book cover for Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols | Magan Reviews

book cover for Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols [twitter | website]
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 336
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: opposites attract, yearbook superlatives, sexual high school relationships
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Brody and Harper are chosen by their classmates as the “Perfect Couple That Never Was” for their high school yearbook superlative photo. Several failed attempts to take the photograph provide opportunities to escape their significant others to spend time together and leave them questioning why: Why their classmates chose them. Why they never got together before.

• • •

We’ve reviewed quite a lot of Jennifer Echols’ work here on Rather Be Reading. Her work has been something we’ve really enjoyed, but it’s something we’re both feeling a bit disconnected from lately. I decided I would give things another go with Perfect Couple, really hoping that whatever was missing from the previous books had been found again.

But I don’t really feel that way. The story lacked a believable timeline and was peppered with abrupt, out-of-nowhere sexual scenes as an attempt to make readers forget their reading woes. Decisions were made just as quickly and emotions changed with the wind. I felt jerked around and really, really wanted to enjoy Perfect Couple more because I did quite like Brody and Harper. Their story just had a few too many gaping holes to really tie everything together well.

Harper and Brody are chosen by their classmates as the school’s “Perfect Couple That Never Was” for the class yearbook. Brody is an all-star quarterback. Harper is more of the artistic type. He’s dating a gorgeous cheerleader, Grace, and she’s in a relationship with Kennedy, a jerk who demeans her and treats her like utter crap. (And is incredibly moody/PMS-y…all the time.) Both are left to wonder why their peers would have paired them together. What do they see that Brody and Harper may have overlooked?

Despite ties to their significant others, Harper and Brody find themselves drawn to one another. Often very inappropriately and with little regard to boundaries if you know what I’m saying. (If you’re not one for a cheating book, you may want to steer clear. Though I couldn’t stand Kennedy, my moral compass was screaming at their indiscretions.)  The thing is I DID root for Brody and Harper to be together; the whole opposites attract thing was very appealing. But maybe I’m a traditionalist and think that there’s a time and place for all things, and I just really wish they would have slowed down and handled things respectfully.

It’s quite possible I would have enjoyed Harper and Brody’s story more if there had been more of a slow build, if they really worked to get to know one another, and if the tension has simmered just a little more. Or maybe I didn’t connect because I have aged out of Echols’ work? I probably would have given them the stink eye more than once because their fleeting decisions made little sense to me and there was so much back-and-forth I want him, I don’t want him, I want him. The bandaid was ripped from my reading-skin a few too many times, leaving me feeling very unattached and without much left to adhere to afterward. My recommendation if you’re in the mood for a great, steamy Echols’ read is to revisit Such a Rush.

Have you ever felt like you’ve aged out of an author’s work, or
have you ever significantly changed your opinion of an author’s work?

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Estelle: Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols

Playing Dirty by Jennifer EcholsPlaying Dirty by Jennifer Echols ( web | tweet )
Part of the Stargazer series.
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books
Pages: 478
Target audience: Adult/romance
Keywords: country band, secrets, PR company
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss! (Thanks!)

Summary: Sarah is just about divorced from her husband and trying out a gutsier look and personality to go along with her PR job. Her latest assignment is to ensure a finished album from country band, Cheatin’ Hearts, and a (relatively) calm Fourth of July performance. With her own future on the line, Sarah is prepared to do just about anything to make Cheatin’ Hearts (subject to much tabloid foder) stay together and remain successful. In the mean time, band leader Quentin has tangled a web of lies to keep the band’s name on people’s tongues and with Sarah in the picture, it’s getting difficult to keep it all together.

Talk about blurred lines of the mixing work with pleasure variety and you have yourself Playing Dirty.

Sarah, defeated from a demanding PR task in Rio, is in jeopardy of losing her job. Her last hope (God help us all) is Cheatin’ Hearts, a country band known for their fights, swapping bandmates for romance partners, and drug use. All she needs to do is get their album finished, make sure they are on stage for a Fourth of July performance, and she is in the clear.

As she suspected, it’s just not going to be that easy.

She fully adopts her PR-alter ego, pink highlights, stripper heels, and tons of sex appeal to win over the Quentin, the supposed cocaine addict and leader of the band. If she can just make Quentin’s ex-girlfriend/current fiddle player, Erin, jealous, the two will get back together and certainly keep the band from breaking up. Of course, this plan requires many steamy (sometimes stolen) moments with Quentin, who is just too attractive for his own good.

Something is missing from this equation though. Honesty. It’s pretty much taken a back seat.

Sarah is lying about what happened in Rio. She also would choose sweatpants over hot pants any day. While Quentin and his band learned early on that success is about giving people something to talk about so basically nothing seen in the tabloids is real. Like at all. And while there are glimpses of truth in a few of Sarah and Quentin’s encounters, they keep second guessing themselves, each other, and it all erupts into a huge huge dramatic mess.

Even though so many of the conflicts in Playing Dirty could have been avoided, Sarah and Quentin share some sizzling scenes together (the shower!) and for all of the lying, their characters were super well developed. Sarah has some unresolved issues with her mother and a divorce in the works; Quentin gave up a medical career to pursue singing (he comes from a family of musicians) and his mother’s death made him scared of many things. When they both let their guards down, I really liked watching them get to know each other and bond.

Plus I absolutely loved her friendship with Wendy (the main character from Star Crossed) showcased through some hilarious emails and all the country music making and gossip!

I can’t forget to mention “the scary element”. Echols utilized this subplot in Star Crossed as well. I thought it was unnecessary there, and even more so in Playing Dirty. It caused the end to drag, and just seemed too much with all the situations already unfolding.

Still Playing Dirty has so much of Echol’s signature elements: crazy tension, a hot leading man with a heart, an ambitious female lead, and a great dash of comedy to level out all the drama. (Also: a surprising amount of Star Wars references for the nerdy side in all of us!) I’m still enjoying her venture into adult contemporary romance and I always on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one!

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young adult book review of dirty little secrets by jennifer echols

Magan: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

young adult book review of dirty little secrets by jennifer echolsDirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: MTV Books
Pages: 288
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: country music, Nashville, family drama, hot guitar player
Format read: ARC received from the publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: After a year of breaking all her parent’s rules, Bailey is living with her grandfather. Though she’s not allowed to play her fiddle or even consider joining a band, her grandfather helps her get a job playing in a tribute band… where she meets the mysterious Sam.

If your interest is even slightly piqued by any of the below, I strongly suggest you purchase Jennifer Echols’ newest upcoming release, Dirty Little Secret. Just look at all that’s in store for you…

♥ Steamy scenes.
♥ Hot love interest.
♥ Strong-willed main character.
♥ A little bit of country music in the great city of Nashville, TN.
♥ A big helping of family drama.

After Bailey’s younger sister is signed to a mega-record label, her parents focus all their attention on making Julie’s career a success. This means removing Bailey from the music scene (even though the sisters used to be a duo, playing shows together all the time) so no one catches wind of the ripped-apart-sisters-storyline that could ruin Julie’s career before it’s begun. Bailey, over the course of a year, morphs into a girl that’s only an inkling of who she used to be. She chops her long, blonde locks into an asymmetrical cut and dyes her hair black; she begins dressing sexier and edgier than ever before. Bailey wants to be badass.

When her sister leaves to go on tour, Bailey is asked to move in with her grandfather. Though she’s been forbidden to play her fiddle or participate in any shows, her grandfather pulls some strings and lands her a job where she plays in tribute bands at the mall. Some days she plays with Elvis Presley, others with Dolly Parton. The day she plays with the Johnny Cash band, she’s challenged by the guitar-playing-boy who pushes her to play harder and better. The boy named Sam who she thinks she’s met before. The boy who invites her to play with his band… and for some reason, even though Bailey should, she just can’t turn down.

Oh, holy smokes, you guys. Bailey and Sam’s connection was on fire. These two, from the moment they met, were flirty and sarcastic. It did take me a minute to accept how quickly their relationship developed, but I’d consider that a minor bump in the road. (And I was only concerned because WHOA BUDDY was there a steamy, steamy scene pretty early on and I felt so protective of Bailey.) Sam’s charismatic and quite a charmer, but he also has a story that made me cock my head to the side and squint my eyes at the pages because I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure him out.

Sam’s suspicious storyline, plus Bailey’s family drama that was slowly unfolding, and the way these two seemed to magnetically be connected completely absorbed me. Another minor hesitation was that when the climax of the story arrived, I felt like Echols could have explored the resolution a little bit more. It felt a little like, “OH CRAP! THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GO DOWN.” … *fade to black* … All is better now. I fully believe Echols has the ability to dive into those tough situations and provide an example of how these messy moments can be resolved, but it just didn’t happen here as much as I wanted.

Despite my hesitancy with areas of the story, I believe Jennifer did a lovely job with the Bailey and Sam’s story. And heck, she even got me listening to country music. (I would have said pre-Dirty Little Secret that this was darn near impossible.)

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Be sure to check out the playlist for Dirty Little Secret on Jennifer’s website too!

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Magan’s May 12, 2013 Shelve It

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Surprise, surprise! I’m back with a vlog for this week’s Shelve It! It’s been a while, huh? I know — I’m sorry about that. There seems to rarely be quiet time to do a vlog with our baby girl happily crawling around everywhere. (But seriously — what a joy it is to have her!) I attended TLA a few weeks ago with my great friends Jess, Ginger, Lena, and Sarah. I was very intentional about selecting only books I am 100% interested in and did not want to walk away from the conference feeling greedy. What I’m showing you is what I got (aside from a few books Estelle will share with you that I got signed for her).

Happy watching!

For Review from TLA:

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols — July 16, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young — August 27, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle — June 4, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney — June 4, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney — September 3, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller — September 24, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story by Sonya Sones — August 27, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange — September 3, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott — August 27, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Fault Line by Christa Desir — November 12, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick — August 13, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen — June 4, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon

For Review (e-books):

shelve it - rainbow rowell and jennifer brown

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (!!!!) — September 10, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon
Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown — May 21, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon

Recently Purchased:

suzanne young books

The Program by Suzanne Young — April 30, 2013 — Goodreads | Amazon


What Happened on the Blog:


Have an awesome weekend! What books did you guys get?
Thanks for checking out this week’s Shelve It!

Estelle: Levitating Las Vegas by Jennifer Echols

Levitating Las Vegas by Jennifer EcholsLevitating Las Vegas by Jennifer Echols ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 6, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books / Simon + Schuster
Pages: 300
Target audience: Adult / mature young adult
Keywords: paranormal, Vegas, mind reading, levitation, conspiracy
Format read: ARC via Edelweiss from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: For the past 7 years, Holly and Elijah have believed they had mental disorders and have been forced to take medication and keep secret about their conditions. Because of it, they forfeited dating one another (they had no idea each had the disorder) and have lived sheltered lives under the surveillance of a Las Vegas casino. When Holly and Elijah’s prescriptions run out, Elijah believes he can save them both by kidnapping Holly and finding the factory. In the mean time, the attraction between the two is undeniable and a war is breaking out in their casino.

Hands down, Jennifer Echols is the one of the best when it comes to writing tension between two characters. In young adult books like Such a Rush and Going Too Far, as well as her adult debut Star Crossed, she is at her best.

Unfortunately (fortunately), the chemistry between main characters Holly and Elijah was the only thing that kept me hanging on in Levitating Las Vegas. It’s almost the perfect kind of love story — two characters who have known each other forever and are forced apart by complications they can’t even explain to one another. What’s also interesting is that they remained in each other’s lives from a distance: both worked at the casino (Elijah was a carpenter and Holly was a showgirl assistant in her dad’s magic show) and even graduated college together.

It’s not until the necessary medication for their respective “mental disorders” runs out that they start crossing a lot closer paths. Of course, the whole thing is being orchestrated by casino security/Holly’s closet friend, Kaylee, (but they don’t know this) so it’s not as happening as organically as the two think.

Oh my, the drama! Abusive boyfriends, lying parents, mind changers, etc.

I’m not a paranormal reader. In fact, the only reason I picked this up is for Jennifer Echol’s name alone, and despite my inexperience, the plot felt a bit discombulated and could have used a bit more organization. Even when I thought I was finally catching on, the last few chapters blew up in my face and I got the feeling Levitating Las Vegas was more of an action packed novel/good vs. evil than a romantic paranormal.

More balance, attention to the dialogue (Holly and Elijah alternated between sounding older than 21 and younger than 21 at times), and more understanding of the powers associated by these two (shouldn’t he be able to read her mind ALL the time?) would have made this a smoother, more enjoyable read. As a genre, I would imagine that paranormal is a lot harder to write because you have to make the unbelievable feel believable in every day life — at least somehow and that was truly lacking here. (So were Holly’s clothes… she was always wearing a bathing suit top!)

If you are looking to read some Jennifer Echols (and you should!), I urge you to read Such as Rush or Star Crossed. And I’m certainly looking forward to her next young adult book, Dirty Little Secret, this summer!

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the glass castle, the mysterious benedict society, something borrowed, north of beautiful, the piper's son

Magan: Top Ten Tuesday — Books I Read Pre-Blogging

So I kind of cheated for today’s Top Ten Tuesday. I only chose nine books. This is so incredibly OCD of me, but when I was doing the layout, I did a grid that only had room for 9 books. I’m a bit neurotic and couldn’t force myself to squeeze in a tenth book. Oops?

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and The Bookish) is Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Pre-Blogging.

the glass castle, the mysterious benedict society, something borrowed, north of beautiful, the piper's son

  1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls — *gasp* I KNOW! You guys don’t see me read a lot of adult fiction (much less memoirs), but ohmygosh this book is so flipping fantastic. I had a very deep emotional connection to this one.
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart — I also don’t read TONS of middle grade books, but this serious is so fantastic. It’s about kid geniuses who need good homes and they’re always trying to solve a mystery.
  3. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin — By now I’m sure we’ve all seen the movie, but I was a major chick lit girl back in the day.
  4. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley — This was shortly before I became a blogger (but still a rec from Estelle) and … wow. Gorgeous writing. Lovely story.
  5. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta — All hail Melina Marchetta. By far my favorite of her books. Love, love, love.
  6. Hourglass by Myra McEntire — Time travel? What? In addition to that and the steamy tension between the characters, this is a total win.
  7. Perfect Fifths (Jessica Darling #5) by Megan McCafferty — Yes, I chose the FIFTH book and not the first. It’s my favorite. What’s yours?
  8. Love Story by Jennifer Echols — I’m kind of in the minority, I think, for loving this book the way I do. There’s not a perfect ending, but boy do I like the open-endedness.
  9. Staying at Daisy’s by Jill Mansell — And one more chick lit book for you guys. Jill is hilarious. Her characters are always in some undeniably terrible point in their lives. I need to read another of her books ASAP.

(Okay, so what would my tenth pick really be? The entire Harry Potter series. Ooops — I just cheated again. That makes 16 books. ;))


Don’t forget to check out the fabulous list over at The Broke and the Bookish!

What were your favorite books pre-blogging?