A MelanieM Review: Keep the Stars Running Anthology by Cassandra Pierce, Lexi Ander , Andrea Speed , Talya Andor , Leona Carver

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Keeping the Stars Running AnthologySpace is not always filled with adventures and glory. Not everybody goes racing off to battle evil and save the galaxy. Between the rebels, pirates, royals, and spies are the everyday people who work hard just to get by and ensure everyone gets home safe. Less Than Three Press presents a collection of tales about the ordinary folks who keep the stars running.

The Prince and the Programmer by Cassandra Pierce
The Aurora Conspiracy by Lexi Ander
About a Bot by Andrea Speed
Flight Risk by Talya Andor
Survival by Leona Carver

Take romance, throw it out into space and then gather together some wonderful authors to write their take on this fabulous trope and what do you have?  Keeping The Stars Running Anthology!  And each story couldn’t be more different from each other.  Here they are with my comments and rating in the order they appear in the anthology:

The Prince and the Programmer by Cassandra Pierce.  3.5 stars

Probably the closest story here to a familiar romance plot.  Food service mech/chef? is abducted but soon finds his new situation and “Prince” much more to his liking than his old one.  I thought the characters were charming and the situation sort of funny.  It was a sweet if not totally memorable way to open the anthology.

About a Bot by Andrea Speed. 4 stars out of 5

I loved/was frustrated by this terrific story by Andrea Speed.  Speed creates this complex universe, complete with on going intergalactic war, one in which the humans aren’t doing terribly well.  The main character, Tahir, is the Nebula space station’s mechanic who keeps all their robots in working order.  He also rescues and repairs older bots, giving them names and making them his “pets” with personalities.  In fact, Tahir is far more comfortable with his bots then with the rest of the crew on his station.  I loved this character.  He’s believable, fascinating, and when it comes to his interactions with his bots then Tahir becomes irresistible.  As are  his bots, including Spider and the adorable Bagel bot and Tank.

I loved this story so much that the ending, or perhaps lack of one frustrated me with its tantalizing possibilities.  How I would love to see this made into a full length novel.  Anyone listening?

The Aurora Conspiracy by Lexi Ander.   4 stars out of 5

In the Aurora Conspiracy, Lexi Ander’s takes ecological concerns and mining into space with no less than 2 completely different species and a conspiracy to boot.  Regin Valenta, crane operator for the Aurora Minerals and Rare Metals concern is being interrogated by constables from The Fraternity, a galactic law enforcement agency.  One of them, a Nythlithian, Constable Markari Gan’Sey, shares a painful past with Regin, although only one remembers.  The story becomes a dance between the main characters, as their past returns with its angst-filled memories and their attraction to each other flares back to life amidst an investigation into illegal mining practices on the planet below.   It’s suspenseful, layered, and marvelous.

Flight Risk by Tayla Andor  5 stars out of 5

One of my favorite stories in the anthology.  Again, we have an interplanetary war in progress and an embattled   Kiel Navarro’s work as a mechanic in the Gear hangar, keeping the Gryphon wings in perfect operating order for their pilots.  Andor’s world building is amazing and the author’s attention to detail bring this story and crews to life. Even the smallest touches, such as Kiel being half deaf where as most of the other pilots are deaf because of the noise of the engines and conditions they work in, give the readers a authentic feel for the environment and safety factors of the job Kiel does and the hangers in which he and his coworkers make their living.  And it’s not a very nice one.

The mechanics are being harassed, treated as lowly servants, who hide in their quarters for fear of retaliation.  And its by whom that is so startling.  A new Gryphon pilot, Marco Lafaele, a replacement for a recent death in the squad Wing Bravo, shakes up the status quo by showing an interest in Kiel, something that is just not done). His actions and determination not to follow along with his fellow pilots starts to put  cracks in the SOP in the Hangers. And ripples from the fallout spread throughout Cadlow Station.  I loved that Andors created the mechanic equipment down to the MagLens Kiel is using to augment his failing vision to the derogatory nicknames they earn him.

There is mystery, romance, gritty war time battles, and finally a white knuckle ride to the rescue.  Just an outstanding story on every level.

and finally….

Survival by Leona Carver.  3.5 t0 4.5 rating, really this story confounds me.

Not a romance.  I love Leona Carver so many aspects of this story didn’t surprise me while others absolutely did.   Just when I thought I knew where the author was taking this story, it took off in an unexpected direction.  And ending.  We start off on the Velikaya Knyazhna, a giant colonist ship on its new to a new planet.  Most of its crew is “sleeping” in order to make it to their destination without aging too much.  But an emergency sees the “ship” and its caretakers waking up some of the scientists to examine the cause of the emergency and fix it…before its too late.

Valentin Mashire, was trained to work on the planet, frozen on Earth and then shipped up to the “orbiting giant” in a crates, along with many others.   He’s a botanical scientist, a park technician trained to work in the terrestial parkland on board  that’s necessary to terraform the new planet they will land on.    The length of the voyage?  100 years.  Plenty of time for things to go wrong and they do.  And that’s where ship’s Security officer, Fyodor Bendlin comes in.

I can’t go any further.  To do so, takes away the best of the surprises found within this story.  I loved the descriptions of the park inside the ship and the ship itself.  But the romance I wanted to happen was never going to be part of this story.  No, this is all about Survival.  But it’s the “who” that is trying to survive that will shock you as will the ending.  Did I like this story?  Not really.  But did it fascinate me with its mythology and universe building?  Yes.  And it floored me with the surprising revelations and erotica.

What a great anthology.  I don’t know that I would have ended it with Survival.  I think that Flight Risk would have grounded this anthology better with its more substantial ending.  However, there is such variety, a true smorgasbord of stories, that everyone will find something to love.

I recommend this series to all lovers of science fiction, romance and the possibilities of tomorrow.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju.  Love this cover artist and this cover is another splendid example of their work. Great job.

Sales Links:   Less Than Three Press     All Romance (ARe)   Amazon      Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, also available in print
Published May 13th 2015 by Less Than Three Press (first published 2014)
original titleKeep the Stars Running
ISBN139781620045305
edition languageEnglish

 

 

 

 

Review: No Ocean Too Deep (A Loose Screw) by Leona Carver

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

No Ocean Too Deep Carver_CoverWhere Amirzade Sharouk, son of the Amirate of Ujmah, his cousin Dastyaf Begzada is sure to follow.  When Sharouk decides that the only way to save his country and his people is to rebel against the Republic, Dastyaf is there to support his efforts and keep him safe.  Their plan? Destroy the Republic’s fleet by allying themselves with the legendary sea folk, masters of the leviathans, immense living weapons born of the sea and magic.  But during the initial battle, something goes terribly wrong and Sharouk goes overboard, taken by one of the leviathans.  Now Dastyaf, warrior and tactician, must rely on one of the sea people to help him get back his cousin, the man he loves and can never have.

Nils is a sea mage, one who controls the leviathans of the deep and knows their secret.  When one of his leviathans goes rogue during battle, Nils is at a loss to understand why.  Furthermore, that action will cost his people their pact with the King of the land people whose prince has been taken by the rogue leviathan.   Now Nils must join forces with a man from the land, Dastyaf, whose disapproval, desperation and need for control, is putting them at odds from the very start of the mission.

Both men will need to work together to save not only Sharouk but their kingdoms as well.  To do so, Dastyaf must agree to transform into one of the sea folk in order to follow Nils through the ocean depths.  For Dastyaf, it means not only the loss of his legs but of control over the situation and his body.  He will be helpless in another’s environment, an unfamiliar feeling he despises. And by saving Sharouk, he will lose him forever to another.

For Nils, it means giving up his perceptions and assumptions, not only of the land people but of the very leviathans he is close to. The journey to save Sharouk, is full of dangers to all involved and time is running out for everyone before all is lost.  Sharouk’s life, Dastyaf’s humanity, and for Nil’s? A love he never expected to feel for a man who loves another….

I love it when I find a book that unexpectedly opens the door into a mesmerizing universe. No Ocean Too Deep is just such a story. It is full of incredible creatures, dynamic characters and a plot as deep as the ocean in which all the events take place. Leona Carver is a new author for me but with this one story she turns into one of my must read authors on the strength of this story alone.

In No Ocean Too Deep, Leona Carver puts her own spin on mermen and the men who fall in love with them.  Carver’s plot is guaranteed to pull the reader down into her universe from the first page.  She sets up a situation in which two widely disparate kingdoms become allies to defeat a common enemy.  One kingdom is human and lives in the desert Amirate of Ujmah, an environment that can be as hostile as it is beautiful.  The other?  Sea folk, mermen, almost mythical in their own right in their watery kingdom also full of its own dangers and delights.  The  two protagonists have more in common then they are aware, especially as neither has any experience with the other’s world.  For Dastyaf, he usually has to deal with an ocean of sand, fraught with extreme heat, a dearth of water and  constantly shifting sands.  His is a world of light and dark where their caravans are guided by the stars above.  Nils is a sea witch merman  who lives in an ocean world of shifting current, little light, and a breadth  and variety of creatures, small to gargantuan, with varying degrees of risk associated with them.  Guided by his senses and shifting currents, darkness is of little concern, especially with his magic to assist him.  Each character is fully formed and feels so believable no matter what world they belong to.

Carver throws her characters into a plot born of desperation.  The kingdoms of a desert people and the sea folk make a pact to take down the Republic, a threat to both with its empire.  The Sea folk will use their leviathans, enormous sea creatures of magic and myth,  as weapons against the Republic’s fleet.  The desert kingdom’s prince, Amirzade (Prince) Sharouk and his warrior/tactician cousin, Dastyaf Begzada, will be aboard one of the enemies vessels under false pretenses.  This will help them direct their armies against the fleet when the battle starts. It’s a desperate and dangerous move made from necessity. Carver does such a splendid job bringing us directly into this precarious situation, a last ditch endeavor for Sharouk to break his people away from the control of the Republic with help from the sea folk.  Waiting back home for Sharouk is his royal family and fiance.  By his side, as always since childhood, stands his cousin, Dastyaf, a great warrior and best friend.  As the ships pitch wildly in the ocean waves, tentacles start to appear over the side of the vessels,the battle is engaged and the reader is thrown immediately into the fray.  Carver’s descriptions are dramatic and stirring, making the scenes scream with the emotions of the men on board.

But that is nothing compared to what happens when the location switches to the ocean depths and the sea folk themselves.  Here the mermen and their watery environment comes vibrantly alive from its many denizens to the myriad ocean landscapes Nils and Dastyaf journey through.  Vast  living carpets of coral, phosphorescent invertebrates, forests of kelp, and dinners that consist of living organisms instead of cooked meat.  Had I been able to stand within the story itself, my head would have been on a constant swivle as it turned here and there to observe all the amazing sights and creatures that Carver has in store for us and Dastyaf.  An ever moving banquet for the senses made all the more palpable as Dastyaf experiences it for the first time in his new temporary merman body.

Nils and Dastyaf’s journey is full of wonder and fears as Dastyaf’s tries to reconcile his human experience with his new merman one.  His frustration and fear as the light  fades into almost constant darkness is tangible, and his emotions become ours. I could go on and on about the sea witches, the canyons, and the leviathans themselves…but the discovery of wonders and suspense of this desperate mission is part of the joy and revelations found in No Ocean Too Deep and I don’t want to spoil them for you.   But I found myself going backwards to reread a description or scene to relive that moment over because it thrummed the wildness and surprise of  life lived under water.

As I said the characters are as wondrous and layered as their environment.  Dastyaf with his doomed love and desperate mission, Nils with his questions and assumptions, both men grow as individuals and together as their journey unfolds.  I grew to love both men and couldn’t figure out how Carver was going to bring this journey to fruition in a satisfactory manner.  She did but it tool me a while to realize that.

The ending is the slight bump in the road, the loose net in the ocean.  It had me a little puzzled, so much so that I needed clarification from the author as to what happened to Nils.  Turns out, I needn’t have worried but it was cloudy enough that others might feel the same way. Had there been a tad more clarity at the end this would have been a 5 star review.  As it is, it comes darn close. Without revealing too much, it turns out that both Nils and Sharouk’s fiance have much the same role to play at the end, and no, its not the one you think it is.  Luckily for us, there will be a sequel coming.  That was the best news yet.

Not familiar with Leona Carver?  Haven’t read No Ocean Too Deep?  Remedy both and grab this terrific tale up and start reading.  Be prepared to fall in love with these characters, their mission and the ocean deep.  It will be an amazing journey you won’t want to see end.

Cover by Tanya Rehulak.  I love this cover, so different and lovely.

 Buy Links:  Less Than Three Press   Amazon    ARe

 Book Details:

ebook, 174 pages
Published April 9th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleNo Ocean too Deep
ISBN139781620043448
edition languageEnglish
urlhttps://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-nooceantoodeep-1466468-153.html
seriesA Loose Screw

Author Spotlight: Leona Carver & her latest release, No Ocean Too Deep (Contest)

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No Ocean Too Deep Carver_Cover

 

 

No Ocean Too Deep by Leona Carver

Begzada Dastyaf, a warlord of the desert Amirate of Ujmah, descends into the deep sea to find his beloved prince and cousin, Sharouk. Not only must he navigate a strange new realm, but he must master an unfamiliar body and learn the ways of the folk who live within that dark and watery place … all while struggling with an unwanted attraction to his resentful sea folk guide, the witch Nils.

 

My name is Leona Carver and I’m here to talk about my new novella, “No Ocean Too Deep”, and the world in which it unfolds. I’m pleased to offer an e-copy of No Ocean Too Deep to give away.

Contest: To enter the draw, please leave a comment and an email address. The contest runs until midnight EDT June 1st, at which point I’ll draw a name from a bonafide hat.

  Where will duty and love take you?

The vastness of the ocean triggers a deep sense of awe. There are a myriad of ecosystems and flora, fauna, and in-between creatures (florauna?), and we know so little about it. Every week there’s some new discovery, an animal or a piece of footage of a place that had never been seen before. It is absolutely stunning. Immersing myself in that world both thrilled and challenged me, making No Ocean one of the most satisfying stories I’ve written.

I’m from the school of, “Write what you don’t know.” I find that I’m most passionate about those stories that challenge me, make me ask questions, make me fling out the long arm of imagination to grab at answers. Dastyaf and Nils travel in a place where there is very little light and the senses are both impaired and enhanced by the characteristics of the ocean. The challenge was to describe actions, emotions, and communication without the use of vision. I drew on research about the abilities of sharks to sense the electromagnetic fields of other animals, and had Dastyaf learn the language of scents and pheromones, which gives the sea folk a nearly telepathic ability to sense the thoughts and feelings of others. If I had had the word count at my disposal, I could have filled entire chapters with Dastyaf learning his new body.

No Ocean Too Deep-Carver_Image 1

In addition to the difficulties of communicating in the sea, sans sight but with enhanced taste and skin receptors, that world adds another complexity: The entire place is alive. Tiny organisms exist everywhere, from harmful, to benign, to beneficial, and the culture of my sea folk needed to reflect that. They depend on their slimy coatings for protection; therefore, touching is limited and, when it does occur, it indicates a deep level of trust. Sea folk healers understand how some organisms can be used to fight malign organisms, how the deeper briny waters can be used to kill weaker microbes. Witches use that thick miasma of life to cast their magic, to the extreme of the leviathans, giant creatures built from the less-sentient organisms.

No Ocean Too Deep- Carver_Image 2

 

The people were adapted to fit the environment, influenced by existing sea creatures. Sea folk come in all forms. The Angler Fish Deep Sisters: mighty huntresses wielding bait made of light, spiky with bone, their males little more than nubs and pustules attached to their skin. The Sirens: though they can be from any species, so long as they are witches, tend to be more vulnerable species. In No Ocean, they are delicate, translucent, highly venomous jellies, and their giant nautilus entombs a leviathan.

Environment is character: Active in the story, equipped with motivations and needs, acting on the other characters and reacting to what they do. In No Ocean, the environment is partially responsible for the existence of the leviathans. They would not be possible without the soup of microbes through which magic travels and acts on the world. When witches die, if they hold onto their lives strongly enough, the sea answers them and weaves them into herself. They are eaten away over time, losing more and more of themselves as their leviathan armour grows, until they become the silent, monstrous guardians of the ocean.

It was my intention to share my love of the ocean and all she holds, and create a new and interesting world to play in. Hopefully, this came through!

No Ocean was inspired by a simple prompt: Write a romance involving mecha. Somehow, that translated into organic armour built from corals, anemones, squids, fish, crabs, etc. Thankfully, Less Than Three Press went along with it. Because, once that seed was planted, it grew into a leviathan of its own. No Ocean Too Deep-Carver_Image 3There are deep seas, deserts, castles, a hostile Republic, and even a distant jungle nation to explore. No Ocean is only the beginning.

 

I’m currently working on the sequel, in which Dastyaf hunts for the ingredients needed by sea folk witches to maintain their sentience and fight their leviathan nature. Once that hurdle is overcome, he’ll need to deal with the Republic. Last we saw them, the Republic had rebuilt their fleet and commenced another invasion.

As well as the direct sequel, there will be a companion series beginning with The Clockwork Centurion. This will be another M/M fantasy/romance set in a Jules Verne-esque version of post-Roman Briton, with the heavier steampunk aspects that No Ocean Too Deep mostly missed out on, other than the Republic’s weaponry. Eventually, the characters from each series will meet and we’ll see what happens.

 

Sword fighting, probably. Topless sword fighting, if I have my way.

Leona Carver

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No Ocean Too Deep Carver_Cover

Book Blurb:

To buck the brutal rule of the Republic, Amirzade Sharouk and his men pull off a desperate plan: Destroying the Republic’s fleet by joining forces with the legendary sea folk, masters of the leviathans, immense living weapons born of the sea and magic.

Though the gamble succeeds, one of the leviathans vanishes with a valuable human, straining an already tenuous alliance. Her caretaker Nils needs to find her as quickly as possible to redeem himself before his superiors. His search is further burdened by Dastyaf, a furious human warlord and liability in the marine realm. But after combing the deep ocean and discovering the dangers it holds, Nils realizes he may need the human more than he thought, to save his mission and himself.

Buy Links:       Less Than Three Press          Amazon             Smashwords             ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 174 pages
Published April 9th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title:No Ocean too Deep
ISBN139781620043448
edition languageEnglish
urlhttps://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-nooceantoodeep-1466468-153.html
series: A Loose Screw

Author Bio:

Leona Carver lurks in a Canadian basement with a cat and an aerospace engineer, one of whom helps with the science while the other scratches at the window to get out. She writes novels and short stories with a penchant for genre mash-ups—because fairy tales need space stations, historical romance needs steam powered cyborgs, merpeople should wear mecha, and all of the aforementioned need a little love. Or a lot of love.

Leona has published two M/M romances through Less Than Three Press: Piper, a space age version of the Pied Piper, and No Ocean Too Deep, a deep sea rescue with giant coral monsters and angry desert warriors.

Follow Leona Carver at: Leona can be rousted from her cave via email (leona.r.carver@gmail.com) or on her website (leonacarver.wordpress.com).

 

Rain, Rain Go Away and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Blogs and Contests

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bradley-blvdAnd it rained, and rained and rained……again we got over 3 to 4 inches of rain this weekend.  On top of about 5 to 6 inches a week or so ago. To say that everything around here is soggy is an understatement.  I swear I can hear the concrete squish when cars roll by.  There was a Canada goose standing on my roof, honking away a couple of days ago.  Probably thought my house was an island in the midst of all that water.  Crazy thing.  Problem was that it was Huntington VA floodingright!  What’s next?  Trout?

As I watch all the water swirl away, I kept thinking what a waste.  I wish there was a logical way to capture it al and maybe ship it out to California or Texas where it is needed.  Instead of a oil pipeline, perhaps a rainwater express to help alleviate some of our flooding and the drought that our new weather  patterns has brought to that area.  Rain barrels are great things…so are water catchments but I have standing water now in places that once was completely dry.  Is water gardening in my near future?  It’s looking that way….

I have a great schedule this week.  S.A. McAuley is stopping by to talk about her Borders War series and the next in the series, Powerless.  Katey Hawthorne is here with the next story in her Fairies series.  Amelia C. Gormley is taking us into summer with  her Saugatuck Summer. Plus I’ve discovered a new author for me, Leona Carver, who will be here talking about her writing and the inspiration behind No Oceans Too Deep.  Another new author for me is J.K. Hogan and I Survived Seattle. There are book giveaways connected to each author guest post and book tour so don’t miss out on a day here!  Oh, and a cover reveal by Amanda Young too!

I will finish the week up with  John Inman’s Spirit.  I just love this author’s stories and he will be here the following week with John Inman’s Writing with Humor and his growing up in a small town.

I also have two Winner Announcemenst.  Winner of S.J. Frost’s Knight of Fire is Midia.  Congratulations to Midia and my thanks to S.J. Frost for the guest blog and book donation and to all who stopped by and left comments. And Congratulations to MizEqualityPatricia, winner of the Kimber Vale’s contest for Double Takes.  Thank you, Kimber, for the guest post and great contest!

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The Week Ahead at ScatteredThoughts:

  • Monday, May 19:          Author Spotlight with SA McAuley and Powerless (Contest)
  • Monday, May 19, pm: Powerless by SA McAuley
  • Tuesday, May 20:         Author Spotlight:  Katey Hawthorne on Fairies
    Tuesday, May 20:          I Survived Seattle by J.K. Hogan
  • Wed., May 21:                Amelia C. Gormley’s Saugatuck Summer Book Tour/Contest
  • Wed., May 21 pm          Cover Reveal for Amanda Young’s GWM Wanted Novel
  • Thursday, May 22:       Author Spotlight on Leona Carver and No Oceans Too Deep (Contest)
  • Thursday, May 22:       Quick Stop: The Surgeon’s Apprentice by Richard Longfellow (Contest)
  • Friday, May 23:            No Oceans Too Deep by Leona Carver
  • Sat., May 24:                  Spirit by John Inman