Photo Review – Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Without Merit

By Colleen Hoover

Summary: Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

Without Merit was fantastic.

I feel like I’ve seen a shift in Hoover’s books lately as they’ve dialed in on some issues and were more about those issues and less about the romance and I think I like it.

There was a ton of angst in the book and the main character, Merit, had her share of issues with her family as well as issues figuring out where she fit into the world. The book dealt with a lot of mental health issues, identity, family, and communicating with people you love. It was about growth and love, too.

I don’t think Merit was the most likable main character, but I also think that was kind of the point to some degree, so I forgave the story for that.

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Photo Review – The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game

By Ruth Ware

Summary: From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my library

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Review:

So here’s the thing about Ruth Ware. She’s a wonderful writer. I thoroughly enjoy the way she writes, especially when she creates a setting. She sets up the characters and their backstories in a great way. But she cannot create a plot that makes sense and/or is gripping and twisted enough to hold weight. I keep reading her books because I feel this enormous potential happening, but I’m let down nearly every time. There was almost nothing to this “mystery” plot and it made no sense for any of the characters to be so invested in keeping their secrets.

My other issue with this particular book was the main character fretting over her baby. In some ways, it was a nice to see a character actually have a baby, be afraid to separate herself from her baby, and show that side of motherhood, as I’m sure a large portion of the demographic reading Ware’s books can relate. However, let’s all be honest, it’s dull to read about. She was fretting and fussing and feeding this baby throughout the entire book and the baby’s presence was relevant to the story about zero times. She could have been married, single, a mom, a career woman, both, neither, and it didn’t matter, so bringing the baby into the plot just added pages upon pages of activities that did not advance the story in any way.

I know my review seems harsh, but I mean what I said. I love Ware’s writing and I’m just waiting for the moment where the plot itself is worth it!

Photo Review – The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

The Good Daughter

By Karin Slaughter

Summary: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind.

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father—Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney—devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, Charlotte has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself—the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again, and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized, Charlotte is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress–because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever. Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling.

Source: I purchased a paperback so I could read with my local book club.

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Review:

I have not yet read a Karin Slaughter book before this one. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but the plot seemed pretty interesting.

The book was very unpredictable. Who I thought would be the main character ended up not being in the story much at all due to the abrupt change in time period, so I felt like the story kept me on my toes by changing tone.

The beginning of the book was really strong and the relationships between the characters are what kept me going to try to piece together what happened to tear such a close knit family apart.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend, but I do admit to feeling a bit of slump towards the middle of the book. Fortunately, the story did pick up!

Photo Review – City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

City of Dark Magic

By Magnus Flyte

Summary: Cosmically fast-paced and wildly imaginative, this debut novel is a perfect potion of magic and suspense

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.

Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

 City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.

Source: I received a paperback as a gift

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Review:

I have heard so many amazing things about this book and I was super excited to read it.

I did not like the writing and I didn’t think it meshed with the setting or the plot and it kind of felt like it dumbed it down to make it more of a “popular” beach read or something. Everything felt very tell vs show, so it felt clunky.

I also didn’t like the fact that the book was written under a pseudonym that had this “clever” backstory. I have always found it unnecessary, but I felt like it just added to the whole cheesiness of the writing in general.

Essentially, City of Dark Magic was not at all what I expected it to be and mostly I felt disappointed.

Photo Review – Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves #1) by Mary E. Pearson

Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves #1)

By Mary E. Pearson

Summary: A new novel in the New York Times–bestselling Remnant Chronicles universe, in which a reformed thief and the young leader of an outlaw dynasty lock wits in a battle that may cost them their lives—and their hearts.

When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty’s resentment and anger.

At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.

Source: I received a digital copy from Netgalley and a signed hardcover from Uppercase.

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Review:

This was a spin off series set in the same universe as The Remnant Chronicles and I read this immediately after finishing it.

Dance of Thieves had completely new characters in a new setting, but Lia was mentioned a few times, so I feel like I got a little closure from knowing how she was doing.

I loved the characters in this book. It had such a different feel than The Remnant Chronicles and I loved that. It was a new culture, a settlement than the kingdoms didn’t even recognize, hence Kazi’s presence there, trying to get information for Lia.

I enjoyed the politics and schemes, as well as the push and pull of Kazi and Jase as they ended up on their own, both with plans to betray the other. It was so much fun and I couldn’t wait to see how it played out.

You don’t have to read The Remnant Chronicles to enjoy this series, but it does take place after the events, so it’s a bit of a spoiler that Lia is Queen, but I don’t think it’s a big deal if you just ignore that and just don’t read the series immediately after with her and her court’s names fresh in your head!

August 2018 Uppercase featuring Dance of Thieves:

Photo Review – The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3) by Mary E. Pearson

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)

By Mary E. Pearson

Summary: Lia has survived Venda—but so has a great evil bent on the destruction of Morrighan. And only Lia can stop it.

With war on the horizon, Lia has no choice but to assume her role as First Daughter, as soldier—as leader. While she struggles to reach Morrighan and warn them, she finds herself at cross-purposes with Rafe and suspicious of Kaden, who has hunted her down.

In this conclusion to the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, traitors must be rooted out, sacrifices must be made, and impossible odds must be overcome as the future of every kingdom hangs in the balance.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

I really enjoyed this trilogy. Every book had different enemies and different politics, yet they all related to everything else and impacted the core group of characters. There were so many plots and schemes. I loved the character growth.

If you’re looking for a YA fantasy that is more than the familiar tropes, this is one to check out. It’s complex, yet also full of hope with a determined young heroine. And full of angst and romance, but not in a way that overshadows the rest of the plot.

I highly recommend this series!

Photo Review – The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) by Mary E. Pearson

The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)

By Mary E. Pearson

Summary: Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.

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Source: I purchased a kindle copy

Review:

The Heart of Betrayal was a strong sequel. It was full of betrayal and politics with some major decisions for Lia. I felt her grow through her experiences, yet remain true to her convictions. I loved the way she took in the Vendan culture, while actively plotting against those who captured her.

I think it’s a better book than the first and it’s rare that YA fantasies are that way.

I definitely recommend it and I’m glad I continued to read this series.