Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

“This is simply one of the nastiest and most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years. In short: I loved it, right down to the utterly chilling final line.” —Gillian Flynn

This is a love story. Mike’s love story.

Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.

It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.

It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…

A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.

Well, this was a twisted little tale. Based off of my experience with similar books, I expected Mike to be your standard sociopath, but I didn’t really feel he was. He has some obvious mental health issues and while he did lack empathy for most people and situations, he didn’t lack ALL empathy. I mostly just felt bad for his poor, delusional life. However, I was pretty much on his side the whole time and I don’t even feel uncomfortable saying that.

I did not care for Verity at all. Never getting her POV, I’m not really sure how much of what she said was true. I think Mike read way too much into what she said and assigned meaning to her words that weren’t true, but she was still not a good person. I thought she was purposefully cruel where Mike just took all of his cues from her and didn’t seem to know better. I also thought for how well she knew him, she had to have known how some of her actions would seem to him. I kind of spent the whole book waiting for her to go down.

I felt like this book was much longer than it needed to be. Dude, we get it. You love V and you want to be with her and you’re playing an elaborate game. It just went around and around like that for far too long. Additionally, instead of traditional chapters, the story was told in three very large parts and I think that contributed to making it feel long. I did enjoy Part 3 of the book much more than the first two parts, though.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Our Kind of Cruelty, but I didn’t love it. I thought it went on a little too long and did not find the story quite as compelling as similar books. However, I did really like the final part of the story and I liked Mike. This book wouldn’t be for everyone, but there is definitely a niche audience for it that will love it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

 

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Review: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Baby Teeth will be available July 17, 2018.

The hype for Baby Teeth has been building for months. It’s mostly the reason I’ve kept putting off reading this because I was afraid my expectations were too high. And while it didn’t quite live up to the hype, it was still a pretty entertaining read.

It took me a little while to get into the story. The writing style, especially when it came to Hanna’s POV, took some getting used to. But once I really got into the story and could start to appreciate what a little psycho Hanna was I started to enjoy it. I became invested in the characters and really wanted to see how it would all turn out.

While I enjoyed seeing what crazy thing Hanna would do next, I did think it dragged on a little too long. The same type of things just kept happening again and again and there was a lot of needless description. Towards the end of the book the plot really began to advance and the power struggle between mother and daughter was really compelling to me and then it just abruptly ended. The ending felt more like it was leaving things open for a sequel than properly giving any type of closure to a stand-alone story. I found it disappointing that just when I was really getting into it, it was over.

Overall, Baby Teeth was certainly an entertaining read, but fell short of the hype for me. A little steadier pace and a less abrupt ending would have made it a little better, in my opinion. I don’t know if this book would be for everyone, but I think there are a lot of people who would enjoy it. I could definitely see it becoming a fun, creepy movie.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

The Book of M will be available June 5, 2018. 

The Book of M is certainly an ambitious debut. Covering multiple characters, countries, and time in painstaking detail, it explores a new dystopian world where the loss of memories results in dangerous magic.

While I did like the book, I wanted to like it more than I actually did. The pace is pretty slow as the world building is established and it took me awhile to really get into the story. The writing was very detailed and I personally would have appreciated a little less. I thought it made the book much longer than it needed to be. However, it was pretty character-driven and I did feel like I got to know the main characters pretty well.

The story is told in the POV of Ory, Max, Naz, and The One Who Gathers. Ory and Max are married and when Max loses her shadow she decides to leave Ory so she won’t accidentally hurt him. She comes across a group of other Shadowless heading to New Orleans and joins them. Ory is desperate to find her and along the way comes across a group of other Shadowed, including Naz, a former Olympic hopeful in archery who now helps lead the soldiers of her group. Both groups are trying to find out if the rumors they’ve heard about New Orleans are true. The One Who Gathers was once just a man with retrograde amnesia who became connected with the first man to lose his shadow and his memories, but has become something incredibly different. I did think all the POVs were well done. I liked all of the characters, but I never really fell in love with any of them, which made it kind of difficult to really care about what happened to them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Book of M, but I didn’t love it. I liked the characters and how they all became connected. However, I thought the plot was a little drawn out and felt the emotional impact I was supposed to experience missed the mark a bit. While this dystopian tale may not be for me, I think there will be a lot of people that will really like it. I recommend it if you enjoy character-driven novels with a touch of magical realism. I do look forward to seeing what Peng Shepherd writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Just One of the Royals (The Chicago Falcons #2) by Leah & Kate Rooper

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Star hockey player Daniel Sacachelli wants only two things: 1) for the Falcons to win next season, and 2) for his secret — the fact he’s actually the prince of Eldonia — to never make its way to Chicago. But if Daniel keeps avoiding his crown, their family will lose their kingdom forever.

Madison Myong can’t believe that her will-they-or-won’t-they best friend Daniel is really a prince! He’s always seemed more rebel than royal. But now, he needs to clean up his image, fast. Posing as his long-time girlfriend, Madison accompanies him back to Eldonia, intending to give Daniel a makeover fit for a king.

Only, the more royal Daniel becomes, the more Madison misses her best friend. And if she does her job right, she’ll lose him forever…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Just One of the Royals will be available June 4, 2018.

Just One of the Royals is the second book in a series about members of a junior hockey team. I haven’t read the first book in the series yet (from what I gather it sounds very similar to the move She’s the Man, but with hockey instead of soccer), but found this could be read easily as a standalone.

I really liked the friendships in the book. The guys on the hockey team, plus Madison (the trainer) were all pretty close and they looked out for each other. I liked that there weren’t any frenemies or mean girls. I also enjoyed Daniel’s relationship with his half-sister and with his mother. He was super sweet with both of them and I loved it.

The fake-relationship trope is one of my favorites and was the main reason for me wanting to read this book. However, I didn’t really think that aspect of the book was very well done. The reason for them trying to fake a relationship was pretty flimsy to start with and then there were none of the fun moments where they had to try to prove to people they were together. They just like held hands a couple times? Kissed for the cameras once. No one in Eldonia really cared about their “relationship” at all and it just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It felt a lot more like Friends-To-More than Fake Relationship.

Overall, Just One of the Royals, was a cute read and I liked that it was written by two sisters, but it’s probably not a book I would want to pick up again. I liked Daniel and how all the relationships were portrayed, but was disappointed in the lack of Fake Relationship drama and also that I didn’t find Madison to be very likable. If you enjoy sports romances and are trying to feed your Royal Wedding hangover, you might enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Ever After by Sarah Pekkanen

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this intricate and enthralling domestic drama, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and The Affair, the internationally bestselling author of the “gossipy page-turner” (Glamour) The Perfect Neighbors goes deep into a marriage in crisis, peeling back layers of secrets to discover where the relationship veered off course—and whether it is worth saving.

Josie and Frank Moore are happy…at least Josie thinks they are. As parents of two young girls in the Chicago suburbs, their days can be both busy and monotonous, and sometimes Josie wonders how she became a harried fortysomething mother rather than the driven career woman she once was. But Frank is a phenomenal father, he’s handsome and charismatic, and he still looks at his wife like she’s the beautiful woman he married more than a decade ago. Josie isn’t just happy—she’s lucky.

Until one Saturday morning when Josie borrows her husband’s phone to make a quick call—and sees nine words that shatter her world.

Now Josie feels as if she is standing at the edge of a sharp precipice. As she looks back at pivotal moments in the relationship she believed would last forever, she is also plunging ahead, surprising everyone (especially herself) with how far she will go to uncover the extent of her husband’s devastating secret.

With her “conversational writing style and a knack for making readers care about her characters” (The Washington Post) bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen paints a vivid, kaleidoscopic portrait of a marriage before and during a crisis—and of a woman who fears that the biggest secret of all may be the one she’s hiding from herself.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Ever After will be available on June 5, 2018. 

What I Liked

*While I could not personally identify with the plight of the main character in this book, I have had a front row seat to someone in a very similar situation for the last several months and I feel like The Ever After will be very relatable to a lot of women. There is a note from the author in the beginning of the book that shares a statistic that an affair occurs in one of every three marriages. There are many reasons I can’t imagine myself ever getting married, but kudos to all you who are because I can not imagine trusting someone enough to do it.

*I do really like Sarah Pekkanen’s writing. This is my third book by her and I find her writing to be very compulsive. Even though it’s a lot of introspection and very little action, I had a hard time putting the book down. Josie’s character development was very well done and if you are a fan of character-driven stories, then I definitely recommend Pekkanen’s books.

What I Didn’t Like

*Josie was kind of hard to like most of the time. I thought a lot of her reaction was normal and justified, but she did kind of stop being a parent to her daughters for awhile and I didn’t think that was ok. I also thought that all of the flashback chapters kind of painted her as a shrew and Frank as the long-suffering husband. I felt like this was to help justify why Frank did what he did (not excusing it, but still a reason for it) and it just didn’t sit well with me.

*I didn’t like the ending (it’s why I’m rating this 1/2 a star lower than I probably would have otherwise). I had a very definite opinion about which way I wanted the story to go and it didn’t go that way. I do think that there will be people that will really support the ending, though. I think it might depend on your own emotional baggage you bring to the book.

Overall

Overall, I did enjoy The Ever After. I really liked the writing and how relatable the story felt to me, even though it’s not a situation I’ve personally experienced. I thought the ending was a little rushed, though. After spending such a long time dissecting Josie and Frank’s relationship, I thought the resolution deserved a little more page time, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.

As soon as I saw this book referred to as “Jane Eyre in space” I knew that I had to read it. While it wasn’t quite all I hoped for, I think overall it was a fun re-telling and it made me want to go re-read Jane Eyre.

It took me awhile to get into Brightly Burning. I thought it was a little slow to start, but once Stella got to the Rochester and the Jane Eyre comparisons became apparent I really began to enjoy it. While there were obviously some adjustments made to some of the twists, I thought they were incorporated really well for both YA and space. I thought it dragged a bit when it focused on the non-Jane Eyre plotlines, though. So while the beginning and the end were not great for me, I really enjoyed the middle.  I also thought it was a little weird that they were in the future and had all this technology, but high society followed Regency era clothing and social statuses.

I liked the characters. Though I think Stella’s character was a little inconsistent at times, she was likeable and I enjoyed getting the story through her 1st person POV. I also liked Hugo and shipped him with Stella. I also really liked Stella’s weird-admirer-turned-closest-friend Jon. There were a wide array of secondary characters that I thought were pretty well developed, as well.

Overall, I enjoyed Brightly Burning. I thought it worked really well as a Jane Eyre re-telling and I really enjoyed all those parts of the book and the new spin of it happening in space. It did drag a little at the beginning and end for me, though, so I can’t quite give it 4 stars. I do definitely recommend this to anyone who’s read and enjoyed Jane Eyre, though.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Honeysuckle Dreams (Blue Ridge Romance #2) by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiancé.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Honeysuckle Dreams will be available 5/1/18. 

What I Enjoyed

-For most of the book I really liked both Brady and Hope. I thought they made a good team and I enjoyed their blossoming romance. I liked how they interacted with Sam and their friends.

-This is more of a Marriage-of-Convenience story than the Fake Relationship I thought it was, but I still liked that aspect of it. It’s one of my favorite tropes and I thought it was well done. I liked that they went into the marriage with the intent of having a real relationship, but that they didn’t rush it.

-I thought the storyline regarding Sam’s custody case was well done, if perhaps a little easy. I thought it had great potential for drama, but it was kept in check and I liked that.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-As I mentioned above, there wasn’t a lot of drama for most of the book, but I felt like it saved it all for the end. Once the custody case was wrapped up I felt like all of a sudden Hope went kind of crazy. While there were a few things said about Hope’s past and fears throughout the book, it felt like it escalated out of nowhere and it really brought down my enjoyment. It felt tacked on and I just didn’t think it was necessary. My biggest complaint with books by this author is that I often find the female lead unlikable and I thought that wasn’t happening in this book, but by the end Hope was really frustrating me.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed Honeysuckle Dreams, though the added drama at the end did bring it down a bit for me. I liked the characters for the most part and the Marriage-of-Convenience theme. I look forward to continuing the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars