Review: When It’s Real, by Erin Watt

When It's RealWhen It’s Real by Erin Watt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I picked up ‘When It’s Real’, I wanted something that was sweet and heartwarming. I loved ‘Paper Princess’ by Erin Watt, so when I started seeing this book pop up on friends’ pages, I knew that I’d want to read it. I was not disappointed.

This book was everything that I had wanted. It was the kind of light and fluffy read that puts a smile on your face and leaves you feeling contented. Although it was predictable and not particularly original, it was still a highly entertaining read. After all, who doesn’t love a modern-day, rags-to-riches love story?

The story centers on the “fake” romantic relationship between Vaughn Bennett and Oakley Ford. Essentially, their relationship is a publicity stunt concocted by Oakley’s management team to revamp his bad-boy image. Oakley is a famous singer. Vaughn is the everyday, girl next door teenager.

While Oakley is accustomed to a life surrounded by admirers, he is lonely. He has no doubt that if the fame were to go, so would everyone that claims to care about him. All the booze, drugs and women that fill his time cannot fill the void within him.

Worst of all, Oakley has been in a rut. He hasn’t written anything new in a while and everything is sounding the same to him. It’s like he’s lost his magic.

More than anything, he wants to work with a famous producer that is known for his ability to produce the best hits. However, Oakley’s irresponsible shenanigans have gotten in the way. The producer doesn’t believe that Oakley is a serious artist and is refusing to work with him until he proves himself.

Vaughn needs for their fake relationship to be as believable as Oakley does. Her family is depending on her. She knows that she will never be able to earn this type of money any other way and she desperately needs the money. Her “real” boyfriend will just have to understand.

Along the way there is plenty of humor, as Oakley and Vaughn banter back and forth. They kind of start off on the wrong foot and their relationship begins with a healthy rivalry. Of course, the more time these two spend together, the more they start to develop real feelings for one another.

There are a few bumps along the way, but nothing too surprising. It was pretty predictable, but a sweet and fun read. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was terrific as well. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a light-hearted, feel good type of love story. It is a standalone, so you won’t be left hanging. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a spin-off featuring Oakley’s bodyguard and Vaughn’s sister. I’ll be looking forward to reading that one also if it comes to light.

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Review: Documentary (Documentary, #1), by A. J. Sand

Documentary (Documentary, #1)Documentary by A.J. Sand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook of ‘Documentary’ and it was pretty good. The narration could have been better, but was not terrible. Overall, this was a 3 1/2 star read/listen for me, but I’m rounding it up because I feel optimistic today. It falls in the “good but not great”, “liked it but didn’t love it” category for me.

Dylan Carroll is a filmmaking student that is offered the job of a lifetime. She is hired to film a web documentary on the life of Kai White, a rock star that is undergoing a PR crisis. This is the type of job that can open doors for her and set her on a path to success. She knows how important this job is and she cannot afford to screw it up.

Kai White has had a recent fall from grace. On probation after beating up his former bandmate, his fans have turned on him. Once loved by all, he is now shunned in the industry and viewed as an out of control and violent offender. This web documentary is a last ditch effort at salvaging his public image.

Despite the need to keep their relationship purely professional, Dylan and Kai cannot fight their strong chemistry. They “get” each other on a level that others do not. However, Dylan knows that pursuing a romantic relationship would be disastrous. If she ever had any doubts, Kai’s manager has made that abundantly clear to her.

Meanwhile, Kai is refusing to be forthcoming with Dylan about the infamous fight with his former bandmate, Jeremy. She knows that the best way to save his image is to address the elephant in the room and she can’t understand why Kai won’t talk about it. How is she supposed to save his image when he seems to be working against her?

Eventually, everything comes out. However, there is a lot of jealousy and misunderstandings along the way. Both Kai and Dylan contribute a lot to the ongoing tension and seem to enjoy playing games with one another.

Maybe I’m just outgrowing the college-aged romances, because I couldn’t help but feel that the characters were emotionally immature. There was plenty of angst and lots of back and forth drama. I spent most of this book wanting to shake some sense into the main characters. So much stress could’ve been avoided if they’d only been honest with each other about how they felt.

By the time everything was revealed, nothing was much of a surprise. It was predictable, but fairly entertaining. This was an “okay” story, but I don’t feel compelled to continue the series. It is a good choice for recovering from a book hangover, when you just want a predictable, HEA-type of story that you can listen to and not have to think about too much. It won’t leave a lasting impression, but it served it’s purpose. I’ve listened to/read much worse.

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Review: Bright Side (Bright Side, #1), by Kim Holden

Bright Side (Bright Side, #1)Bright Side by Kim Holden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book wrecked me! It was incredibly touching and heartfelt. Despite dealing with some rather depressing subject matter, it was handled with care. I can’t say that I didn’t cry big fat tears, but I can say that I smiled far more than I cried while reading this book. It was beautiful.

The heroine, Kate, moves from San Diego to Grant, Minnesota for college. Right off the bat, I loved her. It is easy to understand why her best friend, Gus, gave her the nickname “Bright Side”. She is the type of person that just lights up a room. Kudos to the narrator for being able to capture the essence of Kate’s character so well.

As Kate makes friends in her new home, she never lets her relationship with Gus weaken. They talk daily on the phone, while he tours with his band, Rook. There is no mistaking the strength of their bond, or the fact that there are feelings shared that extend beyond the bounds of normal friendship.

Despite claiming not to believe in romantic love, Kate finds herself falling in love. Keller Banks is the hot guy that works the counter at the coffee shop that she frequents for her caffeine fix. They flirt tirelessly and find themselves thrown together more often through mutual friends.

Once Kate and Keller begin spending more time together, their attraction is evident. Before long, Keller has let Kate into the private aspects of his life that he doesn’t share with others. The two grow incredibly close in a very short period of time.

Nobody is more surprised by their quick intimacy than Kate herself. She never planned on falling in love. She didn’t even believe it existed. More importantly, she has a big secret that she’s been keeping from everyone she loves, which she knows will ruin everything.

Aside from the romance between Kate and Keller, I found myself drawn to the stories of friendship in this book. Kate’s relationship with Gus was incredible. The support and love between them was so strong it was tangible. Similarly, her relationships with Clayton, Shelley and Pete were inspiring.

This book certainly did not lack for a strong cast of supporting characters. Each of these characters was endearing in their own way. Even the ones that made me mad initially, like Kate’s roommate, won me over eventually. I loved all of them and am looking forward to reading their stories.

In the end, I cried big, fat tears. It was sad, but also very inspiring. This is one of those books that makes you step back and reevaluate how you go through life. It was inspirational and helps keep things in perspective.

This is a must-read! I can’t believe that I put it off for so long, but I am so glad that I finally read it. This book was fabulous!

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Review: Captivated by You (Crossfire, #4), by Sylvia Day

Captivated by You (Crossfire, #4)Captivated by You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The fourth book in the ‘Crossfire’ series, ‘Captivated by You’ proved to be a somewhat underwhelming reading experience for me. Maybe I’ve outgrown the billionaire Dom subgenre that became so popular after the success of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or maybe this series is just dragging on too long to hold my interest. Whatever the reasons, this book didn’t hold the appeal for me that the earlier books in the series did.

Gideon and Eva are back on…then off…then on again. For most of this book I felt like they were just going in circles, rehashing the same old, tired arguments and not getting anywhere. I just feel like this book was stagnant. I was hoping that I’d see some big leaps and bounds in Gideon and Eva’s relationship, but there weren’t any meaningful developments until the very end.

That being said, there were some interesting developments toward the end when Gideon’s actions nearly cost him his relationship with Eva…again. I was interested to see where Gideon’s new path of healing would take him, but it was hardly explored before this book ended. So, it was something…but not nearly enough to satiate me.

Although the narrator for Gideon’s voice didn’t creep me out as badly this time, the narration still left much to be desired. Nothing about the narrator’s voice conveyed the sexy, dominant man that is Gideon Cross to me. There was nothing appealing about his voice in this audiobook.

Despite this book’s short-comings, I will probably continue this series at some point. This series has lost much of it’s luster for me. However, after reading four books, I feel too invested in this series to hang it up now. Much like I can’t DNF a book, I have this compulsive need to finish a series if I’ve read past the first book or two. (I should probably get medication for that!)

That being said, I can only hope that the next book is better than this one was. This book was just “okay” for me and lacked the intense appeal that the first couple of books had. Maybe it’s the series…maybe it reflects a change in my tastes. Either way, this book was kind of a disappointment for me.

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Review: The Silent Waters (Elements, #3), by Brittainy C. Cherry

The Silent Waters (Elements, #3)The Silent Waters by Brittainy C. Cherry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve now read several of Brittainy C. Cherry’s books and she never ceases to amaze me with how emotional and heartfelt her stories are. I know that when I pick up one of her books I am going to be a mess before it is over. She breaks my heart into tiny pieces and then slowly puts me back together from the wreckage. It’s a very love/hate relationship that I have with her work.

‘The Silent Waters’ was no exception. I fell in love with the characters and the beautiful, yet tragic, story. It made me fall in love. It gutted me. It broke my heart. It gave me hope. This is one book that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

We first meet Maggie as a young girl. Her father has remarried and she moves into her new home with her new family. Early on, she attaches herself to her slightly older step-brother and his best-friend, Brooks. She is the cute little girl that tags along everywhere that they go, crushing on Brooks and planning their wedding.

Initially, Brooks is irritated by Maggie and her girlish crush, until they kiss one day. From that point forward, the two are inseparable. Brooks and Maggie are the quintessential picture of childhood love.

On the day that Maggie and Brooks are supposed to have their “wedding” in the forest Brooks is late. A ten year-old Maggie goes into the forest that day, but is never the same again. What happened in the forest leaves her traumatized and her fear imprisons her.

The events of that day will have a ripple effect on everyone in Maggie’s life. Guilt and “what-ifs” slowly eat away at the people Maggie cares about the most, damaging relationships and fostering resentment. Yet, Brooks’ dedication to her is steadfast.

Over the years, life takes different characters down different paths. The dynamics of relationships change. Some grow stronger, some fade away. Old ghosts still linger, until the truth comes out so many years later.

I am being intentionally vague, because I don’t want to spoil this beautiful story for anyone. This is a book that should be experienced. It is sentimental and emotional, but so worth it. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a heartfelt, well-developed, slow-burn romance. This story is fantastic!

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Review: Punk 57, by Penelope Douglas

Punk 57Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of those over-the-top high school stories that I could not put down. ‘Punk 57’ is my latest guilty pleasure. I enjoyed every implausible, melodramatic moment!

Misha Lare and Ryen Trevarrow have been pen-pals for years, ever since their teachers mistakenly thought they were the same gender in elementary school and assigned them as pen-pals for a class project. They’ve been writing to one another ever since. Over the years, the two have become best friends, even though they’ve never met in person. Now in high school, things are about to get impossibly complicated.

Misha’s band is close to getting their big break. He spots Ryen at a promotional event being held for his band and initiates a conversation. Never, does he tell her who he is. Unbeknownst to them at the time, that night will change everything.

Ryen is the type of girl you love to hate. She makes hating her easy. Popular, beautiful and nasty as hell, she is the type of “mean girl” that are the source of high school nightmares. She is a bully, but she doesn’t hate anyone nearly as much as she hates herself. The only person she’s ever allowed to glimpse the person that she really wants to be is Misha, the pen-pal that she’s never even met in person.

When Masen Laurent starts attending Ryen’s school, she is immediately caught off-guard by the hot new guy that gives her a taste of her own medicine. He isn’t afraid of her and he makes it a point to call her out on all of her horrible ways. In fact, he seems to be on a personal mission to bring her down a few rungs.

As Ryen’s rivalry with Masen heats up, she is forced to face the person that she’s become. Misha has stopped writing to her without explanation and Ryen is feeling lower than she’s ever felt before. Her walls seem to be closing in on her, as she is forced to choose between the person she has become and the person she wants to be.

While there is a “secret” in this story, it isn’t really a surprise to readers. In fact, you know the big twist all along and it is just a matter of waiting for the characters to figure everything out. That being said, it doesn’t make the big reveal any less explosive.

From start to finish, I could not put this book down. It was full of high school melodrama and a pretty unrealistic storyline, but I loved every minute. After all, who wants to read something that sounds like your daily routine? Not me. This book was emotional and addictive. I loved it!

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Rock Stars, Love and Deceit

A Lush Betrayal (Lush, #1)A Lush Betrayal by Selena Laurence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Mel DiLorenzo lands the job of a lifetime, thanks to her big sister, she is glad to seize the opportunity to escape the disaster that has become her life. Her older sister, Tammy, works for her boyfriend’s famous band and wants Mel to do a piece on the band. A photojournalism student, Mel recognizes that this is a once in a lifetime offer. Well-known journalists would kill for a job like this, much less some unknown like her.

It just so happens that Mel is glad to get away from a scandal of her own making. Like a fool, she got involved with a renowned instructor. After their affair he dropped her grade, threatening everything that she had worked so hard for.

In her last year of her program, Mel has maintained the highest grades of any student in her class. She has worked hard for her grades and it was a no-brainer that she would win the most prestigious of awards given to a student each year. Now, her naive actions have jeopardized everything she’s worked so hard for. If she chooses to fight the grade, she will risk even more.

Joss Jamison is not a stranger to regret. He has his own skeletons that he’s trying hard to keep hidden. He knows that his secret has the power to destroy everything that he, and his friends, have worked for. He could lose it all if it gets out.

When Joss sees Mel when she joins the band on tour, he is taken aback by her beauty. No longer is she the young, awkward girl that he remembered. Tammy’s little sister has grown up.

Despite his bad-boy reputation, Joss is determined to win Mel over. She is sweet, innocent, and everything that he wants but has never believed that he would ever have. Everyone thinks that they know him, but they have no idea of the loneliness that he battles. Just once, he would like to feel a connection to another person that isn’t superficial.

When Tammy notices Joss paying attention to her sister, she doesn’t trust his motives. To say that her relationship with Joss has deteriorated recently, is putting it mildly. The two can hardly be civil to one another. Tammy does her best to warn Mel away from the womanizing rock star.

Aside from the drama with Joss, Tammy and Mel, there was plenty going on in the background as well. Tammy’s boyfriend, Walsh, is recently out of rehab and everyone seems to be walking on eggshells, afraid to push him off the wagon again. Meanwhile, there is obvious resentment and turmoil amongst the bandmates. As the lead singer and front man for the band, Joss seems to have garnered the vast majority of fanfare, birthing jealousies.

Just as Joss and Mel seem to be headed off into the sunset, all hell breaks loose. That secret of Joss’s finally comes out. It seems it wasn’t as well-kept as he had hoped. The results are devastating to everyone involved.

Even though this story was pretty predictable – after all, the author lets you in on the secret pretty early-on – I found it highly enjoyable. Knowing the secret, there is a sense of impending doom that hangs over this story. I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time. It kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

As expected, there was a lot of heartache and feels involved when everything comes to light. Again, not a big surprise. Yet, it was still highly emotional, despite my best efforts to prepare myself mentally.

Overall, I thought that this was a great story if you’re in the mood for something angsty. There is a bit of a taboo scandal involved. However, it was before Joss and Mel got together. The betrayal still runs deep though.

If you’re like me and you love to read a book that elicits emotional pain, then this is a good one. It is an emotional train-wreck in the making. You know it’s going to happen and you can’t do anything to stop it.

I’m a masochist in that way, so I thought it was great. If you like perfect characters that never make mistakes or do terrible things, then steer clear of this one. These characters are definitely flawed.

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Rock Star Romance

Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss, #1)Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a rock star romance, ‘Rock Addiction’ was surprisingly sweet. Sure, there were some groupies in the background trying to come between these two. There were some tense encounters with the paparazzi. However, the relationship between Molly and Fox was heartwarming and relatively low-drama.

Molly Webster is a librarian, whose life has been haunted by the actions of her father. A high-profile politician, his affair with an underage girl was a huge scandal. Molly spent her teenage years being the subject of public ridicule and speculation, a consequence of her infamous father’s actions. She was harassed by the paparazzi and swore that she’d never do anything that would place her back in the limelight again.

Zachary Fox knows that he wants Molly the minute he sets his sight on her. He also knows that he’ll have to be careful not to chase her off. A life in the spotlight is not something that most women can handle. He doesn’t want his rock star lifestyle to chase her off before he has a chance to win her over. He doesn’t even know the half of it!

What begins as a one night stand, turns into a one month stand. Both agree to part ways after their time together is over. Fox has no intention of ever letting that happen. He’s just hoping that he can work some magic in his month with Molly, bringing her around to seeing that she cannot be without him.

This was a sweet, heartwarming story. For a rock star romance, it was relatively tame…but that was a nice change of pace. There wasn’t any cheating, drugs, etc. that I’ve come to expect from the main characters in a romance centered on a rock star.

It was a rather predictable story. There was nothing surprising or shocking that played out on the pages. However, it was a nice, straightforward love story.

I found it to be enjoyable and entertaining. There was nothing here that awed me or left me feeling blown away, but it was nice. This was my first story by this author and I will certainly read more of her work in the future.

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An Emotional Read

The Story of Us (Carnage, #1)The Story of Us by Lesley Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading the first few chapters, I didn’t think that I was going to get into this book. I told myself I’d read a few more chapters before giving up on it. Man, am I ever glad that I did! This book knocked my socks off!

This is an epic love story that begins when Georgia first meets Sean at age 11. She recognizes him immediately as her soulmate. Over the years, their relationship matures and changes. Carelessness and pride divide the two, but they never quit loving one another.

When Georgia meets Cam, she doesn’t foresee the feelings that ensue. With two men that love her wholeheartedly both vying for her affection, she must decide what she really wants. A twist of fate changes everything and Georgia is once again dealt a tragic hand.

This book is heartbreaking and soul-crushing…but I couldn’t get enough! I fell in love with both Sean and Cam and cannot wait to see what book 2 has in store for Georgia. I was blown away by this story!

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Second-Chance Rocker Romance

Forgive Me (TAT: A Rocker Romance, #2)Forgive Me by Melanie Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story will grab you and pull you in on page 1, not letting go until the end. Have some tissues on hand. You’ll need them.

When Shame left Cassa, he had no idea of the devastating sequence of events that would follow, triggered by his decision. In her heartbreak, Cassa tries to move on, thinking that Shame no longer loves her. Her life becomes a nightmare, as she enters an abusive marriage and later, tries to regain her sanity. She is broken.

Tragic circumstances bring Shame back into Cassa’s life. As they both try to deal with the anger, guilt and pain that they harbor toward one another, they also have to face their own inner demons and come to terms with their shame and regret. The result was an angsty, emotional tug of war that kept me wondering right till the end if they would ever be able to fix their broken relationship.

I loved each of the characters and was absorbed with this story. The book did need a lot of editing and that was distracting at times. However, the author was very upfront about this and the story was so powerful that it didn’t ruin it.

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