Review: Seraphina’s Awakening (Seraphina Series Book 1) by Sheena Hutchinson

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Published by Sheena Hutchinson LLC

3 stars

 

Synopsis:

For as long as she can remember, Seraphina Cross has experienced these visions that made her feel like there was more to life. It wasn’t until one moment, one accident that her life changed forever.

She awakens the next day a new person in more ways than one. With no recollection of past night’s events, she’s forced to adapt to certain sensations she is experiencing all while trying to piece together what exactly happened to her that fateful night.

Her strange, hectic life doesn’t seem to make sense until she meets a handsome stranger. Only then does the puzzle finally piece itself together. What she doesn’t expect is the new powers she has developed attracting all kinds of unwanted attention.

Thrown into a world she never truly believed existed she is forced to come to grips with who she is becoming while staying out of trouble long enough to figure out what needs to be done to fulfill her destiny.


 

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**Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

 

Here’s a book that had me conflicted – I loved the story but the writing style didn’t feel quite right. I didn’t hate the book in any way, but I didn’t love it either – I would have split a star if I’d felt the need but 3 feels right.

The story is told in the second person (‘she did this’, ‘he thought that’) which is very impersonal and kept me at arm’s length from the characters for the duration. I like to get up close and personal with my characters and their tomfoolery so this style didn’t really work for me, but it was the quality of the writing that kept me going to the end – there’s nothing like a finely crafted novel to earn my appreciation, even if it’s not 100% to my tastes.

That quibble aside, the story was good – Seraphina is a young woman who doesn’t feel like she really fits in anywhere but things start changing after a guardian angel is sent to watch over her. There’s a sensitive and good looking coffee shop owner (thanks my new addiction to Gilmore Girls my mind immediately conjures up images of Luke for this part). a secretive fortune teller, a cheeky best friend and a sexy stranger who’s been featuring in her dreams for years. With all these characters around her, her destiny starts to unfold and she has some difficult choices ahead of her.

This book is the first in the series and is a bit of a slow burner, setting the stage for what you know is going to be an explosive second installment. A lot of unanswered questions have been raised in this book, so many that it was a little frustrating by the end.

I don’t want to give too much of the storyline away as the synopsis is pretty vague, but I think it’s safe to give away this much: angels play a large role in this series and a big battle between good and evil is sure to follow.
Normally, angels are either too religious or too goody-goody for me but this book balances the biblical mythology and humanity to make the book a good read. I like that the religious side is included to just the right amount, so that we’re reminded of the origins of angels but don’t feel like there’s a hard evangelical line being drawn through the series.

If you like paranormal romances and strong female characters (if you don’t like the latter, screw you!) then this is certainly worth a read.

Review: Aphrodite (Daughters of Zeus #4) by Kaitlin Bevis

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Published by ImaJinn Books

5 stars

Synopsis:

 

Being perfect isn’t easy, but Aphrodite is determined to live up to the ideal. So when Poseidon asks her to investigate strange happenings on several cruise ships, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. Demigods are going missing, and no one remembers them having been on board. Aphrodite charms herself into the best room on the ship, prepared to investigate in style. Unfortunately, the room belongs to the one man immune to her charm.
Adonis.
When Aphrodite realizes that he could be the next target, her investigation gets more complicated. Worse, whoever is responsible for the missing demigods charmed the passengers and armed them with long-forgotten weapons designed to kill gods. When the ship goes dark, Aphrodite and Adonis have to work together to discover who is behind the mayhem before Poseidon decides their ship, and every charmed and armed human on it, are more trouble than they’re worth.


 

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**Thank you to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Hell. Fucking. Yes.

This book ticked all the boxes for me. It was exceptionally well written, had really well developed and complex characters and was so intense that in some places I forgot how to breathe.

This is the fourth book in the series and given how many references there are to the history of the characters, I think that I would probably have benefitted from reading the previous books (I’m going to have to go back to them now to make sure they’re as good as this one!).
The general premise of the story is that pantheon of Greek gods are having a reshuffle following the defeat of Zeus and are trying to get their lives back in order. While this is going on in the background, demigods are disappearing and the gods have decided that it’s about time they start investigating what’s going on.

Aphrodite volunteers to go to the mortal world and investigate. This involves getting to know some of the demigods that the gods have estranged for millennia, dealing with divine politics and trying to heal from what can only be described as PTSD after the death of Zeus and everything he did to her.

It’s the psychology of this book that makes it so intense, Aphrodite experiences extreme emotions throughout the book as a result of the trauma she’s suffered and at times it’s really hard to read. Difficult, but worth it.

Of course, that’s not the only great thing about this book- the action sequences are also well written and play out naturally rather than coming across like a cheesy film scene. The suspense, action and characters are artfully written and altogether blew my mind.
There’s a degree of romance in this book, but I think it’s more about passion, kindness and support between beings rather than love and sex, which is what makes it so fascinating.

If, like me, you’re a sucker for any book that brings mythology to life – especially one that doesn’t gloss over how messed up that mythology is, give this one a read.

Review: Sex, Lies and Demon Ties (Dark Desires Book #1) by C.J. Laurence

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Published by C J Laurence

2 stars

Synopsis:

A single red rose—one small thing that carries such heavy meaning.

To be given one after an intense night of passion with a handsome stranger, your expectations grow with hope at this simple gesture. To him? The offering is his way of thanking you, a mortal woman, for allowing his dark being to indulge in forbidden sin…

If someone good can turn bad, then someone bad can turn good, right?

Two demonic brothers, Azazel and Balthazar have worked their jobs as Lucifer’s right-hand men for centuries. Cursed this way after their ghastly sins as humans, the ominous duo have left trails of devastation in their wake all over the world and all throughout history. Their curse can be broken by the true love of a mortal female, one who accepts all of their wicked deeds, but why worry about that when you have all the power and magick someone could ever desire?

Being evil, revelling in others misery and pain gets tiresome after a while. Or does it?

On their latest annual vacation from Hell, the bickering siblings stumble across Kyla Marshall, a feisty spice of life who captures both of their attention from the outset. With the two demons as opposite as yin and yang, Kyla soon finds herself being pushed and pulled on an emotional, frenzied ride of worldly secrets and shocking truths of human nature.

Caught up in the relentless whirlwind of the sinful brothers, Kyla soon finds her own curiosities and morbid nature creeping to the surface. The shadowed depths hiding within her terrify her very soul. But now this unknown part of her has been unlocked, can she ever really ignore it? And what terrible tragedies lay in wait for those in her way?


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**Thank you to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this title in exchange for an honest review**

As a person who loves character driven plots, this book wasn’t for me.

The book tells the story of two demon brothers, spending their annual 3 month vacation from hell in Lincolnshire (of all places?!) where they both fall inexplicably in love with the fiery redhead, Kayla. She swears at them a few times, has sex with both of them then lives her happy ever after.

Though the synopsis of this book sounded exactly like the kind of thing I’d enjoy, in reality, it fell pretty short. The characters lacked depth and their behaviour was frankly bizarre. There was no kind of rational preamble to their sexual liaisons so it came across as seriously rapey, which is absolutely not my cup of tea. I prefer my sex scenes 100% consensual and without the use of magical coercion or cover up.

I’m aware that ‘dubious consent’ is even a category in Goodreads, but it’s one that I steer clear of if I don’t want my blood to boil in the bad kind of way while reading.

There were some dark and violent scenes in this book which I could have worked with, but without a strong groundwork behind them to provide context, they didn’t have quite the right impact on the reader. I like to understand the characters I’m reading about so I can understand their motives for everything they do, in this book they were over simplified and hit like a sledgehammer rather than the subtlety I would have preferred.

This book didn’t quite have a ‘finished’ feel to it, not least because the formatting for the Kindle was all over the place so there were about 3 lines to a page, but because the writing style was quite disjointed like large pieces of the plot were missing. This book had a lot of potential however those missing pieces were pretty crucial ones.

One thing that I do have to mention, however, for the sheer joy it brought me while reading this book was the sexual content.

A particular favourite was a reference to ‘her rising dampness’, at which point I wasn’t sure if we were talking about arousal or a plea for a dehumidifier…
‘He seated his lips upon her’ was another classic! It might have just been that my heart wasn’t in it at this point of the book, but the sex scenes did nothing for me.

All in all, I don’t think this is a series I’ll be pursuing but it hasn’t managed to put me off the genre of demon romances. It’s a weird niche but I like it!

Betty the Beast: Why I Call my Hamster ‘Satan’

Poor Phil the hamster snuffed it a couple of weeks ago – he was already more than middle aged when adopted 6 months ago so I suppose it was his time to go.

I’ll remember the little bastard fondly though, as the tiny little peanut who kept escaping from his cage and wandering around the house at odd hours of the morning. I’ll also recall the one time he spent an afternoon hiding in the piano.

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The house was a little too quiet and empty without his snuffling noises in the evenings, so I went out and made one of the silliest decisions of my life.

Note I say ‘silliest’, not ‘stupidest’ – I’ve done far stupider things than what I’m about to tell you.

I went out and bought Betty.

I thought, hey, Syrian hamsters are cute, friendly and easier to handle than wee dwarf beasties. I should get one of those.
So, with that in mind I saw this little soul calling to me from behind a glass window in the pet shop and  thought ‘that’s the one!’

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Look how sleepy and cute she looks! Surely the fact that the staff in the shop call her ‘Werewolf’ means nothing – she’s just fluffy!
Yes, she’s almost twice the size of the other Syrians there…. but…. FLUFFY!

So, a £7 donation and a big bag o’ hamster feed later, she’s in a box, within a box, within a box, within a plastic crate and ready for the 20 minute drive home. Within that length of time, I can hear paws scrabbling on plastic… I drive a little faster.

We’re home and she hasn’t got loose in my car… success! Now to get her into the beautiful habitat that awaits her, complete with spiral tubes and loads of different pods for her to investigate.

This is where we encounter the first significant problem:

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She’s too fucking big.

There’s no way she’s going to stay in this cage overnight. She’s been described as ‘a chewer’ and Hamzilla here is going to have no problems chewing her way out of this house.

So, the whole set up goes into the (empty!) bathtub while I run out for another cage, the rodent equivalent of Alcatraz to keep her safely contained.

I get back home and offer a quick prayer of thanks up to whatever pantheon of gods has my back right now because Betty is still in the tub, set it all up and pop her in.

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She looks a little perplexed but oh. so. cute.

Everything’s fine now…. right?

About 4 hours later, the screaming starts. Not mine, though that’ll come later when she bites into my thumb and various other extremities I carelessly leave anywhere near the outside of her cage.

She opens her jaws as wide as she possibly can, gnaws on the bars of the cage and shrieks as loud as she can for ages. The internet tells me she’s frightened, my heart tell me she’s been possessed by some ancient evil and is now intent on devouring the souls of all that encounter her.

To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure who’s right – her tantrums are fewer and farther between now but she also has a £40 cage, her own room and room service from her terrified acolyte so she doesn’t have much to complain about.

I’m working on taming her by sitting with her and talking to her as much as I can, feeding her fresh vegetables through the bars of her cage and making the odd blood sacrifice when I get too close. All that said, standard cage cleaning protocol requires a pair of fitted garden gloves and some heavy duty work gloves on top…. just in case.

Anyone had any experience working with aggressive hamsters? I know the internet says there’s no such thing as an aggressive hamster, only frightened ones, but when she’s having a tantrum (I’m still trying to figure out what sets her off) she’ll deliberately attack the part of the cage closest to you and growl/shriek. She may be scared, but she definitely responds to fear with aggression!

 


On a serious note – I leave her alone most of the time to settle in to her new surroundings, keep everything nice, calm and quiet for her, never bother her when she’s sleeping and make sure she’s well fed and watered.

I’m sure as crap not putting my hands in with her at the moment, she’s an escape artist and very aggressive. Any tips on how to chill out a hamster?

Review: Pressed to Death (A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery) by Kirsten Weiss

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Published by Midnight Ink

3 stars

Synopsis: 

Perfectly pressed. Perfectly proper. Perfectly deadly. 

Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski thinks she has the perfect paranormal exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But before she can open the exhibit, she’s accused of stealing the antique press. And when her accuser is found murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie.

Solving the crime is the last thing on Maddie’s mind, but her mother insists she investigate. Does her mother have a secret agenda? And why has the local charity, Ladies Aid, seemingly gone gangster?

In this light, cozy mystery, haunted houses, runaway wine barrels, and murder combine in a perfect storm of chaos. Facing down danger and her own over-active imagination, Maddie must unearth the killer before she becomes the next ghost to haunt her museum. 

Release date: 8th March 2017


 

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**Thank you to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

I love me a good cosy mystery!

This story is set in a quaint little town of San Benedetto, California – known for its vinyards, paranormal history and murders. At least two of those things are connected!

Maddie Kosloski runs the paranormal museum in town, which is surprisingly popular. When she buys a haunted grape press from her supplier, it comes as a surprise when only a few days later, she’s finds herself accused of stealing it.

Later that same day, her accuser is found dead at the bottom of a vat of grapes at the annual grape stomping display in the wine festival. True to her inquisitive nature and with the encouragement of the local Ladies Aid group and some of her friends, she sets about investigating the mystery of his death.

Though this mystery was indeed pretty cosy, what with the belligerent cat, good friends who know when to bring pizza over, and a ladies only organisation which has started behaving like the mob – it was a little bit too easy to figure out, which left the last 40% of the book a little extraneous.  I prefer plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing right until the end, as long as they’re explained away properly.

The relationships between Maddie and her mother and boyfriend weren’t entirely satisfying, which made it a little difficult to bond with her fully during her escapades.
The other aspect that confused me a little was the ambiguity about whether or not the paranormal exists or not, I’m more than happy to suspend my disbelief when it comes to the paranormal so feel free to lay it on thick!
All that said, this was a sweet little murder mystery (if there can be such a thing?) which had just the right level of reality and quirk. There were several references to the first book in the series, which makes me wonder if Maddie would have been more relateable as a character if I’d read that book first… I guess there’s only one way to find out!

So  round up your slippers, put the kettle on and enjoy this little nugget of happiness.