Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

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Well we are half way through the year and in accordance this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015. (In converse, I posted my most disappointing booksnof 2015 so far yesterday.) In no particular order, my favorite books I’ve read so far are:

Big Little Lies

1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Ok, so this one is in particular order, as I gave this book 4.5 stars and it’s probably my favorite book of the year so far.

The Singles

2. The Singles by Meredith Goldstein. This has been on my TBR forever and I was so excited when I found it for $1 at a library sale.

Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace, #1)

3. Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge. A great thriller/mystery.

Missing You

4. Missing You by Harlan Coben. My first Harlan Coben and it won’t be my last!

The Fill-In Boyfriend

5. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West. Another adorable book that reminds me why Kasie West is my favorite YA Contemporary author.

First Frost (Waverley Family, #2)

6. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. Garden Spells was one of my favorite books last year and it’s sequel did not disappoint.

The Start of Me and You

7. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. Another cute contemporary.

Unbecoming

8. Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm. A very well done character-driven novel.

The Beautiful Daughters

9. The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart. Beautifully written, another character-driven piece.

Black-Eyed Susans

10. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. This one isn’t out yet, but is easily one of my favorites. A great suspense story.

Law of Attraction  Discretion  Speak of the Devil (Anna Curtis, #3)  A Good Killing (Anna Curtis, #4)

11. Ok, so I’m adding another one and making it a series because these books are amazing and is my favorite new series of the year – The Anna Curtis series by Allison Leotta – Law of Attraction, Discretion, Speak of the Devil, A Good Killing

What are your favorite books so far this year? Do you agree with any of my choices?

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Review: The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

The Beautiful Daughters

Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the author of Sleeping in Eden, described as “intense and absorbing from the very first page” (Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence), comes a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). The Beautiful Daughters is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page.

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

The Beautiful Daughters will be available April 28, 2015.

I’ve never read anything by Nicole Baart before, but I think I’ll definitely be giving her other books a try after reading The Beautiful Daughters. Her writing was beautiful, even when it was heartbreaking. I was drawn in, straight from the Prologue.

“She felt sometimes that she had loved him before she even knew him…Heart and soul, up until the moment her loathing matched her love and she found herself trading places with a woman she didn’t recognize…He was the beginning. And his death was what felt like the end.”

Adri Vogt grew up on a small farm in nowhere Iowa with her twin brother, Will, and father, Sam. She dreamed from afar of the neighboring Piperhall estate and especially of it’s heir, David Galloway. When she enrolls into college and is almost instantly befriended by the beautiful, alluring, and vibrant Harper, Adri counts herself as lucky. She’s even luckier when Harper tracks down David and brings her into their inner circle with Will and his best friend Jackson, naming themselves The Five. They spent all their time together, often at David’s home in Piperhall, where they relaxed with just The Five of them or throwing large parties, either way always, always orchestrated by Harper.

It’s a surprise to Adri when David picks her over Harper, and they become engaged. But not all the relationships that make up The Five are what they seem and when their last hurrah after graduation ends in David’s death, Adri and Harper both vow to leave and never return. The Beautiful Daughters tells the stories of their unexpected return home, the guilt they’ve lived with in the intervening years, and the journey and relationships that brought them to their escape in the first place.

I really enjoyed Baart’s writing style. She weaves present and past together into one cohesive story very well. She employs a lot of imagery, though at times it was a little too much description for me. I found myself skimming at parts, but quickly found out that I couldn’t do that because in the midst of the descriptions of the present were brief clues to the past that slowly built up to the truth.

The characters were very well-developed. I loved Adri’s dad and brother. Jackson and Caleb, Adri’s partner in Africa, weren’t quite as developed as the rest, but I still loved them, too. But the real story is Adri and Harper and their relationship. I hated Harper almost instantly and while she ended up being a pretty sympathetic and often tragic character, I still disliked her, even as I rooted for her to have a happy ending. The relationship between the two women reminded me a lot of the two main characters in Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas – though a more adult, less psychotic version.  They were two people that loved each other more than anyone else, but their relationship was often dangerously co-dependent and toxic. Ultimately, the story of their friendship and estrangement comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, I really enjoyed Beautiful Daughters. It’s a story of family, love, abuse, regret, guilt, and forgiveness that I think anyone could relate to. I would definitely recommend it to fans of character-driven novels.

Overall rating (out of 5):

4 stars

*Please note the quotes used are from an ARC and may not match the final copy*

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*Win a copy of any book I’ve reviewed in my Tax Refund Share The Wealth (Ha ha) Giveaway (open though May 9, 2015*

Reviewing the Unreviewed: February 2015

 

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.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen. Read February 8-12. 3 stars.

This book was a little unnecessarily long at times, but overall I enjoyed it. I liked the characters and thought they were well developed. The mystery was pretty well done, too. While there was one part of it I guessed basically right away, and another I guessed fairly early on, there were other parts that I didn’t and I enjoyed the surprise. Even though her previous book was not really to my liking, this book once again reinforces my opinion that Klassen is one of the best authors in this particular genre.

Arranged

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie. Read February 18-20. 3 stars.

This book had a unique premise that intrigued me, but didn’t blow me away. I found the Blythe & Company process interesting, though a bit outlandish. I thought they were going to end up being something a little more sinister than they were and was a little disappointed that they weren’t.

I liked all the references to Anne of Green Gables.

I didn’t always care for the main character. She was shallow and annoying most of the time, but as the book went on she really grew as a person and I enjoyed that.

The twist in Anne and Jack’s relationship wasn’t what I was expecting, but I thought it was good. My biggest complaint, though, is that I was hoping for the end to be a little less predictable.

The Girl Who Kissed a Lie (Otherworld #0.5)

The Girl who Kissed a Lie by Skylar Dorset. Read February 25. 2 stars.

There were some humorous moments with the aunts and Ben, but there really wasn’t anything that happened in this book. Perhaps if you read it before you read the first book in the series, you might find it more interesting, but I don’t think it will make you understand the first book any better. But it was a quick read and was good to get reacquainted with the series before I read book 2.

The Boy with the Hidden Name (Otherworld, #2)

The Boy with the Hidden Name by Skylar Dorset. Read February 25-26. 3 stars.

I debated between 2 and 3 stars for this one, but since it did ultimately entertain me, I went with 3. The story, as in the first book, is confusing. There were often times I didn’t understand what was going on. But I found most of the dialogue humorous. If you plan to read this series, I would recommend doing it all at once so it may be less confusing.

The Beautiful Daughters

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart. Read February 22-25. 4 stars.

I read this book in February, but my full review will post in April since this is an ARC and I wanted to post closer to the release date.

I’ve never read anything by Nicole Baart before, but I think I’ll definitely be giving her other books a try after reading The Beautiful Daughters. Her writing was beautiful, even when it was heartbreaking. I was drawn in, straight from the Prologue.

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BACK ON THE TBR SHELF

Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits, #1.5)

Breaking The Rules by Katie McGarry. I waited a long time for this to be available at the library, but once it finally came I couldn’t get into it. It seemed like just a bunch of re-hashing of their first book and I got bored pretty quickly. I may give it another go some time, though.

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DNF

Seeker (Seeker, #1)

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton. I got this from NetGalley and just could not finish it. I was so confused the whole time and I didn’t really care about any of the characters.

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RE-READ

Illusions of Fate

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White. I enjoyed this just as much the second time around!