Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.
Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .
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America's Next Reality Star
Reality Star Series
By Laura Heffernan
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Laura Heffernan
All rights reserved.
DO YOU WANT TO WIN $250,000? ARE YOU OUTGOING, VIVACIOUS, AND ENGAGING? DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE RIGHT? DO YOU LOVE PUZZLES AND TRIVIA? DO YOU USUALLY FIND YOURSELF SURROUNDED BY LESS INTELLIGENT PEOPLE? WE'RE LOOKING FOR SMART, SPUNKY 21 TO 25-YEAR-OLDS, FOR AN EXCITING NEW REALITY COMPETITION FILMING THIS SUMMER! E-MAIL STEPHANIE WITH YOUR NAME, AGE, 2-4 PICS, AND A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF FOR MORE INFORMATION.
I huddled at my desk, wrapping a blanket over my hoodie. Maybe one day management would trust employees to turn the heat above sixty degrees. Until that glorious day, I held my caffeine molecule-painted mug close to my body, futilely trying to gain warmth from the steam pouring off the top. The coffee tasted like pencil shavings and feet; drinking it wasn't an option.
With my right hand, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, scanning the jokes, cartoons, and mindless banter. It was against the rules, but everyone did it. "Marketing assistant" apparently was code for "exhausting bursts of activity punctuated with lots of sitting around." The irony wasn't lost on me. After working insanely long days all week to include last-minute changes on a major project, I appreciated a few hours' break while my boss reviewed it. The craziness would start again soon enough. I turned up the volume on my computer to project my music over the howling November storm. My toes tapped the linoleum floor.
A message popped up at the bottom of my screen, informing me of a new email. I hit alt-tab to switch programs, expecting the feedback I needed before starting my workday.
No such luck.
It was Seattle General Hospital's billing department. "Dear Ms. Reid, Thank you for your payment ..."
Silently, I cursed them for the reminder.
If only the debt could be erased with the same easy click that sent the message to trash. I'd been in perfect health during my high school and college years. So, naturally, my ankle broke a week before my insurance with McCain & Webster kicked in while showing off my impression of Miley Cyrus's latest MTV Music Awards performance. When I slipped on the wet grass and fell, they'd laughed until my tears started. No one realized the fall wasn't part of the act.
Despite my efforts to tough it out ("Unless the bone sticks through the skin, it's fine!"), my boyfriend had dragged me to an Urgent Care facility. Dominic swore it would be affordable. He was half-right: urgent care might have been cheaper than an ER, but the necessary surgery to reset the bone cost a lot. My eyes crossed at the first bill. With my salary, this stupid thing would haunt me until my unborn kids graduated high school. To add insult to (literal) injury, I couldn't figure out how to turn off the automatic e-mails they sent every month.
I peeked at the empty desk behind me. My officemate would've told me to pretend to work until I got my next assignment. However, he'd left to bond with his newborn daughter. For the next eleven weeks, three days, our tiny office belonged solely to me. I'd been freed from Pete's obnoxious laughter, disapproving looks, and fried fish lunches. With my hall monitor gone and nothing work-related to do for the moment, I checked the bankruptcy qualifications — again — before clicking back to Facebook.
Wait a minute. What was that?
An old college drama professor posted an ad that caught my eye.
A reality show designed for smart people? How intriguing.
Voices buzzed outside my closed door. I glanced nervously over one shoulder. Being located next to the kitchen had its perks, but sometimes I couldn't tell if people were about to burst in on me or just picked an unfortunate spot to gossip.
After deciding my coworkers had gathered to make an early lunch, I read the description again.
DO YOU WANT TO WIN $250,000?
It sure beat filing for bankruptcy. There would probably be enough left to go back to school and get a degree in something more interesting. Or maybe put a down payment on a place bigger than a shoebox.
ARE YOU OUTGOING, VIVACIOUS, AND ENGAGING?
Well, I liked to think so. All through grade school, I took it upon myself to reach out to new students and make them feel welcome. Now, I hosted parties to celebrate big and small holidays. And I had no problem striking up conversations with random people on the Metro.
DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE RIGHT?
Hmm. I didn't have to be right, but I frequently was. I happened to have a good memory. Being able to repeat anything I'd heard came in handy during trivia, mostly. And basement bar debates. Maybe I'd found another use for it.
DO YOU LOVE PUZZLES AND TRIVIA?
Did owning four themed copies of Trivial Pursuit or spending Metro rides playing Pic-a-Pix and Hashi on my phone count?
DO YOU USUALLY FIND YOURSELF SURROUNDED BY LESS INTELLIGENT PEOPLE?
I didn't judge other people. But, I competed on the math and science teams in high school. Some people (those who'd met me) would've said I was kind of a geek. I hoped the show considered that a bonus, since it did nothing for my social life. I didn't go on a single date until my junior year of college.
WE'RE LOOKING FOR SMART, SPUNKY 21 TO 25-YEAR-OLDS.
I was a twenty-one to twenty-five-year-old. Twenty-three, to be exact, turning twenty-four in a few weeks.
As I read through the ad yet again, the little voice in the back of my head piped up. You should do this, it said. E-mail them.
What? That was silly. I wasn't an actress — marketing and academics were my bag.
The little voice spoke again. I did love puzzles. I was good at them. The money would be extremely useful. Plus, I couldn't remember my last vacation.
My boyfriend worked as a traveling nurse, which made him less-than-enthusiastic about taking trips with me when he wasn't away on an assignment. I understood. Still, it would be nice to get away, even on my own. What was the time commitment for something like this?
I needed more information before making a decision.
Before I could chicken out, my fingers opened a new e-mail and began to type as if of their own accord.
My name is Jennifer Reid, and I'm writing to request more information about your puzzle-based reality show. It sounds like something right up my alley. I'm 23 years old. I live in beautiful Seattle, Washington. It's important to me to live life to the fullest and to grab opportunities when they present themselves.
Since I was a little girl, I've loved puzzles. I chose a career in marketing because I like figuring out what the consumer wants and how to give it to them.
Can you send me more information about the show and when you're looking for someone? Thank you for your time.
Best, Jennifer Reid
Next step, pictures. Which ones to attach? Something showing my face, obviously. But also something fun.
Thanks to the Internet, essentially every picture of me taken over the past six years sat at my fingertips. Thanks to my older brother, Adam, some older and more embarrassing pictures were also there. I bypassed those. The casting director didn't need to see me, at ten, with chocolate cake smeared across my face or four-year-old me waving a cape as I pranced around in Wonder Woman panties, a pink tiara atop blond hair that hadn't yet darkened with age. Thanks, Adam. Twelve-year-old Jen's first attempts at wearing makeup also didn't need to be shared with the world. What had made me think purple eye shadow smeared up to my forehead brought out my blue eyes?
Thanks, Adam, for posting my diving meet pictures where anyone can see them.
It only took a few minutes to find what I wanted. A few years ago, my friends and I went bungee jumping. Someone under the bridge snapped each of us as we took the plunge. My picture showed me falling through the air, head tilted back, arms spread, pure joy on my face.
I had no idea how they caught that expression. I'd been terrified, thought I was going to pee my pants. My breakfast had climbed into my throat, and I'd tamped it down using sheer willpower.
There must be a split second of bliss a person experiences between "Oh, please God, I don't want to die!" and "Why am I doing this?" They happened to click the picture at exactly the right time.
Another great one showed the mess I created trying to cook Dominic dinner for his twenty-fifth birthday (before ordering birthday takeout), but the image focused on the burnt paella, not me. Then I found the perfect shot. While on a trip to New York City, I'd found a sign reading, "This is a library. Quite, please!" My head tilted toward the sign, mouth twisted into a grimace. One hand underlined the word "quite."
I attached it to the e-mail, along with the bungee picture and a regular close-up. Before stopping to consider any potential consequences of my actions, I took a deep breath and hit "send."
* * *
A few hours later, my keys jingled as I struggled to unlock my front door. Rainwater dripped from shopping bags balanced on one raised knee. My purse dug into my armpit as I pushed against my apartment door. It stuck. Again. I braced myself against the jamb. One good shove usually did the trick.
My phone, cradled between my chin and shoulder, beeped, startling me. Bags, purse, and umbrella crashed to the floor. An orange rolled out of one bag and down the hall.
As I scrambled to pick everything up, the door swung open. I tensed for a second before my boyfriend's voice sounded from the doorway.
"Oops. So ... you got my text?" He crouched beside me and gathered bags.
"Only if it said, 'Hey! Drop everything!'"
As always, seeing Dominic brought a smile to my face. Although we still crouched in the hallway, I leaned over and kissed him.
When we separated, garlic and basil scents wafted by my nose.
Dominic stood and pushed his wavy black hair out of his face with one hand. "Actually, it said, 'When are you going to be home? I have a surprise for you.'"
A grin stretched across my face. He knew how I loved surprises. "You know, you're not supposed to use your key to jump out and scare me."
"What? That's half the fun." His hands now full of my stuff, Dominic stepped through the door, holding it open as he nodded toward the interior. "After you, gorgeous."
As soon as I entered my four-hundred-square-foot apartment, I spotted the surprise. Freshly baked garlic bread steamed on the two-person wooden table, next to a tossed Caesar salad and spaghetti with homemade meatballs. My mouth watered.
I popped on to my toes and planted a kiss on his cheek. "You are the best boyfriend ever."
"I know. I'm having a T-shirt made."
Dominic's lips hovered over mine. My arms wrapped around his neck, and I rose up to meet him before allowing myself to sink into the kiss. After a moment, he picked me up and spun me on to the kitchen counter. My legs wrapped around his waist as his hands cupped my face.
God, I loved him.
We'd met my last year in college, when he was a graduate student. I'd been attracted to his rugged good looks and liked that he wasn't clingy or demanding. We had fun together, but he didn't complain when I worked overtime or spent time with my girlfriends. A year later, I'd already caught myself looking at engagement rings.
Er ... just the one time, though. We had plenty of time for that later.
Dominic's hand found the clasp to my bra — we hadn't seen each other in more than a week. However, my body interrupted the kiss by emitting a sound that was less a growl of hunger and more the howl of a wild animal being murdered. Dominic pulled back, gave me one last kiss, then set me on to the floor.
I gazed at the tiles, hoping he didn't see the mortification on my face. "Sorry. I took an early lunch."
"Don't be sorry." With a sweeping bow, he indicated the table. "Your feast awaits."
A piece of garlic bread disappeared into my mouth as I sat, surveying the table. "This looks amazing! Thank you!"
"You're welcome." A slow, lazy smile spread across his face. My stomach flip-flopped. "You've been working so hard, I figured you probably weren't eating right."
I speared a meatball with my fork. "You're a smart man. It's been mostly canned tuna or Lunchables in my office at ten PM."
Dominic shuddered. "Lunchables?"
"Eight days in a row. Luckily, I get a few days' reprieve before it picks up again."
"Ew. You poor thing. Well, I brought a ton of food and Tupperware, so you're set for at least a week."
Reaching across the table, I took his hand in mine and squeezed. My skin tingled at the contact. "Thank you. That helps a lot."
We didn't talk about it, but Dominic knew I couldn't afford to eat well. The fact that he'd gone out of his way to make me lunch for several days sent butterflies fluttering in my belly.
"You're welcome, babe. Next time things get crazy, promise you'll call me so I can bring you a real meal? Or have one delivered so I don't interrupt you?"
Cheesy-noodle-and-marinara-saucy-goodness glued my mouth shut, so I nodded. His twinkling brown eyes captured mine. A spark of lust sent my thoughts away from dinner and on to a more interesting path. Dominic's dilating pupils told me his thoughts followed the same route. I chewed faster as a familiar thrill of anticipation spread through my body.
Dominic's hand wrapped around mine. I pushed the plate away and stood. Our lips met. We didn't quite make it to the bedroom.
The reminder that I had a good thing with Dominic in Seattle pushed my reality show application out of my mind. There were other ways to make extra cash. I arrived at work the next morning dreaming about the next step in our relationship. We'd been dating for over a year, and he'd had a key to my apartment for months. I'd have his, too, as soon as I figured out where it had disappeared to, hours after he'd given it to me.
Lost in thought, I walked to my desk and opened my e-mail. A new message appeared from someone named Stephanie Long. Who? I didn't know anyone named Stephanie.
Subject: Re: Casting call.
Oh. My. God.
My heart beat faster.
Thank you so much for your interest in our new series. The Fishbowl is a fast-paced reality show with physical and mental challenges to push the contestants on every level. What makes this different from other shows is that viewers vote on aspects of the game. With things always changing, you'll never know what to expect!
Filming will start at the beginning of June. We estimate that contestants could be on the show as few as a couple of days or as long as ten weeks.
Our team is interviewing applicants across the country now. We'll be in Seattle next week and would love to meet you. Please call my assistant at 323-555-1258 to set up an interview.
The viewers would tell us what to do? On live television? Huh. What if they made us eat bugs? I'd have to ask the interviewer. But otherwise — up to three months in LA? New people and new experiences? It sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure I could afford to take that much time away from work. Or my boyfriend.
On the other hand, it would be fun to surprise Dominic if I made the show. And our relationship had never been stronger. We could handle time apart. Between my overtime and his traveling to care for patients, we didn't exactly hang out every day.
Hey, honey, your girlfriend's going to win loads of money on a reality show so we can buy a house ...
I reached to call Stephanie's assistant practically before I finished reading.
* * *
On Wednesday morning, I showed up at the address they'd given me. Peeling paint, boarded up windows, and several "Space for Rent" signs against a backdrop of drizzle and gray morning light welcomed me. Trash spilled out of the can next to the front door. A rat scurried away down an alley. It seemed odd to think my fate might lie within this dilapidated building.
Sure, Jen, lots of women's fates lie in old, run-down buildings. But is that the way you want to go?
I double-checked the address on my phone. Google informed me I stood in the right spot. As I hesitated, remembering that guy who picked up women on Craigslist and murdered them, the front door opened. A girl about my age walked out wearing red tights and a blue shirt that didn't look as much like a dress as she must've thought. Sunglasses covered the top half of her face, so I couldn't tell if she noticed me as she tottered past on five inch turquoise heels, chatting on her phone.
Excerpted from America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan. Copyright © 2017 Laura Heffernan. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Laura Heffernan brings readers laughs and romance in this shining debut. America's Next Reality Star takes you inside the fishbowl as a group of randomly selected strangers competes for $250,000. Jen Reid is enduring the life of a marketing professional until everything comes crashing down around her. She has to find another place to live, she finds out her serious boyfriend is married, and finally, she loses her job. Just when she needed it, the position on a puzzle-based reality show that she auditioned for comes through. Now Jen has to compete against 11 other contestants in battles of brain and brawn to earn viewer votes and avoid elimination. America's Next Reality Star has a brilliant concept excellently executed. The characters are realistic and the competitions fun and exciting. Between the drama and games, I'm surprised we're able to get a well-rounded romance out of this story. Justin, a fellow contestant, and Jen strike up a friendship during the auditions that grows well beyond the limits of the show. It's hard to have a romance with millions of people watching your every move, but somehow it's a piece of cake to steal memorable moments. I felt like I was getting a backstage view of an MTV reality show. We even get inside the head of secondary characters as they talk about who they want to vote off the show, or how they feel about the games they have to participate in. There's no shortage of drama as Jen deals with clashing personalities and fierce competitors. This series starter is a definite for a fun and entertaining read. I haven't read anything like it thus far and I'm excited to catch the following novel, Sweet Reality! *ARC provided in consideration for an honest review*
You don't have to be a fan of reality shows to adore America's Next Reality Star. Witty, fast-paced, and loads of fun, Laura Heffernan kept me turning pages with cheeky banter, romantic tension, and a cast of characters whose antics had me both cringing and cracking up. The teaser for Sweet Reality promises even more fun and games in Book 2. I can't wait to read it!
Jen is jobless, homeless and newly single, but despite that she’s going to have an amazing summer, because she’s going to spend it on national TV. Jen likes the reality show Fishbowl because there are a lot of puzzles in addition to other tasks. The grand prize is $250, 000, which would be very useful for her. When Jen and other contestants arrive at the Fishbowl set, it all gets real, there are people in whom she can find good friends and people, who want her off the show as fast as possible. Will Jen win the show and get the amazing grand prize? I’ve never read a book about a reality show and therefore it was such a unique story. I really enjoyed Jen’s journey from the casting until the end of the show. I liked that there was such a colorful cast of characters and enough tension, drama and romance, but not over the top silliness that can be found in reality shows on TV. I also liked the fact that there were a lot of mental and physical challenges and the plot was not wholly built on the relationship between the characters. While reading the book I thought I knew what the ending might be, but it totally surprised me in a good way. All in all I found the book entertaining, well written and a pleasure to read.
Reality TV in a book? What a great concept… I felt like a binged watch an entire season of The Fishbowl. I have to say first the concept of the fish bowl house with all glass wall and such is totally amazing. The description that Jen gave of the kitchen sounded so cool. I am not sure what I thought of the couch tree though. I could totally get on board with Jen. I loved her naiveté with men, her acknowledging her inner nerd and that she tries to be a good person. Jen is the all-American girl next door. I would so be calling in and voting for her, even with all the bad press on the outside of the Fishbowl. Justin is a law student from Florida. He is nice, athletic, smart and a little competitive. He is also so polite and such a gentlemen. Jen and Justin make a cute couple. They really need to get over the trust issues that they each seem to have. Then there is Ariana, wow, what do I say about her? Scheming, lying, cheating, jerk, well those are some options. I am sure there are more of the same but you should just read it yourself so you can dislike her too. The concept of the book was great, I loved the story. It kind of gave you this look into the hidden side of reality television. I can’t imagine putting myself or my family through all that drama. However, everyone has their own thing. Oh and that ending was so great. Right out of the fairy tales. I love happy endings. My rating is 5 stars. I loved this book. Thank you, Ms. Heffernan, for bringing reality tv to books. It is much more fun to read about it than I thought it would be. I personally don’t watch reality tv anymore but this book is awesome. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series, Sweet Reality. This is a Guest Review for Baroness’ Book Trove. Thank you for the opportunity to review this book for your site. ~Jen
Do yourself a favor and sit down right now and read "America's Next Reality Star." Even if you are not a fan of reality shows (I am not), you are going to love this book. About 10 pages in, I was happily lost in the characters and the plotline, trying to guess what would happen next but happy to just go with whatever Laura Heffernan had created in this alternate reality world inside a glass fishbowl. I loved every minute I was between her pages. Her characters are well thought out and developed, three dimensional and very human. Her plot had enough turns to keep me guessing to the very end. And while I am not a fan of reality shows, I didn't need to be to find this novel thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Heffernan obviously spent time developing her reality show concept, her characters and the plot so that her readers would not just be rehashing something they had seen on TV multiple times before. Her originality and fresh concept come through on every page. This is a winner.
I really enjoyed this book. I'm a fan of certain reality shows (fashion designers, chefs, tattoo artists) and I watched the first 6 or 7 seasons of "Survivor." The reality show most similar to the one portrayed in this book is "Big Brother," which I have never watched. I thought the rules, challenges, and concept for the fictional "Fishbowl" reality show were very believable. The author might just have a brilliant career in reality show production to fall back on if she ever tires of writing. I think the book's mix of characters/contestants was also great. Every reality show has the contestants you root for and the ones you hate. After many years of these shows, we all know that some contestants choose to play a part rather than be themselves. Heffernan nailed it all. The female heroine, Jennifer, is a smart girl experiencing a streak of bad luck. The desperation that leads her to audition for the show is believable. While not strictly a romance novel, the potential romance between Jen and a fellow contestant is a large part of the story, so that appealed to me as well. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Ha! This did not end how I expected it to! It was a really fun and intriguing read, while also being pretty light and quick. About the first half of this sets up who our heroine is, where she is in her life (and how she finds herself free, in all ways, to go on the reality show), and the process she goes through to get on the show to begin with. This gave some great background for everything and fleshed things out well. Jen, our heroine, was the perfect personality to be seeing everything through. She was sweet but feisty and would have definitely been a favorite "Fish" of mine were I watching "The Fishbowl". And this really did feel like I was watching a reality TV show - in the best way. Everything was so vivid, it was like being behind the scenes on a set (in a weird glass-walled house). The drama and angst were perfectly balanced with the comraderie, and the little twists and turns added a great amount of "spice." The first third chronicling what Jen was going through and the entire casting process was good build-up for the show too. The only real critique I have of this is that the ending, from about 90% on, felt rushed and left me wanting more, in a slightly unsatisfied way. I could have done with less of the first half if it meant getting more meat in the last half. There is an epilogue of news articles that fill the reader in on who wins the grand prize and how that comes about, but a little more fleshing out would have really finished this off on the highest of notes. All in all, this was exactly what I had hoped from reading the blurb! It had some great characters, heart, and more than a few laughs!
I love this book! Jen is such a sweet character. I fell in love with her almost immediately; she's so relatable! And Justin? Swoon. New book boyfriend material right there. I also enjoyed all the unique twists Laura came up with for the reality show. The games were fun and unusual, not your usual TV fare. The secondary characters were well-developed, and (spoiler) there's a perfect villain. All in all, this is an excellent read. I can't wait to see what Laura comes up with for book 2!
Review can also be found in chillandreadblog.wordpress.com So Jennifer had it all thought through. She had a job, a boyfriend and a lot of depth. Well, that last one she tried not to think of a lot, but she did her best to deal with the payments. All that until she finds out that her boyfriend is a cheater. Not only that, but she gets fired, and she also has to evacuate her apartment in a few months. Her whole world comes to ashes in a couple of days. Thankfully, she gets chosen for a reality show with a $250,000 prize to run through the summer. At least she has something to do until she gets it all sorted out. In the show she gets to know many people that vary from good and intelligent to stupid and mean. Pretty much what people can find in most reality shows. She doesn’t give up as she has a target: to pay her bills and restore her life. What she didn’t expect was to find love, or what it looked like love. The author gives a glimpse of life in the real life and life in a reality show, pretty much as we can see every day. The characters she created are not far from real life characters and are those or some of those we would expect to find in a reality show. She has done a great job on that part. The content of the show is pretty nice too. It could be a real show, no argue on that. The descriptions and narrative create vivid images, that put the reader into the viewer’s position, as if the show was on TV instead of a book!
Cute, fun, exactly what I was hoping for when I picked up America's Next Reality Star. Jen is charming, and the inevitable misunderstandings are completely understandable. Heffernan keeps us on our toes wondering whether it's showmance or romance. The addition of the reality-show dynamics provides a great ensemble. I found myself just as engaged in the outcome of the show and the lives of the other "Fish" [housemates] as I was in Jen's story. Not the ending I expected, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.
Romance is not my usual genre, nor do I watch many reality shows, but I was looking for a lighter read as an escape. This book hit the spot! It took me a couple of tries before I got hooked, but then I would look forward to anytime I had free for reading, and it became a page-turner. I was surprised how quickly it was over--I'm not generally a fast reader! Overall it was a very fun and light read, and when it ended I couldn't wait to find out what happens next! Thankfully, I hear there will be more books from Ms. Heffernan, so I'll be able to satisfy my curiosity soon! Yay! Note: I received a free advance copy of this book.
This was fantastically written with an eye towards a really interesting genre (reality shows).... you're immediately engaged with the narrator, and with her interpersonal struggles/successes. The sexy nerd protagonist is immediately likable and relatable,... you really root for her in the game (and in her love life) the whole way through. Villains are villainous, love interests are lovable... but the book remains fun and light. I really liked the openings to each chapter - they're fun and set the tone for what you're about to read. This was a fun read and I look forward to more great books from Laura Heffernan in the future! Note: I received a free book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Jen feels like her life is not what she wants it to be, so when she sees an advertisement for a reality show for people who love puzzles, she is intrigued. The prize money would help her to pay off her medical debts as well as the competition would stimulate her mind. Taking a chance, she fills out an application, yet is surprised when she is asked to interview. Jen has to decide what she wants more, her safe boring life, or a chance at the unknown. I loved the Chasing the Dream series by Briggs which also dealt with different characters in reality show premises, so I was excited to get my hands on this book to see if I could get my fill of reality drama (which is surprising that I like to read these kinds of books since I usually avoid watching reality tv shows, minus my obsession with America's Next Top Model, but let'd not talk about that). I found the story to be instantly engaging, I fell into the book within the first chapter and I rooted for Jen. I went into the story with no expectations and I really enjoyed the read. Man, that girl had a LOT thrown at her in a short period of time. I also enjoyed the process of attempting to get on to the reality show, the hoops she had to jump through like personality test, IQ test, and video, as well as the strange questionnaires (shrubs???) that she had to fill out, the boring downtime and chores in the house. It put a new spin on the behind the stage process of reality TV. The challenges were quirky and interesting and the elimination kept me on my toes- seriously, nobody was safe and I loved that. I rooted for Jen, but there was no guarantee that she would win, which was half the fun. There was also a romance aspect of the book, where Jen had to determine if she wanted to fight for love or fight for money, a hard questions when everyone's motives were in question. Overall I thought this was a super fun story and I am glad I had a chance to read it. I had assumed this was a standalone novel, but when I got to the end I saw that this is the first in a reality show themed series and I can't wait for the next installment. This is my first book by this author, but it won't be my last. I received this title in return for my honest review.
I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed the story with the way it was written. Basically as a script for the reality show. I liked the central characters of Jen & Justin. Grew to hate Ariana & Joshua. I have to admit watching reality shows is a guilty pleasure of mine. If you are a fan of these types of shows you will enjoy the look into that world by Ms Heffernan. “I received a free, advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.”