Tag: Contemporary Romance

Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves (Mini Book Review)

Posted August 28, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves (Mini Book Review)Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves
Series: On the Island #1.5
Also in this series: On the Island
Published by Penguin on July 2, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Survival
Pages: 160
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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When twenty-three-year-old dot-com millionaire Owen Sparks walked away from his charmed life, he had one goal in mind: get as far away as possible from the people who resented his success, or had their hand out for a piece of it. A remote uncharted island halfway around the world seemed like a perfectly logical place to get away from it all.

Calia Reed wasn't part of Owen's plans. The beautiful British girl - on holiday in the Maldives with her brother, James - made Owen wonder if getting away from it all might be a lot more enjoyable with a carefree girl who didn't know anything about the life he left behind.

But Owen had no idea how much his carefully detailed plans would go awry. Nor did he realize that a decision he made would have such a catastrophic effect on two passengers who boarded a plane in Chicago.

And when Owen shows up at Anna and T.J.'s door with an incredible story to tell, everyone involved will learn just how much their lives are intertwined.

I loved being reunited with T.J. and Anna! It was a lot of fun to hear about what they’ve been up to since On the Island, even though they were not the focus of this novella. We are introduced to Owen, who chose to maroon himself on an uncharted island to get away from his crazy life. I really, really liked Owen. Even though he was wealthy, he wasn’t happy because his life was full of money and not relationships and simple pleasures. I love that he recognized this, because so many people these days believe that money buys happiness. His time on the island proved to be therapeutic, and he ended up learning a lot about himself in the process.

From time to time, Owen would head to the mainland for supplies and a shower before going back. One time he met Calia, a cute British girl, and her brother, James. The three went back to the island together, and I really liked reading about the bond they formed. James really cared for his sister in a, “you mess with her, you die.” kind of way, and I’ve always loved it when siblings have that kind of relationship. Romance also blossomed, and I really loved seeing what it did to Owen. It totally changed him–the sign of a great relationship. I also really liked Calia, although you don’t get to learn a ton about her. Adventure happens, as is Tracey’s mantra. It’s amazing the things that happen on this little island.

Most of this story is a flashback and Owen tells Anna and T.J. about his experience being stuck on an island. It was easier for him in that he had a pilot flying in to check on him and a satellite phone, but it was also very hard. And, of course, we get to discover how his story relates to theirs. It was all very exciting.

This book is quite a page-turner! With all the adventure and mystery, I tore through it. Tracey’s writing is still amazing. She is so good at describing the island, that I’m sure she’s been there. I can’t wait for more books from her!


Camp Boyfriend by J.K. Rock (Review, Giveaway, & Guest Post)

Posted July 19, 2013 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Camp Boyfriend by J.K. Rock (Review, Giveaway, & Guest Post)Camp Boyfriend by J.K. Rock
Series: Camp Boyfriend #1
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on July 2, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 324
Format: Paperback
Source: From the Publisher
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5 Stars
They said it couldn't be done, but geeky sophomore Lauren Carlson transformed herself into a popular girl after moving to a new school halfway across the country. Amazing what losing her braces and going out for cheerleading will do. Only trouble is, the popular crowd is wearing on Lauren's nerves and she can't wait to return to summer camp where she's valued for her brain instead of her handsprings. She misses her old friends and most of all, her long time camp-only boyfriend, Seth. This year she intends to upgrade their relationship to year-round status once she's broken up with her new, jock boyfriend, Matt. He doesn't even begin to know the real her, a girl fascinated by the night sky who dreams of discovering new planets and galaxies.

But Matt isn't giving her up without a fight. As he makes his case to stay together, Lauren begins to realize his feelings run deeper than she ever would have guessed. What if the guy she thought she was meant to be with forever isn't really The One? Returning to Camp Juniper Point was supposed to ground her uprooted life, but she's more adrift than ever. Everything feels different and soon Lauren's friends are turning on her and both guys question what she really wants. As summer tensions escalate, Lauren wonders if she's changed more than she thought. Will her first big discovery be herself?

Welcome to the final stop along the official Camp Boyfriend blog tour! I hope you’ve had fun the last couple of weeks hearing about the book, learning about J.K. Rock (dynamic duo, Jennifer and Karen), and winning giveaways! Today I get to wrap things up with my thoughts on the the book, and will then turn things over to J.K. for some fun summer hair tips. And make sure you enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post! You have two chances to win! Anyway, on to the review!

When I was younger, pretty much my favorite movie ever was the original Parent Trap with Hayley Mills. It wasn’t because of the romance or anything like that, it was because I was always fascinated by summer camp! I loved the cabins and the activities and minimal adult supervision. I always wanted to go, but got homesick way too easily. Camp Boyfriend excited me for the same reason Parent Trap did, and I loved it so much!

I kind of loved the idea of Lauren’s double life: popular cheerleader at school, nerdy astronaut wannabe at camp. It’s kind of like Danny Zuko in Grease. He’s a hardened, greasy hair, leather jacket dude at school and a romantic khakis-wearing guy during the summer he and Sandy fall in love. When you think about it, this phenomenon is so common. You’re one person with your parents, another with your friends. You’re on person at your job, and another one at home. Even in this book blogging world, so many of us are VERY different online than off. My friends don’t even really know about my book blogging, and the ones who do know are surprised I’m such a book nerd. We all have different personalities for different times, and Lauren’s two lives collide this summer. I loved watching her world cave in when she realizes what’s going on, because I just know how that would feel. Just as Lauren gets ready to reunite with her sweet, camp boyfriend, her popular boyfriend crashes her fun. And craziness ensues. I couldn’t help but laugh at her predicament. Busted!

Amidst all the summer camp-ness, drama, falling in and out of love over and over again, and trying to keep her old friends and make new friends at the same time… Lauren has to figure out who she really is. Now that her two worlds are one, she has to figure out how to mesh them together. She has to choose who she loves, and what she wants to do with her life. And what HARD choices! I really liked both Seth and Matt, I liked everyone at camp, and I really loved watching everyone try to get along and figure out what’s going on.

This book is, plain and simple, adorable. The writing is perfect, and I SO want to go to summer camp now!

Summer Hair 101
Guest post by J.K. Rock

The day I was born, my parents oohed and ahhed over my brown curls… so much so that they took endless pictures, dragged nurses over to admire me, and called in every friend and relative to see the child destined for shampoo commercials. HAH. Those curls have been the bane of my life, especially when at summer camp. Spending extended amounts of time outdoors, in the water, without frequent access to hair products, takes my semi-intentional, messy, curly look to a hairdo that resembles a Brillo pad- and a used one at that! Yikes. Lauren, the main character in my co-authored novel, Camp Boyfriend, suffers a similar fate (poor thing!). Luckily, her older sister/fashionista, Kellianne, teaches her some tricks to tame her mane. Read on for some fun, stylish ways to deal with summer hair. Take THAT Mother Nature!

Foolproof style for your next getaway or day at the beach. Here’s to good hair days ahead!

1. Before heading to the beach or the pool, wash and condition your hair thoroughly.
2. Towel dry and put hair in a ponytail at the top of your head.
3. Twist hair around the ponytail and secure in a spiraled bun.
4. Spritz strands with a soft-touch hairspray.
5. After your day in the sun, let the bun fall to form smooth waves, and finish with a mist of hairspray to keep locks in place.See? Now it looks like you meant that messy, beachy lookTame the Beast: (otherwise known as your summer hair)T-Shirt Dry – resist the urge to towel dry your wet hair when you get out of the shower. Towels’ thick, rough texture can damage the hair cuticle, so instead reach for an old (clean) t-shirt to soak up moisture.
Don’t Brush – instead of brushing your wet hair, comb through with a wide toothcomb or just your wet fingers. This will help prevent damaging the hair shaft. You can use a brush to blow dry your hair straight, but avoid brushing dry hair as it can stretch out the hair cuticle.

Skip Shampoos – In order to prevent frizz, it’s key not to wash your hair every day. This can deplete the natural healthy oils your scalp produces making your hair even frizzier. Try rinsing with water and applying just conditioner.

Treat it – For an extra benefit, reach for the jojoba or coconut oil once a week. These apply the right amount of moisture and frizz control without weighing hair down.

When it doubt- Braid it out!!
Sometimes the best way to deal with the frizz and heat is to hide it in a messy side bun, top knot, or a braid. It’s a style you can wear to the beach, in the water, on a hike, and still look ready to go to a camp dance like Lauren and her bunkmates at Munchies’ Manor. There are so many styles to choose from. Here one that goes beyond the typical French braid (which I still have yet to master…)

Wave the White Flag- or at least a head scarf.

Head scarves and hats are great ways to look good and not worry about summer locks. Scarves can double as head wraps, head bands, ponytail holders and a weapon when your friends make you want to strangle them as Lauren’s sometimes do! Hats help prevent future wrinkles, but more importantly, they also make you think of Bruno Mars. Who doesn’t want to think about him?!

Go big or Go home!

Sometimes you just have to embrace who you are- frizz and all. Confidence is attractive no matter what. Think about all the rock stars you’ve screamed for in a dark concert hall. Put the same celebrity in daylight and you’ll scream for a different reason- unless it’s Keith Richards and then you’ll know it’s not a mask. Regardless, let your hair be wild and free and when people gently offer you a ponytail holder just smile smugly and say, “And hide all of this awesomeness away… I think not.” In Camp Boyfriend, Seth loves Lauren’s curly hair. In fact, he adores everything about her

Camp Boyfriend is all about individuality and accepting yourself and others. So wave your frizz flag proudly. It’s who you are. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Summer Hair. What’s your favorite summer hairstyle?

 

Giveaway
(There are two types: a daily prize and a grand prize.)
Daily Prize: Camp journal, pen, bookmark, friendship bracelet and I <3 Camp temporary tattoos – colors and style may vary (see picture).

Grand Prize: Elkeles,The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt, That Summer by Sarah Dessen, Always You by Kirsty Moseley, an autographed Arc of Wait For You by Jennifer Armentrout as J.Lynn and autographed copies of Camp Boyfriend and Camp Kiss along with ‘I Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols, Perfect Chemistry by Simone
  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And make sure you visit the other tour stops as well!

7/1 – Aeicha @ Word Spelunking
7/2 – Aseel @ My Crazy Book Obsession
7/3 – Amy @ Book Loving Mom
7/4 – Kazhy @ My Library in the Making
7/8 – Nicole @ Books Complete Me
7/9 – Taherah @ Books As You Know It
7/10 – Jen @ Jenuine Cupcakes
7/12 – Heather @ Nightly Reading
7/15 – Hannah @ The Irish Banana Review
7/16 – Cindy @ Princess Bookie
7/17 – Jenna @ Coffee, Books & Me
7/18 – Jess @ Book Passion for Life
7/19 – Jana @ The Artsy Reader Girl

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (Book Review)

Posted July 16, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (Book Review)Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Published by Disney Hyperion on May 7, 2013
Pages: 294
Format: Audiobook
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on--most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits--that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

I’m not typically a fun of summer romances with a little meat on their bones. Typically, I go for the light and fluffy summer romances on the beach. I was a little scared going into Nantucket Blue for this reason, but I ended up enjoying it, even though it fell a bit short. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. My absolute favorite part of Nantucket Blue was the setting. I love the descriptions of quaint, little Nantucket. This is the kind of small town environment I love–where everyone knows each other, nobody locks their doors, and there are more bikes than cars driving down the stone streets. Secluded beaches are abundant, and the perfect place to fall in love. This book made me want to visit Nantucket, and I hope to find more books that take place there!

2. Cricket. This is the summer she’s going to find herself, and after losing her second mom suddenly, the companionship of her best friend, and the admiration of a boy she was crushing on, she’s definitely in need of a summer of soul searching. After the invitation to spend the summer with Jules on Nantucket is retracted, Cricket finds a job that brings her to Nantucket anyway. After a twist or two, she ends up taking a job at the local Cranberry Inn (I love this place) as a chambermaid, and becomes an intern for a journalist. She cleans rooms, tries not to fall in love with her ex-best friend’s younger brother, assists the injured journalist, jumps out of her comfort zone, and makes a few new friends. I’m not sure how I feel about Cricket. She’s kind of a pushover, and I was hoping to see some major growth throughout the book, which I didn’t really get.

3. I have a really hard time seeing people push away all the good in their life in the face of tragedy. I’ve seen it happen with numerous friends and acquaintances in my life, and it makes me sad. Why not grab hold of the things you love as you grieve the things you’ve lost? That’s why I had a hard time with Jules. She changed into an unrecognizable person, and got so snotty and rude. I felt awful for her when she lost her mom, but this transformation made me not like her very much. She just did not seem to be a very good friend, and I was frustrated with Cricket for fighting so much to keep her in her life.

4. This book is just not happy. There were a few sunshiney moments, which were nice, but there was the constant sadness weighing on me. It felt like everyone was hiding behind a facade, and it made emotions and thoughts feel less genuine. Characters are at least supposed to open up to the readers.

5. I LOVED the supporting characters at the Cranberry Inn: Liz, Gavin, and George. They made this entire book for me, and are the reason I kept reading. Liz is a quirky Irish girl, who wants so badly to bring Cricket out of her shell. She’s so funny! Gavin is like a concerned dad type, and George is the journalist who was the funniest, most genuine character of them all. They became a supportive family to Cricket, and they all meshed so well together.

6. I’m iffy on the romance. It seemed kinda insta-lovey, with no real build-up. I liked the guy ok, but there was an age difference that rubbed me the wrong way. He’s 16 and she’s 18… and I just wasn’t feeling it.

7. Leila’s writing drew me in and kept me there. I loved her descriptions and her writing style.

Overall, this was kind of a “meh” read for me. I loved the setting and the secondary characters, and everyone else was jut ok. I feel like the ending was rather lackluster, but Leila Howard’s writing throughout the rest of the book kept me going. I never considered not finishing the book, but I was not entirely invested in the story. Still, though, I am now in LOVE with Nantucket. I want to go find the Cranberry Inn and hug everyone there!


Boys, Bears, & a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald (Mini Book Review)

Posted June 10, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Boys, Bears, & a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald (Mini Book Review)Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
Published by Candlewick Press on April 13, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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3.5 Stars
Jenna may hail from the ’burbs of New Jersey, but Green Teen activism is her life. So when her mom suggests they spend the summer at Grandma’s Florida condo, Jenna pleads instead to visit her hippie godmother, Susie, up in rural Canada. Jenna is psyched at the chance to commune with this nature she’s heard about — and the cute, plaidwearing boys she’s certain must roam there. But after a few run-ins with local wildlife (from a larger-than-life moose to Susie’s sullen Goth stepdaughter to a hot but hostile boy named Reeve), Jenna gets the idea that her long-held ideals, like vegetarianism and conservation, don’t play so well with this population of real outdoorsmen. A dusty survival guide offers Jenna amusing tips on navigating the wilderness — but can she learn to navigate the turns of her heart?(

Ooooo! An outdoorsy contemporary, with a Jersey girl in the summery Canadian wilderness!? I was all for it. And honestly, the title was quite intriguing and made me laugh. I also thought the “Green Teen” spin was kind of a unique story element. All in all, I really enjoyed Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots. It was cute, light, and full of nature.

Jenna is an activist for preserving the environment. I liked reading about a heroine that had such strong values at such a young age. She is driven, and has goals for her future. I identified with her because I also had my future planned out as a teenager. And like her, my goals changed or were added to. I also liked that she was clean cut and had a desire to stay healthy by eating properly and staying away from drugs. AND she chose to go live in the wilderness over spending a summer poolside in Florida! She’s just a refreshing character, and stands out from the bulk of YA contemporary heroines.

So, she heads off to Canada to stay with her godmother, Susie, and help her spruce up a quaint little B&B in the woods. I really like her godmother! She kind of reminds me of Meryl Streep’s character in Mama Mia! She’s laid back, doesn’t stress to much, lets thing roll off her, and is a lot of fun to talk to. I also like Susie’s husband. He’s a bit quiet and removed, but he has a good heart. Then there’s Fiona, Susie’s stepdaughter, who is pretty much a brat. Every book has to have opposition, and Fiona plays that role on her own. I liked watching her change as Jenna’s perkiness and conscience wore off on her. And THEN we have the three, cute wilderness boys. They spend their summer hanging out with Jenna and making a documentary of sorts about all the fun you can have in that area. Their goal is to put it on a website and attract tourists to the B&B, rather than the high-end spa up the mountain. They spend lots of time swimming, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, etc. I loved reading about all the fun they have doing things I’m too chicken to do!

To sum things up, this book is really cute! I enjoyed seeing Jenna change into a more realistic, mature girl. I think everyone has a pivotal moment in their life when they really decide what they believe in. This summer did just that for Jenna. Plus, she made some memories, made some friends, strengthened her family bonds, and even found herself in the middle of some romance. Was the book memorable? Probably not. But I enjoyed my time reading it, and would recommend it as a fun contemporary romance.


Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt (Book Review)

Posted May 30, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt (Book Review)Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on March 26, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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3 Stars
When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars).

The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.

When I think 1960’s, I think cute clothes, Doris Day (I’m obsessed with old movies), The Beatles, JFK, Martin Luther King, The Sound of Music, etc. What a fun time period! I’ve always wanted to go back in time and visit the 60’s, so I was very excited to read Going Vintage. This was a very cute book, and as always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I love the idea behind Going Vintage. Mallory swears off all modern-day conveniences like the Internet, computers, iPods, cellphones because this technology is what she lost her boyfriend to. Online gaming ruined two relationships of mine, so I totally know how Mallory felt when she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her with an online girl named BubbleYum.

2. I thought it was so much fun that Mallory’s desire to go vintage was inspired by a list of her grandmother’s goals for her junior year of high school. I just wish I liked her grandma more. I actually didn’t like anyone very much in Mallory’s family, especially her mother. Her mom is horrendous, and makes money off her daughters’ misfortunes. I could take or leave her sister, Ginnie, and her dad wasn’t memorable enough for me to have an opinion about him.

3. I also was not the biggest fan of Mallory. She was rather naive to think that life was easy in the 60’s because there was no Friendspace (basically Facebook). If you think back on history, there was a LOT going on in the 60’s that made it hard. It wasn’t all Doris Day and Cary Grant. I liked that she took action to get over Jeremy, rather than curl up in a ball and rot… but I just did not connect with her. And to be honest, I was never convinced she even liked Jeremy. I felt like she mourned the loss of a relationship (she couldn’t make out anymore) than the loss of him.

4. I loved Oliver, the pep-club president. He was charming and swoony.

5. There was a lot going on that had nothing to do with the main idea of the story. It was a little discombobulated for me at times.

6. I appreciate the fact that Going Vintage made me consider my own relationship with technology. I couldn’t help but think of all the time I have wasted online scanning Twitter or Facebook stalking people. I do feel like it rules me a bit too much, and that a technology ban might be beneficial.

Overall, I’m not left with a ton to say about Going Vintage. I was in the mood for a light, fluffy read, and that’s what I got. I loved the idea behind the book, but I feel like there were some things that were missing for me.


RiverTime by Rae Renzi (Mini Book Review)

Posted May 27, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

RiverTime by Rae Renzi (Mini Book Review)RiverTime by Rae Renzi
Published by Carina Press on February 14, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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2 Stars
Casey Lord needs a break. Her great-on-paper boyfriend, Reed, is pressuring her to marry him--but she's not sure if he sees her merely as an asset to help his political career. A river-rafting trip in the remote wilderness provides the perfect opportunity to clear her head. Until a flash flood sweeps Casey away from her group--and straight into the arms of Jack, a mysterious man also stranded by the flooding river.

Jack won't tell Casey his last name, and her innocent questions about his life are met with evasive answers. Yet they have to trust each other to survive, and as the pair await rescue, their uneasy truce slowly blossoms into friendship--and love. They agree to keep secret whatever differences may separate them in the real world.

When rescue finally arrives, will it spell an end to their budding relationship?

I have a major thing for books with survival elements, and I absolutely ADORE the Grand Canyon (which I was not even sure was the setting for this book until I started reading it), so this book sounded perfect for me. I even ended up buying it without reading many reviews (which I forget), because I thought is sounded amazingly romantic and exciting. Sadly, I wasn’t really impressed.

The book starts out while the flash flood is in progress. It’s exciting and grabbed me immediately. The synopsis leads you to believe that Jack saves Casey, but she actually saves him. They both have baggage and frustrating lives, so they agree to forget about it all and live in “Rivertime”, which they treat like a parallel universe of sorts. Anything that happens in the canyon stays there, and will not impact their real lives. I didn’t like this element of the story. By turning this time into something that only mattered in the present, they both made decisions I did not agree with. I lost respect for them because of this.

I liked Jack, and his snarky sense of humor. Casey was your typical heroine, and did not really make an impression on me. With a setting as dynamic as the Grand Canyon, very little was done with it. For all I knew, they were stuck in a forest somewhere. I would have liked more scenery. And considering that this is a survival story, not much surviving happened. There were no animals, no chance of dehydration, no nothing really, except for some rain. I feel like a lot more could have been done with this as well. Casey also has this thing with comparing people to very detailed pieces of chocolate (with nuts and caramel, etc.). That got really old.

I don’t like relationships that that start out as pure lust. They both wanted to have steamy times, and they were each others’ only option, so it happened. This was a very insta-love kind of story, to the point of creepiness. I honestly don’t feel like they were stranded long enough to form a realistic relationship. They fell for each other before they even knew each other, which made it really hard for me to believe that their “love” could withstand their tumultuous real lives. Love needs a strong foundation, and you can’t just form that in a week or two.

I think my disappointment all boils down to the fact that this book spun out of control extremely quickly. Jack and Casey’s time in the canyon was a VERY small part of the story. The rest of it was spent on politics, cheating, misery, and weak characters having a hard time making decisions. Jack and Casey’s realities brought so many details and needless drama that I didn’t care about at all. I feel like the story would have been so much better if they had just been left in the canyon. I continued reading because I hoped things would get good again, but after the first quarter of the book, things went downhill and stayed there. And the ending… well, it was pretty terrible. Everything was wrapped up into a WAY too convenient and implausible bow. I love happily ever afters, but they need to be realistic for me or I end up scoffing. With a promising beginning, Renzi should have quit while she was ahead and written a novella instead of a novel.


Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill (Book Review)

Posted May 22, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 15 Comments

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill (Book Review)Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on November 13, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

First of all, look at that cover! I love it, and it’s actually what prompted me to investigate the book. Then I read the synopsis, and I was sold all over again! A heroine who sounds quirky like me, London, breaking rules, and mysterious suitors? Yessssssss! I’m only sorry it took me so long to read it. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Lauren Morrill paints an absolutely lovely picture of London for us. I’ve never been, but I could still picture the quaint streets and the exciting buzz of such an amazing city.

2. I always wanted to go on a class trip to a far off place and make amazing memories with my friends, fall in love, and look back on it fondly forever. This book was my class trip. Well, it’s as close as I can get to one now. I felt like I was there, wandering the museums, running in the rain, and soaking in an old fashioned bath tub after a long day of walking.

3. Book Licker. Oh my. This is Julia’s nickname (given to her by Jason), and I just adore her for her bookishness, her nerdiness, her obsessive compulsiveness, and her hilarious personality. She’s always reading, spouting off random factoids about everything, tripping over her words, following the rules to a tee, struggling to be perfect at everything, and failing at flirting. And she is deathly afraid of geese. I identified so much with her… and I’m not sure what that says about me! Haha.

4. And then we have Jason, her partner (buddy) on this class trip. He is her polar opposite, her arch nemesis, and the thorn in her side. But he’s funny and suave and cute, and he’s getting her to do all these new things and experience London in a way that she never predicted. And he can be so sweet and concerned sometimes. And boy, does he pick on her! I loved watching him burrow his way into the little soft spot she formed for him.

5. Meant to Be is charmingly hilarious. Jason gets drunk, and I could not contain my laughter during this scene. And remember when I said Julia is scared of geese? You have NO idea. And then there’s a street performer… and a pond incident, not to mention the witty dialogue.

6. It’s SO romantic. There’s mud kissing, sightseeing off the beaten path, deep conversations, and a slow burn. I love this kind of romance. It’s a 180 from insta-love. It’s so realistic and believable.

7. Even though these are high-schoolers, I never felt like they were! Julia and Jason are so mature, smart, and well-spoken. They make some very teen-like decisions, but their outlook on the world, and their insights on those decisions make them relatable. Honestly, these two are any age you want them to be. I loved that this is a YA book that adults and kids can enjoy and pull different things from. I just know I will be reading this with my future daughter someday.

8. I loved the smattering of Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Winston Churchill quotes. They just added a little something special!

9. The ending was really something special, and I could not have seen that coming. This is definitely not a predictable book.

I think I might have found my new favorite YA contemporary romance, and that’s really saying something! I love Julia and Jason, and am quite sad that my time with them is over. I’m also sad I had to leave London and fly back to the USA with them. Meant to Be is such a fun journey, and I loved every single word. Finally, I love that the cover matches the content! Both are absolutely beautiful. If you loved Anna and the French Kiss, Just One Day, and Instructions for a Broken Heart, you will love this! And if you’ve never read any of these, you’ll still love it. It’s full of heart, travel, young love, and humor.


Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway (Book Review)

Posted March 20, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 11 Comments

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway (Book Review)Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
Published by Razorbill on April 10, 2008
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought from Amazon
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4 Stars
California high school student Audrey Cuttler dumps self-involved Evan, the lead singer of a little band called The Do-Gooders. Evan writes, “Audrey, Wait!” a break-up song that’s so good it rockets up the billboard charts. And Audrey is suddenly famous!

Now rabid fans are invading her school. People is running articles about her arm-warmers. The lead singer of the Lolitas wants her as his muse. (And the Internet is documenting her every move!) Audrey can't hang out with her best friend or get with her new crush without being mobbed by fans and paparazzi.

Take a wild ride with Audrey as she makes headlines, has outrageous amounts of fun, confronts her ex on MTV, and gets the chance to show the world who she really is.

Audrey, Wait! is one of those hidden gems that hardly anyone seems to know about. I know I have heard very little about lately, what with all the buzz for new releases lately. This story is hilarious and so much fun, and I am so glad I read it!

1. The idea behind the story is magical. We’ve all dumped someone, but I’m pretty sure not all of us became a band’s muse because of it. I’m also confident in saying that not all of us have a hit song written about us. This is Audrey’s life, and her story is so funny.

2. I love how the entire book is Audrey talking to the reader. She wants us to hear her side of the story, since we obviously read all about it in People magazine and saw it on the news. As she is telling us her story, she adds additional parenthetical thoughts like “(I’m sure you’ve heard The Song by now.)” I really liked the fact that we were included. I felt like I was hearing about this over junk food at a sleepover.

3. Audrey is someone I would have been friends with in high school. She is down to earth, funny, a little eccentric, a music lover, and she marches to the beat of her own drum. And honestly, she handled this overnight fame like a pro. All she did was dump her boyfriend! That’s it! And all of a sudden she’s being asked for autographs, hit on by celebrities, stalked by the paparazzi, and ripped a part by teeny boppers on online message boards. I loved, loved, LOVED her voice. She is just so funny! This is my favorite quote, and sums her up in as few words as I can think:

“Oh Jesus, they had heard the song. They had heard the song and listened to the lyrics and then got totally paranoid and hacked into my email account and figured out that Evan and I had slept together, and now I was going to have to sit through some intervention where my parents talked about sperm and condoms and responsibility and teenage pregnancy statistics. And then they’d probably ship me off to one of those wilderness camps where they give you a name like Little Running Bear and make you scavenge for food to build up your self esteem until you swear to be abstinent for the rest of your natural life.

I’ll tell you this right now: me and nature? Not so much.”

Perfect, huh? I read this quote two or three times, and laughed each time. 

4. Really, I loved all the characters, except for snotty Sharon. Evan is the typical boy band boy, but we get to see him grow up and change with his fame. It was refreshing to discover that I liked him more after he became a famous musician than before. Usually that goes the other way. Victoria is Audrey’s best friend, and the kind of person I need in my life to push me into adventures. She’s spunky and a lot of fun. She’s in total contrast to Audrey, and it was so much fun to read about their friendship. I also love Audrey’s new love interest, James. He’s a nerd and he’s shy and sweet, and he says some of the most swoonworthy things. I love how he adores Audrey. I just want him all to myself!

5. Bendomolena, Audrey’s fat cat, is definitely one of my favorite characters in the book. And seriously what is with that name? I would love to hear the story behind that name. Anyway, Bendy is amazing. Even though she does not get to say anything, she says enough with her mannerisms. I am a major cat lover, and I think this is the first book I’ve read with a cat as a character. She made me smile.

6. My main complaint is all the swear words. I can not tell you how many f-words there were in this book. This young adult novel had more swear words in it than most adult novels I have read, and I started to get really annoyed. I also did not love the characters as much as I could have. I really dislike profanity in books.

Overall, this book was an adorable romp through the life of a teenage girl whose claim to fame did not get the best of her. When she finally got to confront the World she did it with style and panache that I could not help but cheer for. I loved it!


Nocturne by Syrie James (Book Review)

Posted January 28, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Nocturne by Syrie James (Book Review)Nocturne by Syrie James
Published by Vanguard Press on January 4, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
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5 Stars
When Nicole Whitcomb's car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.

Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension.Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret--or secrets--is he hiding?

Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from--but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her--a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever.

As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host's terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life.

1. I love the cover! It does a wonderful job of setting the tone for this haunting love story. I love a good romance. I love a good forbidden romance! I gobbled this book up like a bag of my favorite chocolate truffles, and here’s why!

I was very privileged to receive an invitation to a Q&A with Syrie the day after I finished Nocturne. I will do my best to integrate my questions and her answers into this review without spoiling any parts of the book!

2. This book is amazing for so many different reasons. Syrie’s beautiful writing never disappoints. How could it, though, when she chose such a wonderful setting for the book? It takes place in a beautiful, secluded area not far from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which I have visited and is very lovely. I asked Syrie why she chose this particular location, as I had never read a book that took place there before. She said, “While doing research for this novel, to make my plot work, I needed to find a very remote spot where a reclusive person could own a fabulous spread and beautiful home, yet was not too far from a ski resort … and where it was believable that Nicole could actually be snowed in there for four days. For some reason I just knew it had to be in Colorado. An expert on all things Colorado (my cousin, in fact) suggested that particular location, and I am so grateful. I thought it worked perfectly.” I totally agree! I loved the descriptions she used and the pictures she painted. It was an ideal setting.

3. We have a very sexy, dangerous man who pulls himself out of isolation to rescue a damsel in distress. Michael is a 260-year-old vampire. He has given up drinking human blood and lives in a very secluded Rocky Mountain home to resist any temptation. In his spare time he reads a lot, writes, plays the piano, gardens, takes care of his horses, and works with wood. He is very content with his life, and enjoys his privacy. Seriously, this guy is perfect — intelligent, well read, musically inclined, sensitive, strong, loves animals, etc. You can’t help but love him. Syrie told me that Michael was inspired by, “…my love for Mr. Darcy! Admittedly, he does share a few of my husband’s traits, but mainly it was me conjuring up the type of man I’d fall madly in love with, if I was snowbound with him for four days.” She and I clearly have something in common because, aside from the vampire quality, Michael is my kind of man!

3. One thing that I found so unique about Nocturne is that the entire story revolves around two characters. That’s right. TWO. Yet, it’s not boring or long-winded. I wasn’t hoping for more characters. Actually, I would have been really annoyed if some highway patrolman or Michael’s housekeeper had shown up and destroyed the magic of this chance encounter. I asked Syrie if it was difficult writing a story with only two characters, or if she enjoyed being able to focus more on each one individually. She said, “I LOVED writing about just two characters. As a reader, with many books, I become so interested and invested in the main characters and their stories that I’m tempted to skip all the scenes with minor characters and just get to the main plot. I’ve felt that way as a writer, too. I thought, what if I just write a book about the two main characters? Could I do it? The challenge was to make them complex enough to keep the sexual tension and the twists and turns of the plot going. I hope you enjoyed the result.” Like I said, I did enjoy it and I really got to learn about and become friends with Michael and Nicole as a result.

Speaking of Nicole… She’s working a job that she has no passion for, but she does it because it’s safe. A traumatic past led her to that decision. At the tail end of her Steamboat Springs vacation, she gets caught in an awful snowstorm. She runs off the road, blacks out, and wakes up in a strange home by a warm fire. Her rescuer is a very secretive, moody, mysterious, and very attractive man. He did not want to save her. In fact, he wanted to leave her out there to die, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. So, here they sit, snowbound in an isolated home for four days. Nicole notices he is a little odd, and as she begins to figure him out she’s terrified of staying with him. She has to decide, though, which is more dangerous? Should she take her chances and brave the deadly blizzard, or take her chances and trust this man to keep his promise and keep her safe?

4. As the days go by, they have lots of long, deep conversations about life and love. I really enjoyed these conversations. It was like I was a fly on the wall of Michael’s cozy study, listening in on their private discussions. I usually get bored with long strings of dialogue and no action, but this was quite refreshing!

All in all, I loved this book. Yes, the story has been done before, but this take on the subject matter was so well done and so unique, that I did not feel like I had read it before. I was a bit skeptical about the whirlwind romance that took only about 3 days to reach its peak, but this was believable. The characters were relatable. They both had flaws that made them imperfect, but they brought out the perfection in each other. The twists and turns were dramatic, but again believable. The ending left more to be desired, but Syrie said, “…Nicole and Michael’s story is far from over. I’d love to write a sequel to Nocturne. It will depend on whether readers and the publisher request it, so we’ll have to wait and see!” I know I want to read it!

I thought I’d end my review with Syrie’s thoughts on her inspiration for this novel, and why she chose to focus more on certain elements of storytelling than others. “It must be something in the genes, but some of the most romantic and enduring relationships in my family history began as love at first sight (including my own love affair with my husband.) Maybe that’s why I felt compelled to write about the passionate, whirlwind romance between Michael and Nicole in my new novel, Nocturne. I…love that initial period of intense discovery between new lovers. I call it “falling in love through conversation,” and it’s so important to me that I have placed great emphasis on it in every single one of my novels.”

I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of forbidden love stories, real characters, and beautiful storytelling.  Please do me a favor and go buy Nocturne so that Syrie can write a sequel! I’m not done with those two yet! Thanks so much to Syrie James for taking the time to answer my questions, and to Wunderkind PR for sending me a copy of this book!


Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Book Review)

Posted January 10, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Book Review)Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day #1
Also in this series: Just One Year, Just One Night
Published by Dutton Juvenile on January 8, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: From Kimberly (The Bookish Thespian)
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5 Stars
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Holy crap. That’s what I said, people, when I shut this baby after tearing through it at lightning speed. This is the kind of book that leaves you feeling intimidated by trying to write a review, because nothing you say will be what you actually wanted to say. I just have this feeling I’m not going to like my review, so I’ll try to make it short and sweet. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Can I just say right upfront that I want this day to happen to me? I love traveling, and I particularly love Paris. I could picture Allyson and Willem on the train, walking the streets of Paris, eating crepes, gazing over the river, even walking past all the vintage items in boxes and paintings and key chains from street vendors. Gayle brought Paris alive for me again, and so many memories came flooding back from my time there. I loved that they did not do the typical touristy things, though. They experienced Paris in a way that most people who only have one day there don’t. I want to do what they did, and I want to find a guy like Willem to be right there next to me. This day was a whirlwind of amazingness.

2. The wanderlust monster has been reawakened in me! Where can I go next? The travel and scenic descriptions were amazing. It’s like I was there.

3. I love the whole leave your life behind, get totally lost, and end up finding yourself mentality. Wanderlove had a similar feel, and I just love books that make me want to discover myself and the world I live in. I feel like an author has done something amazing if they can inspire me to do something.

4. I felt every single emotion possible in this book. What a roller coaster! I went from feeling on top of the world to absolutely heart-shatteringly sad for my beloved characters. I’ve seen quite a few reviewers say, “I felt ALL THE FEELS.” It’s so true. Never has a single statement summed up a book so well.

5. I love Allyson. She is so real, and spoke to my soul many times throughout the story. I felt for her and loved reading about her journey to self discovery. Her alter ego, Lulu, made me so proud. I loved watching her incorporate Lulu into her own life. Willem is amazing. He’s everything I hoped to find when I went to Holland. Haha. Either I went to the wrong places, or he’s a diamond in the rough. I am so excited to read his story, Just One Year. I have this feeling that I will love it more than Just One Day. He and Allyson together are magical.

6. This story is so beautiful. I mean, this is the bottom line here. The writing is gorgeous, the emotions are so wonderfully expressed, the scenery jumps off the pages, the people are so real, the feelings are so deep, and the eagerness and excitement are electric. There were so many amazing quotes. I could not get enough of any of it.

7. I’m a Gayle Forman fangirl for life. This was my first book of hers, but I think I need to go buy all the others.

For fear of spoiling anything, I’m going to end my review with a few blanket statements. Just One Day is a new favorite of mine that you MUST read. I love this book beyond words, and I love that it has inspired this introspective look at my own life. If you love romance, self-discovery, travel, and emotional roller coasters (which usually I hate), you’ll love Just One Day.

And for your reading pleasure, here are a two of my favorite quotes:

“I think everything is happening all the time, but if you don’t put yourself in the path of it, you miss it. When you travel, you put yourself out there. It’s not always great. Sometimes it’s terrible. But other times…” He lifts his shoulder and gestures out to Paris, then sneaks me a sidelong glance. “It’s not so bad.”

I think you’re the sort of person who finds money on the ground and waves it in the air and asks if anyone has lost it. I think you cry in movies that aren’t even sad because you have a soft heart, though you don’t let it show. I think you do things that scare you , and that makes you braver than those adrenaline junkies who bungee-jump off bridges.

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