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: Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

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

Seeking Mansfield will be available 5/16/17.

I love a good Jane Austen re-telling and I haven’t read any based on Mansfield Park, so picking this book up was a no brainer. It’s been such a long time since I read Mansfield Park that I can’t really comment on how faithful it is to the source material. I do know that the basic structure of it is similar and reading this made me really want to go back and re-read Mansfield Park.

I really liked both Finley and Oliver. I loved their friendship and how they always supported each other. I loved the slow burn romance between them, too. We get both of their POVs throughout the story. Normally when we get dual POVs and find out that both characters have feelings for each other that they think are unrequited it drives me crazy. It often takes away a lot of the tension. However, I really enjoyed getting both perspectives here. I think that I could have ended up disliking Oliver a bit without his thought process of how he was justifying his actions. Instead I thought he was pretty adorable, even if he frustrated me at times.

I loved “uncle” Thomas and how the parents in this book were present. There were consequences for bad behavior and guidance when needed. I thought the other side characters – Harlan and Emma Crawford (Hollywood actors and new neighbors) and Tate and Juliette (Oliver’s brother and sister) were all fairly well developed, though I would’ve liked a little more of Oliver’s siblings. From what I remember of the Crawfords from Mansfield Park I thought Harlan and Emma were really well done, though maybe a little more likable here (but don’t worry, not that likable).

I thought the writing was kind of addictive. Even though it was a pretty character-driven plot and the pace was a little on the slow side, I just didn’t want to stop reading it. My only real complaint is that it got a little too teen-angsty for me at times.

Overall, I really enjoying Seeking Mansfield. I liked the characters and the romance and the message of self-worth and standing up for yourself. It was an easy and addicting read. Though I thought the middle of the story dragged a little bit with too much teen angst, it did pick back up and I really enjoyed it. I think fans of Mansfield Park would be happy to read this re-telling, as would YA Contemporary fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

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

I Found You will be available April 25, 2017.

This is only my second book by Lisa Jewell and I am once again wondering why I haven’t read more from her? Her writing is so addictive and the way she creates so much tension without a very fast pace or big twists just seems effortless.

I wasn’t really sure what I would think of having so many characters set in different locations, as well as a timeline from the past. While I am a fan of alternate timelines, I usually like them involving all the same characters and I wasn’t sure how it would play into the central story. Of course Jewell was able to weave together the characters, locations, and timelines masterfully. It does not take long at all to know how the past timeline and characters fit into the present, but there is still a bit of mystery into the players. I thought Jewell did a good job of keeping me guessing and second guessing every time I thought I had it all figured out.

I thought the characters were very well done and well-developed. I liked Alice and her kids and even her dogs, “Frank”, and Gray and Kirsty and their family. I did think that Gray seemed a little bit more of a jealous boyfriend than protective brother at times, though, and it made me a little uncomfortable. However, there was nothing to worry about on that front. I really didn’t care for Lily, the young wife who’s husband goes missing. Her behavior just really rubbed me the wrong way and I had a hard time feeling sorry for her position when she married a much older man after so little time. I found Mark, Kirsty’s admirer who Gray doesn’t trust, to be kind of intriguing and then kind of terrifying. Yet another book where Jewell’s portrayal of teenage behavior scares the crap out of me.

Overall, I really enjoyed I Found You. It’s emotional and intriguing and I could hardly put it down. I thought Jewell did an excellent job of juggling the characters and timelines. I definitely recommend this book and really look forward to reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Justin’s baseball games. But Justin is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

I received an ARC from the publisher via a Good Reads Giveaway. This does not impact my review.

This is my first Lisa Scottoline book and it definitely won’t be my last. The writing was a good mix of mystery and character development and it was really hard to put down.

In the beginning of the book we meet Chris Brennan, who is interviewing for a teaching position. We find out right away that Chris isn’t his real name and all the details of his life he’s sharing are a lie. His plans are slowly unraveled, though we only learn the “what”, not the “why” in the “Step One” section of the book, which is broken up into three steps. I really enjoyed how much Chris’s actions creeped me out. Then there is a nice twist once we get to Step Two that I was not suspecting at all. I love when books can surprise me like that. The only problem is that I don’t really feel like I can talk about it because it would be a big spoiler and I would hate to take the surprise away from other readers. I’ll just say the mystery continues, though with a slightly different focus, and I enjoyed it, though it did seem a little unbelievable at times.

We also get the POV from three mother’s of the students/baseball players Chris initially targets. Mindy is wealthy, mother to popular Evan, and wife of a surgeon who she believes is cheating on her…again. Mindy was kind of hard to like, but as we got to know her more and see what she had to put up with at home I became more forgiving towards her. Susan is a bit of a workaholic, newly widowed, and her two sons are going off the rails a bit after the death of their father. I liked Susan’s overall character arc the most of the three women, but I didn’t always feel like her POV was relevant to the story. Heather is the underemployed single mother of Jordan, a shy kid who is new to varsity baseball, and develops a bit of a crush on Chris.

I thought it was an interesting choice to go with the POV of the mothers instead of their sons, which you think would be a little more relevant to Chris’s plans. However, I really liked it. It helped keep the kids a bit of a mystery while slowly revealing reasons from their home life why they might be the one Chris is looking for.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading One Perfect Lie. It had likable characters and a good mystery. There were a couple times it got a little unbelievable and the dialogue a little cheesy, but for the most part I thought the writing was really good. It might be more of a 3.5 for me, but because there were several surprises that I did not see coming I’m bumping it up to 4. I’m really looking forward to reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her…

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose…A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

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

It took me a little while to get into I See You. It starts out a little slow, mostly establishing the characters. But once it fully settles into the main mystery I was hooked.

The story follows Zoe, a woman who finds her picture advertising a dating site she’s never heard of in the paper, Kelly, a police office trying to gain some redemption from past mistakes, and snippets from the anonymous villain. At first I found the switch in POV between Zoe and Kelly a little jarring, almost feeling like they were two completely different stories. Once we get further into the story, though, I found myself really enjoying each perspective. While they both had their flaws, they were likable characters that I was rooting for the whole time. I also really liked Kelly’s new DI, Nick.

I thought the author did a good job of conveying Zoe’s paranoia. While the book didn’t really have the creepy atmosphere I was expecting, it snuck up on me later, when I wasn’t reading. The idea of how most of us are creatures of habit and how easy it would be for anyone to use that predictability against you is a scary thought. I’ve always been someone who closes all the blinds as soon as it gets dark enough outside for people to be able to see in. The thought of being watched has always creeped me out and I think this book will make me a little more paranoid than I already am.

The mystery was pretty well done. I suspected several people of being behind the website all throughout the book and while the villain was one of my suspects, it still surprised me. I think it worked, though. And I LOVED the ending.

Overall, I enjoyed I See You. Though it started out a little slow for me, it did end up really sucking me in and I had a hard time putting it down. The mystery was well done and kind of terrifying in how plausible it is. I would definitely recommend it to mystery/thriller fans. Just be prepared to be looking over your shoulder after you do.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review: Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Just what is it that attracts some women to the most evil of men? The seductive, twisty, exhilarating new thriller from Sharon Bolton.
He loves her. He loves her not.
He’s a serial killer. A murderer of young women, all killed in brutal attacks.
But despite his conviction, he’s always stuck to his story — he’s innocent and he’s been wrongly imprisoned. And now he wants someone to investigate, and more importantly, to write his story.
At first Maggie, a barrister and true-crime writer, is reluctant to even acknowledge his requests, ignoring his letters. But this is a very charismatic and persuasive man, good-looking and intelligent.
Eventually even she can’t resist his lure…

I loved this book! I’ve just discovered Sharon Bolton this year and I think this just might be my favorite of her books.

Daisy in Chains is told from the perspectives of Hamish, the convicted serial killer in prison, Maggie, the lawyer and true crime author that is considering taking on his case, and Pete, the detective responsible for putting Hamish behind bars and hoping to keep him there. Interspersed with the narrative of the three main characters are chapters that include newspaper and magazine articles, draft chapters of Maggie’s potential book on Hamish, e-mails, and letters. I love this kind of storytelling when done well and it’s done really well here.

The mystery was really well done. Bolton did a great job of keeping me guessing the whole time. I suspected multiple people the whole way through. There was one major plot twist that I guessed kind of early in, but it was just the tip of the iceberg in regards to how things turned out and I loved that I was still surprised by the ending. There are a lot of things that I want to say about the twists and the ending, but I really don’t want to do any spoilers. I’ll just say the mystery was clever and layered. Even if you guess one or two of the layers, there are still more surprises waiting for you.

Overall, I really enjoyed Daisy in Chains. It was such a great mystery with likable characters and just enough twists to keep me on my toes. I definitely recommend this one to mystery/thriller fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

4.5 stars

Review: The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In Toulouse, Louisiana finding your one true love happens sometime around high school. If you’re lucky, he might be the man you thought he was. But as four friends are about to find out, not every girl has luck on her side in this charming debut novel perfect for fans of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Desperate Housewives.

Laura Landry’s quarterback husband was her ticket out of Toulouse. But when a devastating football injury sidelines him, they’re forced to move back to the small town she was so desperate to leave. As Brian starts drinking instead of rehabbing his knee, Laura must reevaluate what her future looks like…and if it includes her husband.

For years, Madison Blanchette has been waiting for bad-boy musician Cash Romero to commit to her. When wealthy George Dubois asks her out, she figures she may as well wait in style. Life with George means weekend trips to New Orleans, gourmet meals, and expensive gifts. At first she loves how George’s affection sparks Cash’s jealousy, but when George proposes to Madison, she finds herself torn between two men…

All Claire Thibodeaux wants is to be the perfect wife and mother. If she can do everything right she won’t end up like her mom, a divorced, single parent trying to make ends meet. But when Claire’s husband Gavin, a well-respected local pastor, starts spending late nights at work and less time in their bed, she can’t help but fear that history is about to repeat itself…

Gabrielle Vaughn never thought she’d end up with someone like her fiancé. The son of a prominent congressman, Tony Ford is completely out of her league—which is why she lied to him about everything from having a college degree to the dark truth about her family. She knows she has to come clean, but how do you tell the love of your life that your entire relationship is a lie?

As these young wives come together to help each other through life, love, and heartbreak, they discover that there are no easy answers when it comes to matters of the heart.

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

The Young Wives Club will be available February 14, 2017.

I had such a hard time putting this book down! It’s a really character-driven story about friendship and relationships and learning from your mistakes. The chapters switch POV between four young women and the relationship and life troubles they face.

*While I don’t consider any of the below descriptions a spoiler, some readers might find it mildly spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution*

Gabrielle

Gabrielle was probably my favorite of the bunch. However, her problem is one of my pet peeves in books, which is when one simple conversation could solve all the problems, but that conversation doesn’t come until close to the end of the book. Gabby has had a hard life and when she meets a nice, cute guy in a bar she lies a little about her life. (I loved Tony, by the way. He was so sweet and pretty much just the perfect guy – I was just waiting for him to do something awful because no guy can be that great.) She doesn’t expect to see him again, but she does and they fall in love and the lies spin out of control. The truth about Gabby, obviously, has to come out some time, though. I still didn’t like how Gabby handled it, but I did like how it all resolved in the end.

Madison

Madison was probably the hardest of the girls for me to like. She was one of the youngest, recently graduated from high school, and had the most growing up to do. She’s in a non-committed relationship with the clichéd bad boy musician, has no real future goals, her dad has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and her family is approaching financial crisis. When her dad’s former boss, George, comes to visit and shows a bit of an interest in her, she decides to milk it. While they both know what she’s doing, it still came across as a little too manipulative to me. But on the other hand, George is in his early thirties so I can’t feel too bad for what he puts himself through by pursuing a teenaged girl.

While Madison was probably the most selfish character of the group, she did grow up a little as the story went on. I did really like her close relationship with her father. I also liked how her relationship with George ended up.

Claire

I really wanted to like Claire and I did for the most part, but I just didn’t respect her for so much of the story. She is the wife of a pastor, who is running a mega-church, even though he’s in his very early twenties. Claire is also very involved in the church. When she finds out that Gavin is doing very un-pastor-like things, she doesn’t confront him, but starts to question what she did wrong and then blames a third party, as well. When the confrontation finally comes with Gavin I still wasn’t satisfied with it. There was very little emphasis about what this meant to his job as a pastor or to their church or the members of the congregation. In fact, we never even find out if there’s any fall out, other than what it means to their marriage. I’m just disappointed that once again the Christian faith is so poorly misrepresented in mainstream fiction.

Laura

Laura dropped out of high school to marry and follow her football star boyfriend to college. She’s planned her whole life around him becoming a professional player, but all that is put in jeopardy when he gets hurt and they have to move back home with his parents. Laura is another character who had so much growing up to do and I think she made the most progress. She decided to go back to high school and get her diploma. While there she befriends a new guy who challenges her academically and makes her really start to consider having her own goals and not just following Brian’s. Though she wasn’t my favorite of the girls, her story arc was. Not everything turns out perfectly, but it seemed the most realistic and I was really proud of all she learned.

Overall

Overall, I really enjoyed The Young Wives Club (and it’s gorgeous cover!). It’s a well-written, character-driven story that I could hardly put down. Though the characters weren’t always very likable, I really appreciated how much growth all of them showed throughout the book. I also really liked that things didn’t just magically work out for all of them, but they had to work at it and learn to be ok if things in their life turned out a little differently than they expected. I definitely recommend this to fans of character-driven novels.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars