Review: Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Chasing fame.

Chasing love.

Chasing a future.

Emme has long lived in her best friend Sophie’s shadow. She writes songs, and Sophie sings them. It’s always been like this, and feels like it always will be.

Sophie will stop at nothing to be a star. Even if it means using her best friend and picking up a trophy boyfriend, Carter.

Carter is a victim of a particular Hollywood curse: He’s a former child star. Now all he wants is a normal life. But being normal is about as hard for him as being famous.

Ethan has his own issues – a darkness in his head that he just can’t shake. He’s managed to sabotage every relationship he’s ever been in. Emme’s the only girl he’s ever really respected… but he’s not sure what to do about that.

Emme, Sophie, Carter, and Ethan are all students at a performing arts school, where talent is the norm and fame is the goal. But sometimes, being in the spotlight isn’t as important as the people you’re sharing it with – as the four of them are going to find out in Elizabeth Eulberg’s excellent new novel, which is about the auditions life puts us through every day, both big and small.

I very recently discovered Elizabeth Eulberg and have been working my way through her books. While I’ve enjoyed all of the ones I have read so far (especially Better off Friends), Take a Bow has become not just my favorite Eulberg book, but one of my favorite books of the year.

I loved the characters. The story is told from the 1st person POV of four students at a prestigious arts school: Emme, Ethan, Sophie, and Carter. I really enjoyed each of their perspectives. I loved Emme and how kind she was. I loved her relationship with her band members, Ben, Jack, and Ethan. Ethan came the closest to the “tortured artist” persona I was expecting for the setting, but it was never over the top. While he messed up plenty, he did really try and I loved him. Carter was the former child star who just wanted to have a normal life. He was so nice and I loved the friendship he developed with Emme. His part of the story is really focused on finding himself and while I appreciated it and did like him, he came across a little pretentious at times. I pretty much straight up hated Sophie at first, but as the book went on I started to kind of love to hate her. She could not be more different than sweet Emme and I couldn’t wait to see this mean girls get what was coming to her.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been binging on Eulberg books lately and I think the thing that keeps making me come back is the character development. All of her characters are really well developed and I become deeply invested in them. I almost start to feel like they’re real people and I wish I was part of their friendships. This year I have been really into mysteries/suspense and have not had a lot of patience for anything else. These books have made me really start to appreciate a good character-driven story again.

The only thing I didn’t really like about the book was how Carter’s chapters were formatted. Every time there was dialogue it had the character name and then a colon and then what was said. It took me a little while to figure out that’s it’s supposed to mimic a script. It didn’t work for me, though, because the rest of the text wasn’t like that. If the whole POV could have been written out like a script I think it could’ve been a really interesting narrative choice, but as it was it was just kind of distracting.

Overall, I really loved Take a Bow. I read it in a day. I loved the characters and the friendship and even the catty egomaniac. I know this review does not do justice to how much I enjoyed this book. I can’t believe how long it has taken me to discover Elizabeth Eulberg. If you are a fan of YA Contemporaries, you definitely need to check her out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

I loved this book! I was caught up with all my current books and didn’t know what to read so I started searching through all the “available now” titles at the library and this was the only one to really grab my interest. I decided to give it a try and I’m so glad that I did! It was such a well done friends-to-more story.

I really liked both Macallan and Levi. I loved their bantering and their friendship and how they were there for each other. The story was told in alternating first person POV and between each chapter there was a short passage of them bantering back and forth about what just happened in the preceding chapter. I really loved this narrative style and thought it really worked for the story. I felt a good connection to both characters and it kept me from getting overly upset at one of them when they did something stupid.

Friends-to-more is one of my favorite romance tropes and, as I mentioned above, it’s done really well here. Instead of just being told how they’ve been friends forever and are best friends, we get to experience their friendship from the start. The book starts with them in seventh grade and ends with them as juniors in high school. My only problem with it is I felt a little weird shipping middle schoolers. Back in my day (oh so long ago) when kids that age “dated” it was basically writing notes and occasionally hanging out, but here they were going on proper dates and there was never a mention of parents driving them or anything. It was kind of weird. However, in other ways the parents were a big part of the story and I really appreciated that. Levi’s parents and Macallan’s dad and uncle were all present and encouraging and loving and you don’t see that a lot in YA. The only other nagging issue I had with the story was Levi’s almost desperate need for guy friends. The phrase “my guys” was used far, far too often.

Overall, I really enjoyed Better off Friends. I loved the writing style and the characters. I loved watching Macallan and Levi’s friendship grow throughout the years, even though they had several setbacks along the way. I definitely recommend this to YA fans and Friends-to-More fans. This is the first book I’ve ever read from this author and I am definitely going to be checking out her other books.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Ready to Run (I Do, I Don’t #1) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The Bachelor meets The Runaway Bride in this addictive romance novel about a reality TV producer falling for her would-be star: a Montana heartthrob who wants nothing to do with the show.

Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: Luke Elliott, a playboy firefighter who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.

Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.

I received a copy of Ready to Run via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Ready to Run will be available August 22, 2017.

I really enjoyed Ready to Run! It was exactly the sweet, lighthearted book I needed right now.

Jordan and Luke were both really likable main characters. I enjoyed getting to know each of them and how their relationship progressed throughout the book. It was a little bit of hate-to-love, which I always think is fun. They had several funny and sweet moments between them and I shipped it. I also really liked Jordan’s co-worker/BFF, Simon, and all the townspeople of Lucky Hollow. I’m originally from a small town myself, so I always enjoy reading about them.

I loved the concept of the Bachelor-esque reality show. I’m not really a fan of that type of show myself, but I do like other kinds of reality tv and I love behind-the-scenes type stories. I was slightly disappointed that this book didn’t really have much in terms of behind-the-scenes, though. It was more early pre-production. It didn’t take me long to get over the disappointment, though, once I got into the book and invested in Jordan and Luke.

Maybe it’s because I’ve recently read a couple of mammoth-sized books, but I kind of felt like this one was too short. I thought that there was more that could have been explored – more quirky townsfolk, more funny/cute moments between Jordan and Luke before the romance progressed, more information about the show, more information on Luke’s jilted brides,  more time spent on the heavier emotional topics (but not too much! I appreciated the lighthearted feel). I just enjoyed the story so much I wanted to spend more time with it. The only other thing I didn’t really like were the sex scenes. There’s only so much graphic detail I can take and still be able to take a book seriously and Layne’s writing usually comes close to that line. I thought it was funny that in the “About the Author” section it says that “she writes romantic comedies with just enough sexy-times to make your mother blush.” Just think of me as your more conservative mother.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ready to Run. I loved the concept and the characters and never wanted the story to end. I’m very anxiously looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Chocolate Book Tag

I was tagged for this by Deanna over at A Novel Glimpse (she’s awesome, check her out). Thanks Deanna! I’m going to try and keep my answers to only books I have read this year.

Dark Chocolate: A book with a dark theme/content

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The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. There are definitely some parts that are hard to read in this book. But it’s so good!

 

White Chocolate: A light-hearted/humorous read

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Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren. I smiled my way through this whole book.

 

Milk Chocolate: A book with a lot of hype that you are dying to read

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Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. Honestly, I don’t really care that much about the whole super hero thing that’s so popular these days, but since Leigh Bardugo wrote it, I want to read it!

A Wafer-Free KitKat: A book that surprised you lately

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Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. Even though I didn’t really enjoy most of the book and figured a lot of stuff out, the very final twist definitely surprised me and I loved it!

Chocolate With a Caramel Centre: A book that makes you feel gooey on the inside

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Only You by Denise Grover Swank. I was shipping Kevin and Holly so hard during this whole book.

Snickers: A book you are going nuts about

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Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton. This is one of my favorite books of the year and I tell everyone to read it. READ IT!!!

Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream and Marshmallows: A comfort read that you turn to again and again

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My Lady JaneSince I’m trying to stick with books I’ve only read this year, this is one of the few re-reads I’ve done. It’s so funny and cute and I love it.

 

Box of Chocolates: A series that has something for everyone

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What’s a tag without mentioning Red Rising? This is another re-read this year. It has actions, twists, romance, space, politics, romance, and terrific writing.

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?