Dawning of Darkness: The Fall of Gods and Kings by James G. Robertson

Dawning of Darkness: The Fall of Gods and Kings by James G. Robertson
Publisher: Self-Published / Next Life Publishing LLC
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Systems fall, planets die—darkness dawns on us all. When a god known simply as the Dark Creator enters our universe, the concord of the world inhabited by the spirits of men and their kings, the gods’ chosen few, fades. As this being and his overwhelming force of corrupted horrors and children eclipse Afterworld and its territories, the kingdoms of men must put aside their differences and band together.

After millennia of fighting, the final blockade separating man from those sinister entities has collapsed. With so much at stake, and with the Dark Creator approaching the Divine Mountains, will our protectors’ sacrifices ensure Afterworld’s survival? Or will this encroaching darkness consume it all?

Resistance is essential if good is to prevail.

Without giving away too many details, this was no ordinary war. Not only had it lasted for thousands of years, there were plenty of other magical things going on with it that made me smile. It was cool to see just how many fantasy tropes and mythical creatures the author was able to include in the storyline in ways that made sense. I wish I could gush about them all in more detail, but it’s best if other readers are pleasantly surprised just like I was.

I found the large cast of characters confusing. There wasn’t a lot of space in this novella to get to know the characters deeply, especially the ones who played supportive roles, so I didn’t have enough details about many of them to quickly recall who they were and how they were connected to everyone else.

The descriptions of the settings were well done. I appreciated the time the author took to explain the landscape, how it affected how people lived in that area, and how it may have changed since previous scenes. All of that attention to detail made it easy to imagine where the characters were and why they were so surprised by certain developments.

Dawning of Darkness: The Fall of Gods and Kings was an exciting ride.

The Don’ts of Zombie Hunting by Ashlynn Monroe

The Don’ts of Zombie Hunting by Ashlynn Monroe
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Coralee Bradley is the only veterinarian in the small town of Davis, Wisconsin. Everything about Davis is tranquil, except for one thing — zombies. Coralee finds herself battling for her life against the same people she called neighbors seventy-two hours earlier.

Injured, Sergeant Jordan Parks seeks refuge with an angelic redhead. When she becomes a threat to their safety there’s only one thing he can do — make love to her. One night of end-of-the-world passion will never be enough — if they survive.

Emily Bradley saved her sister’s skinny ass from zombies. She survived when almost everyone she knows is dead. Now Jordan, her sister Coralee’s apocalyptic squeeze, has led them into a situation filled with chaos and death at Fort McCoy. It’s time for Plan B, and Yankee and Thad are just what the doctor ordered.

Emily and Cora have lost their home, watched friends die, and found love. Still, they are unprepared for the decision that will change everything. Inside of them burns the salvation of humanity, if they can stay alive long enough to realize the cure.

Everyone dies, but not everyone really lives.

The end of the world as we know it doesn’t have to mean physical contact and romance are off the table, too.

Because all three of the stories included here featured the same main characters, were set in consecutive order, and were so closely connected to each other that teasing them apart would be difficult, I’m going to review them as a group.

The zombies made me shudder. This was one of those universes where things quickly spiral out of control and the characters don’t have much information about why people are coming back from the dead or how this disease began. That kept the tension levels high, and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how everything turned out.

It would have been helpful to have a better balance between the erotic and horror elements of the storyline. There were multiple occasions where characters shared intimate moments under incredibly dangerous circumstances. It was difficult for me as a reader to understand why they kept taking those risks over and over again when they were otherwise pretty levelheaded when it came to dealing with zombies and figuring out the best way to stay one step ahead of these monsters.

The ending made me smile. I was wondering how the tension between these two genres would be resolved since horror tales often don’t end on a happy note while erotic ones almost always do. Without giving away spoilers, I thought the author did a good job of balancing the audience’s expectations in the final scene and wrapping everything up satisfactorily.

The Don’ts of Zombie Hunting was a wild ride.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber
Publisher: Forge Books
Genre: Contemporary, Light Paranormal, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

Two women, lots of misunderstanding and hurt, plus pie.

I picked this book up because it was recommended to me. I’m glad I read it, as it was something out of my normal wheelhouse. The book moved along fine, and the writing was good. It’s a family saga, women’s fiction type of book and it was good.

I have a few niggles with the book, though. There are a lot of characters and at times, it was hard to keep track of them. Natalie and Anna Kate are good characters, but the cast around them is almost too much. I get that this is a homey feel type of book, but there could’ve been more depth to the characters to make them stand apart better. Also, I got confused as to whether this was a paranormal book or straight realism. The cat was a fascinating character, but it seemed like the thread was left loose. There are the starts of romances in the book, but nothing really seemed wrapped up.

I do have to say this did read well like a family saga and a slice of life story. I did feel like I was there with Anna Kate and Natalie. I think some of the dimensions of their characters could’ve been explored more, but they were relatable and that worked. I liked how it was like reading about friends.

If you’re looking for a book that’s warm, cozy, takes a while to develop and will make you want to eat pie, then this is the book for you. Check it out.

Around We Go by Sarah Caldwell

Around We Go by Sarah Caldwell
The Loveseat Series, Book 1
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Erotic Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

An elegant dress, a paid-for hotel room, and a night out with my boyfriend? What could possibly go wrong?

Around We Go tells the story of Allie, a journalist desperately in need of a good night out. Uninspired at her job and yearning for adventure, she attends the opening of the hotel that her boyfriend helped develop. Perhaps this event will provide just what she needs to rekindle her flame, and maybe even light a new one…

Fast and hot.

I picked up this book because I wanted something quick for a lunch read and this delivered. It moves at a great clip and the characters were interesting. I’ve never read anything by Sarah Caldwell and I’m glad I did.

I liked that Allie came into her own in this story. It’s refreshing to see a woman blossom this way and to realize what she deserves. The empowerment is great. I liked that she’s relatable, too. I had some issues with the way things played out, as it was almost too fast and would like to see where this goes after this book.

Still, it’s hot, fast and will singe the screen as you read. Give this short story a try!

Love’s Anchor by Mimi B. Rose

Love’s Anchor by Mimi B. Rose
The Laurentian Mountain Clan
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

She’s caught between two clans. One says she’s their property, the other she’s the Fated Mate of the Alpha’s son.

After hiding from shifters all her life, Mirabelle Beauchamp finds herself caught in a deadly rivalry between two clans. When sexy Alpha’s son Maxime Ducharme helps her fend off a shifter attack, she’s thrown into the world her mother shielded her from. Maxime’s rivals return, claiming Mirabelle is one of them, but she knows she belongs to Maxime and Maxime belongs to her.

They’ll both have to fight for what they want. For the freedom to choose—and to love.

Hot, fast and shifter fun!

I’ve never read anything by Mimi B Rose and I’m glad I rectified that. This was a hot read and fast, but it moved along at a good clip. I liked the writing style and will check out more of the author’s work.

Mirabelle and Maxime are a good pairing, even if they’re from rival clans. I liked the way they had to work together and figure things out, while fighting off temptation and rivals. This story moved fast, but I liked the insta-love portion. It worked for the story.

There were a few loose ends I wanted to see tied up, but that only whet my appetite for the next book. I see this is a prequel, so I’m excited to find the rest.

If you want something hot and fast, then this might be the right story for you.

Greek Style by Stephanie Burke

Greek Style by Stephanie Burke
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

All May wanted was to take pictures of poppies in the mountains of Greece. She didn’t know she was breaking a taboo and stealing male energy.

But when a satyr and a faun demand she gives back what she has inadvertently taken, the term Get Your Goat suddenly takes on a new and deliciously naughty meaning.

Hot, quick and sinful.

I love the work of Stephanie Burke. The author takes the story to places I would’ve ever expected or fathomed, and it works so well. The writing flowed along well, and I felt like I was there with the characters. I needed to know more.

May, her faun and her satyr are a good triad. I liked how things got hot FAST. This short story is intended to be scorching and it delivered. I liked that the story moved so quickly and there wasn’t much time to catch a breath—especially not for May!

If you’re interested in a hot, FAST, paranormal short story that will scorch your lunch time, then this is it!

Unkinked by MC Roth

Unkinked by MC Roth
It’s a Kink Thing series, book 2
Publisher: Pride Publishing, Totally Entwined
Genre: LGBTQ, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Two broken men. One secret addiction. No turning back.

When Derreck stumbles upon Maddy, who is sitting in his car and nearly sweating to death under the summer’s sun, he is at his breaking point.

But Maddy is just as lost, searching for a Dom he only knows by name and waiting in his car outside the club Unkinked on the tiny chance that the Dom might find him. When it is revealed that Derreck is the man Maddy has been searching for from the very beginning, it seems fate couldn’t get any sweeter.

Derreck invites Maddy into Unkinked as his guest, with the promise of the pain that Maddy so desperately craves. A scene that should have been simple opens Maddy’s mind to a new world and community that aren’t riddled with guilt or judgment.
Derreck knows he can’t let his sub slip away, but Maddy is keeping secrets from his new Dom—secrets that could change their relationship forever.

Tenderness that’s not always visible in some kink books.

I’ve read the others in this series and this one is my favorite so far. The buildup is great and the characters even better. MC Roth writes kink well and this book showcases that. I couldn’t get through this story fast enough.

Derreck understands Maddy in a way that few others do, and I liked the way they meshed. Maddy needs pain in his play and Derreck can give it in the way Maddy needs but also with respect. I liked that these two are hurt but find a way to work together to heal each other. The story gave me hope and I liked that.

The story took a while to unfold, but it was worth the wait.

If you’re looking for something hot and totally worth getting invested in, then this is the one for you. Check it out.

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The chilling discovery of a downed World War II plane with a body inside leads Ruth and DCI Nelson to uncover a wealthy family’s secrets in this Ruth Galloway mystery.

It’s a blazing hot summer in Norfolk when a construction crew unearths a downed American fighter plane from World War II with a body inside. Forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway determines that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat long presumed dead—news that seems to frighten his descendants. Events are further complicated by a TV company that wants to make a film about Norfolk’s deserted air force bases, the so-called ghost fields, which the Blackstocks have converted into a pig farm. As production begins, Ruth notices a mysterious man loitering at Fred Blackstock’s memorial service. Then human bones are found on the family’s pig farm and the weather quickly turns. Can the team outrace a looming flood to find the killer?

When a large field – previously used by planes in World War 2 – is dug up in preparation for a bunch of new apartments to be built an American WW2 aircraft is found, with a dead pilot inside. Nelson calls in Ruth to examine the site and the body and to see if this is a purely historical site or if something more sinister is going on. What secrets is the ghost field harboring?

I have been enjoying this series and really feel the author and characters are beginning to come into a strong place. Ruth and Nelson still have a lot of stuff to work out, but they’re finding a balance between Nelson’s wife and other children and where Ruth and Kate fit in amongst all that, and Ruth in particular to my mind seems to be hitting her stride when it comes to being both a mother and her career in archaeology. There are still ups and downs and plenty going on – but I really enjoyed this book and the feel that things were starting to get a rhythm and hit their stride.

I also really enjoyed how the author did a commendable job in my opinion on balancing the past and the present. There were no flashbacks (which I tend to find jarring and annoying more often than not) but the story clearly wove between what happened in the second world war and how it was relevant and still guiding the families and characters in the present day. Throw in a tv show, plenty of housing development money and ordinary greed/secrets into the various motives and this was a really strongly plotted and interesting murder mystery.

The plot is very well contained to just this story. Many of the secondary characters have quite a bit of history and while I don’t feel this weighs the book down or would be too annoying for readers who come to this story fresh, I really do feel that at least some of the previous books should have been read for the full enjoyment to be experienced. This is a great series so I feel it would be worthwhile to go and start at the beginning but admit this book totally can be picked up and enjoyed by itself.

Strongly plotted with interesting characters this book is an excellent blend of archaeology and present-day murder mystery and I really enjoyed it.

Let It Simmer by Margot Johnson

Let It Simmer by Margot Johnson
Merilee Tours, Book 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A sensible, mature widow like Susan doesn’t belong on a tour bus seated next to her high school crush. Thirty years later, Phil is as charming and handsome as ever, but she doesn’t need a new partner, especially not a love-’em-and-leave-’em guy.

Happily single, Phil tags along to celebrate his matchmaking mom’s eightieth birthday. She’s embarrassingly persistent, but maybe she’s right he should, finally, settle down with the right woman.

Susan only wants a little family time with her two cousins and a scenic vacation to Northern Saskatchewan…so why does she feel like a fluttery teenage girl? Can Phil spark even more excitement than games, scenery, and wildlife?

Everyone deserves a second chance at love.

The thought of going on a tour bus vacation with dozens of strangers, some of whom seemed quite talkative and gregarious, overwhelms me a little bit as an introvert. I wasn’t expecting the author to acknowledge how someone who needs quiet time alone to recharge their social battery might respond to such an environment, so it was a thrill to see that pop up later on in the timeline. The fact that Ms. Johnson thinks to include little details like this in her work to flesh out her characters is one of the many reasons why I’m always excited to see what she’s come up with next.

Much of the conflict stemmed from miscommunications between various characters, especially the two protagonists. This was such a repetitive issue that it became distracting at times for me as a reader. It was hard to understand why they kept making assumptions about each other instead of speaking openly about their feelings and sorting out what everyone actually meant to say. I’m saying this as someone who has truly enjoyed getting to know the characters in this universe so far and would have eagerly given this story a higher rating if other reasons for conflict were included.

With that being said, I adored the slow and thoughtful trajectory of the budding romance. Susan and Phil both had logical reasons to be wary of diving back into the dating pool. When combined with the fact that they already knew each other, they both needed the chance to reflect on how they felt about each other and decide if this was something they actually wanted to pursue. It was nice to see them getting that opportunity, and I hope to hear more about their lives if any sequels are written.

This is the third instalment in the Merilee Tours series. It can easily be understood as a standalone work, but there were several fun references to the first two books included for long-term fans as well.

Let It Simmer was a heartwarming read.

The Coat by Séverine Vidal

The Coat by Séverine Vidal
Publisher: Flyaway Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ah, the coat. So warm, so beautiful, so red. It’s all Elise has really wanted, and she’s been waiting forever. When will the coat be hers?

Then, a chance encounter changes everything, revealing that the pleasure that comes from belongings (even the perfect ones!) is no match for the joy of helping others.

At turns lighthearted and poignant, The Coat offers a glimpse at the hardships confronting those who are experiencing homelessness, inspiring us to treat them with compassion and respect.

Kindness is essential.

Elise was adorable. She was so excited to someday be old enough to wear her sister’s old red coat. I enjoy reading stories about characters who are thrifty and pass down items from one family member to another as their children grow. It was delightful to see how excited Elise was for her hand-me-down coat, and I hoped it would be everything she wanted it to be.

This picture book presented a problem but then veered away to a different subject when the time came for Elise to start thinking of different ways to solve the issue of the little girl she saw who didn’t have a coat. I was surprised and confused by this turn of events. It didn’t match the tone of the earlier scenes and was the reason for my choosing the rating I did.

With that being said, I did appreciate the message in this tale about caring for others and doing what one can to help them without any expectation of being rewarded. That’s the sort of lesson that can appeal to readers of all ages, especially when it’s promoted in such a heartwarming way. I will be keeping an eye out for what the author comes up with next.

The Coat was an interesting read.