Join or Die by J. Adrian Ruth

The race to save Otherworld

This book is initially set in the human realm, before Alex suddenly receives a visitor who tells him that his absentee father is a “Creature”, the various monsters out of myths and legends, and that he most likely will transform into one, too.

So there Alex is, a half breed with a human mother, suddenly taken away to a private boarding school for Creatures in another realm, Otherworld, leaving behind his best friend, Carlos, his mother, and everything he’s ever known. Worse than that, he’s told that he’s the Scion Heir (leader of all the Creatures), being a descendant of the original Scion, and that he’ll eventually have to battle the other Heir to become the leader of all.

Luckily, he somehow manages to find his place in this new world, making new friends who gradually form a part of his Ciorcal (Celtic for “circle”), the group that will support, protect, and guide him, if and when he does fulfil his destiny.

In the meantime, however, he has no idea what Creature he himself is going to be, and has to face off a Creature who has been killing off all of the Heirs. Along with some other hijinks with his Ciorcal, it’s a fight for survival he hadn’t been warned of or planned for.

I must say that the beginning didn’t thrill me quite so much, but the last part of the book made up for that and was pretty good. I can only assume that this is because this is quite obviously the author’s first book, with it having at times too much information, then at others not enough. There are still quite a few typos in this book, but I’m guessing that that is because it is, at the time of ARC release, still not fully edited.

However, despite its similarities to other Paranormal schools, it has enough differences in it to make it a new take on the idea, somewhat familiar yet with unique elements.

Hopefully the sequel, once it’s finally released, will further develop the ideas here and, after reading the preview, it looks like we will find out more about the current Scion and the ongoing war against him.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

Infamous by Arizona Tape

Good start

This book was still in Beta when I received it, so the author is now currently busy with amendments based on my and other reader’s suggestions. But, from the beginning, we already have a great story going on here!

We have Rie, with her sentient deck of cards (or, at least, the “character” cards), who regularly talk to her and give her advice. She’s also very good at pickpocketing, noticing targets with high-value items or money. It’s her only means of survival. Until she pickpockets the wrong target…

Oh, but her mistake only ends up working in her favour, as she is forced to repay her debt by joining a gang of hustlers, who only want to rob the richest man in the city!

There is a great list of side characters here, but unfortunately we don’t get to know them enough in depth. A few months on and I can’t remember all of their names and don’t have access anymore. Yet what I can say is this – there’s already a great storyline, but I would love to see some more background. And, of course, there’s a nice ending, where Rie manages to realise one of her dreams. And, I believe, there’s another story to be had in that, too.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital Beta copy via the author in exchange for an honest review*

Valkyrie’s Choice by Arizona Tape

Resolution, but no resolution

Yes, we get a resolution to everything that happened in the previous book! The true characters all come out! Bryn finally stands up to her grandmother, in several ways, managing to impress her as much as piss her off! And Bryn finds out what she truly wants to be as well. But…

Yes, there’s always a “but”. The ending left me quite disappointed. We have here a slow-burn romance, which doesn’t fully resolve. Everything is building up to something that doesn’t quite happen. Maybe in the main series, we’ll get to see how that develops, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen here. I believe that that was the biggest let down of the two books, knowing that there could have been so much more.

What I liked most, however, was the deeper digging into the mythology, as Bryn travels through the afterlife on her own, discovering other lines in the mythology belonging to some of the other beings, which she in turns relates back to these other beings in the living world.

All in all, it isn’t bad. Bryn learning “BSL” (in this instance, Banshee Sign Language instead of British Sign Language) is an interesting one, along with why they use the sign language. Along with other little quirks, it makes it an interesting story.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

Valkyrie’s Oath by Arizona Tape

Well…

My ambiguous title is due to my mixed impressions. I was so confused when I started the book that I hated the first couple of chapters. Well, hate might be a bit strong, but I disliked it. Even up to the point of the MC becoming attracted to a new teacher. Eurgh! It just wasn’t for me at that moment.

But then, something happened. I left it a day and, when I restarted, I just had to read further. I went from “dislike” to “intrigue”. I don’t believe that it had anything to do with the writing per se, just that I’d come from reading a book with a completely different style. Besides, I usually like this author’s works, so maybe coming back with a fresh head meant that I could actually invest myself in this story.

Although I do believe that the beginning didn’t help any. I haven’t read any of the sister series, although that shouldn’t have an effect, as the first book wasn’t published that long before this one. But it felt like being thrown into the deep end without a lifesaver ring, no explanations, surrounded by laughing, warring, teenagers.

So, as I said, maybe that was it – the complete change of pace and style from the book I’d just finished. Although I would have been happy with a few more explanations, once I did finally get into the book, everything was fine!

I should have expected that ending, really. A cliffhanger, but none of Bryn’s supposed “friends” really felt like friends, anyway, especially with their attitude. At least one felt more like a hanger on. Considering how she’s an heir, you can expect that she’d have a hoard of frenemies in place of real friends, those who pretend to look after her but are really just waiting for her to slip up.

Anyway, my complete turnaround meant that I was invested in the story by the end, quite happily so, which came as a real surprise to me. So soon on with the next it is!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC 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.*