Review: Sworn to the Shadow God

Book CoverSworn to the Shadow God by Ruby Dixon
My Rating: 4-Stars
Genre: Epic Fantasy Romance
Release Date: February 14, 2020
Formats: eBook, Paperback

The Anticipation has arrived.

It’s been hundreds of years since the last, and now believed to be myth. But as the Twelve—gods cast out of their realms by the High Father as punishment for their sins—appear in Aos, its people are overwhelmed by the presence of their gods. Each god, split into the Aspects of four personalities: Apathy, Arrogance, Hedonism, and Lies. Each Aspect, burdened with a mortal anchor, a person intended to improve those undesirable facets, to purge it from their very essence, before the god can ascend again to their realm.

Rhagos the Undying, Lord of the Dead, has returned to his place in the Underworld. He discovered that this time, the High Father decreed that one anchor will remain with each god until the next Anticipation. The god known as Death is displeased with the sniveling fool anchored to him—and he’ll do anything to get what he really wants.

An illicit bargain with the Fates returns Rhagos to the beginning of the recent Anticipation. Death is not above cheating, after all.

Maxine (Max) Chavez, a corporate assistant and gamer from Earth, stumbles upon a portal to Aos. What at first seems like an adventure turns into a waking nightmare as Max finds that in order to return home, she must be anchored to Death. She must survive attempts on her own life to help Rhagos overcome his other three Aspects by slaying their anchors.

And when they’re the last ones standing? Max must convince Rhagos to return her to Earth.

Sworn to the Shadow God is Ruby Dixon’s second entry in her Aspect and Anchor epic fantasy romance series. Reading the first book isn’t necessary (though I recommend it as well), as this book does a great job in introducing the reader to the strange circumstances of the Anticipation. Shadow God clocks in around 645 pages, which fly by as you’re transported to the eclectic world of Aos.

On the surface, Max is a naive and at-times annoying character, simply because you, as the reader, catch onto things that she misses until much later in the book. Most of her growth happens in the various ways she causes Rhagos to change and become a better god. Rhagos starts out as a selfish prick in the prologue, and while he’s still imperfect by the end, Max’s influence is seen through his awareness of how he can make a difference to the souls living in the Underworld. It’s an exciting journey to watch the pair overcome the many obstacles thrown against them, from hostile humans to angry magicians to poop ropes to the tattoos scrawled across Rhagos’s back and arms. (Yes, poop ropes. I highly suggest reading the author’s note at the end. It’s hilarious.)

Even Death gets lonely sometimes. Do him a favor and read his story.

Sworn to the Shadow God is available now in eBook and paperback formats. Both books in the Aspect and Anchor series are available for Kindle Unlimited subscribers as well.

 

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Series Review: Hell Squad

Book CoverHell Squad by Anna Hackett
My Rating: 4-Stars
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Series Size: 20 books (#20 coming June 2020)
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Who knew that the apocalypse could be so sexy?

Aliens have come to Earth—and not in peace. Millions of humans died in the first few waves of attacks. Hidden deep in Australia’s fictional Blue Mountain Base, squads of fighters band together in the struggle for humanity.

Australian author Anna Hackett integrates elements of science fiction and action into all of her romance novels. Over the past five years, her “Hell Squad” series has followed a rotating cast of characters as they battle against the aliens—called the Gizzida—while discovering that even at the end of the world, there’s always someone to live for.

Yes, this means that in-between scenes of reconnaissance missions, firefights, helicopter chases, and more, these characters find time to fall in love. It’s a nice balance of intense action in the Gizzida-laden world above and intense passion in the beds (and showers, and gardens, and desks… etc) in the human’s hidden base below.

The series gets its name from Squad Six, known as the Hell Squad. Considered to be the toughest fighters in Blue Mountain Base, the Hell Squad is filled with former military who aren’t shy when it comes to kicking some Gizzida ass. This alien race is likened to “raptors” in the early books, and much of their demented creations, from space ships to mutated beasts, are dinosaur-like in appearance as well. Appearances can be misleading—and with the Gizzida, cunning and extreme intelligence lurks behind those red eyes.

Hell-Squad-Book-Covers

Each book follows one pair of characters who must best the aliens to accomplish the current mission, whether it be gathering vital information, stopping the Gizzida from their perverse experimentations, or sabotaging the aliens. As the series progresses, other squads such as Squad Nine (which is full of kickass women) and Squad Three (known as the berserker squad, filled with daredevil men of dubious backgrounds) are featured, with the various squads swooping in to lend support on the field.

The ultimate goal is to reclaim Earth for humanity, but an overarching storyline laced throughout “Hell Squad” reveals that the Gizzida has plans to eradicate all human life. Hackett’s series is now 19 books long—the most recent, Survivors, was released on Feb. 11. The situation has hit a crisis point for these survivors, and the outlook is grim. “Hell Squad” will wrap up when the squads (presumably) rid the Earth of alien scum in the final series book, Tane, which is scheduled for a June 2 release.

Hell Squad books 1-19 are available now in eBook and paperback formats. The first book in the series, Marcus, is free in eBook format, and the entire series is available for Kindle Unlimited subscribers as well.

This review originally appeared in the Feb. 21, 2020 issue of White Pine Press.

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Review: The Spitfire

Book CoverThe Spitfire by Christi Caldwell
My Rating: 4-5 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Formats: Kindle Unlimited, eBook, Paperback

The Spitfire is book #5 in the Wicked Wallflowers series. Even though it’s a departure from the Killoran family featured in the first four books, and wasn’t in Caldwell’s original plans for the series, this is the best book of the five.

Clara Winters has left behind the life as a courtesan and madam to become a self-made woman by opening a respectable music hall to be enjoyed by the masses. Henry March is an earl living a tightly-ordered life, obsessed with creating law and order across London. A late-night attack in Clara’s neighborhood leaves Henry nearly dead and Clara as his rescuer and nurse. Despite the provoking thoughts and interesting banter the two have, can their new-found friendship survive Henry’s return to politics?

This story didn’t have an insta-love situation and instead, Clara and Henry grow to know and love each other over many weeks. Both characters changed a lot from their involvement in each other’s lives. Clara grew beyond the shell of a woman who was burdened by her past and Henry emerged as a person who learned to love and appreciate who was around him, not just what he could accomplish.

The plot was engaging and moved quickly. Neither Clara nor Henry are perfect, and their flaws play well into the story. The first chapter kicks off so unconventionally that you can’t help but be hooked.

Henry’s sister, Lila, was a great supporting character in this story. She has her own demons and they won’t be easy to conquer. I’m hoping that she gets her own book someday, as her story is bound to be compelling.

This book was nearly a five-star review from me, which is rare. The reason it lost half a star is a sad but increasingly recent trend in historical romances: there is no epilogue. The final chapter did bring the main plot to a satisfying conclusion. But I want a look at the ever after part of happily ever after. I’m left wondering too much⁠—will they actually get married, will society cause problems, will they ever have children, and much more. Does all of that need answered? No. But without any of it, this story ends with a happily for now.

The Spitfire will release on September 17, 2019.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Review: Forbidden Angel

Book CoverForbidden Angel by Sandra Lee Rice
My Rating: 2-Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: out now
Formats: Kindle Unlimited, eBook ($3), Paperback ($8)

Normally I wouldn’t review such a poorly written book that I randomly picked up on Kindle Unlimited, but I was floored that there is a  plethora of strong reviews for this book on Goodreads. The premise sounds good, but the writing technique was poor. The book had several problems:

  • Absolutely no white space/scene break between scenes. Characters would seemingly do the equivalent of teleporting or time traveling (for example: in one scene the two main characters are down by the barn, and suddenly in the next paragraph the male lead is looking out his study window). This was jarring and confusing.
  • Almost-but-not-quite-fully-omniscient point of view. I normally don’t like full omniscience, but I think I would have in this book had it not been for the previous problem of zero scene breaks.
  • Too much side story and too many characters. This book needs an editor to go through and kill those darlings (sorry, Penelope and Michael, and solicitor who likes honey).
  • The villain was too adept at his villainy ways while at the same time being absolutely terrible at it. He’s constantly drunk, and reportedly poor, but somehow can afford to follow people all over the place and find time to stay upright while doing so?
  • The main plot dragged on for so. freaking. long. Again, kill those darlings. This dragged because: 1) too much subplot/too many characters; 2) too much drama with the villain without any actual action taken on it; 3) unnecessary detail; and 4) the “Who is Angelique… really?!?!” subplot.

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Review: Emerald

EmeraldEmerald by Elle Casey
My Rating: 2-Stars
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: available now
Formats: Kindle Unlimited, eBook ($4), Paperback ($10)

Emerald Collins is a small-town, hippie-esque girl from a community farm, where she lives with her three “moms” and one of her sisters, Rose. Her other sister, Amber, left for NYC and invites Emerald to come visit. On day one of the visit, Sam Stanz—the brother of Amber’s boyfriend, Ty—shows up unannounced, and Amber is pulled away from NYC on business, leaving Emerald and Sam alone.

Along with all that, there’s a ridiculous amount of exposition you need to suffer through at the onset, peppered with Emerald’s childish language and obnoxious musings.

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