Perfect Betrayal by Season Vining

Perfect Betrayal
Title: Perfect Betrayal
Author: Season Vining
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: August 18, 2015

To the outside world, Taylor Hudson has it all: beauty, money and social status. But Taylor’s privileged life is far lonelier than it appears.

Levi is the inside man on a job to steal fifteen million dollars from one of the town’s wealthiest families, putting him on a crash course with Taylor. Neither of them believe in love, but lust. . . that’s undeniable.

Now they’re locked in a wicked game of seduction and it’s unclear who is playing who. But neither of them expected the affair to lead to the deepest connection they’ve ever experienced. Because beneath Taylor’s perfect exterior lies a need for love that mirrors Levi’s own. 

As the heist approaches, how can Levi protect Taylor from the truth?  

Is he willing to give up everything to save the one girl who’s made him want to be a better man?

I know I say this a lot, but I REALLY did not expect like this book so much. But I did. I really did. So... a little back story. I know I've talked about this (a lot) too, but I've come to find out that a huge number of New Adult book follow a formula these days - you know - two ridiculously hot main characters (plus points if the guy is all tattooed and just screams bad boy), lots and lots of sex, off-the-charts chemistry... and an earth-shattering secret that will pull them apart (for a while). I'm sure you guys know what I'm talking about. And sometimes, the predictability of it all gets boring. REALLY boring. Never mind that the writing is sharp or the characters intriguing - sometimes you just want MORE from the story, you know? Well, actually, the main reason why I immediately give Perfect Betrayal a shot is because there seems to be a REAL plot - a real story - in this one, and praise the heavens, there actually IS!

Our main character, Levi, is in on a con to rob one of the wealthiest man in town of fifteen million dollars, and to do just that, he needs to work on the inside. He gets a job working maintainance for the Hudsons, and the (inside) job seemed simple enough - do recon, figure out where the safe is, tell The Boss where it is, get the money, and get out. He however never counted on Taylor Hudson to pose a distraction from what he's really trying to do inside the house. Off the bat, the attraction is palpable between Levi and Taylor. They do eventually give in to it... but they never expected feelings to come into play.

I really liked the slow burn of the whole 'will we? or won't we?' between Levi and Taylor. It was never love at first sight, but little by little, they stop fighting the attraction. While it wasn't long (but longer than two chapters, thank you very much) before they hook up, it took them longer to willingly start to get to know each other... and for there to be something more. Their relationship was a careful mixture of subtle and strong - the physical attraction was always apparent, always there, but the little things - the need to see each other, the need to always be with each other, took a while to play out. For me, this was what made what is going on between Levi and Taylor believable, and part of what had me hooked to the story.

As I've mentioned earlier, Taylor is introduced as your quintessential I-have-it-all rich girl, and she wasn't necessarily the most likeable of characters. I did like that she never pretended to be someone she wasn't though - she had people she liked, and she had people she couldn't care less about. She wasn't going to pretend otherwise. She wasn't your perfect, innocent girl - she has her own problems and issues, and she made it clear countless times that she will do all that she can to get what she wants. I did like that her character development had more to do with her own realizations than with Levi. While it was Levi who made her look at life differently, Taylor was the one who reconstructed herself - the one who put together a Taylor that she herself could wholeheartedly get behind.

From the first page, I was with Levi all the way. Never mind that he's technically about to commit a a crime; never mind that pursuing a relationship with the daughter of the man he's going to rob blind is just a disaster waiting to happen. Most of all... never mind that while he does end up feeling guilty about the heist, it has everything to do with how it will affect Taylor and nothing about the crime itself. There was never any meticulous exploration of Levi's past - we get a little stories here and there about his mother and father, and we gather enough to know that he just wants to be something... more. That's what he'll use the money for. I can't quite explain why (and I won't even try) I ended up liking Levi - all I know is that I want him to succeed. Something about him just tugged at my heartstrings, and that was it for me.

As I've mentioned earlier, I like that Perfect Betrayal has more of a plot in it than just Levi and Taylor's love story. We have the heist and everything that comes with it in every nook and cranny of the story - the careful planning, the fear that everything will all come crashing down over all their heads, the disappointment when not everything goes their way, and of course, the doubts. We were also made privy to so many relationships other than Levi and Taylor's - amongst others, there was the relationship between Taylor and Suzanne, the woman who was practically a mother to Taylor, and the relationship between Levi, Crystal, and Kyle - childhood friends and now (literally) partners-in-crime. I like how every aspect of the story fit so perfectly well with each other - there was no aspect that was glossed over.

I don't read that many New Adult books anymore, but I'm glad I gave this one a shot. I liked how Perfect Betrayal was subtle in some aspects of its storytelling, and how it made you read between the lines. While I do feel that the ending was a little rushed, it made me smile and feel a little wistful... and at the end of it all, satisfied.

Rating: 4 Stars

Under the Spotlight by Angie Stanton

Under the Spotlight (The Jamieson Collection #3)
Title: Under the Spotlight
Author: Angie Stanton
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 5, 2015

After an embarrassing stint on a reality-TV music competition years ago, Riley vowed never to sing again. Now she's behind the scenes, working at the prestigious Sound Sync recording studio, and life is looking up. But then Garrett Jamieson, the oldest brother in the famous Jamieson brothers band, crashes into her world.

Garrett has hit rock bottom, and he is desperate to reinvent himself. After calling in a few favors, he ends up working at Sound Sync to learn the ropes of record producing from the industry's best. And he can't believe his luck when he discovers that Riley has been keeping a secret—she is an amazing singer. By producing her album, he's sure to top the record charts again. But Garrett is forced to use every trick in his arsenal to persuade the sassy girl to record.

Riley refuses to sing—or even entertain the thought of it—and sparks fly as Garrett finally meets his match. But in the heat of the moment, one stolen kiss changes everything. Will Riley be the first person to finally rein Garrett in, or will Garrett succeed in getting Riley back under the spotlight?
I can't remember the last time I didn't like a contemporary book this much. I'm usually easy to please - I just need a story that draws me in, and keeps me engaged... and I really thought I was going to get that with this book. I wasn't really expecting a groundbreaking story or anything like that - the blurb sounded fun and cute, and I always like books set in the entertainment world. Why not, right?

A couple of weeks have passed since I read Under the Spotlight, but now that I'm typing up this review, I remember just how disappointed I was in this book. While there was nothing wrong about the general plot line, the actions of the guy MC - Garrett - all throughout the book just left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm flabbergasted at how this particular character didn't grow AT ALL throughout the book - he kept making excuses for his actions (oh poor me I no longer have a career because of my brothers yada yada yada), and he never ever ever listened to the other characters in the book. That's what pissed me off the most.

Okay let me backtrack a bit - Under the Spotlight is the third book in the Jamieson Brothers series (which I had no idea about), and we're introduced (or reintroduced) to Garrett just after his and his brothers' band breaks up due to them (the brothers, not Garrett) realizing that they want other things in life. He's angry, and while he misses his old life, he knows he can't get it back. He's bold enough to acknowledge that he's not vocally strong enough to have a solo career, and decided that he's just going to find music's next big thing and produce the next best record. He pulls some strings (this is so positively irksome, but also a way of life, so let me just go back to my corner), and the best of the best at Sound Sync are eager to show him the ropes and help him learn. Enter Riley - a musical prodigy who refuses to sing again after her disaster of reality music show stint, and Garrett knows that he's found it.

See, in other circumstances, I would have loved Garrett's honesty and his tenacity. He knows he doesn't have the chops to sing solo, but since he wants to remain in the industry, he's open enough to find another door - another career. But I didn't. I really didn't. His attitude grated at me, and everything he did rubbed me the wrong way. I especially hated the way he treated Riley - Riley kept on telling him that no, she DID NOT want to sing again in front of many people, but he REFUSED to listen. He pushed and pushed... and pushed some more. And no, I never got the vibe that he wanted Riley to sing because her voice is the type of voice that should be heard, but rather because Garrett reckons that she is his only shot of making it again in the music industry. He thought about himself, and no one else.

So when he finally convinces Riley to give music another shot, I thought we'd finally start to see Garrett's character grow. He now has someone else to think about, someone who is relying on him, after all... BUT NO. He still continues to manipulate Riley, and he always, always pushes her to do things that she is vocal about not being ready to do. He always says that he knows what he's doing, and that he's only doing all that he is doing for Riley... but come on! He's thinking about no one but himself, and by this time, his character has become unbearable. For lack of a better word, he was a douchebag for three-fourths of the book, and nothing that happened in the end redeemed his character for me.

Riley, the female MC, was an interesting enough character. She has a good head on her shoulders that she's able to fend for herself even with her slacker of a mother, and she's a strong, resilient woman. I really liked the parts wherein she calls out Garrett's lying and manipulating (believe me when I say that Garrett deserves that and SO MUCH MORE), but I have to say that her character was not enough to save the trainwreck that was Garrett Jamieson. Garrett's character swallowed Riley's whole, and right now, I can't even think about what other things about Riley engaged me.

The romance was rushed and forced, if I do say so myself. I don't understand the attraction (because Garrett treated Riley so horribly), and even when Garrett wanted to do something nice for Riley, he managed to mess things up and make everything worse. And you know why this is? Because HE NEVER LISTENED TO RILEY. Never mind that Riley poured her heart out to him... he just didn't listen.

I have never been so frustrated with a character before as I am with Garrett. No character development whatsoever! I understand that he's angry about his band breaking up and he wants to prove his worth to the industry, but I don't know... nothing about him is likeable. Something happens in the last fourth of the book that is supposed to redeem Garrett in our eyes - something that would make us like him or understand him at the very least... but nope. The execution was sloppy and rushed, and I really think that for all the crap that Garrett pulled, he got off the hook too easily. We're just supposed to believe that Garrett has changed all of a sudden, and sorry, but I just don't buy it.

All in all, this book and I didn't get along. I would however recommend it to fans of the Jamieson brothers - I guess one of the reasons why I wasn't invested enough is because I haven't read the first two books in the series, and maybe you guys would like Under the Spotlight better than I did.

Rating: 2 Stars

[Speak Now...] When Life Gets in the Way of Reading

Speak Now (or forever hold your peace) is a new feature here in Defiantly Deviant. Basically, I'll be talking about absolutely anything book-related... and anything under the sun, really!
 When Life Gets in the Way of Reading

It's 2:11 in the morning in my neck of the woods, and in true fashion for someone who spent the whole day sleeping, I'm wide awake. It's not that I'm not tired (because I AM), but when the mind refuses to calm down and instead yearns to do something, you gotta do what you gotta do.

So here I am.

I'm looking through the blog, and I can't help but cringe at the date the last time I wrote a review. More than a month ago.

That's a long time.

And now that I'm actually sitting here and thinking about all of this, I'm trying to think back to the last time I finished reading a book.

I finished one two nights ago, yes, but before that?

It's been a long time.

Life has been... hell lately. I feel like I can only do so much, and I usually go home too tired to function. I can never manage my time well, and it sucks that it's affecting my reading and my blogging.

I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say with this post, so let me throw a question your way - how do you guys make time to read? And blog?

I definitely need all the help I can get.