Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan | Book Review (+The Christmas Sisters Giveaway)

Posted December 12, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review, Giveaway / 9 Comments

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan | Book Review (+The Christmas Sisters Giveaway)Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
Series: O'Neil Brothers #1
Also in this series: Suddenly Last Summer, Maybe This Christmas
Published by Harlequin on October 29, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
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4 Stars
Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green's favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year.

Jackson O'Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family's resort—it's in his blood, and he can't let it fail. Now that he's got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus.

Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she's out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it's terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn't believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?

I love Christmas romances, especially if they are set in a picturesque place and have wonderful characters. As soon as I read that Sleigh Bells in the Snow takes place in Vermont, I was very excited! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The Snow Crystal is a cozy ski resort nestled in the mountains of Vermont. The O’Neil family has run it for years, and it is a bit of a hidden gem with lots to offer. It has cabins with hot tubs on the porch, amazing views, and a homey lodge with a sitting room and kitchen that just screams holidays. I would LOVE to pack up and move there right now. If any guest wants a Christmas tree for their cabin, one of the O’Neil brothers goes out and chops one and delivers it at their front step. How fun is that?! I really want to visit. The setting was definitely my favorite part of the book.

2. I liked Kayla, but I felt she was a bit too cynical and cold at times. I just wanted to shake her! She has a sad past of abandonment, and does not like Christmas at all. Honestly, though, I’m pretty sure she does not like any kind of family holiday. She arrives at the resort in her designer pumps and pencil skirt, bent on being a complete stick in the mud as she hides in her cabin in the hopes of letting Christmas painlessly pass her by. The longer she stay there, though, the more comfortable she gets. I liked the transformation she went through as she got to know the O’Neil family. She bought some snow boots, let her hair down, and allowed herself to get close to them even though it scared her. I liked this side of her much more than the hardened, emotionless side we see at the beginning of the book.

3. I adore the O’Neil family, and how close they are. Jackson has come back to Snow Crystal after making it big in Europe. He wants to help get the resort on the map and show the world what it has to offer, before it goes under and the family loses it. That’s why he hires Kayla to come out. As he updates and elevates the resort, he is met with a lot of resistance from his family. They are not keen on change, and are scared that a snooty New Yorker will ruin their image. As they soften Kayla, though, she softens them. I loved the conversations between family members, as they all open up and grow closer together. This family ends up being extremely loving despite their high maintenance demands.

4. I really liked the non-family staff members at the Snow Crystal. I particularly liked the spitfire of a French chef and the ski instructor. Each character in this story is unique and loveable.

5. Jackson is so wonderful. He is tender and persistent, and boy can he chop wood. I love his devotion to his family, even though they are fighting him the whole way. I love that he gave up his big life to come home and save his family lodge. I love how sweet he is to Kayla.

6. The romance is slow burning. It begins as a simple professional relationship, with that initial attraction on both sides. It then slides into this love-hate friendship kind of thing before turning into something really special. I really liked that it was not just lust, which seems to happen a lot in the Christmas romances I’ve read before. There are real feelings at play.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow is a fun, cheery Christmas romance with a wonderful family dynamic, a cozy setting, and a swoonworthy male lead. I definitely recommend you read it it you’re in the mood for some Christmas cheer! I can’t wait to read about the other O’Neil brothers, which will happen as the series continues.

(This review was originally posted on 12/6/13 and was re-posted for some extra love.)

Sarah is sponsoring a giveaway for my readers this Christmas, with a signed copy of her newest Christmas release, The Christmas Sisters!

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan
Published by HQN Books on September 25, 2018
Genres: Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Holiday, Women’s Fiction
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In the snowy Highlands of Scotland, Suzanne McBride is dreaming of the perfect cozy Christmas. Her three adopted daughters are coming home for the holidays and she can’t wait to see them. But tensions are running high…

Workaholic Hannah knows she can’t avoid spending the holidays with her family two years in a row. But it’s not the weight of their expectations that’s panicking her—it’s the life-changing secret she’s hiding. Stay-at-home mom Beth is having a personal crisis. All she wants for Christmas is time to decide if she’s ready to return to work—seeing everyone was supposed to help her stress levels, not increase them! Posy isn’t sure she’s living her best life, but with her parents depending on her, making a change seems risky. But not as risky as falling for gorgeous new neighbor Luke…

As Suzanne’s dreams of the perfect McBride Christmas unravel, she must rely on the magic of the season to bring her daughters together. But will this new togetherness teach the sisters that their close-knit bond is strong enough to withstand anything—including a family Christmas?

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All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel Review

Posted June 28, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade / 1 Comment

All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel ReviewAll Summer Long and illustrated by Hope Larson
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on May 1, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Source: From the Publisher
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2 Stars
A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships, written and illustrated by the Eisner Award–winning and New York Times–bestselling Hope Larson.

Thirteen-year-old Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he's off to soccer camp for a month, and he's been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it's up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it's a lot of guitar playing, boredom, and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin's older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he's acting even weirder than when he left. How Bina and Austin rise above their growing pains and reestablish their friendship and respect for their differences makes for a touching and funny coming-of-age story.

I’ve started developing interest in graphic novels over the last few years, which was a major surprise to me because I’ve always overlooked them. More and more have been trickling in from various publishers, and I’m really seeing the graphic novel format take off, especially for younger readers. I thought All Summer Long sounded like a fun, light read and was excited to dig in. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough substance for me and it felt much younger than I would have liked.

I enjoy coming-of-age stories, but I don’t feel like All Summer Long was a good example of one. I suppose the characters go through some changes, but they felt more like normal kid changes than coming-of-age. When a story is described as a “coming-of-age story”, you expect some major growth. Bina is 13, and she’s spending her summer alone while her best friend, Austin, is at summer camp. She spends the summer playing/listening to music, and hanging out with Austin’s older sister. She gets to babysit and go to a concert and deal with all the normal kid drama: fights, heightened emotions, and overreactions. At the end, she seemed to be pretty much the same person she was in the beginning. The story was very, very simple and the characters seemed like cardboard cutouts. There just wasn’t anything grabbing me and sucking me in.

I know I’m the wrong demographic, but I work with kids who are about this age. Actually, my kids are about a year younger and they don’t talk like these characters. They don’t use the word “bae” or say “like” every other word. I feel like the author tried to write for tweens and young teens, but without a real understanding of what those kids are like today. These kids seemed younger than mine until they said “bae”, which people my age (late 20’s, early 30’s) were already saying when these kids were toddlers. It just felt really unrealistic to me.

The illustrations were fun, but too stylized for me. The proportions were off and there were inconsistencies in the looks of the characters from page to page. Sometimes I had a hard time telling some of the secondary characters apart. It was easy to read and the boxes flowed in a nice way. I rarely read sections out of order because I didn’t know which box came first, which has happened to me in other graphic novels I’ve read.

All in all, this one just didn’t work for me. I shut the book and immediately wrote my review because I’m not even sure I’ll be able to remember it. I would choose to recommend other graphic novels over this one.


Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted June 13, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on June 5, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
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5 Stars
Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

I’m so happy to be on this blog tour for Morgan Matson’s Save the Date, hosted by the Fantastic Flying Book Club! I’ve always heard wonderful things about Morgan’s books, and actually own a few of them. I even met her at ALA a few years ago and she signed a copy of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour for me, so I’m really surprised and slightly ashamed to admit that Save the Date is my very first Matson read! If all of her other books are just as delightful and funny and full of heart like this one is, then I think I’ve found a new author to love! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The Grant family is officially my favorite fictional family. I would love to be a member of this family! J.J. is an absolute hoot. Everything he says or does makes me laugh. He actually says “scoff” when he’s miffed. Linnie is such a fun big sister, and I love her relationship with Charlie. Danny is the sweet big brother type. I even like troublemaker Mike! They are all so close, and their life growing up together is full of memories of capture the flag games, movie nights, sleepovers, family trips, bumming around the house, and so much love. I love that they love each other and have the cutest sibling bonds with one another. The parents are great, too. It’s a house full of chaos and shenanigans, and I loved being a fly on the wall.

2. Speaking of shenanigans, everything that could possibly go wrong for this wedding pretty much does! It’s hilarious, if not a little unbelievable how unlucky this family is. lol. There’s a suit mix-up, electrical problems, gardening problems, and more. There’s so much going on at once that I found myself tearing through the pages to figure out how each issue was resolved. Honestly, this book would make such an amazingly fun movie.

3. Bill, the assistant wedding coordinator, is the sweetest character. He and his… uncle? Dad? Why can’t I remember this!?! Oh well, not important. He and the guy he is somehow related to run this wedding business together, and he’s riding the waves of shenanigans with the best attitude. He’s got a great sense of humor and is always so happy. He’s also pretty quirky, slightly nerdy, and just warms my heart.

4. We’ve got a loaner beagle named Waffles and an alarm that won’t be silenced unless it wants to be that are both pretty amazing characters all on their own. Waffles has so much personality in his little body, complete with big floppy ears. And the alarm just had me giggling, which doesn’t even make sense unless you’ve read this book.

5. I really connected with Charlie. I understand what it’s like to have everyone needed things from you all the time. She’s kind of the glue that keeps the group together and sane. She’s the peacemaker, and I understand the kind of pressure that comes with that job. I sympathized with her as she faced having to move from her childhood home. I also saw a lot of growth from her as the book continued on. She just seemed really real to me. All the characters did.

6. Charlie’s mom has written a comic strip based on the Grant family, Grant Central Station, for the last 20+ years all about the kids and family growing up together. Snippets of these comics are featured throughout the book, and I really liked those. I’d love a book of more of them so I can get more of the backstory on some of these characters!

7. I just LOVE weddings. This book reminded me so much of Father of the Bride, which is one of my favorite movies ever.

8. Swoons. Wedding swoons, crush swoons, love swoons… They were all there.

All in all, I’m SO glad I finally jumped on the Morgan Matson train! I can’t wait to read her other books now! I hope her others are just as wonderful for me as this one was. I loved the family dynamics, the wedding craziness, and all heart and feeling that swirled around it all. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary YA with a side of giggles and feelings.


About Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College inLos Angeles, but halfway through a theater degree, she started working in the children’s department of Vroman’s Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.

Following college graduation (and the proud bearer of an incredibly useful theater/English degree) she received her M.F.A. in Writing for Children from The New school and worked as an editor for YA novels. She received a second M.F.A. (for reasons that made sense at the time) in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California.

Her novels have been translated into dozens of languages, and published all over the world.

Morgan’s first novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, was inspired by her love of road trips, snacks, and the quest for the perfect playlist. It was named an ALA Top Ten Best Book, a Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start book, and was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize.

Her second novel, Second Chance Summer, was inspired by her experiences spending summers in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. It was the winner of the California Book Award (YA category) and was named to the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults List, selected for the Oklahoma Sequoya List, and selected as a School Library Journal Best Book.

Her third novel, Since You’ve Been Gone, was published in2014,and was a Publisher’s Weekly and international bestseller. It was named to the YALSA Teens Top Ten list, and the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award List.

Morgan’s fourth novel, The Unexpected Everything, was published May 3rd, 2016. She currently lives inLos Angeles with her dog, Murphy.

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Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch | Book Review

Posted April 5, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 9 Comments

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch | Book ReviewLove & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 389
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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5 Stars
“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

I love books set in other countries, especially countries I’ve visited myself. It makes for a very fun reading experience, and I usually gobble them up quickly. Love & Gelato is another book I can add to my stack of favorites, and it’s not just because it takes place in one of my favorite cities in the world.

1. Love & Gelato was everything I hoped for and more. I loved it so much, not only because the story and writing were pure and utter perfection, but because my love of YA contemporary romance was renewed. I’ve been having a hard time with this genre for the last couple of years, and I chalked it up to the fact that I’m not a young adult anymore. I figured I was identifying less and less with the characters, so I needed to move on and read books with characters my age in order to connect. I was pretty heartbroken about this. I thought back to all my favorite YA contemporaries: Wanderlove, Just One Day, Anna and the French Kiss, Unbreak My Heart, The Summer I Became a Nerd, and Wish You Were Italian and was super sad that, if I were to re-read them, maybe I wouldn’t love them anymore. Love & Gelato was a bit of a gamble for me, but since I love Italy so much I figured I would at least love that about it. But I loved EVERYTHING. I loved the characters, the story, the romance, the issues, the scenery, the mystery, and all the coming of age moments. It reminded me that I will always be able to relate to teens because I was there. I went through it, and no matter how old you get you never forget what it was like to be a teenager. I’m so relieved that I’d just found a bunch of bad egg books, rather than discovered that the genre that once brought me so much joy was not for me anymore.

2. This book takes place on the outskirts of Florence, Italy… one of my favorite places in Italy. Lina’s mother dies of cancer and has spent her last months talking with Lina about her time in Italy. She wants so badly for Lina to move there and live with a man named Howard. So she goes there and lives with him in a WWII cemetery where he is the groundskeeper. Lina is given the journal that her mom wrote in while she was living in Italy, and she learns so much about her mom and herself. Pretty much the entire story is Lina walking in her mother’s footsteps, while also falling in love and experiencing Italy. I loved every page.

3. Howard is the kind of guy every girl wishes was her dad. He clumsily navigates his relationship in a way that only a man who has no idea what a teenage girl is could. But he is so full of love and only wants what’s best for her. If that’s an overflowing plate of lasagne or a shoulder to cry on, he’ll give you both.

4. Lina is strong in the wake of her biggest personal tragedy to date, and I admired her. She flies all the way to Italy and into the unknown while mourning the loss of her mom. She pouts and mopes and comes up with a million reasons to go home, but she also searches for answers and discovers why she’s there. Ren is very sweet and goofy, and I loved his personality. The supporting characters are all great, too. Ren’s mom is so much fun. Ren’s friends are great.

5. So much Italy! And so much gelato! It was like I was there again.

6. The writing was lovely. I can’t say much more about it, other than the fact that I remember the story and the people more than the writing. I think an author does their job when that happens.

All in all, I will be forever grateful to Jenna Evans Welch for reminding me why I love YA so much. I’ve read two more YA contemporary romances since I read this book, and I loved them both. I think I’m out of my slump! I loved going back to Italy and watching Lina figure out who she was and where she came from. I highly recommend Love & Gelato.


Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted March 28, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewStarry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 3, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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5 Stars
Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Jenn Bennett is a wonderful storyteller, and is quickly becoming a YA author that I trust to provide some really sweet, swoony contemporary romances. After really enjoying Alex, Approximately, I was excited to spot this next book of hers on Edelweiss. I’m happy to report that I loved this one even more. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I was immediately drawn to the unique plot elements that were mentioned in the synopsis. Former best friends go camping and end up stranded in the wilderness, having to fend for themselves. I love survival stories, and stories that take place outdoors so I really loved this idea. It was done SO WELL.

2. I loved the little tidbits about how to survive outdoors, as well as the beautiful descriptions of scenery. There’s a pretty intense thunderstorm that happens in this book, and I was captivated by the way the author portrayed it.

3. The characters are sweet and quirky. I know I will never forget Lennon, son of a sex shop owning lesbian couple and a punk rocker has-been. He loves reptiles and graphic novels, wears all black, and has spiky hair and a dry sense of humor. He’s also very loving, loyal, kind of broken, and very mysterious. I loved him! Zorie is a wannabe astronomer, who gazes at life through the eyepiece of her telescope. Her birth mother died when she was young, and she’s fallen in love with her dad’s Korean wife, Joy, and adopted her as her real mom. This family, like all families, has some issues. As Zorie and Lennon work to survive the wilderness and the elements, they talk and work through how to survive their lives as well. They both grow so much individually as well as together, and I loved watching them process real emotions together.

4. Things got really good for me once the glamping trip ended and Lennon and Zorie were left to fend for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the parts leading up to that, but I got super invested at this point in the story and had a really hard time putting my book down to go to bed.

5. There was a strong focus on friendship and relationships that I loved.

6. I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s some major girl power moments towards the end of the book that had me cheering. I love strong women in books because they inspire me to be more assertive and not take crap from anyone.

All in all, I loved Starry Eyes. It’s swoony and deep and angsty and full of so much reality, set against the love-hate relationship between two best-friends-turned-enemies as they traverse the elements and depend on one another to survive the literal wilderness, as well as their own wild, untamed lives.


Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher | Book Review

Posted January 18, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher | Book ReviewStolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher
Published by Chicken House on May 4, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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5 Stars
It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist--almost.

I’ve always had a weird fascination with kidnapping stories. I enjoy reading the stories of the survivors because I find them to be hopeful and inspiring. I sometimes get bogged down in my own life and forget to be thankful for what I do have. These stories remind me that I’m safe and I’m loved. And if these victims can survive and bring good from their experience (I’m thinking of people like Elizabeth Smart), then I can survive my own life too. Stolen really made me think, and I think that that’s what I loved most about it.

Stolen is a very unique take on the typical kidnapping/crime novel. The entire book is written as a letter from Gemma to her captor after her rescue, and I loved that about it. She actually talks to him, telling him her entire story as if he wasn’t there. We get to read her thoughts and her interpretations and her feelings about everything that happened while they were together in the Australian Outback. We know exactly how everything impacted her, and we get to see the evolution of her going from fight mode to complacency mode to sympathetic mode. We get to watch her as she goes from hating him with everything she had to almost loving him. I’ll admit, it even happened to me. I had to get real with myself and say, “Jana… he kidnapped her. He isolated her. He took away her freedom. Why are you hoping a romance blooms? That’s nuts!” And it is nuts! What Ty did to her was wrong, awful, traumatizing, despicable. I was frustrated with myself for falling into the same kind of trance Gemma did. It was all very real and emotional and so beautifully written. This book was real enough and sneaky enough to make me develop a little Stockholm Syndrome with her. If I didn’t believe that words had power before, I do now.

I don’t want to say much more, as this is a book you truly need to read and take in on your own in order to really understand it. I think it’s important to note, however, that Ty did nothing of a sexual nature to Gemma. There’s no rape, no sexual abuse, not even any touching. I know this happens more often than not in real life stories like Stolen, and that many captives are not a fraction as lucky as Gemma is. This would have been way too upsetting for me to read, though, so I am grateful that this was not a part of Gemma’s story.

All in all, this is a powerful, beautiful, emotionally confusing and enthralling read. I can see why it is recognized as a Printz honor book. It’s unique and really makes you think. I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone.


Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Mini Book Review

Posted January 15, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Mini Book ReviewMr. Kiss and Tell by Jennifer Graham, Rob Thomas
Series: Veronica Mars #2
Also in this series: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line
Published by Vintage Books on January 20, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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4 Stars
The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman's story.

The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?

In my raving review of The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line I explained how much I love Veronica Mars. And I’m going to pretty much ditto everything I said there in this review (so maybe go read that review as well?). Mr. Kiss and Tell is another great Veronica Mars mystery novel, although I did not love the mystery as much as I did the first one (although it’s very close to Veronica’s heart because of her own past). But that’s ok because Veronica and Logan!!! He wasn’t really around in the first book, save for some Skype calls (he’s in the military), but he’s here now and he brought all of wit and banter with him! This is what we marshmallows have been waiting for.

I don’t have much else to say because I don’t want to take away from anyone’s reading experience. I TOTALLY recommend this book and the first to fans of Veronica Mars.


The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Book Review

Posted January 12, 2018 by Jana in About Me, Book Review / 10 Comments

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Book ReviewThe Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Jennifer Graham, Rob Thomas
Series: Veronica Mars #1
Also in this series: Mr. Kiss and Tell
Published by Vintage Books on March 25, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 324
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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5 Stars
Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She's traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it's spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is not a simple missing person's case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica's past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

I absolutely love Veronica Mars. I discovered the TV show a few years ago when my friend, Jess, sent me the complete DVD set as a gift after finding out I’d never seen it. And a huge fan was born! Even though I knew the TV series would end, I was still soooo sad when it did. Then I discovered that the writers of the show also wrote two books and I was elated. I was not disappointed. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. This book is definitely a gift to Veronica Mars fans. I’m sure you’d enjoy reading it if you’ve never seen the show, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to. This book takes place years after the series and the movie, so it really goes without saying that you’ll be happier and love it more if you watch all of those first.

2. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line reads like an episode of the show, and I LOVED that about it. Veronica’s inner monologues are still golden. Her snark is perfection. I was all smiles.

3. Veronica is back in Neptune, and so are all of our favorite characters (Mac) and not-so favorite characters (Sheriff Lamb).

4. The mystery is actually really amazing. I was invested not just because I love the characters and the world, but because I was legitimately curious about how the mystery of the missing girl would be solved. It was exciting and filled with twists and turns.

5. The writing was awesome. There’s a lot of books out there that serve as sequels of or extensions to TV shows or movies, and I can’t imagine that any of them were as well done or pleasant to read. Nothing was missing for me. I wasn’t wishing I was watching it instead of reading it. I just loved it, and that seems crazy to me!

Overall, if you loved the show you will love this book and then re-watch the TV series as soon as you’ve finished it. I loved being back in Neptune with the gang, tagging along on one of their cases again.


Public Relations by Katie Heaney & Arianna Rebolini | Book Review

Posted January 5, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 13 Comments

Public Relations by Katie Heaney & Arianna Rebolini  | Book ReviewPublic Relations by Arianna Rebolini, Katie Heaney
Published by Grand Central Publishing on May 9, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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1.5 Stars
Young PR star Rose Reed is thrown into the big leagues when her boss leaves town the day of the firm's meeting with Archie Fox, a young, hot, internationally famous British singer-songwriter. The meeting is going badly until Rose suggests a staged romance with up-and-coming, young indie star Raya. He'll do it, but only if Rose becomes his publicist.

As the faux-mance begins to rehabilitate Archie's faltering career, Rose finds his herself having unexpected, inconvenient and definitely unprofessional feelings for the crooner. But do late night texts and impromptu burrito binges mean he feels the same? In the end, Rose will have to decide whether to let her fantasy crush go, or to risk her reputation to be with the charming, handsome, scoundrel-y but sweet pop star she's grown to love.

Ever since I read and loved The Hating Game, I’ve been seeking out for workplace romances similar to it. While it was fun, I think my expectations were a little too high. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I immediately liked Rose for her ability to stand up for herself (and not keep quiet as she was instructed) and voice her opinions during the client meeting that would inevitably change her life. Her inner monologue was very entertaining.

2. I liked Archie as well, but felt like he was very shallowly developed. He seemed like the typical celebrity cardboard cut-out character, with no real personality or unique traits. I’ve seen multiple reviewers compare him to Harry Styles of One Direction, so… it would appear that not much thought was put into his character specifically. It was all very surface level. We just never got to know him.

3. While the all the PR talk was interesting for a while, it got very old very fast. I seriously just didn’t care.

4. By the 50% mark on my kindle, I seriously felt like nothing had happened yet. Things moved very slowly. It was seriously as boring as the book’s title.

5. I wanted more romance. More swoons. Things burned so slowly that it was hardly noticeable. This book really is more chick lit than romance.

6. I really dislike stories with main characters who are celebrities. I hoped this one would be different, but I just don’t like the spoiled, lime-light seeking, entitled characters that we come across so often in stories like those.

7. I tend to really love the fauxmance trope, but I guess it comes as no surprise that a fauxmance between celebrities was not at all appealing to me. Seeing all the inner workings of how those kinds of relationships are orchestrated by publicists sitting in an office somewhere and then manipulating social media to convince the world of something was both boring and maddening. It bothered me that Rose spent her free time stalking Archie and his fans on social media, and it bothered me that her job was to lie and make hundreds of thousands of people believe it. I just don’t like the dishonesty.

8. I didn’t even realize until I was finished with the book that it was written by two authors. I commend them both for writing so seamlessly and consistently.

9. What the crap is with the cover?

All in all, this was very “meh” for me. I can totally see the appeal, but Public Relations was just not for me. I would, however, recommend it to people who enjoy reading celebrity gossip and tabloids.


Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano | Mini Book Review

Posted November 30, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano | Mini Book ReviewLost Girls by Merrie Destefano
Published by Entangled Teen on February 14, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 301
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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0.5 Stars
Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

So… This book sounded good. It really did. But I HATED it. I was excited to find out where these “lost girls” went, but as soon as I did (which happens quickly) I was like, “well crap.”. Seriously. This is not good. I have so little to say about this book. It was uninteresting, dark, unbelievable, farfetched, and so slow. I have so little to say that normally I wouldn’t even write a review. But I felt like I needed to warn those who are at risk of being swindled by the book’s synopsis like I was. Major spoiler ahead, so proceed at your own risk.

The lost girls? They’re kidnapped and forced into a teen underground fighting ring. If they’re good, they move to platinum level where they are sold and rape is implied. They’re drugged and abused and it’s awful. The book has so much depressing content, with absolutely no redeeming qualities.

You’ve been warned. Run away. Run far away.

 

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