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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Win during our 5th Anniversary Party!

We're celebrating our 5th Anniversary with a huge party -- where you can win $100 Amazon GC, $50 Amazon GC, and hundreds of smaller prizes:  books, $5 Amazon GCs and more!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Miss Locks by Eric Arvin

Miss Locks by Eric Arvin
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (6 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Miss Virginia Locks has a date tonight, but something is wrong. She finds herself standing outside her home without any knowledge of how she got there. But what waits for her once she is back inside, a crawling, gasping thing, is even more unsettling.

Imagine you’re home alone after dark and hear an unfamiliar noise coming from the next room. How would you react?

One of my favorite types of science fiction is horror stories that are bone-chillingly frightening without the use of blood or gore. It can be difficult to accomplish this but Mr. Arvin clearly understands that sometimes the scariest thing in the world is imagining what’s lurking around the corner.

I sympathized with Virginia Locks from the first paragraph. Her racing thoughts feed into the tension and fear of this piece beautifully and while at times I wondered why she didn’t think through her reactions to certain events more rationally it’s easy to panic when something you don’t understand happens.

It would have been nice, though, to have a female protagonist who doesn’t overreact in this situation. This trope is used quite a bit in the science fiction and horror genres and as much as I enjoyed the plot and Virginia as an individual I kept hoping she’d calm down and think about the decisions she was making instead of stumbling from one reaction to the next.

Unfortunately the ending felt abrupt to me and it didn’t seem to match the tone of previous events. It wasn’t what I had expected to happen and I was a bit disappointed by how little foreshadowing had been included earlier in the tale. The beginning and ending could have been used in any number of other stories and while they were both well done there didn’t seem to be a good reason for them to be linked to one another.

Looking for a good scare? Miss Locks nearly made my heart thump out of my chest and even though I would have preferred a better bridge to the final scene this is still one of the most terrifying stories I’ve read in 2012.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wizards, Woods, and God: Tales of Integration F.T. McKinstry

Wizards, Woods, and God: Tales of Integration F.T. McKinstry
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (122 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In worlds where the veils are thin, the forces of darkness and light blur to twilight gray. Eight tales of magical gardens, lost temples, cosmic alignments, immortal predators, shapeshifters, wizards and gods will transport you to realms where the rules are different, nothing is as it seems and the heart keeps the balance of ages. Told on a rich tapestry of tree and animal lore, romance, dreams, visions and verse.

Let’s take a walk in the woods. When you come back out, you won’t be the same person you were when you went in.

This book contains eight short stories about the wild side, a world full of magical and mythical beings, and the odd creatures that live in the dark shady places. All the stories are interesting and fun to read. This author gives his stories depth and gave this reader the feeling I was actually in that time and place. I had two that really appealed to me.

The Trouble with Tansy is the first. If you’ve ever grown a garden in the northwest, you have to watch for tansy. It will take over your garden space and is impossible to kill easily. You have to dig it out. This tale is about a young witch caring for her garden and a wizard’s apprentice who wants her. He starts by taking half a rose bush, then plants tansy in her garden plot, and then he changes the weather to kill ALL her plants. She goes to visit the Old One to get help. The girl just wants to be left alone. The Wizard’s apprentice is a bit full of himself and determined to get what he wants. The ending is quite ironic.

My other favorite is Eating Crow. It’s about a shapeshifter and has lots of action and an interesting ending.

I like reading short tales. A writer must be more precise and able to express himself in few words if he wants to get his point across. All these stories were well-done. I also enjoy the bit of fantasy.

Shapeshifters, gods, witches and more live in these pages. Are you brave enough to wander through the woods with them?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Space Rebels by Ellie Potts

Space Rebels by Ellie Potts
Publisher: No Boundaries Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (160 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

In the future the Earth is in the midst of a civil war against the rich and the poor. People have escaped off to the Moon or the new colonies on Mars to get away from the fighting. On a cargo ship a group of misfits are trying to stay away from the war, but soon they are thrown back into it whether they like it or not.

Corey and Matt have struck out on their own in the space ship Marigold (love the name) and gathered around them several other unusual or some would say oddball characters. There's a pilot from the moon, detectable by his burgundy eyes, a chubby chef married to a research scientist - also from the moon; a sharpshooter and a young boy who is an engineering genius. Corey is a computer genius while Matt is the Captain but while she knows all about Matt's past, Corey keeps her personal history hidden.

The Marigold and her crew are on the side of the rebels who are at war with the GO (Galactic Order) of Earth. Their task is made harder by Captain Trefold of the Mars Patrol who is out to arrest them for any accusation he can make stick. Things get more complicated when Corey's past catches up with her and someone in the crew becomes a traitor.

The characters in Space Rebels welcomed me into their world until I felt I was actually there with them, traveling through space, and trying to help them overcome their problems. Matt and Corey were a typical couple who could have had more than a close working friendship, but both were too scared to take the next step. The other crew members were unique but warm, loving characters. I really liked the ship's name Marigold. Unpretentious, but a name which gave the vessel a personality.

This is a great book with well defined worlds and politics whose characters fit perfectly into the story. It's obvious I enjoyed reading Space Rebels and although the book ended on a high, I really hope the author will write a sequel. Well done Ms Potts, lovely book.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Silly Millimeter by Steve Bellinger

A Silly Millimeter by Steve Bellinger
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (5 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewer: Astilbe

There is a very small problem with Hank and Mindy's house. And if they don't fix it in a week, they'll pay a hefty fine and the house will be leveled! Yes, you can fight City Hall, you just can't win. Even over the smallest infraction.

Every society needs to enforce certain rules in order to survive. As Hank and Mindy are about to discover, though, too many petty regulations can turn bureaucracy into a four-letter word.

This couple’s frustration with the strict by-laws in their city grows more inflamed by the minute. This piece was so short that the reader doesn’t really get a chance to see the conflict build up slowly. The quick escalation does work in Mr. Bellinger’s favor as I soon found myself growing angry about all of the hoops these characters had to jump through.

One of the best scenes involves a secondary character who makes an unexpected adjustment to their surroundings. This change is foreshadowed early on and seeing it come to fruition injects some humour into an otherwise quite serious plot. I don’t know if the author has any plans to write about this character in the future but I can definitely see how they could be further developed in one or more additional stories about this universe.

My only criticism is that the ending seemed rushed. At first I didn’t quite understand what was happening and needed to reread it before everything made sense. The solution the main characters came up with was something I figured out early on but it did make sense in the context of the story.

A Silly Millimeter is an unexpectedly funny tale about the importance of obeying the law. I’d recommend it to anyone who has ever wished they could pick and choose from among only some of the crazy rules that govern our lives.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Palindrome by Lawrence Kelter

Palindrome by Lawrence Kelter
Publisher: F Street Books
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

It’s a hot summer night on Long Island. The Suds Shack is packed—lots of kids partying at a bar. Among the crowd is a girl, who is different from anyone else.

A guy on the prowl—plop goes the pill into her drink. Her world spins out of control.

He thought he had her, now he’s dead, and she’s coming for his accomplice. The poor sap picked the wrong girl to mess with.

She can look like you or me, or anyone else she choses to become. Lexa and her brother, Ax are siblings with that little something extra, an extraordinary gift.

In Book One they find themselves entangled in a web of murder, drugs, and manipulation

Shapeshifters extraordinaire. These words describe this book exactly. Twins Lexa and Axel are unique. They can shapeshift but only into other humans.

Axel is the protector and creative male, Lexa the feisty, intelligent female. On an evening out with her best friend Lexa is drugged and taken captive. She wakes to find Axel in her shape, ready to take revenge. If they'd known the trouble their payback would cause they probably wouldn't have taken things so far.

Their problems begin when Lexa has trouble returning to her normal shape, then an unsavory character tries to blackmail her. To add to her troubles she and Axel have argued and he seems to have disappeared.

A good book with strong characters but a little confusing at times. The pace is steady but the number of different points of view made me keep flicking back to see who was who. On the whole I enjoyed the book, but would have preferred everything to be told by Lexa as she is a very strong character with a definite outlook on life.

I was aware there was a difference to this sort of shapeshifter, but the ending came as a surprise to me and left things open for a sequel. I won't spoil things by sharing, but if you love shapeshifter stories, I would definitely recommend you try this one as the entertainment increased the deeper I got into the book.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

July Book of the Month Poll Winner: Remember Me by FJ Bergmann

Remember Me by F.J. Bergmann
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Scifi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (13 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What the bottle from Aldebaran held was not wine, but the memories of his lost love.

Broken-hearted and alone, a retired Shakespearean actor sifts through the possessions of his dead love in a desperate attempt to keep his dreams of her alive. The discovery of a strange bottle containing the liquescent record of another human being—memories, feelings, experiences—gives Boris hope that another such bottle exists; one that contains the distilled essence of his lost AnnĂ©e. A desperate quest to posses her last thoughts will wrench him away from everything he has ever known to an alien world beyond the stars, where the human soul can be bottled, stored—and savored.

Read the full review here!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mythical by C.E. Martin

Mythical by C.E. Martin
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length Full Length (181 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Teens Josie Winters and Jimmy Kane are drawn into a world of monsters and magic they never knew existed when they find a super soldier left for dead in the desert.

Returning to life, with partial amnesia, Colonel Mark Kenslir eventually remembers his last mission: stop a shapeshifter on the loose in America. It can take the form, memories and even the powers of anyone- by ripping out and consuming their heart. Kenslir and his squad were sent to stop the shapeshifter, but were all killed when it unexpectedly assumed the form of a dragon.

Unarmed, with no support and not sure who to trust, Kenslir sets out with the teens to stop the shapeshifter’s killing spree.

Five motorbike riders zoom across the desert and find a burnt out boat. With the boat is a scorched and broken corpse. A sudden storm sends the riders back to their camp, leaving the corpse and boat as they found it.

The corpse is soaked by the rain and gradually his wounds fill with stone which then becomes flesh. Once he is fully restored the stone man, now human in appearance, crosses the desert and finds the bikers camp. Josie and Jimmy, two of the bikers, join forces with him and help him regain his memory and fend off his enemies, despite the danger to themselves.

Definitely a science fiction book with a unique premise. Stone men, ordinary humans and a shape shifter all combine to make a good story. Josie and Jimmy, the two main humans, are typical teenagers. He's fascinated by Josie, she considers him a friend. The stone man is able to reconstitute himself when hit by bullets or knives and even after major attacks on his body. He is both an unusual and well developed character.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. At first slow going, I found it difficult to keep my interest, but I persevered and was glad I did. The more I read the more I got hooked. The excitement builds gradually until it comes to a stupendous climax. It's certainly worth pushing through to the end as the last few chapters make the slow beginning worthwhile. The end brings the story to a finale, but still leaves hooks to bring the reader back for the sequel. Well done C.E. Martin, a book with a good story and well edited.