‘Sleeping Beauty and The Cursed Code’ by Emma Jean – Review

Fairy tale and STEM combine for a fun story with an important message…

Emma Jean has put together a wonderful story that contains an important message aimed at encouraging and introducing younger readers to the world of STEM – this is something we need more of in modern literature.

In a fairy tale inspired world of kings, queens, castles and princesses a young Sleeping Beauty must race against time to defeat a curse created by an evil fairy. Part of this story we’ve known and loved for generations while the newer parts are fresh, educational and pretty cool. Some familiar names appear along with some newer ones but they are given a modern makeover and this whole story has that modern inner message of inclusion, education and even morality. It’s thought provoking for those of the younger persuasion while being educational and the subject of learning new skills is at the very core.

Sleeping Beauty and a host of characters must band together to utilise those new skills that will hopefully be enough to save the day and lift the curse. With some fun moments along the way and plenty of awesome tech, magic, original concepts and a good old fashioned good versus evil story this one is guaranteed to bring enjoyment to younger and older readers.

5 Stars – A great read with a positive message that spotlights the awesome world of STEM

‘King of the Wicked’ by T.R. Hamby – Review

An immersive imaginative take on Angels, humanity and immortality…

T.R. Hamby has constructed an original immersive and imaginative take on Angels and how their world interacts with the human one. We meet ‘Nora’ who is a struggling performer when she encounters ‘Mel’ who at first seems like a threat until he reveals who he truly is. What follows is a journey that will keep readers turning pages as the twists and turns present themselves. Its well written and even logical in places – especially when it comes to how these Angel types operate and have operated over time. We get a glimpse at the history of ‘Mel’, his world, and of course ‘Michael’ who plays an instrumental and pivotal role in the wider story which plays out.

With morality being a key theme throughout, these Angels and their motive is to put an end to bad people doing bad things which adds some high stakes as they must track them down before more bad happens. This concept is then woven into ‘Nora’s’ story which continually evolves. Romance and selflessness sits at the very centre of a real world fantasy story that will leave you wanting more.

5 Stars – Reviews left on Amazon and Goodreads.

‘Life of Maggot’ by Paul Jameson – Review

A masterfully written vision and song about the end of time…

Paul Jameson delivers his unique writing style to tell a story laid out much like a song about the end of time. The language and style immediately pulls you in with its classic but modern feel over the many chapters and short verses that keep the pages turning.

Pace and rhythm take centre stage in the seemingly apocalyptic world this story takes place in. We see the events from the view of ‘Maggot’ who is just a boy while chaos unfolds. Just what does the end look like? The author does a fantastic job of capturing this demise through description and visionary language that stirs the imagination by walking readers to the door but we are then given room to fill in the rest – this is story telling in its finest form and alongside that unique style makes for a stand-out reading experience.

The Monsters, their Respectable, the Commons, all drown in the storm that comes…”

While there are some darker tones there are also brighter moments because this journey is seen through the eyes of a boy who can perhaps see past that darkness. Even when there is Plague, War, Famine and Death there is still magic to be found and perhaps this is something adults forget. No matter what bad is happening there is always hope and ultimately there is some light to be found somewhere. Life of Maggot is a book I highly recommend and served as a wonderful reminder of how awesome reading can be.

5 Stars – Beautifully written and hands down one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘The Stone Mermaid’ by Aisha Urooj

Introducing author Aisha Urooj who shares an exclusive excerpt of dark fantasy romance ‘The Stone Mermaid’.

Victor was thinking about her again.

The sea witch’s son had a fascination, an obsession even, with Ariana. Victor’s obsession was even more unusual, seeing it was everyone else that fell for him. He could charm anyone with his smile. He could even captivate them further with his magic.

All he desired in the oceans was his to take, all except for her. And that made him want her more.

Ariana was the sea king’s daughter. The most beautiful mermaid in the seven seas.

Sure, her siren cousins were more alluring… even more agreeable, but there was something about her he couldn’t get off his mind. Was it her voice? Was it her physical beauty? Or was it something else?

Victor’s brand of magic had no effect on the mermaid, nor did Ariana fall for his charms.

If only she had a weakness? Victor thought. Something he could mould or bend towards his will… but Ariana had no desires, except to be free.

Hers was an odd desire… Her freedom.. but Victor thought he knew why.

Ariana’s mother was a human, kidnapped by the sea king, and brought against her will to his watery kingdom. Mad in love and lust, he made a bargain with the sea witch, Ursula, Victor’s mother.

If the sea king’s love had been greater than his lust, he would have sought Helena’s heart first.

But he didn’t.

Ursula told Brutus it could be done… that he could have his human bride, and she could live with him under water, if he gave away some of his kingdom to her. Now, the sea king ruled the seven seas, but the darkest and deepest corners of his kingdom belonged to the sea witch.

For as long as she lived, Helena, Ariana’s mother, never loved the sea king. She was bound to him against her will, a bird in a gilded cage, or in her case, trapped in a floating crystal palace under the sea. Helena never forgot… but for all her sorrow, she dearly loved her daughter. Ariana was the reason she didn’t fade away sooner.

As she grew up, Helena told Ariana stories about the human world, the wonders, and magic of the land above the oceans. Though she never uttered a word of complaint to her daughter, she made Ariana promise to prize her freedom above everything, and guard it with her life. Helena died when Ariana was sixteen. Ariana remembered the promise she made to her mother.

Victor had cared for Ariana’s mother because of her gentle nature. Queen Helena’s kindness was a stark contrast to his own mother, Ursula. He had watched the queen fade with each passing year.

So Victor understood Ariana’s reason…

“Ariana is a creature of the sea, and I am not forcibly taking her away from her realm,” Victor mused. “I am not as brutal as the old king.”

Victor knew Ariana, unlike her human mother, was born an immortal being.

Her magic might be delayed, but she was still immortal.

“I have an eternity to change Ariana’s mind,” Victor said to himself. “She will be mine.”

——-

For her seventeenth birthday, Helena requested to her father she wanted to see the ocean.

Seventeen years she had lived in this world without seeing a glimpse of an ocean wave. Her father thought it was an odd birthday present to ask for, but since it didn’t cost him anything except a few days’ journey, he agreed. They had a good harvest that year, and he could afford to spend a few days away.

Helena’s siblings were five and six, too young to be fascinated by anything other than toys. They were also too young for the journey, so they stayed behind with their mother.

Helena’s step-mother thought her husband spoiled her oldest daughter, but didn’t say a word. She knew Helena hardly asked for anything. It was impossible that he would deny his favorite daughter’s only request, she thought, so she didn’t bother to stop them.

Helena and her father, the farmer, went on the journey to see the ocean.

Helena loved her birthday present! She had seen nothing so big as the ocean. Her world instantly stretched bigger than the farm she was used to seeing.

Helena played with the seashells and sang songs to the waves. She liked looking at the waves crashing onto the shore, but she didn’t like being in the water. She found the water too cold for her liking. Helena had been playing near the rocks when she first saw him.

He was a strange-looking boy. His eyes were the same color as the ocean, as if they had captured the waves in them. He looked seventeen, the same age as Helena, but seemed much older.

“Can I know your name?” he asked.

“My name is Helena,” Helena replied.

“So you like singing, Helena? You have a beautiful voice,” he said.

Helena blushed at his compliment.

She saw the strange boy every day while she was near the ocean. Every time, he seemed to appear out of nowhere. Every time, he disappeared when her father was around.

Sometimes Helena thought that perhaps the boy was imaginary, a figment of her imagination. Her step-mother had often said that she daydreamed too much. She said it was not a good trait for a girl to have. She said Helena should learn to be practical.

“Where do you live?” Helena asked him one day.

“I live in an underwater kingdom. Would you like to see it?” he asked.

His answer surprised Helena. Perhaps she really was in a daydream?

Helena shook her head. “I am only here for a few days, and then I will return to my farm. I don’t even know how to swim well.”

“I can teach you,” the strange boy offered.

“I don’t like to be away from my family,” Helena answered truthfully. “I don’t like the water, for it is too cold.”

“I can give you a ring which will help you in the water. You won’t feel cold anymore,” the boy said.

He showed her a ring which had a single pink pearl. Helena thought that it must have been pricey, for it was precious. She remembered how her father had warned her not to accept gifts from strangers.

“I cannot accept such a gift. It probably costs more than my entire village!” Helena exclaimed.

The ring that the boy gave Helena was worth more than all the villages combined. It was an immortality ring, and once the wearer wore it, they gained eternal life.

“Please accept it as my gift. Wherever you go, if you wear it and call my name, I will come to you,” the boy said.

“What is your name?” Helena asked. Helena thought she was so silly, she hadn’t even asked the strange boy his name.

“My name is Brutus,” the sea king replied. “Wear the ring, Helena, and call me only when you are ready to go with me.”

“Ok, Brutus. I will accept your gift as I want to see you again,” Helena said, blushing, as she took the pretty ring.

That was the last she saw of the strange boy as she left the ocean with her father back to her village. She put the ring in a safe place and forgot about it for an entire year.

Next harvest season, her father had a poor yield. It worried the family as they did not have enough food to last through the winter. Helena thought about the precious ring she had hidden away. Perhaps she could give it to her father? He could sell it and it would solve all their problems.

She thought about Brutus and wondered if what he said was true.

“I will try it on before I give the ring to father,” Helena thought. She put the ring on and called Brutus’ name.

Brutus appeared in front of her, out of nowhere. He looked like an apparition under the dark starless sky. Although Helena had not thought about him in a year, Brutus had remembered her every moment since. He had gone mad thinking about her.

“Helena, you put on the ring and called my name. You wish to come with me to my kingdom,” Brutus said with happiness.

“I am sorry, Brutus. I was not thinking about going. I just wanted to see what you had said was true… that I didn’t just imagined meeting you,” Helena said flustered.

“You cannot go back on your word now,” Brutus said in anger. “You have put the ring on and so, you will leave with me.” He took Helena in his arms and took her back to his kingdom.

The next morning, the farmer called Helena for breakfast but she didn’t reply. It was strange as she usually was the first person to wake up. It shocked her father to find Helena’s bedroom empty. The farmer looked for her desperately everywhere in the village, hoping she had gone to see a friend, but Helena was nowhere to be seen.

His oldest daughter had gone missing without a trace.

The villagers gossiped she must have run away with a man, but her father knew his daughter and knew she would never do such a thing.

He felt that something terrible must have happened to her as Helena loved her family. She wouldn’t leave her father like that. She wouldn’t leave her brother and sister like that. He wept for his missing daughter.

The farmer searched for his missing daughter for years, but he died without ever seeing or hearing from his daughter again.

——-

Ursula, the sea witch, was pacing in her throne room. Her sea serpents twisted and turned as they swam around her arms. Her crown of dark pearls visible on her head. Victor knew the powerful, raw magic that it contained.

Victor stood idly by, knowing better to ask her what was wrong. The kingdom feared his mother above all the other powerful creatures in the ocean, and they had good reason to. Ursula was the empress of the dark lands but her ambition was to rule the entire ocean.

“Making Helena’s immortality ring cost me half my magic. I should have asked the sea king for half his kingdom. He might have given it all away too,” Ursula said to her son.

Victor had heard the conversation before. He was sure it wasn’t the last time he would hear it.

“You underestimate the old man,” Victor replied, coolly.

“And you overestimate him. He is foolish, driven to madness by a mortal woman. At least he was driven by bodily desires… which is easier to satisfy. His daughter is even more foolish than her father,” Ursula said. “She is driven by something far more dangerous.”

Victor’s heart started beating fast. It did whenever his mother mentioned Ariana. He evened his breath before asking.

“What do you suggest drives her?” Victor asked, curious to know what his mother would say.

“Her heart… and that will be her undoing. I might get my kingdom yet,” Ursula cackled.

Victor didn’t want to argue with his mother, so he smiled politely.

Ursula might have been right about Ariana, but she was still blind in one regard. The sea witch didn’t realize it was her son’s heart she needed to worry about.

Victor first noticed Ariana at her mother’s funeral. He had seen her before, of course, playing with her siren cousins, or in the background, whenever he went to the king’s court with his mother.

Ariana was sixteen when he really noticed her.

Her grief at her mother’s passing made her solemn and pale. She trembled as she spoke to her cousins. When it was time for her to say farewell to her mother, she looked so frail that Victor worried she might faint.

The queen’s subjects had come in droves to say their farewell to their beloved ruler. Most were in tears, and some even wailing in their sadness. Helena’s kind spirit had touched so many, her gentle presence missed by all who knew her. They asked Ariana to sing for her mother, to share her grief with them.

Grief-stricken as she was, Ariana was still her mother’s daughter. Her entire body, and even her voice, was trembling when she said she would sing them a song. She felt the pain others were feeling and wanted to lessen their sorrow.

When Ariana stood in front of the large court, Victor was struck by how fragile she looked. When Ariana sang, it was like his world shifted. For the first time, eighteen-year-old Victor felt his heart stir, and his palms tremble.

Love is a force like no other, capable of stirring even the strongest of hearts. Victor felt the full force of it that day, as Ariana sang at her mother’s funeral.

There were thousands of others in the court, but all were silent as Ariana started singing in her beautiful voice:

Floating above the muddy water,

Have you seen the lotus flower?

In waters, dark and tainted,

Pure was the beauty that awaited.

What started as a simple bud,

Grew in splendor up above.

The petals, pink and white

Layers in a circle, open with light.

Floating above the muddy water,

Have you seen the lotus flower?

The song was about a lotus flower, but Victor knew Ariana was singing about her mother.

Victor was now twenty-one, and Ariana was nineteen. The funeral was three years ago, and Victor had seen Ariana several times since. Whenever he saw her, however, his heart pounded the same way as it did hearing her sing that day.

This is an excerpt of dark fantasy romance ‘The Stone Mermaid’ by Aisha Urooj which is available now.

For more information about the author check out her website here.

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Multiverse’ by K.R.R. Lockhaven

Introducing author K.R.R. Lockhaven who shares an exclusive excerpt of ‘The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Multiverse.’

The sun couldn’t have possibly cared less that its light was scattered into wondrous brushstrokes of oranges and violets across the heavens. It didn’t give a flaming shit if a deep, fiery crimson along the horizon made chests swell at its splendor. Indifferent to the majesty of its radiant brilliance, which spoke of a vast infinity of possibilities, it continued to carelessly produce heat and light through nuclear fusion. It didn’t give a floating fuck whether or not the glory of its rising made anyone come to believe that magic was real, or that life was, in fact, beautiful and worth living.
Harris Reed, unmindful of the sun’s apathy, was thoroughly impressed by the lovely sunrise as he headed to his first day at his new job.
Harris knew for a fact that magic was real.
He was headed to the Site.
The gravel road he had been instructed to take meandered through a still forest and up a gentle incline. He drove his barely running car with a song in his heart and a whistle on his lips, bursting with excitement at the prospect of finally arriving…

This title is available now in audio, ebook and paperback formats and can be found here. You can find K.R.R Lockhaven on the Tweet Machine.

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘Hunted’ by A.J. Calvin

Introducing author A.J. Calvin who shares an excerpt of urban fantasy novel ‘Hunted’.

“Follow me. The man who wishes to meet you is waiting.”

Now that I know who this man was, and why he wanted so badly to meet with me, I understand why I was able to follow Trey without hesitation. I was drawn to the caller, albeit unconsciously, because of his own ability—the same ability with which I have been graced.

Trey led me past the entrance of Dark City Hall, to an alley that was perhaps a half block away on the same side of the street. We walked to an unmarked metal door that led into one of the buildings from the alley. There was a woman standing outside, dressed in a full length blue patent-leather jacket that contrasted starkly with her fair skin. Her hair was cut short, falling to her prominent cheekbones, and was dyed a garish red-orange. The street light at the end of the alley fell upon her face in such a way that her eyes appeared almost colorless, though I assumed they must be a light blue. Trey introduced the woman as Carmine.

“So, you’re the girl the boss was trying to contact,” she said in a flat, somewhat smirking tone. “I wonder if you can handle it?” She broke into a harsh laugh that elicited a frown from Trey.

Muttering something under his breath, Trey pulled a ring of keys from his jacket pocket and jammed one into the doorknob. He yanked the door open in an angry manner that startled Carmine from her laughter.

“Was it something I said, Trey?” she asked in a mocking tone. “I’m sure Ms. Chandra Grey will be fine once she’s accepted what he is. It’s the acceptance part of it that will be difficult, as you well know.”

I had the distinct feeling that Carmine had very few friends. She was clearly trying to frighten me, although her words only managed to instill an even greater curiosity within me.

“You must go inside alone,” Trey said, ignoring Carmine and holding the door open for me.

I simply nodded, and did as he said. In that moment, I wanted to understand Carmine’s cryptic remarks; I needed to know more about this man that I had agreed to meet, and why she had wondered if I could “handle it”. Curiosity had replaced my initial fear, and as I stepped through the doorway, I felt no anxiety.

The door closed behind me, and I found myself in an office area. There was a wide metal desk, and a few filing cabinets against the wall opposite the door. To my right was a round table with a few folding metal chairs scattered around it. I noticed that two of the chairs had been pulled into the center of the room, which was otherwise bare. The room was windowless, and the only door leading into or out of the room was the one I had just stepped through.

To my left was a man. He stood slightly taller than I did, and was slender. What caught my eyes—and my breath—was his appearance. He looked to be close in age to me, perhaps a year or two older, but his hair was completely white. It was combed neatly to one side.

When I had first stepped into the room, his eyes were closed, and he kept them that way until I had time to study him. When at last he opened them, I couldn’t help but gasp with surprise—they were not human eyes that looked back at my own. His eyes possessed silver irises.

“Do not be alarmed,” he said in a soothing tone. “Now you understand why I must have you come to me. My appearance makes it difficult to walk about the city undetected. No amount of dye will color my hair, and I have tried upon occasion to use contacts to hide my eyes, but to no avail. I cannot draw attention to myself, so when I wish to meet someone, I must arrange it so that they come to me.”

His voice, so calm, had a relaxing effect on me. “Why did you wish to speak with me?” I asked, surprised that my voice remained steady. My insides felt as though they were doing backflips.

He smiled, and gestured to the two chairs in the center of the office. “Let us sit down, for this may take some time,” he replied. “Are you comfortable?” he asked once we were seated facing one another.

“I think so,” I said after a moment. “I’m not sure what is going on. I don’t know why you called me here, or how you know who I am. And I don’t know what you are either.”

He chuckled then. “Yes, I suppose I do have some explaining to do,” he replied. “I called you here because you possess a great talent, one that you undoubtedly don’t know that you have. I happened to notice you a little over a week ago—you were in this area of town, with some friends, going to dinner I presume. I could feel your power then, and I knew I must take this opportunity to teach you how to use it.” He shook his head slightly, wonder spreading across his face. “You can become very great, Chandra Grey…You do not need to live an average life; you can become so much more than ordinary.”

I was unsure of how to respond to this statement. I don’t know if I had ever considered myself completely ordinary; throughout my life I had managed to excel where my friends could not, but I had attributed this to hard work and dedication. To hear something like this from a complete stranger—one who had admitted to following me for over a week—was a bit unsettling, to say the least. When I managed a nod, he continued.

“I watched you go into the church last Sunday,” he admitted. “It was an opportunity I could not pass up. I sent one of my…underlings to copy down your phone number from the guest book, and bade him contact you. That was a mistake, and I apologize for my miscalculation. I understand that he had you quite scared.”

I nodded again. “Yes,” I replied slowly, “If the calls did not stop, I was going to report them to the police. I thought…Well, I thought I had a stalker. You aren’t really a stalker, are you?” Immediately, I regretted my words. You don’t say something like that to someone you’ve just met! I screamed at myself internally, before thinking, A stalker would never admit to it.

I was surprised when he laughed. “I don’t believe I am a stalker in the sense that you mean,” he said. “I do not intend to harm you in any way, and I did not contact you because you happen to have a pretty face. You have an ability that few humans possess. I must know what your decision will be, regarding being trained as a summoner.”

Summoner. This was the first time I had heard of the word, and it sounded strange to me, yet somehow grand and powerful. I was intrigued.

“What’s a—?”

“Summoner?” he asked with another laugh. “I am a summoner, though not a very powerful one. You can become much more than I could ever hope to be—the amount of raw talent you possess is very rare indeed.” He paused a moment, reflecting, before going on. “Are you familiar with demons, Chandra Grey?”

This is an excerpt of urban fantasy book ‘Hunted’ by A.J. Calvin which is out now.

You can find more information about the book here and you can find A.J. Calvin on Twitter.

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘Heroes Of the Shadow. Blue Scar Indeabinito’ by S.S. Frankowska

Introducing author S.S. Frankowska who shares an excerpt of epic fantasy novel ‘Heroes Of the Shadow. Blue Scar Indeabinito’.

“INDEABINITO WAS A VERY OLD WORLD. It has existed for millions of years. Over the first centuries, new races were born. After all, the kingdom was inhabited by twelve different races, one being the human race. The other eleven races were characterized by abilities which humans were unable to possess. Still, the position of people in this world was extremely privileged. They have been treated as a race that everyone else should watch out for. A race that others have to look after, with no one allowed to hurt them.
At the head of the kingdom were always human queens and kings. They held meetings in which all races took part. The king and queen were always ready to hear the voices of other races, but ultimately it was up to them to make decisions.
There came a moment in the history of this world when the last ruling couple made a mistake. Worrying about the future of their children, putting their good above the good of the kingdom, they mislaid their trust and irreversibly changed the course of Indeabinito history. With their actions, they introduced into this world something that had never been there before. Magic. A force that allowed humans to measure themselves with the abilities of other races.
Of course, at first no one dared to oppose humans. Everyone knew that their firstborn son embraced to seek the power that did not come from this world, but they remained silent. The second son of the royal couple grew into a wonderful man. Nobody doubted that he would be a worthy successor to his parents. Therefore, after the unexpected death of the king and queen, when their ship sunk because of a storm, all races were glad to welcome the nineteen-year-old king. The second son. Nobody knew what was happening to the eldest son of the royal couple. They were worried about his disappearance, but nobody was eager to find him. The whole kingdom celebrated the coronation.”

This is an excerpt of epic fantasy ‘Heroes Of the Shadow. Blue Scar Indeabinito’ (Chapter 16: Victor’s Story) by S.S. Frankowska which is available now.

You can find more information from S.S. Frankowska on Twitter and via the Heroes of the Shadow website.

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘Wings and Shadows’ by Dominika Pindor

Introducing author Dominika Pindor who shares an excerpt of YA fantasy novel ‘Wings and Shadows’.

“When I turned onto Welling Ave, the crowds began to disperse, and by the time I reached Scott Street, I was alone. At the intersection, I pressed the greasy button on the traffic light pole and leaned against it as I waited for the red circle to turn green.
“I don’t mean to bother you, dear, but could you assist me with these? It’ll only take a moment.”
The voice came from an old woman, who had seemingly appeared out of thin air. She was short, perhaps five feet at most, and stood wearily hunched over her walker. The overflowing bags of groceries she had been referring to were draped over the rails, making the thin pieces of metal strain underneath their weight. I recognized her as Mrs. Riley, my mother’s old college professor. We had met a few times when I was younger, but I doubted she remembered.
“Sure. How can I help?” I couldn’t bring myself to say no. Aside from the large mole on her cheek, she looked just like my grandmother.
“Carry these,” she said, pointing to the three fullest bags, each of which was filled with at least half a dozen cans. I picked them up and she grinned. “Thank you, dear.” The dear came out sounding like deah. Then she coughed, covering her mouth with one papery hand.
“Are you alright ma’am?”
Mrs. Riley chuckled. “Me? Oh no, can’t say I am.”
I raised my eyebrows, expecting her to elaborate. She didn’t. We continued walking, heading towards the assortment of worn-down, brown apartment complexes where I lived. The street was empty, except for a few vehicles parked along the sidewalk—six cars, all different shades of black, and several white trucks.
“Where are we heading?” I finally asked, curious to find out how much longer I would have to carry the bags, which were growing heavier by the minute.
“Over there, dear.” She paused to lift a wrinkled finger and pointed it towards one of the shorter buildings in a nearby alley. “Distance won’t bother you?”
There was a broken wine bottle on the sidewalk, and I had to pause to step over it. “I’m fine, ma’am. No worries.”
“You know,” the woman said, unwilling to lapse into silence, “ you look just like my Lillian.”
“Hm?”
“My granddaughter. She has red hair as well; it’s the most beautiful color, if you ask me.”
“I appreciate the compliment ma’am. I was never too fond of it myself,” I said. That was true. My hair color was one of the only things kids in middle school would laugh about. I recalled the moment—sometime in seventh grade—when I had asked out a boy I liked. His rejection still echoed through my head every time someone brought up my hair color.
We rounded the corner and walked into the alley. It wasn’t a pleasant place. A swarm of flies hovered above one of the dumpsters, which was backed up against the wall a few feet to our left. That explained the nauseous stench.
“Hope you don’t mind the smell,” Mrs. Riley apologized.
I couldn’t reply; the odor was making me dizzy. To my surprise, it seemed to have no effect on her at all. I suppose that’s what happened when you spent your entire life in such a place. The wheels of her walker rattled on the uneven ground, and a single tomato fell out of a grocery bag. I bent down to pick it up, although my own bags were threatening to spill.
“Ma’am, how much longer do we have to walk? These bags are getting awfully heavy.”
She paused for a moment before answering. “We’re almost there,” she told me. I glanced up from the ground and realized we were nearing the short brown building she had pointed out a few minutes before. Of course. I had known our destination all along. The question had been unnecessary. I smiled to myself, hoping to ease the strange feeling that was flaring inside my gut.
There were three doors on this side of the building. The one in the center was the main entrance that likely led to the upper apartments. The others were doors to the ground floor apartments—14 and 15. We stopped at 15. The woman left her walker, climbed up the single step, and began fumbling for the keys. Her hands were visibly trembling.
Arthritis, I thought, remembering one of the lessons Huma’s mother—a doctor—had taught me. The poor woman had arthritis.
“You can put the groceries down, dear. I will take them inside once- oh!” Her keys fell to the asphalt, startling a rat that had begun sneaking in our direction. I picked them up and handed them to her. “Thank you dear. Thank you so much.” She coughed again. “Leave the bags on the ground. I’ll take them inside once I open the door.”
“Got it,” I said and did as she asked. The keys jiggled in the lock, and the door finally swung open.
“Thank you,” the woman said again, a warm smile spreading across her face. “Would you like me to call a taxi cab for you? An Uber, perhaps?”
“No ma’am, I’ll be fine,” I replied, glancing at the bags. Would she be able to carry them in by herself? She would have to unless she was going to call someone to do it for her. I decided not to pry; her business wasn’t mine. I turned around to go…
And then I stopped dead in my tracks.
A large black SUV stood in the center of the road. It was positioned sideways, creating a barrier between the alley and the main road.
More importantly, cutting off my way out.”

This is an excerpt of ‘Wings and Shadows’ by Dominika Pindor which is available now. You can find Dominika on Twitter.

If you would like to share an excerpt, article or book review then do get in touch via the submissions page.

‘Raven Woman’s Tavern’ by Laura Koerber – Review

There were many things the people of Warrentown didn’t know about Raven…”

I’ll admit the first line of this book’s blurb caught my attention straight away and the reading experience that followed did not disappoint. The powerful prologue sets the scene of a remote forest setting where man came, destroyed and then left again but the constant being ‘Raven’ who is a powerful deciding figure among the trees and a place where this book finds it’s setting.

“Animals, plants and people, came and went, but Raven stayed…”

Most dystopian futures focus on cities or even the masses but Raven Woman’s Tavern homes in on the path less travelled and welcomes you to Warrentown, perhaps a forgotten corner of the world where a community of people are still trying to survive whatever happened out in that wider world. Many of them are older or just trying to get by and we meet near enough all of them along the way. It has all the feels of a Stephen King multi character piece but without the overindulgence because between them there is a real sense of community and their hub just happens to be a quaint tavern. Of course this is intentional because Raven is watching over them and protecting them with it.

The story begins to take direction as a group of young Militia turn up at the tavern looking for more than just a few drinks and their troublesome presence brings the a taste of what is going on in the wider world. After one of the group’s wallet appears to go missing they return yet again looking for trouble but instead receive a lot more. This is where things really kick up a notch because Raven starts to play with their heads and what is supposed to be a short path for them becomes a lot longer and for the sake of protecting the people of this small community. For one of them in particular this path puts everything into perspective and becomes an opportunity for Raven to recruit someone new.

Laura Koerber tells this immersive story with range and imagination. There are even a few deep metaphors about life and survival. It’s dark in places with some chills but also carries a deeper moral story about community. My only real critique would be for the ending to have a little less pace but for anyone looking to read something different with a dark fantasy edge then this is the one for you!

4 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery.

‘Judd’ by J.D Toombs and Erika Schulze – Review

A ‘high school for heroes’ tale about the power of accepting who you are paired with some unique world building…

Welcome to Aries High, a school for those with unique powers but in this world they are known as Fragments. The only problem is our main character and narrator Samael Judd doesn’t appear to have any powers… That is without mentioning the many pressures he faces for someone his age from stepping out of his older brother’s shadow to even making the basketball team and while he does his best to hide a lack of powers he’s also concealing his sexuality. If both are revealed the repercussions could be disastrous, at least to him anyway. There are only a few he can fully trust and confide in – perhaps the most realistic thing about the social politics of high school, something this story captures well.

There are some unique and interesting concepts in this world of Fragment’s and that world building is something I want to see more of. Terminology and abilities like ‘technomancy’ and ‘magnekenisis’ sound cool and these concepts are only really touched upon as most of the story focuses on Judd’s journey and his high school life which is most probably just the beginning. The symbolism paired with the struggle to accept one’s self is what you’ll find at the centre of this tale and it’s bravely executed. From fighting bullies to borrowing a new girl’s magical dragon to pretend you have powers – as I said cool concepts, there are even some awesome references to video games and music.

On a few occasions there were moments where scenes felt crowded with quite a number of characters present so it was a little difficult to follow and transitions between scenes did occur rather abruptly but overall Judd is a unique story full of drama that captures coming of age, explores social issues and celebrates diversity.

4 Stars – Reviews left on Amazon and Goodreads. Thank you to the Author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. Judd is released today – grab yourself a copy here!