Source: Bought it!

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.


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

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

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

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Beastly by Alex Flinn | Mini Book Review + Movie Thoughts

Posted March 13, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 22 Comments

Beastly by Alex Flinn | Mini Book Review + Movie ThoughtsBeastly by Alex Flinn
Published by HarperTEEN on October 2, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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4 Stars
I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright--a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever--ruined--unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

I was really worried about reading a modern take on “Beauty and the Beast.” I love that story so much already that I was worried Flinn was going to ruin it. I absolutely loved it! I love the transformation Kyle makes from being a complete jerk to being Prince Charming. I mean, he was so mean and self-centered… and he really hurt people and didn’t care! He makes a complete 180, and the difference is amazing. I can see many people falling for this guy!

He meets Lindy because of her father. He got into some major trouble, and the only way to get himself out of it was to essentially give his daughter to the Kyle. Their relationship goes from absolute loathing, to tolerance, to curiosity, to a blooming romance. I love the amount of concern Kyle shows for Lindy and her well-being.

I really liked Will (Kyle’s blind tutor) and Magda (Kyle’s housekeeper) too. They were entertaining i nthe same way that Lumiere and Cogsworth are from the Disney movie.

All in all, it was a great story. Kyle’s thoughtfulness and generosity were highlights for me. If you love Beauty and the Beast, this book will not disappoint you at all. I’d recommend it to people who enjoy modern retellings of timeless fairy tales.

My thoughts on the movie version:

I was really excited to see what Hollywood was going to do to Beastly. I loved the magic of the story, and the characters were wonderful. When I saw who was playing Lindy, though, I was majorly disappointed. I’ve never been a fan of Vanessa Hudgens, and I did not think she did a very good job playing this role. And then when I found out that Mary-Kate Olsen was cast as Kendra (the witch), I almost boycotted watching it. But then it came out on DVD, and so many of my friends loved it… so I decided to try it. I thought it was just ok.

Alex Pettyfer was totally not who I pictured as Kyle. I was looking for the tall, dark and handsome type… more like Paul Wesley (Stefan from The Vampire Diaries). This guy just did not seem like he had enough going for him to be able to cause such pain in the lives of his classmates. His “beastly” look was also not what I pictured, but I liked it. It worked. Like I said, Vanessa and Mary-Kate were not the right people to cast, in my opinion… but Mary-Kate did do a great job at looking witchy. I loved Neil Patrick Harris as Will. That was a wonderful choice.

Overall, I am SO glad I read the book before the movie came out. It would have ruined the book for me if I had seen the movie first. The acting and special effects were “meh” for me, and I will most likely not watch this again. The book is so much better, so you should definitely read it, especially if you enjoyed the movie.

 


501 Must-Visit Destinations | Book Review

Posted January 28, 2016 by Jana in Adult Non-Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

501 Must-Visit Destinations | Book Review501 Must-Visit Destinations by David Brown, Jackum Brown, Kieran Fogarty, Rebecca Walder
Published by Bounty Books on January 1, 2006
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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5 Stars
The book covers 501 must-visit destinations, ranging from remote hideaways and tropical islands to bustling cities, breathtaking monuments and stunning landscapes across the world. Stunning photography sits alongside informative text and a summary of don't-miss features of each site.

I’m plagued with a very serious disease called wanderlust. I live to explore new places, which is hard when you’re a poor grad school student. The next best thing is to flip through books like these and transport yourself to a new place, free of charge. This book takes you to every possible vacation spot ever! It covers Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, Asia, Australasia and Oceania, Europe, and the Middle East. The pages all have color-coded tabs that tell you where you are. Each destination gets one page with about 4-6 paragraphs of text and a beautiful image or two. There’s also a sidebar for each location that tells you a number of different important facts about when to go, how to get there, any yummy foods you should try, what to do while you’re there, where to stay, legends, taboo, entrance fees, and any social etiquette you should be aware of. The main body of the text discusses the history, culture, and other interesting tidbits.

I learned a lot on my journey with this book! Let me highlight some of my favorite facts. Did you know that Lake Malawi has the largest variety of freshwater tropical fish in the world? In Egypt, women should cover their knees and shoulders in public. Cat Island in the Bahamas is where Columbus first landed in the New World. For all you pink-lovers out there, visit Barbuda in the Caribbean! They have a pink sand beach! Canada has its own serpent-like creature lurking around the waters of the Lake Okanagan. Sightings have been made at least once a year, unlike the Loch Ness Monster. They also have a Sasquatch-like creature creeping through the islands of God’s Pocket. I had no idea that the Florida Everglades is the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles cohabit!

Moving on. Welcome to Asia! Did you know that the Buddhists believe that mountain Kailasa is the birthplace of the world? They feel this way because there are four rivers that flow down its slopes into the four corners of the world. I’d love to see that, wouldn’t you? Be careful, though! According to the locals, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. You might die. That’d put a damper on the vacation, huh? Thought so.

Remember how “The Bear Necessities” in Disney’s The Jungle Book mentions the pawpaw (prickly pear)? Well, Captain Bligh is credited with introducing that fruit to the people of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. The Louvre used to be the world’s largest palace before it became the world’s largest art museum. Europe has its own Grand Canyon: Les Gorges du Verdon in France. The film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was partially filmed in Neuschwanstein—the royal palace in the Bavarian Alps of Germany. The beautiful British Museum is totally and completely amazing… plus, entrance is FREE! Good to know!

Anyone seen the movie Leap Year? Part of it takes place in beautiful Dingle. A dolphin named Fungie has lived in that harbor since 1984. Makes me want to visit even more now! Mount Athos, in Greece, is the treasury of the Greek Orthodox faith and only men can apply to enter. Men, if you’re interested be sure to apply at least 6 months in advance because only 10 are allowed to visit per day. Spain has its own Guggenheim Museum! It looks just as awesome as the famous Guggenheim in New York. Our journey ends in the Middle East with a personal favorite: Jerusalem. Did you know that Jerusalem is also known as “the City of Peace”? Kind of ironic, considering it’s the most disputed city on earth.

Doesn’t this make you want to jump on a plane and start exploring? This book is 544 pages of dream vacations, and I would love to visit every single one of them. I am really annoyed that the book did not come with plane tickets and travel accommodations for each of these destinations. I mean, come on! I would recommend this book to any traveler, whether you’re experienced or just daydream about it a lot.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | Mini Book Review

Posted May 5, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 6 Comments

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | Mini Book ReviewDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 27, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 418
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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5 Stars
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Guys, this book is WEIRD! Haha. It took me a little while to get into it because of its strangeness, but then I was hooked on the story. Laini Taylor is an amazing author, and I feel kind of weird for not having read this book sooner! I am so glad my book club decided to read it for April, because I finally had an excuse to read it.

Karou is the most interesting character I’ve read about in a while. She has blue hair, she is an art student in Prague, and she is not entirely human. She was raised by a demon who lives on the other side of random doors throughout the world. He gives her languages for her birthday, and gives her wishes (hence the blue hair and the fact that her ex-boyfriend itched terribly while he was nude modeling for her art class). Karou runs errands for this demon, and when he needs her he sends a tiny little demon bird to get her. She comes across Akiva on one of her errands, barely escapes with her life, and her world kind of spirals out of control from that point on. Karou is not quite sure who she is, and there are many people who hope things stay that way.

Seriously, Laini Taylor’s imagination is CRAZY. Maybe it’s the bright pink hair? I don’t know. But she is masterful at creating a dynamic and HUGE world that I am convinced exists somewhere. I usually hate stories with angles and demons (haha. No, not talking about Dan Brown here), but I really enjoyed this one! And the mystery of who Karou is, who Akiva is, and what’s GOING ON just kept me on the edge of my seat. The language is beautiful, and can I PLEASE go to Prague!? One of my book club members, Karin, was actually in Prague when she read this and I am SO JEALOUS. From what she told me, though, Laini paints an amazingly accurate Prague… so maybe I’ve been there already? Give this book a shot if you’re in the mood for a little bit of strange and a hugely weird world.


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan | Book Thoughts

Posted March 10, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Middle Grade / 5 Comments

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan | Book ThoughtsThe Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 1, 2005
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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3 Stars
Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

(I read this book for my children’s lit class as part of my fantasy unit. I’m not really going to review it, but more discuss my thoughts on it.)

I really, really love greek mythology and I studied a lot about it in elementary school. I thought Riordan’s idea put a really fun spin on those myths. I enjoyed seeing the “familiar” faces of Zeus, Poseidon, Medusa, and others show up.

I really loved Grover, Percy’s satyr companion. He’s kind of wacky and silly, but an absolute delight to read about. I was so-so on Annabeth, Percy’s partner in crime. And honestly, I’m not really in love with Percy himself yet. Grover made the book for me. I feel like I would have liked this more as a younger child. I had a hard time relating to the characters. They acted really young, whereas some books for kids seem to have characters that span a variety of age groups.

My favorite theme of the book is a mother’s love. Percy’s mother is a wonderful sweet and caring woman, who is married to an absolute idiot. He is skummy and sleezy and abusive. He smells horrible. And Percy always wonders why such an amazing person would put up with it. It’s not until later in the book that he discovers why, and I ended up really loving the tender moment that discovery created.

Even though I had some issues with the book, I am definitely interested in continuing the series. I’m intrigued by some of the other story lines, and I’m excited to see Percy grow up a little.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling | Mini Book Review

Posted February 19, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 16 Comments

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling | Mini Book ReviewHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter #1
Published by Scholastic on September 1, 1998
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 309
Format: eBook
Source: Bought it!
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5 Stars
Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a Cloak of Invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny cupboard under the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in ten years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.

Wow. I know, right? You’re probably thinking, “Wow. It took Jana a REALLY long time to review this book, since SURELY she read this ages ago.” Well, you’re wrong. I just read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time in my entire life! FINALLY, right? I was scared of this book. I was not a fantasy fan when these books came out, so I could not have cared less about reading them. And then when I finally became a fan of fantasy, the books had received so much praise and proclamations of undying love, that I was too scared to read them! Of course, no book could EVER live up to the hype generated by millions and millions of devoted fans! I wanted to pass that right of passage, though. I’m going to school to be a young adult librarian! How could I not read these? So, I lowered my expectations and forced myself to begin. And much to my surprise…

I LOVED IT. And now, if I ever find someone like me who has not read Harry Potter, I will do this. Because seriously. Someone should have done this to me:

read the book

 

I SO wish I had been interested in these books as a child, because every child needs to believe in the possibility of magic. Every child who hates their life (not that I did, I’m just sayin’), needs to believe that there’s more waiting for them out there in the world.

Hogwarts is just… magical! This world is so exciting and dynamic and it feels HUGE. I finally know what muggles are! And I finally understand why people are waiting for their Hogwarts letter. And I get the owl thing. And I understand who this creepy Voldemort guy is. And Hagrid! I love him! And Hermione is quite annoying. And Ron is adorable. And I want to smack Draco. And Harry is this sweet little skinny thing who I just want to hug because of his terrible childhood. I love that he became special, and recognized it.

I was not expecting Harry Potter to be a funny story! But it is! Hagrid had me laughing so much. And some of the things these kids say to each other is hilarious. Even the professors have their little jokes. I was not expecting my imagination to be so stimulated. This book made me hope that all this magical stuff is real. I was not expecting Harry Potter to read like such a universal book. I mean, these kids are little young things but I did not feel like I was reading a book for children.

I don’t really know what to do. I’m jumping from thought to thought, and there’s really no organizational schematic to this post. Harry Potter has been reviewed and reviewed and talked about for YEARS. There is nothing else I can say. So basically, I’m going to cut this thing short, say “ditto to all the 5-star reviews”, and go stalk the mail for my really pretty 15th anniversary boxed set I just bought. J.K. Rowling has another fan! I’m a cool kid now! I can’t wait to finish the series. :)


Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)

Posted December 6, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace
Published by Cedar Fort on September 8, 2009
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 186
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
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3 Stars
With a successful bakery to run, super cute nieces and nephews to spoil, and plenty of good friends to keep her company, Abbie s not about to start crying over the fact that she s doesn't have a boyfriend to spend Christmas with. But when her sister convinces her to write a note to Santa, Abbie has no idea that a little Christmas magic is about to land her the man of her dreams. Or rather, that man is about to land smack dab on the floor in front of her Christmas tree with no memory of how he got there.

Now Abbie and Ben have to figure out where he came from, who he really is, and if he's actually available.

Aubrey Mace, the award-winning author of Spare Change, has done it again! This light-hearted holiday romance is sure to please even the most cynical scrooge. Told with humor, sweetness, and Aubrey's signature wit, this is one Christmas story that will keep you smiling all year round.

Santa Maybe is a cute, quick read with lots of adorable Christmas spirit and tradition. It all starts when Abbie writes a letter to Santa, asking for a husband. She does this as a joke, not expecting anything to happen, seeing as how she has sworn off of men. Low and behold, she is awakened by a thud in her living room. Armed with a rolling pin and lots of adrenaline, she sneaks out and finds a man asleep under her tree. I swear, I need to write my letter to Santa now. I need a man for Christmas too!

I’d been wanting to read this book for a few years, and am so glad I started my Christmas reads further in advance this time. Santa Maybe is the perfect book to get you into the Christmas spirit. Abbie owns an adorable sounding bakery, and she spends a lot of time there baking goodies as the snow falls outside. I could practically smell the cookies baking in the oven. When Ben shows up, he immediately fits into her life perfectly, and is so persistent and amazing. It was fun watching the two of them try to figure out who he was!

Oh, and boy, did Abbie end up with a winner. Ben is amazingly perfect (well, except for the amnesia), and the dream man that fills up my single girl’s mind. He’s chivalrous and handsome and thoughtful, caring, etc. He’s all the good things! He and Abbie have great chemistry, but she is convinced that he has a wife and children somewhere. This really hinders the relationship, and I wish we had been given more time to see them as a couple, rather than in this stage of limbo.

Aspects of this story are pretty unrealistic. I mean, Abbie had absolutely no problems accepting a stranger into her house. I’m a bit too paranoid to be able to do that, but he is pretty handsome, so maybe I’d bend the rules for a guy like him! Ben’s face went up on the news, and women began posing as his wife so they could have him to themselves. I found that a bit far-fetched as well. And Abbie’s sister’s reaction to all of this was also rather unrealistic. If this happened to my sister, I’d be flipping out! I certainly would not immediately start shoving her into him. I’d have to interrogate him first!

All in all, though, Christmas is a time for magic. Santa Maybe is a cute, magical story chock full of family, food, and romance. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves simple little contemporary Christmas romances.

(Disclaimer: This book was written by an LDS woman, so aspects of the LDS faith are woven into the story. Nothing is pushed on the reader, though. Ben and Abbie go to church once, so the readers are given a few churchy details during that portion of the book. Other than that, there’s nothing else.)


Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble (Mini Book Review)

Posted April 12, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble (Mini Book Review)Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
Series: Dreaming Anastasia #1
Published by Sourcebooks on September 1, 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Pages: 310
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college--until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams...

I love history and legends, and this book sounded very unique and exciting to me. The history of the Romanov family has always intrigued me ever since I watched the animated movie when I was a little girl. Dreaming Anastasia’s storyline is quite strong. It did not live up to its potential, though. I feel like the entire book was building up to an anti-climactic ending. I mean, the book is quite a page-turner but then it just ends. I wasn’t really satisfied. Some of the character relationships had no closure. Yes, there’s a sequel, but you need to be given enough information to want to continue with the next book. I was left confused, but at the same time I had no motivation to stick with the series. It’s for this reason that I just don’t have much to say about it. Haha.

And maybe it’s the graphic designer in me, but I could not stand the font that was used for the text of Anastasia’s letters to her family. My eyes hurt by the end of every letter and I counted the pages to see how long my agony would last. If you’re going to use a script font for 6 pages, at least pick one that’s easy to read. Anyway, this wasn’t for me. And I’m SO sad, because I was really looking forward to an awesome Anastasia retelling. Oh well! 

Have you read any Anastasia/Russian spin-offs that you like? I love the time period and the rich culture and history, but there’s not many books out there that tackle this subject matter.


The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum (Mini Book Review)

Posted March 18, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum (Mini Book Review)The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum
Series: The Hourglass Door #1
Published by Shadow Mountain on May 1, 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought it!
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Abby's senior year of high school is going according to plan: good friends, cute boyfriend, and college applications in the mail. But when Dante Alexander, foreign-exchange student from Italy, steps into her life, he turns it upside down. He's mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she's ever met before. Abby can't deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Soon Abby finds herself drawn into a mystery whose roots reach into sixteenth-century Florence, and she uncovers a dangerous truth that threatens not only her future but the lives of those she loves.

Wow! I loved this book so much that I finished it in less than 24 hours. Lisa Mangum’s writing style is beautiful. I found myself re-reading passages because they were incredibly captivating and magical. She described everything in such intricate detail and left me feeling like I was actually there. The plot is extremely interesting and mysterious. It had the potential of being extremely confusing, but Lisa wrote it in a way that every detail was explained, leaving no stone left unturned. And her take on time and time travel is original and exciting. I loved reading about it.

Dante is a swoon-worthy love interest. I mean, he’s Italian… and he’s romantic, and he’s been around for quite a while. He’s got a very interesting past, including being Leonardo Da Vinci’s apprentice. His concern for Abby is sweet, not obsessive or stalkerish. The love story between the two of them is slow and believable, and beautiful. You can just feel them fall in love, and I savored every minute of it.

I really only have one complaint: several of the characters speak to Abby in Italian and there’s no translation anywhere. I had to have my laptop with me so I could translate the lines. Let me just say right now free internet translations frequently make no sense.

I read this series as the books came out. I was one of the first in line for this book, and each one in the series ends in quite a cliffhanger! Well, except for the last. Haha. All three books are out now, though, and all three are favorites of mine. This is one of my very favorite romance stories, and I definitely think you should read it if you’re looking for an exciting, romantic, time traveling story with a mysterious Italian inventor and the modern-day girl he sweeps off her feet. The world they explore together is unique, intriguing, a little dangerous, and utterly magical.

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