Format: Paperback

Shadowlands by Kate Brian | Mini Book Review

Posted August 6, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

Shadowlands by Kate Brian | Mini Book ReviewShadowlands by Kate Brian
Series: Shadowlands #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 8, 2013
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
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4 Stars

Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection program. Entering the program alongside her, is her father and sister Darcy. The trio starts a new life and a new beginning leaving their friends and family behind without a goodbye.

Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. Just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?

This book had the makings of everything I love. Serial killer. An escape. Witness protection. Suspense. What’s going on here? Paranoia. Stalking. Relocation to a quaint beach town that has creepy fog roll in at night. Shady people. I was all over this book and so super in love for about 96% of the story. The ending derailed my happiness, and I was frustrated and annoyed that such an amazing book had to end that way! It was honestly such a disappointing ending that I’m not even sure I care to read the other two books in the trilogy.

Kate Brian’s writing style and her ability to scare the living daylights out of you and keep you up all night are amazing. I’ve got no complaints there. I loved her descriptive writing style that made my spine tingle. The suspense was intense. The feeling of the book is very ominous and creepy, and I’m glad I read it while I was on vacation so that I was in a hotel room with my family and not sleeping on my own. I loved the alternating chapters, which go back and forth between Rory’s point of view and the killer’s. This guy is psycho. I liked the characters and feel like more attention was paid to them than most characters receive in a mystery or thriller. I enjoyed reading about them and grew to feel for Rory. I loved the setting of the book. It was the perfect location for a story like this because it was so sweet and friendly on the surface, but was hiding an uncomfortable reality underneath. There was a little romantic intrigue, but not so much that it took away from the creep factor. Really, I have very few complaints.

But the ending. UGH. I finished it, threw my book down on my bed, and immediately began venting to my mom. I remember saying, “I spent all my time on this creepy book, looking for an amazing climax… and THIS is the resolution?” I don’t even know why there are two more books in the trilogy. It’s no longer a mystery or a thriller for me. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to ay anything other than the fact that there’s a genre change. If you look on Goodreads and see how this book is classified, you’ll see what I mean. Needless to say, I was so disappointed. I loved everything else about the book, so I’m sad! This is really just a case of the author going in a direction I was not happy about. But oh well. I’m still glad I read it, and I would not refrain from recommending it to others. I would just preface my recommendation with “expect the unexpected.”

4 Stars

The Recipe Hacker by Diana Keuilian | Cookbook Review

Posted January 26, 2015 by Jana in Book Review / 3 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!


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

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare | Mini Book Review

Posted July 9, 2014 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 13 Comments

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare | Mini Book ReviewRomancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Series: Castles Ever After #1
Published by Avon on January 28, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 370
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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3 Stars

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?
Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

This book is a very sweet, funny romance filled with sharp wit and awkward moments. I loved our bookish heroine, Izzy, who has lived her entire life in the shadow of her late father’s famous stories. As soon as she and the duke met, I knew I would be in for a very fun ride. These two have the best banter, and really know how to push one another’s buttons. Izzy inherits the duke’s castle, and he is NOT happy about it. But she is determined to stay in her new home and add a feminine touch to it before kicking him out. I love it! I really loved her spunk and her desire to stand up for herself. She’s not the typical historical romance heroine who lays down and takes it. She pushes right back. She’s such a good sport dealing with the extremely devoted fans of her father’s stories, who are a very eccentric and borderline insane. But I loved that too.

The duke is a really great hero because, even though he’s blind, he still acts as cocky and entitled as if he weren’t. It was pretty hilarious and interesting at the same time. I loved seeing him fall for Izzy’s personality and her inner beauty, rather than lusting after her looks. This is also a very uncommon thing in historical romances, and I found it to be a very exciting story element. He’s very romantic and thoughtful, and I could not help but smile at his bluntness. He loves trying to make Izzy blush. It worked on me!

Overall, Romancing the Duke was a sweet love story with a memorable couple. I’m excited to see where Tessa Dare takes this series next!

3 Stars

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | Mini Book Review

Posted May 5, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 6 Comments

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | Mini Book ReviewDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 27, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 418
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Guys, this book is WEIRD! Haha. It took me a little while to get into it because of its strangeness, but then I was hooked on the story. Laini Taylor is an amazing author, and I feel kind of weird for not having read this book sooner! I am so glad my book club decided to read it for April, because I finally had an excuse to read it.

Karou is the most interesting character I’ve read about in a while. She has blue hair, she is an art student in Prague, and she is not entirely human. She was raised by a demon who lives on the other side of random doors throughout the world. He gives her languages for her birthday, and gives her wishes (hence the blue hair and the fact that her ex-boyfriend itched terribly while he was nude modeling for her art class). Karou runs errands for this demon, and when he needs her he sends a tiny little demon bird to get her. She comes across Akiva on one of her errands, barely escapes with her life, and her world kind of spirals out of control from that point on. Karou is not quite sure who she is, and there are many people who hope things stay that way.

Seriously, Laini Taylor’s imagination is CRAZY. Maybe it’s the bright pink hair? I don’t know. But she is masterful at creating a dynamic and HUGE world that I am convinced exists somewhere. I usually hate stories with angles and demons (haha. No, not talking about Dan Brown here), but I really enjoyed this one! And the mystery of who Karou is, who Akiva is, and what’s GOING ON just kept me on the edge of my seat. The language is beautiful, and can I PLEASE go to Prague!? One of my book club members, Karin, was actually in Prague when she read this and I am SO JEALOUS. From what she told me, though, Laini paints an amazingly accurate Prague… so maybe I’ve been there already? Give this book a shot if you’re in the mood for a little bit of strange and a hugely weird world.

5 Stars

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George | Book Review

Posted March 31, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian / 2 Comments

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George | Book ReviewMy Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Series: Mountain #1
Published by Puffin on 1959
Genres: Survival
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude and danger of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.

I read this book for my children’s literature class as part of my library and information science grad program. One of our assignments was to write a professional book review (like one that could be published in Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus) of one of our books for the semester, and so I chose to review My Side of the Mountain!

Roughing it in the mountain wilderness never sounded so appealing! Sam Gribley, tired of his monotonous life in New York City, runs away with his parents’ permission to live a simpler life, equipped with only a few of the bare essentials. This is his account, written as though he were talking directly to the reader, of his yearlong adventure in the Catskills Mountains. He tells of his fight for survival, battles against the elements, love of nature, and wild animal friends. He describes his experiences of making fire, building a shelter, finding food, hunting animals, making clothes, and ultimately discovering what he is truly capable of. Readers are also along for the journey as Sam captures, raises, and trains a falcon named Frightful to be his constant and devoted companion. Mixed in with his exciting feats are pieces of advice he has for the reader on surviving the wilderness such as, “…the more you stroke and handle a falcon, the easier they are to train.”

Jean Craighead George has created a wonderfully timeless escape for readers, both male and female, even though the story is about the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of a young boy. The scenery leaps off the page, and the coordinating drawings and diagrams help the reader picture different contraptions Sam builds and also the wildlife of the region in which he lives. Young readers will open their imaginations to the possibilities found within the pages, and more seasoned readers might have to suspend a little disbelief while reading about some of Sam’s escapades, not to mention the fact that his parents let him go on such a dangerous adventure. In any case, Sam Gribley’s adventure will have readers tearing through the pages, and leave them dreaming of going on one of their very own someday.

5 Stars

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle | Book Thoughts

Posted March 27, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian / 2 Comments

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle | Book ThoughtsA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Series: The Time Quintet #1
Published by Square Fish on January 1, 1962
Genres: Science Fiction, Time Travel
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

A Wrinkle in Time and I, sadly, did not click. I found it to be rather boring and, at times, confusing. I read it for my children’s literature class, and am so glad I did because it gives me more credibility in the field of youth services librarianship. I’m sad I didn’t love it, though, because it’s a classic that has been well-loved for a very long time! I’ve decided to not write a formal review and instead, have chosen to post some of my thoughts that I was required to write for my class. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts on the book!

This book focuses a lot on the battle between good and evil, which I have always enjoyed. These children are really put to the test as they participate in this battle. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who all represent a kind of messenger from something good, whether it be a Heavenly place or somewhere else. I think it’s up to the reader to decide what “good” comes from, which can facilitate a lot of interesting discussions.

Battles between good and evil usually bring with them Christian or other religious undertones. I can pick out a lot of Christian themes especially, including the mention of Jesus. Light and dark, Heavenly messengers, resisting temptation, and the mention of books in the Bible also show up in the story. The books of Isaiah and John are quoted. This book has been challenged before, and I can see that these themes might be the reason. At the same time, though, I’m not sure all children would pick up on them.

Children will be able to relate to homely little Meg and misunderstood Charles Wallace. I think they will also enjoy the love within this family, which is another huge theme in the story. Love conquers all. I can see that their imaginations will be stimulated, however, I don’t think I would have been a science fiction lover if I had started out with this book. I enjoyed The Giver and The Time Machine much more.

3 Stars

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

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson (Book Review)

Posted April 29, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 8 Comments

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson (Book Review)Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 1, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
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5 Stars

Top Twenty Reasons He’s A Slimy Jerk Bastard

"Jessa:
To help you get over your trainwreck of an EX, I’ve enclosed 20 envelopes. Each one has a reason why Sean is a jerk and not worth the dirt on your shoes. And each one has an instruction for you to do one un-Jessa-like thing a day. NO CHEATING!
Ciao! -- C"

When Jessa catches her boyfriend, Sean, making out with Natalie "The Boob Job" Stone three days before her drama club’s departure to Italy, she completely freaks.

Stuck with a front-row view of Sean and Natalie making out against the backdrop of a country that oozes romance, Jessa promises to follow all of the outrageous instructions in her best friend's care package and open her heart to new experiences. Enter cute Italian boy stage left.

Jessa had prepared to play the role of humiliated ex-girlfriend, but with Carissa directing her life from afar, it’s finally time to take a shot at being a star.

I was sold when I found out about Jessa’s coming-of-age journey through Italy! And that cover! I think I did what this cover girl is doing a lot while I was sightseeing across Europe. I just knew this was a book for me, and Kim Culbertson took me right back to Italy with this one! I loved it! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Poor Jessa. I loved her because she was normal. She was cheated on, and she griped and complained and mourned the loss of what she had with her boyfriend. And who wouldn’t? I’ve seen reviewers complain that Jessa whines to much, and I say to you: “Have you ever been cheated on?” I have. By an idiot. And you get mad and sad, and yes–you whine. And you flip flop. “I love him, I hate him, I want him to die, I wonder how he’s doing, I miss him, I’m better off without him, Let’s see if I can run into him somewhere while looking hot, I never want to see him again…” I know you know what I mean. Jessa was human, and seriously… I’ve had weepy friends whine more than Jessa did. I loved watching her get through all these emotions! I’m not sure I could handle a trip to Italy after a bad break-up. I admired her for not letting her boyfriend ruin the opportunity to see Italy. And I loved watching her discover herself. I think that when we feel strong emotions, we come out with a better understanding of who we are and how we want to be. Jessa learned a lot, and she matured SO much during this 10-day trip.

2. Carissa, Jessa’s best friend, is… unique. I can’t say I liked her because I did not get to know much about her at all. And honestly, I don’t think she’s a very good friend all things considered. She wrote up 20 envelopes for Jessa to open during her trip. Each envelope had something sucky about Sean in it, followed by something totally out-of-character that Jessa had to do. I liked that Carissa pushed Jessa a bit, but I also felt like some of her instructions were way too catty and immature. As Jessa got further along through the healing process and came to grips with her situation, I felt more and more like Carissa’s silly envelopes needed to be thrown in the river.

3. Tyler and Dylan Thomas (named after the poet) were Jessa’s two male compatriots throughout the trip. They helped her cope, talked some sense into her when she needed it, and sat with her when she just needed to listen to her show tunes on her iPod. I liked them a lot. Both are just nice, nice guys.

4. Oh, Italy, my love. You can tell the author actually WENT to Italy. I get so annoyed when authors write about a place, and you can just TELL that they have never set foot even close to it. I’ve been to many of the places in this book, and Kim wrote them right. It made me really miss Italy, and want to go back and visit the places I didn’t make it to!

5. Obviously, the romance is minimal, but there’s a little glimmer of possibility that was sweet. 

6. This book had so many pretty quotes! I’m going to paste a part of my favorite quote below. It’s actually a huge quote, but I don’t want to ruin things by posting it all. So here’s my favorite piece. I love it because traveling does do this to a person. Traveling fills holes, heals you in so many ways, and sends you home with a much better understanding of yourself.

I get to take Italy home with me, the Italy that showed me you and the Italy that showed me—me—the Italy that wrote me my very own instructions for a broken heart. And I get to leave the other heart in a hole. We are over. I know this. But we are not blank. We were a beautiful building made of stone, crumbled now and covered in vines. But not blank. Not forgotten. We are a history. We are beauty out of ruins.

Really, there’s not a ton I can say about this book. It’s about a teenage girl who gets hurt, and then has to go on a dream trip to Italy with the person who hurt her. It’s about healing, forgiveness, self-discovery, and growing up. There’s a lot of scenery, a lot of theater references, a lot of introspection, and a lot of emotions. The plot was predictable in places, and some might feel like this subject matter has been done and overdone, but I ended up really enjoying it! The ending made the book for me, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves traveling, coming of age stories, and light contemporary, summery reads!

5 Stars

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)

Posted December 6, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace
Published by Cedar Fort on September 8, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 186
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

With a successful bakery to run, super cute nieces and nephews to spoil, and plenty of good friends to keep her company, Abbie s not about to start crying over the fact that she s doesn't have a boyfriend to spend Christmas with. But when her sister convinces her to write a note to Santa, Abbie has no idea that a little Christmas magic is about to land her the man of her dreams. Or rather, that man is about to land smack dab on the floor in front of her Christmas tree with no memory of how he got there.

Now Abbie and Ben have to figure out where he came from, who he really is, and if he's actually available.

Aubrey Mace, the award-winning author of Spare Change, has done it again! This light-hearted holiday romance is sure to please even the most cynical scrooge. Told with humor, sweetness, and Aubrey's signature wit, this is one Christmas story that will keep you smiling all year round.

Santa Maybe is a cute, quick read with lots of adorable Christmas spirit and tradition. It all starts when Abbie writes a letter to Santa, asking for a husband. She does this as a joke, not expecting anything to happen, seeing as how she has sworn off of men. Low and behold, she is awakened by a thud in her living room. Armed with a rolling pin and lots of adrenaline, she sneaks out and finds a man asleep under her tree. I swear, I need to write my letter to Santa now. I need a man for Christmas too!

I’d been wanting to read this book for a few years, and am so glad I started my Christmas reads further in advance this time. Santa Maybe is the perfect book to get you into the Christmas spirit. Abbie owns an adorable sounding bakery, and she spends a lot of time there baking goodies as the snow falls outside. I could practically smell the cookies baking in the oven. When Ben shows up, he immediately fits into her life perfectly, and is so persistent and amazing. It was fun watching the two of them try to figure out who he was!

Oh, and boy, did Abbie end up with a winner. Ben is amazingly perfect (well, except for the amnesia), and the dream man that fills up my single girl’s mind. He’s chivalrous and handsome and thoughtful, caring, etc. He’s all the good things! He and Abbie have great chemistry, but she is convinced that he has a wife and children somewhere. This really hinders the relationship, and I wish we had been given more time to see them as a couple, rather than in this stage of limbo.

Aspects of this story are pretty unrealistic. I mean, Abbie had absolutely no problems accepting a stranger into her house. I’m a bit too paranoid to be able to do that, but he is pretty handsome, so maybe I’d bend the rules for a guy like him! Ben’s face went up on the news, and women began posing as his wife so they could have him to themselves. I found that a bit far-fetched as well. And Abbie’s sister’s reaction to all of this was also rather unrealistic. If this happened to my sister, I’d be flipping out! I certainly would not immediately start shoving her into him. I’d have to interrogate him first!

All in all, though, Christmas is a time for magic. Santa Maybe is a cute, magical story chock full of family, food, and romance. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves simple little contemporary Christmas romances.

(Disclaimer: This book was written by an LDS woman, so aspects of the LDS faith are woven into the story. Nothing is pushed on the reader, though. Ben and Abbie go to church once, so the readers are given a few churchy details during that portion of the book. Other than that, there’s nothing else.)

3 Stars