Review: Iron Gold (Red Rising #4) by Pierce Brown

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life.

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

*This review may contain some mild spoilers from Books 1-3 of the series. No spoilers for Iron Gold.*

Other books in the series:

Red Rising

Golden Son

Morning Star

So, Stephanie, you just finished your most anticipated book of the year (of ever, really). Now how about you write a halfway coherent review? Yeah, right. I really wish I could do that, but my thoughts are everywhere on this, so I’m going the list route.

The Writing. Pierce Brown is just a beautiful writer. His style, pacing, imagery, emotion. Even the violent scenes. Even the sometimes adolescent humor among the Howlers. Even the small, seemingly insignificant moments. If Pierce Brown writes it, I want to read it.

World building. Who knew there would be so much more world building to do in the 4th book of a series!? The story begins about 10 years after the last book ends (side note: I really should’ve done my series re-read before starting this. I was thinking Darrow was late 20s when Morning Star ended, not early 20s) and it is a whole new world. There was no Happily Ever After when Darrow and company “won.” The fight was not over and the government is far from stable. While I appreciate the need for the world building, it did slow things down a bit, plot-wise, when I was itching to just get going

POVs. Unlike the original trilogy, which was told completely in Darrow’s 1st person POV, Iron Gold is told through multiple 1st person POV. Besides Darrow, there are chapters from Lysander, all grown up and as Gold-arrogant as ever, Lyria, a Red who has lost most of her family and gets the opportunity to move to Luna and cross paths with those in charge, and Ephraim, who is connected to a character that had a small, but vital, role in Darrow’s history. It pains me to say that I didn’t love all the POVs. I think the problem lies with Darrow still being a major player. If this was a true companion series then it would make sense for Darrow to have more of a cameo role while new characters take the lead. But since this is more a continuation to the series, Darrow still has a big part to play and all I wanted was him. I was disappointed every time the POV changed away from him. I could not make myself really care that much about Lyria or Ephraim. I was ok with Lysander’s POV, but mostly because he was with Cassius. I also thought what was happening in his chapters are really important to the future books, whereas Lyria or Ephraim could have had much smaller roles and still had the same impact to the overall plot. So, Darrow’s POV was by far my favorite, but including it kind of made the rest feel a little lacking.

The Characters. Sevro, my little Goblin! How I have missed you! I loved seeing him and Darrow together again so much! And they’re fathers now! They’re relationship did hit some rough spots throughout the book, but they’ve been there before and I know they will get through it. I also enjoyed seeing Victra, Mustang, the Telemanuses, Cassius, and some of the original Howlers again. As for the new characters, I liked Lorn’s grandson, Alexander, “Tongueless” a new Obsidian Darrow and Sevro befriend, and Volga, Ephraim’s partner in crime, but I could take or leave the rest. Again, I think I may have liked the new characters more if there were not so much of the original ones. But I will never be upset about getting more of the original characters. 

Darrow. I’ve read several reviews where people were pretty annoyed with Darrow in this book. While I can see their point, I don’t think it’s really a valid argument. Listening to other people’s opinions/orders and then doing whatever he bloodydamn wants is kind of his thing. To be fair, that often works out in his favor. I say let Darrow be Darrow. Plus, he has two books to grow his character. A perfect Darrow this early in the game would make for a boring continuation of the series.

Plot Development. I’m not going to rehash the whole plot, because ya’ll can read the synopsis. I feel like the plot development was very similar to the first book in the series. A lot of set up and character development. Unlike the previous books, though, there weren’t many of the small twists and surprises that I have come to expect. While it’s not super predictable, I did not find myself really surprised by anything that happened. I will say there is one death that I did not think would happen, but I am not 100% convinced that the character is really dead. *Crossing my fingers the character reappears in book 5.* From other reviews I skimmed before reading this I was expecting a big cliffhanger ending and I guess there kind of was in a couple of the POVs (it was not until writing this sentence that I even remembered there were, which tells you that I did not find them very impactful). The last chapter in Darrow’s POV did not have one. However, I absolutely loved the last sentence of the book. It made me so excited for what’s to come!

Overall, I enjoyed Iron Gold. I have been waiting for this book for so long and am so glad I finally got to read it. While it was maybe not all that I hoped it would be, it was a well written continuation of the series and I am counting down the days to Dark Age.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Marianna Zapata

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

The hype was strong with this one. So strong that I finally broke down and spent some money (well, gift card credit, let’s not get crazy) to buy it. While I did end up enjoying it, it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.

I’m a fan of a good slow burn romance and that’s what The Wall of Winnipeg and Me seems to be known for. However, I was not quite prepared for how sloooooow paced the whole story was. The chapters were pretty long, as well. I thought that it was really over-written for the most part. I think a little more editing could have cut the length of the book and the repetitiveness, as well as improved the pace. Despite those issues, though, the writing did drag me into the story pretty quickly and I felt like I really got to know the characters.

I went back and forth on how I felt about Vanessa. Sometimes I just didn’t understand how she reacted to things and she frustrated me. She was a little overdramatic at times, but she was pretty likable overall. Aiden also frustrated me for a big portion of the book. I am not a talkative or well-spoken person by any means, but he barely had any dialogue for about the first 20% of the story and I had no idea how I would end up getting to know him at all, let alone like him. Thankfully, he opens up as the story goes on and I did end up really liking him.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, though the long chapters and very slow pace were a struggle for me at times. I liked the fake relationship/marriage of convenience angle, even if it was missing a lot of the elements I expect to see with those. I ended up loving it once it got to about the last third or so of the book (minus the graphic scene it saved for the end) and that is why I’m bumping my rating up from what I was originally going to give it. While I wasn’t completely blown away by this like so many others were, I think it’s one that I will probably read again in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart.

Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.

Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

I’m very stingy when it comes to spending my money on books, but if there’s one author I don’t hesitate to buy a book from it’s Kasie West. I know her books will always be super cute and make me happy and Love, Life, and the List did not let me down.

I loved how sarcastic Abby was. I loved the banter she had with pretty much every character in the book, but especially her equally sarcastic grandfather. I also found her mother to be a pretty empathetic character. She’s overly anxious and has some agoraphobic tendencies that I relate to all too well. I liked that the book didn’t just include Abby’s growth, but her family’s as well.

I loved the friendship between Abby and Cooper. There was a little while there when I was actually rooting for them to just stay friends and for no romance to really be involved. But, I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler to say there is a romantic Happily Ever After involved and that it was cute and a little bit cheesy and I loved it. I also liked how Abby made a few more friends in the book with Elliot and Lacey.

I wasn’t really sure what I would think of the list plotline. To be honest, it didn’t seem real interesting to me when I read the synopsis, but I ended up liking it. When she gets turned down for an art show because her paintings lack heart, her boss tells her that some more life experience will get her there eventually. She decides to try and speed up the life experience process by making the list. She also includes tasks inspired by people who have qualities she admires. I actually thought this was a really productive way to try and enrich one’s life. I think a lot of us say we want to try to be a better person, but don’t actually come up with ways to do that. I felt like this was a perfect book to read at the end of the year when we all try to come up with resolutions to do better in the future.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love, Life, and the List. It was so cute and I loved the friendship and the banter. It was everything I expect out of a Kasie West book and I definitely recommend it to fans of hers and Contemporary YA.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

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Synopsis from  Good Reads:

A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn’t know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they’re both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia’s ever seen. As Claudia’s world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

Few things make me sadder than finishing an Emma Mills books. I always get so invested in the characters that I feel like I could just keep reading about them forever.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really think this book sounded that good based on the synopsis. If it was by any other author, I may not have even picked it up. But Mills is one of my favorite YA authors and I have absolutely adored her last two books, so I knew that I would read this book before it even had a title. And just as I expected, I loved this one, too. While there were still a couple things with the plot I didn’t really care for (like the extremely overboard description of the online video game, Battle Quest, which I could not have cared less about), it is very character driven and I loved many of the characters.

Claudia was sarcastic and relatable and I really enjoyed her. I liked her relationship with her family (though they did play a smaller part in the overall story than I was expecting, as compared with Mills’ previous books). I loved her growing friendship with Iris. Iris was a bit of a tough nut to crack and I didn’t care for her for awhile, but she definitely grew on me and was one of my favorite characters by the end. I also did not love Gideon, Claudia’s new love interest, in the beginning. He seemed like the male version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (which is not my cup of tea), but I didn’t keep that opinion for long. There was much more to him and I ended up really liking him and his growing relationship with Claudia. I also loved his friendship with his best friend, Noah.

One of my favorite things about this book was the humor. Mills writes with such a subtle, sarcastic sense of humor that is exactly my kind of humor (though I suppose it might not be for everybody). I loved how bantery and fun the dialogue was at times, as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed Foolish Hearts. I loved the humor and the characters and the relationships and the boy band obsession and the romance. This has been one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. I definitely recommend this one to YA fans and can’t wait to read whatever Emma Mills writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Blog Tour & Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Synopsis from Good Reads:

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

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

The Wife Between Us will be available January 9, 2018. 

The Wife Between Us is a very cleverly written novel of psychological suspense that managed to do what few books seem able to do these days – genuinely surprise me. Not just once, but multiple times.

I thought I had this book all figured out in the beginning. I thought that the vague synopsis gave too much away. That I could read between the lines and easily figure out what was really going on. However, I did exactly what the synopsis told me not to do and assumed too much. While there were a few things I guessed correctly, the story has about three major twisty reveals and I did not see any of them coming.

I really don’t know what I can say about this book without giving too much away. I really think it’s best going into with as little information as possible. I will say that it is very character driven and the pace felt a little on the slower side. I didn’t feel the psychological suspense aspects of the story until after the first twist is revealed, which is not until almost half way through the book. However, after that I felt like there was more urgency to the story. I thought the characters were all pretty sympathetic and compelling and they kept me reading during the parts where I thought the pacing was a little too slow. I also thought that the writing between the two authors was really seamless. If I didn’t know there was more than one author I never would have guessed it.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Wife Between Us. The multiple twists were very cleverly written and honestly surprised me. I felt very connected to the characters, as well. My only complaint is that I wish the pacing was a little more steady. I read so much of this genre that few things really surprise me anymore and I loved that this book was able to do it again and again. I definitely recommend this one!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Now That You Mention it by Kristan Higgins

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter–a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was–Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family.

But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.

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

Now That You Mention It will be available December 26, 2017.

I have been a fan of Kristan Higgins for years now and have read all of her books – most of them multiple times. Whenever I need a pick-me-up her books do the trick. I don’t read a lot of straight up Romance books so she has become my go-to when that’s what I’m in the mood for. Her last few books, though, have moved out of the Romance category and more into Women’s Fiction. While the books have obviously still been up to the standard I expect out of Higgins, they weren’t quite the light and fluffy feel good stories I was used to getting and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Even though Now That You Mention It feels a lot more serious than most her other books, it still ended up being exactly the book I needed right now. Higgins still made me happy and made me feel and I quite loved this book.

The character development was really well done. The story was told in Nora’s 1st person POV and I really felt a connection to her. I identified a lot with her teenage self, as well. I felt like she grew a lot throughout the novel and I was rooting for her every step of the way. I loved her growing relationships with her mother, her niece, the daughter of some of her old classmates, an old friend, and her new love interest, Sullivan. I loved Sullivan so much!  He was so sweet and a great father. I also liked how his severe hearing loss was dealt with. My mother works with the deaf and hard of hearing and I always find it interesting when a deaf/HOA person is represented in fiction. The romance did play a much smaller role in the story than I was expecting, but it just made me love it even more.

Overall, I really loved Now That You Mention It. Kristian Higgins is really one of my favorite authors and while there was a lot of her trademark style in this book, I also felt like she went outside of her comfort zone and stretched a little more as an author. While I will always hope she writes some more of the light and fluffy romances I have come to love from her, I will no longer be disappointed to see she has something different coming out. I found this compulsively readable and did not want to put it down. The only complaint I really have is that I felt the end was a little too rushed. Still, I would definitely recommend this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Angel (DS Imogen Grey #3) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

THE TRUTH WON’T STAY LOCKED UP FOREVER

When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he really deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

Miles and Grey are back in the thrilling new novel from bestselling author Katerina Diamond, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and M.J. Arlidge.

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

In the past couple of weeks I have read all three Imogen Grey books and it’s definitely become one of my favorite series. Katerina Diamond has made her way onto my auto-buy list.

As with the first two books in the series, there is a lot going on in this story. There are several mysteries with connecting threads and Diamond really weaves them together effortlessly. I never felt confused and even though I didn’t know how things would come together, I knew that they would. Another thing I love about Diamond’s writing is that even though she has very intricate plotlines, she does not sacrifice any character development. I feel like many books focus on one or the other, but she really pulls off both. Even though it means that the books are a little longer than I usually like to read, I don’t mind the length because of how engrossed in the story I am.

In The Secret we got a lot of Imogen’s background and in The Angel we get more of Adrian’s. He’s not a perfect person by any means, but I adore him. He’s gone through a lot in his life, and in this book, and I really admire how he still manages to just keep going. I love his partnership with Imogen and how much they trust each other and are there for each other. I still like that their friendship is platonic, though I wouldn’t mind if it moves in a different direction in the future. Which brings me to Dean. I absolutely loved Dean in The Secret and I have to say he was one of the reasons I was anticipating this books so much. His relationship with Imogen is very complicated and it might very well be a circumstance where love is not enough to make it work, but I’m still shipping these two hard.

The other POV we get in this book is Gabriel, a young, slightly rebellious, guy who is really a sweet kid at heart. He gets arrested for inadvertently killing  a man from a fire he started and winds up in jail. As you may expect, a young cute guy in prison attracts the wrong kind of attention. I felt so, so bad for all that Gabriel had to go through, but I really liked getting his POV and seeing how he grew as a person because of it.

Overall, I just really loved The Angel. Katerina Diamond weaves together a complex mystery with really compelling characters. I felt like this book was a little less dark than the first two in the series and I liked that. I also like that justice is always served in her books, though there is often a bit of a moral grey area included. This series has become one of my favorites and I’m really going to miss Imogen and Adrian until their next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars