Review: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

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

When It’s Real will be available May 30, 2017.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started reading this book, but I don’t think I was expecting to love it as much as I did. But, I loved it! It was so cute and fun and was a well done Fake-Relationship story (which we all know are my favorite kind).

I thought both Vaughn and Oakley were likable characters. Oakley definitely had his egotistical jerk moments, but we see way more of him being sweet and funny and sometimes vulnerable. I liked Vaughn, but had to remind myself a few times when she did something or reacted to something in a way that annoyed me that she’s only 17. But, seriously, as far as YA heroines go, she was a pretty level headed one. I also really liked Vaughn’s family and Oak’s bodyguard.

This book had all the things I love in a good Fake-Relationship story. I loved the awkwardness of hammering out the terms of the contract and the initial antagonism between Vaugh and Oakley. I loved their fake date outings and how they slowly started to become friends and then more. I thought they were so sweet together (even though things did almost get a little too sappy at times) and I shipped them hard. After reading The Royals series, which I thought was far too explicit for YA, I was a little concerned about how graphic the sexual content would be in this one. And though there was still a little more than I prefer for YA, it wasn’t very graphic and I liked that the their feelings for each other were highlighted over the physicality. There was also some underage drinking and casual drug use, but it was also much less than The Royals series and more YA appropriate (if those things are ever appropriate for YA).

Overall, I really enjoyed When It’s Real. The writing was addictive and I never wanted to put it down. It was funny and sweet and I just had so much fun reading about Vaughn and Oakley. There was one thing, though, that kind of brought my reading experience down and it’s not the book’s fault. The e-ARC I received had some major issues on my Nook with missing text – often paragraphs at a time. I hate to even mention that because it obviously won’t be an issue with the finished copy (and I did find a solution by downloading a copy for the Kindle app for my phone so I could find the text missing from my Nook), but it kind of cast a shadow over the whole thing for me.  However, as you can tell, I still loved the story. I definitely recommend it to YA Contemporary fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Charlie Donlea, one of the most original new voices in suspense, returns with a haunting novel, laden with twists and high tension, about two abducted girls one who returns, one who doesn t and the forensics expert searching for answers.

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.

I am usually very stingy when it comes to buying books – especially when it’s by an author I’ve never read before. However, I have seen several really great review for The Girl Who Was Taken, so when I saw the ebook was on sale it seemed like a no brainer to snatch it up. Unfortunately, I wish I would’ve waited for it to come to the library. It wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely didn’t live up to my expectations.

It took quite awhile for me to really get into the story. While the POV shifted between several characters, the main character was Medical-Examiner-in-training Livia. So much of Livia’s POV was taken up by really clinical details about autopsies and other medical things. While I appreciate the author’s very thorough research, it was just way too much for me. I felt kind of ambivalent towards her as a character. I felt like she had no personality. She had some obvious empathy, but often times she came off as kind of robotic. I also thought it was too convenient in how easy her investigation went. Everything just kind of worked out and led her to the next clue.

In addition to the shifting POV, the timeline shifted as well. I think that the flashback chapters to what led up to the night Megan and Nicole went missing is where the book really shined. The characters seemed a lot more developed and that’s where a lot of the creepy factor came in, which I enjoyed. I was always a little disappointed when the chapters shifted back to the present.

Overall, The Girl Who Was Taken was just ok for me. I thought the overall mystery was pretty well done. I had several suspects and while the culprit ended up being one of them, it wasn’t one of my top suspects. I really enjoyed the flashback chapters, as well. However the lack of personality of the main character, the overly clinical descriptions, and the somewhat open ending left me feeling underwhelmed and a little disappointed that I spent money on this.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Blogger Stats Book Tag

I saw this tag awhile back over at Cover to Cover (go check her out!) and thought it looked fun. Feel free to tag yourself if you’d like.

The last three books you read?

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The Party by Robyn Harding, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, Always My Girl by Samantha Chase

Spoilers or spoiler free?

I usually try to write my reviews spoiler free, but sometimes I can’t help myself and need to talk about something specific and spoilery. I always put up a spoiler warning, though. When it comes to reading other people’s reviews I’m fine with spoilers as long as there’s a warning. There are some books I go looking for spoilers for and others that I don’t want to know anything about.

How long have you been book blogging?

Almost 4 years. Crazy!

A book you read in one sitting?

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This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

Your favorite genre?

This year has been mostly mysteries and suspense. I’m finally getting back into contemporaries, though, too.

Preferred book size? (novella, tome, etc)

I read most books on my Nook and the page count is always way off from what Good Reads says. But in Nook world, I would say I like around 250-350 pages.

Amount of books on your TBR?

473.

A book you have DNF’d?

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I hated the main character and just couldn’t get into the story at all.

Recent awards or milestones?

Nothing I can really think of.

Best interaction with an author you enjoy?

Meeting Leigh Bardugo was pretty cool.

Average number of books you read per month?

Around 10 or so

Top three publishers?

I don’t really have favorite publishers. I just read what looks interesting.

Social media sites your blog uses?

Twitter.

Average amount of time you spend on networking?

Um, about zero. I know, I suck.

Most comfortable blogging position?

I do all my blogging while sitting on my couch.

Music or quiet when writing reviews?

Tv on in background, but if I’m having trouble writing one I need quiet.

Can you sum up your blogging style in 5 words?

When I Feel Like It.

A blog you looked up to starting out?

There isn’t really one in particular. I didn’t really look at blogs before I started mine. But probably all the ones I followed in the beginning helped shape mine.

The best book you have reviewed so far?

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So far this year the best ones have been Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton and Making Faces by Amy Harmon.

Best piece of blogging advice?

Don’t force content. I know everyone says you should post every day, but if you’re not feeling it or just throwing something together so you have a post, it shows. Some people can come up with great stuff and post every day and that’s great for them. But I started having much more fun with my blog when I stopped trying to keep up.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s out there! Moms that read books to their children are the best!

For my Mom’s present this year I took her to Painting with a Twist last night. It’s one of those places where you bring your own beverage (wine!) and snacks and take a painting class. It’s the first time either of us have done it and it was so fun! Our pictures didn’t quite turn out as good as they were supposed to, but we were both pretty happy with them. We are definitely going to go again some time!

 

Here is what it was supposed to look like:

Happy Mother’s Day!

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

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

The Names They Gave Us will be available May 16, 2017.

When I think of Emery Lord books, I think of trying too hard.  Even though I’ve liked some of her other books (especially The Start of Me and You), I always feel like she just tries way too hard to be deep and meaningful. It comes across a little self-indulgent and melodramatic to me. While this book did have cute, funny, and even poignant moments, it still felt like it was trying too hard.

I felt like I should’ve found Lucy really relatable (pastor kids unite!), but I never fully connected with her. She was a mostly likable character, though. I mostly liked her group of friends at camp, though I wish they would’ve been developed just a bit more. I did really love Jones, Lucy’s new love interest. He was so sweet and I enjoyed pretty much every scene he was in. I also liked the camp setting and the kids there.

I have heard from people who are hesitant about this book because there is some religious content. If you are one of those people, I would say you might be slightly annoyed at times, but I don’t think it’s written in a way that will “ruin” the book for you. I have also heard from people who were very happy to see a “realistic” Christian character not be a complete psycho. To those people I would caution to not get too excited. Yes, the main character comes from a religious background and is not awful. However, this is NOT a Christian book and the overall message is not of Christian faith. There are definitely a few themes throughout that is congruent with the Christian faith, but at the end of the day the message is more one of universalism and the goodness of people. I mean, it’s still a hopeful message and is more than is in most YA, but I just want to caution my Christian friends.

Overall, The Names They Gave Us, was just ok for me. I felt like it was too long for what little was going on and a little repetitive and then it had a pretty abrupt ending. I did really enjoy Lucy and Jones’ slow burn romance, though. I think that Emery Lord fans will probably still enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars