REVIEW #79 | A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson (eARC)

Review: "A Dowry of Blood" by S.T. Gibson
Review: “A Dowry of Blood” by S.T. Gibson
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
A Dowry of Blood – S.T. Gibson

Title: A Dowry of Blood

Author: S.T. Gibson

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: 31 January 2021

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • fantasy/supernatural violence
  • blood
  • gore
  • incest (mention)
  • emotional and psychological abuse
  • physical abuse (minor)
  • character death
  • self-harm
  • depressive symptoms

Representation:

  • bisexual MCs
  • m/f/f/m relationship (but let’s be real…the f/f/m relationship is better)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

This is my second gothic horror novel — and my first S.T. Gibson book — and let me tell you, it won’t be my last for either of those things!

A Dowry of Blood follows a young woman renamed Constanta, who is turned into a vampire by an unnamed man (but who the reader understands to be Dracula), throughout centuries as she lives and travels with said sire. The story is told as a series of letters/diary entries written by Constanta to the lord who created her after the events have occurred.

So I’ve never read a Dracula re-telling (or anything related to Dracula, tbh), mostly because I wasn’t a huge fan of Dracula when I first read it. However, when I saw that A Dowry of Blood was a polyam book centered around the vampire partners of Dracula, I decided that I had to request an ARC from the publisher. And uhh I loved it. It was so good, omg.

The characters! Are amazing! Constanta is a wonderful narrator, and it was really interesting to see her development throughout the story. Her relationship with the other partners, Magdalena and Alexi, was amazing, and I loved seeing the subtle differences in how Constanta interacts with the two of them and vice versa.

At this point, I do want to point out that while the relationship between Constanta, Magdalena, and Alexi isn’t abusive, their relationship with Dracula is. Amongst other things, A Dowry of Blood is a study of an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship (at some points, it is physically abusive, but it isn’t graphic or often). It starts from the moment Constanta is turned and it doesn’t stop until the (very tense, very “grips you and never lets go”) climax. I thought the exploration was done wonderfully, with extra care given since the subject matter is sensitive. But if the depiction of an abusive relationship can be triggering for you, it’d probably be a good idea to keep that in mind if you make the decision to read this.

With that being said, though, the writing was gorgeous. It’s dark and loving and amazing all at the same time, and I know that seems overwhelming to some people but I swear it makes sense when you read it, lol. It’s just…so pretty. So good. It was very easy to read, especially once Magdalena and Alexi get introduced. And that climax? I know I mentioned it before, but that was probably one of the best climaxes (and build up to said climax) I’ve ever read. I even had to put the book down for a time because I was getting so worried over the trio.

I just had such a wonderful reading experience with this book, and if it sounds like something you’d be interested in (even if it’s outside your reading comfort zone, like it was for me!), I would highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what S.T. Gibson does next!

Kait | sixcrowsbooks
Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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REVIEW #69 | THE STRAIN by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (The Strain Trilogy #1) (Mini Review) (Audiobook)

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1)

Title: The Strain

Authors: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Series or Standalone?: The Strain Trilogy #1

Pub. Date: 2 June 2009

Synopsis:

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing.

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city – a city that includes his wife and son – before it is too late.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • blood and gore
  • brief POV from an abusive parent
  • fat antagonism
  • animal death (pet dog)
  • racism and xenophobia
  • abuse
  • animal abuse
  • character death
  • infant and child death
  • suicide

Representation:

  • Mexican-American Latinx man
  • Jewish Romanian man
  • Haitian woman (small role, not a major character)

⭐⭐⭐ .5
3.5/5 stars

  • when a deadly virus breaks out in the United States, CDC scientist Eph has to figure out how to stop it. Problem is, it’s not just a simple virus — it’s something older, something darker
  • it was entertaining for the most part: it didn’t blow me away, but it wasn’t atrocious. It kept me mostly engaged, and I do want to see where the rest of the trilogy goes
  • the characters were kinda boring, though, and I didn’t particularly connect with anyone. They were all pretty dry, to me, though there were a few that popped out
  • speaking of characters, though, can we talk about how Nora’s (Eph’s co-worker/maybe partner in the future, who knows) only role throughout the entire book was to be the damsel in distress love interest for Eph? Because thanks, I hate it. Literally, before the big ol’ boss fight or whatever, she said she just had to stay with Eph’s kid to take care of him. Excuse me, but why couldn’t his actual father stay with him instead? Oh I get it, it’s because we can’t have any characters in this book get shit done if they’re women. For the record, Nora is the only major character in this book who’s a woman. So. That’s cool. I guess
  • anyway, I thought the vampires themselves were pretty cool, and they’re basically the only reason I plan on continuing the series. Everything else is kinda meh

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REVIEW #50 | “The Shadow Girl” by Misty Mount (eBook)

Title: “The Shadow Girl”

Author: Misty Mount

Pages (eBook): 300 pages

Original Publishing Date: 29 December 2017

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

“Shy, thirteen-year-old Zylia has always known she was different. Most teenagers feel unnoticed and unseen, but for Zylia, it’s something much worse. She’s disappearing from this world and doesn’t know how to stop it. At times, she’s not sure she wants to. Until she stumbles across a family mystery surrounding the disappearance of her great-aunt Angelica years earlier. During her quest to unravel the mystery, Zylia discovers she’s able to cross the boundary and enter the ‘in between’ world. Now, it’s up to Zylia to save herself before she’s trapped ‘in between’ forever.”

Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • panic/anxiety attacks
  • hospitalization
  • ableism
  • mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation
  • disordered eating

Representation in the novel:

  • N/A

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars

*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*

So, uh, I was given this copy back in January…and I’m just now reviewing. Whoops. Anyway.

The Shadow Girl is an urban fantasy/supernatural novel following Zylia, a lonely thirteen-year-old girl, through her daily life at school and home. She is part of a large family and is often forgotten about. It is not until a new girl, Terra, comes to town that Zylia finally begins to feel seen. However, something is amiss: sometimes, it really feels like people not only forget about Zylia, but physically do not see or hear her, even when she is right in front of them. She has to figure out what to do, or else she might disappear forever.

As far as characters go, I really felt for Zylia. She is young and already feels so lonely. She feels left out by nearly everyone — her classmates, her teachers, her own family. It was a bit of a struggle to read through her thoughts, mostly because I felt what she did at her age. Not only this intense loneliness, but extreme social anxiety as well. It is not outright said that Zylia has social anxiett, but the signs are all there. At least, for me they are.

I liked Terra, too. While she seems a little brash at times, her head was in the right place. I think she and Zylia balance each other out: she gets Zylia (safely) out of her comfort zone, and Zylia cautions her when she is being headstrong. To be quite honest, I really thought Zylia had a crush on her throughout the novel, but I guess not.

Her family is pretty eclectic, too. She shares a room with Ivy, the youngest, who also seems to be the most introspective out of all of them. There are two twin boys who seem to be the trouble makers; Adonia, the teen sister wishing for more popularity, and Keane, the nerdy brother. She also has a grandmother with dimentia and both her parents. However, outside of these particular traits, the characters are pretty flat. The most nuanced one is probably Zylia’s mother, and even then, it mostly goes back to how she is stressed and worried over Zylia’s grandmother.

When it comes to the plot, it was alright. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing horrible either. Even thought the plot did not feel like it started moving until about 60% through the book, it was still a (mostly) enjoyable, easy read. For the most part, nothing much happens. However, I do have a few issues. The first is the ableism surrounding the grandmother’s dementia. I understand that the story is told from a young teen’s perspective and that she probably has absorbed a lot of society’s ableist ideas, but still. The grandmother was constantly described as “crazy” and was often dealt with as if she was a nuisance. I…was not fond of it.

On top of that, there is also a side plot of Zylia wanting to befriend a fellow classmate, mostly because she thinks she is the only one to understand her and, in turn, “help” her because she saw her grab a suicide/self-harm resource flyer from a bulletin board. The biggest issue I have with this side plot is the thought process Zylia goes through. She thinks this girl and her are similar in that they are both lonely, the girl to a dangerous extent if she picked up the resource page. Because of this, Zylia believes that she is the only one able to help “cure” this girl. Which…no. Befriending someone will not make them non-suicidal or non-depressed. the young protagonist coul think this, obviously, but the thought process is never challenged. It can be harmful, to both the mentally ill person and the person trying to “help”.

The ending also seemed a bit rushed, and I felt that there were a few things left without being wrapped up. However, overall, I still enjoyed the book, even if it did have its mishaps.

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REVIEW #19 | “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising”

People's History of the Vampire Uprising.png

People's History of the Vampire Uprising

Title: “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising”

Author: Raymond A. Villareal

Pages (hardcover): 432 pages

Original Publishing Date: 5 June 2018

Synopsis (from the inside flap):

“This panoramic fictional oral history begins with one small mystery: the body of a young woman found in an Arizona border town, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, disappears from the town morgue. To the young CDC investigator called in to consult with the local police, it’s an impossibility that threatens her understanding of medicine.

“Then, more bodies, dead from an inexplicable disease that solidified their blood, are brought to the morgue, only to also vanish. Soon, the U.S. government — and eventually, biomedical researchers, disgruntled lawmakers, and even an insurgent faction of the Catholic Church — must come to terms with what they’re too late to stop: an epidemic of vampirism that will sweep first the United States, and then the world.

“With heightened strength and beauty and a steady diet of fresh blood, these changed people, or “Gloamings,” rapidly rise to prominence in all aspects of modern society. Soon people are beginning to be “re-created,” willingly accepting the risk of death if their bodies can’t handle the transformation. As new communities of Gloamings arise, society is divided, and popular Gloaming sites come under threat from a secret terrorist organization. But when a charismatic businessman, recently turned, runs for political office, all hell breaks loose.

“Told from the perspective of key players, including a cynical FBI agent, and audacious campaign manager, and a war veteran turned nurse turned secret operative, A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is an exhilarating, genre-bending debut that is as addictive as the power it describes.”

(known) Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • violence
  • blood
  • character death
  • ableism

(known) Representation in the novel:

  • N/A

(Since I DNF’d, I don’t really know all of the possible trigger/content warnings or representation)

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars
DNF @ 258 pages out of 432 pages (60%)

Continue reading “REVIEW #19 | “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising””

REVIEW #5 | “Odd Thomas”

Odd Thomas

Title: “Odd Thomas”

Author: Dean Koontz

Pages (paperback): 446 pages

Original Publishing Date: 9 December 2003

Synopsis (from the back cover):

“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz’s dazzling New York Times bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.

“Sometimes the silent souls who seek Odd out want justice. Occasionally, their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time, it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soulmate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil. His account of these shattering hours, in which past and present, fate and destiny converge, is a testament by which to live — an unforgettable fable for our time destined to rank among Dean Koontz’s most enduring works.”

Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • fat-shaming (throughout the novel)
  • ableism (particularly in regards to “psychopathy” and mental illness re: serial killers) (throughout the novel)

⭐⭐
2/5 stars
DNF @ 35% / 154 pages out of 446 pages

Continue reading “REVIEW #5 | “Odd Thomas””