Category: Book Review

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book Review

Posted September 19, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 9 Comments

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book ReviewLies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Series: Lies Beneath #1
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on June 12, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 303
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4.5 Stars
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.

It's going to take a concerted effort to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love--just as Lily starts to suspect there's more to the monster-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between them and the girl he loves.

One thing's for sure: whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty.

I’d been really worried about Lies Beneath, as a lot of the reviews have been mixed, but I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved so much about it. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. We have a male narrator! YES! This was so refreshing. Calder is a merman from a family of human-killing mermaids. He was not born this way, but was changed to a merman after falling off a boat and drowning as a young child. Maybe that’s why he’s a bit reformed, and hopes to escape the “school of fish” loyalty and just be his own person. I loved reading his thoughts as he struggled between being who he wanted to be and being who he was created to be. I think Brown did an amazing job writing a male’s thoughts. I’ve always thought that would be a tricky thing to do.

2. This story takes place in an awesome location: Lake Superior. That lake is so mysterious and deep and freezing, and I LOVE that the story took place here rather than in the cliche tropical location. Rather than hearing about rainbow fish and sea turtles, you get to read about sunken ships and the unexplored depths of the lake. We even get a mention of an ancient road down there.

3. I really liked the evil mermaid spin. I was getting tired of the “I wish I were human, but I have this tail, so I’m going to swim around and hope I can fake being human well enough to make you love me” storyline. These mermaids love being who they are. Even Calder does not want to quit being a merman, he just does not want to suck the life out of humans. They all have their own personalities, and don’t sit around suppressing what they are. And the evil thing? It was awesome! Mermaids are made out to be monsters and not humans. It created some suspense and intrigue. I dunno, I guess I’ve always been a bit rebellious myself, so I enjoyed the more gritty and dangerous spin.

4. I really enjoyed the need for revenge that the mermaids had. It consumed their thoughts as they tried to seek revenge on the man they blamed their mother’s death on. Even though these mermaids are considered evil, you have to give them credit for never breaking a promise, and for being extremely loyal to each other. I mean, even though Calder began to change his mind regarding this revenge, his mind was so linked with his sisters’ that he really struggled with an inner turmoil that pulled him in two very different directions.

5. I appreciated Lily’s common sense and vivaciousness. I can’t stand a dumb, quivering-in-her-boots kind of heroine. Lily has a sharp mind and she knows things without having someone beat it into her head with a hammer. And I loved her little sister, Sophie. She is adorable.

6. The Hancock family’s past is vast and dynamic. I loved getting more insight into what happened to make these mermaids so mad, and what mysteries are hidden beneath the surface.

7. The romance was sweet. It was not obsessive or silly. It seemed legit to me. Calder and Lily look out for one another, and have a healthy give and take relationship. Calder is not controlling or stalkery. I mean yes, he lurks in the water outside her home to protect her, but he’s not sneaking in her room to watch her sleep. Lily is not helpless and naive. She can hold her own, and does not frighten easily. I believed this one.

8. I wish the book had spent a little more time on Calder’s sisters. Those girls were so much fun to read about, and they were really what made the book so unique. Hopefully the rest of the trilogy will give us more information on them. They could have their own spin-off series.

All in all, this book is now one of my new favorite mermaid romances. I loved the unique spin, the believable romance, and the interesting characters. I would definitely recommend this for lovers of mermaid books, and it’s also a great one to start on if you’re just dipping your toe into the genre.


Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Posted September 13, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Barnes & Noble Add to Goodreads
3.5 Stars
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Well… that was pretty insane. lol. Let me preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland. I did not like the movie as a kid, and I’ve never read a retelling (or even been interested in reading one). I read this book based solely on my love for Marissa Meyer and The Lunar Chronicles, which is one of my very favorite series ever in life. We saw how she wrote Queen Levana’s backstory in Fairest, and I was super intrigued to see her write another villain’s story. Marissa did a wonderful job with the Queen of Hearts, and even though I’ve never been a fan of the Wonderland world I really enjoyed reading about it in Heartless. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Since when do I love a villain? Maris

sa is so good at making you fall in love with the characters who you know will end up doing nothing but breaking your heart in the end. Catherine is sweet and spunky and so full of innocence and hope. I just loved her personality and

her quirky love of baking and her sarcasm. We all know how she turns out, but boy was I hoping for a different outcome.

2. Jest. *swoon* Oh my goodness. I love that court joker so much. He’s so witty and charming in a broody, nerdy, adorkable kind of way. Right at the beginning of the story the King of Hearts (who is the grossest, slimiest, giggliest, creepiest guy I’ve read about in a long while) throws a ball that Catherine attends. Partway through Jest makes a grand appearance, mesmerizing everyone there. He captured Catherine’s heart immediately, and he captured mine right along with it.

3. The supporting characters are all so much fun. I really liked the Hatter, and he was one of my least favorite characters from the old Disney movie. I also loved Cheshire and the turtle and the lion and Raven. What a fun little band of whimsical characters.

4. Speaking of whimsy, ho boy. Marissa is

a wonderful writer, and I got so caught up in some of her scenes. Such beautiful storytelling. At the same time, though, the whimsy got to be a little much for me at times. We’re in Wonderland, though, right? When in Wonderland, expect over the top.

5. So many yummy treats adorn the pages of Heartless. I got so hungry reading about all of Catherine’s dessert creations!

6. The story is about so much more than the origin of the Queen of Hearts. We’ve got all these other characters (like Peter Peter the Pumpkin Eater) and characters from other kingdoms and a Jabberwock and we really get to see wha

t all of Wonderland was like before Lewis Carroll’s story.

7. This story is SO heartbreaking. We all know that Catherine becomes the Queen of Hearts. How can anyone go into this not knowing that, right? Well… I knew, and I still kept hoping things would go my way. I wanted my perfect ending. Her decline to queendom and the reasons behind that decline just completely broke my heart. All the characters broke my heart in some way, but it had to happen. I don’t even know why I thought this wouldn’t happen. Haha.

All in all, this was a fun vacation from my comfort zone! Marissa Meyer was able to get me to enjoy a story that I was convinced I would not like. I’m not familiar enough with Alice In Wonderland and the other companion stories to really understand everyone’s role in Heartless, but I got the general idea and think Marissa did an awesome job of making a timeless classic her own. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves Alice, Wonderland, Marissa Meyer, great fantasy, and stellar writing. I can’t wait to see what Marissa does next!

heartless promo

This review was originally posted on October 15, 2016 as part of Macmillan’s Countdown to Heartless blog campaign. It was been re-posted for some extra love.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook Review

Posted September 10, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook ReviewThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 409
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I read and loved Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy years ago before I started blogging, and was captivated by her storytelling and beautiful writing style. The Scorpio Races sounded like something I would love and I immediately aded it to my TBR, but then The Raven Boys came out a year later and I DNFed it (I know, I know… total black sheep here), so I was worried Maggie was a one hit wonder for me (especially since Books of Faerie duology was just ok for me). Needless to say, I was worried that I’d never love another Stiefvater book and that broke my heart a little. But I LOVED it. I’ve broken this review up into sections: my thoughts on the audiobook and my experiences listening to it, and then my thoughts and feelings about the story itself and the world and the characters. If you’re not interested in the audiobook, feel free to skip the first section!

Audiobook Thoughts:

While looking for a great audiobook to listen to, I remembered how much Brittany loved Steve West’s narration of The Scorpio Races, and that he made her really fall in love with Sean Hunter. I listened to the sample and YES STEVE WEST, so I jumped right in. Basically, the stars aligned and I took a leap of faith regarding Maggie and audiobooks (because those don’t always work for me either). I am so glad I did, because I loved this book and I loved listening to it more than I think I would have loved reading it. Steve West’s voice drew me in and took hold of my heart. His voice drips with emotion and feeling, and he brought Sean to life. I think I fell a little in love with both Sean and Steve. Hehe. Whoops. Fiona Hardingham’s voice really complimented Steve’s. I loved listening to both of them, and the personality and depth they brought to the characters. I loved the musical bits that were composed by Maggie throughout the book. It totally set the celtic tone of the story and transported me right to the beaches of Thisby. I tried to actually read the book instead of listen to it one day because then I could read faster, but I just couldn’t do it. I made it a page and things felt so wrong. This is truly a book to listen to.

Story Thoughts:

This. Story. It has become a part of me, and I loved it so much. It’s very simple: a girl named Puck feels compelled–both by the need for money and the need to prove herself to herself–to enter the races and become the first female ever to do so. Sean, the reigning champion of these races needs to win, too, but not for the same reason Puck does. They both need it, they both need each other, they both need Thisby, and they both need their horses. This is their story. It’s not just about racing. It’s not just about horses. It’s about two lonely, incomplete souls risking everything to gain everything. They are both incredibly flawed and lost, and they find something in each other. I wouldn’t say this is a romantic book in the lovey-dovey sense. There’s definitely intrigue and feelings, but it’s romantic in the sense that it’s emotional. There’s so much feeling and mystery surrounding the water horses and the people who ride them. The mystical aspects of the island and the races themselves made me forget I was even reading anything. It’s really hard to explain.

Maggie’s prose and style is so breathtakingly beautiful that it almost hurts. I love how she so intricately weaves her words together to create such a perfect and mesmerizing atmosphere. The story alternates back and forth between Sean’s and Puck’s points of view, and it’s done in first person. I usually do not like first person or multiple points of view, but they are both done so well in this book.

There’s so much I can say about Thisby and the characters and the yummy food, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I think the synopsis is vague for a reason. That’s the magic! Bottom line, I LOVED The Scorpio Races. It’s the perfect fall story, with an eerie atmosphere; biting, salty winds; harsh waves; and monstrous creatures that will take you a bit by surprise, with their viciousness and intellect. These horses are magical in more ways then one. I do hope you pick up a copy and discover the magic and mystery of autumn on the tiny island of Thisby.


A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier | Book Review

Posted September 6, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier | Book ReviewA Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier
Series: Beyond the Four Kingdoms #1
on September 4, 2017
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 345
Format: Audiobook
Source: Christmas Present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, Lily hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse--one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.

Lily spends her nights competing in a magical underground realm and her days unraveling the dangers of this new court. Although she needs the help of the Marinese prince, Lily knows she can't let herself grow too close to him. There's no time for romance when the duchy is about to fall to the encroaching darkness and the winner of the tournament faces a terrible fate.

But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there's a lot more at stake than worn out dancing slippers.

I’ve always really loved fairytale retellings, and I accidentally stumbled across this one last year while I was browsing Amazon looking for Christmas present ideas for people. That’s a super dangerous thing to do, isn’t it? I always find more things that I want than anything else! This was a beautiful story, though, so I don’t even regret it! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. A Dance of Silver and Shadow is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which I’m really unfamiliar with. And when I say unfamiliar, I mean that I know absolutely nothing. I’m tempted to go read it now to see how closely this story follows the original. Anyway, this book is centered around a “Princess Tournament” (the characters all refer to this as the “Princess Tourney”, which drove me absolutely insane until I learned to live with it). Twelve princesses from various kingdoms have been gathered together to compete in a series of challenges. The tournament itself is governed by magic, and the tasks that the princesses must perform reflect the prince that the tournament is being held for. The winner of this particular tournament will enter a betrothal with the beastly prince of Palinar (any guesses which fairytale the next book in this series will retell?). None of the girls want to win, as tales of the beast are frightening, but harm will come upon them and their families if they don’t put forth and honest effort.

Every few nights, a ball is held where the princesses dance and mingle with members of the kingdoms who have come for the tourney. After the ball is over the girls are all sent into a room, where a magical portal opens in the floor and they climb down to enter an underground realm with forest, a lake, and a mirror version of the palace above ground. This is where the challenges, some of them very dangerous, occur. The princesses return in the wee hours of the morning, their slippers worn through. The magic of the tourney prevents them from discussing the goings on with anyone, even amongst themselves. The premise is really very interesting!

2. Princess Lily and Princess Sophie are our two main characters. They are twins, who can project their thoughts to each others’ minds. They are incredibly close, and I loved their sisterly bond. They are also two of the older princesses in the tourney (17, I believe). Lily narrates the story, and I liked her voice. She’s strong and brave, and feels it is her duty to protect the other princesses (some of them much younger) during the tourney. She takes it upon herself to help them and keep them safe. She also finds herself falling for the Marinese prince. While residing in Marin for the tourney, she learns of the dangers in the kingdom and decides she must save Marin as well! It’s a pretty big undertaking for a young princess.

3. I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and found it to be mostly enjoyable. I didn’t love the sharp voice the narrator used for some of the characters. Luckily the voice she used for Lily did not bother me, since we listened to her narration a lot. The male voices were not done well at all, in my opinion, but I was able to look past that and enjoy listening.

4. The tourney was very creepy to me, and I loved reading about the different tasks the princesses had to complete. The realm where everything takes place has been corrupted by a sinister magical force, so things felt very unsettled. It was exciting and suspenseful! 

5. Some of the other princesses really bothered me, particularly the younger ones. They were very whiny and complained a lot, but I did like Celine. I’d love to read a book about her soon.

6. A Dance of Silver and Shadow is completely clean, with no bad language and just a light romance on the side.

7. I LOVE Melanie’s writing. It’s so lush and descriptive!

8. The ending made me immediately start the second book because I had to know more. Make sure you don’t read the synopsis for A Tale of Beauty and Beast, though, until you read this book or you will find out who wins the tourney!

Overall, I really loved this story and I’m so excited that I’ve found an author I like who does retellings. I don’t read nearly enough good ones. I don’t know how closely this one follows the original, but that didn’t matter to me at all. If you enjoy retellings, magic, fantasy worlds, mysterious kingdoms, sister bonds, strong female characters who don’t need a man to save them, and beautiful writing, definitely give this book a try!


Illusions by Aprilynne Pike | Book Review

Posted September 3, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Illusions by Aprilynne Pike | Book ReviewIllusions by Aprilynne Pike
Series: Wings #3
Published by HarperTEEN on May 3, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
"I don't do patrols, I don't go hunting, I just stick close to you. You live your life. I'll keep you safe," Tamani said, sweeping a lock of hair from her face. "Or die trying."

Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.

Illusions is  my favorite of the Wings series so far. It was magical, romantic, adventurous, and I got through it in 24 hours!

For the most part, I really like the characters. There’s Laurel, her boyfriend David, her sentry/guardian Tamani, her best friend Chelsea, and Chelsea’s boyfriend Ryan. There’s also a troll-hunter, Klea who I don’t like, and Klea’s foster child from Japan, Yuki. They are all different, they have personality, and they are all people I could see myself being friends with. These people are not annoying, whiny little teenagers. I forget they are in high school. Thank you, Aprilynne.  It’s so nice to read a book where the high schoolers don’t act like stereotypical high schoolers.

So, these characters are off attending high school, keeping the secrets of Faerie a secret, going to school dances heavily guarded by more sentries, protecting themselves and their human families, and avoiding the trolls that are out to discover the secret gates to Avalon, home of the faeries. Laurel spends most of her free time with David, Tamani, and/or practicing her faerie skills in her bedroom. This brings in a whole new cast of characters: the other faeries who live in Avalon and train Laurel on being a faerie during her summer breaks. She has one friend there, Katya, who I really like. She’s adorable. I also like Laurel’s teachers and mentors. The descriptions of Avalon are amazing. It sounds gorgeous, from the scenery, to the description of an out-of-this-world new year’s festival, to the architecture, even the clothing and accessories the faeries wear. I would LOVE to go to Avalon!

And then we have the characters in between: the sentries, faeries who keep a watchful eye on everyone else,  and Laurel’s parents, who are extremely understanding. SO many characters to keep track of, but it doesn’t seem like it while you’re reading. It just sounds like a lot when I type them all out in a list like this.

Obviously there’s a love triangle, just like there is in any other YA romance. I like both the guys, David and Tamani, involved in this love triangle! I find myself rooting for one, and then the other. Usually I have one favorite and I root for him throughout the entire book/series. I’m confused on who Laurel should end up with, though. I can only imagine how confused SHE is, since she’s the one actually living it. She has a very sweet bond with both the boys. In this book, though, she takes the time to focus on the guy who she’s spent most of her time brushing off, and it was adorable! This guy loves her so much, and he is so willing to wait for her to decide. I swear, I wish I had one of these guys going after me. Laurel gets both. It’s not fair. Or maybe it is. I think I’d really get stressed out loving two different men.

There’s tense moments, romantic moments, tender moments, beautiful writing, amazing settings, fun characters, and magic, magic, magic! The end had a twist I wasn’t expecting, and dropped to quite a cliffhanger! I really feel like giving away any more details would spoil everything, so I need to just stop and let you read them for yourself! I hate writing such a vague review, but it must be done! If you have read these, I’d love to hear what you thought! If you haven’t read them, hopefully my review pushed you towards giving them a try. I hope I didn’t spoil anything for anyone, and at the same time I hope I did the book justice.


Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted August 2, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 3 Comments

Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewJosh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on September 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

After reading and enjoying Roomies earlier this year, I was excited to jump into another Christina Lauren book! I loved the characters that this author duo created in that story, and I hoped that they would deliver another wonderful group for me to fall in love with. I wasn’t disappointed in the least! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I’m just going to jump right in here and say that I LOVE Hazel. She’s hilarious and bubbly and eccentric and full of life. She’s exactly the kind of wild, uninhibited, self-confident person I wish I was. She dances through life and if you can’t handle her, she doesn’t even care. She doesn’t even notice. She reminded me so much of Jessica Day from New Girl that I was actually picturing Jess the entire time. She loves animals, she’s a school teacher, she has so much energy, and she makes everyone who knows her happy. I SO need a friend like her in my life.

2. I loved Josh as well. He is the sweetest, most caring best friend a girl could ask for. He tolerates Hazel until she worms her way into his very soul, and then he’s 100% the devoted and loving best friend. Can I have a Josh in my life as well? He’s seriously the cutest. He’s all order and organized. I loved how warm and open and accepting he was of Hazel’s eccentricities. He makes her feel perfect, and every girl should feel that way.

3. These two are so perfect together. She decides she wants to be his best friend, so she makes it happen whether he wants it or not. They end up with this very flirty, witty, tender friendship that is just so unique and special. Their whole “not dating” thing works for a while as they set each other up on blind dates for their double date nights, but then they end up having more fun with each other than they do with their actual dates. Josh lets Hazel live with him when her apartment floods and internally gripes over her messiness, but secretly loves it at the same time. Her dog ADORES him. They have inside jokes and cute pet names (Josh is Korean and his real name is Jimin, so she calls him Jiminy and other silly things. He calls her Haze, which is adorable.). It’s just such a perfect combination of two completely different people.

4. I really love the best-friends-turned-lovers trope, and this romance was particularly swoony and sweet, with some interesting twists and turns. Neither wants to ruin their friendship with possible unrequited feelings, so that underlying tension creates so much depth and interest.

All in all, I loved this story! I loved the characters and the sweet romance. There’s so many other gems in this story as well, including a few crazy awkward college moments between Josh and Hazel before their reunion years later at a party, and some yummy-sounding Korean food. I highly recommend this Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating to anyone looking for a cute rom-com with a lot of depth and feeling below the surface.


Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham | Book Review

Posted July 5, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham | Book ReviewUnder the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham
Series: The MacDonnells #1
Also in this series: Sound of the Heart
Published by Berkley on January 3, 2012
Genres: Historical Romance, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 319
Format: Paperback
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
The year is 1746. A young woman from South Carolina and a Scottish Highlander share an intimacy and devotion beyond their understanding. They have had visions of each other their entire lives. And yet they have never met.

Now, with their lives torn asunder, Maggie Johnson and Andrew MacDonnell's quest to find each other is guided only by their dreams— and by the belief in the true love they share.

On the Carolina frontier Maggie Johnson’s family struggles to survive. Maggie’s gift of “the sight” and her visions show her a presence she calls Wolf. She watches him grow from a boy her age to a man even as she goes from child to woman.

Andrew MacDonald has always wondered about the girl he sees in his dreams. He is able to talk to her through their thoughts and vows that even if he must cross an ocean he will find her.

They are thrust into different situations: Andrew fights for the doomed Jacobite cause and Maggie is captured by slavers, then rescued and brought into a kind, loving Native American tribe. They each believe in destiny and the power of the love they have shared forever.

Lots of things about this book excited me. I love historical romance, the back of the book and the cover reminded me of a light, fluffy romance with a paranormal twist (like a Lynn Kurland book), and I loved the idea of telepathic communication across the world, between two characters who have never actually met each other. During tough times these two characters appeared to one other to help, either delivering advice or actual strength. As they got older, their ability to communicate grew stronger and they began to fall in love. The romance was incredibly sweet. They were childhood sweethearts, who were there for each other all the time, even though they were on completely different continents. I love this idea.

While I did like it, this book is far from the light, fluffy romance I was expecting. The cover is quite deceptive, as this book is a rather heavy and sometimes dark read. This time period was a pretty awful time, especially for women, and the author does not sugar coat it, which I respected. At the very beginning of the book, Maggie witnesses the death and/or murders of several family members. She and her sisters are abducted by men hoping to sell them, and are beaten and raped to within an inch of their lives. Andrew goes to war in Scotland, and also experiences a lot of death and heartache. This is all described in great detail, and it actually upset me so much that I thought I would not be able to continue. I was so curious to see how things ended, though, that I decided to continue on with it. To all my fellow tender hearts out there, if you can make it to page 115, you are going to be just fine. The book does lighten up, and it even gets suspenseful and exciting!

A tribe of Cherokee Indians rescues Maggie and her sister from their captors, and takes them in as part of their family. I loved this entire protective and loving group of people. I have not had the opportunity to read much about Native American tribes, except for my history books in school. I learned so much about the culture and belief system of this tribe, and was captivated by their story and strong, almost religious, ties to Mother Nature.

I really, really liked Maggie and Andrew. Maggie is so incredibly strong and resilient. I admire her, and wish I had the kind of strength she has. Andrew is the perfect sexy Scottish highlander. He cares so much for Maggie, his family, and his friends. He’s also very loyal and honorable. We see him interact with two very young orphaned children, and he is amazingly sweet with them. He really is pretty perfect, and I know I would love it if he came to me in my dreams! His accent is also pretty adorable, but sometimes I had to read his lines out loud in order to understand them. :)

Genevieve’s writing style is gorgeous. Her word choice stirred the same emotions in me that her characters felt. She sent me to the woods where Maggie was held captive, to the battle fields of Scotland, to the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands, and to the deep southern colonies of North America. The dreams Maggie and Andrew had about each other were mystical and magical. Everything seemed so real to me, and I was completely captivated, even though parts of this book really upset and disturbed me.

I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of historical romances with a bit of a paranormal twist. Yes, it’s heavy and dark in places. Yes, I had a hard time convincing myself to finish it at one point, but I am so glad I did. You can’t fault the author for retelling history. This all really happened, and I was amazed reading what people are willing to do to each other. The story is also magical and romantic, and I really loved reading about Maggie and Andrew’s journey to find one another. We are left with no loose ends, and you’ll be very happy with how things turn out in the end.


All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel Review

Posted June 28, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade / 1 Comment

All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel ReviewAll Summer Long and illustrated by Hope Larson
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on May 1, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships, written and illustrated by the Eisner Award–winning and New York Times–bestselling Hope Larson.

Thirteen-year-old Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he's off to soccer camp for a month, and he's been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it's up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it's a lot of guitar playing, boredom, and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin's older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he's acting even weirder than when he left. How Bina and Austin rise above their growing pains and reestablish their friendship and respect for their differences makes for a touching and funny coming-of-age story.

I’ve started developing interest in graphic novels over the last few years, which was a major surprise to me because I’ve always overlooked them. More and more have been trickling in from various publishers, and I’m really seeing the graphic novel format take off, especially for younger readers. I thought All Summer Long sounded like a fun, light read and was excited to dig in. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough substance for me and it felt much younger than I would have liked.

I enjoy coming-of-age stories, but I don’t feel like All Summer Long was a good example of one. I suppose the characters go through some changes, but they felt more like normal kid changes than coming-of-age. When a story is described as a “coming-of-age story”, you expect some major growth. Bina is 13, and she’s spending her summer alone while her best friend, Austin, is at summer camp. She spends the summer playing/listening to music, and hanging out with Austin’s older sister. She gets to babysit and go to a concert and deal with all the normal kid drama: fights, heightened emotions, and overreactions. At the end, she seemed to be pretty much the same person she was in the beginning. The story was very, very simple and the characters seemed like cardboard cutouts. There just wasn’t anything grabbing me and sucking me in.

I know I’m the wrong demographic, but I work with kids who are about this age. Actually, my kids are about a year younger and they don’t talk like these characters. They don’t use the word “bae” or say “like” every other word. I feel like the author tried to write for tweens and young teens, but without a real understanding of what those kids are like today. These kids seemed younger than mine until they said “bae”, which people my age (late 20’s, early 30’s) were already saying when these kids were toddlers. It just felt really unrealistic to me.

The illustrations were fun, but too stylized for me. The proportions were off and there were inconsistencies in the looks of the characters from page to page. Sometimes I had a hard time telling some of the secondary characters apart. It was easy to read and the boxes flowed in a nice way. I rarely read sections out of order because I didn’t know which box came first, which has happened to me in other graphic novels I’ve read.

All in all, this one just didn’t work for me. I shut the book and immediately wrote my review because I’m not even sure I’ll be able to remember it. I would choose to recommend other graphic novels over this one.


Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook Review

Posted June 21, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook ReviewOver Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision
Series: Lady Pirates #1
Published by Self on March 20, 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 239
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, From the author
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3.5 Stars
The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board.

That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her.

Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans...

To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew.

Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this.

She just isn’t sure that she won’t.

I love stories set on the high seas, particularly when pirates are involved, but I usually gravitate towards romantic stories with male pirates because I have a major crush on bad-boy pirate types, apparently. lol. I’ve never read a book with female pirates before, but I really enjoyed this one!

First off, the narration was amazing. Victoria Boulton’s performance really drew me in and had me hooked from early on. She did not read too quickly or too slowly, and her British accent brought each character to life.

I loved the setting of the Lady Luck, and reading about all the ins and outs of life aboard the ship. The crew is made up entirely of women, who live by a very strict code of honor. No men are allowed on board, no children can be kidnapped and forced into service, no crew member is allowed to steal from the rest of the crew, etc. And unlike Captain Barbosa, these rules are not merely guidelines. They take these rules very seriously, and I quite liked reading about a bunch of pirates who at least have some morals.

The story itself was not particularly unique, but I still enjoyed this adventure on the high seas. The crew is on the hunt for the holy grail of all treasure: a map that will lead them to any treasure they wish. There are obstacles along the way, and two of those obstacles come in the form of two brothers who Grace saves from the Mordgris–the sea monsters who took her mother from her. Grace breaks a cardinal rule and brings them aboard the ship. As it turns out, the older brother, Leo, can help them find his map. The little brother, John, endears himself to the crew, so they decide both boys can stay. For now. I liked Grace, John, and Leo, but didn’t feel much for the rest of the characters. They all felt like typical pirates to me, with no real unique traits that made them stand out to me.

This was my first book by Jennifer Ellision, and I really enjoy her writing style and creativity. While the story kind of follows the normal pirate adventure formula, she’s added some elements that set it apart. I’m super intrigued by the Mordgris. I want to know more about them and their origins and purpose. What are they really about? Who are they? They play a big part in Grace’s life quest and are the real reason she wants this magical map. She hopes, against all odds, to find her mother. I loved reading about her determination, and the fact that she believes that family is more important than all the riches in the world. I’m really eager to see how things work out for her and to learn more about this world and the map. There’s so much to look forward to with the next book! And beware, this book ends on a major cliffhanger and you’re going to want more story ASAP!


Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted June 13, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on June 5, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Barnes & NobleIndieBound iBooks Book Depository Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

I’m so happy to be on this blog tour for Morgan Matson’s Save the Date, hosted by the Fantastic Flying Book Club! I’ve always heard wonderful things about Morgan’s books, and actually own a few of them. I even met her at ALA a few years ago and she signed a copy of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour for me, so I’m really surprised and slightly ashamed to admit that Save the Date is my very first Matson read! If all of her other books are just as delightful and funny and full of heart like this one is, then I think I’ve found a new author to love! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The Grant family is officially my favorite fictional family. I would love to be a member of this family! J.J. is an absolute hoot. Everything he says or does makes me laugh. He actually says “scoff” when he’s miffed. Linnie is such a fun big sister, and I love her relationship with Charlie. Danny is the sweet big brother type. I even like troublemaker Mike! They are all so close, and their life growing up together is full of memories of capture the flag games, movie nights, sleepovers, family trips, bumming around the house, and so much love. I love that they love each other and have the cutest sibling bonds with one another. The parents are great, too. It’s a house full of chaos and shenanigans, and I loved being a fly on the wall.

2. Speaking of shenanigans, 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. lol. 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 movie.

3. Bill, the assistant wedding coordinator, is the sweetest character. He and his… uncle? Dad? Why can’t I remember this!?! Oh well, not important. He and the guy he is somehow related to run this wedding business together, and he’s riding the waves of shenanigans with the best attitude. He’s got a great sense of humor and is always so happy. He’s also pretty quirky, slightly nerdy, and just warms my heart.

4. We’ve got a loaner beagle named Waffles and an alarm that won’t be silenced unless it wants to be that are both pretty amazing characters all on their own. Waffles has so much personality in his little body, complete with big floppy ears. And the alarm just had me giggling, which doesn’t even make sense unless you’ve read this book.

5. I really connected with Charlie. I understand what it’s like to have everyone needed things from you all the time. She’s kind of the glue that keeps the group together and sane. She’s the peacemaker, and I understand the kind of pressure that comes with that job. I sympathized with her as she faced having to move from her childhood home. I also saw a lot of growth from her as the book continued on. She just seemed really real to me. All the characters did.

6. Charlie’s mom has written a comic strip based on the Grant family, Grant Central Station, for the last 20+ years all about the kids and family growing up together. Snippets of these comics are featured throughout the book, and I really liked those. I’d love a book of more of them so I can get more of the backstory on some of these characters!

7. I just LOVE weddings. This book reminded me so much of Father of the Bride, which is one of my favorite movies ever.

8. Swoons. Wedding swoons, crush swoons, love swoons… They were all there.

All in all, I’m SO glad I finally jumped on the Morgan Matson train! I can’t wait to read her other books now! I hope her others are just as wonderful for me as this one was. I loved the family dynamics, the wedding craziness, and all heart and feeling that swirled around it all. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary YA with a side of giggles and feelings.


About Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College inLos Angeles, but halfway through a theater degree, she started working in the children’s department of Vroman’s Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.

Following college graduation (and the proud bearer of an incredibly useful theater/English degree) she received her M.F.A. in Writing for Children from The New school and worked as an editor for YA novels. She received a second M.F.A. (for reasons that made sense at the time) in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California.

Her novels have been translated into dozens of languages, and published all over the world.

Morgan’s first novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, was inspired by her love of road trips, snacks, and the quest for the perfect playlist. It was named an ALA Top Ten Best Book, a Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start book, and was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize.

Her second novel, Second Chance Summer, was inspired by her experiences spending summers in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. It was the winner of the California Book Award (YA category) and was named to the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults List, selected for the Oklahoma Sequoya List, and selected as a School Library Journal Best Book.

Her third novel, Since You’ve Been Gone, was published in2014,and was a Publisher’s Weekly and international bestseller. It was named to the YALSA Teens Top Ten list, and the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award List.

Morgan’s fourth novel, The Unexpected Everything, was published May 3rd, 2016. She currently lives inLos Angeles with her dog, Murphy.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the rest of the tour!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...