Month: June 2012

ALA Anaheim, CA 2012 Event Recap

Posted June 28, 2012 by Jana in Event Recap / 12 Comments


I’d been mulling over the idea of attending the ALA annual conference since January, when I found out it was going to be at the Anaheim Convention Center! I had pretty much decided I could not go, though, since I would have barely been back from my 6 weeks in Europe by the time it was time to pack up again and drive to California. My decision to just go for it came totally last minute, and was completely spontaneous! I’m so, SO glad I decided to go, though, because it was seriously one of the highlights of my life thus far.

My mom and I decided to road trip it, and have a fun little vacation around the conference. My birthday was on the 22nd, so we thought it would be a great way to celebrate! We left home on the morning of the 21st, and drove to Las Vegas to stay in Bally’s before waking up on the 22nd and driving the rest of the way to Anaheim to make it in time for the grand opening of the exhibition floor at 5:30. We were going to make it with hours to spare, but due to the major chemical spill on I-15, we were delayed for 2 hours and I ended up being about 20 minutes late to the conference. I rushed in and immediately met Magan from Rather be Reading, who I just love. I also met her two roommates, Jennifer from Novel Thoughts and Christin from Portrait of a Book. Her other room mate (Lena from Addicted 2 Novels) flew in later that night. We spent the evening meeting publishers, authors, other bloggers, and finding awesome reads! After the conference, my mom and I went to BJ’s in Huntington Beach for a birthday dinner. We totally pigged out on yummy foods, and I even got a candle in my pizookie. Then we went back to the hotel, and I completely crashed.

I woke up the next morning to find out my mom had been throwing up all night from the shrimp dinner she got at BJ’s the night before. Ugh! I was so sad for her. Luckily Magan was sweet enough to come get me from my hotel so my mom could keep the car in case she needed to go get anything throughout the day. Thanks, Magan!

The rest of my time at ALA was like this (haha): woke up super early, stood in line outside the exhibit doors before they opened, either stood in signing lines or constantly walked from booth to booth meeting people and getting amazing books, being completely weighed down by said books, meeting reps, pubs, authors, and bloggers, getting completely exhausted and weighed down, and having an amazingly awesome time for the entire weekend. Seriously, I loved everything, and was even ok going on very little sleep.

From bottom left to bottom right:
Espe (she took this pic), Me, Georgia, Jen, Magan.
Waiting in Tahereh Mafi’s signing of Unravel Me!

Awesome bloggers I met:
Magan from Rather be Reading
Christin from Portrait of a Book
Jennifer from Novel Thoughts
Lena from Addicted 2 Novels
Jen and Espe from Late Bloomer Online
Georgia from Eve’s Fan Garden
H.D. from Reading Writing Breathing
Katie from Katie’s Book Blog
Lauren from 365 Days of Reading
Liz from Consumed by Books
Lisa from A Life Bound by Books

And… SO MANY MORE! I’m so sorry if I forgot to add you to my list. ALA is such a huge blur of amazingness, and I can’t remember all the wonderful people I met!

Amazing authors I met:
Tahereh Mafi, Rae Carson, Rachel DeWoskin, Stacy Bierlein, Jessi Kirby, Nick James, Janet Gurtler, Attica Locke, Leigh Bardugo (again!), Deb Caletti, Talia Vance, Alexandra Bracken, Dan Kronos, Marlene Perez, Kinsey Leavitt, Sarah J. Maas, Marie Lu, Laini Taylor, Lex Hrabe, Thomas Voorhies, Katherine Grace Bond, Miranda Kenneally, Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant, Marissa Meyer (again!), Gennifer Albin, Tamara Ireland Stone, Lisa Schroeder, Malinda Lo, Rachel Cohn, Jessica Khoury, Kami Garcia, and Morgan Matson.

Can I just say how awesome, nice, and likeable authors in general are? I had so much fun talking to all of them! I also met my favorite Macmillan person, Ksenia, who was so sweet. We spent a lot of time discussing books and life. I met Ms. Feiwel of Feiwel & Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), which was so cool! She’s super nice. And I met great people at Simon and Schuster, Penguin, Capstone, Random House, Scholastic, Little Brown, Harper Collins, and more! Bookish people are the best. It was so much fun standing in line and talking books with librarians, library pages, bloggers, authors, and publishers. The final attendance number was 20,134 people! OH MAN! I have never been in a room with so many book lovers!

Event Highlights:

  • Walking onto the exhibit floor for the first time. It was so huge, and there was so much to look at! I was in book heaven.
  • Meeting Magan, who I have been wanting to meet since I started chatting with her on Twitter months ago. And adoring her as much as I thought I would.
  • Picking up my very first book, and feeling like I was stealing it.
  • Meeting my Arizona gals (Jen, Espe, and Georgia) and walking around laughing, sweating, and discussing being book drunk.
  • Georgia worrying that her glued-together flip flops might not make it through the day.
  • Standing in Tahereh Mafi’s signing line and getting the 19th ARC, when they only had 60 total to hand out.
  • When I found Ksenia, she knew who I was immediately, and was so excited to see me that she gave me a huge hug!
  • When I met Leigh Bardugo again, and she remembered me as “the eyelash girl” and then hugged me. (and gave me nail polish!)
  • Walking down the rows of booths and hearing, “I remember That Artsy Reader Girl!”
  • Finding out people have heard of my blog. I swear, I feel like I’m in my own little world here on the blog sometimes. It’s nice to know my thoughts are reaching others!
  • Watching H.D. (Reading, Writing, Breathing) do warm-ups and stretches in line before the exhibit doors opened. He had a specific book in mind, and just HAD to get it. Watching him power walk to Harper made me die laughing.
  • Talking to a librarian from Mississippi about how hot it was in the convention center, and watching her wipe sweat of her face before saying in her Southern drawl, “It’s like ‘nawlins in here!” (Nawlins = New Orleans) I used to live in Louisiana, so I know what that feels like!
  • Going up to one of the ladies at Harper, asking if they had Hidden by Sophie Jordan, and watching her smile before finding it in a cabinet for me! AHHH! So excited to read this one!
  • Talking about books like they were drugs: “Hey, do you have this book?” “Yeah, a few… but don’t tell anyone.” There was so much whispering and subtle book exchanges going on. It really felt like we were dealing drugs! HAHA!
  • Getting the last copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys.
  • Almost tripping on the carpet as I went from one booth to another (some booths had thicker, cushionier carpet, so the differing ground levels made me trip!).
  • The last day, when pubs were giving away finished copies of books they had on display that I really wanted… and the nice guy at Harlequin who gave me my picks early because I wanted them so badly, and did not want someone else to get them first.
  • Sitting in hour-long signing lines to get a book I really wanted and meet that author, making me realize I love reading more than I thought I did!
  • Going back to the hotel completely dead tired and worn out, sleeping harder than I ever have, and waking up with SO much energy to go out again!
  • The convention center was so hot for most of the weekend that people were dripping sweat, and their hair was wet. On the last day, they must have figured out the AC, because it was SO cold, and a lot of the pubs and reps were wearing jackets.
  • Seeing Molly Ringwald!
  • Smacking into so many people with my bags, apologizing profusely, and having them smile at me and say, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ve been to BEA, so I’m way used to this.” They were so nice!
  • Speaking with humble authors who got teary when you told them how much you loved their book(s).
  • Being in one room with thousands of bookish people like me, with so many people to talk to. We all had so much in common, and had read all the same books!

And here are a bunch of pictures I took of the exhibit floor! 

Bloomsbury’s booth, along with Macmillan Kids just behind it.

The Macmillan Children’s booth.

Random House’s booth.

These aisles had all the books! We sat here in the lobby every morning to line up for the doors to open.
(I did not take this photo. Credit goes here.)

Sitting in line waiting for the Crewel signing. The line was SO long, and wrapped around several different booths.

Scholastic’s booth.

Half of Penguin’s booth.

Waiting in line on the last day for Simon and Schuster’s book giveaway. We each got to pick 4 of their display copies for free!

So many books!

I really had so much fun, met so many wonderful people, and came home with a TON of really exciting books! I’d like to thank all of the publishers for being so generous. I really had no idea what to expect when I signed up for ALA, but they were all so nice and always ready to recommend a book they thought I would love. I met some friends, and made quite a few new ones. Bookish people really are among the nicest in the world, and I was sad to leave such a huge book club and come home to real life. I’m already saving my pennies for ALA 2013 in Chicago! Check back for my ALA Book Haul post! I’ve had many requests for a vlog, so be expecting one soon!

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs (Mini Book Review)

Posted June 27, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 7 Comments

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs (Mini Book Review)Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Series: Tempest #1
Published by Walker Children's on May 10, 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

This is one of those reviews that’s a little hard for me to write, because I just can’t think of a whole lot to say about the book. I liked it, but it did not have me going crazy with love (or hate), so I’m feeling some writer’s block. I absolutely love mermaid books, and have been reading quite a few lately. This one started out a bit slowly for me, though.

I did not love Tempest as much as I had hoped I would. She’s annoying, selfish, lacking in common sense, and completely self-destructive. I enjoy a heroine with a good head on her shoulders, and Tempest was really dumb sometimes. Some of her decisions had me smacking my forehead. Her silly banter/flirting back and forth with Kona seemed forced and unbelievable. I cringed reading it sometimes. You can tell they were trying to tease each other, but it just did not work. And the insta-love. OH MAN. This book is dripping with it. Seriously, this kind of instant “I will die for you or wait an eternity for you to love me back” is completely unbelievable, and I’m getting tired of it! Tempest’s thoughts regarding her mother also really bothered me. Her mom chose to live the life of a mermaid, rather than living on land with her beloved family. Tempest hated her for this, but then goes and makes the same decision (this is not a spoiler… it’s in the book summary on the back of the book). So… why can she do it, but not her mother? It just bothered me. Talk about a double standard. I loved her little brothers. They were so cute, and I really liked her dad. I always love reading about heroines who have extremely strong relationships with their dads.

Kona is wonderful, sexy, and completely swoon-worthy. He’s also a creature of the water, but you’ll have to read the book to figure out what he is. I really liked him and his world, though. He has a lot of honor, compassion, and mystery. I also liked Mark, her other love interest. You know YA novels! They almost always have a love triangle. Mark is also sweet, but I like him more as a brother or best friend than a love interest. Tempest’s guy friends are also a fun group to read about, but we don’t get to know them very well.

I enjoyed Tracy’s descriptions of the underwater world. The sea life and the scenery were so beautifully described, which is what made the story exciting to me (and also what made me give the book an extra star). I never used to enjoy a lot of detail in my stories, but I’m evolving into a lover of world building. I was left wanting more, though. I wanted the focus to move away from Tempest and Kona, and focus some more on those underwater creatures.

Overall, Tempest Rising left a few things to be desired, and left me shaking my head a little bit. The character development and relationships between most of the characters felt forced and made me uncomfortable. I loved the underwater world and would have enjoyed reading more of that than the silly teenage “Who am I? What do I want?” drama. I am planning to read the next book, and hope that Tempest will grow up a little, and that we’ll be able to learn more about merfolk and life under the sea.

3 Stars

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Book Review)

Posted June 20, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 6 Comments

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Book Review)Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on May 22, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 232
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

So, I noticed the other day that I’m reading a lot of books right now with titles that are also songs. First it was Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (Justin Bieber’s Somebody to Love), then it was the one, and next I’m reading Just Say Yes by Philippa Ashley (Snow Patrol’s Just Say Yes). This is causing me to sing more than I read! Seriously, though. I loved this book so much, and even though Toni Braxton’s love ballad thoroughly wedged itself into my mind and remained there for days, it was SO worth it. This is definitely a new favorite of mine, and I can totally see reading this book again. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Melissa did such a good job at capturing the inner turmoil and despair that a teenager goes through after a heartbreaking situation. I’ve been where Clementine is, and I hurt right along with her. It’s amazing how these heartbreaks do control every thought and action. Crying and self-deprecation almost always happen, and sometimes it takes quite a while to get over it. Clem’s world might not have ended, but she sure thought it had. The emotions in this story were real and pure.

2. I was surprised when I came to realize rather quickly that Clem was getting over a lost friendship, and not a lost relationship. I think it made Clem more relatable, though, as I think we’ve all gone through major spats with our best friends. It’s so hard to be a teenager! Haha. I’m so glad I’m done.

3. Clementine was real. She was me, actually. I loved her flaws, and that as she healed she was able to make sense of those flaws and become a better person. I’ve never cheated on anyone, but I know the ramifications of cheating, because I’ve been cheated on. Of course what she did was wrong, but the fact that she recognized that and turned it into something to learn from rather than something to be mad about was refreshing. Her character development was so enjoyable to read about.

4. Clem’s family is amazing. I think part of why I love reading books geared towards young adults is because they are still tied closely to their families. Their parents have influence over them still, and they mostly still live at home. Her parents are wonderful, and I hope that I can have the kind of relationship with my own kids someday that they have with their daughters. Clem’s sister, Olive, reminds me so much of my little sister–always wanting to tag along, looking up to you, silly humor, sweet disposition, biggest fan. It made me reminisce on the times when we would set up forts in the living room or immaculate Barbie cities in our bedrooms… late night dance parties to Britney Spears in the light of my lava lamp.

5. James, a.k.a. Red, is my new favorite young adult male character. If I could wrap him up, and add about 10-12 years to him, I’d take him for myself! What a likeable, happy, artistic, charismatic, and hilarious guy. He knows Clem is sad about something, but he’s giving her the time to tell him on her own. He’s also sad about something in his past, and as the two get to know each other better, they help each other heal. I love his philosophy, which is basically this: you can be sad and you can mourn what you’ve lost, but the memories you created before that loss are yours forever. Never discount the happy times in life, just because they ended unhappily. I can learn a lot from Red. 

6. Don’t get me wrong, this story is not all sad and depressing! Clem and her family spend the summer aboard a sailboat, spending time together, eating disgusting meals made only from canned foods, eating s’mores by blow torch, star gazing, sunbathing, laughing, and bonding. Clem, Olive, and red spend many hours hanging out trying to catch fish, perfecting their Little Mermaid moves, giggling, and teasing each other. An elderly couple is another hilarious addition to the story, and not only made me laugh with the things they said, but warmed my heart with their views on true love. I laughed and smiled a lot. And: ding ding ding! I did not cry. There was no reason to!

7. This book makes me want to do great things. It makes me want to get over my own little heartbreaks along the road, and spend more time with my family. It makes me want to value my mom and sister more. And it makes me want to get a sailboat and go sailing all summer! I can finally attest to the fact that long trips altar the person you are. They let you step away from normal life and learn about yourself. I got to experience this on my recent trip to Europe, and I want to do it again! You know that term “wanderlust” that everyone speaks of? It’s not about the love of traveling, I’ve decided. It’s about the love of getting away from your life so that you can discover what you life is all about. Clem got to discover this as well, and I was rooting for her.

Clearly, I loved this story! I love flawed characters who can pull themselves out of their pits of despair and come away better people. I love sweet, simple romances that bloom from deep conversation and friendship rather than instant attraction. And I love it when those romances turn people into better versions of themselves. I love strong families who support one another. This really is the perfect summery beach read that will have you smiling and thinking back on what it was like to be a kid. I think that’s another reason I love YA: it reminds me of the really simple times in life, when I would not have been embarrassed to pretend I’m Ariel, breaking the surface of the water.

5 Stars

June is Audiobook Month!

Posted June 19, 2012 by Jana in Uncategorized / 5 Comments


So, June is Audibook Month (I know! I’m way late!), and I think this is a wonderful time to introduce myself to audiobooks! I’ve listened to half of The Da Vinci Code, and got really bored… fell asleep… and that was it! But since there’s an entire month devoted to audiobooks, maybe I need to rethink my decision!

Anyway, there’s this website called that is giving away two audio books a week from now until August 22nd. There are some awesome titles on their site, so I thought I’d let you know about them! The titles include Anna Dressed in Blood, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Sense and Sensibility, A Tale of Two Cities, and more. And they are FREE if you want them! I’m really excited about this!

Here is the schedule. Right now, they are giving away The Eleventh Plague and the Grapes of Wrath.

Cicada by Belle Whittington (Book Review + Giveaways!)

Posted June 18, 2012 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

Cicada by Belle Whittington (Book Review + Giveaways!)Cicada by Belle Whittington
Series: Cicada #1
Published by CreateSpace on September 13, 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: Author
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Summertime for Blair Reynolds and her friends had always been carefree and fun... until the summer they happened upon something that was not human. As they band together in a fight for their lives, Blair's true love becomes something more than human. Something unnatural. And their survival depends entirely upon their ability to keep a secret.

Hello! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog as I help kick off the AToMR blog tour for Belle Whittington’s Cicada, book #1 in an exciting and suspenseful young adult sci-fi trilogy (haha. Long sentence there!)! When you are finished reading my review, make sure to find the complete schedule of tour events at the bottom. Also, find the opportunity to win one of 12 ebook copies of Cicada and/or an electronic firefly in a jar in honor of the upcoming sequel to Cicada, called Firefly. Both Rafflecopters are at the bottom of this review. :)

Going into this book, I was not really sure what to expect at all. I mean… cicadas are bugs. And they are noisy little guys! I used to live in Louisiana, and every summer night was accompanied by the sounds of cicadas in the trees. One time I saw one and flipped out. I’m really against bugs in general. And then I read the book blurb, which does not tell you much, and saw the “not human” and thought: Oooo! Aliens! And sci-fi. And hopefully not huge bugs, because I would have a major problem with that. Cicada surprised me! I was not expecting such a suspenseful, romantic, creepy, mysterious, and exciting story. I’m a huge lover of reading conspiracy theories (I don’t believe most of them, but they are fun to think about!), so when crop circles and aliens and UFOs and secret government agencies came into play, I was up all night reading. This was a great story! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. This is a way different kind of story than most sci-fi books I’ve come across lately. It’s kind of a mix of the movie Signs and the Wings series by Aprilynn Pike. Weird, I know. That sounds crazy. Seriously, though! You’ve got the aliens and the crop circles and the “I’m freaking out about the fact that you’re outside in the dark right now” feeling, mixed with the “my boyfriend, who I thought was normal, is not normal at all and is changing and becoming a new person, and I might not see him for a while, but I need to pull through this and be strong” kind of situation.

2. Welcome to a young adult romance without a love triangle! Do you know how much I loved the fact that the main story was not centered around two boys fighting over one girl? It was glorious! Everett, the geeky guy in the group is Blaire’s best friend, and things develop from that. It’s a natural, common kind of real life relationship and I was very happy to see that surface in a sea of books with love triangles.

3. The characters were a lot of fun, but Blair was not my favorite at all. She was kind of an ordinary heroine to me. Her brother Andrew, though, was so great to read about. He is this sweet big brother who has a whole bunch of secrets, and really adores and protects his sister. Blair’s mom kind of weirded me out. She spoke to Blair a lot in sing-sing rhymes, which I found… well, weird. Haha. David is a baseball stud, whose batting skills came in handy and made me like him a lot. He’s also a very caring friend. Then there’s Natalie… and her role in the story confused me. She and David have a thing for each other, but don’t act on it because college is coming up and they will have to part ways. But they are still cuddly and dependent on each other, and then all of a sudden, the relationship escalates, but we were given no clues that it was happening! That romance was a bit unconvincing, but it’s probably because they are supporting characters, so we don’t get much info on them.

4. The creep-factor in Cicada had this chicken quivering under every blanket she owned. There’s just something about people walking through really dark, dense woods in the middle of the DARK. Plus, as Blair and all her friends started to get more and more involved with this non-human situation at hand, they became targets of a very dangerous group of people who were out to kill them. Now me, I’d hide in my closet. Or I’d move. Join a convent. Flee the country. What did they do? They went searching for these people! They entered mysterious buildings with green lights inside in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Because surely, waiting until it’s light out is not at all practical. You know how you watch a movie, and the main character hears a noise outside, so they walk out to see what it is? And they’re all, “Hello? Is someone there?” And you’re like, “DUH! GETINSIDERIGHTNOW!” Yeah. Exactly. Would you go snooping around scary city in the middle of the night? No, I think not. I was so creeped out that I called my little sister at 2:00 in the morning and asked her to go with me when I brushed my teeth, so that I would not have to walk across the dark hallway alone (because I swear I heard an alien out there). Yes, I’m admitting this to you. And I’m a chicken. This might be something your mom would read as a bedtime story to a 7-year-old you. Don’t judge me if you read this and are not scared. Toast popping out of the toaster has me practically running in place.

5. I wish there was a bit more substance. There was a lot of riding around “in the darkness” and searching a building and four-wheeling and visiting a storage facility. I wish we had been given some more character development and a few different events. The story was relatively short, though, so maybe we’ll get more in book #2. :)

6. The main climax of the book moved really quickly. It took a while to build up, which I enjoyed, but then BAM! Crazy thing happens, and then crazy thing is somewhat resolved within a few pages. I would have liked a little more time between the crazy and the resolution. We are led to believe (through what the characters say) that fixing this major, major problem is going to be extremely hard, but they do it rather easily within just a few pages. I wanted to go through more turmoil and more worry. I wanted the characters to have to struggle more. This is really hard to explain without spoiling things. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean.

7. The vague blurb was obviously written vaguely for a reason, so I’m not going to spoil anything for you. I find that sometimes a book’s back cover summary gives way too much away. This one leaves you with a lot of questions, which brings me to my next point: this book has left me with SO MANY QUESTIONS, which really frustrated me! Haha. I’m glad there’s a couple more books coming out in this story, and hopefully I’ll know what’s going on by the end of those. :P

This is a really nice debut from Belle Whittington. Of course, there is room for improvement, but isn’t there always? I’m excited to see what she does with the following stories, and it’ll be fun to watch her writing style and storytelling develop as her books continue. The sign of a great author is that each of their books are better than the ones before. I can see Belle being one of those authors. I enjoyed the story a lot, and am going to be on the lookout for the next one. I’d recommend this to lovers of sci-fi romances and conspiracy theories.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s a link to a video of what the electronic firefly looks like. Very cool!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
These giveaways include everyone on every stop of this blog tour, so there is no guarantee that one of my readers will win. Also, I’m not the one in charge of choosing the winners. They are. :)

Follow the tour! Here’s the schedule.

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins-Clark (Mini Book Review)

Posted June 16, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins-Clark (Mini Book Review)I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
Published by Simon & Schuster on April 5, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Pages: 337
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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2 Stars

Alexandra “Zan” Moreland, a gifted, beautiful interior designer on the threshold of a successful Manhattan career, is terrified to discover that somebody is not only using her credit cards and manipulating her financial accounts to bankrupt her and destroy her reputation, but may also be impersonating her in a scheme that may involve the much more brutal crimes of kidnapping and murder. Zan is already haunted by the disappearance of her own son, Matthew, kidnapped in broad daylight two years ago in Central Park—a tragedy that has left her torn between hope and despair.

Now, on what would be Matthew’s fifth birthday, photos surface that seem to show Zan kidnapping her own child, followed by a chain of events that suggests somebody—but who? Zan asks herself desperately, and why?—has stolen her identity.

Hounded by the press, under investigation by the police, attacked by both her angry ex-husband and a vindictive business rival, Zan, wracked by fear and pain and sustained only by her belief, which nobody else shares, that Matthew is still alive, sets out to discover who is behind this cruel hoax.

What she does not realize is that with every step she takes toward the truth, she is putting herself— and those she loves most—in mortal danger from the person who has ingeniously plotted out her destruction...

I think I’ve mentioned to a lot of people that I love Mary Higgins-Clark. She is the first author I got hooked on as a teenager, and I really devoured her novels. It’s kind of a summer tradition to read her newest release while on vacation, so I bought this for my kindle and was SO excited to find some time to read it while I was in Europe! I read this mostly on my cruise and in Rome, Italy! The story was entertaining and intense, and I was definitely intrigued. However, the writing in this book does not sound like the Mary I grew up reading. Sadly, I found myself getting really tired of the writing style. It really detracted from the story, and I don’t have a ton to say about it. Haha.

I honestly think that Mary has reached the point in her career where she has hired a ghost writer or two, and I can’t blame her for that. According to her bio, she’s around 85 years old. I just wish she had hired a ghost writer with real talent to match her own. It makes me so sad to think that she chose to continue producing really mediocre books under her own name, rather than just bow out and leave with some amazing books under her belt. Maybe she’s still writing these on her own, but if that’s the case she has definitely slipped. In any case, this book followed a completely different writing style and formula that made her previous books winners in my eyes.

Zan is a pretty boring, semi-crazy kind of character. We know very little about her, except the fact that she is a very rich, divorced interior designer with a child who vanished several years before and a dark past. Plus, she’s gorgeous, thin, and so much better than everyone else. She’s completely unrelatable. Her ex-husband, a PR guy, blames her for the kidnapping of their child. And seriously, this guy is annoying. Not only is he a jerk, but he plays this role of sugar daddy/lover/brown-noser to this young singer client of his and caters to her every whining whim. Again, unrelatable. The other characters in this book are also rich, stuck up, and flat. Honestly, I feel like I learned more about and related more to the nameless culprit than I did with any of the main characters.

The plot seemed incredibly unrealistic and implausible. This just would not happen. For those who wish to read this, I don’t want to spoil it. But seriously. I just kept shaking my head and going, “No.” Haha. Too many coincidences and dumb, unobservant characters. If anyone had taken a second to be smart and use today’s technology and some common sense, I really think this story would have ended much sooner. And the mini romance seemed like it fell out of the sky at the last minute. I didn’t buy it at all. I’m so sad! I think I need to go back and read some of her older novels from the 90’s. She really was an amazing author in her prime, and her books scared the crap out of me and were so well done.

2 Stars

I’m Featured at Little Red Reads Today!

Posted June 15, 2012 by Jana in About Me / 1 Comment

Hi! Today, you can find me over at Little Red Reads as part of her “Blogs to Talk About” feature. Stephanie is super nice, and I loved the interview questions she gave me! Some of them were really tricky. Anyway, click her blog button and head over to check out the post, learn some more about me, and spend some time at her blog!

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (Book Review)

Posted June 14, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 19 Comments

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (Book Review)Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Series: Monument 14 #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on June 5, 2012
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Survival
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.

Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.

But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.

Wow. This book was SO different than anything I’ve read before, but I actually really loved it. I was in the process of reading Monument 14 when I got to meet Emmy at the Fierce Reads author tour stop near me a few days ago. I loved hearing her talk about her book, because it made me understand and enjoy the story even more. She said that this book is pretty dark, and that a lot of sad things happen to wonderful characters. Originally, so wondered what was wrong with her. Why would she do that? She answered that question for us. She said she did it so that her characters would be able to show heir humanity towards one another. That even during the darkest, most bleak times of our lives, we humans will do what we can to let our light shine through from within. I loved that thought, and I immediately went home from the tour and devoured the rest of the book. I’m SO glad I read it, and I am eagerly awaiting the next one. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. What a unique idea for a story! Think of any survival story you’ve read or seen in movies/TV: Castaway, Survivor, Lost, Hatchet, Lord of the Flies, etc. Then put those survivors in a huge superstore (like Target or Walmart) and you’ve got Monument 14. The world outside the riot gates that they were trapped behind was completely falling apart: natural disasters, chemical spills that affected people depending on their blood type (some people blistered up and died, some became vicious and attacked others, some became incredibly paranoid, and some lost all their reproductive function.), scary people trying to get in, injuries and sickness, depression. These kids went through all of it.

2. I loved the characters. These kids were amazing, and made the entire story. And when I say kids, these kids are KIDS. There were a few older teenagers, and then a bunch of little littles, like 5 years old. The little ones were adorable, and just like the kids I’ve taught at school. They warmed my heart, and were so sweet. Batiste was a bit of a mini doomsday priest, but lightened up when he got to assist Dean (the MC and chef) in cooking really detailed meals for the rest of them. Niko, a boy scout, is appointed as leader and has to keep everyone safe. Josie becomes the level-headed mommy of the group. Alex (Dean’s brother) takes care of the logistics and electronics. Everyone has a job, and everyone does it. Some of them start of resistant and very immature (and downright jerky), but grow into adults very quickly. They all became so mature and responsible. I loved seeing these young people grow. They really did shine through the darkness to take care of each other and provide.

3. They were so smart! I loved what they did with the store. The renovated the dressing room to serve as bedrooms, they blocked off a “dump” for trash and bodily functions, they sealed off the vents from the outside so the chemicals would not come in, they took baths with bottled water, they knew how to use the pharmacy, etc. The older kids knew what to say to the little ones to make them feel better. I loved reading about all of this. So often, kids are labeled as being naive and unable to do anything for themselves. As a teacher, I know that this is not true. Some of my students have taught me more than the adults in my life. I really appreciate Emmy for allowing these kids to reach their fullest potential. Kids deserve more credit than they get.

4. The fight for survival was amazing to read. I love reading about people who gain courage and determination when they are faced with the decision to sit and take it, or to get up and fight for their lives. We got to see a different part of these characters as the need to survive grew bigger, and time was running out.

5. This story was SO fast-paced! There was no down time or time to recover. One thing after another after another happened. I was tearing through the book to see what happened. Emmy told us at the signing that her brother compared the book’s plot to, “being handcuffed and thrown down a flight of stairs. It just goes bam, bam, bam, bam!” I totally agree! Haha. And then when it’s all over, you’re just laying there going, “Whoa…”

6. Emmy’s writing is wonderful. She’s an amazing storyteller. The details and word choice she used made the story an experience, rather than a book.

I’m going to quit while I’m ahead, because I want to give you the chance to experience this for yourself. Haha. I know the bulk of my review focused mostly on the characters, but that’s because they were what brought me back to the book when I had spare time. If Emmy had thrown a different bunch of people together, I’m not sure it would have been such a powerful and moving read. Maybe it’s just because I’ve worked with so many little kids, but the message behind the book was inspiring. I really can’t wait to see what happens next!

5 Stars

Fierce Reads Tour Recap

Posted June 13, 2012 by Jana in Event Recap / 10 Comments

So, Macmillan sent all of their Fierce Reads authors to me tonight! It was so incredibly exciting to go, as this was my very first book event ever! The construction was insane, so I was really worried I would not make it in time. My ticket said that I had to be in my seat by 6:50, or I no longer had a seat reservation. Luckily, I ran in and up 2 flights of stairs and made it right at the last minute. I should not have worried, though. A lot of people came in a bit late, plus there were a few empty seats. I didn’t bring my camera, so crummy photos from my iPhone will just have to do.

Jennifer Bosworth, Anna Banks, Emmy Laybourne, Leigh Bardugo, and Marissa Meyer came (she was unexpected)!

The moderator for tonight’s discussion came in all dressed up in an elaborate costume, and introduced the tour. Then she took a minute to highlight each author separately, play their book’s trailer for us, and then have the author come to the podium to introduce their books and discuss the inspiration behind the story. I got a picture of each author, and took a few notes on what they had to say. A lot of interviews and tour recaps have been posted, so I’ll just say a few things I learned and observed.

Marissa Meyer (Cinder)

– Marissa is adorable! She is so bubbly and energetic. While she was telling us about the synopsis of Cinder, she went through a wonderful summary of the events, and right before she sat down, she said, “Oh, wait! There’s a plague too!”

– She refers to her breakthrough moment in which the idea of Cinder popped into her had as the, “boy sparkling in a meadow moment.” She had a dream that Cinderella was running down the stairs after the ball in her huge ballgown, and instead of her shoe falling off, her entire foot fell off. Cinder was born.
– The remaining three books in the series are about more fairytale characters who all ban together to take over the Lunar people. Little Red riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White each get their own book. I’m so excited!

Anna Banks (Of Poseidon)
– I already knew Anna was hilarious, since I did an interview with her a little while ago. But she’s even funnier in person!
– She showed up tonight a little drugged on Benadryl. Apparently she’s allergic to Seattle, which is where they were before they came to Utah. Plus, she was in high heels (she claims to only do well in those if she’s standing still), so I was impressed!
– She said she gets asked a lot about why she chose mermaids for her book. She explained that everything else has already been beaten to death, except for Sasquatch. She’s not sure the market is ready for that yet. A Sasquatch romance? I could actually see it working!
– She fully believes that mermaids are out there. (I love that. I think they might be too!)

Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone)
– She has another life as a make-up artist! And she sings in a band. :)
– Her book is all about a metaphor becoming literal. She explains that in a lot of fairy tales especially, darkness is a metaphor. “And darkness fell across the land…” She started wondering, what if darkness was a place? What if the monsters you thought were in that darkness really were, and you had to fight them?
– I loved it when she said that no matter how old we get, darkness has this power to scare us.

– She swooned a little over her hero, saying he’s “full of mystery and handsomness.”
Jennifer Bosworth (Struck)
– Her husband directed her movie trailer and did all the imagery for it.

– Her book was inspired by the world record holder for most lightning strikes survived. He had survived 7! He was a park ranger, and did not quit his job even though it made it easier to get struck by lightning. This made her wonder if maybe he liked it? Maybe it made him feel alive? So, she came up with the lightning addict.


Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14)
– She’s an actress, song-writer, and a teacher!
– She mentioned how much she loves the Provo Library (where tonight’s event was held), and that she was honored to be there. I love how humble she was throughout the entire panel.
– She said, “What’s wrong with me? Why would I do this to such nice characters?” Then she went on to reflect that she realized she did it because she wanted her characters to be able to show their humanity towards each other.
– I loved when she said that in the darkest times of our lives, we humans will do what we can to let the light shine from within us. So Profound.
– When she is not profound, she is absolutely hilarious.

After each author got to talk about her book, a text-in panel opened up. We texted our questions in to the moderator, who then put those up on a big screen. Then each author got to answer (I’m paraphrasing all the answers). I loved the set-up!

1. What scared you most about being a debut author?
MM – She’s been working her who life towards this, so she is more excited than scared. However, she was worried nobody would show up to her signings. It actually did happen to her once, but she was a good sport about it and had fun with the bookstore staff.
EL – She wrote Monument 14 with no audience in mind. She just wanted to tell her story. So she was worried nobody would like it.
JB – It’s hard for her to open up and share the things she has written with anyone and everyone.
LB – Everything. The cover, how much money would be spent on marketing, if people would care about the book, if she needed to go on a diet before tour. Haha. She sounds like me!

2. Was it hard creating brand new wolds and cultures?
MM – She wanted to blend a whole bunch of cultures into one: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, etc. So a lot of research went into play.
EL – Her story takes place in the not to distant future, so it mostly feels like it’s taking place now.
JB – She tore down a world, rather than building one up, by completely destroying Los Angeles. That city is near and dear to her heart, so she kind of laughed and said, “You hurt the one you love!” The cults in her book also angered a lot of people from various religions, so that was a challenge she had to get through.
AB – On land, her story takes place today. Underwater, it’s a completely different world. She mentioned that so many cultures and groups of people around the world have images of mermaids in their museums. Maybe one time long ago, mermaids and humans got along. Now, with all of today’s technology, where are they hiding? How can we not find them? That’s the world she had to create.

3. How is your book different from your first draft? 
AB – She received her editorial letter, and after crying and drinking wine, and sleeping, and crying more, she knew her editor was right. She ended up cutting 17,000 words and writing 18,000 new ones.
LB – She did not have to make a ton of changes, but did have to let go of a few things, which was hard for her.
JB – Her draft started at about page 199 of the book she ended up publishing, so she had to do quite a bit of backtracking. She also did a TON of revising.
EL – She sold her manuscript based on the first 150 pages and proposals for the others. After writing and writing, she submitted the rest of her book and her editor wrote back saying, “This is very hard for me to say, but the book you have written is not the book we bought.” She also had to do quite a bit of re-working to make the second half match the first half.
MM – 100% different. There is not one sentence in Cinder that was in her original manuscript. She completely re-wrote it.

4. Discuss your writing environment. (The focus was on food)
MM – She writes in cafes and restaurants. She’s a picky girl. These places must have a plug for her laptop, beverages, and a chair. Haha!
EL – She fosters her ideas in her brain for 12 hours before writing! Before she gets in bed the night before, she thinks about her scene for the next day. Then she sleeps and lets her brain work. Then she wakes up, takes her kids to school, walks to work, turns on some classical music, and writes. And she loves sunflower seeds.
JB – She has to eat continuously. (And she’s cute and skinny!) She writes a few words, then eats, then writes, then eats. A bowl of popcorn and some lemonheads always accompany her.
LB – She goes out to places wearing her bluetooth headset so that she can pretend to have a conversation with someone, but instead talk to herself about her plans and her goals. CLEVER. and SNEAKY. If she’s writing at home, she tries to stay healthy and eat raw broccoli from a huge bag. One time she went out, though, and found it in her hair. Whoops!
AB – She gets up at 4:30 AM to write in her comfy chair, wrapped in a comforter with some coffee. At night she drinks wine and then writes. She does not eat while writing, because crumbs get stuck in the keyboard and you can’t get them out. Blowing and vacuums don’t work. She does take breaks for fried chicken and cheesecake, though.

5. Best experience since you’ve been published?
EL – Us. I got a little teary-eyed. She stood up and told us that we (her fans) are the best thing that’s happened to her book-wise, of course. She then proceeded to tell us that we had the best turn-out of all the other tour stops they went to (so far), and took our picture. She laughed and said we were so big that we did not fit in her camera’s lens. I think it was Anna who said, “That’s not very nice of you to say, Emmy…” :P
MM – Every person she knew showed up to her release party, but one little girl in particular made her night. She walked up to Marissa shaking and said, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done!!” and Marissa said, “Really? Me too!!!” SO cute.
JB – Filming her book trailer was the best, because the cast filled her vision of her characters so well. It’s like she got to meet them. Movies are a huge part of her life, so combining her book with film made her cry.
LB – When people tell her that they were up all night reading her book, because that’s how she is. She also cried when she saw the design of the map of the store in her book. Actually, everything made her cry.
AB – Her elderly mother was a skeptic the entire time Anna was going through the publishing process. She thought for sure Anna was being scammed and stolen from. When Anna got her first payment, she took the statement to her Mom and got to prove that this was the real deal.

Fun, huh? Then we got to get our books, posters, and swag signed! This was so much fun! I saw Anna first, and told her that I interviewed her on my blog, and she said, “And you are…” I told her I was Jana, and she lit up and said, “You’re Jana!!?!??!?” It made my entire week that she remembered me and knew who I was. She personalized my book, and even took the time to draw a really awesome shark on the title page. I am so happy I got to meet her. I’m not sure she’ll know how happy she made me! I’ll admit, I felt a bit famous.

Then I went to Leigh. She signed my things, and then said to me, “Are those your natural eyelashes?” I said yes, and she said, “I am going to punch you in the face right now.” I took that as a major compliment, seeing as how she’s a make-up artist and all! She also knew my name once she heard it! She knew I was a blogger! I swear, I felt so wonderful. My words are getting out there! Then Jennifer signed my poster and bookmark, and I moved on to Emmy, who is SO sweet. We talked a little about her next book (Monument 14: Sky on Fire), which I’m way excited for! I ended my signing with Marissa. She was not on the poster, but brought stickers to stick on the posters and sign her name under. She was so happy and smiley, and seemed really excited to be there! She also let me in on a few confidential secrets. :) I’m going to show off my signatures, poster, and swag this Sunday in my vlog. :)

All in all, this was such a wonderful experience for me! I loved meeting and talking with the authors, and connecting with them on a more personal level. Sometimes I feel like authors are on a different planet than I am. The Author Planet. I don’t run into them. We don’t all pal around at Denny’s late at night. It was fun to see them as real people, who just want to share their love of writing with us. They were all so funny and it was interesting to hear about their experiences as authors so far, their fears, their triumphs, their inspirations, and their quirky personality traits. I know that this is the beginning of a serious addiction of mine. I will be eagerly seeking out more opportunities like this. I’m even more excited to go to ALA now to meet more authors like them!

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (Book Review)

Posted June 12, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (Book Review)Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins
Published by HQN Books on April 24, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2.5 Stars

After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon's Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father's wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she's not thrilled...even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist's assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn't the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn't the only thing that needs a little TLC.

So… Thanks, Mr. Bieber, for getting this song stuck in my head. Actually, I think the song came before the book… so… yeah. Anywho… Yeah. Sadly, I know this song. Sadder, it’s an easy one to get stuck your head. Saddest, it was ALWAYS in my head. Every time I read, I was thinking of Justin and his silly little boy dance moves (yeah… I’ve seen the music video, too. *facepalm*) So basically, that’s what happened. I read the book, it had a cute story, too much mention of “lady land”, and the Biebs singing in the background. Interesting mixture, no? As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. What a fun story idea! Any of you HGTV-watchers will agree with me that it’s really fun to watch (or in this case, read) a really ugly, crummy, decrepit house be completely flipped and turned into a really cute/gorgeous living space! That’s what’s going on in the background of the story, and I really loved picturing the changes this house went through.

2. Gideon’s Cove, Maine (the setting for this story) is darling. This place sounds like one of those quaint, hidden oceanside towns where everyone knows who you are whether you want them to or not. I really liked all the people she met while she was there, and each character added something special to the story.

3. I liked Parker, because she was not the stereotypical spoiled heiress. No offense to you if you are a spoiled heiress, but I generally don’t like them because they feel entitled and better than everyone else. Of course, there are exceptions, and Parker is one of them. I found it refreshing. Yes, she had to be taught how to change a vacuum cleaner bag, but what counts is that she was willing to learn and then do it herself. I liked that she is the author of a quirky children’s book series, but I really did not like that the characters in her books talked to her. That was weird.

4. James, a.k.a. “Thing One”, is a total babe. He’s Parker’s Dad’s lawyer, and has been hanging out in the background of Parker’s life for years. Now, he’s off to Gideon’s Cove to help Parker spruce up her house, and to crush on her a LOT. He’s had a thing for her, but it’s complicated. You know how it is. He’s got this troubled past that makes him guarded and tough, but his dreams make him completely perfect and sweet. Plus, he’s a hard worker. Phew! I really liked his character.

5. Parker’s son, Nicky, his father Ethan (who is one of her very best friends), and Ethan’s wife Lucy are pretty much Parker’s only family, since her dad screwed his life up and pushed her away. I really liked all the supporting characters, but these three were my favorites (although Malone is pretty great).

6. I liked reading about Parker’s relationship with her dad: how it used to be, how it is now (and why), and how they try to mend fences. It added a deeper feeling to the story that gave me something to root for.

7. I got really tired of hearing about how Parker’s Lady Land perked up when James smiled, or how it stirred when he ripped siding off the house. There was just so much lust! And when they finally did act on things, it was meant to be a fling and only a fling. I guess I’m more of a traditionalist, but I don’t like it when love stories begin with two characters only interested in physical encounters and nothing more than that.

8. Sometimes this book was pretty funny! Here’s my favorite part. Parker had just gotten to Gideon’s Cove, expecting a mansion, and found the little run-down shack she inherited. Of course, she ventured in to assess the situation:

“Hi,” he said, as if she wasn’t murdering her jeans against the hood. “How’s it going?”
“There was a mouse in my pants.”
He raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Lucky Mouse.”
Her breath caught. Wrong thing to say. Wrong. “It’s pretty traumatic to have a rodent in your pants, Thing One,” she snapped. “Unless you like that sort of thing.”
“Oh, hey, sorry princess,” he said, approaching the car. “Didn’t mean to make light of your tragedy.”
“There was a mouse in my pants,” she blurted.

I actually laughed. I enjoy it when that happens!

9. Sometimes I got a little bored with all the dialogue between the main characters and supporting characters that didn’t do much to add to the story. I found myself skimming through a few passages because things were just moving too slowly.

10. The ending made the entire book worth it, and I got pretty teary-eyed. I’m a sap. Haha. It was just really sweet!

While this book had its moments, and the story was appealing, it was not one of my favorite reads and I actually had a bit of a hard time finding the motivation to read it. I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because it was fun to see how everything wrapped up. I got attached to Gideon’s Cove and some of the characters, so I had to see where everyone ended up. I was pleased with how things were left. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a fluffy summer romance, laced with a deeper lesson on family and healing. This was my first Kristan Higgins book, and I do think she’s an author I’ll consider in the future!

2.5 Stars