Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

What Dawn Demands, by Clara Coulson

After watching his city fall to pieces during his archenemy’s last attack, Vincent Whelan is finally ready to take the fight to Abarta. But in order to defeat an age-old god and his growing army of vicious fiends, Vince will have to take Kinsale’s selection of subdued paranormals and somehow turn them into a first-rate fighting force. To complicate matters, the vampires have made themselves at home in Kinsale, and the city’s recovery is threatened by their escalating violence. So when Vince stumbles upon a major scheme in the making, spearheaded by the elder vampire who wants his head on a plate, he’ll have to navigate not only the dangers of Abarta’s next big move but also the rising risk of a vampire insurrection. A cunning trap that could destroy the city. An ancient summoning that could destroy the world. A pair of powerful people determined to achieve their dark ambitions. And the only thing standing in the way of all this chaos is a half-fae with a cop badge, a cool sword, and a massive chip on his shoulder. It’s Vincent Whelan versus the forces of absolute destruction, and the odds are far worse than fifty-fifty.

This fourth book in the series had a slightly different feel to it. Vince seems to have matured between the events of books three and four. I think I like this confident Vince better than the “hidden” one. I will say, that this is the first book in the series to have a cliffhanger ending, and it felt longer than any of the previous books. I’m not usually a fan of the cliffhanger, but Coulson pulls it off without book four feeling incomplete. It’s been fun reading Vince grow as a character, and we learned a lot about the past histories of the world, Vince, and the fae. If I had to find fault, it’s that the recurring villains are getting a little stale. I realize that Abarta is the big bad, and his defeat would likely mean the end of the series, but he seems like doctor claw from inspector gadget. I still love the snark between Vince and Saoirse, and between Vince and everyone who shunned him before his lineage was revealed. Everybody cheers for the underdog, and Vincent Whelan is an underdog I can really get behind. Five stars like the rest of the series, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

Therin-Knite

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently, in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites.

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Hello Protocol For Dead Girls, by Zen DiPietro

I wasn’t so impulsive when I was alive. Death has changed me, I guess. This isn’t a dream. It’s not the afterlife, either. This is something new. I don’t remember how I died. I only know that I did. My name is Jennika Monroe, and I need to find a way out of here. A college student reaches out from beyond the dead to solve her own murder. A struggle to identify what it means to be alive, what it means to love, and how hard a person will fight to hold on to what matters. This story is like nothing you’ve read before. It’s Altered Carbon meets Gone Girl inside a Matrix type environment. It will challenge you, then thrill you, then leave you wanting more. It’s an innovative breath of fresh air that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Step into the pounding heart of a unique digital setting and enjoy this technothriller today!

This is a fun read, which is to be expected from Zen DiPietro. I’ve yet to read a story from her that I haven’t liked. Billed as a technothriller, I think that Hello Protocol for Dead Girlswill also appeal to fans of LitRPGs. With a Ghost in the Machinevibe, we see technology through the view of a disembodied programmer. Reminiscent of Tron, Jennika interacts with other programs, and tries to not only let people know that she’s trapped in the server, but to solve her own murder. That particular nugget came out of nowhere, and I didn’t know who done it until the reveal. The story also explores themes like identity, and what it is that makes us human. Zen is no stranger to thinking outside of the box, and Hello Protocol for Dead Girlsis a short, easy read. It’s a welcome edition to Zen’s backlist, and worth the read. Four and a half stars!

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Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, writer, and a mom of two. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek. Absolutely terrible at conforming. A recovering gamer, but we won’t talk about that. Particular loves include badass heroines, British accents, and the smell of Band-Aids. Being an introvert gets in her way sometimes, as she finds it hard to make idle chitchat or stay up past 9 p.m. On the other hand, it makes it easy for her to dive down the rabbit hole of her love for books, stories, movies and games.

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Oath Sworn, by Meg MacDonald

Defending Lian against soulless assassins is not what Aralt “Wolf” syr Tremayne agreed to. Nor did he agree to be the guardian of an irrational teenaged Keeper of the Faith. And he certainly did not plan on sky pirates or cannibals. Aralt has his hands full. The Grand Meeting of the Northern Alliance is mere days away and Lian Kynsei, last of the soul-touched and missing for three years, turns up on his doorstep. A noble man of his word, Aralt has every intention of protecting his ward, but did he have to show up now? What’s worse, the more they get reacquainted, the less Aralt likes him. He’s reckless, emotional, and when he’s angry even the weather changes. This is the hope of a nation? Armed with the Tuned sword that is all he has left of his murdered brother, Aralt endeavors to secure a sanctuary for a reluctant heir-apparent who never anticipated his elevated status. But sanctuary proves elusive, every step bringing them closer to danger–and closer to revealing secrets neither wishes to share. The enemy has made the skies their own and unleashed a scourge intent on killing Lian–or worse. Death, Aralt realizes, might be the greater mercy.

Oath Sworn starts a bit slow, but this is a necessity to lay the foundation on which an epic noblebright series is built. From flying ships to crystal swords that sing with sorrow and jubilation, the world of Aralt and Lian is a masterpiece that yearns to be told again and again.

A richly woven tapestry of history, religion, and good old fashioned gas lamp fantasy, Oath Sworn is a tale of tales for athe ages. Exciting chapters flow with a beautiful prose that is accessible to readers young and old alike. New readers will marvel at the mastery and majesty of the author, and seasoned readers will find that they’ve reunited with a tale that is familiar, but told in a way that only Meg Mac Donald could tell.

I long for the continuation of the Wolf’s Oath series, and know that new installments will be as riveting as this introduction. Five out of five stars is an easy rating to grant, and I have no doubt that more tales from the author will quickly become a reader’s favorite.

Meg MacDonald is a time traveler from beyond the Stellian Galaxy, but she pretends to be a life-long Michigander and SFF geek whose first crush (after her daddy) was Mr. Spock. This explains a lot. She began writing the stories that would lead to Oath Sworn and the Wolf’s Oath Trilogy when she was in high school. A lot of writing and many distractions followed. She has trained dogs and horses, rescued cats, renovated old houses, gone spelunking, and fostered children. Her husband thinks she’s cute, her kids think she’s weird, and her cats just want her for her lap. She loves woolly mammoths, Coca-Cola, men in kilts, and has never been to the moon, but hope springs eternal. Meg’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in Weird Tales, Masques of Darkover, The Temporal Logbook, and other short story anthologies both in print and online. She was editor-in-chief of the semi-pro SFF magazine PANDORA back in the day and credits that experience with nurturing her love of short fiction, honing her critical skills, and delaying her writing career by at least a decade.

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The Harpy, by Julie Hutchings

Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one. Punk-rock runaway Charity Blake becomes a Harpy at night—a treacherous mythical monster who preys upon men just like the ones who abused her. Struggling through an endless stream of crappy coffee shop jobs, revolted stares, and self-isolation during the day, Charity longs to turn into the beast at night. Doing the right thing in all the wrong ways suits her. But a Harpy’s life belongs in Hell—the gruesome Wood of Suicides, where the Harpy queen offers Charity just what she’s looking for: a home where she can reign supreme and leave behind the agony of her past. The choice to stay in Hell would be easy, were it not for a rock-and-roll neighbor who loves her for the woman she is—even when he discovers the creature she becomes—and unexpected new friends with their own deranged pasts and desires who see Charity as their savior. But salvation isn’t in the cards for Charity. Not when her friends see through her vicious attitude and fall in love with her power as the Harpy. Struggling between the life of an injured outcast and the grizzly champion of a blood-red hellscape, Charity must thwart her friends’ craving for her power enough to fear her corruption—and determine once and for all where her salvation lies: in eternal revenge or mortal love.

The Harpy, by Julie Hutchings is dark. Characters deal with abuse, violence, and a touch of gore when they deserve it. Charity is a flawed protagonist, but who wouldn’t be with the same backstory? Always snarky, with a brutally honest look at humanity’s underbelly, The Harpy is an excellent voyage into darkness. Characters are not who and what they claim to be, and everything’s fair game. If you like your stories dark, and your protagonists covered in blood, then this is the book for you.

Julie’s a mythology-twisting, pizza-hoarding karate-kicker who left her ten-year panty peddling career to devote all her time to writing. She is the author of Running Home, Running Away, The Wind Between Worlds, and forthcoming The Harpy. Julie revels in all things Buffy, Marvel, robots, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie lives in Plymouth, MA, constantly awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband, two magnificent boys, and a reptile army.

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Spell Caster, by Clara Coulson

After discovering a startling secret about his own history, Cal’s been forced to split his time between honing new skills and healing old wounds. So when what appears to be a routine supernatural murder drags him out of the DSI office and onto the streets once again, Cal is initially overjoyed at the prospect of returning to some sense of “normal.” His hopes are dashed, however, when the seemingly simple crime suddenly morphs into a violent murder spree that leaves bloody bodies scattered across Aurora. With scant clues to the perpetrator’s motives and identity, Cal and his teammates find themselves in a race against time to stop a magic practitioner hellbent on killing anyone related to a man that everyone at DSI was hoping they’d be allowed to forget. But in the supernatural community, old wounds always reopen and old enemies always rear their heads again in the ugliest of ways. And while Cal now has more power at his disposal than ever before, the adversary pitted against him this time around may just be unstoppable.

I continue to enjoy Clara Coulson’s “City of Crows” series. After the events in Day Killer, Cal has to be careful. Revelations could mean the end of the line for Cal Kinsey. Zombies are just the start of Spell Caster. Cal reunites with an old friend, but in a world subject to Fae whim and politics, who can be trusted?

Can Cal stay out of the Emberverse for once? The Methuselah Group, The Black Knights, and the High Fae Court continue to be the bane of Cal’s existence. You start to feel sorry for the guy. When will Cal get a break?

Spell Casteris another action-packed tale with twisty turns and mysterious magician machinations. Just like the five books before it, Spell Casteris fast-paced with realistic characters with a diverse cast that lifts the veil to our own world. I look forward to Dawn Slayernext year. Five stars for Spell Caster.

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites. In the publishing sphere, Clara is currently occupied with the City of Crows urban fantasy series, and its companion series, Lark Nation.

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Wireless, by Greg Dragon

Waking up in a brothel with no recollection of previous events, Tricia, an android, is on a desperate quest to find her true creators. Trapped in the hands of gangsters and slavers, she’s done being abused and manipulated by the men of this world. But what she discovers after regaining her memory is more terrorizing than she ever realized. Now, it’s up to a robot with a conscience to carry out an impossible mission. Will Tricia prevail or is her fate already sealed?

Those that follow my haphazard book blog know that I like Greg Dragon. I find his writing to be excellent, and I’ll read anything that he puts out. I asked him for a review copy of Wireless, and he acquiesced.

I’m not sure if Wireless is the final book in the “Wired for Love” series, if so, it has been an exciting series to read. The ending is quite satisfying, and if I must bid the series farewell, it’ll be with a sense of completion. This series, plus Greg’s futuristic detective series, “The Synth Crisis,” offer an imaginative view of a possible future.

Not quite dystopian, not quite mystery, and not quite post-apocalyptic, the “Wired for Love” series blends all these elements, while focusing on human interactions, be they with synths or other humans. We cheer for Tricia when she succeeds, and cry when she fails. The series has something to say on the nature of being a person, discrimination, the dangers of an overreaching government, and the corruption of corporations and wealth.

As is the rest of the series, Wireless is must read, and like everything I’ve read by Greg Dragon, highly recommended.

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Greg Dragon has been a creative writer for several years, and has authored on topics of relationship, finance, physical fitness and more through different sources of media. In particular, his online magazine has been a source of much pragmatic information, which has been helpful to many. As a result, his work continues to grow with a large and loyal fan base.

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Black Chamber, by S. M. Stirling

1916. The Great War rages overseas, and the whole of Europe, Africa, and western Asia is falling to the Central Powers. To win a war that must be won, Teddy Roosevelt, once again the American president, turns to his top secret Black Chamber organization–and its cunning and deadly spy, Luz O’Malley Aróstegui. On a transatlantic airship voyage, Luz poses as an anti-American Mexican revolutionary to get close–very close–to a German agent code-named Imperial Sword. She’ll need every skill at her disposal to get him to trust her and lead her deep into enemy territory. In the mountains of Saxony, concealed from allied eyes, the German Reich’s plans for keeping the U.S. from entering the conflict are revealed: the deployment of a new diabolical weapon upon the shores of America…

I’ve always been a fan of speculative fiction. Behind Harry Turtledove, S. M. Stirling is my second favorite alternate history author. Black Chamber features a strong female protagonist in a World War I setting. Strong women in this era are fun to read, because although we know that these women had to exist in real life, there just aren’t a lot of stories about them.

S. M. Stirling is known for series without end, and I’ve already requested the next book in the Tales of the Black Chamber series on NetGalley. As I’ve come to expect with this author, the tale is full of adventure and there was obviously a lot of research for the telling of this gripping tale. Four starts, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one in 2019.

Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series.

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