordan’s Bank by Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley and Wayne J. Keeley
Deadraiser Series Part 1
Publisher: Someday Productions LLC.
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (177 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Necromancy is an ancient black magic used for the purposes of communing with the dead. It is believed that practitioners of the dark art may harness the ultimate power of life and death and raise the departed for their own nefarious, malevolent purposes. It also is alleged that a true necromancer may realize the ultimate gift of mortality.

DEADRAISER is the tale of a present-day practitioner who achieves what others have been unable to do for centuries — to raise the dead. The problem is that he must sacrifice innocent victims in order to maintain his power.

Enter Fanchon (Frankie) Manning, daughter of the late movie star Erika Manning. She is the ideal sacrificial lamb for the Necromancer’s perverse desires. The only thing that stands between the Necromancer and the girl is Christopher McGuire, a lost soul who long ago has ceased believing in anything. In order to save the child, he must somehow rediscover his faith and summon the courage to take on the darkest, most sinister being imaginable.

Every small town has its secrets and Jordan’s Bank may have more than most.

For generations, horror has plagued Jordan’s Bank from the shadows. Now, with the homecoming of Frankie Manning, the daughter of the late movie star Erika Fanning, that is about to change. This is a story of real evil in our time and those that must confront it directly.

The authors do a fantastic job at taking stories that we have head in passing and bringing them together in a real story. The town of Jordan’s Bank sits almost in a bubble, separated from the passage of time. Life move slowly here, and this is just what the authors built on. Moving from the fast paced life, Frankie and family friend Christopher McGuire, adjust to the change in pace. Yet, the authors build around the dark horrors that the residents of Jordan’s Banks have seen, and often willingly committed.

This is the first novel in the series, and one that most readers will find very difficult to put down. The deep backgrounds, the flashbacks and the strong plotline tie the story together to keep the reader wondering what will happen next. The authors do a great job making the small town isolation feel “real” even in today’s modern age. This is definitely a horror story that has a modern feel but still transports the reader back in time with the fear of isolation.

The interactions between characters are very intense. The small town “us versus them” and distance to outsiders is very present, making the reader constantly guess who is behind what, or why information is not shared. This is a great study in small town life and fears of change, not only with the horror aspect, but with the ongoing fear of outsiders that the authors make so clear. In the end, the reader begins to wonder who, if anyone, in the small town can be trusted!

This is one modern horror story that you do not want to miss!