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ARC review: Media Darling by Fiona Riley

Media Darling by Fiona Riley can be purchased here

4.5/5*

published 11/13/18

 

I received an arc of Media Darling from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Media Darling is a f/f queer romance between a star and a celebrity reporter.

Haley is a would-be screenwriter who works at the Sun to make her bills. When she is asked to fill in at a media event for another reporter, she’s determined to get something done. When she can’t get Emerson’s attention on a red carpet, she lets out a piercing whistle, which unfortunately silences everyone around her, which gives a paparazzi the opportunity to yell an embarrassing question about Emerson and Rachel.

Emerson is a star under siege when her ex-girlfriend Rachel (who was kicked off the movie they were working on together) accuses Emerson of smearing her reputation and that it was all Emerson’s fault. After the red carpet incident with the paparazzi, Emerson tells her assistant that she never wants Hayley near her again.

Later that night, when Hayley gets between the same cruel intentioned paparazzi and Emerson, Emerson decides to investigate Haley. What she learns makes her decide that Hayley is the right person to tell her side of the story, including the explosive secret Emerson is terrified that Rachel will weaponize. As they spend more time together, sparks fly. But when their relationship is outed (pun intended), they need to decide if what they have is real, or just Hollywood magic.

Riley is a strong writer. Each of the women have a distinct voice. This is especially important in f/f or m/m or multi-partner couples because pronouns, which serve as shorthand in m/f romance can often make things blurrier. Despite seemingly oppositional occupations (in fact, their first encounter leads to a horrible paparazzi encounter for Emerson) Riley lays the groundwork for why these characters could work. The sex scenes sizzle.

The only thing that took it from a 5* to a 4.5* is that the real villain is so obvious that it’s surprising that it takes any effort to figure it out. But even with that, I didn’t mind the ride to see how the characters figured it out, and how they’d react. The writing is strong enough, though, that I think that it could’ve been masked a little better.

Check out Media Darling when it drops next week, or pre-order today!

 

Review–Decoy Date by Mira Lyn Kelly

Pre-order here for $6.74 on Kindle

4/5*

Published December 2018

I got this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gwen has been in love with Ted since she was a little girl. He was her first kiss, her first sexual experience, and more. But it’s always been hot and cold. She’s never been his girlfriend. She watches him hit on women and take them home. But she just can’t get over him.

Brody had no idea what Gwen sees in Ted, who’s just jerking her around in his opinion. But he has a thing for Gwen, and if she really wants Ted, he’ll help her do it. The key, he tells her, is to make Ted jealous. And how better to do that than to pretend to date him?

This is a slow burn romance between Gwen and Brody, and the book does contain sex scenes. What starts off as a fake relationship begins to slowly turn real. Both Gwen and Brody try to write off their feelings, but they’re real. They’ve just settled into a relationship when Ted declares his love for Gwen.

I thought this was a great romance. It kept my interest, and I was rooting for Gwen and Brody. When their plan worked a little too well, I got really engrossed, needing to know how it ends. The sex scenes are well done–very steamy.

The characters are well done, with unique voices. I like that Gwen is curvy, and not some stick thin supermodel type. My favorite romances are the ones where women are done more realistically–which means different skin colors, orientations, sizes, etc. Brody is hot, and has a really sweet heart.

My issue with the book is that at times motivations are murky. I would have given it 5* but at times it felt like Brody was manipulating Gwen.

This is book four in The Wedding Date series, but works as a stand alone. I haven’t read the other books in the series, and while it was clear that there were previous romances in the series it wasn’t hard to step in and start with this book. I don’t feel the need to run out and buy the other books in the series, but I’ll probably add them to my Goodreads want to read queue.

 

Book VS Movie–The Hate U Give SPOILERS

This post has spoilers for both the book and movie. You have been warned.

Book 5/5*

Adaptation 3.5/5*

Movie without the context of the book 4/5*

When I heard that the movie for The Hate U Give was coming out, I decided it was time to read the book with my 5th grader. Originally I had thought 6th grade would be appropriate, but I took the movie coming out as a sign.

We did a car read along–I bought the audio book on Audible and a physical copy for Elanor. As a side note, the audio book is amazing. The narrator has a great sense of when and how to use emotion, and she made my eyes well more than once because of that. She differentiates the characters well.

Elanor struggled a lot with the scarier parts of the book–Khalil’s shooting, the riots, the fire at the store. But we had a lot of talks about police brutality and the complicated relationship between cops and communities of color. My husband is a person of color, and my daughters are as well, so these are discussions we have to have.

I took her to the movie yesterday. Here’s our discussion about the movie versus book. Below the video, I’ll give my review.

I feel like the book is very nearly perfect. I can’t think of anything I would change–it’s a 10/5* book. But because of the subject material, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy adaptation, especially as so much of what makes the book work is Starr’s inner voice.

The movie uses voiceover as a tool to give exposition and to allow us into Starr’s head. I think this works pretty well. If anything, they could have used it a bit more.

Obviously when adapting a 400+ page book, things are getting dropped.

The biggest change in the book versus the movie is that the character of Devante has been cut. This also cuts down the role of Carlos and his relationship with Starr (he’s basically a second dad). Much of Devante’s actions are done by Seven–King beats the shit out of Seven instead of Devante in the final act of the book.

Chris, who is the “good” white person in the book. The one who wants to learn, and who stays through the riots, almost getting killed with Starr, Seven, and Devante is gone. Instead we have one who says things that are kind of ignorant (“I don’t see color”) and he takes Kenya and Lyric away in the movie and never comes back. I had hoped to see Chris learn and grow, but I don’t think he did, really.

Maya isn’t Asian and there’s no minority alliance. While the whole “eating dog” thing is a minor plot point that I can see dropping, there was no need to cast a white/white passing actress in Maya’s role.

But let’s talk about Starr. If Amandla Stenberg doesn’t win awards, I’m going to flip tables. She embodies Starr perfectly. Her Starr is exactly like the one I pictured in my head. Her emotions come across so strongly that she made me cry at several points. She doesn’t pull any punches, and leaves it all on the table.

Overall, I think it’s great movie. It’s a 3.5/5* as an adaptation, and a 4/5* just as a movie without the context of the book. Be prepared to sob your heart out at several points, especially if you cry easily like me.

My only big complaint about the movie is the end. Starr should’ve done the last lines of the book verbatim. It would have been a far stronger ending.

ARC review–The Sheriff’s Little Matchmaker by Carrie Nichols

The Sheriff’s Little Matchmaker

4/5*

Publication date–October 11, 2018

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I am cross posting this review to my author blog as it’s a romance title.

Do you like sweet romance? Sexy lawmen? A Cajun accent? I have a book you’ll love.

The Sheriff’s Little Matchmaker by Carrie Nichols is a lovely sweet romance. Sasha is tired of being that poor widow after her husband was killed in the line of duty, so she moves to Rose Creek, Texas. Remy is the town’s sheriff, and a single father. Evie is his daughter and Sasha’s student–who knows what she wants. Evie orchestrates a meeting between Sasha and Remy, without knowing that Remy was the stranger Sasha had been dared into kissing on a girl’s trip to New Orleans. When Remy sees the mysterious woman who disappeared after a blazing kiss in his daughter’s classroom, he’s thrown. Sasha is torn between shock and embarassment–things like torrid kisses were supposed to stay on vacation where they belong. Sasha and Remy can’t really stay away from each other. Sasha determinedly holds the line of “I’m your daughter’s teacher, I can’t date a parent,” although it’s a losing battle. But step by step, the sexy sheriff breaks down her walls. Which leaves the question of whether Sasha can bear to give her heart to another lawman, and if Remy wants more than just a mother for his daughter.

The sexual chemistry between Sasha and Remy is electric. There is a steady build, and in any other book they would’ve fallen into bed within the first quarter of the book given that chemistry. I kept rooting for sex, and (spoiler) there is one sex scene, but it’s all off page, which is a bit of a disappointment. The way the sex scene is handled is a bit disappointing because it’s quite rushed, and not just because they’re lusting for each other and the sex happens off stage. There could’ve been a longer scene there to rebuild the tension that had deflated in the time since their last encounter.

We get to see the events through both Sasha and Remy’s points of view. Unfortunately there were time when I got a bit confused who’s point of view we were in.

The judicious use of Evie, Remy’s daughter/Sasha’s student is well done. Too often kids speak in inauthentic ways, but I think Evie is just about right (I have a daughter who is older than Evie and one who’s a bit younger). She’s obsessed with Sasha’s cat, loves Eloise, and is very interested in Sasha becoming her new mom. (Remy and her mom divorced when she was young.)

My only real complaint is that Sasha keeps saying she won’t let a dominant personality dictate her actions, but that isn’t quite what happens. Remy is very much an alpha/in charge kind of character and for the most part Sasha gives in. I would have liked a little more spine.

 

Review– Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Buy Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

4/5*

Published August 2018

 

Michael’s family just moved for his dad’s work. Again. After his dad promised that the last move was going to be the final move. Worse, atheist Michael is being sent to Catholic School, with its stupid uniforms and religion and rules. He’s sure he’s not going to make any friends and will be trapped in his own perception of hell (assuming he believed in hell, which he doesn’t) for the next two years until he graduates. Then, in Theology class, a girl starts arguing with the nun over saints. Here, Michael realizes, is someone he can be friends with. He chases the girl down after class and Lucy invites Michael to sit with her friends.

Eventually he is asked to join their secret club, Heretics Anonymous. Lucy is actually Catholic, and believes in it, except for the part where women can’t hold any real power. She’d want to be a priest, but it will never happen, and she’s upset over it. Avi is Jewish and gay. Eden is the youngest in a very Catholic family, but is a practicing Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheist. Max is a Unitarian who loves cloaks and hates the dress code.

At first all H.A. does is sit around and discuss what’s wrong with the school. Then Michael suggests that they start doing things. Things like subverting the dress code by leaving pairs of neon shoelaces around the school. Or when they print a paper to counter the overly censored school paper.

But is H.A. making the school better? Or worse?

But one day Michael takes it all too far.

I thought that the book was really well written. The story was engaging with really good pacing. I didn’t realize how long I’d read for, and I immediately wanted to go back to reading it. I wish there was already a sequel! (On the other hand, no sequel because it’s perfect as it is.) It was highlighted in Buzzfeed’s YA books to read this summer and it’s easy to see why.

The evolution of Michael’s relationships, including his romance with Lucy were engaging and, again, well paced. Avi is distrustful of him at first, and doesn’t want Lucy to invite Michael to join H.A. Lucy falls for him, but slowly. Michael is closer to some members than others, and he never hangs out with Eden alone, for example, but she’s a friend in his circle. So it’s more realistic than if they were all the bestest buddies ever.

I don’t think the reader will find any shocking reveals, but even if they’re predictable, they’re well done.

I really liked that the characters were quite diverse. There are Latinas, Asians, and Black students, and it’s nice to see that their race is not a defining characteristic a la The Baby-Sitters Club where Jessi was Black and did ballet and that was all of her character development. Avi being gay is also not a defining characteristic but when it’s used, it’s used well.

Henry does a good job of presenting what’s wrong with that sort of school environment, including the abstinence assembly and the teacher’s morality clauses and how they’re enforced. But through Michael’s eyes, we also see a softening toward the church and things that are good within it. Both believers and non-believers can enjoy the book.

I thought that the “villain” of the story–Theresa, a soldier of Christ with no ability to see beyond that into the gray areas–is something of a cardboard cutout. I sort of get why she cares so much, but she’s still a flimsy villain. I wish she were a little more developed and three dimensional. Some of the secondary characters, like almost all of the teachers are also less defined than they could be.

Overall, a great book if you like realistic fiction and YA.

Kid Vid Review–The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

4/5*

Published Sept 2014

This week it’s Rhi’s turn and she picked one of her favorite books to have read to her–The Book with No Pictures. As a heads up, if you can’t read with expression and make silly noises, this is not for you. It can also get a little tiresome if you have read it every day for an extended period of time. BUT if you are comfortable being silly, your kids will LOVE this book. Rhi might give it a 5*, but I’d say it’s a 4*–enjoyable, worth rereading, definitely a book for the home library, but not something you might look forward to reading with them, especially after the first 100 or so times.

The Book with No Pictures is best for the pre-K to grade 2 set, but my fifth grader almost always shows up if we are reading it, and she laughs her head off, too, although I don’t think she’s ever bothered to read it on her own. It’s the experience of a parent/adult being silly that makes them both lose their minds.

Kid Vid Review—Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jim Benton

Buy Dear Dumb Diary #1: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

4.5*/5*

Published August 2013

 

I interviewed my older daughter about a book she recently read and really liked. Here are her thoughts… (she’s quiet so you will want to turn up your volume)