Beginning January 1, 2013

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Friday, November 30, 2012

November Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Gift of Magic by PM Griffin



The Gift of Magic by P M Griffin
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (168 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe



Shipwreck! Can a novice sorceress and brilliant cat save their otherwise doomed companions?

An outburst of her newly awakened, uncontrolled sorcery talent made twelve-year-old Dory a fugitive. Trouble, her indomitable cat, led her into a walled garden minutes ahead of the mob pursuing her. There they encountered Martin, a powerful sorcerer, who agreed to hide and teach her and used his arts to advance her age to that of a young woman.

Some weeks later, Martin permits her and Trouble to accompany two gem merchants on a trading voyage. Following a storm, their ship goes to the aid of a sinking vessel grossly overcrowded with young migrant workers. The rescue is a success, but Dory’s ship is seriously damaged and begins founderin. With no room in the lifeboats for all those now aboard, many are doomed. Only Dory’s untried power can save everyone – if it will rise for her and if she can control and wield it correctly.


READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Love and Sex Among the Invertebrates by Pat Murphy



Love and Sex Among the Invertebrates by Pat Murphy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (9 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewer: Astilbe

The bombs have fallen, and the world as we know it has ended. In her final days, one robotics engineer works to ensure that life will go on, constructing the creatures that will inherit the earth. New times are coming. The future echoes with the rattle of metal claws.


When death stares at you from a dark corner of the room it’s only a matter of time before you must follow him. In the meantime would you prefer to seek out the companionship of loved ones or finish an extraordinary task?

One of the scariest things I can imagine is knowing when and how you will die and being powerless to prevent it. The individuals I’ve known who have received this knowledge reacted to it in a variety of ways. Some were so ill that they accepted it quietly and others raged until the end. The protagonist knows she’s absorbed too much radiation to survive longer than a few days. While she’s still alive she decides to use the skills she’s gained working as a scientist to create something marvelous.

What I found most interesting about her narrative is that clues are planted from the beginning that point to two different interpretations of what actually happens. I found myself drawn to the more pessimistic explanation of the two but I can also see how the happier theory could be the one the author prefers. In the end it’s up to the reader to decide which one he or she wants to believe in and for this story that tactic works well.

The narrator is described as someone who has spent her entire adult life preventing other people from getting too close to her. A few well-placed flashbacks provide concrete examples of this behaviour and explain why she’s all alone in her lab after everyone else has fled. Her talent for shutting others out made it difficult for me to sympathize with her, though, because she came across as a cold, unfeeling individual. We never even learn her name. Due to this I had trouble becoming emotionally invested in her and her mission.

Love and Sex Among the Invertebrates is a solid tale that kept me up past bedtime wondering how I’d react to the end of my species. I’d recommend it to anyone who has ever grown wistful in the presence of fossils or wished they could know what will happen to the earth after mankind’s reign is finished.





Monday, November 26, 2012

The Gift of Magic by P M Griffin



The Gift of Magic by P M Griffin
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (168 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe



Shipwreck! Can a novice sorceress and brilliant cat save their otherwise doomed companions?

An outburst of her newly awakened, uncontrolled sorcery talent made twelve-year-old Dory a fugitive. Trouble, her indomitable cat, led her into a walled garden minutes ahead of the mob pursuing her. There they encountered Martin, a powerful sorcerer, who agreed to hide and teach her and used his arts to advance her age to that of a young woman.

Some weeks later, Martin permits her and Trouble to accompany two gem merchants on a trading voyage. Following a storm, their ship goes to the aid of a sinking vessel grossly overcrowded with young migrant workers. The rescue is a success, but Dory’s ship is seriously damaged and begins founderin. With no room in the lifeboats for all those now aboard, many are doomed. Only Dory’s untried power can save everyone – if it will rise for her and if she can control and wield it correctly.


Dory is a servant to the farrier, Jocko, and his wife. He has a drinking problem and he resents every penny she takes for care. His favorite sport is to beat on her. One night he gets out of control and she magically gives him donkey ears. She knows she must run or he will kill her. Magic is illegal and he wants his normal ears back! Her thought was that any place had to be better than living with Jocko. She doesn’t realize when she goes over the fence and falls into a garden she has also fallen into a new life…

Ms. Griffin’s words float across the page and lead you into a new world of wonder. She writes an exciting tale with varied characters. All her characters have strong personalities and good souls. She intersperses magic here and there and that enhances the story line and makes it a stronger story.

Dory must give up her childhood to stay in the village. She’s twelve and becomes a teenager in minutes while standing in the sorcerer’s house. She’s okay with that, but now must learn how to become a young lady. Her lessons in ladyhood are amusing and her lessons in magic are challenging.

Everything changes for her when she decides to travel with two gem merchants and learn what she can from them. Martin is a bit hesitant about letting her go since her magic is still undeveloped, but it is a good opportunity for her.

The author gives Dory a huge challenge. The ship they are on runs into a typhoon. Watching this young woman trying to develop her skills while under extreme duress is fascinating. For each thing she accomplishes, there is another challenge facing her.

I read this story quickly and enjoyed every word. I am fond enough of it that I have bought my own copy so I can read it again. I found this one to be a keeper and I think you’ll enjoy the adventure, too. It’s a good fantasy and I hope to see a sequel to it.





Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Fifth Floor by E. H. James



The Fifth Floor by E. H. James
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (13 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jeremy Brogan’s first day as a night watchman, at the most haunted hospital in the country, may just turn him from a die-hard skeptic into a believer after all.

Jeremy Brogan thought being a night watchman at a hospital would be easy, wandering long, dark, empty halls late at night. It might even get kind of boring after a while…except Jeremy is working at St. Michael’s, the most haunted hospital in the country.

It’s a good thing Jeremy doesn’t believe in ghosts. Everything he sees and hears must have some kind of an explanation, right?

That he had to patrol the fifth floor was bad enough, but never in his wildest dreams did Jeremy think he would wind up in the basement. Now all he wants is out…only the hospital and its inhabitants may have other plans.


Imagine patrolling an abandoned hospital wing at night The only sound you hear is the slight squeak of your shoes as you make your rounds. Suddenly you spot toy ball bouncing in the middle of the hallway. How would you react?

Jeremy accepts his new job secure in the knowledge that ghosts don’t actually exist and that all of the stories he’d heard about St. Michael’s were urban legends. He’s an easy guy to like and the type of person I’d want to be around in an emergency. Even when he’s surprised or afraid taking care of those who need help is his first priority.

With the possible exception of giving birth, no one looks forward to being hospitalized. Even the most routine procedures carry certain risks and while most people who are admitted eventually recover there will always be those who were too injured or sick to survive. Add in the pain that comes after surgery or an accident and I can think of few places creepier than a wing full of rooms where countless individuals suffered and died. It’s to be expected that some of these poor souls are stuck on the fifth floor.

The ending was a chilling surprise. In retrospect Ms. James did provide a few well-hidden clues earlier on but I was still taken aback by the last few paragraphs. This is one of those stories that grows better with every reread.

The Fifth Floor is a jolt of adrenaline. Before beginning it turn on every light in the house, make sure the doors and windows are locked, promise yourself that you won’t stop reading investigate any strange noises you hear and prepare for a wild ride!





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Trooper #4 by Noah Chinn



Trooper #4 by Noah Chinn
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (178 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

It's the end of the world – but not as we know it.

A woman wakes up in a motel on the outskirts of a remote Oregon city with no memory who she is and a gun at her bedside. As she explores the world around her it seems that civilization has come to a violent end.

That’s bad.

It might also be the most normal thing that happens to her all week.


When she wakes in the morning, she has no idea who she is or where she is. She has guns in her motel room, a name tag on her shirt and there’s a cop car on the side of the highway that might have been hers. But why is she here and what happened?

Mr. Chin has created an unusual story. He starts with one tale and leaves that to move into another, years ahead. Each story is a bit like a dream. You can’t be sure what’s happening or what’s true. Nothing seems to be definitive or clear. But it ties together enough to keep you reading.

He mixes gods, humans, and death together. The humans who have been changed resemble zombies. Prisoner Zero is a monster who kills indiscriminately and takes the essence from her victims. Trooper #4 is struggling to figure who she is and why Prisoner Zero seems familiar. What she discovers as the story goes on is chilling and disturbing.

This is mix of horror and futuristic death and disaster. The author throws in facts here and there that made no sense to me until near the end of the story. I would have preferred a bit more continuity and a more defined plot. It kept me reading, though.

The author does a good job of showing how paranoid people become when threatened by horror they don’t understand and while trying to stay alive. Rules fall by wayside, people take comfort where they can, and even children fight for survival.

You won’t fall asleep reading this book. Want to meet an avenging god who is true evil? Just read this book.





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Red Barn by October Weeks



The Red Barn by October Weeks
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (12 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When a ghost reaches her limit with an unwanted guest, there's no telling what Hell will arise.

I have escaped my afterlife for over two centuries; locking my spirit into the old red barn. There have been many owners since my death, but none have ever given me as much strength and feeling as the new male owner does. There’s just one problem; his wife.

She sickens me, and I can no longer take her presence in my barn. She comes and takes my personal belongings- to sell.

She is unbearable to me- one of us has to go. And it sure as hell isn’t going to be me.


A bump in the night. Inanimate objects that suddenly move around. A cold spot in an otherwise warm, well-insulated room. We all know the signs of a haunted building but have you ever wondered what it’s like be on the other side of it?

After the narrator dies, the life she left behind melts into the background of her mind like bare tree limbs on a foggy autumn morning. Her memories of the time before are so dim that the reader never even learns her name. Only her white hot anger remains.

It was novel to to experience the elements of a traditional haunting from the perspective of the ghost. I’d always assumed that spirits know about the havoc they’re wreaking and are in full control of when and how they influence the living. Adding this twist reminded me of some of my favourite nineteenth and twentieth century gothic novels.

I would have liked to see some sort of explanation for certain choices the narrator made before her death. We’re shown what she did without being given any reasons for why these events occur. While I understand the need to keep exposition brief in a tale of this length I think the plot would have flowed more smoothly if the readers had access to some additional information about this character.

The Red Barn is one of the most chilling stories I’ve read in 2012. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good ghost story. Curl up on a cold, rainy night with a warm cup of cocoa and prepare for a wild ride!





Monday, November 19, 2012

Kean’s Edge by Darby Krenshaw



Kean’s Edge by Darby Krenshaw
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (19 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Petty thieves Kean and Ozzy are recruited by an eccentric collector to smuggle outlawed treeware. When the pickup goes wrong, they are hunted through the streets of Morocco. Running for their lives, they discover what lengths each will go to to save the other.


When physical books are outlawed only outlaws will own them.

As children, Ozzy and Kean forged a bond so deep that as young adults they almost seem to share the same mind. When I started reading I honestly didn’t know if I’d like these characters because our moral codes are so dissimilar. They’re career criminals who will break almost any law if it benefits them or someone they love and I’ve never even had a traffic ticket. No sooner does the plot pick up speed, though, than the reader learns about a dark secret that one of them has hidden from the other. The exploration and aftermath of this secret humanizes a terrible decision and drew me even further into their world.

I would have liked to see a more detailed explanation for why the Central Information Council transitioned from preserving paper books to banning them. What could make a benevolent organization evolve totalitarian tendencies so rapidly? For what purpose was this change introduced? As much as I enjoyed learning what happened to Kean and Ozzy not having these questions answered was disappointing. There were also some paragraphs in the story that were a little hard to understand due to multiple punctuation errors.

The end of this tale was fairly predictable for the genre but it did leave ample room for a sequel. We say goodbye to Ozzy and Kean while they transition from finding answers to questions that have plagued them for a long time to encountering brand new challenges. While I don’t know if the author intends to revisit these characters I’m curious to know what happens to them next.

Despite these issues Kean’s Edge introduced me to a world I won’t soon forget. Imagine a society that so fears the written word it is attempting to stamp it out. Is it better to try to move elsewhere or fight for lasting change from within? Are these your only options? Why not read this book and find out!





Monday, November 12, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do It by Pembroke Sinclair



The Devil Made Me Do It by Pembroke Sinclair
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (51 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Astilbe

Temptation is darker than you thought.

This is a collection of five different stories that explores what it would take to drive someone to deal with the Devil. Think they’re all evil? Think again. Driven by tragedy and loss, most of the characters are looking for ways to cope. When no one else can help, the Devil steps in with an irresistable offer. From mothers to husbands to college students, each character has their own reason for leaving the path of the righteous and drifting to the dark side. What would push you to make a deal with the Devil?
Is making a deal with the devil always a bad idea?

In Retribution a man named Adrian is devastated by a personal tragedy. He decides to lubricate the squeaky wheel of justice and could never have imagined what happens next. Adrian is a surprisingly easy guy to like and despite some of his choices I found myself rooting for him. The ending was predictable but did make sense based on everything the reader learns early on.

A father’s love for and frustration with his rebellious teenage son fuels At Wit’s End. Robert and Lydia have done everything they can think of to make their son obey them but nothing is working. The plot felt a little rushed in this one and I think it would have been better if it could have been stretched out into a slightly longer story.

There is No Sin has a heart-pounding beginning when Toby experiences something peculiar when he’s put under anaesthesia for emergency surgery. I expected the action to continue and was a little disappointed to see so much time dedicated to philosophical discussions about what awaits us in the afterlife.

Abigail’s dilemma in The Last Temptation is a tough one. While angels and demons battle over her future in an otherworldly court she’s given one final chance to have a say in where she will spend eternity. At first the flashbacks seemed as though they were misplaced but I soon grew accustomed to leaping from past to present and back again. Despite this momentary confusion this was by far the creepiest tale of them all.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a demon? Rain’s job in The Soul Collector isn’t one I envy. When certain people on earth die it is her duty to attempt to collect their souls and bring them to hell. She doesn’t decide who goes to heaven, hell, or purgatory, she’s simply responsible for making sure they end up in her territory if that’s where they belong. This could easily be expanded into a full length novel if the author wishes and I sincerely hope that I will one day learn more about Rain and her adventures.

Ultimately The Devil Made Me Do It is a solid collection and the complimentary nature of these stories make them perfect spine-tingler to curl up with on a cold, dreary night.





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Annie’s World: Jake’s Legacy by Daniel Lance Wright



Annie’s World: Jake’s Legacy by Daniel Lance Wright
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (223 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe


THE YEAR IS 2208 AND THE WORLD IS IN NEED OF A SAVIOR.

Two centuries have passed since global economies collapsed with little hope of resurrection. Jake Henderson wanders the former State of Texas foraging for food, and witnesses the murder of a young woman. The ten-year-old girl traveling with her is traumatized and left speechless, orphaned by the violent act. From that day, she begins changing Jake's life in ways he could never have imagined. Annabelle, as he chooses to call her, is descended from failed genetically manufactured prototypes of the early Twenty-first Century. The delicate-appearing child is anything but, and is destined to become the salvation of a world out of control.

Would you take a dangerous risk to save a stranger’s child? Is it better to be thought of as a hero or increase your odds of living to see another day?

Jake’s made some difficult decisions during his life. Surviving in a lawless society often means making tough choices and yet when he meets a newly orphaned girl named Annie, Jake discovers how quickly even the most deeply entrenched priorities can shift. To be honest I didn’t particularly care for Jake at first due to choices he made early on. While they were understandable given the harsh environment in which he was living I had some trouble moving past them and getting to know the person he eventually becomes.

The magic happens during Jake’s slow transformation as the plot thickens. It was a pleasure to see how even small, seemingly inconsequential decisions affected his character and my favourite part of this tale by far was getting to see how one change would eventually spur another.

The political message in this book was a little heavy-handed. Every time Jake talks about how society slowly crumbled over the course of a few generations due to the greed of corporations and the wealthy the story is temporarily knocked off course. It would have been more effective to spend more time showing how much the common person has suffered instead of having the main character repeat himself so often. Multiple punctuation and grammatical errors also distracted my attention from the plot.

Annie’s World: Jake’s Legacy is a frightening look at one possible future awaiting mankind. I’d recommend it for anyone who has ever wondered what life might really be like if there was no such thing as a centralized government and if the only law of the land was survival of the fittest.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Ironskin by Tina Connolly



Ironskin by Tina Connolly
Publisher:  Tor
Genre:  Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length:  full (302 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by Poppy

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

It is probably to my benefit that I've not read "Jane Eyre", so didn't realize this was a retelling until long after I was done reading it.  I was able to enjoy the book for what it is, and not so much what it wasn't.

Our heroine, Jane, is "ironskin" -- she's been cursed by the fey during the war and uses iron to keep her curse (rage) from bleeding out into others.  Let go by her employer now that the war is over and men have returned, she has little choice but to accept a position for a strange recluse, Rochart, to be governess to his daughter.

The book's story intrigued me enough that I read it to the end, but I have to say it wasn't a terribly exciting book.  If not for being attached to characters (especially the very clever Poule) and wondering what was going to happen to Dorie, I might not have finished it at all.  The writing was well done, but the story tended to drag.   Every so often, something would happen to perk me back up, and turn pages to find out what happened, but it wasn't consistent and much of the book had a "day-to-day" feel.

I wish we'd gotten to know our hero more as well.  Though this wasn't written in first person, it might as well have been, as we spend no time in anyone's head but Jane's.  I think this weakened the story some and created distance between the reader and other characters, especially Rochart.

I did like Jane.  She was strong, determined, intelligent and overall a good heroine.  She loves loyally, and seldom gives up if she knows her course is right, no matter what.  She has much to overcome and there are many times she might have given up and taken an easier course, but she does not.  Truly an admirable person.

While I was pleased it ended up being a love story of sorts, I wasn't entirely sold on the depth of emotion between Jane and Rochart. They spent almost no time together and many times Rochart was less than charming, but still, I imagine their relationship will grow more believable as this story is continued.  And, ultimately, this wasn't really a romance anyway.  It was more a mystery and an adventure.  A journey for Jane as she became the person she was meant to be.

While this may not have been the best book I've read, it introduced a storyline intriguing enough that I'll pick up the next book in the series to see where it leads.  While many questions were answered and tasks completed, more were introduced, especially at the end when things were happening at a fast and furious speed and I look forward to seeing where they lead.





Saturday, November 3, 2012

August, September, and October SFF Book of the Month Poll Winner ~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.


Read the Full Review here!