Book Reviews Reviews and Recommendations

Review Roundup – March 22nd to April 11th, 2021

I been doing thangs, and reading stuff.

Not that it matters, but the reason that I haven’t done one of these in almost three weeks is that I’ve had to do full-on reviews for a couple of books and I don’t like to start anything new until I have all of my thoughts down. So if two or three reviews look familiar, it’s because GoodReads always gets a slightly shortened version of my longer reviews.

A Coven of Her Own by Saskia Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In A Cover of Her Own, Sunny Chambers moves to her grandmother’s house in Cornwall and begins having dreams of a mystery man. But when Cullen Thaine turns out to be real, Sunny is faced with a new way of living and a love worth fighting for.

I honestly didn’t like A Coven of Her Own, but I can’t say that other people wouldn’t. I like hot and steamy sex scenes as much as the next girl, but it really came off as sex magic during the first half, and then I just got annoyed with everyone involved in the second half. It just didn’t pay off the way that I thought that it should have.

The writing was fine, but I don’t like that Sunny’s Moroccan heritage was made a plot point, but it really doesn’t go anywhere. It’s suspected that her maternal grandfather might have had powers, but nobody can really answer that because he abandoned his family when Sunny’s mom was twelve. That should have been the end of it, but Sunny decides to use it as a fakeout later. On the other hand, Sunny’s paternal grandmother’s powers should have been enough, but we really only hear about her as part of the setting. Even when her ghost comes to visit, Grandma Chambers doesn’t feel like a real person.

Sunny’s mentor having had a previous relationship with the villain never stops feeling suspect, even when we know she won’t betray the group. I’m not sure if Walker ever delves into their relationship in other books, but it just feels weirdly incomplete here. There’s also the issue of Sunny’s grandmother and the aforementioned mentor basically telling Sunny to use her womanly wiles to throw the villain off his game in order to defeat him. It just doesn’t sit well with me when Sunny spends a good portion of the book arguing with Cullen about how she can handle herself and women in this century can fight their own battles.

I understand how all of that was supposed to come off, but what ends up happening is me wanting Cullen to tell Sunny that he could go back to his time if that’s what she was going to do.

Speaking of Cullen, he seems to be pretty ill-used. He gets caught up in a scheme of his so-called friend – for reasons that are never fully explained – and now he’s stuck in a time where he’s basically a houseboy. Even his big reveal is useless. Cullen’s frustration at not at least being able to deal with the villain for Sunny is very understandable, but the ending makes it seem as though Cullen is supposed to have his own adventure at some point.

I have to give A Coven of Her Own it’s good writing and great setting, but it’s definitely not a standalone. There’s no real problem with this novel in and of itself, it just doesn’t work for me. I can’t see myself reading any more of Walker’s novels, but if she does get around to giving Cullen his own book I would definitely give it a chance.

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Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Dread Nation, Jane McKeane’s life is full of combat training and mischief thanks to her connection with Red Jack. But when Jane, Red Jack, and Jane’s schoolmate, Kate Devereaux, find themselves in a town out west, surrounded by zombies and Survivalist racists, Jane has to put all of her training to good use in order to get out.

To be quite honest, I don’t have any major complaints about this book, but there are some things that I would like to talk about. The main villain is given a backstory about how he watched his wife be eaten by zombies, and this is what drives him to be so particular about living in a world without them. Jane wonders if he hadn’t fed his wife to the zombies himself, and I thought that would have been an interesting way to go considering that we find out that people who question things tend to disappear and then reappear as zombies.

We are introduced to a ton of characters that seem interesting, but we don’t really get into them. I don’t know if Ireland always intended for this to become a series, but just remembering those characters makes me want to read the sequel just to see if they’ll return. To me it felt like a Checkhov’s gun situation: why tell me about these characters if you don’t intend to use them. Kate’s backstory is not as fully fleshed out as I need it to be, but the decision to give Jane’s mother a second husband and not name him really has me curious.

Ultimately, I look forward to continuing with this series. I recommend this one to the horror fans, the antebellum fans, the alternate history fans, and people who just like a good adventure. The racism is very in your face, but not nearly as vile as it could have been, so it’s as light a read as you can get, all things considered. Still, I found this very enjoyable, and I think that a lot of others would as well.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Manson had a lot of good points about how we worry about the wrong things, and we shouldn’t measure our lives by the success of others. I don’t think that this book says anything profound, but my oldest sibling recommended it so I gave it a try.

It was okay. I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, and my mind just wasn’t there to absorb it through Audible like I usually do, but I thought it did what it served it’s purpose.

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Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Deathless Divide, we found our heroes fleeing one overrun town after another. The new world is never quite what it talks itself up to be, and now Jane and Kate must make their way through a number of hard truths before they can find peace in Haven, California.

Deathless Divide had a number of things to say without completely closing the door to a sequel. We take a deep dive into Jackson’s personal life, Jane’s terrible history with romance, and Katherine’s experience with race and passing. It is a relatively satisfying end to what has been a very exciting alternate history (with zombies) experience.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this sequel. Jane and Kate were great, Red Jack was great, and even the excerpts at the beginning of each chapter were great. I think that my biggest complaint was how much extra story we didn’t get.

However, I’ll stand by my five-star rating, and I’ll be quick to recommend this to the same people I recommended the first to, as well as: asexuals because they rarely get love.

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Dark Ruler by Xavier Neal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty Good

Benicio Bennett was prepared to live the life expected of him until Chantal Brooks barged into his life. Chantal just wants to do the right thing and leave. Somehow they manage to build a life together.

It should be noted that this is a BDSM book, because I was pretty surprised when it came up. That being said, it was good fun and a great story. I liked the way the characters developed and the way the story flowed, though I felt we were too much in the characters heads at times.

I originally wasn’t going to read the second book, but that cliff hanger was pretty great. I hope the second book will be better.

I think the action and suspense makes separates this book from the others, but I’d still recommend it to the Dark Romance/Mafia Bae crew. Instalove girls will definitely be about it as well.

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Dark Reign by Xavier Neal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Good End

Benicio Bennett’s fiancée has been kidnapped, and he will tear the world apart to find her. But when Chantal Brooks is finally returned, will the two of them be able to go back to how things were, or will they have to start anew?

All things considered, I thought this was a good end to the story started in the first book. I’m still not a fan of the sex, but it’s my fault for getting involved in a book that I didn’t realize the full scope of.

Xavier Neal’s fictional universe seems to be filled with all types of stories, but I feel like reading the Synful Syndicate’s book after this one is unnecessary. I’m not invested enough in Miko and Shay to read about the journey when I already know the outcome. Someone else will probably love it though.

Just like the first, I’d recommend this for the BDSM and Dark Romance fans. It has a great plot, but those sex scenes are really only good for people who would actually enjoy them.

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Three for the Road: Stories from the World of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not Quite What I Expected

In Three For The Road, we get three stories from characters that appear in Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation and Deathless Divide that are about moments that basically changed their lives. Louisa’s life dramatically changes when she gets an Attendant, Katherine’s dash for freedom leads her to the Leveaus, and Sue has to take the lead when Miss Preston’s falls to shamblers.

While I really appreciate the insight into Katherine’s life, I really thought that we’d get the Fort Riley story, or even some the info about Red Jack’s wife and child. I almost didn’t recognize Louisa as a character until Juliet came into the picture.

To be quite honest, these short stories don’t go deep enough. We don’t actually get any part of Kate’s time with the Leveaus, and we sure don’t get Sue journey from Baltimore to being reunited with Jane. Lord knows what all happened to Loisa on the way to California.

Still, I thought the writing was good and I really appreciated learning more about Kate and Big Sue. However, now I just want to read more. Ireland’s characters are just too interesting.

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Keep by Kaye Blue

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Vasile Petran did not intend to start a war over a woman, but Fawn Michelle struck something inside of him that made him want to take her home. But is it enough for him to keep her?

I got this book because one of my favorite authors did a mafia showcase month, and Kaye Blue happened to be one of the highlights. This first book isn’t much of a standout, but it’s also not terrible.

I think the Petrans are a very run-of-the-mill mob family, and part of me appreciates the regularness of this rather irregular situation. Fawn isn’t the most inspiring of heroines, but I can’t fault her for making the best out of a situation that is miles better than where we meet her.

All in all, if you like black girls with mob baes, then this is a quick read that won’t disappoint you.

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