January 10, 2016 courtneyklauber

2015 Reading List: Book Reviews

Whether you like suspenseful, gripping mysteries, hot and steamy romance novels, historical fiction or even just cookbooks, you can agree that nothing is better than escaping from the real world by diving into a great book. And c’mon, I’m sure you’ve been the participant in a debate with a friend or family member over what’s better: the book or the movie… and you’ve probably won the argument because, let’s face it, the book is always better! Either way, if you love books then you’re in the right place!

First, I want to apologize for the delay in posting this, I was on vacation last week. For all my fellow book addicts, here is my annual review of all the books I’ve read in the past year! My 2015 goal was to read 20 books and I surprised myself by achieving this goal! I’m not going to review all the books I read because some of them were duplicates from last year. Does anyone else reread books or is that just me? Sometimes when a book is really good, I just want to read it again and again.

My goal for 2016 is to read 24 books (two books a month). I’ve already read two for January. Who knows… maybe I’ll even exceed my goal. Anyway, let’s get to the reason why you’re reading this!

Click on the book title for more information and reviews via GoodReads. Oh, and if you aren’t using GoodReads and you love to read as much as I do, what are you waiting for?


The Best:

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The Girl With No Past – Kathryn Croft – Psychological Thriller (9.5/10)

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 Leah Mills lives a life of a fugitive – kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until – longing for a connection – she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life. Then, on the fourteenth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the life Leah has created. But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets? Everyone has secrets. But some are deadly. 

Mysteries are my personal favorite. To me, there’s nothing greater than a gripping book you cannot put down until you figure out who the perp is! They’re always the best page turners and I fly through them. Leah isn’t the most relatable character, but I refused to put the book down until I figured out what happened in her past and who was taunting her in her present.

 

Confess – Colleen Hoover – YA/Drama/Romance (9.5/10)

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 Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry. For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it. The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin… 

If you know me well, you know how much I love Colleen Hoover. I rarely come across a book written by her that I dislike. I love her writing style and her storylines are always so interwoven and complex. I also prefer books that are written in first person rather than with a narrator because it allows you to truly jump into the book and get inside the character’s thoughts and feelings. This one had many twists that kept me hooked and everyone I recommended it to enjoyed it as well!

Beautiful Oblivion – Jamie McGuire – YA/Drama/Romance (8.5/10)

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 Fiercely independent Cami Camlin gladly moved on from her childhood before it was over. She has held down a job since before she could drive, and moved into her own apartment after her freshman year of college. Now tending bar at The Red Door, Cami doesn’t have time for much else besides work and classes, until a trip to see her boyfriend is cancelled, leaving her with a first weekend off in almost a year. Trenton Maddox was the king of Eastern State University, dating co-eds before he even graduated high school. His friends wanted to be him, and women wanted to tame him, but after a tragic accident turned his world upside down, Trenton leaves campus to come to grips with the crushing guilt. Eighteen months later, Trenton is living at home with his widower father, and works full-time at a local tattoo parlor to help with the bills. Just when he thinks his life is returning to normal, he notices Cami sitting alone at a table at The Red. As the baby sister of four rowdy brothers, Cami believes she’ll have no problem keeping her new friendship with Trenton Maddox strictly platonic. But when a Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever — even if she is the only reason their already broken family could fall apart. 

Did you read Beautiful Disaster? I reviewed it last year, as well as Walking Disaster (which is the same story as Beautiful Disaster but in Travis’s perspective versus Abby’s perspective in Beautiful Disaster). If you read it, you probably remember the unforgettable Maddox brothers. They’re all swoonworthy and unique, yet equally interesting. These books follow the love stories of each brother and let’s face it: once you’ve read Travis and Abby’s story, you’re craving more Maddox boys! 🙂 This one follows Trent and Cami and is one of my favorite Maddox brothers books. You should probably read Beautiful Disaster first, but it’s not required. It’ll make more sense though because all the stories do come together at some point.

Beautiful Redemption – Jamie McGuire – YA/Drama/Romance (9.5/10)

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 If A Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever. But what if he didn’t love you, first? No-nonsense Liis Lindy is an agent of the FBI. Deciding she is married only to her job, she breaks off her engagement and transfers from Chicago to the field office in San Diego. She loves her desk. She is committed to her laptop. She dreams of promotions and shaking hands with the director after cracking an impossible case. Special Agent in Charge Thomas Maddox is arrogant, unforgiving, and ruthless. He is tasked with putting away some of the world’s toughest criminals, and he is one of the best the Bureau has to offer. Though, as many lives as he’s saved, there is one that is beyond his reach. Younger brother Travis is faced with prison time for his involvement in a basement fire that killed dozens of college students, and the media want a conviction. Travis’s only savior is his unusual tie to the mob. In a deal that will spare his brother, Thomas has agreed to recruit Travis into the FBI. Liis is stubborn, defiant, and yet somehow softens Thomas’s rough edges, making her the perfect agent to accompany him to the ceremony. Posing as a couple, they must travel to Travis & Abby’s beach vow renewal and give him the news, but when the pretending ends, she finds herself wondering if they were pretending at all. In the second installment of the Maddox Brothers books, experience firsthand the mysterious world of the elusive Thomas Maddox, and how good love can be when you’re not the first, but the last. 

This one was my favorite story of the Maddox brothers so far (the fourth and final one comes out at the end of this month)!

 

Beautiful Sacrifice – Jamie McGuire – YA/Drama/Romance (8/10)

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 Falyn Fairchild can walk away from anything. Having already left her car, her education, and even her parents, the daughter of the next governor of Colorado is back in her hometown, broke and waiting tables for the Bucksaw Café. After every shift, Falyn adds to her shoebox of cash, hoping to one day save enough to buy her a plane ticket to the only place she can find forgiveness: Eakins, Illinois. The moment Taylor Maddox is seated in Falyn’s section at the Bucksaw, she knows he’s trouble. Taylor is charming, breaks promises, and gorgeous even when covered in filth—making him everything Falyn believes a hotshot firefighter to be. Falyn isn’t interested in becoming another statistic, and for a Maddox boy, a disinterested girl is the ultimate challenge. Once Falyn learns where Taylor calls home, everything changes. In the end, Maddox persistence is met with Falyn’s talent for leaving, and for the first time, Taylor may be the one to get burned. 

This is the third book in the Maddox brothers series. Although it wasn’t as jaw-dropping as the first two, you don’t want to miss this one. What are you waiting for? Go get this series and read the first three books before the fourth one comes out!

 

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins – Mystery/Suspense (9/10)

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 A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? 

If you’re a big reader, I’m sure you’ve heard all about this one. It’s a NY Times best seller and was a huge hit this past year. Although it’s pretty slow in the beginning, which sucks because I’m guilty of putting down books if I can’t get into them, I stuck it out and I’m very glad I did. Everything was so unexpected and the ending left me questioning everything I thought I knew to be true.

 

All I Want (Alabama Summer #2) – J. Daniels – Contemporary Romance (8.5/10)

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 Luke Evans is a heartbreaker. I didn’t want to give mine to him. Not when he kept me out. He gave me enough, just enough to make me fall in love with him. I say this to convince myself. But I know the truth. I would’ve fallen in love with him at a distance. Handing my heart over to Luke was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I was naive when I wished for more, when I hoped he wanted the same things I did. I try to hate him. I try to forget him. But it’s not that easy. Love is a ruthless bitch, and I’m her latest victim.   Tessa Kelly is a man-eater. When she sets her sights on you, she doesn’t just consume your heart, she goes for your soul. What we had was perfect, real, and all I would ever want. But she destroyed it. She destroyed us. I try to hate her. I try to forget her. But it’s not that easy. Love is for people who have hope, and I have none. Warning: this book contains adult themes. 18+. All I Want is a standalone novel, but to fully appreciate the f****ed-up mess that is Luke & Tessa, pick up Where I Belong first.  

Luke and Tessa (hmm.. Lessa, Tuke?… they definitely need a couples name) are my favorite couple in the Alabama Summer romance series! Tessa is sassy and hilarious and reminds me of Brooke Davis from One Tree Hill (aka my favorite fictitious character ever) and she’s conveniently dating a guy named Luke. I loved it! A word of caution to the grammar nerds out there: this book is painful to read at times due to lack of editing, but the storyline is too juicy to resist. I read this book in one day while I was away in Cancun with my roommates and it was a perfect beach read.

When I Fall (Alabama Summer #3) – J. Daniels – Contemporary Romance (8/10)

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 For the past nine years, I’ve kept my heart as far away from my dick as possible. Those two can’t be anywhere near each other. They don’t play nice, and one of them undoubtedly winds up getting hurt. Not my dick. My dick is good. The women I take home know exactly what they’re getting from me—sex. Nothing more. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. The sweet brunette from Kentucky I set my sights on tonight shouldn’t have been any different. I had her right where I wanted her. Where I needed her. But when my past comes walking into McGill’s pub, the woman in my arms decides to take things to a whole new level, putting me into a situation I never saw coming. My heart is about to get fucked. My dick can sit this one out. Warning: this book is recommended for readers over the age of 18 due to strong language and explicit sexual content. When I Fall can be read as a standalone novel. 

Another steamy Alabama Summer book that will have you hooked. Don’t worry, the sex scenes aren’t corny like Fifty Shades of Grey… but same warning as last time, the grammar and syntax aren’t perfect in this book. Oh, and read the first book in the series, Where I Belong, before you read these two.

The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks – Romance (8.5/10)

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 Ira Levinson is in trouble. Ninety-one years old and stranded and injured after a car crash, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.  A few miles away, at a local bull-riding event, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward — even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans — a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.  Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart. 

If you’ve already seen the movie, don’t let that discourage you from reading the book. Like all Nicholas Sparks movies, the book is drastically different and significantly better! Just remember to have some tissues nearby. This is a Nicholas Sparks novel… so you should probably know that already.

Never Never: Part One – Colleen Hoover – Romance/Mystery (8/10)

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 Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen. Complete strangers since this morning. He’ll do anything to remember. She’ll do anything to forget. 

Why isn’t Never Never: Part Three out yet? I need that book to come out literally right now. I can’t wait until the end of the month! I recommend waiting until all three are out before you start this short series. It was originally one book but was broken into three parts due to some publishing reason that I don’t really understand, so they’re super short. Once all three come out, read them back to back as if it’s one book and you will not be able to put it down. I finished Part Two over the summer and have been dying waiting for Part Three!

Never Never: Part Two – Colleen Hoover – Romance/Mystery (8/10)

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 “Never forget that I was your first real kiss. Never forget that you’ll be my last. And never stop loving me between all of them. Never stop, Charlie. Never forget.” Silas races against time as more truths unravel, while others twist tighter together. And now, the stakes are higher as Silas’ control slips and others begin to point fingers. Charlie is in trouble and he must be the one to bridge the chasm between their past and their present. Because somewhere between I love yous and Never Nevers and Never Agains, a truth they can’t imagine, beckons to be found. 

See the comments from Part One. C’mon Part Three… get into my hands so I can read you… or should I say get onto my iPad!

November 9 – Colleen Hoover – YA/Romance (8.5/10)

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 Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist. 

Colleen Hoover for days <3 This one was released on November 10 (womp, fail), but I was finished reading it by November 11. No joke. Okay, maybe November 12. But still. I couldn’t put it down because I just wanted to know what was going to happen and like always, Hoover never disappoints!

Worth The Read:

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Eye Candy – R.L. Stine – Mystery/Horror (7.5/10)

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 Lindy Sampson is a beautiful twenty-three-year-old New Yorker with an unusual problem: She’s too beautiful, and guys are intimidated by her. Her roommate suggests Internet dating and writes a personal ad for Lindy, calling her “Eye Candy.” The responses pour in. Suddenly, Lindy is dating four guys at once—and having the time of her life. Until she gets a terrifying note that warns: “Don’t say no, Lindy. Keep going out with me. I’ll mess you up if you ever say no.” Which one of her admirers is a deadly freak? Lindy is now forced to say yes to everything the four men ask of her—dates, invitations to spend the night, anything. From the East Village to the Hamptons, panic and paranoia shadow her every move. Lindy suspects everyone, even the one person she thought she could trust. But Lindy Sampson doesn’t know the half of it—and what she doesn’t know could kill her. 

If you watch MTV occassionally, you’ve probably seen previews for the TV show starring Victoria Justice (who people always tell me I look like, which is a compliment for sure)! The TV show is based off of this book, but it wasn’t the same. I watched a few episodes and can’t remember why I stopped, but I did manage to read the book instead to see the outcome. This is slightly creepy because it’s about a psychotic serial killer who goes after attractive women he meets online and it gave me a Ted Bundy vibe because he was a bit of a freak, but the plot and character development was great and I couldn’t put it down until I figured out who the killer was!

Luckiest Girl Alive – Jessica Knoll -Thriller/Suspense (7.5/10)

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 Her perfect life is a perfect lie.  As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve. But Ani has a secret. There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything. With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears. The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free? 

2015 was full of popular books with the word “Girl” in the title. Hmm.. I wonder if Gone Girl becoming so big is what started the trend. Either way, this was another great mystery and the twist was not at all like I expected it to be. So glad I read this one! It’s a tiny bit slow in the beginning, but it’s still interesting throughout the whole book.

The Good Girl – Author – Genre (6.5/10)

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 “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.” One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life. When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter. An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a propulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems. 

See what I mean about “Girl” being popular for 2015? This one was good because the girl is around my age, which I always appreciate because it’s easier to relate. She’s kidnapped in a scheme to hold her for ransom because she comes from a wealthy family, but it doesn’t exactly go according to plan. The ending was something I definitely did not see coming.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins – Dystopia/Fantasy (7/10)

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My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead. Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding. It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans–except Katniss. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost. 

I was putting off reading the third Hunger Games for about three years now. Every time I started reading it, I lost interest. However, since the movie was coming out in November, I knew I couldn’t see the movie without reading the book first. The second Hunger Games book was hands down my favorite one, but this one wasn’t terrible. It definitely had enough twists and turns to keep me interested… once I finally got into it and actually decided to read it.

Not The Greatest:

Where We Belong (Alabama Summer #3.5) – J. Daniels – Romance (5.5/10)

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 Ben and Mia Kelly can’t seem to catch a break. Grueling night shift and opposing schedules have left the passionate couple geared up and ready for some much needed alone time. There’s only one thing standing in their way. Parenthood. With two curious boys who have mastered the art of cock-blocking roaming the house, Ben and Mia, sexually frustrated beyond reason, quickly resort to surprise sexcapades and naughty little trysts whenever and however they can get them. Who said anything about keeping things legal? Assume the position. Things are about to heat up in the south. Warning: This book is recommended for readers over the age of 18 due to strong language and explicit sexual content. 

Although I love the Alabama Summer books, this short novella was just stupid. It was corny and just was about Ben and Mia trying to find ways around having two young children cock-blocking them at all hours of the day. Yawn. Definitely just read the other Alabama Summer books and stray away from this one, unless you’re super bored and really want to know about Ben and Mia’s vacation together. Which I didn’t particularly care much about.

As always, if you have a book you loved and want to recommend, I’d love to hear from you and will add it to my long list of books I need to read!

Happy new year, everyone! Let’s make 2016 a great year full of great adventures and even greater books to read 😉

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