Venom & Vanilla by Shannon Mayer

Venom & Vanilla by Shannon Mayer
(The Venom Trilogy Book 1)
Publisher: 47North
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Successful Seattle baker Alena Budrene doesn’t want to die. But when she’s infected with a lethal virus spread by supernatural beings, her only chance for recovery is to make a deal with the devil—or in this case, a warlock.

Though he saves her life, it looks nothing like the life she once knew—and neither does she. Alena is a new breed of “Supe” no one has ever seen before. Even the supernatural police don’t know what she is. Now exiled to the northern side of the Wall, which marks the divide between humans and Supes, Alena is thrust into a dark and magical new world.

But just as she begins to adjust to all things supernatural, she realizes that her transformation is the least of her worries—and it was no accident. She was chosen…to be killed by a Greek hero trying to make a name for himself once more.

Alena was brought up to be subservient, preferring creating to fighting, and vanilla and honey to blood. But that was then. Now, to survive, she must stand up for herself—and this time she’s got fangs. But will she be ready to use them?

Alena had what seemed like a great life; a “nice” husband, a successful bakery, and a wonderful family. She was content in her small corner of the world, and not concerned with much outside of it. However, things drastically changed once she became infected by a virus that kills humans and spares supernaturals. After she accepts a “cure” to save her life, she’s thrown into a world she has no knowledge of. Can she adjust to her new life and find out what she’s become before it’s too late?

The humor in this book is fantastic. Witty banter and sarcasm are a hallmark of my favorite urban fantasy and paranormal romance books – Ms. Mayer did not disappoint in that regard. Remo and Alena had some particularly hilarious one-liners. Yaya was the queen of banter though (sarcastic badass grandmas are AMAZING). The humor does border on being a bit childish at times (Alena insists on referring to supernaturals as “super dupers”, which kills the intimidating factor a bit) but that aspect didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story too much.

The worldbuilding in this book is great too. The conflict between humans and “Super-Dupers” is integral to the story – in both a literal sense (with the wall built to keep them separate) and a metaphorical sense (humans are dying in droves because of the virus that supernaturals spread). I enjoyed some of the plot twists that the author incorporated into the story (especially those related to how the virus works). This book has so many supernatural creatures there is sure to be something for even the pickiest of paranormal romance readers. There are vampires, warlocks, werewolves, shifters and so much more! It also has elements of mythology from around the world, which made it a very entertaining read. I appreciated how it wasn’t limited to just one mythology (i.e., Greek) – it borrowed multiple elements from multiple cultures and blended them seamlessly. As a die-hard mythology fan, it was fun to see figures from myth and legend in an urban, contemporary setting.

One of my favorite audiobook narrators, Saskia Maarleveld, narrated this book and it was another awesome performance. If you are a fan of audiobooks, I would recommend checking that option out. However, if you’re not already an audiobook fan then the format is up to you. There are no special effects or other aspects that you would be missing out on by not listening to the audiobook.

Overall, Venom & Vanilla is a fantastic paranormal romance read I would happily recommend to others. I look forward to reading the subsequent books in the Venom trilogy as soon as possible to find out what happens next in the story.

Scarlet Odyssey by C T Rwizi

Scarlet Odyssey by C T Rwizi
Publisher: 47North
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (608 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.

Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.
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Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.

On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.

Salo wants to become a mystic. This is unheard of. All the mystics in the tribe have been women. He sticks to it and passes the test. He is their first male mystic. Not everyone is happy about that.

When his village is attacked and everyone there dies, he has no choice but to set out on the quest his queen had given him. This is a long tale and it’s full of magic and warfare. It’s not boring, you get involved in the characters, and you’ll find yourself turning pages until the end. Salo sets off on a journey and finds three companions to come with him. It’s good he has them, there are men after him who don’t want him to finish his quest. He has a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. They are good at fighting those against him. The mysterious nomad is not all human…

The story flows well and kept my interest. The author introduces other characters and you follow more than one developing story. This story has a lot of death in it. These characters are warriors and enemies are eliminated. I didn’t feel bad for them. War is war and it might have gone the other way. Salo keeps on with his quest as I read about the other characters. I couldn’t wait to see what happens. This author throws some surprises in his story.

As long as the story is, you still close the book with the thought: It’s over already? The good news? This is book one in a series.

The Trident Code by Thomas Waite

The Trident Code by Thomas Waite
Publisher: 47North
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (323 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

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Lana Elkins is finally getting settled after the last major cyber-attack on the United States when another threat looms on the horizon. A nuclear submarine carrying more than twenty missiles is hacked and taken over by an unknown cyber hacker and threats are made that would endanger the entire world and kill billions of people. Will former NSA operative and security specialist Lana Elkins be in time or will the world pay the price?

Lana is an inspiration as far as I’m concerned. She’s tough, ballsy, and smart as a whip. Add to that the fact she’s working in a world predominately ruled by men and she becomes my hero. Not just because she worked for the NSA at one time, but mostly because she’s basically a legal hacker working for the safety of the entire country. On top of all that, she’s still able to be feminine and motherly. She can be difficult, but no more so than the job requires.

On the other side of the coin, you have Galina Bortnik, an ex-Greenpeace activist turned hacker. Galina is an unlikely sort of heroine. I didn’t care for her very much when we were first introduced to her, but as her situation changes and she learns more about the man she’s in love with, the more you start to like her. She becomes more three-dimensional at that point. Galina is probably the bravest character in The Trident Code, seeing as she risks everything with no promise of anything in return.

Cyber thrillers aren’t my usual genre, but The Trident Code intrigued me. It takes a cyber-terrorism plot and mixes a bit of environmental terrorism into it. These two threats combine into one terrifying not-so-far-fetched possibility for our future. One of the best parts of this novel is that not just one main character, but two of them are strong, driven female leads. Despite everything that’s being thrown at them, they both manage to maintain their status as warriors as well as women. The Trident Code kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
Publisher: 47North
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (242 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

A space-faring ne’er-do-well with more bravado than brains, Rex Nihilo plies the known universe in a tireless quest for his own personal gain. But when he fleeces a wealthy weapons dealer in a high-stakes poker game, he ends up winning a worthless planet?and owing an outstanding debt more vast than space itself!

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Rex has a bad habit of spinning tall tales about money to be made and then stealing the money to be invested. You don’t have to be smart to figure out that is going to catch up with you. But does he listen to his sidekick Sasha? No, he doesn’t…

Mr. Kroese writes an action-packed tale of space fiction with all kinds of odd creatures and an underlying plot that doesn’t become evident until the end of the book. While I think he wrote it for adults, I think the best market for this style of book would be young adults. There are strange animals, nuclear power, space ships, insane rulers, and a dozen different interests in this story. It’s a bit silly, almost space opera, and I know they’ll have fun with Rex’s schemes.

Sasha is a robot. When Rex gets in a pickle, she helps him forget certain important past activities so he won’t be able to give them away. She can’t help; she must tell the truth. She has learned to tell the truth by not directly answering the question, but that’s almost like cheating. Can robots do that?

Rex is on the run because the repo guys are after him for debt. He stops long enough to play poker and win not only an old starship but also a planet. When he visits the planet, it’s all desert and there’s nothing of value there. But when he gets captured again, he pretends there is and tries to sell it. After about three such deals and a bounty hunter after him now, he gets stuck in the worst place of his life. Will he get out or is this it? If he’s going to get free, how’s he going to do it and who is going to pay his debt?

If those questions aren’t enough to entice you to read this book, this is also where you learn there was a much larger plan in place and that Rex isn’t as in control as he thinks he is. It makes for a good read and I think young ones will pick up on the humor and enjoy the fascinating chases. It’s not bad for an adult read either if you like sci fi!