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susan taki

Book Review – Susan Taki: The New Coven, by Dee Rose

Author, Dee Rose contacted me about reviewing the audio version of Susan Taki: The New Coven. However, I don’t think I can truthfully review it without first discussing the exchange she and I had prior to my accepting it.

susan taki: the New Coven

Susan Taki awoke from a magic-induced coma in the events of The Death Brothers: A Supernatural Awakening. After helping her boyfriend, the demon hunter, Father Tom Padilla in New York, she has now returned home to San Diego. She is weighing an offer from the vampire slayer, Jericho Caine, to be his partner, while she patrols the streets as a supernatural policeman at night.

However, her old witches coven has returned with a new and powerful leader, Tatiana. They intend to make Susie stand trial for her role in the death of one of their former leaders. The punishment is death. The underworld also has an interest in the outcome of the trial as they know Susie is an ally of their enemies, the Death Brothers, the Grand Librarian, and the Hangman.

my review

I made a mistake in accepting this for review. I usually check to ensure a book has previous reviews before I’ll accept it. I do this because I write an honest review, which means there is a chance I might write a negative one. But I’m not usually cruel enough to knowingly write a castigating review if it’s going to be the book’s only review, with nothing to balance against it.

However, when the author emailed me to review this book, I got distracted by it being 9th in a series. I wrote her back and asked her if it stood alone, saying that if it did I would accept it and inferring that if it didn’t I would pass. But in the process I forgot to check for reviews. By the time I realized there were no others I had already said yes and received the Audible code.

All of this is relevant for two reasons. The first is that Rose said, “It is definitely a stand-alone book. There are only rare references to the previous books as Susan Taki is a newer character that I was introducing to the series. The intro sums up the smaller role she played in the previous books.” But I have to disagree STRONGLY.

The recap in the beginning does help, but it’s not enough, not nearly enough. Characters aren’t introduced. There’s no world-building. The magic system isn’t explained, such that types of magic users feel like they appear randomly. We start with witches and vampires. Then we get demons. Then angels. Somewhere in there Slayers and Death Brothers show up and I still don’t really know exactly what they are or if they differ. Are there other magic creatures that just haven’t made an appearance yet? I don’t know. So, I don’t know the limits of the world.

The book feels 100% like you’ve picked up a story in the middle. This may not be relevant to the review of the book if you’re reading it as part of the series. But it absolutely effected my ability to read and enjoy it on its own. I would not advise reading it as a stand-alone book.

Second, if I hadn’t been reading this for review, I would have DNFed it very early on and avoided writing the review at all. I would have done this regardless, but most especially since it has no other reviews to counter-balance this one.

Both the book and the narration are simply bad. The narrator, Jeremy Olivier, did OK with the parts that were just straight narration. But he took super cheesy dialogue and made it sound even more cliched and stereotypical. (“Sucka” was particularly jarring. It didn’t sound at all natural.) It was a catastrophic combination. Usually a if it’s a decent book with poor narration or a mediocre book with good narration one balances the other out. But here they just compounded each-other.

Outside of the narration the writing is an issue. Even in audio I caught a few editing mishaps, though that’s not a huge thing. There was just so much description, even in places where there shouldn’t be. People don’t talk like omniscient narrators. They don’t notice and relay details in conversation like an outside narrator creating atmosphere would. And there are several points in which characters tell stories and describe things that a speaker simply wouldn’t. Had these been narrative flashbacks, it probably would have worked, but as person speaking, no. Events jumped around such that I barely followed what was happen half the time. There’s no build-up in the plot. Susan is suicidally rash. No one has a believable emotion, they’re all just blown out of proportion. And then the ending went totally against the villain’s personality.

I did appreciate that there’s some diversity in the cast. And as far as I could understand it, I think the kernel of an idea that formed this book was interesting. But it was a big fat flop for me.

susan taki

the last vampire covers

Book Review: The Last Vampire 1-3, by R.A. Steffan & Jaelynn Woolfe

Somewhere around the internet I was given an Audible code for a copy of books 1-3 of The Last Vampire, by  R.A. Steffan and Jaelynn Woolfe.

the last vampire 1-3

Interestingly enough, several weeks back I listened to a book called Forsaken Fae and one of my biggest complaints about it was that it turned to be a spin-off of a spin-off. So, even though it was labeled book one, it didn’t really stand alone very well. I didn’t at the time know which of the several books in the series it was based on or needed to be read before it. As it turns out, it’s these books…and I had at least these first 3 sitting in my Audible account the whole time.


There’s a smokin’ hot dead guy locked in my garden shed.
That part’s bad enough. But now, he’s trying to get out.

Growing up, my father always told me that I’d come to a bad end, just like my mom did when I was a kid. Hearing that kind of shit when you’re little eventually gets to a girl, but I can’t say I ever expected my ‘bad end’ to involve an angry vampire with a severe case of iron deficiency and a panty-melting English accent.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Ever since my mother was assassinated, I’ve felt like there was something vast and frightening hidden beneath the fabric of the world. Something none of us are supposed to know about.

So far, finding out I was right hasn’t been nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped. I guess the trick will be staying alive long enough to shout ‘I told you so’ from the rooftops.

But before I can do that, I really need to figure out if the vampire who just bit me is one of the good guys or not.

my review

Meh, I didn’t hate this. The writing is fine and I appreciated some of the humor. But the relationships aren’t developed at all. The hero and heroine literally have two less than 10 minute conversations (she literally has a 10 min alarm set during the second one) and then he’s rescuing her, they’re jumping into bed, and they’re apparently a couple for life. And I don’t just mean that makes the sex feel rushed. Even the friendship feels out of nowhere. Then the book ends on a giant cliffhanger. So, I’m pretty “meh” on the whole thing. I also didn’t particularly care for the narrator. There was nothing objectively wrong with the performance, but I found it a little on the whiny side.


the last vampire 2My father has been kidnapped by my worst enemies.

Either that, or he willingly sold me out to them.

Whatever the case, I’m going to find him. Mind you, this would be a lot easier if every Fae in Chicago wasn’t already out for my blood.

They’re not getting it, though.

The only one who’s getting anywhere near my blood is the seven-hundred-year-old vampire who saved me. Yes, there are times when I’m convinced he’s not quite right in the head, but so far he’s the only supernatural being I’ve met who sees me as a person rather than a chess piece.

To the rest of them, I’m nothing more than the walking, talking evidence of a war crime. To him, I’m something else. He calls me a loose thread in the tapestry of his forgotten past, but he looks at me like I might be the key to his future.

The rest of them tell me I’m demonkin. They say I’m a succubus-human hybrid who shouldn’t exist.

One thing is very clear, though. My father is carrying a secret bigger than I ever dreamed, and I’m damn well going to pry it out of him.

I just have to get him back from the Fae first.
Because, hey—what could possibly go wrong?

my review

I’m finding that I don’t much like Zorah. I find her whiny and prone to too-stupid-to-live decisions (the narrator’s style might have something to do with this impression), and I’m finding that the woman-gagging-for-sex feels like it plays too closely into the subtle Western myth that woman can’t be trusted with their own sexuality because they’re just inherently weak to their own impulses. Plus, being part succubus was just really cliched and predictable. I do find some of the banter between Rans and her funny and there’s really nothing wrong with the writing itself. I’m just not much liking the main character and I’m a bit bored with the story as a whole.


the last vampire 3

I never thought I’d see home again.
Now, I almost wish I hadn’t.

After giving myself up to the Fae, I expected to become the latest casualty of a war that should have ended centuries ago. Instead, I ended up inextricably bound to the last vampire on earth.

My life since the Fae marked me has become unrecognizable. Inside, I’m still the 26-year-old waitress who struggled with working two jobs while being serially dumped by a parade of disgruntled boyfriends. Now, I’ve somehow become a figurehead, coveted and despised in equal measure by two warring supernatural races.

Can I trust the fragile bond connecting my heart to the unbeating heart of a vampire? Every instinct I possess tells me to pull back… protect myself… protect him. But every time I try to run away, I end up back in his arms.

Alliances are shifting. Old resentments are flaring. Both my father and I are now chess pieces in someone else’s grand strategy.

No more. I’m done with being a pawn.
It’s time to up my game.

my review

Having finished this 3rd book in the series (the last I have, since I was listening to the compilation of the 1st 3 books), I’m still pretty meh on the whole thing. Plus, I’m finding that I really resent that I’ve read 3 books (600+ pages, almost 21 hours of audio) and gotten no conclusions in any of the books. They each just randomly stop. Which, of course, means there won’t be any kind of satisfaction in book 4 or 5. So, I’d need to read or listen to a further 600 pages or another 20+ hours of audio to get a single conclusion. The simple fact is that I’m just not that invested. Hoopla has the audio of books 4-6, so they’re available to me (even if I didn’t want to buy them) but I don’t think I’ll bother. Which means I’ll never know how it ends and have just wasted 20+ hours of time listening to what is essentially half a story.

And let me tell you it is FULL of filler to stretch the story over 6 books; you especially feel that in this 3rd book. I was just bored with a lot of it, especially all the sex/succubus stuff. By which I don’t just mean the sex (there’s not actually that much of it, compared to what could have been), but all the testing this and trying that, the fetish club and play and requisite description of the outfits, her sexy shows, etc, etc. I was BORED. The whole thing drags like the middle of a book…like the middle it is.

I was also seriously tired of all of her “woe is me, no one could love me” doubt of Rans and the veracity of their relationship. It was tedious and silly. The man had already bound himself to her FOR LIFE. I think it was abundantly clear how he felt, so her continued doubt felt like the contrived plot device it was.

Again, the actual writing itself is fine and the audio versions seem pretty well done. It’s not an issue with quality I have, but with the style of breaking books into serials that have to be read as a whole. This is a personal preference kind of thing, but I’m pretty done with it.


the last vampire audio photo

Book Review – The Last Vampire – by R.A. Steffan & Jaelynn Woolf

Singing Hills Cycle titles

Book Reviews: The Empress of Salt and Fortune & When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, by Nghi Vo

It’s become my habit to listen to audio books whenever I have chores to do or a tedious online task to perform. Today I borrowed copies of Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain from my local library.

the empress of salt and Fortune

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

my review

Oh, I loved this. It starts out slow and the reader is left wondering why they’re being told the seemingly random story. But it all comes together marvelously in the end. While it’s true that women in aristocracies were often denied open power, to assume and accept that they were therefore powerless is to uncritically accept a falsehood simply by virtue of how often it’s been repeated. I love how Vo plays with that here. I love how In-yo plays with it, for that matter.

I did sometime miss the transition from the current time of the story, where Rabbit is telling her story, to the past or the story she’s telling (or if we’re being given the writings she referenced at one point). But that is a small matter in the larger scheme of things.

Lastly, the narrator did a marvelous job.


When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

my review

I admit I didn’t love this book quite as much as I did The Empress of Salt and Fortune, but it is still a marvelously well done story. I love the way Vo tells the same story from two perspectives, each fundamentally anchored in ostensibly the same events but interpreted in drastically different ways. But you also never lose sight of the fact that they’re discussing what might be a myth, something has certainly moved into the realm of the mythological. This along side the heightened tension of the current danger to the cleric from the tigers countered well. All in all, I’ll be looking for more of Vo’s work and would happily listen to another book narrated by Kay.

Singing Hills Cycle


Other Reviews:

[Book Review] The Singing Hills Cycle Series (2)

Mini Reviews: The Singing Hills Cycle by Nghi Vo // Stunning Novellas that Contain Stories Within Stories

The Singing Hills Cycle 1 & 2