Category: Book Review

New Girl by Paige Harbison (Book Review)

Posted January 8, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

New Girl by Paige Harbison (Book Review)New Girl by Paige Harbison
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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3 Stars
Welcome to Manderley Academy.

I hadn't wanted to go, but my parents were so excited…. So here I am, the new girl at Manderley, a true fish out of water. But mine's not the name on everyone's lips. Oh, no.

It's Becca Normandy they can't stop talking about. Perfect, beautiful Becca. She went missing at the end of last year, leaving a spot open at Manderley—the spot that I got. And everyone acts like it's my fault that infallible, beloved Becca is gone and has been replaced by not perfect, completely fallible, unknown Me.

Then, there's the name on my lips—Max Holloway. Becca's ex. The one boy I should avoid, but can't. Thing is, it seems like he wants me, too. But the memory of Becca is always between us. And as much as I'm starting to like it at Manderley, I can't help but think she's out there, somewhere, watching me take her place.

Waiting to take it back.

Well… That was confusing! With this book, I kind of felt like I was just going through the motions. I wanted to read it, and I knew I should read it, but I wasn’t excited about it or craving it like I do when I’m reading a book I adore. I spent a lot of time going, “hmmm…”. This was definitely unique and totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

We have our unnamed (until the very end) heroine/narrator of the story. She’s not a very riveting character, probably because she is the nameless “new girl” living in the shadow of, and pretty much replacing, the girl who disappeared mysteriously the year before. I had to feel for her. I moved around a lot as a child, and I’ve been the new girl SO many times. It’s really hard to go to a brand new place, and at the end of high school? That’s pretty brutal. It’s even harder because Becca (mystery girl) had to disappear to even open a spot for “new girl” to attend the boarding school. Everyone’s got a major thing against her, and they don’t even know her yet. That’s got to be hard. At the same time, though, because I’ve been there I know that you’ve got to stick up for yourself to fit in. She didn’t. She spent a lot of time having people yell at her and accuse her of untrue things while she sat there, stunned, with her mouth gaping open. So… she kind of bugged me. Eventually she finds her footing and begins to stick up for herself. And I do admire her for sticking it out and not moving back home. I know I would want to, so I have to give her props there.

Every other chapter or so, Becca narrates and we have flashbacks of her time at the school before her disappearance. She was a snobby, cocky, manipulative, drunken slut! And… a total sociopath. I got really tired of reading about her against-the-rules late night beer pong/body shot parties at the boathouse, her two-timing two nice boys, her lies, and her ego. I really just hated her! She’s the kind of person that new girls of the world fear. Her friend and roommate, Dana (also “new girl’s” roommate”), was also totally psycho. She really creeped me out as I watched her grief over losing Becca totally consume her. She spent the entire book on a conquest to find Becca and ruin “new girl’s” life. And she was creepy. I got chills reading about her. And then there were all the other members of Becca’s posse, who also hated “new girl”. And then there were the two boys who had a thing for Becca… also having a thing for “new girl” but trying not to have a thing for her because it would be weird in light of Becca’s disappearance. Both guys were nothing special, and I had a hard time understand how they knew enough about her to like her so much. So… poor “new girl” does not have many positive pieces of her life.

Really, the whole story is all boathouse parties, people sneaking off to do the nasty, the occasional classroom environment, creepy encounters, and insane people being really mean to an innocent girl they don’t even know the name of. And the sad thing is… I can totally see this happening in real life. I think that’s why it disturbed me so much! A popular girl in a high school environment can TOTALLY take control of an entire student body like Becca did. She was so powerful that even being MIA, she still ruined the life of someone! That’s kind of scary if you think about it! (By the way, I had no idea this was a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier until I read another review. Now I’m intrigued… I need to go grab my copy of Rebecca and read it!) The pacing was a little too slow for me, especially at the end… although I did kind of like “new girl’s” introspection as she accessed her final thoughts and her time at Manderly.

I tend to be pretty critical, but in light of what I just said, this book had some positive points. I did not find it weird that we never knew “new girl’s” name. It did not feel like we were not allowed to know. It flowed naturally, and I think not knowing her name actually allowed me to identify with her more. It was easier to slip into her mind and feel what she was feeling. I was also pretty intrigued by what happened to Becca, and how she had such control over so many people. I read most of this book in one sitting, so even though I have my complaints, I was still interested enough to continue on well into the wee hours of the morning.

(Oh my. The light bulb just went on… Rebecca… Becca. Gosh. In my defense, it’s 3:00 AM. Don’t judge!)

I liked how Becca and “new girl” were linked. They both essentially told the exact same story, but things went very differently for the two of them. Becca always got what she wanted and “new girl” pretty much never did. The character development was sound. I know the personalities of the main characters very well. I don’t know their favorite book, TV show, or color. I don’t know where they are from, or what they plan to do with their lives, but I can guess what they’ll think or feel next. They contrasted well with each other, and I liked getting into their heads.

This book was more of an experience than a story. I can see it as a kind of social commentary. I felt the chill and the emotion. I felt really sorry for “new girl”. Actually, I ended up feeling really sorry for Becca as well. It really made me think a lot. Even now as I’m writing this review, I’m coming up with new things I pulled from the book. I just keep coming back to how eerily possible the entire story is. Clearly, an underlying moral message was written between the lines, but telling you my opinions on that might foil your own thoughts.

Have any of you read this? What did you think? Those of you who have read Rebecca, how closely does this story follow Rebecca’s storyline? No spoilers, please!

______________________________________________________________________________

**After a lovely book chat with Magan of Rather be Reading and Alexa of Alexa Loves Books, we collectively decided we are all even more confused by this book than we thought! Some of our conversation highlights include:

Alexa:  I thought the alternating points of view worked out well. Because we got New Girl’s POV and then a bit of a flashback to Becca. I had to get used to it though.
Jana:  I enjoyed it. I think either story would have been boring on its own. So, telling them at the same time was a nice change of pace.
Magan:  Yeah, I liked the alternating POVs, too. It was hard for me to keep up with the timing sometimes because of the character overlaps. Once I got used to it, all was good.
Magan: I felt like there were pages where I was supposed to read into something more, but didn’t and then something supposedly happened between them and I felt lost.
Jana:  Magan, I agree. I felt like I wasn’t thinking hard enough as I read.
Alexa: I always felt like I was missing something too. Like I was supposed to know certain things already.
Jana:  I thought it was the new girl, not Becca… OH MAN. My brain hurts. Haha.
Magan:  Mine too. This is rough.
Alexa:  It’s actually an interesting book to talk about because we can all figure it out together.Magan:  I think I would have swallowed my pride and begged for a return ticket home. I couldn’t have made it through all of that.
Jana:  OH YES. I would have been gone immediately.
Alexa:  Magan – I would have caved the instant they started comparing me to her.
Jana: Haha. I think “creepy” is our most frequently used word.
Magan:  Yeah, I had a stack of not-so-fluffy or romantic books to read after NG and I just wanted something super girly to take my mind off the haunted feeling after I finished NG.
Jana:  Same here. I did feel haunted. Kind of disturbed. It still gets to me even now.
Alexa:  Me too.
Magan:  Yep. Ditto.
Jana: I think we should all read Rebecca and then see if this makes sense. Haha.
Magan:  Yeah, I think you’re right, Jana.
Alexa:  We should! Haha, it can be our next project.
Magan:  Really there was just so much crazy here.
Jana:  Yes. And crazy = makes no sense, hence the reason we are confused.
Magan:  Haha, yep!
Alexa:  YES
Magan:  So, what did you guys rate this on GR? I gave it three stars.
Jana:  I gave it 3 stars.
Alexa:  me too! hahahaha
Magan:  It definitely wasn’t a dislike kind of book, but almost like I wanted more. More answers. More loose ends tied up.
Jana:  Exactly.


Halo by Alexandra Adornetto (Book Review)

Posted January 4, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto (Book Review)Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
Series: Halo #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on August 31, 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 484
Format: Hardcover
Source: Birthday present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
0.5 Stars
An angel is sent to Earth on a mission.

But falling in love is not part of the plan.

Three angels – Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, the youngest and most human – are sent by Heaven to bring good to a world falling under the influence of darkness. They work hard to conceal their luminous glow, superhuman powers, and, most dangerous of all, their wings, all the while avoiding all human attachments.

Then Bethany meets Xavier Woods, and neither of them is able to resist the attraction between them. Gabriel and Ivy do everything in their power to intervene, but the bond between Xavier and Bethany seems too strong.

The angel’s mission is urgent, and dark forces are threatening. Will love ruin Bethany or save her?

I was expecting these amazingly perfect angels coming down from Heaven to save a deteriorating world. I thought it would be full of action, excitement, forbidden love, and suspense. Was it? Not really. The story didn’t even really pick up until about page 370. This is a 500-page book. Let me list off some of my main complaints that made this book so hard to finish.  I must warn you, this might be the harshest of all my reviews. I feel really bad about it… but I just can’t go without saying this!

1. The writing. Oh dear. Talk about purple prose. There was more flowery writing in this book than actual dialogue! And it did nothing for the plot. Things are described multiple ways and then compared to something else countless numbers of times: “That was the effect he had on me–an explosion of happiness in my chest, scattering like little beads and making my whole body shiver and tingle.” Or… “Xavier’s eyes are turquoise and almond shaped, like twin pools of clear blue ocean.” Every time Xavier’s eyes were mentioned, they were turquoise. The author could come up with nothing else to describe them. Yes, we get it. And his hair was always nutmeg. ALWAYS. Hey, did you know Xavier’s hair color is nutmeg? Oh, by the way… Xavier has nutmeg hair. And he’s hot. Really hot. If you forget, that’s ok. You’ll be told again really soon. At least 3-4 times a chapter, in fact.

Pages were devoted to descriptions of interiors, or places, or outfits, or feelings, or people that didn’t contribute to the plot at all. I’d read some long, overdone description of some nameless character, and then they are never mentioned again! So why should I care about them? I was getting so tired of it. An Amazon reviewer said it best when she mentioned that the plot takes a back seat to the overwritten details and descriptions. Did I mention Xavier’s really hot?

2. Bethany’s “brother” is Gabriel, the archangel. Her sister is a seraph.  Why are such powerful angels sent to a sleepy little town called Venus Cove, where nothing bad is happening? I would think they’d be sent to a war zone or a place with extreme poverty, but no. They get sent to a place where more volunteers are needed to serve at the local soup kitchens. There was no possible way to write in any exciting encounters against evil.

Bethany would offend all actual angels, in my opinion. She’s petty, childish, shallow, and complains about her job in Heaven. Gabriel and Ivy walk around acting very superior and stuck-up—much different than I would expect messengers from God to act. AND… these angels are so dumb! The villain of the story is painfully described to a tee and fits perfectly into the category of “evil”. Every reader in the world knew he was bad before the angels did. A 3-year-old would get it.  It wasn’t until he started doing awful things that the light bulb turned on and they were like, “Oh, I think he’s bad.” Duh! Luckily this is not what real angels are like, because we’d be in trouble if they were.

3. Don’t fall into the plot holes. In the book, angels are described as having no family and not being able to understand human emotions. So why are Gabriel and Ivy referred to as Bethany’s siblings? Gabriel says love is forbidden. He also says that angels don’t feel the way humans do. So… the fact that Bethany is so in love with Xavier makes me question the entire premise of the book.

4. The love between Xavier and Bethany is more obsessive than that of Edward and Bella. I know, right? Is that even possible? Must be because he’s so hot. I did mention that, right? Bethany is willing to turn her back on Heaven for him! That seems really unhealthy, considering it took only a week or two for this crazy, never-ending, undying love to develop. There was no build-up to the love story. They saw each other, he ran into her on purpose a few times, he tells her he likes her, and BOOM. A full-on love explosion happens, and they both go nuts. I didn’t believe it at all, and it really sounded like some little girl’s daydream. And oh my, protectiveness! Xavier actually force-fed a protein bar (airplane noises and all) to Bethany when she wasn’t hungry when he thought she should be.  He compared her to glass and would not let her carry her books. I wanted to gag.

5. Halo is a Twilight knock-off. Vampires have been changed to angels, and the girl is now the supernatural one instead of the guy. The two meet in high school, she fights her feelings for him because the two of them shouldn’t be, then the whirlwind romance happens, she tells him her dark secret after hardly knowing him at all, he is taken in to her family as a trusted ally, the angels are the hottest breed of life known to man, etc. Instead of sparkling, the angels glow. Xavier saves Bethany from a gang of guys who want sex from her. Bethany even takes the train in to the city (Port Circe) to search for prom dresses, but found nothing she liked. Can we just call it Port Angeles, call Bethany Bella, and move on?

6. It was SO preachy! A religion can be written without being preached. This book is laced with mini-sermons and lectures, and should have been marketed as a Christian romance. Readers deserve to know if they’re about to be preached to for the entire book. I have nothing against Christian fiction; I just don’t read it (not because I’m not a Christian, but because there are so many different variations of Christianity and I frequently find things that rub me the wrong way, or teachings I don’t believe in). I understand this is fiction, but I was downright offended by some of the things she said about angels, God, etc. I have a hard time with authors taking liberties with spiritual/gospel-related subject matter. Commercialized Christianity. Not digging it. I hear the Devil himself is referred to as “Big Daddy” in book 2? Oh my. Gag me with a spoon.

7.  The story moved SO slowly. While reading this, I was in the process of painting my living room. I would choose to paint over taking a break to read. Watching paint dry was more entertaining. Now THAT’S saying something.

I guess I should have expected nothing more than I got as soon as I read a quote by Beyoncé on the introductory page of the book. Yes… a lyric from the song, you guessed it! HALO (Baby I can see your halo/you know you’re my saving grace.). How creative. To make matters worse, it was paired with a quote from “Romeo and Juliet.” Sorry, but Beyoncé and Shakespeare don’t go together. I’m having a hard time understanding why this book got a deal. I enjoyed the idea, but not the execution. And I feel bad for the graphic designer who had to waste their beautiful design on such a lackluster book. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I have no interest in reading the other two.

And on that note… Xavier. He’s, like, really hot.

So, have any of you read Halo? Did you like it, or did you feel the same way I did?


Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Book Review)

Posted January 3, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 51 Comments

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Book Review)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Also in this series: Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter, Stars Above
Published by Feiwel and Friends on January 3, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Retelling, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Pages: 387
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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5 Stars
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Reviews of Cinder are storming the blogosphere right now, in anticipation of today’s release date! They are everywhere! I’m jumping on the “Cinder-lovers” bandwagon and seriously have no idea how to approach this review. Haha! My thoughts feel so unorganized and are conflicting with one another. What can I say that will make my review different? So many people have already covered everything. Oh well! Here goes!

Last year with my first grade class (I taught reading and phonics to a 1st grade class while their other teacher did small group tutoring), we had a fairy tale week and I spent the week reading them different Cinderella picture books. We had a zombie Cinderella, and an Indian Cinderella… and a very modern spin on the story. The kids LOVED it. At the end of the week, we wrote and illustrated our very own Cinderella story called, “Mrs. Bellarella and Miss Janarella.” (I’m Miss Jana, obviously. Mrs. Bell was their other teacher.) The story was absolutely hilarious. Needless to say, I’m pretty familiar with Cinderella, and I was pretty excited to hear about a more “grown-up” retelling. I thought that cyborgs and androids were pushing the envelope a little too far, though. I was SO wrong! I loved how Cinder tied in all the elements of the original story, but put a modern sci-fi spin on it! And even though we’re talking about a dystopian society with cyborgs and aliens, Cinder was still a completely magical fairy tale. :)

I loved Marissa Meyer’s writing style, and very creative imagination! The world she created left me with no questions. The detailed descriptions of the scenery, futuristic mechanics and medicine, people, etc. were captivating to read. I got totally lost. I loved Cinder’s character. She’s a tom-boy mechanic, and has grease stains all over her ALL the time. Her idea of getting dressed up is putting on a shiny new foot, not a glass slipper. She’s spunky, and realistic. She sticks up for herself when it counts, and is not afraid of anything! I pretty much adore the fact that she’s always got her head on straight. Perhaps her internal programming is what keeps her grounded, but she just gets it. She knows what needs to be done, no matter what, and she does it! She lets nothing cloud her judgement. You go, girl! Her quirky android friend/assistant, Iko, is hilarious. She’s a machine, but there’s some kind of glitch in her that makes her more human than most androids. I was enthralled by their story, and really loved reading about their latest projects and schemes.

Prince/Emperor Kai is a little… eh right now. Don’t get me wrong, I like him. It’s just that as the male lead in the story, we don’t know much about him. His conversations with Cinder are mostly small talk, with a few intimate details shared every once in a while. Perhaps he’ll become more rounded in the next three books. I do appreciate that there’s no insta-love. They both know that there’s a connection, but they’re not going crazy about it. Meyer is giving them time to develop their relationship, which we will hopefully be able to see in the next books.

My favorite parts were the hidden Cinderella details, and the awesome futuristic settings and technology. Oh, and the ending is pretty breathtaking as well. Twists and turns keep you guessing until the last sentence. I would have enjoyed seeing a little more character development in Kai. Right now, I’m not seeing what Cinder sees in him. Also, the story takes place in New Beijing, but I never would have known if it had not been continually mentioned. I would have liked more Chinese cultural elements, even futuristic ones. Finally, the ending was a bit too rushed for me, and then I fell off a cliff all of a sudden. I’m hanging by a thread here, wondering how the ending snuck up on me so fast!

Regardless of my tidbits of constructive criticism, I can’t deny how much I loved the story. Sometimes we have to make allowances and just enjoy the ride, forgetting what we would have preferred. Plus, I’m trying to remember that there’s 3 more books in the series! Marissa has plenty of time to turn Emperor Kai into Prince Charming. She has plenty of time to explain more details to me. I kind of like the mystery I’ve been left with. If we were given too much with this book, the others would end up being fluff. I’m sad I have to wait so long for Scarlet (Book #2). I guess that’s the downside of getting ARCs: more time to wait for the next one! Haha!

Oh, and for your pure reading enjoyment, here is the story my class and I wrote together. We illustrated it and had it published, so the kids could order hardback copies if they wanted to. Everyone wanted a special part in the story, so please excuse the MANY names. :) I ran into one of my kids at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and his mom told me that this is his bedtime story every night. Presh! I melted a bit.

Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella

“Once upon a time there was a girl named Mrs. Bellerella, and she really wanted to go to the ball. She had two evil stepsisters named Emily and Lesly and an evil stepmother named Tamaraleen. They were very mean to her. All day long she cleaned up their messes and cooked for them. She spent her free time looking out the windows at the Castle.

Her mouse friends named Alyssa, Morgan, Pamela, Ninel, Paul, Joel, Nathan, Andrew H., and Andrew V. locked up her evil family members so that Mrs. Bellerella could escape to visit her fairy Godmother named Taylee. The fairy Godmother said, “Give this flower to the one you love, and he will love you too! Here’s an extra one, just incase you lose it or want to give one to a friend.” Mrs. Bellerella said, “Thank you! Can you help me make a dress?” The fairy Godmother, Taylee, said, “Yes. We’ll make it out of red and blue roses. Let’s get started!” Her dress was huge and puffy. It was covered with red and blue roses. She had gloves and make-up on and she looked so pretty.

Mrs. Bellerella called her sister, Miss Janarella to go to the castle ball with her. A limo came to pick up Mrs. Bellerella, and then they got Miss Janarella. Miss Janarella’s dress was yellow with yellow roses all over it. On the way to the ball, the limo ran out of gas!! The knights named Ayden, Hunter, Oli, and Gates came and took Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella to the castle on their horses. They got to the ball and danced with princes and lots of boys. They danced with their favorite princes. Mrs. Bellerella danced with Prince Matthew and Miss Janarella danced with Prince Alexander. The princes liked Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella so much that they wanted them to meet their parents, King Leo and Queen Hayley.

Mrs. Bellerella’s evil family broke out of their home and went to the castle to break the spell and steal the magic flowers. Meanwhile, the knights were back at the castle practicing their sword fighting and had to stop and rush to capture the evil stepmother Tamaraleen and the evil stepsisters Lesly and Emily. They saved Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella! The magic flowers were destroyed, but the princes loved Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella anyway. They got married in the front of the castle. They kissed. And they lived happily ever after. Oh, and by the way, they each had two kids who were cousins and liked to play together. The End!!”


The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber (Book Review)

Posted December 21, 2011 by Jana in Book Review / 7 Comments

The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber (Book Review)The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Published by Mira on September 29, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 232
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought it!
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3 Stars
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR CHRISTMAS PERFECT?

For Cassie Beaumont, it's meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing's worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.

What's left? A professional matchmaker. He's Simon Dodson, and he's very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she's astonished when he accepts her as a client.

Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa's elf at a children's party and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all --- and she's finally ready to meet her match.

But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise!

First off, yay!!! Two reviews in two days! So proud. :) I really do love this time of year, and I love ingesting as much sweet stuff as possible, both by way of mouth (unfortunately) and by way of entertainment! I watch Christmas movies all month, make Christmas cookies and fudge, design Christmassy jewelry, and listen to the Carpenters wish their darlings a merry Christmas. Finally, I’m guilty of hunting down the cutest Christmas romances all year and saving them for after Thanksgiving, as you’ve seen me do all December here at the blog. I read as many as possible. This kind of book follows the same formula that all other Christmas romances follow. The people are sweeter than candy canes, merrier than the elves, and jollier than Saint Nick himself. And of course… there’s the one woman going through her quarter-life crisis, hoping for a boyfriend for Christmas, followed by a bun in the oven and a white-picket fence. I’m typically not a sappy person, but for some reason I enjoy this during the holidays!

Doesn’t that synopsis just make you smile? I knew that, ultimately, the entire book would be pure, predictable, fluff. But it was extremely sweet, and I did really enjoy it! I got pretty tired of listening to Cassie complain for the first 30 or so pages, but it got so much better once she was done introducing her predicament and venting about it. I adored Simon’s character. He was the scrooge of the book, who did not believe in love even though his profession was to help others find it. I love the banter he and Cassie share back and forth. As Cassie goes through the process of completing her three tasks, she experiences some funny things and also some heartwarming things. You grow to like her, and her totally awesome brother (I’d date him!). It does have a very sweet ending, and everyone is overflowing with happiness and the spirit of Christmas.

It was a cute, fast, fluffy read but I love that at Christmastime! Now, it’s not a piece of genius literature, nor does it have a very original plot. It’s very predictable, and I knew from the very beginning what was going to happen. If you’re looking for a challenge, or looking to be captivated, this is probably not the book for you. If you’re looking for a quick dose of cute Christmas sappiness, then perhaps you’d take from this book the same things I did.


Let it Snow, by J. Green, M. Johnson, & L. Myracle (Book Review)

Posted December 20, 2011 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 9 Comments

Let it Snow, by J. Green, M. Johnson, & L. Myracle (Book Review)Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, Maureen Johnson
Published by Speak on October 2, 2008
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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4 Stars
Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

I love Christmas romances that aren’t sad. Why do all Christmas books have to be sad? The back of the book always says, “After Mindy’s mother died, her dog got hit by a car, her husband divorced her, and her kid ran away from home… she meets a man at the ER who was severely burned and can’t see. Love blooms, and a Christmas miracle happens.” Haven’t you read that before? Ugh. Christmas is happy! Not sad! The back of this book sounds happy. :) So I decided it was worth a shot, even though I don’t like the idea of short stories. I like to read a book that is one big story. Not three little ones. Needless to say, this book was a gamble. JACKPOT!! Halleluiah! I LOVED IT! Gush, gush, gush. Ok, on to the review. (Clearly I don’t read enough books that cause happiness to gush out of me. I’m not crazy, I promise.) Oh, and wanna know what else is fun? These three stories are all intermingled. I didn’t realize this until I started in on story #2. They all take place on and around Christmas Eve in Gracetown, NC during the biggest blizzard in the last 50 years. Each story discusses different characters, who end up all being connected. I loved all of them, and want to go find everyone at The Waffle House in Gracetown now.

The first story is called The Jubilee Express, by Maureen Johnson. I’d never read anything by her, and pretty much adore her now. Not many authors make me love them in roughly 100 pages, but I’m about to go buy more of her books! Anyway, there’s a girl named Jubilee (she was named after a building in a very expensive Santa village! Hahah!) who finds herself on a train to Florida because her parents decided to be crazy this year. A big snowstorm causes the train to stop in a small town, where she finds some interesting people (and some sweet ones) in the Waffle House. Her Christmas plans end up needing a slight alteration, but I doubt anyone would feel that she suffered as a result! I loved this story. Jubilee is hilarious. The thoughts running through her head had me laughing out loud. I loved the main guy in this story too. He is so sweet and sensitive. I’m not giving away more of the plot, because you just need to read it. That is all.

The second story is called A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, by John Green. Oh my. It’s hilarious. The main guy, Tobin, has two friends named JP (my favorite character, because he is amazing) and the Duke (Angie). While watching Bond movies, they get a call on Christmas Eve to hightail it to the Waffle House to see 14 stranded cheerleaders from the same train Jubliee was on, hanging out and being cheerleadery. Their journey to this Waffle House (in the middle of a blizzard) is priceless. It includes a lost wheel, some scary twins, a Twister mat sled, and a dangerous beer keg. I died of laughter. And of course, it turns out to be an adorable story. I want to meet JP. The things he says are hilarious, plus he was wearing Tobin’s dad’s baby blue ski suit for the entire story because he thought it would make him look like a hardcore skier, just back from the slopes. Gotta impress those cheerleaders! Oh, good stuff, Mr. John Green.

The last story is called The Patron Saint of Pigs, by Lauren Myracle. This was a very “meh” read for me. Luckily it was the last story, because I don’t think I would have continued with the book if it had been the first.  It’s all about this girl named Addie, who I didn’t care for much, who cheated on her boyfriend a week before Christmas, dumped him, and now wants him back. She spends a lot of time whining about her situation, even though it’s her fault. And she spends a lot of time being mad at him for not responding to her latest apology e-mail with open arms. She CHEATED on him. Why does she expect a happy ending to this? The story also involves a little old lady who thinks she’s an angel, and a quest to acquire a little teacup pig that is to be her friend’s Christmas present. It was just weird, and a pretty weak way to end the book. The first two stories were brilliant, and long-lasting loves for me. This story really fell flat, and pales in comparison. The ending was also pretty cliche and unrealistic. I can look past this story, though, and rate this book 5 stars for the other two. If we factor in my rating for this one, the book would probably get a 3.5.

I definitely see myself re-reading the first two stories a lot. They are so sweet and Christmasy, not to mention a quick dose of the Holiday spirit. I was delighted to find them. Did anyone here love the third story? I’m pretty lenient when it comes to Christmas reads, but I held this one to pretty high standards after the first two. What do you think?


Marian’s Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly (Book Review)

Posted December 5, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Marian’s Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly (Book Review)Marian's Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly
Published by Cedar Fort on October 9, 2011
Genres: Historical Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 298
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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5 Stars
Miss Marian Wynswich is a rather unconventional young lady. She plays chess, reads Greek, and is as educated as any young man. And she's certain falling in love is a ridiculous endeavor and vows never to do such a thing. But everything changes when she receives a Christmas visit from someone unexpected a young and handsome English lord.

The summary on the back of the book does not give you much info, so here’s just a little more. I’m not going to give away too many details, just because the story is so much fun to just discover on your own. So here are the bare essentials: Marian’s spunky, outspoken, and not accomplished in the ways that many young women are during her time period. She doesn’t sing or play the piano. She didn’t go through all the classes and training that one goes through to learn how to be a lady. No, she’d rather make ointments and work with medicines to heal all of her stray animal friends (and a few people, too). She doesn’t have curly hair and brown eyes. She doesn’t care, though! She can beat you at chess, and read Greek and Latin better than anyone. She speaks her mind whenever she feels so inclined, and that gets her into trouble sometimes. She’s also read every book in her father’s library. A bookish girl after my own heart. Speaking of her father, he passed away and left his family in a very dire situation. When Marian’s brother comes home with a rich, but unattractive and undesirable suitor for her older sister, Ariadne, Marian is determined to figure out a way to stop this awful courtship. She believes that people should only marry for love, and that it has to be a LOT of love or it’s not even worth it. As she and her brother play tricks on this man alongside the very handsome Gilbert Collinworth, Earl of Ingraham, she begins to question her decision to never marry. Perhaps love is better than she thinks!

This book was endearing, and oh so sweet! It’s the kind of sweet you hope to read during December, but not so over the top that you want to throw you Christmas cookies in the trash because you’ve reached your maximum sugar intake for the season. I loved Marian. She’s exactly the kind of personality-type I was/wished to be at the ripe old age of 16, so I identified a lot with her as I read her story. She doesn’t follow the normal trend, and manages to stand out in her own special way. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, is very mature, and won’t take crap from anyone. She’s so much more amazing at sticking up for herself and speaking her mind to authority figures than I was, though, and I envy that a little. She’s resilient, a tad emotional, and enjoys acting her age sometimes (when she’s not having to force herself to be a grown up). And Gilbert is amazing. Just like Marian, he was not created from the same mold most males of his time were. He’s a funny troublemaker who likes to stir the pot. He becomes quite an ally to Marian, making her be quiet when she wishes to speak her mind. Their banter back and forth is so much fun to read, not to mention his moments of being so tender and caring… oh, and those twinkling eyes. I kinda fell in love with that Gilbert Collinworth.

Marian’s brother, Alistair, is a really awesome brother. I wish I had one just like him. He teases Marian non-stop, but when she needs him to lean on, or to cry on his shoulder, he’s sensitive and very caring. I can just picture those two bantering over chess or at the breakfast table. They have one of those sweet brother/sister relationships that I hope my future son and daughter have one day (long, long into the future!). We don’t get to know the rest of her family extremely well. Her mother is pretty high maintenance and snobby, and Ariadne (seriously, how on Earth do you pronounce her name!?) is pretty spineless and quiet. She clams up and goes with the flow–a great contrast to Marian. Percy (the oldest brother) is firm, but you can tell he doesn’t want to be. He became the man of the house, and with that comes a great responsibility. He’s a softy, though, and ends up making you smile as well. You can tell that the entire family is very loving and cares about everyone deeply. Of course, I object to the arranged marriage, but that’s all part of the the time period. A poor family marrying their daughter off to an old rich man, whom she will never love is something we read a lot about in regency romance novels.

I did not mean to do such a thorough character analysis, but the characters are what make this story so enjoyable! I mean, when you come right down to it, this storyline has been done before. A little suspense and mystery is thrown in (which I loved, by the way), but for the most part it’s been done. The characters are what set this book apart from all the others, plus the fact that it’s during Christmas, so it’s much more magical already! Bottom line, when I think of the story, I think about the people before the plot. That’s a big deal. The descriptions of lovely snowy scenes and intense moments of danger also make this book something special. Oh, and the kissing scene is pretty dang cute too!

While I did see this book on a shelf at a local Christian bookstore, I would not mark this as strictly Christian fiction. The Christmas service at the church is only a few paragraphs, and there’s really no other talk of religion. So, if you’re a bit leery of this book for that reason, don’t worry! You won’t be preached to. I also wouldn’t mark this as young adult fiction. Girls during this time period were forced to grow up early, so even though Marian is only 16, she’s where many of today’s mid-twenties to even late-thirties women are.

So, I can happily add another adorable Christmas romance to my list of keepers! This December is turning out to be a month of great finds so far! Thanks again to netgalley and Cedar Fort Publishing for giving me this complimentary copy, in exchange for my honest review.


Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, by Cohn & Levithan (Book Review)

Posted December 1, 2011 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 11 Comments

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, by Cohn & Levithan (Book Review)Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan, Rachel Cohn
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 26, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 260
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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5 Stars
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Happy first day of December! This month, it is all Christmas books for Jana! I love Christmas books, and this one was my first choice. I had heard the Dash & Lily buzz everywhere, and I was waiting until the Christmas season to start it! It was a tough wait, seeing as how I found out about it on Christmas Eve last year! I had to wait a long time! It was worth the wait, though, and I dove into it as soon as I was in bed on Thanksgiving night.

This book is a fun little gem that is the kind of book everyone will end up reading eventually. I loved the uniqueness of the story. I would absolutely love to discover a little red notebook full of dares in my favorite bookstore! The dares were fun and unique, and put both Dash and Lily in weird positions–more so for Dash than Lily. I’ll say two words about it and then leave it at that: fresh Santa. Haha! Loved it. These two were running all over New York City doing tasks, and then leaving the notebook for the other one to find. The anticipation and the mystery behind this cute exchange was incredibly fun and heartwarming to read about! The book alternates back and forth between Dash and Lily, just like the notebook does. According to the authors blurb and the end of the book, Cohn (Lily) and Levithan (Dash) e-mailed the chapters back and forth to each other and then continued writing the story as they got new content. I love that the book was created essentially the same way that the red notebook IN the book was. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me. In doing this, each author gave their own character a distinct voice. I loved the result!

Dash and Lily are very quirky characters. Dash hates Christmas, and lies to both of his divorced parents, saying that he is spending the holiday with the other. That way he can spend it alone. He’s a bookish, hipster nerd whose biggest wish in life is to own his own 22-volume Oxford English Dictionary. Other than being very bookish herself, Lily is the complete opposite. She’s a perky Christmas lover, but is abandoned by her parents who go to Fiji, and her brother who ignores her to spend time with his boyfriend. The exchange with Dash is the only thing that keeps her grounded. She’s pretty unique. The descriptions of her outrageous outfits match the descriptions of her funny nature. Even so, she seems pretty mature for her age. Her rambunctiousness and uniqueness is a nice contrast to Dash’s rather mundane existence. He’s deep, and has funny things to say, but Lily is definitely the part of that duo that grabs attention just by walking down the street. I love that Dash is amused by her. It’s so sweet. I love that the notebook strips them of their hiding places, and brings them out from behind their walls to really get to know each other in a way that they might not have if they had met under different circumstances.

They experience a lot of feelings and emotions together: loss, loneliness, curiosity, happiness, sadness, hope, worry, self-doubt, and they laugh a lot. They think about each other often, and try to imagine what the other one is feeling. They find themselves concerned about the other pretty much all the time. They pose important questions in the notebook, not just, “What’s your favorite color?” Together, they realize that they care about each other a lot more than they thought they did. Sometimes that’s a scary thing to realize, and they both know it. I enjoyed reading about a deep relationship that is so important to each of them, they spend time worrying and doubting themselves. As they wrote more to each other, they reflected on their responses. It was a quick development, but they did it with finesse. I can totally see how they fell for each other so quickly. They learned more about each other in that short time than some people learn in a year. Neither of them was perfect, but that actually ended up making them perfect for each other.

The things they said or thought were often hilarious, but they also had some very deep thoughts that made me think. One quote in particular that I just loved was thought by Lily, “You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here’s a hint—ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn’t just the women. It’s the great male fantasy—all it takes is one dance to know that she’s the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face. And right away you know—this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don’t want a very long courtship. They want to know immediately.” LOVE that. It’s so profound, and so true! We girls are not the only ones looking for a fairytale. 

My final thoughts: Dash and Lily is a pretty adorable book about a Christmastime romance between two unsuspecting teens who are a lot more mature than is to be expected. Throughout the red notebook’s journey, these two learn things about themselves and each other. As they learn more, they grow closer. They realize perfection is not necessary, and that girls aren’t the only ones who dream of fairy tales. It was a magical read for me that took place in my favorite city in the USA. I definitely recommend this to those of you who enjoy Christmas romances, but hardly ever read any because they are all SO cheesy and cover every possible emotion all at once. This book is nothing like that, and you’ll love it. :) 

And on that note… It’s time for me to scour the shelves of the local bookstores to see if Mr. Right has caught on to this awesome idea yet.


Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan James (Book Review)

Posted November 30, 2011 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan James (Book Review)Forbidden by Ryan James, Syrie James
Published by HarperTEEN on January 24, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 410
Format: ARC
Source: From the author
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4 Stars
She should not exist.

He should not love her.

Claire Brennan has been attending Emerson Academy for two years now (the longest she and her mom have remained anywhere) and she’s desperate to stay put for the rest of high school. So there’s no way she’s going to tell her mom about the psychic visions she’s been having or the creepy warnings that she’s in danger.

Alec MacKenzie is fed up with his duties to watch and, when necessary, eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers. He chose Emerson as the ideal hiding place where he could be normal for once. He hadn’t factored Claire into his plans. . . .

Their love is forbidden, going against everything Alec has been taught to believe. But when the reason behind Claire’s unusual powers is revealed and the threat to her life becomes clear, how far will Alec go to protect her?

I was SO excited when Syrie wrote to me and told me that I was the first ever recipient of a Forbidden ARC! I read this book back in August, and was very happy when Syrie asked that I post this review now, rather than wait for the month of the release. Put this on your Christmas lists, guys! I think you’ll enjoy it. :)

First off, I really loved the story. The premise was interesting, and I like how I had to keep guessing and trying to figure out what was going on. I liked the tactic the authors used–to not tell us what Claire or Alec are for quite a while. All these crazy things start happening, and people are not who they say they are. I felt like I was just as lost as Claire was, which was exciting. I wish the back of the book did not mention angels. It would have been more fun to not have had any clue at all.

Alec is an amazing character, and I’m not going to tell you what he is. It’s fun to discover that on your own. He’s a mix of bad boy and sweetheart, which I love. He is so sweet with Claire. He’s also mysterious and dangerous, yet soft and romantic. He’s at Emerson Academy to escape his old life and create a new one… if that’s even possible. He enjoys his isolation. As soon as Claire pops up on the radar as someone the Elders should be investigating, his hiding place is discovered and he ends up having to take drastic measures to protect her from those who wish to destroy her.

I’m not going to tell you exactly what Claire is either, but she’s something forbidden. Haha. Her entire life should not even exist. She starts noticing changes and has to learn as she goes, because not many have ever been in her position. There’s no manuals on how to be herself. Man, this is painful to explain without spoilers, so I’m moving on! She’s sweet and wishes to be noticed by this one guy she’s had a crush on for years. Of course, he barely notices she’s alive. When Alec comes along, though, she begins to gravitate towards him right as this crush starts to gravitate towards her. She’s torn. She doesn’t embrace the love triangle, like so many YA girls end up doing in books. (Like… did Bella have to act so upset to be marrying Edward, but fling herself into Jacob’s arms when he showed up late at her reception? Sorry… I just saw Breaking Dawn yesterday.). She does a lot of thinking, and follows her heart. She seems smart. She also uses her talents to help people, like a classmate who needed a push in the right direction. Those are two main reasons why I like her. She didn’t bug me, which often happens to me with YA heroines. I feel like I’m saying this a lot lately. Maybe authors are starting to write better heroines in general?

I liked Claire’s friends a lot. They looked out for each other, and spent a lot of time sitting and chatting about all kinds of things. Friends usually end up bugging me too. They can so often be petty, catty, etc. I wish I had good friends like them when I was in high school.

There were several plot twists that made me go, “Whoa! I definitely wasn’t thinking THAT would happen!” I’ve noticed that as I read more and more of one genre, books begin to become pretty predictable. I mean, how many love triangles do we see? How many evil villains do we see? How many cliche plot twists do we see. A lot, a lot, a lot. These twists were not something I foresaw. I enjoyed being outsmarted by a genre that I’ve pretty much figured out.

Of course, the sweet kissing descriptions were just as good as the ones I’ve read in Syrie’s other novels. I love romance!

My only possible constructive criticism… I’m not sure if it’s because the book is part of the YA genre (which I’ve never read from Syrie), or if it was because she co-wrote it with her son, but there were parts of the novel that were totally Syrie, and other parts that did not sound like her. I could tell that two people wrote it. I’m not sure if it’s because her writing style and Ryan’s were not blended seamlessly, or if it was just that I’m used to reading adult fiction from Syrie instead of YA. In either case, it’s not a huge deal… just an observation. If I had not read other works of hers, I doubt I would have noticed anything at all. I’ve just come to recognize Syrie’s literary voice because I like it so much!

I asked Syrie if she and her son were planning to write a sequel, and she said that in their minds, it’s a trilogy. However, HarperTeen only committed to one book. They have great ideas for the next two, though, so hopefully Forbidden is well-received, and they can continue the story. I’d love to know more about what’s in store for Alec and Clair. Actually, I’d love a prequel, too. Throughout the story, we hear little bits about Claire’s parents. I’d love to read about their story as well. It has the potential to be a pretty beautiful story.

I definitely think that the book will appeal to more than just YA readers, and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that the characters are not annoying and certainly don’t fit into the stereotypical high school student formula. I think it also helped that Alec had a certain maturity that seemed to influence the other characters, and that brought on more mature conflicts and issues. I’m 24, and a lot of YA novels I read make me feel pretty old. Haha. I know I’m not old, but in a totally different place than most YA characters. I didn’t feel like this while reading Forbidden, and I forgot they were all highschoolers. It was refreshing.

In short, it was a wonderful book. I quite enjoyed it, and only took about 2 days to read it. Hopefully this team gets to continue the story! While it can totally stand on its own, there are plenty of ends that are just a tad loose, that could use some tying up!


The Bastard/Honor Bound, by Brenda Novak (Book Review)

Posted November 18, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

The Bastard/Honor Bound, by Brenda Novak (Book Review)Honor Bound by Brenda Novak
Published by Self on October 23, 2011
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 374
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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4 Stars
Note: This story was previously titled The Bastard

To some men honor is just a word...

Jeannette Boucher, a young French beauty from a family left penniless by the revolution, must marry against her will to save them all from ruin. But almost immediately after the vows are spoken, she learns that her old English husband is impotent—and in his desire for an heir, he plans to compromise her in the worst way. Determined to escape such a fate, she stows away on one of His Majesty’s frigates. But a woman alone is in constant danger.

To Lieutenant Treynor, honor means everything...

Born a bastard to a wayward marquise, Lieutenant Crawford Treynor was given to a poor farmer to raise and was maltreated until he ran away to join the Royal Navy. Treynor is determined to prove he’s as good as any other man and rise to captain his own frigate. But once he finds Jeannette aboard The Tempest he must decide whether to return her to the man he knows would abuse her—or risk everything, even his life, to keep her safe.'(

The story was exciting! We enter the story right as Jeanette is marrying this ugly old man that she is really rather repulsed by. She’s doing it to help her family, though. By marrying him, her family will want for nothing, but she will always want true love! While awaiting her new husband’s arrival to their bedroom, her brother barges in with some scary news. Her husband is impotent, and plans to have his male friends sleep with her to get her pregnant so he can have an heir. Jeanette decides to flee. When she discovers a Royal Navy ship in port that will be leaving for London soon, she decides to pose as a thirteen-year-old boy and sign on as one of the crew. In doing so, she runs into some dangerous situations. Lieutenant Treynor figures out her secret, and takes care of her until they can get her back on dry land. Of course, love happens… along with some adventure.

I really enjoyed this story. I appreciated the fact that, as far as romance novels go, this one was a little on the tamer side. It’s definitely not a book for youth, as steam happens, but there’s not a ton of time or pages devoted to it. It’s very easy to skip if you’re so inclined.

Jeanette is one of those characters that easy to not really know how you feel about her. Do I like her? Do I not like her? There’s a fine line between the two in this book. At times, I really liked her. I mean, she had self-esteem. She knew she did not deserve the life her husband was going to give her. She had a sense of honor because she married him to help her family. She was brave posing as a boy and becoming part of the crew. She had a certain level of values, and was very ladylike. However… so many of the times she was in danger were because she was an idiot. She kept doing things she was told not to do, thereby putting herself and Treynor in danger. It happened all the time. I can’t stand heroines who lack common sense.

How could anyone not like Lieutenant Treynor? He’s described as being nothing short of a Greek god. He came from a very difficult background and ran away to join the Royal Navy at a very young age. He climbed the ranks, and gained a ton of respect from the people he works with. He has an incredible sense of duty and does everything he can to protect Jeanette in secret, as well as do his job. He respects women. At one point, Jeanette gt a little tipsy drinking rum with the boys one night, and tried to seduce him. He sent her away because he felt wrong taking advantage of her current state of mind. He never forced himself on her. He is compassionate. Even when he thought she was a boy, he protected this young thing and took “him” under his wing. He’s also very gentlemanly and well-spoken. I really liked him. Definitely one of my favorite males in romance, and the very best part of this book.

The supporting characters were great. There were not too many to keep track of, but enough to convince you that the ship was full of a crew that mattered. We even have a villain, as pretty much all books do. He bugged me, but he was supposed to! I found myself enjoying the company of many of the characters. I’m not used to that, but I suppose it’s because these were Navy men and not ruthless, cold-hearted pirates.

I loved the descriptions. I could picture the wedding, the town, the port area (with taverns and seedy inns), the ship, the ocean, all the different cabins and rooms on board, etc. I could picture the crew doing tasks that I’ve never seen done before. I pictured everything wonderfully. I understood everything, and even learned a little about what went on aboard ships in days gone by, not to mention French and British history.

I’m not used to books of this genre covering so much adventure. Many authors could have turned this in to two books. I loved how fast-paced it was. Just as I thought we were winding down, ready to tie everything up into a nice bow, something crazy happened. AND every loose end imaginable was tied up. I was not left really wanting anything. I was happy with the ending.

I’d recommend this book to people who love romance on the high seas, adventure, strong male leads, likeable heroines, interesting and amusing supporting characters, and happy endings.

I’ll definitely be looking into more of Novak’s books. I hear she writes a lot of romantic suspense, which is another favorite genre of mine. Happy reading!

(Notes for those concerned about sensitive content: (Some may consider these spoilers, so be careful in reading.)
– Foreplay happens, but the actual act of sex never does.
– Any steamy scenes are kept to a paragraph or two (with the exception of maybe one).
– There is a rape attempt at Jeanette by someone on the opposing side of the war. Nobody on her ship’s crew is involved with that.
– There is war violence. People die.


Carrie Goes off the Map, by Phillipa Ashley (Book Review)

Posted November 16, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Carrie Goes off the Map, by Phillipa Ashley (Book Review)Carrie Goes Off the Map by Phillipa Ashley
Published by Sourcebooks on December 1, 2001
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 376
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Carrie Brownhill lets her best friend talk her into a scenic European road trip as the perfect getaway from a nasty breakup with her fiancé. Unexpectedly along for the ride is the gorgeous and intriguing Matt Landor, MD, who sorely tests Carrie’s determination to give up men altogether. Careening through the English countryside in a VW camper van, these two mismatched but perfectly attuned lonely hearts find themselves in hot pursuit of adventure and in uncharted territory altogether…

This book was lovely for several uncommon reasons: 1. The characters are my age! I’m so used to reading about tweens, teenagers, and middle-aged adults. I rarely read about characters who are mid-to-late twenties. It was refreshing. 2. This book is an amazing book to help you feel better after a nasty break-up. I wish I’d had this book a few years ago when I went through one of those. 3. Traveling!!!!! I love books where people travel, and what’s better than driving through England in a camper van named Dolly?

So, Carrie is engaged to her business partner: a farmer guy named Huw. One night he comes home from a stag party and tells her he can’t marry her anymore. Of course, she’s heartbroken. Who wouldn’t be? THEN… just 4 months later, Huw is getting married to the woman he cheated on her with! She finds out on the day of his wedding, and runs to the church to crash the ceremony and call him out. She chickens out, though, and just ruins a very expensive flower arrangement outside the church. At this point, her best friend Rowena is pretty worried about Carrie, and decides the two of them need to go on a roadtrip to Italy and beyond. Things are all set and ready to go, when Rowena gets a job on a soap opera and has to back out of the trip the morning of. She mischievously calls on Dr. Matt Landor, an old friend from college to go with Carrie instead. Matt’s currently home from a small island where he works as a doctor for a charitable organization, and has absolutely nothing to do. His passport is also expired, and so they can’t leave England. Carrie is mortified at this change in plans, but Matt finally talks her into going on a trip with him. They spend just over a month traveling around the English countryside meeting new people, and getting to know each other far better than they expected. Love blossoms among several different sets of characters. There’s even a bit of a scary twist that makes you worry for the characters! Mix all of this together with a lot of British slang that I had a hard time understanding at first, and you have a very cute romantic comedy on your hands.

Carrie is hilarious. She destroyed a flower arrangement with a hose! I hope that if my fiance dumps me for a skank named Fanella, I will have the guts to do something like this. I like her sense of adventure, and her determination. Not only does she get over Huw, but she has fun doing it. Matt is the brooding sexy type. Carrie compares him to Mr. Darcy, and I have to agree. He’s tall, dark, handsome, troubled, and covers up his love for Carrie with witty banter and silly arguments. He and Carrie have great chemistry. Some of their conversations and flirtatious moments had me laughing. I enjoyed the supporting characters, which included some pretty funny hippie surfer dudes who end up lying on the beach stoned more than they actually surf, and a stuck up gaggle of socialites who add the word “darling” to the end of every sentence.

While you pretty much know how everything will turn out, you don’t know how everything will be wrapped up. There were twists, turns, misunderstandings, and some lovely character development. The timeline of the book covers more time than I’m used to (over a year), which was nice. I loved the setting of the book. Carrie and Matt spent a lot of time along the water, and the author wrote some lovely descriptions.

Overall, this was a great read! I really enjoyed the plot line and the writing, although I would have appreciated fewer f-words. I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy travel, England, quirky characters, and romance. I’ll definitely be pursuing more Phillipa Ashley books.The release date is December 1st of this year, so you don’t have to wait too long to get your hands on it! It’s definitely a nice, happy read that will warm your heart during these chilly, wintery months. Happy reading!

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