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You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle | Book Review

Posted April 2, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle | Book ReviewYou Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Published by GP Putnam's Sons on April 7, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They're preparing for their lavish wedding that's three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there's a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they're finally being themselves--and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

The first line of You Deserve Each Other‘s synopsis had me hook, line, and sinker. “When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé…” How could you not be intrigued by this kind of book? Lovers… to enemies… to lovers. This is pretty much never done in the book world (at least that I’m aware of). Contemporary romances tend to fall under a lot of the same tropes and storylines, so I was immediately excited to read something unique. And I LOVED it. Brand new favorite, pre-ordered the moment I finished it. If this book is not on your radar, adjust your radar. You’ll thank me later. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. This book begins right in the nitty gritty of Naomi and Nicholas’s relationship. There’s no meet-cute, no getting-to-know-you, no twitterpated glances across a crowded room. That’s all already happened. We are thrown into a relationship that is seriously on the rocks. It was so refreshing to see a real relationship from a different angle. Rather than starting at ground level and moving up, we’ve got a relationship that’s already been up there and is quickly plummeting downwards. I loved reading about these two characters, and their theories of how they got to this point.

2. I will admit that this book took a little time to hook me. The hatred, mostly on Naomi’s side (since she’s our narrator and her point of view is the only one we get to read), was so SO heavy. But once it took hold, I was fully invested in this story. If you find yourself bogged down or struggling, keep going!

3. Sarah Hogle did a really awesome job of keeping this completely hilarious while also bringing deeper issues to the forefront. When you really think about the premise of this story. it’s actually very sad. These two people, once very much in love, have pushed each other to the brink of ruin. They’re able to so perfectly and effectively push each other’s buttons because they used to avoid pushing them at one point. I laughed at Naomi’s inner ramblings of how much she couldn’t stand Nicholas. I laughed at their antics and their immature acts of sabotage. And then I felt sad for them because this is a relationship that is about to flat-line at any minute! But the entire time I also felt such a strong sense of hope for them. I’d see a glimmer of love here and there, and it’d make me yell: “STOP IT CHILDREN! Can’t you see how much you love each other!?” Naomi and Nicholas do a lot of reflecting and go through a lot of emotional baggage throughout the story and even though I mentioned the strong hate vibes, it was never too much for me. It felt very real and raw. I felt them longing for each other as often as I felt them resenting each other. It quickly becomes obvious that the money one of them would lose if they cancel the wedding is not the soul reason they haven’t called it off.

4. Naomi took some time to worm her way into my heart, but Nicholas got there almost immediately. He made a pretty dumb decision in the beginning of the story that had me side-eyeing him, but by the end I realized it was the absolute best decision he could have made for their relationship. The gears in his brain are constantly working on ways to save them. Yes, he’s really good at the emotional warfare but I never felt like he pushed things too far. Naomi seemed to be the one who had nothing to lose, and I felt like she hit below the belt more. Nicholas seemed to be reacting. He was protecting himself and retaliating more than instigating. I really felt for him, especially once I learned how sentimental and romantic he can be.

5. Many of the pranks and shenanigans were hilarious. Nothing felt abusive. These two are actually very passive aggressive, which readers will quickly learn is the bud of the issue. They bottle up their resentment and never talk about it with each other. Passive aggressive people can be super entertaining, though, and that’s why things worked so well in this story.

6. The emphasis on communication and working through your issues was strong in this book, and I really liked that message. You can’t ever stop working on a relationship. It’s not always easy. This message is not usually presented to readers in contemporary romance, and I really appreciated that Sarah Hogle was able to do this without sounding preachy. It was done in a very lighthearted way.

7. The writing is very sharp and smart, and I still can’t believe how Sarah made me feel so many things all at the same time.

8. The characters are so well done! Even our side characters are amazing. Naomi works at this quirky little shop and has some great friends. Her boss is the biggest teddy bear. Nicholas’s mother is the definition of a momzilla. You will LOVE how the momzilla situation goes down.

9. For those concerned… there is a way happier ending to this book that I expected.

I left out a lot of my feelings because this really is the kind of book you need to read and experience and form your own opinions about. I love Naomi and Nicholas. I loved watching their relationship. I loved all the fall vibes and the cute little cottage they lived in. I loved the lake in the back and the coveralls and the feelings. You Deserve Each Other is a sweet, real, hopeful story. I loved it.

5 Stars

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Posted September 13, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3.5 Stars

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Well… that was pretty insane. lol. Let me preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland. I did not like the movie as a kid, and I’ve never read a retelling (or even been interested in reading one). I read this book based solely on my love for Marissa Meyer and The Lunar Chronicles, which is one of my very favorite series ever in life. We saw how she wrote Queen Levana’s backstory in Fairest, and I was super intrigued to see her write another villain’s story. Marissa did a wonderful job with the Queen of Hearts, and even though I’ve never been a fan of the Wonderland world I really enjoyed reading about it in Heartless. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Since when do I love a villain? Maris

sa is so good at making you fall in love with the characters who you know will end up doing nothing but breaking your heart in the end. Catherine is sweet and spunky and so full of innocence and hope. I just loved her personality and

her quirky love of baking and her sarcasm. We all know how she turns out, but boy was I hoping for a different outcome.

2. Jest. *swoon* Oh my goodness. I love that court joker so much. He’s so witty and charming in a broody, nerdy, adorkable kind of way. Right at the beginning of the story the King of Hearts (who is the grossest, slimiest, giggliest, creepiest guy I’ve read about in a long while) throws a ball that Catherine attends. Partway through Jest makes a grand appearance, mesmerizing everyone there. He captured Catherine’s heart immediately, and he captured mine right along with it.

3. The supporting characters are all so much fun. I really liked the Hatter, and he was one of my least favorite characters from the old Disney movie. I also loved Cheshire and the turtle and the lion and Raven. What a fun little band of whimsical characters.

4. Speaking of whimsy, ho boy. Marissa is

a wonderful writer, and I got so caught up in some of her scenes. Such beautiful storytelling. At the same time, though, the whimsy got to be a little much for me at times. We’re in Wonderland, though, right? When in Wonderland, expect over the top.

5. So many yummy treats adorn the pages of Heartless. I got so hungry reading about all of Catherine’s dessert creations!

6. The story is about so much more than the origin of the Queen of Hearts. We’ve got all these other characters (like Peter Peter the Pumpkin Eater) and characters from other kingdoms and a Jabberwock and we really get to see wha

t all of Wonderland was like before Lewis Carroll’s story.

7. This story is SO heartbreaking. We all know that Catherine becomes the Queen of Hearts. How can anyone go into this not knowing that, right? Well… I knew, and I still kept hoping things would go my way. I wanted my perfect ending. Her decline to queendom and the reasons behind that decline just completely broke my heart. All the characters broke my heart in some way, but it had to happen. I don’t even know why I thought this wouldn’t happen. Haha.

All in all, this was a fun vacation from my comfort zone! Marissa Meyer was able to get me to enjoy a story that I was convinced I would not like. I’m not familiar enough with Alice In Wonderland and the other companion stories to really understand everyone’s role in Heartless, but I got the general idea and think Marissa did an awesome job of making a timeless classic her own. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves Alice, Wonderland, Marissa Meyer, great fantasy, and stellar writing. I can’t wait to see what Marissa does next!

heartless promo

This review was originally posted on October 15, 2016 as part of Macmillan’s Countdown to Heartless blog campaign. It was been re-posted for some extra love.

3.5 Stars

Illusions by Aprilynne Pike | Book Review

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

Illusions by Aprilynne Pike | Book ReviewIllusions by Aprilynne Pike
Series: Wings #3
Published by HarperTEEN on May 3, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

"I don't do patrols, I don't go hunting, I just stick close to you. You live your life. I'll keep you safe," Tamani said, sweeping a lock of hair from her face. "Or die trying."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Stars

Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham | Book Review

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

Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham | Book ReviewUnder the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham
Series: The MacDonnells #1
Published by Berkley on January 3, 2012
Genres: Historical Romance, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 319
Format: Paperback
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3 Stars

The year is 1746. A young woman from South Carolina and a Scottish Highlander share an intimacy and devotion beyond their understanding. They have had visions of each other their entire lives. And yet they have never met.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Stars

All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel Review

Posted June 28, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade / 1 Comment

All Summer Long by Hope Larson | Graphic Novel ReviewAll Summer Long by Hope Larson
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on May 1, 2018
Genres: Realistic Fiction
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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2 Stars

A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships, written and illustrated by the Eisner Award–winning and New York Times–bestselling Hope Larson.

Thirteen-year-old Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he's off to soccer camp for a month, and he's been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it's up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it's a lot of guitar playing, boredom, and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin's older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he's acting even weirder than when he left. How Bina and Austin rise above their growing pains and reestablish their friendship and respect for their differences makes for a touching and funny coming-of-age story.

I’ve started developing interest in graphic novels over the last few years, which was a major surprise to me because I’ve always overlooked them. More and more have been trickling in from various publishers, and I’m really seeing the graphic novel format take off, especially for younger readers. I thought All Summer Long sounded like a fun, light read and was excited to dig in. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough substance for me and it felt much younger than I would have liked.

I enjoy coming-of-age stories, but I don’t feel like All Summer Long was a good example of one. I suppose the characters go through some changes, but they felt more like normal kid changes than coming-of-age. When a story is described as a “coming-of-age story”, you expect some major growth. Bina is 13, and she’s spending her summer alone while her best friend, Austin, is at summer camp. She spends the summer playing/listening to music, and hanging out with Austin’s older sister. She gets to babysit and go to a concert and deal with all the normal kid drama: fights, heightened emotions, and overreactions. At the end, she seemed to be pretty much the same person she was in the beginning. The story was very, very simple and the characters seemed like cardboard cutouts. There just wasn’t anything grabbing me and sucking me in.

I know I’m the wrong demographic, but I work with kids who are about this age. Actually, my kids are about a year younger and they don’t talk like these characters. They don’t use the word “bae” or say “like” every other word. I feel like the author tried to write for tweens and young teens, but without a real understanding of what those kids are like today. These kids seemed younger than mine until they said “bae”, which people my age (late 20’s, early 30’s) were already saying when these kids were toddlers. It just felt really unrealistic to me.

The illustrations were fun, but too stylized for me. The proportions were off and there were inconsistencies in the looks of the characters from page to page. Sometimes I had a hard time telling some of the secondary characters apart. It was easy to read and the boxes flowed in a nice way. I rarely read sections out of order because I didn’t know which box came first, which has happened to me in other graphic novels I’ve read.

All in all, this one just didn’t work for me. I shut the book and immediately wrote my review because I’m not even sure I’ll be able to remember it. I would choose to recommend other graphic novels over this one.

2 Stars

Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Book Review

Posted June 13, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 7 Comments

Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Book ReviewSave the Date by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on June 5, 2018
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

I’ve always heard wonderful things about Morgan’s books, and actually own a few of them. I even met her at ALA a few years ago and she signed a copy of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour for me, so I’m really surprised and slightly ashamed to admit that Save the Date is my very first Matson read! If all of her other books are just as delightful and funny and full of heart like this one is, then I think I’ve found a new author to love! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The Grant family is officially my favorite fictional family. I would love to be a member of this family! J.J. is an absolute hoot. Everything he says or does makes me laugh. He actually says “scoff” when he’s miffed. Linnie is such a fun big sister, and I love her relationship with Charlie. Danny is the sweet big brother type. I even like troublemaker Mike! They are all so close, and their life growing up together is full of memories of capture the flag games, movie nights, sleepovers, family trips, bumming around the house, and so much love. I love that they love each other and have the cutest sibling bonds with one another. The parents are great, too. It’s a house full of chaos and shenanigans, and I loved being a fly on the wall.

2. Speaking of shenanigans, everything that could possibly go wrong for this wedding pretty much does! It’s hilarious, if not a little unbelievable how unlucky this family is. lol. There’s a suit mix-up, electrical problems, gardening problems, and more. There’s so much going on at once that I found myself tearing through the pages to figure out how each issue was resolved. Honestly, this book would make such an amazingly fun movie.

3. Bill, the assistant wedding coordinator, is the sweetest character. He and his… uncle? Dad? Why can’t I remember this!?! Oh well, not important. He and the guy he is somehow related to run this wedding business together, and he’s riding the waves of shenanigans with the best attitude. He’s got a great sense of humor and is always so happy. He’s also pretty quirky, slightly nerdy, and just warms my heart.

4. We’ve got a loaner beagle named Waffles and an alarm that won’t be silenced unless it wants to be that are both pretty amazing characters all on their own. Waffles has so much personality in his little body, complete with big floppy ears. And the alarm just had me giggling, which doesn’t even make sense unless you’ve read this book.

5. I really connected with Charlie. I understand what it’s like to have everyone needed things from you all the time. She’s kind of the glue that keeps the group together and sane. She’s the peacemaker, and I understand the kind of pressure that comes with that job. I sympathized with her as she faced having to move from her childhood home. I also saw a lot of growth from her as the book continued on. She just seemed really real to me. All the characters did.

6. Charlie’s mom has written a comic strip based on the Grant family, Grant Central Station, for the last 20+ years all about the kids and family growing up together. Snippets of these comics are featured throughout the book, and I really liked those. I’d love a book of more of them so I can get more of the backstory on some of these characters!

7. I just LOVE weddings. This book reminded me so much of Father of the Bride, which is one of my favorite movies ever.

8. Swoons. Wedding swoons, crush swoons, love swoons… They were all there.

All in all, I’m SO glad I finally jumped on the Morgan Matson train! I can’t wait to read her other books now! I hope her others are just as wonderful for me as this one was. I loved the family dynamics, the wedding craziness, and all heart and feeling that swirled around it all. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary YA with a side of giggles and feelings.

5 Stars

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco | Book Review

Posted October 6, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 0 Comments

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco | Book ReviewHunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 19, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Bone white. Blood red. Along this path, you’ll soon be dead.

Following the horrifying revelation of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth flees her home in Victorian London to enroll as the only female student in Europe’s most prestigious forensics school. But it’s impossible to find peace in the dark, unsettling Romanian castle that houses the school—and was also once home to the depraved Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Prince Dracula.

When a series of troubling deaths brings whispers of Vlad’s bloodthirsty return from the grave, Audrey Rose and her sharp-witted companion, Thomas Cresswell, must unravel the cryptic clues that will lead them to the shadowlike killer—living or dead.

I absolutely LOVE Dracula stories (which is weird, since I’ve never read Dracula…) and creepy historical fiction, so I was really excited when I learned what the second installment of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series was going to be about. I really, really enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper, but I LOVED Hunting Prince Dracula like a million times more. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Ok, so DRACULA. I love how Kerri tackles old, old mysteries in a way that makes them feel very real instead of over-the-top and silly. The story of Dracula, of course, is fictional. But the character was named after a real man who did enjoy the taste of blood: Vlad the Impaler. So there’s some truth mixed with a ton of fiction, and it was so wonderful seeing how Kerri would spin that. Dracula felt so real to me.

2. The setting of Hunting Prince Dracula is amazing. The story takes place in Vlad’s actual castle in Romania, which is now the home of an elite forensics school that Audrey Rose and Thomas are attending. This castle has secret alcoves hidden by tapestries, secret trap doors and rooms, and a labyrinth of creepy tunnels that you access through the floor in the morgue. It is surrounded by a creepy wood that is rumored to be filled with all manner of scary animals and people. It’s December at the castle, so it’s bitterly cold outside, it gets dark very early, and the entire world is blanketed in snow. Audrey’s rooms are away from the other rooms since she is the only female attending the school, and she hears creepy things outside her door. And on the roof. It’s just so perfectly creepy without keeping me up at night!

“Winding our way through the narrow path, we finally pulled to a blessed stop outside the castle. Fingers of moonlight reached over the spires and slid down the roof, casting our shadows in sinister shapes. This castle was eerie and I haven’t even stepped inside.”

3. Things were so much swoonier (lol. Totally not a word.) between Audrey and Thomas in this novel and I loved it. There’s all this scandalous tension and innuendo between these two! And chemistry! Their banter is amazing, and so perfect. They sneak around through the castle and night to meet up and discuss or explore the castle and its grounds. There are stolen glances and warm thoughts during class and before bed. It’s just so romantic, yet not heavy on romance if that makes sense. You can feel it there, but there’s so much going on that it’s rarely talked about.

4. I just adore Thomas so much. He’s snarky and flirty and tender and romantic. He’s also dapper and intelligent and forward thinking. And he’s so sweet and silly and loyal and has the driest humor. And he’s so protective of Audrey Rose, it just makes me melt. He was my favorite part of this book. I love seeing more and more of who he is.

“I have a feeling you haven’t invited me here for kissing. Though it never hurts to ask. You’re dressed for sneaking about Dracula’s castle. Be still my thawing, dark heart. You certainly know how to make a young man feel alive, Wadsworth.”

“For there are no limits to the stars, their numbers infinite. Which is precisely why I measure my love for you by the stars. An amount too boundless to count.”

5. I liked reading about our flawed Audrey Rose. It’s only been about 2 weeks since the events of Stalking Jack the Ripper, and she’s still processing and coming to terms with how that mystery unfolded. She’s scarred and a little damaged, and I enjoyed watching her find her new normal. I’ve always admired her bravery and desire to push the norm, and she continued that in Hunting Prince Dracula even though her scars tried to prevent it.

6. There were a few scenes that had me ready to run for the hills because they were so scary! Like… spiders… and trees made of bones. The tunnels under the castle are filled with terrifying things that you gradually learn about as the story progresses. Audrey and Thomas spend a fair amount of time exploring, and I could never ever do that. I couldn’t stop reading, but also wanted to cover my eyes at the same time. It was amazing!

7. With all the twists and turns and spooky moments and ominous characters, I really had no idea how they were going to solve the mystery. I had no idea how things were going to wrap up. The ending was super climactic and totally blindsided me.

8. Kerri’s writing and prose is beautiful perfection. I could swim in her words. I could wrap them around me like a silk scarf.

Bottom line, Hunting Prince Dracula is a new favorite that I kind of want to read every fall now because it’s so perfect for this season. It’s just the kind of book I want to curl up with under a blanket and read while it storms outside. I loved everything about it… the heat between Audrey and Thomas, the setting, the mystery, and Kerri’s beautiful writing style. I will forever recommend this wonderful story!

5 Stars

Caraval by Stephanie Garber | 2017 Debut Book Review

Posted September 20, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 3 Comments

Caraval by Stephanie Garber | 2017 Debut Book ReviewCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 407
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Oh my goodness… you guys, this was SO GOOD and so magical and amazing. I read it 9 months ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I also have not been able to figure out how to review it because I LOVED IT SO MUCH that I have no idea what to say. I can’t tell you everything I loved because then I’d just be typing out the book for you. There was nothing I didn’t love to pieces, so writing a review is a truly overwhelming task that I’ve been scared to even begin. lol. I was truly and utterly captivated by and immersed in this story from the first page, and even though it’s over it has not yet let go of me. Part of me is still in that story, unable to let go of it and eagerly anticipating the next book.

Caraval is a magical, whimsical, quirky, convoluted, mysterious, romantic, captivating ball of beautiful words and imagination. The story is dripping with danger and unknowing, with mischievous and  ominous characters. Stephanie’s writing is on point, and her imagination and storytelling ability are on FIRE. I wonder if she rents out rooms in her mind…? The world of Caraval is bigger than our world, and the game has so many layers and mysteries that it’s basically ingenious.

I was fully expecting and intending to write a detailed, organized, and coherent review. But… I don’t want to say anything more than this because it’s honestly better if you have no idea what to expect. I went in very skeptical (hello hype, and the book had not even been published yet!) and not quite sure what to expect. Best decision ever. The less you know about Caraval, the more mysterious and exciting it will feel to you. So don’t read any reviews. Just don’t do it. My review is vague enough that you’re pretty much just going to leave my blog knowing Caraval is a book you’ve got to read. If I’ve convinced you of this, I’ve done my job! If not, write to me and I’ll talk your ear off until you can see there’s no other option.

5 Stars

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer | Mini Book Review

Posted August 24, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel, Young Adult Fiction / 0 Comments

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer | Mini Book ReviewWires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
Series: Wires and Nerve #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on January 31, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 238
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the series.

I’m a major lover of The Lunar Chronicles and was pretty sad when it was all over. So OF COURSE I was over the moon when I learned about the graphic novels. Anything to get me back in that world!

I kind of knew this would happen, but the story was much simpler that the full length novels. Not as much happened, but I was ok with it because I was back with my favorite characters! I was just so happy to see them, and see them I finally did. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy seeing illustrations of beloved characters because they never look like they do in my head. In this case, though, Iko looked exactly as I pictured, so that was fun! Wolf was a little over the top wolfy for my taste (I never pictured him as such a big hulking, scruffy wolf), but I recognized everyone! It was a pleasant surprise. And I really loved the artwork! I’ve never been much of a fan of the comic book style illustrations, but I like Holgate’s work a lot.

There were lots of cute moments with all our characters, set against Iko’s wolf-hybrid soldier hunting storyline. Cress gets a cold and Thorne has to take care of her. Scarlet and Wolf are on their farm in France, so I we don’t get to see as much of them as I would have liked. Winter is the ambassador to Earth, and it was fun to see her in such a powerful position since we met her when she was pretty useless and imprisoned by her mind. I loved seeing her strength in this graphic novel. Cinder and Kai have never been my favorite couple in this series (they’re actually my least favorite, which is nuts), but it was fun to see what Cinder is up to now that she’s ruling things. Iko’s got a little thing going on with Kinney, Cinder’s royal guard, which I love. I hope she finds love, too!

All in all, this was so much fun an exactly what I needed after still being so hungover after Winter. I love this world and these characters, and I loved being there with them again. A must-have for fans of the series. I can’t wait for the next volume!

3 Stars

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book Review

Posted July 6, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 0 Comments

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book ReviewThe Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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2 Stars

When Olivia's mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia's father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there's a killer still at large. It's up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Ok… I think I’ve officially given up on April Henry. This is my third book from her and I haven’t liked any of them. I’m honestly surprised that I’ve given her books this many chances, although they are usually very short and very fast reads, so maybe I keep trying because her books are easy to get through if I’m behind on my Goodreads goal. Wow. That sounds harsh. And don’t get me wrong, I think young teens might really enjoy them. I just think they read a little younger than most YA mysteries I’ve read and loved over the years (like Dangerous Girls, for example).

I feel like there was not much thought put into this story. Things seemed very flat, and the characters all very shell-like… the kind of stock characters that get thrown into stories to fill roles but not connect with you or make you feel anything. The story itself was not suspenseful or exciting, and the anticlimactic ending left me wondering why I even bothered wasting my time. Everything that did happen felt very convenient, as though there was a checklist of things that needed to happen for the book to end when it was time to end. Many things felt unbelievable to me as well. A 17 year old doesn’t just move herself into a new town and start interrogating all these strangers about the intimate details of the lives of her murdered parents without raising some suspicion. Why did these people even talk to her at all, much less tell her the things that they did? I don’t understand. Everything ended so quickly, but nothing was really explained. Rather than tying up loose ends and explaining why things happened, the author cut those loose ends off bluntly and chose to not explain anything at all. It could have been better. Maybe not much better, but almost anything would have been better than what I got.

So… Goodbye, April Henry. I had such high hopes for finding a YA author that writes a ton of mysteries because I LOVE THEM, but unfortunately I’ll have to keep looking for an author that puts a little more thought into their stories. I did like the appeal of Henry’s short mysteries because sometimes I just want a quick escape, but I’d rather read a longer novel that is more complex, more thought out, less convenient, and more exciting.

2 Stars