A Rose to the Torch by Bartholomew Lander

Incredible world building

I can completely understand why people have a “Marmite” reaction to this (i.e. they either love it or hate it): if I hadn’t read the prequel to this, All Bleeds Through (ABT), then I believe that I would have been somewhat confused, too.

ABT lays out the basics of the universe, with tales set inside it that eventually all link together. This brings nearly all of those loose threads together, and shows how much each individual and story really are connected. When I realised this, I had to go back and check, and I was wowed.

Not only that, the mythology is set up brilliantly. We not only have the Hemomancers and Humans, and how they are affected by events and each other, we also have a whole background of religious mythology with such amazing depth to it, that it’s completely believable that it could be our world and not just an alternate universe.

As for the story itself, here we have Coral, and Gavin, alongside other characters who were introduced to us in ABT. It is primarily Coral and Gavin’s histories which are revealed here as being important to the story as a whole, neither of whom actually truly knew about their background and the true meaning of it.

Coral goes from being a scared, ambivalent teenager, to a strong wildcard contender. She’s supposed to be a “nought”, one with the blood type O Negative, who has no control over the blood of others. Yet there is a huge fight over her blood; in the hunt to kill noughts over the years, Coral is now perhaps the only one left, the only one who can save an evil lord whose blood was poisoned years ago in order to end the slaughter.

But, this is where it gets complicated for Coral: who is the real monster in this story? The lord who has tried to control all other hemomancers for more than a century? Or those willing to sacrifice Coral for the greater good?

Can Coral not only prevail but find a way to fight back? It’s not until the very end that she finds out who are true friends are, but by that time, will it be too late?

I must admit, my rating hovered back and forth on this, mostly due to the characterisation. But it all came together wonderfully, as the characters and the story developed. Most of all, towards the end, it was possible to understand the characters and their reasonings better. The ending was a total shock, but shouldn’t have been so surprising, really. No one is safe and what can go wrong, will go wrong, etc. So, along with all of the above, I just have to rate it highly, just like the prequel.

The final lines leave hope, despite the devastation. A nice way to make way for the sequel.

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

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

If I Love You by Tmonique Stephens

From bitter to sweet

A story that starts off with resentment, which we do learn the reasons for as the story moves along, yet resolves in a good way.

Kensley and Noah were once friends, having grown up together, along with her brother. Yet her brother didn’t come back from Afghanistan. Noah did. So when Noah returns to their hometown barely months after her brother’s funeral, he’s the last one that she wants to interact with. Yet, somehow, he’s there at every turn.

Will the truth set Kensley free? Can she forgive Noah?

There is plenty of heat here. Even though the two main characters are most definitely attracted to one another, it takes time for both of them to come to terms with what they have.

Love, loss, intrigue – this book has it all!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Statuesque by Chera Zade and Fanny Mills

Yet more Infernalis fun!

As to be expected from the Infernalis Club books, this was not shy on fun and detail. I’ve been loving all the books in the series so far and, whilst it helps to have some background knowledge of the main characters, it shouldn’t spoil the read if you haven’t yet read any other books in the series.

In this edition, we have young Gillian, currently living with her strict aunt and uncle after her parents died and left her penniless. Being the poor relation, she gets treated as a lesser being, being made to look ugly and unpresentable at balls, so that her cousins (who she also has to wait on) are chosen first.

But, oh, poor Gillian doesn’t know what she’s in for one evening, when deciding to confine herself to her rooms rather than put up with her family’s demands. Sneaking out of her room so she can hear the music better gets herself into more trouble than she ever expects, after discovering a rather delicious gentleman engaged in acts she couldn’t even dream of!

Yet Gillian, even upon discovering the Infernalis Club after deciding to follow the carriage of the one who taught her a lesson, is kept perfectly intact, apart from the severe bottom bruising. Lord Standish, ever inventive, finds a way of allowing her to participate whilst allowing her to keep her precious flower… Although, we all know that that’s unlikely to last for long!

Great fun with plenty of heat, it should keep you panting for more!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

The Laws of Great Enligtenment: Always Walk with Buddha by Ryuho Okawa

More miss than hit

When I saw this book available on NetGalley, I decided to give it a shot. I have a basic knowledge of Buddhist principles so, whilst I’ve read a handful of self-help books from different perspectives, I was intrigued as to what this angle would give.

From the off, I was disappointed. Now, don’t get me wrong – there are some interesting points and ideas in here, plus some folkloric background used to give examples of good and bad thoughts and behaviour. But two things ruined this for me: firstly, the author’s over-confidence that he is the best one to pass on this advice; secondly, the repeated mentions of suicide. I actually didn’t realise how bad the problem of suicide was in Japan until I read this book, and that was not what I was reading it for!

Post reading, I’ve barely kept a hold of any of the actual useful tips that were to be found amongst these pages, all because of those points mentioned above.

If it wasn’t for the author’s arrogance, then perhaps there might have been more to find inside this book. But, there again, when I looked up the author afterwards on Goodreads and saw the other types of books that were written, I shouldn’t be so surprised at all.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆ – Disliked

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

Black Magic Voodoo by Nikki Landis

Needed to grow on me

In the beginning, this book didn’t interest me at all. I’ve no idea why. Maybe it was a book slump, maybe it was the writing, but something just didn’t hit with me. I was about a third of the way into the book, when things really started hitting off, that I started to have an interest in the story.

Cassie is getting ready for the month-long celebrations that lead up to Samhain, when her life starts to get turned on its head. Not only is there a dark presence targeting her, but she suddenly has three men there to protect her, whether she likes it or not.

Cassie has power enough on her own, but it takes the help of these three men, her family, and her ancestors to start to face off the dark evil. If only things were more straight forward and they could get on with their celebrations, like planned.

I guess it was the twists and turns that finally piqued my interest and got me “reading” the book instead of just “following along”. By the end, there was definitely enough to make me interested in reading the rest of the series.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Avoiding the Abyss by A.C. Ward

Too much abuse

This book starts straight off the bat with Aubrey getting a beating by her mother. It is given under the guise of “training”, because Aubrey is a bad fighter, but it is very clear that her mother detests her. Yet, Aubrey remains throughout her staunch defender.

Others amongst the rebels pity her, but do very little to defend her, because her mother is the “hero”, the one who rules the rebels and is renowned as the best fighter.

Everything is turned on its head when she is captured by government, yet not at all in the ways that she expects. She keeps on supporting her mother, even secretly, right up to the last. Even when she does find out the truth, can she keep supporting someone who her entire life has seen her as useless until it’s discovered she has powers?

The ending, or perhaps more late middle to end, were the only redeeming parts of this book. The way the abuse is treated just appalled me that I nearly stopped reading after the opening scene. The latter parts made the universe interesting, enough that I want to continue the series, but I can’t ignore that beginning.

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

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

Back to September by Melissa Brayden

Romance not necessarily at its best

There were many brilliant moments inside this, but just as many terrible ones. To start with, a book about books should be exciting, especially with people who absolutely love books and reading, and share that as much as possible. All the geeky stuff, the shared knowledge to help people find their “perfect book match”. That was wonderful. It was the romance aspect that let this all down.

One thing I found difficult to handle was that there was more than one “high” point. We have everything going brilliantly, switching to things fading out, switching to things going fantastically brilliantly again (eked out so far that it became boring), up to things going dramatically badly, but ending with an HEA. I’m sure huge chunks of this could have been cut out, as it’s not the idea that the reader gets bored in the middle. So the dramatic part (which didn’t feel so dramatic), which is supposed to hit at two thirds, actually felt like it came late.

The HEA, once it finally did come (after we had a fake HEA before that) was a great ending. It’s just the journey to there that was far too messy for my tastes.

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

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

Feline The Heat by Lacey Carter Andersen, L.A. Boruff, and Laura Greenwood

Too much fun!

Ooooh, now this one happened to hit me in just the right way. I mean, naked firemen? Who don’t notice you ogling because you’ve shapeshifted into a cat? Ha! And best of all, because your changing into a cat is part of a curse, they don’t even notice that you’re a shifter!

This was extremely fun, funny, with definite laugh-out-loud moments, but also with a bit of seriousness. And of course, Callie wanting to find out the source of her curse and if someone can fix it is most definitely going to get her into trouble, whether she’s in cat or human form. Let alone the firemen who have taken a very definite liking to her, in both forms!

With an interesting little mini cliffhanger, this is definitely going to be a series to follow.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Catching a Vampire by Laura Greenwood

The other side of the story

It was seriously great fun reading into Daphne’s story, which we got glimpses of during her escapades with Mona. Book one flows alongside of book one of the Grimalkin Academy: Kittens series, without any heavy spoilers on other side. I wasn’t too sure at first if it would work, as I much prefer to read multiple-character stories all in one book, but being as these are short stories, I guess that it does work, really.

And, as with Mona’s story, this is a sex-free slow-burn reverse harem. Although in this story she only has eyes for one, which proves to be a problem considering the one she’s interested in actually is the one she’s supposed to be bribing to help them find the family spell. Add to that a malicious betrothed of the said love interest, whether he’s interested in keeping to his parents set up or not, and things start to get a little hairy.

At this academy, things are never quite as expected.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Reigning Magicks by Candace Osmond and J.J. King

An interesting start to the series

Front cover

This is an alternative take on the time-travel romance (from what I’m aware of and have read, anyway), where the female of the pair magically travels into the future instead of the past, in order to find her true love.

Well, OK, it is somewhat more complicated than that, but that is at least part of the basic principle behind the story.

Ashlynn searches for the local seer in order to find a way to not be forced to marry a Warlord from another clan. She is granted one wish, which unexpectedly catapults her into the future. Does she find a way to return to her family, after her sister has taken her place in the union, or does she choose to stay and create her own path?

I was a bit sceptical of the storyline at first, but it rounded off nicely. Am looking forward to the next book!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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