Dark Hunger by Demetrius Sherman


Dark Hunger by Demetrius Sherman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (121 pgs)
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Peter Sunday searches for missing people and the trail leads to corpses. Unknown to the private investigator is that he’s on the deadliest journey of his life. A heart-pounding journey where he must face those that bullets cannot stop.

When people start disappearing and the local police cannot locate them, it is time to call Peter Sunday for help.

Dark Hunger follows Peter Sunday through strange disappearances and strange murders. While the initial plot seems interesting and the characters have some depth; the story is riddled with clichés and lots of heavy narration.

Dark Hunger is a story about a private investigator with a long history of police procedure, yet with the setting in contemporary America with cell phones and internet-it was almost midway through the story before the main character began an internet search on the business in question. Interaction between Peter and interviewees provided some frustration in that the dialogue seemed stilted and forced, some interactions, such as those between Peter and the manager of the News Station were quick snippets that information was withheld and then later flatly revealed with little to no specific dialogue. Grammar issues plagued the story and the flow of the story was also often caught on some of the more severe grammatical issues.

While the dialogue seemed forced, it did not factor very much in the overall story. Most of the story was straight narration, and although this was the case, there was a strong lack of actual description. I found that I was unable to immerse myself in the story no matter how hard I tried. Obvious elements were evident but the characters seemed extremely oblivious, so much that to the point I became frustrated reading the next line.

Overall, I feel the plot could formulate a great story if allowed to unfold correctly. Peter Sunday is seen as a deep character with a lot of flowing backstory while his partner, Tony, seems almost lost. Secondary characters also are poorly developed, again leading Peter to take main stage and focus but detracting from the depth of the story that truly could be.

Although I feel that there are many incomplete elements and many things that can be improved upon, I believe that the foundational plot and resonance of Peter Sunday could have a great focus for future stories. Some strong editing, focused description and dialogue points would make Dark Hunger an insatiable read that I would not want to miss!

Casual Car Cravings by Storm Stone


Casual Car Cravings by Storm Stone
Publisher: Deep Desires Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Englishwoman Jemma James is regretting that her hot fling with Las Vegas bad boy Damon McDermott is about to a halt as a brief business trip approaches. With one day left, Jemma cannot resist her craving to experience Damon’s untamed passions again.

Jemma is blown away by this man; his sensuality and stamina know no bounds. He takes delight in pleasuring her and driving her wild. But even after their passions are spent, their night together is spent bonding, with touches of light humor. She even discovers Damon’s playful side.

Despite how close she feels to Damon, the fact that Jemma is keeping a big secret from him mars their otherwise perfect night together. Yearning to get closer to him, more so now than ever, Jemma knows it’s only a matter of time before Damon finds out about what she’s really doing in Las Vegas.

But it’s not how long she can keep the secret that troubles her. As she lies in Damon’s arms, her real predicament is how much longer can she keep her secret before it ruins her ability to enjoy even the welcome escape of his embrace?

A hot story for a lazy afternoon.

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started this book. I read the blurb, but I didn’t realize it was part of a serial. Had I known there were more books before and after, I might have looked at the book with a different understanding. Still, there is enough heat in this book to sizzle the reader screen.

Jemma and Damon have chemistry. Once they’re together, they ignite. When they’re apart, all they can think about is each other. I liked the idea of these two people on a collision course with each other. There was the makings of a great short story.

But there were some quibbles. The story straddled the line between hot and erotic. Some phrases used made me think it was a hot read, but then other things like the mention of anal sex were added which nudged it toward the erotic side of the spectrum. For readers who want heat, then this might be a tad too hot. If you’re looking for down and dirty erotic, then this might be a tad tame. Another quibble was the writing. While it flowed, there were more than a few typos. I was ripped out of the story trying to figure out what the author meant. This might not be a problem for some readers, but was for me. With a little more polishing, this book could shine. Also, this book is part of a serial. I have nothing against serials, but had I known going in, I might have tried to start with book 1, rather than book 3. I got confused on the storyline and felt more than once that I’d missed something. If you’re considering this book, don’t hesitate to pick it up, but go for book 1 first.

If you want a hot read that’s enough for a lunchtime read, then this might be the book for you. It’s hot, short and the characters sizzle.

Hot For Heather by Caitlyn Lynch


Hot For Heather by Caitlyn Lynch
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (27 pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 2 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Heather is a quiet classical pianist lacking in a social (or sex) life. One day, she’s utterly shocked to find out that the hot delivery guy she accidentally flashed in the hallway is actually her brand new neighbour, Mike, a soldier recently back from deployment. And Mike’s very interested in getting to know the gorgeous girl next door who makes such beautiful music. He’s especially interested in getting know her on top of that piano. And on the piano stool. And anywhere else in her apartment she’s willing to let him…

Holy piano benches, Batman!

This story sizzled. I won’t lie. There were parts of this short story that had me squirming in my seat. The piano… I’ll never look at a baby grand ever again the same way.

There wasn’t much meat to this short story. The author got right to the point right away. I had to keep reading because I had to know how it would end. Of course it didn’t take long, but still. I had to know.

The premise of the story was hot. Sexy military man and the geeky pianist. Good combination. But there were a few quibbles. While this was erotica, some of the terminology ripped me right out of the story. I wanted to buy in, but I couldn’t… not throughout the book. I had a hard time picturing the hero and heroine together because of the nearly foot difference in their height. I had to reread to figure out some of the choreography. One example: the pianist considers herself short, but not small and wonders how the hero can pick her up, yet he tosses her around. I had a hard time picturing what was going on. The other big quibble was how fast the two characters got together. Some readers might not have a problem with the briskness with which they climbed onto the piano. Others might.

That said, the short story has lots of promise. With a little more editing for content and maybe lengthening the story out a bit more, it could really shine.

If you want an erotic short story that will singe your screen, then this might be the book for you.

Whips by Jules Dixon

whips
Whips by Jules Dixon
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (56 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Dune Wexley’s unrelenting efforts to take down a local crook ended his law enforcement career and his father’s life. Dune’s lived in seclusion ever since. A Sunday drive to check on his mysteriously disappearing herd of cattle ends with a guest in his house, one who makes him reconsider isolating his shielded heart. But can this stranger be trusted?

Mason LaFleur answered an ad in the paper that held the promise of becoming a real cowboy on an authentic ranch, but that never happened. Instead Mason was forced to run away from a cruel man, but a miscalculation finds him bouncing off the hood of a truck and into the arms of a genuine cowboy.

When Mason is kidnapped, Dune must decide if getting revenge for his father’s death is more important than saving the man who’s offered up his heart and life to heal the broken cowboy.

When Dune decided to go out for a drive he never expected a man to run out in front of his truck. Mason is running for his life and would rather die than go back to the hell he was trapped in. After answering an ad in the paper his life sure has changed and when a chance came to escape, Mason grabbed it. He will do what he can to live and get away from the evil man that tricked him into this torture. Little does Mason know but the very man that he asks for help from is more than ready to take on Silas. The evil that Silas has done goes way beyond what he has done to Mason and Dune will see it end now. Will the two fight the attraction that is growing between them? Will it hamper or help the two take down Silas?

This story has a great premise. It has a good plot but the story reads more like an outline and did not have much character development, making it a dry read. In the beginning, Dune comes off as arrogant and mean but we start to see another side of him; it was only a start. I would have enjoyed seeing more of the softer side of him. Mason is a scared young man. The two are good for each other and make a nice couple. As the two begin to figure out just where their feelings will take them Dune begins to set things into motion against Silas. It was nice to see the true hero that Dune is.

Mason and Dune’s story moves rather quickly and there are not a lot of details. It would have been nice to add some more substance to the story. It has an interesting plot and good characters that could have been developed into something more. Despite all that, I still found nuggets to enjoy and I liked Dune and Mason.

Touched by Abbey MacMunn

TPUCHED
Touched by Abbey MacMunn
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (206 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

When inquisitive antique dealer Cami Wilson learns she’s the revered offspring of an immortal mother and a mortal father, it’s not just her hybrid status that has her all flustered. The title comes with her very own super-sexy guardian.

Jaded immortal Joseph Carlisle has only one thing on his mind; his sworn duty to protect the hybrid from those who wish her harm. Anything else would be complicated. That is until they meet.

Chemistry sizzles between them but there’s a problem—the hybrid’s curse. Cami’s touch, skin to skin, proves near fatal to her and all immortals, Joseph included.

But the fated lovers discover her curse is the least of their concerns when a friend’s deadly betrayal threatens to tear them apart forever.

I loved the concept of Abbey MacMunn’s story and the opening certainly swept me into the tale. It has a great premise and fast pacing, fitting into a young adult or new adult genre, depending on how much sex is deemed acceptable, as there are full blown sex scenes within the book. The main character has all the seeds for a great fantasy read. A mysterious past, a dangerous faction out to get rid of her, and a handsome man (and his brother) on the sidelines.

All the components to make this book a fantastic read are there. However, it really didn’t work for me. The pacing was far too fast for me to believe the love story and the love scenes lacked real steam because of this. The characters were a little flat because more time was spent on their relationship than the pacing and conflict that should have been surrounding them in the first half. Instead of progressing the main fantasy plot, there was an attempt to further the protagonist’s sexual relationship, making it edgy by placing the ‘event’ in a location other than the bedroom, but this location has become somewhat of a tired trope and didn’t distract me from the lack of plot progression.

In addition, some of the locations in the book were disappointing. There was a stereotypical, traditional, drafty castle and a dungeon. I was hoping for something more. I wanted to know more about the characters the protagonist met, the world that she had become a new member of, and the people that surrounded her. I wanted her to react with more passion against the faction out to get her, to put up a real fight rather than be led through the motions. She becomes a passive character, protected by those around her, and more involved in the romance subplot than the main fantasy plot.

Of course, more ‘traditional’ fantasy tales can be really effective, and I certainly think this book would really appeal to the younger market due to the focus on a whirlwind romance. The fated, guardian angel style of romance and the unusual supernatural element to the protagonist will keep a younger (mature young adult to new adult) audience wondering what will come next. The book introduces a supernatural world I’m sure they’d be eager to get to know, and it would be an excellent gateway book to the wider genre.

Not Enough by Nikole Bloom

NOT
Not Enough by Nikole Bloom
The Enough Series #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (154 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

I am the self-proclaimed queen of abstinence.

After a failed engagement and years of being told I am not enough, I have given up on love. I am content in my life. I have a great job. I have a supportive family I have built over the years. My life is not exciting, but it is the life I have chosen.

That is until I inadvertently walked into Austin Black’s life. Austin is as beautiful as he is endearing and with a single plea for friendship, he pulls me in. He is an All-Pro quarterback and has women falling at his feet, yet he opts for my friendship in hopes it will lead to more.

I refuse to give him what he wants, but as our friendship deepens my resolve begins to weaken. Willing to take whatever I can offer Austin stands by my side seemingly content as friends.

Austin and I find a groove in life that works until the proverbial line is crossed. I quickly realize I have to face my past if I have any hope for a future with the only man to make me dream of one.

Is it possible to date someone without realizing you are in a relationship? Can Austin be the one to melt the fortress around my heart? Will it matter if he does? In my experience, love has never been enough.

Rylee swore she’d never be vulnerable again.

After a disastrous engagement, Rylee vowed never to fall in love again, and for a few years, she managed to keep that promise to herself. Everything changes when Austin moves into the neighborhood. His patience and kindness is unexpected and overwhelming. Suddenly, Rylee finds herself faced with a man who just might have a chance of capturing her heart.

Rylee is a nice woman who is beautiful and very successful. She has no problem hanging out with men, but never moves beyond friendship with any of them. Her reluctance to enter into a romantic relationship is completely understandable given what happened in the past. However, Austin proves from the moment they meet that he is different. He shows Rylee kindness and asks for nothing in return but friendship. They become fast friends and months fly by, though their attraction to each other always simmers under the surface. I feel that Rylee’s hesitance to take things further with Austin is unwarranted after a while. Rylee’s past is devastating, but Austin has proved time after time that he is loyal and completely dedicated to Rylee. He simply wants to be a part of her life in whatever capacity she allows. He has an enormous amount of patience, and I found it frustrating when Rylee continually found ways to distance herself from him. When Rylee and Austin finally take the next step, the sexual chemistry between them is explosive. The sex scenes are well written, but do contain some graphic language that might offend some readers.

Excluding Austin, Rylee’s circle of friends is limited to her brother Jeremy and his best friend Bode. Jeremy and Bode are nice, fun, and totally devoted to Rylee. I think they have potential to be good characters, but as it is they are simply used as muscle and eye candy to frame Rylee, and even that didn’t feel particularly natural or realistic. Consequently, they never moved beyond being types and didn’t truly come to life in my mind.

I must also warn readers that Not Enough ends with a cliffhanger. Toward the end of the story, some strange things happened to Rylee with dangerous consequences for those she cares about. The ending didn’t sit well with me. I would have been okay with an open ended conclusion if at least some of the plot threads had been resolved in satisfying ways, or if I’d been sure that Rylee and Austin would face the danger together. However, that is not the case with this book. When I finished reading, absolutely nothing is certain, not even Rylee and Austin’s budding romance. I can only hope Ms. Bloom has a happier ending for the couple in the next installment.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy watching Rylee and Austin get to know each other. Readers who enjoy muscular heroes and steamy romance might want to give Not Enough a try.

Valley of the Shadow by T.H. Gerety

VALLEY
Valley of the Shadow by T.H. Gerety
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (88 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Avid naturalist, hunter and birder, Mr. Gerety has constructed a tale of two people who meet briefly then are reunited after death in a place and time other than the one they have always known. In this unfamiliar and pristine environment, his characters find each other, leaving behind their years of professional education and training as well as a lifetime of modern urban assumptions to assume lives of hunters, nomads, lovers and parents in a world emptied of all other people.

As Michael and Val are about to learn, surviving is easier than thriving.

The descriptions of the food made my mouth water. They were written so clearly that I could almost taste the simple, delicious meals that the characters made based on what they’d found to eat each day. These scenes were my favourite ones because they made me so hungry at times!

I was quite puzzled by Val and Michael’s reaction to their new surroundings. They both adjusted to it extremely quickly for reasons that I was never able to determine. This is the exact opposite of how I’d expect two ordinary adults to respond to waking up injured in the middle of the wilderness with no supplies and no way to signal for outside help. I would have also really liked to know why they both knew how to do things like knapping flint, tracking prey, curing animal hides, and figuring out which wild plants are safe to eat. These are all uncommon hobbies for the twenty-first century, so it was surprising to have two characters who were both so skilled at all of them.

The dialogue often made me smile. Val and Michael found ways to tease each other over small things. Writing them this way made their romance more relatable because those sections showed me how well these characters work together. It was also a lot of fun to see what kinds of things they’d come up with next to joke about.

Many words and phrases were repeated over and over again in this story. Sometimes several sentences in the same paragraph would all begin with the same word. At times this made it difficult to keep my place while I was reading because it was so easy to lose my place and accidentally return to a paragraph I’d already completed.

One of the things I liked the most about the ending was how well it blended in with everything that had happened before. While I would have preferred more concrete answers to certain questions I had about the characters and what had happened to them, I appreciated the fact that the narrative stayed true to the author’s style. This section repeated the same themes that had been introduced in the beginning, and that’s a good thing.

There was a great deal of telling instead of showing in this tale. The characters faced circumstances that should have brought a lot of tension and anticipation to the plot. It was difficult to immerse myself into those scenes, though, due to how much distance the narrator left between what was happening and how those events were communicated to the reader. It felt like I was hearing a second or third-hand account of these sections instead of imagining them for myself.

This was a huge surprise for me because I was so enamoured with the blurb when I first stumbled across it. I’m a lifelong fan of books set among hunter-gatherers and other groups who live off of the land. The idea of two contemporary characters ending up in this kind of lifestyle made me feel even more excited to give it a try. This is the kind of premise that snags my attention immediately. The idea of trading all of today’s technology and luxuries for a chance to spend the rest of one’s life sleeping under an unpolluted sky is so fascinating.

I’d recommend Valley of the Shadow to anyone who is really interested in stories about living off the land.

A Dose of Romance by Cheryl Norman

DOSE

A Dose of Romance by Cheryl Norman
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (150 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Just weeks before his wedding, a young man finds his soul mate.

Drake Springs Pharmacist Woody Fox and single mom waitress Tiffany Blair have a unique friendship: She’s not in the market for a boyfriend, and he’s off the market. He’s engaged to marry his college sweetheart and pursue a career in her father’s pharmaceutical firm. When friendship turns to romance, Woody must make a difficult decision.

Life as a single mom has enough challenges. Searching for love would only complicate things. So why does falling in love with the most complicated man of all, suddenly seem so easy?

Single mom Tiffany Blair is a waitress at Boyd’s Diner where the locals from the small town of Drake Springs gather. She knows their likes, dislikes, allergies, and coffee orders, as well as she knows her own. She is polite and helpful. She also knows the local happenings, but keeps most things to herself instead of adding to the rumor mill. And Woodrow “Woody” Fox notices it all.

Although engaged to his high school sweetheart, Woody can’t help but be drawn to the beautiful, kind, and caring waitress. Pharmacist by day, and charity deejay when needed, Woody prides himself on helping people. It’s the one thing he’s sure he loves. So when his fiancée refuses to join him in what she calls “Podunk” Springs, Woody finds himself keeping company with Tiffany, knowing neither of them is looking for love.

This book focuses on two people, Tiffany and Woody, and can easily accommodate a few secondary characters to help round out the story. But in the first twenty pages, 40+ named characters are introduced which made it difficult to know who the real players were in the story. I found myself trying to memorize names and occupations not knowing who was important to the storyline and who was not. I felt a bit defeated when, halfway through the book, I realized only six or seven people actually mattered to the story. I also thought it was a bit odd that folks who had lived in this small town their entire lives, like Tiffany and Woody, didn’t seem to know each other. In fact, Woody’s favorite car mechanic—who happens to be the only mechanic in town—is Tiffany’s father. There were also areas that I felt needed more structure and polish, which may have helped to eliminate “telling” portions of the story. For example, from page 49: “Let’s just talk.” She followed him back to his table, where she hopped up and sat on her cute little butt. Had Woody noticed her “cute little butt” rather than the narrator, the scene would have played better.

On the upside, this is an easy read for a peaceful summer day. Anxiety and tension are minimal. The characters are likeable, and the small town has a relaxing and enjoyable feel to it. Overall, the story had a charming quality, which kept me reading to the end.

If you like stress-free family stories, especially ones featuring hardworking, single mothers, A Dose of Romance may be the perfect read.

The Swamps of Jersey by Michael Stephen Daigle

SWAMPS
The Swamps of Jersey by Michael Stephen Daigle
Publisher: Imzadi Publishing, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (238 pgs)
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Ironton, New Jersey has seen hard times before. Deserted factories and empty stores reflect the decades-long decline, that even Mayor Gabriel Richman, scion of one of the city’s leading political families, cannot seem to rectify. Now families are living on the street or in the shells of the old factories.

A week-long tropical storm floods the depressed city bringing more devastation as well as a new misery: The headless, handless body of a young woman in the Old Iron Bog.

Between the gruesome murder and an old factory suspiciously burning down, Detective Frank Nagler begins to believe that incarcerated Charlie Adams, the city’s famous serial killer, may have fostered a copycat killer. Determined to find the truth, he follows the case that leads into unexpected places.

A broken city flooded under a tropical storm has enough to deal with but when a gruesome murder is added to the mix will the city ever be able to recover from a place of financial ruin?

I can’t say this was the most exciting mystery I’ve read, but it was an interesting read that is well written. The author has away of creating scenes with detailed description so the reader has a good enough visual. The book has a interesting concept, but at times lost my interest. In reading the excerpt I thought the book would be more of a mystery about the body found in the local swamp, and the investigation in finding the killer. Frankly this book was more about the politics of the town and its financial decay.

The characters lacked depth and I just couldn’t find myself connecting. Detective Frank Nagler is on the hunt to identify the person responsible for dumping a young woman’s body in the Old Iron Bog. This isn’t a simple case for Detective Nagler because he ends up uncovering a lot of corruption along with having to confront a past relationship.

The story gives great detail, however there are parts where it went overboard. In the first part of the story there are about three or four pages describing the rain, flood and damages to the city of East Ironton. The description was given with such flair I was in awe of the author’s poetic flow in describing such a detail that I could visualize the continuous rain and for a brief moment I could imagine the rhythmic sounds while reading, however it does slow down the story.

Though this was a bit different from the suspense I normally read the conclusion was somewhat surprising. I didn’t suspect the killer so I guess this makes for a successful suspenseful read.

Though I wouldn’t really call this a mystery, the writing was pleasurable. I would recommend to someone that enjoys reading about town politics and cities with corrupt officials.

The Long Road Home: Callie by Maddie James

CALLIe

The Long Road Home: Callie by Maddie James
The Montana McKennas Book 2
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (168 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Leaving her job behind and heading home to Montana for a family emergency is worrisome enough, but when Callie McKenna’s New York future collides head-on with her Montana past, she is faced with making a life-altering decision.

****

Callie McKenna is going home. Her father has suffered a fall from his horse and she is needed back at the ranch. She temporarily leaves New York and her promotion behind to be with her family in Montana, planning only to stay until her father is well again.

But she doesn’t expect the worse, and Callie loses her father. Nor does she expect to rekindle an old relationship with ranch hand, Murphy Reynolds.

Nothing goes according to plan. Callie must face her past, to not only mend some family fences, but to figure out what is happening between her and Murphy. She knows the choices she makes now will shape her future. But will that future be with Murphy and her family on the ranch, or will it be back in New York, where her promotion waits along with that quaint little brownstone she adores?

Callie McKenna had her personal reasons for leaving for college and not returning home, but when she receives a call that her father is in the hospital she immediately returns. Will her visit bring about family resolutions and perhaps rekindled love?

The Long Road Home: Callie is a simple plot with a predictable ending. The story is well written as far as style and editing goes but lacked story depth to me.

The continued love between Callie McKenna and Murphy Reynolds over the years seemed odd.  In the ten years Callie was gone, Murphy never married and neither did she. In fact, it appeared neither was involved in any other romantic relationship, which seems very unlikely. They loved each other that much, but she never came back home–even just to see him–in ten years? Additionally, the author didn’t give many details about her problems back home, just that she didn’t get along with her step-mother and siblings. Callie seemed to be a rational person, and her life on the ranch didn’t see to be so horrible the she had to leave and never look back. Why punish her dad and brother, as well as Murphy, if she loved them so much? There just weren’t enough details to show issues realistic enough for me to believe she’d to stay away for so many years.

Still, it was an okay read and I’m not unhappy I picked it up. It was certainly readable and the author is clearly skilled. The emotional part about Callie losing her father was sad, and how the family gathered during the grieving process was heart felt. The ending was happy and the author showed the importance of family and resolving conflicts. I was glad the family was able to heal and resolve their differences. Also, I liked how the author showed Callie taking a chance and following her heart with her love life.