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Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Book of the Month Poll Winner - Yield by Bryan K Johnson



Yield: Book One of the Armageddia Series by Bryan K Johnson
Publisher: Bedside Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (432 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe




Still battling the alcoholism that got him fired, ex-fire chief Devin Bane rises above the thick clouds for an interview in Seattle and the promise of a better life.

Packing up his carry-on items for their descent into the city, Devin is blinded by a distant flash, followed by the screams and chaos of a crash landing.

Outside the plane's wreckage, a new horror surrounds him. Seattle's iconic skyline is gone.

Searching for answers as he flees through the ruins, Devin and a handful of survivors are surrounded by the most primitive side of human nature. Plunged into the darkness of a broken society, their tattered souls are each tested by the nightmares they face. Even if Devin can escape the city, a far worse danger now blocks his path back home . . . Back to his family — and the dawning of a changed world.


Read the full review here!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Crazy Greta by David Hardy



Crazy Greta by David Hardy
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Action/Adventure, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (138 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One woman against Death, Hell, and Heaven.

As the Netherlands descends into the chaos of religious and political civil war, Crazy Greta runs her tavern, keeping order among the drinkers with her skillet. But when the Dead rise from their graves to slaughter the living, Greta faces a far greater challenge. Crazy Greta’s journeys take her across a land torn by war between life and death, through Hell itself, and even to the besieged gates of Heaven. Greta must confront Death, Satan, God, and her own madness before she can return home.


When the dead rise, there’s no such thing as a safe place to hide.

This book started out with a bang. If you close your eyes you'll smell, hear, taste and see what the characters experience in vivid, often gruesome detail. Mr. Hardy’s impeccable ability to pace a scene so that the reader genuinely doesn’t know what will happen next and grips the edge of his or her seat in anticipation of the next chapter was incredible.

If only his talent with descriptions carried over to his characterization. Greta and her companions spent so much time reacting to the onslaught of the dead that the reader never really gets to know them as individuals. One recognizes their names, of course, but I’d be hard-pressed to describe any of these characters by their quirks or personality traits. Secondary characters also cycled in and out of the story so quickly that I had a hard time telling some of them apart. This is very certainly a plot-driven story.

I really wanted to give this book a higher rating. It had so much going for it: perfect pacing, a terrifying plot and scenes so vividly written that you’ll feel like they’re happening to you. Unfortunately the descriptions we’re given of Greta and her friends simply weren't enough for me to remain emotionally invested in what happened to them, as much as I enjoyed the rest of the story.

Despite these shortcomings the imagery in Crazy Greta won’t be easily dislodged from your memories. If you’re in the mood to be frightened I highly recommend checking this book out. There’s a scary scene for every personality awaiting you in this spine-tingling adventure!






Friday, June 22, 2012

Pygmalion Unbound by Sam Kepfield



Pygmalion Unbound by Sam Kepfield
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (97 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Man created her -- but would he control her?

When Man plays God, will his Creation serve him -- or rebel?


Maria, a new type of android, has to learn to use her knowledge as a human. Dr Alannah Kelly is hired by American Cybernetics to evolve the android into a person instead of a machine. She meets Dr Desmond Crane and Dr Derel Franklin, the inventor and programer of Maria. The android and Alannah form a friendship but the two male doctors and Alannah have different ideas on the future of the android. Maria keeps her thoughts to herself.

This story has a novel way of addressing androids and their makers. Although she's a psychiatrist, Alannah warms to Maria and treats her as a friend. Dr Crane has not shared his real reasons for creating Maria or his intentions for her future. The story gradually reveals his reasons one layer at a time. Dr Franklin also has a hidden agenda and Alannah finds herself caught in a three way tug. Go with either of the men or follow her heart and allow Maria to become a true human.

At first I thought Pygmalion Unboundwould be a truly scientific tale. All facts and very little story. Once Alannah entered, the whole pace changed and the characters blossomed into real people. The scientific aspect was not lost, but it became part of the story rather than an explanation.

I enjoyed the pace and feel as seen by Alannah and the short excerpts from other characters, but Alannah was the one who gave life to the story. A good science fiction book, with a different twist to it. Well worth reading.





Thursday, June 21, 2012

Contingency Plan by Anita Ensel



Contingency Plan by Anita Ensel
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (29 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

A desperate mother is offered an unusual opportunity by an even more unusual person -- but should she take the offer or go with her contingency plan?

Sharon’s running out of time and money. She’s got a plan for how to save herself and her two children after their deadbeat dad and the rest of their family have deserted them. But what will her contingency plan do to her soul and the souls of her children?

Mr. Mann carries burdens most couldn’t—the visible, odd arrangement of connected boxes on his back, and the hidden guilt for deeds done long, long ago. The end may be in sight, but not a happy one if Sharon chooses the wrong path.

Someone’s contingency plan will be put into effect, but whether it leads to a happily ever after or dark despair will require intricate maneuverings by the white witches of the Neighborhood. But even they can’t stop a good woman from going wrong.


Abandoned by her husband, left to bring up two children with no means of support, Sharon is about to make arrangements to settle things with her husband. When a small man approaches her and offers her a room in a nearby hostel in exchange for domestic help in the building, she and the children find friends and happiness. The children call their new friend Mr Mann and he reminds Sharon of Rumpelstiltskin. Despite their new found happiness she knows it can’t last and her plan for dealing with her ex-husband still lurks in her mind.

Contingency Planis a cross between a fairy story, a woman with a broken heart and a man with a mission. Sharon starts out as a sad woman, wanting like many others to do the best for her family. Mr Mann is trying to do the best for them too, but Sharon is unaware of this.

Although the story starts in the depths of despair, the love for family and friends comes through to throw some light and warmth into the lives of those who need it. I was aware of fantasy lurking in the background, never quite open, but plucking at the corner of the mind all the time and this made the story even more intriguing.

By the second half of the book I was longing to know how Sharon would solve her problems, and if she would be given a helping hand. Then the actual details of the contingency plan became known and left me guessing until the end whether there would be a happy ending or not.

A pleasant read but with a hidden undercurrent to the story.





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Royal Scam by Gini Koch



The Royal Scam by Gini Koch
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length; Short Story (27 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Things aren’t what they seem to be when Princess Olivia of Andromeda jumps aboard a spaceship to escape a loveless marriage.

Join the crew of the Hummingbird as they take on the rich, famous and sleazy of the galaxy. They're also on a long-term secret mission, so it's a good thing they're the best con artists, spacers, and roughnecks in the Milky Way, because they need all their skills to pull off this particular Royal Scam.


The Royal Scam is a fairy tale set in space with a twist. A young princess betrothed to a scion of a neighboring planet is really in love with a member of her father’s household. A plot is hatched for the princess to escape into space but the groom gives chase. Will he catch his bride, or will she escape?

Don’t yawn and give up on this story thinking it’s an old tale. This is only the beginning. Various psychic entities are involved in this escape, space chases, disappearing spaceships and planet intrigue are all there. The author left me reeling with how much she packed into 27 pages. Well done Ms. Koch.

Another planet, devious collections from various houses of pleasure - all this enriched the story. Add to this the sub-plot where the bad guys were outwitted by the good guys and I found quite a gripping tale. Short but attention grabbing. Do you like science fiction with a hint of fantasy? Then this is a book for you.





Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Scent of An Angel by Nancy Springer



The Scent of An Angel by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (10 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

When a dog discovers that he can't be a witch's familiar because he's white, he sets off on a quest to be the faithful aide to an angel. As his sense of smell leads him from one person in need to another, will he find the ethereal being he's looking for or will his nose, in fact, lead him to the last place he'd ever expect to find his real purpose in life?


Searching for an angel can lead to some adventurous places. An adorable puppy envies the life of a fat black cat who is the familiar of a witch. The cat has a good life, is fed well, has shining fur, a cozy place to live, and a loving owner. The puppy wants that life, but the cat laughs in his face, telling him that a white dog can’t be the familiar of a witch. The puppy comes up with the clever idea, he’ll be the familiar of an angel instead. Now the hard part is, where does one find an angel?

Being a dog, and not a human, this little guy will rely on his sense of smell. This well-written tale unfolds in a series of adventures. The voice of the protagonist is charming, as he tells the story. He trots along and runs into many people and animals in trouble.

A woman finds him and feeds him when he’s hungry and tired. She puts him in bed next to her sick daughter. When the girl dies, the puppy smells the scent of the angels that come for her. Soon the puppy is off again on his search. He passes carts and people of foot, since the setting is the countryside, hundreds of years ago. On his quest for that amazing, sweet scent, the puppy helps more people and animals. Will he find his angel, though? He’s such a loveable little character, one hopes so. Where is this story leading? The suspense is good.

One day he comes across the witch he saw at the beginning, the one with the fat black cat. Someone killed the cat, and the witch is overcome with grief. The puppy comforts her. When the townspeople come after the witch, something surprising happens, a twist at the end.

It’s interesting how the puppy’s search led him to where he was needed. This great little story has a fairy-tale or fable feel to it. It starts out with a historical setting and ends in modern times. There's also a sweet message to it. Quite an enjoyably story, tightly written, it’s a very fast read, and well worth it.





Monday, June 18, 2012

The Planetary Pirate by Homer Eon Flint



The Planetary Pirate by Homer Eon Flint
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (27 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Astilbe

Earth: Primitive or advanced? Worthy or unworthy?

Another timeless tale from pioneering author Homer Eon Flint.

A desperate need for certain chemical elements to save Saturn sends a space traveler to Earth. Once there, however, he is forced to declare Earth too primitive to be of any use. Determined to do what he must, the traveler kidnaps several scientists and turns pirate. Written nearly 100 years ago, Planetary Pirate demonstrates Flint’s fascination with and knowledge of science—and serves as a lesson in humanity.


Too often science fiction stories have assumed that extra-terrestrial visitors mean us harm. What if this wasn’t the case?

The Planetary Pirate is full of twists and turns. Just when you think you know how it will end the plot spins in yet another unexpected direction. Typically, I can figure out how a story will end fairly early on in the plot so it was wonderful to be surprised so many times by this one.

The sociological commentary was one of my favorite aspects of this story.

For example, a Saturnian named Chalter says:“A civilization which advances a part of the race at the expense of the remainder, Mr. President, is surely as yet in its infancy!”

Not all books can get away with this sort of thing but in this case it really works well. As an extra-terrestrial Chalter is able to get away with criticizing the unequal social and economic development on Earth. From what we learn of his character and the planetary culture in which he was raised Chalter is the perfect individual to bring up these inequalities.

I finished the final page wishing there was more to read. It felt like the first chapter of a much longer novel in the best possible sense of the term. Some of the characters reminded me of people I know in real life and I really wished I could spend more time with them. Even though everything was wrapped up nicely in the end the setting and plot were also constructed in such a way that they felt like an introduction to a complex universe that should have included many more adventures.

If you’re in the market for a thought-provoking story that will keep you up at night wondering what happens go pick up a copy of The Planetary Pirate. You will not be disappointed!



Monday, June 11, 2012

Living Proof by Kira Peikoff



Living Proof by Kira Peikoff
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Genre: Scifi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (368 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

In 2027, destroying an embryo is considered first-degree murder. Fertility clinics still exist, giving hope and new life to thousands of infertile families, but they have to pass rigorous inspections by the United States Department of Embryo Preservation. Fail an inspection, and you will be prosecuted.

Brilliant young doctor Arianna Drake seems to be thriving in the spotlight: her small clinic surpasses every government requirement, and its popularity has spiked—a sudden, rapid growth that leaves the DEP chief mystified. When he discovers Arianna’s radical past as a supporter of an infamous scientist, he sends undercover agent Trent Rowe to investigate her for possible illegal activity.

As Trent is pulled into Arianna’s enigmatic world, his own begins to unravel. The secret he finally uncovers will deeply move him—and jeopardize them both. With the clock ticking her life away, he finds himself questioning everything he knows to be true, and then must summon the courage to take the greatest risk of all. Nothing less than human life—and a major scientific breakthrough—hang in the balance.

A thought-provoking thriller by debut author Kira Peikoff, Living Proof is a celebration of love and life that cuts to the core of a major cultural debate of our time.


It’s easy to surround yourself with people who agree with you. What many moral crusaders don’t realize, though, is how even the most noble intentions can buckle into something unrecognizable if there’s no one around to challenge their assumptions about the world.

Trent and Arianna are deeply committed to their respective belief systems. Both see themselves as the heroes of their stories, as guardians of something precious. Neither one has the self-knowledge to understand how someone could ever disagree with their positions on abortion or stem cell research. The awkward, sweet interactions between Arianne and Trent as they slowly begin to understand one another were my favourite scenes in the story.

Unfortunately there was a very black and white separation between the the pro-life/anti-stem cell research and pro-choice/pro-stem cell research sentiments in the book. Certain scenes came across as carefully scripted sermons instead of spontaneous, genuine conversations between friends.

While I understand the simplicity of painting one side as fighting for good and the other as evil the story would have been more compelling if all of the characters had been allowed to have more nuanced opinions. The vast majority of people cannot be pigeonholed into narrowly-defined labels and I think showcasing characters with such extreme opinions on this issue hurt the character development and plot.

When the characters weren’t being fed lines they flowed smoothly from one scene to the next. I found myself growing quite invested in Arianna’s story in particular and it was a little disappointing to switch from those heavy emotions to characters saying things that sounded like those political ads that air during election season in the U.S.

The premise of this book was fantastic, though. After I finished reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about Ms. Peikoff’s projection of one possible future. She's one of those writers who can create a universe similar enough to our own to be believable and just different enough to send a jolt of terror down your spine.

So what would the United States look like in a few decades if the separation between church and state were to erode? Living Proof will give you a spine-tingling glimpse into one possibility. Just remember that it’s only fiction.

So far.



Friday, June 8, 2012

March, April and May Book of the Month Poll Winner: The Eternal Knot by TK Toppin



The Eternal Knot by T.K. Toppin
Publisher: Burst
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (317 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Orchid



Unable to resist the lure of finding her niece, Josie picks up the crumbs of clues left behind. With her old friend and savior, pod-hunter Quin Aguilar at her side, she seeks out Fern Betterncourt who is assumed to be sleeping for over a hundred years.

From an unlikely source, Fern’s location is discovered, and together with her husband, Josie seeks out her last link to her past. Will Fern want to be found? And will finding Fern be enough to bury the ghosts that haunt Josie? Can Josie bring herself to destroy her last remaining family in order to save herself?

The Eternal Knot, the final chapter in the Lancaster trilogy. Will Josie finally rest in peace in the new future she lives in?


Read the full review here!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Awakening by Mary Abshire



The Awakening by Mary Abshire
Publisher: Lyrical Press Inc.
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (220 Pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Fuchsia

She's the only one of her kind. And she doesn’t even know her name.

Two investigators--one human, one vampire--find a young woman among a mass of dead bodies. She has no memories, and nothing but her clothes, two receipts, and a mysterious dagger carved with the initials ‘SB’.

As she seeks her identity, SB realizes she's unlike any other creature in the world, making her the most valuable person on the planet. And the most wanted.


Imagine being awakened by a stranger and realizing that you have no knowledge of who you are or why you are lying in a dump surrounded by dead bodies. Then imagine you find out that you are a half breed and the people around you are vampires, shifters, demons, angels and human. That’s what happened to our main character, who could not recall anything that had happened to her in the last few days. Boss, the vampire who found her and woke her up along with his human partner Jonas set out to solve the mystery of who she was.

From the moment I opened the book this story had me captivated. The characters were interesting and the mystery surrounding the girl Jonas named ‘Stephanie’ had me hoping that she was as innocent as she appeared to be. Even she didn't know if she was innocent although she kept saying she wasn't a killer. From the beginning of this story to the end it added layer upon layer to Stephanie’s character which made her more interesting and endearing.

The author Mary Abshire reached out and grabbed me from the start and took me on a ride that was filled with twists, turns and surprises. Boss was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He was dark and brooding but cared about the people in his charge, while Jonas, who was the complete opposite of Boss, acted as a buffer between Boss and Stephanie. The supporting characters in the book like Tabby the shape shifting cat and Jackson the hot werewolf as well as Sal the demon were woven in seamlessly, and I understood the part each of them played in Stephanie’s life.

It took me two hours to finish this book and when I was done, even though I was smiling, I wanted more. I look forward to reading the next book in what I’m sure will be a series since many questions were left unanswered.





Monday, June 4, 2012

Yield by Bryan K Johnson



Yield: Book One of the Armageddia Series by Bryan K Johnson
Publisher: Bedside Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (432 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe




Still battling the alcoholism that got him fired, ex-fire chief Devin Bane rises above the thick clouds for an interview in Seattle and the promise of a better life.

Packing up his carry-on items for their descent into the city, Devin is blinded by a distant flash, followed by the screams and chaos of a crash landing.

Outside the plane's wreckage, a new horror surrounds him. Seattle's iconic skyline is gone.

Searching for answers as he flees through the ruins, Devin and a handful of survivors are surrounded by the most primitive side of human nature. Plunged into the darkness of a broken society, their tattered souls are each tested by the nightmares they face. Even if Devin can escape the city, a far worse danger now blocks his path back home . . . Back to his family — and the dawning of a changed world.


What would you do if nuclear war became a reality and your city was destroyed?

This author impressed me. I have read several “end of the world” books. There's only so much you can do with the storyline. Mr. Johnson’s strength lies in his character building ability. From the first few pages, you begin to feel the survivor’s fears, worry and frustration. No one is a super hero. They are all common folks who had their own family problems and they have no desire to have to lead anyone or do anything except survive. This is a very realistic reaction to something you have no way of anticipating and lack understanding on how it could have happened to you.

Devin is a firefighter looking for a new job. He has the misfortune of being on a plane that crashes and involuntarily becomes a leader. Mr. Johnston has just made him an average man who had a drinking problem and is unsure of where he is in his life. The author gives Devin a mixed bag of survivors who are all trying to adjust to the loved ones they’ve lost and what might be left behind after the explosions.

You feel the long walk, the fear that convicts will attack you, their hunger and thirst, and you also understand why they don’t really trust each other. This gives the story more impact and keeps you reading to see what the author throws at them next. It’s realistic; not everyone makes it. That makes the story have a ring of truth.

The words flow well, the horrors of war feel real, and I cried at the death of one character. Mr. Johnson grabbed my attention and kept it through the whole book. If the thought of war on our soil hasn’t touched you yet, this story will make you a believer. Why not grab a copy and settle in for a story that will chill you and yet give you hope for the future?