Reviewing the Unreviewed: July 2019

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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Bred by Ginger Scott. Read July 6-8. 3.5 Stars.

I mostly enjoyed this book, though not a lot really seemed to happen. I thought Lily was a likable main character and I shipped the romance. There were several characters, though, that I wished we got more development on. Henry and Elena, particularly. I expected Elena to be a little more horrible than what she has. She has a reason for her behavior, but she was never much more than a caricature of a villain. I also would have liked to see Lily’s relationship with her guardians explored a little more. I also didn’t really love the end. It felt kind of anticlimactic and I expected a bigger payout. Maybe if the epilogue was set several years in the future instead? I must admit that I am a bad book worm and have never read Great Expectations, the story this book is inspired by, so I can’t say how close it is to the source material. I’m giving it an extra half star, though, because it was a pretty addictive read, even if slow paced.

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The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson. Read June 30 – July 13. 3 Stars. 

Kind of cheesy, but sweet and cute. The characters were likable enough. Another book that was decent for a KU pick, but one I’m glad I didn’t spend money on.

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The Stories You Tell (Roxane Weary #3) by Kristen Lepionka. Read July 12-13. 4 Stars. 

I can always count on this series to deliver some addictive entertainment. I enjoyed this a lot, but after reading a few 5-star rave reviews, I hyped myself up for it a lot and was left a tiny bit disappointed. It was still very enjoyable, just not quite as amazing as I was hoping for. Anyways, the mystery was well done, even if the story telling felt a little unfocused at times. I didn’t really guess the ending, so that’s always fun. Some of the characters that were involved in the mystery of the last book show up, but since it’s been a long time since I read it, I couldn’t really remember who they were and there wasn’t really any recap info to remind me. Catherine is still the literal worst and I am Team Tom all the way. The romance aspect definitely took a backseat in this installment, though, and that was fine with me. I also always have to mention that this series is set in Columbus, which makes it extra fun, since I’m from Ohio.

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Maybe This Time by Kasie West. Read July 14. 4 Stars. 

This was probably more like 3.5 stars, but I’m bumping it up to 4 because it was a fast, easy read I finished in a day and it got a lot better for me towards the end. Sophie was really rude for the majority of the book and I had a hard time always liking her. I wish she would’ve become a little more self aware sooner. I liked how the story was broken up by major events throughout the year, but I don’t think it was always used very effectively. I felt like it was kind of just the same thing over and over again each time with Sophie and Andrew sniping at each other to hide their attraction and very little forward motion. I feel like their relationship should have progressed a little more each time, but it took about halfway through the book for the plot to advance at all. I felt like a lot more should’ve happened in the story for how long it was. However, once things started to develop a little more in their relationship and Sophie started to become more aware of herself and those around her, I really enjoyed it. I just wish more of the book was like that. I also could’ve used an epilogue. But, overall, it was another enjoyable Kasie West book and I look forward to her next one.

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The Prenup by Lauren Layne. Read July 19-20. 4 Stars.

I loved this. It did take me a little while to get into it, though. The story is told completely from Charlotte’s first person POV and I was expecting (hoping) to also get Colin’s point of view. However, once the story hooked me, I didn’t want to put it down and I completely got on board the sole POV. Both Charlotte and Colin were likable and I shipped them hard. A big thanks to Deanna for lending me her copy to read!

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The First Mistake by Sandie Jones. Read July 25-27. 3 Stars.

Pretty entertaining at times, but a little underwhelming overall. The twists and turns weren’t hard to figure out and it was a little frustrating how long it took Alice to put things together. Speaking of Alice, she reminded me a lot of the main character from this author’s previous book and that is not a favorable comparison. I was so annoyed by how she reacted to things. I didn’t care for the other characters, either. Part 2 of the book, from Beth’s POV, was very slow and I skimmed a lot. However, the first part and then towards the end was faster paced and much more entertaining. I think people who don’t read a lot of this genre might enjoy this, but it will be a little ho-hum for those that are more familiar with this type of story.

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Shamed (Kate Burkholder #11) by Linda Castillo. Read July 27-28. 4 Stars. 

Another great installment in the Kate Burkholder series. I thought the mystery was well done and the story was really well paced. I liked seeing Tomasetti play a bigger part in the case than he has been in the last few books, though I will always want to see more of him. I love this series and can’t wait for the next book!

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Once and for All by Sarah Dessen. Read July 28-30. 3.5 Stars. 

This was my first Dessen book. I wasn’t exactly blown away like I expected, but I did enjoy it. I thought the character development was really well done. I liked pretty much all the characters, with the exception of Jilly who never really lived up to the Great Friend raving Louna often said about her. Some of Ambrose’s actions annoyed me, but overall I liked him and I shipped him with Louna. I liked the wedding planning backdrop, as well. 

Where the book really didn’t work for me was with Ethan. SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS* So it doesn’t take long to figure out that Ethan died and how he died. Because of that, I never got that invested his and Louna’s story. I also thought their relationship was ridiculous. They have “one epic night” together and then the rest of their short relationship is phone calls and texts. On the night that they meet Louna loses her virginity and before they say goodbye they declare their love for each other. *Insert eye roll emoji here* What made this even more ridiculous is that Jilly ends up having “one epic night” of her own with a new guy and while Louna is happy for her, she mentions several times that it happened really fast. You think, Louna?

*****Re-Read*****

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Let’s Get Textual by Teagan Hunter. I enjoyed this just as much the second time around.

*****Books with Future Reviews Scheduled*****

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Where Do I Begin? by Elvia Duran – 4 Stars

Love on Lexington Avenue (Central Park Pact #2) by Lauren Layne – 4 Stars

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon – 4 Stars

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Review: Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?

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

Life and Other Inconveniences will be available August 6, 2019. 

Kristan Higgins has been one of my favorite authors for a long time. I’ve read all of her Romance books multiple times and they never fail to lift my mood. Higgins’ writing has evolved over the last few years, though, as she’s moved into the Women’s Fiction market. She is still an excellent writer, perhaps even more popular now than ever, but I have to admit I don’t love the books of her newer genre as much as her backlist.

Life and Other Inconveniences is a multi-generational story focusing on the lives of Emma, her estranged grandmother Genevieve, and her daughter Riley. In addition to their POVs, there are a couple chapters from Genevieve’s son and Emma’s father, Clarke, and Miller, a widower/single father and Emma’s new love interest. I felt like there was kind of a lot to keep track of, even though there wasn’t a lot actually happening. The story is heavily character-driven and the first half was almost nothing but character history. One of the things that makes Higgins’ writing so distinctive is her use of flashback chapters and I usually love them, but they just didn’t work as well for me here. At one point there were three flashback chapters in a row from different POVs and it felt like too much. They are usually so effectively placed and I was a little disappointed how they were used here. I think the story could have benefited from sticking with fewer POVs.

I often say that such a character-driven story either has to have characters I love or love to hate, but I felt a little ambivalent to the characters here. I did like Emma (for the most part), Riley, Miller, and a few of the side-characters, but I never really loved them. Emma would be completely wonderful and level-headed one moment and then petty and insulting when someone made her mad. It made me a little sad that it was every time she was standing up for herself – or someone else – that she devolved to name-calling and this was supposed to be applauded. I also thought Genevieve was a pretty awful person. I never felt sorry for her, despite the things she went through. I just didn’t really care about her and it made it hard to get through her chapters.

One part of the story that I loved, though, was the romance between Emma and Miller. It played just a small part of the book, but it was cute and sweet and I liked how they helped each other. I honestly would’ve loved it if their relationship was the focus of the book instead. I don’t tend to read a ton of straight up Romance books (unless I’m in the midst of a Kindle Unlimited binge), but I will never stop hoping Higgins will return to her roots and give us another one.

Overall, Life and Other Inconveniences was enjoyable, but also a little disappointing to me. I feel like I need to say that it very well might be that I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of book when I read it and I’m sure there will be many people that absolutely love it. When I think of a Kristan Higgins book, though, I think of those sweet and funny Romances that I love and this book just didn’t fall into that category.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Killing Tide (Coastal Guardians #1) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer’s boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

When investigative reporter–and Finn’s boss’s sister–Gabby Rowley arrives, her unrelenting questions complicate an already volatile situation. Now that she’s back, the tug on Finn’s heart is strong, but with the risks she’s taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can’t ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark

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

The Killing Tide will be available August 6, 2019. 

It’s always a disappointing thing when a book by one of your favorite authors doesn’t end up working for you. This was the case for me and The Killing Tide.

What I Liked

-I thought the actual mystery aspect of the story was well done. It was pretty well-paced and Pettrey did a good job of weaving together multiple cases.

-I liked the setting and that many of the main characters are in the Coast Guard. That’s something new I haven’t read a lot of before and I found it pretty interesting.

-I thought Pettrey did a good job with incorporating the characters’ faith in into the story. There wasn’t really any big lesson, it was just daily life and I liked that.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-Gabby drove me crazy for pretty much this whole book. The first time we meet her she narrowly escapes an attempt on her life and she ends up going to her brother so he and his Coast Guard friends can help protect her. But then she fights against the notion of needing to be  protected the whole time and continually runs away from the people who are supposed to be watching her, which I just found really annoying and selfish. And her whole defense is that she needs to chase the story because God made her passionate about it and to ask her not to do it is wrong. Um, pretty sure that’s not  how God works. She just really, really rubbed me the wrong way and pretty much ruined the book for me.

-The romance didn’t really work for me. We find out that prior to the events of this book, Gabby and Finn had started a relationship, which was cut short when Gabby moved away. They both already had strong feelings for each other when the story starts and so we miss all of the build up. I never really felt their chemistry when they’re reunited and so I never got invested in them as a couple.

-There are a lot of characters that are thrown out in the beginning. I had a really hard time keeping them straight. It took about half the book before I could start to tell them all apart. While I don’t have a problem with any of them, none of them really stood out to me as someone I would be excited to read about next.

-I think my biggest problem with the book, though, is the way that Gabby was involved in the official investigation. Let me preface this by saying Gabby is not in law enforcement, she is a reporter. Throughout the story Finn has her help him process a crime scene where there were multiple murders, she uses Coast Guard computers to do her own research on the case, she accompanies Finn while he is investigating leads and persons of interest, and she is part of debriefing sessions of multiple cases. And the reason for all this? She’s incorrigible and would just go out and investigate on her own if they didn’t include her, so might as well keep an eye on her. THIS IS NOT HOW LAW ENFORCEMENT WORKS. My brother is a police officer and I talked to him about some of these things and asked what would happen if he involved a civilian like this while working. He would be fired. I understand for the sake of fiction there are certain allowances made, but I feel this is just way too unbelievable. And this is a complaint I have about several books by this author.

Overall

Overall, The Killing Tide was just not for me. Even though the pace seemed steady and there was a lot of action, I found myself bored for most of the book. I found Gabby so unlikable that it made it hard to get through the story at times. However, everyone I know that has read this have all really loved it, so it might just be me and my mood. I do plan on reading more from Pettrey in the future and am hoping my experience with this book is just an anomaly.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favours are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

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

The Arrangement will be available July 30, 3019. 

I found The Arrangement really addicting. I ignored so many real life things so I wouldn’t have to put this book down and I have no regrets.

What I liked

-The author mentions in her acknowledgments that to research the topic, she signed up on an actual sugar daddy/sugar baby website and met with a couple of girls to find out more about them and this world they live in. I think this authenticity came through in the book. Harding does a good job of relaying how these young women justify what they do – or why they shouldn’t have to -, as well as how damaging and dangerous it can be. Before I go on and start to sound judgey, let me say that while I don’t agree with what they’re doing, I don’t think they’re the ones that should be blamed in these circumstances. They are not the ones with families and wives they are cheating on.

-Another thing that Harding did well was get into the psyche of the type of man that acts as a “sugar daddy.” Gabe justifies his actions in a multitude of ways, but all of them are dickish. His wife had cancer and isn’t up to meeting his needs anymore. She used to be attractive, but now has grown older and doesn’t want to get plastic surgery. His daughter doesn’t appreciate him anymore. Blah, blah, blah. He is narcissistic and selfish and, I’ll just say it, gross.

-The writing was pretty addictive. It was pretty well paced and the tension just kept increasing as Nat and Gabe’s relationship became more and more unstable and volatile.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-You know how sometimes people have certain words that just make them cringe when they hear it? That’s how I felt every time a sugar daddy was just referred to as “a daddy.” I also don’t love the term “sugar baby.” Those terms are used a lot throughout the story and I cringed every time. However, I did find some other terms interesting – such as a “splenda daddy”, who is someone who pretends to have the funds to be a sugar daddy. Not so fun fact, that term describes my father (see earlier paragraph about narcissistic, selfish, and gross men…).

-I felt really let down by the ending. There’s a bit of a twist and it was exactly what I predicted it would be. Maybe people that don’t read a lot of this genre will find it really surprising, but it felt cliched and done to me.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed The Arrangement. The writing was addictive and Harding did a good job of creating a tense atmosphere. Even though I was a little disappointed with how it ended, I’m going to give it 4 stars because I thought everything else was well done.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The bestselling author of The Simple Wild and Keep Her Safe and “master of steamy romance” (Kirkus Reviews) delivers a sizzling novel about an ambitious and high-powered executive who reconnects with her first love: the boy who broke her heart. 

Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway.

On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day.

Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group, and coincidentally the first love of her life.

The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counselors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name.

Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is still alive and strong, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.

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

Say You Still Love Me will be available August 6, 2019. 

I recently read and really enjoyed The Simple Wild, so I have been anxious to check out more from K.A. Tucker. While I liked The Simple Wild just a little bit more, I still enjoyed Say You Still Love Me.

The story alternates between the present and thirteen years in the past. I’m a fan of multiple timelines, but I thought it could have been used a little more effectively than it was here. I didn’t feel like a lot really happened in the past chapters. While I shipped Piper and Kyle, their relationship was basically instalove. There are some cute moments, but the past chapters are basically them getting in trouble at camp with their friends and rounding the bases of their physical relationship. I didn’t really feel like we needed every other chapter to be from the past. I was much more interested in their second chance romance as they run into each other as adults.

I liked that Piper was more than just a rich socialite. She worked hard at her job and she was good at it. While she did seem to take her lifestyle for granted, she also didn’t look down on people who had less money than her. I liked her relationship with her old camp friends and current roommates and would’ve liked even more interaction between the three of them in the present. I also really liked Piper’s assistant, Mark. I felt like there was so much story with him and would’ve liked to have seen more of him. I actually would really enjoy a book from his POV. On the subject of supporting characters, I also loved Kyle’s brother, Jeremy. We only see him in a couple scenes, but I loved everything he said and did.

While I did think teenage Piper and Kyle started out as instalove, I enjoyed their romance. I’m a fan of the Second Chance Romance trope and thought it was done well here. I liked how they were able to talk to each other and still knew and cared about each other after so much time apart. Kyle did do some stupid things that was frustrating, but he eventually made up for them.

Overall, I enjoyed Say You Still Love Me. I liked Tucker’s character-driven writing and the second chance romance between Piper and Kyle. I wish the supporting characters got a little more page time and that the multiples timelines were used a little more effectively, though. However, I would still recommend this one to Contemporary fans and am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars