When It’s Real by Erin Watt

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? – Goodreads

You know how you’ll be reading a book, and it’s really good, and someone asks what you’re so absorbed in? So you lie, because the real answer is embarrassing? Because you don’t want to admit you’re a 27-year-old reading a chick lit about some regular girl who falls in love with a pop star? Yeah, that happened to me twice while reading this.

I’d rather admit that I like dragons than admit I was reading a book with the tagline of “a pop star, a regular girl, the world’s watching”. BUT, I actually really enjoyed this fluffy, light, unbelievable-but-whatever-I-needed-a-light-summer-read book.  It reads like a show from the Disney channel, complete with an orphan and some fairytale stuff.

Vaughn Bennett is seventeen, “normal”, poor and orphaned. Her slightly older sister takes care of Vaughn and her two younger twin brothers, which is no cheap feat after her parents die in a tragic accident. Somehow, they afford to live in Southern California. I let this slide.

Vaughn’s sister works for a publicist of the famous Oakley Ford, whom I pictured as Justin Bieber…like, pre-weird JBeebz. You know. “Girlfriend” JBeebz. My imagination, I do what I want.

Justin, er, Oakley, has a garbage reputation of being a player partyboy in Hollywood, when he just wants people to take his music seriously. So, his publicist hires Vaughn to be his fake girl-next-door girlfriend to repair his image. Vaughn gets a paycheck (don’t worry, there’s no creepy prostitution stuff here; it’s just an image thing) and they go on fake dates.

I actually liked the slow build of their friendship and eventual non-fake romance. I liked each character, and surprisingly, didn’t want to gag at Oakley’s disdain of the limelight. I liked Vaughn’s character; she was punchy and independent.

It was a nice, light read this summer. I finished it quickly and actually enjoyed it. The story was sweet and the characters were well done. If you’re in the mood for a very lighthearted romance, pick this one up. This does fall in the genre of new adult, so probably not appropriate for younger kiddos.

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Power of Five by Alex Lidell

Four elite fae warriors. One mortal female. A magical bond they can’t allow—or resist. 

Orphaned and sold to a harsh master, Lera’s life is about mucking stalls, avoiding her master’s advances, and steering clear of the mystical forest separating the mortal and fae worlds. Only fools venture into the immortal realms, and only dark rumors come out… Until four powerful fae warriors appear at Lera’s barn.

River, Coal, Tye, and Shade have waited a decade for their new fifth to be chosen, the wounds from their quint brother’s loss still raw. But the magic has played a cruel trick, bonding the four immortal warriors to… a female. A mortal female.

Distractingly beautiful and dangerously frail, Lera can only be one thing—a mistake. Yet as the males bring Lera back to the fae lands to sever the bond, they discover that she holds more power over their souls than is safe for anyone… especially for Lera herself.

Power of Five is a full-length reverse-harem fantasy novel.  – Goodreads

I did not know what a reverse-harem fantasy novel was. I also did not expect to love this novel as much as I did…or it’s sequel (I don’t typically review sequels, so consider it part of this one).

BUUUUUT I loved it. For a typically-not-a-big-lover-of-the-Fae person, damn damn damn damn. Ever have books you wish you could reread for the first time? This would be on my list. It’s magical, fast-paced, steamy, ahhh. Love it. Let me simmer down and explain.

The writing style is fabulous and the plot moves quickly. I had a super difficult time putting this one down. I read it in a day, and the second one the day following.

Lera is a great female lead. Though a “weak” mortal by Fae standards, she’s strong and hilarious in spirit. She was witty and sassy, and I really enjoyed reading her POVs. I also loved each of the male Fae’s POVs and personalities.

Honestly, if you’re looking for a light fantasy read, pick this one up; it’s worth it.

Pestilence by Laura Thalassa

They came to earth—Pestilence, War, Famine, Death—four horsemen riding their screaming steeds, racing to the corners of the world. Four horsemen with the power to destroy all of humanity. They came to earth, and they came to end us all. 

When Pestilence comes for Sara Burn’s town, one thing is certain: everyone she knows and loves is marked for death. Unless, of course, the angelic-looking horseman is stopped, which is exactly what Sara has in mind when she shoots the unholy beast off his steed.

Too bad no one told her Pestilence can’t be killed.

Now the horseman, very much alive and very pissed off, has taken her prisoner, and he’s eager to make her suffer. Only, the longer she’s with him, the more uncertain she is about his true feelings towards her … and hers towards him.

And now, well, Sara might still be able to save the world, but in order to do so, she’ll have to sacrifice her heart in the process. – Goodreads

I probably would have enjoyed this more if an invisible voice wasn’t whispering “Stockholm Syndrome!” in my head the whole time. Okay, so the invisible voice was me…but still.

Let me address what I liked, first. For one, I actually liked Laura Thalassa’s writing style and flow. Though the plot itself was slow (see below), her writing style was funny and interesting. I also liked the originality of the plot using the four horsemen in an apocalyptic end-of-the-world scenario during modern times.

Sara was also a strong female lead; she’s a firefighter, and she sacrifices herself to attempt to assassinate Pestilence in the most gruesome way (fire) possible to save Earth. Too bad Pestilence can’t be killed…instead he kidnaps her and tortures her by tying her hands and making her run — RUN — behind his steed as he gallops across the world, leaving death and sickness in his wake. You know, because he’s Pestilence.

That’s when it lost me — at the romance. See, Sara sees something in Pestilence and begins to fall in love with her captor. Yes, the the same dude who tortured the crap out of her. Wait, what? SEE? I told you. STOCKHOLM SYNDROME, HARCORE. Sara, girl, COME ON.

The plot is literally them riding from house to house around the country, again, leaving death and destruction in their wake (and sometimes bustin’ into someone’s OCCUPIED house to make sure Sara gets food and stuff and then those people die).

So, though the writing style was fun and the concept cool, the whole romance part was awkward and unbelievable for me. I finished it, but I didn’t LOVE it. It was an interested trial of the new adult genre (which, by the way, has more sex scenes than young adult fiction), but this one was not for me. I rated it a 2/5 on Goodreads.

 

 

Venators: Magic Unleashed by Devri Walls

The dark unknown beckons.
Rune Jenkins has a long-standing infatuation for anything from the supernatural world, and she’s trying to hide it. If she doesn’t, her reckless twin brother Ryker storms in fits of rage, and she starts feeling like her own sanity is slipping. But the closer she gets to Grey Malteer – an old friend who waves his fascination with fantasy like a flag – the harder it becomes to stifle her own interest. When supernatural creatures from another world suddenly come hunting for the three college students, they are forced to see the hidden truth as fantasy twists with reality. With help from a mysterious savior, Rune and Grey escape, but Ryker does not. They must follow Ryker’s abductors into an alternate dimension, Eon, where they discover their true identities. They are Venators, descendants of genetically enhanced humans designed long ago to protect the inhabitants of Eon from themselves, and to keep them far away from Earth. After generations of separation, the ruling Council of Eon has decided to bring about the return of the Venators for their own benefit. In this new world of fae, vampires, werewolves, and wizards, power is abundant and always in flux. Rune’s brother is missing, and she and Grey are being set up as pawns in a very dangerous game. Rune, Ryker and Grey must now find their way through and out of Eon, before it consumes them.
 – Goodreads

First of all, thank you Devri Walls for yanking me out of my reading slump. I was initially cautious to read this, simply because I know Devri’s husband “in real life”. I’d met Devri once before, but I’ve always been worried about reading the work of friends or acquaintances because a) what if I hated it and b) what if I read the narrative IN THEIR VOICE?

I did notice that it occasionally took me a few minutes to “get into” the story and stop overthinking the fact that the author was indeed a “real person” and not some mysterious author behind the novel. So dumb, but true.

Once I got over it, though, I sincerely enjoyed the story and premise of the storyline. The worldbuilding was good and I enjoyed the overall writing style of the book. I like the main characters (more on them in a moment) and the supporting characters. I appreciated the mix of magical creatures and the introduction of new ideas and concepts (a Venator, for example).

Rune is a strong female lead. For some reason, the only thing that bugged me about Rune was her name — if her parents are such stand-up, normal people…why the hell are they naming their kid Rune? Ryker makes sense, Rune does not. Rune is the type of name your hippie Wiccan mother names you…not Sally Soccermom who wants you to make the Dean’s List. Stereotypical of me, yes…but something I was hung up on nontheless.

Grey is a strong male lead, though it took me quite a few chapters to stop picturing him wearing his (in my mind, creepy af) trenchcoat. The trenchcoat thing is explained later on, so don’t let that turn you away or think Grey is creepy…he’s not.

Overall, if you’re looking for a breathe of fresh air in the new adult fantasy genre, check this one out. It won’t disappoint!

 

The Sea King by CL Wilson

He wasn’t supposed to choose her…

Seafaring prince Dilys Merimydion has been invited to court the three magical princesses of Summerlea. To eradicate the pirates threatening Calberna and to secure the power of the Sea Throne, Dilys vows to return home with a fierce warrior-queen as his bride. But politics has nothing to do with unexpected temptation.

She didn’t dare wed him…

A weathermage like her sisters, Gabriella Coruscate’s gentleness exemplifies the qualities of her season name, Summer. Yet her quiet poise conceals dangerous powers she cannot begin to wield. Better to live without excitement, she reasons, than risk her heart and lose control— until an irresistible Sealord jolts her awake with a thunderclap of raw desire.

Until evil threatens everything they hold dear…

When pirates kidnap Summer and her sisters, Dilys is in a desperate quest to save the woman he loves. Only by combining his command of the seas with the unleashed fury of Summer’s formidable gifts can they defeat their brutal enemies and claim the most priceless victory of all: true love. – Goodreads

This is one of those embarrassing reads that you don’t admit to reading when people ask you what you’re reading. It also makes me thankful that you can’t see the cover on my Kindle, as it’s reminiscent of the romance novels I remember seeing at my Oma’s house.

I reviewed The Winter King by CL Wilson two years ago and was obsessed. Like, 5/5 stars-and-on-my-favorites-shelf obsessed.

Less obsessed with this one, but I still seriously enjoyed it.

Though set in the same world with some of the same characters as The Winter King, you could read this as a standalone and be fine. I was nervous because, again, it had been two years since I’d read The Winter King and couldn’t remember half of the characters.

This one is focused on the other sisters of Summerlea. Dilys is the Sea King of Calberna and was promised a bride during the war that happened in The Winter King (aka the one I don’t remember). So, Dilys rolls up to Summerlea and starts courting them. He initially writes off Summer, because she’s super kind and doesn’t really give off the whole “warrior bride” vibe. However, she’s just been keeping her dangerous powers on the downlow.

Cue the romance, the magic, the kidnapping, the treachery.

The book was fairly fast paced, and I found myself really enjoying Summer’s character and her development over the course of the book. Dilys was also pretty cool, though for taking a bride as a “prize”, the extreme feminism of his culture was a little bit confusing to me. Not a turnoff, just odd.

There was action, sex, and romance; pretty much what’s depicted on the cover. I wasn’t disappointed, and I look forward to more books from CL Wilson.

Morning Glory by Diana Peterfreund

Desperately in need of a job, yet still full of boundless optimism, Becky vows to land on her feet and stumbles into an opportunity at Daybreak, a floundering network morning news program in New York City. Abysmal ratings are only the tip of the iceberg: Executive producers seldom survive beyond the next commercial break, and the outdated cameras belong in the Smithsonian.

Promising the head of the network that she can reverse the downward spiral, Becky makes legendary newscaster Mike Pomeroy an offer he can’t contractually refuse. She successfully adds Pomeroy to the team, but he refuses to participate in any Daybreak fluff pieces and morning show staples like celebrity gossip, weather, fashion, and crafts. What’s more, he takes an instant dislike to his equally difficult co-anchor, Colleen Peck, a former beauty queen.The only bright spot in Becky’s career is Adam Bennett, a gorgeous fellow producer, but Daybreak’s dysfunction spells trouble for their blossoming relationship. As Mike and Colleen’s on-air chemistry proves more explosive every day, Becky must scramble to save her love life, her reputation, her job, and, ultimately, Daybreak itself. – Goodreads

I saw this on sale and thought, why not? I’d recently watching the movie version and was in a rare mood for some fluffy chick lit.

Some background — this was a novelization of the movie. The movie came out in 2010 and starred Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton.

I liked the premise of the story — I wanted to be a journalist in college and am familiar with the news industry. However, Becky fell flat as a main character for me. Becky is tenacious and dedicated to her job — as a result, she’s obsessed with news and her BlackBerry. Becky mentions how her dating life is a flop because she’s so addicted to her BlackBerry. Look, I’m a millenial. I understand being addicted to my phone. Hell, I forgot my phone at home during a short afternoon of errands this week and felt as if I’d lost a limb. HOWEVER, constantly checking your phone on a first date and then getting upset because said date is fed up? Nah, girl.

The other characters also fell flat for me. Adam, the love interest, had potential. Mike was my favorite character — perhaps I was picturing Harrison Ford’s character from the movie, but I thought he was the most dimensional and least annoying. Which is confusing, because his character was supposed to be annoying.

In all, it wasn’t a terrible read. It was light, it was fluffy, it was predictable. Personally, I’d stick to the movie and skip the book. I rated it a 2/5 on Goodreads.

Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis

Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancé were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else in a very public debacle, leaving Sophie splashed across the tabloids—fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding and one-hundred percent screwed on her dream life. The icing on the cake was when she lost her job and her home…

Laying low, Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles. That way, she can keep Bubbles and her sweater-wearing pug company and nurse her broken heart. But when Sophie gets a part-time job at the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery, she finds herself up to her elbows in dough and reluctantly giving a wedding cake customer advice on everything from gift bags to guest accommodations. Before she knows it, she’s an online wedding planner. It’s not mousse and macarons, but it pays the bills. But with the arrival of unexpected personal and professional twists, Sophie wonders if she’s really moving forward—or starting over from scratch… – Goodreads

Every once in a while, I get in the mood for a fluffy chick lit novel. This one came across my bargain page, so I picked up up for a couple of bucks on Kindle.

This book fit the bill — it was quite fluffy and full of food descriptions. In fact, the food got to the point of skimming over it. I had the same issue with The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, so perhaps I should avoid food books!

Sophie is alright. She’s hurt after her ex-fiance broke her heart and hijacked their business. She spent an ungodly amount on her wedding and is in serious debt, so she moves in with her grandma, Bubbles…who I picture as Betty White.

Sophie develops her own Ask Alice type of site for wedding consultation. She makes bank. She whines about making bank. She pays off her debt. She whines more about answering questions. Look, I get it — if you’re not pursuing your passion, it’s not worth it. But have some gratitude, Sophie.

It was hella obvious who she would end up with at the end.

I don’t know. It was a light, fluffy read. But I’ve read plenty of light, fluffy books and walked away feeling impressed and happy. This was not the case — I found myself annoyed. Sophie fell flat as an MC, the love interest was boring, and the grandma was more interesting than anyone else. I simply wasn’t into Sophie’s spiral of self-loathing and angst.