Reviewing the Unreviewed: December 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.

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Forever Wild (The Simple Wild #2.5) by K.A. Tucker. Read December 1. 4 Stars. 

It took me a couple chapters to really get into this, but of course I enjoyed it. I love Calla and Jonah and the rest of the quirky cast of characters. And I’m really glad ***SPOILER*** we got to see their wedding. I did think it left a few things too open, but hopefully they’ll be address in the spin-off book (about Marie, which I’m not thrilled about, but will still read).

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Play with Me (Grover Beach Team #1) by Piper Shelly. Read November 30 – December 2. 2.5 Stars. 

This has been on my TBR a long time. It was a pretty classic YA Contemporary for the time period it was published in. I didn’t love the characters, but I didn’t hate them. I would’ve given this 3 stars, except I found the love interest kind of skeevy in the epilogue. I won’t be reading any other books in this series.

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The Not-Outcast by Tijan. Read December 2-6. 2 Stars. 

Sometimes I am completely here for all the angsty, over-the-top drama in Tijan books. I wasn’t for this one. I did like how the story shone a light on someone living with severe mental health issues and I ended up liking the romance between Cut and Cheyenne, even though the whole alpha-possessive thing put me off at first. That was about all I liked, though.

I really didn’t care for Cheyenne’s friends. Sure, they were there for each other and were loyal and that’s nice. But I hated how they handled things. They either got drunk or did dumb pranks and just came off as really immature to me. A lot is talked about Cheyenne’s mental health issues, but I think her friends really could’ve used some intensive therapy, too, to be honest.

And while I liked the inclusion of the mental health issues, I didn’t think they were handled that well. Cheyenne kind of acts like no one except for people “like her” could possibly understand anything she goes through. While she did have a more extreme reaction to things, I think I lot of the ways she thought and had anxiety is normal for a lot of people.

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The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. Read December 6-9. 3.5 Stars. 

I enjoyed this, but thought it started better than it ended. There were a decent amount of twists and while I wouldn’t say that I was super surprised by any of them, I didn’t see all of them coming from miles away, either. I liked the characters and the multiple POVs. I thought it started to feel a little long, though, and the end was pretty underwhelming. What was supposed to be a shock at the end came off as kind of lame to me. Overall, though, it entertained me for a good few days and I look forward to McManus’ next book.

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The Clause in Christmas (Poppy Creek #2) by Rachael Bloome. Read December 10-12. 3.5 Stars.

I’ve been looking for a cute Christmas Romance and this one hit the spot. The romance was sweet and I liked the characters and small town setting. I did think that Cassie could be a little overdramatic, though, and then everything would work out a little too easily after. Overall, it was a cute story that reminded me a lot of a Hallmark Christmas movie and I might give the next book in the series a try.

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Date Me Like You Mean It by R.S. Grey. Read December 13. 4 Stars. 

It’s been a long time since I managed to read a proper-sized book in a day, but that’s what happened with this book. I enjoyed Maddie and Aiden and definitely shipped them together. I do have to say that I enjoyed the first half of the book a little more than the last half, though. Thankfully, the last couple chapters brought the overall story back to a 4 star read for me. I also want to say that the tone of the book felt a lot different than the synopsis suggests and I think that’s a good thing. If you’re a fan of R.S. Grey, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, too.

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Best Friends Don’t Kiss by Max Monroe. Read December 13-16. 3.5 Stars

This was cute. I loved the best friendship between Ava and Luke and I liked when it turned into more. I thought the pacing seemed a little odd, though. I expected the majority of the book to be in the fake relationship stage, but it’s about half way through the book before they join Ava’s family. There was so much time spent on Ava going on bad dates that seemed a little pointless because we already know that Luke is going to agree to be the fake boyfriend. There were also a number of cameos of characters from other books by this author duo that I’m sure long time fans love, but I found really confusing trying to keep track of. All that said, though, this was an enjoyable read and I might even try some other books by these authors. If it wasn’t for the SUPER sappy last couple chapters that I found a little hard to stomach, I probably would’ve bumped my rating up to 4 stars.

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The Prince and the Troll (Faraway #1) by Rainbow Rowell. Read December 16. 1 Star. 

It hurts my heart to rate a Rainbow Rowell book so low, but what even was this? 25 pages of allegorical climate change and socioeconomic status commentary? This was a big NOPE for me.

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The Office Party by Whitney G. Read December 18-20. 3 Stars. 

The whole concept of this story was kind of ridiculous and the romantic lead seemed a little stalkerish, but it had some funny moments that I enjoyed.

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The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward. Read December 22-23. 3 Stars. 

Usually I’m not a fan of novellas, but I thought this one could actually have benefitted by being a little shorter. There were some cute and funny moments and I did like Riley and Kennedy together, but I thought the story dragged a lot at times. There were also mentions of pretty heavy emotional topics that are brought up at random times and then quickly shoved aside. I also thought it was eye-rollingly sappy at times. That said, it was a quick, enjoyable little book that fit in with my holiday reading binge and I might give these authors another try.

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Scrooged by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward. Read December 24. 4 Stars. 

I didn’t realize this was 3 stories instead of 1 when I picked it up, but it worked for me. They maybe weren’t the best quality books I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed them and I read them on Christmas Eve, so I gave it 4 stars.

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Floored by Karla Sorensen. Read December 18-26. 2 Stars. 

Knowing that unplanned pregnancy is one of my least favorite tropes, I probably should’ve skipped this book. It was definitely my least favorite Sorensen book. It took me a very long time to get on board with Lia and Jude. In the beginning I did not feel their chemistry at all. It felt really forced to me. It wasn’t until the last few chapters that I actually bought into their feelings for each other. I also didn’t like how they handled things for the majority of the book. However, I DID like that Lia didn’t waste too much time in telling Jude about the pregnancy because the only think I hate more than the unplanned pregnancy trope is the “surprise, you’re a father!” trope – where the mother tells the fathers years after the kid is born. While this book wasn’t for me, I am looking forward to Isabel’s book next.

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The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss. Read December 27-29. 2.5 Stars. 

This had a lot of potential, but it didn’t live up to it for me. It was way longer than it needed to be with far too much description about meaningless things. And after spending most of the book shipping Kate and Matt, I thought the big reconciliation moment fell flat.

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Searching for Coach Taylor by Mindy Kaling. Read December 29. 3 Stars.

A little funny, but not really anything special. I will probably skip the rest of these essays.

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

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Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd. I loved this just as much the second time around. I think this book is going to be one of my holiday traditions that I read every year.

*****DNF*****

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New Year’s Steve by Sara Ney and M.E. Carter. DNF @ 38%. I don’t really have any legitimate complaints about this book, except that I don’t think the humor was for me and I just couldn’t get into it. After a couple chapters I also realized that the side characters were from a book I read last Christmas by the same authors that I didn’t really enjoy, either, so I decided it probably wouldn’t be worth it to finish this one. I do love the colors in that cover, though!

WWW Wednesday: December 9, 2020

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WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words.

What did you recently finish reading?

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The Not-Outcast by Tijan. I had been looking forward to this one, but it just didn’t work for me.

What are you currently reading?

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The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. To be honest, the synopsis for this one didn’t really grab me. That and the fact that most YA isn’t really working for me these days, I was a little apprehensive about starting this. However, I’m really enjoying it so far!

What do you think you’ll read next?

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I’ve been trying to find some cute looking holiday romances on KU that I haven’t read yet and I stumbled upon My Smalltown CEO Scrooge by Harmony Knight recently, so I think I may give it a try.

What are you reading?

Review: One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe‘s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

I really enjoyed One of Us Is Lying and have been eagerly anticipating One of Us Is Next. While it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I still ended up really enjoying it, as well.

I was a little bit disappointed when I first found out that this sequel wouldn’t follow the same characters as the first book, but I ended up not minding at all. We still get to see all of the Bayview Four in more than just quick cameos and they even all get some character development, too. I also liked the new cast of characters. The three POVs follow Maeve, Bronwy’s sister – who I liked in the first book – and two new characters – Knox and Phoebe. I didn’t love Phoebe, but I really liked both Maeve and Knox. I also enjoyed Knox’s family dynamic with his many sisters and Maeve’s love interest, Luis. The story is pretty character driven and I just enjoyed reading about them.

The mystery wasn’t bad, but I did figure things out long before they were revealed. I also thought the secrets that were revealed and the dares that were made were kind of lame. I mean, there was a definite embarrassing factor for the secrets, but I guess I kind of expected something more. I also had a hard time believing that every single student in the school would keep the game completely a secret from their parents, school administration, and everyone else, just because they would lose phone privileges during school hours. That said, the stakes did raise a lot in part two and we got more of the suspense that I was expecting in the beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed One of Us Is Next. Though the mystery didn’t surprise me like I had been hoping, it was still pretty well done. What really kept me reading were the characters. I loved what we got to see of the characters from the last book, and I really enjoyed reading about the new ones. I think fans of YA Mystery will definitely enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

WWW Wednesday: January 8, 2020

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WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words.

What are you currently reading?

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The Murder House (DCI Matilda Darke #5) by Michael Wood. I feel like I’ve been reading this forever, though it’s only been a few days. I had a hard time getting into it, but it’s finally starting to pick up for me. This is also the fifth book in the series and I haven’t read the previous ones, so that might be part of it.

What did you recently finish reading?

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The Other People by C.J. Tudor. This was ok, but I didn’t love it. Honestly, I think I need to call it on trying this author’s books. They’re well written, but not really for me.

What do you think you’ll read next?

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One of Us is Next (One of Us is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus. I’m next in line for this at the library, so my fingers are crossed it comes in soon!

What are you reading?

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020.

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1. One of Us is Next (One of Us is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus – January 7, 2020. I loved One of us is Lying and I’m hoping this is just as enjoyable.

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2. Lucky Caller by Emma Mills – January 14, 2020. Emma Mills is my favorite YA author and I’ve heard good things about this one so far.

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3. You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen – March 3, 2020. I loved The Wife Between Us, but was not super impressed with their second book. I’m hoping this one recaptures the magic of their first book.

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4. The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren – March 24, 2020. I’ve enjoyed most of this author duo’s last several books and I have high hopes for this one.

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5. Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier – April 21, 2020. I really loved Jar of Hearts and have been anxiously waiting for Hillier’s next book.

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6. The Split by Sharon Bolton – April 28, 2020. If Sharon Bolton writes it, I want to read it.

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7. He Started It by Samantha Downing – April 28, 2020.  I was so impressed with My Lovely Wife and I have been waiting for Downing’s next book! I also found out she’s coming to the area on book tour for this one and I have already registered for it!

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8. The Switch by Beth O’Leary – April 30, 2020. The Flatshare was one of my favorite books of 2019 and I’m hoping this one will be a favorite of 2020.

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9. My Calamity Jane (The Lady Janies #3) by The Lady Janies –  June 2, 2020. My Lady Jane is one of my all time favorite books, but My Plain Jane left me tremendously disappointed. I’m cautiously optimistic for the third book in the series.

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10.  The Heir Affair (The Royal We #2) by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan – June 16, 2020. The Royal We was a surprise hit for me and I was so excited to find out there was going to be a sequel.

What books are you looking forward to in the first half of 2020?

Reviewing the Unreviewed: January 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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Slow Dance in Purgatory (Purgatory #1) by Amy Harmon. Read December 29 – January 2. 3 Stars.

This was not my favorite Harmon book. I liked the characters and the premise was interesting enough, I just couldn’t really get into it. I’ll read the next book, but I’m not in a bug hurry to do so.

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Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot #10) by Agatha Christie. Read January 3-5. 4 Stars. 

My first Agatha Christie novel and I will definitely need to read more from her. I really enjoyed the writing style. The mystery was good, the characters were fun, and I was not expecting at all how funny it was. It did drag a little bit here and there for me, but I love how all the mundane details ended up being important as everything was revealed at the end.

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Read January 6-10. 3 Stars. 

I think I am just not really a fan of these type of books anymore. I really enjoyed reading about the characters in this, but everything else was so “meh” for me. I didn’t really care that much about the magic or the Wood or the fighting or the ENDLESS description. I was going to give this a lower rating, but I’m bumping it up to three stars because I think this is mostly a case of “it’s me, not you.”

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Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus. Read January 10-12. 4 Stars. 

Though I didn’t like this one quite as much as McManus’ previous book, I still really enjoyed it. I liked the characters and the small town setting. While the very first person I suspected did end up being the killer, I did suspect a couple other options throughout the story and there was one unrelated twist that I hadn’t suspected, so I liked that. This was definitely a fun book and I look forward to whatever this author writes next.

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A Killer’s Mind (Zoe Bentley Mystery #1) by Mike Omer. Read January 12-14. 4 Stars. 

I liked this. I thought it was well-plotted, had likable characters, and was sometimes funny. The writing was pretty good, but there were a few parts here and there where the dialogue felt a little off. However, I enjoyed it all enough to give this four stars and would definitely be interested in reading the next book in the series.

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House of Secrets by Lowell Cauffiel. Read January 14-19. 3 Stars.

This was definitely a hard book to read. I’ve heard mention of the Sexton family a lot over the years, as this all happened close to where I live, but I never really knew the details. It is a horrifying story of abuse, incest, murder, and paranoia. I just felt so awful for the poor kids of this family and everything they were subjected to. As for the book itself, it felt a little disjointed and a lot of the details, especially earlier on, didn’t seem necessary. I don’t actually read a lot of true crime, so I’m not sure if the way a lot of this just seemed like conjecture is normal of the genre.

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Hotshot Doc by R.S. Grey. Read January 21-22. 4 Stars.

Despite a few too graphic scenes, I really enjoyed this book. I had kind of decided this author wasn’t for me, but since I currently have Kindle Unlimited I decided to give her another try. I started one book and took a hard pass after the first chapter and decided I would just try out this one before returning them, but then I couldn’t put it down. I really liked both the main characters and how their relationship developed. I also really loved Bailey’s sister, Josie. I thought the end was a little too rushed, but overall it was cute and addictive and really fed my Contemporary craving.

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

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On Thin Ice (Juniper Falls #3) by Julie Cross – 4 Stars

Romancing His Rival (Accidentally Yours #3) by Jennifer Shirk – 3.5 Stars

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – 4 Stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019.

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1. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus. January 8, 2019.

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2. Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills. January 15, 2019.

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3. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, January 29, 2019.

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4. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. January 29, 2019.

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5. Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West. February 5, 2019.

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6. Huge Deal by Lauren Layne. February 12, 2019.

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7. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. March 1, 2019.

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8. Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett. April 16, 2019.

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9. The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth. April 23, 2019.

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10. Fumbled my Alexa Martin. April 23, 2019.

What books are you looking forward to this year?

Top 5 Wednesday: 2018 Wishlist

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday, hosted by the Good Reads group, is:  2018 Wishlist – Looking forward into the new year, this is a list of the types of books you’d like to see more of in 2018! Try to avoid actual titles, and discuss themes, genres, or tropes you’d like to see more of in the new year!

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1. Books w/in books. What’s better than reading one book? Reading two! This year I’ve read a couple of books that did this really well (Lies She Told by Cate Holahan and The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter) and I would love to read more like them.

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2. Realistic Christian characters. Most of the time if a mainstream book includes a “Christian” character it portrays them as some kind of hypocritical psycho. And sure there are lots of people who claim to be Christians who really are hypocritical psychos, but there are many genuine people out there, as well. In 2018 I’d like to see more of the genuine people. I thought Amy Harmon did this really well with Making Faces.

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3. Well-written twists and surprises (that actually surprise me)I feel like I can almost always predict the twist in books these days and in 2017 I was pleasantly surprised by several books (such Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton,  One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus and The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen – which actually publishes in 2018).

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4. Fake Relationships. This is my favorite romance trope and I am always on the look out for a good fake relationship story. This year’s favorite was When It’s Real by Erin Watt.

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5. Alternative FormattingSometimes this annoys me because I read e-books about 95% of the time and lots of alternative formatting makes things unreadable, but I do love them in physical format. Even though I wasn’t blown away by the actual story, I really loved the formatting for Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.

What type of books are on your 2018 Wishlist?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017. Here are mine, in no particular order (all links go to my review – Yes, I actually wrote proper reviews on all of these books!):

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1. Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

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2. Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

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3. Making Faces by Amy Harmon

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4. Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

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5. Now You See Me by SJ Bolton (AKA: Sharon Bolton)

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6. Dating You/Hating You by Christian Lauren

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7. Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

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8. The Secret by Katerina Diamond

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9. One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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10. When It’s Real by Erin Watt

What are some of your favorite books you read this year?

Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

This is a book that I have been looking forward to for a long time and I’m so happy to report that it not only lived up to my expectations, but surpassed them.

I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts on this so I’m just going to list it all out.

-I’m really glad that we got all 4 POVs. I really felt like I got to know all the characters and connect with them. The story is really character driven and each of the Bayview Four showed tremendous growth throughout the book. I liked all of the characters, especially Cooper and Nate, (though it did take me a little while to warm up to Addy) and really appreciated how different they all were and how the situation changed them all for the better (cue Breakfast Club reference). My only complaint with it is that they are all told in 1st person and their voices are not that unique. There were a few times (when there were two or more of the characters in the same scene) that I forgot which POV I was reading.

-The mystery was clever and well plotted. I honestly was not expecting to be at all surprised, but I was. There were parts that I suspected, but the full reveal was something I hadn’t guessed and I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I didn’t figure out what was happening long before it was revealed. I also loved that there are clues all along the way so the answer doesn’t come out of left field.

-I shipped Bronwyn and Nate so hard!! I loved watching their old acquaintance turn into friendship and then turn into more. They were so cute together (even though I’m sure Nate would hate being described as cute) and I loved every scene that had the two of them in it. There were a few times where it felt like maybe the romantic storyline was taking a little more center stage than the mystery (especially in the epilogue), but I just loved them so much that I don’t really care.

-There is a part where Buffy the Vampire Slayer is referred to as a “retro vampire show” and I have never felt so old.

-Family love. I liked that each character had at least one present and supportive family member. So often in YA the families are either mostly absent or completely awful, but not here. There were still some parental awfulness, but there was a lot more positive family relationships portrayed. I especially loved Addy’s sister, Ashton, and Bronwyn’s sister, Maeve.

Overall, I loved One of Us Is Lying. It’s a very impressive debut with a well plotted mystery and amazing character development. This is definitely one that I recommend and know that I will be re-reading it in the future. I really look forward to reading whatever McManus writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars