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Book Review: Club Blood, by Sarah James & Cassandra Celia

I accepted an ARC review copy of Club Blood (by Sarah James and Cassandra Celia)  through Pride Book Tours.

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Sin City just got extra bloodthirsty… Welcome to Club Blood.

Vampires no longer hide in the shadows and humans have adjusted, learning to coexist with the Known. But in a city filled with sinful acts and lustful affairs, it’s not uncommon for mistakes to happen.

Cecelia agrees to visit Ambrosia, a notorious nightclub run by vampires, on the night of her birthday. But as Cece stumbles across the murder of one of the Known’s most feared council leaders, she is thrown into terrible danger.

For Mercy, being at the top and conquering her kingdom has always been above all else. It doesn’t bother her when she has to rip the heart out of her boss in order to get what she wants, though she does find it inconvenient that there’s a human witness.

Mercy and her coven hold Cece captive in order to secure Mercy’s quest to reign. Soon, Cece finds it hard to separate fear and attraction, being drawn to the enticing danger of Mercy’s life, and Mercy discovers that there might be just one person she’s willing to protect more than herself.

Just being together is enough to upend both of their lives, hurling them towards a war neither of them ever wanted to start.

Mercy must decide whether having Cece could be worth losing her kingdom, and Cece must endeavor to survive in a world of danger and darkness that was designed to kill her.

Their lust might be worth the bloodshed.

my review

I’ve got to admit. I didn’t resonate with this book. The writing is quite readable, and even though I had an ARC, the editing felt competent. So, any complaints I have are really just of the how well the book did or didn’t gel with me sort. And I’m afraid I leaned more toward didn’t.

I liked the idea of the book. A female vampire, fighting the patriarchal vampire culture to rise to the top of her bloody and cut throat career/society. And I appreciate that James and Celia were playing with gender tropes a little bit. But I also felt the plot and characters was super cliched. I’m afraid making it an F/F romance, but keeping all of the characteristics of a M/F romance isn’t transgressive. It’s lazy.

[Spoiler] Here we had the villainous jealous ex. The jealous ex that is contrasted against the innocent love interest by her aggressively sexual presentation (in her clothing, attitudes, and actions). How many times have readers seen this same thing? Too many. There’s both the sassy (and promiscuous) BFF who tempts the pure main character to leave her safe bounds. Her promiscuity gets her killed, BTW. We’ve seen this a million times too. Then she’s replaced with the sassy gay BFF. This one is male, but still a character we’ve all seen in just this character position many times before. Let’s just stop there. But I could go on. The big shark who smiles to Mercy’s face but really duplicitously seeks to re-subjugate the woman who dared leave her subservient place? Yep, not new or interesting.

Really the cliched characters were more than I could handle. But the real reason this didn’t resonate was that it was inconsistent. Mercy is said to be so merciless, but if that was true she never would have let the events of the book go as far as they did without solving (or even acknowledging) the problem. Her very actions undermined the primary characteristic we’re given for her. Further, the whole reason she breaks character club blood photo(separately than the preceding point) to keep and eventually fall for Cece is a mystery. I mean it’s a mystery in the book. So, again, her supposed ruthlessness is undermined by her actions. Then there is Cece. She has a convenient personality shift that allowed for the happy ending. But it didn’t feel believable. It was too abrupt.

All in all. I had complaints. Several of them. But they are things that bother me. They don’t bother a lot of other people. I suggest reading the book and deciding for yourself.


Other Reviews:

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Book Review: Luna Wolf, by G. Bailey & Regan Rosewood

I accepted a review copy of G. Bailey and Regan Rosewood’s Luna Wolf through Love Books Tours.

Luna-Wolf-Kindle (1)I’ve been rejected by everyone—but an alpha heir wants me to be his pretend mate.

As the only wolf shifter in my pack not to shift, being rejected from my home when I turned eighteen was not unexpected when the shifter war is so close. But being sent to a secret academy full of immortal wolf shifters, demons, and teachers with no morals wasn’t something I planned for.

Luna Alpha Academy is for rejects only.

They choose wolves that no one cares about if they go missing and if I can survive long enough to learn the dark magic they teach, I might even be welcome back home as a wolf-witch.

Only catch?

My tutor is a hot shifter asshole who takes what he wants—this time it’s me.

In exchange for extra training, Atlas wants me to pretend to be his.

Every kiss, every possessive touch, every growl to anyone that comes near me only makes me want him more.

But I can’t have him. Not really.

He’s the alpha heir.

I’m a wolf who can’t even shift.

We don’t belong together, and it’s fake. It can’t ever be real.

Dark magic is my future and my only way back to my pack.

my review

I have very middle of the road feelings about this book. Or rather, I liked the book fine, with the exception of a few critical elements and I’m afraid that if I innumerate them this review will come across as far more critical than I intend. So, let’s establish up front that I liked the book fine, but have a few critiques that shouldn’t nullify the previous statement.

My biggest issue is the inconsistency in the characters, Atlas especially. He literally acts as if Nyx is a huge imposition on one page and by the next he’s hitting on her and has had a complete personality transplant. There is literally no transition between his attitudes shifts. It was abrupt, unfollowable, and pulled me out of the narrative harshly. (Worse, it happened more than once.)

luna wolf photoMy second issue is how cliched and predictable the plot lines are. The primary immediate villain is a scorned woman fighting over a man—sometimes I want to shake authors and scream in their faces that women really can have motivations that don’t involve men—and the big reveal is seen coming from…well, basically the beginning. Honestly, it all felt a little too focuses on these small scale dramas instead of the larger end-of-the-world level drama that is sketched out at best.

The writing is mechanically fine, if a little rough around the edges. The over-arching world seems interesting and I think I’d read another in the series. But, again, I’d call this a middle of the road read.

On a totally unrelated note, I’m SO GLAD the book got a new cover. I’ve stumbled across the old one (with the pretty girl on the cover). And it made me seethe. A big deal is made in the book about Nyx being ‘curvy’ (and I do love a plus-sized heroine). That girl on the cover was not. So, I’m glad I don’t have to be irritated about that.


Other Reviews:

The Moon Alpha Series by G. Bailey and Regan Rosewood

Nocturnal Predators Reviews: Luna Wolf, by G. Bailey


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Book Review: Army of the Cursed, by Karim Soliman

I accepted a copy of Karim Soliman‘s Army of the Cursed for review, as part of Love Book Tours book tour.
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Everybody knew the Cursed were coming.
Nobody knew how to defeat them.

The Goranians thought they were ready to face demons in battle. But when the foretold War of the Last Day begins, one fact becomes clear: the doom of Gorania is just a matter of time. Now its fate rests in the hands of a hapless trio.

By joining the mages’ guild, Leila cedes her title as the Crown Princess of Murase. But as she struggles with her lack of talent, the Army of the Cursed approaches her country. Leila will have to decide if she is ready to protect her loved ones, or she should abandon them and run for her life.

Nardine, the Crown Princess of Bermania, hears a rumor that her long-gone father was so close to finding a weapon against the immortal demons. While she investigates what has happened to his unfinished work, a rebellion threatens to tear apart her kingdom.

Far in the harsh northern lands of Skandivia, Halgrim starts a perilous journey to claim a birthright he has been denied because of a lie. If his journey goes according to plan, nothing will stand between him and his ultimate prize. Nothing, except the Army of the Cursed.

Can the three unite and put aside their differences before it is too late? The entire human race is already on the brink of extinction.

my review

I’m of two minds when it comes to this book. I enjoyed it. Never once while reading it did I feel like giving up, despite it being on the long side. The writing is quite good 99% of the time. I liked the characters. I liked the different types of interplay between the teen characters and the adults. I appreciate that this is a big world with many different cultures. And I liked the way the opposing armies both thought themself blessed and the other evil. Perspective matters. But I also had several complaints.

For one, I think the book is longer than need be. This is complicated by there being too many POV characters that the books cycles through; some of them given very little attention. This meant that sometimes I would come around to new character or back around to a character not seen for a while and be like, “Wait, who is this again?” But it also felt like characters just got dropped on occasion. Leila was notably ignored during any battle scene, for example (and this despite the fact that her knowledge in chemistry could have been quite useful). All of Halgrim’s family were often forgotten about for lengthy periods of time, etc.

I said the writing was good 99% of the time. That one percent is Soliman’s occasional tenancy to drop anachronisticly modern sounding phrases into the narrative or dialogue. It jarred me every time.

Lastly, almost all of the book’s action is during battles and, though they were well written, they got redundant after a while. Speaking of battles, as an aside—not even as a complaint, just as an observation—I have a comment on the cover. I like it. I’m guessing the girl is meant to be Nardine, since she is the princess most trained in martial arts. But not once in the entire book does a female set foot on a battlefield with the intent to engage. Not even Nardine. Several times queens are present overlooking a battle and a female mage or two lobs magic from afar, but not once does a female character actually fight among the soldiers. Which feels notable if you are going to have one trained to do so AND on the cover as if she is doing just that.

Actually, I think I have a comment on the blurb too (and this may be a bit spoilerish). It states, “…the doom of Gorania is just a matter of time. Now its fate rests in the hands of a hapless trio.” But that’s 100% not true of this book. I think it’s probably going to be true of this series. But until the the end of this book, it’s their parents who have all the agency and fight the foe. For the course of this book, the fate of the human race isn’t in the hands of the trio in the sense the blurb suggests.

All in all, however, I was more pleased than not. I’d probably pick up the second book to see where the series goes.

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Other Reviews:

Army of the Cursed by Karim Soliman

Army of the Cursed Review

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