Category Archives: 4 star reads

The Pet Project – Amanda Milo

Oddball equals interesting, pure SciFi, not romance

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This novella is a riff on the thought, “What if aliens didn’t recognize humans as sentient and kept them as pets?”  

It must be taken at face value. It is not an allegory. I sensed no intention to comment on the history, tragedies, and foibles of humanity. If you can’t put these things aside, you will probably be offended or even disgusted.

I personally found this very easy to imagine as I *know* that my cats are sentient. They control me. I am their slave. You don’t see them going out to work or the grocery store or cleaning my toilet! They understand English but would never stoop to speaking it as they have a much more elegant language comprised of subtle nuances on the basic sound “me-ow”. Besides, they get their point across to me just fine, know it, and point this out with just a look at me from time to time. I accuse them of “being all cute again” and they say, “It’s the treats I train you with. You know you love it.” I do.

The entire novella is 1st person present tense from the alien who is conducting the breeding project. We don’t get the alien’s name until the very end, in an epilogue that is an interview with our scientist. Very little is revealed about the alien species. No gender is given. We don’t even know if these aliens have genders.

There is some forced mating between the experiment’s subjects, but it is clinical rather than violent. These are the scientific notes of the doctor, so that tone removes most of the emotion and trauma we might otherwise feel when reading about these. There is nothing sexual between the aliens and the pets. I viewed it like putting cats or dogs together for mating as that is how the doctor views it. It is clear that the doctor can’t remain an impartial observer and truly cares about the pets, so mistakes made during experimentation are corrected.

Amanda said this wasn’t funny, but I found some very amusing nuggets. Overall, I found it interesting, amusing, and a fast-paced read. I think other animal lovers or anyone who doesn’t view humans as vastly different from other animals will have an easier time accepting the spirit in which this was written and appreciating the cuteness.

There you go Amanda, being all cute again!

Favorite Quotes:

Because of the male inclination towards bellicosity, most males are not fit for household pets.

Distractedly, I’m aware of how welcome even her intrusions are to me. Her staring is so loud that I often pause whatever I’m working on to pay her some small attention. If I were wise, I would put a stop to her disruption; it is somewhat rude behavior.

(My cats!)

“No. You don’t mark the indoor plant. Only outdoor plants.” Then Dr. Xan’-Tay `్ turns to me and sighs. “You see environment enrichment? Male tenders see targets.”

Captive of the Horde King (Horde Kings of Dakkar Book 1) – Zoey Draven

Nomadic tribal alien scifi erotic romance

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Luna’s brother brings the wrath of the Dakkari down on their little human village. Luna offers to serve the horde king that comes to punish them in exchange for her brother’s life. He accepts, and her life is changed forever.

This was a fast paced read with likable characters. Luna was strong, and I liked seeing her emotional growth along the way. The horde king was good and honorable. Lots of details like regularly used alien language and an alien version of horses made for great world-building. We don’t learn much about why humans are living on this planet as refugees, but I enjoyed the snippets of information I did get. The sex scenes were titillating but not scorching. The aliens were similar to humans but had tails and black and yellow eyes with no whites. They have a built-in, vibrating, clitoral stimulator, which had me laughing. Don’t all the best aliens have sex toy equipment?

The Dakkari instantly reminded me of the Dothraki in Game of Thrones. Those names are similar, they are a nomadic alien-horse-riding culture, and the men all have long hair. “Kalles” is their word for woman and the first the horde king calls Luna, which is close to khaleesi to me. It isn’t overwhelming, and there are plenty of differences, but I would guess the author is a fan.

I don’t want to give too much away, so how do I say this? The climactic action was too easy to foresee and cliché. But I was very happy that Luna fought for herself and didn’t just wait to be rescued by her man.

First person past tense, all from Luna. No cheating. No OW/OM drama. Several graphic sex scenes. The only foul language I noted was the occasional use of the F word when referring to sex. This is the first in a series of standalone novels. HFN.

Grammar: Error count 15 – wrong, missing, or misspelled words. Missing comma between two independent clauses, but it was consistent so accepted as style. Not terrible.

I enjoyed this and would read more books in the series. I don’t think I would read this one again, so 4 stars.

Beyond the Night (The Heroes of New Vegas Book 1) – Gleason, Colleen

SciFi Mystery Romance

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mystery, action, and romance. Elliot and his friends woke up in a cave they had been exploring to find 50 years had passed and the world as they knew it was gone. This is more SciFi than post-apocalyptic as significant time has passed since the upheaval. It’s not so much about survival as the mystery of what happened to the world and these men. We don’t get the answer in this first novel, just clues. But it’s not a cliffhanger. Subsequent novels in the series take up the mystery with other couples as the main characters.

The beginning drew me in with a sense of mystery, making me want to understand what was going on. It’s not an action start but a teaser start – a creepy feeling. We aren’t given a load of backstory at the beginning. The setting and action slowly revealed the state of the world. Great writing with quick pacing kept me reading. Little things like new slang words and names not matching the genders they are currently most often assigned to helped add realism to the future setting.

There were good action scenes, very good descriptions of the environment, good world building, and some humor to relieve the tension. The women are strong and don’t wait for the men to save them. I don’t want to give too much away, so suffice to say I adored Jade’s action during the climactic action scenes.

3rd close, past tense. Chapters from different characters, most from the mains, but a few from secondary characters. We also get some journal entries written by a secondary character at the beginning of the upheaval. I liked the glimpses of the beginning.

Occasional foul language. Significant violence. There are some graphic sex scenes. A lot of it is described with scatterings of verbs or adjectives in a poetic way.

No cheating, OW/OM drama, or nonconsent.  HFN

Error count: 11 – Pretty good. These were missing, extra, or misspelled words and missing punctuation marks. Commas are not routinely missing, so I marked where they were for a total of 38 missing commas. Head-hopping occurs in only one chapter.

Overall, I really liked this. I don’t see myself wanting to re-read it, so 4 stars. I am going to read the next in the series.

Dating in the Apocalypse The Complete Series – Christopher John Chater

Hilarious Apocalyptic Comedy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve never seen comedy mixed with an apocalypse before, but it works for me! I smiled, giggled, and laughed out loud in every chapter if not every page.

Tom Collins is a hetero metro badass trying to find the love of his life or at least have a little fun at the end of the world and doing it with style. A virus has killed off most of humanity, and New York City is in chaos. But you can’t let a little thing like an apocalypse get you down or stop you from showing a pretty girl a good time! Comedy, mystery, action, and love, this has it all.

No cliffhanger with the complete series. I found the ending satisfying, especially because Tom’s hair was perfectly styled! I loved the fashion angle and that it continued throughout. The women are all strong characters, and Tom’s mom is the best. They don’t wait around for a man to save them.

1st person past tense all from Tom, OW drama. No graphic sex scenes. Occasional foul language. I usually review romance and initially thought from the title it would be one, but it’s not a classic “romance”. We don’t really get to know the one Tom chooses. Their on-screen time together is limited.

Favorite Quotes:

Grammar: Routinely missing commas between two independent clauses and if, then statements. Filled with unnecessary dialogue tags. A few extremely long sentences and paragraphs. Other than that, the error count is 8 – not bad!

I received a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Skin (Flesh Series Book 2) – Kylie Scott

Post-apocalyptic dark romance with zombies

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is the second book in the Flesh Series. I gave the first, Flesh, four stars as well. I enjoyed this one just as much. Flesh was a ménage, but Skin is a dark romance. Nick buys Roslyn and chains her to the bed in the beginning. There is some nonconsensual kissing and touching but no rape. He didn’t want to keep her chained up forever and was hoping he wouldn’t have to resort to that, but she cracked his head open with a wine bottle as soon as he got her home. Watching these two sort out their differences was entertaining and often made me laugh.

Nick was not a bad guy. He was just in a bad situation and made some mistakes. He is an alpha male but not over the top. I liked that Roslyn was strong, didn’t give in to Nick right away, and had the guts to stand up to baddies. The sex scenes were hot. The action scenes were well written and paced without too much gore in the book overall.

Just like Flesh, the story grabbed me from the start. There isn’t too much backstory at the front. It is set in Australia, but if it wasn’t explicitly stated, I wouldn’t have known. There is no dialect speech, not a lot of “mate”s and such. Just a little flavor thrown in.

M/F, no cheating, no OW/OM drama, contains several graphic sex scenes, contains a bit of foul language and a good dose of violence, standalone, HFN.

Error count: 11. There are many comma splices (sentences with two independent clauses joined with a comma but not a conjunction). It happened so often that I have accepted this as style. I’m not a fan of the style, but that’s probably because my brain keeps yelling, “Error!” while I’m trying to enjoy the story. I do think it may add to the fast pacing.

Favorite Quotes:

“He was a beast, an animal reeking of sweat and ready to pounce, rock hard and hurting. His hard-on gave Godzilla a run for its money. If he swung it about, Tokyo would be leveled.”

“Men were such complicated creatures. Women were so much more straightforward.”

Flesh – Kylie Scott

Hot post-apocalyptic ménage romance with zombies

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I love The Walking Dead and Z Nation TV series, but I generally prefer post-apocalyptic novels without zombies. That said, I did enjoy this. It is a post-apocalyptic ménage romance with zombies.

Ali has been holing up in an attic since the zombie apocalypse started. When she runs out of food, she goes foraging in empty houses. There she finds Dan and points her shotgun at him.

This novel started out with a whoosh instead of a lot of backstory, which I enjoyed very much. The action kept on going, with the zombies and other humans and in the bedroom. It contains several graphic sex scenes, M/F and M/F/M, because along the way, they meet Finn. I loved the characters in this, especially Dan, who is very funny. This novel made me laugh out loud a few times. I liked that they are in their 30s and 40s. I also loved that Ali is a strong woman. She helps herself, fighting back instead of waiting to be saved. She’s no annoying damsel in distress!

It is set in Australia, but if it wasn’t explicitly stated, I wouldn’t have known. There is no dialect speech, not a lot of “mate”s and such. Just a little flavor thrown in.

Everything is totally consensual. There is no cheating or OW/OM drama. It contains foul language. There is lots of sex and quite a bit of violence. For a zombie story, I wouldn’t say it was gory.

I thought it was well written with good pacing. I caught only 6 outright errors, which is fantastic. There are many comma splices (sentences with two independent clauses joined with a comma but not a conjunction). It happened so often that I have accepted this as style. I’m not a fan of the style, but that’s probably because my brain keeps yelling, “Error!” while I’m trying to enjoy the story. I do think it may add to the fast pacing.

If you like ménage and zombies, I recommend it. I plan on reading the next in the series, Skin. This is a standalone novel but part of a series, with different characters in each book.

Population and Saltlands – Elizabeth Stephens

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m combing the two reviews for these together here because they comprise one total book. Saltlands picked up exactly where Population left off. It’s like someone just tore the book in two along it’s spine, ala Bed Knobs and Broomsticks!

I liked Saltlands better, but that makes sense. Population is slow at the start because of necessary world building. Taken as one book, the action builds throughout, hitting a steady stream near where the book was broken in two, and goes on to the climax.

Over a decade ago, “the Others” arrived on Earth. They have since carved up much of the planet into private kingdoms. Humans remain in the leftovers, fighting over scraps. This is a post-apocalyptic romance.

I loved the strong female lead, Abel, her African and Spanish genetics, her ability with the sword and hand to hand fighting, her determination, and her emotional strength. I loved Kane, who is complex but honorable. The world-building was good and something I haven’t seen before. I enjoyed the “Others”. The pacing was good, most of the time, and there were some great action scenes. There was a good dose of violence, but it wasn’t described in gory detail. You can cut someone’s head off with a sword without describing blood sprays and such.

There is a cliffhanger ending, but the sequel is out. It’s basically one book split into two parts. I definitely want to read the next one, but I hate this modern tendency of splitting books. “The Stand” is hugely long but is one book!

Child molestation and rape is hinted at in some parts but not seen directly.

This is M/F. No cheating. No love triangle. It is written in 1st person pretense tense. I find this much less jarring than 3rd close present tense.

There are basically two sex scenes. They aren’t graphic but rather camera obscura. They lack detail, so the words could be taken to mean more or less depending on the reader. For example:

I tear his belt free and kick his pants off with my feet, then I tease him with my fingers and then again with my lips.

What is meant by this? Exactly where her fingers and lips go is up for interpretation.

Grammar and spelling: I found 13 errors in Population, including missing words, wrong words, and repeated words or phrases. Not bad at all. This is aside from the routinely missing commas between two independent clauses, missing commas after introductory clauses, and extreme run-on sentences that I have accepted as the author’s style of writing. This is fiction, not academia, so the rules are less rigid. I found this style distracting because my brain shouted “error” frequently, and the run-on sentences were confusing at times.

Unrealistic Timing: Abel is seriously hurt after the forest cult part in the beginning but seems mostly recovered 1-2 days later. She has never worn heels, wears and dances is stilettos for 48 hours, and no mention is made about swollen ankles or legs. There is definitely some almost instalove. It happens pretty fast. But I’m okay with it.

Confusion: Earlier in the book, Abel talks about having been raped or was it attempted rape that was thwarted? I thought two of a gang had actually succeeded until the second sex scene when blood is obliquely mentioned twice along with some pain. If she wasn’t a virgin, where do the pain and blood come from? At the least, it’s unclear. At most, there is a contradiction.

There were times when the story got too close to familiar fairytales. There was some “Beauty and the Beast” when Abel first gets to Kane’s estate and some “Cinderella” with the ball preparation.

I would have given this 4 stars, but the aforementioned problems drop it to a 3 for me. I will be reading the second half of this ONE book.

In the second half, action is almost nonstop with lots of gory fight scenes and drama. Each chapter has a black and white inkblot image above the chapter title, blood splatter, and they are appropriate! The violence is certainly amped up. Abel goes through hell, one desperate situation to another, and keeps her determination and resilience. It was a wild ride, very fast paced, and kept me reading very quickly. It made me laugh out loud a few times. The humor was appreciated amidst the intensity. It tickled my funny bone that the villain always sets up in dental office buildings. I liked the secondary characters, especially Mikey.

There are a couple of short sex scenes, not graphic. Romance is not the focus of the second half of the ONE book. There is some OM drama. I was very happy that our main couple dealt with this in a mature fashion, by talking it out. It didn’t cause anything stupid to happen except a ridiculous fight for fair maiden’s hand.

I found more errors in this half – 17. Mostly missing words, a few repeated words or phrases. As with the first half of the ONE book, commas are missing everywhere, but I accepted that as writing style long ago. At the opening of this half of the ONE book, I thought to myself, “Someone has a thesaurus.” Many words were used that just aren’t common enough to be in Abel’s thoughts since she hasn’t spent the last decade reading literature.

This is a 1st person present tense novel. One scene could be considered cheating, but wasn’t exactly consensual, so I don’t want to call it cheating. OM drama. Occasional foul language, but it gets as bad as it can. HEA.

A third book is hinted at called “Generation 1”. I couldn’t find anything when Googling this. If it is published, it will at least be a totally different book than this ONE.

Surviving Passion (The Shattered World #1) – Maia Underwood

Good read – steamy but not graphic

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and romance, so the joining of the two is one of my favorite sub-genres. And I really like this one.

About nine years ago, the economy crashed, followed by technology, and then civilization as a whole, wiping out most of the population through starvation, disease, and violence. Selena has been on her own, not even talking to another person, since her father died four years ago. She is almost caught by a group of nasty men and ends up hiding in the same building and room as Dan, who is also avoiding the same men. After the group gives up on finding Selena and leaves, Dan forces her to return to his small group with him.

It’s written in close 3rd, always with Selena. I would have liked to have followed Dan some of the time for sure. I didn’t get to know him as well as I hoped, but I liked what I saw. There is no cheating, no OW. There’s a man who wants to be an OM, but Selena has zero interest in him.

It’s a little steamy. There are only two sex scenes in this book, and they aren’t that graphic. The first starts with some nonconsensual touching. I’ve read in other reviews that some readers view this scene as rape. I didn’t see it that way myself, so it’s at least subjective. Dan gave Selena a chance to stop him, and she didn’t take it. We also know that she’s already attracted to him. The reader has had some foreplay. Selena says, “I hate you,” but I took it like “I hate that you have the power to make me feel so strongly because it scares me”. Afterwards, Selena hasn’t been traumatized and is actually regretting not showing that she wanted Dan more, afraid that he might not want her the same way anymore. However, if you are sensitive to things like this, if it’s a trigger for you, then definitely stay away. The second scene is fully consensual and even initiated by Selena.

There are some strange formatting errors. Most of the book is left justified with paragraph indents, but sometimes there are several paragraphs that are fully indented like a block quote. I found very few actual grammar / spelling errors.

I enjoyed the story and really liked the action scenes. They are described and paced very well. I especially liked Selena’s parts in the fights. Selena is strong in that she’s a survivor and has some skills. But she’s been emotionally and socially stunted by her life experience. She acts childishly at times, but I liked that she called herself out on it. Her behavior makes sense for her life experience, and she grows along with the story.

I agree with other reviewers that the story could use some work, but it’s a good read as is. If you have a fascination with post-apocalyptic romance like I do, then I recommend it.

Trucker (The Good Guys) – Jamie Schlosser

So cute!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Travis picks Angel up when she starts to hitchhike across the country.

This was so frigging cute. It’s a light-hearted, feel-good read. I loved that both the leads are virgins. Travis’ horror date stories were hilarious. I laughed out loud several times while reading this.

The only thing I didn’t like was the OW drama. It was just another woman that wanted Travis, mean girl stuff, no touching at all between H and OW. Very cliche, but at least it was over quickly!

Angel was naive and far too trusting, but she’s very young (17/18). It’s nice to see that life hadn’t beaten that out of her already.

This is written in alternating 1st. I only found a few grammar mistakes in the whole book, just extra words. HEA.

Great quick read that I needed between heavier stuff!

Toils and Snares – Robert L. Slater

Convincing and real family portrait

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In one sentence, this book is about: a family running off to a cabin in the woods as a plague kills most of the population.

This book is pretty clean – no sexual situations and just a bit of swearing.

It is not a YA novel like All Is Silence. The main characters are adults.

I don’t want to write a spoiler, but I think people should know that not every character gets an HEA. You don’t want to read this while depressed. It does have a solid ending, no cliffhanger.

I really liked this. The characters and situations felt very real. The people have strengths and flaws. I saw family dynamics that matched some of my own experience. It’s convincing and real. This isn’t about greater issues of society but rather the microcosm of a single extended family. We don’t get to choose family! Families are messy, but they still care about and are there for each other.

If you like apocalyptic / post-apocalyptic stories, I highly recommend it.