Taking Shots- by Toni Aleo

Title: Taking Shots

Author: Toni Aleo

Rating:  3/10 (what this means)

Publication: 2011

Recommendation: Sadly, no. Skip this one.

My Reading Method: Kindle Book

From Goodreads:

Elli Fisher has never thought she was good enough. Let it be her job, her weight, her love life, nothing, she was convinced she couldn’t do anything right. She had walked through life for the past six years in a daze, never thinking that life could be good again after the abuse she endured from her ex boyfriend. She is lonely, sad, and depressed, that is until she meets Shea Adler. After doing a promotional shoot for the NHL team, the Nashville Assassins, she meets the hunky hockey player who shoots a puck, shattering her world.

Shea Adler was tired of the life he was living outside of the rink. The girls, the money blowing, the drinking, everything had to stop and it all did when he met Eleanor Fisher. He had never met anyone like her. She is feisty, witty, shy, and simply gorgeous. When he laid eyes on her, it was as if he was taking the hardest hit of his life into the boards, and he had to have her.

Elli is a little skeptical of Shea, but he knows that they were meant to be together, and he needed her in his life. But Elli just doesn’t understand what Shea could see in her. She is overweight, loud, and not even that pretty, so why would someone so gorgeous and so amazing want to be with her? It seemed that no matter how hard she tried to shake Shea off, he wasn’t going anywhere, and for the first time Elli didn’t feel alone.

But could Elli throw her insecurities out the window and love Shea with everything inside of her? Or will she let a past relationship, and her family ruin any chance of her being happy?

Would Elli miss her shot at love?

***WARNING- MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!***

Here’s the deal- I both love and hate writing bad reviews.

I love bad books because they give me so much material to work with. In contrast, when I read something awesome, I have a much harder time explaining why I liked it. Great authors do such an amazing job melding together a story, it’s difficult to pick sections apart because as you’re reading it, you aren’t focusing on tiny details. You’re engrossed. You’re part of the story. But a bad book? You know when you’re reading one almost immediately because it’s impossible to become invested in the story. It’s like a bumpy car ride- you’ll get to the end location but each jarring hit makes you hyper aware that you’re in a car. I usually feel this way when I have little to no connection to the main character and the storyline is so implausible I have zero way to relate.

BUT, that being said, I also hate it just a tiny bit. Someone (the author) has put a lot of time and work into the story. It’s their baby. So basically, when I say a story is bad, I’m telling someone that they have an ugly baby. No one wants to hear that. No one wants to SAY that. However, in the end, if you’re using this review to decide which books to read, I need to clearly define the good from the bad.

However, I feel the need to add that one of my friends freely calls me a book-snob. So, while some things might annoy me, they might not annoy you. Remember- this is my opinion. Additionally, if you are the author and reading this review, this is not a critique on you as a person, but the work you published. And no, I’m also not saying I think I could do a better job.

So- on to Taking Shots:

I really didn’t like this book.

I boarder-line hated it.

(Buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride.)

I normally don’t read books like this because I find that themes relying heavily on the romance factor are boring. BUT, I was initially swayed by the high number of incredibly positive reviews on Goodreads. It is (as of today) scoring a 4.05/5 stars. With that sort of positive feedback and a storyline centered on Tennessee Hockey… yeah, I was totally game. So much potential! (Hello?! Hot Hockey guys!! Yes, please?)

Oh, if only I knew what I was getting myself into.

My first thought- right before spending the $2.99 on Amazon (I’m copy/pasting my post from my Goodreads account): “I’m kind of laughing right now because I sort-of want to read this… and I’m hoping this isn’t some knock-off fan fiction based on SHEA WEBER from the NASHVILLE PREDATORS… hmmm. Connection? Maybe? *Sigh* We shall see…”

I really should have followed my instincts.

Now, I’m speculating… but my gut feeling is that this book started out as some sort of ‘I Love Shea Weber’ fanfic. Seriously. If you look at Toni Aleo’s webpage you will see that she is unabashedly screaming her love for Mr. Weber from the mountaintops. However, because she can’t REALLY write a story about a real-live person she had to change around several of Weber’s characteristics to be publishable.

Shea Weber Adler is the Captain of the Nashville Predators Assassins. He is a 6’4 6’3 defenseman, with brown almost black hair that occasionally does a spikey- thing. Oh yeah, and he’s NUMBER FREAKING 6! (See?? Does this remind you of anyone?!) Maybe… this guy?

Yeah, I thought so.

I also wonder if the real Shea Weber knows about this book. I would pay good money to see him read a section of it aloud. I bet he would blush.

Ok, so Ms. Aleo totally gives him blue eyes, changes his Canadian roots to Boston, and he now has a twin. But otherwise, it’s Shea Weber. Just picture him as you read through the book and feel unnecessarily embarrassed for Real-Shea when the Character-Shea says/does something cheesy/romantic/sappy/sensitive. Or, you know, has a sex scene.

(Only, I can’t feel TOO sorry for Real-Shea. His 2012 salary is $7.5 million. Even aspiring authors can fangirl in the presence of a professional athlete. And hey, Real-Shea is probably used to this sort of thing. In fact, it’s probably amusing on some level.)

Now, while Character-Shea is clearly based on Real-Shea, I didn’t love his character. He wasn’t… realistic. Really, he is written as this perfect guy with zero faults. He’s the Ideal. Plus, he keeps coming back to Elli even when she’s being a jerk (yes, you read that correctly- SHE was being a jerk). I wanted him to grow a pair and stick up for himself. I wanted him to stop throwing himself at Elli’s feet. (I mean, I don’t know about you, but I am very infrequently being pursued by professional athletes. It makes it difficult to believe OR relate to. And I just can’t picture it happening.)  Sure, Character-Shea is sweet, nice, rich, honest, well-spoken, pleasant to be around, considerate, apparently wonderful in bed, loves his family, is nice to his Mom, cute with kids, really hot, and completely in love with the MC… It would have been nice if he had a fault or two or five- other than having a few scars. (I mean, really, what kind of fault is that?) So, while inherently likable, Character-Shea wasn’t convincing as a human being.

Eleanor (Elli) Fisher, our heroine, is no better. I absolutely did not like her at all. She’s a size 10 and don’t we all know it. She goes on and on about being overweight. It’s probably 200 pages in before she even starts to progress past her body issues. Continually she calls herself fat and doesn’t understand how ‘someone like perfect Shea’ could be romantically interested in someone like her. Blah blah blah. I wanted to shake Elli. I wanted to punch her in the face. A size 10 is not fat and I was thoroughly annoyed that she thought so.

Elli is also a photographer. Ok, that’s fine- whatever- but this particular part of the book is written rather poorly. As the daughter of a professional photographer (me) I know that you don’t just do things like have three engagement shoots in one afternoon. (Outside lighting is really only usable for a couple hours AND most of the time people have several wardrobe changes. Even if you’re doing everything in a studio you need the time to prep before each shoot.) Also, she sends her assistants to shoot a wedding so she can cover Shea’s Assassins party. (As a paying customer I would be PISSED if my intended photographer didn’t show up. It would be in the contract. It made Elli appear flaky and unprofessional.) You don’t just goof-off all day-shopping and such- then go shoot a wedding. (Planning to shoot a wedding is also an all-day affair- you don’t JUST take pictures. You have to remember set up, staging, etc. Photos are taken while you get ready, pictures of family members, the wedding party, reception… It’s somewhere around a 6+ hour job.) … Overall, Elli wasn’t believable as a photographer.

I wonder if TA had reliable beta readers…

Or even a photographer friend who could have skimmed the photography parts- because I honestly think that would have helped.

So, what else do we know about Elli? Well, she can be a bully. You know… one of those uber rich people who throw their weight around and threaten the little people. At one point Shea gets hurt and is admitted to the hospital. No one will give Elli information and she threatens the hospital staff with their jobs. I mean, seriously… what a JERK! I HATE people who do this. I don’t care who you are, how much money you have, or how upset you feel, you do not threaten other people for doing their JOB. It is not ok. It makes you a BULLY regardless of the situation. I could forgive Elli for weight issues and incompetent photography practices up until this point, but from this moment on I had zero respect for her.

Again, Elli wasn’t relatable. She has zero self-confidence. She comes from serious money. She dates a pro athlete. She’s wish-washy and very unsure of her feelings… She really doesn’t behave in any way I could relate. I had absolutely no connection with her on any level.

And now… Tennessee-isims.

Let me think of a way to say this nicely… Elli is very ‘country’ (her words, not mine). She freely says ‘ain’t’, has a thick accent, references country music, eats grits, and drives a truck. Now, I’m from Tennessee, too. I realize this is a somewhat accurate portrayal for SOME people in my area. Only, TA overly plays-up the stereotypes and I felt like it was being shoved down my throat. I think my overall problem with this issue is the fact that I would absolutely LOVE to read a book about a Tennessee girl with characteristics similar to my own. I got my hopes up and I was let down. So even though we are from the same region, we weren’t even culturally alike.

Phew. I’ll stop being so hard on Elli.

Now, on to book content…

First of all, this book is 480 PAGES LONG! Waaaaaaay too long for this type of book (if you ask me- and you’re still reading so I’ll assume you did). There really isn’t enough of a story to support the page length. It needed to be about, oh… 150- 200 pages shorter. It lost momentum and three-fourths of the way through I resorted to power reading just to finish it.

Secondly, a major conflict happened during the last 6% of the book. It would have been acceptable somewhere in the middle, but if you spend over 400 pages convincing me that these two people love each other, don’t break them up in the last little bit! I don’t think the book really fixed itself after that. Elli was just too damn pig-headed and at that point I was wishing Shea would find himself a better woman with fewer trust issues.

Lastly, the entire plot is about Elli getting over a number of things so she can fall in love. That’s it. It ALL revolves around some spoiled girl’s family/trust/self-confidence issues. The End.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the really-cheesy-completely-silly ending.

OR Elli’s horrible spending habits.

Please note:

1 ) Reading this book will inspire a great deal of eye-rolling.

2) Ms. Aleo needed a content editor.

3) I think this book could be improved upon by adding zombies or at least one natural disaster. 😉

I can’t help myself: a blurb about hockey… for a hockey romance there is very little information regarding the sport. As a hockey fan, it was disappointing. Sure, a few facts are included but it felt like TA didn’t really do any legitimate research outside of what she already knew. This felt incredibly strange during Shea’s POV. Shouldn’t a professional hockey player have more hockey-inspired thoughts? Even during a game? Practice? Locker room chat? But no, all he did was talk/wonder about his relationship.

Oh so manly. *eye roll*

It was sad.

Sooo… I didn’t like this book. I really really really wanted to like it. After all, it had a number of my favorite things. (And hey- I WANT Tennessee authors to succeed!) Yet, alas, I was disappointed.

One good thing I will mention about Character-Shea… he at least wasn’t the typical domineering/controlling/I-want-to-possess-you guy I keep reading about in these lovey-dovey books. Props for moving away from that stereotype, because it could have easily gone there.

Also, there are funny parts. I’m not sure if they’re SUPPOSED to make you laugh out loud but I did anyway. I thought I would include one little paragraph for your reading pleasure. (As I was writing this review I was scrolling through my Kindle and came across this section that I highlighted.)

“Elli blushed as she got to the close-up of Shea. She had always thought the defenseman was georgeous. With his almost black hair that fell in the brightest blue eyes she had ever seen, and a crooked nose that has been broken two years ago during a game with the Red Wings, she had to admit that she had a little bit of a crush on him. When he smiled, her heart melted. Yeah, his teeth were probably false, but damn, he had a pretty mouth.” (1%, 70 of 10661, Kindle)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Ok. I hope that put a smile on your face.

I’m not sure if I will ever read anything by Toni Aleo again. Perhaps if she gets a decent editor and is picked up by a legitimate publishing house I will give her Another Shot (Ha- see what I did there… you know, like, Taking Shots…  the title…Ok, never mind. I’m clearly sleep deprived.) Or maybe, next time I’ll just read more reviews first. I think she has decent potential for being a writer. We have to remember- this is her first book. AND it was self-published. We can’t expect perfection.

You can find a version of this review on Goodreads and Amazon.

(You know, I DO actually feel crummy for writing this review. Toni Aleo actually seems like a nice enough person. Maybe a little overly excited about Shea Weber, but I guess I can’t blame a girl for that.)

PS- and I totally Googled “Shea Weber fanfic”… it exists, people, it exists…

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