Dating Dilemmas #2: 99% Faking It – Chris Cannon

Miss Overachiever: Let me get this straight. You want to fake date me.

Man Candy Matt: Uh huh.

Miss Overachiever: But you know that I have a crush on you. [Damn it! He won’t notice that Freudian slip, will he?]

Man Candy Matt: Have?

Miss Overachiever: [Damn it!] Had! I had a crush on you.

Man Candy Matt: So, fake date me? Then the girl I have a crush on who’s perfectly happy with her perfect boyfriend will get jealous and decide she wants me instead.

Miss Overachiever: What’s in it for me?

Man Candy Matt: Well, you like Mr Cool Hair. Maybe he’ll pay attention to you if you’re with me, the boy with hair that’s not as cool.

Miss Overachiever: Hmm … You make an interesting argument. I’ve already tried to get him to notice me by wearing more makeup, even though when he originally noticed me I was hardly wearing any at all, but —

Man Candy Matt: See? So is it a deal? I mean, what could possibly go wrong?!

Book Buddy Nina (who already did her own whole boy drama thing in The Dating Debate): So … Books?

Miss Overachiever: Books!

Book Buddy Nina and Miss Overachiever wander off to go find some new book boyfriends.

Man Candy Matt: Um, hello?

We first tagged along with Miss Overachiever and Book Buddy Nina to Friday night Nerd-Girl Festivities in The Dating Debate. That was my 💔 Achy Breaky Heart 💔 read last year and here I am again, likely torturing poor Chris Cannon (sorry, Chris!) by choosing another one of her books for this year’s foray into the smoochie side of life. Oops, it appears that I’m accidentally following a romance novel series! 😯

Before I go any further, let me just say … CANNON CONSPIRACY CONFIRMED!!!

Whatever am I talking about? Allow me to take you on a journey to a time when I first became suspicious that Chris was plotting a sinister scheme to convert me, a 100% committed romantiphobe, to … wait for it … a romance novel reader! I submit to you:

I had so many food cravings while reading 99% Faking It but the ones that specifically support my conspiracy theory are:

🍕 Sausage and pepperoni thick crust with extra cheese
🍕 Meatball
🍕 More pepperoni
🍕 More meatball
🍕 More meatball
🍕 Sausage and mushroom
🍕 More sausage and mushroom
🍕 More meatball
🍕 Bacon and pepperoni
🍕 Cheese

🤤 Vegetarian

🍫 Brownie sundae with whipped cream and chocolate sauce
🍫 Chocolate frogs (mentioned but not eaten)
🍫 More brownies
🍫 Hot cocoa with marshmallows (yes, that counts!)
🍫 Do Oreos count? What am I saying?! Of course they do. Countless Oreos graced the pages!

And let’s not forget this brilliance:

“Our family motto is, Chocolate might not fix everything but it’s a good start.”

My verdict? Conspiracy confirmed! Case closed! Well played, Chris, well played. 🏆

I really enjoyed this book. I smiled my way through the banter and fandom talk and the only thing I craved as much as the yummy delectables was an invitation to Friday night Nerd-Girl Festivities. I wanted to be friends with Book Buddy Nina and Miss Overachiever. I loved that Miss Overachiever is a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl who doesn’t waste time in front of a mirror when she could be reading instead. She’s smart and fluent in sarcasm and while she loves Harry Potter (who doesn’t?!), she’s a multi-fandom girl. There were times I wanted to tell her to wake up to herself when she got snappy at Man Candy Matt but she endeared herself to me so much that I could overlook most of them.

While I liked Man Candy Matt I didn’t feel I got to know him as well as I did Miss Overachiever. The standout minor character for me was Matt’s father and naturally I adored the dogs. I consider it borderline cheating for any author to include dogs in their book since I’m such a sucker for fur babies.

I can’t believe how invested I became in this couple. I got frustrated whenever Man Candy Matt and Miss Overachiever’s romantic stars didn’t align. Either I’m getting used to the way these things called ‘romance novels’ work or there was less that irritated me this time. Unlike previous romantic reads, I’m pretty sure the feeling of hitting my head against a brick wall each time I told the characters to “COM! MU! NI! CATE!” has only resulted in a mild concussion this time around.

Once Upon a Nitpick: This pet peeve isn’t specific to this book but it did show up a few times; boys/men declaring they will punch a boy/man who is upsetting a girl/woman. I used to think this was charming when I was a teenager but now a neon sign lights up in my brain screaming, “Toxic masculinity!” at me whenever I come across it.

Favourite sentence:

“I love the smell of freshly baked carbs and coffee.”

Mmm, me too!

Favourite sentence (it’s a tie; I couldn’t choose):

“Best friends don’t let best friends date anti-Potter people.”

So, am I a romance novel enthusiast now? Hell, no! After three novels I’m definitely a converted Chris Cannon reader though, and if she just so happens to write romance novels then I guess I’m going to have to keep reading them. Sorry, Chris, but you’re stuck with me. 😊

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Teen Crush, an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC, for the opportunity to read this book.

P.S. If you can’t wait until the release date to start this book you can read the first chapter here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Lisa is a card-carrying, book-loving Gryffindor. Solid. And that’s why everyone knows she’s awesome. Well, except for her crush, Matt. He only ever sees her as a friend. Plus, he’s got his eye on another girl. Oh well, plenty of fish and all that. 

Good thing Lisa just read a book on the “wedding ring phenomenon” – you get more attention when you’re already taken. What if Lisa pretends to be Matt’s plus one? Maybe it’ll help Matt get his girl and Lisa can hook her own fish. 

After the plan works, Matt suddenly claims he doesn’t like the view from the friend-zone and wants her instead … But she isn’t interested in being anyone’s second choice. If this guy wants to earn her attention, he’ll need more than some silly “phenomenon.” 

He’ll need to go all out …

Dating Dilemmas #1: The Dating Debate – Chris Cannon

Of course I had to read an actual romance novel during 💔 Achy Breaky Heart Month! 💔. Apologies to Chris Cannon in advance for choosing The Dating Debate. Chris, you may recall that I previously reviewed Boomerang Boyfriend and I’m sorry for any therapy bills you incurred as a result. I remain staunchly anti-romance yet your blurbs keep sucking me in. Excuse me while I continue one of my many arguments debates with Nina and West.

Me: Hold on. Weren’t you just having an anti-Valentine’s Day rant a few pages ago?

Nina: Yeah, but –

Me: Yet now you’re planning to go to the Valentine’s Day dance at your school with the boy next door, who is gorgeous and can speak fluent Harry Potter.

Nina: Uh-huh, but note that I’m not going with the gorgeous boy who doesn’t get Harry Potter at all.

Me: Okay, so I get the book thing but why are all of the guys gorgeous?

Nina: Well, I am one of the main characters in a romance novel.

Me: Hmm… So, West. Are all the girls in this book good looking as well?

West: Well, duh! Nina is cute, obviously. I’ll bet that even spatula makeup girl is a stunner. Romance novel, remember?

Me: Gotcha. So, West, you’re named after a direction. Are you a Kardashian offspring by any chance?

West: I dunno. Let me go ask my mother.

Nina: Whoa! You have a mother?

Me: So, Nina, back to the whole Valentine’s Day dance thing. You don’t like Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day dances and you don’t want to go, yet you’re going with the gorgeous next door neighbour just to be stubborn. Is that right?

Nina: That pretty much sums it up. You want some chocolate?

Me: Obviously! Thanks! [grabs the chocolate and starts munching] Why don’t you just stay at home and read a book on Valentine’s Day? That’s what I’ll be doing.

Nina: Sounds great, but unfortunately as a main character in a romance novel it’s in my contract that my decisions don’t have to make sense and if I stay at home I can’t all of a sudden fall in love with the gorgeous boy next door, then find something to cry over before we decide we’re meant to be together forever due to our mutual love of Harry Potter.

Me: Okaaaay… So, West. Any thoughts?

West: I just hope Nina doesn’t find out my secret. Any chance we can change this from a romance novel to another genre so I can keep my personal business private?

Me: Nope, but I’d love that because I’m sick of watching you two kiss and argue.

West: This is going to end in tears. I just know it.

Me: Yeah, me too, but what can you do. Romance novel, after all. Personally I think the two of you need some therapy to sort out your trust, self esteem and shame issues before you seriously consider dating. I hear Lisa’s mother is a good therapist. Hey, what’s the deal with you two juggling issues beyond your years within your respective families, yet you act like 12 year olds when you’re dating?

West: You’re asking me? I’m just doing what Chris Cannon tells me to do! You’re the one with a choice here! Why are you reading this book when you’re so anti-romance?

Me: Sucked in by Harry Potter, just like you. Chris Cannon found and exploited my weakness – again. [sigh] And she just had to go and include an adorable dog too, didn’t she.

West: Tell me about it! I’m still trying to get dog fur out of my clothes.

Nina: So, you coming to the bookstore tonight with Lisa and I?

Me: Of course! Got any more mini bars of chocolate?

So, Chris Cannon, you sucked me in again. If I can enjoy the non-romance parts of your romance novels then I can certainly understand the appeal for readers who actively seek out that genre. I really enjoy the way you write, despite the genre.

If you ever decide to write a YA book that doesn’t major on romance and holds onto the social issues themes but delves deeper into them, I’ll be front row centre of your cheer squad. Regardless, I’m definitely interested in reading your next book (sorry!).

My Nitpicking: Without giving anything away I think there was more to one person’s mental health diagnosis than what was revealed in the book and would have loved for this to have been dealt with further as they were an interesting character. Unfortunately they came across as though the wheel was spinning but the hamster was dead and I think they were actually a lot smarter than they seemed.

My Nitpicking – The Sequel: Some of the characters without much page time came across as fairly two-dimensional. However, with the length of the book and the issues raised in it, there probably wasn’t enough room to add another dimension to these characters. Their contribution wasn’t pivotal to the story anyway.

Favourite Sentence Snippet:

“then he kissed me again, a slow, deep kiss that scrambled what was left of my brain.”

Vindicated! Kissing in romance novels does cause brain damage in characters!

Content warnings include issues surrounding mental health.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Teen Crush, an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nina Barnes thinks Valentine’s Day should be optional. That way single people like her wouldn’t be subjected to kissy Cupids all over the place. That is, until her mom moves them next door to the brooding hottie of Greenbrier High, West Smith. He’s funny, looks amazing in a black leather jacket, and he’s fluent in Harry Potter, but she’s not sure he’s boyfriend material. 

West isn’t sure what to make of Nina. She’s cute and loves to read as much as he does, but she seems to need to debate everything and she has a pathological insistence on telling the truth. And West doesn’t exactly know how to handle that, since his entire life is a carefully constructed secret. Dating the girl next door could be a ton of fun, but only if Nina never finds out the truth about his home life. It’s one secret that could bring them together or rip them apart. 

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book is not for anyone who has to get in the last word, but it is for all book nerds, especially those who live next door to so called unapproachable gorgeous guys. There’s no debating the chemistry.

The Heartbreak Cure – Amanda Ashby

Confession time! I accidentally got sucked into wanting to read this book purely because of the brownies and then kinda sorta maybe quite enjoyed the read, despite having the best intentions to rip its romantic heart to shreds. Sure, there were some soppy sentences, mostly focused around how people smelled for some reason, but overall I really enjoyed the story. I feel like I need to apologise to myself because I don’t do romance novels so I’m more than a little disturbed that I liked the characters so much but if I enjoyed it, then the target audience are going to love it!

I’m showing my age here but I’m so glad I grew up in a world without the internet. I can’t even imagine how kidlets and teens these days navigate the awkwardness of growing up knowing the world is watching and most likely recording all of their mistakes, humiliations and heartaches for posterity. Back when I was a teen [she croaks while leaning on her walking stick and wagging her finger] you could quietly hope for the next drama to unfold in someone else’s life so you could be left in peace to pick up the pieces of your shattered heart. These days your most embarrassing moments can go viral. [shudders]

So, what is The Heartbreak Cure? Brownies!!! Baked by the 86 year old grandmother of your cute ex-neighbour boy (who is only a) friend. YUM! Hey, Alex, would you please let Birdie know I feel a heartbreak coming on? 😜

Cat and Alex share the experience of being shamed for something that wasn’t their fault. Cat has been featured in a YouTube video posted by a disgusting doofus 🤬 who enlisted her as a recruit in a summer challenge:

Ask out a loser and see how far she’ll go with you in one week before you break her heart. Bonus points if she gets a tattoo with your name on it.

Seriously, people??? I have no words.

In the slightly unbelievable but hey, it’s fiction category, this girl’s heart was broken over a guy she dated a grand total of three times in one week? And one of those dates was a group date. Maybe I’m out of touch and not the one to comment on the believability factor here, but no one is chipping away at the icicles surrounding this nerd’s heart in just three dates.

And how did doofus find his way into her heart in the first place? He used her Goodreads addiction to pretend he liked the same parts in books that she did. How dare you use a love of books as your weapon of choice, you cowardly, despicable, pathetic excuse for a human being!!

Meanwhile, Alex has been shamed by pretty much the whole community and sadly he’s internalised the seriously bad vibes. Now a lone wolf with a bad boy reputation, he thinks he deserves everything bad that comes his way yet aches to be granted a scholarship to study engineering at a college somewhere far away from the town that’s tarred him without knowing a thing about him personally. Come on, townsfolk with the pitchforks at the ready, he’s Birdie’s grandson! You know! The one who bakes brownies? How bad can he be?!

Anyway, after knowing her humiliating heartbreak made its way to internet land, Cat is feeling pretty darn sorry for herself. She’s even got the creative writing piece where the guy gets massacred by killer ants to prove it. Our Cat is a wannabe journalist on her way to fame via Oprah’s book club. So mid-massacre, who should hop over the fence but the boy with the smouldering good looks and muscles that define any item of clothing he wears, Alex. And he brings brownies that Birdie made. (Open your eyes, Cat! He’s the one!)

Cat comes up with the perfect solution to get the attention off her ugly cry heartbreak video. Why doesn’t she pretend to have a new boyfriend? Why doesn’t she choose our so hot that you could barbeque your dinner on his muscles (did we mention his clothes look wonderful draped over them?) Alex, who kinda has a thing for Cat but of course he’s not good enough for her so she can’t be ‘his’. [Ugh, men thinking of women as property.]

Throw in Cat’s take-no-crap best friend with green hair (Nikki), scary senior editor of the school paper (Mackenzie), doofus heartbreaker rubbing it in with Cat’s ex-friend (Isabel), a liberal sprinkling of adult drama, bucketloads of internal dialogue, angst-a-plenty and a serious amount of baggage following our fake couple wherever they go. What could go wrong?

Favourite sentence:

“Wow, you look like boiled crap.”

Favourite character: Birdie, brownie baker and all round sweetie.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing: Teen Crush for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

How to get over a heartbreak:

Step one: Eat your body weight in brownies.

Step two: Throw yourself into your dreams of becoming a famous writer. 

Step three: Beg your (hottie) ex-neighbour to act as your fake boyfriend. 

Step four: Skip step three unless you’re ready for some serious fallout.

After being dumped and humiliated over the summer, Cat Turner does what any sane girl would do. She asks bad boy Alex Locke to be her fake boyfriend and show the world (and her editor at the school newspaper) that she’s fine. Problem is, the more time she spends with Alex, the more she risks getting her heart broken. For real this time. 

Boyfriend Chronicles #3: Boomerang Boyfriend – Chris Cannon

Horror story of the month in only one sentence … I voluntarily read a romance novel. Would someone please alert a paramedic?

Delia: I have no idea what’s going on with Aiden. Never again will I kiss a boy first. Now he’s being all weird and mysterious. I think I need to move on and find a new boy. Not that I need a male in my life to make it complete or anything. Maybe if I paint some more it’ll help. Ugh! There’s Zoe’s brother, Jack. Why is he always such a jerk?

Jack: Ever since Dad and Grandpa died in the accident I’ve been the only male in the house. Sure, I go to Trevor’s place a lot. Rocky is a great dog and he likes it when I sneak him bits of pepperoni off my pizza, even though Trevor’s mother said not to. I like being at Trevor’s place but it can’t make up for Dad and Grandpa being gone. Sometimes I feel so alone. It doesn’t help that my younger sister Zoe and Delia, her annoying best friend, are always giggling in the kitchen at home. Doesn’t Delia have a home to go to?

Delia: I really should get a job. Mum and Dad don’t have any money to spare and it’s not fair to expect them to pay for my art supplies. It’s interesting that Mum and Dad have always had money troubles and because a few things broke recently they’re sort of having to budget to afford decent groceries yet I have my own truck. Hmm … Anyway … Guess what, Zoe? I just got a job as the new Pie Princess at Betty’s Burgers. Isn’t that so exciting? That’s where Jack the Jerk works. Let’s not tell him I got the job and surprise him. That’ll be fun.

Jack: What? First she takes over my home and now I can’t escape her at work either?

Delia: Ah, art class. Nothing beats it. What do you mean another class is joining ours because their teacher went on maternity leave early?!

Jack: What? Now I can’t escape her during art class either?

Delia: I don’t want to have to draw Jack’s portrait. Hey! When did Jack get so cute?! No, wait. I can’t think about him like that. He’s like an older brother.

Jack: And now I have to draw her too … Hey! When did Delia become pretty?! No, wait. I can’t think about her like that. She’s like a little sister.

Delia: I’m so confused.

Jack: I’m so confused.

I’m so confused. I’m way outside of my comfort zone here. I’m more of a horror girl and usually avoid romances like they’re diseased. I’m much more comfy reading about people getting chopped to bits than getting kissed. That’s why I can’t believe I’m going to say this but I quite enjoyed this book. It would make a good holiday read, incorporating Thanksgiving and the lead up to Christmas. My main pet peeve, but this seems to be a fairly universal romance novel annoyance, is people trying to keep their relationship a secret and forgetting how to communicate.

Boomerang Boyfriend contains plenty of sweet and lovely bits. There’s plenty of introspection and just enough tragedy and heartache in everyone’s life (think death, grief and addiction) that ensures the romance isn’t all consuming, until near the end when I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room.

I loved that Delia stumbled upon some of her quirkiness out of necessity but then made it her own when she discovered a passion, and I enjoyed her snarky side. But girl, seriously? You don’t need to ask a boy’s permission to go out with a friend on a Friday night. Grr! And playing little word games like you don’t understand what he’s saying so he’ll kiss you? I may have just vomited in my mouth a little. Oh, and I’m so mad at her for ditching her friend date with Aiden when she knew how important it was to him after she’d already promised him she’d go.

OK, so maybe I’m more cranky with Delia than loving her but at least Chris Cannon made me care about her protagonists before I wanted to hit them over the head for annoying me. And Jack, jealous much? You and Delia only kissed for the first time, what, maybe four days ago and you’ve got your cranky pants on over her sitting with a boy at lunch she’s sat with for, let me think, the entire book? Not cool, Jack the Jerk.

I was really liking both Delia and Jack, even when they first started kissing. Then they started questioning their relationship and their stupid started showing. Is there something in ‘How to Write a Romance’ that says your protagonists’ brain cells must fall out of their ears each time they kiss? Moving on!

I adored Zoe and Jack’s grandma and wanted to hang out with her. I wanted to pull up a chair in the kitchen and chat with Zoe while she baked, and of course be her quality control test dummy for all of the yummies that came out of the oven. I definitely wanted to go to Betty’s Burgers for dinner, or maybe just dessert. Plus there are two adorable dogs in the story, Rocky and Buddy, who steal the limelight with their innate cuteness.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but I’m actually interested in reading more of Chris Cannon’s Boyfriend Chronicles series. I just hope for my Kindle’s sake that the main characters don’t halve their IQ’s once their relationship commences. Seriously, has anyone got a thermometer? Oh, yay! She also writes paranormal novels!

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing, LLC’s Teen Crush imprint, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Working with her best friend’s brother at Betty’s Burgers, free-spirited Delia starts to see Jack in a new light. Not only has Jack-the-Jerk turned into a hottie, he’s even acting like a nice guy, who rescues dogs and knows how she likes her coffee. But if Jack is into her, then why is he keeping her a secret? Of course, if her best friend doesn’t approve, Delia could lose the only family she’s ever known.

Seeing Delia in her retro waitress uniform throws Jack’s world out of whack. She’s always been just another pain in the butt little sister … not a datable female. But she’s rockin’ the Pie Princess tiara, and even her hot-pink striped hair is sexy. What’s that about? He needs to get his head on straight, because artsy, funky Delia and her nonconformist ways don’t fit in his safe and ordered world.