Month: May 2012

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Book Review)

Posted May 30, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Book Review)Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #2
Published by HarperTEEN on February 28, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Won
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5 Stars

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Beware: This book did crazy things to me. I went through every single emotion, and as I write this review I know I will probably fan-girl, keyboard smash, get mad, get excited, swoon a little, want to hug someone, sigh, and probably write and re-write it numerous times before pressing the “publish” button. Phew! Here goes! (Remember, my main points are bolded, as always!

1. Ahhhhhhhhh! I KNOW!!!! I FINALLY took the time to read this book. I know, right? Jana, this book came out in FEBRUARY. Jana, Delirium nearly pushed you over the edge. I KNOW! Why did I wait so long!? The torture. This book is amazing. AMAZING. I’m, like, the last person in the world to read this, so I don’t really see a reason to work at summarizing it. Just know: it’s amazing. I usually hate the middle book in a trilogy. Most “trilogies” should not be trilogies, as book number 2 is usually a lackluster bridge to the final book. Not so with Pandemonium! Maybe I waited so long to read this because I was worried we’d have another “New Moon” or “Catching Fire”? I don’t know. READ THIS!!

2. After my first “point”, I’ve come to realize that this review may not be as organized as I had hoped.

3. I think another reason I waited so long to read this is because I just KNEW Lauren Oliver would try to kill me again. I knew she’d mess with my emotions and stir up all these questions inside of me before throwing me off a cliff and making me wait for a YEAR to find out what’s going to happen next!!! And you know what? I was RIGHT. I need to stop reading her books on a cruise ship.

4. I actually closed the book and mumbled “cliffhanger” over and over again, in a sort of glazed over stupor. My sister died of laughter.

5. I realize I’m not telling you much about the book itself, but that’s because 1. You’ve read it, since I’m the last person in the world to have done so. 2. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s because you have not read Delirium yet (because if you’ve read Delirium, why would you wait THIS long like me?) and I don’t want to spoil anything for you. 3. My thoughts are not terribly organized, clearly. Anyway, my next point will get more specific, so quit reading here if reason 2 in this point (you have not read Delirium yet… or Pandemonium, I suppose) applies to you.

6. Leena has transformed from this scared little girl to a confident, rebellious, determined, strong person. Her entire life became almost pointless at the end of Delirium, and she fled to the Wilds to try and start a new life… without Alex. She yearns for him always, just like I do. WHERE IS ALEX!?! I’m loving the new Leena.

7. Leena’s new friends/family in the Wilds are very interesting to read about, especially when we get to learn the reasons they are in the Wilds now. I like all of them.

8. Of course, Lauren Oliver’s writing is as stunningly heartwrenching (and heartwarming at the same time) as always. I love, LOVE her writing style. I particularly enjoyed the layout of this book. The chapters alternate between “then” and “now”, so there are absolutely no gaps between the end of Delirium and the beginning of Pandemonium. This also helped me remember what happened in Delirium, because as we all know by now… I waited way too long (so much longer than necessary) to read this.

9. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I went through every single emotion. This book is a roller coaster that you never want to end. And then when it does, it shoves you back into your chair with a force greater than gravity itself. I was scared, I was thrilled, I was happy, sad, excited, confused, mad, devastated, etc. SO many questions are floating around in my head.

10. I waited over a month to write this review, hoping I’d be able to eloquently explain my thoughts and organize my feelings. Haha. Clearly, that is not going to happen. :P This book gives me high blood pressure.

All in all, AMAZING. I love Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver, and Leena. I can not WAIT for Requiem. I vow to read it the day it comes out, rather than wait 2-3 months like I did this time. You really must jump on the bandwagon if you haven’t. The hype is real.

5 Stars

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (Book Review)

Posted May 28, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 9 Comments

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (Book Review)The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Published by Poppy on January 2, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 236
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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4 Stars

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

I’m kind of crazy about themed reads, so I read this on a 5-hour flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I figured I’d try and bring to my flight the kind of magic I’d heard that this book contained! Sadly, I did not meet a sexy English boy who stole my heart at 32,000 feet, but my flight time flew much faster than usual! The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a cute, simple story about two people in the right place at the right time. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Jennifer totally captures the annoyance of and hectic happenings at an airport. I just kept nodding and nodding as I read about people rushing from one metal tube to the other, hoping to catch it in time to be successfully flung across the ocean/country to their final destinations. The “fasten seat belt” light illuminated in the book at the same time it did on my plane. It was highly amusing, and I know that reading the book under the same conditions the characters were under really enriched my experience with it!

2. The 24-hour love story totally worked for me. Hadley and Oliver are two very real people that the whole “love at first sight” thing actually worked for. And it was convincing! They had a lot of time to kill in the airport and on the long flight, and they talked about deep things, not just their favorite colors or hobbies. Even though it took place in such a short amount of time, I did not see it as insta-love. The progression was slow and believable, as they fell into “like” instead of “love” first. A lot of books skip the “like” phase, which is actually my favorite. I love the tension and vulnerability that comes with “like”.

3. Hadley and Oliver are easy to relate to. They each had family issues that built the framework of their characters. As the story progresses, we learn more about these issues, and how they help one another cope because they both understand. They were able to connect on a deep level rather quickly, which added to the believability of their relationship. Oh, and Oliver is pretty swoon-worthy. I kinda have a crush on him.

4. The story was a little slow, but sometimes that’s just what you need! It was a breath of fresh aira snapshot of a simple, run-of-the-mill, everyday event that should have been boring and annoying, but turned out to be something amazing. Who on earth likes flying? Please tell me, and then tell me what medicine you’re on to make you feel that way. This book gave me hope that maybe flying is a worthwhile thing to do! :P

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight made me smile. Was there a lot of depth? No, not really. But that’s kind of exactly what I needed. It was a quick, sweet book that made me think about the small things in life. I would recommend this to lovers of contemporary romances, flawed characters, and people who, like me, need a reason to go on ahead and board that flying metal tube.

4 Stars

Bronte & Frank go to Moscow by Megan Worthy | Children’s Book Review

Posted May 27, 2012 by Jana in Children's Book Review, Inner Child / 3 Comments

Title: Bronte & Frank go to Moscow (Children’s Traveltivity Series)
Author: Megan Worthy
Design and Characters: Danielle Forrest
Illustrator: Nicole Moon
Release Date: April 4, 2011
Publisher: Worthy Hen Productions
Format: Hardback
Source: JKSCommunications
Buy It: Here (used copies are available on Amazon Marketplace)
Add It: Goodreads

Bronte & Frank™ arrive in Moscow in the middle of winter and although Frank is not fond of big cities, he agrees to head outdoors with Bronte to explore some of Moscow’s most famous landmarks. During this adventure to Red Square and Gorky Park, Frank must face one of his most secret fears…

Bronte & Frank go to Moscow™ is a charming children’s story that takes you on a fun-filled adventure around the city of Moscow in Russia. The heartwarming story of a little girl and her bear is a hardcover picture book, packed with educational activities, stickers, insider recommendations and a bonus CD. Ages 3+

This book is a darling little story for children ages 3 and up (although I’m 24, and loved it… haha). I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy (by Bronte) from JKSCommunications, which really made me smile. Thank you!

Bronte & Frank go to Moscow would be especially wonderful for families traveling to Moscow because of all the supplemental information: Moscow info, news websites and medical info (including American clinics, European clinics, and international pharmacies), Moscow emergency numbers, and Bronte’s favorite shops, places to eat, and places to visit in Moscow. There is also a glossary in the back of Russian words and phrases, a page to practice writing those words, color pages, the Russian alphabet, a world map with stickers so your child can label the places they have been, word searches, journal pages, a Moscow metro map, Bronte’s packing list and jet lag tips, and a post card. There’s even a CD called “Sounds of Moscow” with some cute songs on it.

The story itself is simple, sweet, and even a bit informative. It integrates basic Moscow facts, cute imagery of the characters as well as tourist sites in Moscow, Russian words and phrases, reminders to always be polite, and a lesson on opening your mind and conquering your fears. Bronte is very adventurous, while Frank is pretty much scared of everything. Children will be able to relate to both of them, and will most likely giggle at how reluctant Frank is. As he opens his mind and gets excited, children will do so right along with him. It’s also rather sweet how Bronte catches on that Frank is scared, and does her best to help him feel better. Those two are very sweet together, and the story is wrapped up with a quiet nap and happy dreams.

Seriously, check out one of the adorable illustrations in Bronte & Frank go to Moscow. More can be found on the website for the series:

Again, I’d like to thank JKSCommunications and author Megan Worthy for giving me this unique opportunity to read about Bronte and Frank, and for inspiring my newest feature, Inner Child. I’ve never reviewed a children’s book before, but I plan to do so periodically in the future.

Again… that’s Totally the Same Cover! (#2)

Posted May 24, 2012 by Jana in Cover Talk, Discussion / 9 Comments

So, in March I talked about my opinion of copycat covers and showed off some of them (click here to see!). I have found more! Which do you like better? How do you feel about covers with the same images? Yes, they are stock photos… but this can be avoided if a publisher hires a photographer and copyrights the image. Of course, it costs more money, but I’d rather do that than have my book show up to a party in the same dress as someone else’s. Sometimes they both look good in the same dress… but still. I’d want my cover to be completely unique. :) What do you think?

Chosen by Sarah Swan

The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long
The Hedgewitch Queen by Lilith Saintgrow

The artist who did Treachery of Beautiful Things did a great job with this one! You can hardly tell! The other two are pretty similar.


Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

No, this is not the same book! We have twins here! Wow… Same fonts, same dots, same everything! To give them credit, we’re dealing with two different countries… and I seriously love this cover. But wow! Do they sell pre-made covers anywhere?


Evermore by Alyson Noel
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
Selena Penaluna by Jan Page

Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham (Review & Guest Post)

Posted May 22, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review, Guest Post / 3 Comments

Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham (Review & Guest Post)Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham
Series: The MacDonnells #2
Published by Berkley on May 1, 2012
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
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4 Stars

Dougal MacDonnell, a fierce warrior from the Highlands of Scotland, is able to hear the thoughts of other men and dream how the future will unfold. Devastated by the loss of his family during the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he fosters a deep hatred for the English. But when Glenna, the love of his life and a Scottish outlaw, is captured and shipped overseas, Dougal is forced to join an English army made of vanquished Scots. Now fighting on the side of his sworn enemies, he embarks on a journey that will take him across the seas to the colonies. There he will risk everything for the chance to find his true love.

(Even though this is a companion novel, it can be read as a stand-alone. The first book is Dougal’s brother’s story.)

I read Genevieve’s Under the Same Sky and reviewed it over at The Broke and the Bookish last month, so I was excited when Genevieve contacted me and asked if I was interested in reading this companion novel. Under the Same Sky was a tricky read for me, as some of the subject matter was highly distressing, and my tender heart had a hard time reading the recounting of certain historical happenings, including rape, abuse, and war. I wrote to Genevieve about my struggles, and we began discussing history and how women were treated during the times this book covers. Genevieve is here today to talk about what she and I discussed (how researching opens up so many unknown truths), and you can find her guest post beneath my review of Sound of the Heart. Now, on to my review (which I will try to keep brief so this post does not turn into a HUGE read!)! I fear my review will be vague, as there are so many ways to include spoilery… but I will do my best to not spoil anything! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I went into this book expecting a darker read, like Under the Same Sky. The covers of both books are rather deceptive, so don’t assume you’ll be getting a light, fluffy romance when you pick them up. Sound of the Heart is much lighter than Under the Same Sky, and I actually ended up liking it even more than I liked the first one. I rarely like sequels or companions as much as the first book, so I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction to this one.

2. Now, we’re still dealing with some heavy subject matter, it’s just spread more thinly throughout the book, plus there’s much less violence towards women, which is what I struggled with in book 1.

  • The bulk of the first part of the book tells us all about Dougal’s time being imprisoned as a POW after he survives the Battle of Culloden (which is actually told in great detail in Under the Same Sky). The struggles of life in prison during this time are told in great detail, and I felt so badly for Dougal and all the others with him. There was a lot of violence, and prisoners were killed or beaten for the smallest reasons.
  • Women were treated very poorly and we read some instances of rape and abuse. It’s much tamer and less detailed than in Under the Same Sky.

3. I really liked Dougal. You don’t learn much about him in the first book, but I liked him just as much as I liked his brother, Andrew in Under the Same Sky. We’re given another sexy Scottish Highlander with a cute accent and a sweet demeanor. He befriends and watches over two younger boys who are imprisoned with him, and I loved the tender bond the three formed. He sort of adopts them as his own brothers after his family died in the battle. The loyalty to his family was very touching. I love family guys. I also really liked his friend Joseph, who had a lot of personality and a sense of humor that lightened the mood during the dark times of the story.

4. Glenna is a very dynamic character, with a lot of secrets. I won’t tell you how she falls into Dougal’s life, because that’s a spoiler, but I really liked her. I appreciate the fact that Genevieve writes strong female characters. So many historical romances make women look like submissive, meek little chickens with no backbones or common sense. Glenna was SO strong, just like Maggie was in Under the Same Sky. She was thrown some major curve balls in life, but she’s still a sweet character with a lot of street smarts.

She is captured from her humble home with Dougal and shipped overseas, where she is sold into slavery. Hello? I had no idea white slavery existed during this time, nor did I know that Scottish men and women were essentially kidnapped and shipped to the Americas to serve as slaves or fight for the English Army. Her life as a servant starts out better than most, but then things go wrong and she is placed into a terrifying situation. She fights back, though, and I kept saying, “Yes! You go girl!” all throughout the book. I loved watching her grow. She also runs across some wonderful friends, and I enjoyed reading their stories as well. They all had such sweet personalities, even though their lives were far from pleasant.

5. The romance was really wonderful. Glenna and Dougal are adorable together! Sadly, a lot of this book is them trying to get back to one another once they are separated, but you can feel the longing they share. Their love keeps them alive, and I really enjoyed reading about a love with that kind of power.

6. Again, Genevieve does not disappoint with her writing style. It’s gorgeous. She has a way of packing you up and taking you to the settings in the book. She also has the power to make you feel what the characters are feeling. I know that’s why I struggled so much with Under the Same Sky, and why I ended up really enjoying both books. It’s because her writing is so powerful that it feels real. You’re sent on this roller coaster of emotions and feelings, and when the ride is over you’re as in love with the characters as they are with each other.

Overall, I’m so glad I read this book. I loved reading about Dougal and Glenna’s love story, and I enjoyed learning more about the history during this time in Scotland, England, and the American Colonies. I would recommend this to lovers of historical romance and historical fiction. Genevieve has a book 3 in the making, and I KNOW I want to read it! It tells the story of Adelaide, Maggie’s sister in Under the Same Sky. SO exciting! Hopefully Penguin picks it up, as I know it’ll be nothing short of amazing.


Genevieve Graham graduated from the University of Toronto in 1986 with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (playing the oboe). While on a ski vacation in Alberta, she met her future husband in a chairlift lineup and subsequently moved to Calgary to be with him. They have recently settled in a small, peaceful town in Nova Scotia with their two beautiful daughters. Writing became an essential part of Genevieve’s life a few years ago, when she began to write her debut novel, Under the Same Sky. The companion novel, Sound of the Heart, will be in stores May 1, 2012.

The Trouble with Research…
is that you find out stuff.

I write Historical Fiction, so that means there’s going to be a certain amount of research involved. When I started writing, I had no experience with researching, other than what I did eons ago in school, but I was excited about starting. My first book, “Under the Same Sky”, takes place in the 1700’s, a time of which I had no knowledge, other than what I had read in well-written historical fiction, like the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon, and the “Into the Wilderness” series by Sara Donati. The time period sounded gritty and exciting and full of adventure. A perfect setting!

When I realized my hero’s name was Andrew MacDonnell, I enthusiastically went online and researched the MacDonnell clan tartan. When I got past all the advertisements (and pried my eyes off pictures of models and movie stars in kilts), I ran headlong into a discovery that made me shake my head with confusion. Did you know … It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that clans began to claim their own tartan? Until that time, the variation in tartans was a regional thing. The striped patterns were based on the dyes available in the region. Oh, and in the beginning I had no idea that the words ‘plaid’ and ‘tartan’ weren’t technically interchangeable. Maybe in North America they are, but in Scotland, a ‘plaid’ is a wool tartan blanket which the people slung over their shoulder.

For that first book, I also studied the Cherokee and other Native American tribes and absolutely loved researching them. I dug in deep, exploring the seven different clans within tribes, the animal totems, the beliefs after death, hunting rituals … and I ended up with about 50,000 extra words that had nothing to do with the story. They were pretty fascinating reading, but took the story completely off track. So I cut them and stored those chapters away for another time.

I’ve come to believe deeply in the importance of revealing truths in historical fiction. While I’m no expert, I know a lot of things now that I never knew before. For example, I was aware that it was tough to be a woman back then, but I had no idea just how bad it was. One in three women died in childbirth. One in three! Was every one of those babies fathered by a husband? No. Rape was a fairly common occurrence back then and since women had little protection and no rights, it was practically impossible to punish the perpetrator. Unwanted pregnancies were occasionally terminated by herbal concoctions or more brutal methods, but the mother rarely survived. If she did, it would be a miracle if she ever managed to bear another baby.

“Sound of the Heart” gives the reader a taste of prison life for battle captives in 1746. When the defeated Scottish warriors arrived at the prison, after walking three hours, were they fed? No. They were locked up for two days with no food and no medical aid. Did men die easily on the battlefield, succumbing to wounds with a final loving word whispered to their loves? Since pain relief was barely used and loved ones were often miles away, I’d say no.

Some authors research political aspects, society rules, formal issues. All are valid, important facts within historical fiction. I have chosen to follow a grittier path. My characters are every-man and every-woman, commoners who have never seen silk or pearls. Often, though, they have a little something “extra” (like psychic powers). I throw them into scenes they might not survive if it weren’t for their strength of character or something changing in the situation that frees them. Like my characters, I don’t know anything about the “regency” side of history. I only know about the often agonizingly painful realities of life back then.

“Sound of the Heart” also introduces readers to an ugly aspect of history that many of us (including me) otherwise wouldn’t know about: white slavery. Beginning in the 1600’s, hundreds of thousands of white slaves were taken to the colonies. They were treated as badly as their black counterparts, and often worse. They were usually less expensive, because they were constantly being replaced. After all, the colonies were a hot climate compared to overseas. Working plantation fields was far too much for them, and many died.

I know some people are put off by violence in historical fiction, and I’m sorry when my stories upset them. I salute those readers who battle through the difficult parts so they can get to the end. I was once accused of using rape as something of a plot vehicle, which actually left me slack-jawed. The thing is, just because I include these things in the stories doesn’t mean I make them up. I don’t. These are real situations. And just like white slavery today, it is important that we stop looking the other way. I refuse to sugar coat the truth, and I don’t pull punches. At the same time, I stay away from gratuitousness.

Okay. Hopping off my soapbox now.

I guess the moral for today is you never know what you’ll find when you start researching the past. But chances are, if you persevere and keep digging, you’ll come away with treasure.

4 Stars

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks (Book Review)

Posted May 21, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 7 Comments

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks (Book Review)Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Series: The Syrena Legacy #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on May 22, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 324
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen—literally, ouch!—both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom...

Told from both Emma and Galen's points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

Before I get into my review, can I gush a little about something? I am SO excited about this book, and not just because I loved it. I had been wanting this book SO bad! I knew it was coming out while I was in Europe, and I would probably not get it while I was gone. But… I was really not wanting to wait a day longer than I had to, because mermaids and mythology are my THING. So I figured, “Hey! What the heck? I’ll try to write and request this from the publisher!” This was my first attempt at requesting a book, so I was kind of nervous. I found the contact info and wrote out a nice little e-mail, not expecting anything to come of it since my blog is still a little young. About a month later, a package arrived at my door, and I opened it without really thinking about it. And GUESS WHAT? It was OF POSEIDON!!! And seriously, I hugged it for about an hour, stroking and staring at the cover. My first attempt at requesting a book from a publisher had worked, and it was for a book I was DYING to read! I swear, it has been a very long time since I was that excited about anything. And let me tell you. I was totally justified in my drastic efforts to get this book early, because it is AMAZING. Make sure you clear your calendars, set aside some uninterrupted time, and prepare to be transported to another world! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. This book is funny! Right at the beginning, Emma meets Galen by slamming face first into his bare chest at the beach in Florida. She was completely mortified. Her inner dialogue is hilarious. I was trying really hard not to laugh, because I didn’t want anyone to hear me in the middle of the night. And the things she says out loud are funny too! “Ohmysweetgoodness.” is a common outburst, along with “Fan-flipping-tastic”. I could just hear them as I read them, and I’ll admit I kind of giggled every time. There are serious moments as well, but I was not expecting the humor at all. It was a pleasant surprise.

2. I really liked all the characters. Emma is quirky, funny, a little eccentric, dramatic, a bit of an accident waiting to happen, and extremely skeptical. Her mom is ultra-protective, so much so that it becomes completely unbelievable, but funny at the same time. She means well, though. Galen is tall, dark, and handsome, and he is so sweet with Emma. Utterly swoon-worthy. I liked that he was not overprotective (although he’s the jealous type, which I LOVE), but still showed how much he cared for her. His serious nature was a nice compliment to Emma’s huge personality. I totally fell for him. Galen’s “mom”, Rachel is a human who is really Galen’s assistant. She makes sure he knows everything he needs to know about humans, manages his money, and takes care of his on-land necessities. She’s pretty funny as well. Then we have Galen’s sister, Rayna, who has been “mated” (married) to Toraf without her consent. She’s this rude, bitter, spunky grump who has a soft side if you’re willing to take the time to find it. Her husband (whom she despises), Toraf is the concerned big brother type that pretty much everyone wishes they had in their own family. He’s so funny, and I felt bad for him because of the way Rayna treated him. Heck, I’ll take him if she’s going to be such a brat about it! The entire cast (including unmentioned supporting characters) are all very likeable, and different enough from one another that you don’t forget who’s who.

3. I really loved the dual perspectives, with each chapter switching back and forth between Emma and Galen. I have a thing for male protagonists, so I loved jumping into Galen’s head as well.

4. Anna’s take on mermaid and Greek mythology was very refreshing. In this book, Poseidon is presented as a ruling Syrena (merman), rather than a Greek God. The Syrena have violet eyes, and can switch between having a fin and having legs. They can sense the electric pulse of one another in the water, which causes a lot of “duh dun” moments like in the movie Jaws, with some unknown Syrena swimming up and grabbing another one. The Syrena can also blend into the water, and become invisible. I thought it was pretty awesome. Oh, and Emma can talk to and control sea life. Can I do that?

5. There were some really intense moments! I was totally captivated and drawn in to them. I love a little suspense, and since this deals with the ocean, a scary place in my mind, I found myself biting my nails and burrowing deeper into my bed while I read.

6. The underwater scenes are gorgeous! This is why I love mermaid books. The author can turn the ocean into anything they want, and describe it any way they want. Pure imagination at its finest.

7. Ahhhh! The ending! I’m dying! Major cliffhanger, people, and my jaw completely dropped! But I LOVED IT! Is there a sequel? There has to be! 

I would definitely recommend this to lovers of a new take on Greek mythology, mermaids, swoon-worthy male leads, a book that keeps you guessing, and some on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments. LOVED this book!

5 Stars

The Summer My Life Began (Book Review & Author Guest Post)

Posted May 16, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Guest Post, Young Adult Fiction / 2 Comments

The Summer My Life Began (Book Review & Author Guest Post)The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
Published by Speak on May 10, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 250
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Elizabeth Margaret--better known as Em--has always known what her life would contain: an internship at her father's firm, a degree from Harvard, and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is, it's not what she wants. So when she gets the opportunity to get away and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em learns that her family has some pretty significant secrets. And then there's Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can't resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels that for the first time ever, she is really living life on her own terms.

I am on a major contemporary romance kick these days, not to mention book that take place in amazing locations (which is why I asked the author to talk about it in her guest post below my review!). I am SO ready for summer, and traveling, and sitting outside reading in the sun. I’m tired of being cold! This book warmed me inside and out, and had me smiling like an idiot while I read it. As always, my main points are bolded! :)

1. Let me live in this novel. Seriously. Most of it takes place in and around an adorable, picturesque B&B in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. I loved it. Pepper House has a very tropical feel with lots of flowers and warm breezes blowing through the open shutters to ruffle the bed canopies. Sandy beaches, mysterious caves to explore, a quaint little town where everyone knows who you are and what you’re up to, mopeds, waves crashing against craggy cliffs, expensive yachts tied to the dock, and yummy aromas flowing throughout it all, of food and the ocean and the flowers and the soap Mr. Sexy used after his day of surfing. Can I please go!?!

2. The writing is my favorite. I loved the descriptions of everything. Shannon’s writing drapes you in a flowy gauze dress and sits you on a beach towel in the sand, rocking big sunglasses and a smile. If only I could live in this world!

3. I fell in love with the characters. Elizabeth Margaret (or Em) is so much fun. She’s feeling stifled by her parents and her rich life. She has to wear polos and plaid shirts, always act ladylike, and never do anything fun. Does she want to go to Harvard to be a lawyer? No. She secretly wants to be a chef, but she could never tell her parents that. Cooking is not the kind of life Em is to have. Em jumps at the chance to go stay with her aunt Tilly, who I love. I want a cool aunt like her! She’s so sweet, caring, loving, funny and cool to be around. She owns the B&B Em heads off to, which is like a dream of mine. Tilly’s cook, Domino, is the coolest fatherly guy ever. He takes Em under his wing and gives her advice on life, as well as cooking. Frederick, Tilly’s son, is the kind of guy you can confide in without feeling like you need to hide anything. Beth, the “domestic engineer” (maid) is like the big sister you’ve always wanted. And, of course, we have Cade. Ahh… Cade *swoons*. He’s a sexy, slightly broken jack-of-all-trades with a smart, sensitive side and great abs. Oh man. Totally love this guy.

4. The family environment at the B&B is amazing. Everyone loves each other, even though they all carry scars from difficult pasts. Their trials brought them together, though, into this tight make-shift family. I loved reading all their conversations, their silly jabs at each other, their “family” outings, and their past lives. I’d love to insert them into my own family. I can just picture holiday dinners laughing around the table with them. I also like Em’s sister, Gwenny, who stayed back home while Em went off for the summer. You can tell how much she loves her sister. Em’s lucky to have her for support.

5. The story flows naturally from one thing to the other. As we learn more about each person, we figure out exactly how they fit into each other’s lives. I love Em’s character development. She grows so much over her month at Pepper House, and learns about who she is and what she wants with her life. It truly is the summer of a new beginning for her, as well as many of the other characters. The romance is totally believable, and happens naturally. I loved the tension between Cade and Em. And oh my. Their first date is straight out of a fairytale.

6. This book kept me guessing! I had no idea all the cool twists and turns it would take, but I loved every minute of the ride.

7. I love the message of this book. Stepping away from your current life allows you to evaluate and see where you’re headed. It gives you a chance to stop focusing on the mundane events of life and focus only on yourself. Em had a lot of time to think and ponder. She got to taste a new side of her life. She got to cook and play and learn and fall in love. This book teaches us that we can always change. Nothing is ever set in stone. It also reminds us to have fun, which I know I need to be reminded of sometimes.

I can’t stop thinking about how perfect this book was! It was like a much needed vacation. I placed myself right in the middle of it, grabbed the bedroom next to Em’s, and made myself a home in this book. I never liked coming of age novels, but I’m starting to discover the messages you can learn from them. I’d definitely recommend this to people who love contemporary stories, coming of age moments, sweet romance, and trips to gorgeous tropical islands.


What Inspired Me to Write The Summer My Life Began
By Shannon Greenland

It’s funny the things that inspire you. When I was a kid growing up in Tennessee it seemed as if the beach was such a faraway place. Even though my family is from Florida and our vacations often centered on trips south, I thought of the beach as sort of a take it or leave it type of place.

Now that I’m older, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. So when my publisher approached me to step away from my spy series, The Specialists, and write a YA single title, I thought, definitely the beach!

Rather it be the sands of Hawaii, the beaches of Bermuda, the waters of the Bahamas, the shores of South America, or the Florida coasts, my life seems to navigate toward the warmth and yumminess the ocean offers.

In The Summer My Life Began much of what Em experiences are taken straight from my first time surfing, riding a moped along the coast, visiting a Farmer’s Market in the ocean breeze, sailing, and kissing a boy with the waves crashing around me.

The ocean is a romantic, adventurous, dangerous place that Mother Nature has given us to enjoy. And I intend on making use of it! So what’s on the docket for me this summer? I’m trying my hand at paddle boarding on my next Florida visit. I can’t wait!

Find Shannon Here:
Website  |  Goodreads  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

5 Stars

Top Ten Authors I’d Like to See on a Reality TV Show

Posted May 15, 2012 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 4 Comments


Reality TV is one of my guilty pleasures. I love it, and watch way too much of it. This topic sounded like SO much fun, so I just had to participate even though I’m currently in Europe and ended up scheduling this one weeks in advance!  If you leave me a comment, I promise I will go to your blogs when I get home and comment on yours! I can’t wait to see where you guys put your favorite authors!


Suzanne Collins on Survivor
Interesting idea, huh? I’d love to see how she would prevail in the dystopian world of Survivor, much like Katniss did in The Arena.

Tracey Garvis Graves on Survivor
I wonder if she can survive on and island as well as her characters in her book, On the Island, could!

Dan Wells on Boot Camp
Anyone remember this show? Civilian contestants were brought on and went through real Boot Camp. They participated in tasks and missions, and ultimately one person ended up winning. Partials had a lot of military influences, so I thought it’d be fun to see Dan in that environment.

Kirsten Hubbard as my teammate on The Amazing Race
Hello. Wanderlove made me want to travel everywhere, and being paired with Kirsten, a travel goddess, how could I not win?

Stephanie Perkins on Fear Factor
With blue hair and a spunky personality, I highly doubt Stephanie is afraid of anything.

Maureen Johnson on So You Think You Can Dance
I don’t know if Maureen can dance at all, but I think she would be so much fun to see on a show like this. She’s got a hilarious personality and is really likeable. Plus, I totally think she could pull off some hip-hop dance moves.

Lauren Oliver on The Mole
I loved The Mole! Anderson Cooper… ahhh… Anyway, this show is not on anymore, but it was amazing. All the contestants were supposed to work together to complete challenges. For each challenge completed, the group got more money added to the grand prize pot. But… there was a “mole” hired by the producers to sabotage all the events, yet keep their identity hidden as they tried to “help” with the tasks. Each week, contestants filled out a questionnaire all about who they thought the Mole was (they were asked things like, “Where was the mole sitting at dinner last night?” “What color shirt was the mole wearing during Tuesday’s challenge?). Whoever got the most questions wrong was eliminated. Contestants were never told if their questions were answered correctly or not, so they took a lot of notes and hoped they were on the correct path. Correct answers could have been simple guesses, but nobody ever knew. It’s kind of like a big game of Clue! The person left won. Lauren would be a wonderful mole, because she is sweet and harmless-looking, but has a wild imagination. I think she could totally deceive others, and that’s not a bad thing! Haha. I also think she’d be a really perceptive contestant who could probably win the whole thing if she were not hired to be the mole!

Maggie Stiefvater on America’s Got Talent
She’s an artsy songwriter… I wonder if she’s a performer too? Or has a sweet comedy routine?

John Green as The Bachelor
Now, I know he’s married. Haha. So this would have been before that. But think of how hilarious a bachelor he’d be? I would be incredibly entertained, and SO many bookish people would audition. Maybe the show would be filled with cool book chats instead of talk of plastic surgery or sugar daddies.

Tahereh Mafi on America’s Next Top Model
Seriously, she’s gorgeous! Now, I’d hate to throw her into the pot with all of those other mean model types on that show, because I know she is way nicer than they are. So, she should have her own room or something. Or a cabin in back. She’s win, though.

So, which authors would you like to see on TV, starring in/playing along on your favorite reality TV shows? Like I said, I’m currently in Europe with very limited computer access! I’ll respond to all your awesome posts when I get home. :)

Author Interview with Claire Gillian

Posted May 11, 2012 by Jana in Author Interview / 1 Comment

I’m so excited to have Claire stop by That Artsy Reader Girl today. :) I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know her, and learning more about her upcoming “romantic mystery” (term dubber by Claire, herself) novel, The P.U.R.E, which I was lucky enough to receive an e-ARC of a few months ago. I am planning to read and review very soon, so keep an eye out for it! Anyways, let me introduce you to Claire!


Claire Gillian is a number-crunching executive by profession, an after hours writer by passion, and a darkly romantic curmudgeon. Published in short stories and anthologies, The P.U.R.E marks Claire’s debut publication of her work in novel form.

While Claire’s writing spans all ages and subject matters, she’s happiest penning romance drenched in humor with a dash of intrigue and loads of spice. Claire lives in the boggy Pacific NW with her husband and two teen-aged sons.

1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In some part of my mind, I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. A writer whose works people would pay to read was a completely different matter. I guess that phase came when I first posted some fan fiction on a LiveJournal blog for fans of a certain TV show I shall not name. People actually read and liked it. I tried again and wrote a novel, thinking I was hot stuff at the time. I started writing timed flash fiction and again the praise totally inflated my ego. It wasn’t until I started getting critiques that I really realized just how hard it really was going to be… but also how rewarding.

2. Summarize The P.U.R.E. in three sentences or less.
I’m terrible at these but here goes:  When Gayle, a new recruit, discovers her employer’s shady dealings that include a plot to frame her because of a few freshman blunders, she turns to the only one who believes her—her oh-so-tempting but off limits co-worker, Jon.  Jon is more than willing to help keep Gayle out of trouble, and not just because he’s a nice guy.

Jana’s comments: Haha. I’m bad at quick summaries also, but you did a great job! It sounds really good!

3. Tell us about your favorite character in The P.U.R.E. and why. 
I really love Gayle, the P.U.R.E. of the story, because she’s a lion-hearted underdog with this underlying layer of insecurity. She’s gotten a bad rep at her first career position, partly due to her own fault and partly due to others taking advantage of her perceived weaknesses. She’s thus far been watching almost helplessly as her career goes down the toilet. When she’s finally tossed into the deep end of the pool, she finds an inner strength that not only saves her hide but blindsides her enemies.

Jana’s comments: Yes, she sounds like a heroine I’m really going to enjoy reading about!

4. What inspired you to write this book? Where did the idea come from?
I wrote The P.U.R.E. based in part on my own and my co-workers’ first year experiences in the world of public accounting. The general public really has no idea what it’s like to sign on with one of these stodgy white collar firms that are nearly militaristic in how they systematically break down, then build a recruit back up in molds of their own designs. I had no idea either! When you’re a top accounting graduate, the highest paying, most prestigious jobs are with CPA firms, and that’s all you need to know. Figuring out if you actually like or can even do the job comes later. Many are called, few stick it out. PURE, or previously undetected recruiting error, was a term applied to those graduates who looked good on paper, interviewed well, but for whatever reason, did not work out. I always thought it was both a clever and horrifying term.

Jana’s comments: Oh! So P.U.R.E stands for Previously Undetected Recruiting Error! I was wondering what it meant, so thanks for explaining. And I agree that the term is both laughable and a bit sad all at once. Haha.

5. If you were to write yourself into this book, what kind of character would you be? 
I’d totally be Gayle. I still remember quite vividly a few of my own freshman mistakes and the sense of impotence at knowing, “I SHOULD be able to succeed at this” but,  “Why aren’t I?”

6. What part of this book was your favorite part to write? 
My favorite part of the book is in the early chapters where Gayle and Jon are still just friendly co-workers. Gayle realizes she’s attracted to Jon, but insists to herself that nothing can ever come of it because dating a co-worker would be a career-limiting move (another commonly used CPA term). Mentally she thinks she’s got it all figured out and can handle her attraction. We, as the readers, see how silly she is because she betrays her feelings for him over and over again, yet stubbornly clings to the idea that she can keep him at arms length. I just love that foolish denial, especially when later juxtaposed to Jon’s utter conviction that she’s the one for him… sigh.

Jana’s comments: Ooo… I can sense the tension! I love books like this, but at the same time I want to strangle the people involved for not giving in sooner!

7. Tell us about your writing environment. Messy or clean?
I have a desk and a dedicated computer now. That wasn’t always the case. I just got my own iMac a year ago. That no one in my family a) knows how to use a Mac and b) has the password to log on, not even my husband, keeps my workspace mine, mine and all mine. My desk, however, is located side by side with a computer my sons use for school work. On the other side is a television set. Quiet is never guaranteed, unfortunately, which is why my favorite writing time is in the early AM when all my guys are still sleeping. My desk is VERY messy, unfortunately, but I have no one but myself to blame.

8. What has been the most positive experience you’ve had as an author? The most negative?
I love the other authors I’ve met–people who have lent a crying shoulder and who have used a shoulder, those who have provided a laugh and who have given a laugh. What a wonderful, witty bunch of people! …they have such terrific ways of phrasing things, even the most mundane. Plus, for me, doing a left-brain dominant job of number-crunching and computer programming all day, I really love being able to move beyond boolean speak, probabilities, financial risk and reward, and instead talk about how words make me feel, whether logical or not. The most negative experiences have revolved around authors who have charged in, convinced they had nothing left to learn and that the world was on tenterhooks awaiting their next bon mots. ALL authors should still be learning and honing their craft. NO author is an objective judge of his or her own work.

9. If you were not allowed to be an author, which dream job would be your alternate choice?
My other dream job would be a character actor… assuming I could act, which I can’t. Not a leading lady because they have to watch every morsel they eat, the paparazzi hounds them, and the first grey hair can signal the end to their careers. I’d wanna be like Kathy Bates or Marcia Gay Harden—busy, busy but not a huge star.

Jana’s comments: Very fun! I think acting would be a fun profession, but I’d also not want to be a huge star, always in the limelight.

Claire’s old computer, pet gargoyle from Paris, ever-present Diet Coke,
and the Absolute Write website on her computer screen.

10. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I tell all aspiring authors to head over to Absolute Write forums, and read, and post, and learn. Put your work out there for critique. Grow thicker skin because no matter how thick you think it is, it needs to be thicker if you’re to get better. Be humble. Even your greatest nay-sayers are giving you valuable feedback. I’m forever indebted to a beta reader who did not mince a single word while trouncing my first novel into the proverbial dirt. She mentioned in her notes wanting to burn the manuscript and stomp on its ashes. As painful as that was to read, she told me what I needed to know, and I am forever grateful (and a lot thicker) for her words.

Jana’s comments: Wow, sounds like my profession as well. I’m a graphic designer, and while I was not the victim of a certain professor of mine, he did rip someone’s design project off the wall and stomp on it. When you’re in a creative network, a thick skin is the first thing you should get. I know I have toughened up a lot, and it has made me a better designer. 

11. When you’re not writing, what else do you do for fun?
I used to be a huge fitness enthusiast. Used to be. Alas, I tend to have a rather one track mind that chokes off nearly all other interests. Over the past year or so, I’ve cut back on working out, nearly stopped watching television completely. Ebay? What’s that? I used to be intimately familiar with it. No more. I rarely shop either. Gasp! I know! Most shocking. I do read a lot more though. That is a parallel track to writing and I do work to carve out reading time. It’s one of the few activities I will gladly set aside a WIP to concentrate on.

12. What are you currently reading?
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare is currently in process on my Kindle at a little over the 50% mark.  I also picked up a book called High Spirited Women of the Sierras by Anne Seagraves at the Sequoia National Forest information station. I nabbed a second by Anne called Women of the Sierra.

13. Who is your favorite romantic suspense author? 
My favorite romantic suspense author is… okay, you totally busted me here. Believe it or not, I don’t read that much romantic suspense. I do, however, read a lot of romance, mystery, and urban fantasy with Charlaine Harris being a favorite author who writes cozy mysteries (Lily Bard and Aurora Teagarden) and urban fantasies (Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly series) with romantic elements. I see The P.U.R.E. as really more of a romantic mystery than romantic suspense, the difference being with suspense, you usually know who the bad guy is and it’s all about the main characters escaping his clutches. With mysteries, you aren’t really sure who the bad guy is and it’s all about figuring that part out. The latter is what I love. I also go weak-kneed at almost any sort of romance—contemporary, historical, paranormal, steampunk, science fiction, whatever.

Jana’s comments: I love mysteries! Suspense is good, but you’re right—everyone knows who the bad guy is. I love trying to figure out “who did it”. I love romance too. *sigh*

14. You’re an Air Force brat, and have moved a lot. I’m a Navy brat, so I totally know what that’s like. I loved moving, but it was hard at times. How has all the moving you’ve done influenced your life?

Moving around a lot I think gave me the ability to quickly figure out the lay of the land, find my place, then fit in. Learning to write is a lot like that, believe it or not. You approach the perimeter, learn the rules by reading and observing, then dive in. As far as the rest of my life goes, all that moving has helped me cope with being at my core a shy, solitary person. I can pull on my outgoing suit if and when I have to and no one is the wiser to my true nature. You’re right, moving is tough but it has given me a very valuable life skill.

Jana’s comments: I love this answer, and completely agree with you. I’m also a shy person, and moving so much forced me to make new friends quite often. I definitely learned a lot about people and the world.


15. Of all the places you’ve lived, which has been your favorite?
I really loved New Mexico. I lived in Albuquerque for seven years, met and married my husband there, and traveled throughout the state for business. I adore the food and the people are incredibly warm and friendly. The art is spectacular and the sunsets can’t be beaten. If I can ever get it polished up enough to shop it, I have an urban fantasy novel completely set in New Mexico. Darynda Jones has a great reaper series set there, but really I haven’t run across too many stories in that state and it’s a shame. I hope to do my part to give New Mexico the props it’s due.

Jana’s comments: I’ve visited Albuquerque, and I agree that it’s an awesome place to be! I was particularly amused by the pink sidewalks (or maybe those are strictly for Rio Rancho?). :) 

16. Favorite dessert? (Because these things are majorly important!)
I have a sweet tooth that rules me, and not the other way around, so it’s difficult to choose just one dessert. But, at this moment, my tooth is crying out for a huge, freshly baked oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip cookie. I once upon a time wanted to own a Mrs. Fields franchise, I’m such a cookie monster. Chocolate rules too though, she says bidding her beloved Cadbury candy-coated chocolate eggs adieu until next Easter.

Jana’s comments: Oh man… my sweet tooth was friends with your sweet tooth in another life. Cookies are a weakness, but I love any and all desserts, especially if there is chocolate in it (or I can add chocolate to it, if needs be). And I got absolutely no Cadbury mini eggs this year, for which I am still yearning for. Oh well! I do hope you get your cookie, and soon!

Thanks again to Claire for taking the time to introduce herself to us! I am even more excited to read The P.U.R.E now than I had been before. You can count on finding my review popping up on the blog very soon! Oh, and Claire? If you do open that Mrs. Fields franchise, let me know and I’ll stop by and visit! Friends get a discount, right?

But… until Claire’s glorious cookie shop takes flight, you’ll have to settle for finding her here:
Website/BlogGoodreads  ∣ Twitter

Where in the World is Jana??

Posted May 9, 2012 by Jana in About Me / 3 Comments

Hi guys! I bet you’re wondering why things have been quieter around the blog and on Twitter. Some of you may have already known this, but I’m on vacation in Europe! I’ve spent the last two weeks on a transatlantic cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Tenerife, Canary Islands; to Palma De Mallorca, Spain; to Barcelona, Spain; to Provence (Toulon), France; to Livorno (Pisa) Italy; ending in Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy. It was divine. After Rome, we went to Siena and Venice. This morning, I left Venice, Italy and took a train to Milan to see the Duomo and this awesome mall with gorgeous architecture, called Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. After our jaunt in Milan, we took another train to Lake Como, and a hydrofoil to Bellagio. We’re staying in a gorgeous hotel with a balcony overlooking the lake. It’s just me and my mom, and you better believe that we’re eating lots, shopping lots, looking at tons of art and architecture, trying to speak Italian, and burning through our Kindle batteries like you wouldn’t believe. I got so much reading done on my balcony on the cruise, and am going to get even more done as I spend the next two and a half weeks traveling by train to Interlakken, Switzerland; Paris, France; Ghent and Bruges, Belgium; Rotterdam, Delft, Gouda, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. I’ll be back soon, but until then I have some reviews and other posts scheduled so you don’t miss me too much. We’ll see if I have more time to check in here, but since I only have my phone, and reliable wi-fi is hard to come by, I might not be able to post much until I’m home. Look for my trip updates on Twitter, though, and I’ll post pics for you when I get back to The States! :)