The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins by Aletta Thorne


The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins by Aletta Thorne
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Historical
Length: Full Length (151 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Halloween, 1982. MTV is new, poodle perms are the rage, and life just might be getting better for Alma Kobel. Her ugly divorce is final at last. Her new job as chef at Bright Day School’s gorgeous old estate is actually fun. But the place is haunted—and so is Alma’s apartment.

Bartholomew Addison Jenkins’ ghost has been invisibly watching Alma for months. When he materializes one night, Alma discovers Bart—as he likes to be called—has talents she couldn’t have imagined … and a horrifying past. Can you have a one-nighter with a ghost? And what happens if you decide one night is all you want—and end up ghosting him? Some spirits don’t like taking “no” for an answer.

First impressions definitely aren’t always accurate.

What a hilarious main character Alma was! She could find a funny spin to anything that happened to her, from surprise health inspections at work to her strange and complicated interactions with her ex-husband. Some of the things that happened to her would have seriously annoyed or even frightened a lot of people. I loved the fact that she was able to quickly shake so many of those memories off with her fabulous sense of humor.

The only criticism I have of this story has to do with how quickly the romantic relationship in it heated up. Both of the people involve in it were so cautious and meticulous in other areas of their lives that I never would have expected them to move as fast as they did. Yes, I definitely wanted to see them end up together, but it felt a little odd to me because it didn’t feel consistent with everything else I’d learned about them. With that being said, this is a minor complaint about something I enjoyed quite a lot.

The world building was really well done. I especially enjoyed figuring out what ghosts were and weren’t capable of in this universe. Since nobody was given any instructions after they died, Bartholomew had to learn what he could do and what the consequences of those actions would be on his own. Him slowly discovering his abilities and limitations as the plot moved forward made it difficult for me to stop reading. I always wanted to know more about what the afterlife was like for him.

The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins was as spooky as it was sexy. It should be read by fans of erotica and ghost stories alike.

Habitat for Human Remains by Scott A. Lerner


Habitat for Human Remains by Scott A. Lerner
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre:Contemporary, Horror, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

For the forces of evil, Sam Roberts is catnip. Even during periods of calm, Sam knows that evil is just biding its time before challenging him again. So when he is asked to defend a wealthy shut-in charged with murder, he is suspicious. Why is the largest and wealthiest law firm in town hiring an outside attorney who is a sole practitioner to represent Mr. Blake May? Sam’s client resides in the sublimely creepy Frost Home, a “haunted” mansion given a wide berth by the residents of Champaign, Illinois. The house has been engulfed in rumors of death, missing children, and mystery since before the Civil War. Blake May is accused of not only murdering his girlfriend but decimating the remains until they look like marinara. But the agoraphobic middle-aged man rarely, if ever, left his rooms. If he indeed killed Heather, why can’t the police find a murder weapon? Everyone seems to want Blake declared insane rather than acquitted. Sam and his buddy Bob Sizemore know that Heather’s grizzly fate can’t be blamed on something as mundane as murder. There is a force at work in the house, and it seems to emanate from the mirror hung in the room where the remains of the body were found. Can Sam and Bob end the Frost Home’s eerie legacy of evil?

A funny horror story? Well, it really is.

Good grief, this was a creepy-crawly story with a mystery and even a love story all mixed in together. I will tell you in advance that this is not usually a genre I would read but this was so funny I couldn’t stop. The dialog that was created between Sam, the lawyer and Bob, his friend, had me giggling out loud half the time. One funny character and one relatively serious one were great creations by Scott Lerner. Lerner also pokes a little bit of fun at his own profession here but the legal world is not the focus of his story.

This story is about an attorney being offered a big case by a big firm. He can’t let it pass because of… money, of course. Even while picking up the check he is wondering why the firm would farm it out to him. It has a huge scary haunted house in it that you can just picture. It’s about the lives of two guys still looking for love and yes, it has a little bit of horrid scary scenes. How Scott Lerner managed to put all of this together and have me reading every page, I can’t tell you. However, I can tell you that this is well-written and Sam and Bob become your friends. I have said many times that any author that can make characters your friends and/or your enemies is a talented writer. Once you are caught right up in a story with your buddies, you will never miss a word.

This one is Book 5 in his series titled “A Samuel Roberts Thriller”. Looks like Books 1 through 4 are rated really high too so they must be just as good or better. Let’s read them too and hope he’s writing Book 6.

Sanctity of Life by Jennifer E. Whalen


Sanctity of Life by Jennifer E. Whalen
An Enemy Loved Novel

Publisher: Lilac Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (156 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Deep in the Black Forest of Germany, dark experiments have been taking place since WWII. Now the secrets are in danger of being exposed. Who will live? Who will die? Can it be contained?

Sometimes science causes more problems than it solves.

The dialogue was well done. This was a fast-paced story, so there wasn’t a lot of room for lengthy descriptions or discussions. I liked the fact that the characters’ conversations were kept as short as possible. That was exactly how I’d expect members of the military and government to behave when they were trying to contain a threat to the security of their nation.

There were so many characters in this story that I found it really difficult to remember who was who. I kept mixing everyone up, and it only became tougher to remember who everyone was once the pacing picked up and the characters began to find themselves in dangerous situations.

One of the things I always like discovering is a character who makes intelligent decisions regardless of what’s happening around him. There were several characters in this book who had good heads on their shoulders. No matter how other people reacted around them, they always paid close attention to their surroundings and thought logically about what they should do next. I appreciated that.

The time jumps were confusing to me. Some of the scenes were set in 1945 while others happened in 1918. Since I was struggling so much to remember who all of the characters were, it was strange to suddenly meet new people or to see someone in a different part of his or her life than they’d been a few scenes earlier.

My favorite sections of this story were the ones that explained what was going on with the dark experiments in full detail. I’m a big fan of science fiction about medical advancements that don’t turn out the way their creators intended them to. The author did a good job at explaining why these attempts were having such poor results and hinting at what would happen if the scientists continue to push the boundaries of what the human body is capable of.

Sanctity of Life should be read by anyone who loves the idea of science experiments gone terribly wrong.

The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski


The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (162 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.

Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.

Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.

But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES.

There are no friendly aliens here.

I appreciated how much time Mr. Kozeniewski spent on the world building and character development before the plot sped up. Having such a detailed introduction to the strict, corporate-run society Paige grew up in made it easy for me to bond with her. Paige’s childhood had not been an easy one, but it had shaped her into a strong and self-reliant woman. I really enjoyed having such a deep understanding of how those early experiences shaped the person she became as an adult. They made her heroic acts later on in the plot even more exciting than they might have been for someone who didn’t have quite so much to lose.

My only piece of constructive criticism has to do with the plot twists. While I definitely enjoyed following Paige’s adventures, the fact that I could predict what would happen next so regularly did make me wish that I could have been surprised by what the characters experienced more often. It was a minor complaint about a tale that I otherwise had a great time reading, though.

Yes, there were many gory scenes in this book. It’s something that is to be expected when characters visit a planet that has oceans full of blood, after all. The violence served an important purpose to the plot, though, and I liked the way it was folded into what had been a much tamer adventure story in the beginning. I knew the characters so well at that point that I couldn’t stop reading until I’d found out what their fates were.

I’d recommend The Hematophages to anyone who is in the market for dark and violent science fiction.

January Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Heart and Dagger by Holland Rae


Heart and Dagger by Holland Rae
The Ships in the Night Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (174 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Lady Charlotte Talbot hasn’t seen Armand Rajaram de Bourbon, her oldest childhood friend and once betrothed, since his family returned to India when she was fifteen. Since then, she has left a groom at the altar, changed her name to Catalina Sol, opened a house for unwed mothers and orphans, and captained a ship, the Liberté, crewed by the best fighters in the Spanish Main. She’s no longer the lady he left behind, not that she’d admit to wishing he’d return.

When Armand’s brother is kidnapped, he breaks his rule of never engaging with pirates. But desperation drives him to the Liberté and a life he thought he’d left far behind. He’d do anything to save Henri, but Armand never expected to find Charlotte here, and now that’s he’s found her, he doesn’t have a clue what to do about it.

Together, they must face kidnapping, pirate captains, blackmail, and themselves. The Liberté may sail thousands of miles from the shores of England, but that might not be far enough to escape the past.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!!

The Raven Flies at Night by Janine R. Pestel


The Raven Flies at Night by Janine R. Pestel
Publisher: Creativia Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (154 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In the second book of the series, Father Gunter and his friend, Robert Durling travel to the town of Mountainview.

A demon’s presence in the town has the townfolk depressed, with suicides being a daily occurrence. After the duo meets Father Nelson, they receive an amulet that will aid them in their battle against the Mountainview demon.

But after a meeting with TV reporter Belinda Carstone, they learn of her mysterious dream, and a demon that abducted her many years ago. Soon, their adventure takes a completely new, terrifying direction.

Demon hunting is a messy and dangerous job, but someone has to do it.

One of my favorite things about Robert Durling and Father Gunter in this tale was how level-headed they remained in even the most volatile situations. No matter how violent their supernatural encounters became they never panicked or made reckless decisions while they were trying to figure out the best way to excommunicate the demons they keep running into in this series.

There were many punctuation errors. By far the most common errors were the overuse and misuse of commas. While I deeply enjoyed the plot itself, it was distracting to be interrupted by so many sentences that I had to reread a few times in order to understand. I would have given this book a much higher rating if this hadn’t been the case.

The demon’s method of killing people was creative. Most of the other horror novels about demons I’ve read have taken a completely different approach to the harm they cause, so I was fascinated by the idea of one of these creatures causing so many grisly deaths without actually touching any of their victims. The original twists on this genre like this one are a big part of what keeps me so interested in what will happen next to these characters.

As I mentioned above, this is the second story in a series. It can be read out of order or as a standalone work.

I’d recommend The Raven Flies at Night to anyone who loves modern horror.

#iHunt Mayhem in Movieland by David A Hill Jr.


#iHunt Mayhem in Movieland by David A Hill Jr.
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (74 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lana hunts monsters for a living. She absolutely hates hunting ghosts. So, of course, a friend is calling in a favor and having her hunt a ghost. Not just any ghost, but Old Anne, an urban legend at Movieland, a theme park inspired by the golden age of Hollywood. Worse off, Lana used to work at Movieland, and was fired after she had a… little incident killing three vampires on park property. So in addition to hunting ghosts—which she doesn’t want to do—she has to sneak around and not get noticed by her former coworkers. This is Book 3 of #iHunt. But it’s a completely standalone story—you don’t need to have read the others to get this. Content Warning: Drug use, violence, minor gore, descriptions of anxiety attacks.

Monster hunting is never as easy as it looks in the movies.

There’s nothing quite like trying to catch a bad guy that doesn’t play by the rules. The more I learned about this creature, the more curious I became to discover what it really was and why Lana was having so much trouble figuring out how to fight it. It was one of the most creative parts of the plot, and it kept me guessing until the end.

The pacing would have worked well in a full-length novel, but it felt uneven for a short story because of how much time it took for Lana to discover any clues at all about who or what was killing people at the amusement park. As much as I enjoyed seeing what she was up to again, there was a lot of room here to include more conflict in the storyline.

The fight scenes were exciting. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about this series so far is how vulnerable Lana is when she’s fighting something that has supernatural strength. She’s not a superhero, and she has sustained serious injuries from her battles in the past. There is always the very real danger that one of her opponents will kill or severely injure her. While I never like the thought of her being hurt, the genuine tension of not knowing for sure that she’ll be okay keeps me coming back for more.

This is the sequel to iHunt: Killing Monsters in the Gig Economy. It should be read in order.

I’d recommend #iHunt Mayhem in Movieland to anyone who loves gritty books about killing monsters.

The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James


The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James
The Demon Series Part 8

Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (54 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Max Jensen is brutally murdered, on September 9, 1962, Timmy Jensen’s life is changed forever.

Timmy adored Max, and his loss was something neither he, nor his parents, could overcome. Shunned and ostracized, as the brother of that murdered teen, Timmy manages to find a job with a kind man by the name of Earl Jackman. Hauling away junk from people’s attics, Timmy meets Jenny Krieger and falls in love. Only Jenny’s father won’t have it, and she is shipped off to boarding school in Europe. But not before he meets Jenny’s grandma and is given a powerful medallion, known as the Amaarand.

Told he can use it to rescue his brother Max’s soul from hell, he must now patiently wait for his opportunity. He just didn’t know he’d have to wait until 2012.

Sometimes the best way to handle a supernatural battle is to wait for the perfect time to strike.

The dialogue was well done. There were a few scenes where characters were able to guess what their conversation partner was about to say and respond to it before the other person had even had a chance to speak. This was a creative way to keep those scene moving, and I enjoyed seeing how easy it was for them to make those educated guesses.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning. It took a while for the narrator to explain what Timmy’s life was like during the years after his brother was murdered. Timmy wasn’t a character I was necessarily expecting to see again, so it was interesting to see how he was brought back into the plot for the grand finale. It was a pleasant surprise, though, and I was glad to see him get more time to show the audience what he was about.

I was quite pleased with how the author wrapped everything up. The previous instalments spent a lot of time creating a complex world that involved everything from time travel to alternate timelines to the notorious behavior of demons who were capable of twisting any human action to their own dark purposes. There was a lot of material to cover because of this, and I was happy with how well it was all tied together by the end of the last scene.

This is part of a series. It should be read in order.

The Path: Keeper of Amaarand should be read by any horror or science fiction fans who enjoyed the first seven parts of this tale.

The Immortals and Other Tales by Victor J. Banis


The Immortals and Other Tales by Victor J. Banis
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (90 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Edgy. Controversial. Thoughtful. Brilliant.

There are a lot of adjectives that have been used over the decades to describe the writings of Victor J. Banis. From his start in gay fiction, to forays into other genres such as mystery and horror, Banis’ unique voice has brought to life a myriad of characters and creatures, excitement and entertainment, as well as the trials and tribulations of love between both gay and straight couples. Gathered here are stories spanning more than five decades of Banis’ incredible career, including “Broken Record,” his first story to ever be published.

No matter how strong they may be, first impressions aren’t always correct.

In “New Kid in Town,” the main character had slowly come to regret her marriage to a kind, wealthy man who was much older than she was. She spoke of her spouse in such glowing terms that I was surprised by how tired she seemed to be of their relationship. The more I read, the more curious I became about what could be making her so unhappy. It was as much fun to discover the twist ending to this one as it was to try to figure out what was going on in advance.

While I deeply enjoyed the majority of the tales in this collection, there were a couple that I thought could use more development. “The Journey (a parable)” was one of them. There was one character, and he or she was never given a name, backstory, or any identifying features. I was intrigued by the idea of a narrator speaking directly to the audience about what they think human intellect can and can’t do for people who are on a literal or metaphorical journey, but I would have liked to see more time spent transforming this monologue into something that also included a traditional sort of plot at some point.

The protagonist in “The Canals of Mars” was a man whose face had been badly scarred in a lab accident. After his boyfriend left him, he had the chance to find love again with an old friend. As their love began to blossom, they both began to experience things that defied explanation. What I enjoyed the most about this tale was how many different ways it could be interpreted. Mr. Banis is quite good at tying multiple genres together in ways that I don’t typically see them combined, and this was one of the best examples of that talent of his that I’ve seen so far.

I’d recommend The Immortals and Other Tales to anyone who is looking for some truly creative mysteries.

Of Noble Blood: Out of the Darkness by E.H. James


Of Noble Blood: Out of the Darkness, The Demon Series Part 7 by E.H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (53 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Being the queen’s daughter doesn’t exclude you, when the fate of the world is in the balance. And when Princess Amara has the opportunity to help, she readily accepts.

Transformed into a shape-shifting time traveler, she journeys back through the centuries to the year 1522. Here she retrieves a baby boy and brings him forward to the year 1995, where he becomes Jesse Miller.

Unaware he is chosen, he comes to realize he alone must save the world. And with the help of Amara, he must travel further yet into the future, to destroy the demon infiltration and repair the damaged timeline.

But the story is far from over, and when he returns to 2233, where he lives with Amara, he discovers there is far more to experience than he can possibly imagine.

Imagine what it would be like to remember doing something that technically hasn’t happened in your timeline yet.

The time travel in this story was incredibly complex. Multiple timelines interfered with each other over and over again, so I was glad that the author spent as much time as possible showing the audience what happened in each timeline before and after they were changed yet again. This made for a pleasant reading experience, especially once the pacing picked up and Amara’s mission became even more urgent

There were so many other conflicts going on that I was a little bit surprised when a romantic twist was included as well. While I liked both of the characters who were involved in it and it is a minor criticism, the plot would have been even stronger if it had stuck to the main storyline. The characters had plenty to keep them busy as it was.

As usual, the world building was spectacular. I know I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews of this series, but I love the way all of these stories build on each other over time. There are little details in each one of them that are later expanded on. This makes it important to read everything in order, and it also makes it rewarding for longterm readers who may have wondered about a small detail early on that is only now being fully explored.

I’d recommend Of Noble Blood: Out of the Darkness, The Demon Series Part 7 to all of the fans of this world. It was one of the best instalments in it so far!