In My Mailbox (#2)

Posted March 11, 2012 by Jana in / 9 Comments

In My Mailbox is a really fun meme hosted by The Story Siren, where we get to gush about all the books we received and share our thoughts on them!

I haven’t participated in IMM since February 19th, so I have quite a few books to share. I won a few books from different blogs, got some for review, and bought some (of course…). So, let’s get started!

 

Won:

Signed copies of Legend by Marie Lu and Across the Universe by Beth Revis, plus a bunch of swag from Tiffany Schmidt’s Breathless Reads Giveaway on her blog, Letters, words, thoughts, ideas, stories.
I recently got a personalized copy of ATU from Alexa at Alexa Loves Books as well, so this second copy will be up for giveaway soon! :)

Signed copy of The Crystal Princess by Kimberly Norton from Readinista.

Thanks so much to the both of you for hosting such wonderful giveaways!

For Review:

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers exclusive promo galley on Netgalley.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis from Magan at Rather by Reading from her trip to Ala Midwinter.
Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham from the publisher for review at The Broke and the Bookish .

Thanks to the publishers (and Magan)! I’m excited to read these. :)

Purchased:

Evernight by Claudia Gray (with bonus materials) – Free on kindle!
The Boyfriend Bylaws by Susan Hatler – Free on kindle!
Blue Eyes and Other Teenage Hazards by Janette Rallison (kindle)
Oppression by Jessica Therrien (because of Alexa’s review) (kindle)
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier> (Paperback)

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Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert (Book Review)

Posted March 10, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert (Book Review)Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert
Series: Truly Madly #1
Published by Inkspell Publishing on March 21, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 82
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
1.5 Stars
Four days before Valentine’s Day, Liese Hansfeld is determined to shut the door to her house, as well as her heart, for her annual four days of mourning her one true love. Little does she know her best friend Freytag Meier is just as determined to keep her from her ritual. He’s ready to pick the lock to her apartment door and camp in her living room if that’s what it takes.

What Freytag isn’t prepared for is the surge of deep-rooted emotions he feels for Liese, but two things stand in his way: the grief and guilt she still clutches close to her heart, and a man who threatens to snatch Liese from under Frey’s watchful eye. Frey is determined to distract her into forgetting her pain. But is that enough to ease her grief, or help her see he can be more than her best friend?

I was intrigued by the summary of this book. I don’t have a ton to say about it, though. Haha. It was a bit diappointing, and there really was not much to it. It was just ok in my book. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I’m not a huge fan of Liese. Every year she spends the four days before Valentine’s in a state of intense depression. She will see nobody. She lays in bed, has extreme nightmares, cries a lot, refuses to eat (and gets really weak), takes antidepressants that make her really weird, and relives past events over and over again. This year, Frey has decided to intervene and spend the whole time with her to help her through. Seriously. This girl has no personality, is extremely melodramatic, and really has no redeeming qualities. We find out about 90% of the way through exactly what happened to her, and it’s completely heartbreaking. It’s not something I can begin to comprehend. But really, I was tired of her self-destructive ways and was really hoping there was more to the book than that.

2. I got really tired of reading about how tiny and frail Liese is. Every time she showed a glimmer of sadness, Frey scooped her up/picked her up/set her on his lap/put his leg over her so she could not get up. Frey says she “weighs about as much as a kitten”. And “her tiny fingers” held on to his. She’s wounds like a little girl. If she’s sleepy, he carries her. If she’s medicated, he carries her. Honestly, this girl is not a china doll! I wish she had been portrayed as a strong woman who could go on with life. This, combined with her depression and self-destruction made me really annoyed. Yes, she went through something absolutely terrible. But those things are supposed to make us stronger! I wish we had been given a sense of hope. This book could have been inspirational, motivating, encouraging. It fell completely flat.

3. I wish Liese had some character development. It’s like there was no point to reading about her journey, because this journey never ended up taking us anywhere.

4. I’m not sure how I feel about Frey. There were times I thought he was way too good for her, and there were times he creeped me out a bit. He’s extremely sweet and attentive. He was there to comfort her and drag her out of her mopey time. He was very understanding and patient. If she had a nightmare, he was there to help her go back to sleep. I’d love a friend like that, whom I could depend on. But… he was also very smothering and would not let her make her own decisions. He forced his way in to her house when she just wanted to be alone. He treated her like a 5-year-old. He stood outside the door to her room and heard her having a nightmare, so he ran down to the front desk in his underwear and lied in order to get a key to her room so he could climb in bed with her. She woke up really confused. That’s creepy, and I hope no hotel I ever stay in just hands out random keys to random rooms to random people. Finally, he takes advantage of her during a painful time, daring her to kiss him because he thinks she can’t do a good job… and then saying he doesn’t mind if she kisses him for the wrong reasons. My. Gosh.

5. The story literally went nowhere. Luckily it was short, because nothing happened. I can’t even identify the story’s climax. There was a lot of repetition: lots of crying, nightmares, moping, re-hashing the past, etc. And nothing is really resolved. There was not even a real love story. It just ended where it began.

To sum things up: I really liked the idea of the story. I was hoping for a book that would portray a woman who had been through something terrible, but was picking up the pieces and learning to survive. However, I feel like I wasted my time on a story that went nowhere, taught me nothing, and left me worn out.

(Disclaimer: If anyone has gone through what Liese has gone through, I am in no way minimizing your pain. I feel awful for anyone who has suffered anything like this, and I can only imagine that it’s the worst thing to ever experience. I just got tired of reading about it over and over, with absolutely no character development and no real plot. I was just hoping for something more than what I was given.)

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Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby (Book Review)

Posted March 9, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 6 Comments

Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby (Book Review)Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby
Published by Carina Press on March 12, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 250
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Self-professed nerd Maddie Maloney is an expert on jewels. Jewel thieves are another matter entirely! So when a mysterious Englishman warns her that a thief known as The Chameleon is after the rare pink diamond on display in her aunt's shop, she tells herself it's just a joke. Even if she can't get Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome out of her mind...

But Fabian Montgomery doesn't give up easily. He's everywhere she goes, convinced the thief will strike. And when the diamond does go missing - and Maddie is suspected of stealing it - he whisks her away from the police and together they pursue The Chameleon.

Fabian plunges her into a glamorous world far from her humble workshop and transforms geeky Maddie into a sophisticated siren capable of espionage. Her mission: to seduce The Chameleon and steal back the diamond.

But Fabian isn't telling her everything - like who he works for, and why he's so interested in The Chameleon...

I love mysteries with a touch of suspense, and I could tell immediately from the description that I would enjoy this book. What surprised me the most, though, was the comedic element the author threw in. This book was so funny, in addition to being suspenseful and romantic. I had a lot of fun reading this, and am excited to share with you my favorite elements of the book! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I love this title! I’m a total nerd, so I was immediately drawn in by the hilarious title, attractive gentleman, and the bright yellow.

2. The book surprised me by taking place in Australia! I’ve never read a book that took place there, so I really enjoyed all the descriptions of the scenery. Part of the book takes place in a resort town by the beach during the weekend of a sailboat gala. I loved reading about all the boats and the people. It sounded so quaint and romantic. I just loved it.

3. Maddie, a self-proclaimed nerd with a PhD in gemology (I believe? Or is it mineralogy?), is such a fun character. She really is the stereotypical nerd, with the eclectic non-sense of fashion and the gem smarts. Her nerdliness is interrupted by Fabian, an extremely attractive and mysterious Englishman who whisks her away to retrieve the stolen diamond, save her from jail, and protect her aunt’s reputation. Right at the beginning as they are running from the police, all she can think about is her sweet cat, and what will happen to it while she’s away. A girl after my own heart. Fabian turns her into a sexy glamazon, and she’s totally against it. She fights him every step of the way. He sends her to a day spa, and her account of the happenings there had me laughing out loud. She got burned in the sauna, almost drowned in the mineral pool, etc. The daunting task of seducing The Chameleon lies ahead of her, and she goes on and on about how impossible that will be. She even has to practice her seduction skills! Her spunk and quick wit created a really fun contrast to the serious businessman, Fabian.

4. I love it when the geeky girl nabs the attractive James Bond type. Fabian is totally the sexy, mysterious foreigner with a carefully concealed past and a lot of baggage. I love how he feels this need to put on a hardened facade, when in reality he’s laughing at Maddie and falling for her on the inside.You can tell he cares, but wishes he didn’t. She tugs at his heartstrings, and I think it’s so sweet to watch the inner turmoil he goes through as she pushes him outside his comfort zone.

5. The romance is a slow burn, and a minimal part of the story. It really was hate at first sight with these two. Fabian is a major inconvenience to Maddie, following her around, bothering her, making her do things she doesn’t want to do. Maddie is Fabian’s pain in the butt, but he needs an experienced and knowledgeable gemologist on his side in order to find and identify the diamond. As time pushes on, they begin to tolerate one another more and more, but it takes a while. No insta-love here! The romance was believable and sweet.

6. The suspense really grabs you. Fabian and Maddie are really good at getting into trouble. Running from the police… seeking out The Chameleon… intense sailboat rides… guns blazing… deserted islands… concealed identities. Luck is not on their side. This book is a major page-turner.

7. It’s the perfect blend of comedy, romance, and suspense. Plus it’s heartwarming. You’d think with all the stuff going on, you might not get a true sense of what makes the characters who they are. But you do! There are some tender moments with Maddie’s family and with Fabian’s family was well. And Maddie’s cat adds a lot, too. Maybe I’m just a softy for cats. I dunno. But I loved that amidst all the suspense and deception, we were given a sense of the moral fabric these characters possess. The emotion is there, and I liked that. It made the characters more relatable.

All in all, this book is fun and exciting, and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good romcom with some mystery mixed in. I’m definitely going to go and check out some more of Joan Kilby’s books. She’s got a ton of them!

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A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)

Posted March 8, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review / 3 Comments

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter
Series: Elemental Mysteries #1
Published by Self on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher (Mail)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
"No secret stays hidden forever."

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

I was really excited to sign up for this book as part of the Elemental Mysteries Blog Tour, celebrating the third book’s release. The premise sounded pretty awesome. I loved the idea of the main character being a librarian, and there being such a focus on extremely old literature. And Giovanni is totally an Italian name, and combining that with the mention of Renaissance Florence, I was sold! Books and Italy. What more could I ask for? A Hidden Fire had its moments, but overall I was a little disappointed. It fell short of its potential, and I feel like it could have been so much better than it was.

1. The whole beginning is pretty mysterious. Beatrice is a librarian at the Houston University in the Special Collections reading room, picking up a new shift where she ends up spending time with Dr. Giovanni Vecchio, who is translating a very old document. He’s a unique person with a hidden past, and we go a while in the book before we find out who he is and why he’s connected to bunch of old literature. Beatrice is more to him than a librarian. Danger surrounds her, plus he’s developing feelings for her.

2. I liked the main characters. Beatrice is smart, shy, and bookish.She’s extremely level-headed, all things considered. I love her sarcasm and quick wit. I think we’d be friends. Giovanni is a sexy bad boy. He’s also very scholarly and is always reading or researching something. He’s also reclusive, with a very rich past that is coming back to haunt him. I loved the banter between the two of them. The sexual tension was definitely there. I just with they had done more with it.

3. The romance is kind of silly and unbelievable. You can tell Gio and Beatrice care about each other, but it’s weird. He treats her like a child he needs to protect, and she treats him like a knight in shining armor. They never really hash out their feelings or intentions. Sometimes they have to put on a steamy act in front of spectators, but then they avoid one another for quite a while after. They are always holding back, but never indicate to each other why. So they always appear to mad at the other, when in reality they are lusting after one another. It wasn’t really romantic to me. It was just frustrating and never really got resolved. I guess that’s book 2’s job.

4. The supporting characters were great. Gio’s butler, Caspar, is so sweet and grandfatherly, especially with Beatrice. He’s also very protective and caring towards Gio. He’s clearly part of the family. I love his cat, Doyle, as well. Caspar starts a cute little something up with B’s grandma, who is also a strong character with a lot of spunk. Gio has a friend named Carwyn, who is definitely my favorite character in this book. He’s a Welsh priest who has been around for quite a while, and has a lot of life experience. He’s funny, flirtatious, and becomes a great friend to Beatrice. He always seems to know how she’s thinking and feeling, and knows just what to say to put her mind at ease. I’m kind of envious of Beatrice. She has so many sweet men keeping an eye on her!

5. The settings were unique, and I liked them. I enjoyed all the library time, and it was fun to picture what everything looked like and smelled like. I love libraries! Gio’s house sounds pretty cool. We also get to explore Greece and Chile in this book, which was cool.

6. I laughed a lot. There was a lot of joking around, sarcastic remarks, flirtatious moments, and interesting tastes in clothing. The characters lovingly made fun of each other. It was refreshing, since the underlying story is a bit dark and dangerous.

7. I liked the incorporation of the elements (fire, earth, wind, and water). Each book in the series focuses on one, and this one obviously focused on fire. And I liked the paranormal elements. I’m not going to say what those are, for fear of spoiling things for you, but it’s an interesting twist.

8. Really, my only complaint is that some of the plot dragged on and on, and was rather repetitive. There was a lot of sitting around and talking, with not a lot of action until the last part of the book. This is a long book, yet the bulk of the story felt rushed at the end. Nothing was tied up for us.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy paranormal urban fantasies with a tiny bit of romance. I’m thinking book 2 will open things up a lot more, and I’m curious to see what happens next! Book 2 (This Same Earth) is already out, book 3 (The Force of the Wind) is out this month, and the concluding book (A Fall of Water) has a tentative release date in June of this year.

To visit more stops with reviews of books 2 and 3, interviews with the author and characters, book excerpts, and chances to win all three books, click here

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Dracula, My Love by Syrie James (Book Review)

Posted March 7, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Dracula, My Love by Syrie James (Book Review)Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James
Published by Avon on July 20, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Many have read and loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But questions remain. What is the true story of Dracula’s origin? What if Mina could not bring herself to record the true story of their scandalous affair—until now?

In Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker, Syrie James explores these questions and more. A vibrant dramatization, told from Mina’s point of view, brings to life the crucial parts of Stoker’s story while showcasing Mina’s sexual awakening and evolution as a woman, and revealing a secret that could destroy her life. Torn between two men—a loving husband and a dangerous lover—Mina struggles to hang on to the deep love she’s found within her marriage, even as she is inexorably drawn to Dracula himself—the vampire that everyone she knows is determined to destroy.

Syrie did something amazing with this book. She made me want to read another book. That’s what books should do, in my opinion. It convinced me that I needed to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This book gave me Mina’s point of view, and so obviously, I had to read the original. I was kind of scared to purchase Dracula, My Love, because it’s a little out of my usual comfort zone, but I am SO glad that I did. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The writing style is breathtakingly beautiful. Syrie’s descriptions are notoriously amazing, in my opinion. The writing is done in old-fashioned English, which I found very refreshing. It really added to the story. I have a hard time when historical genres are written in contemporary language. This felt very authentic and seemed very real as a result.

2. The characters are so well developed. Each person has their own voice and their own opinions. Dracula is strong, sexy, deceptive, evil, manipulative, and extremely romantic! Mina is also very strong, rebellious, and thinks for herself during a time when women are supposed to be meek and submissive. She grows up a lot over the course of the book and learns a lot about herself. Mina’s husband is the typical male from the time period. He’s controlling, demanding, protective, and all about saving Mina from this evil man who so desires her. Of course, he never catches on to the fact that Mina is a willing participant in her rendezvous with Dracula.

3. The mannerisms of each character are believable. I love the contrast between the chaste, ladylike behavior Mina displays around her husband and friends and the, for lack of a better word, lustful thoughts and actions she exhibits with Dracula. It’s like he has her under some spell that amplifies her desires and emotions when she’s with him.

4. In all actuality, though, this book is not all about lust and carnal desires. Her time spent with him is always spent in long discussions about life and literature. They have so much in common. Her greatest desire is to be with him. The book is really very clean, except for one steamy “dream” she has about him.

5. You get to jump into Mina’s mind and hear her thoughts. You will begin to understand her wants, fears, and desires. You number yourself lucky for not being in her shoes, but care too much to stop hoping that she figures everything out. She has a difficult situation at hand. She goes from being the plain, simple girl who never gets any romantic attention (even from her husband), to being obsessed over and stalked by a mysterious and sexy bad boy. You’d think that would be terrifying, but she is so captivated by him that she dreams of him and longs for him when most women would flee in fear. This mortifies her. She’s a married woman, but can’t help herself. She can’t keep away from him. And on top of all of these conflicting emotions, she has to keep all of this a secret or else jeopardize Dracula’s life, as well as her own. You will be glued to every page and travel through every emotion with her.

6. It was spooky, suspenseful, exciting, and filled with deception, mystery, and romance. While Mina’s husband and his accomplices (including Van Helsing, a former boyfriend, and the widower of her best friend) came up with an intricate plot to murder Dracula, she appeared to be helping them, but in reality was leading them on a wild goose chase formulated by Dracula himself. She kept swinging back and forth between the two, doing her best to keep everyone in the “loop”. She hoped for both sides to win, because she cared so much about everyone involved. I’d go insane (or have a nervous breakdown) if I were her.

7. This book did not change the original story of Dracula. It is more of a companion to Stoker’s novel, rather than a retelling. I loved the the author stayed so true to the original. You really are seeing everything that happened, but from a different point of view.

8. In addition, reading Mina’s side of the story made me understand and appreciate Dracula so much more. In my opinion, the classic novel is kind of hard to understand. Perhaps I feel that way since I am just beginning to read the classics, and am not used to the old writing styles yet. Because it was so true to the original, I understood what was happening in the original more than I would have otherwise. Plus, I saw a tender, romantic side of Dracula and found myself falling for him right along with Mina. I think that’s part of the reason I loved this book so much. I think a little part of everyone is curious about the forbidden. It’s only human nature.

All in all, you should definitely read this book. I’m glad I gave this book a chance, because it is a truly beautiful story of love, deception, obsession, survival, and sacrifice. I was riveted, and could not put it down! I went out and bought every other novel by Syrie James, and she has yet to disappoint me thus far!

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Book Tag! I’m It!

Posted March 7, 2012 by Jana in About Me / 6 Comments

Hello! So, here I am to participate in the Book Tag meme, thanks to Julia from The Competitive Bibliomaniac! This is a fun meme because it will help all of us get to know one another. And maybe you’ll find a new blog to follow. :) Julia has left me with some fun questions to answer, so let’s get started!

When/Why did you start book blogging?
I started book blogging with the girls at The Broke and The Bookish way back when it started in June of 2010. I formed this blog in November of 2011 so I’d have a more flexible schedule to post book reviews more often. Book blogging totally fell into my lap. Jamie asked the Goodreads College Students group if anyone was interested in starting a blog with her, and I jumped on it. I had no idea a book blogging world existed, nor did I know it was full of so many cool people!

What are some things about your blog (reviews, features, etc.) that you are most proud of?
Well… I really enjoy finding things for my feature, Bookish Finds. I have so much fun showing off the cool things I’ve come across. And I think the blog name is pretty fun and catchy. :)

If you had to invite three characters over for dinner, who would you invite and why?

Sam from Incarnate by Jodi Meadows because I would LOVE to talk with someone who has been alive for forever. I’m sure he has a ton of exciting and interesting stories to tell. Bria from Wanderlove by Kirtsen Hubbard, so she can talk me into going on an amazing trip like she did. St. Claire from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins because he’s hilarious, cute, and I can just imagine his sexy accent.

If you could mandate that everyone read one book, what would it be and why?
Uhh… Wow. I feel like I should be naming some profound classic or controversial banned book. Haha. Really, though, I don’t think I would force anyone to read anything. When I was young, my love of reading vanished because I was forced by my teachers to read books I hated. Everyone connects with books in different ways, sometimes personal. You can’t force learning or force an emotion.

Do you read reviews of books before you read a book (if you know you are going to read it)?
If a good friend wrote the review, then yes. I don’t go looking for them, though, because some people post spoilers! I trust my friends not to spoil anything for me.

Do you judge books by their covers?
Yes I do! I’m that artsy reader girl! I try not to, but I always end up judging books by their covers. Pretty covers grab me. It’s who I am.  It’s usually my opinion that if a book has an awful design, its contents won’t be much better. If the book is drop-dead amazing, then there’s money in the budget to hire a good designer. It’s like having a beautiful baby and wrapping it in a burlap sack. You want to show it off, not hide it.

EReaders vs Books vs Audiobooks: thoughts?
I’ll always love tangible books. I love the covers, the textures, the smell, and the act of turning pages. I’ve run out of room, though, so I bought a Kindle. I LOVE my Kindle. You can find awesome deals on Kindle books, so I own a lot of them. And it saves space, especially while traveling. I can’t concentrate on audiobooks, yet I love the idea of them.

What kind of criteria do you consider when writing a review?
Grammar, spelling, character development, plot development, consistency, use of bad language, writing style, and enjoyability. I also often discuss a character’s behavior, and whether or not I agree with them.

What is your favorite thing about book blogging?
All the awesome friends I’ve made! I’ve found life-long friendships in many of you. :)

What is your favorite genre?
Right now? YA contemporary. Ask me next week if I still feel the same! Haha.

 

EDIT: Hi again! I was just tagged by Readinista, and she gave me a whole new slew of questions! So I’m going to update and add hers in under Julia’s. So fun!!

1. Why did you start blogging?
Well, I originally started at The Broke and the Bookish. Jamie asked if anyone was interested in starting a blog with her, and I thought it sounded like fun! I never knew about the book blogging realm of the blogosphere, so I was excited to jump in and do something new. I started That Artsy Reader Girl a year and a half later so I could post reviews more frequently.

2. On average, how many books do you read in a month?
About 9, which is a huge deal for me!

3. When do you read? (At night, during the day, commuting to work, etc)
I mostly read at night after the family has gone to bed. So, from about 9:30 until sometime after midnight I get to read!

4. Do you have a favorite spot to read at home or do you read anywhere and everywhere?
I’ll read anywhere, as long as I have a book with me. My Kindle is always tucked in my purse if I know I’m going to be out and about with some free time on my hands. Mostly, though, I end up reading in bed or in the comfy recliner in my room.

5. How frequently do you check your blog statistics? Do you check them everyday or do you not care about the number of hits on your site?
I check maybe once a week. Everything is still so new at this blog, and I’m trying to figure out what works the best for my blog, and how people are finding me.

6. Do you ever get tired of being a book blogger?
If I read too many review books that I don’t like in a row, I do start to get tired of it. Sometimes I miss the days when I could not finish a book and not feel guilty for it. But really, book blogging has become a very addictive hobby for me and I love it. I’d never stop!

7. If you could live in a fictional world, what book world would you choose?
That’s hard! I read a lot of dystopia, with worlds gone wrong… and a lot of contemporary worlds that are just like mine! I think I’d combine elements of several. Like, I love the fairy world in Aprilynne Pike’s Wings series, and I love the dragon world in Sophie Jordan’s Firelight series. I think I’d really just enjoy a world with more paranormal creatures. :)

8. What fictional book characters do you most relate to or would like to be friends with?
I really like Bria from Wanderlove. She’s a traveler at heart, and I’d love to go on a spontaneous trip to anywhere with her. I know we’d get along. And Anna from Anna and the French Kiss also seems like someone I’d have fun sitting in a cafe with and gabbing over French pastries and hot chocolate.

9. Other than reading and blogging what do you do for fun?
Well, I have this really awful addiction to shopping. I don’t care what I’m shopping for, but I love it! Mostly, though, jewelry, purses, and shoes are my favorites. And I love singing a lot. I’m also a graphic designer, so I love designing things… and I love doing puzzles, watching movies, traveling (traveling is my favorite!), bowling, game nights (like board games), and hanging out with my friends and family.

10. Do your family and friends understand your reading and blogging hobbies or are they planning an intervention?
My mom and dad are happy I have a worthwhile hobby, but they definitely get frustrated sometimes that I’m always reading or blogging! And most of my friends don’t know about my secret other life as a blogger, just because they wouldn’t understand. The few who do, actually think it’s really cool that I’m so into all of this.

11. Freebie question – You choose what question you would like to answer (Yes I know this a cop out)
What book should be made into a movie? – Firelight by Sophie Jordan. I’d love to see those dragons come to life, not to mention the really awesome world they live in!

Thanks for tagging me, Readinista! These were fun questions. :)

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On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (Review & Intl Giveaway)

Posted March 5, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway / 16 Comments

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (Review & Intl Giveaway)On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
Series: On the Island #1
Also in this series: Uncharted
Published by CreateSpace on October 11, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Survival
Pages: 329
Format: eBook
Source: Author
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments - instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.

Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

I was pretty leery of this book. A 33-year-old woman and a 17-year-old boy? I was worried it would be written in a tasteless way, or that it would seem creepy. I was also worried that this book would be as boring as the movie Castaway. Nothing against the movie, but only so much can happen on an island. Gilligan’s Island was entertaining, but it was because of all the shenanigans. I was worried this would be either boring or cheesy. It definitely was not either of those things. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The age difference is not weird, nor is it a big deal. Nothing happens until TJ is almost 19, so don’t worry. He has been through and conquered cancer, and he’s surviving on an island. He is very mature and has a lot of life experience. You will not be weirded out by this concept. I’m mentioning this first because it was the first thing that scared me about this book. Haha.

2. I was hooked from the first page and read over half of the book in one sitting. The beginning is particularly intense, as the plane crash and the process of making it to shore is pretty crazy. The whole book is intense, to be honest. I mean, these two went through everything! Health issues, vicious wildlife, constant worry, depression, etc. I seriously was hooked. I kept saying to myself, “Just one more chapter. Then I’ll go to sleep.”

3. I really liked the two main characters. They strengthened each other and became very close. Anna is smart and caring. She was a mother figure to TJ until he grew up. TJ is strong and incredibly mature. He really takes care of Anna. Their relationship was really very sweet, as it formed from a bond that most people will never understand. I appreciated that they waited on being intimate until TJ was the proper age. If it had happened when they first crashed and he was 16, I would have probably quit reading. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, but let me just say that some of the biggest obstacles they dealt with were not on the island. But they stuck together and pulled through. I love a strong set of characters, and these are probably some of the strongest I’ve ever read about.

4. The narration alternates back and forth between the two characters, allowing us to read what’s going on through both their minds. I loved that.

5. The descriptions of the island and the weather were very detailed and well done. I felt like I was there. Also, the intense moments (like animal attacks) were so intense that I almost quit blinking. I loved how the author took me to the exact moment and dropped me in the middle of it.

6. Remember how I said, “Only so much can happen on an island?” I was wrong! I read through years of these two and their island happenings, and I didn’t get bored once. That takes extreme talent on the author’s part. When over half the book consists of two people, an island, and nature, you would think there’s not much to work with. Things could get boring and repetitive really fast. The conversations and critical events kept me wondering what was going to happen next, and I actually wished that more of the book took place on the island.

7. The writing is flawless. I can’t believe it’s Tracey’s first book! Really, it was beautiful.

8. This book pulled intense emotions out of me. I was scared for these two, and I felt the love they had for each other. Their story is very moving–how they relied so heavily on each other, how they could not think of losing one another, how as long as they were together they would be ok. I mean, they were each others’ reasons for surviving. Talk about intense emotion. If someone got sick or hurt, the other one immediately dreaded life. And I was there for the whole thing. I felt all of it, and it was powerful.

9. There were funny moments too, don’t get me wrong. I laughed at some of the things they said to each other. I laughed at the chicken named “Chicken” who they adopted as a pet. I mean, the little guy curled up in Anna’s lap! How whimsical! They played with dolphins in the lagoon almost every day. And before they acted upon it, the sexual tension and the things they said to each other were hilarious.

10. I appreciated the authenticity of the story. Tracey did not sugarcoat anything. She made things seem believable. I mean, if you’re stranded on an island for a few years, you’re going to deal with gross hygiene, bad diet, crummy weather, sickness, and other dangers. This could really happen, and I think that’s part of why I loved it so much.

11. Everything was resolved. Have you ever read a book and flipped out because the ending just sucked? This ending did not suck at all. I loved it. You will too.

Overall, I am so glad I took a leap of faith with this book. I loved it. The writing was amazing, the story inspiring, and the characters well-rounded and loveable. It’s during instances like this one when I realize how truly grateful I am to be a book blogger. I’m exposed to lesser-known novels all the time, and most of them (like this one) deserve much more recognition. It’s an honor to be able to help spread the word when a book is this good. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good romance mixed with a ton of action, excitement, intrigue, and exotic places.

EDIT: I just noticed how many times I said “intense”. Oh. My. Gosh. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

This tour runs through March 9th. To follow the other tour stops, which include author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways, and more reviews, click here.

Edit (June 13, 2012) – Tracey has announced on her blog, that Plume (an imprint of Penguin) bought On the Island, designed a new cover, and are publishing it! Her next novel was also bought up. She’s no longer a self-published author! I am SO excited for her, and so happy I was able to help get the word out about this book so many months ago. I love, LOVE this story and am SO excited about what’s in store for Tracey as a result!

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The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal (Book Review)

Posted March 3, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal (Book Review)The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal
Published by Albert Whitman & Company on March 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 227
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
It's an unsettled summer for Sirena. Back in Texas, her family's splitting apart, but here in Rhode Island, at the cottage of her free-spirited aunt, it's a different world. There are long days at the beach and intriguing encounters with him. Pilot. He's the lifeguard with shamanic skills. He both saves her and makes her feel lost at sea. Sirena explores her obsession with Pilot and discovers his mysterious--almost magical--gifts.

I love summer beach reads, so when I found this book I was expecting the same kind of light, fluffy ocean-side romance you get when you see a cover like this and read a summary like that. I found myself rushing through this one, though, in the hopes of finish soon so I could move on to something else.  The beginning started off really well. It was intense and had me turning the pages really fast.  I was hoping it was setting the tone for things to come, but I ended up being disappointed in the end. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The paranormal tone was a bit weak and out of place. Sirena discovered that the house she is staying in is full of little mini ghosts the size of saucers by taking some pictures of her basement room with a camera and then looking for little white blurs. And there’s a mysterious stingray (stingrays don’t live in those waters)… and shamans and healing. All these elements rolled into one made the story seem a bit disjointed.

2. I did not like Sirena very much. Her infatuation with the lifeguard, Pilot, was immature and annoying, not to mention stalkerish (she stole a painting of him from an art gallery because she’s so obsessed with him! That’s creepy!) and dripping with qualities of insta-love. Every time she sees him she goes into this inner fantasy world, describing every physical attribute multiple times and picturing herself doing all kinds of things with him. But they hardly know anything about one another! There is no basis for this infatuation other than looks. She’s also really depressed and a total downer. I understand that she’s healing from her parents’ divorce, but she definitely did not act her age (17) in this book. She acted like a star-crossed little tween infatuated by the first attractive guy she’s ever seen. Usually people grow from their trials and tribulations, but Sirena, for the most part, remained stagnant and frustrating. I just didn’t ever connect with her or find her to be an enjoyable character to read about.

3. I never learned much about Pilot. He hardly ever talked, just sat around looking hot. That’s fine and all, but I look for dynamism in my characters, and he was about as interesting to read about as Mr. July in a male swimwear calendar.

4. I liked Antonio, the 80-year-old artist. He’s a shaman, and knows a lot about natural healing (and Pilot knows a little too). I found those discussions interesting. He’s also very caring and understanding. I liked his deep thoughts about art and life. And I liked the dog Will. That dog has a stronger personality than both our male and female main characters.

5. There was a TON of description and very little dialogue. I don’t always mind it when that happens in a book, but the descriptions need to be really good if they are going to take up the bulk of the book. These were just ok, and I got kind of bored.

6. I did like the mysterious elements to the story. I liked them more, and they made more sense as the story progressed. Luckily, things are made a little clearer towards the end, but I still feel like there were some loose ends left untied.

7. Finally, I had no idea what I was supposed to be taking away from this book. There were times when I was rather lost and could not figure out what the point of the story was. There was no real plot, and things felt random and, at times, pointless. You can tell that the author got excited about the ending, so things did pick up a little. I just felt it was too little, too late.

I tried SO hard to love this one. I really did. I kept holding on, hoping that things would turn around and get better. I could see the potential, but just as things started to get interesting the author would switch gears. It was a bit of a bumpy road. Sadly, the promising premise started off well, but led downwards to an anti-climactic and disappointing conclusion.

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Cover Reveal & New Series: Lonely Souls by Karice Bolton

Posted March 1, 2012 by Jana in Cover Reveal, New Adult / 2 Comments

Hi! I’m here today to bring you the cover for the first book, Lonely Souls, in a brand new “new adult” series called The Witch Avenue Order by Karice Bolton. (New Adult is a relatively recent genre title to fit the older YA audience. It tends to be edgier than teen, but not quite adult content.The main characters will be in the 18-22 age group.) The cover was designed by Phatpuppy Art. I think it’s pretty cool looking, and the story sounds great as well!

Title: Lonely Souls (Witch Avenue Order #1)

Author: Karice Bolton (@KariceBolton)
Release Date: June 2012 (actual date still tentative)
Add It: Goodreads

It’s two weeks before Triss turns 18, and her world is about to change into the most magical one imaginable as she readies herself to enter The Witch Avenue Order… that is until her mother’s disappearance. Instead of celebrating her transformation, she finds herself spreading rose petals into her mother’s empty grave.
When Logan, her best friend from junior high, moves back to town for college, he vows to help her find the answers she so desperately seeks surrounding her mother’s disappearance. As they begin uncovering clues, it becomes apparent that the life of white magic they both grew up loving, is not what the majority practices, and their lives are in danger.
With a haunting feeling that her mother may still be alive, she begins to hear a call to the wilderness. Triss realizes that in order to find the answers she needs, she must learn the ways of her ancestors and become the hunter, not the hunted before it’s too late, and she becomes part of the lonely souls.

 

So, what do you think of the cover? Do you think this book sounds like something you’d be interested in reading? Let me know what you think!
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"Leap" into Books Giveaway Hop (Intl)

Posted February 29, 2012 by Jana in Giveaway / 163 Comments

Happy Leap Day! And thanks for stopping by! I’m excited to be participating in my very first blog hop! I embrace any and all reasons to celebrate a holiday, and Leap Year doesn’t just happen willy nilly! To celebrate, I’m giving you a really awesome book! I love giveaways where I get to choose my own prize, so I’m giving you a book up to $10 (USD) from The Book Depository (or Amazon if you’re in the USA). Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you’re all set!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Visit the other participating blogs in the linky found here.)

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