Month: January 2016

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin | Book Review

Posted January 30, 2016 by Jana in Adult Non-Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin | Book Review438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival by Jonathan Franklin
Published by Atria Books on November 17, 2015
Genres: Biography, Non-Fiction, Survival
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
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5 Stars
438 Days is the miraculous account of the man who survived alone and adrift at sea longer than anyone in recorded history—as told to journalist Jonathan Franklin in dozens of exclusive interviews.

On November 17, 2012, Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip. A vicious storm killed his engine and the current dragged his boat out to sea. The storm picked up and blasted him west. When he washed ashore on January 29, 2014, he had arrived in the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away—equivalent to traveling from New York to Moscow round trip.

For fourteen months, Alvarenga survived constant shark attacks. He learned to catch fish with his bare hands. He built a fish net from a pair of empty plastic bottles. Taking apart the outboard motor, he fashioned a huge fishhook. Using fish vertebrae as needles, he stitched together his own clothes.

He considered suicide on multiple occasions—including offering himself up to a pack of sharks. But Alvarenga never failed to invent an alternative reality. He imagined a method of survival that kept his body and mind intact long enough for the Pacific Ocean to toss him up on a remote palm-studded island, where he was saved by a local couple living alone in their own Pacific Island paradise.

Based on dozens of hours of interviews with Alvarenga and interviews with his colleagues, search and rescue officials, the medical team that saved his life and the remote islanders who nursed him back to health, this is an epic tale of survival, an all-true version of the fictional Life of Pi. With illustrations, maps, and photographs throughout, 438 Days is a study of the resilience, will, ingenuity, and determination required for one man to survive fourteen months, lost at sea.

First of all, happy two year rescue anniversary to Salvador Alvarenga! It was exactly two years ago today that Alvarenga washed up onto a little island and was taken in by a generous local couple who helped nurse him back to health. This man’s story is unfathomable, and inspiring. There are really no words that can accurately describe what he went through. And I really want to just sit you down and tell you everything, but that would just spoil everything. I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to read his story and learn more about the man we heard about in the news.

438 Days took a little while to grab me. The first 60-70 pages talk about his life before he was stranded at sea. He was a party boy. He loved his drugs and his alcohol. I was a little bored with this section because I was more interested in reading about his survival story than his background. Once he became stranded, he began a radical internal change. He cared about his daughter and he cared about being a better person. I loved seeing how this event impacted him for the better. Once the book moved in to his survival story, I became very invested and flew through the pages. Interestingly enough, I also got very depressed while reading. I already knew the outcome, and I knew he would be ok, but I was still very mopey as I read about his emotionally and mentally taxing experiences. This is part of why I read so quickly. I needed to read that he was ok.

The writing style also took a little while for me to get used to. The author of this book, Franklin, is a news reporter for multiple publications, and I could tell from his writing style. The entire story was written like a newspaper article, and it lacked the flowing, narrative style I’m used to in books. I did get used to it, though, and I grew to enjoy it at times.

The book has a map on the endpapers that plots the course Alvarenga took. I loved looking at this map, and seeing where he was during each part of his journey. So much detail is used to describe his day-to-day activities, the weather, his surroundings, etc. that I felt like I was there. There’s a particular few days where Alvarenga makes a friend in a very large whale shark, who drifts along with him. A few days later, a baby whale shark shows up. What an amazing thing to experience. There are other special moments that the author recounts, and I’m so happy to know that Alvarenga was able to experience some good during his miserable time at sea. He saw some amazing things.

Alvarenga grew to be a true survivalist. The ingenuity and creativity he developed helped him find food and water. He was able to entertain himself to pass the time. He was able to fight off the insanity that was bubbling to the surface. He continued to amaze me throughout the entire story. I honestly have no idea how he was able to survive for so long drinking turtle blood and eating raw birds and fish. Every time I think of this man, the words “amazing” and “miraculous” come to mind.

In short, I’m not usually a fan of non-fiction and memoir. I’ve read a few, but they are not usually what I choose to read. Alvarenga’s story was so interesting to me, though, so I took a gamble and accepted this book for review. I really enjoyed reading it, though, and felt feelings of hope while reading. I felt inspired to do great things. I love it when books have the power to do this to a person, and that’s the beauty of survival stories. I’m going to end my review with a quote from Alvarenga himself, which can be found in the epilogue of the book. The author asks him what motivated him to write this book. His response is a lovely message for people everywhere, and perfectly illustrates that our experiences have the power to change us:

“I suffered so much and for so long. Maybe if people read this they will realize that if I can make it, they can make it. Many people suffer only because of what happens in their head; I was also physically being tortured. I had no food. No water. If I can make it so can you. If one depressed person avoids committing suicide then the book is a success.

Be strong. Think positive. If you start to think to the contrary, you are headed to failure. Your mind has to be relaxed as you think about survival. Don’t think about death. If you think you are going to die, you will die. You have to survive and think about the future of your life, that life is beautiful! How can you imagine taking your own life? There are challenges and punishment in life but you have to fight!”

501 Must-Visit Destinations | Book Review

Posted January 28, 2016 by Jana in Adult Non-Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

501 Must-Visit Destinations | Book Review501 Must-Visit Destinations by David Brown, Jackum Brown, Kieran Fogarty, Rebecca Walder
Published by Bounty Books on January 1, 2006
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars
The book covers 501 must-visit destinations, ranging from remote hideaways and tropical islands to bustling cities, breathtaking monuments and stunning landscapes across the world. Stunning photography sits alongside informative text and a summary of don't-miss features of each site.

I’m plagued with a very serious disease called wanderlust. I live to explore new places, which is hard when you’re a poor grad school student. The next best thing is to flip through books like these and transport yourself to a new place, free of charge. This book takes you to every possible vacation spot ever! It covers Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, Asia, Australasia and Oceania, Europe, and the Middle East. The pages all have color-coded tabs that tell you where you are. Each destination gets one page with about 4-6 paragraphs of text and a beautiful image or two. There’s also a sidebar for each location that tells you a number of different important facts about when to go, how to get there, any yummy foods you should try, what to do while you’re there, where to stay, legends, taboo, entrance fees, and any social etiquette you should be aware of. The main body of the text discusses the history, culture, and other interesting tidbits.

I learned a lot on my journey with this book! Let me highlight some of my favorite facts. Did you know that Lake Malawi has the largest variety of freshwater tropical fish in the world? In Egypt, women should cover their knees and shoulders in public. Cat Island in the Bahamas is where Columbus first landed in the New World. For all you pink-lovers out there, visit Barbuda in the Caribbean! They have a pink sand beach! Canada has its own serpent-like creature lurking around the waters of the Lake Okanagan. Sightings have been made at least once a year, unlike the Loch Ness Monster. They also have a Sasquatch-like creature creeping through the islands of God’s Pocket. I had no idea that the Florida Everglades is the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles cohabit!

Moving on. Welcome to Asia! Did you know that the Buddhists believe that mountain Kailasa is the birthplace of the world? They feel this way because there are four rivers that flow down its slopes into the four corners of the world. I’d love to see that, wouldn’t you? Be careful, though! According to the locals, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. You might die. That’d put a damper on the vacation, huh? Thought so.

Remember how “The Bear Necessities” in Disney’s The Jungle Book mentions the pawpaw (prickly pear)? Well, Captain Bligh is credited with introducing that fruit to the people of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. The Louvre used to be the world’s largest palace before it became the world’s largest art museum. Europe has its own Grand Canyon: Les Gorges du Verdon in France. The film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was partially filmed in Neuschwanstein—the royal palace in the Bavarian Alps of Germany. The beautiful British Museum is totally and completely amazing… plus, entrance is FREE! Good to know!

Anyone seen the movie Leap Year? Part of it takes place in beautiful Dingle. A dolphin named Fungie has lived in that harbor since 1984. Makes me want to visit even more now! Mount Athos, in Greece, is the treasury of the Greek Orthodox faith and only men can apply to enter. Men, if you’re interested be sure to apply at least 6 months in advance because only 10 are allowed to visit per day. Spain has its own Guggenheim Museum! It looks just as awesome as the famous Guggenheim in New York. Our journey ends in the Middle East with a personal favorite: Jerusalem. Did you know that Jerusalem is also known as “the City of Peace”? Kind of ironic, considering it’s the most disputed city on earth.

Doesn’t this make you want to jump on a plane and start exploring? This book is 544 pages of dream vacations, and I would love to visit every single one of them. I am really annoyed that the book did not come with plane tickets and travel accommodations for each of these destinations. I mean, come on! I would recommend this book to any traveler, whether you’re experienced or just daydream about it a lot.

The Debut Dish: January 2016, Issue #2 (+ Giveaways)

Posted January 24, 2016 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 5 Comments

The Debut Dish, a Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of the Debut Dish features Sarah Ahiers (Assassin’s Heart), Kali Wallace (Shallow Graves), Cait Spivey (From Under the Mountain), Rebecca Podos (The Mystery of Hollow Places), Emily Martin (The Year We Fell Apart), and Anne Riley (Pull).

Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers
February 2, 2016 from HarperTeen
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In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Assassins, murder, vengeance, ghosts, romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I have a lot of favorite scenes, but one that I’ve really loved since the moment I wrote it is when Lea meets her estranged uncle Marcello for the first time. Things are revealed and emotions are high and I really like Marcello as a character. I get excited every time I read that scene.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At my day job. I got an email from my agent about the offer and I was so excited and emotional that my hands were shaking when I called my sister a few minutes later.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate and chips. Even better is chocolate covered potato chips!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A measuring tape and a geode.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
January 26, 2016 from Katherine Tegen Books
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For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.

When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Being undead sucks.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
That’s a spoiler! Let’s just say it involves several dead bodies, a long walk underground, and a very angry woman.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was on vacation in Hawaii when I got the call from my agent, so the time difference meant that we kept missing each other and I had to get out of bed before 6 a.m. so we could actually have a conversation about the offer. Totally worth it.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate. Just… chocolate.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The Father Ted DVD box set. I don’t know why it’s on my desk. It’s not like I’m going to watch it at my desk.

From Under the Mountain by Cait Spivey
January 26, 2016 from REUTS Publications
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As the second child of the Aridan imperial family, nineteen-year-old Guerline knows exactly what is expected of her: be unobtrusive, be compliant, and do not fall in love with her low-born companion, Eva. She has succeeded at only two of those.

But before her feelings for Eva can become a point of contention for the royal house, Guerline’s calm and narrow life is ripped away from her—in the course of a single night—and she is abruptly cast in the role of empress.

Faced with a council that aggressively fears the four witch clans charged with protecting Arido and believes they are, in fact, waging war against the humans, Guerline struggles to maintain order. As her control over the land crumbles, she learns that the war is rooted in a conflict much older than she realized—one centuries in the making, which is now crawling from under the mountain and into the light. With the fate of Arido hanging in the balance, Guerline must decide who to trust when even her closest councilors seem to have an agenda.

Darkly cinematic, From Under the Mountain pairs the sweeping landscape of epic fantasy with the personal journey of finding one’s voice in the world, posing the question: how do you define evil, when everything society tells you is a lie?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Witches. Humans. Psychopathic gods. Disaster.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Tough one. I can’t be too specific about my favorite scene, because it’s one of those spoilerific crux scenes. Suffice it to say that it’s immediately after a major character’s death, and Guerline, the main character, is confronted by a lot of the information and feelings she’s been trying to control and suppress so far in the novel. I have to stop and read this scene every time I work on the novel, even if I’m just supposed to be skimming through.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home. I work from home, so I’m pretty much here all the time, haha.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Cheesecake. Or creme brûlée. Or fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies…*wanders off in search of junk food*

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have a little spider finger-puppet that I use to introduce people to my self-pubbed novella series, THE WEB. I try to keep my desk clear, so I guess he counts as the oddest thing.

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
January 26, 2016 from Blazer + Bray
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All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as troubled waters.

When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of her father’s books to track down a woman she’s never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.

Rebecca Podos’ debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us – the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.

Describe your book in five words or less.
It’s a mystery about mysteries.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite might be the scene at the Boston MFA between the main character, Imogene Scott, and her best-friend-on-paper, Jessa Price, during a pivotal point in the mystery. Jessa was in some ways based upon my best friend growing up, so the evolution of the girls’ relationship as they work together to find Immy’s father is really precious to me.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
When I found out I had an offer on HOLLOW PLACES, I was in the car with my husband, leaving the motorcycle dealership where he’d just bought a bike. I made him pull over so I could tell him the good news , and he asked if I wanted to go back and buy a bike for myself to celebrate. I DID NOT.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate peanut butter, but if I eat it on celery, it’s considered “veggies with toppings.”

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I’ve just spilled my drink across my desk, but that’s not unusual, so I’ll go with this cardboard bear I got from the Edward Gorey House. You can dress him up in all kinds of period clothing that came in the kit, which I absolutely NEEDED when I was in the gift shop a few years ago. I’m sure I’ll find a great and practical use for it someday.

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The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
January 26, 2016 from Simon Pulse
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In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.

Describe your book in five words or less.
The complicated negotiation of forgiveness.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is the first one I wrote, which actually comes late in the novel. It’s a point where all of Harper and Declan’s past hurt and everything they’ve gone a year without dealing with finally comes to a head. Writing that scene inspired the rest of the novel, because I had to find out how these two best friends, despite all the love they have for each other, could end up in such a messy, painful place.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Riding the T in Boston on my commute home from work. I saw my agent was calling and couldn’t resist answering, which wasn’t the brightest idea because I was underground and couldn’t hear half of what she was saying! I somehow managed to contain my flailing until the next stop, at which point I jumped out and practically skipped the rest of the way home.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I love a mix of salty and sweet–chocolate-covered pretzels and kettle corn are two of my faves!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My desk is remarkably clean at the moment, but there is a set of Betty Boop pens that my mom sent me as an “office warming” present. They are as awesome and ridiculous as you might think.

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Pull by Anne Riley
February 2, 2016 from Spencer Hill Press
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Rosie Clayton witnesses a mugging on her first night in London—and then the scene rewinds itself.

She finds herself standing in the same place again, with the mugging happening just like before, except this time a stranger steps in and stops it. There’s no way the same incident can have two outcomes. Rosie thinks she’s losing her mind, until just a few days later, the stranger saves her.

The stranger, Albert, and his band of misfit crime-fighters, have the special ability to Pull, which allows them to rewind just enough time to undo a recent event. Someone is hunting Albert and his crew– and now that Rosie’s been seen with them, she’s a target too. Rosie is left with no choice but to trust Albert to keep her safe.

As Rosie learns more about this unbelievable ability and the people – if you can call them that – who want them dead, she discovers that the group’s desire for her blood might be more than mere coincidence. Each step into this magical side of London introduces Rosie to a family history that she never knew existed, and dangerous forces that could unravel her world in an instant.

Her family may be the reason they’re all being hunted—and she may be the only one who can figure out how to save them. Sure, between the lot of them, they have a few shots to get it right. The thing about Pulling, though, is you have to be alive to do it.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Cute English guys fighting crime.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I love the scene where Albert is trying to teach Rosie how to Pull (rewind a section of time to change something bad that’s happened). It’s full of tension and mystery–will she be able to do it? And how does she feel about Albert standing so close to her?–and I love the chemistry between the two characters.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my house, changing my second child’s diaper. Glamorous, right?

What’s your favorite junk food?
Anything greasy! Burgers, fries, pizza… I’ll eat all of it!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
An atomic clock that doesn’t actually keep accurate time. (How? Isn’t that the whole point of an atomic clock?)

I’ve got a flash giveaway of Pull going on on Twitter right now! 

Winter by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Posted January 19, 2016 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 6 Comments

Winter by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewWinter by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Stars Above
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Pages: 832
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Friends Jumping
I don’t know what to say!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY! I LOVED this conclusion to The Lunar Chronicles. Marissa knew just what I wanted to know and she answered all my questions and tied up all the loose ends. Boy, does she know how to end a series.

Cress and Thorne are so unbelievably cute, I can’t even handle it. Thorne is still my very favorite character in this story. He can make me laugh, he can make me swoon, and he can make me crazy. Scarlet and poor, tortured Wolf go through everything you could possibly think of and I’m amazed at their strength and their ability to push through it all. Their love was written in the stars, and I think they might be my favorite couple ever (but don’t make me choose because I won’t!). Readers are not given as much time to fall in love with Winter and Jacin, but you do anyway. I keep thinking of Buttercup and Wesley and Corey and Topanga when I think of those two. Cinder and Kai are overshadowed by the epic love stories of our other characters, but it’s so good to see them happy. And Iko… Iko, Iko, Iko… she is still hilarious and sweet and tender and flirtatious. No android will ever be able to take her place in my heart. I miss everyone already. How am I going to live without my band of misfits in the sky?

Marissa Meyer has outdone herself, and I’m almost afraid of reading any of her future works because how can she outdo herself again? (Of COURSE I’m going to read everything she writes forever.) This book is LONG, but I needed every page. Every word. I was either swooning over this romance, or screaming at that revelation, or crying over that moment, or flipping out over WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!, or cheering because YAY I LOVE THEM THEY RULE. The action is cataclysmic, the suspense unending, and the romance breathtaking. There’s so much of everything you could ever hope for and more. The tension never lets up, and you never feel totally safe until the very end. Can we all drive off into the sunset together?

Bottom line, thanks for reading my review because I have no coherent thoughts.

In summary: Read The Lunar Chronicles. 

Shade Me Rainbow Blitz | My Favorite Red Things (+ Giveaway)

Posted January 17, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway / 6 Comments

Shade Me Rainbow Blitz | My Favorite Red Things (+ Giveaway)

I’m so excited to be on the Shade Me Rainbow Blitz tour, hosted by Irish Banana Tours! Seven bloggers, seven days, seven colors. Each day you’ll get to visit another blog and see why they love their assigned color (and shades of their color). First stop is right here, with the shades of red (including maroon, burgundy, pink, etc.)! I’ve chosen to do a collage of all of my favorite things. Don’t forget to read about Jennifer Brown’s Shade Me and enter to win one of three copies of the book!

Jana’s Favorite (Shades of) Red Things


I love strawberries, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, red velvet cake, my pink high heels, pink dahlias, my hot pink Revlon Ultra HD Matte lip color, red nail polish, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, gardens with red flowers, sunsets, fall leaves, and apples!

What are some of your favorite red (and shades of red) things?

Shade Me by Jennifer Brown
January 19, 2016 from Katherine Tegen Books
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.

Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.

The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?

As she tries to decipher the strange kaleidoscope of clues, Nikki finds herself thrust into the dark, glittering world of the ultra-rich Hollis family, and drawn towards Peyton’s handsome, never-do-well older brother Dru. While Nikki’s colors seem to help her unravel the puzzle, what she can’t see is that she may be falling into a trap. The only truth she can be sure of is that death is a deep, pulsing crimson.

Shade Me is award-winning author Jennifer Brown’s first book in a thrilling suspense series about Nikki Kill.

About Jennifer Brown:

Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer’s weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist.

Jennifer’s debut novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. HATE LIST also won the Michigan Library Association’s Thumbs Up! Award, the Louisiana Teen Readers Choice award, the 2012 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award, was an honorable mention for the 2011 Arkansas Teen Book Award, is a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback, received spots on the Texas Library Association’s Taysha’s high school reading list as well as the Missouri Library Association’s Missouri Gateway Awards list, and has been chosen to represent the state of Missouri in the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Jennifer’s second novel, BITTER END, (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and is a 2012 Taysha’s high school reading list pick as well.

Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Tour Schedule:

1/17:  That Artsy Reader Girl – Red
1/18:  Lisa Loves Lit – Orange
1/19:  Avid Reader – Yellow
1/20:  Book Scents – Green
1/21:  Andi’s ABCs – Blue
1/22:  Fiery Reads – Indigo
1/23:  Such A Novel Idea – Violet

Discussion: What’s the Longest Book You’ve Ever Read?

Posted January 16, 2016 by Jana in Discussion, Personal / 22 Comments

cat reading
With all the excitement of the holidays last month, it has taken me since Christmas Eve to finish Winter by Marissa Meyer (I finished it in the wee hours of yesterday morning, and it was everything a Jana could have dreamed of.). Of course, this means I’ve had pretty much no content for my blog. lol. And I swear, I felt guilty that things were so quiet over here while I took three weeks to read one book. But then…

I realized, Winter is the longest book I’ve ever read (824 pages)! So basically this is a huge accomplishment. I usually feel very overwhelmed by big books because they are a major time commitment. They latch onto your emotions and take you away from this world. I’m so glad I was willing to give myself the time to read such a long book. AND it was one I bought! I read it for me, and I rarely take the time to do that.

Anyway, I’m wondering… What’s the longest book you’ve ever read? 

Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant to Get to But Didn’t

Posted January 11, 2016 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 6 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

Today I’m talking about those books from last year I meant to get to but didn’t. I still really want to! I just can’t possibly read as fast as publishers publish books. lol. Hopefully I can find time for them this year. :)



The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson
Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
All Fall Down by Ally Carter
First & Then by Emma Mills
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

What should I read first? And which books did you miss out on in 2015?

The Debut Dish: January 2016, Issue #1 (+ Giveaway)

Posted January 10, 2016 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 13 Comments

The Debut Dish, a Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

Welcome to January’s first issue of The Debut Dish! Things are working a little differently this year. Most noticeably, we’ve got some new questions! Also, there will be two issues a month instead of an issue almost every Sunday. Last of all, I’m no longer featuring authors chronologically by release date. Sometimes it ends up that way, but I’m letting the authors choose when I feature them this year so they can do more exciting giveaways!

This issue features Marieke Nijkamp (This is Where it Ends), Natalie Blitt (The Distance from A to Z), Emily Albright (The Heir and the Spare), and Patrick Samphire (Secrets of the Dragon Tomb).

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
January 5, 2016 from Sourcebooks Fire
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Four teens. One school shooting.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a scene early on in the book where one of the main characters, who is inside the school, but not inside the auditorium where the shooting takes place, is desperate to save his sister. His best friend is with him, and although normally they banter and don’t take anything seriously, here they stand beside each other unconditionally. And I loved writing that friendship between Tomás and Fareed.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In a bookstore, with my critique partner and her agent! Which was basically the best thing ever. (And I didn’t even buy any books because I was so overwhelmed! I made up for that over the next couple of days, though.)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Ice cream! I’m an ice cream person summer or winter.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A Gallifreyan fob watch. ;-)

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
January 12, 2016 from Epic Reads Impulse
Add to Goodreads | Author Twitter

This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Amour is French for love.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes is the first time Abby and Zeke kiss. They are having a lovely evening and Abby says something dumb that Zeke takes offense at — and they wind up on different sides of a trivia night at a local cafe. It’s fun and flirty and sad and just a little bit sexy.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At work! Seems odd, doesn’t it? I’d had a few near misses so it was hard to not be worried, but there was definitely a lot of cheshire grins happening.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate covered espresso beans. And air popped popcorn. And red licorice.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I bought the letters W, R, I, T, E from Michael’s and then glued on pages from an old copy (one of two) of Ballet Shoes that I’d had from when I was little. You can see the line drawings and it both inspires me and keeps me aiming high.

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright
January 18, 2016 from Merit Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Family can be complicated. Especially when skeletons from the past pop up unexpectedly. For American Evie Gray, finding out her deceased mother had a secret identity, and not one of the caped crusader variety, was quite the surprise. Evie’s mom had a secret life before she was even born, one that involved tiaras.

In this modern day fairytale, Evie is on a path to figure out who her mom really was, while discovering for herself what the future will hold. Charged with her late mother’s letters, Evie embarks on a quest into her past. The first item on the list is to attend Oxford, her mom’s alma mater. There, Evie stumbles upon a real life prince charming, Edmund Stuart the second Prince of England, who is all too happy to be the counterpart to her damsel in distress.

Evie can’t resist her growing attraction to Edmund as they spend more time together trying to unravel the clues her mother left behind. But, when doubts arise as to whether or not Edmund could ever be with an untitled American, what really ends up unraveling is Evie’s heart. When Evie uncovers all the facts about her mom’s former life, she realizes her mom’s past can open doors she never dreamed possible, doors that can help her be with Edmund. But, with everything now unveiled, Evie starts to crack under the pressure of new family responsibilities and the realization that her perfect prince may want her for all the wrong reasons.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A modern day fairytale romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Hmm, I’d probably have to go with the Eiffel Tower scene on Evie’s Birthday.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home. I was working on another book when my agent called me and told me Merit was making an offer. Once I got off the phone I did a happy dance and squealed liked a little girl. Then I started calling my hubby and parents. It still makes me smile just to think about it.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Always chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. ;)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I actually don’t have a desk. I use a lap desk thingy on the chaise part of my couch. But, the oddest thing within my reach would have to be my pink peppermint foot cream. Well, that or my weird, little, food-stealing puppy, Luna. The other day she stole the tuna sandwich I made for lunch and spit out all the pickles. Guess she’s not a pickle fan.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire
January 12, 2016 from Christy Ottaviano Books
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Mars in 1816 is a world of high society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan wants to become a spy like the ones he reads about in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales, but he’s far too busy keeping his eccentric family from disaster. All of that is about to change. In the north, great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology, and the villainous archaeologist Sir Titus Dane is determined to loot one.

When Sir Titus kidnaps Edward’s parents, Edward, his sisters, and their mysterious cousin set off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. Together they must battle Sir Titus’s minions, dodge hungry pterodactyls, and escape fearsome Martian hunting machines in order to rescue Edward’s parents and uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A thrilling Martian adventure.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes comes right near the beginning of the book when our hero’s idiot cousin crashes his cycle-copter (a cross between a bicycle and a helicopter) into a great pillar of rock, almost sending our hero plunging to his doom. I love this scene because it’s full of action, is very funny, and sets of a whole cascade of deadly adventure and thrilling escapes.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was reading to my oldest son (who was four at the time) and we’d just taken a break in between chapters when I found out. He was very excited, although he didn’t like the idea that someone else would buy my book as he wanted to keep it!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate. Is chocolate a junk food? Actually, I don’t think it can be. It is my opinion that if you only eat dark chocolate and only drink green tea you’ll live forever.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I kinda don’t want to think about that right now, because my little children keep leaving weird things on my desk and sometimes they freak me out when I uncover them.

Exclusive Interview with Author Kristan Higgins

Posted January 6, 2016 by Jana in Author Interview / 0 Comments

I’m so happy to have Kristan on the blog today in celebration of the recent release of Anything for You (12/29/15), the final book in Blue Heron series! Read a little bit about the book, and then scroll down to learn more about Kristan! I had some fun questions to ask her.


Blue Heron Series: The Best Man, The Perfect Match, Waiting On You, In Your Dreams, Anything for You

Anything for You by Kristan Higgins
Published by HQN Books on December 29, 2015
Genres: Adult – Contemporary Romance
Amazon • Add to Goodreads

Before you get down on bended knee…

…you should be pretty darn sure the answer will be yes. For ten years, Connor O’Rourke has been waiting for Jessica Dunn to take their on-again, off-again relationship public, and he thinks the time has come. His restaurant is thriving, she’s got her dream job at Blue Heron Vineyard—it’s the perfect time to get married.

When he pops the question, however, her answer is a fond but firm no. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Jess has her hands full with her younger brother, who’s now living with her full-time, and a great career after years of waitressing. What she and Connor have is perfect: friends with an excellent benefits package. Besides, with her difficult past (and reputation), she’s positive married life isn’t for her.

But this time, Connor says it’s all or nothing. If she doesn’t want to marry him, he’ll find someone who does. Easier said than done, given that he’s never loved anyone but her. And maybe Jessica isn’t quite as sure as she thinks…

Interview with Kristan Higgins

Jana: Hi Kristan! It’s so nice to have you on the blog today. Where were you when you found out you were being published for the very first time? Tell us about that moment.

Kristan: I was alone in the house when my agent called with the news. I gasped and jumped around and cried a little, and then when I hung up the phone, I thought of my dad, who’d died many years before. And I told him, and for a second, it felt like he was there. Then my daughter got off the school bus, and I said, “Guess what? Mommy wrote a book, and it’s going to be in bookstores.” And she said, “That’s nice! What’s for snack?”

Jana: Aw, that’s really sweet! When you think about all of your books, what is the one scene you found the most fun to write?

Kristan: There’s a scene in ANYTHING FOR YOU when Connor oversleeps on the morning of his mother’s wedding. He’s a wee bit hung over, and his sister has absolutely no sympathy for him. I love that scene.

Jana: Which character in the Blue Heron series do you see yourself in the most?

Kristan: Oh, that’s a great question! I think I’m most like Emmaline Neal from IN YOUR DREAMS. She’s a very capable woman, but she’s got an Achilles heel, too. She’s straightforward and fun and goodhearted, and I hope I’m all those things, too. But there’s a goodly chunk of my heart in every character, except the really mean ones, of course.

Jana: I love that there’s a part of you in every character! That’s so nice! Now that the Blue Heron series is over, what are you going to miss most about it?

Kristan: Well, never say never, you know? There’s a chance I’ll write another Blue Heron book, but this did feel like a good stopping point. If it’s truly the end, I think I’ll miss the town the most, because the people who make it what it is were the best part of writing the series.

Jana: Oh, interesting. I’d love it if you went black to Blue Heron again someday! When you’re not writing, what else do you like to do?

Kristan: I like to annoy my kids by lying on their beds and making them talk to me; I love going to the movies and eating out; I love to travel, ride bikes on flat surfaces and window-shop. Mostly, though, I’m a homebody who’s just happy doing everyday things.

Jana: Haha. I like that you stipulate that bikes must be ridden on flat surfaces. I couldn’t agree more! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Kristan!

Kristan: Thank you so much for having me!

I don’t know about you, but I loved getting to know Kristan a little better! Her books are so much fun, and I love the characters. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Have you read any of Kristan’s books? Which one is your favorite?

2015 Statistics Survey

Posted January 4, 2016 by Jana in About Me / 1 Comment

Welcome to 2016! Brittany and Andi came up with this fun statistics survey last year, and it’s so much fun! I love surveys that make me reflect on the past year, so here we go!

Number of books read… 
• Under 250 pages: 12
• Between 251-399 pages: 18
• Between 400-449 pages: 2
• Between 450-499 pages: 2
• Over 500 pages: 0
• Over 1000 pages: 0

Number of…
• Audiobooks: 0
• Re-reads: 0
• DNFs (did not finish): 7

Number of books rated…
• Five Stars: 9
• Four Stars: 8
• Three Stars: 4
• Two Stars: 5
• One Star: 8

Number of authors met in 2015: 4 (Lindsey Leavitt, Robison Wells, Courtney Alameda, and Valynne Maetani.)

Number of book events attended in 2015: 1

Number of books you read in one day: 1 (The Devil You Know by Trish Doller)

Number of books that made you cry: 0

Number of 2016 books you have on pre-order: 3 (Truthwitch, A Court of Mist and Fury, and Stars Above.)

Book read furthest away from home (vacation reads?): Shadowlands by Kate Brian, Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins, Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout, Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare, and The Trouble With Destiny by Lauren Morrill were all read while I was either road-tripping across the country or on a cruise ship.

Book that took you the longest to read: I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe took me 39 days to finish. I really didn’t like it. Haha. I should have quit!

Book that you personally connected with the most: I didn’t really read any books that I connected with on a deep level. I had some things in common with various characters, but I did not make a memorable connection with any of the books I read.

Book that made you love the villain: I felt a lot of empathy and sadness for Levana from Fairest by Marissa Meyer, but I still don’t love her!

Book you said you’d come back to but still haven’t picked up again: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Landry Park by Bethany Hagen.

Book you read waaaay before it’s publication date: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sara J. Mass. I read it in March and it came out in May.

Book you read on your birthday: I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe, sadly.

Book with a character who shares your name: My name is rare. I’ve only read one book with a Jana in it, and it was not this year (Black City by Elizabeth Richards. This Jana was crucified. Ick.)

Book you weren’t entirely truthful about when rating (Fluff up any ratings?): I’ve been really honest this year. No fluff here!

Rated even though you didn’t finish?: Nope.

Book you read in 2015 but already want to re-read: Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards.

Book you borrowed from a friend a long time ago and still have: Nope.

Book you which you could go back and read for the first time again: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

Most books read by one author this year: I read 2 books by Katharine Ashe, which is sad because I didn’t like either one.

Happiest & saddest: Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards / The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Longest & shortest…
•By page number: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud (488 pages) / The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross (83 pages)
•By title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente / Rebound by Noelle August
• From buying to reading: Shadowlands by Kate Brian / The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

Best & worst…
• Average rating on Goodreads: 3.1 stars
• Books you read/your rating: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas got 5 stars, and The Sculptor by Scott McCloud got 1 star.
• Series enders: The only series-ender I read was Of Neptune by Anna Banks, and I really really hated it.

First & last…
• Reads of 2015: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall / Winter by Marissa Meyer
• Books on your bookcase (1st book on the top left and last book on the bottom right): Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell and Egypt: The Treasures of the Great Pharaoh.

Most disappointing & biggest pleasant surprise: Shadowlands by Kate Brian and The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

Fandom you joined & one you abandoned: Veronica Mars! And I didn’t abandon any. lol

Series you picked up & series you quit: I picked up the Secrets of Itlantis series by Kate Avery Ellison and I quit The Prince Catchers series by Katharine Ashe (I also picked this series up this year as well).

Most lenient & harshest ratings: Really, I’m just truthful. Perhaps Of Neptune by Anna Banks was the harshest rating. I’m never really lenient. lol.

Most hyped & furthest under the radar that you read: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison.

Book you read that is red: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Starts with X, Y, or Z: Nope!

Book you hugged when you finished it: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Book you wanted to throw across a room: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Food you craved while/after reading a certain book: I don’t remember craving anything as a result of a book I was reading.

Book that became an instant go-to recommendation: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison

Furthest out of your comfort zone: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Read on a recommendation (that you may not have picked up yourself): The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

Forced yourself to finish: I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe

Series or author’s works you binged (whether all at once or throughout the year): Nope.

• Post of 2015: My Happy New Year post and my January link-up for the Debut Author Challenge were both posted on January 1.
• Review of 2015: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

• Post of 2015: End of Year Book Survey
• Review of 2015: The Kiss Before Christmas by Sophie Pembroke

Number of posts in 2015: 152

Number of reviews posted this year: 31

Least coherent review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Post with the most views (posted in 2015): 2016 Debut Author Challenge Sign-Ups

Post you wish you could re-write: I’m happy with them all!

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