Friday, May 13, 2022

Wicked Beauty (Dark Olympus, #3) by Katee Robert

Synopsis (via Goodreads):  

She was the face that launched a thousand ships, 
The fierce beauty at the heart of Olympus,
And she was never ours to claim.

A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Helen of Troy, Achilles, and Patroclus that's as sinful as it is sweet.

In Olympus, you either have the power to rule...or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city's inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize...or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give to away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can't keep her hands off—Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield?

Can all of the other books be about Helen, Achilles and Patroclus? Pretty please?? This is by far my favorite book in the series, and that's really saying something since I thoroughly enjoyed the first two. The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was so sweet and swoonworthy. They love each other despite their differences, and they don't let petty problems ruin what they have. The addition of Helen just made everything better. She amplified the feelings they already had and added some of her own. My one and only complaint would be that this book wasn't long enough. I wanted more, Katee!! 

Wicked Beauty was unspeakably hot. Full body tingles and all the feels. I really wanted to be a part of their trio, and a mΓ©nage Γ  trois has never been on my to-do list. The chemistry and trust they had with each other in the bedroom — I'm blushing just thinking about it. Despite Helen and Achilles trying to beat each other in the tournament (Achilles and Patroclus were a package deal from the start), they still cared about what happened to their threesome and did their best to make sure everyone was okay. Obviously, there were times when they felt conflicted, but at least they were honest with each other about what they wanted. 

Katee Robert has written something that I will be thinking about for a long, long time — she really took it to another level with this one! It was also refreshing to read about people who discussed consent, protection, and safe words.

I also really liked the tournament setting and seeing the characters work with and against each other. They're all competing to be Ares, but some alliances were formed early on to help with the initial trials. I wish the three trials had been longer and little more complex, but they were over almost as soon as they started. They tested mostly physical skill, but there were some mental preparations involved as well. I hope we see more of Atalanta in the next book, and maybe Ajax. He seemed funny and like he might have his own story to tell. Atalanta was a badass that definitely deserves her own book.

Paris was awful and I hated him. I really wish he'd gotten more of a beating before the end of the book. He definitely deserved to have someone pummel him into unconsciousness. His brother, Hector, wasn't any better since he willingly helped his snake of a sibling. 

I'm happy with how their story ended, but I wish we'd gotten a few more chapters to see how their new dynamic was going to work. They've been competitors and lovers, but we don't really get to view their triad outside of the tournament's walls. I wanted to see how they interacted in their new roles and how that affected their overall relationship. Maybe see them enjoying each other's company one more time? If not in the book itself, maybe a bonus chapter posted online somewhere? I'd even buy a novella if it was about these three. 

If you like Greek Mythology, if you enjoyed the previous two books in this series, or if you're just looking to read something steamy, then make sure you grab this one when it's released. I've already pre-ordered a physical copy for my shelves, because it's definitely one I will be reading again. All the stars! (★★★★★)

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Change by Kirsten Miller

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Feminist revenge fantasy about three women whose midlife crisis brings unexpected new powers--putting them on a collision course with the evil that lurks in their wealthy beach town.

In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment...

After Nessa James's husband dies and her twin daughters leave for college, she's left all alone in a trim white house not far from the ocean. In the quiet of her late forties, the former nurse begins to hear voices. It doesn't take long for Nessa to realize that the voices calling out to her belong to the dead--a gift she's inherited from her grandmother, which comes with special responsibilities.

On the cusp of 50, suave advertising director Harriett Osborne has just witnessed the implosion of her lucrative career and her marriage. She hasn't left her house in months, and from the outside, it appears as if she and her garden have both gone to seed. But Harriet's life is far from over--in fact, she's undergone a stunning and very welcome metamorphosis.

Ambitious former executive Jo Levison has spent thirty long years at war with her body. The free-floating rage and hot flashes that arrive with the beginning of menopause feel like the very last straw--until she realizes she has the ability to channel them, and finally comes into her power.

Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative. Their investigation into the girl's murder leads to more bodies, and to the town's most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don't apply. With their newfound powers, Jo, Nessa, and Harriet will take matters into their own hands...

The Change by Kirsten Miller is one of the most compelling books I've read all year. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the characters, and the justice dealt to those who deserved it. 

If you have a weak stomach or don't like to talk about menstruation, then this book might not be for you. The author goes into great detail about what it's like for women - Jo in particular - to have a heavy flow and what all that entails. Jo's period seems to be more intense due to the particular talents she possesses, but I do feel like the author was accurate in representing what women have to go through while on their periods. 

Harriet was by far my favorite character. I really liked her transformation and the freedom it provided her. She was finally able to be herself without restrictions and being responsible for doling out punishments suited her personality and newly discovered gifts. She always seemed to know what was going to happen before the others did, and I'm not sure if she was able to glimpse it somehow, or if she was just that intuitive. Of the three, she seemed most at home in her new body. She embraced her abilities and newfound connection to the world around her - a true badass. 

Nessa was a really sweet and gentle character, and my heart broke for her throughout the book. She's still dealing with the loss of her husband, and seeing dead girls pop up on a beach wasn't easy, especially once they realize the depth and magnitude of the situation. Someone has been taking and hurting girls, but specifically girls that no one will look for. Girls that no one will miss. It was heartbreaking to read about, and I'm glad they received justice at the end. 

I know the author was trying to make a point with this book, but not all men are terrible. It felt like every male in this book was flawed in some big way. Other than the detective, it was hard to like anyone other than the women in this book. Jo's husband was okay, but he wasn't the best, you know? He seemed jealous of his wife's accomplishments, lazy and uninterested in helping out around the house, etc. I wanted to see men who weren't scum peppered in throughout the book, but it mostly focuses on women and their bad experiences with the opposite sex. Not knocking it... just an observation and an opinion. 

I was also slightly annoyed by some of the character's choices in this book. One of Nessa's daughters decided to go for a run by herself even though girls have disappeared, and people have clearly threated the lives of Nessa, Joe, Harriet and their families. Jo also gets a business opportunity seemingly out of nowhere, and I didn't like how easily everything fell into place. She should have had more questions, or at the very least been hesitant about the offer. Additionally, the ending was a tad too obvious for my liking, and I wish it had been a little more unpredictable. 

I think The Change brings attention to a lot of "taboo" topics and realistically shows how women are perceived in the world. It's still very much a "man's world" that women are having to claw their way through just to be seen and heard. Even now, with everyone discussing abortion rights and what women are allowed to do with their bodies, women are fighting just to have a choice. Miller doesn't paint a pretty picture; she shares the harsh truths that people would rather avoid, and for that alone I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. It might be fictional, but its frankness was refreshing and really makes this book one worth reading. (★★★★☆)
Quotes I liked: 

"'The Commandments only apply to humans,' said the older woman. 'Nobody goes to hell for killing a monster.'"

"'But the truth is, Ms. Rocca--and I suspect deep down, you know this--every recipe is a spell. And all cooks are witches.'"

"'Anyone who needs a reward to be good isn't good. They just like rewards. Good people do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.'"

"'Nothing ages a person like poverty and misery,' Harriet said. 'Despite what all the ads claim, it's not skin cream that helps some women keep their glow. The only true youth serum has two ingredients--luck and money.'"

"'Seriously, Max. I grew up watching stuff that taught me that women who enjoyed sex were whores. That we should try to be who men wanted us to be--not who we really were. It fucked me up. It fucked up a lot of women I know. Is that what you want for your kid?'"

"The problem was the companies that sold shitty sanitary pads. Otherwise reasonable adults who believed tampons stole a girl's virginity. Doctors who didn't bother to solve common problems. Birth control that could kill you. Boys who were told that they couldn't control themselves. A society that couldn't handle the fact that roughly half of all humans will menstruate."

I also really liked the author's version of the Garden of Eden. It's better than the original, honestly. πŸ˜‰

"'God may have dictated the Bible, but it was put down on paper by men. And over the years, men have changed things that don't make them look good. In the original story, Eve was the hero, and this snake was her friend.'"

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.