Reviewing the Unreviewed: January 2017

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads.

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Daughters of the Bride by Susan Mallery. Read December 27-31 (yes, last month, but it didn’t make it into last month’s post). 4 Stars.

I expected this to be a really light and fluffy read, but it ended up being a lot more serious than I thought it would be. I mean, it’s not super serious, there’s still cute and fluffy moments, but it’s not really as “Chick Lit” as I thought it would be. This is not a bad thing at all, though. I really enjoyed this book and thought the character development was really well done. I loved how each of the sisters were affected differently by the events of their childhood and how it still impacted their lives decades later. I really liked Courtney and Rachel right off the bat. I really didn’t care for Sienna for the longest time, but by the end of the book I was rooting for her. I shipped all the romances. I loved the humor. I definitely recommend this one to Contemporary fans!

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The Wedding Season by Samantha Chase. Read January 3-4. 3 Stars.

This was a quick, ok read. I liked the relationship between Ryan and Tricia, but the “fake relationship” aspect of it was very, very short and that kind of frustrated me because it was the main reason I decided to read this one. Ryan’s mother drove me insane and I wasn’t a big fan of Ryan’s brother (and Tricia’s best friend) Sean. If you’re looking for a quick read with lots of romance then you might enjoy this.

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Mackenzie Fire (Shine Not Burn #2) by Elle Casey. Read January 2-7. 2.5 Stars.

The latter half of this book was definitely better than the beginning, but it wasn’t quite enough to make up for it. Candice really rubbed me the wrong way for most of the book. I don’t particularly like the phrase “too stupid to live”, but that’s what kept coming to mind in pretty much every scene I read. However, she did grow on me by the end of the book and I liked her and Ian together (even though the romance happened super fast). If you don’t mind a ditzy protagonist, though, you might like this.

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Twisted Palace (The Royals #3) by Erin Watt. Read January 4-7. 2 Stars.

Well, that was disappointing. I don’t expect great literary things out of this series, but after how addicting the first book was, I except to at least be entertained. I had to force myself to finish this. My early prediction about the “mystery” ended up being right. All the high school drama seemed really unimportant since Reed is facing a murder charge, but it still got most of the plot focus. Disappointing end to a series that started out so fun.

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The Program (The Program #1) by Suzanne Young. Read January 7-8. 3 Stars.

This has been on my TBR forever and when nothing at all was sounding interesting to me I decided to finally give it a try. It kept my interest and I liked it, but I didn’t feel like it was really anything special. Some of the descriptions of depression I thought were really well done, but this is not a “mental health awareness” book by any means (this isn’t a bad thing – but if you’re looking for that be forewarned). I liked the characters well enough, but didn’t really love any of them. I shipped the wrong couple, even though I knew that they wouldn’t end up together and was really suspicious of the guy from the start. I did really like the epilogue, though. It had a few surprises that I appreciated. I liked this enough to read the next book, but this book didn’t blow me away like it has so many others.

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Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson. Read January 8-10. 4 Stars.

Overall, I really enjoying Seeking Mansfield. I liked the characters and the romance and the message of self-worth and standing up for yourself. It was an easy and addicting read. Though I thought the middle of the story dragged a little bit with too much teen angst, it did pick back up and I really enjoyed it. I think fans of Mansfield Park would be happy to read this re-telling. Full Review to come.

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I Found You by Lisa Jewell. Read January 14-15. 4 Stars.

I really enjoyed I Found You. It’s emotional and intriguing and I could hardly put it down. I thought Jewell did an excellent job of juggling the characters and timelines. I definitely recommend this book and really look forward to reading more from this author. Full review to come closer to release date.

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Dead Scared (Lacey Flint #2) by Sharon Bolton. Read January 15-17. 4 Stars.

What!? Why is there no epilogue? This book needed an epilogue! I am pretty unsatisfied with how it ended.

Other than that, I liked this book. One thing I really liked was getting Joesbury’s perspective. Though I wish we got more from him, pretty much everything we got just made me love him even more. The first 3/4 or so or the book lacked the urgency that I enjoyed about the first in the series, but the writing was still engaging enough that I didn’t want to stop reading. As the ending approached it got a lot more suspenseful. Though we find out the answer to the mystery, there is no resolution to how it all pans out and I’m really annoyed about that. Definitely still reading the next book, though.

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Lost (Lacey Flint #3) by Sharon Bolton. Read January 17-18. 4 Stars.

This was so good! A mix of psychological and urgent/action-y suspense. Also very character driven. While I was a little upset that we didn’t get Joesbury’s POV again, I liked getting Tulloch’s (though it made me not like her as much) and Lacey’s young neighbor, Barney. We get very little of Lacey’s POV for the first half of the book which I found a little odd, but still worked. The mystery was well done. I had it all completely figured out a couple of times before being proved wrong. While I did eventually guess the murderer before the reveal, it was probably my 4th or 5th guess. This is really one of the best mystery series I’ve read in a long time.

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The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle. Read January 19-21. 3 Stars.

Maybe it’s because I just finished several books in the same genre that were exceptionally well done, but I found all the mystery and thriller aspects of this book very disappointing. Though there were a lot of reveals thrown in every few chapters, the pace seemed incredibly slow to me. Until the last quarter or so I was just really bored and trying to get through it. The action and suspense did increase towards the end, but it wasn’t really enough to save the book for me. I feel like if you don’t read a lot of this genre then you might like this, but I could predict pretty much every development from the beginning and there just weren’t any surprises until the very, very end. I did very much like how it ended (and I’m talking the last few sentences), but I wish there would’ve been an epilogue to wrap things up. Overall, not a bad book, but not a great one.

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Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett. Read January 21-22. 3.5 Stars.

Overall, I did enjoy Alex, Approximately. Even though there wasn’t a lot that was happening, I didn’t really want to put it down. Though I think some of the side plots and character development could have used a little more work, the romance was cute and the characters were likable. I would recommend it to YA Contemporary fans. Full review to come.

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Waste of Space by Gina Damico. Read January 26-28. 3.5 Stars.

Overall, I found Waste of Space pretty enjoyable. I loved the satirical view of reality television. Though it did occasionally go a little far into cheesy territory, I thought it was really well done overall. If you’re looking for a humorous, different kind of YA book, I definitely recommend this one. Catchphrase forever! Full review to come.

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To Have and to Hold (The Wedding Belles #1) by Lauren Layne. Read January 28-29. 3.5 Stars.

This book had some really cute, if sometimes frustrating, romance. I liked both Brooke and Seth. I dropped the rating half a star though because there was one major theme that kind of infuriated me. Seth doesn’t trust his sister’s new fiancé and wants to check into his background because he loves his sister and doesn’t want her to get hurt. I think this is totally reasonable. I can understand where the sister might get mad about it, but in the big picture wouldn’t she be happy to know if something shady was going on before it’s too late? But Brooke and Seth’s best friend are horrified by it and tell him he doesn’t know what love is…um, NO! Seth was maybe a little stunted in expressing his emotions, but his heart was 1,000% in the right place. Other than that and some slightly too graphic sex scenes, I enjoyed this book a lot.

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Making Faces by Amy Harmon. Read January 29-30. 4.5 Stars.

Overall, I just loved Making Faces. It’s not a light book. It hurt to read at times. But it was beautifully written and included some amazing characters and really important messages. I really don’t think I can recommend this book enough. I’m definitely going to be looking up other books by this author in the future. Full Review to come.

****************RE-READ****************

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Tell Me Three Things and Red Rising. I loved both of these just as much as the first time around. I was a little afraid I wouldn’t like Red Rising as much because one of my favorite things were all the surprises in it (and I have hyped it to death, so how embarrassing would it be if it didn’t hold up), but even though I knew some things were coming, I still just found myself smiling at the twists and turns. If you have not read this series yet – WHY NOT?

****************BACK ON THE TBR****************

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book to become available at the library FOREVER. But it came at one of those times where I just wasn’t feeling it. Lately I find myself sick to death of celebrities. And even though I want to be best friends with Anna Kendrick every time I watch Pitch Perfect, I just couldn’t make myself pick up this book right now.

****************DNF****************

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Someone Like You by Susan Mallery. Officially DNF-ing at 33%. I thought it would be nice symmetry to have the first book I read of 2017 be by the same author as the last book I read in 2016. I’ve enjoyed the other books I read by her, but I just couldn’t get into this one at all. I just don’t care about the characters or the story so far, so I’m calling it.

Review: Still Life (Chesapeake Valor #2) by Dani Pettrey

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Official Synopsis:

Blacklisted in the photography business when one of her shots causes a scandal, but desperate to somehow continue in the profession, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She fully expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–taking time to teach her the trade. Now she’s half in love with the man, half terrified to even acknowledge her feelings, and completely hooked on the job–until the next crime hits too close to home.

Avery attends the gallery opening of a new photography exhibit to support her best friend who modeled for the show. The only image of her, though, is a chilling photo of her posing dead. Only the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot, and Avery’s friend can’t be found.

As Avery and Parker, along with Parker’s brilliant friends, begin to dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a dangerous, relentless, and deadly threat which could endanger them all.

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

Still Life will be available January 31, 2017.

*Fun Fact: The cover model is Ken from the Millennials Vs Gen X season of Survivor!

What I Liked:

-I like the characters in this series. It’s been a little while since I read the first book so it took me some time to get a handle on how all the characters relate to each other, but once I did I really enjoyed them.

-I really liked both Parker and Avery and shipped them pretty hard. I thought they were both pretty well developed and both really likable. I enjoyed getting both of their POVs and pretty much every scene they were both in. I also liked how well they worked together on a professional level.

-Though the focus of the book was on Parker and Avery, we get several other POVs. Most notable was Declan, who I believe will be the focus of the next book.

-I thought the main message of the book was really well done. Avery struggles a lot with the things she’s done in her past and throughout the book she is reminded that when she came to Christ she has been forgiven and is a new creation. As someone who lives with a lot of anxiety, I spend a great deal of time worrying about the stupid or embarrassing or wrong things I’ve done in my past (whether it was yesterday or decades ago) and I felt like this was a great reminder that God is bigger than my mistakes.

-The main mystery was really interesting. There were a lot of elements to Skylar’s disappearance that I thought Pettrey weaved together really well. While I did figure out who the murderer was, it was only shortly before it was revealed.

What I didn’t Like:

-There was a secondary terrorist plotline that just didn’t really work for me. It worked as a connection to the missing member of the group and while it was interesting enough, all it did was set things up for future books in the series. Which is fine, but I wish it would’ve been a smaller portion of this story.

-Half of the people working Skylar’s case were doing so without any official credentials and I think things were just a little too easy for them. Parker and Avery don’t really have any right to question anybody, but they go through several leads who don’t ask for identification or warrants or anything and it’s not until towards the end of the book before anyone lawyers up. It just seemed a little odd to me that an FBI agent and a police officer could share case information with a bunch of random people.

-There was a lot of build up to Avery’s past and while I mentioned before that I thought the message of God’s forgiveness was really well done, there is a very short section where Avery shares with Parker the worst of the worst and it’s not something she did, so much as something that was done to her. She has obvious victim’s guilt and there was not nearly enough time devoted to that. For such an important, heavy topic I felt like it should have been handled with more care or just left out entirely.

Overall:

Overall, I really enjoyed Still Life. I really liked the characters and the relationship between Parker and Avery. I thought the mystery was pretty well done, as was the message of God’s forgiveness and being a new creation in Christ. I’ve been reading Pettrey’s work since her first book and I really think that she gets better with each new installment. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Underrated Books

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday is: Favorite Underrated Books–Give some love to those books that aren’t as widely talked about. Those hidden gems. Those books that maybe used to be popular but people have forgotten about and they still deserve some love.     

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1. My newest obsession is the Lacey Flint series by S.J. Bolton (aka Sharon Bolton) and I never even heard of it until very recently. More people need to read this – especially if you’re a fan of the mystery/suspense genre.

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2. The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan. If you like YA, great banter, cute (yet sometimes frustrating) romance, and a little bit of magic – this book series is for you! Definitely one of my favorite series I wish more people would read.

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3. The Anna Curtis series by Allison Leotta. Another great mystery/suspense series that I don’t see enough people reading.

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4. The Curse Workers series by Holly Black. Another great magical YA series. If for no other reason, read this series for the treasure that is charming, sarcastic Cassel.

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5. The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock. It’s been so long since I read this (and it was before the blog and before I started writing any type of review on Good Reads) that I don’t remember a lot of details, but I remember being obsessed with this book. Great character development, some great (and not so great) romances, and the heartbreak of war.

What underrated books do you wish more people read? Have you read any of mine? And if you haven’t – You should!

The Candy Book Tag

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I saw this over on Adventures of a Bibliophile awhile ago and thought it looked like a fun one.

Apples – Ah. Healthy food. It is deep, meaningful, and probably won a lot of awards but, um, it really isn’t your thing.

I honestly can’t think of anything for this. Probably a lot of the “important” books that everyone seems to give 5 stars based on subject matter alone.

Milk Chocolate – This is a book you’d recommend to absolutely EVERYONE.

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Red Rising, obviously!

Black Jellybeans – Why do these exist??

The never ending supply of Shadow Hunter spin-offs! If you like these and can’t get enough, great! But I think there’s just far too many to keep up with.

Chocolate Kisses – Awww this novel had the best romance.

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I’m going to go with my most recent cute romance read – which would be Finley and Oliver in Seeking Mansfield.

Gummy Spiders – Eek! You made sure to check under your bed every night for a week after reading this scary one.

I don’t really read scary books. Just like in movies, the scarier they’re supposed to be, the funnier I find them.

Jumbo Lollipop – This took you forever to get through, but hey! You did it!

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I find myself really intimidated by big books, so I don’t read a lot of them. But the most recent book I read that *felt* like it took me forever to read (even though it wasn’t very long) was The Marriage Lie.

Cotton Candy – Admit it, you loved this when you were younger (you probably still do). Think children’s or MG fiction.

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The Baby-Sitters Club! I used to have a ton of these books that ended up getting thrown out during a move and it makes me sad because I would love to go back and re-read some of them.

Review: Now You See Me (Lacey Flint #1) by S.J. Bolton

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

One night after interviewing a reluctant witness at a London apartment complex, Lacey Flint, a young detective constable, stumbles onto a woman brutally stabbed just moments before in the building’s darkened parking lot. Within twenty-four hours a reporter receives an anonymous letter that points out alarming similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper’s first murder—a letter that calls out Lacey by name. If it’s real, and they have a killer bent on re-creating London’s bloody past, history shows they have just five days until the next attempt.

No one believes the connections are anything more than a sadistic killer’s game, not even Lacey, whom the killer seems to be taunting specifically. However, as they investigate the details of the case start reminding her more and more of a part of her past she’d rather keep hidden. And the only way to do that is to catch the killer herself.

When I read Annie’s review (on The Misstery) on Now You See Me I thought it just might be the book to pull me out of the book funk I’ve been in so far this year. I’m quite happy to say that it did the trick. This well-written twisty mystery consumed me for days.

Lacey is a low-level detective that finds herself caught up in a serial killer investigation when she’s a potential witness of the first murder. As the investigation goes on it becomes apparent that the killer is a Jack the Ripper copycat and Lacey is something of an expert on the topic. She ends up working closely with Mark Josebury, who can’t seem to make up his mind between hitting on her or suspecting her.

Lacey is the stand-offish, serious woman with something to hide that is typical of this genre, but I liked her all the same. She was hard to get a handle on sometimes and I think that added to the mystery. As the narrator, I was never sure how reliable she was being, but all the important information was relayed to the reader at just the right impactful moments. I also really liked Josebury, Dana Tulloch (the detective heading up the investigation), and the other detectives working the case. I liked seeing that the police were competent and respectable. They still had funny moments, but they were professional when they needed to be and it was refreshing to see when that is not often the case in these type of books.

I thought the mystery was really well done. The focus shifts a bit from Jack the Ripper comparisons to the copycat and his/her background around halfway through and the mystery of how it all relates to Lacey becomes a little more forefront. There weren’t a lot of big twists, but there were a lot of little subtle twists and surprises that it kept me from not being able to put the book down. Every time I thought I had the whole thing figured out, there’d be a small development that had me questioning myself. The final reveal at the end was definitely a bit of a surprise and I loved it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Now You See Me. I liked the mystery and the characters. Though I felt like the writing could get weighed down with just a little too much description at times, it was a very addictive, consuming read. I definitely recommend this to mystery lovers and I look forward to continuing the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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