Month: March 2014

Top Ten Books That Take You Places

Posted March 10, 2014 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 14 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

Next week is my spring break, and last week was midterm… so I have summer and traveling on the brain! I thought it would be fun to share my top ten favorite books that take you somewhere instead of talking about my top ten favorite books in a specific genre. Although seriously, travel is a genre in my opinion! Clicking on the book’s banner takes you to its Goodreads page.



Do you have any recommendations for books that take you places? Road trips, cruises, flights, study abroad, anything. This is my favorite kind of book, so PLEASE give me recommendations on more of them I can read! I’ll love you forever. :)

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan | Book Thoughts

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

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan | Book ThoughtsThe Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 1, 2005
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Stars

The Secret Diamond Sisters Blog Tour | Character Profile – Peyton + Giveaway

Posted March 7, 2014 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway / 10 Comments

The Secret Diamond Sisters Blog Tour | Character Profile - Peyton + Giveaway

Welcome to my stop along the book blog tour for The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow, hosted by Kismet Blog Touring. This post is chock full of goodies, including all the information about the book and the author, the character profile for Peyton, and a really exciting giveaway! So, let’s get started!

About the Book

The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow
Series: The Secret Diamond Sisters #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on February 25, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
AmazonBarnes & Noble • Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million

Savannah. Courtney. Peyton.

The three sisters grew up not knowing their father and not quite catching a break. But it looks like their luck is about to change when they find out the secret identity of their long-lost dad—a billionaire Las Vegas hotel owner who wants them to come live in a gorgeous penthouse hotel suite. Suddenly the Strip’s most exclusive clubs are all-access, and with an unlimited credit card each, it should be easier than ever to fit right in. But in a town full of secrets and illusion, fitting in is nothing compared to finding out the truth about their past.

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Character Profile for Peyton

Peyton.inddAt seventeen years old, Peyton is the oldest Diamond sister. She’s been hurt in the past, but because of it, has developed a thick skin. She will do anything for her sisters, going as far as protecting them from their mom’s outbursts and getting home first from school to make sure everything in the house (including their mom) is ready for them. She’s tough, doesn’t trust easily, and while she has many people she hangs out with, the only people who she feels truly know her are her sisters. She doesn’t like school (she gets restless sitting in classrooms!) and can’t wait until graduation so she’ll be done forever.

Peyton’s a natural night owl, and waking up in the morning is a constant struggle. (Her sisters usually resort to throwing things at her to wake her up, and often yell at her to hurry up showering so they can have time for their morning routines, too.) She needs at least three cups of coffee to get going. She loves rock music, and can usually be found with an earbud attached to her ear, even during her classes. She loves partying and dancing and getting lost in the music. She also enjoys an occasional chill night of movies and television shows, as long as it’s not a rom-com chick flick.

She wears mostly black clothing—why bother with colors when black always looks hot on her? Her nails are usually painted black as well. She’s not afraid to speak up for what she believes in and she will always stand up for her sisters. She tries to not let anyone in to avoid getting hurt—but really she just wants to find that one person who cares enough to break down her walls.

About Michelle Madow

Michelle Madow wrote her first novel, Remembrance, in her junior year of college. Remembrance is the first book in the Transcend Time Saga, a three part series about reincarnation and true love that Michelle successfully self-published. The series was inspired by Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” music video. Michelle’s upcoming YA trilogy, The Secret Diamond Sisters, about three sisters who discover they are the secret heirs to a Las Vegas billionaire casino owner will be published by Harlequin TEEN in Spring 2014.

Michelle graduated from Rollins College in 2010, cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta. She received the Charles Hyde Pratt Award for Excellence in Creative Writing in 2010.

She lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where she is writing more novels for young adults. She loves reading, spending time with family and friends, traveling, shopping, sunshine, Disney fairy tales, Broadway musicals, and spends way too much time on Facebook and Twitter.

Find Michelle here!
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Contest Information

Each tour stop is offering up a copy of The Secret Diamond sisters, and one winner will receive a fantastic Grand Prize Package including the following Harlequin Teen titles: 2 copies of The Secret Diamond Sisters, a copy of White hot Kiss by Jennifer Armentrout, Grim edited by Christine Johnson, a signed copy of Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott and an ARC of Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid.

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Follow the rest of the tour!

Monday, March 3rd – Chapter by Chapter
Wednesday, March 5th – The Book Bells
Friday, March 7th – That Artsy Reader Girl

Monday, March 10th – Good Books and Good Wine
Wednesday, March 12th – Book Swoon
Friday, March 14th – Spiced Latte

Epic Recs: March 2014

Posted March 6, 2014 by Jana in Personal / 2 Comments

Hosted by Paper Riot


Last month Racquel recommended I read Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell because she said this book is great for fans of Lola and the Boy Next Door. I could not agree more! Chloe is a quirky fashionista just like Lola, and I think they would be great friends. I also loved the emphasis on friendship in Welcome, Caller. Chloe is a former popular girl who makes her friends mad and becomes the school’s biggest outcast. She ends up latching on to a group of really unique people who run the school’s radio station. She also kind of falls for a certain boy in this group. But the story is about so much more than the romance. It’s about change, growing, struggling to find yourself, and friendship. I loved that the book was sweet and funny, but at the same time it tackled some heavier issues. I’ll be posting my review soon!

So! February was a success, and I’m excited for what Racquel and I are going to be reading this month!


EpicRecsMarch2014Racquel has decided that I’m in need of expanding my love of historical romances, which I am super excited about! I love historical romances, but there are MILLIONS of them, and I have no idea where to even start! Luckily, historical romance is one of Racquel’s favorite genres, so she has a list of great ones for me. She said that What I Did for a Duke is “really character driven and the dialogue is AWESOME.” I’m so excited!

I suggested Racquel try Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlet because she enjoys adult romance and also enjoys sci-fi/dystopia. This book combines both! The book takes place on an undersea warship, and the heroine is a doctor who has to find a cure for a deadly virus. There’s suspense, romance, and a lot of snark. I adore this book, and am so excited to be introducing Racquel to a book she’s never heard of before! This should be fun for both of us. :)

Ok, so that’s our month! Have you read either of these books? Will we like them?

Lessons I Learned While Traveling by Jennifer Barclay | Falling in Honey Author Guest Post

Posted March 5, 2014 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

I’m pleased to welcome Jennifer Barclay, author of Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart, to the blog today as part of the Falling in Honey blog tour! She’s here to tell us all about what she learned while traveling. You all know that I went on a 6-week European vacation a couple years ago, and I came away knowing more about myself than I thought possible. Traveling really does force you to discover yourself, and I will never ever stop doing that. So, this guest post has me written all over it! Before I turn the blog over to Jennifer, here’s a little bit about her book!

falling in honeyFalling in Honey by Jennifer Barclay
Published by Sourcebooks on March 4, 2014
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel
Pages: 352
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The Best Gifts in Life are the Gifts We Give Ourselves…

Breathtaking ocean views, tranquil beaches, delicious food, and warm-hearted people…these are just a few of the reasons why Jennifer Barclay loves the Greek islands. But her dreams of living there full-time seem out of reach, until a break-up turns her world upside down.

Jennifer realizes she is responsible for her own happiness-and decides to cut back on work, stay out of relationships, and vacation for a month on Tilos, her favorite Greek island. Life becomes instantly sweeter, and she resolves to uproot her life to Tilos. But then the strangest thing happens…

A glimpse into life on a tiny Mediterranean island, Falling in Honey is a testament to the power of being good to yourself.

Lessons I Learned While Traveling
by Jennifer Barclay

Three years ago, I came to live on a tiny Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It’s an island many people have never heard of – it’s called Tilos, not far away from Rhodes and the shores of Turkey. It doesn’t have an airport, though there are ferry boats most days connecting us with other islands. And it’s magical.

The book I wrote, called Falling in Honey, is about the journey through the two years of my life that brought me here, and it’s full of things I learned along the way. I’m going to tell you about a few of them, and please let me know if you agree…

1. Pick an island, any island

As a teenager and in my early twenties, I travelled a lot around the Greek islands. For a year after university, when I couldn’t find a job and didn’t know what to do, I went to Athens to teach English for a year; and on the weekends or holidays, I’d just take my backpack down to the ferry port and pick an island to explore, trusting to serendipity. That way I learned what excited me, and it was rarely the ‘must-see’ sights. Often it would be simply a walk alone across an island where I’d sit in a deserted field looking out to sea, with just the sound of goat-bells around me, and be amazed that I’d discovered this myself.

Finding your own way in life is important. I’m delighted when people read my book or my blog and it inspires them to come to Tilos. But I also say ‘Pick an island, any island’ – and I’m saying, too: find whatever it is you want to do in life and pursue it, however unconventional it is.

2. Enjoy the Open Road

That first year when I lived in Athens, I was constantly meeting strangers. People were forever coming up to me and talking to me, offering help. That, coupled with teaching English, helped me get over the bookish shyness I’d had since I was a kid. One evening as I was strolling near Syntagma Square, a man from the faraway Greek island of Crete started asking me how I liked living in Athens, which in some ways was a bit of a crazy place at the time. He made me laugh, saying he didn’t need to buy cigarettes any more as he could breathe bad air for free. ‘I like the rubbish. I like fighting people for my position on the bus,’ he said, and made me think how much, like him, I liked the random, bizarre excitement of my new life. Every day was an adventure.

3. Happiness Is Easy Sometimes

The summer after my year in Athens, when school broke up for the holidays, I ended up in Santorini and landed what I still think of as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It wasn’t exactly what I’d trained for when doing my degree in English at Oxford… All I was doing was cleaning rooms in a hotel in Oia – but I’d get up in the morning and put on the swimsuit that became my chosen work uniform, walk out into the sunshine and gaze over a vast expanse of deep blue, the view people pay thousands for, and I’d feel incredibly lucky. I made friends with Kyriakos, a Greek man who ran a cosy little bar in the village, and one afternoon he told me, ‘Happiness is easy sometimes.’

It’s something we often forget. But when I first brought myself to stay for a month on the island of Tilos several years ago, I woke up and looked up at the blue sky, and thought it again. I could see the blue sea from the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth, and the sweet smells of the bakery next door would waft up onto my terrace tantalizingly. Sun, sea and spanakopita – happiness is easy sometimes. ‘This might be the cleverest thing I have ever done,’ I thought.

4. Life is too short not to reach out for what makes you happy

After that first month on Tilos, I knew I felt energised by being able to swim in the sea at lunchtime, and walk up onto a hillside that was fragrant with wild herbs in the evening; eat delicious local vegetables and olive oil, yoghurt and honey; gaze up into the blue sky at eagles, or millions of stars and the Milky Way by night. I knew I could find a way to adapt the kind of work I do in order to live here, so I could actually live amid these spectacular natural surroundings. I could do it – I could live the adventure.

Life then threw in a few complications.

But over the course of those two years, two people I cared for became fatally ill. They wouldn’t get to live their dreams any longer.

I still could. Life is too short not to reach out for what makes you happy, and take action to make your life better, in whatever way you think might be right for you.

Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts today. Do post your comments, and if you want to read more, please check out my book, Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart, published in North America by Sourcebooks (and in the UK and ANZ by Summersdale). Or just come over and check out my regular updates on my blog.

And whatever you do, reach out for what makes you happy. Happiness is easy sometimes. Enjoy the open road. Pick an island, any island…

Wow. I know where I want to go on my next vacation! Thank you, Jennifer, for igniting (or re-igniting, in my case) the travel bug in us all. I love that you showed us yourself, and am even more excited to read your book now! It’s sitting on my Kindle, calling to me as the rain pours outside my window. I need a little sunshine and happiness!

Top Ten Popular Authors I’ve Never Read

Posted March 3, 2014 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 14 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

Try not to strangle me with your thoughts as you read my list! I just read my first J.K. Rowling book last month, so I’m getting better! :)



Have you read any of these authors? What books of theirs are the best?
Which popular authors have you never read a book by?

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo | Book Thoughts

Posted March 3, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Inner Child, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian / 5 Comments

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo | Book ThoughtsThe Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press on September 9, 2008
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 272
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other's lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

While it is a TON of work, I am so thankful that my children’s lit class is forcing me to read so many of the books I missed out on as a kid. The following is not really a review, but more of my thoughts on the book from an educational perspective.

I love how the author speaks to the reader directly, either to ask them to think about what is happening on a more psychological level, or just to explain a complicated word she has used in her story. I think this is a wonderful way to write to children, as it includes them and makes them a part of the reading experience.

There are so many beautiful messages and lessons that can be found if you really think about the symbolism of this story. I can think of so many discussions that could be built off of the quotes below:

Finding/being oneself:

Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.

Despereaux stood before the Mouse Council, and he realized that he was a different mouse than he had been the last time he faced them. He had been to the dungeon and back up out of it. He knew things that they would never know; what they thought of him, he realized, did not matter, not at all.”
I particularly love this quote. It is so symbolic of our trials and tribulations changing us as we learn and grown from them.


Reader, you may ask this question; in fact, you must ask this question: Is it ridiculous for a very small, sickly, big-eared mouse to fall in love with a beautiful human princess named Pea? The answer is … yes. Of course, it’s ridiculous. Love is ridiculous. But love is also wonderful. And powerful.

Did you think that rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken.

There is a danger of loving: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how many kingdoms you rule, you cannot stop those you love from dying.

And hope is like love … a ridiculous, wonderful, powerful thing.

Reader, nothing is sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name. Nothing.

Being discouraged:

Reader, do you believe that there is such a things as happily ever after? Or, like Despereaux, have you, too, begun to question the possibility of happy endings?

There is a lot of talk in the story about our actions having consequences, no matter how insignificant we think those actions are at the time.

Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence.

Light and dark, and the symbolism of each: Light is thought of to be happiness and goodness. It’s music. It’s love. Dark is considered to be scary, evil, and sad.

Stories are lights. Light is precious in a world so dark.

“I think, said Roscuro, “that the meaning of life is light.”

That is, Pea was aware suddenly of how fragile her heart was, how much darkness was inside it, fighting, always, with the light. She did not like the rat. She would never like the rat, but she knew what she must do to save her own heart.

The world is dark and light is precious. Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I am telling you a story.

Basically, I loved The Tale of Despereaux. Despereaux is adorable, and when he fell in love with the princess I just melted. I feel like this book has a lot for everyone. Girls will love this royal story, filled with a castle and a princess and love. Boys will love the brave Despereaux and his journey to the dungeons to save the princess. Parents will love this because of all the hidden messages they can share with their children, as there are quite a few teaching moments. Some of these lessons are simply beautiful, and are a nice reminder for kids and adults alike.

5 Stars