Spooky Twisties III, 13 Tales of Terror by Terri Bertha

Spooky Twisties III, 13 Tales of Terror by Terri Bertha
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (130 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

House of Puzzles:Will Chris and Nick be able to solve the puzzles to save their lives?

The Best Book Ever: Can a school book report prove to uncover a little too much for one student?

Pretty Voodoo Doll: What will one of the girls resort to in order to make the cheerleading squad?

A Needed Friend: Why does the mysterious boy seem to be drawn to the girl who visits the graveyard?

Ghost Catcher: Lindsay meets a woman with some amazing abilities at the old-age home. Can you catch a ghost?

Saving Cardinals: Does Amy’s love of birds and animals prove to be a life-saver?

Two Bloke Boys:Will Nick and Chris find gold at the end of the rainbow?

Candle Sense: A thoughtful gift provides a haunting experience.
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Would You Believe?: The science fair and a revolution. Seriously, that’s why I didn’t turn in my homework.

Dronepocalypse: Buuuzzzz…did you hear that?

The Promenade: A trip to the historical museum and an old photo help solve the question of how to ask a girl to the spring dance.

Dire-Rama: WOW! That model looks so real!

Hello Me, It’s Me Again: Will an unexpected family reunion finally put things to rest?

The hidden references in these short ‘horror’ stories foreshadow future encounters and/or connect back to events of previous stories,and the twists in the story endings make reading the tales even more fun for ages 9 and above.

There’s not just one haunted house in this community. Many spots in this area have odd things happening in them.

This is the first time I can remember reviewing a collection of short stories that were about the same group of characters. It was quite interesting to me to read about the different adventures these kids went on with their various combinations of friends. Some of their experiences involved needing to do things like solve riddles or mysteries, so I liked seeing how well they were able to do this stuff depending on who they were spending time with at that particular moment.

It would have been helpful to have more details about the characters since the narrator didn’t describe what any of them looked like. While I did get a good sense of some of their personalities, it sure would have been helpful to be able to close my eyes and come up with full mental image of what each of the main characters looked, sounded, and acted like. They all sort of blended together in my imagination because of how few details there were about them in general.

The town where this book was set was quite the unusual place. Sometimes there were buildings that appeared and then disappeared again. Humorously enough, this was one of the least bizarre occurrences there . My favorite scenes were the ones that showed how the characters reacted to their familiar world being turned upside down at a moment’s notice. Without giving away spoilers, they reacted exactly how I’d expect them to. That alone made me want to keep reading.

This collection is the third in a series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

Spooky Twisties III should be read by anyone who is in the mood for something scary.

Through The Long Night by Danni Price

Through The Long Night by Danni Price
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (106 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Accountant Moira Jones hates everything about her job except for her gorgeous, but uptight boss. She accidently knocks him out at an office party. After a night together, she realizes he is everything she’s ever wanted in a man. Can she trust him to see past the lies spread about her by the office bully?
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Jensen knows dating a coworker is a bad idea, but he just can’t seem to resist quiet Moira. When Monday rolls around after the party, reality intrudes in the form of water cooler gossip and office politics. Is dating the woman of his fantasies worth risking his job?

Moira is always super efficient, but extremely quiet at work. When she ends up spending the night with her boss, Jensen, he starts to see a completely different side to her. Even though their night together was completely platonic, the closeness they shared let Moira finally relax and come out of her shell. But can they both overcome the complication of Jensen being Moira’s boss and the realities of having to go back to work?

This is an interesting boss-and-worker style story that I really enjoyed. I found most of the pacing almost perfect – Moira and Jensen don’t just hop into bed the moment they are alone together. They talk and interact and this really helped me feel the chemistry building between them. There are some seriously steamy kisses, and some mildly graphic sex (using euphemisms and vagueness – not explicit) all of which had me fanning myself. I was a little disappointed by Moira’s lack of self-confidence. Even after they’d been intimate, she couldn’t seem to really believe that Jensen was attracted to her and that he wanted a proper relationship with her. Moira had been burned in the past, and she had some personal problems at work, but I felt that Jensen had done everything in his power to convince her he was serious and addicted to her, but she let her self-doubts get in the way of that, and that frustrated me a bit.

I found the ending really satisfying – but it was the only section of the book that felt a bit rushed. A lot of things all got tied up in a hurry, and part of me really would have preferred it to happen more slowly, so I could enjoy it more. I enjoyed the story though, and really got attached to Moira and Jensen’s characters. I felt their chemistry was hot and intense. Despite Jensen needing a nudge at the end, and Moira not always being as strong a character as I prefer, these small flaws made them more realistic. I also really enjoyed the author’s voice and will be looking for more of her work.

For romance readers eager for a bit of spice in their stories, this could well prove satisfying for many.

Zombie Rapture by Stuart R. West

Zombie Rapture by Stuart R. West
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (266 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Life is good for Hunter Wright. He’s just about to graduate from high school and he’s found true love. Just in time to lose her. Because the Rapture’s begun and those in his path, living and dead, stand in his way of finding her. And it’s not the Rapture the faithful have been expecting either. Someone failed to tell the dead they’re not in Heaven.

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One of the things I like the most about zombies is how relentless they are. Other monsters can be outrun or outsmarted, but there’s almost nothing in the world that can stop these creatures. Mr. West’s version of them was particularly creepy because of how much time he took to describe the way their minds work. Those passages were really well done. I’ve read a lot of zombie fiction over the years. This was by far the scariest example of them that I’ve come across so far!

I would have liked to see more character development in this book, especially when it came to Hunter. He made decisions during the course of the plot that I didn’t always understand. What I did manage to figure out about his personality was fascinating, but there simply wasn’t enough information about it for me to form an accurate mental image of what it would be like to be in the same room as him or how the Rapture changed his personality.

The dialogue was short and efficient. Given the dangerous predicament they’d found themselves in, it made sense to me that Hunter and his friends wouldn’t be particularly interested in drawn-out discussions. I appreciated the fact that they showed their awareness of what was going on in part by choosing to stay quiet as much as they possibly could. It was a realistic response to their circumstances, and I liked that.

Zombie Rapture is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a fresh twist on this genre.

Love Potion #9.5 by Kat Holmes

Love Potion #9.5 by Kat Holmes
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (23 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lucy Mixernight has a real problem. Thanks to a witch with a serious case of PMS half the people in her town have been cursed with an embarrassing, yet explosive dilemma. Naturally the witch can’t fix the problem so everyone turns to Lucy for help.

But no matter how many recipes she tries she can’t solve the problem. Then Tad, a hunky travelling merchant enters her shop and she’s not thinking about potions any longer. But he may just be the answer to her prayers, in more ways than one.

Few things are more frustrating than a problem that can’t be solved. This is even more true when your livelihood depends on figuring it out.
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The chemistry between Lucy and Tad is delicious. They can’t be in the same room without sparks flyings, and this electric connection between them makes for some amazingly hot sex scenes. These characters are a great example of how quickly strangers can find common ground if they click with one another.

Chemistry isn’t everything, though, and I would have preferred to see at least a few reasons why they could be compatible outside of the bedroom. A few scenes early on in the narrative could easily be rewritten in order to highlight other things that Lucy and Tad could offer one another. It would have only required the inclusion of one or two points of compatibility for this tale to have earned a higher rating.

I really enjoyed the references to classic fairy tales that are scattered throughout the plot. They made me feel like I’d wandered into the middle of a much longer piece. The author could easily write one or more sequels to address what has otherwise only been hinted at in these pages. While I don’t know if that’s something she is planning to do, Ms. Holmes has plenty of material to work with if she does decide to revisit Fairyville.

There are multiple grammar and punctuation mistakes in this story. While none of them fundamentally chance the meanings of the sentences that contain them, figuring out what the author actually intended to say was distracting. A large number of run-on sentences also made it difficult for me to stay focused on what was otherwise an engaging plot.

With that being said, the setting is absolutely perfect for these characters. What might have seemed a little colourful for a non-fantasy setting feels right at home in Fairyville. If anything, Lucy and Tad seem to be two of the more sombre members of their community. Figuring out the cultural differences between their world and my own was one of the highlights of reading this story for this reader.

Love Potion #9.5 kept me smiling until the end. This is a good choice for anyone who loves the otherworldly feel of the fantasy genre.

George Knows by Mindy Mymudes

George Knows by Mindy Mymudes
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (183 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

An egotistical magical basset hound named George believes it’s his duty to train and protect his 12-year-old Girlpup, a greenwitch named Karly. He and his Girlpup, must solve a murder as well as save their park from being developed. George is the perfectly designed familiar for the job.

This novel is written from the perspective of George, a magical basset hound, and he does a very good job of telling the story. He is the familiar of a young twelve-year-old witch named Karly, and he takes his job of teaching and protecting her very seriously, most of the time. He needs to help solve a murder and save the park from being turned into condos.
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George’s character is well-developed and consistent throughout the novel. In addition, Karly and her Aunt Heather are portrayed with good depth and believability. Point of view can be tricky in any novel, but in one where the main character is a dog, the task is much more complex. The author is more than up to the challenge as George never falters while he follows the scent and solves the mysteries.

I did find the constant use of “Peeps” for people tiring, as well as “Girlpup,” Boypup” “Packmom,” “Packdad,” and the like, but I honestly don’t know what dogs call humans, so I can hardly fault George’s language. The author has obviously studied basset hounds as George’s actions are consistent with his breed. And he is definitely loveable, even with his egotistical personality.

The pace of the novel starts out gently and then really speeds up as the action demands. George is able to do a lot of teaching, and Karly catches on quickly, although not as quickly as George wants. We don’t learn a lot about the developers, but then that is consistent with the point of view, as George really doesn’t care about them at all. He just wants to protect the park and solve the mystery of the bones he dug up.

It is very interesting to read a book told entirely from George’s perspective. It definitely limits the information that is disclosed, unless that information is about food. But George is a very clever dog and in the end he does manage to bring his “Peeps” together and solve the case. Lovers of animal stories are sure to enjoy following George as he saves the day.

Geek Games by Margaret Fieland

Geek Games by Margaret Fieland
Novels of Aleyne
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (201 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

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Martin, a fourteen-year-old computer geek who lives with his overbearing father, learns some very hard lessons when he allows the school bully to talk him into bringing down the spaceport computer network. Geek Games is an exciting as well as poignant coming of age story. I liked Martin a lot and he is very well defined. He has a hard life even before the novel begins, but in spite of all the hardships, or maybe because of them, Martin develops a strength that enables him to stand up for what is right. He has to learn to live with the consequences of his actions, but he works very hard to stop terrorists and help the enslaved miners.

The setting of the novel is a space station and its surrounding asteroids and while I obviously have never lived in such an environment, I felt as if I were a part of this world. I was especially taken with the descriptions of the Aleyni, the race which is native to the planet on which the space station is situated. Many of the space station personnel feel that they are superior to the Aleyni and refuse to have anything to do with them. But the Aleyni have a very rich culture and they also can offer many goods and benefits to the space station inhabitants. I thought the author really handled the mixing of the cultures with sensitivity and grace.

The plot is fast moving and exciting, chasing terrorists through the asteroids, searching for a drug lab, and mining ore in deep caverns. There is enough adventure to satisfy any reader and the plot twists and turns, providing many surprises. The ending is satisfactory, but it also could be the beginning to another adventure and I really hope that Martin’s story will be continued in future novels.

Science Fiction lovers are sure to enjoy getting to know Martin and the rich world of the Aleyni.

The End of Tomorrow by L.J. Holmes

The End of Tomorrow by L.J. Holmes
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (7 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One day you think you’ve got the best relationship ever and then Wham! Mr Wonderful hits you with a blind side. Who in their right mind tells their current partner that his ex-wife wants him to donate his sperm so she can have a baby? I mean…Really?

What’s a girl to do but lost her temper big time on the idiot? The man who stood head and shoulders above every other man she’d ever know suddenly developed feet of clay and apparently possessed not an ounce of gray matter between those perfectly shaped ears.
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Okay, maybe running off into the woods wasn’t the best decision she ever made in her life, but it seemed like a good idea at the time…

Jealousy is a powerful emotion, but is everything it whispers true?

Relationships are about much more than the happy times two people spend together. Shelby and Jason have been together long enough to outlast the honeymoon period, but they’ve never had a fight like this one before. How they react to one another in the heat of the moment says quite a bit about their personalities, and I enjoyed seeing how they approach this conflict in their relationship. It’s difficult to include a great deal of character development in such a short story, but I was intrigued by the glimpses of the darker aspects of Shelby and Jasons’s personalities that are present in this one. Neither one is a saint, and I would have loved to know more about whether or not their interpretations of one another’s actions and intentions are accurate.

While I don’t expect a tale this length to delve deeply into the character’s backgrounds or what happens to them next, I would have preferred to see more time spent wrapping up certain plot points. The ending felt abrupt to me because of the author’s approach to questions that the characters ask themselves early on in the narrative.

This short story excels at capturing the smallest details of a fight as it breaks out between two lovers. It’s easy to get so lost in the moment that one forgets everything other than what is happening right this second. Dropping the reader into the beginning of the action in the very first paragraph was a good decision, and I could’t wait to see what would happen to Shelby next as soon as I began reading this piece.

I’d recommend The End of Tomorrow to anyone who has ever flown off the handle at someone they loved. It’s an entertaining, convincing snapshot of the rough parts of being in a longterm relationship.

The Fireborn Chronicles: Revelations by Mary Andrews

The Fireborn Chronicles: Revelations by Mary Andrews
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (170 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen


The inevitable fusion of Man, Machine, and the Paranormal

After Earth’s destruction, humans have scattered and spread across the universe. The peace is kept by a universal government. Four rogue talents unite to become an invincible Government Dark Ops team—the Nemesis Team.

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Follow the Nemesis Team and their uneasy allies as they race to unravel a reality not of their making before the strange world is annihilated by an asteroid.

After the Earth was destroyed by an asteroid, humans scattered all over the universe, and a universal government was set up to keep the peace. The Dark Ops team called the Nemesis Team composed of four rogue talents is sent throughout the universe to solve problems. The latest dilemma involves an unknown planet which has suddenly appeared, a planet ruled by Oracles whose agents may be trying to usurp the authority of the universal government. It is up to the Nemesis team and their allies to try to unravel the mystery before this strange planet is destroyed by an asteroid.

This novel is the third in the Fireborn Chronicles and once again we have Ira, an empath, along with Tristen, the Oracles’ Chosen One, working to save a planet. They are aided by the rest of the team and along the way, they make contact with the Roma people. I was very impressed with Mary Andrews’ knowledge and treatment of the Roma culture. In this setting, the Roma live in space caravans, but their traditions date back to a time before the Earth was destroyed. They are a very proud and private people who find themselves in a situation where they need to interact with the Nemesis Team. The first meeting between these two very different groups is stressful, to say the least, but they eventually find that they have enough in common to work together to try to save the unknown planet from destruction.

The story line in this novel is intricate and the action moves at a very fast pace. I really enjoyed a number of the characters, and I was intrigued with the Roma’s question, “What if the Earth itself is actually an accumulation of intelligence from the time of its conception. What if we, like skin cells, are an integral but non-connected part of something much, much larger.” The idea of connectivity plays a large role in this novel, and it was amazing to see how Andrews weaves the various pieces of the story into a complete and well-structured whole.

Readers of fantasy are sure to enjoy Revelations. I would encourage those who are interested to begin with the first volume in the series, Fireborn Found, followed by Resonances, and then Revelations for the deepest enjoyment of this amazing world. Each of the three novels does stand alone and each one has its own complete and distinct plot. But Andrews has done a fabulous job with the development of her characters, so I believe that reading the three novels in order provides the richest experience.

The Fireborn Chronicles: Resonances by Mary Andrews

The Fireborn Chronicles: Resonances by Mary Andrews
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (251 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen


Once again the Dark Ops crew of the Nemesis is called into action. But this time it’s personal. When a former team member is kidnapped on a Hive drug mining planet both the Universal Government and the new Corporate Overlord have to respond. For the first time the Nemesis team and the Corporate Archangels join forces against a psychic vampire, his strange twin brother, and the Oracle menace threatening their universe. But is anything truly what it seems?

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Resonances is the second book in The Fireborn Chronicles, and it can be read alone. However, I was very glad that I’d already read the first book (Fireborn Found) so that I knew the members of the Dark Ops crew. This knowledge made my reading a much deeper and more satisfying experience. That being said, Resonances works fine as a stand-alone and the story is exciting, fast-paced, with many twists and turns in the plot so that the reader is engaged quickly, as the roller-coaster ride of thrills takes off.

I was particularly impressed with Mary Andrews’ sensitive handling of the difficulties encountered by the telepaths in every day life. Imagine what it would be like to be bombarded all the time with people’s emotions. Handling that kind of onslaught without being damaged requires a great deal of skill. The Archangels who serve and protect Rael have their own unique learning curve. They have been used to handling the previous Overlord so that his every need was instantly met, his emotions were handled, and everything ran smoothly. But Rael refuses to give up his humanity. He doesn’t want his needs anticipated and he doesn’t want to lose his own feelings. The Archangels must learn a new way of working, and when Rael insists that they have a right to have their own needs met as well, the Archangels become disturbed and confused, proving that change is never easy for anyone.

This is an exciting and thought-provoking fantasy novel, and I am sure that any readers of fantasy will find it fascinating and enthralling. This novel portrays an alternate reality that is complex and fully realized, and I truly enjoyed the time I spent in it.

Ghost Writer by Vala Kaye

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Ghost Writer by Vala Kaye
Published by: MuseItUp
Genre: contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (57 pgs)
Age Recommendation 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Sixteen-year-old Malden Montgomery leaves New York City anticipating nothing but boredom when her artist/mother insists she come along on a two week vacation to a family inn in rural Virginia. What Malden doesn’t expect is that the owner’s seventeen-year-old son, Jackson, will be totally to-die-for cute or that her room at the inn will be haunted by a young woman named Emily, who died there in 1865. When Emily somehow begins to communicate with Malden via an Internet chat room, she and Jackson have to find a way to help Emily’s ghost come back home or risk a spirit’s wrath if they choose to leave her lost in the darkness forever.

The Young Adult and Paranormal genre these days can mean anything from mild magical abilities to foes like killer zombies, so I am pleased to report that the novella Ghost Writer is ultimately a believable teen tale.

Malden is a typical (contemporary) teen, being dragged along on a typical mom’s type getaway to a backwoods location. She has no expectations of anything worthy of interest, and less hope of meeting anyone worth meeting. Exactly how bad it will be is brought home when her mom assures her it’ll be like a ‘living history lesson: Civil War era.”

So Jackson, the “To-Die-For bellhop” is a very pleasant surprise, although of course one positive thing isn’t going to change Malden Montgomery’s outlook.

No, it’s Emily – who she is warned about – and Emily’s plea for help that changes Malden’s outlook.

Scenes are set so perfectly; the creepy feeling room, approaching storm and the flickering-lamp type classic ghost references, are offered right alongside more serious analysis (are people truly energy?) I want to call this a ghost story, but it’s the sort that gives you pause. If ghosts could exist…

Believable conversations (and concerns!) keep this story moving right along. Malden has the typical teen electronic attachments, e-chats and whatnot, but that ability to connect at a distance will serve her in a surprising way.

Ghost Writer is an unpredictable story with a nice little mystery wrapped around a sense of empathy – a sense that will try to stretch across centuries. I’d have to call this novella the perfect Halloween present: A real indulgence with no calories!