Tag Archives: Paranormal

Justice Calling

Technically, I’ve never met Annie Bellet. We’ve crossed paths on the Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America site but I’ve know about her for a long time. She’s who I want to be if I grow up. That woman can herd words like nobody’s business. I’ve been in awe of her production for a long time.

Now I’m in awe of her writing. I picked up a boxed set of the first three books of the series and I’ve practically mainlined them in the last day. I’m in the last few pages of the third title now and I really need to put it down to get some work done. It’s that engrossing. Jade Crow – the main character with her dodecahedron focus – grabbed my be the ears and dragged me into this series. Her voice – lushly profane, peppered with pop culture references from Buffy to Leroy Jenkins, sharp and pointed as a splinter in your thumb – made me believe she’s a sorceress. Hiding in a village of shifters and mundanes, the story kicks off when the new sheriff (figuratively speaking) comes to town. I’ve just been holding on for the ride ever since.

These first three are shorter works. Longer than novellas but shorter than my usual fare. I’m not holding that against them. I don’t normally go for the short but having seven of them out there? I’m willing to go that distance for what is turning into my favorite paranormal since Harry Dresden.

Caveats: Jade uses the F-bomb – straight up, no chaser and with it’s maternal variants – regularly. For Jade, a street urchin, this is not as gratuitous as it might seem. There’s a depth here that’s being woven with big weft on tight warp. The language, the D&D references, the backstory, the whole thing feels a lot bigger than some f-bombs tossed on a whim. If that word bothers you, then maybe skip this. There’s also some romance. It’s nicely done, I think. It adds depth to the surface story by giving Jade someone to care about besides herself – and more immediately than “everybody else in the world who will die.”

So? Feeling daring? Want a book about a heroine who has to eat her enemies hearts to kill them? (Yeah. Really.) The first taste is free, but I’m betting you’ll be hooked.

About the reviewer:

NathanLowell_150x150Nathan Lowell has been writing science fiction and fantasy most of his life. He started publishing in 2007 and has no intention of stopping any time soon.

Learn more about Nathan Lowell and his works at http://nathanlowell.com

[Note: You’re seeing more reviews from me because fellow authors aren’t sending reviews of the books they like. If you’re an author, consider the submitting a review about an indie book you loved. The submission guidelines link is at the top of this page.]

The Sixth Discipline

sixth_disciplineUnlike some stories that culture clash as a motif, this novel both features action by characters from each culture in both cultures and portrays neither culture as ultimately lesser to the other.

The book tells the story of Ran-Del Jahanpur, a warrior from a forest tribe that focus on mental discipline and aim to live in tune with nature. He is kidnapped by Baron Hayden, a noble from a technologically advanced city, who keeps him prisoner, but otherwise treats him as an honoured guest. Despite the empathy granted by his training, Ran-Del struggles to understand both the Baron’s plans and the society that holds him.

With a plot that moves back and forth between the forest and the city, the novel skilfully balances the benefits and disadvantages of psychic and technological solutions and the cultures that have grown up around them.

I found Ran-Del to be a well-developed character. His social and moral choices are sometimes better and sometimes worse than others, making him neither the noble savage or the uncultured rural. He also displays an entirely believable assumption that, having grown up feeling if people are lying himself, everyone will know that he is telling the truth if he denies wrongdoing.

The other main characters have similar depth, each displaying a personal reaction to the facets of other culture that they meet. This complexity of response makes both the growing friendships and fledgling rivalries more meaningful and the sudden elevation of a minor character to significance more believable.

The speed and ease with which Ran-Del became able to function in the city seemed unrealistically fast. However this is mostly due to the elision of the repeated little conflicts that is common to most stories dealing with potential integration into an alien culture, and is preferable to too much exposition of the differences.

Overall I found this story very enjoyable. I would recommend it to people who like fantasy or science-fiction set in a complex societies.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair review.

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 http://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/


endurance.I loved this book.

ENDURANCE captures the atmosphere of a gritty Western with the painful beauty of a work of magic realism, in a fantasy setting of a world several universes away from our own. A universe where shapeshifters live a hidden existence, pushed into a vanishing frontier and where the dominant culture and religion considers them an abomination.

Into this world, a preacher’s wife gives birth to what appears to be a live wolf pup.

Each character in this story is finely drawn and not one is exactly what he or she appears to be. There is an urgency that drives each to make choices that culminate in events none will escape unchanged. My worry for the preacher, his wife, the town doctor, and the schoolteacher kept me up reading long past the time I should have gone to sleep.

The writing is spare and haunting. The setting is so well-drawn that it, too, becomes a character. There are no easy answers and the ending haunted me in the way that Pan’s Labyrinth haunted me. Weeks later, I am still thinking about it. A highly original,  bittersweet, and moving story.

Disclaimer – I know both these writers casually through an extended writing group in the Boston area. I purchased the book because the description looked intriguing, and I’ve read and enjoyed short stories written by both of them. Anyone who knows me, knows I only recommend books love, regardless of any connection to the writer.

About The Reviewer


LJ Cohen is a novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, & relentless optimist. After 25 years as a physical therapist, LJ now uses her anatomical knowledge and clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. She lives outside of Boston. The 3rd book in her Halcyone Space SF series, Dreadnought And Shuttle, was published June of 2016. LJ is active in SFWA and Broad Universe.

Learn more about LJ and her work at www.ljcohen.net

Black Magic

black_magicAlex Black is a mage who, while capable of things that would impress an ordinary person, isn’t particularly powerful among her own kind. She does a bit of consulting work, but it’s hard to find jobs when you’re part of a secretive subset of the population. When she’s hired to find a magical murderer, she might have taken on a job that’s too much for her to handle.

Set in Vancouver, it was refreshing to read something set in Canada. The idea that fae (a term given to all magical creatures) live among us in not-small numbers is fun. Seeing how Alex interacts with them, and mundane humans, acting like a bridge between worlds adds to the complexity of her character. The pacing was excellent, with plenty of drama and action to keep my head in the story.

My only quibble (and it’s a small one) was that the magic seemed uneven. At the start of the book, a big deal is made of using magic. It has some unpleasant aftereffects, and can’t be used for long without draining the mage. Replenishing magical energy is not trivial for Alex, taking a very long time to re-energize without aids. She spends much of the book tired or even exhausted, yet continues to cast spells. By the end of the book, she’s casting quite a few more spells, and holding them for longer periods of time. Given that it was stated earlier in the book that it takes a great deal of studying to improve your control over magic, it felt like she was gaining strength at an unnaturally quick pace. Also, I can’t figure out why mages would use wards if they’re so easy to disable. Or maybe Alex is just very good at that sort of magic.

Either way, the plot of the book was good, with a few surprises along the way. The characters were entertaining, with almost everyone you meet having a deeper background that unfolds over the course of the story.

I liked the eventual pairing of the two characters who work together at the end. While Alex says she couldn’t have succeeded without her partner, if you reverse the camera, there’s no way in hell he could have dealt with the problems. Non-magic people just aren’t a threat to mages at all. But her partner isn’t useless, either. It’s nice to see two characters who both have their virtues, instead of having one come off as useless while the other saves the day.

I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something fun to read, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

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 https://prcreative.ca/ryan/

The Devil You Know

devil_you_knowOld Hollywood intermixes with demon hunting to make a pulp adventure well worth the read.

Our heroine, Marie, is a good woman, widowed in the war, living a quiet life as a church secretary, and getting her small thrills by reading Weird Tales in magazines. That is, until a friend drags her along to a Hollywood party and, as a result, changes her life forever. While there, both women come into contact with some very unusual men—men who aren’t really men at all, but demons. Incubi in the service of a rich and dangerous man. Incubi that Marie eventually has to hunt.

The novel is rich in time period details and pulp tropes while still presenting characters sympathetic to a modern reader. Despite potentially dark material, such as demons, widowhood, and post-traumatic stress disorder, the story has a light touch and reads quickly and smoothly.

Given that the main baddies in this story are incubi who find their victims while walking around in the guise of Hollywood stars like Errol Flynn and Cary Grant, there is, of course, a fair amount of sex. So, buyer beware if that’s not your cup of tea.

While I liked the ending very much, some parts of the story dragged a bit for me. Marie spends maybe a bit too much time dithering and coming up with a plan before she finally starts fighting, but once she does, the story takes off. It’s a real page-turner in the end.

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 http://samanthadunawaybryant.blogspot.com/

Day Soldiers

day_soldiersThis was one of the best lycanthropic/vampire books I’ve read for quite some time. I enjoyed every page, and that’s the bottom line for any book.

The book takes place in a near future where the werewolves and vampires of legend show themselves to wage war on humankind for their wanton destruction of the planet. The “science” of the author’s universe was pretty well thought out. That aspect wasn’t as detailed as I have seen elsewhere, perhaps, but it never-the-less was logical and without contradictions later in the book. Once you understand this setting, everything falls into place.

I thought characterization was good for the most part. Lily, the protagonist, was somewhat of an odd duck, but she was pretty consistent throughout the book and she grew on me. Everything she did or didn’t do was reasonable given the character the author had built. I rather thought the “chief sneak” Abbey was very well developed.

The action was pretty well written. The entire going to rescue one character was a bit hard to justify, but after having accepted it, events played out quite well, if a bit surprisingly.

Where the novel really shined was in the dialogue. It was quick, brash, funny, and revealing, all while sounding authentic. In particular, Leo was a hoot, but not a cartoon. I laughed out loud several times while reading his dialogue.

I never noticed the editing, which is exactly what you want in a book.

There are many ways to rate a book. Does it push into new ground? Is the writing technically superior? Is the wording lyrical? In this case, I am rating the book by if I thought about it while I was driving home from work, eager to turn on my Kindle and see what happened next. In this, Day Soldiers was a howling success (pun intended.)

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 http://www.jonathanbrazee.com

The Eagle And The Wolf

Eagle-and-wolfI have a confession to make. I read this book because I saw Peter Smalley’s name on it. The other books of his that I’ve read have been enjoyable, so I grabbed this without even reading the blurb. I saw a Swastika on it, and the Eiffel Tower, so I figured it was set in Paris in WWII, but beyond that I knew nothing.

It’s a story about Cecile, a French werewolf ballerina spy who falls for Klaus, a German officer who’s stationed in Paris after his plane is shot down and he can no longer fly. She’s not happy about being a werewolf, or a spy, or falling in love with the German officer, but it all happens to her anyway.

The pacing of the story is much slower than the stories I normally read. I think I was about 20-25% of the way through the story before the really interesting stuff started to happen. But the slow build worked really well in this story, and felt authentic.

In fact, it almost felt like the book was conforming to my own thoughts and questions as I went through it. An example: at one point I thought, “I’m surprised none of these German officers are being reassigned to other areas, where the war is going badly.” The next time I picked up the book, one of the officers headed out of Paris!

Here’s something else that I loved about the book, and I don’t think you will ever hear me say this about another book – I loved the werewolves. I HATE werewolves most the time, because they’re always the same mindless monsters when the moon comes out, they tear everyone apart, wake up naked the next day, and cry in a forest, their bodies covered in blood. Blah, blah, blah, they’re boring. And when the werewolf aspect was first introduced in this story, I had a flashback to when I was a teenager and went to see the movie An American Werewolf in Paris. I remember exactly nothing about that movie except that I hated it.

But the way werewolves were portrayed in this book was refreshing. While there is that “uncontrolled animal” aspect (especially for the males, it seems), it’s not always there. The wolf can be bargained with and controlled (with extreme effort). It’s almost an aside for the story. The main focus is on the occupation and the relationship between Cecile and Klaus, and the werewolf angle is a bit of flavour.

This story was thoughtfully put together with a real eye for all the important details that make characters and settings feel true. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the authors had gone back and looked through the phases of the moon to get the actual dates of the full moon right, because everything else is so authentic.

Aside from some minor issues that can be overlooked (“and and” or an extra word/missing word here and there), I really only have one thing that bothered me, and that was that the ending wasn’t an ending; it’s just a pause until the next book. When I got to about the 97% mark, I started dreading that was where the book was going to go. It didn’t feel like it was wrapping up at all. For a first-in-series book, I like more closure so I can stop and say, “Do I want to go on with this series?” and not feel pressure either way. Whether that ending is a triumphant victory, or a twist and failure doesn’t matter so much as the fact that it should end, with some extra ideas to make you want to read more. That said, I’m not sure if there was another spot they could have ended it cleanly, so maybe it needed to (not) end this way.

After thinking about the issue for a while, I think I nailed down why the non-ending here bugs me so much. It’s because the book doesn’t say it’s part of a series on the cover.

In this case I enjoyed the story enough that I want to see where it goes next, so I can let the lack of an ending slide. But I could see how it might annoy other readers who aren’t as invested in the tale.

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 https://prcreative.ca/ryan/