Anne Reviews: Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth

TITLE: Oberon Cycle, Book 2: Lander

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 294

Characters: Jameson/Xander, Robyn/Quince

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Series, SF

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Sometimes the world needs saving twice.

In the sequel to the Rainbow-Award-winning Skythane, Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.

Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander’s kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.

In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.

Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel concocted? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most?

Review:

I loved Skythane, the first book in this series, so I was very keen to read Lander. It was well worth the wait.  However, I would recommend reading book one first as this carries on from where that left off.

One thing I always know I’m going to get from this author is detailed, well-thought-out, world building, and he delivers that, and more, in Lander.  I appreciated that there were consequences for these two worlds reunifying such as storms and landscapes changing, which made it feel much more realistic. It also gave an atmospheric feel to the story.  No pun intended.

I was already invested in Jameson and Xander’s story, and I loved how the author raised their relationship a notch in this book.  I particularly liked how he introduced their ex’s and made them likeable characters in their own right. I was fully prepared to be suspicious of their motivations, but now I’m rooting for them to get their own happy ending.  I have a theory about what Alix’s final fate might be, but I’m not sure if I’m reading something into the hints I think I’m seeing.

Jameson and Xander’s reactions after learning about the pith is realistic, and I thought the ways they work through that revelation reflects the differences in their characters.  Jameson had grown substantially from the beginning of Skythane to the end of that story, and his journey continues in Lander.  I liked that his using newly discovered abilities comes with consequences.

Robyn and Quince’s story also advances, and we see a lot more of Robyn’s strength of character, as she takes on a major role. I liked the way the story moved between them and Jameson/Xander and other characters.  Although there are romances in the story, I felt as though it was a story with romance rather than romance being the story, which is another one of its strengths.   I also enjoy the presence of strong female characters in my MM romance, and Lander includes them wonderfully well.  I loved Jessa who is far from a traditional damsel in distress.  Ditto for Robyn or Quince or any of the other minor female characters we meet along the way.

However, as all good second books in series do, Lander answers some questions, but well and truly sets up for book three which promises to be another great read.  I’m looking forward to it.  (That’s a hint for the author to write faster!)

I’d recommend Lander to readers who love science fiction with detailed world building, interesting three-dimensional kick-arse characters, and a story which keeps you turning pages far too late at night.

Reviewed By: Anne

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

Check out J. Scott Coatsworth has stopped by to show off his AMAZING newest release, The Stark Divide and to give us some insider information on his Writing Cave!

My Writer Cave

Every writer has a place they feel comfortable writing. Mine is my writer cave, where my computer monitor is like a window into other worlds.

But I’ve also surrounded myself with other things that help inspire me, and I thought it would be fun to give you a little tour.

There’s my Buddah Board, a cool paint with water thing that I use when I need a little Xen in my life.

There’s my little Marvin the Martin (who doubles as a secret flash drive).

There’s also this really cool graphite filled hour glass that Mark got me last year for my birthday.

And on the walls, some of my favorite sci fi art – the cover from Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, a LOTR cover, and one of my newest acquisitions, a painting by a local Sacramento artist that reminds me of Mars.

Each day, I sit down at my desk and these things help me as I plug on trough my writing. Any writer will tell you that writing is a solitary sport, that we spend months plugging away on a novel all alone, only to come out for a few brief moments into the sunlight when the story is finally published.

Thank God for a comfy, familiar, inspiring writer cave. 🙂

The Stark Divide

Publisher: DSP Publications
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Length: 284 Pages
Format: eBook, Paperback
Release Date: 10/10/17
Pairing: MM
Price: 6.99, 16.99
Series: Liminal Sky (Book One)
Genre: Sci Fi, Space, Gen Ship, Apocalypse, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer

Blurb:

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Excerpt:

“DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

“Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

Buy Links Etc:

DSP Publications (paperback): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-416-b

DSP Publications (eBook): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-415-b

Amazon:

Barnes & Noble:

Kobo:

iBooks:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35834187-the-stark-divide

Author Bio:

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Anne Reviews: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

TITLE: The Stark Divide
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Publisher: DSP Publications
Pages: 269
Characters: various LGBTQ/straight. Although there are relationships, the focus of this story isn’t a romance.
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Series, Science Fiction
Kisses: 5

Blurb:
Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Review:
When I read a book by J. Scott Coatsworth I know I’m going to be treated to a story with fabulous world building, and interesting characters. The Stark Divide has all of that and more. One thing I really loved about this story is that although there are romances, they don’t drive it. Also it is populated by diverse characters with differing sexualities IE gay, straight, bi, and trans, which is accepted by this society in the future. The issues here aren’t that, but how mankind has ruined the Earth, both ecologically and because of war. The author has done a great job in taking current concerns and extrapolating where they might lead the future human race if we continue on our current course. The tent city for refugees in one part of the story echoed current news stories scarily well.

I loved the nods to other SF authors, such as Asimov and McCaffrey. Some were direct mentions, others more subtle.

The world building is interesting, and different to anything I’ve read before. Although the ship-mind has echoes of Anne McCaffrey’s ship series, Coatsworth uses it as a springboard, and flies. The ship-mind, world-mind, and station-mind are interesting, developed characters, as are the humans who take centre stage in this story. The idea of growing a planet using biological technology is brilliant, and it was obvious the more I read that it is very well thought out. I also liked how the author split the book into three different time periods, each one jumping forward from the previous. It gives the story an epic feel, which is perfect for what it is—the rebirth of the human race on another world told through the perspective of not only those who are key players in that journey but of the world itself, and the generation ship it becomes. The linking of time periods through both older versions of already familiar characters, and the introduction of the next generation was nicely done, as was the expansion of the planet-mind.

I liked too, that the characters are very human, and take the time to cry, whether in relief or grief. I felt as though I was reading about real people. Not all of them have the greatest of intentions, they make mistakes, and are often driven by emotions that are a mix of good and not so good.

The descriptive of space is wonderfully emotive—“the stars poking brilliant holes in the firmament above.” The descriptions of Forever—the name given to the world by the colonists—are not overdone as to bog down the story, yet make the setting very easy to visualise. I spent several evenings getting lost in the story and staying up far too late in order to read just one more chapter.

I’d recommend The Stark Divide to readers who enjoy science fiction with detailed world building, interesting characters, and an epic story. Highly recommended.

Reviewed By: Anne

Click HERE to purchase The Stark Divide

Anne Reviews: The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth


TITLE: The Great North
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Pages: 110
Characters: Dwyn/Mael
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Sci Fi, Fantasy, Myths, Legends, Gods, Post-Apocalyptic
Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks’ time.

Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land’s End.

Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.

The Great North was inspired by St. Dwynwen’s Day, also known as Welsh Valentines Day:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwynwen

Review:

One of the things I love about J Scott Coatsworth’s writing is his world building. The Great North didn’t disappoint. Set in the future after an apocalypse, I enjoyed the attention to detail such as subtle language changes and how individuals had warped religion for their own purposes. Sadly the latter shows that despite what has happened in the past, the human race repeats its mistakes, something SF stories have long reminded us of. The societies of those in the Circle Lake community and the group from up north showed very well the different ways in which beliefs, and what is necessary for survival, can be used for good or to further an agenda. I loved the way Mael’s explanation to Dwyn about balancing the need to procreate with following one’s heart—so be with the one you want and the one you need.

I became invested in the characters very quickly. Both Dwyn and Mael are likeable characters, and I liked how the author developed the supporting cast. It would have been very easy to have some of them follow a stereotypical path, but instead the author took another direction with a lovely curve ball I wasn’t expecting. I love MM fiction with strong women characters.

I found the link to an earlier folktale intriguing, and enjoyed the way the author used it. My only complaint with this story is that I would have loved it to continue. A bargain is made, but the price of it isn’t really explored in depth. Hopefully the author is planning a sequel as I’d enjoy catching up with these characters again and learning more about their world.

I’d recommend The Great North to readers who enjoy post dystopian stories with hope for the future, and likeable characters who work together to move forward, both as individuals and part of a community.

Reviewed By: Anne

BUY LINK: http://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/the-great-north.html

Please Welcome J. Scott Coatsworth! He’s here to talk about his New Release, The Great North and to talk about how the world is changing around us.


Change is Coming

The world is changing.

Most of us can feel it. The seasons aren’t as dependable as they once were. Storms are bigger. Droughts are longer. The coral reefs are dying.

Each of these events adds a little bit of chaos to the world.

Five years ago, I thought the world could change. I thought that climate change was a fun thing to include in speculative visions of the planet’s future.

Now I’m not so sure.

“The Great North” was written before the November US elections. Even then, I was still hopeful.
Now, I’m not so sure.

Authors have a responsibility to put truth into the world. Sometimes we do it through scathing words – when the pen is mightier than the sword.

But we speculative fiction authors do it by holding up a mirror to the world, letting it see itself from the outside.
For me, that means starting to tell stories of where I see the world going – and at the moment, I see it hurling into an abyss.

Maybe if enough of us speak up, if enough of us change our own little corners of the world, we can still slow or stop this headlong plunge.

Maybe we will still leave enough of a world to our kids and grandkids to matter.
Or maybe the world will go on again without us.

I hope you enjoy “The Great North”.

Want to know more about The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth? Check out the blurb and excerpt below:

The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth

Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Cover Artist: Freddy MacKay
Length: 34K
Format: eBook
Release Date: 6/14/17
Pairing: MM
Price: 3.99
Genre: MM, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Myths, Legends, Gods, Post-Apocalyptic

Blurb:

Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks’ time.

Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land’s End.

Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.

—————

The Great North was inspired by St. Dwynwen’s Day, also known as Welsh Valentines Day:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwynwen

Excerpt:

“We celebrate Dwyn’s Day as a testament to true love and sacrifice. It’s a remembrance of the way things were and the way they’ve come to be. In the end, let it be a reminder that every one of us has the power to change the course of events through love.”
—Dillon Cooper, New Gods and Monsters, Twenty years After Dwyn

The gray clouds scudded by overhead, blowing in quickly from the east.
Dwyn shivered and pulled on his woolen cap. It was cold out, unusual for so early in the fall. The rains had been heavy this season, the wettest in a generation, and Circle Lake was close to overflowing its banks. If he stretched to look over the rows of corn plants, he could see the waters lapping at the shore far below, as if hungry to consume his village of Manicouga.
His father had consulted the elders, some of whom had seen more than fifty summers, and everyone agreed things were changing. Whether that augured good or ill was anyone’s guess.
He shrugged and moved along the row of plants, breaking off ears of corn and throwing them into the jute sack that hung from his shoulder.
Ahead of him, two of his age-mates, Declan and Baia, were working their way down the next two rows.
Dwyn frowned. He got distracted easily, and he’d let the two of them get a jump on him. That wouldn’t do.
He redoubled his pace. He moved with focus and purpose, and soon he was closing the gap with his friends.
“Someone’s being chased by a lion,” Baia said with a laugh.
“Or a tiger.” Declan grinned, his nice smile only missing one tooth, lost to a fight with one of the Beckham brothers the year before.
Dwyn grinned. “Or a bear?” Dwyn only knew lions and tigers from the fairy tale his mother used to tell them, “The Girl and the Aus.” He had no idea what an Aus was, either.
Bears he knew. The hunters occasionally brought one home, and old Alesser had a five-line scar across his wrinkled face that he claimed came from one of the beasts.
A shout went up from ahead of them. Dwyn craned his neck to see what the ruckus was, but he couldn’t make out anything. “What’s going on?”
Declan, who was half a head taller, looked toward the commotion. “Hard to tell. Something down by the road.”
Dwyn laid down his sack carefully and ran up the hill to one of the old elms that dotted the field. He climbed into the tree, scurrying up through the leaves and branches until he had a clear view of the Old Road. It ran from up north to somewhere down south, maybe near the ruins of old Quebec if the merchant tales held any truth. Hardly anyone from Manicouga ever followed it, but occasionally traders would follow it to town, bringing exotic wares and news from the other villages that were scattered up and down its length.
They swore it went all the way down to the Heat, the great desert that had consumed much of the world after the Reckoning.
“What’s going on down there?” Baia called from below.
Dwyn tried to make sense of it. “There are three wagons coming down the pass. They’re loaded up with all sorts of things. They don’t look like traders though.”
The first of the horse-drawn wagons had just reached the field above the main township. It stopped, and someone hopped off to talk with the villagers who had gathered from the fields.
“We need to get down there,” Dwyn said, scrambling down the tree trunk. “Something’s happening.” Nothing new ever happened in Manicouga, and he wasn’t going to miss it.
He grabbed his sack and sprinted toward the Old Road, not waiting to see if Declan and Baia followed.

Buy Links Etc:

Publisher (no orders until release): http://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/the-great-north.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07172TL6H?ref_=pe_2427780_160035660

Barnes & Noble: Coming Soon

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-great-north

Smashwords: Coming Soon

iBooks: https://itun.es/us/ec62jb.l

Goodreads: Coming Soon

Author Bio:

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

Anne Reviews: Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth


TITLE: Skythane
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 244
Characters: Xander Kinnson/Jameson Havercamp
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Science Fiction
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

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:

I love science fiction and have been reading it for years, and I think Skythane is a great addition to the genre.

The world building is detailed, not just with the descriptions of the world, but in its rich history. I felt as though I was stepping into a fully formed world when I began reading. The world is also a complex one, with Oberon’s inhabitants consisting of its original colonists who evolved into the Skythane, those who came afterward, and a hint of at least one race which is very definitely other. As the story progresses, the world building expands still further as an impending disaster reveals a secret only known to a few. I enjoyed this part of the plot, and that the story was far more than the heroes getting together, overthrowing bad guys and getting their HEA. Reading Skythane reminded me of peeling an onion—each layer reveals more depth, both to the story and the characters.

Kudos to the author for his naming of planets—nicely done and very apt, especially considering what happens. The hints from Midsummer Night’s Dream made me smile, and then nod with an exclaimed ‘of course!’ when the [sorry, spoiler] is revealed.

Although I always appreciate good world building, what really sucks me into a story is its characters. I became invested in Jameson and Xander very quickly, and not just because I wanted them to get together, but because I loved the way they grew and developed in the course of the story. I liked the way the author showed the metamorphosis into fully fledged Skythane and that it wasn’t just about sprouting wings and instantly gaining full control of them and being able to fly. Having to learn how to use them, and grow into the ability quite literally, and the physical issues that came with that, was very realistically written.

I also enjoy reading about strong female characters in my MM books, and Quince had her own detailed back story, difficult decisions to make, and nicely segued from past to present, providing the links between the two. Morgan was also a very interesting character, and although I would have liked to have seen more of him I thought the explanation worked well. Given his role in the story, suddenly having an information dump, or everything revealed, rather than have the other characters figure out who, and what, they think he is would have taken away from why he was there. Heroes can’t know everything with certainty or they get boring really fast, and these guys still have a long road ahead of them. Although Skythane gives them a satisfying HFN, and brings this part of the story to a close, it is far from over, and I really hope there will be a book 2 as I definitely want to read it.

I’d recommend Skythane to readers who like science fiction with complex plots and world building, engaging three dimensional characters, and a story that is difficult to put down.

Reviewed By: Anne

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Website

Anne Reviews: This Wish Tonight by Wendy Rathbone, J. Scott Coatsworth and Gregory L. Norris


TITLE: This Wish Tonight
Author: Wendy Rathbone, J. Scott Coatsworth, Gregory L. Norris
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Pages: 137
Characters: Shin & Remi; Zeke & Nathan; Lucius & Oscar
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: SF; SF/Post-Apocalyptic: Contemporary
Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

Eve of the Great Frost by Wendy Rathbone:

Remi has prepared for over a year to be the king’s gift at the annual celebration of the Eve of the Great Frost on the planet Niobe. Twelve men, taught under the tutelage of the Pleasure Master, hope to be the one (or one of several) chosen to spend an erotic night with the mysterious alien king who always wears a mask. But when Remi’s turn comes to be presented to His Majesty, everything goes wrong from a costume malfunction to breaking protocol. What happens next is a shock, and a night he will never forget.

Wonderland by J. Scott Coatsworth
Zeke is a loner his late forties, living in a small cabin in rural Montana. Nathan has been traveling across country on foot since the zombie apocalypse, dealing with his OCD in an empty world. Zeke just wants someone to love. Nathan just wants to be home again.
Fate brings them together in a winter wonderland, but their own fears and baggage may tear them apart.

Fear of Fire by Gregory L. Norris
Glass Artist Lucius Price works desperately to create a holiday symbol intended to help the town of Villatopia heal from a rash of unsolved hate crimes against gay men. When he is targeted next and his studio set ablaze, handsome firefighter Oscar Ramos rescues Lucius from the flames, creating a different kind of fire during an unforgettable Christmas.

Review:

This anthology from Mischief Corner Books is a collection of three very different stories with the shared theme of Christmas. I love reading anthologies as they’re a great way to find new authors. I’d already read and enjoyed another story by J. Scott Coatsworth—Through the Veil—but the other two authors in this collection are new to me.

Eve of the Great Frost by Wendy Rathbone
This story is SF and I loved the descriptive world building and the exploration of another culture. I enjoyed the way the author used POV to play with perspective. The story is from Remi’s POV rather than Shin’s who is from Earth. It was interesting watching Remi trying to understand Shin’s motivations without the insight he discovers as the story progresses. It gave a nice glimpse of a man behind a mask although Shin had his own mask in a way. I also really liked that the story revisited the characters with an epilogue set much later rather than just finishing once the main part of the story was over.

Wonderland by J. Scott Coatsworth
This is also SF, but very different from the previous one as it is set on Earth in the not so distant future after a rather nasty plague has decimated the population. Both Nathan and Zeke need to do some serious soul searching and I liked that one of the MCs is dealing with OCD as it gave the story more of a realistic edge. I prefer to read about characters who have an internal struggle as well an external one. The descriptions of the setting were very vivid and it made it easy to imagine the desolation and loneliness of their surroundings. I enjoyed the world building and how the decisions the characters make highlight what it important to life. I also liked Andy as a character—I thought he was well used, and the explanation of who he was left me with hope for the future of not just the characters in this story, but humanity as well.

Fear of Fire by Gregory L. Norris
Although it appears have a few supernatural elements at the beginning, this story is really a contemporary romance, and as such rounds out the anthology nicely. I liked the two main characters—Lucius and Oscar—and thought they complemented each other well. Lucius is a glass artist which was something I wasn’t familiar with, and I enjoyed the descriptions of his work. The supporting characters were a little more stereotypical, but that didn’t detract from the story which left me with a happy fuzzy feeling at the end of it as Lucius and Oscar come together with their community to celebrate the season and hope for the future.

I’d recommend This Wish Tonight to readers who enjoy reading shorter stories with engaging characters and descriptive world building. Although there is a Christmas theme running through these stories, I think they can be enjoyed at any time of the year, especially with the hope they leave the reader with for not just the characters, but humanity itself.

Reviewed By: Anne

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