Review: Shine by Jessica Jung

Title: Shine
Author: Jessica Jung
Series: Shine #1
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Rating: 2 stars

A Korean American teen is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Review:

The moment I saw a kpop novel was coming out written by someone who was a member of one of the biggest girl groups of all time I knew my kpop loving ass needed to get my hands on this book immediately. It sounded like everything I would love.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love this at all. The writing was perfectly good. I have no complaints about that. I don’t know if Jessica used a ghost writer, but if she didn’t damn this girl is truly multi-talented.

I didn’t like the story. I didn’t like the characters. Everything felt so one dimensional to me. I went into this hoping for a 4/4.5 star book, but I feel like even 2 might be generous. The romance didn’t do much for me either. I thought Jason was quite boring and kind of an ass, but in an irredeemable way. And the mean girls seemed like the kind you’d find in a teen novel/film circa 2010. It completely fell flat for me. I hate that because I really did want to love this book.

The most disappointing part was the ending. Throughout the entire story Rachel is trying to fight against the mean girls and to rise above all the pettiness while doing it in order to debut with the new girl group, but in the end she just seemed to become one of them. There was not a single ounce of character development. I know there’s at least a second novel coming out so maybe Rachel and the other girls can find a heart then. Not only that, but all the events at the ending almost seemed like they negated the rest of the story. Like nothing that happened mattered. It was just messy and I didn’t like it.

About Jessica Jung:

Jessica Jung, known mononymously as Jessica, is an American singer, actress, and fashion designer known for her work as a former member of South Korean girl group Girls’ Generation.

Review: Tempting Lies by Sara Whitney

Title: Tempting Lies
Author: Sara Whitney
Series: Tempt Me #4
Publisher: LoveSpark Press
Publication Date: September 10, 2020
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Rating: 5 stars

He’s out to prove he can do more than swing a hammer.

After her widowed mother rushed into a regrettable second marriage, Thea Blackwell vowed never to commit to anything. Not jobs. Not hairstyles. Not men. Yet here she is dreaming about buying a house and having it renovated by the town playboy who never spared her a second glance. Too bad she lacks both the cash and the courage.

Aiden Murdoch put his wild ways behind him to help his ailing father run the family construction business, but he can’t seem to escape his scandalous reputation. Then his childhood friend Thea shows him her money pit of a fixer-upper, and he stumbles on the perfect solution: he’ll provide the labor, and she’ll make him look happily domesticated in front of his father’s nervous clients.

What should be a simple arrangement gets complicated fast when fake kisses lead to real feelings, leaving Aiden aching to prove he’s worth a lifelong commitment and Thea wondering if her pretend boyfriend can truly give up his swipe-right lifestyle. With forever on the line, will they be brave enough to tear down the lies they’ve told each other—and themselves?

Review:

The fake dating trope is by far my favourite trope of all time so when I saw this I knew I had to read it. And I’m so glad that I did. I absolutely loved it!

The reasoning behind Aiden and Thea wanting to fake date made complete sense. They both get something out of it that will truly help them in life. Thea gets her dream princess home that she’s wanted since she was a young girl and Aiden gets his clients to see him as a family man as he prepares to be given his part of the family’s consutrction company.

The romance between Thea and Aiden was too cute. It was clear from the start that they had a connecction and would make a really good couple. Let’s be honest, they put more effort into their fake relationship than I’ve seen other people put into a real relationship. Even their fake relationship was couple goals.

This was my first time reading a novel by Sara Whitney and I adored it. The writing was fantastic. There were some excellent one liners, strong side characters who helped move the plot along, and the romance was just the right amount of steamy.

While Tempting Lies can easily be read as a standalone, I’m looking forward to reading the other novels in the Tempt Me series.

About Sara Whitney:

Sara Whitney writes sassy, sexy contemporary romance novels packed with wit, heat, and heart. A 2019 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award finalist, Sara worked as a newspaper reporter and film critic before she earned her Ph.D. and landed in academia. She’s a good pinball player, a so-so karaoke singer, and an expert TV opinion-haver.

In a funny twist of fate, Sara’s married to a divorce attorney, and she likes to think that her happily-ever-afters help keep their household in balance. She and her husband live in the Midwest surrounded by books, cats, and half-empty coffee cups.  Keep up with Sara by subscribing to her mailing list here.

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Review: Keep Forever by Alexa Kingaard – Blog Tour + Giveaway

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Title: Keep Forever
Author: Alexa Kingaard
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Publication Date: March 28, 2020
Genre: Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Rating: 5 stars

Paul O’Brien’s idyllic childhood in Southern California comes to a halt when his mother dies in the summer before his senior year of high school and a very different persona of his father emerges – isolating himself inside the house, turning to alcohol for comfort, and barely noticing his only child. Simultaneously, the war in Vietnam is sending shock waves around the world and young men from one coast to the other are being called upon to serve. Paul enlists in the Marines before receiving his draft notice. 

Elizabeth Sutton is eager to gain some independence from her father’s old fashioned notions and looking forward to her first year in high school.  At fifteen years old, tragedy strikes with the loss of both parents in an auto accident, turning her childhood into one of responsibility and worry overnight.  The four siblings are scattered when her nine-year-old twin sisters are sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle on Nantucket Island, and Elizabeth is left behind in Boston with their grandmother.  Her older brother, Sam, enlists in the Marines, eager to join the conflict a world away as opposed to dealing with the one unfolding at home. 

A bond develops between Paul and Sam in Vietnam, and both are injured in a bloody battle that costs Sam his right hand and sets the stage for a lifetime of nightmares and sleepless nights for Paul.  Matched by similar tragedies at a young age, Elizabeth and Paul’s first introduction by Sam upon their return from Vietnam is the beginning of friendship and love that survives five decades. 

After marrying, welcoming their first child, and inheriting a small beach house, the couple adapts to their new surroundings, but distant memories of Vietnam continue to haunt Paul.  In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, he is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his loved ones amidst his his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As their lives unravel from the lingering effects of PTSD,  Elizabeth learns to accept the burden that Paul brought home, and together they make their own memories to keep forever.

Inspired By A True Story

Review:

Keep Forever was a poignant and gripping novel about the aftermath of the war in Vietnam and the struggles faced by its soldiers and their families. It was insightful and honest and powerful.

I could not put this down. The story of Elizabeth and Paul was so raw and real. The representation of the PTSD Paul had was absolutely heartbreaking. My heart broke for the struggles he faced and the fact that the mentality then was “we’re manly soldiers and we don’t talk about our pain” made it all the more sad to read. About halfway through when Paul had a sort of breaking point with his PTSD/depression, I was on the verge of crying like a baby because it hit so close to home. She could not have painted a better picture of the sadness and the fear from both the person suffering and the family members who love that person with their whole heart.

I wish this book was 600 pages. There was so much life between Elizabeth and Paul to be explored. Some moments were explored more and others were glossed over. But considering this is coming from Alexa Kingaard’s own personal experience, I can accept that. She’s chosen to highlight what she felt was important through the life she experienced with a husband home from Vietnam with PTSD and to me that made the book even better. These emotions were truly felt by her at one point or another in her life and she really hit the nail on the head with how much it can hurt to see the one you love suffer and there’s not really much you can do to help.

I loved this book so much and I really hope you guys will pick this one up.

Giveaway:

  • Enter HERE
  • Prize: $50 Amazon gift card
  • International
  • Ends: May 13, 2020

About Alexa Kingaard:

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Alexa Kingaard was born in San Diego, CA and has lived most of her life in the area. She currently resides in Carlsbad and is the mother of a son and daughter who continue to be her biggest fans and cheerleaders.

Her debut novel, KEEP FOREVER, was inspired by her late ex-husband who batted the residual effects of the Vietnam War for decades after his return. The burden he brought home is shared by combat veterans of all conflicts, and her fictional account highlights the collateral damage encountered by family members and loved ones living with PTSD in their midst.

Her second novel, MY NAME IS ROSE, departs from her personal experiences and focuses on the collective memories of her generation. She loves writing about nostalgia and the human condition, the common denominator of our lives.

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Review: Heartless King by Maya Hughes

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Title: Heartless King
Author: Maya Hughes
Series: Kings of Rittenhouse #5
Publisher: Self-published by Maya Hughes
Publication Date: April 23, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Rating: 3 stars

Two blue lines. That means not pregnant, right? Right? Oh, sh*t.

Five years ago, Colm Frost asked me to marry him and I ran. I ran from my painful past too raw and fresh to escape. He was the only one who looked at me like I wasn’t broken and made me believe it. He made me feel it.

Now, he’s the hot, angry, hockey player on the mend. 

I’m the physiotherapist who’s supposed to get him back on his feet. 

I don’t think our night together was what his doctor prescribed, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t dreamt of him every time I close my eyes. I woke up beside him with my body still singing from the way he fanned the flames of my desire, but I couldn’t stay.

His lips on my neck. His hands wrapped around my waist. His impressive…ahem, touch leaving me breathless.

One moment of wild inhibition and it’s come back to bite me in the butt. Kind of like he did that night.

But a baby? Our night was supposed to be a one time thing, closing a door on the future I couldn’t handle. 

Will this new bump in the road be everything we needed to find our forever?

Review:

The beginning of the story started off strong for me. I liked the dynamic of slight hostility between Colm and Imogen. Sometimes he was a little much, but he had been through a lot so he had the right to be upset. I liked the start of them together. Imogen didn’t take any of his crap and pushed him to get back on his feet.

However, a word of warning: do yourself a favour and don’t read the synopsis. What is supposed to be the major issue of the book doesn’t happen until 60% of the way through. For a while I thought I was confusing this book with another one because nothing had happened. Maybe it’s just me, but if something that big happens that late in the book, mentioning it in the synopsis kind of feels like a spoiler. Also the whole “five years ago” thing in the synopsis really isn’t as dramatic as it sounds.

Because of how late the big reveal happened, it felt like everything else in the story was rushed. Especially their romance. I don’t know why, but I never felt like Imogen was fully invested the further the relationship went and despite what Colm says, I’m convinced he’s still following the same patterns of every woman he’s been with before Imogen came along. Imogen was spooked as heck and needed way more time to figure things out. I was just never convinced she was on the same page, but made a choice because time was running out.

About Maya Hughes:

Maya Hughes, that’s me!, can often be found sneaking in another chapter while hiding in the bathroom from her kids! 🙂 I’m a romance writer who loves taking inspiration from everyday life, namely my husband and biggest fan. Inspiration also strikes when I hear a song, meet someone new or daydream while at soccer practice.

I love writing stories that capture the possibilities of the paths less travelled and enjoy experiencing life through my characters’ eyes.

I’m the mom of three little ones, the wife to an amazing husband and also work full time. Some of my favorite things are cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, white wine, laughing until I can’t breathe, traveling with my family, and Jeff Goldblum.

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DNF Review: Wicked Liars by Laura Lee

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Title: Wicked Liars
Author: Laura Lee
Series: Windsor Academy #1
Publisher: Lovestruck Publishing
Publication Date: April 3, 2020
Genre: Dark Romance
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Rating: DNF/1 star

Liars.
Every last one of them.
The kings and queens of my new high school.
The father and stepmother I never knew. 
Each has more wealth and privilege than I could’ve ever imagined.
Each has a pile of wicked dirty secrets they’d do anything to protect.
 
These people have grown accustomed to getting what they want, and what they want is to make my life a living hell.
 
Too bad for them, you can’t break someone who’s already broken.
Too bad for them, I won’t give up without a fight.
Too bad for them, I’m going to make them pay…even if  it’s the last thing I do.

Review:

Warning: will contain spoilers because I’ll be explaining why I chose to DNF at 62%

Well. This was so not the book for me.

This book was as if Gossip Girl was rated R instead of 14+. The private school. The insane riches. The spoiled kids who get away with whatever they want. The parents who don’t give two shits about their kids but still want to control their lives anyway so they don’t make a mockery of the family’s name. Just add in a whole bunch of swearing and sexual activities. That’s not the problem though. I loved Gossip Girl. It was totally a guilty pleasure of mine when I was growing up. Give me a book like Gossip Girl with a whole bunch of swearing? Yes please. I swear like a sailor anyway.

I mean, the caricatures of what rich people and mean girls are may have been a little over the top, but I’ll survive that. It won’t get me to abandon a book.

My issue with this was the romance. The goddamn romance.

At around 30% is where shit went down. Jazz was at a party. She was going to get a drink with a guy and decided to ask him to watch her drink while she went to the washroom. First of all. Honey, no. NO. You know disaster is coming. Anyway, she gets back and has her drink and dances with him. He asks her to go somewhere private and in the book she says something along the lines of not remembering if she said yes but he’s leading her there anyway. Then he hands her off to Kingston and Bentley. Like here you go guys, got her all nice and roofied up for ya like you asked me too!!!!

Kingston and Bentley start making out with her and touching her upper body while the third member of their group (I don’t remember his name) films. They keep going until she passes out. Then they take of her pants to make it look like they had sex and take some compromising pictures. And it’s all around school on Monday morning.

But the drugging and sexual assault isn’t even what got me the most riled up. IT’S THAT SHE STARTS A ROMANCE WITH KINGSTON. THE GUY WHO DRUGGED HER AND ASSAULTED HER AND THEN SPREAD THE VIDEOS AND PICS TO THE WHOLE DAMN SCHOOL. AND SHE KNOWS IT WAS HIM. The same day after school he comes over and she kisses him. And then they start kind of dating because he needs to control her and get her to trust him in his big plan to take his dad and her dad down for some shit they’re doing that’s illegal or whatever. GIRL WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK. Get your shit together. You don’t date the man who drugged you. Who assaulted you. My god.

Not even the fact that the prologue started with Jazz sounding like she was ready to die after being killed was enough to make me continue. She’s surrounded by 800 psychos. Clearly one of them killed her or put out a hit or something equally as insane, but I really couldn’t even be bothered to keep reading to find out. Everything about this was one big hell no for me.