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The Pitch:

Enter Intern: Chloe Mills.  Enter Executive: Bennett Ryan.  Proceed to HR disaster in the making.  And lots of sex…

The Pros:

Switching character POV, some pretty amazing one liners, smoking hot sex scenes.

The Cons:

Level of believability, the ending.

The Soapbox:

Full disclosure – I’m done with this entire series of books…ALMOST all of them.  I was so sucked in that I haven’t had time to review them until now.  While there are still – technically – three (?) of those “half” books left for me to read…I’m not gonna do it.  But I’ll save that reasoning for the review of Beautiful.

My Friend (with a capital F) is the one that convinced me to start this series.  She gave me that “first hit for free” with this one and now that I’m in official Beautiful Series Rehab I look fondly back on this book and how simple it all was at the start.  How much I liked Bennett and Chloe in THIS book.

Sure she’s kinda stupid for sticking around for as long as she did.  And sure – my prediction that things would get kind of boring once they realized they loved each other was 100% true.  And of course it still follows the tried and true method of all romance novels in terms of pacing – but it was a lot of fun.

It’s another one of those fanfiction done right kind of examples and I applaud the authors for that.  But as I sit here in Beautiful Series Rehab I can’t help but feel bittersweet about this book – the gateway drug.  If you just want to laugh about it check out MNAR.  If you want to follow me on my decent into romance novel rage…please keep reading the reviews.

The Breakdown 

Rating: 3.5 Stars – though I tend to lean toward four.

Reasoning: This book was the absolute perfect “initiation” book for me, and some of the sex scenes and one liners in this book still resonate – but the ending killed it.

Recommended For: Romance novel lovers, lovers of sass and strong female leads, Mommy’s who need a break from their lives!

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The Pitch:  Immediately following the events of Conspiracy of Us, Avery and gang are trying to decipher clues that haven’t been solved in centuries.  Obviously – smoldering angst, murder and mayhem hound them on their quest.

The Pros:  So much Stellan.  Mmmmmmm.  I guess Jack too.  Elodie, Luc and Colette rounding out the gang.  See # below and link to MNAR.

The Cons:  Ahhh….it ended?  There might be faults – but I can’t see them I’m so deep in fandom land.

The Soapbox:  All my fangirling aside I’d like to point out something incredibly awesome that happened when I started listening to this book – I emailed the author and she EMAILED.  ME.  BACK.  Maggie Hall has been nothing but gracious and appreciative of my frantic and feverish attempts to pry more information out of her.  She is all things awesome and amazing.  I highly suggest you get on the Fandom newsletter so you can see all the “cut scenes” from the two books as well as her uplifting advice.

I have just been floored by her hospitality and also baffled why this book hasn’t caught on.  It’s basically ripe with fandom…it has all the pieces there.  So this is my plea to everyone out there – come to me.  Talk to me.  Let’s exchange notes!  Let’s argue about who Avery should be with!  I am dying to talk to people that aren’t my friends and co-workers about this.  That is the fun of fandom!  I’ve written a novel…literally…on what I think could go down in Ends of the World.  Let me read your stuff!  Let’s start this now!  There is only one book left…come out of hiding and unite.

The Breakdown:  Much like any book Rick Riordan writes – I have nothing bad to say about this novel either.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say it takes up 75% of my thoughts all day.

Rating: All the stars…like infinity.

Reasoning: #fangirl #stellan #cannes #greece #IWroteNovelLengthFanfictionAboutTheseCharacters

Recommended For: YA fans, Escapist Fiction, Teenage Readers

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The Pitch:  Avery West’s decision to defy her mother and go to her junior prom starts a chain reaction of destiny, death and destruction.  Faster than she can manage, she’s in too deep and no one escapes the Circle.

The Pros:  So much fun!  Very quick read.  Smoking hot male leads.  Escapist adventure at its best.

The Cons: First third was hard for me to get through.  I could see how some people would hold that grudge through the rest of the book.

The Soapbox:  I drive a lot.  Some people say too much.  So I have switched to Audible to get most of my reading done these days.  Audible kept telling me I would like this book and I kept telling Audible – no thanks!  But one long summer day, when I had an extra long drive home to look forward to, I decided to take the plunge.  I’d gone through so many heavy books and non-fiction duds I needed something fun.

I’m going to be completely honest with you, I kept nodding and rolling my eyes for the first third of this novel.  Of course the hot new boy likes the main girl!  Of course the new girl has to keep to herself because she moves a lot and it makes her special!  Of course the other hot dude that appears is looking for her!

BUT.  Then things made a turn in the epic direction and I was hooked.  Just sucked in.  Obsessed.  Consumed.  She got me.  Maggie Hall got me, and now I can’t stop thinking about this series.  As soon as I knew I only had a chapter left to listen to I immediately downloaded the next book.

It’s that good.  #fangirling

I could write pages about this series – but I’ll let my feverish text messages between myself and my best friend (I cohersed into reading it) speak for me.

The Breakdown:  As long as you come into this book knowing that first third might make you roll your eyes a lot you’re gonna like it.  You’re going to like it a lot…

Rating: Four Stars

Reasoning: Lots of stereotypical YA stuff happening in the first third, but the second and third more than make up for it.

Recommended For: YA Fans, Teenage Readers, Escapist Fiction, YA that ISN’T Post-Apocalyptic! 

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16141924The Pitch:

Jim Gaffigan laments on the perils of fatherhood to five children – and hot pockets.

The Pros:

The chapters are incredibly short and to the point, which made it a funny, quick read.

There were several parts of the book that were laugh out loud funny, and several other that gave me a chuckle.

Lots of pictures in the book, which I loved because it put a face to all his kids when I was reading.

Even though I only have one child reading his torments and victories made me incredibly sympathetic.

The Cons:

The book reads like a collection of blog posts rather than a novel.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not what I was looking for.  If there would have been a more cohesive flow I think it would have helped the book be a little more literary.

The short, blog-like, chapters were incredibly repetitive in the first third of the novel.  It only took one chapter to inform me that he’s happily married with a beautiful wife, five kids, in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City, and a successful comedy career.  Yet, he tells me this almost every chapter for the first third.

The Soapbox:

There is a lot of talk in the book about both the pros and cons of having five children.  I came from a family of four, my husband is from a family of four, all of our parents came from big families – so much of what he spoke about resonated with me.  Yet, he kept coming back to the same point that he had “no idea” why they kept having children, other than being Catholic.  I just felt that was an easy out for him instead of being reflective and vulnerable about the reason they continue to have children.  Whatever he said wasn’t going to be wrong, it’s his life, his wife, his marriage – but this personal, real moment was lost in this book because he just fell onto a joke every time instead.  I really wish he had dug just a little bit deeper on some parts.

 

The Breakdown:

Rating:  Four Stars

Reasoning: Quick, easy, summer read, funny and topical (if you have kids) and, other than the repetition, worth your time.

Recommend For: Fans of Gaffigan, fans of comedy writing, parents, summer readers, pretty much anyone.

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Okay – I finally managed to FINISH A BOOK!  So I’m going to make this review as short and sweet as possible because I’d like to hit my Goodreads goal this year.  It took me about ten months but I realized that maybe watching re-runs of “Ridiculiousness” wasn’t the best use of my time.

The Pitch:

Autobiography of Tina Fey’s personal life and writing and acting career so far.  Minus “Mean Girls”, which made me sad.

The Pros:

Chapters were mercifully short which made it a very quick read.

Pictures!!!  As well as copies of scripts, etc.  LOVE that kind of stuff in a non-fiction.

Fey’s voice was very strong and came through on every page.  You can almost hear her reading it to you, which was very entertaining.

There were a couple of very funny lines/moments that made you want to keep reading.

There is a very strong message that is weaved throughout the book and emphasized at the end.

The Cons:

While Fey’s voice was strong the comedic timing/sarcasm needed for some of the jokes/points is lost on paper.  Unfortunately it made her come off as condescending and a little too ‘New Yorker’ for my taste.  I’m almost positive this would have never crossed my mind if I listened to the audiobook instead.

Fey being such a hilarious lady, I (wrongly) assumed that this book would be a laugh a minute.  While it was very witty and tack sharp smart it was not a hilarious book.  So buyer beware if you’re looking for a barrel of laughs – the reviews all over the cover lie.

I was very conflicted about the message that Fey leaves the reader with, but not for the reasons you might think.

The Soapbox:

The main message that Fey was trying to convey is feminism – more like women empowerment.  While there are several amazing chapters/sections that really illustrate this point, her parting words felt a little off to me.  She gives several examples (Amy Pohler’s joke, men in drag on SNL, the shift on SNL, Hilary Clinton comment on Weekend Update, Sarah Palin campaign/SNL skit) of how women empower themselves and how women NEED to empower themselves, she ends the carefully matured message with a ‘crazy bitch’ joke.  From what I gathered, her final thought on the topic of women empowerment/feminism was that, in the entertainment industry, when women get to a certain age the become ‘crazy’ which translates to ‘unhireable’.  She felt that if more women would strive to be in positions of power then we could promote more likeminded women who could still see the potential in women ‘beyond a certain age’.  The main point was that in order for women to get ahead we needed to help out other women and not be afraid to be assertive.  This all still fits with her theme – but as I closed the book I thought to myself, ‘Does that mean that I need to say I loved her book?’  My initial reaction was, ‘Of course not!’ But it has continued to sit strange with me.  I appreciated all of her insights, her struggles, her ambition, but in the end her book wasn’t all that impressive to me.  So am I not helping ‘feminism’ if I say I didn’t like her book?  I don’t know.

The Breakdown:

Rating:  Three Stars

Reasoning: While the message was clear and the novel was well paced and witty, it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be.  Another example of not believing the hype.

Recommend For: Feminists, Humorists, Tina Fey lovers, busy mom’s that only have five minutes at a time to read!

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12924261I was very surprised to find out that one of my favorite books as of late, John Dies at the End, had a sequel coming out.

Not to be outdone by the first book in the series, This Book is Full of Spiders was full of absolutely mind-bending fun.  Rather than the rambling movement toward a terrifying conclusion that John Dies had, this book was a much more structured affair.  I use this term loosely, of course, because we have switching narrators, pages from fictional novels, posts from fictional blogs, and top-secret transcripts from conversations of military personnel.

It was comforting to see all the old characters back in pretty much the same shape as we left them.  It would appear that things in “undisclosed” haven’t changed at all since the terrifying events of the previous novel.  There is plenty of referencing of the previous novel, but enough explanation that a new reader might get what is going on.  But I am honestly of the opinion that if you are going to read a series you need to start it from the beginning.

Things escalate very quickly in this novel and never slow down.  Just when you think you have a handle on what is happening something completely disturbing and unsettling throws you right off the scent again.  I am still haunted by some of the imagery created and I finished this book weeks ago.

Just like the first novel there really isn’t a lot I can say about this book without giving away everything.  It is some of the strangest and yet most brilliant writing I’ve seen in a long time.  Every piece of the novel is strategic for the conclusion and so anything I say could potentially be a spoiler.  You definitely don’t want to have anything spoiled for you in this novel so I think I need to leave it at that.  Just read these books!  Not for the faint of heart but so worth it!

My Rating:  Five Stars

My Reasoning:  Absolutely satisfying sequel to the first novel.  How often can you say that?  Both hilarious and horrifying with enough twisting and turning that you never get bored.

My Recommendations:  Fans of cracked.com, fans of the first novel, anyone that can handle some horror and dick jokes.

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Ohh…you read that right.  There is a book with the title Wallbanger and it is worth reading!  I had all intentions of posting this review before the dreaded “singles awareness day”, but my lovely little 6 month old had other plans for me.  At any rate I finished Wallbanger the day after Valentine’s Day and have since been stewing and working on my review.

You see, dear readers, Wallbanger comes from an ever-increasing group of what I’m calling “fanfiction first authors”.  Like Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments), E.L. James (50 Shades), and apparently this Christina Lauren woman (Beautiful Bastard) – Alice Clayton was a very famous fanfiction author before her novels were published.  Said novels were also fanfiction first before having the names changed and being published.  You can read my…opinionated reviews on these authors at your own leisure, but know that I do not hold Alice Clayton in the same category as those other fine ladies.

I really like Alice Clayton.  She was always extremely nice to me in our email exchanges when Wallbanger was still a Twilight Fanfiction story.  She also had no pretenses of hiding the fact she intended to publish using different names.  Nor did she forget to thank the “banger nation” in her published novel.  In my opinion she played the game extremely well, and I have nothing but respect for that.

That being said, I still can’t help but feel on the fence about this whole “fanfiction first author” situation.  It’s not quite big enough to be gaining media attention but I feel like it might be changing the face of publishing.  Well at least publishing in the romance novel genre.  I have had conversations with my casual reader friends, my MFA friends, and even my husband and family and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of hot and fast reaction.  What initially seems like disgust soon turns into begrudging respect, and what is initially indifference soon turns into misguided dollar signs.  Just like the current state of Hollywood, anyone who isn’t a book/writing snob like me (self-proclaimed of course) seems to think I should be able to publish something because these women did.  The brutal truth is I wish I had something worth publishing – but mostly for the same reasons I wish I had anything worth publishing.  I want to be published, all writers do, but I think my hang up on the “fanfiction first author” publishing’s is this – it was fanfiction.

Fanfiction is something sacredly geeky.  It’s the place you can escape to when you need to geek out about your beloved fandom without being made fun of.  There is no judgment in fanfiction-land.  There is something for everyone…and I mean EVERYONE.  You can write about anything, you can make the characters do things you would never show to another soul, you can make all sorts of fandom’s intertwine and people BELIEVE it!  It’s this magical place where you can be your best self and no one will shame you.  Because even if someone does you just hide them and carry on in your own little world.

Having a novel that was beloved within fanfiction-land taken from us, doctored up for the mass media, and given (usually) a complete name change breaks that bond between writer and reader in this little world.  Most unfortunate of all once these stories make it on to the written page they are pulled, in their entirety, from the Internet forever.  I understand why this needs to happen but there is still a part of me that wishes I could go back and visit that story on the screen.  There is a strange, feverish, all encompassing feeling when you see that your favorite online story has been updated.  Perhaps knowing you can’t even reminisce of that by visiting the site anymore is what I miss most when these stories finally get to ‘the big show’.

All things considered I still really love Alice Clayton, and Wallbanger even more.  My friend and I would have an absolute conniption fit every time we received the email that it updated.  There would be a text message from one to the other with just one word: Wallbanger.  All other things in our life stood still while we would read the chapter and then spend the rest of the day texting back and forth what we thought.  It was a magical time.  I am happy to report that the same magic has been captured again on the page with this publication.

The only critique I have, which was the same with the online version, is the last third of the novel.  There is a bit of a pacing issue, as well as what I feel was forced drama for the sake of plot.  As well as a level of believability at the end that even I could not look beyond, but it’s a romance novel so I’m not going to even go there.  It is still a fantastic novel with authentic and likeable main and supporting characters.  There is a fantastic use of show not tell for all the settings, and wicked sharp humor.  And the banter….oh the banter.  Alice Clayton is a master of banter.  This novel will make you yearn fondly for the days of when you were wooed, or if you are single make you feel optimistic that decent guys still exist in this world.

I’m still not sure where I’m at with the “fanfiction first author” situation but if every author could have the same grace and talent as Alice Clayton I think publishing would be in a much better place.  Read This Book!

My Rating:  Four Stars

My Reasoning:  Other than what I perceived as pacing, drama, and believability issues at the last third still an excellent book.  The chemistry, the banter, and the writing are absolutely swoon-worthy.  Must read for a steamy little treat.

My Recommendations:  Single and taken ladies that need a little fire and romance in their life.  Wallbanger is just what you didn’t know you were looking for.

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