Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Save the Date by Morgan Matson | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Stars

The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story by Judy Sierra | Children’s Book Review

Posted September 18, 2017 by Jana in Children's Book Review / 0 Comments

The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story by Judy Sierra | Children’s Book ReviewThe Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story by Judy Sierra
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 1, 2000
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
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5 Stars

In the Spice Islands, where clove and nutmeg trees grow,
a girl named Damura lived long ago.

Damura is a beautiful girl, as kind and lovely as the little green parrot that perches on the nutmeg tree. But Damura's stepmother and stepsister mistreat her. They force her to rise before dawn, carry out all the chores, and sleep on the floor. One day, while down by the river, Damura calls out to the creatures of the wild for help. Rising from the waters, an ancient crocodile answers the call. This unusual fairy godmother, aptly named Grandmother Crocodile, outfits Damura in a sarong of gold, with slippers to match, and sends her to the palace to dance for the prince. Once he sees her, the prince knows that she will be his bride.

But the fairy tale isn't quite over. Damura's wicked stepmother and stepsister are so jealous that they push Damura into the river, where she is swallowed by a crocodile. Too bad they didn't know about Grandmother Crocodile....

The Gift of the Crocodile, a tale from the Spice Islands in Indonesia, offers a colorful and dramatic twist on the universally adored Cinderella story.

*spoilers, because I’m basically telling you the entire story because I love it so much!*

This version of Cinderella takes place in the Spice Islands in Indonesia. Cinderella’s name is Damura in this tale, the fairy godmother is actually an ancient crocodile named Grandmother Crocodile, and Damura talks to her animal friends like the little green parrot who sits on the branches of the nutmeg trees. In this tale, a widow gives Damura a doll with the stipulation that she talk her father into marrying the widow. She is successful. Her life becomes miserable, though, as she begins to realize she traded her happiness for a doll. She becomes a servant and is very badly mistreated. One day when she is washing her family’s clothes in the river she loses her sarong and calls upon the wild animals to help her. Grandmother Crocodile surfaces and agrees to get her the lost sarong if she agrees to watch her baby crocodile.

Grandmother Crocodile comes back with an even more beautiful sarong because Damura deserves that one and not the old, ragged one. She returns home with her new sarong, but her stepmother takes it away and demands to know how she got it. The stepsister decides to try and get her own and goes down to the river to summon Grandmother. She is rude and mistreats the baby crocodile while Grandmother goes to find her sarong. The crocodile returns with a sarong filled with leeches, which sends the stepsister running home in tears.

When the prince invites all the young women to dance for him, Damura is forbidden to go. But… with the help of Grandmother Crocodile, she goes clothed in a beautiful gold sarong and riding in a horse and carriage. She was to return these things to Grandmother before she went home. She danced beautifully, but then had to rush out when the rooster crowed. The prince tries to follow her, but is left only with one of her slippers. A messenger comes to try the slipper on the young ladies, and it flew right onto Damura’s foot. Even though she is shabby and poor, the prince selects her to be his bride. The next day her stepmother and stepsister, both very jealous, offer to reconcile with Damura over a boat ride on the river. They are not sincere, though, and push her overboard in to the mouth of a crocodile. They run back to the palace and shout that Damura has been eaten, in the hopes that the prince would marry the stepsister. The prince runs to the river to summon Grandmother Crocodile. He tells her what happened, and she scolds her crocodiles, insisting that the guilty party spit Damura out. Grandmother licks Damura’s face and brings her back to life. She tells all the other crocodiles to never touch Damura, the prince, or their children, but instructs them to eat the stepmother or stepsister if they ever see them. The two flee into the forest, never to be seen again. Damura and her husband lived happily ever after.


The Indonesian style illustrations are very pretty, and there is an author’s note about the origins of this tale at the back of the book, as well as the history of the island it takes place on. This adds credibility to the story, and makes it of high quality. I love this blend of Cinderella and a traditional Indonesian folk tale. It’s a very unique, entertaining, and culturally educational story that would make a wonderful addition to anyone’s fairytale library.

5 Stars

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano (Book Review)

Posted September 30, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 11 Comments

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano (Book Review)Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Internment Chronicles #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on October 1, 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 356
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4 Stars

On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

I’m always on the lookout for unique story lines, especially in the dystopian genre. I love reading about new worlds that authors have created, so of course I gravitated right to Perfect Ruin. I was not the biggest fan of Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, but I really, really enjoyed this first installment in the Internment Chronicles. I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read it! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Internment is a huge chunk of Earth that has been RIPPED out of the ground and placed in the sky by the Sky God. Because the island is so small, people have to apply to have babies, and are exterminated when they reach a specific age in order to keep the population under control. Babies are betrothed before they are born. There’s a strong wind just off the edge of the island that keeps people from jumping off. People who venture there anyway go insane, and are labeled as Jumpers who have to go to therapy and take medication. Morgan’s brother, Lex, is a Jumper. Thus, the entire family is watched for signs of rebellion. If that’s not a crazy unique and exciting sounding story, I’m not sure what is.

2. Even crazier, people are turning up dead on this happy little island in the sky. The first one is a girl who was murdered and left on the train tracks. The entire population is now in this constant state of paranoia, not to mention they are under even more surveillance by their oppressive king. Everyone knows everything, but only a couple people know the truth.

3. I really love this cast of characters. Morgan is not content with her small life. She knows the world has more to offer her than the rock she’s living on. She begins questioning everything especially after she comes across Judas, the boy who has been accused of murdering the girl on the train tracks (his betrothed), and is convinced he’s innocent. She also comes upon the mysterious sister of the murdered girl, and begins to learn things that make her question her life even more. She confides in her brother and tries to convince herself that she will not end up a Jumper like he is. She also holds on tight to her betrothed, Basil, who is so caring and understanding with her. We also meet Morgan’s best friend, Pen, who is outwardly reluctant to be with her betrothed, but secretly adores him. All these characters are strong, dynamic, and unique.

4. I loved learning about the inner workings of this city. There are so many laws and cultural elements. I can’t wait to read more about these people.

5. There are some really amazing twists and events that had my jaw dropping. The story is go, go, go, and I did not want to put it down. And the cliffhanger!!!!!!!!!! Oh man. I can’t even handle it.

6. Lauren’s writing and worldbuilding skills have improved so much! I was completely invested in this story and these characters. I loved her descriptions and her writing style.

7. As is typical with the first book in a trilogy, Perfect Ruin brought up a lot of questions. There is so much going on here, with so many layers of secrets that I’m still not sure I know what’s going on. I actually really loved that. I’m usually a control freak when it comes to books. I want to know everything all at once. With Perfect Ruin, I was left in the dark a lot. It’s perfect for the story, though. I felt just like the characters did, I learned with them, and I really could picture myself living in their world.

I feel like this review is really unorganized and pointless, but there’s so much I just don’t want to say for fear of spoiling things! I went into Perfect Ruin knowing only two things: it’s about an island in the sky, and there’s murder going on. That was it. And I think because I knew so little, I loved it so much more. Bottom line, I’m a new fan of Lauren DeStefano. She has created an amazing story that had me gasping for air and wishing for more. I can’t believe I have to wait a million years to find out what happens next! Definitely read this book.

4 Stars

Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton (Mini Book Review + Giveaway)

Posted September 4, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Giveaway / 11 Comments

Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton (Mini Book Review + Giveaway)Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton
Series: Two Lies and a Spy #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 3, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4 Stars

When sixteen-year-old Kari’s dad sends her an unexpected text, she and her brother immediately go into hiding. Because when your parents are superspies and your dad declares a Code Black, it can only mean something bad. Very bad.

Kari soon discovers that her parents have been disavowed and declared traitors, and she’s determined to clear their names. Breaking into the Agency seems like a reasonable plan, especially with the help of a team that includes her longtime crush, Luke, as well as her two best friends—an expert hacker with attitude and a master martial artist—and Luke’s popular, vindictive twin sister. Oh, and a new guy, who’s as cute as he is complicated…

What a fun book! I love spy/thriller/espionage type books, and so I was really excited when I was sent a copy of Two Lies and a Spy for review. It was a delightful, quick read and I loved every minute of it.

My favorite part of this book is Kari’s brother, Charlie. He’s seven years old, but he’s a little Einstein. He loves to research things and spout off random facts. He absolutely loves Kari, and she loves him. This has got to be the cutest brother/sister relationship I’ve ever read. After they discover all the trouble their parents are in, they go into hiding together–Charlie dressed as a little girl, and Kari disguised in whatever costume she has at the moment. Kari enlists the help of her friends, and together they decide to break her parents out and clear their names in the process.

Kari’s friends made this story amazing. The plot itself has been done before, but these characters made it unique. Kari is spunky and sarcastic, which I love. Luke, the dreamboat, is so sweet and concerned. Rita and Kale, her two partners in crime were so much fun, especially the zingers they shot back and forth at each other (they kind of hate each other). Rita’s this quirky fashion guru with all the techie gadgets that get things done, and Kale is a computer whiz. Lacey, Luke’s sister, is the bodacious blonde with a major attitude. I liked her, though, and actually enjoyed her prissiness. And then we have Evan, my love. He’s the snarky British bad boy wannabe who drives Kari absolutely nuts with his antics. Aside from Charlie, he is definitely my favorite. I hope we get lots more of him in the next book, because he has a personality you can write novels about. It’s not just the characters I love, but their interactions with one another had me giggling. They are so funny, and I really enjoyed their dialogue. Together, they create this dynamic force you can’t help but root for.

The plot is rather unrealistic at times, but I didn’t even care. There was no eye rolling or muttering from me as I read. It was pure and utter entertainment. The ending made my jaw drop in a twist that was pretty exciting. I love how it ended, and left the door open for more. I can’t wait to read more from Kat!

Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster for providing two hardback copies I can giveaway to my readers! Enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win. U.S. entries only, please.

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4 Stars

Golden by Jessi Kirby (Mini Book Review)

Posted July 5, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 11 Comments

Golden by Jessi Kirby (Mini Book Review)Golden by Jessi Kirby
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 14, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

Golden was my very first Jessi Kirby book, and since SO many people I know adore her I was a little worried I’d fall short of jumping on the bandwagon. Golden just sounded too amazing to pass up, though, so I went for it! Let me tell you, Golden is amazing! I don’t know why I waited so long!

Parker is a descendent of ROBERT FROST! He’s definitely my favorite poet, and I just loved the hat tips to his work throughout the story. I really connected with Parker. She’s a good girl, overachiever, and teacher’s pet. She’s never done anything wrong, and she’s never gone out on a limb and done something daring or adventurous. When she finds the late Julianna Farnetti’s journal in a box of class journals from ten years ago that she’s in charge of mailing back to the authors, she can’t help but snoop. In the process of snooping, she learns the truth, puts two and two together and decides it’s her job to solve the mystery of the death of Summit Lakes High’s so-called golden couple. I’ve always been the good girl–the one who never did anything wrong. And I’ve always loved mystery and making the truth known. Parker is me in high school.

As Parker delves deeper into Julianna’s life, she starts sneaking around and breaking rules to find out what really happened. She starts questioning the future she thought she wanted. Instead, she goes on a wild goose chase with her best friend, Kat, and her long-time crush, Trevor. We all know how I feel about road trips. I just love the dynamic of characters sitting in a car talking, because they have nothing else to do. I loved the witty banter, and the introspective moments they shared together. I learned so much about these three characters, and they learned a lot about each other. Kat is an amazing best friend, and Trevor is so unbelievably sweet, yet snarky.

I love small towns in books, and this one takes place in a town small enough that everyone was really rocked by the events of the fatal car crash. It really seemed to have bonded them together. Even ten years later, it’s hard for them to get over it. I loved the supporting characters, and really enjoyed watching their hearts finally start to recover.

I love this story within a story. We learn about Parker and her friends, but we also get to learn about Julianna and what it was like for her to be a teen in love with a guy who was not so good for her. Julianna’s journal entries were beautiful, and actually my favorite part of the book. I’m actually inspired to start writing my own journal again!

I am SO scared I will give too much away with this review, so I will just leave it at this. Jessi is an amazing author. Even though there is little to no romance in Golden, I loved it. It filled me with hope, had me swooning, had me intrigued, and had me smiling. I love this coming of age story, and would recommend it for anyone looking for a sweet contemporary.