Category: Young Adult

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier | Book Review

Posted January 4, 2019 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier | Book ReviewA Tale of Beauty and Beast on November 26, 2017
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 295
Format: Audiobook
Source: Christmas Present
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5 Stars
Lily has managed to save the duchy of Marin, with the help of her twin, Sophie. But now Sophie faces an even greater threat. Can she save the cursed kingdom of Palinor from its beastly prince?

I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, and after really loving the first book in this series I was even more excited to get to this one because I knew it would be amazing. Be careful reading any further, as this review will spoil who won the Princess Tourney in A Dance of Silver and Shadow!

The Princess Tourney is over and, as its winner, Sophie sets off on a curious and magical journey to Palinor to meet her betrothed: the beast (aka Prince Dominic). Since she’s the narrator this time, readers get to finally know Sophie better. I really liked her, and I felt I identified more with her than I did with Lily in the first book. Sophie arrives at the castle after a long journey in a carriage driven by an invisible force through a wintry wilderness, and finds it to be empty of people even though it looks taken care of. After some exploring she begins hearing voices of people she cannot see. She calls out to them, startling a whole staff of people who work there. They were not expecting her to be able to hear them. Dominic is not invisible, but he cannot speak to her and communicates through abrasive notes. It’s pretty obvious the kingdom has been placed under a curse and, of course, Sophie is going to try to break it and save the people she’s begun to form strong bonds with. The romance also begins to blossom and thrive as time goes on and we learn more about our tortured beast.

There are numerous ties to the original tale of Beauty & the Beast, as well as the Disney version. Melanie Cellier does find unique ways to make the story her own, however. Lily is still a part of the story, although the kingdom is quite isolated. I loved the secondary characters (the wait staff), and their interactions with Sophie. They look out for their master even though he’s kind of a jerk, but they also validate Sophie’s concerns and sympathize with her plight. I loved the relationships she formed with them. I really loved Melanie’s writing, too. Really my only complaint is that the female narrator did a pretty awful job portraying Prince Dominic’s voice. I felt the same with her portrayal of the male characters in the first book, too.

All in all, this was a very nice retelling of Beauty & the Beast! I love the writing, and I enjoy listening to these books even though the narrator bugs me a bit at times. I’m excited to read more from Melanie.


The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer | Book Review

Posted December 22, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer | Book ReviewThe Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
Published by Laurel Leaf on October 11, 2005
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought on Amazon Marketplace
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5 Stars
I’m Kate Bjorkman. I don’t like romance novels. They’re full of three-paragraph kisses describing people’s tongues and spittle. But what do you do if you’ve lived a real romance with a great-looking guy (Richard) and he loves you as much as you love him? I know what I did. I wrote this romance novel about myself, using the Romance Writer’s Phrase Book. I also used stuff my English teacher taught me about writing. He said a story must have conflict. No problem there. My life was one big conflict last Christmas. I didn’t make anything up. This is the honest truth and I want truth even in romance. I’m betting you’ll want the same.

This book review was originally posted here on 12/3/12, but the book is absolutely adorable and so underrated that I had to share my review again! It’s everything I look for in a cozy Christmas read. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Kate Bjorkman, aka Boo, is the author and narrator of this book, and she is hilarious. We’ve got a story within a story, as we read both about Kate’s experiences as well as her writing process. Kate’s a bit of an ugly duckling, with coke bottle glasses and boots with fruit on them and stubbly legs. Plus, she’s 6 feet tall and not the smoothest talker out there. It’s Christmastime, and her brother, sister-in-law, her brother’s best friend, and a girl named Fleur all come home from college to celebrate with the positively perfect Bjorkman family. Of course, she has had a crush on her brother’s best friend, Richard, and spends the bulk of the book hopelessly pining after him. Her inner dialogue and her antics had me giggling with delight. 

2. Every so often, we get to a point in the book where we can read Kate’s revision notes. In these notes, she either talks about how she hates what she just wrote, how she needs to add or take away experiences she talked about, or her frustrations as an author trying to come up with the right words and presentation. I really loved this portion of the book, because we get to learn a lot about Kate here.

3. I loved every character in this book, and that rarely happens. Richard is adorable. Fleur is the kind of person you want to hate because she’s absolutely perfect, but can’t hate because she’s absolutely perfect. You know what I mean? I love her bother and sister-in-law and their cute newlywed spats and romance. Her parents are awesome.

4. This book is so witty! I loved the funny things the characters said to each other, plus reading Kate make fun of romance novels was great. The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book, which she quotes a lot is just amazingly hilarious. I wish this book really existed! Rather than having real chapter headings (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.), Kate wrote things like, “I really love those awesome 3-paragraph kisses in romance novels, and Chapter 4 is where mine happens.” That’s not a direct quote, but you get the idea.

5. I loved the wonderful word choices and love of language that the author exhibited in this book. It’s young adult, of course, but I had to pull out a dictionary to define some of the words! I loved that!

6. This book is dated. 90’s references are everywhere. Embrace them, because they are stupendous.

7. CHRISTMAS! This book is so sparkly and Christmasy, and perfect. Kate’s family has this huge traditional Swedish Christmas with lots of yummy food, decorations, great music playing all the time, a TON of snow, Christmas tree shopping and trimming, etc. I am so in the mood for Christmas right now.

Rather than continuing with my review, I thought I could explain my love of this book best just by giving you a taste of it for yourself. It’s wonderful, a new favorite, and I will be recommending this to everyone. I don’t re-read books, but this one deserves it. Anyway, read the quotes!

Richard Bradshaw filled the doorway.

Okay, a flourish of trumpets here. The hero has arrived. And because he was my hero long before I began writing this novel, ever since I can remember, in fact, my face grew hot.  He was four years older now, of course, and shorter than I remembered, but I wasn’t six feet tall four years ago either.  His eyes – I need the help of The Romance Writers Phrasebook Guide to describe those eyes:

–unfathomable in their murky depths? 
No!
–shades of amber and green?
 Maybe.
–dark gray-green-flecked eyes?
 I don’t know. Maybe.
–hooded like those of a hawk? Absolutely not! The hell with it. They were warm eyes. They were Richard’s eyes. I wouldn’t care if they were cone-shaped.

 

That was me, Kate Bjorkman, a potential Ph. D. candidate, and fairly rational young woman–that’s what my dad always said, even-tempered: “If I could only have one daughter, then Kate was the perfect one to have,” he’d say. And my mother agreed. The only bad thing about me was my eyes: blind as Milton without those glasses. But that morning, January 2, I was deranged. I knew it, I guess, but I couldn’t stop it. Didn’t want to. It wasn’t until I sat in a booth at Bridgeman’s that I realized I was wearing flannel pajamas and had no money.

See? Don’t you want to buy this one now? :)  

 


Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

Posted November 2, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book ReviewReign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Published by HarperTEEN on February 9, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Audiobook
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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5 Stars
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

This is not your magical, light and fluffy Rapunzel retelling! Reign of Shadows is dark and creepy and intense and so unbelievably exciting. Luna, the lost princess of Relhok, has been sequestered in a tower with her guardians for her entire life to protect her from those who would do her harm. She’s the rightful heir to the throne, and the current king is making life miserable for the members of his kingdom. The land is also ruled by evil creatures (dwellers) who delight in killing anyone who crosses their path.

While exploring one day, Luna stumbles across three people and saves them from a pack of dwellers and brings them back to her tower. These are the first strangers Luna has ever met. One of these people is a handsome archer named Fowler, who captivates and excites Luna. Due to circumstances beyond their control, they set out on a journey together in search of a safer place to live. As they journey together across a barren, dark wasteland that has been ravaged by the dwellers, they learn to depend on one another. Together they have a unique set of skills that aide them in heir survival.

I liked both of these characters a lot. Luna is so sheltered and comes across as being very helpless, but she has spent her life developing and refining her ability to survive. She’s unassumingly strong and courageous despite her lack of exposure to the world. She’s able to trust in spite of the murder of her parents, and she’s able to love regardless of the fact that he family was ripped away from her as a baby. Fowler is damaged and has hardened himself in an effort to avoid more pain. Those he cared about are long gone, and it’s easier for him to be alone than to risk losing someone he cares about. He has no interest in being a part of Luna’s life, but he also has this deep sense of loyalty and honor even though he doesn’t really owe anyone anything. I liked that about him.

The romance is pretty swoony, and very slow building. I like romances that take a long time to develop, though, so I was totally on board with this one. I also like romances in life or death situations because there’s a lot of tenderness and need in addition to pure trust and dependency on one another.

I don’t want to say too much and spoil the book for anyone, so I think I’ll leave it here. Reign of Shadows is filled with little story elements that made it unique from the original tale of Rapunzel. I’ve always loved Sophie Jordan’s writing, so I had a feeling I’d enjoy this book. I listened to it on audio, which was very well done. All in all, I really loved the story.


Return Once More by Trisha Leigh | Book Review

Posted October 24, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh | Book ReviewReturn Once More by Trisha Leigh
Series: The Historians #1
Published by Bloomsbury Spark on October 20, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Pages: 294
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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0.5 Stars
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

You’d think a book about a girl who travels back in time to learn what mankind did to make earth uninhabitable, and ends up meeting the love of her life in ancient Egypt would be right up my alley, but it SO wasn’t. I love history and learning about ancient times. I love time travel. I love the scientific explanations as to why time travel is possible. I love the excitement and mystery of time travel. So… what was my problem? Well, hold my drink.

1. Ok, so we’ve got these Historians who go back in time to analyze the great tragedies and mess-ups of humankind to ensure that these events do not repeat themselves. That sounds kind of cool, but ultimately we, as readers, only get to hear about the crap the world has gone through. One scene in particular about a fire in a factory really depressed me.

2. Something sciency has happened, and now people can find out who their ideal mate is. The problem is, their ideal mate could have been anyone since the beginning of human existence. This means that when these kids become of age they can get the name of their one true love who statistically isn’t even alive anymore. How demotivating is that?! If I found out that my one true love died in 15 B.C., then what’s the point of even trying to find love now? lol. This is what happens to Kaia. She finds out that her ideal match died during the time of Caesar. So… “Ok, here’s the name of the man of your dreams. He died thousands of years ago. You have the power to easily travel back in time to be with him, but DON’T because it could altar everything.” This is just so stupid! Of COURSE she’s going to go meet him. Of COURSE they’re going o fall in love. Of COURSE they are going to endanger practically everyone who has ever lived. Why would a society even do this to its people when it could easily destroy humanity!? Everything rests on lovestruck teenagers and whether or not they have the willpower to resist pushing a button that will take them to their greatest love story ever. *facepalm*

3. These Historians really aren’t supposed to change anything about the past because it could have detrimental effects on the future. But that doesn’t mean they don’t change EVERYTHING. They just secretly change things and go home, hoping the world and the people and the life they’ve always known still exist. Again, too much rests on a very flimsy system.

4. So… we know that too-stupid-to-live Kaia goes to visit her man, Oz, in Egypt. And of course she forces the instalove because science told her he’s The One. Oz is awkward and weird, and I don’t think that people in ancient Egypt talked like he talks in this book. They immediately fall in love because of some unseen reason, and he immediately understands and accepts that she’s a time traveler even though he’s never even heard of electricity, much less a time machine. It all just felt so wrong and forced.

5. I didn’t even care about the other characters. I just remember a lot of judging and moral grey areas.

6. You’ve got characters trying to play God, and I hate that. He’s doing fine on His own, thank you.

7. There is so much more that I hated about this book, but I’m getting tired of writing about it. You know how you hate something more the more you think about it? That’s me right now.

So… bottom line: don’t read this. lol. I just looked at Goodreads and saw how highly rated this book is and made that emoji face that has the big eyes and no mouth. I don’t feel like we read the same book. lol. There’s better options out there for time travel romance. This one was just depressing.


A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan | Book Review

Posted October 19, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 0 Comments

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan | Book ReviewA Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan
Published by Blink on August 14, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Retelling
Pages: 313
Format: Audiobook
Source: Borrowed from Library
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5 Stars
King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?

I’ve always been fascinated by mythology, but I’ve read very few retellings of mythological stories. When I learned of this retelling of the story of King Midas from his daughter’s perspective I was immediately intrigued. In the original story of King Midas, the king is granted one wish from the god of wine, Dionysus. The king wished that everything he touched turned to gold, making him the wealthiest man in the world. Everything is fine at first, but then he tries to eat and can’t because his food turns to gold. His daughter, seeing his dismay, throws her arms around him to console him and turns to gold herself. Obviously the moral of the story is to not be greedy and to value family more than wealth.

A Touch of Gold picks up where the story of King Midas ends, so it’s not exactly a retelling. It’s close, though. In A Touch of Gold, King Midas’s daughter, Kora, survived the touch and is alive and human once again. However, she has suffered permanent side effects. Her skin has a gold sheen to it, and anything she touches turns to gold. She can also sense gold, and it calls to her constantly. This side effect in particular is kept a secret. The King has also suffered long-lasting side effects. He cannot be too far away from the remaining items that he turned to gold himself. They are stored in a room in his palace, but someone breaks in and steals them one night. The king begins to get very sick and slowly deteriorates. In an effort to save his life, Kora goes on a journey by ship to find and return the gold to her father before it gets so far away that he dies. A handsome duke offers to take her on his ship, and the adventure begins.

A Touch of Gold is filled with action, adventure, betrayal, and a bit of romance. I flew through it pretty quickly because it was such an entertaining story. Some other mythological stories and woven into the story of King Midas, and it was very interesting to see how the author chose to do that. I liked the characters, and the twists and turns that they were involved in.

I can definitely see room for a sequel or a companion novel, and I hope that Annie Sullivan writes more mythological stories to expand this world that she has created in A Touch of Gold. Her writing is lovely and flowing, and I really enjoyed my reading experience. I wholeheartedly recommend this story to those interested in mythology and adventures on the high seas. There’s strong characters and just a hint of romance, so I think there’s something in it for everyone.


The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner | Book Review

Posted October 17, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner | Book ReviewThe Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on December 27, 2005
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 280
Format: Audiobook
Source: Borrowed from Library
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2 Stars
The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

I’ve been hearing great things about Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series for years, but wasn’t ever really interested in The Thief because there’s no romance in it. I must have at least a little romance in my books or I start to go a little nuts! However, I quickly changed my mind when I found out that Steve West narrates these books because I’m basically in love with him. Honestly, his narration was pretty much the only reason I even finished it. I mean, it was ok. I was intrigued enough that I wanted to see how things ended. And I’d heard of an awesome twist that happens in The Thief, so I was curious about that as well. A word to the lovers of this series: don’t make it sound THAT amazing and filled with twists and action because I built it all up so much in my head that I’m not sure anything would have lived up to my anticipation. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The bulk of this story takes place during a journey toward a mythical treasure. There’s a lot of walking. A LOT of walking and traveling and horseback riding and stopping for camp at night. Things were very uneventful for a long time. 

2. Gen complains a lot. Like, I wanted to slap him upside the head all the time but didn’t because he’s STEVE WEST so I refrained from getting too mad. I mean yes, his life is not so good. He’s been held prisoner and now he’s been let out to go steal a treasure for the magus so the magus can give it to the king and have all the credit and notoriety. That sucks. Gen is a prisoner during the entire journey. That’s not fun at all. But oh my gosh, does he have to be such a whiney baby!?

3. I found the mythology of this world to be rather interesting. While the characters walk and walk, they tell the stories of their belief system. We get to hear about the creation and their system of gods and goddesses. It was interesting for a while, but then I started to grow bored and wanted something else to happen.

4. The twist. As I mentioned before, when people build something up to be so unbelievably amazing and exciting I almost always end up being disappointed. I wish I hadn’t known a twist was coming. Maybe my imagination is just way too big, but I thought up a ton of possible twists that would have been more exciting to me. Yes, it’s a twist. Yes, it did kind of make me double-take and start analyzing everything up to that point to see why I hadn’t thought it up myself. But it was still not as grand as I had hoped. It did make me glad I finished the book, though, so I guess it still worked a little.

All in all, I enjoyed The Thief enough to immediately start The Queen of Attolia. I wanted to know where things would go next, and I wanted to listen to more of Steve West’s swoony voice!! But I ultimately DNFed it after about an hour into the audiobook, so I guess I reached the point where even Steve couldn’t keep me going anymore. And that makes me sad. I can see why people like these books, but I can also tell that they came out before YA fantasy really took off. I’ve just read much better.


The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted October 11, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 3, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

I’ve become quite the Jenn Bennett fangirl this year (starting with Starry Eyes), so I’d been eager to read her oldest YA title, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, to see where it all began. One thing I really love about Jenn is that she comes up with unique story lines that don’t include the typical cookie cutter characters and the typical tropes and themes. She really thinks outside the box, and I appreciate that so much because I’ve been feeling lately that I’m losing interest in YA contemporary romance. It’s all so similar, and the stories have all been told over and over again. This one is different, though, and in a very wonderful way. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Beatrix (Bex) is a medical artist. Basically, her dream is to draw extremely accurate drawings of bodies for medical publications. Interesting, right? Many teens sneak away at night to go to parties or movies, but Bex sneaks away to the hospital to draw cadavers. She’s doing this in the hopes of winning an art scholarship. I love slightly nerdy, unique heroines because they are so accepting and easy to relate to. Bex was so much fun to read about. She’s determined to get what she wants, and pushes back in the face of opposition.

2. Jack is the absolute cutest. He’s immediately interested in Bex, even though she’s not even interested in giving him the time of day. Puking in the bushes after drawing her first cadaver didn’t even chase him away. This is the kind of guy a girl needs. He’s one of San Francisco’s most wanted criminals, and he’s also the mayor’s son. Interesting, right!? He’s a very talented graffiti artist, and when you find out his motivation behind his art you’ll pretty much melt. He admires Bex’s creativity, and they bond over art, family troubles, and the excitement of being rebellious together. They are just way too cute.

3. There’s a lot of heavy themes in this story, that are nicely balanced by the silliness of two teens falling in love. Bex’s dad walked out on his family for another one. Now she and her mom and older brother live in a small place together. Bex’s room is in the dining room and her brother lives in the cement covered basement. They love each other, but have heir problems. Jack’s family has covered up mental illness to protect his dad’s image, and I love the sensitivity and realness of how mental illness is portrayed. Bex and Jack both struggle with life, and have both had to grow up quicker than many other teens. This made their relationship feel deeper to me. They have some of the best banter!

4. The romance is so sweet. In the very beginning neither of them knew much of anything about the other. Jack didn’t even know Bex’s name at first, and got to know her through her online portfolio. Then he stalked her on social media (in a cute, non-creepy way of course), and started strategically bumping into her. Things simmered for a while and built up to something really great. Their feelings felt so real and genuine to me. I love how relentlessly he pursued her.

All in all, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is a swoony little package of happy. I love this bookish couple, the family dynamics, the unique subject matter, and the feelings. I highly recommend this sweet story to anyone who is looking for a little something different from their contemporary YA.


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book Review

Posted September 27, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book ReviewRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Children's Books on March 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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5 Stars
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Simply put, I loved everything about Rebel of the Sands, from the beautiful cover to the amazingly fitting title to the words inside. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. THE COVER. Moving on.

2. The story is this awesome middle eastern, wild west, Aladdin, mystic conglomeration with magic and mythical horses and sand and a sultan and a secret world of magical and powerful beings. It’s just so unique and exciting. It grabbed me from the first page.

3. The world feels both modern and historic. There’s djinni and ghouls and traversing the desert by horse, but there’s also modern technology like gun factories and trains. This hybrid of various world building elements felt very fresh. So often we see fantasies pulling elements from fairytales or other tried and true fantasy novels, but Rebel of the Sands feels very original and authentic.

4. Amani is a wonderful heroine. She’s smart, sassy, and filled with quick wit and the perfect amount of paranoia to make her someone you can really get behind, rather than a dumb damsel in distress. There’s no Bella complex going on here. I really love heroines that start out at rock bottom because they have nothing to lose and make quick decisions that have the power to change their lives. That’s Amani. When we meet her, her life is the epitome of misery. She’s an orphan living with her uncle who might force her to marry him, and she’s scrimping and saving so she can escape before it’s too late. You’d think she’d be submissive and quiet living under these circumstances, but she has this fire and will not be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

5. Jin is so perfect. He’s so mysterious and caring and he gave me the swoons. I loved the chemistry between him and Amani because there’s this intrigue underneath a strongly developing friendship. They look out for each other and have some of the sweetest moments.

6. This book isn’t really romancey, and I liked that a lot. So often the world and the important details sit in the back seat while the romance drives the entire story. There are hints of romance, and those hang out in the trunk. Or the luggage rack. This story is about so much more than a possible romance. However, that’s not to say things won’t get swoonier in the next book.

7. The secondary characters are just as perfect. Alwyn’s debut taught me that if she’s going to write in a detail she’s going to flesh it out. Every thing, person, and event is in this book for an important reason. There’s no filler here.

8. I can’t say anything bad about this book. I loved the writing, the details, the imagery. everything. I can’t wait for book 2!

Basically, you should read this. I mean, you have to at least be a LITTLE curious to see how an author can successfully combine the Wild West and the Middle East right? I highly recommend Rebel of the Sands.

This review was originally posted on May 13, 2016.


Firelight by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

Posted September 21, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Firelight by Sophie Jordan | Book ReviewFirelight by Sophie Jordan
Series: Firelight #1
Also in this series: Hidden
Published by HarperTEEN on September 7, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 323
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought it!
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4 Stars
A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.


Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away;if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

The story of Jacinda and Will grabbed me from page one and had me reading long into a night I should have spent sleeping instead of reading. I’ve often wondered if my bookishness is detrimental to my health and personal well-being, but I digress! Back to the subject at hand… I’m having a hard time reviewing this book, and I’m not sure why. I’ve written a review probably 5 times already, and I’m still not happy with it. Maybe it’s because the story has a lot in common with other YA Paranormal romances out there. I’m not saying it’s not worth the read, I’m just not sure what I can say about it that’s new, other than the fact that we’re dealing with dragons. I’ll try!

Jacinda’s glowing orange skin and intricate wings are not all she has going for her. All Draki have a special talent. Some can breathe underwater, some can control human minds, and some can fly extremely fast. Jacinda breathes fire—a talent that was thought to have died out long ago before she was discovered. Thus, she is extremely valuable to pride. Things were planned out and set in motion for her to marry the Draki prince, Cassian, and create a ton of little fire-breathers just like herself. This unappealing future, mixed with her rebellious nature, mixed with the fact that she barely came home alive after being tracked and shot by a group of hunters prompted her mother to sneak Jacinda and her non-draki twin sister, Tamra, out of the pride and move to Arizona. Her mother chose Arizona because drakis can’t survive in such dry and barren conditions. Jacinda’s draki would eventually die off just like her mother’s, and they could live normal, safe lives as humans. Jacinda was not ok with this and did everything she could to keep her withering draki alive. Then, she saw Will—one of the hunters she encountered the night her mother forced them to flee. He was the one who stared into her draki eyes that night and let her go, leading his family of hunters away from her. They lock eyes in the hall at school, and an instant connection is made. He ignites the draki within her, and she captivates him for a reason he can’t quite figure out. Even though he’s the one who keeps her draki alive, she has to constantly fight her attraction to him (and resist his to her) and keep her distance. She can never let him know what she is without risking the lives of all those she holds dear. The hunters can never find out their best-kept secret—that draki can take on human form.

I really enjoyed this book! First off, how refreshing is it to finally have the girl be the paranormal one? Yes, there are a few mythical heroines out there, but we all know it’s usually the guy. It was fun to read how a girl deals with being different. Jacinda is SO driven by her emotions. She goes through highs and lows, and she’s always freaking out about everything. She’s not calm, cool, and collected like our mainstream paranormal heroes in other novels. I’m not saying she’s spastic and annoying. She certainly handled things better than I would have. I just enjoyed reading about her inner struggle rather than a guy’s, like I usually do.

This book moved really quickly! The tension built up fast, and I found myself trying to read faster than my brain could handle. There was no lollygagging in this book, and I really enjoyed that about it. I never got bored.

The romance between Will and Jacinda was believable, but maybe not for their age group. I never thought of them as high school juniors. They have a very mature relationship, which I was happy about, as I have a hard time enjoying the whiny teenage romances. Even though the romance did not seem realistic for their ages, the high school life was pretty real to me. I remember when I moved to a new high school, I struggled with fitting in. I was picked on. Jacinda went through the same motions I did, and I felt for her and could relate to how she was feeling. She was a total fish out of water, with only one friend who wasn’t even really a friend—more like a person to sit with and talk to. High school’s really hard, and Jacinda dealt with it.

Unfortunately, there were not a lot of characters to like in this book. There was an overabundance of villains: the alpha of her pride (who wanted her for selfish reasons), her mom (who lied to her frequently, and tried to kill off an important part of Jacinda), her sister (who should have tried to be more supportive of Jacinda’s situation), Will’s family (who were complete and total jerks to Will, and almost perverts towards Jacinda), the school bullies (who tried to make her life a living hell, and even attacked her). I’m not used to only liking the two main people. I guess the author chose to do this in order to emphasize the odds against Will and Jacinda, but I really wanted to like more people!

I loved that Jacinda was so true to herself, against all these odds. She didn’t just sit back and let her mother get what she wanted (a draki-free Jacinda). They argued and fought all the time. Her mom kept so many secrets from her, and then when she finally told Jacinda the truth, she wasn’t even nice about it. This woman is just not a good mother figure—and I found her character to be a bit hard to believe sometimes. I know she was trying to protect Jacinda, but she rarely ever showed any compassion, empathy, or even love.

For the most part, I enjoyed the writing style. Several reviewers have mentioned that the book was laced consistently with sentence fragments, which got rather annoying. I totally agree. This is definitely not a book for people looking for pristine literary writing. I had to re-read and re-think some of the passages, just because my mind was not following the choppy writing style. It helped to add to the suspense, but it detracted a bit from everything else. Other than that, the action scenes were done very well and the author’s descriptions left little to be desired. She gave me enough information to be able to picture everything in my mind, but not so much that my mind couldn’t take a few liberties and allow my creative juices to fill in the gaps.

Regardless of a few complaints, I loved the premise, the story, the character development of both Jacinda and Will, the fact that Jacinda is such a likeable heroine, the descriptive passages that painted pictures in my mind, the fast-paced storyline that kept my eyes glued to the pages into the wee hours of the morning, and the fact that now I think dragons are sexy.

This review was originally posted on February 22, 2012, and was re-posted for some extra love.


Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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