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Monday, March 27, 2017

Series Review: Act Like It and Pretty Face

Act Like It (London Celebrities #1)
by Lucy Parker
Published on November 30, 2015
by Carina Press

Synopsis from Goodreads: Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard's antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city. Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man? Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance. Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all? 
My take: I love stories set in London, but I don't think I've ever read a romance set in the world of the London theater.  Act Like It featured two of my favorite tropes: a fauxmance and a hate-to-love relationship. Lainie is the girl next door of the London theater and has just been dumped by her boyfriend. When bad boy actor Richard Troy needs some image rehab, Lainie gets convinced to pose as his girlfriend. And of course, the two fall for each other.

Pretty Face (London Celebrities #2)
by Lucy Parker
Published on February 20, 2017
by Carina Press

Synopsis from Goodreads: It's not actress Lily Lamprey's fault that she's all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens. She wants to prove where her real talents lie—and that's not on a casting couch, thank you. When she hears esteemed director Luc Savage is renovating a legendary West End theater for a lofty new production, she knows it could be her chance—if only Luc wasn't so dictatorial, so bad-tempered and so incredibly sexy. Luc Savage has respect, integrity and experience. He also has it bad for Lily. He'd be willing to dismiss it as a midlife crisis, but this exasperating, irresistible woman is actually a very talented actress. Unfortunately, their romance is not only raising questions about Lily's suddenly rising career, it's threatening Luc's professional reputation. The course of true love never did run smooth. But if they're not careful, it could bring down the curtain on both their careers… 
My take: Lily Lamprey wants to prove she's more than just a ... pretty face. Unfortunately, the guy she needs to prove it to is exacting, bossy, gorgeous director Luc Savage. But when Luc begins to see the substance behind her surface, will Lily want to risk casting couch rumors? Can Luc break through Lily's serious trust issues? I've got to say I loved Lily and Luc. Their age difference was a little worrisome (13-14 years) especially given the situation with Lily's father, who was pretty old when she was born. But I loved them as a couple!

These are my thoughts on the series as a whole thus far, and I hope there are more books!

--First off these are NOT YA, but adult romance. They do have sex scenes with a medium level of explicitness, if you care.

--These books take place in the same story world, with Lainie and Richard making a guest appearance in Lily and Luc's book.

-- Both books use snippets from the (I think) fictional gossip column London Celebrity to introduce the chapters. I didn't know that London theater actors were such mainstream celebrities. Here in New York, stage actors aren't really a feature of the mainstream gossip columns.

-- I loved the strong women and female friendships. These books feature loyal friends, and even an ex-girlfriend who's supportive and kind. The men tend to be a bit more stereotyped -- either swoony or sexist.

--I think Pretty Face is a stronger book, with characters and a conflict that felt more completely developed. The forces keeping the characters apart -- Lily's trust issues and worry that their relationship could derail her new stage career, Luc's workaholism and worries about their age difference -- were more fully realized. Act Like It felt a bit fluffier and more chick-lit to me.

-- Reading these back to back, I could see similarities between the two books, which was not always a good thing. Most of these actor-characters were rich and upper class, with family money, connections and even links to the peerage. Maybe that's realistic in the UK? There was an article in the Hollywood Reporter in 2015 claiming that the working class British actor was becoming a thing of the past because the cost of drama school was out of reach. If that's true, it's interesting and I hope further books address it.

--I think both books overused the family secrets/family drama a bit too much, with one book even having two secondary characters suffer a similar medical situation as a way to draw the couple closer together.

But overall, I highly recommend these books to NA and adult romance fans. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Freebie Friday: Beauty and the Beast Lost in a Book!

Happy Friday!

For today's giveaway I have a finished copy of Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book.

Maybe you're a lifelong Beauty and the Beast fan. Or maybe you've seen the new movie and are ready for more of the story! Or both!

Open to US/Canada addresses. Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trending Thursday: Rain(bow) Drops and Torn Paper

Hey, welcome (back) to Trending Thursday. I haven't been trend-watching much lately, but I've noticed a few things and decided to share.

I was making my Hot Off the Presses post for this week and noticed this:

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Two covers of books releasing the same day featuring a cut/torn paper effect. Interesting! And maybe inspired by these popular book, but maybe not...

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THANKS to Joy from Joyous Reads for helping me remember where else I'd seen the torn paper cover before --on the Goldfinch, which is on my kindle and therefore kind of coverless. xoxo!

Another trend I'm noticing is rain(bow) drops. At least three recent releases have featured this trend:

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Thoughts? I actually love all these covers, though I think the two rainbow drops are too similar. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing March 21-27

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the MARCH giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Hidden Memory of Objects Ten Miles One Way Shadow Run Redux
The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato (Balzer + Bray)
Ten Miles One Way by Patrick Downes (Philomel)
Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland and Michael Miller (Delacorte)
Redux by A.L. Davroe (Entangled)

Pyromantic Nemesis Hellworld
Pyromantic by Lish McBride (Henry Holt)
Nemesis by Brendan Reichs (Putnam)
Hellworld by Tom Leveen (Simon) 

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Just Finished Reading ... Vigilante

by Kady Cross

To be published
on March 28, 2017
by Harlequin Teen

Note: this review is based on an advanced reader copy.
Synopsis from Goodreads: It's senior year, and Hadley and her best friend, Magda, should be starting the year together. Instead, Magda is dead and Hadley is alone. Raped at a party the year before and humiliated, Magda was driven to take her own life and Hadley is forced to see her friend's attackers in the classroom every day. Devastated, enraged and needing an outlet for her grief, Hadley decides to get a little justice of her own. Donning a pink ski mask and fueled by anger, Hadley goes after each of the guys one by one, planning to strip them of their dignity and social status the way they did to Magda. As the legend of the pink-masked Vigilante begins to take on a life of its own, Hadley's revenge takes a turn for the dangerous. Could her need for vengeance lead her down a path she can't turn back from? 

My take: I really think this book had good intentions, but I feel like it also included a lot of mixed messages about rape, violence and relationships between men and women.

First off, if you're sensitive to discussions of sexual assault, please proceed with caution in this review and with this book.

The book's premise is that Hadley's best friend Magda went off with a guy she liked at a Halloween party and ended up being raped by multiple guys, with pictures of her rape later showing up on social media. Despondent after the charges agains the guys got dismissed and that people either blame her for what happened or think it was consensual, Magda commits suicide. (This isn't a spoiler; it's on the back of the book.) Then Hadley decides to avenge Magda's rape and subsequent death.

So my first problem with the story is that one of the people who sort-of-kind-of blamed Magda for getting raped was none other than ... Hadley. Before Magda's suicide,  Hadley tells Magda that she was raped because she made "a stupid mistake" and "picked the wrong guy." To give the book the benefit of the doubt, maybe the goal was showing that Hadley's vengeance journey starts out from a place of ignorance about rape. Then again, who would say that to their best friend who was gang raped and is now being slut-shamed?

So Magda is dead and Hadley is distraught. But she's also getting closer and closer to Magda's brother because he's the only one who can understand. They visit Magda's grave together and she's thinking about how good he smells and.... ugh.  I could see a romance coming, and to me it felt icky and out of place.

Hadley is also into martial arts and joins a women's self-defense class. I think it's great if women want to learn self-defense. And I'm guessing this stuff is in the book to explain some of the things (fighting and such) that Hadley is able to do as part of her revenge plot. But I also think that some of the ways the self-defense classes are framed are problematic. Hadley says: "If Magda has learned how to protect herself, maybe it would've helped."

To me, that sounds judgmental. Yes, maybe a self-defense class could prevent a rape, but spending so much time on this class and having Hadley say that about her friend also seems to me to suggest that women have an obligation to learn self-defense and fight back rather than expect not to be raped. And if you don't learn to fight back or don't manage to fight a rapist off, that's on you. I don't agree.

So, onto the revenge plot, which for me also had a bunch of issues, mostly that it glorified the exact kind of anger and sexual violence that the book seems to want to condemn. Hadley finds one of Magda's rapists passed out at a party, and decides to get some revenge. I have no issues with what she actually does (spoiler) writing "rapist" on his forehead in lipstick and taking pictures for social media (spoiler) but before that she also thinks about raping him. WHAT?!?!  Finally she decides, "I couldn't rape him. Even if it were possible, I wouldn't."

Hadley continues to take revenge on the rapists, but her violent thoughts and actions also seem to drive her into her arms of Magda's brother. Yes, that relationship continued to develop and it made me uncomfortable. Things hit a low point when she goes to his house and says "I know you probably saw video of what happened last night." (One of her revenge plots was filmed.) He says "you're reckless and brave and ... so fucking incredible" and grabs her and starts making out with her. Watching her take revenge on his sister's rapists is making him hot for her? I guess they're perfect for each other.

Finally, the rapists do get what's coming to them. Not because of Hadley, but (spoiler) because a group based on Anonymous (the hacktivists) releases video of the rape. (spoiler) So that was good at least.

For me, Vigilante was a mixed bag. It did offer what (to me) seemed like positive messages about female empowerment. But I also thought there was also a lot of weirdness there, stuff that made it hard for me to get behind the entirely of the book's message.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Freebie Friday: February/March Grab Bag!

Happy Friday and Happy St Patrick's Day! This weekend's winner can choose from a selection of February and March YA ARCs. 

Check out my Instagram for a sneak peek of the books that the winner can choose from!

OPEN to US and Canada (Joy!)

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing March 14-20

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the MARCH giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

White Road of the Moon Enemy Exposure Bad Blood
The White Road of the Moon by Rachel Neumeier (Knopf)
Enemy Exposure (Raven Files #2) by Meghan Rogers (Philomel)
Bad Blood by Demetria Lunetta (Delacorte)

Heartbeats of Wing Jones Psalm for Lost Girls Echoes of Memory
The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber (Delacorte)
A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayers (Putnam)
Echoes of Memory (Ravenborn #2) by A. R. Kahler (Simon Teen)

End of Oz Freya Maid of the King's Court
The End of Oz (Dorothy Must Die #4) by Danielle Paige (Harper)
Freya by Matthew Laurence (Imprint)
Maid of the King's Court by Lucy Worsley (Candlewick)

Hunted Queens of Geek Shadows We Know By Heart
Hunted by Meagan Spooner (Harper)
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (Swoon)
The Shadows We Know By Heart by Jennifer Park (Simon Teen)

Renegade Red These Ruthless Deeds Who Killed Christopher Goodman
Renegade Red (Light Trilogy #2) by Lauren Bird Horowitz (Papaloa)
These Ruthless Deeds (Vicious Masks #2) by Tarun Shanker  and Kelly Zekas (St Martins)
Who Killed Christopher Goodman by Allan Woolf (Candlewick)

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