Suicide Forest

Suicide_ForestHeart pounding suspense!

I strongly recommend this book for suspense seekers, you will definitely be entertained. Revealed through the eyes and voice of Ethan, who deals with the strange and gruesome occurrences that he, and six other companions, experience in Aokigahara Jukai – the Sea of Trees, or better known in Japan as the place to go, to commit suicide.

Suicide Forest -It’s an intriguing title and it only gets better-Jeremy Bates wrote a vivid novel, and pulls the reader into the world under the trees, a woven canopy of twisted boughs and an imaginative macabre forest.

The protagonist’s back story unfolds nicely with bits and pieces of his experiences as an English teacher in Japan. The tension picks up quick, and the companions roll from one ordeal to another, in a well-paced sequence of events, responding to each tribulation in creative ways. They all react with their own voice and tone, bringing an added dimension to the storyline. Throughout the book there is a true sense of place, and of cultural backgrounds with the descriptions of the music, food and drinking customs, and boundaries in relationships-all defining our humanity. The differences between the characters, as well as their common threads, are exposed.

The cast of characters begins with Ethan and his girlfriend Melinda, both English teachers in a foreign country. Her friend John Scott, an American soldier, tags along. Also another teacher and Ethan’s co-worker Neil, and Tomo a young Psychology major-they then meet up with two new acquaintances, Ben and Nina, who are Israeli. All of them are from different backgrounds and cultures, and they each have their own personal struggles. A common theme they do share-thoughts about suicide, or at least about death, for various individual reasons. The seven companions hike into the woods following lifelines of ribbons, and set out to camp for a night. Not everyone comes out.
They deal with the situations that arise, until you are led to think there is no place to turn-or hope left. But Ethan finds a way. I don’t want to give anything away but an unexpected turn leads the reader into a shocking end…

I never saw it coming. I believe, humans are the worst monsters. You have to read the book to understand… As a reader, I finished the story satisfied, with lingering thoughts about the situation the book presented. I am always happy reading a story that makes me think and learn new things, and Jeremy Bates did an excellent job of sharing his added flavor to the story, with his own experiences in travel, and obvious research. I strongly recommend this book for suspense seekers, you will definitely be entertained.

About The Reviewer

elizabeth_zgutaElisabeth Zguta is an advocate for Independent authors and publishers and encourages all writers to learn the skills needed for today’s book markets and to keep in touch with the new technologies.

​She is curious ​and always wants to know more about everything, and her attention goes to many places and topics. She considers herself a life learner, not only because of the courses she takes but also from the knowledge gained through life experiences. Nothing brings her more satisfaction than reading something new that sparks her imagination or connecting with other people regarding a topic. She is an Indie Author of supernatural, thriller suspense novels and writes blog posts.

Learn more about Elisabeth and her work at

Escape Plan

escape_planEscape Plan is the sequel to Overlook, both by Elizabeth Hein. While it can be enjoyed out of sequence, I recommend reading Overlook first. The two books make a single story if read in order, a satisfying story about revenge, justice, and finding one’s true path in life.

Overlook is the premiere neighborhood in an imaginary North Carolina town in the 1970s and Stacia rules it with an iron fist inside a kid glove. Property values and family values are one and the same, and woe be to anyone who upsets the status quo with unseemly drama or tragedy in the Stepford-like lakeside community.

Things begin to change when Stacia’s best friend Kitty becomes the center of a particularly unsavory family situation in the shape of a philandering husband who fails to keep up appearances. More than one of the Lookers is revealed in a different light as Kitty’s life falls apart and Stacia decides where her loyalties lie.

Book two picks up in the immediate aftermath of the events at the end of book one.

There are spoilers for Overlook in the rest of this review. You’ve been warned.

Kitty Haskell kills her husband (believe me, if you read book one, you’ll think he deserved it and be cheering for her to get away with it). Escape Plan is a book that dares to say: Now what? Like finding out what happens to the princess after the prince comes, this book shows that taking action against your troubles might just land you in an entirely new pool of hot water.

Not getting caught is only one of her problems. It’s the 70s and Kitty doesn’t have a job, and Seth left them in debt. There’s no insurance money since he’s only missing legally speaking, not dead. Heck, she doesn’t even own the car she was driving.

She’s a social pariah in Overlook, unable to keep up now that her finances are constrained and her life is in disorder. People she’d thought of as friends turn away from her completely. And there’s the matter of that mistress, the one her husband planned to leave her for. She’s not just disappearing.

I really enjoyed watching Kitty come into her own in this novel. I liked her in Overlook, but now I love her. I was surprised by many of the twists of fate in Kitty’s life and truly satisfied by the ending.

I recommend this book for readers who enjoy realistic, but dramatic stories and strong character arcs. It’s also interesting as a period piece and a commentary and the changing roles of women in the 1970s.

About The Reviewer:

BRYANT-CroppedSamantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills.

Learn more about Samantha and her work at

Liquid Gambit

81jH9oa5p1LI am already a fan of Milani’s, and I’ve always had a soft spot for werewolves who are not teen/angst/love characters, so I started off with high hopes, and I was overjoyed that the potential for a fun read was not only met, but exceeded. This was a good story that caught and transported me into a taut and well-paced story.

OK, so the protagonist was not a werewolf of lore but rather a Lupan, a genetically modified being with genes of 20-some predators that had been crafted to make a race of super-warriors. Stuck running a bar on an independent station without extradition treaties with the worlds where he has a price on his head, Rick is safe from their reach as long as he stays to the station. But is he safe even there with station security breathing down his neck and searching for an excuse to take him down?

With the obvious nod to Casablanca, Milani takes the story further, exploring subjects such as slavery and how people react to it. This was a fun ride, but it also had an underlying current of serious philosophy that lent the story more than a bit of gravitas.

I totally enjoyed this story, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to others.

About the reviewer:

larryscatJonathan Brazee is a retired Marine infantry colonel who after years of writing non-fiction, wrote his first novel while serving in Iraq. He independently published it, hoping to sell a few copies to friends and family, and was pleasantly surprised when the book gained traction among the general reading public. Twenty-three novels later, he is now winding down his post-military career overseas to become a full-time writer. A majority of his books have a military bent in science fiction, paranormal, historical fiction, and general fiction, but he has also written non-military scifi and paranormal. He writes three to four hours each day with the help (or despite) the attention of two rescue cats who insist on sitting on his lap or keyboard.
Jonathan is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, the US Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Disabled Veterans of America, and is an officer in the VFW’s Department of the Pacific.

Learn more about Jonathan and his work at

Cold Comfort

cold_comfortCold Comfort by E.W. Abernathy is a powerful story, an exploration of the intersections of mental health and law, and the ways that people are helped and harmed in the name of the public good.

John Colucci was nineteen years old when he was declared incompetent and committed to a mental institution after being involved in a violent crime. The problem is that he doesn’t actually remember what happened. The story begins when he is released after eight years of institutional life, into the care of his sister and brother-in-law. His sister doesn’t know what to do with him, and his policeman brother-in-law is convinced he’s dangerous and should still be locked away. Then, John falls in love…with a journalist. As the mystery of what happened eight years ago unfolds, Abernathy keeps the plot tense and leaves plenty of room for doubt. Red herrings had me second-guessing my own theories as I read.

I recommend it for readers who like psychological thrillers and underdogs.

About The Reviewer:

BRYANT-CroppedSamantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills.

Learn more about Samantha and her work at

Virtual Identity

Virtual_IdentityRemember the end of “eXistenZ”? In the 1999 movie starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law, they—and we—left that final scene unsure if it was yet another stage in the virtual reality presentation. Jude Law’s character, “virtual reality virgin” Ted Pikul, was pulled and shoved from one insanity to the next by his ignorance of whether he was in a real world or in the virtual reality game.
The entire story of Sandra Tomek and Rodrigo Ochoa in “Virtual Identity” has that same “still in the game” flavor.
You know the queasy thrill when the dead Brian O’Blivion showed up for a TV interview in 1983’s “Videodrome”? The appearance of the virtually-real, yet physically-deceased professor marked the point in the movie when what you knew was real started to spin out of your grasp. In “Virtual Identity,” that point occurs somewhere around the middle of Chapter Two. The James Woods character in “Videodrome,” Max Renn, at least has Harlan, with his condescending “Patronne,” to tell him why he has lost the boundary between reality and television.
Sandra Tomek has no such clue; she has slipped from a real existence to the shifting sands of virtual reality with scarcely a murmur of explanation. In fact, the core story-line of the novel seems to be her search for any stable, truly-real place to stand. Is Rod Ochoa an antagonist? a reluctant co-conspirator? a boyfriend caught in the same sting as Sandra herself? Is Sandra herself the villain, a terrorist-traitor selling secrets, or the innocent pawn of a cloned virtual self? Perhaps she is something entirely unsuspected, defined by shadowy “others” who have trapped her in this VR simulation.
Each new turn in the tale brings Sandra closer to madness, insanity of the kind that Max Renn or Ted Pikul would well understand: “It made her think about who she was, or thought she was, or believed she ought to be, or others expected her to be. Could she or anyone else identify the real Sandra? Did such a person even exist?”
The ongoing confusion about what is real and what is part of the VR simulation, for the reader no less than for Sandra, draws you along. You want to resolve the mystery. You want to find the edible core of this artichoke you are peeling leaf by pointed leaf, but each new layer reveals only another spiny conundrum. At one point, Sandra expresses her frustration with the impossibility of recognizing “real” reality while still wrapped in the haze of virtual-reality madness. “What’s wrong?” she asks Rod, then, “How would we even know?”
This is Volume 9 in the Our Cyber World series, and it includes characters we’ve met before. The focus is so inward, though, that you scarcely need to be familiar with them to be enmeshed in Sandra’s internal quest for identity. In the end, she may find a place to be herself.

How real that terminal identity may be, however, is left as an exercise for the reader.

About The Reviewer:
DrPat_imageGraduated from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in Geological Engineering (mining geology/economics). Married to a CSM mining engineer for 45+ years now. Has 10 brothers and sisters, could fill a small concert hall with nieces, nephews, and their children.

Lived and/or worked in: UK; Republic of South Africa; 47 of 50 US states; three provinces of Canada; Germany, Holland, and Switzerland. Have been underground in mines on three continents.

Published two editions of his journal of inspirational quotes, “The Social Calendar.” Currently co-writing the non-fictional “Meant To Be Here,” the memoirs of a most interesting man.

Writes flash fiction weekly as one of the Congress of Rough Writers at Carrot Ranch.

Learn more about Pat at “DrPat Reads”

Peace Lord Of The Red Planet

PeaceLordSteven H. Wilson always comes at a story from an angle that surprises, even to those of us who have learned to love his work. In this case, what presents as a pastiche of and homage to ERB’s “John Carter of Mars” books (yes, the ones that the recent movie was loosely based on) turns out to be something else entirely if you so much as breathe lightly on the surface.

Initially, and unexpectedly, I found Peace Lord off-putting–the attention to character detail was so exact that I found it jarring and uncomfortable, and I remember thinking several times, particularly through the opening chapters, that I would have liked it better when I was a believer than I did now, as I’d have found the evangelical aspects of it much more moving rather than merely interesting and occasionally annoying. Wilson, you see, nails the devotional Quaker mindset exactly. Unless you’ve been there, or have read a lot of early Quaker literature, it’s difficult to convey just how well he pulls it off. He does it so well that I began to worry if it wasn’t a Quaker book for Quaker (or at least self-consciously Christian) audiences.

However, sometime around chapter seven a wheel clicked in my head, as so often happens to me with Steve Wilson’s more philosophically inclined stories, and it dawned on me that I hadn’t quite cottoned on to what was he was up to.

Rather than being a Christian (TM) book as one comes to expect from folks like Peretti, LeHaye, or all but Lewis’s best (i.e. where the narrative is a thin veil for grinding a doctrinal axe), Wilson has written a spiritual epic.

The central concern, as with Lewis’s “Till We Have Faces” or Heinlein’s “Job,” is the spiritual and moral maturity of the main character (Shep). In facing challenges to his faith and worldview, Shep is forced to sort between his underlying moral principles and the rules that he’s accepted as their legitimate expression–and, kudos to Wilson for choosing a Quaker of that era, as the main character’s journey is very believable for a man of integrity raised on the writings of George Fox.

I really don’t have a lot of patience any more for evangelism–enough years in seminary and many more of intense personal study have made me a curmudgeonly cuss when anyone talks to me about the surface aspects of their religion (yes, I know the gospel, and the five pillars, and the eightfold path–been there, done that), but what I do have an abiding fascination for is integrity in the midst of ambiguity and contradiction. The thing about Wilson’s works that can still bring me down in tears is the sublime manner in which he navigates this territory, in one way or another, through his novels and some of his longer serials.

My only real gripe with the book is, at the end, a minor one: Shep’s internal lexicon is peppered with words (and, more frequently, idioms) that simply didn’t exist or weren’t used the way he does until the late 20th century. A lot of authors make this mistake–it only sticks out here because the verisimilitude otherwise present in the book is so very well done that these minor gaffes tossed me out of the story.

But if you’re not the kind of person that reads the OED for fun (I am, but I’m also comfortable with the fact that I’m OCD for the OED and weird enough to admit it in public), I highly doubt you’ll notice.

Peace Lord that kept me mentally chewing on its themes and puzzles for a good week afterward. This is, by my lights, exactly what science fiction is for, and kudos to Wilson for diving in with both feet in a way that is guaranteed to court offense and discomfort for everyone in the audience. That was my experience with Taken Liberty (his previous novel), and it was my experience with Peace Lord. I sincerely hope he’s working on another one.

About The Reviewer:

dan_headshot_squareWHILE STAR WARS and STAR TREK seeded J. Daniel Sawyer’s passion for the unknown, his childhood in academia gave him a deep love of history and an obsession with how the future emerges from the past.

This obsession led him through adventures in the film industry, the music industry, venture capital firms in the startup culture of Silicon Valley, and a career creating novels and audiobooks exploring the worlds that assemble themselves in his head.

His travels with bohemians, burners, historians, theologians, and inventors led him eventually to a rural exile where he uses the quiet to write, walk on the beach, and manage a production company that brings innovative stories to the ears of audiences across the world.

Learn more about Dan and his work at

The Maker’s Mask

makersmaskWhile it is easy to draw parallels between this novel and various classics of both science-fiction and Regency romance, to do so would be to give as incomplete a picture as a review of a restaurant containing a list of side dishes that other restaurants have also served. As with a fine meal, this book deserves to be judged on what Wells has done with the ingredients.

Far enough in the past that it has been lost from history, colony ships landed on Requite. Over the centuries the ships have become Spires, feudal city-states ruled by warring families. When Tzenni Boccamera’s sister is captured by a rival Spire she sets out on a secret mission to rescue her. But will her ability to not only maintain but improve the fragmented technology that remains be enough to survive in a society built on polite assassinations?

The background detail of the world are well realised. From the first moment, Tzenni uses a genetically-keyed lock to enter a castle, the feeling of ultra-technology lost to physical and social degradation is pervasive. It is not merely plausible that a civilisation with genetic manipulation and computer assisted manufacturing might have an underclass, it would seem implausible if there were not oppressed peasantry.

The book contains several plot arcs in addition to Tzenni’s search for her sister. Some intertwine closely with the search, drawing Tzenni away from her goals, whereas others appear not to touch it at all. This gives a feeling both that nothing happens in a vacuum and that even supporting characters are the subjects of their own narratives. These interlocking plots all draw the reader forward, maintaining a sense of tension without creating a feeling of being hurried or left behind.

It is this momentum that also produces the only jarring note in the work. This novel was originally the first half of a longer work and so – while Wells has done an excellent job of picking a point to split the halves and resolving the majority of the active plot arcs – the reader might find the end comes a little earlier than expected. However, this issue can easily be solved by obtaining the second volume, so is relatively minor for those afflicted with neither a lack of patience nor a barrier to purchase.

Each chapter opens with a short quote from an in-world classic. As well as adding much to both the reader’s understanding of the world and their immersion in it, these often serve to provide a counterpoint to the ongoing narrative, allowing Wells to add a note of comedy where it would be unrealistic for characters to be light-hearted or reveal how hollow social convention is without compromising a character’s determination to fit in.

Corpses make bad paramours, but better than average confidants
-Ir-Marid Boccamera (303-380 S.F.) The Assassin’s Pillow-Book

The sense of ongoing stories beyond the events explicitly covered by the novel is skilfully built upon by characterisation that avoids objectification. As with the novel as a whole, it would be easy to describe Tzenni with a few labels, but her actions are driven by her being Tzenni, not her being a woman or a noble. Where a character appears to be more simplistic, Wells subverts the portrayal later, revealing it is the character using a stereotype for their own purposes. However, this revelation is only for the reader; the characters display the very realistic dichotomy of adopting masks for their own benefit while assuming other people are part of broad groups.

This blindness is exploited particularly well in the burgeoning romance plots. While the reader knows the characters’ intentions, they are constrained by a lifetime of social propaganda and a fear of being exploited. Combined with a world strong enough to make social pressure enough to keep people apart, this makes it genuinely uncertain whether or not the couples will end up together.

The same deft hand is used on the characterisation of things that are not familiar to the reader. Unlike some books containing polyamory or other-sexed characters, the sexual politics are not at the forefront of description; while both influence individual interactions and goals, the characters do not focus on what is – to them – a mundane part of their society.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. I recommend it to both readers seeking decayed remnants of ultra-technology and those who enjoy social manoeuvring.

About The Reviewer


Dave Higgins writes speculative fiction, often with a dark edge. Despite forays into the mundane worlds of law and IT, he was unable to escape the liminal zone between mystery and horror. A creature of contradictions, he also co-writes comic sci-fi with Simon Cantan.

Born in the least mystically significant part of Wiltshire, England, and raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and hasn’t stopped since. He lives with his wife, two cats, a plush altar to Lord Cthulhu, and many shelves of books.

It’s rumoured he writes out of fear he will otherwise run out of books to read.

Learn more about Dave and his work at

Tales From The Canyons Of The Damned, Vol 4

Tales_Canyons_v4I’ve read the other Canyons offerings and felt an anticipatory frisson when opening this one. I intended to read one and save the others for consecutive nights. I read them all.

In “Bloom,” exotic and mysterious, S. Elliot Brandis examines a society based on a belief system that seems both familiar and foreign, comforting and cruel. It is a folk tale detective sacrifice story, and a good one. I adore Brandis’ descriptions! Two words become a complete picture. And when he gets going, one paragraph can be gripping.

Hank Garner covers territory in “The Hereafter”—geographical, meteorological and social—familiar to this Alabama native. My being from the Deep South means his story’s location and language make me so comfortable that, even with the foreshadowing, the horror ending is … I guess “enhanced” is the closest I can come right now. He does dialogue so well, giving each speaker a unique vocabulary and voice.There’s a parallel between Yankee-in-Dixie and Human-in-Haunted-Land in this story. The violence is mostly implied or from the distant past; the current ruckus is brief and final.

In “Eye in the Sky,” by Daniel Arthur Smith, the tentacles are high kilowatt affairs and blue is everywhere … until it’s black. Smith’s clean, tight writing delivers a jolt (ahem). As usual with his stories, he places the reader within the setting. This time, we get to be in a helicopter far above the streets of New York City. But that’s not the dizzying part; wait ’til you get to the arm of liquid chrome, the lifting lightning bolt . . . and those blue eyes.

It is good to read something by Jon Frater again. His story, “Sole Survivor,” is descriptive of place and antagonist. It doesn’t take long for a person to lose hope when all life has broken into fragments. Hold onto your supper; you’ll read of two-ton bloodworms, red ooze, and Sam. It’s as if Nevil Shute had written short horror.

All four third-person stories are engaging and give the reader the option of thinking about their underlying themes. This is excellent writing. Get this book. Plan to read just one. Let me know how that goes.

About The Reviewer:

Deanne_charltonDeanne Charlton is a well-traveled writer whose first book was a construction paper tome of 16 pages at age 8. She tortured her parents with homemade stage plays, using a sliding glass door to introduce characters. Eventually, she segued into real life, fulfilling a college degree and practicing several professions, and then she retreated to her make-believe world and the friends it now presents. While comfortable with poetry, she ventures into prose upon occasion, including short stories, essays, and book reviews. She curates a writer-dense Facebook group at DCharltonEdits, provides editing services, and tweets as @dcwrites. She is tender, fierce, and loyal.

Dreadnought And Shuttle

Dreadnaught-And-ShuttleLittle time has passed between the end of Ithaka Rising and this new book, throwing us into Micah’s life after he shuttled out of book 2, pretty early on. He’s still suffering from the injuries inflicted in Derelict and hoping to make a new life for himself. However, the despicable Alain Maldonado has other ideas. When Micah’s university room mate is kidnapped, it’s up to him and Halcyone’s crew to fly to the rescue.

Halcyone’s almost running smoothly – perhaps as smoothly as a forty year old ship that crash landed can be expected to run. That’s good, because almost everything else in the characters’ lives is falling apart. There are gigantic conspiracies, and it feels like every character in the book has a secret agenda.

Ro and Barre both pull off some pretty impressive stunts along the way, proving they have the brains and guts to take on the vast number of problems that can arise in space.

The story has a great combination of action and intrigue, with excellent pacing, as I’ve come to expect from the previous books in the series. The characters and their relationships with each other are well written, and I find myself caring about them. That’s a nice change from my usual fare on TV, where I find myself watching shows where I don’t like many of the characters (The 100, Fear the Walking Dead).

This book has a satisfying ending while leaving a lot of open questions for future books. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

About the Reviewer

ToxopeusRyanmedHusband, father, and researcher, Ryan Toxopeus spends his free time working on his epic fantasy trilogy, Empire’s Foundation. He started writing the first book, A Noble’s Quest, in 2010 and fell in love with all aspects of storytelling. He focuses on fast paced, character driven plots. His motto: “If I’m bored writing it, others will be bored reading it.”

Learn more about Ryan and his work at

Wilde’s Fire

wildes_fireWilde’s Fire by Krystal Wade is a YA/NA adventure story about a young woman who learns that she is more than she knew.

Katriona is a great character and her journey is well told. After dreaming for years about another life, one in a world full of magic and demons, Katriona never expected to actually go there. But a camping trip to a favorite spot with her sister and best friend becomes the beginning of her new life: as the chosen one who needs to save the people she never knew she was a part of.

The story intermixes romance and fantasy-adventure, with the balance falling more of the romance side. Given the genre, it’s not a surprise that it was very dramatic. I found it great fun, a light read that pulled me into an engaging world with an interesting plot. Wade is a fine writer who makes excellent use of the tropes of the genre while still presenting a fresh story. It’s the first book in a trilogy.

I’ve not read the rest yet, but plan to go back for more.

About The Reviewer:

BRYANT-CroppedSamantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills.

Learn more about Samantha and her work at