Publisher: Walker Children's

Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore | Book Review

Posted July 31, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore | Book ReviewJust Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore
Published by Walker Children's on July 22, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 300
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues.

Just Like the Movies is a darling breath of fresh summer air, and it could not have come into my life at a better time! I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, and I spend the months leading up to my birthday and Christmas scouring the Internet for any and all romantical movies that have not been added to my collection. I knew from the get-go that this was a book for me, and it was. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Right off the bat, I loved all the mentions of some of my favorite romantic comedies. Kelly has great taste in swoony movies, and I even got some recommendations for my Christmas list! After reading Kelly’s take on a particularly romantic boombox scene from Say Anything, I know I need to go watch that movie!

2. I SO identify with Lily, to the point where I almost forgot I was reading about someone other than myself! Lily is high school me. She’s a bookish, organized, intellectual wallflower with a long list of things she wants to accomplish and her future all planned out. She wants a love story like the movies, but doesn’t think anyone even notices her. She’s crushing on a guy she thinks is WAY out of her league. On the flip side, she has this snarky sarcasm thing going on that I just loved. She is so me. I was a studious, shy, choir girl who was actually told by one of her best friends that she should be a bank robber because nobody would notice her come and go.I wasn’t weird, I was pretty, and I had a lot to offer. And I always wondered why I was overlooked the popular guys (side note – Now that I am old and wise, I’m actually glad I was overlooked). I wish I’d had a friend like Lily to commiserate with.

3. Marijke is the popular girl that’s actually likeable, and it was so refreshing to read about her. The star athletes in high school are almost never nice (and if you were a nice star athlete in highschool, high five!), but Marijke really proves herself. She’s got her insecurities and her frustrations and her home drama. She’s a normal girl. I liked her a lot, even though I probably would have avoided her in high school.

4. I have a huge crush on Joe Lombardi.

5. I loved the focus on friendship. Lily and Marijke have the most amazing friendship that spans high school social groups in a way that feels so real. And I loved watching them bond over their love of romance and their desires to have it in their own lives.

6. Probably my favorite thing about Just Like the Movies is the focus on growth and coming of age. Kelly and I touched on this in our interview last week. As the story moves on, these girls both get stronger and stronger. They figure out who they are, what they want, and that they deserve more than they are getting. I loved watching them both discover their individuality and their amazingness. And what I loved even more is that things work out for these girls once they discover themselves. There’s a huge message of loving yourself enough to demand a certain kind of respect from others. If only we could all learn to do this.

All in all, Just Like the Movies is a very sweet romance with tons of references to well-loved romantic movies, a beautiful friendship, swoony boys, girl power, and an important message to readers young and old. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves romantic contemporary stories with a little meat on their bones,.

5 Stars

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord | Book Review

Posted May 9, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord | Book ReviewOpen Road Summer by Emery Lord
Published by Walker Children's on April 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

When I think of this book, my heart soars and flutters a little. I was SO in the mood for a light, sweet little romance and Emery Lord gave it to me. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. What a fun idea for a book! I love that the book takes place on a tour bus and in hotels along a 24-city country music tour! It’s such a unique and fresh idea, and I enjoyed listening in on the characters’ discussions as they drove along the open road.

2. I adore the deep and protective friendship that exists between Reagan and Lilah/Dee, and I love the friendship between Dee and Matt. Even though there was a bit of romance to the story, the focus was mostly on friendship and I found that to be extremely refreshing. Everyone was so concerned for each other.

3. I liked seeing the non-glitzy, non-perfect side of celebrity life, and I loved that it did not ruin Lilah. You would think her life was perfect, but she has a lot of pain and sadness built up inside that the world of pop culture doesn’t get. The are pushing on her for information about her break-up, and they are trying to ruin her life with lies. She has to put up this front and come off as America’s little sweetheart, while she cries behind closed doors like any normal teenager would. She is real, and I felt for her.

4. I love how protective Reagan is over Dee. When Matt shows up, Reagan pretty much wants to punt him in to the next universe. But his sweetness and sincerity melts through Reagan’s reservations. The three form a really cute trio.

5. I am SO a fan of swoony Matt Finch. He’s sensitive and charming and a little broody. He seems to be very clean cut and gentlemanly. Totally the boy next door. Plus, he can sing in a melt-your-heart melodic way, rather than a I’m-going-to-scream-obscenities-until-I-bust-a-vocal-chord way.

6. I kind of skimmed over the romance aspect before, but it needs to be addressed. I LOVE THE SWOONS. Matt just knows how to say all the right things. And the way he picks Reagan up and puts her back together melted me.

7. I absolutely loved the writing style. Emery is really good at writing about teen angst, emotion, love, and friendship. I hung on her every word.

Basically, if you’re looking for a sweet summer romance with a little meat to it then this is your book! I will always look back on this fun summer road trip fondly. Open Road Summer is a new favorite, and I highly suggest you go grab yourself a copy.

5 Stars

Also Known As by Robin Benway | Book Review

Posted February 7, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 6 Comments

Also Known As by Robin Benway | Book ReviewAlso Known As by Robin Benway
Series: Also Known As #1
Published by Walker Children's on February 26, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 318
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Which is more dangerous: being an international spy... or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world's premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it's three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she's attending a private school with hundreds of "mean girl" wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school's elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat... all while trying not to blow her cover.

From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world's greatest spies don't have a mission plan for love.

I love books about teen spies, and I’m not quite sure why. I love Ally Carter’s Heist Society series, and so I fully expected to love this book as well. And I did! What a breath of fresh air, Also Known As is! Robin Benway is quickly climbing the ladder of beloved authors, because I have not yet read a book from her that I have not adored! I thought Audrey, Wait! was wonderful, but Also Known As was perfection. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I think my favorite part of the book is the snark and sarcasm. These characters are hilarious, and I laughed throughout the entire book. I love it when an author is genuinely funny and not trying to be funny by inserting cheesy lines that have you laughing as a result of uncomfortable cheesiness.

2. I love the main character, Maggie. She and her parents are part of this spy organization called The Collective, and she is an amazing safe cracker. She’s never been on an assignment by herself before, so she makes some mistakes… like falling for her assignment. I love how quirky and dorky she is. She is not a normal girl, and you can totally see the awkwardness dripping from the pages. She warmed my heart.

3. Maggie makes a friend while she is undercover, and her name is Roux. Oh my gosh, I love this girl. I think I love her more than Maggie. She’s a mean girl who got a huge dose of karma, and is now the social outcast. Her new status has made her very uninhibited, and the girl has no filter. She gloms on to Maggie, and the two become inseparable. Can I have this girl over for some girl talk, please? She is so much fun, but also broken as a result of her absent parents. This brokenness gives her depth, though. Love her.

4. Jesse is adorable. I mean really. Initially I was not his biggest fan, just because he comes off as this entitled, spoiled rich kid. But then we are given the opportunity to get to know him, and he’s just so sweet and caring!

5. Angelo. Oh. My. Can I have an uncle like him? He’s this suave, debonair, dapper older gentleman who is also part of The Collective. He is a very close friend of Maggie and her family. I love his relationship with Maggie most of all. He is just so loving, and he adores her in this grandfatherly way. I just found him to be so charming and likable.

6. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I loved these characters so much. They made the story for me.

7. The adventure was pretty awesome, too!

All in all, Also Known As is wonderful. I have no complaints, and can’t wait to finish Going Rogue which I started as soon as I finished this one. If you like spy stories, funny characters, adventure, and romance than give this one a shot!

5 Stars

Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs (Book Review)

Posted June 5, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 1 Comment

Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs (Book Review)Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs
Series: Tempest #3
Published by Walker Children's on June 4, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2 Stars

Half-mermaid Tempest Maguire is trying to have it all: fulfilling her duties as second-in-line to the merQueen Hailana while periodically returning home to the California coastline to be with her family and longtime boyfriend, Mark.

Living under the sea and rebuilding Coral Straits is grueling work, while being back home reminds her of everyone she loves and misses. But when her old flame Kona arrives bearing news that Hailana has died and Tempest is now officially merQueen, she returns permanently to Coral Straits, even though it devastates her family and rips her apart from Mark.

Once there, she discovers that an old enemy has resurfaced, hell-bent on taking over her throne... with or without her. As Tempest prepares for her final showdown against Tiamat and anyone who stands with her, she must decide what - and who - is really important to her. Because there will be few survivors in the ultimate sea battle that is brewing - and Tempest isn't sure she will be one of them.

And so ends the Tempest trilogy, filled with mermaids, selkies, sea monsters, surfer boys, sand, and protective families. While Tempest Unleashed, book 2 in this trilogy, is still my favorite of the three, I am very happy I got to see how everything turned out for Tempest. It goes without saying, but I am saying it anyway, that if you have not read the first two books of this series, my review will spoil them for you. It’s kind of inevitable. :) As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I feel like Tempest took a step back in this book. She lost the fire I saw in her in the previous book. She’s still a tad confused over whether or not she loves Mark or Kona… and that bugged me. Maybe I just have The Bachelorette TV show on my mind right now (since I just watched the recent episode), but if you feel like you love two people then you CAN’T and SHOULD NOT be with them! Anyway, I digress. I feel like she played the martyr role out in her mind in a way too dramatic fashion. It’s like she just kept wanting to die for someone, but not for a noble reason… mainly because it would be the convenient way out! It got a little old. And really, so much of this story is of her inner thoughts as she whines and complains and acts selfish. She had a lot of obstacles to go up against, so I give her props for that… but really, she bothered me because she handled pretty much everything like a coward. I don’t like heroines who run away every chance they get.

2. Tempest Unleashed made me really dislike Kona, and now Tempest Revealed made me annoyed with Mark! He kept trying to die too! And all of a sudden, I liked Kona again. Mark has his redeeming qualities, though. His big romantic gesture is really sweet, but both he and Tempest act just a little too immature for me to pull for them. Kona’s maturity and nobility made me end up liking him the most in the end, even though he threw his own temper tantrums every now and again.

3. My favorite person in this book was Zalek, the healer who saved Moku (Tempest’s little brother) in Tempest Unleashed. I felt like he played a larger role than he had before, and I just adored him. I wish the book had been about him instead of Tempest. And I really liked Mahina, her best friend. The book could have been about her as well. She’s inventive, sweet, loyal, brave, and a hopeless romantic. I just love her.

4. Considering the fact that Tempest Revealed is the final book, and all events have been leading up to the destruction of Tiamat (the sea witch), the climax was really anti-climactic. Everything was resolved in a page or two, and it was such a tiny part of the story that I felt really let down. SO much of the book was devoted to Tempest’s mourning over lost this and that.

5. Yet… happily ever after ensues. You know it will. And honestly, I was already so let down by the anti-climactic climax that the pretty bow of an ending just frustrated me. Plus, there are loose ends flapping in the breeze. I would have liked to have heard more about her family. I mean… they end up being such an afterthought, yet everything Tempest did, she claims was to protect her family! So where are they?

All in all, I’m disappointed. I was tearing through the pages for most of the book mainly because I wanted to get past Tempest’s complaining, and get on to the action. When I finally did, it was over in the blink of an eye. Rather than going out with a bang, the trilogy really just fizzled in my eyes.

2 Stars

Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs (Book Review)

Posted July 11, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 2 Comments

Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs (Book Review)Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs
Series: Tempest #2
Published by Walker Children's on June 5, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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Tempest Maguire is happy with her decision to embrace her mermaid nature and live among her mother’s clan within the ocean’s depths. Even though training to one day ascend the throne for the aging mermaid queen is rigorous, she finds refuge in the arms of Kona, the selkie who first opened her up to her mermaid side. But when word comes that one of her brothers has been gravely injured on land, Tempest immediately rushes to his side—which also brings her back to her old flame, Mark. And in her absence, a deadly battle begins raging at the hands of Tempest’s old nemesis, the sea witch Tiamat. As the dangerous war erupts, Tempest’s two loves—Kona and Mark, sea and land—will collide for the first time, both to protect her and to force her to choose.

So… I have ranted numerous times about how the middle book of a trilogy is usually pointless, boring, and frustrating. OH MAN. This is not so with Tempest Unleashed. The book lives up to its name, as Tracy unleashes the insanity. I mean, I was on the edge of my proverbial seat, flipping through this book as quickly as I possibly could. To be honest, it’s better than the first one. SO much better. And I’ll warn you right now, if you have not read Tempest Rising, the first book in this trilogy, this review will spoil that book for you. If you’re interested in an exciting mermaid story, definitely go check out my review of book one, and see if it sounds like something you would enjoy. Anyway, onto my review of book two! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Like I said, this book is much better than the first one. That’s so rare! It was more exiting, though, and the bulk of the book took place under the water this time. We got to learn more about Tempest, her family, and her gifts.

2. I love mermaid books because I really enjoy reading about underwater scenes and worlds. The descriptions were glorious.

3. The writing was very pretty, and I can see major growth and development in Tracey’s writing since the first book.

4. Tracy’s imagination is amazing! She came up with the craziest looking creatures. I’m not sure if she did a ton of mythological research, or if she made these up on their own. Regardless, they were fascinating. Also, the descriptions of Tempest’s powers were enormous, and so detailed! I found myself flying through these smoothly-written passages, eager to devour every single word faster than my brain wanted me to.

5. Tempest has grown up a little, and has this sense of responsibility and duty. She’s so much more mature now, and I liked her a lot more. She wasn’t selfish at all this time, thought through every decision carefully, and was so brave. I’m so happy to see this new change in her. And I really love how she treats her family. She’s so motherly and caring. I really like Tempest.

6. Kona got much less likeable. He’s not this sweet, swoon-worthy guy in my eyes anymore. He’s grumpy, controlling, pushy, lacks compassion and sensitivity, and has major anger management issues. I’d be scared of him if I were Tempest. Every once in a while, the old Kona would shine through, but I’m thinking his true colors are opposite of what I thought about him from the first book. I don’t like him anymore!

7. Mark is still sweet, but now he’s passionate and giving as well. He’s amazing, and I found myself switching my loyalties from one male in the love triangle to the other, which I almost never do. Mark is willing to give anything, do anything, sacrifice anything for Tempest. She’s a mermaid, and he’s not, but he’s willing to commit to her anyway. Kona has never said anything like that. And the passion with him is so much more fiery than what Tempest has with Kona. I actually love that Tracy did this. I love that she changed my mind. I mean, I loved Kona. LOVED him. And now I love Mark instead. Tracey had me feeling the way Tempest was feeling, which is the sign of a truly wonderful author.

8. That ending was pure insanity! I loved it! There was so much build up to an amazing climax that had me staying up so much later than I had planned. I can’t wait for the next book.

Really, you just need to read this. I have never had such a change of heart from book one to book two in a trilogy like this. I wasn’t even fully excited to read this after reading the first one, but I am SO glad that I did. The writing, the characters, the flow, the plot… all of it was SO much better! And if you loved the first one, just think of how much you’ll love this one! If mermaids are your thing, I think you’ll really like Tempest’s journey.

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs (Mini Book Review)

Posted June 27, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 7 Comments

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs (Mini Book Review)Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Series: Tempest #1
Published by Walker Children's on May 10, 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

This is one of those reviews that’s a little hard for me to write, because I just can’t think of a whole lot to say about the book. I liked it, but it did not have me going crazy with love (or hate), so I’m feeling some writer’s block. I absolutely love mermaid books, and have been reading quite a few lately. This one started out a bit slowly for me, though.

I did not love Tempest as much as I had hoped I would. She’s annoying, selfish, lacking in common sense, and completely self-destructive. I enjoy a heroine with a good head on her shoulders, and Tempest was really dumb sometimes. Some of her decisions had me smacking my forehead. Her silly banter/flirting back and forth with Kona seemed forced and unbelievable. I cringed reading it sometimes. You can tell they were trying to tease each other, but it just did not work. And the insta-love. OH MAN. This book is dripping with it. Seriously, this kind of instant “I will die for you or wait an eternity for you to love me back” is completely unbelievable, and I’m getting tired of it! Tempest’s thoughts regarding her mother also really bothered me. Her mom chose to live the life of a mermaid, rather than living on land with her beloved family. Tempest hated her for this, but then goes and makes the same decision (this is not a spoiler… it’s in the book summary on the back of the book). So… why can she do it, but not her mother? It just bothered me. Talk about a double standard. I loved her little brothers. They were so cute, and I really liked her dad. I always love reading about heroines who have extremely strong relationships with their dads.

Kona is wonderful, sexy, and completely swoon-worthy. He’s also a creature of the water, but you’ll have to read the book to figure out what he is. I really liked him and his world, though. He has a lot of honor, compassion, and mystery. I also liked Mark, her other love interest. You know YA novels! They almost always have a love triangle. Mark is also sweet, but I like him more as a brother or best friend than a love interest. Tempest’s guy friends are also a fun group to read about, but we don’t get to know them very well.

I enjoyed Tracy’s descriptions of the underwater world. The sea life and the scenery were so beautifully described, which is what made the story exciting to me (and also what made me give the book an extra star). I never used to enjoy a lot of detail in my stories, but I’m evolving into a lover of world building. I was left wanting more, though. I wanted the focus to move away from Tempest and Kona, and focus some more on those underwater creatures.

Overall, Tempest Rising left a few things to be desired, and left me shaking my head a little bit. The character development and relationships between most of the characters felt forced and made me uncomfortable. I loved the underwater world and would have enjoyed reading more of that than the silly teenage “Who am I? What do I want?” drama. I am planning to read the next book, and hope that Tempest will grow up a little, and that we’ll be able to learn more about merfolk and life under the sea.

3 Stars