The Vampire Games

Author: Stephanie Archer

Genre: Fantasy

Date of Publication: 3rd January 2016

Rating: 3/5

**Netgalley Review**

This was a really quick, fun read overall. I think that Stephanie Archer picked the perfect length to write the story she tells here. Characters aren’t very rounded, due in part to time constraints but also a lack of interaction between characters (left by the wayside to forward the plot). However that didn’t overly effect my overall enjoyment of the read. I don’t think Bianka is a great heroine, nor do I think Phillip is a very interesting romantic lead. Marc isn’t, in my opinion, worth the ink he’s written in. But the story was intriguing enough that I kept on reading until the last page. If you have an evening to spare and want something quick and fun with a fantasy twist – this is it.

A Thousand Nights

Author: E.K Johnston

Date of Publication: 6th October 2015

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

I think there are a lot of things to love about A Thousand Nights. I was first convinced to read it by Emily May’s review, which you can find here – the main draw for me being the fact that she observed that no female character in this book bears a name. Our main antagonist, Lo-Melkhiin, has a name. A wise, almost fatherly scholar, Sokath, His Eyes Uncovered, has a name. A troubled solider turned stone carver, Firh Stonetouched, has a name (albeit one he did not seem to choose for himself, or bear with any form of pride). However the POV female protagonist, her sister, her mother, her sister’s mother, her serving girl, her Henna mistress…they are known by their place in the world of the people around them, rather than by names of their own.

This is an incredibly ambitious move from E.K Johnston. Anyone who has ever read anything between a short story and a full series of thousand page plus novels will know that names are important – and hard to avoid. To write three hundred plus pages without giving a single female character a name, and to do it so well, made me feel even more invested in this book. Because its commitment to helping to reader see the low standing of women in this time, and in this world, went beyond actions and went straight through to the very fabric of the language holding the work together. Despite this being a story of women oppressed by men, it also said a lot about the quiet strength of the women of the time – and of now – which is often overlooked.

The storytelling was told from the point of a young girl with an old soul. She tells her tale in a beautifully lyrical way and it is the perfect balance to the atrocity of what is happening around her. Lo-Melkhiin is balanced – he is almost always the viper and never the man, yet this feels right as opposed to overly villainous. Supporting characters, whether they be named or not, add to the story as opposed to padding it out. But most of all I loved the descriptive – the clothes, the desert, the stars…they’re all characters as much as the people in our protagonist’s life and their roles are beautifully interwoven to creative depth to the world we are exploring.

I would highly recommend this – a gentle retelling dealing with incredibly ungentle themes.

Receiver of Many

Author: Rachel Alexander

Genre: Fantasy

Date of Publication: 23rd September 2015

Rating: 4/5 

I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology. Receiver of Many brings the mythology to the pages in a very accessible, readable way. The romance is a gateway but this book is about much more than just romance. It boasts a strong cast of supporting characters (both likable and not) as well as a fascinating world to delve into.

The two main characters, Persephone and Hades, are a great couple. Whilst I felt that I would like a little more fleshing out of Hades character (at times he felt like a sex-bot rather than a real boy – more on that later on) I liked Persephone’s journey from innocent girlhood into strong womanhood. Perhaps the depth of her experiences could have been more fully realized – but there’s a sequel coming which I’m sure will assuage any niggling doubts I have on that front.

This is an erotic novel so it would be silly talking about the main protagonists without mentioning the sex. I think Rachel Alexander writes love scenes beautifully. She is very good at getting all the necessary elements, without making me feel like she’s trying too hard. There’s love, lust, passion and tenderness…all of these qualities which are usually either or blend together nicely to create a fiery and yet character building whole. The only gripe I had was that there were perhaps a few too many of them…I think four or five really well placed love scenes would have had more impact than the plethora that ended up making into the book.

Supporting cast are interesting and diverse. I thought Demeter was a really interesting antagonist, and Alexander doesn’t shy away from humanizing the Goddess – even as Demeter time and again attempts to stand in the path of Persephone and Hades’ happiness. I would have like more action from her perhaps – she does a lot of crying and withholding but her doing only really starts to be hinted at towards the end of the book. Her love interest felt a little wishy-washy but I’d be on board for more development in the sequel.

Other characters that intrigued me included Merope, Thanatos and Hecate. I wouldn’t have minded if Alexander had traded one or two of those love scenes for some more interesting exploration of the characters mentioned above. I also think they could be pretty interesting plot elements – especially with upcoming events from Merope’s past coming into play, it seems, in the sequel.

Final piece of sequel bait – Kronos – has me very intrigued.

I’ll definitely be back for Destroyer of Light – Receiver of Many was an intelligent, fascinating book with some really hot, really romantic sex. What more can a girl ask for?

The Syndicate

Author: Sophie Davis

Genre: Sci Fi

Date of Publication: 1st March 2016

Rating: 4/5 

****Netgalley Review***

I feel like there is a really big gap in YA for well written, fun Sci Fi with an interesting concept. The Syndicate definitely goes some way towards filling this void for me.

Firstly, the characters are immensely fun. Stassi is passionate, smart, quick witted but also very human. Her reactions aren’t always perfect but they’re very relatable. She makes a great double act with her Partner, Gaige (who is the atypical smart ass Casanova with a heart of gold). I would like there to be more characterization of Molly in further books – for a best friend and cornerstone of Stassi’s life she featured surprisingly little. As for Charles DuPree…he was a perfect addition to the gang, with his 1920’s manners and interactions providing great balance to the modern perspectives of the rest. His romance with Stassi lent The Syndicate some really nice lightness and was handled in a really sweet way.

I also really enjoyed the building of the Father / Daughter relationship with Stassi and Cyrus. I thought it was a really sweet way to flesh Cyrus out. A boss who is very business minded and keeps a stern eye on the rules could be problematic, but here he is nicely softened by his relationship with Stassi. Both Cyrus and The Syndicate itself are things which I would love to hear more about in future installments – their pasts could be fascinating mysteries to be solved!

The plot was a lot of fun, and understandably there’s a lot left open to interpretation due to the fact that sequels are planned. However a small criticism would be that at times I felt there might just be a little too much going on….with the Blues Canyon story line, the serial killer on the loose, the missing Runner and then Stassi’s locket on top…it all felt very busy at times. That’s not including all the relationships being built up in the background of it all! I could have done with less locket and more serial killer – but perhaps that’s my morbid side speaking! Perhaps in future books the time travel aspect can be showcased more effectively by slim-lining plot points – it made the ending start to feel a little rushed as the writers battled to wrap up what was required whilst teasing what was to come.

This ties in with the villain of the piece, who was a massive let down and is why The Syndicate is rated four stars instead of five. Whilst our heroes were fun and engaging, the villain felt a bit uninspired – there was too much going on for them to be more than a very faint shadow, as opposed to a looming specter of doom. The build up to their identity’s reveal is lackluster, and I felt like many opportunities to create a really interesting plot twist were completely overlooked in favor of something which ultimately felt very bland.

However that is a small niggle amidst a great deal of great. Overall this is a really fun, imaginative read that’s been left on an intriguing cliffhanger- I’ll definitely be tuning in for the sequel!