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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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.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever. – Goodreads

I’m not quite sure how to feel about this one. Yes, I read it in a short amount of time because I was curious about what would happen next.

I thought the entire story was very…predictable. Though I have to give Lonsdale props for the unique storyline, many of the twists felt extremely convenient and I often found myself rolling my eyes. I obviously can’t provide any examples here, though, because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.

The timeline of the book is also confusing. Sometimes months would go by from chapter to chapter, with the entire story spanning about 16-18 months. I don’t mind the span of time, but I think it could have been more clear how much time had passed and less jumpy.

Lastly, before I say some good things — I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters. Aimee fell flat for me, as she was either the grieving widow or magically healed and in love. The only time her personality came through was when she talked about her cafe. Her friends were obviously only in the story as a way to connect her to Ian and push her to go to Mexico. I still don’t know who the F Lana is. Ian is a stage-five clinger. James was way too damn perfect. I just…couldn’t identify with anyone, and thus cared about no one.

The book was paced well, though, and despite it’s flaws, held my interest. This is a good beach read if you’re looking for something light.

I rated it a 2/5 on Goodreads.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

26192150In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, andThe One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads.

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. – Goodreads

So many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to check this out in exchange for an honest review. I literally squealed when I received my approval email.

Why? Because I’m irrational and felt that Emily Giffin herself saw how many Emily Giffin novels I’ve read and reviewed and approved me herself. I know this isn’t true, but it’s fun to think about!

First things first: I love how Giffin ties all of her characters from her various standalone novels together. It’s not in a big way, but you’ll recognize the name of a random friend or acquaintance and realize, hey! Wasn’t Ellen the MC of Love the One You’re With? And then your mind is blown and you feel like you understand so much about this side character. I digress.

This story focuses on two sisters (and is told in alternating points of view), Josie and Meredith. Josie is the younger sister, who is a little bit crazy and carefree. Meredith is the uptight, older one. The entire story focuses on their brother’s death (car accident) fifteen years prior and how it affected their family.

Throw in a little bit of sibling rivalry and some insane life choices and we’ve got a story, folks.

Josie is sick of dating — she’s in her thirties and wants a baby, stat. So she takes matters into her own hands. Much of the book is focused on this decision and how she will find a donor. I loved how Giffin tied in Pete and Gabe, though I wish Gabe had been less two-dimensional. As her best friend, it would have been nice to see a little more than his lady-loving self.

Meredith was my least favorite character — she had zero empathy and was incredibly hard on her younger sister, constantly calling her selfish and attacking her. Zero patience, this one. Though at times I could understand her difficulties (and I really didn’t mind reading from her point-of-view), her overall personality really irked me.

For the most part, all of the characters were really well built. The two characters that I wish had been more complex were definitely Gabe (Josie’s roommate/best friend) and Nolan (Meredith’s husband), but they did alright how they were.

In all, I enjoyed the story. There were plenty of emotions, lots of tension, and quite a bit of heartbreak and healing. If you’re in the mood for an emotional family read, pick this one up.

Remember how I kind of hated One & Only? This one was much more on point and I’m back to totally loving Giffin. Only chick lit (okay, okay — with the exception of Jennifer Weiner) that I’ll touch.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

TCOCCYOU’VE GOT MAIL meets HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.

In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.

Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.

The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?

Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together. – Goodreads

Why have I not heard more about this book?!

I’ll admit, the first chapter or so had me considering DNF’ing it – it’s your typical ‘girl breaks up with boy that is terrible, meets new boy but new boy is actually horrible person but is he really’ story. BUT! I stuck through, mostly because the food descriptions were out of this world and I had to see what else Lou was going to make. And holy cow, did it get good!

First of all, it helped a lot that I’ve been to Wisconsin. You’re talking to a die-hard, life-long Packers fan right here, and I’ve tasted the amazingness that is frozen custard and cheese curds. I didn’t realize they were in Wisconsin until she started talking about the Brewers and squeaky cheese curds, at which point I was fully committed to this story.

Yes, it’s a plot line I’ve seen done over and over. Yes, there is a ‘love triangle’ of sorts (part of that triangle is only one sided though, so does it really count?). But there’s FOOD and PACKERS so I obviously loved it. Reichert has a way with words that makes you truly feel like you’re there, walking through Milwaukee with Lou & Al, or dancing in the rain at the Irish Festival, or eating that scrumptious coconut cake. It’s amazing!

While all of the above is true, I really love how Reichert handled the story. I love that she put a new spin on it, in a different place that isn’t overdone like NYC or California (I feel like everyone’s always in NYC or California… is that just me??) and her writing is truly captivating. I gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads & I highly, highly recommend reading this – just make sure you’re not hungry when you do! 🙂

K

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

MIALAt the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent story lines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him. – Goodreads

When I was reading the first chapter of this, I was really worried that I was going to hate it. I didn’t click with Hannah right away, and in that first part she seems so… whiny and needy and… terrible. She was not someone I wanted to click with, to be perfectly honest. But then, I kept reading and it clicked and the story got SO GOOD. I’m so glad I stuck with it!

I know I say this a lot, but I really haven’t ever read anything like this before. It’s two separate stories, about the same girl – the only difference is the decision she made one night and how her life played out afterwards. It’s a great reminder of how the littlest things can send your entire life down a completely different track and I love that lesson! Have you ever thought ‘if I had done x instead of x… where would I be right now?’ or ‘if I had taken this job instead of this one… would I have met this person still?’ – it’s crazy to think that all of these seemingly little decisions we make every day of our lives, add up to such big ones!

I will say that I favored one storyline much more than another… the one where Hannah leaves the bar, I think is my favorite. She grows so much because of the incidents that follow, matures and finds someone absolutely perfect for her. On the other hand, I love Hannah and Gabby’s relationship/friendship/being there for eachother in the storyline where she stays at the bar… either way though, I love the book!

I gave Maybe in Another Life 5/5 stars on Goodreads & I definitely say take a chance on this one – stick through the first chapter, stick through until you see the different paths Hannah has in front of her, and I’m betting by then? You’ll be hooked just like I was.

K