heresthepencil's review

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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

2.5 ☆

I actually hate reviewing anthologies by different authors because it's always so hard to make some general points about the book as a whole. All I can tell you this time, is that it's very much a hit-and-miss. More of a miss, if you're like me...

So we have 9 sapphic short stories, all with supernatural elements. We get vampires, werewolves, sirens, muses, ghosts... The diversity in that department is great and it's really refreshing to see so many totally different stories and all of them being effortlessly sapphic. And yet!

Let's talk about the good first, though. I really enjoyed "It Started Before Noon" by Ava Kelly & "The Hunt" by M. Hollis, and "By Candlelight" by Ziggy Schutz was pretty solid, too. What's special about those three is that the authors actually took time to develop the characters, put some thought into worldbuilding and - most importantly - made the relationships feel real. Especially the first two were extremely soft and lovely, honestly making me want to read more by Kelly and by Hollis.

That leaves us with 6 more stories. And, well. A few of them were honest to god just porn with some mediocre plot put there because you kind of need plot. The rest was just weak, both in the way of writing & the idea itself. It's so incredibly disappointing. You get a whole anthology tailored specifically to your fantasy-loving lesbian needs, and you can't even enjoy it!

kparrbooks's review

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I won't comment on my own story, but boy did I enjoy the others! Creative, clever, fun, sexy, cute, and more, these stories were lovely to read!

loveinpanels's review

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Overall, the book is exactly what I've needed these last few weeks. As with any anthology, some of the stories worked better than others, but it's a really strong addition to the small subgenre of f/f paranormal romance. If it helps you to know, I immediately bought volumes 1 and 2 upon finishing this one.

One of the things that worked well for me while reading the volume over a period of weeks was the variety among these nine stories. Some are close to erotica, some leave it at a kiss. Some are set in a world much like ours, some are completely fantastical. I didn't find that the book worked well when I tried to read it straight through, probably for this same reason. Reading an anthology is really like reading nine books, after all, even if the total page count is less than 300. Each story requires you to sink into a new world, after all.

Let's talk about the stories!

It Started Before Noon, by Ava Kelly

This is the first story in the anthology, but it remains my favorite. The main characters are a story gardener and a scientist/engineer. The story gardener grows story ideas, which can be used by story weavers to make stories. The gardener hasn't been able to make her romance "puffs" grow, so they sit on a little table in the corner of her nursery. One day, a scientist shows up and the gardener sends her away, over and over, until finally she relents and invites the scientist in for tea. They have tea every day, and a sweet romance blooms, in more ways than one!

Heart’s Thaw, by Bru Baker

Calliope is secretly in love with Lady Helena, but she's her hired companion and Helena must marry to preserve her father's title. Helena has no interest in all of her male suitors, however, and is eventually cursed by one of them to have a heart that gradually freezes and kills her. Sex to the rescue! This is one of the stories that relies more heavily on sex and has a definite Happy For Now ending rather than a Happily Ever After.

Fire and Brine, by Lis Valentine

This one was also heavy on the sex, but it worked so well for the characters that you can't say it's gratuitous. One of the heroines is a succubus and one is a siren (mermaid) and they have an attraction that neither can resist. It's the coming together of two very powerful supernatural women and it's very hot.

Dance with Me, by Michelle Frost

A vampire hires a butch werewolf to find something for her and sort of also work as her bodyguard during. This one didn't work as well for me, as it felt like the author was trying to put a full book into a short story. I would have liked to spend more time figuring out who the characters were, rather than zooming around the city on a motorcycle from club to club to club.

My Cup of O Pos, by L.J. Hamlin

This was another story that didn't work for me, but not because of any plot points, just some clunky writing. The author and the vampire heroine are both disabled, and it was a welcome change to see a vampire who wasn't magically healed of any "flaws." I liked the gentle building relationship between the vampire and her human ER doc, but I just couldn't get into the flow of the writing.

Home, by K. Parr

Another favorite for me! Farah is a newly turned werewolf who ends up shifting back to human the morning after a full moon in the yard of a gorgeous Alpha werewolf. Farah's pack is entirely femme, but it's made clear that they vary in sexual orientation. It was short, but after a bad day, it was nice to get a quick HEA with a bunch of women supporting each other.

Swoon, by Artemis Savory

A cursed pirate has to steal someone's voice before she dies, but doesn't want to be like her sisters and take without consent. I had some issues with her sisters' behavior, but I think that's intentional. I was also annoyed at the heroine because she does assault a woman before realizing what she's doing and stopping. I didn't particularly want their HEA after that, if I'm honest. On the plus side, it's a creative fantasy setting and not everyone will react the way I did to that scene.

The Hunt, by M. Hollis

A vampire comes of age and sets out to find her first willing blood donor. The whole thing is wonderfully awkward and sweet and ends with a hopeful HFN that I really liked. It reads like new adulttt, which is totally appropriate for the characters.

By Candlelight, by Ziggy Schutz

This is a mildly spooky story that takes place after the heroine, Zoe, dies. She's been sick for half of her young life and is really curious about the ghost who comes to help her family through their grief after she dies. Like the first in this anthology, it's a beautiful, sweet story with unique fantasy elements and it ends on a kiss. I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would, and it was the perfect way to end the volume.

So there you have it, a very long review of Into the Mystic, Vol. 3!

broomesbooks's review

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Not having previously read the last two volumes of the Into the Mystic collection, I wasn’t expecting what I actually go. The cover had me thinking, like time travel, witches, Scottish highlands but that’s not what I got. Now I can say each of these stories were great in their own ways. Some of the authors are now on my list to watch for future work or previous publications.

I have come to realize that there are going to be stories I absolutely love and need an entire novel written about the characters, and then one or two that I’m not fond of. It’s just personal preference. If you’re looking for erotica, that’s not what you’re going to get in this collection. There’s one story, Fire and Brine by Lis Valentine would be the one that went more in that direction. The rest have a gentle, kind romance about them.

It Stated Before Noon by Ava Kelly is probably one of the three stories I wish there was more of. That’s how much I loved it. The concept wasn’t one that I had seen before. A muse planting and cultivating inspiration (comedies, tragedies, dramas, but never romances) tickled me. A romantic and a scientist working together, learning about life and falling in love? I was smiling the entire time.

Home by K. Parr hit my weak spot. I love a good werewolf story, and then you’ve got a little bit of an age difference. Yeah, buddy. A young bitten wolf is trying to figure her way out in the world and she ends up in the backyard of an alpha who makes her feels whole. And that ending *sigh* it was perfect.

Swoon by Artemis Savery was completely unexpected. Sirens, they aren’t my thing. But a lesbian siren who is morally conflicted with taking the voice of a woman she loves? It was beautiful, crushing and hopefully all at the same time.

The Hunt by M. Hollis and By Candlelight by Ziggy Schultz were YA stories. The Hunt had a vampire youth going on her first hunt and I squealed with how adorable she was. By Candlelight, it was a bit darker but the thing is it’s what anyone would hope for when they pass. The communication between the ghosts and the ending left me feeling warm.

Fire and Brine by Lis Valentine, is a steamy quick read.

My Cup of Pos by L.J. Hamlin, the title is a little unfortunate until you actually read the story and understand what it means. I think it was intriguing to see a disabled vampire and an explanation of the disability was extremely important because you don’t get that very often in books.

Dance With Me by Michelle Frost was okay. I think it would have made an excellent full-length novel. A PI werewolf with a vampire client. The two don’t mix or do they?

Overall, this is a great collection of stories. I would definitely recommend checking into these collections to find new authors to read because that’s exactly how I’ve been finding a bunch of my new TBR list.

tanouska's review

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I really like how knowing authors makes you read books that you otherwise probably wouldn't have found or chosen to read. I generally prefer novels instead of short story collections like these, but I enjoyed reading this all the same. Especially 'It Started Before Noon' and 'By Candlelight' because the settings were so original.

pagesandprozac's review

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overall rating: 3 stars
this was a reasonably enjoyable anthology, but there were only a couple of stories that i really liked. most of them had mediocre writing and little in the way of plot/characters/worldbuilding, even for a short story.

it started before noon - 4 stars.
whimsical, charming, and inventive! a wonderful opening story.

heart's thaw - 4 stars.
this one was a historical regency-esque about a girl who snubs an incubus, who puts a... very interesting curse on her. very steamy and very fun.

fire and brine - 2 stars.
this one didn't really captivate me. not really a story, just sex, and whereas i like sex, it wasn't particularly well-written either.

dance with me - 3 stars
this was presented as a mystery, which didn't work because it was pretty obvious what madeline's Big Secret was.

my cup of o pos - 3 stars
love love LOVED the idea of a disabled vampire, and the characters were super cute, but the writing was incredibly mediocre, i'm afraid.

home - 3 stars
again, cute - i'm a sucker for the found family trope - but pedestrian and insubstantial.

swoon - 4 stars
this is very different to the other stories. it has a historical flavour, which isn't terribly evident because it mostly takes place on a ship, but the worldbuilding was good enough for a short story. unusual and enjoyable, with a little bit of grit, although the ending was questionable.

the hunt - 3 stars
yet again, cute and fun but just a little bit boring.

by candlelight - 4.5 stars
this was my favourite in the whole anthology. gothic, angsty, with a happy ending - wonderful. not five stars because there seemed to be something missing, but i still liked it a lot.

ktomp17's review

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This was a collection of lesbian paranormal/fantasy stories. As an overall collection, it was pretty good. I loved some and wasn't overly fond of some, but it was a nice mix. There was some fantasy world vibes in two of the stories, a slight historical feel for a couple of them, and some werewolves and vampires. These were all short stories, and pretty much every story was an HFN with no real feeling of an HEA. As an overall collection, I would give this 3.5 stars, but I'll round up for GR sake.

It Started Before Noon – This had a historical fantasy vibe, and that isn't my ordinary cup of tea. This was a sweet story, though.

Heart’s Thaw – I liked the premise. The curse allowed the two women to finally open up regarding their feelings. I would've been interested in knowing how/if they could make it work.

Fire and Brine – A succubus and a siren. Interesting combination, and super hot, steamy story.

Dance with Me – A private eye werewolf is hired by a princess vampire. No real heat to this, but it had good character development and a great story. I really enjoyed this one.

My Cup of O Pos – A vampire patient gets treated in the ER by a human doctor. It was a sweet story, and it had some great elements of focus on disabilities and privilege. Didn't understand the title, though (other than it references blood and one character is a vampire).

Home – Newly transformed werewolf is learning how to navigate the transitions and new life. It was an interesting story, and I liked the interactions between the new wolf and the alpha.

Swoon – Definitely not my cuppa. I don't love pirate stories, and this almost went down a non-con path (thankfully it stopped). The story almost worked out too perfectly at the end, which should make me happy because I like happy endings, but it seemed a little too pat for my liking.

The Hunt – Sweet coming of age (at age for a vampire who is engaging in her first bite. I loved the moms.

By Candlelight - A girl dies and meets the reaper, who looks like her. It was a bit weird and confusing at times. I still don't know how and why everything happened at the end.

I am voluntarily reviewing an ARC received by IndiGo Marketing & Design

adancewithbooks's review

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3,5 stars
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.

After finishing Bones and Bourbon I immediately went to see what else NineStar Press had because my curiosity was certainly piqued. I found this anthology that focuses on lesbian/bisexual paranormal short stories. This of course interested me as I don’t often get the chance to read fantasy and paranormal with lesbian or bisexual characters. We need more of those.

As this is an anthology and they are hard to write a general review of I am once again rather giving you reasons as to why you should pick this up.

* The biggest reason you should pick this up is the diversity rep for lesbian and bisexual characters. Every story had one or both that was the focus. But that wasn’t the only rep present. There was also a character that I am fairly certain was non-binary and there was also some disabled rep. While I of course am a straight female, I did think the rep was all well done and with respect.

* A lot of the stories are own voices. A portion of the authors are queer as they say themselves in the introductions at the end of their stories. And there was also a disabled own voices story, an author who incorporated her own disease into the short story. Own voices are always so important.

* All the main characters were female. Now this might seem like a given with the focus on lesbian characters. But you would be surprised how often you see stories from a male’s perspective. As far as side characters go, a lot of them were also females. It was just a nice breath of fresh air to have so few males present.

* As for the paranormal aspect, there was a lot of creativity present. Vampires and werewolves were more so present but there were also creatures present that I had never heard of before. Other creatures were story weavers, incubus, succubus and ghosts.

* Lastly the romance is certainly a reason to pick up this anthology. I am not a big romance reader but I thought these were all well written. Not everything appealed to me as much but there was not one story that I disliked. These are all cute stories to read when you feel like a romance. Especially with the Summer coming.

Below you can find some of my thoughts and separate ratings per story.

It started before noon - 4,5 stars
Out of all of the stories I think this one was my favorite. Not surprising as this one doesn’t feel quite as much as a paranormal setting as the others. The characters and their relationship were so cute. I loved the setting of the world. The idea of a muse, a story weaver that grows story puffs for inspiration and I would totally read a book set in a world like that.

Heart’s thaw - 4,5 stars
This one is a bit more historical. Here our main characters are human but come across an incubus who triggers a few events. Warning for masturbation and sex in this one.

Fire and brine - 3 stars
This book has less plot and seems to be more focused on the physical interaction between the characters. I had less interest in the characters in this one. Warning for sex.

Dance with me - 3 stars
The idea of this world where a werewolf is a private detective and ends up with a vampire as client is very intriguing. Unfortunately I had a bit of a hard time connecting with the characters.

My Cup of O Pos - 3,5 stars
The initial setting of this world isn’t that spectacular. Vampires that live open amongst us. But the idea of a disabled vampire was. I was surprised to see this, but very glad. It is such a different view on vampires and just what we need to see more of when it comes to disability rep. Unfortunately the pacing was a bit off in this one. Warning for sex.

Home - 3 stars
This story focuses on werewolves. I was a little on the iffy side with this one as the relationship is between a newly turned werewolf and an older alpha who takes her under her wing. I would have preferred to have seen it take longer to have romance develop between them just because the newly turned counts on the alpha for care and information to her new world. Even so there was clear chemistry on the page between them.

Swoon - 3,5 stars
The appeal of this story laid in that our mc and her sisters seemed to be sirens of sorts. But a very different kind. They also come from India but our mc can’t remember things from there like her sisters. The diasphora slightly hinted at there was a good addition. I also liked that our mc in this case wasn’t super pretty as often happens with sirens. Warning for sex.

The Hunt - 3 stars
I liked the idea of two lesbian vampires raising a young vampire. I was a bit more interested in that than I was in the hunt of our young vampire.

By candlelight - 4 stars
Out of all the stories this one is more eerie as it deals with death and the afterlife. But not everything has to start with sunshine and roses. This is also the story where I felt a character was more binary as they didn’t seem to identify as female or male though they did say that they had a twinge of preference towards female bodies.

simonlorden's review

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I chose this book to review for The Lesbrary this month, so I'll post my review here after it goes up there.