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.*

Burn the Dark by S.A. Hunt

Poor Start to Near-Epic Finish

This book started off with a bunch of bad sayings, that made no sense whatsoever. Well, it was a review copy, so may have been updated by the time the book was released, but there is nothing more off putting (well, perhaps there is) than a bunch of author-created nonsensical sayings.

But, once I got into the book, despite the horror edge to the story, I actually quite enjoyed it. A few laughs, a few gory moments. A few excellent characters to top it off, with a few interweaving storylines.

The witches themselves are devious. And there is just something not right about that house… Yet Robin manages to go back to where she grew up and find out more about her past than she could have wished for, gaining a handful of trusty sidekicks along the way.

I might not understand much about the background or culture (typical Brit trying to watch US TV dramas and failing to get the context), but all in all it wasn’t bad at all.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

The Infamous Duke by Allyson Jeleyne

Great sequel!

Of course, we know from the beginning how this has to turn out – it is a HEA in planning! And we’ve already met both Wade and Cassie in the previous book, and this book starts with repeating the garden party, but from their POVs.

There is an almost instant attraction that goes on here, but Wade starts as the pursuer, with Cassie being convinced. Although, due to her delicate health and having been told that her “women’s troubles” will prevent her from marriage, she tries to push him away, subtly, in the beginning, just like she has done with many suitors, although she does make sure to enjoy the attention whilst it lasts.

Cassie’s oldest sister, Octavia, tries to convince her to not let Wade get too close, as he’s a known womaniser and cad. She doesn’t listen, knowing that it could be the one chance to enjoy such attention from someone of his position, before she returns to her confirmed spinsterhood.

Cassie believes firmly that Wade won’t be interested in her once he learns of her health problems, yet he is so enamoured with her as a person, that he doesn’t let this get in the way. In fact, he is ready to prove himself reformed, just for her, just to keep her. And so, with her refusing marriage, Wade tries to convince her to join him at his stately home in Cornwall, as his mistress.

Will Cassie accept this proposal? And will the two find their way through the complications of health, station, and reputation?

We have to wait right until the end of the book to meet up with Simon and Octavia again, who not only wish to check on Cassie, but are also ready to share their happy news. Oh, and they learn of what Honoria’s been up to – via an article in the Times!

Now I should comment on the setting. It should have clicked sooner with me, Wadebridge and Cornwall, as I’ve actually been to Wadebridge! It’s not just a small fishing village now, with the tourists lining the streets during the summer. There’s a Camel Trail, which runs between Padstow and Wadebridge, an old disused railway line that has been converted into a cycle path that runs alongside the Camel estuary. It is a beautiful route, but what should be noted is that Wadebridge lies at the mouth of the estuary, and not directly by the sea, as insinuated in this book. Some liberties have been taken with regards to the Duchy, also, as there is a Duchy of Cornwall, but not Wadebridge (Wadebridge would have been too small to host a Duchy, anyway, historically).

Anyway, despite my niggles, it was an enjoyable book all in all! Both MCs prove to have such heart that you can’t help but adore them.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

In the Viscount’s Arms by Allyson Jeleyne

Addictive

The beginning was a bit bland, especially as we know exactly what we’re getting into after reading the title and description – the story can only go in one direction. The exciting part is how we get there.

There is an obvious attraction between our two main characters, Octavia Staunton and Viscount Althorne (Lord Simon Caswell). Octavia impresses his Lordship right from the very start with her gentle manner in trying to instruct his obnoxious niece, despite all the tantrums and refusals. Somehow the three of them form a tenuous bond that can only grow over time.

We hear about how Simon’s niece, Leah, tragically lost both of her parents. Yet, despite the start where the Staunton sisters are just coming out of mourning for their parents, who died a year previously, we hear nothing of what caused their deaths. This could have been a point of conversation, yet the only thing we hear about them, aside from their deaths, is about their scandalous marriage. It might seem morbid, but it bugged me to not get the full picture of what happened.

That aside, once I got into the pace of the book, I could barely put it down. The last few chapters and pages just breezed by, as the romance heightened. It was quite beautifully done, although we have to wait to the next book for any nuptials. Luckily I already have it ready to go!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

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.*

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.*

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.*