Category Archives: books/book review

Review of Claim The Wolf King (Wickedest Witch #0.5) by Meg Xuemei X

I borrowed an audio copy of Meg Xuemei X‘s Claim the Wolf King through Hoopla. 

Description from Goodreads:

It’s a one in a million chance that the sexy-as-sin and savage wolf king finds his fated mate–me, the curvy warrior–on the most hostile alien planet. But you can’t call him one lucky bastard.

I can’t be his–I’ve sworn a blood oath to another. And I haven’t the time for mating when I have to lead a gang of the worst criminals to fight off the vampire hordes, cannibals, and Akem’s creatures of nightmare to find the veiled portal to go home.

The mating call doesn’t care for my difficult situation. It affects me with a fever like no other. Its frenzy bursts in my bloodstream, tormenting me with lust more than I can endure. But if I fail to resist it and break my vow, I’ll doom not only myself but everyone I protect, and we’ll never escape this inferno.

The ruthless, red-blooded wolf king isn’t one to listen to reason. And he has no intention of preserving my virtue and honor. He wants to mate with me more than his life is worth, and keep me as his forever. Nothing and no one can stop him on his way to claim me.

Review:

I’m going to be honest. I picked this book up expecting it to be complete shit. (I mean look at that cover!) But it was December 17th and I’d not yet read an X-authored book for my yearly alphabet challenge, didn’t even have one available to me. So, I grabbed this in a bit of a panic when I saw it. Any X would do at that point. 

For about half the book I was happy with it. Pleasantly surprised that, while the sex talk (and actual sex) was just as overwrought and cheesy as you’d expect, the main character was self-possessed and refused to kau tau to the normal cliches of shifter erotica. In fact, I thought the author was making a point to avoid them and was thrilled to find an author who did. But then she (the author) seemed to lose her way.

[Spoiler in this paragraph] Up until about 2/3 through the book, I’d have called it a 3-star read. Then the most cliched of cliched erotica tropes was dropped like a pile of loose shit on the plot. The only female shifter to be included in the book at all turned out to be the violently jealous ex of the hero. She waltzed into the plot and tried to kill the heroine, while claiming she would take the man back. As I said, this is extremely cliched and over-used. But it’s also insulting to women everywhere (as it is almost every time this plot point is used, and pretty much EVERYTIME it’s the only woman of a group). As if we only exist in relation to a man. As if we can’t trust each other. As if we are in constant competition for a man’s attention. As if we have no value if we can’t re-claim it. Right there I dropped a star. Probably would have DNFed the book if it hadn’t been for a challenge. 

What’s worse, in this case it went contrary to the world-building too. If finding your fated mate is so big a deal, I don’t believe anyone would think they could step between it. I don’t believe anyone would allow the ridiculous challenge she threw. Plus, after going on and on about how he’d kill anyone who threatened her, the hero just let the woman who literally tried to kill his mate and the man who facilitated it walk away. 

Adding to my feeling that the author floundered and didn’t know where to go with the plot, so she took the path most traveled, was the fact that the sex scene after this was full of his dominance and her submission (the heroine had not been the submitting type at all) and described with such violence that I had a hard time envisioning it as sexy and not just painful. In fact, the author even used the phrase ‘the assault of it’ at one point. It seemed to be ranked on how erotic it was by how many times the word ‘cock’ could be used. 

All in all, this was almost a good read. I honestly think the author set out to write a strong female character and avoid a lot of the misogynistic bullshit that often hides openly in erotica. But she didn’t seem able to avoid falling into the same pit as so many authors before her. I finished it rolling my eyes (literally) and disappointed. 

Felicity Munroe did a fine job with the narration. I have to give her props for getting through those sex scenes without sounding ridiculous. 

Review of Crystal Gardens, by Amanda Quick

It’s mid-December and, like every December in recent memory, I have reached this point in the year and have yet to read a Q, U or X book for my author-alphabet-challenge. *Cue panic.* I did try and read Q book earlier, but ended up DNFing it for being horrible. So, I was officially without a Q book and the local library didn’t have a single one that interested me on hand. (Interest me can be defined a in the sci-fi/fantasy section.) On a whim, I thought to check the audio books. I was literally walking by the shelf on my way to the door after discovering nothing in the fantasy section. Here, I came across a light historical paranormal title by Amanda Quick, Crystal Gardens. SOLD. I didn’t even fully read the description before whisking it away to the check-out deck and home with me. 

Description from Goodreads:

Evangeline Ames has rented a country cottage far from the London streets where she was recently attacked. Fascinated by the paranormal energy of nearby Crystal
Gardens, she finds pleasure in sneaking past the wall to explore the grounds. And when her life is threatened again, she instinctively goes to the gardens for safety.

Lucas Sebastian has never been one to ignore a lady in danger, even if she is trespassing on his property. Quickly disposing of her would-be assassin, he insists they keep the matter private. There are rumors enough already, about treasure buried under his garden, and occult botanical experiments performed by his uncle—who died of mysterious causes. With Evangeline’s skill for detection, and Lucas’s sense of the criminal mind, they soon discover that they have a common enemy. And as the energy emanating from Crystal Gardens intensifies, they realize that to survive they must unearth what has been buried for too long.

Review:

Considering I picked this book up with a very vague idea of what it might be about, I ended it happily enough. It’s light and fluffy, and so long as I don’t think too deeply about how rapidly people fell in love and made drastic life decisions, I have few complaints. I did find Evangeline’s determination to not see that Lucas obviously intended to marry her for real annoying. And considering that one of the things I liked best about the book is that the couple spoke plainly to one another, avoiding any unnecessary, drama-inducing misunderstandings, this irked me. But for a quick, cotton candy read it was a success. As was Justine Eyre’s performance. 

Review of Hell Divers (I, II & III), by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

I won a copy of Hell Divers II (by Nicholas Sansbury Smith) through Goodreads. But I didn’t want to read it until I’d read the first one. So, I borrowed an audio version of Hell Divers through Hoopla and then I just sort of kept going until I reached Hell Divers III, whew I stopped. 

Hell Divers:

I went into this skeptical. I expected a lot of male bravado and that too often equals toxicity. But I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was still a little heavy on the importance of a man’s duty and the stabilizing influence of family (even if family was usually just the tragedy that spurn men to action and fairly cardboard in actuality). But there was also some depth to the story. I appreciated the difference in perspective of the upper-deckers and the lower-deckers, and how having a limited perspective (especially if you don’t know it is limited) can be dangerous, even to the righteous.

I did find the suspension of dis-belief necessary to believe a whole mutated species developed and bred widely enough to infect at least two distant cities without anyone noticing or ever encountering them a little hard to come by. If Hell Divers have the brief life expectancy they’re said to have, then they must dive relatively frequently.

All in all, I enjoyed it and don’t dread reading book two. And R. C. Bray did a nice job with the narration. He occasionally sounded a little machine-like, as if he was imitating a computer or robot, but not too often. I look forward to book II.

Ghosts:

I didn’t appreciate this second book as much as the first. I thought the characters’ motivations more cliched and the characters themselves not as interesting. Plus, Xavier is barely in it.

Having said all that, I did still like it. I’m still invested in the story and one of my questions from book one was partially addressed, how the Sirens evolved so quickly. I have no complaints about Bray’s narration and all in all, I’m up for book three.

Deliverence:

I wouldn’t say this was bad. It was structurally and editorially sound. However, I found the characters’ motivations even shallower than in book two. And I commented on how much more cliched I found the motivations in book two than in book one. So, we’re pretty far down the relatable, investment scale by book three here. Honestly, I was just plain bored with it. Unlike the first book, there was nothing new or interesting here. I don’t feel any pressing need to continue the series. Bray still did fine with the narration though.