Genre: Romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

1. THE COVER. Moving on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This review was originally posted on May 13, 2016.


Firelight by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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: From the Publisher
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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.


A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier | Book Review

Posted September 6, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier | Book ReviewA Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier
Series: Beyond the Four Kingdoms #1
on September 4, 2017
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 345
Format: Audiobook
Source: Christmas Present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, Lily hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse--one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.

Lily spends her nights competing in a magical underground realm and her days unraveling the dangers of this new court. Although she needs the help of the Marinese prince, Lily knows she can't let herself grow too close to him. There's no time for romance when the duchy is about to fall to the encroaching darkness and the winner of the tournament faces a terrible fate.

But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there's a lot more at stake than worn out dancing slippers.

I’ve always really loved fairytale retellings, and I accidentally stumbled across this one last year while I was browsing Amazon looking for Christmas present ideas for people. That’s a super dangerous thing to do, isn’t it? I always find more things that I want than anything else! This was a beautiful story, though, so I don’t even regret it! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. A Dance of Silver and Shadow is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which I’m really unfamiliar with. And when I say unfamiliar, I mean that I know absolutely nothing. I’m tempted to go read it now to see how closely this story follows the original. Anyway, this book is centered around a “Princess Tournament” (the characters all refer to this as the “Princess Tourney”, which drove me absolutely insane until I learned to live with it). Twelve princesses from various kingdoms have been gathered together to compete in a series of challenges. The tournament itself is governed by magic, and the tasks that the princesses must perform reflect the prince that the tournament is being held for. The winner of this particular tournament will enter a betrothal with the beastly prince of Palinar (any guesses which fairytale the next book in this series will retell?). None of the girls want to win, as tales of the beast are frightening, but harm will come upon them and their families if they don’t put forth and honest effort.

Every few nights, a ball is held where the princesses dance and mingle with members of the kingdoms who have come for the tourney. After the ball is over the girls are all sent into a room, where a magical portal opens in the floor and they climb down to enter an underground realm with forest, a lake, and a mirror version of the palace above ground. This is where the challenges, some of them very dangerous, occur. The princesses return in the wee hours of the morning, their slippers worn through. The magic of the tourney prevents them from discussing the goings on with anyone, even amongst themselves. The premise is really very interesting!

2. Princess Lily and Princess Sophie are our two main characters. They are twins, who can project their thoughts to each others’ minds. They are incredibly close, and I loved their sisterly bond. They are also two of the older princesses in the tourney (17, I believe). Lily narrates the story, and I liked her voice. She’s strong and brave, and feels it is her duty to protect the other princesses (some of them much younger) during the tourney. She takes it upon herself to help them and keep them safe. She also finds herself falling for the Marinese prince. While residing in Marin for the tourney, she learns of the dangers in the kingdom and decides she must save Marin as well! It’s a pretty big undertaking for a young princess.

3. I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and found it to be mostly enjoyable. I didn’t love the sharp voice the narrator used for some of the characters. Luckily the voice she used for Lily did not bother me, since we listened to her narration a lot. The male voices were not done well at all, in my opinion, but I was able to look past that and enjoy listening.

4. The tourney was very creepy to me, and I loved reading about the different tasks the princesses had to complete. The realm where everything takes place has been corrupted by a sinister magical force, so things felt very unsettled. It was exciting and suspenseful! 

5. Some of the other princesses really bothered me, particularly the younger ones. They were very whiny and complained a lot, but I did like Celine. I’d love to read a book about her soon.

6. A Dance of Silver and Shadow is completely clean, with no bad language and just a light romance on the side.

7. I LOVE Melanie’s writing. It’s so lush and descriptive!

8. The ending made me immediately start the second book because I had to know more. Make sure you don’t read the synopsis for A Tale of Beauty and Beast, though, until you read this book or you will find out who wins the tourney!

Overall, I really loved this story and I’m so excited that I’ve found an author I like who does retellings. I don’t read nearly enough good ones. I don’t know how closely this one follows the original, but that didn’t matter to me at all. If you enjoy retellings, magic, fantasy worlds, mysterious kingdoms, sister bonds, strong female characters who don’t need a man to save them, and beautiful writing, definitely give this book a try!


Illusions by Aprilynne Pike | Book Review

Posted September 3, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Illusions by Aprilynne Pike | Book ReviewIllusions by Aprilynne Pike
Series: Wings #3
Published by HarperTEEN on May 3, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
"I don't do patrols, I don't go hunting, I just stick close to you. You live your life. I'll keep you safe," Tamani said, sweeping a lock of hair from her face. "Or die trying."

Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.

Illusions is  my favorite of the Wings series so far. It was magical, romantic, adventurous, and I got through it in 24 hours!

For the most part, I really like the characters. There’s Laurel, her boyfriend David, her sentry/guardian Tamani, her best friend Chelsea, and Chelsea’s boyfriend Ryan. There’s also a troll-hunter, Klea who I don’t like, and Klea’s foster child from Japan, Yuki. They are all different, they have personality, and they are all people I could see myself being friends with. These people are not annoying, whiny little teenagers. I forget they are in high school. Thank you, Aprilynne.  It’s so nice to read a book where the high schoolers don’t act like stereotypical high schoolers.

So, these characters are off attending high school, keeping the secrets of Faerie a secret, going to school dances heavily guarded by more sentries, protecting themselves and their human families, and avoiding the trolls that are out to discover the secret gates to Avalon, home of the faeries. Laurel spends most of her free time with David, Tamani, and/or practicing her faerie skills in her bedroom. This brings in a whole new cast of characters: the other faeries who live in Avalon and train Laurel on being a faerie during her summer breaks. She has one friend there, Katya, who I really like. She’s adorable. I also like Laurel’s teachers and mentors. The descriptions of Avalon are amazing. It sounds gorgeous, from the scenery, to the description of an out-of-this-world new year’s festival, to the architecture, even the clothing and accessories the faeries wear. I would LOVE to go to Avalon!

And then we have the characters in between: the sentries, faeries who keep a watchful eye on everyone else,  and Laurel’s parents, who are extremely understanding. SO many characters to keep track of, but it doesn’t seem like it while you’re reading. It just sounds like a lot when I type them all out in a list like this.

Obviously there’s a love triangle, just like there is in any other YA romance. I like both the guys, David and Tamani, involved in this love triangle! I find myself rooting for one, and then the other. Usually I have one favorite and I root for him throughout the entire book/series. I’m confused on who Laurel should end up with, though. I can only imagine how confused SHE is, since she’s the one actually living it. She has a very sweet bond with both the boys. In this book, though, she takes the time to focus on the guy who she’s spent most of her time brushing off, and it was adorable! This guy loves her so much, and he is so willing to wait for her to decide. I swear, I wish I had one of these guys going after me. Laurel gets both. It’s not fair. Or maybe it is. I think I’d really get stressed out loving two different men.

There’s tense moments, romantic moments, tender moments, beautiful writing, amazing settings, fun characters, and magic, magic, magic! The end had a twist I wasn’t expecting, and dropped to quite a cliffhanger! I really feel like giving away any more details would spoil everything, so I need to just stop and let you read them for yourself! I hate writing such a vague review, but it must be done! If you have read these, I’d love to hear what you thought! If you haven’t read them, hopefully my review pushed you towards giving them a try. I hope I didn’t spoil anything for anyone, and at the same time I hope I did the book justice.


Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted August 2, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 3 Comments

Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewJosh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on September 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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4 Stars
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

After reading and enjoying Roomies earlier this year, I was excited to jump into another Christina Lauren book! I loved the characters that this author duo created in that story, and I hoped that they would deliver another wonderful group for me to fall in love with. I wasn’t disappointed in the least! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I’m just going to jump right in here and say that I LOVE Hazel. She’s hilarious and bubbly and eccentric and full of life. She’s exactly the kind of wild, uninhibited, self-confident person I wish I was. She dances through life and if you can’t handle her, she doesn’t even care. She doesn’t even notice. She reminded me so much of Jessica Day from New Girl that I was actually picturing Jess the entire time. She loves animals, she’s a school teacher, she has so much energy, and she makes everyone who knows her happy. I SO need a friend like her in my life.

2. I loved Josh as well. He is the sweetest, most caring best friend a girl could ask for. He tolerates Hazel until she worms her way into his very soul, and then he’s 100% the devoted and loving best friend. Can I have a Josh in my life as well? He’s seriously the cutest. He’s all order and organized. I loved how warm and open and accepting he was of Hazel’s eccentricities. He makes her feel perfect, and every girl should feel that way.

3. These two are so perfect together. She decides she wants to be his best friend, so she makes it happen whether he wants it or not. They end up with this very flirty, witty, tender friendship that is just so unique and special. Their whole “not dating” thing works for a while as they set each other up on blind dates for their double date nights, but then they end up having more fun with each other than they do with their actual dates. Josh lets Hazel live with him when her apartment floods and internally gripes over her messiness, but secretly loves it at the same time. Her dog ADORES him. They have inside jokes and cute pet names (Josh is Korean and his real name is Jimin, so she calls him Jiminy and other silly things. He calls her Haze, which is adorable.). It’s just such a perfect combination of two completely different people.

4. I really love the best-friends-turned-lovers trope, and this romance was particularly swoony and sweet, with some interesting twists and turns. Neither wants to ruin their friendship with possible unrequited feelings, so that underlying tension creates so much depth and interest.

All in all, I loved this story! I loved the characters and the sweet romance. There’s so many other gems in this story as well, including a few crazy awkward college moments between Josh and Hazel before their reunion years later at a party, and some yummy-sounding Korean food. I highly recommend this Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating to anyone looking for a cute rom-com with a lot of depth and feeling below the surface.


Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham | Book Review

Posted July 5, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham | Book ReviewUnder the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham
Series: The MacDonnells #1
Also in this series: Sound of the Heart
Published by Berkley on January 3, 2012
Genres: Historical Romance, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 319
Format: Paperback
Source: From the Publisher
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3 Stars
The year is 1746. A young woman from South Carolina and a Scottish Highlander share an intimacy and devotion beyond their understanding. They have had visions of each other their entire lives. And yet they have never met.

Now, with their lives torn asunder, Maggie Johnson and Andrew MacDonnell's quest to find each other is guided only by their dreams— and by the belief in the true love they share.

On the Carolina frontier Maggie Johnson’s family struggles to survive. Maggie’s gift of “the sight” and her visions show her a presence she calls Wolf. She watches him grow from a boy her age to a man even as she goes from child to woman.

Andrew MacDonald has always wondered about the girl he sees in his dreams. He is able to talk to her through their thoughts and vows that even if he must cross an ocean he will find her.

They are thrust into different situations: Andrew fights for the doomed Jacobite cause and Maggie is captured by slavers, then rescued and brought into a kind, loving Native American tribe. They each believe in destiny and the power of the love they have shared forever.

Lots of things about this book excited me. I love historical romance, the back of the book and the cover reminded me of a light, fluffy romance with a paranormal twist (like a Lynn Kurland book), and I loved the idea of telepathic communication across the world, between two characters who have never actually met each other. During tough times these two characters appeared to one other to help, either delivering advice or actual strength. As they got older, their ability to communicate grew stronger and they began to fall in love. The romance was incredibly sweet. They were childhood sweethearts, who were there for each other all the time, even though they were on completely different continents. I love this idea.

While I did like it, this book is far from the light, fluffy romance I was expecting. The cover is quite deceptive, as this book is a rather heavy and sometimes dark read. This time period was a pretty awful time, especially for women, and the author does not sugar coat it, which I respected. At the very beginning of the book, Maggie witnesses the death and/or murders of several family members. She and her sisters are abducted by men hoping to sell them, and are beaten and raped to within an inch of their lives. Andrew goes to war in Scotland, and also experiences a lot of death and heartache. This is all described in great detail, and it actually upset me so much that I thought I would not be able to continue. I was so curious to see how things ended, though, that I decided to continue on with it. To all my fellow tender hearts out there, if you can make it to page 115, you are going to be just fine. The book does lighten up, and it even gets suspenseful and exciting!

A tribe of Cherokee Indians rescues Maggie and her sister from their captors, and takes them in as part of their family. I loved this entire protective and loving group of people. I have not had the opportunity to read much about Native American tribes, except for my history books in school. I learned so much about the culture and belief system of this tribe, and was captivated by their story and strong, almost religious, ties to Mother Nature.

I really, really liked Maggie and Andrew. Maggie is so incredibly strong and resilient. I admire her, and wish I had the kind of strength she has. Andrew is the perfect sexy Scottish highlander. He cares so much for Maggie, his family, and his friends. He’s also very loyal and honorable. We see him interact with two very young orphaned children, and he is amazingly sweet with them. He really is pretty perfect, and I know I would love it if he came to me in my dreams! His accent is also pretty adorable, but sometimes I had to read his lines out loud in order to understand them. :)

Genevieve’s writing style is gorgeous. Her word choice stirred the same emotions in me that her characters felt. She sent me to the woods where Maggie was held captive, to the battle fields of Scotland, to the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands, and to the deep southern colonies of North America. The dreams Maggie and Andrew had about each other were mystical and magical. Everything seemed so real to me, and I was completely captivated, even though parts of this book really upset and disturbed me.

I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of historical romances with a bit of a paranormal twist. Yes, it’s heavy and dark in places. Yes, I had a hard time convincing myself to finish it at one point, but I am so glad I did. You can’t fault the author for retelling history. This all really happened, and I was amazed reading what people are willing to do to each other. The story is also magical and romantic, and I really loved reading about Maggie and Andrew’s journey to find one another. We are left with no loose ends, and you’ll be very happy with how things turn out in the end.


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.

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