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    SERIES REVIEW: The Vampire’s Club Books 6-7 by X. Aratare

    The Vampire’s Club 6 – X. Aratare

    Lucas Daniels knows that witches and vampires are real.

    Lucas has discovered that witch blood flows through his veins and he can perform magic, but it is hardly within his control. And the more he delves into his gifts, the more dangerous they appear.

    Count Konstantin “the Wolf” Volk must keep Lucas’ parentage a secret from the Nomad while searching for a way to free himself and Lucas from Gaia’s plot. But how can he succeed when the Nomad sees and hears all?

    NOTE: THIS NOVELLA SERIES HAS CLIFFHANGERS! EVERY BOOK WILL END ON ONE. THAT’S MY NATURAL WRITING STYLE. IF YOU DO NOT LIKE CLIFFHANGERS, WAIT UNTIL THE WHOLE SERIES IS PUBLISHED TO READ. THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Bloodstream
    Artist: Stateless
    Album: Stateless


    The Vampire’s Club 7 – X. Aratare

    Lucas Daniels is a vampire… and a witch.

    Can he use his newfound powers to help Konstantin “the Wolf” Volk, the dangerous and mysterious Nomad, and the witch, Gaia, to stop the destruction of all vampires by the coven leader Rachel?

    If Lucas does, he’ll have to convince the Nomad that he is not a threat to Konstantin. While Konstantin wants only to protect his very new and special fledgling from the dangers that Lucas wants to help him face.

    The end of The Vampire’s Club Series!


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Sore wa Matta Betsu no Ohanashi
    Artist: Amazarashi
    Album: Yuuhi shinkou higashizumu 


    When it was first released in 2019, I was ridiculously obsessed with The Vampire’s Club. The books had such intense level of USTs and squee-tastic moments I was reduced to incoherent gushing emojis. However, the start of Book 6 wasn’t working for me, so the series was stuck in TBR limbo.

    Recently, I had a sudden urge for vampire romance and decided to pick up where I left off. This time, Book 6 had me completely engaged.

    Admittedly, the emotional distance created by time reduced the impact the books had on me. I wasn’t a gushy stan anymore. I was more aware of how cringey some of the scenes were. Cringey like having Lucas’s mother speaking inside Konstantine’s head while the boys were having sex.

    Having read the author’s other works, The Fall and The Bodyguard, I’ve recognized certain themes and tropes they like to employ. The stories are dark and sensual, conjuring images of luxurious, dimly lit rooms heavy with musk.

    The stories feature relationships that are vaguely incestuous involving father figures. For instance, here we have Lucas’s stepdad attempting to molest him. The vampires use terms such as Childe, Sire, and Grandpere when referring to their creators and fledglings who are usually also their lovers.

    The heroes tend to be barely legal, naive, or innocent young men paired with a much older, worldly love interest. The series underscores that by having centuries-old Konstantine fondly calling college-age Lucas “nevinovnyy”, the Russian word for innocent.

    By Book 6, Lucas is not so innocent anymore, fully aware of what he can do, who his real mother is and what Konstantine is. Meanwhile, Konstantine agonizes over the fact that Lucas is the key to lifting his curse, but then his boy would have to pay the prize should the vampire turn him to save himself. The witches are also making their power move to destroy the vampires.

    Where the first five books were merely dark and gothic, Books 6 and 7 nearly crossed over to horror because now there’s blood, gore, rape and torture (the latter two were off page). Lucas unleashed was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before, a powerful killing machine who can go toe to toe with eldritch monsters from other worlds. And our boy hasn’t even showed 100% of his powers yet!

    Konstantine unlocks magical abilities like his Sire, The Nomad, is known for. Then realizes The Nomad’s secret identity. This part I cheered the most because Konstantine was abandoned by his Sire for centuries. Little did he know, The Nomad had always watched over him. The little tidbit I found really endearing was The Nomad was secretly Club Dyavol’s first customer!

    Much of the series was spent building tension, both the sexual and the deadly kind, so the big showdown when it exploded sent shockwaves that swept everyone. The fight scenes were thrilling and spectacularly gruesome!

    Some of the casualties were especially tragic, like Lucas’s foster mom. This part could have been written differently, less tragically, but I guess it was the way it was to completely cut off Lucas’s ties to the mundane world.

    Another gripe is that there were too much dialogue on what should have been a time for action. It happened when Lucas and his real mother teamed up. They received texts that Konstantine and The Nomad were in grave danger and needed to be rescued ASAP. Mother and son then proceeded to have pages of dialogue, all the while mentioning the urgency of the situation. It was like those scenes where a character is dying, but still managed to have a lengthy monologue. Meh!

    The Vampire’s Club 6 and 7 wasn’t quite what the first books were, but this finale pulled out all the stops! Lucas reclaimed his heritage and became so much more than anyone could have predicted. Konstantine reclaimed his Sire and his best friend, his beloved nevinovnyy, and his home Club Dyavol. A fairy tale ending for the vampire romance of my dreams!

    Overall, The Vampire’s Club is a heady mix of fluff and steam, dark and sweet. It’s pure escapism, seductive, enthralling, dangerous. Yes, exactly like our favorite undead creature.

    P.S.

    The Vampire’s Club is a serial. The books are meant to be read in order because seriously, that dream sequence and the elevator scene are two of the most unforgettable scenes of my entire reading life!

    Incoherent squees a.k.a. reviews:
    The Vampire’s Club
    The Vampire’s Club 2 
    The Vampire’s Club 3
    The Vampire’s Club 4
    The Vampire’s Club 5


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    The Vampire’s ClubUS

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    SERIES REVIEW: Secrets and Scrabble Books 3-5 by Josh Lanyon

    Secrets and Scrabble: Mystery at the Masquerade – Josh Lanyon

    Love is in the Salt Sea Air–and So is Murder!

    Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, the Crow’s Nest, is both flattered and bemused when he’s invited to the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, the best and biggest social event of the season in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove, Rhode Island. The event is hosted by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley—a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood.

    Ellery doesn’t even know Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley—nor, it turns out—does Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley know him. But Marguerite’s son, Julian wants to know Ellery. Julian, handsome, rich and engaging, is a huge mystery buff. In fact, he’s bought quite a few books at the Crow’s Nest bookstore, but never quite worked up the nerve to ask Ellery out.

    As his relationship with Police Chief Carson seems to be dead in the water, Ellery is grateful for a little flattering attention from the village’s most eligible bachelor, but any hopes of romance hit the shoals when Julian is accused of murdering his mother’s unlikable second husband during the Masquerade’s annual ghost hunt in the family’s spooky cemetery


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Only for You
    Artist: Heartless Bastards
    Album: Arrow


    Secrets and Scrabble: Scandal at the Salty Dog – Josh Lanyon

    Mystery Stalks the Cobbled Streets of Pirate’s Cove

    Who or what is haunting elderly recluse Juliet Blackwell, what does it have to do with mysterious goings-on at the Salty Dog Pub–and why is any of it mystery bookshop owner Ellery Page’s problem? According to sometimes boyfriend Police Chief Jack Carson, it’s not Ellery’s problem, and Ellery should stop asking awkward questions before it’s too late.

    Ellery couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to say no when someone is as frightened as old Mrs. Blackwell. Mrs. Blackwell insists the ghost of long dead pirate Rufus Blackwell has come to avenge himself on the last member of his treacherous clan.

    Before Ellery can say, “Yikes!” Mrs. Blackwell takes a tumble down the grand staircase of her spooky mansion, and it’s up to Ellery to find who is trying to kill his eccentric customer.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Now That I’ve Found You
    Artist: Liam Gallagher
    Album: Why Me? Why Not.


    Secrets and Scrabble: Body at Buccaneer’s Bay – Josh Lanyon

    Dead Men Tell No Tales

    Mystery Bookshop owner Ellery Page and Police Chief Jack Carson are diving for the legendary sunken pirate galleon Blood Red Rose when they discover an old fashioned diver’s suit, water-damaged and encrusted with barnacles. Further examination reveals the 19th Century suit contains a 21st Century body.

    Who is the mysterious diver? No one seems to be missing from the quaint and cozy town of Pirate’s Cove. Was he really diving for pirate’s gold? And if not, what exactly did he do to earn that bullet hole in his skull?


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Every Side of You
    Artist: Vance Joy
    Album: In Our Own Sweet Time


    Secrets and Scrabble is a cozy mystery that is as adorable as advertised. The first two books, Murder at Pirate’s Cove and Secret At Skull House, I was admittedly not that into the series just yet since the first 2 cases were similar. Our hero Ellery Page was accused of murder twice.

    The third time’s the charm because Book 3, Mystery at the Masquerade, I was all in! Here, reluctant amateur sleuth Ellery was asked to prove his masquerade ball date’s innocence. This had him crossing paths with the one-time date and more-than-friend friend, Police Chief Jack Carson.

    Each mystery put one of Buck Island’s founding families under scrutiny and took Ellery to midnight forays in centuries old crypts, tunnels, and old houses. I totally love the setting! Buck Island was founded by pirates who built grand houses, and secret tunnels. It’s a great place to explore.

    To live in? I’m not sure. The series is chockful of very spry, very gossipy septuagenarians, and as per Ellery, it’s a fishbowl. Nosy as they are, the supporting cast is very entertaining. At this point, the initially maligned Ellery, a transplant from New York but a descendant of the founding father, Horatio Page, is now a respected member of the community.

    The next two books, Scandal at the Salty Dog and Body in Buccaneer’s Bay, Ellery is roped in to investigate since he now has the reputation as an amateur sleuth. To me, the hallmarks of a great mystery novel is how much I enjoy tagging along with the detective, regardless of whether or not I care about catching the culprit. And Secrets and Scrabble made it so much fun to tag along with Ellery and experience Pirate Cove through his eyes.

    Ellery is a fantastic MC for a cozy! Lovable, kind-hearted, loyal, and always willing to lend a hand even if greatly inconvenienced. Not overly quirky or introverted, abysmally bad actor, okay playwright, a struggling bookstore owner, and a devoted human to Watson, the black mixed-breed puppy. (I audiobooked this and narrator Matt Haynes’s Watson barks are ridiculously adorbs!)

    He went through the trademark Josh Lanyon hot/cold treatment in love interest Jack. The whys of this were later revealed in the last part of Book 3 through Jack’s impassioned speech about his tragic past. The chief is one the best cop boyfriends in the author’s roster of gruff cop boyfriends because he’s not an asshole like the others. The romance might be low-key but certainly very cute!

    Secrets and Scrabble is a pirate-flavored cozy mystery series that continues to charm me with intriguing cases, quirky characters, lovable MCs and an island full of secrets and hidden treasures yet to be discovered. With a delightful slow-burn romance as the cherry on top, I’m completely onboard for the rest of the journey!

    P.S.

    Secrets and Scrabble should be read in order. Witness a pirate cosplay murder in Murder at Pirate’s Cove. Find out how Ellery fared as a suspect in yet another murder in Secret At Skull House.


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    MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE
    SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG
    BODY AT BUCCANEER”S BAY

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    REVIEW: Why the Devil Stalks Death by L.J. Hayward

    Death and the Devil: Why the Devil Stalks Death – L.J. Hayward

    Jack Reardon uncovers secrets for a living, and the Meta-State spy is pretty good at it. Or rather he thought so until he met Ethan Blade—assassin, warrior, enigma. The unlikely pair have decided to give living together a shot, but Jack’s not entirely certain what he’s gotten himself into—or exactly who he’s in it with.

    Jack’s worries are compounded when he’s assigned to a police strike force hunting a serial killer. With each new puzzle piece, Jack considers the true nature of a serial killer—and how similar it is to an assassin. To one particular assassin who’s having trouble adjusting to retirement. Jack’s unsure how to help Ethan—or if he even can.

    When the killer strikes close to home, Jack must race against the clock to stop another murder, despite the price someone has put on his head. Could the matters be connected? Is a certain assassin at the centre of both? Surrounded by killers, the only one Jack wants near disappears, leaving Jack drowning in secrets. He’ll have to do what he does best—unravel the secrets, including Ethan’s—to stop the killer and save the life he and Ethan have only just begun to build.

    **Content Warning**
    Child abuse and child sexual abuse in a character’s history and not depicted directly on the page.


    Back in 2018, the Death and the Devil series exploded in the MM romance scene in the most epic way, bringing us one of the most beloved characters of the genre. The cinnamon roll assassin, Ethan Blade.

    I love his character so much. I vowed to name my firstborn after him. I even got goosebumps just anticipating the next installments’ releases. I also promised myself to patiently wait for the audiobooks no matter how long it took just for the sheer pleasure of hearing his character speak.

    And here we are, finally, with the complete audiobooks!!!

    With a magnificent opener in Where Death Meets the Devil, my expectations of Why the Devil Stalks Death were sky-high, so the last thing I expected was to be…bored. Because it pains me greatly to admit it wasn’t the riveting one-sitter I wanted it to be.

    This is because of how the story was written. In keeping with the 1st book’s style, the chapters alternated between past and present events, labeled “Before” and “After”. It made things pretty convoluted instead of suspenseful. The serial killer plot is better served by linear storytelling, which should trim down some of the more drawn-out drama.

    But our boys are still their gloriously flawed selves, navigating a fragile relationship built on a connection that managed to be both tenuous and deep. Jack, from whom most of the story is told so far, is human enough to be affected by an ex-hookup-turned-co-worker’s incessant flirting but remains staunchly loyal to a difficult and all-too-frequently absent boyfriend.

    Just like in the first book, Ethan comes and goes. His appearances are marked by mysterious bruises he refuses to tell Jack where he got them. The man has always been an enigma to all. Most of the things Jack, and us readers, know about the assassin are gathered from meager crumbs thrown our way. So I’m thrilled to see major reveals on his past here. I’m also sad, but not surprised, to learn it involved child abuse and bullying.

    Ethan’s character development comes from his involvement with Jack. While I speak of Jack being human as him being vulnerable and hurting (being an ass, really), cold and deadly Ethan being human is him being this completely endearing child-like creature who adores animals, reads action thrillers, wears socks to bed, names his cars after women and goes to zen mode when driving at ridiculously fast speeds. Ethan being human is a bomb detonating inside Jack’s chest. I was blown into smithereens right there with him!

    Why the Devil Stalks Death brought Jack and Ethan closer in more ways than one in a complicated web of secrets, sex, serial murders, espionage and siblings. The storytelling might be confusing but the book packed enough intrigue, sizzle, and danger to carry me over this hurdle into that spectacular third arc! It’s all bullets, knives, car stunts, edge-of-your seat assassin vs. assassin action in a fucked up family reunion of killers. I live for every death-defying moment of it!

    And our boys are at a happier place. For now. We’ll see what havoc the 3rd book brings. And I stand by this, Death and the Devil is the next mega-blockbuster action franchise, if only Hollywood has the balls to bring it to screen!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Chaos
    Artist: Mutemath
    Album: Mutemath

    P.S.

    Death and the Devil should be read in order. Find out why I love Ethan Blade so much I’ll name my progeny after him in Book 1, Where Death Meets the Devil. Gushy review here.



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    Death and the DevilUS | UK

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperbacks and MP3 CD audiobooks and help support independent bookstores.

    WHERE DEATH MEETS THE DEVIL
    WHY THE DEVIL STALKS DEATH
    WHEN DEATH FREES THE DEVIL
    NOVELLAS

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