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.*

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.*

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.*

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.*

Fifth Soul by Laura Greenwood and Arizona Tape

Gaming Dragons…? Totally awesome!!

Fifth Soul

I’d actually read a preview of this after reading  Torn Soul, another book set in the Twin Souls Universe. So it was a bit awkward reading again through drunk Lola’s antics, although it was nice to have some context to it finally.

Lola is running away from everything to do with Fire Dragon tradition. Fated Mates, Mating Ceremonies, she wants none of it. But what she does want is to support her friend, a misfit who’s been outcast by the Fire Dragon community, and gaming. She loves gaming! Unfortunately for her, gaming appears to bring along the very things she’s been avoiding most of her life…

I loved the interaction between the characters, and all the gaming elements in it (I was an “almost” gamer at one point, but never quite got into it seriously). Lola cares about her mates once she finds them, all of them, and truly does try her best to please them all. In the end, everything works out for them. But it appears to have gained them a few frowns from the Fire Dragon community… I’m looking forward to the next book and finding out what happens!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

Not Today by Arizona Tape

Cutesy FF Romance

This is a great second book to the series. Although, it was a bit confusing at first, as there was a ten-year jump at the end of the first book, which meant that this book goes “back in time” to straight before the jumping epilogue (I am aware that this has now been corrected and that there is a new epilogue).

I seriously enjoyed this book and the dynamic between the characters here was wonderful! It takes both Harper and Nix so long to accept their feelings for each other, especially as both have scarring from past relationships. Harper’s anxiety is well written and played out, so recognisable and understandable.

Nix and her best friend have both sworn off relationships for the rest of their lives, neither wanting to live through crazy partners and terrible break-ups again. Yet that pact is tested when love interests come along. And, of course, it takes a whole book for these love interests to be realised!

The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that there wasn’t true conflict resolution. There was an incident in the book, which I was hoping would be explained away rather than just being walked past (like, was it because of the crazy ex that it happened)? I can’t say too much without revealing what it was (I can’t use spoiler tags on all platforms!) but, considering all the build-up, I was expecting there to be a reason for the incident.

But I still enjoyed the story a lot, so only minus one star for the lack of resolution.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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