Reviewing the Unreviewed: January 2020

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.

So January was an interesting reading month where I reviewed almost every book I read, so this is a short post this month!

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10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston. Read January 26-27. 4 Stars. 

This book was adorable. I loved the big family dynamic and the friendships. The 10 blind dates weren’t really all I was expecting, but I was ok with that. I shipped Sophie and Wes and I would’ve liked even more time spent with them. I definitely recommend this if you’re in the mood for something cute.

 

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

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Lucky Caller by Emma Mills – 4 Stars

Series Review: Fallen Crest High by Tijan

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It’s been a long time since I discovered a series that’s completely published and have been able to binge read the whole thing at once. The Fallen Crest High series has been on my radar for awhile because Deanna loves it, but it never really looked like my thing. After a disappointing reading year in 2019, I found myself looking for books that I don’t normally read and for some reason got into SUPER ANGSTY type of books. Because of that, I decided to finally give this series a try and got hooked.

The series follows Samantha and her drama filled life with the Kade brothers, Mason and Logan. Sam’s mother is leaving her father and takes Samantha with her to her new boyfriend’s house. She meets her future step-brothers, who are wildly popular rich football players, and after some initial bad blood, the three become very close. Mason and Sam also start dating.

There are some super crazy, ridiculous, eye-rolling, cringe-worthy, unbelievable drama that goes on in this series. It features teenagers that act like adults and adults that are crazy and negligent and abusive (and a few eventually that are amazing). I didn’t love how it painted teenage girls as desperate for popularity above anything else, even self-respect. There is a lot of cheating and sleeping around. And a ridiculous amount of graphic sex scenes between Sam and Mason. There’s also a lot of violence and destruction and social wars.

All that said, this series was highly entertaining. The writing was pretty addictive and I had a hard time putting most of these books down. There was some cute romance and fun banter. The drama was so off the wall, that I just had to know what crazy thing would happen next. It did start to get a little old, though. They kind of just kept doing the same thing, just with different enemies. I did like, though, that by the end they realized they needed to make some changes in their lives and finally started to grow up. While I know this series wouldn’t be for everyone, if you’re in the mood for some angst, this is definitely a series to try.

Individual Ratings (links go to Goodreads reviews)

Mason (#0.5) – 3 Stars

Fallen Crest High (#1) – 4 Stars

Fallen Crest Family (#2) – 3.5 Stars

Fallen Crest Public (#3) – 3.5 Stars

Fallen Fourth Down (#4) – 3.5 Stars

Fallen Crest University (#5) – 4 Stars

Fallen Crest Christmas (#5.25) – 3 Stars

Logan Cade (#5.5) – 4 Stars

Fallen Crest Home (#6) – 3 Stars

Fallen Crest Forever (#7) – 3.5 Stars

Review: The Murder House (DCI Matilda Darke #5) by Michael Wood

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…

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

The Murder House will be available January 9, 2020. 

What I Liked:

-This is the fifth book in a series, but I haven’t read the preceding books. While there were lots of references to events from previous installments, I never felt lost with the characters and the main mystery worked as a standalone.

-I enjoyed the dynamic of the investigating team. There was some fun banter and I liked how close all of them were.

-Though it did take me awhile to get into the story, it did eventually pick up for me and it kept my attention.

What Didn’t Work for Me:

-Maybe I have read far too many graphic crime novels, but I really expected a lot more from the murder. The characters say over and over again how this is the worst crime scene they’ve ever seen and how horrific it was. But, it didn’t seem that bad to me? I feel like I’ve read far worse before and the characters just repeating again and again how bad the crime scene was made it seem much more like the author was trying to convince me it was bad, rather than writing it convincingly. It started me out on a bad foot with the story.

-I felt like the book was far too long. There were lots of side plots and red herrings and unneeded description. It could have been much shorter and still got all the main plot points and character development across.

-While I liked a lot of the characters, I didn’t care of Matilda. Few things she did made sense to me. I also didn’t like how she lied to her team about important things.

-I felt like there were really obvious clues in who the murderer was, which may be another reason the book felt so long to me. The big break in the case basically comes about by recognizing one of the detective’s incompetence, which also kind of annoyed me.

Overall:

Overall, The Murder House was ok, but didn’t really live up to my expectations. I expected a lot more from the premise and it left me a little disappointed. However, the character development was well done and I enjoyed reading about most of them. I probably won’t go back and read any of the other books in this series, but I’m sure fans of the series will probably enjoy this.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A forbidden attraction grows even more complicated when the guy Lane Jamison has crushed on for years suddenly becomes her step-brother in this sexy and gorgeously written debut novel about the lines between love, desire, and obsession.

What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?

Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s secret, longtime crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend.

Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metal working artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.

Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.

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

Together We Caught Fire will be available February 4, 2020

I was in the mood for a little angst and, oh boy, did I get that with Together We Caught Fire.

The story ended up being a little different than I thought it would be, based on the synopsis. There was still angst for days, but it wasn’t all romantic, love-triangle stuff. Lane is a complete mess and had issues in every single aspect of her life, mostly stemming from discovering her mother’s suicide when she was five years old. She has nightmares every night, severe trust issues, intimacy issues, family issues, depression, the list goes on. When Grey becomes her step-brother she starts hanging out with him, his girlfriend Sadie, and Sadie’s brother, Connor. Each one of them have their own myriad of issues and dysfunction and it could all be a little too much at times. However, it was one very addicting read.

It’s kind of hard to describe any of these characters as “likable”, but I was pretty invested in them. I wanted to see them work out their issues and heal and we do see a little bit of that by the time the book ends. Out of all of them, I did like Connor the best. It’s arguable that he had the most tragic backstory, but he was still the most well-adjusted, despite his issues. I liked how he was with Lane and I definitely shipped them. I had a hard time really understanding Lane’s “feelings” for Grey. He had moments where he could be sweet, but for most of the story he acted like a jerk and he had some definite anger issues. He and Lane had a few charged moments of longing glances, but I could never really get on board with the idea of them getting together. I liked them much more as step-siblings than as romantic interests.

While religion didn’t play a huge part in the story, the two ends of the spectrum were represented here. On one end was Sadie’s Fundamentalist Christian church, which her father pastors (who are, of course, the villains of the story as hateful bigots), and on the other end is Grey, the Wiccan. Lane is firmly in agnostic land, but partakes in her family’s pagan rituals. I have to say that even though these aren’t huge points in the story, it kind of brought my overall reading experience down. It always annoys me when the Christians are portrayed so poorly (even if they are fundamentalists and not your average Christian church) and I also was a little uncomfortable with the whole paganism thing. There’s even a point in the story where Lane’s father sits her down to talk to her about her relationship with Connor because he’s so afraid he’s going to “convert” her and then he’s overjoyed to find out Connor is an atheist. I mean, honestly, my main recurring thought while reading this whole book was, “These people need Jesus.” I did like, however, how it portrayed that no matter what your faith is, we all have our issues and brokenness we have to work through.

Overall, I did enjoy Together We Caught Fire. I don’t think it would be for everyone, but if you think you can handle the angst, buckle up and clear your schedule for this addictive debut. Even though the writing was a little more flowery and used a lot more imagery than I generally care for, it is super addictive and I could hardly put the book down. I’m definitely interested in seeing what Gibson does next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Other People by C.J. Tudor

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A gripping new thriller about a man’s quest for the daughter no one else believes is still alive, from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man and The Hiding Place.

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter.

Then, the car that Gabe saw driving away that night is found, in a lake, with a body inside and Gabe is forced to confront events, not just from the night his daughter disappeared, but from far deeper in his past.

His search leads him to a group called The Other People.

If you have lost a loved one, The Other People want to help. Because they know what loss is like. They know what pain is like. They know what death is like.

There’s just one problem . . . they want other people to know it too.

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

The Other People will be available January 28, 2020.

I think maybe it’s time for me to just give up and admit that this author’s books are not for me. C.J. Tudor is a talented writer and that makes me want to keep giving her a try, but like the books preceding it, The Other People, left me a little bored and underwhelmed.

The story had a lot going for it: murder, kidnapping, mysterious characters, secretive pasts, and a shadowy organization from the dark web. It really should have been a lot more intriguing than it ended up being. I figured out how the characters were related long before they were revealed. Gabe’s big secret past and the horrible thing he did ended up being not nearly as shocking as I was expecting. The supernatural elements didn’t really make a lot of sense to me and left me a little bit annoyed. And I thought The Other People organization should have been a little further explored.

Overall, The Other People, was ok, but left me pretty underwhelmed. I do like Tudor’s writing style and I liked the main character, Gabe, for the most part. However, the pace was pretty slow, the twists didn’t surprise me, I didn’t think the supernatural element added much to the story, and I found myself pretty bored. I have read several positive reviews for this book, though, so it might just be me. I don’t think I’ll be checking out any more books from this author in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Marriage on Madison Avenue (Central Park Pact #3) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne, comes the final installment of the Central Park Pact series, a heartfelt and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that’s perfect for fans of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren.

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

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

Marriage on Madison Avenue will be available January 28, 2020. 

I loved, loved, loved this! Few things make me happier than a cute Lauren Layne book and Marriage on Madison Avenue is one of her best yet.

Since their first scene together in the first book of the series, I have been wanting Audrey and Clarke’s story and it did not disappoint! This is both a Friends-to-More and Fake Relationship story, which is a combination of my favorite romantic tropes. I loved Audrey and Clarke’s friendship and I loved watching them realize their feelings for each other were more than that. Everything that happened was pretty predictable, but I enjoyed every moment of it anyways.

I thought Audrey and Clarke were both really likable characters and I was happy to see them get a happy ending. I also loved seeing the couples from the previous books, though I maintain that Naomi is much better in small doses. In addition to spending more time with the characters from this series, a few characters from Layne’s other series make appearances, which was quite fun.

Overall, I loved Marriage on Madison Avenue. I loved the characters, the romance, and the fake relationship aspects of the story. This was an enjoyable series and I think Layne definitely saved the best for last. I will miss these characters, but I look forward to whatever Layne writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars