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: Convergence (Proud to be a Vampire) by Talya Andor

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Convergence coverLong time friends Chris Bryant and Ling Tam work for Chris’ father in Bryant’s Teas and Curiosities, a store that buys and sells antiques and oddities.  Chris and Ling have long searched for a certain treasure and now they think they have found it.  But in order to succeed they need the assistance of a very special and dangerous being, a vampire.  Chris places a discreet ad in the newspaper and it is answered by Dorran Gracen, a Welsh vampire who accepts the job and the challenges of the journey.

But traveling with a gorgeous predator has its own challenges and attractions, physical attractions that Chris Bryant has kept hidden from his family and society.  As their journey to China continues, he starts to yearn for more from Gracen than just his help to obtain the treasure.  At the journey’s end, will Chris and Ling find the treasure they have searched for or will Chris’ attraction to the vampire cost them everything they have worked for and his life as well.

Convergence is a wonderful little story by Talya Andor that reaches beyond its 22,000 word scope for something larger and, for the most part, succeeds.  It appears to take place in England sometime in the 1800’s, but this England is a place where vampires are a  reality, although a carefully hidden one.  Andor crafts a totally believable world, from Chris’ store to the voyage that takes the trio to China and their buried treasure.

I loved the relationship between Chris and Ling as well as the one that develops between Chris and Dorran.  Given the time period, unusual relationships such as those between people of differing races and social rank are not easily tolerated.  So in a lovely twist, Andor shows that while Chris and Ling consider themselves to be equals, they hide their  true friendships. A neat twist is that they consider themselves almost brothers, but still have to pretend to have a master/servant relationship, one that switches around once they reach China.

It is a time when it is equally dangerous to be gay so among the many things Chris is hiding, he is also careful not to disclose his homosexuality.  The only one who knows he is gay is Ling, his straight friend.  So many secrets here in Convergence, including the true nature of Ling and Chris’ collection of artifacts.  Then Andor adds another layer of deception with the introduction of her Welsh vampire, a somewhat civilized predator with an agenda of his own and truly, all paths and deceptions converge within a mountainous lair of puzzles and treasure.

The treacherous path to the jeweled artifact is a lovely combination of torturous puzzles and challenging physical hurdles.  I really enjoyed the planning and thought that went into this hunt.  The vivid descriptions made the atmosphere and setting come alive.  I had only one quibble with one hurdle that I am sure the author could have answered given a longer length.  Ok, how did those sharks stay alive given their location? Hmmm?  But the rest of it was so neatly planned out, that I can look past this curiosity.

The only other quibble I had with this story was that I wanted a little more of the growing relationship between Chris and Dorran.  The scenes we were given were so tantalizing that it made me want so much more.  They are a great couple and the ending makes me hopeful that there will be more of this couple and their hunts for oddities and treasures.  Whether you love vampires or romance or a combination of both, this is a story you won’t want to miss!

Note:  It appears as part of a bundle titled Proud To Be A Vampire, No. 1 and No. 2 but I don’t see any further references to these main characters so I am not certain where this story comes in.  It can certainly be read as a stand alone.

Cover designed by Aisha Akeju works wonderfully for the story and the treasure within.

Book Details:

ebook, 22,000 words, approx. 80 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Convergence
ISBN13 9781620042519
edition language English

The Wanda Alston Foundation and the Week Ahead in ReviewQ

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Wanda Alston Foundation logo

So, great news! The Washington DC Metro Area now has a shelter for LGBT youth, the Wanda Alston Foundation.  For those of you familiar with our area, this name may sound familiar and it should.  Wanda Alston was a LGBTQ activist in Washington, DC. She was a cabinet member of the DC government and served on the Board of Directors for National Organization of Women. Highly respected and admired, she worked and campaigned for the Democratic party and Human Rights Campaign. Sadly she was killed inside her home in the District in 2005.  Her activism and legacy lives on today in the Wanda Alston Foundation.

The Wanda Alston House was the name of a previous organization that operated a shelter for LGBTQ youth that closed.  Now newly restructured and reorganized, the Wanda Alston Foundation is fully operational and needs our help and support.

First, it needs donations.  Here is a list from the director of immediate needs for their shelter:

  • Toiletries: Toothbrushes; Toothpaste; Brushes, Combs; Deodorants and lotions
  • Houseware: New blankets; pillows; sheets and towels.
  • Travel: token and fare cards for youth travel to appointments such as interviews
  • Donations: Donations to support programmatic needs are great too: visit our website for information or now donate via credit card/pay pal.

Secondly, it needs volunteers.  If you live in the Washington, DC area and have a skill or craft that you believe could beneficial to residents ( ie. math tutor), then contact the foundation’s director at the address listed below.  I also have a link to the foundation located to the right of the blog itself.

Or connect with them online at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Organization Contact Info:

Kenneth J. Pettigrew
Director of Programs
Wanda Alston Foundation
300 New Jersey Ave NW Suite 900
Washington DC 20001  (202) 465-8794 Phone (202) 347-0130 Fax

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Now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, March 3:         Convergence by Talya Andor

Tuesday, March 4:         Heidi Belleau/Lisa Henry’s King of Dublin Book Tour & Contest

Tuesday, March 4:         The Professor #4 Every Inch of the Way Book Tour

Wed., March 5                 Song of the Spring Moon Waning by E.E. Ottoman

Thursday, March 6:       King of Dublin by Heidi Belleau & Lisa Henry

Friday, March 7:              Come to Me by Megan Derr

Sat., March 8:                  Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson