Reviewing the Unreviewed: July 2018

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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Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson. Read July 1-3. 3 Stars. 

This wasn’t bad, but it didn’t live up to the hype for me. I developed a theory about how the two storylines were connected fairly early on and it ended up being right. When that was finally revealed to be true I kept expecting something else shocking or twisty to happen at the end of the book, but nothing did. So I guess if you didn’t figure it out early it would appear as a fun twist, but it was just kind of ho hum for me. I did like the different POVs, though, and I really liked Gabe, even though he frustrated me many times.

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Sirens (Aidan Waits Thriller #1) by Joseph Knox. July 4-6. 4 Stars. 

This book is dark and kind of messed up, but I really enjoyed it. Short chapters and a fast pace made it a pretty quick read. I wavered a little bit with what to rate it because I found myself sometimes not really understanding what was going on and the writing seemed a little scattered at times. However, I liked that Knox was able to take a rather cliched storyline (addict/kind of dirty cop main character, drugs, murder, etc.) into something that really did seem unique. I thought the mystery was pretty well done and it kept my interest the whole time. I’m definitely looking forward to more from this series.

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My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. Read June 27-July 7. 2 Stars. 

I am so disappointed!!! My Lady Jane is one of my absolute favorite books and I have been looking forward to My Plain Jane for so long. Unfortunately it just fell so short of my expectations. The humor that I loved in the previous book felt so forced here. This book got a couple of chuckles out of me, but much more eye-rolling. I also didn’t love the Jane Eyre-Ghostbusters mash-up. I felt like the story really dragged and it did not keep my attention. I actually read two other books in the time it took me to finish this one. I had originally really liked the idea of having Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre both be characters, but I didn’t end up liking either of them. Alexander was probably my favorite POV of the three, but I didn’t really care that much about him either. I’m just overall really underwhelmed and disappointed with this one.

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Catch Him if You Can (Accidentally Yours #2) by Jennifer Shirk. Read July 19-21. 4 Stars. 

This book was so cute! After reading a number of mysteries/thrillers lately I was really in the mood for something light and sweet and Catch Him If You Can was exactly what I needed. I found myself smiling through the whole book. Full review to come closer to release date. 

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I Knew You Were trouble (Oxford #4) by Lauren Layne. Read July 22-23. 3.5 Stars.

This wasn’t my favorite Lauren Layne book, but it was still enjoyable. I liked Nick. Taylor took awhile to grow on me, but she wasn’t bad. I was looking for something light and quick to read and this was perfect for that.

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Hard Sell (21 Wall Street #2) by Lauren Layne. Read July 27-28. 4 Stars.

I love both Fake Relationship and Hate-to-Love stories and this book utilized both. Full review to come closer to release date. 

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Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren. Read July 28-29. 3.5 Stars.

I’ve had some mixed reviews with the Christina Lauren books I’ve read so I’m never really sure what to expect when I pick one up. However, I do know that there will be some addicting writing that will make the book hard to put down and Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating was exactly that. Full review to come closer to release date.

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Review: Our House by Louise Candlish

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue. 

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it. 

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher via a Good Reads giveaway and also an e-copy via NetGalley. This does not impact my review.

Our House will be available August 7, 2018. 

Our House is one of my most anticipated books of the summer and while it wasn’t quite what I expected, I definitely enjoyed it.

I really liked the formatting of this novel. Fi tells her side of the story through a popular podcast and interspersed with it are tweets as people listen to the podcast and also excerpts from a document Bram is writing to tell his side of the story. There is also straightforward narration from both their POVs detailing the immediate aftermath of Fi finding out her house has been sold. I thought this style was used really effectively to reveal all the twists and turns throughout the story.

I thought the book was very character-driven and felt like I got to know both Fi and Bram pretty well. I have to say that Bram really frustrated me pretty much the whole book. He just told so many little lies that if he had just been honest about any of them early on then things would have never gotten so out of hand. It was hard not to feel like he deserved what happened to him. Fi was a more likable and empathetic character and I really felt bad for all the things Bram put her through.

While there were some fun twists and turns, I did figure most of them out well before they were revealed. I didn’t really mind that, but it did make it feel unnecessarily long at times. I think the story would have benefited from being a little shorter and a little faster-paced. However, I liked that as I was trying to figure out some of the surprises, it took my attention off of something else that gave the very end of the book a nice twist and that ending is why I’m bumping my rating up a little more than I was originally planning.

Overall, I enjoyed Our House. Though it did feel a little longer than necessary and I did figure out many things before they were revealed, I enjoyed the twists and turns the story took and especially liked the ending. I recommend it to fans of character-driven mysteries, nontraditional formatting, and some unreliable narration. This was my first book by Louise Candlish and I definitely want to check out more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley #1) by Cara Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

They know who did it. Perhaps not consciously. Perhaps not yet. But they know. 

When eight-year-old Daisy Mason vanishes from her family’s Oxford home during a costume party, Detective Inspector Adam Fawley knows that nine times out of ten, the offender is someone close to home. And Daisy’s family is certainly strange—her mother is obsessed with keeping up appearances, while her father is cold and defensive under questioning. And then there’s Daisy’s little brother, so withdrawn and uncommunicative . . .

DI Fawley works against the clock to find any trace of the little girl, but it’s as if she disappeared into thin air—no one saw anything; no one knows anything. But everyone has an opinion, and everyone, it seems, has a secret to conceal.

This book, guys! It’s SO GOOD! Why has no one told me how good this is? In any case, I am here to tell you to go read this book!

Close to Home kept me guessing the whole time. Did one of my guesses end up being right? Sure, but I had about 9 theories going at the same time and I really didn’t commit to the real conclusion until only a few pages before it was revealed. Hunter did an incredible job of making numerous red herrings seem not just plausible, but likely.

The characterization was really great, as well. I really hated the Masons and I just wanted to find out what the deal was with this crazy family. I also really liked all of the police officers. It’s not often in these type of books that the members of the police force are so likable, but they were here. I can’t wait to read more about them. Adam Fawley was a great main character. Even though he had a tragic backstory, he was not some cliched, half-way functioning alcoholic. He was a good detective and he was also a good person.

I thought I would hate the non-traditional formatting with it’s lack of proper chapters, but it actually ended up working for me. It kept the pace very steady and it made it so much easier for me to keep reading right past my bedtime. I loved the multiple POVs and timelines utilized, as well as the tweets. I feel this book helps prove my theory that Twitter is the worst thing to ever happen to society (and yes, I say that knowing that I will tweet a link to this review). The whole Trial by Twitter thing is so relevant to our world today and I thought it was really smart to include it here.

The only tiny thing I didn’t like about the book was that I wanted more details for the conclusion. We’re given enough answers to know what happens, but I would have liked to have known all the little details on how we got there. It was just a little too vague to fully satisfy me, but this is me just being nit-picky.

Overall, I just loved Close to Home. I loved the characters and the writing and the mystery. I am blown away that this is Cara Hunter’s debut book. It was so cleverly written and I never wanted to put it down. This is my favorite book of the year so far and Hunter has made her way onto my favorite authors list. I can’t wait to read the next book!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

 

Review: Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins is beloved for her heartfelt novels filled with humor and wisdom. Now, in her newest novel, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, she tackles an issue every woman deals with: body image and self-acceptance.

Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson tragically passes away, she leaves one final wish for her best friends: to conquer the fears they still carry as adults.

For each of them, that means something different. For Marley, it’s coming to terms with the survivor’s guilt she’s carried around since her twin sister’s death, which has left her blind to the real chance for romance in her life. For Georgia, it’s about learning to stop trying to live up to her mother’s and brother’s ridiculous standards, and learning to accept the love her ex-husband has tried to give her.

But as Marley and Georgia grow stronger, the real meaning of Emerson’s dying wish becomes truly clear: more than anything, she wanted her friends to love themselves.

A novel of compassion and insight, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT tells the story of two women who learn to embrace themselves just the way they are.

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

Good Luck with That will be available August 7, 2018.

Oh, do I have some thoughts on this one! Since lists are an important part of the book, I’m going to go that route with my review.

-Kristan Higgins has always been one of my favorite Romance authors. I’ve read all her romance books multiple times. Her last few books have moved into Women’s Fiction which I was resistant to. However, Higgins is a very talented author and despite some of the issues I had with this (I’ll get to those, don’t worry), I enjoyed almost every moment of reading it.

-We’ve all seen the pre-publication hate for the topic of Good Luck with That. I seem to remember the original synopsis was a bit different than it is now? I thought that’s why people came out so hard against it, but please correct me if I’m wrong. While I do have a level of trust in Higgins writing, I was still a little weary of reading this. I’m happy to say that while it still definitely had it’s moments, it was not nearly as offensive as I thought it was going to be. Yet another example of why people should not be allowed to rate a book before reading it.

-I felt like the main message of the story was really to live your life now instead of waiting for some arbitrary goal that may or may not ever be achieved. For the women of the novel, that was waiting to do things until they lost weight, but I think this idea will still be relatable to people from all walks of life. There was also a message that people of all shapes and sizes have a hard time with self-acceptance.

-I really liked both Marley and Georgia. They were very well-developed characters. There was never a time when I was sad to see the POV change between them. I also really loved Georgia’s nephew, Mason. He was so sweet and I loved his relationship with Georgia. I also enjoyed the romantic interests, Will and Rafe. Most of the rest of the secondary characters were not so great, though. Their behavior was so over the top that they didn’t feel very realistic.

-Even though the book was not as offensive as I expected, there is still a healthy (unhealthy?) level of fat shaming going on, as well as an underlying level of disgust towards the overweight. I feel kind of motivated to work out more and eat better, but not because I’ve been inspired to live a happier and healthier life, but because I feel straight up shamed into it.

**Ever so slightly Spoiler-y on a romantic interest – but it’s something you will probably figure out much sooner than it’s revealed, anyways** One of the characters has PTSD and agoraphobia and I REALLY disliked how Marley responded to it. She was a tiny bit sympathetic, but mostly when she wanted him to go out somewhere with her she told him he should just get over it because “she’s worth it.” People with severe mental health issues like that cannot just “get over it”, no matter how much they want to please their loved ones. It felt incredibly insensitive and irresponsible how this whole plotline was dealt with and I really expected more from Higgins. I also thought it kind of paralleled a storyline with Georgia and Rafe, where he thought she shouldn’t be insecure in her appearance since he found her attractive. In that scenario, however, it’s conveyed how incorrect that line of thinking is.

-By the end of the book, I didn’t really feel like Good Luck with That was a “body-positive” or a “fat-shaming” book. It definitely had aspects of both, but the central message was really more about friendship, family, and living life to the fullest, despite your circumstances. I think fans of Higgins writing and Women’s Fiction will enjoy it. While there are parts that some may find offensive, the story really is about so much more than those parts.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor #4) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

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

I’ve really enjoyed Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor series and I thought Dead Drift was a great conclusion.

While I initially didn’t really love the terrorism plot line that first appeared in book two of the series, I thought it worked really well here. It really takes center stage and I was invested it. The secondary mystery circled back to an on-going investigation from the first book and the killer of Griffin’s little sister was finally revealed. I thought the mixture of the urgency and the emotional were balanced much better here than in the previous book, which was probably my least favorite of the series.

I really liked Luke. I was excited for him to finally take a central role and he didn’t disappoint. I would’ve loved to hear a little more of his time away, but I thought the reasons for his disappearance and silence for seven years was well explained, as well as how he felt about it. I liked Kate more than I thought I would, but she’s definitely not my favorite female lead of the series. I loved seeing the whole gang all together. They are a very likable group and I will miss reading about them.

I only have two real complaints. I didn’t like that we didn’t get very much time with Parker and Avery at all. All the other characters got a good amount of page time, but I didn’t feel like they were very present which disappointed me because they’re my favorite couple of the series. I also didn’t like that there’s a really big moment in the conclusion of the terrorism plot line that was just mentioned after the fact instead of being able to experience it with the characters. I thought Pettrey did a really good job with the all the action scenes up to that point and would have liked to have seen that important moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dead Drift. I thought the mysteries were intriguing and I really liked getting Luke’s POV. As always, I thought Pettrey did a good job with the Christian elements of the story. It’s never preachy, but just an organic part of the characters’ lives. I’m really going to miss these characters and look forward to the author’s next series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars