Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2017 SFR Galaxy Awards Round 1 - Chris Stock

Best Dare Award

Claim the Wolf King
by Meg Xuemei X
(released Sept. 2017)

This is the prequel in the series The Wickedest Witch by Meg Xuemei X and takes place on a desolate planet. For some mysterious reason any space ship that gets too close to the planet looses all energy and crashes.

The inhabitants of the planet are all crash survivors that have bonded together in different groups. Each group fights over the resources whenever a new ship goes down. The groups are divided in various supernatural, alien and human groups.

The humans, including the female hero, general Kaara (who is a strong empath), have found safety with their witch leader. However, the witch is actually the queen of a planet and Kaara is her former bodyguard and friend. They were betrayed and sent to exile to the planet. The memory of the queen was erased and furthermore, every morning the queen looses the memory of the previous day. A dangerous situation because the queen can kill with a blink of an eye with her mental powers. Only Kaara keeps her stable and — despite the queen's memory loss — she still trusts her.

The book opens with a brutal and fierce fighting scene that draws the reader in and introduces Marrok, the arrogant leader of the wolf shifters.

A ship has crashed and every party hopes to win the bounty in it. The humans are no match against the supernaturals; Kaara decides to help the shifters with her men in hopes of getting a share of whatever is inside the ship. After the fight is won, Marrok is not willing to give the humans a share without a good reason. Kaara feels that there is an entity in the ship, she dares Marrok to beat her reaching the entity first. He agrees to the game, thinking it an easy win because he is faster and his senses are far better than that of any human. He is also intrigued with the powerful little human fighter. If Kaara wins, she'll get a third of the spoils, but if Marrok wins, she has to tell him where she comes from and he'll get a kiss from her.

Kaara knows Marrok wants more than a kiss and oh, she will need all her wits to escape his tempting body and mind.

The story is a fun combination of supernatural and science fiction with strong characters and a wicked love story. This book packs a punch.

Award for the Fiercest Mom
The Emperor's Mate
by May Sage
(released Sept. 2017)

This new release has been re-edited. According to critics, the old version (Rise, Rage and Rule) of 2016 had a lot of flaws. Being re-edited changed it to a new book, and made it a must-read. Reading this, I gave it a shot and did not regret it. It made me stay up all night — that doesn't happen to me that often anymore.

Center of the story and unlikely hero is a young woman, Lena, with a mysterious past. She lives in a world that has a deal with aliens who don't have enough females who can have children. The aliens are so hi-tech, they hi-teched the wombs from their women away. Seriously nerdy aliens with too much brain, too much muscle and no common sense.

This storyline has been used so often, that I rolled my eyes at the introduction. But, boy does it change from there. Most books would stop after hero meets girl, marries/mates girl and having a baby, which would be the grand ending for a HEA. In this case it is just the beginning.

The hero is the emperor of his people. Lena was supposed to be an incubator for his child and nothing more. That was before her child was kidnapped. Now, the aliens will learn not to mess with a human mom. She goes for the throats and all her emperor can do is to go along for the ride and cheer her on. The characters are so much fun, you want to join in the race for the happy ending. And, the happy ending is just the beginning for the next chapter.

Best Epic Story — It's A Stinger Award
Destroyer — Hidden Planet Book 1
by Anna Carven
(released Dec. 12, 2017)

He has never asked anyone for help, she never trusted anybody. Two warriors clash in an epic story.

Planet Khira used to be home to a mysterious race, the Drakhin. One day the entire race vanishes, leaving only one huge starship behind hovering over the planet.

The Vradhu race are technophobes of the worst order. Without technology they became fierce fighters and survivors. Strong, rugged looking creatures with one sneaky adaptation of nature: They have a tail that ends in a stinger with deadly toxin. The Vradhu are scratching out a living while the former slave-race of the Drakhin, the Naaga, conquer the planet with the help of the tech that their old masters left behind.

It's a trap! When the only source of fresh water is spoiled, a hunting party of the Vradhu, under the leadership of Ares, is sent to find out what happened to the water.

When Ares and his party arrive at the source, the white-eyed (eek) Naaga ambush them.

When the hunting party and Ares wake up, they find themselves on the ancient spaceship.

Turns out, the weak Naaga have an alien rodent infestation, the hunters are forced under threat to hunt and kill them.

The plan of the Naaga backfires when the sentient ship hooks its mental and metal claws into the mind of Ares to the shock of his fellow hunters. Who will survive the battle of minds? Ares has more to loose than just his mind. His eerie new powers that he gets from the ship alienates him from his own men. Will Ares men stick with him or abandon him because of his corruption with technology?

This is when the third party steps in:

The human captain Calexa Acura and her crew tumble into this situation after a battle against a ship of the slaver race Paxnath and a jump through an unknown wormhole that takes them through the eerie Netherverse.

The ship and crew don't get a breather and neither does the reader. Heavily damaged, the ship can't move and gets sucked into the ominous and giant ship of the Drakhin, a ship now under control of Ares and his men.

While Calexa is used to aliens in her part of the Universe, the alien she and her crew watches approaching from the safety of their ship is unknown to her. They are huge (of course), muscled and barbaric looking.

Calexa has no choice than to meet the alien, the ship's power is failing, the oxygen is depleted, weapons are down and the repairs too vast to get done soon. And, as captain, she goes alone, only protected by her combat suit and helmet.

When Calexa crashes with Ares (who is covered by armor from top to toe, created by the metal of the ship that he can bend and move with his will), it gets explosive.

Neither trusts the other, they speak different languages and, freaked out how the metal of Ares armor suddenly reaches towards Calexa the fight begins, and she looses.

When Ares sees her the first time without the helmet he is fascinated by her exotic looks that are so different from his race. That she is a woman and a warrior amazes him.

Sparks fly and the enemies become weary allies against evil lurking in the ship. There is still danger from the treacherous Naaga who are trying to break the connection between Ares and the ship by trying to kill him. Ares main goal is to get out of the sentient ship and the unnatural technological mess and bring his men back to the planet. Calexa only wants to get her ship repaired, her crew saved and head home, despite her growing attraction to Ares.

The main characters Calexa and Ares fit together, both are fighters struggling with and against their circumstances. Both are fiercely protective of their friends and team. For the first time Calexa feels vulnerability when Ares becomes protective of her, and he knows that he might just be the biggest danger to her life because of the changes that the ship forced on him. They unite forces to escape the monstrous sentient ship.

The author masters the complexity of writing down the feelings those two battle-hardened warriors have and shows the tender side of them.

There are many twists and turns in this book, each one well-thought out and well-written. While the Naaga play the evil counterparts, the other Vradhu of Ares' hunting party are multi-faceted. They could be violent and a danger to the crew, or they could become their saviors.

The story pulls you in and you can't get away until you read the last page ... only to crave more. However, their is hope, the title of the book, Destroyer — Hidden Planet carries the No. 1, which promises more stories to come.

Best Placed Sex Scenes Award
Kayzon's Wish — Alien Bounty Hunters Book 3
by Michele Mills
(released May 22, 2017)

Did I get your attention with this award? I thought so. My biggest pet-peeve are lazy authors who willy-nilly start spreading sex scenes throughout their books. You can't fool me, you just didn't have enough material to fill the mandatory pages for your publisher. I might exaggerate a bit, but some books would be better off with only two or three sex scenes instead of the five or six some have. Quality over quantity.

This author did it right.

I jumped into the series with the third book, Kayzon's Wish. You don't need to read the books in order, the author states, so I didn't.

The hero is really an anti-hero. Xylan Warrior Kayzon of Twenty-Six is a beast, a monster, scarred and ugly — that's what he thinks of himself and what he sees in the eyes of those around him. He has some serious issues stemming from the Xylan culture he grew up in. The entire series is based around the alien bounty hunter guild, specifically Xylan Warriors such as Kayzon, who were kicked out of their society. The universe is a mix of races where humans are the endangered species and not to be interacted with. Of course, that means the humans and Earth have a target on them — evil aliens love to mess with exotic creatures.

In “Kayzon's Wish,” Kayzon follows a fugitive to a remote planet that is inhabited by humans. Sneaky evil aliens have been kidnapping thousands of humans and used the planet to dump them and have them produce babies. The pitiful humans are kept under lock and key and most importantly — away from any contact with the civilized universe. In steps huge fanged Kayzon. Not only is he surprised encountering all the humans, but during the hunt for his illusive criminal, he encounters tiny Kia. A girl that doesn't take “No” for an answer. (I liked her right away.)

She thinks of him as the most handsome male in the world. He thinks of her as an annoying female. She wants to become a bounty hunter and just when she gets Kayzon to listen the evil aliens come down and grab her to experiment on her. Kayzon sees her fighting and she shows super strength and speed, which impresses him. When the evil aliens (I really like writing evil aliens) try to drag her up to their spaceship, Kayzon drags her down, accidentally touching flesh-on-flesh.

This touching flesh-on-flesh between unmated male and female Xylans triggers — if they genetically fit — a release of mating hormones. They get aroused for the first time in their life. Not only the first time, but they will only be attracted to that one person.

Guess what? That happens with Kayzon and human Kia.

Usually I don't like when the girl gives away the goods too early in the story, but here it fits, it has a fun and rather interesting tradition behind it and, the story really gets better and better with involvement of family, the mysterious prisoner who is not out of the picture, the bounty hunter guild, a planet of humans to free, an epic battle and did I mention … evil aliens.

There are some typos and minor issues, but nothing that distracts from the story. Don't look for my typos and bad grammar, I couldn't use my copy-editor. Copy-editors rule the literature universe.

Needless to say, I got all of her other books in the series. Each one has well developed characters and world-building that goes beyond a new author's capability. If you have Kindle, Amazon is a little slow. Her newest book in the series is already out and available, but not listed on the author's page, it's called Syrin's Mate.

Michelle Mills also has a dystopian series started, which I am tackling next (I just hope there are no zombies, I hate zombies). She writes that she loves to write filthy romance. It is not filthy, though there is some dirt and mud. She writes exciting, hot 18+ adventure science fiction romance that is a little rough around the edges, but so are the main characters.

Happier by the Dozen Award

Pets in Space 2: Embrace the Romance
(released Oct. 10, 2017)
by S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol,
Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley,
Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, Alexis Glynn Latner

Twelve authors bonded together after the success of Pets in Space 1 in October 2016.

I would love to get into details of every short story in this collection to give it its own well-deserved award, but alas I have only five awards available to give, according to the rules.

I have always loved animals in books, my love for alien animals started with Flinx and his pet flying snake Pip whose creator is Alan Dean Foster.

When an author I followed, S.E. Smith, announced that there was a collection of SFR short stories planned, I could not wait to check it out. Thanks to these short stories I found many new authors I like and follow.

This new collection has the original authors and new ones. Each story is unique with adventures, love, wild and funny pets that add charm and some unusual encounters.

I highly recommend reading this book if you are new to SFR to find your favorite new authors and of course, if you enjoy pets of the unusual kind, with a heavy dose of love.

I liked this collection so much, I bought the hardcopy, lifting it develops my muscles, it is the thickest book in small print that I have bought since my encyclopedia — after reading Pets in Space 2, the hardcopy has its purpose: I will use it as weapon on any out-of-space alien invaders trying to kidnap me. You never know, I do live in Roswell, New Mexico — Alien Capital of the World and cradle of space exploration.

Pets in Space 1 is no longer available, but most authors have or are releasing the individual stories.

P.S. These are real pets of the animal/cybernetic kind. I found out there is a sub-genre with human pets, which resulted in some hilarious misunderstandings when I talked to a colleague about Pets in Space 2.


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