Reviewing the Unreviewed: July 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. Reviewing the Unreviewed is my monthly post where I share my few thoughts on all the books I didn’t formally review.

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Mistakenly Married (Married #3) by Victorine E. Lieske. Read July 7-8. 3.5 Stars. 

I felt like I needed a little break from the Mystery/Suspense genre and this was just the cute story I was looking for. I loved the mistaken identity bit in the beginning. I thought this was a really well done fake relationship story and I appreciated that it could still portray lots of sexual tension while remaining very clean. I definitely want to check out some of the other books in this series.

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Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski. Read July 15-16. 1 Star. 

I think the only good thing I can say about this book is that I bought it when it was on sale so I only wasted $0.99. It was slow, repetitive, and drawn out for way too long. The “twist” was not surprising. The end was completely unsatisfying. Just another story of dumb kids behaving badly. For the life of me I can’t understand the 5 star reviews. I am obviously in the minority as everyone else seems to love it. Maybe if I had listened to the Serial podcast I would have appreciated this more? I did actually like the format, though, so I don’t think that’s it.

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Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. Read July 16-18. 4 Stars. 

I really enjoyed Lies She Told. I loved the writing style and the alternating chapters made me never want to stop reading. I definitely recommend this one to fans of psychological suspense. This is my first book by Cate Holahan and I am now anxious to try out what else she’s done. Full review to come closer to release date. 

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The Summer I Became a Nerd (Nerd #1) by Leah Rae Miller. Read July 18. 3 Stars. 

Though I had several problems with this, it was overall pretty cute. I didn’t quite understand the main premise of Maddie needing to hide her love of comic books, especially since they’re kind of mainstream now (though this is a couple years old) and her whole need-to-be-popular-at-all-costs thing was pretty off-putting. However, I did like that she grew a lot from the beginning to the end. And I LOVED Logan. He is exactly the kind of guy I would’ve been friends with in high school.

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Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. Read July 19-20. 3 Stars.

The twist got me!

This book had some elements I wasn’t expecting and quite honestly found pretty annoying. However, it wasn’t until close to the end that I figured out what “the twist” would be. Then it happened and I was kind of disappointed because I figured it out and wasn’t surprised. But then the last chapter came and I realized what I thought was the twist wasn’t the twist and I was so happy! That is the reason I’m giving this 3 stars. The book dragged on for way, way too long and really wasn’t all that interesting to me. I was very set to give it 2 stars, but then that last chapter surprised me. I just wish everything leading up to it had been a little more compelling.

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Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens. Read July 23-26. 3.5 Stars. 

I decided to think of this as more a family drama than a psychological suspense and I think that made me enjoy it more. I picked out my number 1 suspect pretty early in the book and while Stevens did do a good job of making me second guess myself, I ended up being right and felt kind of disappointed. However, I thought the relationship arc between Lindsey and Sophie was well done (even though Sophie was one of the dumbest teenagers ever and I hated her most of the time) and the flashback chapters to Lindsey and Andrew’s marriage were compelling. I was ready to give this 4 stars, but I felt the last few chapters played out like a cheesy Lifetime movie and brought my overall enjoyment of the book way down.

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Lucky in Love by Kasie West. Read July 27-28. 4 Stars. 

Kasie West books just make me happy. They are always so cute and such quick reads. The short chapters make the story seem to just fly by. I liked Maddie, but found myself frustrated with her for most of the book – the way she didn’t realize when she was being used for her money and how irresponsible she was being with it at first. I kept telling myself that without those things there wouldn’t be much of a story, though. And she does learn a lot by the end of the story, which I appreciated. I loved her relationship with Seth. He was adorable and just might be my new favorite West male lead. I loved every single scene of the two of them together. West’s last book left me just slightly disappointed, but Lucky in Love has definitely restored my faith.

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. Read July 27-30. 2 Stars. 

What a disappointment! I pretty much disliked every second of reading this book and I really don’t know why I even decided to finish it. The story was very, very slow moving, the “mystery” was obvious and not very well done, and the characters were awful. I just hated Isa. I couldn’t believe all the stuff she dragged her baby through and she was so incredibly awful to her partner, Owen, who was sweet and completely justified in his few moments of anger. Those few chapters where Isa is home with him just made me hate her. I feel like the ending was supposed to have a great message about love and sacrifice, but it did not come across at all. So why am I giving this 2 stars instead of 1? Much like The Woman in Cabin 10, Ware does do a good job of setting up a creepy atmosphere. Though it was more detailed than I appreciate, there is no denying that she is a talented writer. I just wish she would have given the plot the same care as she did the setting

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Review: Trust by Kylie Scott

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Being young is all about the experiences: the first time you skip school, the first time you fall in love…the first time someone holds a gun to your head.

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen-year-old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight—getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first—losing her virginity—their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose—each other.

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

This is not the type of book I usually go for. I tend to avoid anything with a shirtless dude on the cover. However, the somewhat recent cover trend with the black and white picture and the soft color in the text is one that I really like. I also somehow missed the part in the synopsis that the loss of virginity was a plot point, which is also something I usually avoid. Despite those things, ever since I read Deanna’s (from A Novel Glimpse) review of this book I was intrigued. I’m so glad I decided to give Trust a try because I ended up really liking it.

The story starts out pretty intense with Edie becoming a hostage in a convenience store robbery. Scott did a really good job of creating the threatening atmosphere and I could feel Edie’s fear. John tries to keep the drugged up robber calm and it looks like things might be ok for awhile, before ending badly. During the fall out Edie loses her best friend and ends up changing schools, where she meets John once again.

The story is told in Edie’s 1st person POV and I felt a pretty strong connection to her. I identified a lot with her insecurities. Her new attitude from walking away from the convenience store was basically that nothing that wasn’t life and death mattered and that was kind of concerning. However, as the story goes on she does start to take the consequences of her actions (to both her and those around her) more seriously, while still being able to rise above the Mean Girl drama/insults that used to affect her. While I think she still has a way to go, I did appreciate her growth. And a lot of that had to do with John. I LOVED John. Before the convenience store he was a drug dealer and lived with his brother, who was also a dealer. Afterwards, though, he gave it up, moved in with his uncle, and started to take school more seriously. While he still indulged in some behavior I didn’t really approve of, I really respected how he got his life together and how much he changed. I loved how he looked out for Edie and was so sweet with her and I really enjoyed their friendship and shipped them to becoming more.

There were a few bits I didn’t like. Since John only dealt weed and not harder drugs and it was the only drug he sometimes did it was portrayed as no big deal. If I may get on my soap box for a moment, I think casual drug use is a really damaging thing to include in YA. While there was definitely an anti-“hard”-drug message, it felt counterproductive to include the casual marijuana use. The other thing I didn’t love was the sexual content. While I did think the subject was dealt with responsibly, there were a few scenes that I thought were far, far too explicit for YA.

Overall, I really did enjoy Trust. I liked the characters, especially John, and the relationship between him and Edie. Though I had my issues with it, it was a fast, easy read that I did not want to put down.  I’ve read a few books recently where I felt like I had to really push myself to finish, but this one I could not get enough of and is the reason I’m bumping up my final rating a bit. This is my first book by Kylie Scott and I’d like to read more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Reivew: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I was browsing the clearance shelves at my local bookstore and saw this book on sale for about $6.00. After all the hype surrounding this series I decided it was time for me to FINALLY give it a try.

Illuminae is definitely a book you have to read a hard copy of. It would not be conducive to e-readers and would definitely leave a lot to be desired via audio. The formatting was very cool. It’s all documents and chat logs and graphics and the creators of the book obviously put a lot of thought into the layout and details. I’ll say again, it was very cool. Unfortunately, one very cool element does not a 5 star book make (at least not to me).

While I loved the format, it did not always work for me. There are many official memos and etc. that come across too unprofessional. I think there could’ve been a greater effort made to make them sound more realistic. I also had a huge problem with the video transcripts. The person transcribing them put in way too much detail of the participant’s feelings and thoughts turning it into more of a standard narration than what it should have been (this did have an explanation at the end so I’m not going to go into great detail with the quotes I actually took the time to mark to prove my point – I’ll just say that when I was reading those parts I was annoyed by it). There are also very long parts from AIDEN’s, the computer, POV that came across way too odd for me. They also blacked out all the curse words which at first I thought I would really appreciate, but quickly learned it just brought more attention to them. I found myself filling in the blacked out words anyways, and then sometimes second guessing which curse word I thought it was. This was not a good use of my time.

The plot was repetitive and drawn out. Lots of missiles and computer hacking and teenage angst and zombie-like sickness outbreak. I felt kind of bored during parts of it. However, every time I was thinking that I just didn’t care about what was going on, a character would be killed off and I found myself getting choked up. The character development was actually really well done. I loved Ezra and his kind of obnoxious friend McNulty. I loved Kady’s hacker friend, Zhang. It took me a little longer to warm up to Kady, but I did eventually really root for her, even if I didn’t love her as much as some of the other characters.

Overall, I liked Illuminae, but I didn’t love it. The non-traditional formatting was very cool and is definitely worth picking up an actual hard copy of the book for. However, I don’t understand all the 5-star hype for this run-of-the-mill sci-fi story. That said, it was still an enjoyable read and I plan on continuing the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Get To Know Me Tag

I was tagged for this by Deanna over at A Novel Glimpse (she’s awesome, check her out!). Thanks Deanna!

Vital Stats:

  • Name: Stephanie
  • Nicknames: Stephanator (one guy at work calls me that, but he adds “nator” to the end of a lot of other people’s names too haha)
  • Birthday: November 1
  • Star Sign: Scorpio
  • Occupation: Account Examiner

Appearance:

  • Hair Color: Currently it’s red, but I’m thinking of going back to my natural brunette soon
  • Hair Length: A little past shoulders
  • Eye Color: Blue
  • Best Feature: My teeth are pretty straight. Whenever I go to the dentist they marvel that I’ve never had braces
  • Braces: Nope (see above)
  • Piercings: one in each ear
  • Tattoos: No thank you! I hate needles
  • Right or Left: Right

Firsts:

  • Real Holiday: I’m not really sure what that means. First holiday I remember? I guess Christmas?
  • Best Friend: My childhood neighbor, Sarah
  • Award: I won a Best of Round in Power of the Pen in 7th grade
  • Concert: PFR (Pray for Rain)

Favorites:

  • TV Show(s): I’m going to go with current summer shows: Orphan Black, Younger, Big Brother (it’s trash, but I’m addicted)
  • Color: Purple, Blue
  • Song: I don’t really have an all-time favorite, but currently I am always happy when “Body Like a Back Road” comes on the radio. It’s so dumb, but it’s catchy!
  • Restaurant: Bone Fish Grill. Haven’t been there in a long time, but love that Bang Bang shrimp.
  • Shop: Kohl’s
  • Books: My most recent favorite is Lies She Told by Cate Halohan. Loved it!
  • Shoes: Flip Flops

Currently:

  • Feeling: Happy – I’m on vacation for the week!
  • Single or Taken: Single
  • Eating: I just finished a coffee chip Yasso bar
  • Thinking About: A coffee chip Yasso bar
  • Watching: Seinfeld
  • Wearing: Pajama pants and a t-shirt

Future:

  • Want Children: No thank you
  • Want to be Married: Only when I wish there was a second income contributing to my bank account or need to work on the car or something. So, not really.
  • Careers in Mind: I will probably be where I am until I die (or get laid off again…or have a nervous breakdown)

Do You Believe in:

  • God: Yes
  • Miracles: Yes
  • Love at First Sight: Nope
  • Ghosts: Nope
  • Aliens: Yes
  • Soul Mates: Nope
  • Heaven & Hell: Yes
  • Kissing on the First Date: I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other
  • Yourself: Nope

Feel free to tag yourself 🙂

Review: Down a Dark Road (Kate Burkholder #9) by Linda Castillo

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this electrifying new thriller in the New York Times bestselling series, a convicted murderer is on the run and Chief of Police Kate Burkholder must catch him before he strikes again.

Eight years ago Joseph King was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison. He was a “fallen” Amish man and, according to local law enforcement, a known drug user with a violent temper. Now King has escaped, and he’s headed for Painters Mill.

News of a murderer on the loose travels like wildfire and putting Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and her team of officers on edge. A nightmare scenario becomes reality when King shows up with a gun and kidnaps his five children from their Amish uncle’s house. He’s armed and desperate with nothing left to lose.

Fearing for the safety of the children, Kate leaps into action, but her frantic search for a killer leads her into an ambush. When King releases her unharmed, asking her to prove his innocence, she begins to wonder whether the police are hiding something, and she embarks on her own investigation to discover the truth.

I’m a big fan of the Kate Burkholder series. I have been looking forward to Down a Dark Road for awhile and am so happy that it lived up to my expectations.

An Amish man convicted of murdering his wife has escaped from prison. When the escapee, Joseph King, jumps chief of police Kate Burkholder and takes her service weapon, he takes her hostage, along with his kids. She tries to talk him into turning himself in while he tries to talk her into proving he didn’t kill his wife. Though the evidence against him seems insurmountable, Kate finds herself wanting to believe him due to their shared past. Kate grew up Amish and Joseph was her neighbor and friend for a couple years. He was also her first childhood crush.  I really loved the flashback portions where we see Kate’s past experiences with Joseph. Even knowing the outcome and how much I love her current boyfriend, Tomasetti, I found myself shipping young Kate and Joseph. I can definitely see why Kate had such a hard time believing he could do all the things he was accused of.

Kate, being Kate, decides to investigate even though it has to be unofficial and under the radar. I really loved how the mystery played out. There are several great moments of suspense and lots of little twists as Kate discovers new information. I had a couple of guesses who the real murderer was, but was wrong about the one I was convinced was the bad guy for most of the book. I read a lot of this genre and am rarely surprised anymore, so I love that I didn’t figure things out until late in the game.

The only thing I didn’t really like is that there wasn’t as much Tomasetti as I wanted. What we got of him was great, but I always want more. I would’ve loved to have seen a couple of chapters from his POV working the case.

Overall, I really enjoyed Down a Dark Road. It had a great mystery and is definitely one of my favorite books of the series. I love that I got to see Linda Castillo on book tour for the fourth year in a row (and she remembered my name when I went to get my book signed!!). Having the book set near the town where I grew up and recognizing a lot of the places mentioned makes a great series that much more special. I definitely recommend the Kate Burkholder series to mystery fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.


The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.”

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

The Marriage Pact will be available July 25, 2017.

I was in a weird book slump where nothing was sounding good to me when I decided to start reading The Marriage Pact. While it did take me a few chapters to get into it – whether because it started out a little slow or because of my mood, I’m not sure – it did eventually hook me and I could hardly put it down.

When Jake and Alice get married they receive an odd wedding present from a new acquaintance. It’s a locked box that they cannot open until they answer a series of questions about what they want their marriage to be and then wait for someone to come visit their home and explain. Inside the box is the Marriage Pact. A contract and a manual of rules to follow in a marriage, as well as a list of punishments if you break the rules. The goal of the pact is to have a lasting, successful marriage, so they agree to join. However, they soon come to realize how cult-like it is and how dangerous it is for them if they do not “make peace with the pact.”

Though I thought the book was a little too long and there was a little too much detail at times, I liked the writing style. It’s told from Jake’s 1st person POV and I found him likable, though often frustrating. I found myself disliking Alice most of the time because of how hard she was to nail down, which was also one of the things Jake loved about her.

I thought the psychological suspense aspect of the book to be really well done. I really felt Jake and Alice’s fear of the Pact. I am really fascinated by cults and the Pact is basically a cult. The punishment sessions were creepy and crazy. I never quite understood why it was so severe, though. There is an explanation late in the book about why punishment needs to exist to enforce the rules, but it still didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I guess cults don’t really make sense, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Marriage Pact. Though it started out a little slow for me and did get bogged down in the details a bit, for the most part it was well-paced and seriously creepy. I had fallen into a book slump before I started this and it definitely pulled me out. This is my first Michelle Richmond book and I’ll definitely be reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars