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.

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!