This is What Happy Looks Like: A Review

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. SmithIt all started with a typo in an email address.

Graham Larkin thought he was emailing his pet pig’s walker, instead his email shoots across the country to Ellie O’Neill. Their conversations are always personal but they never reveal personal details. Ellie has no idea that Graham is a major celebrity. Graham knows very little about Ellie until she slips and reveals the name of her small town in Maine.

That’s all it takes for Graham to mark the town of Henley as the perfect location for his next film. And, of course, the perfect location to meet Ellie in real life.

But as Graham and Ellie get to know each other they are both hampered by “what ifs?” What if their relationship really is at its best in email form? What if a famous actor like Graham isn’t cut out for a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? What if Ellie is drawn into Graham’s spotlight has to reveal some closely guarded secrets of her own. Graham and Ellie have talked at length about happiness, but they still have to figure out if they can be happy together in This is What Happy Looks Like (2013) by Jennifer E. Smith.

Find it on Bookshop.

This story has a slow start as both Graham and readers are introduce to Ellie’s idyllic small town home. A charming cast of secondary characters and picturesque locations vividly situate each scene in this novel. Ellie and Graham’s correspondence is simultaneously authentic and endearing as emails and face-to-face interactions work together to give readers the full story of Graham and Ellie’s courtship. Snappy dialogue also helps to make this story shine.

Smith delves into the familiar territory of missed connections (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight) and long-distance pining (The Geography of You and Me). While This is What Happy Looks Like has some of the same charm as Smith’s other novels, its characters never feel quite as well-realized or compelling.

This is What Happy Looks Like is a sweet and summery romance filled with small-town charm and memorable moments.

Possible Pairings: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, In Real Life by Jessica Love, P. S. I Like You by Kasie West

Famous in Love: A Review

“I can’t touch him. The only thing I want to do is run to him and have him put his arms around me, to take me someplace that isn’t here. Someplace it’s just the two of us and none of this matters. But I can’t do that because no one knows. Not Wyatt and not Sandy, not even Cassandra. They think we’re just friends–that I belong to someone else. They don’t know that I’ve made a huge mistake. They don’t know that, like August, I chose wrong.”

Famous in Love by Rebecca SerleSeventeen-year-old Paige Townsen never expected her audition to for the coveted part of August to come to anything. She never thought she’d be the only unknown picked to star in the next big blockbuster when the bestselling book Locked was adapted for the big screen.

Except that’s exactly what happens and suddenly instead of starring in community theater productions and high school shorts, Paige is at the center of a major production. Her co-star, Rainer Devon, is right at Paige’s side helping her make sense of her sudden fame and the rigors that come from movie production.

When troubled actor Jordan Wilder is cast as the final piece in the love triangle at the center of the film, Paige’s life begins to uncomfortably imitate art as she is torn between these two very different young men. With everything changing, Paige will have to figure out who she is before she can begin to choose who she wants in Famous in Love (2014) by Rebecca Serle.

Find it on Bookshop.

Famous in Love is the first book in a trilogy. The “book-within-the-book” Locked is also slated for a tie-in publication.

Serle draws inspiration from real life celebrity drama to create this story of fame and romance. Readers will be with Paige from the start when she first hears about the audition right through to the post-production of the first film. While Paige vacillates between Rainer and Jordan throughout the book, both relationships feel authentic and offer very different things for Paige.

Although Paige’s friends and family often feel like one-note characters, they are happily present showing that Paige had a life before getting famous and will have support for whatever pitfalls Hollywood may have in store. Being the first in a trilogy, readers can expect a lot more love-triangle based drama as Paige is forced to choose both on-screen and off.

Famous in Love is an all-access pass to what happens off camera and behind the curtains of a movie production. Sure to appeal to hopeless romantics, celebrity junkies and movie fans alike.

Possible Pairings: Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler, Now & Forever by Susane Colasanti, Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan, A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, The Romantics by Leah Konen, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy

*A copy of this book was required for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2014*

Open Road Summer: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Open Road Summer by Emery LordReagan knows she is better than her past behavior would indicate. She knows she deserves more than her bad-news ex-boyfriend and more than her bad girl reputation. What Reagon doesn’t know is how to get beyond all of those things once and for all.

Reagan’s best friend, Lilah Montgomery is having problems of her own including nursing a broken heart and headlining her first major tour. With her star on the rise, Lilah will have to navigate the world of country music stardom and the murky waters of celebrity news and minor scandal.

Even with so much baggage, Reagan is thrilled to be joining the tour for a girls only summer of bonding and healing.

The only problem is Matt Finch–himself a former teen star–is also part of the tour as an opener. With his clean-cut good looks and enough snark to match Reagan barb for barb, Reagan knows her promise to stay drama-(and boy)-free all summer is in for trouble.

It takes a cross-country tour but over the course of one unforgettable summer Reagan will learn that mistakes aren’t forever,  even if friends are, and home doesn’t always have to be somewhere to leave in Open Road Summer (2014) by Emery Lord.

Find it on Bookshop.

Open Road Summer is Lord’s first novel.

Believe the hype about this book. Lord has crafted a novel that is equal parts escapism and realism. While readers are treated to the luxe world of celebrity musicians, Open Road Summer also highlights the tough realities of living (and growing up) in the public eye.

Reagan is a prickly, multifaceted narrator with a lot of heart and a lot of personality. The fact that she is a self-proclaimed bad girl who wants a change is utterly refreshing. This story constantly challenges the usual tropes and binary structures found in similar stories to create a plot and a cast of characters that are unique and completely engaging.

Tour stops across the country add a vivid backdrop to this delectable story of a girl trying to find her way.

Possible Pairings: Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy, Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

Now and Forever: A Review

Now and Forever by Susane ColasantiEven before he started to blow up, Sterling could not believe that Ethan picked her to ask out. Even before he hit a million followers, before his single started airing on the radio, before the concerts and the sold out tour destinations, Sterling knew she was so incredibly lucky to have Ethan Cross as her boyfriend.

Ethan and Sterling click in a way Sterling didn’t think possible. As much as she loves performing culinary experiments and correcting egregious grammatical errors in signs, Sterling loves spending time with Ethan more. As great as hanging out with her friends is, hanging out with Ethan is better.

Then Ethan’s music starts getting noticed and suddenly Ethan is a hot commodity thrown head-first in the world of fame and celebrity. Sterling, much to her initial dismay, is thrown in right beside him.

Ethan is getting compared to Michael Jackson and getting more famous by the second. Meanwhile Sterling finds herself appearing next to Ethan in countless tabloid photos, traveling around the country to catch his sold out shows, and even garnering a small following of her own.

Between her hot boyfriend, the sudden fame, and the free couture, Sterling should be living the dream. The only problem is Sterling is no longer sure whose dream it is in Now and Forever (2014) by Susane Colasanti.

Find it on Bookshop.

Now and Forever is a bit like an exclusive trip behind the velvet rope; a look at exactly what being famous might mean. Unfortunately, unlike other titles in a similar ilk, this book fails to offer a nuanced picture instead focusing on the glitz and glamor. While Ethan does change as he gains fame throughout the story, the implications of that change or what caused it (privilege, growing up, celebrity in general) are never discussed anymore than Sterling’s own relationship with her fame by association.

While this is a sweet romance, a lot of the story is spent on a bad relationship. Although this focus on the bad makes the second romance that much sweeter, it simultaneously raises questions about why the novel’s plot focuses where it does for so long.

Like all of Colasanti’s heroines, Sterling is adorably romantic. While her absorption in Ethan’s world and identity are troubling, it is an issue that’s addressed before the story ends.

Now and Forever is a must read for any readers who are super into the latest boy band or music in general. Bonus points for anyone who is a celebrity news junkie.

Possible Pairings: Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Say You’ll Remember Me by Katie McGarry, Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

Extras: A review

Extras by Scott WesterfeldExtras (2007) is the fourth book in Scott Westerfeld’s critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling series (originally it was a trilogy).

Find it on Bookshop.

The first three books Uglies, Pretties, and Specials follow Tally Youngblood, a fifteen-year-old girl living in a futuristic world so dominated by plastic surgery that anyone who looks normal is ugly.

Extras is set three years after the events of the trilogy unfold, in a different city, with different main characters. The trilogy, however, sets the framework for everything that happens in Extras so while the book is great on its own it definitely assumes you know the story of the trilogy.In this new world, where everything is changing, being pretty isn’t enough to get by. Now it’s fame that matters. The more famous you are, the higher your face rank is. A higher rank means more currency in a world where celebrity is everything.

Everyone is trying to get more attention somehow: “tech-heads” are obsessed with gadgets, “surge monkeys” are hooked on the newest trends in plastic surgery, and “kickers” use feeds (think blogs but techier and cooler because it’s a Westerfeld idea) to spread the word on all the gossip and trends worth mentioning. But staying famous is a lot easier than getting famous. Just ask Aya Fuse. Fifteen-year-old Aya has had her own feed for a year, but her rank is still 451,369–so low that she’s a definite nobody, someone her city calls an extra.

Aya has a plan to up her rank though. All she needs is a really big story to kick. Aya finds the perfect story when she meets the Sly Girls, a clique pulling crazy tricks in utter obscurity. As Aya follows her story she realizes it’s much bigger than one clique: maybe the biggest story since Tally Youngblood changed everything.

Some sequels that bring in all new characters are annoying. Not this one. All of the “new” characters are original and, equally important, likable. The story is also utterly original covering very different territory than the rest of the series. It doesn’t pick up right where the trilogy left off, but a lot of questions are answered by the end of this book.

Like the other books in the series, this one moves fast. The story has a lot of action and several twists and surprises (some old characters even turn up). The plot is never overly-confusing though. Westerfeld does a great job of creating (and explaining) the futuristic world he has created in these pages so that it truly comes to life on the page.

At the same time, Extras is a very timely book. In a world where everyone seems to have some kind of website and is trying to be more popular or more famous, it’s fascinating to read about a city where everything literally depends on your reputation. Westerfeld raises a lot of interesting questions as Aya deals with the ethics of kicking her new story and tries to decide if honesty really is more important than fame.

Possible Pairings: Feed by M. T. Anderson, Jennifer Government by Max Barry, All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Proxy by Alex London, Skyhunter by Marie Lu, Free to Fall by Lauren Miller, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, Scythe by Neal Shusterman