Source: From the publisher through Netgalley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

1. THE COVER. Moving on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This review was originally posted on May 13, 2016.


Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Starry Night by Debbie Macomber | Book Review

Posted December 14, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 13 Comments

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber | Book ReviewStarry Night by Debbie Macomber
Published by Ballantine Books on October 8, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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5 Stars
Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega-bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

As soon as I read the premise for this year’s Debbie Macomber Christmas romance, I knew I was going to love it. Debbie has become a Christmas tradition for me, and I read at least one of Christmas books every December. I think that Starry Night is definitely my new favorite. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I love that Starry Night is mostly set in the Alaskan wilderness. Carrie gets dumped by a bush pilot on a frozen lake in the middle of a snowstorm in the mountains! I can just picture her trek up the hill to Finn’s house, all cold and wet. I loved Finn’s cabin. It sounds so rustic and cozy, with wall to wall bookshelves and a wood burning stove. Oh, and there is a super romantic moment involving the Northern Lights. I just can’t explain how much I loved this book’s setting.

2. I really liked Carrie. She is adventurous and really goes after what she wants. She wastes no time diving into finding Finn, cancelling her Thanksgiving plans and flying to Fairbanks, AK with no idea of what awaits her. I would have been terrified to hire a bush pilot to drop me off at a hostile stranger’s house in the middle of nowhere! I loved her spunk and her stubbornness. When she finally found Finn, he was a grumpy anti-social mountain man, but she did not let that get her down. She still charmed him, and I loved watching her melt his icy exterior.

3. Finn has a dog named Hennessey that I fell in love with. This dog is huge, and at their first meeting he was out to defend his territory and scared Carrie half to death. But then she melts him too, and he keeps her warm at night on the couch. She talks to him a lot when Finn refuses to do humor her, and I loved how she was with him! I also loved that her conversations with Hennessey broke the ice between her and Finn.

4. Oh Finn. I love Finn. He is a bearded, bulky man who wears plaid and has a big nose, but I don’t even care. Sometimes I get tired of the suave, handsome, not-a-hair-out-of-place, Mr. Perfect lead. Finn is your average attractive-ish man who becomes more attractive as you get to know his personality. He has this dry wit that leaves you feeling insecure and intrigued. He is so real to me. I loved watching his life change as he falls for Carrie.

5. There is a huge underlying message of the importance of family in Starry Night, which warmed my heart. Family and making sacrifices for the people you loved. And mending hearts. Really, every Christmas message was woven into a wonderful story that I read in one sitting.

6. This book is completely clean. Sure, there are some warm moments, but I appreciated that there were no sex scenes. It’s all about love and family, and I felt like the lack of sex allowed the characters to connect more on a deep emotional level, rather than a physical one.

All in all, Starry Night is my favorite Christmas romance of the year. I smiled, I laughed, and I really felt for these characters. I loved the setting and the relationships that were formed. There’s a very small emphasis places on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which makes it a perfect anytime read. You should definitely fine a copy and read it. Have some warm tea in hand and cozy up in a blanket. Alaska is COLD!

This review was originally posted on December 12, 2013, but since it has held up for 4 years as my favorite Christmas book ever I felt it deserved some extra love!

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan | Book Review & Giveaway

Posted December 8, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review, Giveaway / 13 Comments

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan | Book Review & GiveawayMiracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
Series: From Manhattan with Love #3
Published by HQN Books on November 29, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

Sarah Morgan is one of my very favorite authors, and I can definitely always count on her to get me into the Christmas spirit. I’ve read and loved many of her Christmas romances, so I was very eager to read Miracle on 5th Avenue as well. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Miracle on 5th Avenue is the first book in the From Manhattan with Love series that I’ve read, but I did not feel like I was missing out on any information. It reads perfectly fine as a standalone, but will make you want to grab the other books in the series as well. 

2. I love that one of the main character, Lucas, is an author. He’s on deadline and he’s writing a book that millions of people are eagerly anticipating. Any book that includes other books is always a double win for me. I enjoyed reading about his writing process and the writer’s block and how he comes up with his stories. He writes crime novels, and he’s inspired to model a character after Eva, our heroine.

3. Speaking of Lucas, I loved him even though he’s not super lovable. Readers only see his bad side for a little while. He’s grumpy and stressed and pretty irritating. But then he becomes inspired by Eva, his creative juices start flowing, and when she becomes more to him than a character in his book he becomes caring and sweet. I loved seeing him open up about his past. As he did, so did Eva.

4. Eva is a Christmas fanatic just like me, so we got along very well. While grumpy Lucas worked upstairs in his fortress of solitude, she decorated a tree in his living room and cooked up a storm of so many yummy sounding foods all while singing her heart out. She’s so much like me. And she drove him nuts in an endearing kind of way. Her cheery disposition melted the ice man, and things got cute, if not a little bumpy along the way.

5. This book is so festive, which I’m finding is rare among this year’s “Christmas” book releases. I’ve read quite a few recent releases from this year and last year, and I finally found one that was Christmasy enough for me. Thanks for doing it again, Sarah! FINALLY.

6. I love Sarah’s writing and her ability to create characters that make their way into your heart, her ability to write emotions that you can feel, and her ability to always put a smile on your face. 

All in all, Miracle On 5th Avenue was another win for me! I really loved it and am excited to continue the series. I love New York City, so it’s kind of like Sarah wrote me my own series! Definitely pick this up if you’re looking for a little Christmas cheer and some really fun characters.

In honor of A Bookish Little Christmas, Sarah has offered up a signed copy of Miracle On 5th Avenue to one of my readers! I am so unbelievably jealous of whoever wins! I’d love a signed Sarah Morgan book! Enter to win below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano | Mini Book Review

Posted November 30, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano | Mini Book ReviewLost Girls by Merrie Destefano
Published by Entangled Teen on February 14, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 301
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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0.5 Stars
Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

So… This book sounded good. It really did. But I HATED it. I was excited to find out where these “lost girls” went, but as soon as I did (which happens quickly) I was like, “well crap.”. Seriously. This is not good. I have so little to say about this book. It was uninteresting, dark, unbelievable, farfetched, and so slow. I have so little to say that normally I wouldn’t even write a review. But I felt like I needed to warn those who are at risk of being swindled by the book’s synopsis like I was. Major spoiler ahead, so proceed at your own risk.

The lost girls? They’re kidnapped and forced into a teen underground fighting ring. If they’re good, they move to platinum level where they are sold and rape is implied. They’re drugged and abused and it’s awful. The book has so much depressing content, with absolutely no redeeming qualities.

You’ve been warned. Run away. Run far away.

 


The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais | Graphic Novel Review

Posted September 22, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel / 1 Comment

The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais | Graphic Novel ReviewThe Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais
Published by Lion Forge on October 3, 2017
Genres: Fairy Tale, Retelling
Pages: 80
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Lose yourself in in the dark forests of Amelie Flechais' spectacular artwork. A young wolf, on a journey to bring his grandmother a rabbit, is charmed by the nice little girl who offers to help him... but nice is not the same as good. A haunting fairy tale for children and adults alike.

This is a French retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, which was published in 2014 and has now been translated into English. In this version of the story we have the Little Red Wolf, who lives in the beautiful forest with his family. He has been taught to fear humans, and to not go into the forest of dead wood in order to avoid the vile hunter and his daughter. One day his mother sends the Little Red Wolf to his grandmother’s house to bring her a freshly killed rabbit. But the little wolf gets hungry on his way and ends up eating the entire thing! Plus he gets lost. A very pretty and sweet little girl offers to help him, but lures him into a rather dangerous and scary situation. The storytelling is like an old fashioned fairytale, with dark, humorous, and sweet elements. The writing style is magical, and very flowing. I really enjoyed reading it.

I absolutely love the illustrations in this graphic novel. They are beautiful! And the Little Red Wolf is absolutely adorable.

As I said before, the Little Red Wolf ends up in a pretty scary situation. Things get dark and the illustrations get a little scarier. I probably would not recommend it to younger children. But I honestly loved the magical storytelling, beautiful illustrations, and different spin on the traditional fairy tale.


Everneath by Brodi Ashton | Book Review

Posted September 8, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Everneath by Brodi Ashton | Book ReviewEverneath by Brodi Ashton
Series: Everneath #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 24, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 370
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

When I saw the description of this story on Netgalley, followed by the buzz and excitement around the blogosphere, I knew I had to read it. Ever since I was very young, I’ve always had an intense curiosity for Greek mythology. Then, when I minored in art history in college and studied Greek art, I learned a lot more about the ancient myths from the art that illustrated them. This book is centered around the story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, God of the Underworld. Persephone was beautiful, and sought after by many—namely Hades. One day when she was out picking flowers on the plain of Enna, Hades emerged from the ground and abducted her. Her mother, Demeter (the goddess of harvest), wandered the surface of the Earth searching for her lost daughter. When she found out what happened, she was livid (as any mother would be!). Her extreme sorrow caused her to withdraw, and the earth became infertile. Zeus knew that this could not go on forever. He sent his son Hermes down to the Underworld to get Hades to release Persephone. Hades reluctantly let her go, but gave her a pomegranate seed before she left. Once she ate it, she was bound to the Underworld forever and had to spend 1/3rd of the year there. Whenever she was with Hades, her mother would not let anything grow, thus the season of winter was born. Pretty cool story, huh? I swear, I love mythology!

In the book, the Everneath is explained as being the space between the world we live in and the Underworld, where the Everlivings have found the secret to eternal life. But they must feed off of the energy of a human every 100 years or they will die. Enter Nikki/Becks. Cole convinced her, in a moment of weakness, to go with him to the Everneath so he could feed off of her for 100 years (which is only 6 months time on the earth). When the Feed is over (which is when this book begins), Nikki is allowed to Return to Earth for 6 months before she is to be sucked into the Tunnels to serve as a battery to power Hell. Or… she can go back to the Everneath with Cole and become an Everliving, and have eternal life at the cost of the lives of human beings. She hates both of her choices. This book is all about Nikki’s quest to find a way to beat Mother Nature and stay with her family and friends.

I really enjoyed the story. I loved the unique subject matter, and how the author was able to tie in so many elements of the Greek myth, while still adding in unique aspects that made it her own. The story itself is actually pretty beautiful. It’s all about love, loss, and courage. The easy way out for Nikki would be to go back with Cole and have eternal life. She’d even have a shot at being the next Persephone and claiming the crown, becoming queen of the Underworld. That sounds a whole lot better than eternal suffering in the dark, dirty depths of Hell. She can’t fathom the idea of draining the life out of others to save herself, though, so she has chosen the Tunnels. Actually, she could have gone straight there and not return to see her family. It would have been far less painful for her to never see them, and the results of their grief while she was gone. She decides to go back to make amends and say goodbye the right way, before disappearing again. Every decision she makes in this book is for other people. I admire that about her.

Cole’s kind of a slimy character, but I always find myself rooting for the bad-boy (at least for part of the story). In the beginning he seems so wonderful (and I wanted Nikki to choose him), but once we learn what he did to her we quickly root for the sweet childhood-best-friend-turned-boyfriend character, Jack, instead. I loved Jack. He ached for Nikki the entire time she was gone, and upon her return he is very understanding and supportive. He gives her the space she needs to recover, and lets her come to him rather than pouncing on her and demanding answers. That a really mature way to handle a situation like this, especially from a high school boy. He was just a really good guy.

The writing was enthralling, although a few phrases were used too many times. Everything in the story was delayed for “a few moments” or “a long moment”. Like, a character would say something and the other character would respond “after a long moment”. Or two people would hug for “a long moment”. That’s really my only complaint, about the writing, though. I’ve always been the type to not like hearing or reading the same phrases. It’s a quirk of mine. I enjoyed Ashton’s descriptive passages, allowing me to picture the Tunnels, the Everneath, and especially different peoples’ emotions. I also loved that this book takes place in Utah! I live here! I go to the setting of this novel, Park City, all the time! I loved being able to picture the streets they walked down… the Sundance Film Festival, the Utah Jazz, the Weber River… the Timpanogos Caves… So fun! The characters were also great, with lots of dynamic traits. We’re told very specific things about each character, so that by the end of the story you understand their body language without needing the author to explain it. I loved that. It’s like I was watching a movie in my head as I read the book.

I can see this book having a very wide appeal. It’s not mushy gushy, so I think the guys would enjoy it (if they can handle reading a book with that cover, that is! Buy it on Kindle, boys.). It’s not juvenile, so I think it could appeal to the adult fiction lovers out there. Greek mythology enthusiasts will eat this one up. Fans of paranormal romance (YA or adult) will love it. It’s a bit of a mystery that you need to figure out, which is always a plus. Music plays a big role in it, which pretty much nobody can complain about. The book is attacked from so many different angles, that it’s very versatile. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would! I’m very intrigued by the cliffhanger ending, and can’t wait to see what the currently untitled next book has in store for us.

*This is a repost from January 14, 2012*


The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill | Graphic Novel Review

Posted September 5, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel / 1 Comment

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill | Graphic Novel ReviewThe Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill
Published by Oni Press on October 31, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 72
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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5 Stars
From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever Aftercomes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

This was such a cute, magical little graphic novel! I really loved it. Tea dragons are little dragons whose horns store the memories of their time together with their owners, whom they love very much. Those horns grow tea leaves, which can be cut off and brewed into very high quality tea. When a person drinks this tea, they receive a vision of a memory of that tea dragon’s owner. Greta is a blacksmith and finds a lost tea dragon wandering through the market. When she returns this tea dragon to its owner she is offered the opportunity to learn the art of raising tea dragons and brewing their tea. She makes three new friends and they form a loving bond as their raise their tea dragons together. When Greta drinks some of the tea we get to see how the group formed and learn more about the pasts of these characters.

The story is divided up into four chapters: one for each season of the year. It’s is simple, but very sweet and great for all ages. It felt like a warm blanket. And the illustrations are to die for. The colors are beautiful, and everything is so cute! I’ve clipped a few of my favorite illustrations so you can see what I mean. The dragons are particularly adorable, and they are all named after common teas: Jasmine, Chamomile, Roobios, etc.

This image is one of the visions/memories that comes from drinking some tea.

All in all, I don’t have one complaint! This graphic novel was a joy to read. I loved the magical storytelling, unique story elements, the sweet characters, the adorable little tea dragons, and the moral of the story, which is to surround yourself with people you love and to cultivate the talents you’re passionate about. I would most definitely recommend this to readers of all ages who are looking for beautiful illustrations and a timeless, sweet, and light feel-good story.

 

 

 


While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft | Book Review

Posted July 19, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft | Book ReviewWhile You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft
Published by Bookouture on November 16, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 326
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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0.5 Stars
You wake up to find the man beside you is dead.
He is not your husband. This is not your bed.
What do you do?


Tara Logan lives a quiet life with her husband, Noah, and two children, teenager Rosie and eleven-year-old Spencer.

But her peace is shattered when she wakes in her neighbor Lee’s bed, with no memory of how she got there or what happened between them.

And worse – he has been stabbed to death.

Convinced she didn’t kill Lee, Tara stays silent, fearing the truth will rip her family apart.

But as her daughter spirals out of control, and her husband becomes increasingly distant, Tara soon realises that someone in her life knows what really happened to Lee. She must get to the truth before they do.

Tara made a mistake … but will one night cost her everything?

A gripping, shocking psychological thriller, with a twist that will take you by surprise.

Will engross fans of Gone Girl, Behind Closed Doors, and The Girl on the Train.

I love mysteries and thrillers, especially when lack of memory is involved, so I was really excited about the synopsis of this book. But seriously. When a book actually tells you on the back cover that it is a gripping, shocking story with a twist that will take you by surprise… and then compares itself to some of the most well-known and well-loved thrillers (Gone Girl and Girl On the Train), then it better be ready to deliver something phenomenal. I went into this holding this book to the standards that it told me to, and I was severely disappointed in what I read.

I absolutely hate this author’s writing style. It doesn’t flow at all. The storytelling felt very choppy and followed the formula of: this happened, then this happened, then this character thought this thing, then here’s a whammy (I hope you’re shocked and surprised). It was just bad. There was no atmosphere of suspense or wondering. I felt like I was reading a list instead of a book, and I had a very hard time forcing myself to read a book that claims it is unputdownable.

So many things happened that were just too convenient and too outlandish. The author wanted x, y, and z to happen and as long as they happened she didn’t care how she got it done. I could not believe some of the things Tara did, I could not believe the multiple stalkings and crimes that happened to multiple members of the family, and I could not believe the interactions between some of the characters. The police officer/detective guy was an absolute idiot, and is not at all what law enforcement officials should be like. Actually, I hated all the characters. The insane daughter was super annoying, Tara was a poor excuse for a mother, and the husband was absolutely worthless and made some horrible decisions (everyone did, really). I did like Tara’s son who should move away from that dysfunctional family as soon as possible.

These so-called “twists” were just irritating. I was never surprised or impressed or flipping the pages as fast as I could to see how they turned out. I rolled my eyes every time. Apparently a twist can only happen if the main character has an ominous feeling first, which is just not how life works and took away whatever suspense might have been left in this drab and empty plot.

All in all, this book is an extreme waste of time and the more I reflect on my reading experience the madder I get about it. It’s not gripping, it’s not suspenseful, it’s not mind-blowing, and it does not keep you guessing. If you’re looking for a good psychological thriller I can recommend others that you would enjoy much more.

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