Month: January 2015

The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston | Book Review

Posted January 30, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 1 Comment

The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston | Book ReviewThe Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston
Series: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim #1
Published by Carolrhoda Books on March 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 312
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim's fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!

This book was a required read for my Young Adult Literature class as part of my MLIS program.

So… I’m not going to write a formal review of The Story of Owen. I’m just going to post my thoughts that I wrote for a couple assignments in my class. Unfortunately, this book was not my favorite. Its had its moments, but overall I had some complaints I could not reconcile.

1. It started out very slowly for me, and never really picked up very much. Maybe things were a bit slow going because the author took her time to build the world. She spent a lot of time going through historical elements to establish dragons as a part of life, and we also read flashbacks to get to know Siobhan and Owen better. I like worldbuilding a lot, but I felt bogged down by so many details and information dumps.

2. I can imagine the author had to do a lot of research to figure out ways to add dragons to history. And I did find some of these historical facts interesting and even cool, but there was just too much.

3. One interesting thing I am slightly confused by is Owen’s need for a bard. It almost seems as
though the author is trying to make Owen’s story a tall tale of sorts, that people talk about for generations… like John Henry. It’s definitely a unique plot mechanism, but I’m not sure I like it.

4. I do love Owen’s and Siobhan’s friendship. They have this mutual caring and admiration for one another that I think is sweet. There are some very tender moments throughout.

5. There’s a very strong “girl power” message throughout the story. The story is dominated by powerful, strong ladies. I think it’s refreshing, and I wonder if the author had a reason for doing this. I think this would be a great book to recommend to girls who are looking for strong heroines.

6. There’s suggestions of possible romance throughout the book, but it never develops into the full-blown romance/infatuation that is so typical in books for young adults. I’m not complaining. I find it refreshing that the author has chosen to hook readers with strong friendships instead.

7. Siobhan’s and Owen’s personalities might be the reason for this lack of romance. To me, they both act younger than the book says they are. I was very surprised when Siobhan drove the two of them or offered to pick Owen up for something, but then remembered she’s old enough. It could just be that these two are a little behind socially and friendship feels more natural than romance.

8. The ending was definitely my favorite part of the story. I can’t even really say why, I was just very happy with how everyone ended up.

9. I can see The Story of Owen having a wide appeal because it is not gender specific and it has lots of different story elements (homosexuality, adventure, bravery, friendship, tradition, history/alternate history, perseverance, familial relationships, etc.).

All in all, I’m a romance girl! I think the lack of romance, which would not have worked in this story anyway so I’m glad the author did not add it, combined with the huge info dumps that ripped me out of the story are my biggest complaints. But I also did not really connect with the characters. I never felt anything for any of them. So really, things were just a mess for me.

3 Stars

Winnie by Sally M. Walker | Children’s Book Review

Posted January 28, 2015 by Jana in Children's Book Review / 1 Comment

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker
Illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 40
Source: From the publisher
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Who could care for a bear? When Harry Colebourn saw a baby bear for sale at the train station, he knew he could care for it. Harry was a veterinarian. But he was also a soldier in training for World War I. Harry named the bear Winnie, short for Winnipeg, his company’s home town, and he brought her along to the training camp in England. Winnie followed Harry everywhere and slept under his cot every night. Before long, she became the regiment’s much-loved mascot. But who could care for the bear when Harry had to go to the battleground in France? Harry found just the right place for Winnie while he was away—the London Zoo. There a little boy named Christopher Robin came along and played with Winnie—he could care for this bear too!

Sally Walker’s heartwarming story, paired with Jonathan Voss’s evocative illustrations, brings to life the story of the real bear who inspired Winnie the Pooh.

This book warmed my heart. I absolutely loved Winnie the Pooh as a child. To be honest, I still do. I had heard Winnie the Pooh was inspired by true events, but I had never heard the story. And honestly, it’s one of the sweetest stories I’ve read in a long time.

The story takes place during WWI times, and just enough information is provided to the reader to understand what’s going on without scaring them. The focus is entirely on Harry and his bear. Harry met little Winnie at the train station, where she climbed into his lap and licked his chin. He bought her for $20. From the beginning, her relationship with Harry was so sweet. Readers learn what Winnie and Harry did together, how Winnie played, what she ate, where she lived, and where she slept. She nuzzled the muzzles of horses, and then needed cuddle time if they scared her. How cute is that? It is no question at all that little Winnie was a unique and special bear. She was brought to the London zoo when Harry and the other soldiers could no longer care for her (they went to war), and little children played with her there (one of them was named Christopher Robin). They even rode on her back! She was so happy. And the story has a happy ending with a bit of a twist that will make you smile. :)

The illustrations are simply beautiful. The tenderness between Harry and Winnie is so perfectly illustrated with soft watercolor tones. As a bonus, black and white photos of the real Harry and the real Winnie are included as well, and they are such a wonderful addition to the story. We get to see Winnie sitting in Harry’s lap for the regiment’s group picture and we get to see her do tricks for apples. There’s an author’s note at the end of the book, which provides more information about Harry’s and Winnie’s lives. Sources are also cited.

I love this story. It’s perfect for lovers of animals, Winnie the Pooh, history, and magical stories. People today would never buy a baby bear, much less take it on a transatlantic voyage to England. This gives the story a sense of fantasy, but children will be delighted to hear it’s true! Definitely pick up a copy of Winnie. It’s one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a while.

The Recipe Hacker by Diana Keuilian | Cookbook Review

Posted January 26, 2015 by Jana in Book Review / 5 Comments

The Recipe Hacker by Diana Keuilian | Cookbook ReviewThe Recipe Hacker: Comfort Foods without Soy, Dairy, Cane Sugar, Gluten, and Grain by Diana Keuilian
Published by Cedar Fort on December 9, 2014
Genres: Cookbook
Pages: 200
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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Break the recipe code for your favorite foods! Free of grains, gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and soy, The Recipe Hacker is a mouthwatering collection of your favorite comfort foods with a healthy twist. Learn to use easy ingredient substitutions to transform traditional dishes into real, healthy comfort food masterpieces, without sacrificing any of the flavor! Enjoy healthier, whole-food versions of Key Lime Pie Crispy Orange Chicken and Banana Pancakes Step-by-step photos, dozens of recipes, and delicious flavors will keep you coming back for more. Enjoy all the comfort foods you crave and keep your body (and skinny jeans) happy at the same time!

Recently I’ve started considering the fact that several of my health issues might be alleviated by giving up certain foods that typically cause allergies. I’ve got a lot of inflammation in my body, and I’ve read that food allergies can manifest themselves in less noticeable ways, or can disguise themselves as other problems. Needless to say, I was super excited to try out this cookbook because it lines up with a lot of the foods I’ve been thinking about giving up.

The contents of the cookbook include breakfasts, appetizers, main dishes, sides, and desserts. The author has come up with some very creative workarounds, and her recipes sounds amazing! Before I get into the recipes, though, I’d like to touch on the information the author provides for her readers. There’s a short note where she introduces herself and explains why she think healthy eating should be an important part of our lives, followed by a small list of healthy ingredients. She pushes organic eating and her favorite flour substitute is blanched almond flour (although people allergic to almonds can used ground sunflower seeds or gluten free oats instead). She also lists other flour, cane sugar, milk substitutes.

Now, to get into the foods! There are 100 recipes in all, most are accompanied by a sizable photo that looks so yummy I could eat it! I’m going to mention just a few that I think sounds interesting, but I’ll have to do a little more tweaking because I’m allergic to all nuts and seeds. It appears my gluten substitutes are limited!

Starting with breakfast, there’s a recipe for a donut breakfast sandwich, which sounds really yummy. It’s got a fried egg and bacon in it, and the donut is sweetened with pure maple, almond, and vanilla extracts. Sounds so good! There’s also a recipe for bagels, and I LOVE bagels. The author has included tweaks to make several different kinds, including blueberry and cinnamon (I’ll skip the raisins! Not a fan.).

Moving on to appetizers, the first recipe is onion rings–one of my guilty pleasures for sure! There’s ground almonds in them, though, so I’ll have to get a little creative. How does this sound: teriyaki spiked, tender rib eye-wrapped asparagus. Sounds crazy to me, but I’m intrigued! There’s also a recipe for pretzel bites, garnished with sea salt. Yum!

Ok, dinner time! I’m a sucker for pizza, and there’s a recipe for pizza dough made from almond flour, coconut flour, and arrowroot starch (and some other stuff) that I’d love to try. There are a few recommendations for toppings as well. Beef brisket and crispy orange chicken sound good, too! To go with dinner there’s recipes for cauliflower rice, almond bread, and egg white biscuits. I’m kind of a carb addict.

Finally, we’re on to my favorite: dessert! The chocolate fudge cake, sweetened with coconut oil and raw honey, looks amazing in the picture. Angel food cake, my favorite! And hello apple pie (topped with dairy-free vanilla ice cream, recipe included). There’s a bunch of cookie recipes, some brownies, and even cheesecake bites (no cheese included). I think the author might love dessert the most, just like I do!

All in all, I’m super excited to try some of these recipes! It seems like Keuilian is very creative, and has thought about pretty much all the comfort foods that are so hard to give up when you’re trying to avoid certain ingredients. I really appreciate that the author avoided sugar substitutes, which are so much worse for you than regular sugar is. My only qualm is that these recipes use ingredients that are higher in fat than the foods they are substituting (nuts and coconut milk are commonly used ingredients), but if you’re going for avoiding allergens over losing weight you won’t have to worry. It’s nice to have some alternatives to gluten, dairy, and sugary foods you love! The cookbook is very well-designed, of good quality, and the photography is wonderful!

Love, Lucy by April Lindner | Book Review

Posted January 23, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 6 Comments

Love, Lucy by April Lindner | Book ReviewLove, Lucy by April Lindner
Published by Poppy on January 27, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (ALA)
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5 Stars

While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.

In this coming-of-age romance, April Lindner perfectly captures the highs and lows of a summer love that might just be meant to last beyond the season.

Love, Lucy is a glorious, wonderful, perfectly fabulous book. I seriously read this book in August, and I have not been able to figure out how to explain my love for it, but I have to!! There was not one thing I didn’t love, so I’m just going to make a little fangirl list of the best things about Love, Lucy before I push you off to buy yourself a copy.

– Love, Lucy took me right back to the magical city of Florence, Italy. Florence is one of my favorite places in the world, and April did it right. She made me want to go back again right now.

– Travel. Come on. Everyone knows that traveling makes you fall in love with the person that you are, and Love, Lucy had everything I could have ever wanted in a travel book.

– Not only is the book about travel, but it encourages travel. It’s an inspiring story that makes you want to make your traveling dreams come true, not to mention it makes you feel like you can do it. Lucy is just a young high school grad, but she did it. And you can too.

– In that same vein, this book is about a girl discovering who she is. I love those kinds of books.

– Lucy happens upon Jesse, a sexy street performer (a musician, holy swoon), and a flirtatious little love-ish thing starts. It’s a perfect romance. Jesse is perfection.

– Love, Lucy is happy. It made me happy. This is what books are supposed to do.

– I was so sad when it was over.

– I might love this more than I love Just One Day, which is a lot, so that’s saying something.

Basically, you need to read this. You need to, your mom needs to (my mom LOVED it), your best friend needs to. And then you all need to go to Florence together so you can see that the magic April Lindner speaks of is real. You need to meet and fall in love with Jesse, and you need to explore the city on the back of his moped. I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time.

5 Stars

Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

Posted January 20, 2015 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 16 Comments


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

This week is a freebie, and I missed this one a few months ago. So, we’re talking about authors we like, but haven’t been able to get enough of them yet! I’m pretty bad at finding an author and then reading a TON of books by them. I love exploring and promoting new authors, so I’ve read a ton of books by a ton of different authors. Many of them have released new books and I just haven’t had time to grab them yet!

Jennifer L. Armentrout
I read Don’t Look Back, and loved it! Now I want to read more from JLA! I’m thinking of starting the Lux series. Or is there another I should read instead?

Tessa Dare
I thought Romancing the Duke was really cute, and I would love to read more from Tessa! I’ve got Say Yes to the Marquess, which is the second book in the Castles Ever After series, but I’ve also got A Night to Surrender, and Surrender of a Siren. Where do I begin with these!? Or, does she have any book you love even more that I should get?

John Green
I actually have not read a full-length novel from John Green yet, but I want to! I really liked his short story in the Let It Snow anthology, and just don’t know where to go now. I hate crying, and I hate reading sad books… are any of his not tear-jerkers?

Abigail Haas
Dangerous Girls was insane and intense! I loved it! Now I’m wanting to read Dangerous Boys. Is it as good? I’m worried I won’t love it as much.

Kirsten Hubbard
Wanderlove is one of my favorite books ever, and I want Kirsten to write more like it! Like Mandarin does not sound like my kind of book, and her new book coming out this year called Watch the Sky is a middle grade… so I don’t know what to do. She got a thriller called Cloudforest coming out in 2016 that sounds good. I might just have to wait until then.

Sophie Kinsella
I don’t even know where to begin with Sophie. I really liked I’ve Got Your Number. I think I own the entire shopaholic series, but there’s others of hers I hear more about like Remember Me? and The Undomestic Goddess. Thoughts?

J.K. Rowling
This is kind of a no-brainer. I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone last year and really want to finish the series this year. We’ll see if I have time!

Mary E. Pearson
I LOVED The Kiss of Deception sooooo much, and I own the Jenna Fox Chronicles, which I’m pretty excited about. We’ll see if I get to it before The Heart of Betrayal comes out, which I will stop the world for.

Marie Rutkoski
Ahhhh… The Winner’s Curse was glorious! It was super good, and I’ve got an ARC of The Winner’s Crime staring at me as we speak. But I also have The Shadow Society, which sounds pretty cool. How are her other books?

Anna Scarlet
This is more of a plea than a decree because Anna Scarlet has only written one book, Degrees of Wrong, which I loved. I want more, whether it be a sequel or a new standalone. I don’t care. But I loved it! And did you know Anna Scarlet is Anna Banks? All the more reason for her to write another adult novel. :D

That Artsy Librarian | My Young Adult Literature Class Reading List

Posted January 15, 2015 by Jana in That Artsy Librarian / 35 Comments


Another year, another semester! This Spring, I’m taking Introduction to Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. I’m excited for both, but obviously I’m kind of REALLY excited about my YA Lit class! I’m posting the reading list here because I would LOVE opinions on which books are the best and which ones I need to steer clear of. Please, PLEASE give me your opinions because I’m so overwhelmed and some of these titles scare me! And holy MOLY, this is a lot of reading! I also have two textbooks in this class, plus the teacher assigns scholarly articles as well! I’m gonna be a busy girl!

Weeks 1 & 2: ALA Youth Media Awards
Choose 2: The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley, The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

Week 3: Series
Required: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Choose 2: A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Wake (Wake Series, Book 1) by Lisa McMann.

Week 4: Living and Dying
Required: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Choose 1: The Hate List by Jennifer Brown, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Week 5: The Lives of Teens
Choose 2: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, In Darkness by Nick Lake, Pinned by Sharon Flake, The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes, Shine by Lauren Myracle, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

Week 6: The Past
Choose 2: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Mare’s War by Tanita Davis, Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano.

Week 7: Awards
Required: Printz Award Winning book (announced Feb. 2)
Choose 2: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, Sold by Patricia McCormick, A Step from Heaven by An Na, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

Week 8: Cross-Overs
Choose 2: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni, Juvenile in Justice by Richard Ross, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neal Gaiman, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, The Radleys: A Novel by Matt Haig, The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell, Room by Emma Donoghue, Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

Week 9: Coming of Age and LGBTQ
Required: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Choose 1: The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork, Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Winger by Andrew Smith, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina.
Choose 1: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan, Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright, Blankets by Craig Thompson.

Week 10: Graphically Speaking
Required: The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Choose 2: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (2 books count as 1), The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (2 books count as 1), The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2 books count as 1), Drama by Raina Telgmeier, The Sculptor by Scott McCloud, This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
Plus: Read a single YA manga title of your choice

Week 11: Real Lives
Required: The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Choose 1: Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin, Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone, Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver, Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Y. Levinson, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy.

Week 12: Steampunk
Choose 1: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson, Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices) by Cassandra Clare.
Choose 1 Film: 9, City of Ember, Coraline, The Golden Compass, Howl’s Moving Castle, Stardust.

Week 13: Book Challenges and Pushing Boundaries
Required: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going.
Choose 1: The Giver by Lois Lowry or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Phew! I told you it was a lot of reading! So, help me out! In some situations I don’t have a choice, and in others I have a few things to choose between. Which books would you recommend I read? Which ones should I run away from? We all know I hate crying, but crying is inevitable with this list. So really, I’m looking for books that will not shred my soul.

Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant to Read but Didn’t Get To

Posted January 12, 2015 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 24 Comments


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

There just aren’t enough hours in the day (or the year) to get to every book I want to read! Here’s a list of just a few of the books that came out last year that I just did not have time for. Hopefully this year. :)



Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
Of Neptune by Anna Banks
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Impulse by Vanessa Garden

So, let’s chat! Have you read any of these? Did you love them? Hate them? Are there any I need to move to the top of my TBR? Let me know! And if you leave me a link to your list, I’ll be sure to stop by and leave my opinions as well. :)

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall | 2015 Debut Book Review

Posted January 12, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 10 Comments

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall | 2015 Debut Book ReviewThe Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
Published by Putnam Juvenile on January 13, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

To fight her destiny as the missing heir to a powerful and dangerous secret society, sixteen-year-old Avery West must solve an ancient puzzle in a deadly race across Europe. Forbidden love and code-breaking, masked balls and explosions, destiny and dark secrets collide in this romantic thriller, in the vein of a YA DaVinci Code.

Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war.

They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle of Twelve, and Avery is their missing heir. If they discover who she is, some of them will want to use her as a pawn. Some will want her dead.

To thwart their plans, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the landmarks of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And unless she can stay one step ahead of beautiful, volatile Stellan, who knows she’s more than she seems, and can decide whether to trust mysterious, magnetic Jack, she may be doomed after all.

I’ve always had this weird interest in conspiracy theories. Now, I’m not some paranoid theorist, but I find these theories very entertaining to read about. So naturally, The Conspiracy of Us had me very intrigued from the get go. And when I read that is was being compared to The Da Vinci Code, I was even more excited! I ended up LOVING this book, and am so excited to read more from debut author, Maggie Hall! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I learned very quickly that I would need to suspend a little disbelief in order to immerse myself in the story. Avery is 16 years old, so I found it to be a little unbelievable that she was so valuable and in so much danger, with so many people out to kill her. We’re not given a ton of details in the beginning, so just roll with it and Maggie Hall will convince you. The story ended up being pretty fantastic, and I believed all of it.

2. The world in this story is amazingly secretive and interesting. The Conspiracy of Us is contemporary, but with this underlying mystery that is believable and unbelievable at the same time. Basically, The Circle of Twelve is a group of twelve families who rule the world. They have family members in every government system, in every country, and in pretty much every facet of life. You think you know why WWI happened, but you’re wrong. It was because of dueling families. And these families go all the way back to Alexander the Great and Napoleon. I loved learning about all these secrets and mysteries of the world. Everything fits together in a really complicated puzzle that was so much fun to try and put together.

3. The Conspiracy of Us is FILLED with action and excitement. I flew through this book because there was never a good stopping point! Crazy things happen back to back to back, and I barely had time to catch my breath.

4. I loved the travel aspect. We bounce around Paris and Istanbul, and I loved it! Things happen in Notre Dame and at the Hagia Sophia. I’ve been to Paris, so I loved revisiting, and now I want to go to Istanbul super bad.

5. The romance is pretty perfect. Jack is so swoony and perfect. Plus, he has a British accent. I mean, really. There is the one chapter that just had me melting. It was the sexiest, most tender, most romantic moment that I’ve ever read in young adult fiction.

6. Maggie’s writing is beautiful, and I just know she is going to become a strong facet of the young adult community. I was truly intoxicated by some of her passages, not to mention her vivid imagination.

7. I loved the characters, but Jack has stolen my heart. Holy swoonfest.

8. The Conspiracy of Us is fun and light, but also has some serious elements. The characters are flawed, and we get to learn about those flaws. I tend to love and connect with characters for their flaws because it makes them more real.

All in all, The Conspiracy of Us was my perfect book. I love the secrets, the mystery, the puzzle, the romance, the travel, the characters, the writing. I really can’t come up with a complaint, except that it’s not a standalone and I’m DYING for the next book! I recommend this to all fans of YA. There’s a little something for everyone. I’m so excited for Maggie, and hope she plans to stick around the YA scene for a long time.

5 Stars

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall | Mini Book Review

Posted January 9, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 8 Comments

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall | Mini Book ReviewA Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
Published by Swoon Reads on August 26, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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2 Stars

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....

Much like the title of the book says, A Little Something Different is definitely a unique read. I was very interested in the idea of 12 different viewpoints, but at the same time I was worried that with 12 people telling the story things would get a bit redundant and I’d never connect with anyone in the story. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened. Transitions between points of view were a bit choppy, and at times cheesy, considering two of the viewpoints are a squirrel and a bench (who talks a lot about butts…). These viewpoints did allow the two main characters to be alone, which would not have happened unless other characters hid in a bush or kept their ear to a door. So I can see why the author did this, I just did not love it.

I think the main reason this book and I did not click is that I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to see things rather than be told things. I would have much rather seen Gabe and Lea fall for each other rather than be told about it by people who did not even know them, like the bus driver and the teacher. I didn’t swoon because I wanted to be the one witnessing their interactions, not hearing about them from various flies on the wall. I also got bored spending an entire book reading about these two. Usually there’s secondary and tertiary plots in contemporary romance novels, but the romance was really the only story in this book.

A Little Something Different was a short, quick, unique story that, unfortunately, I just did not fall in love with. The ending was unsatisfying, and I was bored. I really loved the idea, and the synopsis sounded like a lot of fun… but in the end I realized it just wasn’t for me.

2 Stars

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray | Book Review + Giveaway

Posted January 5, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult Fiction / 38 Comments

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray | Book Review + GiveawayA Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #1
Published by HarperTEEN on November 4, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

This book sounded amazing before the cover image released, but once the cover was revealed I was even more excited about it! For once, the book lived up to its beautiful cover. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. As much as I loved this book, I had a very hard time getting started. The pacing across the first 100 pages or so is very slow and cumbersome. I actually set this book down back in November because I just could not hang in there, and I was so sad it would end up being a DNF. I’m so glad I gave it another chance, though, because it ended up becoming a new favorite!

2. I’m not usually a fan of parallel universes or alternate dimensions because books that contain them are usually repetitive and the differences between those worlds are never exciting or unique enough to hold my attention. In this case, however, I could not wait to see where Marguerite and Theo traveled to next.

3. My favorite parallel universe was Russia, and is where the bulk of this book takes place. Even though the characters never change time periods, this particular universe feels like it’s a couple hundred years behind ours. Marguerite is the daughter of the tsar, and lives in a candlelit castle. Lieutenant Markov (a.k.a. Paul Markov, suspected murderer of Marguerite’s father) is Marguerite’s personal body guard, and oh wow is he swoony! I loved getting to see so many sides of Paul, but this one was my favorite.

4. I really liked Marguerite. I liked that she was willing to take the less popular road and give Paul a chance to prove that he did not kill her father. I liked her tenacity and her crusade for truth. And I loved her relationship with her dad. So sweet.

5. I’m not going to try and explain the ins and outs of how they travel between dimensions and everything because that’s for you to discover as you read, but I found the “science” fascinating.

6. The focus in this story is primarily on romance, but there’s also this quest to find out if Paul killed Marguerite’s dad or not, a battle against an evil corporation looking to use the Firebird for evil, and the fight to stay alive and return home. There’s a lot going on, and there’s so many twists and turns and revelations. What you think is going on is not what’s going on.

7. The romance is super unique. You’ve got Theo and Paul. They make up the love triangle. But then there’s Lieutenant Markov, who is Paul but not really Paul. He’s Paul from Russia. And Marguerite loves Lieutenant Markov, but maybe not Paul. So basically it’s a love square with Theo and Paul from two different dimensions. By loving Paul is she cheating on Lieutenant Markov? So yeah. Complicated.

8. I could have done with fewer flashbacks to what happened before Paul supposedly betrayed Marguerite’s family. Those were kind of boring and took me out of the suspense of what was going on then.

9. There were some pretty romantic quotes. I just loved the romance!

All in all, I really enjoyed A Thousand Pieces of You and can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Somehow I ended up with an extra hardback from the publisher, so I’m giving it away to someone who thinks they might love it as much as I did! I’m feeling generous so I’m willing to ship internationally, and I’m currently publicizing the Debut Author Challenge so you get extra entries if you sign up!

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5 Stars