Genre: Contemporary Romance

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (Book Review)

Posted February 24, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 12 Comments

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (Book Review)Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 13, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 338
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

I love traveling. When I read the blurb for this book on Netgalley, I was sold before I even finished! This book changed my outlook on life. I feel like there was a little bit of me laced within the text. I felt like I was discovering the same things about myself as Bria did–like she was living the story I was supposed to be living. I’m kind of jealous she got to go on the trip, and I just read about it! There is not one thing about this book that I didn’t adore, so let’s begin the fangirl review right here. This is going to be really hard! I always have a really hard time writing a review for a book I love, so we’ll see how this goes!

1. Bria did something I would LOVE to do. She just picked up and went on this crazy adventure through Central America. Along the way, she learned so much about herself and gained a lot of life experience. Plus, she saw amazing places, experienced new things, met cool people, and fell in love. I envy her tenacity, and the fact that she had the guts to fly off on her own like that!

2. This book is artsy! Bria is an artist, and a traveler. Do you know who Bria really is? Bria is ME! Her love of art shone through everything she did, and everything she said. I totally identified with her for these reasons. Kirsten Hubbard is also artsy, thus one of the reasons I love her! She illustrated parts of this book with amazing little pictures! They added so much to the story. I’m totally buying a finished copy of this when it comes out. How can I not support a fellow artist? I can’t wait to see what this looks like when it’s all put together (and not on a Kindle screen).

3. Part of this book takes place in Belize! I love Belize! I was there two summers ago, and it was pretty amazing. It was extremely hot and humid and I was drenched and exhausted, but I loved it! Funny side story: I was held at gunpoint in a tiny little tour boat in the middle of the ocean by several men in the Belizean Coast Guard. The driver of the boat was in some trouble, apparently, and tried to jump out. At one point the tour guide mumbled under her breath, “This is where they kill us.” I’m pretty sure I was not supposed to hear that. Luckily, things got ironed out and we were sent on our way. But OH MAN. What a story, huh? Haha.

4. I loved Rowan. He’s this reformed bad-boy with a travel bug who hops around from destination to destination teaching diving courses and backpacking to hole-in-the-wall hostels where everyone already knows him. He just sounds pretty darn amazing. He’s really mysterious and hardened, but a softy when his walls are torn down. And he’s bookish. Yes please! Some of the banter between him and Bria was hilarious, and the tension between those two had me itching to read more and more about them.

5. The scenery. OH MAN. You can tell Kirsten Hubbard is a travel writer, because the scenery she wrote about was so perfectly described that I could feel the hot sun bearing down on me, the sand between my toes, and the humidity trying to suffocate me. The rainforests and waterfalls and mangroves and Mayan ruins and scenic lakes… I was totally there. This book felt so authentic and realistic. I do think it’s the most well done of all the books I’ve read with a travel element. I could not get enough of these descriptions, and I REALLY hope that Kirsten writes another travel book soon.

6. I loved the slow burn we experience with Bria and Rowan. There is no insta-love here, thank goodness. They start out tolerating one another and gradually move towards a friendship that you can tell is totally going places. It was so sweet and wonderful to read about. They fit so well together, but it takes them a while to fix themselves enough to notice. I loved seeing how they worked through their own problems, and helped each other when they could. They encouraged the best out of each other, which I loved. They were better together than they were apart.

7. Finally, this book brings good things out in me. I’ve got all these amazing goals now, to travel more, to practice my art more, to be spontaneous, to let my hair down and not worry what other people think, to look to the future, to develop other talents, to conquer fears, and to enjoy my life more.

I loved this book. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I feel like my review is extremely inadequate. This is the kind of book that everyone should read. It’s the kind of book that encourages you to take the bull by the horns and go with it. I just felt so refreshed by the end, like I had been the one to go on a whirlwind trip that changed my life. To me, books have always been an escape and this one did the best job at taking me somewhere. I would recommend this to anyone, but read with caution! You’ll end up catching Wanderlove, which I hear takes a whole lot of adventure and self-discovery to find the cure for.


Sea Change by Aimee Friedman (Book Review)

Posted February 15, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman (Book Review)Sea Change by Aimee Friedman
Published by Point on June 1, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 292
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science. . .and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.

There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship. . .and reality.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

I’ve been a fan of mermaid romance novels for quite a while now, and have read many of them. There’s so much an author can do when they are talking about a setting that is so mysterious and unknown to land dwellers like us! That’s why I decided to read Sea Change. It’s not necessarily a mermaid book, but it does deal with mythological themes centered around the ocean. While it was not what I was expecting, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the story.

Let me start by saying that the cover is beautiful! It’s even prettier in person than it is on screen because it shimmers! This mystical story of young love lacks a bit in plot, but makes up for it with charm and magic. Miranda is a very likable, relate-able character. She’s been hurt by people in her not-so-distant past, and is trying to heal during her summer on Selkie Island. She’s warned on the ferry of mystical water creatures and is told to avoid the native islanders because they are “different.” Right when she arrives, she knows this island is unique. She thinks nothing of it, but begins to understand as she explores her aunt’s house and the island itself.

She’s a bit of an odd man out on the island, which is full of rich and snobby socialites. The first night she’s there, she’s invited to an heiress party (she’s an heiress since she inherited her aunt’s estate). It’s stuffy, and the “friends” she makes care mostly about money, fashion, and getting in bed with a hot, young, rich, preppy boy.  Miranda’s not that kind of girl. She’s a brainy good girl from the big city and has to work to survive. That’s another reason I like her. She’s real. In her quest for getting away from the snobs, she goes to a marine center on the island. There, she meets the mysterious Leo. He’s extremely attractive, and someone Miranda feels she would never have a chance with. He latches on to her, though, and they form a very sweet bond that’s surrounded by mystery and intrigue. They have to sneak around since he’s a native, and the heirs and heiresses of the island shun natives. I really liked Leo. He’s down-to-earth, honest, caring, chivalrous, and sweet. It’s no secret either that he’s a very different kind of person.

While the story does not have a complex, fast-paced plot, it is quite intriguing. The reader is given different lessons on mythology and history. You are kept guessing, along with Miranda, until the very end. Unfortunately, I was still guessing after the book was over. I doubt there will be a sequel, but there certainly is room for one. I would have enjoyed learning more about the mythology that lives on Selkie Island, but perhaps we’re meant to make that up in our own minds. The descriptions of the island and the houses were beautiful.

My only real complaint was that the story took so long to build up, that the ending was quite rushed. Miranda and Leo’s story went from casual to intense rather quickly. There was plenty of room to slow it down and make it seem more realistic. All in all, though, this was a very sweet book with a lot of southern charm and pure, innocent love. I think it’s the perfect beach read… or the perfect man-it’s-so-cold-outside-I-wish-it-were-summer read if you can’t wait for summer!


Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne (Mini Book Review)

Posted February 11, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne (Mini Book Review)Caribbean Crusing by Rachel Hawthorne
Published by HarperTEEN on April 15, 2004
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
0.5 Stars
The perfect summer story of a girl, several boys, and a cruise ship full of possibilities.

Lindsay has never been on a cruise, but she knows exactly what she wants to do now that she is: climb a waterfall, snorkel, meet lots of cute guys, and look for one perfect guy for a summer fling.

But her to-do list isn't going according to plan, especially when she discovers that it's impossible to have a fling-when you're actually falling in love.

About a week before I was leaving on a cruise, I ran into the bookstore hoping to find cruise books. I love reading books that sync with a vacation I’m on. I found this in the young adult section, and thought it sounded like a cute read for my upcoming week of floating around in the Caribbean.

However… I was annoyed by this storyline. This girl is on an amazing trip, and do you want to know what she’s most concerned with? Losing her virginity. Yes. That’s her main focus. Does anyone else agree that this is poor subject matter to center a book around? There was no plot other than Lindsay’s frustration with being a virgin. Still. Because at 18, surely she should have slept with numerous guys, right? That’s what high schoolers do, right? Every guy she meets makes her think, “Oh! I could sleep with him… Better be nice!” And I can’t tell you how many “hot body” descriptions I read. I was nauseated. I find it rather frustrating that such a book was written, and then placed in the young adult section. This is where 12-year-olds are instructed to buy books from. Is this seriously a lesson they should be taught? And not only was she looking for sex, she was looking for it with no strings attached. A fling. Seriously? Shallow! And of course she couldn’t see a love interest if he smacked her over the head. So she was shallow and dumb. Lovely. I see no reason why she should be someone a teenage girl should look up to.

When I wasn’t downright annoyed at this book, I was bored. I’ve been on cruises. MANY. There is SO much more to write about than this. I can list countless numbers of interesting cruise ship plots. This one just made me want to throw it overboard. Since I don’t litter I didn’t, plus I would have hated for a cute sea creature to suffer as a result of my frustration. I really can’t say I’d recommend this to anyone.


Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)

Posted January 23, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
Series: Austen Addicts #2
Also in this series: Mr. Darcy Forever
Published by Sourcebooks on January 1, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 280
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
Fledging illustrator and Darcy fanatic Kay Ashton settles in the seaside town of Lyme to finish her book, The Illustrated Darcy, when a film company arrives to make a new adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Kay is soon falling for the handsome bad boy actor playing Captain Wentworth, but it's the quiet screenwriter Adam Craig who has more in common with her beloved Mr. Darcy. Though still healing from a broken heart, Adam finds himself unexpectedly in love with Kay. But it will take more than good intentions to convince her that her real happy ending is with him.

(While this is book #2 in a series, I contacted the author and she said each novel is a standalone, and they can be read out of order.)

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I loved the little town of Lyme. It sounds breathtaking, and I have always thought it would be fun to own a B&B by the sea. Kay’s sounds very cute and old-fashioned, with lots of character and charm. I liked the two actresses, Sophie and Gemma. They are very sweet and caring, and end up being great friends to Kay. I like Adam a lot, and think he’s a saint for putting up with Kay’s antics. He’s hopelessly in love with her, while she is trying to set him up with someone else (like Emma Woodhouse would). She’s completely clueless! The smartest person in this book is Adam’s eccentric Nana, who tells it like it is. She totally knows what’s going on, and is perfectly willing to voice her opinions. I liked her!

I had a hard time with the insta-love. Everyone falls in love with everyone really fast! With Adam, it’s love at first sight. He falls for Kay, the girl with the “toffee-colored hair” before he even knows her name. (By the way, you’ll get really tired of the phrase “toffee-colored hair”. It is used a LOT in this book.) Kay falls in love with Oli (the male lead in the movie) really fast. She’s planning their wedding and naming their children, and he hasn’t even kissed her yet. He hasn’t even told her he likes her yet! Gemma’s love interest takes a little more time, but again it’s love at first sight for him and love at first realization that he loves her for her. This is just not realistic! These characters are not junior high schoolers who think they are in love because they’ve never felt it before! And why is everyone so clueless? Kay is clueless about everything, Adam is spineless and won’t tell Kay that he likes her and not the girl she’s trying to match him with, Gemma is clueless and can’t figure out why a guy is being nice to her. People are not this dumb! Really, it felt like high school and all the he-said-she-said drama. These people are too old for this. I think this is the reason that I didn’t really connect with any of them. I just kept wanting to smack them.

Kay has conversations with herself, which are just weird to me. I don’t sit and actually have a conversation with myself, especially out loud. I guess I just don’t like it when characters have conversations with themselves, because I had the same complaint with Midnight in Austenland. Also… the title led me to believe I was going to be reading a Pride and Prejudice spin-off. This book is all centered around Persuasion, though, so you’ll be hearing much more about Captain Wentworth than Mr. Darcy. I’m not complaining or anything, and I really enjoyed reading about the romantic story of Persuasion. I just thought it was worth mentioning for those who are on the look-out for P&P retellings or spin-offs. This isn’t one.

My favorite part was when two characters get completely drenched in a downpour and have to make due with borrowed clothes. The guy has no pants, a bright yellow raincoat, and a t-shirt. The girl is wearing granny clothes that are too big. That was funny. And I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Cobb and the surrounding area. I’ve always really wanted to go to England, so any book that describes it to me is a book I appreciate. I really liked the idea of the novel as well. There were just a few parts that kept me from liking it as much as I could have, and expected to.

I’m glad I read Dreaming of Mr. Darcy. I was really excited for it, and it was a nice change from all the dark dystopias I’ve been reading lately. I just had higher expectations. Like all romances, everyone ends up with who you want/expect them to. I still plan to read the other stories in this series, and hope to connect with them more. :)


Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale (Book Review)

Posted January 16, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale (Book Review)Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Series: Austenland #2
Also in this series: Austenland
Published by Bloomsbury on January 31, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 277
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

Midnight in Austenland is the companion novel to Hale’s Austenland (read my review), which I have been gushing about across the Internet for EVER. Lucky for you, the release date was pushed up a few days, so you can grab yourself a copy of it even sooner than I had originally said! Oh, and I love the cover. It’s so pretty!

Austenland is one of my favorite books in life, so I knew it would take a lot to supersede (or even meet) my really high expectations for its companion. I went into this knowing that it was a companion novel and not a sequel, so I would not be reunited with my beloved characters from book 1. No biggie, I just miss them. Midnight focuses less on the romance, and more on an underlying murder mystery, which was pretty exciting (although the romance is totally there). It was a cute book, but I’ll always love the first one better. Seriously, though, when is the second book ever better than the first one? I think it all boils down to the fact that the heroine in Austenland (Jane) was so much better and more likeable than the one in Midnight (Charlotte). I still liked Charlotte, I just didn’t identify with her as much as I did Jane (seeing as how I’m not a divorced mother of two, but I am a closet Mr. Darcy Lover with a desire to hide my overly used BBC copy of P&P like Jane did.). I don’t have a ton to say about this book, but I broke up my thoughts into several different sections:

1. I loved the mystery/murder/suspense aspects that were woven throughout the book. It was a bit spooky, and I know I’m a chicken, but… I had a hard time reading after the family went to bed! When I started the book, I really was not expecting this. The characters sat around in the parlor playing mindless little games, and this mystery was a game initially. Then it broke out into the truth, and really blindsided everyone, including me.

2. The “Inner Thoughts” drove me nuts. The heroine’s inner thoughts speak to her a lot in this book, and she has frequent conversations with them. I hated it. It was so cheesy and done in a rather unnecessary, bulky sort of way. It was like she had multiple personalities that talked to each other. Kinda weird.

3. I did enjoy the romance. I ALWAYS enjoy the romance, and this love story is pretty dang cute. Charlotte is divorced, and her ex-husband recently re-married. So she decided to get away. The “resort” hires men to be love interests for the female paying customers. Just like in the first novel, a true romance bloomed… but a less predicable one. Hales is great at writing love stories. I would get butterflies in my stomach, like I was the one who was in love! Haha.

4. I love the idea of a themed vacation. I want to go find a company that actually does this, and book my trip! It would be so much fun to fly off to England, wear regency clothing, and live in an old mansion with chivalrous men hanging on your every word. Both Austenland and Midnight in Austenland made me feel like a vacation like that was really possible!  

If you loved the first one, I think you’ll really enjoy this one too. I recommend it to lovers of Jane Austen, a little mystery, and a sweet love story. 


My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by B. Wilhite (Book Review)

Posted January 13, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by B. Wilhite (Book Review)My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite
Published by Shadow Mountain on March 3, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 181
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Sarah Howard's first year at the university is everything and nothing she expected especially when a very cute boy named Ben in her Art History class starts to show interest in her.

Sarah feels like she's an average, normal, everyday girl. So, when Ben (to whom she secretly refers as Adonis because she thinks he could be a Greek god) begins to take interest in her, Sarah is in denial. For one thing, last year she was deeply crushed and humiliated by Jesse James a guy who she thought liked her.

She's determined not to get burned again. But in her heart of hearts, what she really wants is a Jane Austen kind of romance. Ridiculous, right? That kind of romance doesn t exist anymore . . . or does it? Sarah is smart and fun to be around and even pretty, despite her Medusa-like red curls. She even plays the guitar. (So does Ben!) Yes, Sarah is everything Ben has wanted. He's crazy for her, but Sarah is just not getting it. She's playing hard to get, and if she s not careful, she s going to lose a real hot gentleman -- her 21st-century Mr. Darcy.

So, this is kind of a mini book review! It’s a REALLY cute story. This is the kind of story that will instantly improve your mood and make you smile. I was actually laughing out loud and then reading parts of it to a co-worker. I never laugh out loud when I read, especially while I’m at work!

Sarah compares her life to a romance novel. I do that a lot too! I read a ton of romance books or books with romantic overtones, and always find myself looking for a novel romance in my own life. I identified with her a lot for this reason. And even though she reads a lot of these novels, she’s not very good at handling her own romances! I love her internal dialogue and her flip-out sessions over the latest conundrum. My only complaint is that she was SO clueless about how this guy felt about her. Her best friends were drilling it into her head that he liked her. He was moping right in front of her face when she called him a “good friend.” College freshman girls are not THAT clueless, especially if they are romance novel junkies. I just wanted to shake her! Almost the last half of the book was a total miscommunication, when all I really wanted was more cute romance and conversations between the two of them. I’ll admit, though, the miscommunication was pretty funny and kept me turning the pages to see what happened next.

My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions is a quick read that will only take you an hour or two to get through, but will leave you smiling. It’s definitely a book I needed in order to pull myself out of the dark supernatural/dystopian rut I was in. I absolutely love YA contemporary, and this one is one of my favorites!


The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber (Book Review)

Posted December 21, 2011 by Jana in Book Review / 7 Comments

The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber (Book Review)The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Published by Mira on September 29, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 232
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR CHRISTMAS PERFECT?

For Cassie Beaumont, it's meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing's worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.

What's left? A professional matchmaker. He's Simon Dodson, and he's very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she's astonished when he accepts her as a client.

Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa's elf at a children's party and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all --- and she's finally ready to meet her match.

But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise!

First off, yay!!! Two reviews in two days! So proud. :) I really do love this time of year, and I love ingesting as much sweet stuff as possible, both by way of mouth (unfortunately) and by way of entertainment! I watch Christmas movies all month, make Christmas cookies and fudge, design Christmassy jewelry, and listen to the Carpenters wish their darlings a merry Christmas. Finally, I’m guilty of hunting down the cutest Christmas romances all year and saving them for after Thanksgiving, as you’ve seen me do all December here at the blog. I read as many as possible. This kind of book follows the same formula that all other Christmas romances follow. The people are sweeter than candy canes, merrier than the elves, and jollier than Saint Nick himself. And of course… there’s the one woman going through her quarter-life crisis, hoping for a boyfriend for Christmas, followed by a bun in the oven and a white-picket fence. I’m typically not a sappy person, but for some reason I enjoy this during the holidays!

Doesn’t that synopsis just make you smile? I knew that, ultimately, the entire book would be pure, predictable, fluff. But it was extremely sweet, and I did really enjoy it! I got pretty tired of listening to Cassie complain for the first 30 or so pages, but it got so much better once she was done introducing her predicament and venting about it. I adored Simon’s character. He was the scrooge of the book, who did not believe in love even though his profession was to help others find it. I love the banter he and Cassie share back and forth. As Cassie goes through the process of completing her three tasks, she experiences some funny things and also some heartwarming things. You grow to like her, and her totally awesome brother (I’d date him!). It does have a very sweet ending, and everyone is overflowing with happiness and the spirit of Christmas.

It was a cute, fast, fluffy read but I love that at Christmastime! Now, it’s not a piece of genius literature, nor does it have a very original plot. It’s very predictable, and I knew from the very beginning what was going to happen. If you’re looking for a challenge, or looking to be captivated, this is probably not the book for you. If you’re looking for a quick dose of cute Christmas sappiness, then perhaps you’d take from this book the same things I did.


Let it Snow, by J. Green, M. Johnson, & L. Myracle (Book Review)

Posted December 20, 2011 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 9 Comments

Let it Snow, by J. Green, M. Johnson, & L. Myracle (Book Review)Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, Maureen Johnson
Published by Speak on October 2, 2008
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

I love Christmas romances that aren’t sad. Why do all Christmas books have to be sad? The back of the book always says, “After Mindy’s mother died, her dog got hit by a car, her husband divorced her, and her kid ran away from home… she meets a man at the ER who was severely burned and can’t see. Love blooms, and a Christmas miracle happens.” Haven’t you read that before? Ugh. Christmas is happy! Not sad! The back of this book sounds happy. :) So I decided it was worth a shot, even though I don’t like the idea of short stories. I like to read a book that is one big story. Not three little ones. Needless to say, this book was a gamble. JACKPOT!! Halleluiah! I LOVED IT! Gush, gush, gush. Ok, on to the review. (Clearly I don’t read enough books that cause happiness to gush out of me. I’m not crazy, I promise.) Oh, and wanna know what else is fun? These three stories are all intermingled. I didn’t realize this until I started in on story #2. They all take place on and around Christmas Eve in Gracetown, NC during the biggest blizzard in the last 50 years. Each story discusses different characters, who end up all being connected. I loved all of them, and want to go find everyone at The Waffle House in Gracetown now.

The first story is called The Jubilee Express, by Maureen Johnson. I’d never read anything by her, and pretty much adore her now. Not many authors make me love them in roughly 100 pages, but I’m about to go buy more of her books! Anyway, there’s a girl named Jubilee (she was named after a building in a very expensive Santa village! Hahah!) who finds herself on a train to Florida because her parents decided to be crazy this year. A big snowstorm causes the train to stop in a small town, where she finds some interesting people (and some sweet ones) in the Waffle House. Her Christmas plans end up needing a slight alteration, but I doubt anyone would feel that she suffered as a result! I loved this story. Jubilee is hilarious. The thoughts running through her head had me laughing out loud. I loved the main guy in this story too. He is so sweet and sensitive. I’m not giving away more of the plot, because you just need to read it. That is all.

The second story is called A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, by John Green. Oh my. It’s hilarious. The main guy, Tobin, has two friends named JP (my favorite character, because he is amazing) and the Duke (Angie). While watching Bond movies, they get a call on Christmas Eve to hightail it to the Waffle House to see 14 stranded cheerleaders from the same train Jubliee was on, hanging out and being cheerleadery. Their journey to this Waffle House (in the middle of a blizzard) is priceless. It includes a lost wheel, some scary twins, a Twister mat sled, and a dangerous beer keg. I died of laughter. And of course, it turns out to be an adorable story. I want to meet JP. The things he says are hilarious, plus he was wearing Tobin’s dad’s baby blue ski suit for the entire story because he thought it would make him look like a hardcore skier, just back from the slopes. Gotta impress those cheerleaders! Oh, good stuff, Mr. John Green.

The last story is called The Patron Saint of Pigs, by Lauren Myracle. This was a very “meh” read for me. Luckily it was the last story, because I don’t think I would have continued with the book if it had been the first.  It’s all about this girl named Addie, who I didn’t care for much, who cheated on her boyfriend a week before Christmas, dumped him, and now wants him back. She spends a lot of time whining about her situation, even though it’s her fault. And she spends a lot of time being mad at him for not responding to her latest apology e-mail with open arms. She CHEATED on him. Why does she expect a happy ending to this? The story also involves a little old lady who thinks she’s an angel, and a quest to acquire a little teacup pig that is to be her friend’s Christmas present. It was just weird, and a pretty weak way to end the book. The first two stories were brilliant, and long-lasting loves for me. This story really fell flat, and pales in comparison. The ending was also pretty cliche and unrealistic. I can look past this story, though, and rate this book 5 stars for the other two. If we factor in my rating for this one, the book would probably get a 3.5.

I definitely see myself re-reading the first two stories a lot. They are so sweet and Christmasy, not to mention a quick dose of the Holiday spirit. I was delighted to find them. Did anyone here love the third story? I’m pretty lenient when it comes to Christmas reads, but I held this one to pretty high standards after the first two. What do you think?


Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, by Cohn & Levithan (Book Review)

Posted December 1, 2011 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 11 Comments

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, by Cohn & Levithan (Book Review)Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan, Rachel Cohn
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 26, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 260
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Happy first day of December! This month, it is all Christmas books for Jana! I love Christmas books, and this one was my first choice. I had heard the Dash & Lily buzz everywhere, and I was waiting until the Christmas season to start it! It was a tough wait, seeing as how I found out about it on Christmas Eve last year! I had to wait a long time! It was worth the wait, though, and I dove into it as soon as I was in bed on Thanksgiving night.

This book is a fun little gem that is the kind of book everyone will end up reading eventually. I loved the uniqueness of the story. I would absolutely love to discover a little red notebook full of dares in my favorite bookstore! The dares were fun and unique, and put both Dash and Lily in weird positions–more so for Dash than Lily. I’ll say two words about it and then leave it at that: fresh Santa. Haha! Loved it. These two were running all over New York City doing tasks, and then leaving the notebook for the other one to find. The anticipation and the mystery behind this cute exchange was incredibly fun and heartwarming to read about! The book alternates back and forth between Dash and Lily, just like the notebook does. According to the authors blurb and the end of the book, Cohn (Lily) and Levithan (Dash) e-mailed the chapters back and forth to each other and then continued writing the story as they got new content. I love that the book was created essentially the same way that the red notebook IN the book was. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me. In doing this, each author gave their own character a distinct voice. I loved the result!

Dash and Lily are very quirky characters. Dash hates Christmas, and lies to both of his divorced parents, saying that he is spending the holiday with the other. That way he can spend it alone. He’s a bookish, hipster nerd whose biggest wish in life is to own his own 22-volume Oxford English Dictionary. Other than being very bookish herself, Lily is the complete opposite. She’s a perky Christmas lover, but is abandoned by her parents who go to Fiji, and her brother who ignores her to spend time with his boyfriend. The exchange with Dash is the only thing that keeps her grounded. She’s pretty unique. The descriptions of her outrageous outfits match the descriptions of her funny nature. Even so, she seems pretty mature for her age. Her rambunctiousness and uniqueness is a nice contrast to Dash’s rather mundane existence. He’s deep, and has funny things to say, but Lily is definitely the part of that duo that grabs attention just by walking down the street. I love that Dash is amused by her. It’s so sweet. I love that the notebook strips them of their hiding places, and brings them out from behind their walls to really get to know each other in a way that they might not have if they had met under different circumstances.

They experience a lot of feelings and emotions together: loss, loneliness, curiosity, happiness, sadness, hope, worry, self-doubt, and they laugh a lot. They think about each other often, and try to imagine what the other one is feeling. They find themselves concerned about the other pretty much all the time. They pose important questions in the notebook, not just, “What’s your favorite color?” Together, they realize that they care about each other a lot more than they thought they did. Sometimes that’s a scary thing to realize, and they both know it. I enjoyed reading about a deep relationship that is so important to each of them, they spend time worrying and doubting themselves. As they wrote more to each other, they reflected on their responses. It was a quick development, but they did it with finesse. I can totally see how they fell for each other so quickly. They learned more about each other in that short time than some people learn in a year. Neither of them was perfect, but that actually ended up making them perfect for each other.

The things they said or thought were often hilarious, but they also had some very deep thoughts that made me think. One quote in particular that I just loved was thought by Lily, “You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here’s a hint—ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn’t just the women. It’s the great male fantasy—all it takes is one dance to know that she’s the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face. And right away you know—this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don’t want a very long courtship. They want to know immediately.” LOVE that. It’s so profound, and so true! We girls are not the only ones looking for a fairytale. 

My final thoughts: Dash and Lily is a pretty adorable book about a Christmastime romance between two unsuspecting teens who are a lot more mature than is to be expected. Throughout the red notebook’s journey, these two learn things about themselves and each other. As they learn more, they grow closer. They realize perfection is not necessary, and that girls aren’t the only ones who dream of fairy tales. It was a magical read for me that took place in my favorite city in the USA. I definitely recommend this to those of you who enjoy Christmas romances, but hardly ever read any because they are all SO cheesy and cover every possible emotion all at once. This book is nothing like that, and you’ll love it. :)

And on that note… It’s time for me to scour the shelves of the local bookstores to see if Mr. Right has caught on to this awesome idea yet.


Carrie Goes off the Map, by Phillipa Ashley (Book Review)

Posted November 16, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Carrie Goes off the Map, by Phillipa Ashley (Book Review)Carrie Goes Off the Map by Phillipa Ashley
Published by Sourcebooks on December 1, 2001
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 376
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Carrie Brownhill lets her best friend talk her into a scenic European road trip as the perfect getaway from a nasty breakup with her fiancé. Unexpectedly along for the ride is the gorgeous and intriguing Matt Landor, MD, who sorely tests Carrie’s determination to give up men altogether. Careening through the English countryside in a VW camper van, these two mismatched but perfectly attuned lonely hearts find themselves in hot pursuit of adventure and in uncharted territory altogether…

This book was lovely for several uncommon reasons: 1. The characters are my age! I’m so used to reading about tweens, teenagers, and middle-aged adults. I rarely read about characters who are mid-to-late twenties. It was refreshing. 2. This book is an amazing book to help you feel better after a nasty break-up. I wish I’d had this book a few years ago when I went through one of those. 3. Traveling!!!!! I love books where people travel, and what’s better than driving through England in a camper van named Dolly?

So, Carrie is engaged to her business partner: a farmer guy named Huw. One night he comes home from a stag party and tells her he can’t marry her anymore. Of course, she’s heartbroken. Who wouldn’t be? THEN… just 4 months later, Huw is getting married to the woman he cheated on her with! She finds out on the day of his wedding, and runs to the church to crash the ceremony and call him out. She chickens out, though, and just ruins a very expensive flower arrangement outside the church. At this point, her best friend Rowena is pretty worried about Carrie, and decides the two of them need to go on a roadtrip to Italy and beyond. Things are all set and ready to go, when Rowena gets a job on a soap opera and has to back out of the trip the morning of. She mischievously calls on Dr. Matt Landor, an old friend from college to go with Carrie instead. Matt’s currently home from a small island where he works as a doctor for a charitable organization, and has absolutely nothing to do. His passport is also expired, and so they can’t leave England. Carrie is mortified at this change in plans, but Matt finally talks her into going on a trip with him. They spend just over a month traveling around the English countryside meeting new people, and getting to know each other far better than they expected. Love blossoms among several different sets of characters. There’s even a bit of a scary twist that makes you worry for the characters! Mix all of this together with a lot of British slang that I had a hard time understanding at first, and you have a very cute romantic comedy on your hands.

Carrie is hilarious. She destroyed a flower arrangement with a hose! I hope that if my fiance dumps me for a skank named Fanella, I will have the guts to do something like this. I like her sense of adventure, and her determination. Not only does she get over Huw, but she has fun doing it. Matt is the brooding sexy type. Carrie compares him to Mr. Darcy, and I have to agree. He’s tall, dark, handsome, troubled, and covers up his love for Carrie with witty banter and silly arguments. He and Carrie have great chemistry. Some of their conversations and flirtatious moments had me laughing. I enjoyed the supporting characters, which included some pretty funny hippie surfer dudes who end up lying on the beach stoned more than they actually surf, and a stuck up gaggle of socialites who add the word “darling” to the end of every sentence.

While you pretty much know how everything will turn out, you don’t know how everything will be wrapped up. There were twists, turns, misunderstandings, and some lovely character development. The timeline of the book covers more time than I’m used to (over a year), which was nice. I loved the setting of the book. Carrie and Matt spent a lot of time along the water, and the author wrote some lovely descriptions.

Overall, this was a great read! I really enjoyed the plot line and the writing, although I would have appreciated fewer f-words. I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy travel, England, quirky characters, and romance. I’ll definitely be pursuing more Phillipa Ashley books.The release date is December 1st of this year, so you don’t have to wait too long to get your hands on it! It’s definitely a nice, happy read that will warm your heart during these chilly, wintery months. Happy reading!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...