Review: Where Do I Begin? by Elvis Duran

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Elvis Duran, host of one of the nation’s top morning shows and the voice millions of Americans wake up to, shares his wildest stories and hardest-learned lessons all with his trademark heart, honesty, and plenty of humor. 

Elvis Duran’s nationally syndicated radio program, Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, is America’s most-listened-to Top 40 morning show and one of the 10 most-listened-to programs in all of radio, heard live by nearly ten million people every morning.

But his success didn’t happen overnight. Elvis spent years navigating the wild world of radio as a DJ for hire, working (and partying) in markets around the country before taking over the morning shift at the legendary Z100 in 1996. Over the last twenty years, he has become one of New York City’s signature voices (Variety calls him “a permanent fixture of the area’s daily commutes”) thanks to his show’s exciting mix of music, new artist discoveryinterviews, gossip, and live listener interaction.

Along the way, Elvis has become known not just for his incisive interviews (and occasional feuds) with pop music’s biggest stars, but for the show’s commitment to kindness and positivity and Elvis’s own candor and openness with his audience.

Bold, funny, and totally candid, Where Do I Begin? is sure to be loved by anyone who listens to Elvis live every morning—or anyone who wants to know what really goes on behind the scenes of the pop music machine. It reads like an old friend telling a new story you’ve been dying to hear.

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

Where Do I Begin? will be available October 1, 2019. 

Every morning as I get ready for work, I listen to Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. For those that don’t know, it’s a nationally syndicated radio show – number one in it’s market – based out of of New York. It’s a show with a wide variety of contributors, ideas, and gags. Sometimes they have segments that make me roll my eyes a bit, but other times I am laughing out loud or getting choked up (in a good way). Listening to the show is the best part of my morning and I have been looking forward to this book since I first heard Elvis mention it in on the air.

I really enjoyed Where Do I Begin? It read just like having a conversation with Elvis and though I am not generally an audio book reader, I definitely want to to experience this again with Elvis narrating (at least I’m assuming he’ll narrate it? If not him, my vote is definitely Greg T.). We start out hearing about how Elvis first fell in love with radio as a child. I loved learning about how this was his passion from an early age and basically the only thing he was ever interested in doing. He even built his own little radio station in his bedroom as a kid and put on a show that reached his closest neighbors – and then it blew up when he tried to give more power to the signal.

I have to admit that I was expecting a little more scandal, though. There have been multiple times listening to the show where they start talking about something and Elvis refuses to go into details, saying something like, “you’ll have to read the book.” However, there were still stories he kind of glossed over and names he wouldn’t share and while I understand that, I was kind of disappointed in it. There was also one chapter about fame that wasn’t so much about him, but of the celebrities he’s interviewed and it felt a little out of place.

I loved pretty much every other part of the book, though. Even if it didn’t go quite as in depth as I had hoped for, I feel like I learned a lot more about Elvis and about the radio industry, in general. There was also one chapter dedicated to how people basically went crazy during the 2016 election and how he wants his show to remain a positive place for all people. He reiterated what I’ve heard him say on the show, about how we can disagree with people without completely hating them. This shouldn’t be a profound idea, but it’s something people have seemed to forget lately and I really admire that he uses his platform to help build bridges between people instead of adding to the toxic political culture of blue vs red.

Overall, I really enjoyed Where Do I Begin? It’s been one of my most anticipated books of the year and it lived up to the hype for me. I’ve been a fan of Elvis for years and reading this made me just like him more. It’s definitely a must read for listeners of his show.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Love on Lexington Avenue (Central Park Pact #2) by Lauren Layne

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Review from Goodreads:

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor. 

There’s never a bad time to fall in love in the city, right? Wrong. According to the recently-widowed Claire Hayes, it’s very, verywrong. In fact, after finding out her late husband was a liar and a cheat, Claire’s convinced there’s never a good time for romantic notions. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her philandering husband, Claire sets out to redesign her entire Upper East Side brownstone and make it her own. But when she meets gruff and often-cantankerous contractor Scott Turner and realizes not all men are scumbags, Claire must decide if she’s ready to risk her heart again.

Scott needs a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and bluntly makes it clear to Claire that he only took on her house for that reason, adding that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess on his job site. But when long work days soon turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…? Scott knows he’s not one to settle down, but then why can’t he bring himself to put the finishing touches on Claire’s house and move on to the next job?

Filled with laugh-out-loud scenes that blend perfectly with the touching friendships Layne brings to life on the page, this “hugely entertaining” (USA TODAY) novel is perfect for fans of Lauren Weisberger.

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

Love on Lexington Avenue will be available September 17, 2019.

I love Lauren Layne books. When I am in the mood for a fun Romance, she has become one of my go-to’s and Love on Lexington Avenue didn’t disappoint.

I’ll admit that the first book in this series, while still good, was not one of my favorites and I was a little hesitant going into this one. However, I enjoyed this one so much more. I really liked the main couple, Claire and Scott. I shipped them right from the beginning. I loved how their bickering turned into friendship and then more. I thought that while they had a lot in common, they also balanced each other out well.

I enjoyed seeing the other characters from the first book, as well. Claire’s friends, Audrey and Naomi, whom she first met when she found out her recently deceased husband was having an affair with both of them. Naomi still isn’t my favorite character (and was mostly the reason why the first book didn’t work for me as much), but I enjoyed her much more in small doses. I’m really looking forward to reading Audrey (and Clarke’s) story next. I also really liked seeing Oliver again. He shows up a lot in this book since he’s friends with both Claire and Scott.

One thing that I do really love about this series is that there is a lot less graphic stuff than in most of Layne’s other books. I know some people see that as a negative, but I am here for it. Even though the plot of this book had a lot of discussion about the idea of casual one-night stands, which I didn’t love, it never really went into graphic description and that just makes me like this book that much more.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love on Lexington Avenue. I loved the characters and the romance and the humor. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“One hell of a suspense novel.” ⁠—Stephen King

The New York Times bestselling author of A Noise Downstairs and No Time for Goodbye returns with an edge-of-your-seat thriller that does for elevators what Psycho did for showers and Jaws did for the beach—a heart-pounding tale in which a series of disasters paralyzes New York City with fear.

It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, non-stop, to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds, and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance, and entertainment—is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men in women working in offices across the city refuse leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find the answers before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its ribbon-cutting on Thursday.

With each diabolical twist, Linwood Barclay ratchets up the suspense, building to a shattering finale. Pulsating with tension, Elevator Pitch is a riveting tale of psychological suspense that is all too plausible . . . and will chill readers to the bone.

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

Elevator Pitch will be available September 17, 2019. 

Linwood Barclay is one of my favorite authors and I always look forward to his books. I’m happy to say that Elevator Pitch did not disappoint.

I thought the idea of malfunctioning elevators in a city that relies on them so heavily was really interesting and I thought Barclay did a good job of creating a really suspenseful atmosphere. I even avoided using the elevators at work while I was reading this. I thought the mystery aspect was pretty well done, too. There are multiple possible suspects and a few red herrings that had me second guessing myself and I liked that.

Barclay’s books are always pretty character driven and this was no exception. I really liked detectives Bourque and Delgado. I would really love to see more books including them. I also enjoyed Mayor Headley and his aides, Valerie, Chris, and Glover, as well as journalist Barbara and her daughter, Arla. There was also a perspective from a domestic terrorist group leader. While it was intriguing, I recently finished another book that had a similar group and I’m kind of over the whole politics angle becoming more popular in books.

Overall, I really enjoyed Elevator Pitch.  While I didn’t love the inclusion of politics and I felt the story was just a little longer than it needed to be, those were really my only issues with it. I loved the suspenseful atmosphere of the elevators and the characters. I am definitely looking forward to more from Barclay.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Last Widow (Will Trent #9) by Karin Slaughter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter brings back Will Trent and Sara Linton in this superb and timely thriller full of devious twists, disturbing secrets, and shocking surprises you won’t see coming

A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.

This book was excellent. I feel like I have been waiting forever for a new Will Trent book and it did not disappoint. In fact, I think this is my favorite book from Karin Slaughter to date.

I’ve always been a fan of Slaughter’s writing, but the way she was able to write this story with such a sense of urgency was so impressive to me. Even though there were plenty of parts that had a lot of information and background instead of action-packed sequences, that urgency was always there. It was very hard to put the book down. I loved the way Slaughter played with timelines and point of views, as well. We get third person POVs from Will, Sara, and Faith, which I expect from this series, but what was different was seeing some of the same scenes from different perspectives. I loved this! After the first few chapters, though, our main characters don’t have many scenes together, so while we still see what’s happening with all of them at the same time of day, it’s only from one perspective per scene. I also thought the frequent references to time reminded me a little of the tv show 24, which I loved.

The story focuses on the ramp up to a domestic terrorist attack. This particular sect is a white supremacist group, which is pretty timely. There are always scenes in a Slaughter book that are hard to read, but hearing the ideology of this group was so revolting. There’s a lot of people in our world today that throw out the term “nazi” at anyone they disagree with and I think it desensitizes us to when there are actually people like this that hold those type of views. This is an important topic, but it felt like there were a little more politics in this book than I generally like to read. Also, I wish Slaughter would have emphasized a little more that alt-right and alt-left groups do not represent people on the right or the left. This was really my only complaint, though.

Overall, I loved The Last Widow. I loved being back in Will Trent’s world. I love his relationship with Sara, and the other strong women in his life, Faith and Amanda. I also liked Van from the FBI and wouldn’t mind seeing more from him in the future. I loved the sense of urgency Slaughter infused into the story. I think this is my favorite book of 2019 so far and I really hope Slaughter doesn’t make us wait several more years before giving us another Will Trent book!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

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

The First Girl Child will be available August 20, 2019. 

I hardly know where to begin with this review. I’m going with a trusty list.

*The the book is set in a fantasy world within a Norse mythology framework. I will show my ignorance on the subject and admit I thought Thor was just a comic book character. But he and Loki and several others are mentioned throughout this story, though they aren’t main characters or anything.

*I found the synopsis just a little misleading. While Bayr and Alba are definitely main characters, they feel like supporting characters until the last quarter of the book. The story follows them from birth to adulthood, with much of book taking place while they are still children. I don’t want to diminish their importance, but I just expected for them to play much bigger roles. Dagmar and Ghost felt a lot more like lead characters and they aren’t even mentioned in the synopsis.

*There is some fabulous character development. Harmon takes her time telling the story and really focuses in on the characters and she did a good job of it. I definitely felt a connection to many of them. I loved sweet Bayr and tragic, tragic Dagmar.

*Though there was great characterization, I felt like it was a little at the expense of the pace. Though I was enjoying the story, I felt like it took me a lot longer to get through the book than it normally would a book of a similar size. Harmon’s writing is as beautiful as ever, but it also felt a little exhausting at times. I felt like it could have been edited down a bit more.

*I liked the slight parallel between Bayr and Moses from the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, though, it is mentioned that a leader from Saylok’s past spent some time among Christians and liked them so much he decided to make Jesus one of the gods they worship in Saylok. Which kind of defies the point of Christianity.

Overall, I enjoyed The First Girl Child. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but that turned out to be ok. Though it was a little longer and slower than it needed to be, I loved the characters a lot, especially Dagmar and Bayr. I think fans of Harmon’s other fantasy novels will really enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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

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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

Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

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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