Speculative Fiction Reviews



February 19, 2019

Title: Power Surge (The Evanstar Chronicles Book 1)

Author: Sara Codair

Publication Date: October 2018

Publisher: Ninestar Press

ISBN13: 9781949340921

Length: 293 pgs

Genre: Urban Fantasy, NA

Note: I was provided an ebook copy of this novel by the author for review, and I thank them for the opportunity. This is also an #ownvoices novel, which I highly appreciate.

Amazon Blurb: Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.

Spoiler-Free Review:  It’s been a while since I’ve done a review, so let’s get to it.

(Takes a slow breath) Honestly, I didn’t write this until three weeks after I finished Power Surge for several reasons, the primary one being the main character, Erin. In fact, Power Surge was almost a DNF read, but hold on, I want to tell you the things I enjoyed about the novel first.

What I liked: The concept of a part-elf demon hunter isn’t a new one, but Codair does an excellent job of creating a world hidden in plain-ish sight. I liked many of the characters, especially Erin’s grandfather and many of the side characters too (I specifically discuss one below). Erin has a lot to deal with both in their real and their magical lives, and the side characters are all there to help them. The sneaky demons were a treat too, but I like qualities like wordplay and compelling in my antagonists.

Considerations: I struggled with this novel on numerous levels. Continue reading 



September 7, 2018

Title: I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse

Author: C.H. Clepitt

Publication Date: May, 2016

Length: 120 pages (ebook)

Genre: Satire/Humorous

Synopsis: (from Amazon) Is anyone truly prepared for the apocalypse?

Well, Kerry certainly isn’t, and she fairly quickly discovers that looking sharp in a business suit and heels is not going to help anyone when there’s an apocalypse, with possible zombies!

Together with a super spy, an ex girl guide and a personal trainer with manly foraging skills, Kerry must battle terrifying religious cults, rich people and her personal demons, all whilst having the daily chore of deciding what to wear.

This is a laugh out loud comedy with romance, heart and talking badgers, and is not to be missed.

What would you wear to the apocalypse?

Spoiler-Free Review:  Track suits and Snarky Badgers? Seriously, both of those. I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse is a fun romp through what might be the end of us all.

What I liked: This novella is filled with wit, snappy comebacks, and somewhat ridiculous thoughts, but that’s the fun of it. Kerry, the protagonist, is uncoordinated and she knows it, especially in the heels she’s caught in when everything goes to hell in a handbasket. Oh, and what isn’t fun about a snarky, skeptical badger spirit guide?

Considerations: I was left with more questions than answers, with the feeling that plot wasn’t finished. And, at times, Kerry seems more worried about people’s sexualities than her own survival. I also found myself slipping into teacher mode when it came to the punctuation, but that’s primarily a matter of stylistic differences. (Fiction gives a lot of leeway on such issues.) A few times, however, this almost pulled me completely out of the story, a problem I seldom recover from, but I obviously did recover, and I’m glad I did.

Despite any of the above, this was a fun read and well worth the modest cost of the ebook.

My Review Rating: I no longer give ratings on my website, but this was a fun story that I recommend for when you want a doesn’t-take-itself-too-seriously read.

August 10, 2017

Translucid by Zen DiPietro

Great concept, characters and world building, but where’s the actual story? Translucid fails to deliver what it promises.

This is a cross post from a review site I occasionally post on: Reviewing the Gaps.

TITLE: Translucid: A Galactic Empire Space Opera Series (Dragonfire Station Book 1)

Author:  Zen DiPietro

Publication Type: Small Press

Length: 275 pgs

Genre: Science Fiction/ Space Opera/ LGBT Content

Release: 9/13/2016

Cover Evaluation: If this is stock, I certainly can’t tell. It sparked my interest from the get-go.

Author Bio: (From Amazon) Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, dreamer, 3D maker, and writer. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek.

Blurb: (From Amazon)

“Fallon has a job to do, but she’s forgotten what it is.

Not forgotten, exactly. More like it’s been ripped out of her brain.

She can get through her daily life just fine, but there are things about her that don’t add up against what her service record says. Or what people tell her about herself.

Whatever it is she’s forgotten…it’s bigger than anyone can imagine.

Emé Fallon is a PAC officer and the security chief of Dragonfire Station–and she does a damn good job of it. That’s where her competence ends. Outside of work, she has a wife she doesn’t know, a captain who seems to hate her, and a lot of questions that don’t add up.

When she begins to discover that she has skills she shouldn’t, she starts to understand what she’s capable of.

While she’s fighting for herself, she’ll realize that she and the galaxy have the same problem–and she’ll need to fight for them both.

One person can change a galactic empire, once she knows who she is. Will she end the PAC–or save it?”

Review: Great concept, characters and world building, but where’s the actual story?

I was quickly and completely absorbed into the world of Eme’ Fallon, her situation, and Dragonfire Station in general. It’s an interesting place. A bit of mystery, (okay, a lot) tons of unique alien culture, and a hint of romance… but that’s where the fun stopped. Really, as a reader, I was thoroughly disappointed with how it “ended.” (quotes used here because there wasn’t any real ending at all) The set up was there, I was in…then it… I felt like I hit a brick wall. There was such a great build but one without any climax or resolution. It was like watching a cliff-hanger episode of your favorite television show… however, this wasn’t a one-hour episode, but rather, a full-length novel. I was disappointed to say the least. I expected some sense of ending, some conclusion.

IMO, novels should follow some sort of plot arc, give readers a sense of closure, and not drop the reader off a cliff—no matter how well written the path to that cliff might be.

Simply put, this wasn’t a full story but a lead in… a hook so you’ll pay for the next installment.

I walked away so unfulfilled and frustrated as a reader, I am now pondering whether I’ll read the other books in the trilogy—even though I foolishly purchased them as a set based solely on someone’s recommendation.

Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth

Skythane Cover

Three POVs, Shakespearean references, and a rich tapestry of a plot that’ll leave you asking for more.

TITLE: Skythane

AUTHOR: J Scott Coatsworth

PUBLICATION TYPE: Dreamspinner Press

LENGTH: 244 pgs

GENRE: Science Fiction/ LGBT


COVER EVALUATION: Great use of color

AUTHOR BIO: Scott read Lord of the Rings at nine, and soon started writing his own sci-fi/fantasy with queer characters. Skythane is his first novel.

BOOK BLURB: (Taken from Amazon) Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.

Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.

Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them together.

REVIEW: Three POVs, Shakespearian references, and a rich tapestry of a plot that’ll leave you asking for more. Skythane, by J Scott Coatsworth, proved to be a delightful Sci-Fantasy read. The story, albeit a bit short for a novel in the genre, flows naturally, and the main characters, Jameson, Xander, and Quince bring their own backstories into the mix, weaving a rich tale where Jameson and Xander seem as opposite as their worlds of origin. When sparks inevitably fly between them, the tension rises, more so when one of their home worlds is threatened.

Reviewer opinions naturally vary too greatly for any work to ever be considered perfect, but this reviewer did find one potential flaw in Coatsworth’s tale. Quince, in hindsight, seems an almost unnecessary character. She drives the plot, provides story-cohesion, and helps bring Jameson and Xander together, but the story might have been better without her. This is not to say that Quince, a mature woman and, perhaps, the wise sage every epic tale needs, isn’t a terrific character, but this reviewer wonders what Skythane would have been like without her presence.

But then, there’s the epilogue— so maybe Quince is more needed than it seems., which, of course, means there will be a second novel in the series!

Nicely done, J Scott Coatsworth. Can’t wait for the next installment.

July 5, 2017

Atmosphere by Garth Bunse 


 What are we without our dreams? How do our dreams define us? Atmosphere: We don’t Orbit but Fall all the Same, addresses these issues on a galactic scale.

This is a cross post from a review site I occasionally post on: Reviewing the Gaps.

Title: Atmosphere: We don’t Orbit but Fall all the Same/ Author: Garth Buns/  Publication Type: Self-Published/ Length: 280 pgs/ Genre: Science-Fiction/ Release Date: April 2016

Cover Evaluation: eye-catching and great use of color

Author Bio: Tennessee born. Ran away to Quito, Santa Cruz, New College and Oaxaca. Lives happily with his wife and son in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Book Blurb: (Taken from Amazon)

“Atmosphere: We Don’t Orbit but Fall the Same is a struggle for survival between two alien species that hinges on an unlikely collaboration. *** Kora Green learned to talk in her sleep. In fact, everything she has ever been taught occurred while sleeping. She has lived so robustly while unconscious that she cannot ever remember being awake. Her community tells her that she has everything she needs, but then she feels sunlight on her skin and remembers, for the first time, the sensation of cool water between her toes. Kora soon learns that it is forbidden to discuss what happens in the wake-state. But when a spacecraft from another solar system arrives, the heretic Kora may hold the key to her species’ survival. *** Dr. Phlox Swenno was raised in the tree tops, and his people believe that emotions are a sign of weakness. His primate-like species trusts violence and science, but the doctor is trying to outrun an unspoken shame, and he is ill-equipped for life aboard a deep-space freighter. The planet they begin to orbit incubates new diseases and unforeseen dangers, and the doctor may be the only one who can read the clues. *** Atmosphere, at its deepest level, becomes an allegory regarding the importance of memory, dreams, and forgiveness.”

Review: What are we without our dreams? How do our dreams define us? Atmosphere: We don’t Orbit but Fall all the Same, addresses these issues on a galactic scale. In this novel, there’s no humanity to be found, but humanity’s faults and struggles abound in alien form. Atmosphere is a Sociological Sci-Fi lover’s dream, pun perhaps intended. The world-building is rich, and the protagonist, Phlox Sweeno, is as brave as he is often confused by his own dreams. Again, dreams. Phlox’s species is not only scared of them, but they’re a social taboo derived from past enslavement by another species. A series of catastrophic events forces Phlox to face his dreams during space flight and everything old and new that comes with them. The complexity and weaving of worlds versus dreams versus the struggle to survive made for worthwhile reading, but the story isn’t without its faults.

The story dragged early and was often difficult to follow. Two worlds were being presented at once, which isn’t a problem for this reviewer as long as there are proper transitions for reader understanding– there sometimes were not. Phlox Sweeno and his story were presented in a linear fashion while the other protagonist, Kora Green’s, tale read like a Greek tragedy, complete with a chorus. This proved distracting, and at times, frustrating. The verb tense often shifted between scenes without discernible breaks and the story was further complicated by Phlox’s sudden present-tense dreams. The novel was also plagued with anachronisms that didn’t fit the world the author created. Word choices such as Braille, human error, toothpaste, and sitting ducks threw this reviewer out of the story, and each time it proved more difficult to return. I did return, however, and was rewarded with a well thought out and intense ending worth the wade to reach.