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.*

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.*

Catching a Warlock by Laura Greenwood

Great finale

Yes, seriously, what a great ending to this mini spin-off from Mona’s story! And I will say again that it’s great that the books run in tandem with each other!

Daphne has been suffering from some side effects to the spell that they performed, but luckily one of her soon-to-be boyfriends is on hand to give a bit of assistance in controlling it. Plus problems with this damned jealous vampire are resolved – her attempts to ruin Daphne’s reputation backfired on her big time, courtesy of Daphne’s new-found talent (aka spell).

In the end, it appears that both Daphne as well as Mona have boy trouble alongside cat trouble…!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked.

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

Catching a Wizard by Laura Greenwood

Yet more paranormal drama

I was firstly so happy to see that the Grimalkin Academy books run parallel to each other, as it makes it so much easier to follow (I’ve heard that timelines and planning help a lot!). So there are no spoilers in Mona’s story, as long as you have also been keeping up to date with the progress on that side, too. Any spoilers to be found are minor, anyway, so it shouldn’t spoil reading either way.

Anyway, we are here about Daphne, who is struggling with a troublesome vampire and two warlocks. Suddenly she’s not only caught in the middle of three men after her attention (well, the vampire needs some convincing), but also has to contend with her brother’s continued pressure to find this damned spell!

And, typical for this gang, things aren’t going to go quite as planned…

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

Ghosted by Chera Zade and Fanny Mills

Yes and no

Cover

OK, I will start by saying that understand some people’s POVs that there is “slut shaming” going on, but it is hardly done in a way that’s completely derogatory. The girls say it of themselves, to further excite themselves. In this context, I have no problem with it.

My actual issues with this was that it, for me, wasn’t concrete enough. The storyline itself was quite flimsy, with the sex scenes not quite as hot as I’ve come to expect from a Zade-Mills combo. This incredibly short story was fun in its way, but could have been so much more.

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

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