Top 5 Wednesday: Second Book is Best

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday (check out the Good Reads group) is: Second Book is BestWe’ve talked about series that went downhill, and series that are worth it, but which series were best in the middle?

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1. Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown. The first book was great, but this second book in the Red Rising series just blew me away. One of my all time favorite books.

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2. Scarlet & Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #2 & #3) by Marissa Meyer. (Since there are 4 books in this series I’m counting the middle two books as one.) I remember not being all that impressed with Cinder, but the books just kept getting better after that.

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3. Red Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black. With all the 5 star reviews I saw of the first book I ended up being a little disappointed. But then I read Red Glove and it was everything I expected the first book to be. I loved it.

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4. For Better or Worse (The Wedding Belles #2) by Lauren Layne. Even though I ended up reading this series in reverse order, it was still the second book I read and my favorite of the whole series.

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5. New Uses for Old Boyfriends (Black Dog Bay #2) by Beth Kendrick. This was actually the first book in the series I read, but I thought it (and the following books in the series) was a big improvement over the first book.

What are some of your picks for Second Book is Best?

Review: Once Upon a Wine (Black Dog Bay #4) by Beth Kendrick

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the “sharp, sassy, [and] surprisingly emotional”* author of Put a Ring on It, New Uses for Old Boyfriends, and The Week Before the Wedding, a new novel set in the charming seaside town of Black Dog Bay, Delaware…
 
Cammie Breyer needs a big glass of cabernet—her restaurant failed and her chef boyfriend left for a hotter kitchen. Just when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She’s bought a vineyard—in Delaware. At Ginger’s command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat.

The three women reunite, determined to succeed. There’s only one little problem: None of them knows the first thing about wine making. And it turns out, owning a vineyard isn’t all wine and roses. It’s dirt, sweat, and desperation. Every day brings financial pitfalls, unruly tourists, romantic dilemmas, and second thoughts.  But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth waiting for…

I just discovered this series and this author this year and she’s become one of my favorite chick lit authors. I’ve been looking forward to reading Once Upon a Wine for quite awhile and it surpassed my expectations. I really, really enjoyed this book.

I loved the family dynamic in this book. I loved how close Cammie was to her cousin, Kat, and her aunt, Ginger. I loved Ginger and Kat’s mother-daughter relationship, as well. They were such a realistic portrayal of family, even when the circumstances were occasionally quite unrealistic. They were there for each other and supported and encouraged each other, but also disagreed with and fought with each other. They all had a bit of a lesson to learn throughout the story and I enjoyed watching their character development.

I also really enjoyed the romance(s), though it didn’t play as big a part as I was expecting. I am quite in love with Ian, Cammie’s former and current love interest. I think part of it is because he reminded me a lot of Cooper from the Anna Curtis series. Though I did have some small issues with him when they were 22, he definitely grew up during their time apart. As an adult he knew what he wanted when it came to Cammie and he didn’t make a secret of it, but he didn’t pressure her at all. He was just there for her and cared for her and was so, so sweet and I am just so fricking in love with him I can’t even handle it. On the other end of the romantic spectrum, we have Kat who is married, but is having a bit of an early mid-life crisis and isn’t sure if she wants to be married anymore. I enjoyed seeing how her and Josh’s relationship changed throughout the book and that again it seemed like a pretty realistic portrayal of how love and marriages need to evolve over time.

There were some cameos from some of the characters from the previous books in the series, but there weren’t as many as I was hoping for. There was also way less emphasis put on Black Dog Bay being a break up town, though it did still play a part. This installment almost seemed more of a standalone than part of the series, though. Which isn’t a bad thing because it was still such a great book, but as a fan of the series I wish it was a little more inclusive.

Overall, I just really loved Once Upon a Wine. I loved the characters and the relationships and the romance. Beth Kendrick has really become one of my favorite authors of this genre and I definitely recommend this book (and series) to Chick Lit/Contemporary fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Reviewing the Unreviewed: June 2016

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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Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben. Read May 30-June 1. 3 stars.

Well, I did not see that end coming! If the whole book was as surprising and emotional as the last couple chapters this book would have been amazing. However, I felt really disconnected from Maya for most of the book and there weren’t as much suspense or big surprises along the way that I was expecting. Overall, a good book, though.

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The Convenient Groom (Nantucket #2) by Denise Hunter. Read June 1-2. 3 stars.

A cute concept, but could have been executed a little better. As with most of Hunter’s books, I found myself really disliking the female lead for most of the book and loving the male lead. I wish we would’ve seen more of their relationship before the marriage because I never really understood why Lucas loved Kate already. I didn’t like how she treated him for pretty much the whole book. But, I did like the Happily Ever After.

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The Trouble with Cowboys (A Big Sky Romance #3) by Denise Hunter. Read June 3-4. 3 stars.

This book was pretty cute. I liked the slow burn romance a lot, though Annie did frustrate me at times. I did like her, though. Who I really couldn’t stand was her sister, Sierra. Sierra almost ruined the book for me. She’s so selfish and childish and I just wanted to smack her for most of the book. Besides that, though, I liked watching Annie and Dylan’s relationship and it was a pretty enjoyable book.

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Falling Like Snowflakes (Summer Harbor #1) by Denise Hunter. Read June 7-10. 3 stars.

I really like the Callahan brothers. I wish there was more time spent with all three of them together, though. I was a fan of the romance and overall story, but I think this was supposed to slightly dip into the Romantic Suspense territory and the suspense fell a little flat for me. Not my favorite Hunter book, but I’ll definitely continue with the series.

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Imposter (Variants #1) by Susanne Winnacker. Read June 12. 3.5 stars

I bought this on a whim from the Dollar Tree and I’m pretty pleased with my purchase. I was a little wary in the beginning because I thought Tessa was kind of whiny and there was a lot of boy drama, but once we really got into the story I became a lot more invested. I thought Winnacker did a good job of keeping me guessing about who the serial killer was and I liked everything that had to do with the variant skills – it’s not an original idea, but I always enjoy it. I’m really looking forward to the next book, even though I’m pretty sure there’s a love triangle coming.

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The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. Read June 11-12. 3 stars

Bumping my rating up to 3 stars, just because I like Holly Black’s writing. The story wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was a little confusing at times and overall strange. I did like the relationships, though – between siblings, friends, and romantic interests – they were all pretty well done and I think if it would have focused more on those aspects, I would have enjoyed the story more.

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Defector (Variants #2) by Susanne Winnacker. Read June 13. 3 stars

A quick, easy read. There was a little more relationship drama than I wanted, but the love triangle wasn’t as bad as I thought. I did like that we got to see more Devon, though. I thought the intrigue surrounding the truth about FEA and Abel’s Army was good, but I am not at all satisfied with the conclusion. I did like the ending, but it’s definitely a middle of a trilogy ending and not a series ending and apparently the author has decided not to finish the series. According to a post on her Facebook, she’s over YA and writing Adult Romance under a different name…Very disappointing.

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The Regulars by Georgia Clark. Read June 15-16. 2.5 stars

Overall a quick read with some addictive writing, but the unlikable characters made it hard to read at times. Full review to come closer to release date.

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Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder. Read June 18-20. 2.5 stars

The characters were likable enough and I liked the romance, but the fantasy elements left a little to be desired for me. I also thought that a lot of the plot twists were predictable. I’ll probably try the next book to see if it starts to live up to the great reviews I’ve seen of this series.

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Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig. Read June 20-23. 2.5 Stars

This was just an ok read for me. The pacing was pretty slow and the mystery and suspense aspects were not as well done as I would have liked. We figure out Flynn’s big “secret” in chapter 2 and it really doesn’t have anything to do with January’s disappearance. I was afraid this was going to end up being a Coming Out book – which is a fine book to be, but not the book I was planning on reading – but it didn’t end up overwhelming the overall plot and that aspect was pretty well done. I just wish the mystery was as thoughtfully written. Full review to come closer to release date.

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A December Bride (A Year of Weddings #1) by Denise Hunter. Read June 23-24. 3.5 stars

A quick, cute story with likable characters.

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Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman. Read June 24-25. 3.5 stars.

A pretty cute fake relationship story. I really liked both Sally and Becks and their relationship. There was one big thing that kept me from giving it a higher rating, though, and that was Sally’s supposed best friend, Hooker, who felt it was her mission in life to set Sally up with a boy and how completely focused both Hooker and Sally’s mother were on how Sally NEEDED a boyfriend. I thought it was a little degrading, actually.

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Dreamology by Lucy Keating. Read June 25-26. 3 stars.

This was a cute idea, but I don’t feel like it ever lived up to it’s potential. It reminded me a little of Kami and Jared’s connection in the Lynburn Legacy, but was not done nearly as well. I did, however, really like the characters and thought the romance was cute, but the plot was really lacking.

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Put a Ring On It (Black Dog Bay #3) by Beth Kendrick. Read June 26-27. 4 stars.

Chick Lit at it’s finest! I really enjoyed this book. I liked the characters a lot and the development of the romance. It was definitely a different take on the fake relationship/marriage of convenience trope. It doesn’t exactly fit either of those, but it’s similar and I loved it.

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Make-Believe Wedding (The Great Wedding Giveaway #9) by Sarah Mayberry. Read June 28-29. 3.5 stars.

A very cute Fake Relationship/Friends to Lovers story. This was free from B&N and most of the free ebooks I get I never end up reading, but I’m glad I gave this one a try. The only thing I have to complain about is that it had a few graphic scenes I could’ve done without.  

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BACK ON THE TBR

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Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel. Honestly the only reason I wanted to read this is because Pierce Brown said really good things about. I got it from the library and read a chapter or two and just wasn’t into it. I think I do want to try it again sometime, though. I didn’t realize at first that it’s a series, so maybe I’ll wait until the next one is published before I try it again.

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DNF

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The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks. I usually try to get to 25% before I decide to DNF something, but I got distracted by other books and just never had the desire to pick this one up again. I only got to about 13%, so I can’t really say much about it, just that it was a little funny, a lot awkward, and didn’t keep my interest.

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The Seaside Letters (Nantucket #3) by Denise Hunter. I have read several Denise Hunter books over the last few months and I really liked some while I found others a little ho-hum. I liked the idea of this book, but not how it was executed. We find out almost right away that both characters know who they are writing to, but Sabrina doesn’t know that Tucker knows. I just can not take a whole book of it – It’s too much obvious lying. Sabrina (like most of Hunter’s leading female characters) is super unlikable. I also read a review that spoiled what her “big secret” is and it really turned me off from wanting to finish the book. It should honestly be a deal breaker in my opinion. I’ll still read other Hunter books, but this one was just not for me.

Reviewing the Unreviewed: April 2016

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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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Read March 29-31. 4 Stars.

So I technically read this one in March, but it was after I posted my Reviewing the Unreviwed for the month.

I really liked this book. The pace is pretty slow, but it’s a very intensely character driven story and I really cared about all of them. I really liked Alice and I loved Nick (and then hated him a little and then loved him and then got just as mixed up as Alice). I loved their kids and their whole slightly dysfunctional family.
I feel like people who are married and have kids (or are trying to have kids) would be able to relate a little more to the story than I did, but I still found a lot of the themes relatable.

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The Last Good Girl (Anna Curtis #5) by Allison Leotta. Read April 12. 4 Stars.

I love this series so much! Leotta writes such realistic characters and intense situations that keep me glued to the pages. I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while and it definitely didn’t disappoint me. Full review to come closer to release date.

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The Wishing Season (Chapel Springs #3) by Denise Hunter. Read April 13-17. 3.5 Stars.

I liked this one. Both PJ and Cole were likable characters and the story didn’t drag like some of the other books in this series does. I thought the premise was a little unrealistic, but it worked well enough. Overall an enjoyable read with a slow-burn, cute romance.

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The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik. Read April 19-21. 2.5 Stars.

I didn’t really care for this one. The characters were unlikable, spoiled, and shallow. I didn’t like the casual drug use or how the clothing of EVERY character was described in EVERY scene. There were a few cute moments, though, and a few of the parallels to Persuasion were well done enough to keep me reading.

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Cure for the Common Breakup (Black Dog Bay #1) by Beth Kendrick. Read April 21-23. 3 Stars.

I didn’t like this one as much as the other book I’ve read by this author, but it was still ok. My favorite thing was the relationship between Summer and Ingrid. I never felt like we got to know Dutch enough for me to ever really buy into the romance. I mostly liked Summer, though I found her hard to relate to most of the time. Overall, a quick, easy read that had some funny and cute moments.

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Dancing with Fireflies (Chapel Springs #2) by Denise Hunter. Read April 23-24. 3.5 Stars.

I really liked Daniel. He was so sweet. Jade was a little selfish and is probably my least favorite of all the McKinley kids, but she grew on me by the end. A cute, quick read.

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Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan. Read April 25-28. 3 Stars.

After completely falling in love with Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy series, I was so looking forward to reading more from her, but I found myself pretty disappointed with this book. The quick-witted humor and banter that I had come to expect from Brennan was missing. Perhaps I would have liked this better if I had read A Tale of Two Cities?

The one thing that made me keep reading was Carwyn. In the beginning he reminded me a bit of Jared Lynburn and was the only one with the humor I was expecting. But as the story went on, his character really developed and I just love him. There were several chapters in the middle of the book where he wasn’t involved and it almost made me stop reading, but I am glad I kept on. He’s the reason I’m rating this 3 stars and not something lower.

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RE-READS

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The first three Raven Cycle books in order to gear up for the release of The Raven King. You can see thoughts on my re-read HERE.

Reviewing the Unreviewed: February 2016

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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Lyfers (The Fandom Collection #2) by Rebekah N. Bryan. Read February 2-3. 3 stars.

Lyfers was a fun, quick read. I loved the idea for the story – an old boy band has reunited and goes on a theme cruise as part of their reunion tour. The story follows one of the boy banders and three groups of fans – two life time fans who are now in their forties, a trio of 30-something stay-at-home moms, and a couple of friends in their twenties. I really enjoyed getting the different perspectives and it really kept the story moving along at a good pace. My favorite character was probably Cody (one of the twenty-somethings). He agreed to go on the cruise with his friend because he wants to be more than friends with her and their storyline was cute and was my favorite to follow.

I did find most of the characters kind of hard to like at times, though. They all acted a little crazy and there were lots of times I was like, “Get a hold of yourself! You’re a mother!” But overall, I found the story fun and it made me nostalgic for the days of Boy Bands past.

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New Uses for Old Boyfriends (Black Dog Bay #2) by Beth Kendrick. Read February 15-16. 4 stars.

I really enjoyed this book. I had just read something pretty heavy and this light, quick, read was just what I needed. I liked the main character and her new friends, and her romantic interest. Her mother drove me insane for most of the book, but she did grow a lot by the end, so I can appreciate the character arc. This is the first book I’ve ever read by Kendrick, but I’m definitely going to check out some of her other books.

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The Rules for Disappearing (The Rules for Disappearing #1) by Ashley Elston. Read February 16-17. 3.5 stars.

I was really enjoying this, but the last several chapters made me drop the rating from the 4 I was planning to give it. I find Witness Protection really interesting so I thought the concept was really good. I thought the characters were pretty well developed for the most part and likable most of the time, too. However, while I overall liked Meg there were many times she drove me insane. She thinks she’s mature and smart and really she just acts like a bratty, stupid kid and ruins things. Her big trip with Ethan is the main reason I lowered the rating. I also thought all the “twists” were incredibly predictable. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable, easy read and I plan on checking out the sequel.

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The Rules for Breaking (The Rules for Disappearing #2) by Ashley Elston. Read February 21-22. 3 stars.

I felt like a large part of this book was basically filler and then the end happened really fast. I did enjoy seeing more of Anna and Ethan (and Teeny) and I mostly liked how things got resolved. There were a couple things that seemed a little open-ended enough for another book, but as far as I can tell this is the last book in the series.

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Wife for the Weekend (Sugar City #3) by Ophelia London. Read February 22-24. 4 stars.

This book was so cute! I am always on the look out for good Fake Relationship stories and Wife for the Weekend is one of the best I’ve read in awhile. Full review to come closer to release date.

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RE-READS

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. This was one of my favorite reads from last year and I loved it just as much the second time around. I also got my dad to read it and he enjoyed it, as well.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. One of my other favorite reads from 2015. I was a little afraid I wouldn’t like it as much the second time, but I think I actually liked it more. The first time all I wanted was more chapters from Kaz and I thought there was way too much Nina and Mathias. But knowing what I was getting this time, I didn’t mind the Nina/Mathias chapters at all, nor did I think there was too much of them.

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BACK ON THE TBR

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Signal (Sam Dryden #2) by Patrick Lee and Chalk lines and Lipstick by Ophelia London. Both are books I’ve been wanting to read, but I couldn’t get into either of them more than a few chapters. I do plan to try again sometime, though.