Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody by Joe Canzano

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody by Joe Canzano
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (306 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Peony

When outlaw Suzy Spitfire discovers her father was murdered after creating a super-duper artificial intelligence, she races across the solar system in search of the brain he built—but it’s a rough ride, and she’s soon forced to tangle with pirates, predators, and her father’s killer—as well as a man she thinks she can love.

Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody is a smash-bang sci-fi adventure filled with action, intrigue, and a dose of dark humor.

Joe Canzano’s fast paced action Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody begins with a bang and never slows down. The author himself has a few books under his belt, but perhaps none quite so eye catching as this, with the very first hook delivered by a title that you can’t help but give a second glance to. As of this writing, Joe has already written five books and his talent with action adventure shows through the page with pulse pounding excitement. It is hard not to pick up a book with such a bodacious title, but once you do it may be harder still to put it down.

What kind of wild ride is this book? The initial hook hints at either an action or a comedy, or a mixture of both. Without spoiling the excitement, I can say with certainty it is an action. While there are a few running gags to be had, the chuckles are clearly not the focus of this story and shouldn’t be what guides your choice. For some the jokes may fall flat entirely and really, they’re pretty sparse, making this book clearly aimed at the action crowd. Luckily the action hook doesn’t make you wait, the story opens with a bang within the first half dozen pages. For those seeking an explosive read, the book does try to deliver, though initially at least it may seem mindless. Almost for the entire book the narrative focus is on the external, the events that happen, but not the why. Internal narrative, the emotions driving the actors or the drama is almost entirely neglected. Ultimately this book most closely resembles the summer blockbuster action flick, lot of muscle, but not a long of mind.

Because the book is so heavily slanted to the goings on and not the reasons why and because it opens to a gunfight so soon, there is little to no room for development before explosions start happening. The book does start to talk about romance and hint at the possibility, before building a character whose romance would matter to you, let alone if they live or die. In order to have any sense of worry or concern for the safety or the characters you’ll have to read on for quite a while, because for the most part nothing truly developmental happens until a good third into the book. The approach seems to be very whimsical, with ideas tossed out randomly and sometimes contradicting themselves on the same page. If the book had a planned armature, or guiding principal or moral I cannot say what it was, the story really doesn’t lend well to analysis, preferring to be the roller coaster that you’re just along for the ride.

That isn’t to say the book doesn’t manage some impressive feats in terms of development and change. For instance our titular character is very rash to begin, but is forced to depend on others. Whether or not she can or will allow anyone to take control, help her out or solve a situation for her quickly becomes a running theme for the story. Other aspects that worked well is her view of sexuality. There is romance in the story, but it largely fades and leaves it to the reader’s imagination. Free loving or not is a theme that gets some attention in that the characters may be laid back about whom and when they engage romantically with people. The book simply does not judge a woman for taking control of her own sexuality, nor for being strong in her own right and features more than one example of both. LGBT is not included in this book, but nor is it spoken against and male and females are capable in this story of having meaningful friendships with both genders without being judged or painted into a box. This gives the reader the opportunity to draw their own conclusions and for some the absence may bother them. There is a lot of sexual tension to be had and virtually no one, especially female, is going to escape the possibility of a romantic storyline or two.

One of the main driving forces of this book is the action and the tense moments which tend to be the glue holding sections together. They’re constant and can seem overwrought in many ways. The biggest problems, besides the earlier mentioned lack of development, is that the story does tend to contradict itself and use questionable means to escape situations. For instance, at one point a room is described as lacking cover for the bad guys, but then a few sentences later the same room is described as having plenty of cover once Suzy needs it. Additionally the way situations are escaped can range wildly from deus ex machina to well thought-out and clever. The movie analogy really fits there, where as it isn’t hard to imagine the action movie with bad guys unable to hit anything and good guys with seemingly perfect aim.

Overall recommending this book depends more on the individual reading it than anything else. Summer blockbusters are hugely popular and this book captures a lot of that excitement within its pages. Despite the early lack of development, it actually manages to catch up as the book goes on and deliver some deeper than expected characters and interactions, all while not slowing the pace down. For the right reader this book could be an amazing fit and will surely make you wonder what else Joe’s library of work contains. He’s certainly proven that he can make exciting action and if that is something you enjoy reading then you should definitely not pass up Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody.

Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford

Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (259 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Mike Latta can’t forgive himself for the death of his daughter. It was a freak accident, but fathers should protect little girls from the bad things that can hurt them. He didn’t, and a descent into divorce and the bottle has gotten rid of every happy ending he ever hoped for.

A year of solitude on an island in northern Hollow Lake, away from the booze and the reminders of grief, may be the last chance he has. There’s more than peace and quiet on the lake though, because the ghosts of a long-ago murder haunt Echo Island. If Mike can’t figure out what the ghosts want from him, it may cost another little girl her life.

This story begins with a young boy setting his mother’s bed on fire and killing her. It’s easy to tell this read has a wicked character in it. He’s a bit like a chameleon and doesn’t show his true colors often.

A recently divorced male comes to town ready to settle on an abandoned island. His daughter died and it tore his marriage apart. His wife gave him the island and he plans to try to get himself together there. The only problem is that the island has ghosts. And the ghosts follow him…

Murder surfaces several times in this story. If you have a man who has no guilt, no conscience and a volatile temper that’s a very bad combination.

Mike tries to avoid the ghosts. He doesn’t recognize them as such when he first sees them but when he gets accused of acting wildly and talking to himself by his pickup, he realizes nobody else sees them. They pester him. And one day he finally understands why.

The story moves right along and has lots of action. The killer is someone easy to hate. He also has lived in the community long enough everyone believes his side of the story. That makes it hard when a ghost has told you how they got that way. Who believes in ghosts? And how do you solve a ten year old murder?

The ending was a bit abrupt and seemed a bit false but sometimes life is strange. Nobody that evil should have survived so long…

A Kiss In The Dark by Shelby Morgen

A Kiss In The Dark by Shelby Morgen
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal play, Spanking (very light)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Stranded. Nothing to warm her but the heat of his body. A stranger, holding her in the dark. She wanted things she had no right to even imagine. Ever since she’d taken The Purity Test on line the questions have been nagging her.
Have you ever had sex on the first date?

Had sex with someone whose name you did not know?

Had sex with someone whose face you never saw?

Had sex with someone where there was an age difference of more than 20 years?

No. Not her. She hadn’t done anything. Ever. Until the storm of the century dropped her in the arms of a stranger. Now she can’t get him out of her mind…

One dark and rainy night Jen had been completely daring. She’d thrown caution to the wind and allowed herself to be seduced by a complete stranger – no names, no exchange of details, no glimpses of his face and absolutely no regrets. Tom has been a widower for quite some time, so when Jen takes his hand in the dark he’s more than happy to follow her lead. Can they both find something they’re desperately looking for?

I found this to be a fun and romantic short story. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot-thread of the Purity Test running through the story and also enjoyed the slight differences to Tom’s character (being both an actor and quite a bit older than the standard hero I read about). I was a little disappointed in that I personally felt there were a few other plot aspects that were skimmed over a little bit – such as Tom getting back into his acting after a period of grieving for his dead wife. Admittedly this is a very short story and I can completely appreciate how the author probably didn’t have the time or word-count to go into depth on every little thing. I was actually exceptionally pleased with how Jen reacted to Tom’s career – but I couldn’t help but feel it was written as almost an afterthought, being just a few paragraphs right at the very end of the story.

I loved the characters in this story though. Both Jen and Tom felt realistic to me – with normal problems, worries and relatable lives. I found myself very quickly attached to them both and invested in their getting together and rooting for them to build a lasting relationship. As a happy, sexy and quick read this story really did cover almost everything I could want. The sex was hot and explicit without being over-the-top or unbelievable. I really enjoyed this and will happily look for more books by this author.

Shaalon by Ashlynn Monroe

Shaalon by Ashlynn Monroe
Married To The Aliens 3
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (55 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Shaalon knows she made a mistake, but she never thought she’d be sacrificed to an alien. Thrust in a cell with a blood thirsty male of Xerra’s warrior class, she expects a terrible death. Bracing for the worse, she never expects to see hope in his eyes.

Cayylen wanted a warrior’s death, not the disgrace of an execution. With a single sun cycle left to him his last request is to fuck the daughter of his enemy. He never expects his request to be honored, but the moment he looks in Shaalon’s eyes he realizes she is his mate.

The strength he gains from finding his woman is enough for him to break free, but he refuses to let her go. War has been coming for a long time, but will taking his woman hostage be the tipping point the warriors need to fight the system trying to end their lines.

I enjoyed reading this short, but romantic and steamy, fantasy story.

At first it was the tense and seemingly hopeless romance that captured my attention in this book. I really liked the characters, Cayylen and Shaalon and the strength that they both had to stand up for the right things in life. It made them more easy to relate to as sometimes it can be hard for me to really connect with the characters in a novella. The author did a great job with pulling me into the story and not just with the sizzling sex. Another nice aspect is how some previous characters from this intriguing series had brief cameos in this one. That really grabbed my interest and had me wanting to read the other two books in this Sci-Fi / Fantasy world.

This book was a great short read that filled my afternoon with pleasure just reading it. It was a nice romantic, passionate and exciting story that flowed easily and left me interested in the coming war on planet Xerra. I loved the hope and romance that was at the heart of this story.

As for a quick fantasy romance I can recommend this novella to anyone.

Hear Me Roar by Joy Smith

Hear Me Roar by Joy Smith
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (273 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Jan Simmons never expected trouble to move into her quiet Charming Way cul-de-sac. Nor did she expect her husband Jeff’s weakness for fast money to drag their once happy family into danger.

When her husband turns to crime, Jan, a people-pleaser with little self-worth, must release the death grip she has on her failing marriage for the sake of her children and draw on her inner strength.

As Jan fights to free her family from a web of lies and deceit she also battles to save herself.

Life can give us the unexpected, but when your husband turns to living a life breaking the law what does a wife do? Jan Simmons has a lot she is dealing with. It’s hard when her husband Jeff, the breadwinner of the household, lost his job and has to take a lesser paying job. I am not sure if the loss of his job ignited this change for the worst in Jeff, but this is the path he is traveling…a bickering, cheating drunk. Jeff is a character that I found very unlikeable. His priorities never seemed to be on his family and as the story goes on he gets caught up in a web of a mess and loses all sight of being a family man.

I enjoyed the author’s style of writing, but the story starts out slow. There wasn’t anything exciting about the life of a stay-at-home mom tending to kids, baking and conversations with other stay-at-home moms.The lack-luster husband who shows signs of a second life helped give the story something to look forward to. It’s a predictable story that was drawn out too long.

The new neighbor to Charming Way, Frank Carlucci (Digiorno) brought interest to the storyline but left me wondering why did he only have one card game at his house and why did he let Jeff accrue such a debt which in turn set the stage for Jeff to veer down his path of lawlessness.

Even though the story told of mafia behavior with drug dealing and kidnapping there wasn’t really any action. The story tells of a kidnapping but doesn’t show the events. I would have liked to have read the action. There were more details shared on the mom’s day than there were on the action details that must have taken place during the kidnapping and the trouble Jeff was involved in.

Jan didn’t start out as a strong woman but she eventually saw she had to provide for her family and protect their lives from the life her husband started to bring home. I like that Jan is a survivor and a fighter. She always kept her children’s best interest in mind. Maybe her growth and strength is the reason behind the title. Jan evolves from a housewife to finding her footing to being a business owner and mom of two.

The story is well written. It shows the courage of a woman taking charge of her life and the livelihood of her family. If you enjoy reading stories of women and their growth into a strong lioness be sure not to miss Hear Me Roar.

Like Statues by S. Rose

Like Statues by S. Rose
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (14 pages)
Other: F/F, Fetish
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Like most girls, I have a secret or two. One of those secrets just happens to be a fixation with statues.

My tendencies go largely unnoticed, until one night when Valerie, my boss, catches me alone with a company-owned statue.

Confessions ensue, and sparks fly.

Almost nobody can keep a secret forever, especially when it’s about their deepest desires.

One of the things I liked the most about this tale was its descriptions of what it’s like to live in a small town and not fit into the culture there. The author did a wonderful job of showing how lonely that experience can be, especially for people who think they’ll never meet anyone in their rural community who is sympathetic. Understanding this was an important part of understanding why Melanie, the main character, decided to hide her statue fetish so well from everyone she worked with. I was glad that so much attention was paid to this part of the plot because of this.

The chemistry between Melanie and Valerie never felt right to me. While they shared similar sexual tastes, they didn’t have much else in common. As much as I wanted to root for them to end up together, it would have been nice to have a few more reasons to hope for that kind of ending. There simply wasn’t enough information about what kind of people they were and why they’d be good for each other for me to make up my mind about that.

The dialogue was nicely written. There were times when it made me giggle in a good way because of how dramatic Melanie could be when things weren’t exactly going her way. This definitely wasn’t something I was expecting to find in an erotic tale, but it was a nice addition to the storyline. I also enjoyed seeing how things between her and Valerie played out once Valerie realized what was happening in the sculpture garden.

I’d recommend Like Statues to anyone who is in the mood for a short, steamy read.

Suck the Savage Beast by James Cox

Suck the Savage Beast by James Cox
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (86 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Earth beasts are sexier than he expected…

Welliver is a scientist first and an Outlaw MC member second. He’s the smartest man on the crew that’s exploring Earth to create a new home. But when a monster attacks them and he’s separated from the crew, he is saved by a savage and sexy beast.

The beast doesn’t remember his name. He was sent to the Earth prison when he was a boy and left behind when the prison was evacuated. Beast has spent nearly twenty years alone on Earth, trying to survive this dangerous world. He’s the best hope humans have for staying alive with these new threats.

Beast doesn’t understand it’s not okay to lick strangers, or the whole wearing clothes thing, but neither man is prepared for the attraction between them. Welliver will have to pull on his Outlaw MC heritage to endure the wilds of Earth but how will survive the savage beast?

Suck the Savage Beast has an intriguing plot idea and gives readers an interesting look at what could happen to our own world. Welliver is part of a small party that has left Mars and returned to Earth to see if it is inhabitable again. Humans have long since ruined and abandoned Earth for Mars but it seems that they have now also ruined what they made of Mars. The creatures that they encounter upon their return are nothing but dangerous and the crew must learn how to survive against them. A chance encounter has Welliver fighting for his life but an unexpected man comes to his rescue. Beast has lived alone on Earth for years now. Yet one encounter with Welliver and he claims the man as his own. What will Welliver decide? Can the crew find a way to live on Earth again and what will happen to their friends and family left on Mars?

I really liked the ideas in this book. Earth has been so polluted and destroyed humans left for another planet and yet they repeated the same mistakes and destroyed what they made on that planet. It makes you think a bit about what we are doing to the planet right now. Welliver and the rest of the people that make up the team are an interesting bunch. Each character had a good personality but they did not stand out. Welliver and Beast make a good couple and it was nice to see the two find their way. As much as I enjoyed the story-line it seemed to lack something for me. There was no real depth to the characters or their relationships for me. I did not connect that much with the characters making the story feel bland to me. I think that if the story was a bit longer we could have seen some more depth to the relationship and the characters, bringing them more alive to me.

Welliver and Beast’s story moves along at a nice pace and It was nice to see these two find their way to a happy place. Love can be found in the most unusual places and these two learn to fight for that love. This book is an interesting addition to this series and I am interested to see where it goes from here.

Water Into Wine by Joyce Chng

Water Into Wine by Joyce Chng
Publisher: Annorlunda Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (62 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When war comes to your planet, everything changes.. perhaps even the meaning of family and identity.

Xin inherits a vineyard on a distant planet, and moves there to build a life… but an interstellar war intervenes. Will Xin’s dreams of a new life get caught in the crossfire? Xin’s understanding of family and sense of self must evolve to cope with the changes brought by life on a new planet and a war that threatens everything.

Most people wouldn’t worry about protecting a vineyard during a violent interstellar war, but Xin isn’t like most people.

Xin’s character development was fascinating. He was a transgender man who had recently begun questioning his gender identity yet again at the beginning of this tale. Given that he was also a single parent and the brand new owner of a vineyard despite the fact that he knew very little about growing grapes or making wine, there was plenty of room for him to evolve as a person. I deeply enjoyed seeing how Xin made decisions about everything from what his gender identity was to running a vineyard to adjusting to life on an alien planet.

There were pacing issues. Some scenes were fast-paced while others were much slower. Either writing style would have worked quite well for this tale, but I found it hard to switch between them because of how often the narrator moved from one style to the next. As soon as I adjusted to a slower form of storytelling, the pacing would pick up again with another bombing or nearby battle.

One of the things I liked the most about this story was how beautifully it described the characters and setting in such a compact number of sentences. Ms. Chng weighed out her words so precisely that she was able to show me exactly what everyone looked and sounded like in an incredibly short amount of time. The same thing can be said for her descriptions of the house, wine cellar, and vineyards. My impressions of them were strong and clear the first time she told me what they were like.

I’d recommend Water Into Wine to anyone who has ever wondered what a large battle between many spaceships would be like from the perspective of a civilian living on the ground.

Absinthe by BA Tortuga and Julia Talbot

Absinthe by BA Tortuga and Julia Talbot
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (45 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play, BDSM, Spanking
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Bartholome would give anything to get his young lover Rene to stop running away from him. Years ago, he made a stupid mistake, letting the rest of their wolf pack come between them, but he knows better now.

Rene’s not sure he can believe Barthe will ever want him. Add to their dilemma Barthe’s brother Bastien and a werewolf caught half shifted, and Barthe and Remy have a real mess on their hands. Can they come back together before they lose their love forever?

Bartholome knew that Rene was his mate, but Rene was so young. When Barthe said some careless words it was years before he ever saw Rene again. Lesson learned, Barthe knows he’ll not make the same mistake again.

I found this to be an interesting and fast-paced short story. I love how Barthe and Rene’s romance and hunt was first and foremost, with an interesting plot-twist coming in half way through. I thought this balanced the need for plot and romance really well and kept me interested throughout the story.

Both Barthe and Rene were interesting characters to my mind. While I would have liked to know more about things from Rene’s perspective – particularly his history – there was no question in my mind that they loved each other and were both hungry to become proper mates and stop circling each other. I enjoyed the two strong secondary characters and am hopeful there might be a following story after this one. I’d gladly pick that one up – which is always a very positive endorsement of any book, wanting to read more.

A sexy and interesting short story with great characters and a good, solid plot. I really enjoyed this story and will eagerly be keeping an eye out for the next one.

Murder Beach by Rena Leith

Murder Beach by Rena Leith
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (341 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Her husband’s infidelity turns Cass Peake’s world upside down. Hoping to start fresh, she moves to a sleepy little town called Las Lunas on the northern California coast. The cute seaside bungalow is surprisingly affordable and Cass snaps it up. She soon discovers why the place was so cheap; it’s haunted! And the beach by her new home is called Murder Beach by locals. She can’t even get a pizza delivered.

Back in the Roaring Twenties, the bodies of Doris Pierpont, a notorious bootlegger’s daughter, and her lover were discovered on the beach. Summoned by a séance in the Swinging Sixties, Doris returned to the house. Now she wants to know who murdered her.

As Cass tries to make a new life and solve Doris’s murder, the corpse of the local bookstore owner is found in the sand. Is Murder Beach living up to its name once again?

Can a book about a haunted house and a witch be funny?

If you told me I would enjoy a mystery that contained a witch, I’d think you had never met me. But…I did enjoy Murder Beach and its witch. The dialog was humorous which always entertains me. The setting of this book is in a little town with an old house on a beach that needs fixing up. Wow, I wanted to be there with my tools. Well…maybe I wanted to be there sitting on the beach. Nonetheless, the picture painted by the author wanted me to get involved.

Let’s talk a minute about the good and the not so good in this book. There was a little dialog about vampires that ran through this book. It is not my thing but it didn’t turn me off. That in itself means it had to be a fairly good read. This book moved a little slowly and it might be because some of the same actions went on a lot but it never made me want to put the book down. The principal characters were readable but not really fleshed out enough to “know” them. It was the dialog and the humor that I enjoyed most of all.

It’s a quick fun read, kind of sweet, not deeply involved, and I’m glad I spent the time reading it.