Source: Christmas Present

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
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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!


The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long | Book Review

Posted July 6, 2015 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long | Book ReviewThe Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long
Series: Pennyroyal Green #1
Also in this series: What I Did for a Duke
Published by Avon on January 29, 2008
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 375
Format: eBook
Source: Christmas Present
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3 Stars
His life is in her hands...

She's willing to be fearless for a price...but what if the cost is her heart?

A rescued rogue...

Scandal has rocked the city of London. Colin Eversea, a handsome, reckless unapologetic rogue is sentenced to hang for murder and, inconveniently for him, the only witness to the crime disappears. Then again, throughout history, the Everseas have always managed to cheat fate in style: Colin is snatched from the gallows by a beautiful, clever mercenary.

A captivating captor...

Cool-headed, daring Madeleine Greenway is immune to Colin's vaunted charm. Her mission is not to rescue Colin but to kidnap him, and to be paid handsomely for it. But when it becomes clear that whoever wants Colin alive wants Madeline dead, the two become uneasy allies in a deadly race for truth. Together, they'll face great danger—and a passion neither can resist.

I found The Perils of Pleasure to be a very fun and enjoyable read, although I read What I Did for a Duke (book #5) first and still love that one more. Colin, our not-so-fugutive on the run, and Madeline, Colin’s rescuer, spend most of the book on the run from the law, following clues and leads to discover the identity of the true murderer. The story really started off with a bang, and reminded me of the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where Will saves Captain Jack Sparrow from the gallows. Colin is ready to be hung, when BAM. A diversion. A rescue. And I love that the rescuer was a woman. Yay girl power! The tables were turned, and the man is the one in distress here. I’m a huge fan of unique plot lines, and this one is definitely not your typical historical romance. Colin is sarcastic and likes to make light of things, whereas Madeline is cynical, private, and stand-offish. These two go so well together, and I loved how he Colin was able to soften her up a bit and she got him to think about more serious things.

Colin and Madeline have this great tension and chemistry, and the slow burn was almost painful at times because I just wanted to smash their faces together and get it over with! Their banter is pretty funny at times, especially when they are walking long hours or sneaking one another around in a coffin. The writing was very well done as well. The only complaint I had was that the story dragged at times, and I was not always completely motivated to read it. The “mystery” was a little convoluted and I had a hard time keeping track or who was where and for what reason. I did not find that aspect of the story, which was basically the bulk of the story, to be very exciting. I also would have loved more emphasis on their love story. I’ve become quite a fan of Julie Anne Long, though, and am excited to read more of this series!


How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book Review

Posted September 3, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book ReviewHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Christmas Present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated-and pregnant-Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

I was really not expecting to like a book whose focus was on teen pregnancy, so I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed How to Love! Katie Cotugno did a great job realistically portraying the situation and aftermath of teen pregnancy,  not to mention she threw in lot of other plot elements that made the story more dynamic and interesting to read. I liked her decision to tell the story from two perspectives: before Sawyer and after Sawyer. We learn all about his and Reena’s tumultuous relationship, and how Reena handled raising a baby alone after Sawyer disappeared from her life.

I had a super hard time liking Sawyer, which is probably why this book did not receive a higher rating from me. He was an absolutely horrible person to Reena during their relationship, and then he just disappeared. It helps that he left without knowing Reena was pregnant, but he could have stepped up more when he found out he had a child. As the years passed he improved his life some, but he just never convinced me that he was a good person.

Reena is a very likeable character, and I think this was because of the maturity she quickly developed when she became a teenage single mom. I love her relationship with her daughter, how she has grown and changed because of this daughter, and how she is level-headed enough to know she made mistakes in the past too.

The writing is also done very well, and was probably the main reason I enjoyed the story. I liked the way Katie Cotugno portrayed the feelings and emotions of the characters, and I enjoyed her account of the encounters that went down between Reena and her family, as well as Reena and Sawyer. While the book did not blow me away like it did some of my blogging friends, I did appreciate such an honest and realistic portrayal of such a sensitive subject not usually tackled in YA literature. I think that many people will be able to relate to Reena’s situation, or at least realize they have felt some of the same feelings in their own familial and romantic relationships. I have a feeling Katie Cotugno is going to quickly become a big name on the young adult scene.


Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier (Mini Book Review)

Posted October 11, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 3 Comments

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier (Mini Book Review)Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Series: Ruby Red Trilogy #2
Also in this series: Ruby Red, Emerald Green
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on October 30, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Pages: 362
Format: eBook
Source: Christmas Present
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4 Stars
Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

I’m so proud of Sapphire Blue for not suffering the second book syndrome! I actually liked this book much more than Ruby Red. It was full of twists and turns and witty banter between characters. There was quite a bit more time traveling, and now that Gwen is getting used to it, the visits to the past have a purpose. I was always excited to see what year she traveled back to, and what she was going to do. She has started to really question this time travel business, and so she’s breaking some rules to do some investigating in the past. She gets into trouble, and meets some new people.

Gwen and Gideon do a lot of traveling together also, and I love their conversations while they sit in a locked room doing homework while they wait to travel back to the present. They also get to go to a soiree in this book, and I loved the descriptions of the gorgeous costumes that they get to wear, and the pretty candlelit rooms. Gwen gets a little drunk on a “secret” punch, and makes a fool out of herself. I loved it!

At the end of Ruby Red, we met a small little gargoyle demon named Xemerius who is very excited that someone can finally see and hear him after so many years of being invisible. I really did not like his constant presence at the beginning of Sapphire Blue. I was annoyed with his interruptions. I grew to really love this little guy, though! He is quite funny, and adds a lot to the story. I looked forward to having him show up.

We learn a lot more about time travel, and what role different characters play in it. We learn more about the past, and why certain things have happened the way they have. Finally, we also get to form a lot of new questions that I’m hoping will be answered in Emerald Green, which I really can’t wait to start! Definitely read Sapphire Blue, even if you were not the biggest fan of Ruby Red. It’s exciting, a little romantic, and full of rich historical elements that will have you dreaming of elaborate balls and poofy dresses.


Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson (Book Review)

Posted April 29, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson (Book Review)Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 1, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Christmas Present
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5 Stars
Top Twenty Reasons He’s A Slimy Jerk Bastard

"Jessa:
To help you get over your trainwreck of an EX, I’ve enclosed 20 envelopes. Each one has a reason why Sean is a jerk and not worth the dirt on your shoes. And each one has an instruction for you to do one un-Jessa-like thing a day. NO CHEATING!
Ciao! -- C"

When Jessa catches her boyfriend, Sean, making out with Natalie "The Boob Job" Stone three days before her drama club’s departure to Italy, she completely freaks.

Stuck with a front-row view of Sean and Natalie making out against the backdrop of a country that oozes romance, Jessa promises to follow all of the outrageous instructions in her best friend's care package and open her heart to new experiences. Enter cute Italian boy stage left.

Jessa had prepared to play the role of humiliated ex-girlfriend, but with Carissa directing her life from afar, it’s finally time to take a shot at being a star.

I was sold when I found out about Jessa’s coming-of-age journey through Italy! And that cover! I think I did what this cover girl is doing a lot while I was sightseeing across Europe. I just knew this was a book for me, and Kim Culbertson took me right back to Italy with this one! I loved it! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Poor Jessa. I loved her because she was normal. She was cheated on, and she griped and complained and mourned the loss of what she had with her boyfriend. And who wouldn’t? I’ve seen reviewers complain that Jessa whines to much, and I say to you: “Have you ever been cheated on?” I have. By an idiot. And you get mad and sad, and yes–you whine. And you flip flop. “I love him, I hate him, I want him to die, I wonder how he’s doing, I miss him, I’m better off without him, Let’s see if I can run into him somewhere while looking hot, I never want to see him again…” I know you know what I mean. Jessa was human, and seriously… I’ve had weepy friends whine more than Jessa did. I loved watching her get through all these emotions! I’m not sure I could handle a trip to Italy after a bad break-up. I admired her for not letting her boyfriend ruin the opportunity to see Italy. And I loved watching her discover herself. I think that when we feel strong emotions, we come out with a better understanding of who we are and how we want to be. Jessa learned a lot, and she matured SO much during this 10-day trip.

2. Carissa, Jessa’s best friend, is… unique. I can’t say I liked her because I did not get to know much about her at all. And honestly, I don’t think she’s a very good friend all things considered. She wrote up 20 envelopes for Jessa to open during her trip. Each envelope had something sucky about Sean in it, followed by something totally out-of-character that Jessa had to do. I liked that Carissa pushed Jessa a bit, but I also felt like some of her instructions were way too catty and immature. As Jessa got further along through the healing process and came to grips with her situation, I felt more and more like Carissa’s silly envelopes needed to be thrown in the river.

3. Tyler and Dylan Thomas (named after the poet) were Jessa’s two male compatriots throughout the trip. They helped her cope, talked some sense into her when she needed it, and sat with her when she just needed to listen to her show tunes on her iPod. I liked them a lot. Both are just nice, nice guys.

4. Oh, Italy, my love. You can tell the author actually WENT to Italy. I get so annoyed when authors write about a place, and you can just TELL that they have never set foot even close to it. I’ve been to many of the places in this book, and Kim wrote them right. It made me really miss Italy, and want to go back and visit the places I didn’t make it to!

5. Obviously, the romance is minimal, but there’s a little glimmer of possibility that was sweet. 

6. This book had so many pretty quotes! I’m going to paste a part of my favorite quote below. It’s actually a huge quote, but I don’t want to ruin things by posting it all. So here’s my favorite piece. I love it because traveling does do this to a person. Traveling fills holes, heals you in so many ways, and sends you home with a much better understanding of yourself.

I get to take Italy home with me, the Italy that showed me you and the Italy that showed me—me—the Italy that wrote me my very own instructions for a broken heart. And I get to leave the other heart in a hole. We are over. I know this. But we are not blank. We were a beautiful building made of stone, crumbled now and covered in vines. But not blank. Not forgotten. We are a history. We are beauty out of ruins.

Really, there’s not a ton I can say about this book. It’s about a teenage girl who gets hurt, and then has to go on a dream trip to Italy with the person who hurt her. It’s about healing, forgiveness, self-discovery, and growing up. There’s a lot of scenery, a lot of theater references, a lot of introspection, and a lot of emotions. The plot was predictable in places, and some might feel like this subject matter has been done and overdone, but I ended up really enjoying it! The ending made the book for me, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves traveling, coming of age stories, and light contemporary, summery reads!


Matched by Ally Condie (Book Review)

Posted February 3, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Matched by Ally Condie (Book Review)Matched by Ally Condie
Series: Matched #1
Published by Speak on November 30, 20120
Genres: Dystopia, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 366
Format: Hardcover
Source: Christmas Present
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4 Stars
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I read this book right when it came out (and reviewed it at The Broke and The Bookish), but have decided to post my review of it on here as well because I’ll be reading and reviewing the sequel, Crossed, as soon as I possibly can! This is a wonderful dystopian book, that really made me think. The people of this world live in a time where everything they do is governed and decided by the Officials of the Society. People are matched up with their spouse, their job, their extra-curricular activities, and even the day they will die. All the literature, music, and art have been paired down to the best 100 pieces of each. The Officials have destroyed everything else. The people are not allowed to write. Everything they do is monitored—even their dreams are recorded. They are only allowed to exercise a certain amount. If they go over that time, or do it too vigorously, they are marked as a person with body image issues. They are only allowed to eat a certain amount of food, which is delivered to them three times a day. Pills control their emotions. Their possessions are regulated. What kind of life would that be? What purpose do the humans even serve anymore? If they go against the rules, they are marked and are no longer a respected part of society. They are pulled out of the Matching Pool, no longer allowed to be married, and are given menial jobs that lead to an early death. Choices are against the law. This is the world Cassia lives in, only she’s not happy about it.

The Officials messed up. A glitch in the system showed Cassia the corruption behind the decisions these Officials made, and now she’s rebelling—hoping that she can somehow beat the system. Sure, the guy chosen for her might be the most ideal, most compatible, and most practical Match for her, but what about the one she’s fallen in love with? Love doesn’t matter anymore.  What if she doesn’t want the job they assigned her? Too bad. She can’t even choose the clothes she wears. The only time she was ever even allowed to wear a color was for her Matching Banquet, where she was assigned a mate while wearing her beautiful green dress (hence the symbolic book cover image of a girl in a green dress, trapped in a glass ball of dictatorship)—a green dress she chose from a catalog of approved choices. Of course, she could not keep this dress. She was sent a small piece of the dress fabric mounted between two pieces of glass after the Banquet was over.  This is the control these Officials have. The people are being drugged to forget things. They are all lost in a world of conformity. They are being brainwashed into thinking this is all ok. Cassia finds a person who remembers the past. He has access to old “destroyed” writings. He knows how to write. He knows the history of humankind, and it’s a whole lot better than what they’re going through now. The more Cassia rebels and learns about the past, the more corruption she notices. She’s also falling deeper and deeper in love—with the wrong person. She’s going to do something about it. She’s going to change her destiny.

I really loved this book. Many of the passages are extremely poetic, and somewhat lyrical. The descriptions of the scenery make you feel as though you were there. The emotions and feelings are easy to understand. The situations are easy to relate to. The characters are real people. I connected so well to the entire storyline. Cassia is a great heroine. She is not the rule-breaking rebel to the extent of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, but this IS only book one. We might see more rebellion in the future books. She was weak in the beginning, but learned more as the book went on. She grew a backbone! I liked her character development. I really enjoyed the love triangle, which I think ultimately symbolizes rebellion vs. submission. She was told to do one thing, but really wanted the forbidden. It’s a relatable dilemma on many levels. I enjoyed the relationship she had with each of the two boys in this triangle. One was very sweet and innocent—two childhood friends realizing they’re going to get married and exploring the new feelings the Society says they should be developing. The other one was forbidden but equally, if not more, sweet. They snuck around and tried to stifle the underlying tension of wanting, but not being allowed to have. I love this relationship more than the other. It seems more real to me. There could have been a bit more chemistry between them, but I understand that it had to be very hidden in order to protect both of them. With the rebellion I expect to see in the coming books, I expect to see more chemistry as well. All in all, this was a great book, and I really enjoyed it!

Discussion: I love a book that makes me think. At the very beginning I enjoyed the idea of being matched with my ideal man. I wouldn’t have to date a bunch of jerks to find him. He’d just be delivered to me, and we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not it was going to work out. I would have never been dumped, and I wouldn’t have had to dump anyone! Wonderful! But… then I thought about the what-ifs. What if I fell in love with the wrong person? What if I did not love the guy I was paired with? Then the what-ifs started spiraling out to encompass everything. Part of the wonderfulness of life is that we CAN choose who we marry, what we do for a job, what we read, what we listen to, what we eat, when we eat, what we wear, etc. I think life would be pointless without decisions. It made me grateful for the life I have. Next time a really crummy date goes down in flames, I’ll remind myself that at least I had the opportunity to choose! Haha. So tell me. What do you think about Cassia’s world? Would you enjoy having your entire life planned out for you, or would you fight back too?

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