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Torched – Andrea Lynn Colt

Torched – Andrea Lynn ColtTitle: Torched by Andrea Lynn Colt
Publishing Info: September 8, 2012 by Andrea Lynn Colt
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: January 5, 2013

Cheerleader Rose Whitfield's senior year goes up in smoke when she's framed for arson. Sure that the culprit is her neighbor Paxton, with whom she's been feuding since middle school, she sets out to clear her name and take Paxton down hard--not necessarily in that order.

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Thank you to the author, Andrea Lynn Colt, for approaching me to read this book and providing my a copy.

TORCHED is a cute and funny story wrapped in a contemporary wrapped in a mystery. Meet Rose Whitfield: cheerleader, popular, about to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Ryan until someone burns his parents’ boat and frames her for it. Meet Paxton Callaway: mortal enemy of Rose, football player, neighbor, and suspect numero uno on Rose’s list as to who started the fire. So how do Rose and Paxton possibly end up working together? The fact that none of her friends things she’s innocent — even her best friend, Alina.

Okay, so that’s the story — Here’s how I felt. I thought TORCHED was a cute story but it never quite got to the “wow” point for me. I was sort of iffy on Rose for a lot of the book, mostly because although her friends seem worse, she was never quite a peach herself (although in the end she does start to realize this and change her ways, so that’s good). She wasn’t particularly mean, but she was oblivious to a few key incidences where her pranking and general attitude was hurting other people. Ouch.

I loved the romance between Rose and Paxton! I mean, Ryan who, right? I actually hated Ryan throughout the book (which I think was the point, although I might have hated him a bit more than intended). Paxton went from best friend to mortal enemy to love interest throughout the span of Rose’s life and you guys — You know how much I love best-friend-turned-boyfriend stories!!! So yes. I loved it. There are also a few PG-13 scenes and I was like “Whoa boy!” but one of them was kind of odd and I thought they went a little too far all at once. Confusing sentence, I know, but I’m trying not to give away any spoilers there…

I guess I was really hoping for a little more Nancy Drew from Rose. Yes, she and Paxton did do a lot of hunting for the real culprit of the fire, but I was hoping for a bit more. That may be just because I’m a mystery girl at heart! When we find out who did it in the end, I wasn’t quite convinced of the motive and the means in which they pulled it off so that was just kind of “ehh” for me, but it still wrapped up the book nicely!

character_breakdown1Rose: I think I finally started connecting with Rose, especially towards the end, but sometimes she seemed a bit too naive for me. Always trying to bake cookies or take someone out for waffles as her way of apologizing and making everything better – although at the end, she does start to realize that sorry just doesn’t make everything magically better. She was seriously wronged in this book and she really starts to grow as a person. I like that this book is a standalone, but if there were to be another book about Rose, I’d be interested to see where her character goes and how she’s grown up since this event!
Paxton: Loved Paxton as the love interest here! I was never totally ga-ga over him, but it’s the whole “used to be best friends” thing. I love friendships turning into romances!! And he was really easy to connect with throughout the whole book. Minus a minor random anger explosion at the end that seemed a little harsh, he was definitely the most well-rounded character.
Alina: Was I supposed to hate Alina this much? Because wow, I really hated her. She totally dumped Rose after the fire incident, not even trying to listen to her or be on her side and then literally bullies her for most of the book. EW. That sounds like a best friend I’d be dumping and never accepting back into my life again.
Ryan:  I think I hated Ryan an unnecessary amount too… I mean, his reaction wasn’t as bad as Alina’s but he did some bad things too. Did not like him one bit!!!

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Read it!

This book was a lot of fun! I’m so glad I read it and I’d definitely recommend it! Plus, I just REALLY love that cover.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE TORCHED

           

Manhattan Affair – Jack Sussek

Manhattan Affair – Jack SussekTitle: Manhattan Affair by Jack Sussek
Publishing Info: February 14, 2012 by Independent
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 15, 2012

A tale of New York City nostalgia mixed with murder, conspiracy, and sex, Manhattan Affair portrays a world of secrets and lies which entwine the lives of three former New England college classmates: Jed Chase, Steve Cahill, and Morris Bergman, one of whom is the victim, one of whom is a co-conspirator, one of whom is the lawyer. None of which appears as it seems.


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Please take my rating with a grain of salt — What it really came down to was that I was hoping I would be a good match to the book but I think I just wasn’t the right audience for it. I don’t want to give the book a poor rating because it wasn’t a bad book — I just hadn’t enjoyed it like I hoped and it’s hard for me to put a rating on that.

I went into this book thinking it was going to be a mystery. I was hoping for something vaguely similar to the In Death series, which is why I had accepted the book for review in the first place. It turned out to be more of a thriller and it gave me a “noir” type feel, the setting in the 90s somehow adding to that, though I’m not sure why.

I actually did like the feel and the color of the book, but the story line isn’t quite what I was expecting. I had the impression that I was going to be reading a murder mystery, but it was really much more of a conspiracy thriller than a mystery. I kept waiting for something to happen and I felt like I was left waiting a little too long.

The first half of the book was a bit too much of getting to know the characters and developing the relationship between Jed and Katherine — which was good and all, but there wasn’t much else going on outside of that. I wanted to be swept away with the story, jumping at action, trying to pick up a mystery, analyzing the characters, but it seemed like a lot of descriptions that would have been better interspersed with action sequences. It seems like a little editing should be in order to have those beginning chapters moving somewhere and getting the reader nervous and excited for the rest of the book.

The ending was very well written with some major twists and turns that I was not expecting! It always fascinates me when plot turns like that happen because I always think of how they started and where they originated from in the beginning. Nicely finished and nicely wrapped up. I just wish I had been hooked from the beginning!

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Skip it

I was hoping for more out of this book… maybe my expectations were in the wrong place, but even still, I just couldn’t get into it.

Naturally, Charlie – S.L. Scott

Naturally, Charlie – S.L. ScottTitle: Naturally, Charlie by S.L. Scott
Publishing Info: November 1, 2012 by Independent
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: November 2012

    Twenty-five year old Charlotte “Charlie” Barrow is caught between her old life and the one she is beginning to build when she crosses paths with a handsome stranger on the subway. Not looking for romance, she closes her heart off to the possibilities of love. With a knack for mishaps, Charlie maintains her sense of humor while befriending the kind stranger who seems to be there at all the right times.
New York freelance writer, Charlie Adams, is forging his own path beyond the expectations of the society circles of his childhood. Rejecting family money, and fast-lane friends, he is snubbed by his family as he follows his own compass to a life more extraordinary. 
Through a coincidence of events, they come to rely on each other for comfort. This is   the tale of two Charlies learning to trust again while fighting their fates to create their own destiny.

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So let me say something a little bit silly and possibly totally illogical: I love female characters with male nick names (Sam, Danni, Charlie! etc) so when I found out one of our MCs fell in this category, I was already interested. Then when both the guy and the girl have the same name? Adorable!

When I first started reading, I was immediately hooked. The female Charlie was instantly relatable to me. She was my age (25) and usually I have issues with chick lit novels that make young characters already so much more successful in career and advanced in relationships (usually advancing in the workplace and engaged/married), I did see that female Charlie shared a lot of these characteristics, but it felt natural to me (no pun intended since it’s… NATURALLY CHARLIE —  I have a feeling I may make this joke more than once).

Another thing I have issues with lately is the alternate viewpoint between main characters. We did have these alternating chapters between female Charlie and male Charlie and I really loved it! You know how sometimes we get those novellas that are our favorite books told from the male POV instead of the female? That was how I felt with NATURALLY CHARLIE. Sometimes the alternating POV feels unauthentic and forced, but here it was totally… say it with me – natural! I felt like we were getting both stories from each Charlie and they just overlapped slightly so we got to see some of the same scenes from both perspectives and enjoy them two different ways, but still seeing very different personal aspects as well as separate backstories from each character to really get to know them.

I thought the romance was super cute and I loved the stories for both characters. I loved so many aspects of this book and would definitely recommend it for a great chick lit or contemporary romance story!

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Charlie (female): I really enjoyed female Charlie! She seemed really down-to-earth and I really like when the characters can be feminine without having to be super girly. I loved her approach to a lot of different aspects in the book and she was strong as well as sensitive. More important than connecting with the male in any book, I need to connect to the female and I loved Charlie.
Charlie (male): Male Charlie was a lot of fun too. I loved how forward he was in pursuing female Charlie because that’s kind of how my boyfriend pursued me when we first started dating. It made me all nostalgic 🙂
Rachel: Rachel is exactly how I would have written one of my friends if I were to put her in a book. I felt bad for her in a lot of ways because she was struggling to get married and settle down and was going about it all the wrong ways, and my poor friend – that is exactly her! Every line that I read I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so her!!!!” I wonder if we all have a friend like that… Hm.

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Chain Gang Elementary – Jonathan Grant

Chain Gang Elementary – Jonathan GrantTitle: Chain Gang Elementary by Jonathan Grant
Publishing Info: July 14, 2011 by Independent
Genres: Adult, Comedy/Satire
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: June 3, 2012

    "In the first place, God created idiots. This was for practice. Then he created School Boards." -Mark Twain
After a murder at Bonaire Elementary, Richard and Anna Lee Gray seek a good school for their son Nick in a safe neighborhood. Their search leads them to Malliford, a "school of excellence." When redistricting sends scores of minority students to Malliford, iron-willed Principal Estelle Rutherford declares war on kids to raise test scores and save her reputation. Dissident parents revolt, electing Richard to head the Parent-Teacher Organization, and tensions explode. Welcome to Chain Gang Elementary, home to vast right-wing conspiracies, 3rd-grade gangsters, and bake sale embezzlers-where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict. A tale of war that is poignant, timely, and brutally funny, Chain Gang Elementary is a One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest for the K-6 world. First Sentence: In the twelfth year of his marriage, sixteen months before the shooting, twenty-one shopping days until Christmas, and eight hours before he reckoned for the tenth time that his wife didn't love him, Richard Gray met a woman who would have roughly the same effect on his life a tornado has on a trailer park.  

Breaking It Down Further: Newly  established PTO president Richard Grey has big shoes to fill and big wars to win. Convinced to commit to the position, he begins the biggest battle — taking down the tyrannical principal, Miz Rutherford. The principal has only her own agenda, which is her personal gain, maintaining her status of power, and maintaining the picture-perfect status of the school. When the school’s district is rezoned to incorporate a *gasp* apartment complex with primarily African-American and Latino families, things at the school begin to go haywire. Under the administration’s direction, these new students — which should have added to the diversity of the school — are clearly treated differently, such as being forced to do manual labor (or the working’ on the “chain gang”) as a punishment or being put into the classroom with the only black teacher. While most parents look the other way, Richard begins to actively campaign for the removal of Principal Rutherford while also trying to keep his family from crumbling.

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There were so many things I enjoyed about this book. Jonathan Grant has an excellent way with words and it’s apparently throughout the whole novel. He has a fantastic vocabulary and an extremely creative way in manipulating them. He has such a great way in which he creates a play on words or a play on names. There was such creativity in double meanings of a word or phrase and he was just downright clever.

I also really enjoyed how dynamic the characters became. You can see the growth of Richard’s son Nick and how he changes throughout the school years featured in the book. Richard himself goes through several changes during the course of the book.

The story itself of such school corruption, the sensitivity of the racism issue that sadly still exists in many places today — It was a very bittersweet story and there are so many thought-provoking elements of the plot.

BUT — The book was just entirely too long. There were quite a few times where I did want to give up. I really enjoyed so many aspects of the book! Why was it so hard for me to keep reading? The plot just didn’t really pick up until closer to the end when Richard got some real progress as far as his stand against the principal and he finally figures out how he wants to sort out his family life. From the beginning through the middle, I felt like the story just dragged on. It was filled with clever dialogue and witty banter which I couldn’t get enough of! But it was just an extremely slow pace in which not much happened in what should have been the meaty parts of the book. I really wanted to power through and finish so I could really get a full grip of the story.

Another problem I feel here is that since I received the copy as a courtesy from the author in exchange for a review, I really wanted to give it a good review. This is always my problem when I am given a book from an author or publisher — I really want to give a good review because they were so kind as to give me a copy of their book. No one wants to see a bad review, but the whole point of reviewing is to be honest. That is also why I felt like it was so important to point out how many good things I liked about the book!

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Skip it

It was just the slow plot that really dragged me down. I considered stopping a couple of times, but since this was so generously given to me to review, I really did need to finish and given a true review.

Buying Time (Aspen Moore #1) – Kelly Cochran

Buying Time (Aspen Moore #1) – Kelly CochranTitle: Buying Time (Aspen Moore #1) by Kelly Cochran
Publishing Info: April 19, 2012 by Kelly Cochran
Genres: Adult, Cozy Mystery, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: May 12, 2012

Breaking It Down Further: After witnessing her ex-fiance’s murder, former high-powered business woman Aspen Moore takes shelter in the witness protection program and relocates to St. Louis, MO. After nearly a year there and a decently successful new business as a personal concierge, Aspen finds one of her clients dead – But under suspicious circumstances. Determined to unravel the mysteries of his death, Aspen employs the help of her maybe-more-than-platonic friend Peter Parker and his (sexy) friend and lawyer Jack. As Aspen begins to connect the dots, unearth buried secrets, and befriends others involved along the way, trouble dogs her every step. Dodging henchmen, recovering a client’s lost dog, and trying to balance her hormones for her two male co-conspirators, Aspen fights to solve the mystery before she gets herself killed or blows her WitSec cover.

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I really enjoyed so much about this book! Aspen was a really easy character for me to relate to. She seemed normal/down-to-earth with just the right amount of tough and feminine. I also really liked the twist of her being in the witness protection program. It really added another element of edge to the story, along with the fact that she’s dodging known stalkers and possible hitmen; she needs to keep her real story under wraps as well.

One of my favorite things about the book was Aspen’s existing relationship with Peter and then her conflicting and developing relationship with Jack. There’s a lot of tension between her and Peter, but it’s just so relatable — Everyone’s been there — The sexual tension with someone who’s “just a friend”. And then we’re introduced to Jack (who I was glad she started to carry on with!) and we see Peter’s conflicting emotions towards their relationship as well as a few curveballs. I also really liked Peter because I saw a little mix of a lot of my friends in his character. I loved the back-and-forth between him and Aspen, and also that their friendship is obviously mutually valued because he always has her back.

I do admit, I was a bit lost in the mystery at first (I think it was all the M names… Martin, Marston, Mitchell…) but I was able to straighten myself out and was really surprised by the ending and how the mystery was resolved! Another one I didn’t expect.

I really look forward to the next novel when it comes out. I really enjoyed Aspen’s character a lot and I look forward to seeing her character develop as well as her sleuthing skills. And I can’t wait to see what happens with her and Jack!

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Try it!

It was a really great first novel! Nicely developed with some really great characters and creative twists. I really look forward to reading more in the series.