Here are ten of the best books I’ve read so far this year.  It was a tough decision for sure!  There were so many other books that I would have liked to include, but in the end, these won out by just a little bit.

What are your favorites so far this year?

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The year is almost half over…

How are you doing on your 2015 reading challenge?

I’m just over the halfway mark of my 100 book challenge, and I have 19 books left on my Popsugar challenge.  I would have been further along, but I had some real doozies in June that put me behind schedule.

I’m looking forward to reading at least 50 more books this year.

How’s it going for you?

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I’ve heard such great things about Timebound that I was surprised to feel kind of… ambivalent, I guess, toward the whole storyline. This book has been on my radar for years, and almost every review I’ve seen has been practically glowing.  Even the negative reviews aren’t so negative. So when I picked it up, I was expecting to be wowed. And I just wasn’t.  This is a thing that happens with hyped books. I get so excited, build them up in my mind, and when they’re good, but not amazing, it hits me so much harder than if it had happened with a book of never heard of before.

Anyway, let’s get to the review.

Prudence Katherine Pierce-Keller (PKPK, or, more commonly, Kate) possesses a very strong time travel gene, and is therefore asked by her grandmother, a former time traveler from the future, to correct the past that Kate’s grandfather has taken off course. Confused yet? It’ll make more sense soon.

Kate has always known that something was different about her, even if she didn’t know what it was. Sometimes she’d just get this awful feeling that something was wrong, but she couldn’t explain more than that. The doctors tools her it was anxiety, panic attacks, but she didn’t think so. Turns out she was sensing anomalies in the timeline – every time her grandfather changed something major, Kate could feel it.  Without training, it affected her more than it would the average time traveler. Now, with her grandmother’s training, she not only feels better, but she can do something to put the world back to normal…  But what is normal?

Let’s start with the good.

Kate is a strong, teenage, female protagonist.  She’s smart.  She’s a quick learner.  She can take care of herself.  She has the drive and the ability to do what needs to be done.  Kate fits right into her role as a time traveler, improvising and thinking on her feet as she travels to the past to hopefully set history on its correct course.  Even as things go wrong and the unexpected happens, Kate is able to save herself and those she cares about.

But…

The love triangle?  It was unnecessary, and more than a little creepy.  Kate’s implicit trust of just about everybody got on my nerves, and I was surprised that it didn’t come back to bite her.  I can’t imagine that everybody would be so accepting of time travel!  I wonder if, in the later books, someone Kate trusted will betray her.

The story also dragged a bit.  Nothing too awful, but based on what I’d heard, I expected better.  I’ll read the second book since I already have it, and I’m intrigued about Saul’s plan and how Kate will counteract it.  I’ve heard the second book is better anyway, but we’ll have to see.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ 

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I received a free copy of Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty at a meeting I went to for work last year. Why, at a meeting for medical administrators, about Ebola, no less, did they bestow upon us autographed copies of Diane Keaton’s memoir? It’s a complete mystery. Anyway, the book sat in the closet at work for about eight months before I finally decided to suck it up and read it. And, ugh, it was just as horrible as I’d heard.

I knew I would have a problem with this book when, in the first few pages, Ms. Keaton refers to a wall filled with photographs of famous men as her “prisoners.” That was my first inkling that something was going to be a bit… off about this book. It only gets worse as, throughout the next several chapters, she rambles about her thinning hair, her dislike of the bump on her nose, how she’s never liked the slant of her eyes, and how she would never, ever think about having work done. Not that she’d shame another woman for it, but, wait, maybe she would.

The book is completely disjointed, with certain themes repeating over and over again – her thinning hair, for one, is mentioned frequently, as are her frequent trips to the dermatologist to get her precancers frozen, her skin cancers removed, and her prescription for Solaraze. I’d reference this book at my job – celebrities get skin cancers, too! But I’d feel so bad making the patients struggle through it. There’s nothing to tie the chapters together, so it just comes across as a laundry list of things Ms. Keaton doesn’t like about herself.

While much of the book was odd, I felt, in particular, that the chapter on her daughter’s first trip to Victoria’s Secret was completely inappropriate. A detailed debate of her then fifteen-year-old daughter’s bra size – 32B vs. 34C – culminates in her buying $200 worth of bras and underwear, and don’t worry – there’s a detailed description of her choices, too. I’m sure this was put in to make Ms. Keaton more relatable to the average mother, but it came across as attention-grabby, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Dexter, who now has her lingerie choices on display for the world.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why this was published. There’s no flow – in fact, there are sections of the book where Ms. Keaton literally just lists every cliche phrase she can think of relating to the topic at hand. There are sections where she analyzes her dreams. Sections where she just quotes lyrics from songs her daughter likes. It’s a mess.

Do yourself a favor, and don’t waste the two hours it takes to read this book.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #26: a memoir.

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Three years ago, Meg fell in love with Josh, a man who was utterly obsessed with his work. Shortly after, she got pregnant… and he left. Now she and her daughter have returned home to the family that’s always judged her for being too wild, too reckless, too free-spirited. But Meg is determined to show them that she’s changed, that for her daughter’s sake, she’s had to grow up a little. As if dealing with her family wasn’t enough, now Josh wants to be a part of her life again. Wants to be a father to their daughter. Says he’s changed. But can anybody – Josh, or even Meg, for that matter – really change who they are?

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of this book? It’s just incredibly unrealistic. Sure, I can suspend my disbelief for some things. I guess it’s possible that Meg’s elderly grandmother could be the best sharpshooter in town. Sure, I guess that she could shoot Josh without any repercussions as long as he didn’t press charges. But seriously, some of the stuff that happens in this book is beyond belief. Giving your business to someone you barely know? Just being handed a child without any proof that you’ll provide a stable home or loving environment? And don’t even get me started on the family trees within this book. Absolutely ridiculous.

In addition to that, both Meg and Josh are actually very problematic characters.

For one, Meg seems terrified of Josh at the beginning of the book. He’s been stalking her. LITERALLY. Actually following her around with some CIA-grade tracking device. Pestering her about wanting to be part of her life again. Not taking no for an answer. And then Meg just gets over it, mostly because she’s horny. I mean… really??? He was literally tracking you, like prey, twenty pages ago.

And then we have Meg, who complains that Josh isn’t involved in her life anymore while simultaneously telling Josh to stay away. But come back. But stay away. It’s so frustrating! She’s all over the place! And I couldn’t help but be extremely offended by the way she referred to her supposedly “best friend” – constantly putting down her clothing choices and the amount of men she’s dated. Her attitude on a lot of things was just… gross.

It Had to Be Him fell flat for me in a lot of ways. It took too long to get into, wrapped up way too conveniently with a neat and tidy marriage proposal (because forget everything else, there’s a ring involved!), and I absolutely hated the fact that all the children in the book were just used as plot devices. I’m glad I got this for free, because I’d have been upset if I actually spent money on it. Unfortunately, it seems like Kindle First is really going downhill.

I received a free copy of this book from Amazon’s Kindle First program. 

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

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In Stel’s futuristic world, the Corridor connects Earth to a parallel universe. How the Corridor works is a secret that not even the highest government officials understand, but it’s frequently used to travel between worlds. One day, a freak accident overtakes the Corridor and Stel finds that she now possesses the power to create her own portals, independent from the Corridor, to any number of parallel universes. But normal people aren’t able to do these things – and the people who can, genetically engineered humans called Mods, are feared and kept under lock and key. Stel needs to explore her new-found power, but also has to be careful not to let the wrong people see, lest she end up like the Mods.

I really wanted to like this book, because the premise was there. It’s really exciting to think that there are several versions of Earth in existing in parallel universes. The different universes have some constants, but natural disasters, human advancement, and even things as simple as who marries who can change the course of history. Maybe in one universe, humans went too crazy with technology, so now it’s a barren wasteland – a strong reminder that we need to care for our planet before it’s too late. In a different universe, research has advanced to the point that all the parallel universes can be remotely monitored.

But while the premise was good, the rest of the book, unfortunately, was not.

My #1 issue with this book was that everything that happened was convenient. It’s convenient when Stel gets stranded with the boy she likes – now their relationship can develop. It’s convenient that Stel meets someone in a parallel universe who has the answers to all her questions – she can report back to her dad, who’s researching the topic in her home universe. It’s convenient that everyone she happens to meet trusts her immediately – now the plot can move along without any unnecessary relationship building. Nothing feels natural. Everything feels artificially contrived to move the plot along.

My #2 issue is the instalove. I mean, Stel finds this guy that she thinks is great. He’s cute, he’s funny, he takes care of her, and then he introduces her to his jerk brother. A brother who immediately and intensely dislikes Stel. So Stel basically says, “hey, if you don’t like me, that’s fine, I’ll just hang out with this nice guy over here.” Except that five minutes later, she’s forgotten that the nice guy exists and is ~in love~ with the jerk brother, who has seemingly also done a complete 180 and is completely smitten with her, too. Now they’re going to forget about the plot and spend a lot of time kissing.

Let me make one thing clear: This book did not need romance. It especially did not need a love triangle. It really, particularly, especially did not need a love triangle between TWO BROTHERS. It felt out of place, unnecessary, and awkward.

My #3 (and final) issue is that we got a lot of unnecessary detail on inconsequential plot points, but important things were glossed over. We know what Stel’s father had for dinner, and what outfit her best friend wore, but we don’t know anything about the Corridor or how Stel’s power works. Do I care about what her father is eating or what her best friend is wearing? Not really. Do I care about, you know, the main plot of the book? YES. ABSOLUTELY. And the specifics were completely ignored.

Overall, I think that the author had a really great idea, but the book fell totally flat. I see where she was going, but I don’t think that she accomplished what she set out to do.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

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I’m so sorry to say that Falling Fast did not hold my interest.  Not in the least.  Did I read a different book than everybody else?  I just can’t understand what warrants all these glowing reviews.

Falling Fast is a mess from start to finish.

The plot just meanders around, conveniently and constantly throwing the characters together.  How have these characters, who have had such a time even mailing letters to each other, ended up in the same place so many times throughout the course of this book?  They can’t even have a successful phone call, but they will accidentally meet up several times on the first day that Mia’s in town.

In addition to being absolutely ridiculous, the plot is so slow.  I literally almost fell asleep while reading.  Multiple times.  For the first half of the book, nothing happens aside from Mia and Raleigh gazing longingly at each other while wistfully reminiscing about their teenage shenanigans.  “Oh, it was so wonderful having to sneak out of the house at night to sleep with Raleigh… get yourself together, Mia, Raleigh would never be interested in you now.”  “It would be so perfect to be able to touch Mia like all those years ago… but she’s probably dating someone and I already ruined her life once.”  Just stop.  That is literally the only thing that happens in the first half of the book.

Surprise, surprise, I also didn’t care for the characters.

Mia is supposed to be, what, about 24 in the present day?  And she still lets her parents control her life.  I guess this could be reality for some people, but I am also 24, and as much as I love my mother, I would not let her dictate who I hang out with, where I go, what I do in my free time, and how I handle my own money. Not at this age.

And how many bad things can happen to Mia?  She spends her entire childhood going in and out of hospitals to treat her cancer, and when her cancer is finally in remission, she gets in a horrible car accident that disfigures her?  Come on now.  That’s a little excessive.  And despite all of this, Mia is still the kindest, most perfect girl on the planet.  Because what else would she be?

And Raleigh?  Honestly, I couldn’t even remember his name when I started this review. I had to look it up. That’s how much he bored me.  He’s so perfect.  He has a past but is working to move on and better himself.  He’s so unselfish.  He takes care of his little brother because his dad never took care of him.  I mean, really.  Could this guy be any more perfect?  Any more unrealistic?

I also couldn’t sympathize with Mia and Raleigh’s situation.  If Mia was in the accident at 17 years old, and then spent months in rehab, she was probably 18 (or at least almost 18) by the time she was better.  As a legal adult, she didn’t have to listen to her parents.  They would have no say over whether she was allowed to see or speak to Raleigh.  Stop using her family as an excuse.  It doesn’t work.

These characters caused so much of their own drama, particularly Mia.  I get that there’s not much Raleigh could have done if he was told to stop visiting her, but what about Mia?  She feels guilty about hanging up the phone – how about calling him?  Her parents intercepted the mail – how about going to the post office to send it yourself?  I mean, seriously.  Common sense?  Their self-imposed separation drove me crazy.  For how much they whined about not being able to see each other, you would think they would have found a way.

And it’s not just that I didn’t buy the whole situation.  Even their new relationship felt off to me.  They constantly fantasized about each other for seven years?  That screams obsession a lot more than true love.  If they were truly in love, they would have found a way around the disapproving parents.  Because, like I said, they were legal adults.  There’s no reason they couldn’t have picked up the phone and spoken to each other.

And the last 30%?  I’m just going to pretend that didn’t happen.  It’s like everything I don’t want in a romance was haphazardly woven together and shoved in my face.  I’m so disappointed. I usually love Loveswept titles, but this one didn’t do it for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆