Month: February 2021

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer | Book Review

Posted February 25, 2021 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer | Book ReviewA Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Cursebreakers #1
Published by Bloomsbury YA on January 29, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 484
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she's pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

You thought I’d quit YA, huh? Me too. lol. I’ve struggled to identify with YA characters as I’ve gotten older and have kind of made the shift to adult romance, but then a group of friends pushed this on me and we read the series together and OH MY GOSH. I had always loved YA fantasy, but hadn’t found one in a very long time that held my attention long enough to even finish it, much less binge a series back to back to back. I’m about a third of the way through the second book, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, right now and it’s amazing. I’m #89 in line for A Vow so Bold and Deadly at my library so hopefully things hurry along. Anyway, I loved the world and the characters and the writing, and I’m so excited to continue my journey reading through these books! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Harper had me worried at first. Well, the whole book did because it started off very sassy teen and I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for it, but then I grew to really love her! And I loved the disability rep. Harper has Cerebral Palsy and walks with a limp. The people in the magical alternate dimension don’t understand this kind of disability and find her to be weak or injured, but she has no problems sticking up for herself and proving that she can do anything. She’s sweet, caring, empathetic, and really turns the castle upside down. This girl definitely isn’t like all the other girls who have been kidnapped by the prince’s guard commander to try and break the curse.

2. Grey is my favorite character in this book. He’s the guard commander, and I LOVE him. He’s honorable and protective and such a great guy. He’s the romantic of the two male main characters, and he coaches the prince on how to not be a cold, unfeeling jerk. If we’re likening the characters to Beauty and the Beast, which this book is a retelling of, then Harper is Belle, Rhen is the Beast, and Grey is Lumiere. Also, was he named after the grey stuff? As in “try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!” I’m convinced of this. I need to write to the author. Ok, I just did. Anyway, he’s also pretty swoony sounding.

3. Prince Rhen? He’s fine. I actually really liked him, but he was a bit broody and intense and… pouty? for my liking. He’s the typical royal personality you find in fantasy, and I guess he’s a really good Beast because he’s got that “I hate everyone, now love me so I can be human again” attitude down. I hope I get to see more of his personality in the second book, because right now he’s pretty flat.

4. The supporting characters are great. Harper, Grey, and Rhen end up at a little inn and I love the characters they meet. And as they find people to join their army against a rival queen, they encounter some really interesting people with stories that I loved.

5. The romance is pretty minimal, but I didn’t even care. 

6. Oh my gosh, this is a very overwhelming book to try and review. 

7. I love the world! And I loved the spin Brigid put on Beauty and the Beast. Curse has the bones of Beauty and the Beast, but Brigid has added so many interesting and amazing details that make it so different. The enchantress is a recurring character in the story, there’s another kingdom threatening invasion, there’s… traveling between dimensions, the beast (or monster, as they refer to it in the book) surfaces every season and Rhen can’t control it (think of a werewolf and a full moon). It’s all so good and fresh and unique.

8. The writing! I love Brigid’s use of words and descriptions of scenery and feelings.

9. I finished and immediately needed more. This doesn’t happen to me often. Usually I need a break, but I am plowing on through and can’t read fast enough.

I’ve read a LOT of Beauty and the Beast retellings, and I thought for sure nothing would ever satisfy me to the point that Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses did. I still love ACOTAR more than anything, but I also really, really loved Curse. Like, I can’t pick just one and that makes me really happy. Maybe there is room in my life for more B&B retellings and maybe I do still love YA fantasy (it was heartbreaking to decide I didn’t anymore). Anyway, I’m not sure I’m making sense. Bottom line, A Curse so Dark and Lonely has made me realize that perhaps I gave up on a genre I once loved too soon because I thought there was nothing left for me there. So, now I’ll venture back and see what else there is for me. I highly recommend this book, and cannot wait to see what happens next!

5 Stars

Top Ten Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Posted February 22, 2021 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 25 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! And thank you to Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza for suggesting this fun topic! I love books that make me laugh, so this topic is right up my alley. It should surprise no one that my books are all romances… because it’s not even worth reading a book unless there’s romance in it (except I do love mystery/thriller, but those are rarely funny).

Twice Shy and You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Sarah’s kind of humor is my kind of humor. Just follow her on Twitter and you’ll get a taste of it, but both of these books have so much heart and had me laughing so, so much. Maybell in Twice Shy has some of the best inner monologues. She’s so funny. And the relationship is YDEO is full of hilarious sabotage and shenanigans. Both books have such deep concepts as well, so they’re well rounded and wonderful.

Hotshot Doc by R.S. Grey
Josie is the young teen sister of the heroine. I don’t think I have ever loved a kid in a book more. She is so, so funny. She sees and hears everything, and she really loves her sister. Her relationship with Matt is so cute. One night, he stays over at their place because the weather is bad and he can’t drive home. He sleeps on the couch, and Josie is so concerned that he’s going to have to go to bed without a book to read that she forces The Hunger Games on him.

Call Me Maybe by Cara Bastone
This is on audiobook only, and I loved it! The narrators used the best tones of voices to convey humor and sarcasm, so I laughed even easier than I would have if I’d just read it. Vera is a character, too. She’s so funny and kind of dramatic.

Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec & Andi Arndt
Heidi is hilarious. She’s super awkward, and would rather roll into the bushes and hide after falling than just get up and face her hot neighbor… which is what she does. And when she tries to read a sexy scene in a book? Gold.

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
This was such a fun listen! I love a good fauxmance (as you know), and this one was delightful. The two main characters share a name, but in reverse. He’s Kennedy Riley, and she’s Riley Kennedy. They also work for the same company, and keep getting each other’s emails. She politely forwards his along, but he gets nosey and reads them all… and then forwards them along with his comments/thoughts/musings. I just loved it.

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare
It actually really surprises me that I didn’t review this one, because I had so many happy feelings from it! I loved our animal-loving heroine and our hero who is reluctant to admit he’s got a soft, squishy core. It was also so funny. Tessa really hit it out of the park with this one!

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
I absolutely could not ever leave CLo out of a topic like this one. After the entire wedding party except Olive and Ethan gets food poisoning and there’s still a non-refundable honeymoon to go on… why shouldn’t they go together? A free trip to Hawaii is worth putting up with your enemy, right? Watching these two people who really hate each other pretending to be newlyweds is so much fun.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson
The family in this book is so, so funny. And oh my, everything that could possibly go wrong for this wedding pretty much does! It’s hilarious, if not a little unbelievable how unlucky this family is! There’s a suit mix-up, electrical problems, gardening problems, and more. There’s so much going on at once that I found myself tearing through the pages to figure out how each issue was resolved. Honestly, this book would make such an amazingly fun and funny movie.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
I was bound to mention this one. It’s perfect and hilarious and swoony and deep. All the things I love.

What books have made you laugh out loud?
And if you have any romancey funny books, tell me!
I need more rom-coms and funny characters in my life.


The Bromantic Comedies by Erin Mallon | Mini Audiobook Review

Posted February 18, 2021 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

The Bromantic Comedies by Erin Mallon | Mini Audiobook ReviewThe Bromantic Comedies by Erin Mallon
Published by Self on January 27, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Humor
Length: 1 hour and 22 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Author
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0.5 Stars

A paintball battleground. A wrestling mat for sleep-deprived new daddies. A feminine product aisle in the local drugstore. These are some of the places where men connect...at least in The Bromantic Comedies.

A compilation of humorous and heartfelt plays exploring what it means to be "masculine" in a world where men are supposed to be tough.

I love listening to audiobooks, and Erin Mallon is one of my favorite narrators so I was very excited to be offered an audiobook copy to review! And the narrators who perform these plays? I LOVE them all, too: Joe Arden, Jason Clarke, Shane East, Lance Greenfield, Teddy Hamilton, and PJ Ochlan. Unfortunately, this really didn’t work for me and I ended up not finishing it. I don’t usually write DNF reviews, but I took notes during each individual play and figure I wouldn’t let them go to waste. And honestly, I don’t think finishing this would have changed my overall opinion anyway. So here we go!

1. Invasion At Man Camp (narrated by Joe Arden and Jason Clarke) – I actually found this to be offensive and sacrilegious. There were some fun sound effects from the paintball range and the narrators were good. As a religious person, however, the satire made me very uncomfortable. 

2. Domesticated (narrated by Lance Greenfield and PJ Ochlan) – This story is narrated by a recently neutered cat and a fish. Toby the cat is very unhappy that he was neutered, and is bitter and grumpy about it. The fish, named Bubble Eye, prefers to be happy and only discuss the good things in life. He’s so unbelievably positive! I love fish, and this one definitely sounded like a fish to me. His fish-breeding owner recently gave him the opportunity to go on a procreation date (filled with lots of nudges) with a cute lady fish from a few apartments over, and he describes it in detail in the hopes of making his friend feel like a man again. “You’re going to be an uncle!,” he says to his cat bro. Then the cat tells the story of how he snuck out to get together with a feral lady cat… which led to his snippity, snip, snip demise. The fish… he just kept cracking me up. He loves West Side Story. lol. And Toby… so dramatic! I just wish the ending has been different… This story wasn’t bad, but it was… ridiculous. lol.
 
3. Baby Fight Club (Shane East and Teddy Hamilton) – I love Shane East. His voice is all I need in my life. But this story… it’s awful! Teddy’s character doesn’t think babies should breastfeed because no man would be ok with another man doing to his wife’s boobs what a baby does to them. That’s really, really gross. I think it’s really wrong to sexualize breastfeeding like that, even as a joke. Shane’s character seems like a nice guy and Teddy’s is just corrupting him! Leave Shane alone! Teddy’s character clearly hates babies. He thinks the baby is performing sexual acts with its mother. That giving birth and breastfeeding are just a series of orgasms. “A big pleasure fest for her.” I’m just so disturbed. I couldn’t even finish this play.
 
That’s where things ended for me. I stopped play #3 and that was that. This was clearly not my kind of humor. I love to laugh and I love funny books so much, but when the humor becomes uncomfortable and offensive it’s not funny anymore. I have always loved Erin Mallon as a narrator, and I don’t want my review to cause any hurt feelings, but I was asked to write an unbiased review and so that’s what I’ve done. I would not recommend this.

 

0.5 Stars

Top Ten Purple, Yellow, & Green Book Covers

Posted February 15, 2021 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 19 Comments

Happy Mardi Gras (or maybe where you live it’s called Carnival)! Today is Mardi Gras in the USA, and since I used to live in Louisiana as a child I love to think back on the excitement of this holiday. I loved going to parades to catch beads, and I loved getting King Cake at school and hoping to find the little plastic baby in my piece. It was also fun to see all the decorations. Some houses and businesses were decorated with more lights and sparkle than Christmas! Mardi Gras colors are purple, yellow, and green so I thought it would be fun to share books with any/all of those colors on the covers! I tried picking books that had all three, but that got to be way too hard so I’m just going to share a mix of all three. I’ve learned that yellow is a REALLY popular color for book covers right now! Who knew? And surprisingly, I’ve read (and loved) all the yellow books mentioned here and the others are on my TBR.

Well Played by Jen DeLuca
Accidentally Engaged by Farrah Heron
New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan
Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Love at First by Kate Clayborn
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
New Orleans Rush by Kelly Siskind
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras/Carnival where you live?
What did you do with this week’s topic?
Have you read any of these books? What did you think?


Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec & Andi Arndt | Mini Book Review

Posted February 11, 2021 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec & Andi Arndt | Mini Book ReviewHeidi's Guide to Four Letter Words by Andi Arndt, Tara Sivec
Published by Self on December 3, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 197
Source: Gift
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5 Stars

Cowritten by USA Today best-selling author Tara Sivec and award-winning narrator Andi Arndt, a hysterically funny, heartfelt romance about starting over and taking chances.

Nothing good ever comes from drinking a box of wine alone. So when I decided to entertain my drunken self by setting up some hand-me-down podcasting equipment and reading the steamy parts from romance novels, I never thought anyone would actually listen. The fact that I admitted my huge crush on my sexy next door neighbor made the whole thing even more mortifying. But sometimes life surprises you, and that’s how my podcast, Heidi’s Discount Erotica, was born.

Now I, Heidi Larsen, a sweet former kindergarten teacher in Waconia, Minnesota, lead a scandalous double life reading erotic novels to the listening world. And with each episode, I find myself embracing my new alter ego more and more. Now I’m starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin and do things I never would have dreamed of - like kissing my neighbor.

Look out, Waconia, because Heidi’s on the loose! She’s in your ears, in your hearts, and down your pants...wait, that didn’t sound as good as it did in my head. Well, you get the picture, don’tcha know!


This was hilarious. Andi Arndt is my favorite audiobook narrator, so when I found out that she’d written a book with Tara Sivec I was immediately interested. I wish I’d listened to it, because I’m sure it would have been even better with Andi’s fun voices and tones she brings to her characters but oh well. Anyway, I loved Heidi. She’s a former kindergarten teacher, so all her outfits are what I can only imagine resemble what Ms. Frizzle wore in The Magic School Bus. She decided teaching isn’t for her, and quit her job. Now she’s working at a company that records and produces audiobooks of erotic novels. She meets a celebrity narrator and his cute wife, and they all become fast friends. I loved this friendship, even though I am really struggling to remember their names at this moment. They are very aware of her crush on her hot neighbor named Brent, and help her gain confidence and provide advice for how to navigate this situation and nab the man of her dreams.

Heidi is a little awkward. She’d rather hide in the bushes than confront Brent, and I understand and empathize with this so much. Love is a battlefield. Her work sends her home with a bunch of erotic novels because yay perks of the job, so she starts reading them in the hopes of learning a thing or two about the game of love. And THEN she gets really brave and takes home some recording equipment and then accidentally gets super drunk and starts a podcast. A podcast wherein she gushes about Brent and also reads steamy scenes from those novels. Because why not?? But she can’t read half the words because she’s so embarrassed, so she substitutes other words in and I was laughing so hard. I loved watching her gain confidence and listeners. I loved Brent and his appreciation for Heidi’s quirkiness. I even loved Heidi’s hilarious mom who loves to feed people and says about 14,000 words before she gets to her point. It was all just so much fun and so funny. I’m definitely interested in reading more from Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt! I hope they partner together more in the future.

5 Stars

Top Ten Books With Hearts on the Cover

Posted February 8, 2021 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 27 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! This week’s topic is a Valentine’s Day/love freebie! I’m excited to see what you all did with this topic. The possibilities were endless, but I decided to share books from my collection that have hearts on the covers! Some of these books are favorites, and others are on my TBR.

Boomerang by Noelle August (LOVED this.)
Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt (Definitely a favorite!)
Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely (Super fun, especially on audio.)
The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren (Not my favorite of theirs, but still really enjoyed!)
The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett (LOVE Jenn Bennett)
Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West (TBR)
Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves (SO good. I need to read the sequel!)
RomeAntically Challenged by Marina Adair (TBR)
By the Book by Amanda Sellet (TBR)
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker (A long-time favorite.)

Have a happy Valentine’s Day this weekend!
I will be eating pasta and lemon cream cake and reading a really great book. :)


Flirtasaurus by Erin Mallon | Book Review

Posted February 4, 2021 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Flirtasaurus by Erin Mallon | Book ReviewFlirtasaurus by Erin Mallon
Series: Natural History #1
Narrator: Erin Mallon
Published by Self on July 15, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 213
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
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2 Stars

My name is Calliope and "I bone for a living." Kidding. I am studying to be a paleontologist though. It's the only thing I've ever wanted to be, and I have finally landed the perfect museum internship to make all of my dino-loving dreams come true.

Trouble is, everyone wants me to be a gentle, loving sort of creature, but I'm more of the T-Rex type by nature - the kind who is determined to stomp and tear her way through any obstacle in order to get what she wants.

But when a sexy, rumbly-voiced astronomer plummets into my orbit and threatens to break open my hard little heart, my career and my whole way of looking at the world is suddenly on the line.

The dinosaurs didn't see their asteroid coming.

And I sure as hell wasn't prepared for mine.


Erin Mallon has become one of my favorite audiobook narrators, so when I saw that she had written and narrated her own romantic comedy that included dinosaurs (one of my favorite things) I knew I had to give it a listen! While is was a little over the top and cringey, I was entertained. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The meet cute at the very beginning of the book was really fun. Calliope is stuck in an elevator at the museum on the first day of her new internship, and she “meets” a guy by yelling at him for help through the elevator door. He decides to wait with her and chat until someone arrives to help her, but then they separated when the fire alarm goes off. She can’t hear his name or where she’s supposed to meet him after she gets out of the building, and that’s that. They miss meeting. Luckily, they both work there so it’s very likely they will stumble across each other soon. What a cute way to begin a story!

2. Calliope… is a very annoyingly neurotic character. She had her moments where I really liked her (like when she communicated her love of dinosaurs and science), but for the most part I pretty much couldn’t stand her. She clearly feels that she is better than everyone in the world. She’s so easily offended and goes off on these long, ranty dialogues without even realizing what she’s saying and who might be hearing her. She’s quick to tell people off when she assumes she knows what they mean. Sometimes she was right but took her rant too far, and sometimes she was wrong and had to backpedal and apologize for her behavior. She’s quick to open her mouth and insert her foot at the worst times, and gets herself into trouble frequently. She just doesn’t come off as a strong, educated, professional woman and that bothered me because female scientists already don’t get enough respect. I wish she had fit the role of a respectable one instead of just further perpetuating antiquated ideas about women in science.

3. Ralph is great! He’s really sweet and caring and I love his quiet, strong personality. I hated the voice style choice for him in the narration, though. He sounded incredibly whiny, and my face actually scrunched up listening to him sometimes.

4. There’s a couple side characters that I liked. Otto is an elderly man who hangs out at the museum sketching the creatures on exhibit. He’s a sweet, funny guy that gave me quirky grandpa vibes. Mabel is an entomologist on staff there, and she’s… so odd that you can’t help but find her to be endearing. I can’t even begin to be able to describe her, though. You kind of have to read her to believe her. She’s one of a kind, but sweet at her core.

5. The humor tries way too hard. I was literally cringing. There’s a scene involving psychedelic drugs and clumsy fooling around near a dinosaur skeleton and Calliope is convinced that that dinosaur is winking at her and cheering her on as she fumbles around before grasping Ralph’s *ahem* anatomy with both hands and pretending to swing from it like Tarzan. George of the Jungle scream and all. I’m sorry, but that was just too much for me. People are not really like this.

6. I’m sure that this book was written with an audiobook in mind because there is so. much. dialogue. I was fine listening (well, except for the fact that Ralph sounded very unappealing), but I think reading it would have been exhausting. I can see that it might be hard to tell who is speaking at times because it sounded like I was listening to a movie instead of a book. 

7. I think I like Erin Mallon as a narrator more than an author, and I feel really bad about that because she seems super nice.

All in all, this was fluffy, mindless entertainment. I’m not sure if I would have stuck with it if I were reading it, but it was fun to listen to while I was doing other things. It’s cringey, but I’m already interested in listening to the next book, Lovebug, because it’s about Mabel, so… I don’t know what that says about me and my opinions right now. LOL. I just have to know how that works out for her because she’s so… unique!

2 Stars

Top Ten Books on My TBR That Were Written Before I Was Born

Posted February 1, 2021 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 31 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! And happy February! I can’t believe we’re already a month into 2021, but also… how are we only a month into 2021? I dunno. What is time right now?

Anyway, this week I’m sharing books that aren’t new releases! I feel like, as book bloggers, many of us get caught up in all the new shiny books. We’re always going after ARCs and trying to be one of the first to read a highly anticipated novel. There’s blog tours and cover reveals and pre-order gifts and so much excitement surrounding these new books, but what about the older ones that maybe have gathered a little dust on the shelf? Let’s talk about those ones today. Actually, let’s talk about the books that pre-date us altogether. I was born in 1987, so I will be sharing books from my TBR that were written in 1986 or earlier. This should be fun, and will hopefully renew my excitement for these books that have been on my TBR for a while! Thank you to Davida Chazan at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for this fun topic idea. It’s time to dig deep!

The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt (1967)
The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon (1973)
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan (1974)
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read (1974)
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (1934)
The House Of The Whispering Pines by Anna Katharine Green (1910)
Stillwatch by Mary Higgins Clark (1984)
A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark (1982)

Have you read any of these? 
What books would you like to read that were written before you were born?