Format: ARC

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted March 19, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewThe Honey-Don't List by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on March 24, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (ALA)
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4 Stars

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

From the “hilariously zany and heartfelt” (Booklist) Christina Lauren comes a romantic comedy that proves if it’s broke, you might as well fix it.

My favorite author power duo is back for another romantic contemporary/comedy! I tend to not really enjoy workplace romances… Ever since I read and LOVED The Hating Game, every workplace romance or romance among co-workers I’ve read has paled in comparison, so I was kind of scared and not exactly bursting with excitement over The Honey-Don’t List. Honestly, if the author were anyone other than Christina Lauren I don’t even think I would have been interested. But these two never steer me wrong, and I always enjoy my time reading their books so I put it on my eagerly-anticipating list and was delighted to have the opportunity to read an early copy! And, of course, I was not disappointed! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I was immediately intrigued! The book starts off with one of our main characters giving their testimony to the police about something bad that’s happened. We’re not sure what has happened or why, and then are transported to the very beginning (probably a week or two earlier) to learn the entire story of Carey, James, Melissa/Melly, and Rusty. We get more interview transcripts spread throughout the story, and I could not wait to find out what happened that had these people being interrogated by the police!

2. Carey and James are our main characters, love interests, and narrators of the book. I liked them both much more than Rusty and Melly, and wish that they had had more of a starring role in their own story… Rusty and Melly were both supporting characters, but they are very much at the center of everything. Readers learn all about the marital problems, the evolution of their careers, and their history as a couple. I’m not used to the supporting characters being front and center, but it worked because they are the reason Carey and James have been thrust together. Their tumultuous relationship is why Carey and James bond initially, so it’s important that the reader really understand what’s going on with them. I just wish I’d seen more romance between the two mains. I actually think this is one of Christina Lauren’s less romantic titles. 

3. Melly and Rusty are a celebrity power couple who own the famous comb + honey home decor brand, have a TV show, and have recently released a marriage advice book. The thing is, their marriage is anything but ideal. They started out 10 years ago as a sweet, down-to-earth couple with their teenaged assistant, Carey, by their side before everything blew up and the life of fame and money kind of drove them apart. Rusty is a major cheater, and Melly is an absolute mess of a person. I really, really did not like her at all. She’s rude and entitled and spoiled and so difficult to work with. She also takes way more credit for her success than she deserves. Rusty was drunk and difficult for most of the book. This couple appears to be America’s sweethearts, but we know the truth. I kind of hate people who hide behind a pretty facade and then show all their crap in private to the people who actually mean the most to them, so neither one of them was terribly likable. If I had to pick one over the other I’d choose Rusty just because he was nicer to the people he interacted with than Melly was. But really, they are just really hard to like and never quite redeemed themselves in my eyes.

4. Carey has been working for Melly and Rusty for 10 years (since she was 16), and is very talented and smart. She has no formal education, and feels locked into a job that’s taking her nowhere. I loved her personality and her spunk. She also has a disability that she does not let rule her life. She’s so great! I love the kind of women Christina Lauren write about. She’s strong and assertive. James is new to the company and was hired to be an engineer, but ends up doing assistant work for Rusty instead, much to his chagrin. He wears suits and is the brainy, nerdy-but-swoony type. Carey and James don’t like each other a ton, but end up bonding due to forced proximity and commiserating together.

5. Melly and Rusty are about to head out on their book tour, but at the last minute something happens between the two of them that makes the higher-ups decide it would be best if James and Carey accompany them and force them to behave and preserve their public image. The bulk of the book takes place on a luxurious tour bus, in and out of hotels and bookstores. This is where the forced proximity comes into play. James and Carey are babysitting two adults who are close to twice their age. Melly and Rusty are either yelling at each other or not speaking at all the entire time. Melly knows something is going on between James and Carey (and does not approve at all), so there’s also a bit of a forbidden romance kind of thing going on, too. There’s a lot of tension hidden in stolen glances and sneaking around hotels at night.

6. The story is quite funny in places, but also tackles some deeper issues and I love how nothing felt too light or too heavy.

7. These ladies do such a wonderful job writing and developing characters, love stories, swoony moments, deeper issues, and unique stories. I had so much fun with James and Carey as they complained about their bosses, tried to figure out how to live their dreams, and slowly succumbed to the attraction between them.

All in all, this was fun! The Honey-Don’t List is not my favorite Christina Lauren book, but I really enjoyed. I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy reality TV (Melly and Rusty would totally be on HGTV if this was a true story), book tours, swoony nerds, strong female leads, swoony gestures (James helping Carey with her disability just melted me), and characters who reach for the stars. I can’t wait for the next Christina Lauren book, and hope these two never quit writing!

4 Stars

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book Review

Posted December 13, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book ReviewMine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham
Published by Carina Press on December 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 77
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night. But in the light of day, Ashley can't help but wonder if Santa has delivered early...

Game designer Oliver Stansfeld can't wait to leave dreary London—and all its difficult holiday memories—for sunny San Diego. But a freak ice storm and a grounded plane have forced him back to his already-occupied flat. To make up for the mix-up, the least he can do is show his pretty houseguest where to get the perfect Christmas tree before he leaves.

The more time they spend together, the more their attraction grows, and soon Ashley is tempting Oliver to give in to the spirit of the season and snuggle up for the rest of the winter. As the ice melts and flights start taking off again, he must choose between giving in to the past or risking his heart on a chance at love.

Doesn’t this book sound a little like The Holiday? That is one glorious movie and my favorite movie ever, so I was super excited when I found out that this book is about a transatlantic house swap! Even better, a man and a woman are swapping. And even BETTER, the airport gets shut down and she makes it to his London home… but he does not make it to her California home. SO… they have to both stay at his house. I mean, come on. How could you not want to read about this? It sounds super romantic, not to mention an accident waiting to happen! House swapping sounds like one of the coolest adventures ever, but I think I’d be a nervous wreck having a stranger living in my house. Anyways…

Ashley and Oliver are both looking for something. Growing up in poverty, Ashley has never had a real Christmas. And Oliver is looking for a way to survive the pain Christmas brings him. Neither of them were entirely happy to discover they would be sharing a home until Oliver could fly out to California, but they decide to make the best of it after an awkward encounter when Oliver enters his dark room and falls into bed… right on top of Ashley. Oops! She smacks him in his happy place, and he falls to the ground, naked and in pain. And that’s how their love story begins.

Oliver feels for Ashley and her strong desire for a beautiful Christmas, so he takes her shopping for a tree, takes care of her when she slips and falls on the ice, watches her decorate her tree, and enjoys her peppermint hot chocolate. I love the tension and the romance that grows from the bud of friendship. They confide in one another and share their stories, bonding over their sad memories and hope for a better future. I don’t like sad books at all, so I was happy to discover that the book did not feel sad for me. I just felt hope for them and excitement over the possibilities of their love story.

I really enjoyed this sweet, quick Christmas read and would recommend it to people who love The Holiday! While I think that movie is better, this book will make you smile and remind you that the most important part of Christmas is having someone special to share it with.

 

3 Stars

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: Publisher (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.

4.5 Stars

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

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

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3.5 Stars

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

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

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

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

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

1. Since when do I love a villain? Maris

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

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

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

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

4. Speaking of whimsy, ho boy. Marissa is

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

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

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

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

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

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

heartless promo

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

3.5 Stars

The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr | Book Review

Posted December 4, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr | Book ReviewThe Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr
Published by Henery Press on November 7, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Author
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3 Stars

Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.

The Proposal and The Holiday are two of my favorite movies ever, so I was really excited to read Christmas romance that was pitched to me as a combination of both. I think this comparison made me expect too much, though. And that’s nothing against the book, I just think I was wanting a Cameron Diaz and Jude Law kind of romance with the Kate Winslet and Jack Black kind of swoon. All things aside, The Boyfriend Swap had many cute moments, and it was fluffy which is always nice. I do wish there had been more Christmas in it, but I am the queen of Hallmark Christmas movies, so…

Robyn’s boyfriend Perry is described as a “D-list wannabe” actor. He’s a guy that Robyn cannot possibly bring home to her family, so she brings home Sidney’s lawyer boy toy of a boyfriend, Will, to get her family off her back. But… this guy ends up being Robyn’s lifelong crush. I really love the friends to lovers trope as well as the fauxmance trope, so I was definitely curious to see a combination of the two and how that would play out. I really liked both of them, particularly Will, and I think they’re very cute together. I enjoyed reading about their growing up years and the awkward memories they shared. They were definitely the highlight of the book for me.

Perry and Sidney, on the other hand, were a train wreck. In the book’s defense, though, I think they were supposed to be. This couple was so poorly mismatched. Perry is an egotistical jerk and Sidney is unlikeable. However, they were both using each other so I didn’t even feel bad for them. Perry was using Sidney for her father’s show business connections as much as she was using him for his irritating personality.

The Boyfriend Swap is funny. I enjoyed the banter between the characters, and I enjoyed the deeper issues I got to watch them all work through. Everyone learned something, and I’d like to think that everyone came away a better person for it.

So why the 3-star rating? Honestly, I think everything was tainted by the storyline. Both Robyn and Sidney were dating men they were embarrassed by. Even worse, Will and Perry were ok with it and went along with the plan to swap boyfriends during the time of year when you should want to be with those you care about. Even worse than that, one of the guys decided to fall in love with a girl who chose to lie to her entire family about who her boyfriend really was because she was ashamed of him. I would not want to be with someone who thought that kind of deception was ok, even if I was the tool they used to lie to their family with and not the actual person they were ashamed of. Does that make sense? But then again, that guy was dating someone just for the physical relationship and not the connection, so perhaps they’re made for each other. It just felt like a very immature storyline to me, and not very romantic.

This is definitely a case of the “it’s not the book, it’s me” syndrome. The writing is great. The humor is great. The characters were all dynamic and well developed. The story was unique and well thought out, it just wasn’t built upon a foundation that I agreed with. I really wish we had just gotten the basic second chance romance between old friends with Will and Robyn, and that Perry and Sidney and the swapping were left out. But I guess that takes away the uniqueness. I would have still eaten it up, though.

All in all, The Boyfriend Swap had enough cute elements and swoons that I am curious about some of Meredith’s other books, and look forward to picking up Blogger Girl sometime soon.

3 Stars

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco | Book Review

Posted October 6, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco | Book ReviewHunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 19, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Bone white. Blood red. Along this path, you’ll soon be dead.

Following the horrifying revelation of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth flees her home in Victorian London to enroll as the only female student in Europe’s most prestigious forensics school. But it’s impossible to find peace in the dark, unsettling Romanian castle that houses the school—and was also once home to the depraved Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Prince Dracula.

When a series of troubling deaths brings whispers of Vlad’s bloodthirsty return from the grave, Audrey Rose and her sharp-witted companion, Thomas Cresswell, must unravel the cryptic clues that will lead them to the shadowlike killer—living or dead.

I absolutely LOVE Dracula stories (which is weird, since I’ve never read Dracula…) and creepy historical fiction, so I was really excited when I learned what the second installment of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series was going to be about. I really, really enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper, but I LOVED Hunting Prince Dracula like a million times more. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Ok, so DRACULA. I love how Kerri tackles old, old mysteries in a way that makes them feel very real instead of over-the-top and silly. The story of Dracula, of course, is fictional. But the character was named after a real man who did enjoy the taste of blood: Vlad the Impaler. So there’s some truth mixed with a ton of fiction, and it was so wonderful seeing how Kerri would spin that. Dracula felt so real to me.

2. The setting of Hunting Prince Dracula is amazing. The story takes place in Vlad’s actual castle in Romania, which is now the home of an elite forensics school that Audrey Rose and Thomas are attending. This castle has secret alcoves hidden by tapestries, secret trap doors and rooms, and a labyrinth of creepy tunnels that you access through the floor in the morgue. It is surrounded by a creepy wood that is rumored to be filled with all manner of scary animals and people. It’s December at the castle, so it’s bitterly cold outside, it gets dark very early, and the entire world is blanketed in snow. Audrey’s rooms are away from the other rooms since she is the only female attending the school, and she hears creepy things outside her door. And on the roof. It’s just so perfectly creepy without keeping me up at night!

“Winding our way through the narrow path, we finally pulled to a blessed stop outside the castle. Fingers of moonlight reached over the spires and slid down the roof, casting our shadows in sinister shapes. This castle was eerie and I haven’t even stepped inside.”

3. Things were so much swoonier (lol. Totally not a word.) between Audrey and Thomas in this novel and I loved it. There’s all this scandalous tension and innuendo between these two! And chemistry! Their banter is amazing, and so perfect. They sneak around through the castle and night to meet up and discuss or explore the castle and its grounds. There are stolen glances and warm thoughts during class and before bed. It’s just so romantic, yet not heavy on romance if that makes sense. You can feel it there, but there’s so much going on that it’s rarely talked about.

4. I just adore Thomas so much. He’s snarky and flirty and tender and romantic. He’s also dapper and intelligent and forward thinking. And he’s so sweet and silly and loyal and has the driest humor. And he’s so protective of Audrey Rose, it just makes me melt. He was my favorite part of this book. I love seeing more and more of who he is.

“I have a feeling you haven’t invited me here for kissing. Though it never hurts to ask. You’re dressed for sneaking about Dracula’s castle. Be still my thawing, dark heart. You certainly know how to make a young man feel alive, Wadsworth.”

“For there are no limits to the stars, their numbers infinite. Which is precisely why I measure my love for you by the stars. An amount too boundless to count.”

5. I liked reading about our flawed Audrey Rose. It’s only been about 2 weeks since the events of Stalking Jack the Ripper, and she’s still processing and coming to terms with how that mystery unfolded. She’s scarred and a little damaged, and I enjoyed watching her find her new normal. I’ve always admired her bravery and desire to push the norm, and she continued that in Hunting Prince Dracula even though her scars tried to prevent it.

6. There were a few scenes that had me ready to run for the hills because they were so scary! Like… spiders… and trees made of bones. The tunnels under the castle are filled with terrifying things that you gradually learn about as the story progresses. Audrey and Thomas spend a fair amount of time exploring, and I could never ever do that. I couldn’t stop reading, but also wanted to cover my eyes at the same time. It was amazing!

7. With all the twists and turns and spooky moments and ominous characters, I really had no idea how they were going to solve the mystery. I had no idea how things were going to wrap up. The ending was super climactic and totally blindsided me.

8. Kerri’s writing and prose is beautiful perfection. I could swim in her words. I could wrap them around me like a silk scarf.

Bottom line, Hunting Prince Dracula is a new favorite that I kind of want to read every fall now because it’s so perfect for this season. It’s just the kind of book I want to curl up with under a blanket and read while it storms outside. I loved everything about it… the heat between Audrey and Thomas, the setting, the mystery, and Kerri’s beautiful writing style. I will forever recommend this wonderful story!

5 Stars

Caraval by Stephanie Garber | 2017 Debut Book Review

Posted September 20, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 3 Comments

Caraval by Stephanie Garber | 2017 Debut Book ReviewCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 407
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Oh my goodness… you guys, this was SO GOOD and so magical and amazing. I read it 9 months ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I also have not been able to figure out how to review it because I LOVED IT SO MUCH that I have no idea what to say. I can’t tell you everything I loved because then I’d just be typing out the book for you. There was nothing I didn’t love to pieces, so writing a review is a truly overwhelming task that I’ve been scared to even begin. lol. I was truly and utterly captivated by and immersed in this story from the first page, and even though it’s over it has not yet let go of me. Part of me is still in that story, unable to let go of it and eagerly anticipating the next book.

Caraval is a magical, whimsical, quirky, convoluted, mysterious, romantic, captivating ball of beautiful words and imagination. The story is dripping with danger and unknowing, with mischievous and  ominous characters. Stephanie’s writing is on point, and her imagination and storytelling ability are on FIRE. I wonder if she rents out rooms in her mind…? The world of Caraval is bigger than our world, and the game has so many layers and mysteries that it’s basically ingenious.

I was fully expecting and intending to write a detailed, organized, and coherent review. But… I don’t want to say anything more than this because it’s honestly better if you have no idea what to expect. I went in very skeptical (hello hype, and the book had not even been published yet!) and not quite sure what to expect. Best decision ever. The less you know about Caraval, the more mysterious and exciting it will feel to you. So don’t read any reviews. Just don’t do it. My review is vague enough that you’re pretty much just going to leave my blog knowing Caraval is a book you’ve got to read. If I’ve convinced you of this, I’ve done my job! If not, write to me and I’ll talk your ear off until you can see there’s no other option.

5 Stars

Everneath by Brodi Ashton | Book Review

Posted September 8, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Everneath by Brodi Ashton | Book ReviewEverneath by Brodi Ashton
Series: Everneath #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 24, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 370
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

When I saw the description of this story on Netgalley, followed by the buzz and excitement around the blogosphere, I knew I had to read it. Ever since I was very young, I’ve always had an intense curiosity for Greek mythology. Then, when I minored in art history in college and studied Greek art, I learned a lot more about the ancient myths from the art that illustrated them. This book is centered around the story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, God of the Underworld. Persephone was beautiful, and sought after by many—namely Hades. One day when she was out picking flowers on the plain of Enna, Hades emerged from the ground and abducted her. Her mother, Demeter (the goddess of harvest), wandered the surface of the Earth searching for her lost daughter. When she found out what happened, she was livid (as any mother would be!). Her extreme sorrow caused her to withdraw, and the earth became infertile. Zeus knew that this could not go on forever. He sent his son Hermes down to the Underworld to get Hades to release Persephone. Hades reluctantly let her go, but gave her a pomegranate seed before she left. Once she ate it, she was bound to the Underworld forever and had to spend 1/3rd of the year there. Whenever she was with Hades, her mother would not let anything grow, thus the season of winter was born. Pretty cool story, huh? I swear, I love mythology!

In the book, the Everneath is explained as being the space between the world we live in and the Underworld, where the Everlivings have found the secret to eternal life. But they must feed off of the energy of a human every 100 years or they will die. Enter Nikki/Becks. Cole convinced her, in a moment of weakness, to go with him to the Everneath so he could feed off of her for 100 years (which is only 6 months time on the earth). When the Feed is over (which is when this book begins), Nikki is allowed to Return to Earth for 6 months before she is to be sucked into the Tunnels to serve as a battery to power Hell. Or… she can go back to the Everneath with Cole and become an Everliving, and have eternal life at the cost of the lives of human beings. She hates both of her choices. This book is all about Nikki’s quest to find a way to beat Mother Nature and stay with her family and friends.

I really enjoyed the story. I loved the unique subject matter, and how the author was able to tie in so many elements of the Greek myth, while still adding in unique aspects that made it her own. The story itself is actually pretty beautiful. It’s all about love, loss, and courage. The easy way out for Nikki would be to go back with Cole and have eternal life. She’d even have a shot at being the next Persephone and claiming the crown, becoming queen of the Underworld. That sounds a whole lot better than eternal suffering in the dark, dirty depths of Hell. She can’t fathom the idea of draining the life out of others to save herself, though, so she has chosen the Tunnels. Actually, she could have gone straight there and not return to see her family. It would have been far less painful for her to never see them, and the results of their grief while she was gone. She decides to go back to make amends and say goodbye the right way, before disappearing again. Every decision she makes in this book is for other people. I admire that about her.

Cole’s kind of a slimy character, but I always find myself rooting for the bad-boy (at least for part of the story). In the beginning he seems so wonderful (and I wanted Nikki to choose him), but once we learn what he did to her we quickly root for the sweet childhood-best-friend-turned-boyfriend character, Jack, instead. I loved Jack. He ached for Nikki the entire time she was gone, and upon her return he is very understanding and supportive. He gives her the space she needs to recover, and lets her come to him rather than pouncing on her and demanding answers. That a really mature way to handle a situation like this, especially from a high school boy. He was just a really good guy.

The writing was enthralling, although a few phrases were used too many times. Everything in the story was delayed for “a few moments” or “a long moment”. Like, a character would say something and the other character would respond “after a long moment”. Or two people would hug for “a long moment”. That’s really my only complaint, about the writing, though. I’ve always been the type to not like hearing or reading the same phrases. It’s a quirk of mine. I enjoyed Ashton’s descriptive passages, allowing me to picture the Tunnels, the Everneath, and especially different peoples’ emotions. I also loved that this book takes place in Utah! I live here! I go to the setting of this novel, Park City, all the time! I loved being able to picture the streets they walked down… the Sundance Film Festival, the Utah Jazz, the Weber River… the Timpanogos Caves… So fun! The characters were also great, with lots of dynamic traits. We’re told very specific things about each character, so that by the end of the story you understand their body language without needing the author to explain it. I loved that. It’s like I was watching a movie in my head as I read the book.

I can see this book having a very wide appeal. It’s not mushy gushy, so I think the guys would enjoy it (if they can handle reading a book with that cover, that is! Buy it on Kindle, boys.). It’s not juvenile, so I think it could appeal to the adult fiction lovers out there. Greek mythology enthusiasts will eat this one up. Fans of paranormal romance (YA or adult) will love it. It’s a bit of a mystery that you need to figure out, which is always a plus. Music plays a big role in it, which pretty much nobody can complain about. The book is attacked from so many different angles, that it’s very versatile. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would! I’m very intrigued by the cliffhanger ending, and can’t wait to see what the currently untitled next book has in store for us.

*This is a repost from January 14, 2012*

4 Stars

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | Book Review

Posted March 18, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 9 Comments

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | Book ReviewA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Published by Bloomsbury on May 5, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

I don’t even know how to review all the gloriousness that is A Court of Thorns and Roses. This is honestly my favorite book in the universe. I experienced the most vicious book hangover of my life. Seriously. It lasted about a week and a half and I could not even read anything else because I was in mourning.I had to go to Sarah J. Maas herself and have her tell me what to read next because I could not get over her book. No the book is not sad… but it ended. And that’s my only complaint about this book.

Coherent thoughts are not possible. I’m sorry, but they are not. It has been about three weeks since I finished ACOTAR, and all I can do when I think about it is melt into a puddle of swoons and sighs. So I’m going to have to resort to my very unorganized list review style and just blurt out everything I loved.

1. SO MANY FEELS. I will refer to my Goodreads status updates to illustrate my point:

ACOTARProgress
See? This book put me through the ringer, and I was happy to do it.

2. This is my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling ever. Actually, I loved it more than Beauty and the Beast and THAT is saying something. It was so beautifully done, and there were so many hat tips to the original story.

3. Sarah J. Maas is a genius with words. I can’t believe how perfectly written this book was! Her writing reminds me of those taffy stretching machines. It’s so smooth and flowing and glorious. I just wanted to roll around in it.

4. The world is stupendous and beautiful. Sarah is a master at world building. This is the fairyland beyond your wildest dreams. The descriptions took my breath away. But this land is being taken over by evil, and the quest to defeat this evil kept me flipping pages as fast as I could.

5. There were some VERY sexy moments and I loved them all. The romance is off the charts, and so spellbindingly perfect. I’m in love with this book.

6. I want to be Feyre when I grow up. She’s a super hardcore bad-a, she’s loyal to those she loves, she’s artsy (like me), and she gets Tamlin all to herself.

7. Tamlin is mine. I’ll fight you for him if needs be. He’s a perfect blend of loyalty, protectiveness, chivalry, bravery, nobility, angst, and fierceness. Oh, and the mask he wears that has been permanently affixed to his face by magic makes him super mysterious. I can just picture his piercing eyes. He gets me all fluttery in my chest.

8. Lucien. *swoon* I’m going to be selfish and claim him as well. Picture Rhys as a man with a heart of gold and the ego of Gaston. I adore him.

9. The twists and turns the story took are amazing. SO much happens! Just when you think you can close the book for the night, you’ll be sucked right back in because something huge has happened.

10. There are villains you LOVE to hate and monsters that only live in your nightmares. 

My goodness, I think I need to quit while I’m ahead. I’m amazed I even got any words out because my love for this book is stronger than any combination of words I can string together. I am dying for the second book. I’m pretty much an official Sarah J. Maas fangirl. She can do no wrong. Do yourself a favor and buy this book for yourself and everyone you know.

*This review was originally published on April 8, 2015, and was re-posted in celebration of A Week of Beauty and the Beast.
5 Stars

Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz | Mini Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted October 19, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz | Mini Book Review (+ Giveaway)Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 18, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

THE FACTS
• Julian Roman, age sixteen, is an escapee from the Fairmount County Juvenile Detention Facility.
• His parents, Michael Roman and Jennifer Roman, are dead.
• Julian is wanted for murder.

THE QUESTIONS
• Why is Julian Roman on the run?
• Just how dangerous is he?
• And who did kill Michael and Jennifer Roman, if not Julian?

Seventeen-year-old Day Baker views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she pictures and the truths she believes-neatly captured in black and white-begin to blur.

Julian is not the "armed and dangerous" escapee the police are searching for, but his alibis don't quite add up, either. There is more to his story. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture . . . whatever it reveals. Did he? Or didn't he?

Day digs deeper into the case while Julian remains on the run. But the longer her list of facts becomes, the longer the list of questions becomes, too. It's also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels for him. Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

Laurie Faria Stolarz is a master of suspense and romance. In this page-turning thriller, Stolarz tackles dark truths with a powerful, contemporary voice. Shutter will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Welcome to my stop along the Shutter blog tour, hosted by the Irish Banana Review! Doesn’t the book synopsis sound awesome? I was totally on board as soon as I read about it, as I love reading mystery-type books in October. Shutter takes place during the exact same time of year as I read it, which I thought was a lot of fun. It got me so excited for fall and colder weather. I love this time of year, and the author did a great job of really capturing the season.

I liked Day a lot. Her obsession with photography was unique and fun to read about. I saw a lot of myself in her. I’ve always had an artistic outlet in my life, so I understood her passion and desire to always keep it close to her heart. I also understood her desire to help Julian. I would have wanted to do the same thing, especially since Julian is such a nice guy. I actually found him to be more interesting to read about, though. The chapters alternate between Day’s narration and Julian’s journal entries, and I liked getting more insight into Julian’s past and how he got to where he was even though some of it was very heartbreaking. He had a horrible family life as a child, and I really felt for him.

The story itself was very interesting, but not as mystery/thrillery as I expected it to be. I wasn’t biting my nails or wishing I could sleep with the lights on. It was a slower, more controlled mystery. Day goes on a hunt for the truth while hiding Julian in her barn in the backyard. It enjoyed reading his story and what other people had to say about him. His story never quite added up, so I wasn’t really sure I could trust him… and I wanted to slap Day for being SO trusting. He’s a wanted murder suspect! I could have done without the romance… I liked the story more before that happened, but it did add a complicated layer to things and that’s always entertaining. I was definitely eager to get to the end to see how everything turned out.

If you’re in the mood for a whodunit with a Nancy Drew-type detective, some heavier subject matter and a good dose of autumn, give this book a try!


About Laurie Faria Stolarz

Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. 

Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author of young adult fiction novels, best known for her Blue is for Nightmares series. Her works, which feature teenage protagonists, blend elements found in mystery and romance novels.

Stolarz found sales success with her first novel, Blue is for Nightmares, and followed it up with three more titles in the series, White is for Magic, Silver is for Secrets, and Red is for Remembrance, as well as a companion graphic novel, Black is for Beginnings. Stolarz is also the author of the Touch series (Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons), as well as Bleed and Project 17. With more than two million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on various awards list.

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Tour Schedule:

10/10: Pretty Deadly Reviews – Review
10/11: The Irish Banana Review – Q&A
10/12: A Writer Named Charley – Review
10/13: Novelgossip – Guest Post
10/14: The Worn Bookmark – Review
10/17: Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Review
10/18: Bibliobuli YA – Guest Post
10/19: That Artsy Reader Girl – Review
10/20: In Wonderland – Top 10
10/21: Stuck In Books – Review

3 Stars