Thursday, February 1, 2018

Special Thanks: Sites Helping Celebrate 2017 Awards

The 2017 SFR Galaxy Awards are a wrap, but we'd like to thank the following sites for helping celebrate and get the word out about this year's awards.

USA TODAY Happy Ever After Sci-Fi Encounters

Amazing Stories by Veronica Scott
Whiskey With My Book review site by Riley Moreland
JC Hay Science Fiction Opera Romance site


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2017 SFR Galaxy Awards Round 7 - Anna McLain

Hottest Cold War
Relaunch Mission (The Galactic Cold War)
by Robyn Bachar
April 24, 2017, Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. The distant future is as rife with diversity and interstellar travel as it is with political intrigue, spies, and a lust for power.

Captain Lindana Nyota chose a side after the great war that split known space into three factions. Running missions for her chosen government as a privateer keeps her crew fed but doesn’t always keep crew or lovers alive. Now she’s alone, a man down, and stuck with the choice of depending on the person who shattered her heart and changed the course of her life.

Lieutenant Gabriel Steele sacrificed his only love, his home and family to fight the good fight against the enemies of the State on his chosen side. But are there truly any “good” fights? Can trust broken be mended? Are there second chances?

Life and love are messy when politics are dirty and there are whispers of war.

I loved this story with its fast paced twists and turns, humor and high tech. The worldbuilding is broad and deep, with so many possible avenues to explore that I was left hungering for another book. Lucky me, there is one. All of the major characters were interesting and multi-faceted enough that I would love to read stories about them too. The romance plot weaves seamlessly through the larger story with a satisfying ending, building at the right pace for the circumstances. The chemistry between the heroine and her hero is hot and believable. Excellent story! I plan to read the next book. I highly recommend it!

2017 SFR Galaxy Awards Round 6 - Lee Koven

Best Politician Protagonist

Perfect Gravity
by Vivien Jackson
Senator Angela Neko has ambitions. She's made big sacrifices for them. She's going to guide her country into the future. She makes plans and follows through with amazing self-control. When a rather large wrench is thrown into said plans, she seeks aid from a group that includes her old friend and lover, Kellen. Watching her try to reconcile their past with the different people they’ve become is compelling.

Angela has enough flaws to keep her interesting, and I loved watching her grapple with those. She's able to change her plans, adapt to new situations, and gets the better of her enemies without having to punch or shoot anybody.

Best Athlete Superstar

Race to Redemption
by Shari Elder
Elaina Carteret is a pro race pilot and on the corporate board at StormTech. She's an intergalactic hotshot with money, fame, and whoever she wants to bed. But how does she cope when she’s forced to give up that lifestyle?

Lainie develops a lot over the course of the book. She puts her skills to use by flying medical transports, saving some lives and finding purpose she didn't have before. She's forced outside her stardom and comfort zone, and learns to care for others and put them first when they're in need. By the end of the novel, she's proved she's worthy of Erik’s love and has the total support of the reader.

Best Hacker Heroine
South Seas Salvation
by JC Hay

Yashilla has ports in her head and interface keys in her skin. She’s cocky, but she has the skills to back up her pride. She prefers the abstract world of computers, connections, and data to the one where she has to interact with flesh, physical objects, and those messy things we call emotions. That doesn't stop her from getting involved with Zar, but it does make her relationships extra perilous.

It’s easier for her to escape into the virtual world than to deal with old pain. However, the mission she goes on to make the mother of all names for herself forces her to confront her weaknesses. Yashilla’s fears are believable, and I sympathized with her mistakes. They make her triumph all the more sweet.

Best Currency

Scions of the Star Empire - Scandal
by Athena Grayson

In today's world, I never hear the end of how we must market ourselves and be careful with our personal brands. Celebrities are measured with their clout in followers and friends. The more of a public figure someone is, the more they need to protect their image with appropriate behavior. That image is worth money, usually in endorsements.

Grayson takes this idea to one of its logical conclusions: celebrities as variable-value entities you can invest in. The characters in Scandal have to be very careful with how they present themselves so that their Social Capital scores don't plummet or get too volatile. Young nobles try to accumulate enough SoCap to get out of the game and achieve some measure of independence, but a high score will also bring them to the attention of the ruling Trust. The Trust have plans of their own, and are only too happy to use the protagonists to enact them. It's a fine line to walk, and the characters in Scandal have just hit the point where they can no longer thread that needle.

Most Interesting Aliens

by Jess Anastasi

The Reidar are hidden among humanity, able to assume people's identities (after killing them so there are fewer questions asked). Early in the Atrophy series I found them a nebulous antagonist, but as events have progressed, I've learned more about these decidedly unsexy aliens.

I don't know what they want from we humans, or why. Their actions so far have shown it can't be anything good. The Reidar see humans as we’d see ants, but we’re important to some plan of theirs. And that's what makes them terrifying—and interesting.

Best Romance Plot in a Science Fiction Video Game

Nier: Automata
(for PS4 and PC)
Emotions are forbidden to androids, but they pine for each other anyway. 2B has her reasons for not getting involved, despite returning 9S’s feelings. What does it mean for a person who can be restored from backup to love? How does it change the relationship if you are doomed to forget parts of it?

2B and 9S walk a long road in their constant battle against other machines. On the way, several tragedies punch them in the face. Helped along by their robot assistants and a prototype android, they endure through horrible ordeals before they can earn their happy ending. The moments between them are poignant, and the profound sense of relief I felt at the end of the game was something that I only experience every few years.


2017 SFR Galaxy Awards Round 5 - Jo Jones

Best Post Apocalyptic World Building
The Rule of Luck
by Catherine Cerveny


Most Interesting Plot Twist
Chains of Freedom
by Audrey Sharpe

Best Way to Make a Dream Come True
by Ruby Lionsdrake

Best Way to Change a May/December Pairing

Flying Through Fire
by Nina Croft

Best Opening Scene

Rescuing Prince Charming
by Edward Hoornaert

Best and Most Coveted Cat

For the Greater Good: Puss in Space
by Greta van der Rol

One of the Best and Most Interesting Aliens this Year

by Pippa Jay

2017 SFR Galaxy Awards Round 4 - Riley Moreland

Best Original Story

by Tiffany Roberts

When I was half way through Dustwalker, I knew it was going to be one of my 2017 favorites. This post-apocalyptic epic scores big with me in all my scoring categories: Complex characters, intricate plot, intense emotional situations, humanity being tested, slow-burning romance, interesting secondary characters and a really good villain. The story of human Lara and synth Ronin has all of this and more, including an epilog that will make you cry.

Best High-Tech Love Making

Wanted and Wired
by Viven Jackson

Technology, whether it is computers or programming or hackers or robots, is hard to make interesting to this reader. Vivien Jackson makes tech fascinating. She has a knack for stringing a bunch of words together to form a very readable sentence. Any subject is new and exciting in her hands. Even sex. I admit, I am the reader that just scans the sex passages in order to get to the good stuff. But Heron Farad, high-tech genius, puts a whole new spin on making love and I read every word when he and Mari got together. Mix the sizzling sex with a high voltage plot and you have one of my favorites of the year. Wanted and Wired was quickly followed by book 2 in the series, Perfect Gravity, which is also a feast of words!

Beyond Book 3 Award

Found Girl (Project Enterprise, #6)
by Pauline Baird Jones

There are many series that I stop reading after 2 or 3 books because the plot becomes predicable or the book is formulaic. Not so with the Project Enterprise series. Each book in this series has been so very unique. Connecting characters and technology are what hold the series together, but each book stands on it's own. Found Girl introduces some new aliens that are so not humanoid. Not even close. There is also a heroine, Arian, that gets more mysterious with each new thing you learn about her. Jones' creativity astounds me and never ceases to entertain!

Favorite Cat Hero
Cypher (The Dragon's Bidding, #2)
by Christina Westcott

Cypher was actually published in 2016, but I did not get around to reading it until 2017. I love The Dragon's Bidding series, and Jumper is the main reason why. Don't get me wrong, Cypher has galactic politics, an evil villain, a kick-ass heroine, a split-personality hero that really mixes things up, and heart-breaking emotions. All great things in a novel. But Jumper, the talking cat, is one of my favorite cats of all time. With his spot-on ability to state the obvious, a line like “Oh shit, we are so screwed.” lets you know that things are not going as well as they could.

Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover Award

Race to Redemption (Green Rising, #1)
by Shari Elder

We all do it. Get sucked in by a pretty book cover. Or put off by a cover because of preconceptions. Based on the cover of Race to Redemption (a lingerie-clad woman and a shirtless man), I would never have guessed the depth of the story that would be found within the pages. In addition to a slow-burning romance, you will find class conflict, a desert planet, flawed characters, sick kids and lots of high-flying action in this book. Shari Elder is a skilled, imaginative writer who wrote a thrilling book with a lot of twists and much less lingerie than you would think.

2017 SFR Galaxy Awards Round 3 - Marlene Harris

To Everything There is a Season, the Turn, Turn, Turn Award
War Games (Valiant Knox #4)
by Jess Anastasi

As the old song from the 1960s goes, “To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time to every purpose, under heaven.”

There is a time for everything. And sometimes it is time for a series to end. And sometimes series don’t end when they should, but that’s a different (and not award-winning) post.

The Valiant Knox series is a marvelous piece of ship-based, space-opera science fiction romance. The crew of the Valiant Knox and the alliance that they represent is fighting essentially a guerilla war against a planet of fundamentalist whack-jobs. Or at least, the leadership are fundamentalist whack-jobs and the general population is rightfully too scared to resist the guns pointed at their heads.

The series is not about the whole war from beginning to end, although it could have been, and it would have been fascinating. Instead, what we see in the series is the end game. The self-aggrandizing planetary leader is dying and the Alliance is hoping, and working hard towards, getting the planet out from under as part of the inevitable power-scramble.

Each book in the series has featured one couple who are both somewhere in the hierarchy of the Valiant Knox (itself a cross between Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica and Deep Space 9) as they fight the good fight, fall in love, and try desperately to look towards a galaxy at peace - if they can get there.

The series has featured one former POW, one fighter pilot, one spy and one security chief, all roles that put them in the thick of the fighting but give them very different perspectives. We’d seen different positions, different romances and watched the fight go from nearly impossible to wrapped up and over. It was a great story but it was time to go.

And now this series is perfect for recommending to people who want to try SFR and/or love space opera but don’t want to get strung out in a series that never ends. Because it’s a wrap - and a great one. 

Best Lost Colony Series (The If It Walks Like a Duck Award)

Heart Sight (Celta’s Heartmates #15)
by Robin D. Owens

Some people are going to wonder what this book is doing here, because the Celta series reads very much like fantasy romance and not SFR. But just like Anne McCaffrey’s Pern and Jayne Castle’s Harmony, Celta is a lost Earth colony, founded by refugees from Earth escaping on a spaceship, and that puts it firmly into the realm of science fiction, and therefore science fiction romance - because there’s a romance in every story.

The reason that the original Celtans ran from Earth was because they were not welcome, and in fact were persecuted, because they all possessed some version of psychic talent. The planet Celta, while deadly to many of the Earthan plants and animals, and definitely not kind to the original generation of settlers, possessed something that enhanced those psychic abilities. Now, most Celtans have at least some gift, that they call flair, that determines both their status in society and their best way to contribute to that society.

That the world of Celta feels like a place one could actually live makes this series especially fun. Even with the trials and tribulations that often beset our heroes and heroines, this is a world that feels like it works.

This year’s entry in the series features Vinni T’Vine, the Prophet of Celta. Vinni really can see glimpses of the future - well, any future except his own. But this story is not about his gift, except indirectly. Instead, this is a coming of age story, and it’s also a story about two people who have always loved each other learning to become true partners.

To add icing on this marvelous cake, part of the native fauna of Celta are “fams”, companion animals who can speak with their people. The fams of all species provide both companionship as well as the occasional bit of comic relief. And as many fams are descendants of Earthan felines, plenty of cattitude whenever required.

Most Broken Butterfly Award (Time Not in the Bottle)

The Jane Austen Project
by Kathleen A. Flynn

One of the questions that lingers over time travel stories is the bit about how much the characters should, shouldn’t, can, or can’t affect the original timeline. Most of the time, there’s a prohibition on changing the timeline in any way for fear that a change in the past will alter the present, not just in negative ways but possibly even beyond recognition.

That’s the concept that gets turned on its head in The Jane Austen Project. The mission of the project is to send two people back in time to not merely meet but actually interact with the author Jane Austen. The mission that Rachel and Liam have been rigorously trained for is to find a way into Jane Austen’s inner circle by romancing Jane’s brother Henry, sneak a look at Jane’s final unpublished and utterly lost manuscript, and diagnose the disease that killed her. The trick is that they will be spending a year back in 1815, and they are not supposed to change anything or leave any evidence of their presence.

Of course it’s impossible. It’s the immersion in that impossibility, and its results, that make The Jane Austen Project so utterly absorbing.

Tastiest Cheese in Video Game Romance

Mass Effect Andromeda
from Bioware

One of the things I love about Bioware games, both the science fiction Mass Effect series and the fantasy Dragon Age series, is that the player creates a character that can really represent themselves, and has the opportunity to be not just a fighter but also a lover. Admittedly, some of the actual romance scenes are a bit cheesy (sometimes dripping with cheese!) but the way that the choices work and how they affect the character and the story make exploring those romance options one of the reasons that I replay the games as often as I do.

So even though Mass Effect Andromeda had such a poor showing as a video game that it seems to have killed the franchise, I still love all of its possibilities for romance, and the very different romance tropes that it explored.

My personal favorite is the “bad boy makes good” romance. Admittedly, this one also has the most interesting options for fan fiction, because what we see on screen only hints at all the delicious possibilities. But this is far from the only romance available.

There’s a “just kids coming of age” romance between the player character and one of the less emotionally mature crew members. But there are also other crewmember romances that go in different directions. One is with dear old dad’s very serious and buttoned-down second-in-command, who initially resents the player for taking the place that she believes she should have had.

Two of the options are strictly same-sex romances, one with the scientist who still believes in a supreme being and the other with a “rules are meant to be broken” engineer who grows into a responsible co-parent with the help of the player character.

And those are just the human options. The non-human options are equally varied, and just as fascinating. One of the species that humans meet in Andromeda is an entire race of people who all wear their hearts on their sleeves all the time about absolutely everything. A romance with someone who loves everyone and is never afraid to show it to everybody is certainly different.

Some romances are same-sex only. Some are opposite-sex only. And quite a few are possible regardless of the gender chosen for the player character. But they are all fascinating, all different, and all have varying effects on the player, the character, and the game.

This is true for all of the Bioware games, and it’s a part of the experience that has gotten richer (and slightly less cheesy) as their series have continued. Think of these games a “choose your own adventure” romance, with occasional (well, more than occasional) battle scenes.

And just for the record, the romance options in the original Mass Effect Trilogy are all absolutely heartbreaking. If you go there, and I recommend going there, bring lots of tissues.

Best Distraction Award

Crashed on an Ice World (Phoenix Adventures #9)
by Anna Hackett

Anna Hackett has won multiple SFR Galaxy Awards since she began writing SFR with At Star’s End, and this year is no exception.

Anna is my go-to author when I really, really need a distraction from whatever feces are hitting whichever oscillating device. I read Anna the night of the 2016 election when I could no longer bear to watch the unfolding train wreck.

What makes Anna’s books such a good distraction? I think it has to do with the nature of SFR in general, and how she does it in particular. SFR is always a balancing act, the SFnal worldbuilding needs to be well-done, fully fleshed, hang together, make sense, however one wants to put that. Hers always does. In the case of the Phoenix Adventures, we have space opera, with two sets of cousins operating at nearly opposite ends of a far-flung galaxy after a human diaspora. Planet Earth is supposed to be a nuclear wasteland and when we do visit, it sort of is - definitely nuclear, if not quite as wasted as rumor had it.

That there would be treasure hunters looking for the lost treasures of the dead homeworld makes sense. And that’s where the other side of the SFR teeter-totter comes in, because in order for it to be SFR there doesn’t just need to be SF, there also has to be R. The romance, whether it ends in an HEA or an HFN (and one of Anna’s series only makes sense as HFN) that romance has to his squarely in the center of the SF story. And, in the case of Crashed on an Ice World, hot enough to melt that ice.

But part of what I love best about Anna’s romances are her heroines. There are no damsels in distress. There are, in fact, no damsels at all, but very strong and usually quite different women who have charge of their own lives, but whose lives can be made better by the right man, who does not sweep them off their feet but does stand beside them fighting the good fight.

That many of her heroines are geeky enough to make them easy for me to identify with is icing on a very tasty cake.

Crashed on an Ice World arrived just in time for Xmas. It turned out that I really, really needed a distraction this holiday. I found myself getting lost in Anna’s latest Phoenix Adventure as I sat by my mother’s bedside while she was in hospice. This marvelous story took me away mentally from someplace that I desperately needed to be in physically when I just couldn’t cope anymore.

The cold of Anna’s ice world, and the heat of the romance, kept me from going out of my mind or flying off into pieces. And I’m more grateful than I can say.

2017 SFR Galaxy Awards Round 2 - Heather Massey

The SFR Cryo-Ship Future We Want

In Ageless Sleep
by Arden Ellis
(Less Than Three Press)

Arden Ellis' In Ageless Sleep proved to me once again that sci-fi romance authors are the experts when it comes to stories blending science and romance.

If you've heard anything about the 2016 "sci-fi romance" film Passengers, it's that the film was reported by many to be a hot mess. I, for one, avoided it after reading reports of highly problematic elements.

While perusing the catalog of Less Than Three Press many months later, the blurb for In Ageless Sleep intrigued me because I wanted to see what an SFR author could accomplish with a similar premise. Like Passengers, In Ageless Sleep takes place on a cryo-ship. Also like Passengers, one In Ageless Sleep character wakes up another during the long journey. At that point, the stories diverge wildly. After finishing the story, my first thought was, "In Ageless Sleep is the movie Passengers should have been, and should have aspired to become."

Indeed, I am here to say that an SFR novella by a little-known author blew a wannabe Hollywood blockbuster film out of the water.

Heroine Mal is a soldier, but is on a mission with criminal undertones. When the story opens, she's hijacked The Royal Arc with the intent of kidnapping Princess Aurora, all as part of a centuries-long war between the Reaches and the Sovereigns. Mal's reason for rousing Aurora from cryo sleep is selfless and a far cry from the creepy reason involved in Passengers. So right there we have a dynamic that demonstrates not only a more well-thought out premise, but also a lovely bit of characterization. Even though Mal has done a nefarious deed, she has one redeeming quality that prevents her from surrendering fully to the dark side.

In Ageless Sleep also outperforms Passengers as far as representation because one of the heroines has a disability and the other is a woman of color. Diversity of the main characters makes for a much more realistic futuristic setting. I especially appreciate the description of Mal's physical characteristics. There's nothing wrong with fantasy bodies in SFR, but Mal feeds my craving for body diversity and ordinary, relatable body types.

The story features an interracial lesbian romance and is for fans of enemies-to-lovers stories as well as romances with characters who come from opposite sides of the track. The story packs in plenty of witty banter and relatable, flawed, characters. Both Mal and Aurora have cool skill sets. Also, the story, through their relationship, addresses issues like classism. In Ageless Sleep is a great example of how one bakes science and social commentary into a delicious romance.

I'm still rather stunned that I discovered In Ageless Sleep. I didn't discover it because of a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign that put it right under my nose. Rather, I found it on my own as part of my never-ending quest to consume stories that serve my needs by including elements of interest to me (e.g., LGBQTIA couples, the female gaze, heroic female characters). What are the chances someone would write the perfect antidote to a Hollywood film that, despite an estimated $110,000,000 budget, seems to fail SFR fans on nearly every level? Thank heaven Arden Ellis took that chance, because it made this sci-fi romance reader very happy!

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.

Welcome to the 2017 SFR Galaxy Awards

Thanks for joining us for the Sixth Annual SFR Galaxy Awards, recognizing the standout books in science fiction romance.

Special Tribute

We'd like to do a special dedication for this year's awards to a giant in the Science Fiction/Fantasy community, author Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed on Monday, January 22, 2018. Her words actually inspired the SFR Galaxy Awards. (More about that here.) She will be greatly missed as both author and inspiration.

This year, we'll be presenting seven rounds of awards, beginning at 10AM Eastern Standard Time USA. We'd like to thank our panel of talented judges for their work in selecting the 2017 award recipients.

We'd also like to thank the designer of this year's award banner, the multi-talented cover designer and editor Danielle Fine, and also extend our thanks to the original award icon designer, graphic artist Kanaxa.

More About the Awards

The SFR Galaxy Awards is an annual, multi-award event for science fiction romance books. The 2017 awards marks the sixth successive year the awards have been presented.

The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single book, this event will recognize the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain. The basic philosophy behind this approach is to help connect readers with books.

Each of seven judges may name one to multiple awards for standout science fiction romance, creating award categories based on their own criteria. They may also opt to provide additional details about the selectee and why they have made the selection. Authors do not enter to win and are not aware they have won until the awards are announced.

The focus is on award year titles, however the judges may also make a selection from a prior year and one selection can be a science fiction romance film, television series, video, graphic novel or game. (Further information about guidelines and eligibility can be found on the About the SFR Galaxy Awards page.)

Presentation of the Awards

As in prior years, the awards will be posted in rounds (Eastern Standard Time USA):

10:00 AM - Chris Stock
11:00 AM - Heather Massey
12:00 PM - Marlene Harris
1:00 PM - Riley Moreland
2:00 PM - Jo Jones
3:00 PM - Lee Koven
4:00 PM - Anna McLain

Read more about the 2017 judges on the Judges page.

Thank you for joining us for the 2017 SFR Galaxy Awards.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Update from Returning Judge Lee Koven

I'm delighted to be a judge for the SFR Galaxy Awards again. I've been reading romance novels since I was a teenager, and science fiction novels for as long as I can remember. Several years ago, I won a drawing for free SFR books. They opened my eyes to a genre I'd always wanted to read but had never known existed. For each year’s Awards, I always try to highlight authors I haven't previously honored, because so many books deserve recognition.

I'm fascinated by how science and technology change society. No matter how we live or what capabilities we have, we remain social animals who seek connection to others. We come up with ingenious tools to do so, with results ranging from tragic to hilarious. I love to read books that explore these possibilities.

I live in the Boston area, where my husband and I moved last year from Seattle. It was a homecoming of sorts for us: I'd left five years ago, he eighteen. We were both lucky enough to keep our jobs as software developers and work as remote employees. We're delighted to be back in more urban surroundings. I've hopped around the East and West Coasts of the United States, living in twelve different residences in the last fifteen years. I'm hoping to stay in Boston a good long while, though!

I look forward to sharing my awards with you and discovering more books through the other judges' picks.