A Caryn Review: Safety Protocols for Human Holidays by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Highly recommended as the cutest, funniest bit of holiday fluff I’ve read in a long time!

This sci-fi story is set on an interspecies ship traveling in the distant universe.  For the most part, there is only one of any individual species on the ship.  There is only one human, Jen, and the captain is concerned that she is broken, because she is not “behaving within previously observed species parameters”.  The captain is concerned about the safety and well-being of everyone on the crew, and so he assigns Security Officer Raskli, a Growlan, to investigate the change, to see if she can identify the problem, and fix it.  Why was Raskli chosen for this task?  Because the ship’s doctor said “you are both members of lactating placental species”.  Ha!

Raskli’s investigation into humans, and Jen in particular, is laugh out loud funny.  One of her first observations:

[Humans] ate everything.  It was a wonder than any other life on the planet had survived.

When she thought she had sufficient background, Raskli decided that she should become “friends” – a somewhat unusual concept to ritualistic Growlans – with Jen, and looking for a friendship ritual, followed the interspecies manual instructions for “dating”:

The initiator of the date will sometimes bring a small offering to the domicile of the acceptor.  Angiosperm blooms or boxes of sugar-and-cocoa-bean globs appear to be traditional for one-on-one dates, while offerings of substantial, meal-oriented food or fermented drink are more common for group dates.

This was the most adorable little meet-cute you can imagine.  Raskli’s heart was in the right place despite her awkwardness, so Jen accepted her friending request and the two proceeded to get to know and like each other despite the huge cultural differences.  Since the story is told from Raskli’s point of view, we get the outsiders perspective of humans and their quirks, and the author did a fabulous job of making fun of all the crazy things we do.

When Raskli was able to identify that the holiday season was exacerbating Jen’s feelings of homesickness and loneliness, she decided to put on a ship-wide celebration, and started researching.  In addition to our Western standards like Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, she also found references to solstice, yule, saturnalia, rohatsu, and others, and decided to just use them all.  In addition to the “traditional large sacrificial plant” that was “large, possibly radially symmetric, sloping limbs with many sharp spikes.  Looks fierce”, there were “shining spheres” and “glitter snakes”.  I was having so much fun reading how the decorations that have become so commonplace to us might be described by an alien who has never seen anything like them before!

The romance between Raskli and Jen was perfectly sweet.  No other word to describe it!  The story was just the right length, the various alien crew members all existed in almost perfect harmony, and at the end of the story I just couldn’t stop smiling.  I’m going to keep this around to re-read when I need a little happiness!  Brava, Angel Martinez!

Cover art by Freddy MacKay was exactly how I pictured Jen, sitting in front of a window that looked to be straight out of Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  Very appropriate!

Sales Links: Mischief Corner Books | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, First
Expected publication: December 9th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Julia Review: Ardulum: Second Don (Ardulum #2) by J. S. Fields

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Charted Systems are in pieces. Mercy’s Pledge is destroyed, and her captain dead. With no homes to return to, the remaining crew sets off on a journey to find the mythical planet of Ardulum—a planet where Emn might find her people, and Neek the answers she’s long sought. Finding the planet, however, brings a host of uncomfortable truths about Ardulum’s vision for the galaxy and Neek’s role in a religion that refuses to release her. Neek must balance her planet’s past and the unchecked power of the Ardulans with a budding relationship and a surprising revelation about her own genealogy.

Ardulum: Second Don blends space opera elements and hard science into a story about two women persistently bound to their past and a sentient planet determined to shape their future.

Ardulum: Second Don by J. S. Fields is the second book in the Ardulum-series of sci-fi novels. After reviewing the first one, I was curious to see how Neek’s and Emn’s journey would continue.

Just like with the first novel the worldbuilding is very impressive. There is a great variety of different alien species each with their own unique cultural and societal customs, technologies, appearances and ways of communication. Humans in general take a rather backseat role in this one with the plethora of other species able to shine, which I greatly appreciated. Though I’m usually not an avid reader of sci-fi, I could tell that the author put a great deal of work into constructing alien technologies and abilities that seemed plausible and followed clearly defined rules. I also enjoyed the use of gender-neutral pronouns in the case of species that were either officially gender-neutral or separated gender into three different categories.

From the start, I became a fan of Emn and how her character was developing throughout the story. I loved witnessing her maturing into a brave and determined young woman. However, I found that Neek’s character fell a bit short in comparison to Emn’s and was a bit of a step down from the first novel. She had just seemed somewhat more adamant before and at times her motives or line of reasoning would confuse me a bit. The same goes for Nicholas. I wished his own personal motives, troubles and opinions would have come through more. For the most part he felt like the nice guy who was coming along just for the heck of it.

I also had a bit of a problem with the way Neek’s and Emn’s relationship was unfolding. Though they were both clearly attracted to one another, Neek was rather hesitant about dealing with her feelings and openly acknowledging them in front of Emn for quite a while. She claimed that she did not know how to behave towards Emn because of her people worshipping Ardulans like Emn as gods. That just seemed a bit too out of character for me considering Neek’s attitude and behaviour from the first book. Now I don’t mind a slow build up towards a romantic relationship at all. However, I’m not a big fan of “delaying the inevitable”, so to speak, once it comes to the point where the mutual attraction between two characters is obvious not only to the readers but to the characters themselves. On the other hand, I did very much appreciate how open and direct Emn was from the start concerning her interest in Neek – it greatly added to her character for me.

Like in the previous entry, the point of view changes quite a bit between a handful of characters. I rather liked some of the new ones who got introduced like Arik.

All in all, I enjoyed the book though it didn’t capture my interest quite in the same way the first one did. I would definitely recommend this series to fans of sci-fi and space adventures since there is a lot of detailed worldbuilding to be appreciated. Readers looking for some hot, romantic action might want to look elsewhere though.

The cover by Natasha Snow is pretty to look at and the colours certainly pop. However, it strikes me as a bit generic and bland. I’d have preferred it if it featured a more direct connection to the story or art of a particular character instead.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 278 pages

Published October 9, 2017

by NineStar Press

ISBN: 978-1-947139-95-4

Edition Language: English

Lyn Gala on the Many Expressions of Love and her story ‘Tap-Dancing the Minefields’ (author guest post)

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Tap-Dancing the Minefields by Lyn Gala
DSP Publications
Cover art by Anne Cain

Buy at DSP Publications |  Amazon 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words welcomes Lyn Gala here today on her tour for Tap-Dancing the Minefields. Welcome, Lyn.

 

I write romance, so clearly I’m obsessed with people falling in love or being in love or struggling to make love work.  But sometimes I miss seeing a wide range of love.  In Romeo and Juliet, everyone talks about the young couple, but what about Mercutio’s love for Romeo? 

In Frankenstein, I am obsessed with how much the creature struggles to find brotherly love with all these imperfect people.  For one shining moment, he has it, sitting in a hovel with a blind man who talks to him like an equal, and then the family returns and reveals the truth about the monster’s horrible appearance.  That breaks my heart.  And I maintain that Huck Finn’s redemption comes when he learns to love Jim.

So I want a romantic love interest, but I also want deep, abiding love in all its forms.  Tap-Dancing grew out of that desire. Back in New York, Tank lost too many people he loved.  He took those broken connections and used them as an excuse to run as far and as fast as he could—ending up in the northern wilds of Alaska running supplies to a remote Army base.  Once there, Tank finds himself in the center of an alien conspiracy, a military unit struggling to defend the planet and a group of people who share the sort of camaraderie Tank desperately needs.

Lev is shy with a core of steel and a big heart, and Tank is immediately attracted to him.  But this story is also about Aldrich who is the mentor and father figure Tank needed.  It’s about Brian Hoffer who tried to be the big brother Tank needed and John who actually filled that role. It’s about how these people all love each other, and yes, Lev and Tank are the centerpiece because they have the romantic love, what the Greeks called eros—sexual passion.  And they do have a lot of passion.

But I wrote this with a list of the Greek words for love sitting in front of me.

I love the fact that the Greeks identified a number of different ways that love can develop in the human heart, and I want to explore all of them.  Philia, deep friendship, motivates these people as much as their desire to protect the world.  When Aldrich is talking to John or Deborah, who are technically under him in the chain of command, the ludus, playful love, shows as they tease each other.

These soldiers have agape, a love for all people that drives them to protect others, even when their own lives are at risk. Deborah and her husband show pragma, a deep longstanding love. More than any of my other books, I think this one has a happily ever after in that Lev and Tank develop that pragma by the end.  They have patience for each other, and love that comes from a place of compromise and patience can survive anything.

But more than anything, this is about philautia—self love. Tank hates himself for not being perfect and being helpless to stop evil in the world. Much of this book is about his struggle to forgive himself for being imperfect—for losing friends to a fight he couldn’t hope to win.  He is damaged in ways that only another warrior could recognize, and much of the book is about his struggle to forgive himself and rediscover his philautia because until he can open his heart to himself, he can’t truly allow Lev into it.

I will admit that I am stupidly in love with these characters.  I love how broken and flawed they are and how they keep fighting no matter what.  The love running through these guys isn’t about hearts and flowers. This love is steel and fire.  And sometimes the fire does burn too brightly.

Blurb

Sometimes the fiercest battle a man faces is against himself.

In the hidden alleyways of New York City, George “Tank” Tankersley defeated what he believed were demons. But the victory cost too much. Tank joined the Army in the hope of outrunning the guilt haunting him—only to stumble into a vast and deadly conspiracy, the enemies he’d hoped to never encounter again, and the arms of the brilliant, eccentric scientist tasked with saving humanity.

In a world where the line between dark magic and alien science is thin, Dr. Lev Underwood must reverse engineer recovered alien technology to give humans a fighting chance against the extraterrestrial beings who consider Earth nothing more than a petri dish. His old friend, Colonel Clyde Aldrich, wants to protect Lev from entanglement with the scarred and emotionally volatile young soldier, but Lev cannot help the pull he feels toward Tank. Still, his first loyalty is to the secret government program, and love might have to take a back seat to protecting the world. But if he can find a way, Lev wants both.

Excerpt:

The connecting door opened, and Clyde looked up as John stood in the doorway, silently watching. He had no censure on his face, but he stood as a mute witness as Tank’s cries gradually faded. It took over an hour, but eventually the stiff muscles and hard tremors faded until Tankersley lay limp in Clyde’s arms, either asleep or too worn out to keep grieving. Clyde didn’t fool himself. This was the first step on a long journey. But at least Tankersley had the balls to start down it. Plenty of men could never face their own fears.

“You want to give me a hand?” Clyde asked softly. John moved into the room, a silent shadow as he walked over and knelt down to scoop Tankersley up. He was really out of it. His eyes didn’t even flicker as John lifted him and moved him to the bed.

Clyde sat on the floor feeling nearly as exhausted himself. Watching Tankersley fight through all the pain made his own wounds feel rawer than they had in a while. Losing people. It wasn’t easy. And the officers for whom it became easy weren’t worth spit.

John frowned at him, and Clyde made a production of standing with his stiff knees. Usually he was exaggerating when he talked about his old legs, but Tankersley had put his weight onto Clyde’s left leg, and he had a raging case of pins and needles. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Clyde rubbed his sore leg.

“You guys wouldn’t hurt so much if you weren’t so willing to give your love to so many people,” John commented.

“Yep,” Clyde agreed. They’d talked about it on the gladiator ship—the danger of loving others and the way it stole a man’s soul when those people died. Clyde figured that neither of them needed to talk about it, because both of them had seen their share of men struggling to carry the emotional burdens the world required of them. Really, Lev should have found someone with fewer scars.

Author Bio:

Lynsey “Lyn” Gala started writing in the back of her science notebook in third grade and hasn’t stopped since. Westerns starring men with shady pasts gave way to science fiction with questionable protagonists, which eventually became any story with a morally ambiguous character. Even the purest heroes have pain and loss and darkness in their hearts, and that’s where she likes to find her stories. Her characters seek to better themselves and find the happy (or happier) ending.

When she isn’t writing, Lyn Gala teaches history in a small town in New Mexico. Her favorite spot to write is a flat rock under a wide tree on the edge of the open desert where her dog can terrorize local wildlife. Writing in a wide range of genres, she often gravitates back to adventure and BDSM, stories about men in search of true love and a way to bring some criminal to justice… unless they happen to be the criminal. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lyn.gala

A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky #1) by J. Scott Coatsworth

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Every now and again, a story comes along that you wish you could give more than the allotted 5 stars.  The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth is one of those novels. A science fiction saga, the first in a series, it’s giant narrative footprint calls to mind  some of my favorite science fiction authors, from Arthur C. Clarke in it’s clear, forward use of science and up to the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, in it’s all inclusive outlook on humanity,  the sweeping scope and incredible imaginative flair of the author makes this story one of the true highlights of my reading year.

Even more amazing after reading the foreword and discovering how close The Stark Divide came to never even being published at all.  What a journey for both author and novel.  That’s also an author’s note not to be missed.

The Stark Divide is separated into three sections starting with Seed, each transitioning with huge steps in human generation (a family), huge growth (an alive IA earth world/ship), and a vision for the human race.  The Earth is an ecological disaster, the humans left barely surviving on the populated livable land masses after the event known as The Burn which killed millions, leaving the rest scrabbling for their existence.  The hope for the human race lies among the stars and the three living world/ generation ships planned for space, of which the 43 Ariadne, or Forever is one.

Coatsworth takes us through the incredible birth of Forever in Seed, the introduction of the people so important to the beginnings of this saga and the foundation of the story.  Everyone and everything in The Stark Divide grabs at your heart, and your mind, engaging both your curiosity, your imagination, and yes,  pulling at our own fears at the potential for ecological disaster going on now.  Beautifully thought out as well as soaring on the author’s on creativity and extrapolation,  don’t be surprised to feel yourself wanting to be a part of this Utopia and then beginning to fear for it when all the ugliness that killed the Earth finds it’s way to Forever.

As I said, this is only the first story in a series.  I can scarcely wait for the next one to be released.  I need to know where the saga goes next.  You will too once this saga has you hooked as thoroughly as it does me.  If you love science fiction,  grab up a copy now and prepare to sink yourself into a world unlike any other.  It’s incredible, thought provoking, highly imaginative, and easily one of the best books of 2017!

Book One of Liminal Sky

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is perfect, a wonderful artistic rendering of parts of Forever.

Sales Links:

DSP Publications (paperback)DSP Publications (eBook) | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo iBooksGoodreads | 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781635338331
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Liminal Sky #1

A Free Dreamer Review: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade (Brigade #1) by L.M. Pierce

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

How do you fight for who you are, when the government controls what you are?

Andi knows being born an intersex “Transgressor” and then choosing to stay that way, can have lethal consequences. After all, surgical assignment is mandated by law. But she ain’t going to spend her life hiding from the Society, hooked on Flow, and wanking tourists just to make a few bucks. She’s a member of the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, an underground faction of Transgressors resisting the government’s war on their illegal genitalia.

But it’s not enough to tag their messages on shithouse walls and sniff down the next high. The government has found their headquarters, decimated their ranks, and they’re crushing the resistance. Though Andi might be nothing but a junktard, she embarks on a desperate dash to stay alive and send a call for help before they’re all killed—or worse, surgically assigned.

Andi, together with Brigade leader Elenbar, must get beyond the communications block preventing all radio transmission, which means crossing the seaboard Wall barricading the United Free States borders. It’s designed to keep enemies out and the citizens in, but amid increasing earthquakes and deadly pursuit, Andi will discover there’s a far more dangerous secret hidden deep within the Wall itself.

I’ve recently developed an interest for Science Fiction with non-binary protagonists, so when I saw the blurb for “Trans Liberty Riot Brigade” I just had to read the book. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The biggest problem for me was the language. This book is written in dialect all the way through and the author apparently came up with a bunch of new slang words too. At times, it felt like there was a real language barrier for me. There were some characters I didn’t understand at all because of their extreme dialect. Even when I did understand what was being said, it was just extremely jarring.

Maybe it’s because of the language barrier, but for a large part of the book I was simply confused. There was barely any world building or back story for the most part. There was a little bit of a history lesson toward the end, but that wasn’t nearly enough to answer all my questions.

Then there was Andi. I never did warm up to her. She never seemed to actually do anything, unless she had no other choice but to act. And even then, she had to be forced by somebody else. Mostly, she was just complaining and wallowing in self-pity.

That brings me to the next issue: pronouns. Everybody makes such a big deal out of having both male and female bits, and yet all “transgressors” always used female pronouns. It just didn’t ring true to me.

I did like where the story seemed to go toward the end. But it took a long time to get there and the plot was a bit all over the place.

You should be aware that this is a piece of literary/genre fiction. As such, there was barely a hint of romance. Personally, I didn’t mind that one bit. I don’t always need romance and love in my books. The book also has some pretty graphic scenes of drug use. Our MC is a junkie. Also, there are some pretty gory scenes. The gore was a tad too much for me at times, tbh.

This is part one of a new series. While I am sort of interested how this story will continue, I definitely won’t read the rest of the series. The slang was just too thick for me and I formed no real emotional connections to any of the characters. I liked the idea behing “Trans Liberty Riot Brigade”, but I was mostly disappointed by how the book actually turned out. It just wasn’t for me.

The cover by Natasha Snow is lovely. It’s definitely an eye-catcher.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

Kindle Edition, 273 pages
Published July 17th 2017 by NineStar Press
ASINB073DPB1PZ
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Alisa Review : Beast of a Time (Hellhound Bound #1) by Misha Paige

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

 

Everyone’s heard stories or songs about being a beast of burden. Well, it’s quite a burden to be a beast, too.

 

Kane isn’t like most people: he’s not human, for one thing. What he is, is exceptional.

 

An event from his past led him to stay on Earth, a planet of people that were often scared and hostile to his kind. Even so, Kane ignored all the hateful things said to him and focused instead on the job he chose to do.

 

That job is everything to him, and it’s his reason for living. When one man shows up—Al, a new hire who keeps smiling at Kane when he should be looking at him with fear and distaste—Kane is faced with a challenge he never expected. He didn’t think anyone would ever truly want him, and to discover that a very sexy, handsome man does indeed want him, shakes Kane to his core.

 

Despite Kane’s best attempt’s at keeping distance between them, he finds himself partnered with Al. Kane knows he needs to push Al away, and he tries. Sort of.

 

Al isn’t scared off like Kane’s former partners, and if he and Kane can survive the fight that’s coming for them, then maybe they’ll have a chance to discover what it means to love.

 

This was a great story and I loved it.  Kane has been helping humans for years and no matter how much he proves himself they continue to be mean or not give him any respect.  All Al want to do is be a good partner to Kane and pay him back for when he was a child.

 

Even though this story is told through Kane’s eye it is easy to see Al’s determination to be a good partner and to his indifference to Kane’s moods.  When Kane accepts Al he knows it goes far deeper than even he thinks Al could know but it seems that Al has the same commitment to him even if he isn’t a hound.  I enjoyed the mystery in this story and how Kane put himself on the line to protect those around him even when they are being jerks and trying to keep him from doing his job.  I am really looking forward to reading more in this series.

 

The cover art by Beany Sparks is great and eye catching.

 

Sales Links: Amazon | B&N  

 

Book Details:

ebook, 82 pages

Published: August 10, 2017 by Rainbow Ninja Press

Edition Language: English

Series: Hellhound Bound #1

A Free Dreamer Review: Dali by E.M. Hamill

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Dalí Tamareia has everything—a young family and a promising career as an Ambassador in the Sol Fed Diplomatic Corps. Dalí’s path as a peacemaker seems clear, but when their loved ones are killed in a terrorist attack, grief sends the genderfluid changeling into a spiral of self-destruction.

Fragile Sol Fed balances on the brink of war with a plundering alien race. Their skills with galactic relations are desperately needed to broker a protective alliance, but in mourning, Dalí no longer cares, seeking oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, in the arms of a faceless lover, or at the end of a knife.

The New Puritan Movement is rising to power within the government, preaching strict genetic counseling and galactic isolation to ensure survival of the endangered human race. Third gender citizens like Dalí don’t fit the mold of this perfect plan, and the NPM will stop at nothing to make their vision become reality. When Dalí stumbles into a plot threatening changelings like them, a shadow organization called the Penumbra recruits them for a rescue mission full of danger, sex, and intrigue, giving Dalí purpose again.

Risky liaisons with a sexy, charismatic pirate lord could be Dalí’s undoing—and the only way to prevent another deadly act of domestic terrorism.

“Dalí” was simply and utterly brilliant. I loved every single second of it. It’s no secret that I’m a lover of SciFi books and I’m glad I started reading space operas a while ago. Otherwise I might have missed out on this seriously amazing book and that would have been a real shame.

The set-up is intriguing. Dalí is a third gender changeling. Essentially, they’re the epidome of genderfluid. Their body can actually change to become male or female. Or they can stay in their neutral state, where they’re neither. For a big part of the book, Dalí leans toward female, for reasons I fully understood. And the idea of changing genders was only the beginning. The author took great care to create a truly fascinating world, full of little details that showed how much care went into creating this setting. The world building was extremely well done and it all felt so natural.

I absolutely loved Dalí right from the beginning. I felt their grief and loss and suffered through their self-destruction with them. It was breathtaking and felt so very genuine it made my heart ache. Dalí is a tough person, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel fear or pain or grief or doubt.

Now, I’ve always had a thing for the antagonists/villains in books and movies. And E.M. Hamill did a great job of creating a villain the way I like. He’s not completely and utterly evil. His actions actually made sense, in a cruel, twisted kind of way. And the tension between him and Dalí was absolutely sizzling.

Speaking of sizzling: The sex scenes were smoking hot. Incredibly erotic, without being overly detailed. Dalí’s unique body made the whole experience even hotter for me. But the sex wasn’t just there to get the reader hot and bothered, it always furthered the plot. The balance between hot smut and essential plot device was perfect.

There’s so much going on in this book, with so many unexpected twists and turns, it left me completely unable to put down the book. It was full of action and suspense, but also full of feelings. There were more quiet parts of the book, but those were just as addicting as the fast-moving spy parts.

Another thing I loved about this book was how diverse it was. There are so many different types of relationships and genders portrayed. It always felt completely natural to have such diverse characters. The author didn’t get lost in unnecessary terms or explanations, the characters were just there.

Although this book is set in the distant future and the world as we know it no longer exists, the plot touched on many issues we’re facing right now as well. There’s terrorism, human trafficking, drugs, religious extremism, gender identity and so on. It’s not easy to make a space opera feel like it deals with problems of our day and age.

Every lover of good SciFi with a bit of Erotic thrown in should read “Dalí”. I, for one, enjoyed every single second of it and I really, really hope there will be a second part sometime soon. You’ll love it too, trust me.

I like the cover by Natasha Snow. The colours are gorgeous and the space ship looks great. The young man’s face spoils the otherwise great cover a little. I think it would have looked even better without any human on it.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook
Published August 7th 2017 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781947139572
Edition LanguageEnglish

A VVivacious Review: That Doesn’t Belong Here by Dan Ackerman

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Emily and Levi are out on the beach when they find a silver pickup truck in the middle of the ocean. When Emily and Levi go to investigate they find someone trapped in the back seat, injured.

But this someone isn’t human, it’s something else and nothing like anything they have seen before but as it turns out that isn’t even the most interesting thing about Kato. Because the fact of the matter is that Kato is part of a sentient species.

Levi is struggling with himself and his sexuality. Making things worse is the fact that Kato seems to like him and not only is Kato a man but he is also not a human and Levi can’t seem to deny that he feels something for Kato too.

This is a really short story at least as far as I am concerned. My reader puts this at 146 pages but with the speed that I flew through the pages,this book might as well have been 50 pages long instead of thrice that.

This book had me hooked from the beginning. I read the first chapter which I found in the author’s email requesting the review but I couldn’t stop after having read only a single chapter and I would have seriously bought this book just to find out what was next if it had already been published. But it wasn’t so I couldn’t, but I did download a sample off of Smashwords which had a lot more content but still not enough to satisfy me and I remember going off on a hunt to find a book to distract me until I could get my hands on an ARC. Thankfully I got it the next day and I finished it in the same day.

God this book was unbelievable. It had such an amazingly well-executed premise and just the concept of this book had me so hooked, imagining that there is a sentient species right here on Earth that we know nothing about. I also loved the author’s idea of not having Kato be an alien because initially, I thought that was the lines along which this story would be headed but it didn’t and I fell a little bit more in love with this book.

As if that wasn’t enough to make the story good, the author tops it off with some amazing characters, perfect in their imperfections. I was already in love with Kato throughout the book but I didn’t realise how much till Kato finds himself in trouble and then I couldn’t wait for him to get out of it. But what was surprising is how much I loved Levi. I think I loved the fact that Levi wasn’t super model hot and he actually had some fat on him. The fact that Levi is confused, doesn’t quite understand who he is and at the same time struggles with his body could have gone really wrong because I don’t appreciate a self-deprecating personality in denial but Levi, God Levi makes it work. What was amazing about Levi was how his inner worth always shone through and his quiet strength was always on display no matter how blind he was to both these qualities of his. I also loved Emily, she is just such a contained character and I loved her independence and her confidence and her tendency to worry. This was one woman that I genuinely admired.

I can’t think of a single character in this book supporting or otherwise that wasn’t memorable and I truly fell in love with all of the nice ones and hated all the other ones.

The story doesn’t let up for a second because even though the story line moves slowly the pace of the book is fast. Things move slowly but at the same time it feels like everything is moving by too quickly or maybe it was my own reluctance of not having the book end coupled with my eagerness to know what happens next that made me feel that way.

This book ends suddenly, it is like reaching the top of a crescendo and instead of being gently guided down you find yourself in a free fall. I loved the ending but at the same time, I wanted more. This book truly had a dichotomy of emotions rising up in me.

There are a few loose ends that aren’t tied up in this book. Firstly, the fact that we never find out how Kato ended up in that trunk and secondly, we never find out what Charlotte wanted to discuss with Kato. Not that I mind too much. As far as I am concerned this book was perfect in spite of its flaws.

This book is amazing but it was imagination that flows throughout this book that has me so enraptured with this book and all its characters.

Cover Art. I really like the cover for the book not because of the picture that adorns it, which to be honest I find a little childish but what I love about the picture is that I can see how that image inspired this body of work or vice versa which makes this image more than just how it looks because it might look childish but it has depth.

Sales Links:  Preorder at Amazon 

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: October 1st 2017 by Supposed Crimes, LLC
ISBN13
9781944591892

Bradley Lloyd on The Games of Shadow Fray and Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) (author guest post, exclusive excerpt and giveaway)

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Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray #1) by Bradley Lloyd
DSP Publications
Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska

Available for Purchase at

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Bradley Lloyd here today, talking about his latest release Shadow Fray. Welcome, Bradley!

✒︎

Let’s Play! The Games of Shadow Fray

In reading Shadow Fray, one might think the plot was decidedly adult. Think The Hunger Games but with a healthy dose of Fight Club. While I’m a fan of both titles, the inspiration for Shadow Fray came from a place far more innocent–the games I played as a little kid.

My childhood wasn’t filled with fisticuffs or mixed martial arts lessons; instead, I took daily trips with my siblings and friends to the municipal swimming pool. We played the standard games like Marco Polo, and we took turns swimming under each other’s legs without touching, kind of like an underwater version of the limbo. The game I most remember, though, was one based entirely on imagination.

In this game, our familiar pool became infested with invisible, hungry underwater creatures. You’d be fine if you never touched the bottom, because that’s where they lived. We’d spend all day swimming around, trying not to touch the bottom. If you did touch the bottom, that’s when the little monsters would attack with their nasty bites. Too many bites, and you could die. BUT if you managed to apply the special ointment in time, you could stave off infection and death.

The special ointment was Coppertone sunscreen lotion. The year we invented that game, we never got sunburned, believe me. In fact, we probably went through at least a giant economy bottle a week.

My main goal in writing Shadow Fray was to write something fun–a steamy, action-packed romance. So when I thought about what was most fun, this pool game came to mind, probably at first subconsciously but it morphed into a very important plot point.

In Shadow Fray, the ground has been poison for many years. Unlike the pool game, you can touch the ground, but prolonged exposure results in what the characters refer to as Ground Sickness. Because of this, those with enough money live in high-rises as far from the ground as possible.

For this reason, Justin is forced to fight in the underground tournament known as Shadow Fray. He needs to keep his twin sister and younger brother living safely off the ground, and the only way to supplement their meager income is for him to win. The stakes are high, especially when he faces Hale, a brawler he has long admired. Though they fight for similar reasons, they find themselves at odds, first with each other, and then the greater forces at work in the crumbling world around them.

If you’ve read this far, chances are getting better that you might also read the book, so I’m going to reveal a spoiler-free special secret right here. You won’t find out in the first book what really caused the ground toxification. Do I know? Yes. Will you know eventually? Yes. There’s clues if you want to try to figure it out, and like a good sci-fi, it has a basis in fact. Not revealing everything right away was a tricky decision for me as a writer. Is it realistic that people, after a post-apocalyptic event, wouldn’t know the cause or the remedy? One of the plot points is the misinformation provided by the shady people remaining in power. So, I decided, yes, it could be realistic. Granted, this was all before the election and the influx of “alternative facts,” so I think this choice was the right one to make, even prescient, though it asks the reader to follow me along for a bit.

You see, I think as I got older, my mind went from imagining pool monsters to imagining more realistic monsters, and now I love a good mystery. My favorite childhood game led me to a more adult game of playing sleuth, or maybe hide-and-seek, where it’s the truth that’s hiding. Shadow Fray is all about games, and I sincerely hope you’ll come and play along with me. ~ Bradley Lloyd

Book Blurb

Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.

 

No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.

 

Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.

Exclusive Excerpt

Since my guest blog post is about childhood games, I thought I would introduce you to one of my favorite characters, the 10-year-old Charlie, who is mute. He’s the much younger brother of our hero, Justin. Even though he doesn’t talk, Charlie is still very expressive, like in this school assignment. In the book, Justin secretly holds on to this letter as a reminder of his reason for fighting in Shadow Fray. It’s also a great introduction to the Shadow Fray world. Enjoy!

Handwriting Practice

The Person I Look Up to Most

To: Sister Tim

From: Charlie

Justin does his best even when it’s hard, even when he’s tired and maybe hurting a little bit. He always shows courage. That’s why he’s the person I look up to the most.

I think we all have secrets to keep. It’s nice to have a little bit of privacy, like from the drones, and my brother tries to give us that. But we never hide. He wants me to have a normal life, whatever that is. My brother keeps secrets, but not from me. And he helps me keep my secrets too. Sometimes we hide from the drones like Shutters, but mostly we pretend like it’s just us.

Justin always tries to do what’s best for my sister and me. He raised me when my sister was at work. He always did lots of stuff with me. He read me books until I could read on my own. I didn’t even need school for that, because he taught me. But our favorite thing to do is watch cartoons.

He tries to keep things from me, but not in a bad way. He puts his tablet down all the time, but I know he’s reading. It’s almost like he doesn’t want anyone to know he reads, not even me. I think he doesn’t want me to be too curious about things. It’s another way he tries to protect me. So we just do kid stuff. But that’s okay.

My brother is really strong. He works out and he lifts weights. He makes me come with him and read a book but I watch him too. I know he stays strong to protect me and my sister. My sister is fertile, and so he always feels like he has to protect her because she’s in danger or something. My sister can take care of herself, but he does it anyway. I like that about him.

Justin’s secret is that he’s really smart. Like, really smart. Someday, my brother is going to figure out what is wrong with the world. He will figure out why all the people got sick and died so long ago, and what happened to poison the ground. Then he’ll find out why there’s not as many girls anymore, and why people can’t have babies. Maybe he’ll even find the cure for ground sickness, but that’s probably asking too much. I mean, he can’t do everything.

Here’s a secret about him and me. He says there’s two kinds of people—people who stay alive and people who go poking their noses where they don’t belong. I don’t say it (ha ha), but I know he’s both, and I’m both too. So really, there’s three kinds of people. But don’t tell him I said that.

He wants me to go to college at Exxon or DuPont in Chicago. I like that idea. Because if my brother doesn’t find out what happened and how to fix it, I want to find out for him. He’d like to take me out of Bruise City to Chicago, but maybe someday I will do that for him instead. Anyway, I like it here, because this is my home, and this is where you are too. Thanks for being the best teacher.

He would be so mad if he knew I wrote this. But I know you keep secrets too. So please keep my secret. I know you will, because you’re the third person I most look up to, and you always tell me I can do anything.

My brother tells me that too.

From: Charlie

P.S. My sister is the second person and I also have a friend named Gristopher Mays and he’s the fourth person. He’s really nice but I haven’t known him as long as I’ve known you.

P.P.S. I think you are that special third kind of person too. Thanks for being the best teacher.

Since my guest blog post is about childhood games, I thought I would introduce you to one of my favorite characters, the 10-year-old Charlie, who is mute. He’s the much younger brother of our hero, Justin. Even though he doesn’t talk, Charlie is still very expressive, like in this school assignment. In the book, Justin secretly holds on to this letter as a reminder of his reason for fighting in Shadow Fray. It’s also a great introduction to the Shadow Fray world. Enjoy!

Giveaway

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About the Author

Bradley Lloyd is a Chicago-born author who studied Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was raised in a conservative religious household but became aware of his sexuality at a very young age—about the same age he learned of his ancestry to Hans Christian Andersen. Inspired by this knowledge, writing became an outlet that helped him cope with inner conflicts and bullying.

Of course, he was no angel and occasionally used his storytelling powers for evil. He once convinced the neighborhood children that gnomes had been real before all being turned into lawn ornaments.

Later, these experiences lead him to work with middle-school students. Now a teacher in the inner city, he shares his love of writing with a captive audience of kids, who are thrilled with true(ish) tales of their haunted school building. 

Interestingly, his favorite UFC fighter and former world champion was a student at his school, and when Brad is not reading or writing, you might find him hosting the next UFC pay-per-view event party. His dreams of becoming an ultimate fighter are realized vicariously through his stories and video games.

Brad is happily married to a wonderful husband. Their tenth anniversary was also the day same-sex marriage became legal, and they were couple number seven at the courthouse.

You can read more of Brad’s (free) tales on his website BradleyLloyd.com, check him out on Medium, follow IMBradleyLloyd on Facebook and Twitter,

or e-mail him directly at IMBradleyLloyd@BradleyLloyd.com

A MelanieM Recent Release Review: Sharp Shooter Tokyoite by Charlie Godwyne

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

It’s 2035 and Kei is a half-Japanese, half-American asthmatic forced to relocate to Vancouver in order to breathe. Despite the difficulties that being in Japan entails, Kei goes back time and again to spend time with Taka, best friend and confidante, and help him hunt illegal pornographers. But no matter how badly Kei wishes they could be together permanently, life seems determined to keep them apart.

I was so looking forward to this story from reading the blurb.  It had so many things that intrigue me, a Japanese location with Japanese or half Japanese characters with unusual jobs, who exist in a dystopian world.  Unfortunately the execution just didn’t pan out.

For starters, the narrative comes out as muddied instead of clearly defined.  There is a weird intro about shooting a crow that really has nothing to do with the rest of the story, nothing about the world building is substantial other than the fact that there are  pornographers still  in existence (not a surprise) and that the air quality is bad, even worse if you have asthma.  How is this supposed to be a reach when it already exists now?  When there are people who need to wear masks in cities during yellow and red zone days? It happens around the world now from Arizona to China so to have this story located in 2035 makes little sense.

So already you have 2 marks against this story.  Then you get to the characters.  Kei and Taka, who have such a disjointed relationship that there is absolutely no chemistry between them and therefore no connection between them and the reader.  I really couldn’t figure out why they wanted to stay together.

The best part of this story?  The very last part which was cut short when the story ended.  That’s when the author should have picked up and run with it, that whole concept was great.  But no, that was the end of the story.  Oh well.

Cover artist:  Natasha Snow.  Neat cover, nice design.

Sales Link:   Less Than Three Press  | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 40 pages
Published April 26th 2017 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781620049860
Edition LanguageEnglish