Category: Book 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: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
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: Author
Amazon Add to Goodreads
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: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
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: Publisher (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!


Austenland by Shannon Hale (Book Review)

Posted November 12, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Austenland by Shannon Hale (Book Review)Austenland by Shannon Hale
Series: Austenland #1
Also in this series: Midnight in Austenland
Published by Bloomsbury on May 29, 2007
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 197
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

In honor of the February 2012 release of Austenland’s companion novel, Midnight in Austenland (which I’ve already read the Netgalley for!!!), I decided to post this review. My review of Midnight in Austenland will be posted here in January, so keep your eye out for it!

Austenland is like Disneyland for women who secretly wish they had a Mr. Darcy of their own. I think BBC’s version of Pride and Prejudice instilled a little bit of that longing in all of us.  This problem is exactly what Jane Hayes suffers with. After dating a ton of losers, this single, 33-year-old, New Yorker has come to the conclusion that no man can compare to the sexy, debonair, and utterly romantic Mr. Darcy. She has given up on the male gender completely. One day when her mother and great-aunt Carolyn come over for a visit, they inadvertently discover her copy of the movie as it shifts and falls from its hiding place in Jane’s potted plant. Jane, of course, was mortified—as if they had discovered her drawer of scandalous underwear.

Six months later, Great-Aunt Carolyn passes away and leaves one thing for Jane in her will: a non-refundable, all-inclusive, three-week vacation to Pembrook Park in England where she will strip herself of modern conveniences and live just as Elizabeth Bennett did. After some panicked girl talk with her friend, she decides to humor her late aunt and go on the trip as one last fling before giving up on ever finding her Mr. Darcy. She’ll play out her fantasy and then throw her DVDs away.

She arrives at Pembrook Park and is given a new name, a new age (in Regency times, a woman her age would be considered a spinster and unmarriageable), a pamphlet on how to speak and act, a regency wardrobe (even her purple bra is confiscated and replaced with Regency undies), and is scurried off to teatime with her cell phone hidden illegally in the bottom of her trunk. She feels a little silly at first, but soon embraces this new way of life. She even enjoys it a little! Even though it’s all a game, her confidence improves and she’s convinced she can finally kick this Mr. Darcy obsession to the curb. However, these dreams or hers seem to be more attainable than she thought. With all the humor, charm, and sweet romance you could expect from a Jane Austen novel, Jane Hayes is well on her way to finding everything she hoped for.

This book had me before it even started when I read the dedication page: “For Colin Firth: You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.” I knew I was in for a fun read. I think part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much is because I identify so much with Jane Hayes. I’ve had my share of frogs in the proverbial dating pond, and understand her frustrations. However… I don’t hide my Pride and Prejudice DVD in a flowerpot. Hahaha. This was a fun, light-hearted read. It was very clean, obviously (since it’s modeled after a clean book), and I enjoyed watching the romance unfold. Jane got herself into some funny situations and was a bit rebellious at times—sneaking out to enjoy modern technology (sounds like something I’d do). I also love that each chapter started out with a story of one of Jane’s romances-gone-bad. They were very humorous and made me feel a little better about my experiences! I enjoyed the characters, the detailed descriptions, and the storyline. I laughed, I got annoyed, I chewed characters out when they were being dumb, I turned the pages in anticipation, and I closed the book with a smile on my face. Most importantly, this book helped me remember that sometimes what you need is much different than what you want or what you’re looking for.

Happy reading! I’m off to pop some popcorn and watch Pride and Prejudice! (Colin, feel free to join me. I’m not married.)

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