Refugee Road by Nikki Landis

Too much violence

This book needs to come with warnings. There are really a few things that grate on me here, the first being the amount of domestic violence, which we have absolutely no warning about in the blurb. We are told that Darren is dangerous, but not how dangerous and violent he is. He also isn’t the only one, with another character injuring Lizzie for the fun of it as well. If you have any issues with any of this, best to walk away and stay away.

The next is that, after three years, two people suddenly seem to decide that they’re in love with Lizzie, and want to make their intentions known, just at the point she rediscovers the one she lost, who she fell in love with at 15. It’s damned confusing! Lizzie obviously chooses Alec, as the blurb indicates, but Darren appears to use his sudden increased interest as an excuse to dominate her, and physically punishes her, despite his declared feelings, for insubordination.

Then there’s the timeline. I misread it at first. I assumed that it was all supposed to be taking place around 1945-6, but then Lizzie’s home on the Militia base doesn’t add up to that – domestic appliances that wouldn’t have been available then. So I went back and reread the description: “It was nineteen forty-five, or similar enough.” The Militia movement has been going on since then, when Hitler apparently surrendered and WWIII started. So this war has been fighting for all those decades up until the modern era. The USA is in ruins, with the President firmly in charge of the Militia, who control everything. Except the Refugees. But they try. But this is the thing that gets me most: if they’re stuck in this time warp, how on Earth do they have mobile phones, modern appliances, etc.? They have antibiotics, modern medicines, sonograph. It’s extremely confusing. Yet they still apparently dress like it’s 1945, too.

The romance itself was great, but would have been so much better if it wasn’t for the distractions mentioned above. I was actually shocked by the domestic violence. Now I can cope with it if prewarned, but I don’t expect to be thrown into someone being abused. As I mentioned above, for those triggered by these sorts of scenes, there really needs to be some warnings.

Lizzie settles into domestic life quite easily, despite the fact that she used to train daily, keeping fit to a high level. But, of course, everything is far too easy…

Really, this needed a far more concrete background. All the scenes were descriptive, but those little niggles kept me from enjoying the story completely.

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

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

Secrets and Sorcery by Lori Whyte

When everything you believe in is wrong

Avery, a cat shifter, has grown up believing that her magic is rare and that she should hide it at any cost. When her brother is recruited by the so-called Dark Guards because of his strong gifted and inherited magic, Avery is forced out into the open, something which she’s always been terrified of. Can she keep her secrets, and her sanity?

Mike is initially drawn to Avery wanting to uncover what she’s hiding. But he doesn’t expect to be drawn to her in other ways, too. When Avery’s brother goes missing in a surprise attack, it takes some time for Avery to trust Mike, but before long, they’re not only sharing a mission, they’re sharing a bed.

The connection between Mike and Avery is sizzling! This story has a “Fated Mates” edge to it, which can be seen as the dynamic between the pair increases. Not that Avery really wants to believe, let alone have anything to do with that. She’s grown up as one of “Castor’s Kind”, aka “human”, and was always taught that she should never mingle with the rest of WaW (Witch and Warlock) society, as she would be caught and tortured.

But the true secrets come out, turning Avery’s world upside down. Because, as it turns out, she’s not the only shifter around…

What I also found great about this book was the glossary at the back. I bookmarked it, and referenced it several times. Even though the terms are explained as the story goes along, having a list of them all in one place definitely helps if you forget a little! The entire story is based in the modern world with elements of Greek mythology thrown in. Everyone in the WaW world is gifted a magic by one of the Greek gods, and inherits a second, weaker, magic from one of their parents. Quite an interesting concept!

Although I must admit the ending disappointed me. It was weaker than the rest of the story. I understood that it was a lead-in to the next book, but I wasn’t so enamoured on it. However, it will be interesting following the stories of the other characters, definitely, and this book was more than enough to want me to read further.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

My Way to You by Catherine Bybee

Glorious

This book is half based on reality, centred around the events of the Californian wildfires of 2016, which the author personally lived through. From an outsider’s point of view, it is impossible to imagine, even when viewing the photos of the event, as it doesn’t give you even a small idea of the heat and ash, or the crazy mudslides afterwards. I haven’t even a clue of what the Californian countryside is like, either. But the author gives such vivid descriptions, that it pulls you in and puts you there at the scene.

Amongst all this craziness and disaster is a young woman, just 25, forced to grow up early after tragically losing her parents and as a result becoming responsible for her younger siblings, and a chance encounter with a Public Works supervisor, who is determined to save her home from impending floods and mudslides. Yes there is a little bit of insta-attraction here, but it takes time for a relationship to slowly develop as Parker slowly eases up on her control and gives in to Colin.

Parker has gotten so used to doing everything on her own, Colin nicknames her “Annie Oakley” as a homage to her gun-wielding independence and steadfastness. Parker quite happily shows herself all woman by nicknaming him in turn “TDH” (aka, “Tall, Dark, and Handsome”). But just because she finds him attractive, doesn’t mean that she’s giving him a single inch of her hard-won control.

Two very independent characters, set amongst a deluge of disasters.

Alongside them all are Parker’s siblings, who are surprisingly well behaved considering their respective ages. Although that is a lot down to Parker, giving up her sibling responsibility in exchange for a parenting one. Then there’s Erin, a frightened young woman who starts to settle and shine as the story moves on. Plus Colin’s ever-loving family, who play a strong side roll.

But despite all the good, there were a couple of disappoints for me. Firstly, it took a while before we learnt about what happened to Parker’s parents, and even that wasn’t a true answer. Then there was Erin, always looking over her shoulder, but nothing ever came of that thread. I was also expecting something more to happen with the strange man who suddenly appeared in their yard.

A story filled with grit and determination that, despite my minor niggles, I really enjoyed.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

Mistaken Identity by Beth Urich

Could have been better

There was so much that could have been right about this book, but so much that went wrong, too. It’s probably obvious that it’s the author’s first book, even though it has been recently updated.

Kate is the typical reporter, really: pushy, desperate, sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. So of course, she’s the one who has to solve the puzzle, too. And what makes it even more complicated? Oh, right – her father has been accused of the murder, an investigation which just happens to be led by a Detective Sergeant who is also an ex of hers. Who does she actually know who isn’t involved in the plot somehow? Add to that, she finds out that her current boyfriend was keeping secrets from her as well.

It had some nice twists and turns, but in the end just wasn’t gripping enough. Too many clichés, nothing concrete. Although the ending, which could probably have been seen coming a mile away, was still a nice twist, even if it didn’t save it. Especially as some of those final scenes were the worst, just drove me mad, with all the dithering. If someone is going to shoot someone, they just get on with it! Hanging on too long just loses all of the suspense.

Anyway, an OK read, but nothing great.

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

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

Ogre King by Chera Zade and Fanny Mills

No time for monstering

As should be expected from the Zade/Mills combo, this is a very short short story. Although I should have reigned in my expectations, I still expected more from this.

The book is split into two parts, where we first hear the Ogre King Ugrort’s POV, who deliberately gets himself captured, and then the Princess Eleta’s POV, who had already been fantasising about “green monsters” before she even heard that there were ogres in the dungeon.

This ends on a cliffhanger, so obviously set up for the next book in the series. But, in this first part, the two lovers-to-be (as it’s obviously going to go that way) don’t even meet! It is all steamy enough in what does actually happen, including a consensual sexual “treatment” that the princess receives from the court physician. But far more is needed, and the second book isn’t even available as of yet!

I would have been much happier for a complete story, instead of these bits, but considering that the book isn’t published anymore, I doubt that we’ll ever get a conclusion.

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

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

The Goblets Immortal by Beth Overmyer

Just shut up already!

First thing to note here – this is the start of a series and ends on a cliffhanger, with no sequel mention as of yet, nor a series for it to be based in. Although, I assume, it will be based around these Goblets Immortal.
[Edit: Just noticed on Amazon that the sequel is due to come out next week and that the series is, indeed, entitled “The Goblets Immortal”]

Now next, to explain my title. Our MC, Aidan, you could pity him in the beginning. He lost his parents in some freak accident, where he is charged and outlawed for making them disappear. Then his only friend in the world turns on him, apparently for money, greed making him want more. But that is where the sympathy stops.

Once Aidan chances upon Slaine, he takes turns in treating her terribly and then regretting his actions, even minor actions, with a lot of his thoughts being riddled with remorse. This, of course, confuses Slaine, who is quite used to abuse, as she can’t make head nor tail of him. Neither can I. I mean, at one point he’s close to going too far, in a strange drugged state, then spends another page full of remorseful thoughts.

Then there’s the magic. We’re led full tilt into all the magical terms, without a single explanation of what they mean until one or two chapters later. It’s just confusing as hell.

The general storyline was OK, with the usual hijinks that come with an adventure fantasy (I don’t even want to call it “epic”), and the “hero” being able to get them out of trouble quite easily. But, I just don’t know. With all the annoying elements of Aidan, I just wanted to step into the book and punch him most of the time. Reading other reviews, it turns out that I wasn’t the only one.

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

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

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton

Darkness on the Sound

This story is based on a fictional Scottish Island, Stoirm, based in one of the Scottish Sounds. Now there are a couple of straits in Scotland with the name “Sound” as far as I can figure out: either “Inner Sound”, close to Skye, or “Sound of Islay”, between the islands of Islay and Jura. I’m not sure which is meant, but there are a couple of islands in either area which could give you that “small island community” feel. Not that I’ve ever been to Scotland, let alone a remote island with one main town where everyone knows each other.

So I took my ideas of what such a small community would feel like based on my very limited experiences of a small village community where, yes, everyone knows each other, and not always in a friendly way.

This small community on Stoirm has its secrets, which no one repeats, and must stay in the past. But that is all about to be stirred up with the return of Roddie Drummond, who was “not proven” of murdering his girlfriend, Mhairi, 15 years previously, and Rebecca Connolly, who not only wants to dig into the past to find out the truth of what happened to Mhairi, but also wants to discover why her father left the island in his youth, and why he never talked about it.

There’s a lot of twists and turns into finding the truth, which not only the islanders, but some dangerous men (such a typical cliché, them being Eastern Europeans) want to keep well hidden.

The trouble is, the truth. Well, the truth is not exciting at all. And the truth of why Rebecca’s father left, it didn’t give the impact expected, either. The most action to be had was in what appeared to be a homophobic attack on two of Rebecca’s new-found friends. That aside, Rebecca defying everyone to get the story she’s looking for, which is just as much her boss as the islanders themselves, is just as cliché as some of the rest.

The best part about this book, apart from the cover (the main reason I picked up the book in the first place), was probably the place descriptions. Thunder Bay was described beautifully, as a place that must be visited, and the scenery on the routes was just as detailed.

It’s a shame, really, as there was so much that could have been good and even better about this. In the end, I’m a little disappointed, with the grip not quite catching me completely.

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

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

Wide Asleep by Arizona Tape

Great idea, needs a little work

So here we are, primarily focused on Yen (11 out of 16 chapters), and the two side characters she bumps into, Rover (3/16) and Dahlia (2/16), plus a strange side plot that doesn’t quite make much sense – we get brief snippets about a plot against the government at the very beginning and the end, with a tiny detail connecting into it, but without more details throughout, it feels a bit out of place.

The fact that it is supposed to be dancing around the three characters made me feel somewhat disappointed. And, considering there is supposed to be some sort of slow-burn romance starting up, apart from the brief flutter in the very brief encounter, there’s nothing really to say anything is going to happen.

The impression I got was that we were supposed to hear much more from the two side MCs. Maybe it might have been better if their stories were split out across the three books? I’m not sure, but I did miss really getting to know them, as Yen’s story dominated so much.

Anyway, the story is about sleep deprivation, sleep being the currency used in this world. You can only get tokens to sleep if you work, and how many tokens you get for each of sleep, food, and other stuff, depends on your level in society, with “A” being the highest and “C” being the lowest. Considering it all, “C” citizens, with their low morals in order to survive, probably have it the easiest. Although we don’t come across any “A” class citizens to compare with.

So, the idea is good. And you are only allowed to attend the Academy if you do well on your sleep tests – those who can cope with a level of sleep deprivation are allowed to have more. Quite twisted, in a way, with most citizens walking around in a permanent level of sleep deprivation.

This needs, obviously, some work to become a finished story. As I said, I’d like to hear more from the other two MCs, plus there’s some work needed to tidy everything up. But I do think that, once the work is done, that there is a really great story to be had here. And romance in a dystopian world is a wonderful thing, so please give it!

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

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

Fangs For All by Laura Greenwood and Arizona Tape

Awesome ending

Ha! What a conclusion! Considering I’d been following the series from book one (which is best, as otherwise it’s impossible to keep up), there are certainly some things I didn’t see coming.

So, we learn more about the Blood Slave auctions and, of course, Lucy and her band are still hot on the tail to try to stop them, at any cost. Yet, what will it cost them? For Lucy, it costs her more than she would have wanted at the beginning of her journey into the dark side of vampire high society. Yet, when stepping into her inheritance appears to be the answer to almost all of her aims and questions, she finally does it, and with flourish.

Mika. Now, I wouldn’t have expected that to be the real background story! Yet, with all her strangeness, it does make perfect sense. Despite everything, she proves quite an ally.

But that damned cat! When will we finally understand what’s going on with him?!

And then there’s Lucy and her men… Not quite a complete HEA, yet things appear to definitely be working out for her! Not that her mother would approve, but hey – isn’t she one of the ones supporting keeping the Blood Slaves…?

With her grandmother somehow speaking from beyond her Sleep, all the clues have been right under Lucy’s nose the entire time.

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

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

Forgotten Gods: The Complete Series by Laura Greenwood

Ups and downs

This is a series based on Egyptian Gods coping with living in the modern world. Each book in this box set is reviewed individually below.

Book 1: Protectors of Poison
Serket has been hiding for years, pretending to be the human, Sera. She moves around a lot, so not to create suspicion on the fact that she ages extremely slowly. She’s quite happy to have left her old life behind, despite her waning power, but nothing lasts forever.

Serket just happens to be the God of Poisons, her animal form being a scorpion. She’s quite far away from her many scorpions, when it appears someone is not only trying to wipe her out, but has managed to use her scorpions to fix a crime onto her…

This, unfortunately, ended with no full conclusion. I was a bit stumped by the ending. The story itself was full of lots of promise, which didn’t pan out fully. I still enjoyed it overall, though, just not as much as if it were complete.

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Book 1.5: Priestess of Truth
I actually read and rated this book before, which can be found here. Unfortunately, the reread didn’t make me feel any better about the book.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

Book 2: Daughter of the Sun
Sekhmet is the Goddess of Vengeance. She has been cursed by her father, Sun God Ra, and has been trapped inside a sphinx for millennia. Yet, her father wants to find her again, not to apologise for the years she’s been trapped, but to gain her help in stopping the God of Chaos, Seth. Yet, her freedom has a caveat – no blood-blind vengeance…

She is encouraged, throughout the story, to embrace her alter-ego, Bastet. A surprise romance somehow manages to calm her fiery side, bringing her closer to peace than she’s been in many years.

And, of course, she finds out the truth about the curse and why she has been “disabled”…

Unfortunately, this is another story with no true progression or resolution. It was enjoyable, but the ending left me disappointed again.

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Book 3: Servant of Chaos
This story follows Rhodopis, one of Seth’s slaves. It is loosely based on the legend, which is a kind of Cinderella story (and, according to Wikipedia, the earliest known variant of this). She has some power within the household, yet is unable to escape – anyone caught escaping is brutally beaten, even killed. Anyone even daring to anger Seth in even the smallest way can be subject to this fate. As the God of Chaos he, of course, likes nothing better than upsetting people and causing mayhem. Yet Rhodopis tries to keep the peace as much as possible, encouraging the other slave girls to follow the rules and not stand out. Unfortunately, she cannot save them all…

Rhodopis herself is saved when she attracts the attention of one of the party of a visiting dignitary. Yet she knows that any brief moment of escape will only make the following years of torture worse.

This has a loose ending and no true resolution. Rhodopis knows she’ll never be free from Seth, so how is that an ending, trying to “pretend” that everything will be OK? Or, at least, that’s how it seemed.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

Conclusion:
What’s most annoying about these books is that they don’t actually follow on from each other. There are snippets that you believe should, with hints of things to come in the previous books, yet there’s no story arch at all! I had expected at least some reference between books two and three, at the most, considering this one defining factor is mentioned. Yet, there is nothing. It’s a real shame, as each story has such an incomplete ending, that it would have been so much better if the stories were linked in some way. I should be rating the series lower than the average of 3.5, but I’ll round it up as it was still good in places.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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