Hammers, Strings, and Beautiful Things by Morgan Lee Miller

Hard hitting

I was drawn to this book first by a GR friend’s review, then by the beautiful cover and finally the description. I expected much from it, yet it has to come with some warnings – the alcohol and drug abuse is written so well, that you can feel the pain coming from all sides.

I guess, even with knowing that, I hadn’t expected it to be so hard hitting. Blair might seem to come off as quite selfish, as she sinks into despair, but the truth is she’s been trying to handle anxiety and depression in an extreme way. None of her friends have any real understanding of what she’s going through, placing the blame firmly on her side, which in the beginning just makes things worse. It takes her hitting rock bottom to truly be able to find a way out, whilst completely leaving her on her own once more.

This book shows the price of fame, whilst also showing humanity at its best and worst. Whilst I can be disappointed at the reaction of the side characters to Blair’s condition, it wasn’t at all surprising considering general opinions of addiction. The only way out is with support and help, which she was forced to find herself.

Running along behind all this is the romance element. Blair opens herself up to someone new, but neither is truly able to handle all of it until she’s clean. Luckily there is a HEA to be found behind all the drama and destruction, as things pull good in the end. But considering how hard won it is, I am surprised that Blair doesn’t have any bitterness towards those that let her down whilst she was letting herself down.

For me, I did find it well written, as well as enjoyable and relatable. The only thing I personally didn’t like was the awkwardness of some of the sex scenes. They didn’t always flow as well as the rest of the book did.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Secrets and Suitors by Joanna Barker

Beautiful

Typical me, I’m behind on my reviewing again! Yet this one sticks in the mind plenty enough for me to still be able to give my thoughts and opinions on it.

I will start by saying that I usually avoid Regency romances as, quite like contemporary billionaire romances, they can be unrelatable, reading more like a fantasy world. The description and the cover sucked me in on this one and, I am relieved to say, that the writing made the story relatable. The characters felt real, fragile yet headstrong, each with their own unique characteristics.

It is hard to understand from a modern perspective a time period where men, particularly the heads of the family, very much had a final say in anything that women did. Despite having read so much, I’d hate to live without my modern freedoms. Yet here we have a young lady who is willing to test her father’s resolve so she can marry the man she loves, rather than the one that may give her the greatest comforts.

We have a great main character, accompanied by a slew of side characters who make the story even more colourful. I especially like the Countess – quiet and calculating, with a great sense of duty, but with an even greater sense of humour.

All in all, I have to say that I’m very glad that I picked this up!

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Wolf by Chris Fenwick

Needs time to grow on you

In the beginning, I was bored. The constant one-sided POV, with no intermittent dialogue, just dragged. What made it worse was that there were tense inconsistencies: moments of internal monologue in italics written in past tense, or a mixture of the two; moments when the tenses were confused amongst the rest of the story. As the story is all told from Cassidhe’s POV, you have to get used to her voice, and it didn’t warm to me at all in the beginning. Even when the first dramatic event happened, it was near impossible to empathise with her.

Things appear to change when she meets the wolves. The story starts to gain more depth, Cassidhe herself appears more interesting, as well as others that she meets. Although, even then, it takes time for the characters to appear more than one dimensional. The best part of the whole story, for me, was the final dramatic event where, even though Cassidhe was completely on her own, she finally had more character than she had had for the majority of the rest of the book. It’s for this reason alone that my rating finally reached four stars, rather than the two to three it was struggling with at the beginning.

An interesting upcoming point is how the pack is going to deal with the sexuality of the heir, when a key part of pack dynamics is based on the ability to produce children and secure the pack’s future.

Also, a side note is that the cover doesn’t really reflect the main characters, with their described colouring being different from what is shown. A minor niggle, if any, but I do like it when a cover helps to assist me in how to imagine the characters.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

All Bleeds Through: Ten Stories of Hemomancy and the World It Shaped by Bartholomew Lander

Dark, vermillion arts

This book is a compilation of linked stories. In it we see the very “human” side of Hemomancers (those born with the ability to control blood). It shows fear, jealousy, revenge, as well as stigmatisation and the effects of being ostracised from society, from mere bullying to being hunted down and killed. These are people who are both feared and reviled, sometimes correctly, other times less so (the hunting of Hemomancer children is seen to be as just as if they were fully-fledged adults, the fear is so great).

This is a book full of well-filled arguments, from both sides of the coin, from the Human side and the Hemomancer side, and how each action affects the other. We have murderers, thieves, but also scientists and defenders. In this book, through the stories, you come to truly understand what it is like to be a Hemomancer, or a Human living in fear of them. Never have I read a story that links different POVs to truly allow such understanding.

At the beginning, I wasn’t so endeavoured with the story, after reading the first part. But, by the end, as all parts started to link through, I was wowed. The end links into the beginning, to create a round circle that allows everything within this book to make sense. Each character has their own attributes, to allow you to live with them. The pain, the fear, the anger, the determination, it all shines through.

Quite a remarkable collection of stories that I definitely want to continue with.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Four Bodies in Space by Luna Harlow

Agatha Christy in Space

This book started full of a truckload of well-worn clichés, making it read like Agatha Christy in space. The first murder, particularly. The first two chapters were just cringe worthy with their typical set up. But, instead of the infamous Hercule Poirot appearing to analyse the scene, we have the Spock-like Solaris.

Luckily this character is partly what eventually made the book interesting. Once I got past all of the clichés bouncing from each wall, there was a reasonable story there waiting, with a handful of well-written characters, in between further clichés. It was enough for me to eventually ignore the continuing clichés, and not cringe too much at the ending, to actually enjoy the story.

Solaris is analytical, but has a curiosity that makes her occasionally dance across the line towards insubordination. Good job that others find her intriguing enough to let her misdemeanours pass, especially considering that she appears to lead them in the right direction towards solving the puzzle.

This Poirot-Star Trek cross is good fun, if you can cope with all the clichés (I hope my continued mention of clichés doesn’t turn into a cliché). There’s enough there that I’d definitely be happy to continue the series.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

What the Fangs by Laura Greenwood and Arizona Tape

More Mystery and Mayhem

Here we are, in the second book in the Vampire Detective series. Things are starting to steam up, but at the same time, it’s not just Lucy’s love life that is getting complicated.

They still haven’t worked out the mystery of the cat, or of the blood slave that appeared in Lucy’s bedroom. Plus, it appears that vampire society would rather stick to their traditions, no matter how unsavoury. If it wasn’t for her men, Lucy would be finding herself becoming more and more isolated from “polite” vampire society. At least she’s not the only one finding certain practices distasteful.

All in all, a great sequel, although the “blind” side of the main characters is starting to get frustrating. I am hoping that all will be resolved soon!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Grimm’s Dweller: The Complete Trilogy by Arizona Tape

Magical help for Herr Grimm

This story focuses around the stories of Wilhelm Grimm, with a twist – in this version, he receives magical help from a being known as a “Dweller”, a being that inhabits story universes.

I’m not going to review each part separately, as each passes quickly, but I will comment on them.

The first part is dedicated to how Grisella met Will and their relationship at the beginning, creating the stories together, even though she isn’t supposed to get involved in the actual creating of the universes.

The second part involves Grisella watching from a distance, after Will has fallen in love with and married someone else, and the children he has. But she still keeps an eye on his universes, trying to hold onto his memory by dwelling within them as much as she can.

The third part is dedicated to the end of Will’s life, his final stories, and the reuniting of the story companions. It’s this third part that is the best.

The first two parts barely held my attention. They lacked something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The second part started to improve, with more depth to the story about stories. But it was the third part that really brought it all together. The reason for this is simple – emotion. Suddenly we’re faced with strong emotion as Will comes to the end of his life. How each deal with this is a heartbreaking journey with only one outcome. Suddenly my investment in the story intensified as the emotions did; there was finally a connection for me.

All stories have to end, but Grisella guards the universes so they don’t.

If the story parts had continued on in the slower manner, then this would have received a lower rating. But, purely for that ending, I have to bring it up.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Priestess of Truth by Laura Greenwood

Expected more

Unfortunately I was somewhat disappointed with this. I love Egyptian mythology and am definitely interested in this universe of “Forgotten Gods”, where the Egyptian Gods still exist, hidden away from non-believers. For that, I definitely want to read further in this series. But this book itself wasn’t a very good representative of what’s to come.

The biggest problem came in the lack of detail and depth, in the scenes, in the characters. We see a priestess being encouraged to find her soulmate, but the two barely meet, and there is barely any interaction at all. There’s not enough to really gain an interest in the characters, being as the story is so short that it barely covers the minimum of details.

If this was a bit longer, it could have been so much more. We need to see more of the characters in order to truly be able to connect with them. There needs to be more background and history on the characters, too, so we can understand how they got to this point, of being pushed towards each other.

All in all, not a terribly bad short story, but not a great one either.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

Second Time’s a Curse by Laura Greenwood

Even more magical kittens!

Well, yes, what should we expect from a cursed witch who produces kittens with every spell? More kittens, of course! Wow, I’m not really sure how’s she’s going to have space for all of them if this keeps on happening!

Mona is slowly coming to terms with the fact that she has more than one love interest, partly buoyed by her best friend (and what doesn’t help is that one of the love interests happen to be said best friend’s twin brother…). Yet she has other things on her mind, namely this damned curse! Yet, despite the curse, she doesn’t want to do anything that might jeopardise the lives of her kittens, even if she’s frustrated that she keeps on producing them. I mean, they’re all seriously cute and all that, but a dorm room is only so big!

So, her friends pool together to try and find a fix for this wretched curse, in a less-than-legal manner, which, of course, doesn’t quite go to plan, or solve the problem of the curse itself.

Things not quite going to plan appears to be the name of the game, as serious trouble falls upon them once again. Well, there’s no “I told you so” in there, but there appears to be no clean way out of things this time.

Just as fun as the first book, with just as much cuteness, awkwardness, and trouble, this series is turning out to be fantastic so far! I just wish that the characters could see past the end of their noses sometimes…

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Blood and Deceit by Laura Greenwood

Naughty Necromancers

That title of mine might give the wrong impression, when this is actually about necromancers who decide to act like “Gods” above all others. But not all necromancers are that way – Tabitha happens to be a necromancer of the old school, disappointing several of her old acquaintances. But new connections come along and she finds out that she’s not as alone as she might seem.

I must admit, I found a couple of points of this a little disappointing. The big “reveal” didn’t feel anywhere near as dramatic as it could have been. The characters, too, whilst the main characters should have been likable, I didn’t feel like they had enough depth to be able to connect to them.

Not a bad story, but unfortunately a bit forgettable.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*