The Streets of Nottingham by Auckly Simwinga

The Streets of Nottingham by Auckly Simwinga
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (70 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A tragedy will echo through history and force the world into chaos once again…

Eons ago, a betrayal rocked the heavens. Grief overwhelmed the mother of creation, driving her to madness when the god-king banished Caelemon to the underworld. Leading to the sundering of the world which would come to be known as the Breaking. Only a tiny village, located at the edge of the world survived the breaking, and for hundreds of years it remained forgotten. The villagers now pray to the mother seeking her mercy and protection, but she’s as cold and merciless as the black stone statue which she was carved out of. Her supplicants haven’t realized it yet, but they are about to. In the worst possible way.
The Streets of Nottingham by the talented author Auckly Simwinga is a page-turning work of spellbinding fantasy and myth, a magical and fascinating first-person tale narrated by an adventurous and mysterious character only identified by his first name, Adam. It is a story that fans of fantasy will enjoy reading, because Adam goes on a quest that everyone thinks is impossible. There are gods and goddesses, wraiths, and creatures called demauglers, which are sort of like werewolves, but with bones showing here and there, as if they were zombie werewolves with attitudes.
While The Streets of Nottingham by Auckly Simwinga is a work of fiction that deals with tragic topics, it is also filled with joyous moments and hope, and readers will find themselves rooting for Adam, hoping that he succeeds in his noble quest. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, I highly recommend that you check out The Streets of Nottingham today!

Sometimes the most important wisdom in the entire world can be found in scrolls so old that no one remembers precisely when they were written.

One of the things this tale excelled at was exploring the difference between the heroic myths that a society gradually creates about their gods or god-like figures and what those individuals may have really been like in the past. Even the most well-meaning society can create legends about their heroes that give distorted messages about what that person or entity stood for, and this effect only becomes stronger over long periods of time.

I found it difficult to follow the plot because of how little time the narrator spent explaining what was happening in it. This world’s physics, geography, and history were completely different from our own. The limited information that was provided about it was helpful, but I would have loved to have many more details about how it all worked so that I could better imagine what was happening when everything began to fall apart.

The ending was nicely written. It fit the themes that had been explored earlier on in the storyline, and it also gave the characters the closure they needed to move onto the next chapter of their lives. I liked the fact that it left plenty of room for a sequel while also working just as well if this is the only glimpse of this universe that is ever written. It isn’t easy to strike that balance, but Mr. Simwinga did well in this area.

The Streets of Nottingham should be read by anyone who likes the high fantasy genre.

Cushion by Tamela Miles

Cushion by Tamela Miles
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (119 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Natalie Kliebert finally has the perfect life she spent years dreaming of. She’s on the fast track to her fantasy-come-true career as a therapist. If she can help pop star Billy Chambers, it will be her greatest achievement and even sweeter than earning an “A” grade.

The last thing Billy Chambers wants is anyone’s help, especially when he doesn’t see a single thing wrong with his life. When bossy Natalie becomes his court-appointed personal therapist, sparks fly from day one. Annoyance was never so arousing. Hooking up should be easy, but an undercurrent of evil is coming for Natalie, which may force her to reveal her deepest secret.

The problems of their pasts are no match for today’s demons. Natalie and Billy must come together and be the allies they were meant to be in a supernatural fight that may cost them their lives.

This is a unique second-chance story filled with spice and the supernatural. Carin Bell is a writer. Seems normal enough. Then, she gets killed in a fiery car accident, but his is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning. Her love match, Billy Chambers, is a pop star who is in trouble. Billy had made fun of Carin when she was a teenager. Now she’ll get her chance to confront him. She is gifted with a second chance at life, not exactly the typical reincarnation story. She comes back as a different adult with a new identity, not as a baby reborn.

The new Carin, now Natalie, approaches Billy, and the meeting is memorable. How will he react when he sees the new, supernatural woman in his hotel room? Something in him changes, and it is good to see.

After some time he meets her again, but she is his therapist, charged with helping him overcome alcoholism. He makes his hard journey into sobriety. The chemistry between these two is hot, and the romance develops, as one might expect. However, their’s is not the typical love story. There is more to this tale, an underlying sinister presence, seeking to destroy them and others. The tale becomes somewhat of a supernatural thriller. The suspense is created when the characters are scared by their enemy.

During these occurrences, the characters are developed well. Billy shows himself to be thoughtful and considerate. He’s so human, and we see his weaknesses and struggle as well as those of Natalie. Both have personal demons to confront as well as the literal one. Though of battling that one is terrifying. They must go to a bad place and rescue trapped souls. The stakes are very high. They could easily lose themselves and the souls depending on them.

This is a fast-paced story that takes twists and turns to keep up the suspense level. It is well worth the read.

Between Venus and Mars by S.C. Mitchell

Between Venus and Mars by S.C. Mitchell
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi
Length: Short Story (141 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Once Upon a Galaxy . . .

Zana Starchild is on a mission to restore her tribe’s livestock and save herself from one more meal of kelp. Sure, it’s technically illegal to visit Old Earth, but to a rim rat like Zana, galactic laws are really just guidelines. Her wrecked starship just means she’ll need to use her backup plan to get off the abandoned world, an old Earth legend her uncle passed down to her.

Pulled from a relaxing shower, across the galaxy to Old Earth, Galactic Marshall Kyle Kepler finds himself naked and marooned with a quirky rim rat. Zana’s broken more laws than Kyle can count, and he plans to arrest her, just as soon as he can find transport off the planet and a pair of pants.

A junk heap of a starship, a magical tree, and a roving gang of mutant kangaroos are just the beginning of rollicking intergalactic journey filled with laughs, love, and adventure.

This is the kind of Science Fiction I adore!

I’m not a huge hardcore Sci-Fi fan…sometimes the explanations of how things work can get a bit dry, but this story doesn’t bore the reader in any way. More Space Opera than sci-fi, it’s a fun romp through the galaxy. From the moment Kyle is dropped in front of Zana, butt naked and confused, the laughs never stop.

This is my first Soul Mate Tree book and I enjoyed the magic behind the tree bringing together pairs of people who belonged together. Of course, in this book, Kyle isn’t so sure about the whole “belong together” part, at least not at first. After all, Zana is breaking laws, and he’s supposed to be enforcing them.

Zana is a smart-mouthed woman full of sass and determination. I liked her, though I could have used just a tad bit less cussing. It does get a little old after awhile. Kyle was smart, sexy and upright and it was fun to read about how he was able to justify things with Zana after some time.

I did feel a little like a missed some things because I hadn’t read the first books in the series, but not enough to stifle my enjoyment or confuse me in any way. Just enough to know that it would likely have been a richer read for me if I’d been involved in the series from the start.

The author’s writing style is fluid and enjoyable. I really enjoyed his voice and humor. I do love a book I smile through the entire way. Like romance, laughs and a little space opera? I can’t recommend another book more highly than this one to fit the bill.

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Food of the Gods by Em Dehaney

Food of the Gods by Em Dehaney
Publisher: Brave Boy Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (133 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A perfect corpse floats forever in a watery grave.
A gang member takes a terrifying trip to the seaside.
A deserted cross-channel ferry that serves only the finest Slovakian wines.
Gods and monsters.
Mermaids and witches.
Blood and magic.
Love and death.
From the dark and decadent mind of Em Dehaney come eight tales of seafoam secrets and sweet treats.
Nothing is quite what it seems, but everything is delicious.
This is Food Of The Gods.

First impressions don’t always tell the whole story.

Framing “Here Be Monsters” as a conversation between a child and their grandmother about what Earth was like before the monsters arrived and began destroying everything was the perfect way to introduce such a grim future for humanity. Children can understand much more than adults sometimes give them credit for, and the main character of this story was no exception to that rule. They understood the drastic events that nearly caused humans to go extinct incredibly well even if they had no idea what a rainbow was or that people used to be able to grow food in places called gardens. I enjoyed figuring out what daily life must have been like for these characters as I read their conversation and slowly pieced together what must have happened in their not-so-distant past.

“Bellarmine” told the tale of an abusive marriage from the perspectives of Nathaniel and his wife and victim, Elizabeth. They lived at a time in history when there was no social support for women in this situation, so Elizabeth had to figure out how to handle her husband’s violent attacks on her own. As intrigued by I was by her predicament and the clever plot twists, the character development wasn’t strong enough for me to get to know either of them well at all. Nathaniel’s personality was particularly one-dimensional. I strongly disliked him due to all of the awful things he did to his wife, and I certainly wouldn’t expect that to change no matter what his backstory might have been. With that being said, it would have been helpful to have more details about why he behaved so horribly. This was something I noticed play out in a few other stories in this collection as well. While I adored Ms. Dehaney’s writing style overall, the character development issues did lead to me giving her book a lower rating than I would have otherwise chosen.

Mikey’s life changed forever on the day he found a baby shark in “The Mermaid’s Purse.” His childhood was full of neglect and abuse, so I was curious to see how he’d keep such an exotic pet alive despite the fact that he didn’t even have enough food or other necessities for himself. It was truly satisfying to see how hard he worked to keep him and new little friend going no matter what was going on around them. The ending was perfect. It tied together all of the loose ends of the plot nicely, and it also left me wondering what would happen to Mikey next.

Food of the Gods should be read by anyone who is in the mood for deeply creative science fiction.

At First Bite by Caitlin Ricci

At First Bite by Caitlin Ricci
Publisher: eXstasy Books
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (37 pgs)
Other: M/M, Masturbation
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

On his way home from work, Castor, a werewolf, is grabbed by a group of young vampires. Thinking quickly, he tells the vampires that he will only submit to their elder first, which means that they can’t bite him until that elder gives them permission. But Alexi isn’t interested in sharing his new wolf with anyone, and after they realize that they’re mates everything starts going to hell.

Not what I expected and it’s a good thing.

I like the work of Caitlin Ricci. Her books are always interesting and pack a punch. This book was no exception. Instead of the usual, vampires using humans, the vampires run the show. They can bite whom them want, but don’t always kill. I liked how Alexi wasn’t out for vengeance or anything. He was rather reluctant. He’s a solid vampire, don’t get me wrong, but he’s still got a human side. I wish I could’ve been able to see him more, but I did like him.

Castor took a little time to get to know. I liked him because he didn’t back down, but he was so tense. I didn’t get right away why he was tense, but once I did, it made perfect sense.

The two character didn’t seem to be compatible at first. I liked how they had to work themselves out. The ending was a tad abrupt and I would’ve liked more–but that’s because I enjoyed the story. I wanted to see them flesh out the relationship. What made them change their mind?

There isn’t a ton of sex in this novella, so if you’re looking for a stepping stone into paranormal or vampire romance, this might be the one to start with. If you’re looking for a quick book for a lunch hour read, then this is the one you want.

Flirting with Fairies by Peg Pierson

Flirting with Fairies by Peg Pierson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (233 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Literary agent, Nicole McConnelly is in trouble. Her career’s in the toilet, her bank account overdrawn, and she’s a wanted, fugitive fairy, from the Realm of Imagination, with a price on her head and a ruthless bounty hunter, who happens to be Satan’s brother, on her heels.

Lonely young writer, Kaleb Whalen, lives in a rundown apartment with his pet cockroach and dreams of becoming a best-selling author. But after a run-in with a Boston city bus, he may have lost any chance of a future at all.

When both agent, and author, magically appear center-page in Kaleb’s jungle adventure novel, Nicole finds herself faced with something more terrifying than her long-time nemesis…the possibility of something she has artfully avoided for three centuries. True Love.

This is the other side of the printed word where books come alive in the Realm of Imagination. The combination of author and agent are dumped into the Realm where they meet the author’s characters. The consequences are hilarious and bring the story to life with a jungle man complete with ape, a cannibal and of course the ditzy heroine.

I loved how the author didn’t stop at the characters’ written lives, Ms Pierson also brought in other characters such as a vampire, bounty hunter and a dead sister. When mixed together this made for a book reminiscent of a comic strip but with more depth.

All the characters are larger than life and intertwine with each other to great effect. Just when it seems things have worked out well for everyone, another event happened to stir the plot up again. Good book but not if you want something deep and meaningful; this one is for laughing and enjoying.

Totem Poles by Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker

Totem Poles by Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The saucer aliens are here. They’re healing the planet. They’ve got to be stopped.

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Are these aliens truly friendly, or is there a darker purpose to all of the kind things they’re doing for humanity?

Mr. Sterling and Mr. Rucker are both talented writers. They have writing styles that are simultaneously poetic and conversational. There were several times when I needed to stop, chuckle, and reread a sentence not because I didn’t understand it the first time but because I wanted the pleasure of reading it again.

I would have liked to see this story go into far more detail about why Kalinin, one of the main characters, was so certain that the aliens were cleaning up the pollution on Earth for nefarious purposes. He leapt to that conclusion without having any evidence to support it. As much as I enjoyed the rest of the plot, it didn’t make sense to me to be this paranoid about cleaning up the environment when the aliens had given the humans absolutely no reason to assume that they meant harm to anyone.

The paranormal elements of the plot weren’t something I was expecting to find at all. Ghosts and flying saucers aren’t generally included in the same storyline in this genre from what I’ve observed, but I was pleased with how the authors combined those two ideas. It ended up making perfect sense for them to coexist in this particular universe because of how much effort was put into showing all of the ways they intersected.

It was confusing to switch between the perspectives of so many different characters due to how short this story was in general. I was never able to get to know any of them well. As soon as I began to form an impression of their personalities, a different narrator would take over in the next scene and I’d have to readjust to other characters all over again.

The final scene tied up all of the loose ends of the plot nicely. While it was something I saw coming in advance, it was still interesting to see if my predictions would turn out to be correct and how the characters would react to what their futures held. I was quite satisfied with the ending when it was all said and done.

If the thought of an alien invasion fills you with a quiet sense of foreboding, Totem Poles may be right up your alley.

Can’t Stop the Music by C.D. Hersh

Can’t Stop the Music by C.D. Hersh
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (154 Pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Jammed highways, food shortages, and rainstorms can’t stop the music when hippies Rose and Dakota hear the melody of love at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. Or can it? When a jealous wannabe girlfriend and misunderstandings drive them apart, the couple loses track of one another in the massive crowd. Will they find each other again, or live lives of missed opportunities?

This is a sweet second chance love story featuring two people, Rose and Dakota, as they meet too briefly at Woodstock. They each feel a connection, but circumstances prevented them from acting on that connection.

Fast forward several years and fate has once again stepped in to throw Rosemary and Anthony together. They each realize the connection is still there, but there are now other circumstances that try to get in the way.

The first part of the book features their time at Woodstock and the author does a wonderful job making you feel as if you were there. I could almost feel the rain and the mud, smell the pot, and hear the music. It was indeed a once in a lifetime experience.

All of the characters, even the secondary ones, were very well drawn. The author did a great job at showing both side of the “free love” issue from the sixties.

This was a quick and enjoyable read–I was surprised when I got to the end of it. I literally could not put it down once I started reading it. Kudos to the author.

Into a Distant Light by Mary Patterson Thornburg

Into a Distant Light by Mary Patterson Thornburg
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short story (6700 words)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

When Lizzie and Robert married, she thought he’d had enough of adventure to last a lifetime. After all, his voyage above the Arctic Circle had been a near-fatal disaster, and he never talked about it at all. He’d never even written about it, except in a long letter to his sister. But someone, somehow, had found out. And now, given another chance, he couldn’t resist that call.
When he came back, of course, she would share in his fame, glory, and wealth. But what would happen to her if he didn’t come back?

Does anyone ever wonder what really happened to Frankenstein’s monster? The story goes that he went off into the distance to die. However, Mary Patterson Thornburg has a different story to tell, one from those who knew him or his “father” the doctor.

Packed into this short tale is quite a bit of story. Set in England during the Regency, we get an inside view of the doctor, and his creation, mostly from the point-of-view of an English explorer to the far north. This explorer, Robert Walton, rescued the doctor in the icy wilderness then heard a good tale of his own. He wrote to his sister with some interesting observations.

Robert comes home but then leaves again, returning to the North Pole, and this time, things won’t go so well for him. He finds himself in a dire situation, and the “monster” approaches him. From here, we get his side of the story.

The tone of this writing gives the feel of the era without being too much. It is a quick-paced account, and the years fly by within a few pages. However, not a lot happens until half-way through. I found myself wishing more of the main action was mixed in with the mundane details. Character development is good for such a short rendition. We get to know the characters with a few well-chosen words, and come to understand them.

The story may be short, but it was worth peeking into the life of a legend and hearing a new account of what “really” happened.

How To Lose An Alien in 10 Days by Fiona Roarke

How To Lose An Alien in 10 Days by Fiona Roarke
Alienn, Arkansas 2

Publisher: Nickel Road Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (698 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Alexandria Latham Borne is supposed to marry into one of Alpha-Prime’s most prestigious families. Her unwanted future fiancé has wealth, breeding, social status … and that’s about it. She is less than wowed during their luxury get-to-know-you journey to Earth. Once the spaceship docks in Alienn, Arkansas, Ria jumps at the chance to jump ship and explore the colony of extraterrestrials hiding in plain sight. Cam Grey takes his job as chief of security at the galactic way station and the Big Bang Truck Stop operated by his family very seriously, but even he needs a break. No one suspects the by-the-book enforcer’s secret refuge is the karaoke bar just over the county line from Alienn, Arkansas. It starts out as just another night of uncomplicated amusement. But no one is more surprised than the jaded Alpha when the gorgeous woman with blue-streaked hair sings her way into his bed — and his heart. When he learns his sexy karaoke singer has defied colony rules, putting them all at risk of discovery by the unsuspecting earthlings, he knows his duty. What he should do is lock her in the brig. What he does do is ignore all the rules he’s spent his career upholding. Cam’s also been burned by love before, but his mischievous Ria is a rule-breaker he can’t resist. Is she a heartbreaker, too?

Alienn, Arkansas is an alien base hiding in plain sight. Cam and his family, including many, many brothers, run the Big Bang Truck Stop, but below is a way station for alien spacecraft. Now there is a passenger missing from a luxury liner and it’s Cam’s job to find her. He has a problem because he’s just found the love of his life and doesn’t want to leave her to some spoil​ed​ space brat.

This book has comical overtones, with the brothers sparking off one another, and Ria – the love interest – having a secret of her own. I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their antics and wondering how they ​could ​get round the problems that ar​o​se from being an alien on earth. To top up his problems his Aunt Dixie and her friend go missing and he’s tempted to walk away from his responsibilities and spend time with Ria instead of doing his job.

A really good book with love, humor and a very enjoyable plot to hold everything together.