Dark Age by Pierce Brown **WARNING!**WITH SPOILERS**

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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.

This was a rollercoaster!!! So much happens and I had so many emotions as it unfolded.
I have had a book hangover this last week, unable to move on, and have been spending lots of time on the Facebook DA discussion page while trying to come up with a non-spoiler review.

I am failing to come up with one. So buckle up, Howlers. This is going to be long and only for those who have read the book.

I’ll separate the review by the character POVs.

 You have been warned about SPOILERS!

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Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn; narrated by Marc Thompson

Grand Admiral Thrawn faces the ultimate test of his loyalty to the Empire in this epic Star Wars novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.

Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.

As Thrawn works to secure his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with a dire warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s mastery of strategy must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or fealty to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.

 

I think this will be the last of the Thrawn books for a while based on the timeline. It is set right before the finale of Rebels. The third book of this trilogy was not my favorite of the three. I was a little bit bored in the middle of the story, and I thought the plot was a bit..weak.

That being said I will focus on some of the positive things.

I really liked the humor Marc Thompson brought to some of the characters. Such as his Sean Connery voice for Admiral Savit. That cracked me up. As did his pompous, snobby voice for Assistant Director Ronan.
Whenever Director Krennic made an appearance he was always yelling, but Marc’s voice work for him was spot on. Oh, and I was so amused by the jokes at his expense about his white cape. So pretentious.

I loved the voices Marc did for the Death Troopers and how they were just grilling Assistant Director Ronan, because he was so annoying.

This time Thrawn did not say “Perhaps” as much! What a relief!

I did enjoy the subplot with Eli Vanto, the Chiss and their navigators. He didn’t annoy me this time and it was interesting to see his role with the Chiss were he is an outsider. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them and learning more about the Force Sensitive girls who navigate their ships.

SOME SPOILERS BELOW!

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House of Salt And Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

This is an ARC my sister won at Book Con 2019. I borrowed it from her.

I didn’t know it was a re-telling of the Brother Grimm’s “The Twelves Dancing Princesses” (a.k.a. “The Worn-out Dancing Shoes and “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.”) I never heard of that story. So I can’t compare the two.

I do know I liked this version very much. It had a great atmosphere. I love the sea theme. The cover artwork is just beautiful. I really liked the world building and they way their different devotions to different gods and goddesses were explained.

The supernatural murder mystery was intriguing and kept me wanting to turn the page. The pacing does slow down a bit in the middle, but I still wanted to know the outcome. I had several suspects on my list because a few people come across as untrustworthy and I would change my mind as to who really was the villain.

I enjoyed how the book built up to the ending. I was questioning what was real and what wasn’t as Annaleigh searches for the truth.

I am happy to say that the love triangle was very minimal. It focused more on the sisters, the mystery, and the enchantments.

Also, I am glad that this is a standalone, but if it were to become a series I would like to see a story from one of the other cities that follow a different god or goddess.

Besides the slow pace in the middle I do have one other reason for not giving it a perfect score, but it’s a spoiler. Basically I am a little confused.

SPOILER WARNING

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More News Tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve

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On the morning of her seventieth birthday, Georgianna Grove receives an unexpected letter that calls her back to Missing Lake, Wisconsin, where her mother was murdered sixty-six years earlier. Georgie’s father had confessed to the murder the next morning and was carted off to a state penitentiary. Haunted by the night that took both her parents away and determined to unearth the truth, Georgie takes her reluctant family on what will become a dangerous canoe trip up the swollen Bone River to return to Missing Lake.

Acclaimed novelist Susan Richards Shreve, celebrated for her “refined explorations of parent-child relationships” (Washington Post), captures the tenor of the times with clarity and elegance as she follows both Georgie and her parents on parallel trips up the Bone River, weaving together the hope of June 2008 with the injustices of June 1941. Georgie must untangle a web of bigotry, loss, and half-forgotten memories to finally understand her parents’ fate.

More News Tomorrow is a stirring and irresistible portrait of a family drawn together in search of truth.

I picked this ARC up at Book Con 2019.

More News Tomorrow is a fast, entertaining read. I enjoyed reading the multiple point of views from the present and the past. Most were written in the third person and one was in the first person.

It is a page turner because I just had to know if Georgie’s father really killed her mother. Some twists and doubts are presented.

 

Warning! Major Spoilers Below:

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Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on.

I got this ARC at Book Con 2019.

I am a bit torn about my feelings for this book. I really liked the message it sent to teens and young adults to educate yourself and take responsibility when it comes to sex and HIV. Simone takes her condition seriously and asks her doctors questions. And that is a really good example to set.

The novel did have some flaws that I will address with spoiler tags.

Well this one is not much of a spoiler but something that Camryn Garrett can learn not to do. The teens roll their eyes way too much. It felt like it happened on every page and it would irate me to no end. There are many different ways to express a teenager being annoyed. The side eye, the stink eye, the squint eye; as well as verbal sounds: “Ugh,” “Ew,” and “Pfft,” just to name a few.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin

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An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress–a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.

 

I won this ARC through a Goodreads giveaway! My first win! Thank you to Goodreads and Berkley Pub.

I was very interested in this novel because not only do I love Historical Fiction but I also love fashion. I was surprised to learn by reading other reviews – and even from my own sister – that they never heard of Elsa Schiaparelli. I assume it is because the Chanel brand still exists and Schiaparelli went out of business.

Although I knew about the lasting fashion influences and the signature looks of Schiaparelli and Chanel, I was not familiar with their political beliefs nor what they did and were accused of before and during World War II. Jeanne Mackin really did her research well and I learned a lot about both iconic designers.

(Side note: I learned that Schiaparelli’s daughter had polio, and her granddaughter, Berry, married Tony Perkins and she died in the 9/11 attacks. Berry was on one of the planes that went into the World Trade center. I was shocked.)

The novel is a great blend of historical and fictional elements as told by the fictional character of Lily. I saw some reviews mention that they wished it was just from the point of view of Schiaparelli and Chanel, and that Lily was a dull and unnecessary narrator. I disagree. Through Lily get to know these influential designers, but it is not just about their rivalry. We also get to see the beautiful city of Paris pre-WWII and the people who live there and then see the sad, sometimes bitter-sweet, aftermath of WWII.

My one critique for not giving the novel a perfect score is that sometimes, not overwhelmingly so, but sometimes it did get a little bit repetitive.

There were a few quotes I really liked. I know they say not to quote an ARC and check it against the final publication, but I am not doing that. Do it yourself 😉

This one made me laugh. Page 134: Men who persist in the belief that women are soft, sentimental creatures have never worked in the fashion industry.
4 out of 5 Couture Gowns

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

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Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her. He implodes on the basketball court, even though no one cares about the JV team. And the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about cantankerous candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, spiraling out of control and in danger of losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

Even though this book came out in September 2017, the copy I read was an ARC I had on my TBR pile since Book Con 2017.

I was so surprised by how much I really loved it. I thought it would just be another YA novel about unrequited love and it would get put in the donate pile when I was done.

At first I thought it was ok, and the basketball lingo went over my head, but I really grew to like the characters. Especially Tabby, Matt’s mom and his grandpa. Oh, and I love that Matt, his dad and Tabby love Star Wars.

Jared Reck is an 8th grade teacher and that really helped with setting the tone of what teenagers are like. I felt like I was thrown back into high school.

The book takes a dramatic turn and I found myself unexpectedly bawling my eyes out. But the story ends with hope and I really liked the message.

So, I am not going to put this in the donate pile. It’s book with a lot of heart, some humor, and it’s got short chapters (which was a relief after the last book I read). It’s a quick 2-3 day read.

5 out of 5 Nerds.