Review: Dark Age (Red Rising Saga #5) by Pierce Brown

37678631

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.

But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.

On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?

Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies.

Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.

As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Morning Star returns to the Red Rising universe with the thrilling sequel to Iron Gold.

You all know that the Red Rising series is one of my all-time favorites. Dark Age was easily my most anticipated book of 2019. The publishing date got pushed back twice, to almost a year after it was originally set, which just stoked the anticipation. It was definitely worth the wait.

-This book is long. It’s well over 700 pages and took me a week to read. There were a few plotlines that didn’t seem all that necessary and could’ve been cut to make the length a little less intimidating. However, once I reached the end of the book I really wished that there was more! I’m feeling a little adrift now that it’s over and am thinking about re-reading the other books so I don’t have to leave this world.

-In the previous book I had some issues with the multiple POVs. After three books of just Darrow, I wasn’t thrilled whenever the POV shifted away from him. I’m happy to say that I did not mind it near as much in this installment. While I’ll always want as much Darrow as possible, I enjoyed most of the other points of view, as well. I still didn’t love Lyria (or some of the weird stuff that went on with her), but I really liked Ephraim this time around. I enjoyed his chapters and loved seeing him interact with Darrow’s son, Pax. I really adored Pax, though I thought he was a little too mature for an eleven year old (I guess maybe that’s to be expected from a Gold, though?). I was a little wary of the inclusion of Virginia’s POV, but I ended up appreciating it.

-Another complaint I had with the last book was that it was a lot more world building than I expected or wanted. Thankfully, this book really picked up the action. Part 1 of the book was crazy intense and brutal. It honestly felt like it could have been it’s own book.

-This book was much darker than the others were. The series has always been violent, but this one seemed even more so. There’s also a lot of mention of rape (though no actual scenes of it).

-There was not nearly enough Sevro! He doesn’t show up until we’re more than 200 pages in and he doesn’t get a lot of page time. I am hoping for some amazing things with him in the next book to make up for it.

-There are some very disheartening character deaths. I know I should expect it in these books, as Pierce Brown has broken my heart on many occasions, but there were still two I took very hard, as well as several others that just added salt to the wounds.

-There was a resurgence of more than one past character that we were supposed to believe were long gone. I loved both of these developments, even though I saw one coming since the last book.

Overall, Dark Age was another great installment of the Red Rising series. Pierce Brown is a bloodydamn maniac that takes us on quite an adventure and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Advertisements

Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

42201920. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favours are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

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

The Arrangement will be available July 30, 3019. 

I found The Arrangement really addicting. I ignored so many real life things so I wouldn’t have to put this book down and I have no regrets.

What I liked

-The author mentions in her acknowledgments that to research the topic, she signed up on an actual sugar daddy/sugar baby website and met with a couple of girls to find out more about them and this world they live in. I think this authenticity came through in the book. Harding does a good job of relaying how these young women justify what they do – or why they shouldn’t have to -, as well as how damaging and dangerous it can be. Before I go on and start to sound judgey, let me say that while I don’t agree with what they’re doing, I don’t think they’re the ones that should be blamed in these circumstances. They are not the ones with families and wives they are cheating on.

-Another thing that Harding did well was get into the psyche of the type of man that acts as a “sugar daddy.” Gabe justifies his actions in a multitude of ways, but all of them are dickish. His wife had cancer and isn’t up to meeting his needs anymore. She used to be attractive, but now has grown older and doesn’t want to get plastic surgery. His daughter doesn’t appreciate him anymore. Blah, blah, blah. He is narcissistic and selfish and, I’ll just say it, gross.

-The writing was pretty addictive. It was pretty well paced and the tension just kept increasing as Nat and Gabe’s relationship became more and more unstable and volatile.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-You know how sometimes people have certain words that just make them cringe when they hear it? That’s how I felt every time a sugar daddy was just referred to as “a daddy.” I also don’t love the term “sugar baby.” Those terms are used a lot throughout the story and I cringed every time. However, I did find some other terms interesting – such as a “splenda daddy”, who is someone who pretends to have the funds to be a sugar daddy. Not so fun fact, that term describes my father (see earlier paragraph about narcissistic, selfish, and gross men…).

-I felt really let down by the ending. There’s a bit of a twist and it was exactly what I predicted it would be. Maybe people that don’t read a lot of this genre will find it really surprising, but it felt cliched and done to me.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed The Arrangement. The writing was addictive and Harding did a good job of creating a tense atmosphere. Even though I was a little disappointed with how it ended, I’m going to give it 4 stars because I thought everything else was well done.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

41150430

Official synopsis:

From bestselling author Michele Campbell comes A Stranger on the Beach, an edge-of-your seat story of passion and intrigue that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Caroline Stark’s beach house was supposed to be her crowning achievement: a lavish, expensive space to showcase what she thought was her perfect family. But after a very public fight with her husband, she realizes things may not be as perfect as they seem: her husband is lying to her, the money is disappearing, and there’s a stranger on the beach outside her house.

As Caroline’s marriage and her carefully constructed lifestyle begin to collapse around her, she turns to Aidan, the stranger, for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aidan’s infatuation with Caroline, her family, and her house becomes more and more destructive. But who is manipulating whom in this deadly game of obsession and control? Who will take the blame when someone ends up dead…and what is Caroline hiding?

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

A Stranger on the Beach will be available July 23, 2019. 

This review will be short and sweet because there isn’t too much I feel I can say about this one without giving too much away. A Stranger on the Beach follows the story of wealthy housewife Caroline trying to put her life back together after a one night stand with local bartender Aidan Callahan. Caroline wanted some revenge on her cheating husband, but Aidan falls hard for her, becoming obsessive about taking care of her.

The story is told mostly through Caroline’s first person POV for the first half of the novel, with Aidan’s POV interspersed throughout. We quickly come to see that the story Caroline is telling and the story Aidan is telling do not match up. One of them is obviously lying. I did like this approach, but it didn’t take me long to decide which account I believed and I ended up being right. From that point on, there weren’t really any reveals I found surprising and I found all the chapters from the perspective of the person I didn’t believe to drag on for a bit too long. In the second half of the novel, the perspective of one of the detectives working the case was added and I felt like the pace really picked up from there.

Overall, I enjoyed A Stranger on the Beach. I thought the first half of the novel dragged on just a little too long, but the second half helped make up for it. Even though I figured out things pretty quickly, I still thought the writing was clever and enjoyable. I think that readers who don’t read a lot of this genre could end up being really surprised and entertained by the twists and turns. Because of this, I’m upping my rating up a bit than what I was originally planning to.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Truth or Die (DS Imogen Grey #5) by Katerina Diamond

45307680

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Their darkest secrets won’t stay buried forever…

The butchered body of a professor is found in a private office of Exeter University. It is the first in a spate of horrific murders that shakes the city to its core.

Who would target a seemingly innocent man, and why? DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles turn to his students for answers, but their investigation turns up no leads. Someone must know more than they’re letting on…

As the body count rises, the police have to look into the past to uncover the person responsible before it’s too late.

But are they brave enough to face up to the truth?

Smart, gripping, dark. The Sunday Times bestseller is back in a twisty crime thriller, perfect for fans of M.J. Arlidge’s EENY MEENY and Angela Marsons’ KIM STONE series.

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

Truth or Die will be available July 11, 2019. 

The DS Imogen Grey series is one of my all time favorites and Truth or Die has been one of my most anticipated books of the year. Katerina Diamond once again came through with a compelling mystery that kept me glued to the pages.

Truth or Die felt like a little bit of a departure from the previous books in the series. The POVs were almost exclusively from Imogen and Adrian. There are a few chapters from a couple of other characters, but they were not as prominent as I have come to expect. This didn’t bother me at all, though. I love Adrian and Imogen and in some of the other books I felt like I didn’t get enough from them. I also thought their personal lives took more of a leading role than they have in the past. While their character development has always been strong, whatever was going on in their personal lives often bled into the central mystery, but it seemed more separate this time around. However, I was on board with it because there are DEVELOPMENTS in their relationship.

While I have loved Dean, his relationship with Imogen was always on borrowed time. In the most recent book, Adrian and Imogen’s partnership and friendship started to evolve into something more. In this book, we really dive into their complicated feelings and I was here for it. I already feel like I’m being too spoilery with even mentioning it, but it’s a large part of the book and as a long time fan of the series, I was extremely invested in it.

The mystery was well done, if not quite as intricate or dark as I might have expected. It wasn’t really built in a way that there would be big twists and reveals, but it was well plotted and intriguing. It also links back to a case from a previous book, which I really enjoyed. There is an added layer of Adrian wrestling with the gray areas of the sins of his past. My dear, sweet Adrian often makes a lot of stupid decisions, but his heart is always in the right place. That doesn’t mean there isn’t consequences for him and those around him, though, and I liked seeing him coming to terms with that. There was also a storyline having to do with false rape accusations that I felt was pretty relevant to what’s going on it the world today.

Overall, I really enjoyed Truth or Die. Though it was a little different than what I have come to expect from Diamond, it was still a compelling mystery with great character development that I could barely put down. Each book in this series just further solidifies it’s status as one of my favorites and I can’t wait for the next one!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg

40653187

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.

But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s-make that Amanda’s-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?

An exciting new direction for acclaimed author Elizabeth Eulberg, Past Perfect Life is a tense and tender read about secrets and lies, reality and identity, and the ways we put ourselves back together when everything is broken.

Perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, this is the story of one teen’s search for herself amid the confusion of a shattered past and a future far from all she planned.

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

Past Perfect Life will be available July 9, 2019. 

I discovered Elizabeth Eulberg a couple years ago and she quickly became one of my favorite YA Contemporary authors. I really can’t believe that more people aren’t talking about her books. Past Perfect Life was another of her books that I finished in one day.

Ally lives in a small town with her father and her biggest problem is coming up with a decent topic for her college application/scholarship application essay questions. She has a tight-knit group of friends and a great relationship with her father. That is, until her college applications are kicked back for having an invalid social security number. I feel like you can probably already guess what happens based off of the clues in the synopsis, but I kind of find it impossible to review this book without disclosing what happens, so if you really don’t want to know, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***. Turns out, Ally Smith is not her real name and her mother didn’t really die when she was three. When her father was afraid of losing partial custody of her, he fled with her and they have been living under false identities ever since.

This isn’t the first YA book I’ve read with this topic, but I thought it was well done. A lot of time is dedicated to Ally’s mental and emotional state around the discovery and then as she tries to adjust to her new life. We also see how it effects the friends she’s forced to leave behind and the new family she never knew existed who have been mourning her loss for the past fifteen years. I really loved Ally’s friends, the extended Gleason family, especially adorable Neil. I also really liked Ally’s step-father. I thought he handled the situation better than anyone else and was overall pretty amazing. I have to say I really didn’t care for Ally’s mother. I know that she’s been through a lot, but I thought she handled everything really poorly, right up until the end, which I thought was just a tad too easy and abrupt. I really could have used an epilogue.

I definitely need to mention Eulberg’s writing. She has such an addictive writing style that compels me to keep reading, even when I had decided I was going to set the book down to do something else. I certainly didn’t mean to finish this book in one day, but that’s exactly what happened because I just had to keep reading.

Overall, I really enjoyed Past Perfect Life. Though it was a heavier read than Eulberg’s other books I’ve read, I thought it was well done. The topic was interesting and Ally’s character development was really well done. I liked the cute romance with Neil and the really addictive writing. I definitely recommend that Contemporary fans check this out, as well as some of Eulberg’s other books.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Call it What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

40653162

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

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

Call it What You Want will be available June 25, 2019. 

When it comes to Brigid Kemmerer books there are two things I’ve come to expect: Male characters I will love and lots of Angst. Call it What You Want delivered on both fronts and I was here for it.

This book had angst for days! I’m not always into that, but it worked for me here. Maegan, who has always been the good girl, is dealing with the fallout from getting caught cheating on the SATs. On top of that, her sister comes home one weekend from college and doesn’t go back – she’s pregnant and refuses to name the father or discuss what she plans to do about it. Rob’s father got caught stealing from his clients and is left as basically a vegetable after a failed suicide attempt. Rob and his mother are left with pretty much nothing but the house and take care of him there.

Both Rob and Maegan are left as social outcasts and end up getting teamed up on a class project. As you might guess, they get to know and then start to fall for each other. I really loved watching their relationship develop. Maegan was really judgey at first, but as she gets to know Rob she realizes how wrong she has been about him. Rob was wonderful. I mean, he was depressed and struggling with a lot, but Kemmerer knows how to write sensitive, sweet, lovable, tortured guys that I will love. I just wanted to reach into the pages and hug him. His emotion was just so real and relatable and while I did like Maegan, Rob is what made this book so special.

I also really enjoyed Rob’s new friend, Owen. He was exactly the friend Rob needed. I liked watching their friendship develop and seeing them both grow as people as they learned things from each other. I also loved the school librarian and how he became such an important person in Rob’s life. One character I didn’t like in the book, though, was Samantha, Maegan’s sister. She was so selfish and acted so immature and she just drove me crazy. She did redeem herself a bit by the end, but it was a bit too little, too late for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed Call it What You Want. I loved, loved, loved Rob. I also enjoyed the romance and the lessons the characters learned along the way. I definitely recommend this one to fans of YA Contemporary.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: In the Darkness (Zoe Bentley Mystery #2) by Mike Omer

42276472

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A forensic psychologist fights a mental war against two serial killers in this disturbing thriller from Mike Omer, Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of A Killer’s Mind.

An online video of a girl clawing at the ceiling of her own grave could be the worst thing FBI forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley has ever seen. Perhaps even more disturbing is the implication of the video’s title: “Experiment Number One.”

Zoe and her partner, Special Agent Tatum Gray, work as fast as they can to find the monster behind the shocking video, but soon another one shows up online, and another girl turns up dead. Meanwhile, a different murderer is on Zoe’s mind. Rod Glover has been tormenting her since childhood, and his latest attack is a threatening photo of himself with Zoe’s sister. As Glover’s threats creep toward action, Zoe’s torn between family and duty.

Zoe must think fast to prevent another murder. With her own family’s safety on the line, Zoe feels she’s never been in more danger. And while she’s always known her job could send her to an early grave, she always assumed she’d be dead first.

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

In the Darkness will be available June 25, 2019. 

What I Liked

  • I’m not sure what it says about me as a person, but I love a good serial killer novel and Mike Omer definitely delivered. In the Darkness is an entertaining mystery that managed to surprise me.
  • The story is told through multiple POVs. We get chapters from both Zoe and Tatum, as well as the serial killer and several other supporting characters. I often times prefer a story to be told through first person POV, but the third person really worked for this story.
  • I really enjoy Zoe’s partner, Tatum. He pretty much makes this series for me. He’s smart, protective, and often times brings the comic relief. I also like his relationship with his crazy grandfather, Marvin.

What Didn’t Work for Me

  • I have a hard time connecting with Zoe. I feel like there’s been a fair amount of character development done with her throughout the series so far, but for some reason she still feels a bit one-note and cliched. Her reactions to things are often inconsistent as she swings between almost total lack of empathy and major emotional melt downs.
  • While I found the story pretty entertaining, I felt like the writing could have used just a bit more editing. The dialogue sometimes felt a little off. It also felt a little longer than it needed to be.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed In the Darkness. Though I thought the writing could use just a bit more editing at times, the mystery was well done and I was a little surprised with who the serial killer turned out to be. I like the partnership between Tatum and Zoe and look forward to seeing how it evolves as the series continues.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars