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Books I’ve Read: Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols

Books

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Playing Dirty
Series: Stargazer #2
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: Oct 2013
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

A public relations expert tries to prevent the breakup of a raucous country band and corral their wild—and very sexy—lead singer in book 2 of the Stargazer Series.

As an expert in public relations crisis management—that is, babysitter to the stars—Sarah Seville just spent nine months in Rio trying to keep rock singer Nine Lives out of jail long enough to record his new album…and barely succeeded. Now she needs a triumphant success so she can keep the Manhattan-based job she loves. Trouble is, her new assignment is to travel to Alabama to prevent the breakup of the raucous country band The Cheatin’ Hearts, headed by sexy Quentin Cox. As she edges closer to Quentin, she discovers layers of secrets. It seems Quentin is taking the spin doctor for a spin.

The Cheatin’ Hearts have stayed on top of the charts two years following three rules. Rule One, no drugs. Rule Two, no sex with other band members. Rule Three, no sex with record company spies. Quentin figures he’d better follow the rules, because he made them. And because if you break a rule, you’re out of the band. But he can’t resist the record company’s beautiful PR agent, and inevitably he breaks Rule Three with hot Sarah Seville. As he falls for her, he finds out that she has plenty of secrets of her own, and one of them comes knocking on her door: what really happened to her in Rio.

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Playing Dirty sustains the dynamic of the Stargazer series by combining an amazing romance with a killer thriller.  This time it’s Sarah’s turn in the spotlight.

In Star Crossed, Sarah is the sporty, calm, logical voice of reason to Wendy’s snark. Due to personal tribulations Sarah has undergone a dramatic make-over. That idea that you can fake it til you make it, although she doesn’t lose her fitness freak self as much as she thinks she does :) However,  it is Sarah’s perceptiveness and ability to read people that is her essence and it really shines through the plot.

I really liked how the narrative examined the role the media plays in the success of bands (in this instance) – you’ve heard the saying no publicity is bad publicity – this turns it on it’s head.

The success of the band hinges on their publicity and the outlandish things they are willing to engineer in order to get it. Image is everything even it is a false image. Appealing to a specific demographic and the attributes that go with it form the basis of their image. Who they are in private is at odds with their public image and therefore, must be protected at all costs. Take Quentin, for example, I adore that he is inherently a geek in wolf’s clothing ;)

Misrepresentation and media misdirection form the basis of the story. The different approaches to public relations and the psychology behind it are touched upon within the plot providing insight and understanding to certain aspects.

The third person narrative is essential in order to control all the different dimensions within the story-line. For me, the elements dealing with identity stood out the most. From Sarah’s make-over to Quentin’s theatrics; who they were on the outside as opposed to who they were on the inside provided much food for thought on how people perceive us and how we perceive ourselves as a result.

Playing Dirty because there are no rules when your heart is at stake ;)

Books I’ve Read: Star Crossed by Jennifer Echols

Books

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Starcrossed
Series: Stargazer #1
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: Feb 2013
Source: Bought
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Wendy Mann loves her job rescuing celebrities from public relations scrapes. She grew up with nothing, and now she’s drawn to glitz, glamour, and a lighthearted lifestyle. She speaks her mind, so she’s just the tough cookie to tell stars the truth about how other people see them, even when they don’t want to hear it. But after six years at the top of her game, Wendy crosses the line. A star she was sent to save rebels against her and nearly gets her fired. To salvage her job, she must rehabilitate the career of a singing starlet with a penchant for posting inappropriate photos of herself and arguing online with her famous ex. Problem is, the ex is represented by Wendy’s arch nemesis from college, the hot and haughty Daniel Blackstone. And both stars are scheduled for a collision course on national television, broadcast live from Las Vegas.

Daniel’s uneasy when he hears Wendy Mann from his firm’s most hated competitor has been brought in to revive the career of his client’s ex-girlfriend. Daniel must win at any cost. And if he has to seduce Wendy to smooth the way to their partnership, he’s willing to sacrifice himself for the cause. But Daniel doesn’t count on the scorching heat between them—and when they get to Vegas, all bets are off.

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You already know I adore Jennifer Echols so it will come as no surprise that I love Starcrossed. Focusing around a high profile public relations agency Stargazer, where it’s Wendy’s job to manage the public image of stars that have been a little rebellious to say the least. Throw in Daniel Blackstone, the hot competition and their undeniable chemistry and you have the basis of one hell of a story. however, Jennifer Echols goes one step further with this story, throwing in a killer thriller to add to the tension, it really is a multi-level plot..

The third person narrative is a must in this instance in order to keep all the plot threads tightly woven together while developing the characters and their interactions. The plot is fast paced and action packed in all areas. The connection between the characters was amazing to follow especially as they developed their relationship. The understanding of how a high pressure job can take it’s tool on personal lives was extremely well portrayed. The insight within the behind the scenes work of publicists added depth to the narrative, aiding the world building while providing some highly amusing moments.

Starcrossed has it all  snark, sass, steam & a killer thriller :)

Books I’ve Read: Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

Books

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Breaking the Rules
Series: Pushing the Limits #1.5
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Mira INK
Publication Date:
Source: Bought
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

“I wish life could be like this forever,” I say.

“We’d be okay then.

We’d forever be okay.”

For Echo Emerson, a road trip with her boyfriend is the perfect way to spend the last summer between school and college. It’s a chance forget all the things that make her so different at home. But most of all, it means almost three months alone with gorgeous Noah Hutchins, the only boy who’s never judged her.

Echo and Noah share everything.

But as their pasts come crashing back into their lives, its harder to hide that they come from two very different worlds. And as the summer fades, Echo faces her toughest decision – struggle to face the future together or let her first love go…

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I was absolutely terrified to start reading this book, I love Noah and Echo, they have been through so much already I couldn’t bear to think of them suffering further.

The time-frame within Breaking the Rules was a little disorientating for someone who has read the entire series and knows the changes that are ahead for the peripheral characters :) I still want everyone to have their own stories, especially Rachel’s brothers ;)

As always the dual narrative allows insight into both sides of the action and interactions between the main characters. Both Noah and Echo are still struggling with their inner demons. While they are emotionally close, they tend to keep their negative thoughts to themselves. Unfortunately, this allows the negativity to grow and fester, taking control of their emotions.  Creating tension between Noah and Echo that better communication would dispel instantly.

Noah and Echo are both struggling to define their own identities; unsure of where they fit in and what their futures hold. While trying to overcome the tragedy’s of their past which have come to define them.

The narrative poses the question is having a bad family better than not having a family at all. It makes you examine your own family dynamic. The elements of nature versus nurture are examined in conjunction with the idea that family is an intrinsic part of our identity. What exactly does family mean to you? For me it’s having someone you can depend on, the person you turn to in times of trouble or the first people you want the share your happiness with. It’s that support/comfort/caring – for me that isn’t about the people related by blood but rather the people that prove themselves worthy of being called family. Doesn’t everyone crave that feeling of belonging, of being accepted as we are. You can make your won family from those people that deserve to bear the title :)

Both Echo and Noah try to take on each others problems when they should concentrate on overcoming their own uncertainty before taking responsibility for the other persons well being. You can’t make someone else happy and secure if you don’t feel that way yourself. I have to admit that I was particularly frustrated with Noah’s lack of understanding at times. For the most part I think it was a form of defense mechanism for him but this didn’t make me want to slap him any less.

The constant roadblocks to Noah and Echo’s HEA made for a tumultuous journey fraught with emotional tension.

Breaking the Rules is a highly emotional read; I cried, I swooned, I laughed and I contemplated my own life alongside Noah and Echo. You can’t get any better than that ♥

Books I’ve Read: You Were Mine by Abbi Glines

Books

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: You Were Mine
Series: Rosemary Beach #9
Author:  Abbi Glines
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: Dec 2014
Source: Bought
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

In the eyes of the wealthy playboys who frequent Kerrington Country Club in Rosemary Beach, Tripp Newark is a hero. Under pressure from his parents to become a lawyer and lead a conservative, upper-class life, Tripp disappeared from town five years ago to travel the world, forfeiting the opportunity to inherit millions. Yet few know what he was really running from…
Bethy Lowry’s life was unravelling long before her boyfriend drowned in a riptide trying to save her after she’d had one too many drinks – again. A trailer park kid working among the wealthy patrons of Kerrington Country Club, Bethy has always been impressionable. But five years ago, before she earned her reputation as a hard-drinking, easy girl, she had spent a single summer with Tripp Newark that changed her life forever…

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I admit it, I was really nervous to start You Were Mine purely because I had the feeling it was going to rip me apart. While it is a hugely emotional journey alongside Tripp and Bethy, the relationship and friendships portrayed within the narrative more than make up for any of the pain caused.

Told in dual narrative with both past and present interactions between Tripp and Bethy providing insight and understanding to their current identities. All the things they have been through – especially the tragedy – have shaped them into the people they are today. However, when an aspect of that identity has been shaped on a misunderstanding can it be altered, can something positive be gained from so many negatives?

Bethy and Tripp are from very different social standing. The clarity of viewing just how trapped Tripp felt as a teen provided a level of understanding to his character that was previously lacking. there is nothing ‘poor little rich boy’ about Tripp. He genuinely had no other options open to him other than to leave.

Bethy was vastly different as a teen than she is today. I adored seeing her as a young, naive optimistic and starstruck girl. It is easy to understand the depth of her issues when you seethe events that shaped her into the broken, pessimistic shell she has become.

Both Tripp and Bethy have been broken by the events following their summer together. The narrative implies a level of soul-mates and destiny. The idea that you only have one epic love in your life. While you maybe able to love other people, it will in no way be to the same level as loving your soul-mate. No matter what happens in your life, your heart can only truly belong to your soul-mate.

As always it was wonderful to catch up with the other characters from the previous books in the series. I cannot wait for the rest of Mase’s story. Love that boy ;)

Review: Falling Away by Penelope Douglas

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Falling Away
Series: Fall Away #4
Author: Penelope Douglas
Publisher: Piatkus
Publication Date: 6 Jan 2015
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Jaxon is the guy she’s supposed to avoid . . .

K. C. Carter has always followed the rules – until this year, when a mistake leaves her the talk of her college campus and her carefully arranged life comes crashing to a halt. Now she’s stuck in her small hometown for the summer to complete her court-ordered community service, and to make matters worse, trouble is living right next door.

K.C. is the girl he won’t let get away . . .

Jaxon Trent is the worst kind of temptation and exactly what K.C. was supposed to stay away from in high school. But he never forgot her. She was the one girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day and the only one to ever say no. Fate has brought K.C. back into his life – except what he thought was a great twist of luck turns out to be too close for comfort. As they grow closer, he discovers that convincing K.C. to get out from her mother’s shadow is hard, but revealing the darkest parts of his soul is nearly impossible.

REVIEW 

Be warned Falling Away may make you spontaneous combust ;) Penelope Douglas doesn’t do easy relationships but is anything easy ever worth having, don’t you appreciate things more when you have to work for them?

Falling Away is real and at times painful but always worth the journey.

Although the story is told from a dual narrative there is more of KC’s point of view than of Jax’s, especially at the beginning where all the groundwork for the plot is being laid. Also, for the most part, Jax is very self-aware and doesn’t tend to analyse himself as much as KC.

While Jax accepts himself for who he is, dude has some serious baggage. He has overcome so much yet his subconscious is still holding him back. The weight of his past and the secrets he holds deep act as a ball and chain around his ankle. Preventing him from truly moving forward with his life. A stark portrayal of the difference between surviving and being a survivor. I just have to mention the tattoos and how amazing their significance was – I know I am being cryptic but you will understand when you read it :)

I talk about identity a lot in library lessons for the simple reason that I work with teenagers. The teen years are when we first start to establish out own identities outside of our parents. Teenagers take those first steps into discovering their own identity and defining themselves as an individual. Imagine what would happen if that freedom of expression and therefore, discovery of identity is taken away from you. What if who you truly were was buried under a weight of deception. Think how you would feel at having to project an image of the person you’re pretending to be – I’m sure we can all relate to this in one capacity or another – you just have to think of the ‘fake it til you make it’ adage. However well meaning the deception, at the end of the day it is still a lie. Parental pressure and expectation can act as a prison to the person you want to be.

I really, really felt for KC. She had totally lost herself under the weight of parental expectation leaving her floundering without a solid idea of who she was.  Her character development throughout the narrative is nothing short of ingenious.

Penelope Douglas touches deep emotions via her innovative narrative. The difference between being alone and being lonely is heartrendingly portrayed; focusing on the fact that you have to be comfortable with yourself as a person in order to overcome loneliness. If you achieve that then being alone is never lonely.

Ultimately, we all crave the same thing unconditional love from someone that sees us for who we truly are.