Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Before He Was Famous (Starstruck #1) by Becky Wicks

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: May 29, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
279 Pages

One guy, one girl. One in the spotlight. One in the shadows.

Falling in love with your best friend isn’t always a great idea, especially when he’s Noah Lockton - the sexiest, most famous new talent on the planet. When 21-year-old small-town photographer Chloe Campbell is offered the chance of a lifetime – to join her celebrity childhood friend Noah on tour as an exclusive blogger for a New York magazine – she’s certain both have put what happened four years ago behind them. But his eyes still burn; his voice is still a jackhammer to her heartstrings; all his songs are about her. Is it possible that that night still haunts them both?

The music industry is a machine, spinning hype and rumors as much as his records. It’s not just Noah’s girlfriends who’ve got it in for Chloe (there’s no stopping the Twitter-obsessed, cat-loving pop-star Courtney Lentini for starters). Pretty soon, the jealousy and media frenzy surrounding these so-called-friends takes a life-changing turn and it seems making love means making enemies at every turn. When tragedy threatens to pull the final curtain on their relationship, both Chloe and Noah must make a choice. As much as this world leaves them starstruck, is living their dream really worth living without each other?

A story of lifelong friendships, love and hope, set in a world of celebrity, fame and social media gone very, very wrong.

From International Bestselling HarperCollins Author, Becky Wicks, comes a new adult romance that will leave you starstruck.

***Warning: this book contains graphic language, sex, and mature situations. Not intended for young adult readers.***

I’m a sucker for stories set in a Hollywood-type feel. Growing up I was always fascinated with what goes on behind the scenes, how everything works and that’s just carried over to books. So of course I had to read Before He Was Famous

Noah Lockton basically wins American Idol and goes from small town boy to superstar almost overnight and is thrust into the “celebrity” lifestyle. Chloe Campbell is Noah’s best friend and jumps at the opportunity to travel with him as his own personal blogger so to speak. But as with most boy-girl friendships, there’s underlying emotions especially after a certain night that happened almost four years ago that neither one will acknowledge. It’s a tale of how no one actually talks about their feelings and just lets them simmer until one or both of them explode. 

The base plot (small town boy becomes famous) was what intrigued me. However, our first glimpse at Noah was not all that great. He has a girlfriend but was thinking about how another contestant on the show had given him a blowjob recently. But that’s not cheating. Umm, ok… So right away, I was not impressed with this guy. I went back and forth with him over the course of the book. There were times I liked him and could see why Chloe was in love with him. Their friendship was one of the saving factors of this story. 

Our first impression of Chloe was this girl who was in a relationship with some guy she didn’t trust or love and was seriously pining for her best friend. While I didn’t dislike Chloe’s character, I wanted more from her. I wanted her to be stronger and more motivated, determined even. She just kind of went with the flow and bummed herself out when things didn’t magically go the way she wanted. And of course, she was the queen of running away when confronted with the truth.

This story was very modern, set basically in the now. Twitter and Instagram were heavy factors as were the celebrities the author name dropped in. While some were fun to read about, I do wonder if this will date the book in the future. Aside from the celeb shout outs, Peter Pan was a major theme. Now I just need to say here that I am a huge Peter Pan fan. It’s one of my favorite Disney movies of all time so when Noah and Chloe called each other “Peter” and “Pan” I was all, awwww. It was adorable and made sense with their history (they were in a Peter Pan play when they were kids). But I’m not going to lie, it became a little much when almost every page had a reference to my beloved movie. Nicknames, quotes, songs…it was just a little overboard. I think the author was trying too hard to make the audience have a connection that it just got weighted down with pop culture. 

Overall, it was an okay story. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. The overly done side characters I could have done without and I wish the author would have stayed away from the drama for the sake of drama that was the last half of the book, but I did enjoy watching Chloe and Noah navigate their feelings in the spotlight. 
I received an e-copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: Virgin by Radhika Sanghani

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Berkley Trade
304 Pages

Okay, I admit it…I didn’t do it.


This is normal, right?  I mean, just because everyone I know has talked like they’ve already done it doesn’t mean that they’re telling the truth…right?

It’s not like I’m asking for that much. I don’t need the perfect guy. I don’t need candlelight or roses. Honestly, I don’t even need a real bed.

The guys I know complain that girls are always looking for Mr. Right—do I have to wear a sign that says I’m only looking for Mr. Right Now?

Sooooo…anyone out there want sex? Anyone? Hello? Just for fun?

I am not going to die a virgin. One way or another I am going to make this happen.

Hey, what have I got to lose? Besides the obvious.

Meet Ellie – a 21-year old virgin, not by choice. Her only goal is to lose the giant V that’s hanging over her. It’s not like she hasn’t tried. Oh no, she’s tried – multiple times and has failed each attempt. One tragic incident in high school dubbed the ‘Bite Job’ has scarred Ellie and now she’s that awkward girl in the corner at parties that doesn’t know how talk to boys. With the help of her new friend, Emma and her new gay BFF, Ellie makes a vow that she’s going to lose her virginity before she graduates from Uni. 

This book was a surprise. I’ve seen a few reviews comparing it to Bridget Jones but in my opinion this far surpasses it. Virgin takes the unknown, all the questions most of us have had at some time, and answers them with humor and wit. Everything from what type of wax should a girl get to how to give a proper BJ – this book covers it all. 

Ellie was slightly neurotic but I believe that people will connect with her whether it’s because she’s a 21 year old virgin or just her self-doubt that constantly plagues her. Sanghani calls out how in media most girls just know what to do and everything is perfect. Most girls on TV and in film and books that I’ve come across just automatically know how to give perfect head and are sexual goddesses when in reality most girls are struggling to find out how to even begin. Virgins are labeled as dorky and nerds or most often losers. Virgin shows us the other side of that – someone who’s far from perfect and who has a lot of questions. It also touches on how we girls have the ‘Prince Charming’ complex (thanks Disney) and that sometimes skews our view of what’s right in front of us. 

This book made me laugh, it made me cringe. There were times I wanted to hi-five Ellie and times I wanted to shake her and tell her to move on. This wasn’t a girl who was waiting for ‘the one’, she wasn’t even just waiting for ‘right now’. She was human and flawed and made wrong choices. It was nice to read that and also to have fun with it. I will definitely be recommending this book to my friends.  
I received an copy of this novel from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Monday, August 11, 2014

ARC Review: Welcome to the Dark House (Dark House #1) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
368 Pages

What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.

Horror is such a hard genre to write, I feel. It takes timing and precision, along with just enough detail and imagination to pull it off. And then there are the characters – you need a hero to root for. Welcome to the Dark House took nightmares and made them real. And while some of the descriptions and scenarios definitely had the creep factor, it was lacking in character connections and a decent wrap up. 

Fans of horror master Justin Blake were asked to submit an essay telling him about their worst nightmare. From the entries, seven were picked to fly out and meet Justin Blake on location and get a sneak peek at his new movie – once they survive the Dark House. Our participants: Ivy, Parker, Garth, Shayla, Frankie, Natalie and Taylor. However, once they arrive, they realize things aren’t exactly what they seem.

I read this book in an eformat that was horrible. Going in I didn’t know that it was a multiple POV book and the copy that I had never alerted me when the change happened. I spent most of the book trying to figure out whose POV I was reading.  The fact that most of the characters were one dimensional, lacking any real characteristics, made it hard to keep them straight. It was fairly obvious from the beginning that Ivy was a protagonist, even though her voice got lost in the jumble a few times. Ivy was different from the rest because she wasn’t a fan of Blake’s. She was there for a completely different reason. She makes a connection with Parker and they become our hero/heroine mix. 

The climax of the story is when our characters enter a carnival built on their nightmares. In order to survive, each person must brave a ride tailored to his or her own fear. The fear sequences here were, in my opinion, the best part of the book. They were creepy with that nice shadow of a nightmare hanging over it. But the ending left me with too many questions.

What makes a good horror story ending is that moment when it all comes together and you realize why everything is happening and how it’s connected to the characters. I didn’t get that here. Now when I started this book I didn’t know it was going to be a series, but even after knowing that now, I still think Dark House needed a more rounded out ending. Why were they picked? Why did this happen to just them? Who is behind this, because it obviously wasn’t Blake? Where did Taylor go and why did she call them? Just why?

Even horror series have cohesive endings and this was lacking. I will read the second one mainly just to get some answers.
I received an e-copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review: Silver Shadows (Bloodlines #5) by Richelle Mead

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
380 Pages

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.

For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . .

Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where all bets are off.

I’m going to start things off by saying that I enjoy the Bloodlines series much more than I ever enjoyed Vampire Academy. The characters are more likeable and then there’s Adrian, who, honestly, was the best thing to come out of the former series. However, as much as I love Adrian and have grown to love Sydney, the latest installment in this series didn’t sit well with me. I’m going to try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but just be warned, I will be mentioning past books.

The last book left us with our group in shambles. Sydney, having been betrayed by her family, was captured by the Alchemists and hauled off to their reeducation camp. Adrian is drowning his pain in alcohol. Jill, who is linked with Adrian, suffers his pain as well. Eddie feels guilty for Sydney getting caught since she was with him that night. Everyone is just basically depressed and down.

Silver Shadows jumps right in, opening with Sydney being held who knows where. She quickly realizes that the only way she may ever get out is to go along with what the Alchemists are selling. So she slowly begins reciting the words they want to hear, but not without some fall backs. Meanwhile, Adrian has been frantically searching his dreams every night hoping to get through to Sydney. With the help of Marcus, former Alchemist, they start narrowing down compounds where she could be held.

What I liked about this book was Sydney’s strength. I felt in the last book it was missing slightly. She became more the love-sick girl that is in every YA book. It was nice to see her surrounded by her “people”, yet not really a part of them. She held true to what she believed in and even though she kept putting herself in more danger, she stayed true to what we have come to know her as: a helper and a leader. 

What I didn’t like was basically the whole ending. It felt wrong and completely out of character for both parties involved. I didn’t know where she was going to take the story, but I definitely didn’t expect it to go there. So I guess that is a plus on the fact that this was anything but predictable. But I didn’t enjoy the last few chapters as much as I enjoyed the rest. 

However, the plot point that was brought up on the very last page does give me hope that the final installment will be up to par. And also, can we get an Eddie book? I’m in love with that character and am so happy whenever we get more of him.

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