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Book review: The Bone Way, by Holly J. Underhill

I purchased a copy of The Bone Way by Holly J. Underhill.

Teagan’s wife, Cressidae, is missing. She has left for the Shadow Realm, a kingdom of the dead filled with untold nightmares—and the only place that can save Teagan from a lethal poison that’s killing her slowly. It is ruled by a princess said to make powerful deals with those brave enough to find her, and Cressidae has gone to bargain for Teagan’s life. Cressidae has forgotten one very important thing: no one makes it out on their own.

Despite the risks to her own safety, Teagan is determined to save her wife—and perhaps even herself in the process. The princess of the Shadow Realm, however, doesn’t let mortals roam her territories without opposition. In this thrilling fantasy novella, Teagan and Cressidae must face both the horrors of the Shadow Realm as well as their own past.

my review

This should have been…needs to be…a full-length novel instead of a novella. I liked the idea of it. I liked the world. I liked that it’s a retelling. The writing is mechanically sound. But it 100% feels like part of a story, as opposed to a story of its own. It leans heavily on flashbacks to give a lot of what happens context. But the flashbacks just break up the flow of the already too-short work. You barely get to know or care about Teagan and not at all about Cressidae. The villain is villainous until she encounters the smallest push-back. All in all, I suppose I wanted to like this a lot more than I did.

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Book Review: The Bone Way

Review: The Bone Way – Holly J. Underhill

 

 

 

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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.


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Book Review: Youngblood, by Sasha Laurens

I received an ARC copy of Youngblood, by Sasha Laurens as part of a book tour for the book. However, that tour was canceled on somewhat short notice. However, I’d already read the book. So, here’s a review.
Youngblood cover

High school sucks. Especially for the undead.

Kat Finn and her mother can barely make ends meet living among humans. Like all vampires, they must drink Hema, an expensive synthetic blood substitute, to survive, as nearly all of humanity has been infected by a virus that’s fatal to vampires. Kat isn’t looking forward to an immortal life of barely scraping by, but when she learns she’s been accepted to the Harcote School, a prestigious prep school that’s secretly vampires-only, she knows her fortune is about to change.

Taylor Sanger has grown up in the wealthy vampire world, but she’s tired of its backward, conservative values—especially when it comes to sexuality, since she’s an out-and-proud lesbian. She only has to suffer through a two more years of Harcote before she’s free. But when she discovers her new roommate is Kat Finn, she’s horrified. Because she and Kat used to be best friends, a long time ago, and it didn’t end well.

When Taylor stumbles upon the dead body of a vampire, and Kat makes a shocking discovery in the school’s archives, the two realize that there are deep secrets at Harcote—secrets that link them to the most powerful figures in Vampirdom and to the synthetic blood they all rely on.

my review

I think maybe—like Kat and Galen—I wanted to like this more than I did. The writing it quite readable. (I had an ARC, so I can’t comment on editing.) The idea is interesting, the self-discovery aspect seemed well done, and the characters had potential. But, in the end, neither was particularly likeable, the romance is put off too long to feel satisfying, and there’s just a whole subtle sense of ick to the story.

Part of the discomfort is in the blatant -isms of the vampires. And I’ll accept that people raised in eras past might carry some of the attitudes of that past with them. But a lot of it is just baked into the narrative and apparent in the way Kat is such a fair-weather ally. Sure, she notices how few BIPOC students there are, asks Taylor their pronouns, acknowledges various forms of privileged, throws the use of ‘boys and girls’ at the headmaster derisively, ‘as if non-binary people don’t exist.’ She says all the right things. But she’s perfectly happy to overlook it all for her own social advancement. In a very real sense, that’s the whole point of the plot (if looked at from a different angle than the author presents it to us).

And honestly, the author could have done SO much with that set up. What a chance to show self-reflection and growth in the main character…not to mention commentary on a lot of real-youngblood photoworld allyship. But she doesn’t take the opportunity. The end result is a book that feels like corporate allyship…you know, where they say the right things during June and purchase the right optics (or try to publish the right books), but don’t actually change their policies to protect anyone or improve lives and drop it all come July. So, ick. And bonus ick in a book with two baby-lesbians as the main characters and, one would presume, the primary audience.

All and all, this wasn’t a big winner for me. But I do love the art on the cover. That’s why I picked the book up in the first place.


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