Short, Sweet and Feisty Award
A Darkside Interlude: Darkstar Mercenaries 0.5
by Anna Carven
Set in the Darkstar universe that was created by Anna Carven, this is a very short, very fast, but oh so yummy story of the new earth commander, err, leader of security for the whatchagonnacallit, ah, yes, Dark Planet Warrior company. Fierce commander Iskar dislikes the hot planet and distrusts the humans that call his race allies. Then he meets a beautiful pickpocket and gets a tour behind the scenes when she steals something precious from him. The hunt is on! Those two clash with each other in every which way possible. He is a black and white guy (you’ll understand the pun if you followed the series), and she is a criminal he wants to punish, until he learns about the true struggles that humans face in this town he’s visiting.
It was hard to pick just one of last year’s releases of Anna Carven, but I think this one stands out because it is so tricky to write a short story with all characters fleshed out and not losing anything.
Best Similar but Different Out of Africa Award
Rage (Alien Breed 1 - English Edition)
by Melody Adams
(translated by Sylvia Corbisiero)
I am a fan of human women rescuing not-so-willing aliens, alien hybrids, alien pets--you name it, I read it. Many authors have included this theme, but some are just too fun not to read. This one comes to us from an author out of Bijilo, Gambia (West Africa). Human men were spliced with alien DNA by greedy humans which makes them extremely volatile. A young assistant stumbles upon such a hybrid, who is abused and scares her with his aggressive behavior. She can’t save him, but she snaps pictures on her phone and leaks it to the press. Years later, she gets a job on a planet where the freed (or are they?) hybrids are kept and is faced with the alien breed who thinks she betrayed him. The man hates her and doesn’t want anything to do with her, but the alien inside him chooses her and doesn’t want any human or other alien close to her. A mental tug of war for the hybrid and a rollercoaster ride for the girl begins. The really fun part are the side-kicks — good ones and evil ones — dangers Rage and the girl have to go through until a HEA. I loved the lingo and the bantering.
Best Out-of-Space Cop Award-Despite-the-Title
Beauty’s Alien Beast
by Linda Mooney
Linda Mooney has been writing a lot and for quite a while. Her newest book “Beauty’s Alien Beast” is the best one yet.
A rough, yet honorable, female intergalactic cop with some fierce mental power, called psionic abilities, is on a break when she sees a beast-alien from a mining planet getting ambushed by vicious, little mean aliens called Kronners. Instead of being able to help him, the cop gets caught as well and knocked out. Both awake in a container. The beast can’t use his strength to get to the enemies, and she’s got an implant that sends shockwaves of pain through her brain when she tries to use her power. Worse, their prison cells are hooked up on an alien version of dark-net and they are forced to “entertain” subscribers. Of course, they escape — after all, it is a SCI-FI Rom, but that’s when it really gets interesting. What they had to do to stay alive is illegal and they are facing their own planet’s judgements, which is just as dangerous as the criminal mind behind the kidnapping who is still out to get them.
I loved everything about this book, though I think a different title would have been a better choice.
Best Start of a New Series and Kidnapping Scene
Edge of Eon (Eon Warriors 1)
by Anna Hackett
Edge of Eon is a new series with aliens, yes, but with a twist that is too good: Imagine the humans find out there are aliens, good looking, smart, technical advanced and…they don’t care a bit about Earth. When other aliens are planning to decimate Earth, the aliens don’t lift a little finger, even after Earth promises them everything, begging to be helped. Nichts, nada, nothing can convince that warrior race to get involved. Politicians do what politicians do best, they plot - in this case, they blackmail sub-captain Eve Traynor to do a suicide mission and kidnap the war commander Davion Thann-Eon.
This is such a fun book, hilarious how Eve outwits the commander and kidnaps him from his own ship, but she can’t haul him back to Earth because the evil Earth-decimating aliens intervene and they crash-land on a planet you would not want to send your evil stepmother to. The two must work together to survive, dodge the evil aliens and try to get the message out that it’s not only Earth the evil aliens are after.
I spent two nights until the wee morning hours reading. I am still having flash-back from that horrible planet. And Anna Hackett made me cry! Then laugh, so we are all good at the HEA.
I can’t wait for the next in the series because …Eve has two equally strong sisters ;)
Best Continuation of an Anthology that Makes You Feel Good
Pets in Space 3: Embrace The Passion
by S. E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Ruby Lionsdrake,
Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Carol Van Natta,
Tiffany Roberts, Alexis Glynn Latner,
E D Walker, JC Hay and Kyndra Hatch
For the third time authors came together to write about what they love most: Alien love stories and alien animals or pets.
Best of it, they were able to raise with the sale of the anthology funds for Hero Dogs. Hero Dogs, Inc., a Maryland 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, that improves quality of life for our nation’s heroes by raising, training, and placing service dogs and other highly skilled canines, free of charge with lifetime support of the partnerships.
Best part of reading an anthology is that there is a story for everybody. Not every story will resonate with every reader, but the variety is so much fun. I am a big fan of strong women, soft ones who depend on heroes to save them drive me nuts. There were mostly strong women in this one.
I have read Smith's books in the past and her short story, that kicks off this anthology, is now one of my favorites. It is a tight and exciting written drama and has big cats. The best part is, even the bad guys are well-written. “Heart of the Cat” is worth buying the anthology alone.
Then, there is Anna Hackett's “Desert Hunter,” which plays in her alien gladiator world. A desert man hides something evil in his heart that forbids him to go after his love interest. When a weird animal is saved, the mystery unfolds and the desert hunter may just become the hunted if not for a fiery girl who is a fighter for his heart.
“Quashi” by Ruby Lionsdrake, is set in her Mandrake Corporation storyline. It’s a sweet and funny story with undercover fluffy critters versus spaceship mercenaries and has cute characters and an entertaining love story.
“Star Cruise: Mystery Dancer” by Veronica Scott is an exciting retelling of Anastasia. Fun to read and strong characters, including a mysterious cat-like creature. The story is part of Scott's Star Cruise world.
These anthologies are well-done, well-written and a perfect way to find a new favorite author, not to mention …alien pets. Bad news is, the anthologies only are available for a limited time, though most authors release the stories individually after a year.
Christina Stock is an editor at the Roswell Daily Record and in charge of the “Vision” section which covers events in Southeast New Mexico as well as art and book reviews. To read more see the Judges page.