Pretending to Be Erica: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle PainchaudErica Silverman was kidnapped when she was five years old and she hasn’t been seen since. Two other girls came to Las Vegas to pretend to be Erica and try to steal her life. They were both caught. But they didn’t have Violet’s father Sal backing them.

Sal knows that Erica is gone and he has something none of the previous con artists did: Erica’s DNA. He also has been training Violet to con the Silvermans since she was five years old. Violet shares Erica’s blood type and has undergone plastic surgery to make sure her face matches the age projections of Erica. She isn’t going to make the same mistake the other Ericas made. Violet isn’t there to stay; she doesn’t need to become Erica forever.

All Violet has to do is keep up the charade long enough to steal the coveted Silverman Painting. It should be easy. Except the longer she spends as Erica, the more Violet wants the stability and comforts of Erica’s life for herself. Violet knows why she is living with the Silvermans, she knows exactly how to sell the lie, she knows the endgame. The only thing Violet doesn’t know is what to do when she wants to believe the con herself in Pretending to Be Erica (2015) by Michelle Painchaud.

Pretending to Be Erica is Painchaud’s debut novel. Violet narrates her time impersonating Erica in the first person while flashbacks to her childhood as Violet are related in third person.

While the writing is sleek and sharp, this novel really shines with its protagonist. Violet has no idea what a real family or a true friend looks like before she arrives at the Silverman home. Affection and basic comforts are alien concepts to her and even the friends she begins to make when Erica returns to high school feel strange and dangerous. Against the backdrop of her con, Violet begins to understand that she’s allowed to want more than a precarious life built on lies and tricks.

Pretending to Be Erica has all the earmarks of a traditional thriller or heist mystery. Tension is high as the stakes increase and Violet’s carefully drawn lines between her real life as Violet and her fake life as Erica begin to blur. Suspense and the numerous moving parts of the con come together for a high action conclusion.

Pretending to Be Erica is the perfect choice for readers who like their heroines to be as intense and unexpected as their mysteries. A fast-paced yet introspective story about a con, a heist, and a girl doing the best she can to save herself when it start to feel like she could lose everything.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes, Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud was one of my favorite reads of 2016. Raised by a conman who is the only father she's ever known, Violet has been preparing to become Erica for almost as long as she can remember. Now the time has come. Plastic surgery has smoothed out the differences in their appearance, years of practice and preparation do the rest. Becoming a dead girl is surprising easy once Violet is returned to Erica's family. All Violet has to do now is keep the lie going long enough to steal the Silverman Painting that every Vegas criminal has dreamt of scoring themselves. Violet thought she was ready to become Erica. But it turns out pretending to be someone else is much harder when you want the lie to be the truth. Pretending to Be Erica is an engrossing thriller and a sleek heist story. But it's also a story that's all about a girl learning to be kind to herself and forgive herself. You can also see the beautiful card here that @thatsostelle made for me this year (including an appropriate pep talk to cut myself more flask!). I've framed the card and the book is on my shelves already, but I love seeing them together here. Definitely add this backlist title to your to read list if you're a mystery fan. #bookstagram #bookishfeatures #goodreads #instabook #instareads #igreads #booknerd #bibliophile #books #reading #currentlyreading #amreading #bookworm #bookish #bookgram #bookaddict

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In Real Life: A Review

In Real Life by Jessica LoveHannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since eighth grade. They chat and text constantly. They talk on the phone for hours. They know each other better than anyone.

They’ve never met.

After years of following the rules and doing what everyone expects, Hannah’s summer plans are ruined. Instead of spending her last high school summer on a trip to DC, Hannah has no plans whatsoever. With nothing holding her back and a sudden desire to be reckless, Hannah decides to take the ultimate risk and road trip from California to meet Nick in Vegas.

With her older sister and best friend on board, Hannah expects it to be the perfect summer trip. But when the trio arrive in Vegas to surprise Nick everything starts to go wrong. Instead of being able to admit her more-than-best-friend feelings for Nick, Hannah finds out that Nick has been less-than-honest with her.

Hannah still thinks the Nick she’s known online can’t be that different from Nick in real life. But she only has one night in Vegas to figure that out and decide if she’s ready to risk her heart trying to make their friendship into something more in In Real Life (2016) by Jessica Love.

Hannah is a guileless narrator in this story about stepping out of your comfort zone and taking big risks. Although the night is filled with adventure (and some kissing and drinking) the story reads young enough that it can easily appeal to the younger end of the teen reader spectrum.

Hannah and Nick are an interesting pair but missed connections, white lies, and intentional misinformation from both often leaves this couple lacking in chemistry or much of a connection once they’re face-to-face.

Hannah is accompanied by her (much more adventurous) older sister and best friend. Unfortunately any potentially empowering friendship moments quickly vanish as each girl is abruptly paired off with a guy and effectively disappears from the narrative. This leads to more than a few hurt feelings and a solid heart-to-heart before the novel’s end. It also leaves Hannah in her own head for most of the novel.

Like many road trips the path from start to finish is messy for Hannah and filled with bumps in the road. Readers looking for a story that addresses the merits and value of online friendships realistically (even with some madcap adventures) will find a lot to enjoy here. In Real Life is a funny novel with a romance that ends on a sweet note.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, The Romantics by Leah Konen, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Bad Kitty: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bade Kitty by Michele JaffeThe phrase laugh out loud isn’t used that often now that “lol” has flooded the Internet in a big way. Personally, I think that’s a loss. It’s also a subject for a different kind of post though. My point here is that people don’t often talk about things that really make them laugh out loud–literally laughing, out loud. Bad Kitty (2006) by Michele Jaffe is a novel that had me laughing for most of it. It also has the distinction of having zero one star reviews on amazon.com. And, to make it even cooler, Bad Kitty is also my latest CLW selection.

Bad Kitty is Michele Jaffe’s first novel for a young adult audience. (She is also the author of several novels for adults including Bad Girl and Loverboy.) The story starts when Jasmine Callihan and her family are vacationing at a posh hotel in Las Vegas.

Jasmine believes that everyone has a superpower. For instance, her best friend Polly has an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion. And Jasmine’s stepmother, Sherri!, is impossible to hate. As for Jas’ own superpower, well, she isn’t really sure yet. (Though, if readers like Jasmine anywhere as much as I do, they might have their own ideas at the end of the novel.) She has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And cats really like her.

Unfortunately, those things together lead to nothing but trouble for Jasmine. It all starts when a psychotic cat (followed by a psychotic man in a mesh shirt) chase Jasmine around the resort. Soon, Jasmine finds herself in the middle of a mystery involving the psychotic, three-legged, cat and his family. The story here is zany and fun as Jasmine and her friends run around trying to solve the case in spite of the annoying presence of Jasmine’s evil cousin Alyson and her evil hench Veronique. Another annoying presence is that of Jasmine’s father who is determined to keep Jasmine’s dream of fighting crime just that–a dream. Despite her father’s discouragement Jasmine manages to conduct her investigation, albeit with untraditional tools like eyeshadow instead of conventional fingerprint dust.

Some book characters are flesh and blood–others are more pen and ink. Bad Kitty is definitely what I would term a cartoon-ish novel, but in the best way. The story is peppered with Jasmine’s material for her Meaningful Reflection Journal, preparation for writing college essays next year, including Little Life Lessons as well as some very entertaining haikus (“Cute guy at Snack Hut / Why won’t you remove your shirt? / It’s so hot (you too)”).

Bad Kitty is basically an amalgamation of a lot of different genres. It has some teen romance, some mystery/suspense, and a lot of comedy. A lot of times, that doesn’t all come together to make a decent novel–with “Bad Kitty” it does. The novel is very similar to Meg Cabot’s latest Jinx with semi-obvious romantic subplot and the foreshadowing, but Jaffe does it better. Strongly recommended for anyone who likes “classic” chick lit.

Possible Pairings: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day, Drawing a Blank by Daniel Ehrenhaft, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Fracture by Megan Miranda, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David Ostow, CSI (television series)