Source: Publisher (Netgalley)

Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book Review

Posted May 13, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 12 Comments

Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book ReviewBeach Read by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2 Stars

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Who doesn’t love a good beach read? This cute summery cover, the fun title, and the unique synopsis had me reaching for some fun, swoony romantic comedy in the sun. While this was a fun book, unfortunately it wasn’t as fun and swoony as I had hoped. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The first thing I think of when I think about Beach Read is that it’s a lot heavier than I expected. I was expecting a light, fluffy storyline with two authors throwing their witty banter back and forth, all while the summer sun blazes down on them as the waves crash against the shore outside their beach houses. This was not that. We learn immediately that January is reeling from the death of her secret-keeping father. The beach house is the house he owned with his mistress. January finds out about this mistress (whom he was spending time with while his wife, and January’s mom, was at home going through chemotherapy) at her father’s funeral, when said mistress hands her a key, a note, and a teary smile. Holy heavy. That’s a lot to grapple with. While struggling with the worst case of writer’s block ever (because what even is love anymore?), she’s living in his home cleaning out his and his mistress’s things and preparing to sell it. Gus is also carrying a lot of his own baggage. Both characters go through a lot of emotional ups and downs. This book also didn’t feel summery to me. Yes, it’s hot and sticky during the day but no beach stuff really happens. The rom-com field trips that January takes Gus on are highly overshadowed by Gus’s death cult excursions and their own personal demons. The evenings and mornings are cold and damp. I just didn’t get the warm fuzzy feelings I had hoped for with this title.

2. On the flip side, when Beach Read chooses to be a rom-com, it does such a good job! January and Gus have this awesome chemistry. They pick at each other and push each other’s buttons, and the sexual tension is totally there. They spend their days sitting in their own kitchens, which are mirror images of each other, working on their books. If they look up from their laptops they can see each other, through the windows, sitting at their kitchen tables. Even though they both have phones, they choose to communicate by writing notes to each other with sharpies on their notebooks and then holding them up and waiting for the other person to look up and read them. Some of these notes are funny, some are flirty, and some are motivational. This was my favorite part of their relationship, and the book. I thought it was really cute.

3. I didn’t love the execution of January (the romance writer) writing literary fiction and Gus (the literary fiction writer) writing romance. Maybe I didn’t like this because I hate it when my favorite authors make a disappointing genre jump, thereby writing a book that holds absolutely no interest for me. The tidbits of both January’s and Gus’s novels sounded kind of crummy to me. lol. Her literary fiction novel ends up being about a circus, and his romance novels ends up being about a death cult (don’t worry, this is not a spoiler). I would have ZERO interest in both of these books, and I have a hard time believing that this was a good career move for either of them. All for a silly bet. Honestly, I wish this part had been left out. It would have been fine if they’d both just had writer’s block and tagged along on each other’s research trips just for fun.

4. I liked the supporting characters better than the main characters. January’s best friend, Shadi, was my favorite character in the book. She seems like such a sweet, supportive, loving best friend. Throughout the story, a romance is budding in her life, and I loved reading about it. There’s also Gus’s aunt Pete who owns the book store and the coffee shop. Pete is hilarious. January’s publicist, Anya, is a treat and I’d love to read a book about her. Her emails checking in on January’s writing progress were so much fun. She’s got quite a personality.

5. Unfortunately, I never really connected with January or Gus. I liked them, and I felt bad for their heartaches and personal struggles, but I never felt connected to or invested in them. I think that’s why I struggled to get through this book. I’m a very character-driven reader, so not being able to connect with either main character was very hard for me.

6. I did like all the writer stuff. The advance reader copies, the writing process, the writer’s block, professional and reader reviews. That was fun.

7. The death cult stuff honestly made me uncomfortable. It was just too creepy and kind of upsetting in places. If this were in a mystery or thriller I would have been fine because I would have been expecting to feel uncomfortable and creeped out. That’s not what I wanted to feel when I picked up Beach Read, though. I would have preferred more of January’s rom-com 101 field trips. 

8. This didn’t feel at all romantic to me. Gus says some GREAT things that are very swoony on their own, but they didn’t feel swoony when mixed in with everything else. There wasn’t any wooing. I didn’t feel like there were any grand gestures. The cover and synopsis actually seem a little deceiving. The romance is there, and there’s sexytimes… it just didn’t feel romantic.

9. I came away feeling kind of dark about the entire reading experience. The ending wasn’t even satisfying. 

All in all, I’m kind of all over the place with Beach Read. I liked some parts, I was meh about many parts, and I really didn’t like some parts. There was SO much going on. The book was kind of all over the place, now that I think about it. I think my biggest issue, though, is that I couldn’t connect with the characters I was really supposed to love and feel for. I really think that’s where it all went wrong for me. Not being able to connect with them made their story feel very flat and not the least bit romantic. I’m disappointed.

2 Stars

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | Book Review

Posted March 25, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | Book ReviewWell Met by Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met #1
Published by Berkley on September 3, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

I’ve always thought going to a Renaissance Faire sounded like a lot of fun, so I was immediately drawn to this title that predominately takes place at one. The story is just as adorable as the cover! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I will admit that it took me a little while to get into this one. Things moved slowly as Emily settles in to take care of her sister, April, and her niece, Caitlin, after they were in a car accident. Emily tries to find her footing in a new town, recover from a bad relationship, and find new direction in her life. She ends up being roped in to Renn Faire and the first part of the book is mostly practicing for Faire, hating on Simon, and slowly making friends. It wasn’t heavy (or even semi-heavy) on the romance at all until about halfway through, but hang in there because you’ll love it once it starts. 

2. Simon and Emily each have baggage they’re carrying around, so it makes complete sense that they don’t like each other so much in the beginning. Simon is living in the shadow of his older brother, the founder of the town’s Renn Faire, since he died of cancer. He’s bitten off way more than he can chew, and is living a rather unfulfilling life. He plays a pirate at Faire, and I love that part of his personality. He’s able to let go of everything and have fun when he pulls on his black leather costume, and Emily and I both fell for him as we saw more of that side and less of his grumpy, frazzled side. He can also be incredibly romantic. Emily has come out of a really toxic relationship recently, and doesn’t know where her life is heading once summer is over. I really liked how authentic and down-to-earth she was. I also love the devotion she feels to her sister, and the bond she shares with her niece.

3. There are actually a lot of really fun platonic relationships in this book. Emily’s family relationships are so sweet. She’s also got Chris, the queen of Renn Faire as well as the owner of the bookstore Emily is working at. Then there’s her Faire friends, Mitch and Stacey, that she meets up with for pizza on Sunday nights after Faire is over for the week. I loved all of these secondary characters so much. Mitch in particular is so funny. He wears a kilt without a shirt during Faire and has the cockiest personality. But he’s also mushy and sweet to his friends. And Stacey is the sweetest best friend type.

4. I loved Renn Faire. The descriptions of what it looked and sounded like were so amazing that I felt transported to the woods and felt like I was the one watching the jousts and hearing the characters speak in their period language. The costumes, food, music, and set-up all sounded like so much fun.

5. The romance is so sweet. At one point, Simon decides he’s going to give Emily her first proper wooing and it’s so wonderful that I was giddy from it. These two have such great chemistry, and they also have this special bond that goes deeper and allows them to help each other through their issues.

All in all, I loved Well Met! It was the perfect mash-up of fantasy and reality, friendships and romance, and light-hearted fun that punches you in the feels. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series!

4 Stars

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton & Nina Bocci | Book Review

Posted January 8, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton & Nina Bocci | Book ReviewRoman Crazy by Alice Clayton, Nina Bocci
Published by Gallery Books on November 13, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

Anytime I find a book that’s set in Italy, I get excited. I hear bells and I light up because Italy is my favorite place on this earth and I love returning there through books. I’d heard good things about these authors individually, so I was also excited to read a book written by the two of them. I really liked all the characters, but I particularly liked the friendship between Avery and Daisy. It would be seriously so nice to have a best friend like Daisy, who is always there and will support you no matter what. Marcello was also super swoony and quintessentially Italian, so I was falling for him pretty quickly! I love second chance romances, and I love that Marcello and Avery fall right back into old feelings nine years after having a summer fling. It brought so much validity and depth to their love story.

Eve though the book can be called a romance, there’s more going on. This story was largely about Avery finding herself after finding her husband cheating on her with his secretary. She flew to Italy heal and to fall in love with art (again) and herself, and it was so much fun getting to see her come to terms with her life, learn from it, and move on to better things. If only we all had the chance to heal from a breakup in Italy! I loved the descriptions of the food and the scenery. I also loved the mix of funny and deep moments, not to mention super romantic moments. This book was the whole package for me, and I’m excited to read more from these authors.

4 Stars

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book Review

Posted December 13, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book ReviewMine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham
Published by Carina Press on December 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 77
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night. But in the light of day, Ashley can't help but wonder if Santa has delivered early...

Game designer Oliver Stansfeld can't wait to leave dreary London—and all its difficult holiday memories—for sunny San Diego. But a freak ice storm and a grounded plane have forced him back to his already-occupied flat. To make up for the mix-up, the least he can do is show his pretty houseguest where to get the perfect Christmas tree before he leaves.

The more time they spend together, the more their attraction grows, and soon Ashley is tempting Oliver to give in to the spirit of the season and snuggle up for the rest of the winter. As the ice melts and flights start taking off again, he must choose between giving in to the past or risking his heart on a chance at love.

Doesn’t this book sound a little like The Holiday? That is one glorious movie and my favorite movie ever, so I was super excited when I found out that this book is about a transatlantic house swap! Even better, a man and a woman are swapping. And even BETTER, the airport gets shut down and she makes it to his London home… but he does not make it to her California home. SO… they have to both stay at his house. I mean, come on. How could you not want to read about this? It sounds super romantic, not to mention an accident waiting to happen! House swapping sounds like one of the coolest adventures ever, but I think I’d be a nervous wreck having a stranger living in my house. Anyways…

Ashley and Oliver are both looking for something. Growing up in poverty, Ashley has never had a real Christmas. And Oliver is looking for a way to survive the pain Christmas brings him. Neither of them were entirely happy to discover they would be sharing a home until Oliver could fly out to California, but they decide to make the best of it after an awkward encounter when Oliver enters his dark room and falls into bed… right on top of Ashley. Oops! She smacks him in his happy place, and he falls to the ground, naked and in pain. And that’s how their love story begins.

Oliver feels for Ashley and her strong desire for a beautiful Christmas, so he takes her shopping for a tree, takes care of her when she slips and falls on the ice, watches her decorate her tree, and enjoys her peppermint hot chocolate. I love the tension and the romance that grows from the bud of friendship. They confide in one another and share their stories, bonding over their sad memories and hope for a better future. I don’t like sad books at all, so I was happy to discover that the book did not feel sad for me. I just felt hope for them and excitement over the possibilities of their love story.

I really enjoyed this sweet, quick Christmas read and would recommend it to people who love The Holiday! While I think that movie is better, this book will make you smile and remind you that the most important part of Christmas is having someone special to share it with.

 

3 Stars

Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe | Book Review

Posted August 14, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe | Book ReviewDating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe
Published by Kensington Publishing on June 25, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Is love just something you find in books?

Six months ago, writer and bookstore owner Maddie Hanson was left at the altar. Since then, she’s had zero interest in romance—despite the fact that she runs a book club full of sexy eligible bachelors. But when her latest novel is panned by an anonymous blogger who goes by the name Silver Fox—and who accuses her of knowing nothing about passion—she decides to prove her nemesis wrong by seeking a romance hero in real life . . .

There’s the smoldering rock musician, the bookish college professor, and her competitive childhood friend who may want to steal her bookstore more than her heart. Even Silver Fox is getting in on the action, sending Maddie alarmingly—and intoxicatingly—flirtatious emails. And that’s not all. Her ex wants her back.

Now Maddie is about to discover that like any good story, life has twists and turns, and love can happen when you least expect it—with the person you least expect . . .

I love books about bookish people, so when I discovered that Dating by the Book is about a woman who is an author and owns a quaint little bookshop I was immediately excited to dive in. The fact that she hosts a book club was icing on the cake for me. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. This is just a happy book. It’s so light and happy and sweet. It reads like a Hallmark movie, and we all know how much I love those. It also reminds me of the movie, You’ve Got Mail, with the cute bookshop and the mysterious emailer and the big competitor wanting to buy out the little guy. It all felt very familiar in a comfortable way.

2. Maddie is super relatable. She was left at the altar, and is anti-romance right now. She did one of those bad things authors aren’t supposed to do, and read online reviews for one of her books. I don’t know why she got so bent out of shape over a 3-star review, but she did and she let it fester and fester until she wrote to the author of the review and let him have it. A big no-no! But since this is a happy, fluffy, sweet book the two form a bit of a friendship. Luckily he doesn’t go and subtweet about her on Twitter! He claims her book wasn’t good because she doesn’t know real romance, real passion, and she sets out to prove him wrong. She’s human. She makes really dumb mistakes and has a bunch of men after her. I loved her and hated her.

3. I loved the mystery of the Silver Fox, and his emails back and forth with Maddie. Their flirtations and deeper conversations were really fun to read. I was dying to figure out who he was!

4. I found the book club discussions to be rather boring and drawn out, but not enough to detract from the book. Maddie’s book club reads and discusses the classics, and since I’ve read very few of them I kind of felt like one of those kids who sits at the dinner table with their chin in their hand, bored to death by the grown-ups having grown-up conversations that they have nothing to add to. It’s just no fun listening to people talk about something you have no knowledge/interest in, and that’s how I felt skimming through their book chats. Luckily they didn’t last too long!

5. Mary Ann Marlowe is a great writer! Everything flowed nicely, and I was very comfortable while reading. I didn’t get tripped up by details, and I followed everything. I loved the humor and the way she wrote her characters.

All in all, this was a win for me! I loved everything about this book, and would love to go and visit these characters (particularly a few of the minor ones) to get their stories. There’s a bookish professor who I’d love to see get his own love story. Highly recommended!

5 Stars

One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker | Book Review

Posted July 12, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker | Book ReviewOne Summer In Santorini by Sandy Barker
Published by Maze on June 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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1 Stars

Sarah has had enough of men. It's time to rekindle her first true love – travel – so she books a sailing trip around the Greek islands with a group of strangers.

The very last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new… But then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht and she knows she's in trouble. And when she also encounters a handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble really does come in twos.

Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling, embark on a relationship, or stick to her plan – steer clear of men, continue her love affair with feta, and find her own way after all?

UGHHHHHH. I love books set on vessels. I love books that involve travel–ESPECIALLY to other countries. Greece!! I love when all these things come with a huge side of romance. I expected to LOVE this. I did not expect to find the kind of disappointment I did in this book. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Where do I even begin? I really disliked Sarah. She went on this trip hoping to avoid men at all costs. Did she? No. And instead of owning it and just being with men anyway (nobody would blame her), she just used her I-don’t-want-men-right-now mindset to justify her leading on one guy while leading on another guy and not really caring about the feelings of either one of them. She’s also very dull and boring and lacks personality. I kept forgetting her name.

2. The love interest is an American boy named Josh (I legit just had to check Goodreads to make sure that’s his name, so score one for me), but simply calling him an American doesn’t make him an American. He needs to sound like an American. Josh said things that sounded so non-American. For example, he said “Don’t poke your tongue out at me.” We don’t say that here! We say “Don’t stick your tongue out at me.” There were more non-American things he said, but you get the picture. He was also a snoozefest. I don’t have any clue what he does or who he is. And I’m pretty sure we are never told what he looks like. So I pictured a Ken doll because what else was I going to do?

3. The dialogue was pretty awful and made me want to scratch my eyes out. I like dialogue, but only if it’s interesting. I was beyond bored. Josh and Sarah in particular didn’t talk about anything interesting. I read this on my Kindle with the default font size, and these two doorknobs talked about how much they liked a movie for roughly 5 pages. FIVE PAGES. I did so much skimming to try and slog my through what felt like a very fly-on-the-wall kind of experience throughout the entire book. I felt like I was trapped in a room with two of the dullest people.

4. Every single day was the same. There was so much repetition. The characters wake up, they make toast, they eat breakfast as a group, they say “wow, nice view”, they disembark the boat and go explore various towns. Or they stay on the boat to talk because that’s all they do and who needs cute Greek towns when you can be boring instead? But these towns were all the same. Every town looked the same. I don’t even know why they got off the boat! It seemed like they just kept visiting the same place over and over again because nothing noteworthy was ever said about any of them. They shopped. They looked at the view. They ate food in some cafe or restaurant. But it was all the same food. I kept seeing the same Greek foods mentioned over and over again. Everything they ate was SO GOOD. There was so much horiatiki and it was all SO GOOD. It’s just salad, people! Talk about something else! Oh, and they would not shut up about the AMAZING tomatoes. They’re tomatoes. Move on.

5. The characters also had the same conversations over and over again. “Are you and Josh a thing? Did you sleep together? Did you sleep well? Are you ok? Are you drunk? This travel group is like family!” On and on and on.

6. This is seriously the most boring group of people. Some of them were very sweet and most were completely unremarkable. I’ve already forgotten all of them. They did nothing. They sat around the boat talking about boring stuff. Or they read. They didn’t go swimming off the boat or play games or do anything. They just sat. And talked. About boring things. At one point some dolphins swam in the boat’s wake, and it was seriously the most exciting part of the book for me.

7. The romance just bugged me. I’m fine with the age different between Josh and Sarah (I believe she’s 8-10 years older than he is), but it was brought up so much that I felt like I was supposed to be uncomfortable. And they kept saying they were just friends because neither one wanted to be in a relationship, but then they kept doing very relationshippy things like kissing and cuddling and getting jealous when the other noticed another member of the opposite sex. And it was all so insta-something. How do you look at a guy and decide he’s going to be your best friend by the end of the trip before you’ve even talked to him? And then it happened. It was all so formulaic and easy. And I really hate these two, whether what they have is a relationship or friendship. I just don’t like them. To go from “we’re just the best friends ever” to planning out their sexcapades and never shutting up about all the sex they want to have just… it just didn’t work for me! They felt too brother/sister to me at that point. I cringed a lot.

8. So what kept me reading? Well, there’s this older guy, James, that Sarah meets before the trip who is very drawn to her in a creepy “I’m going to kidnap you and hide you in a secret room in my fancy mansion” kind of way. He puts a little pep in her step because he’s a sexy and serious older man who strokes her ego and makes her feel alive, but she blows him off. But then they cross paths again and he was too smooth for comfort. I wanted to see if she picked our non-American American or our probable “import/export, a little of this, a little of that” creepily mysterious silver fox, so I kept going. I’m all about the drama.

9. Worst ending ever. We are left with all the loose, frayed ends just flapping around in the breeze. The book just ended. There was no climax, no resolution, no information. Just done. There’s no sequel, and I honestly don’t care enough to read one if there is one someday. But to put me through 400 pages of boredom only to leave me hanging just makes me mad. This book wasn’t worth my time.

10. There were some pretty scenery descriptions in the beginning that I liked (and they gave me high hopes for a wonderful trip to Greece), but they were used so many times that by the end I was begging to get off that boat.

Bottom line, I’m mad. lol. Maybe Josh’s non-American speak was fixed by an editor in the finished copy, but I highly doubt any of the rest of this was fixed because it’d have to be a completely different book. I’m so disappointed! One Summer In Santorini had all the makings of a very Jana book, but nope. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it.

1 Stars

The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey | Book Review

Posted January 21, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey | Book ReviewThe Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey
Published by Covenant Communications on November 1, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 267
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

Gracie Miller is a small-town girl who has landed her dream job in New York City. As jewelry designer for one of the most prestigious jewelers in the world, she completed a particularly stunning piece, a custom setting for a large pink diamond. But when her billionaire client Mrs. Katsaros comes to repair a minor issue with the setting, Gracie is horrified to realize it is not the ring she created. Someone has forged her design, and the priceless diamond is gone.

Mrs. Katsaros has no desire to bring media attention to the jewelry heist, so she recruits her nephew, Quinn, and his FBI agent friend, Steve, to do some sleuthing off the record. When they discover that the missing ring is just one of many forgeries in the widow's collection, they look to Gracie for help. They need her to act the part of Quinn's fiancée. From the lights of New York to the shimmering islands of the Mediterranean, Gracie is swept into a thrilling hunt. But amid the search for the elusive thief, she and Quinn find themselves increasingly distracted by their growing feelings for each other. What neither realizes is how close the danger lies and how serious the vendetta is—because, apparently, it is worth killing for.

The Gem Thief pretty much had my name written all over it! I knew I needed a change of pace from all the contemporary romance I’d been reading lately, so when I saw that this book was a combination some of my favorite things  (mystery, romance, intrigue, and travel) I knew it was going to be something I’d enjoy. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I really, really love jewelry so I was excited to find out that Gracie is a jewelry designer for a big company in New York City. She designs settings for beautiful gems and precious stones, and when she arrives at work one day to learn that one of her pieces was replaced with a forgery, our mystery begins. I was so excited to see how it all played out.

2. Gracie is a very sweet, caring person. She’s polite, warm, calm under pressure, a little insecure, and down to earth even though she works for such a prestigious company and such wealthy customers. She loves her job and puts so much of herself into each piece of jewelry she designs for her clients. She felt so much empathy for and compassion towards Dorcas when she learned of the theft and immediately wanted to help in any way that she could. She’s just an all around good person, who I could easily picture myself being friends with.

3. Quinn is Dorcas’s nephew, and works for the insurance company that insures Dorcas’s expensive pieces of jewelry. As soon as the forgery is discovered, he is called in to help. I liked Quinn a lot, and thought his devotion to his aunt was very endearing and made him even more attractive in my eyes. He’s a great listener, and opens his heart to those he cares about.

4. Dorcas is so much fun! She lived a normal, mainstream life until she fell in love with and married the founder of the Greek Cruise Line (GCL). Then her life became glitzy and glamorous, filled with expensive jewelry, luxurious living arrangements, and extravagant vacations. She loves to wear bright colors, and has the sweetest, most caring personality.

5. I was eager for the traveling to begin once Gracie, Quinn, and Dorcas decided to solve this mystery themselves. I wasn’t disappointed at all. Their first stop is to the Venetian Jewelry Show (I LOVE VENICE), where Dorcas went with her husband each year to buy a new piece of jewelry. The descriptions of Venice were spot-on, and sent me right back to the Grand Canal and the winding passageways. Then they board a fancy luxury cruise ship and explore the Mediterranean. I just loved reading about their visits to Athens, Santorini, and Dubrovnik to name a few. The descriptions of the scenery, sunsets, and weather were wonderful.

6. I loved the slow burning romance. Quinn and Gracie get off to a very rocky start, but their fake engagement brings out real feelings very quickly. And I loved that their love story grew from mutual respect, to friendship, to more. It wasn’t founded on a one-night stand or lust. It felt real and organic to me. And the romance is totally clean. There’s some kisses, but no sex whatsoever. There’s not even a mention of sex as a want or an option on either side, and I really loved that about the book.

7. I would have liked more suspense, but that’s just me. I love suspense!

8. I was annoyed that the ship had “floors” instead of “decks”. Nobody calls them floors on a cruise ship! You don’t get in an elevator to go up one or two floors on a ship, you go up one or two decks. So that drove me nuts. I hope that was fixed in the final version of the book. DECKS.

9. Let me get picky about geography for a second. At one point in the story, Gracie and Dorcas were standing at the edge of the Grand Canal looking at the Mediterranean Sea beyond. That’s the Adriatic Sea. And yes, that’s part of the Mediterranean so I guess it works, but if you look at a map you’ll see that the Med is down at the tip of Italy. You can’t see the Med from Venice. Technically the author isn’t wrong, but if it were me I would have been more accurate about it.

Obviously, I have very few complaints. I really, really loved reading The Gem Thief. I’ve been in a book slump for quite some time, and I flew through this one. It was refreshing, and it allowed me to escape to one of my favorite places. I loved the characters and the romance and the mystery. It was just very fun for me. The writing is wonderful, and I’m planning to look into more books by Sian. I highly recommend this one!

4 Stars

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh | Book Review

Posted October 24, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh | Book ReviewReturn Once More by Trisha Leigh
Series: The Historians #1
Published by Bloomsbury Spark on October 20, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Pages: 294
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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0.5 Stars

If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

You’d think a book about a girl who travels back in time to learn what mankind did to make earth uninhabitable, and ends up meeting the love of her life in ancient Egypt would be right up my alley, but it SO wasn’t. I love history and learning about ancient times. I love time travel. I love the scientific explanations as to why time travel is possible. I love the excitement and mystery of time travel. So… what was my problem? Well, hold my drink.

1. Ok, so we’ve got these Historians who go back in time to analyze the great tragedies and mess-ups of humankind to ensure that these events do not repeat themselves. That sounds kind of cool, but ultimately we, as readers, only get to hear about the crap the world has gone through. One scene in particular about a fire in a factory really depressed me.

2. Something sciency has happened, and now people can find out who their ideal mate is. The problem is, their ideal mate could have been anyone since the beginning of human existence. This means that when these kids become of age they can get the name of their one true love who statistically isn’t even alive anymore. How demotivating is that?! If I found out that my one true love died in 15 B.C., then what’s the point of even trying to find love now? lol. This is what happens to Kaia. She finds out that her ideal match died during the time of Caesar. So… “Ok, here’s the name of the man of your dreams. He died thousands of years ago. You have the power to easily travel back in time to be with him, but DON’T because it could altar everything.” This is just so stupid! Of COURSE she’s going to go meet him. Of COURSE they’re going o fall in love. Of COURSE they are going to endanger practically everyone who has ever lived. Why would a society even do this to its people when it could easily destroy humanity!? Everything rests on lovestruck teenagers and whether or not they have the willpower to resist pushing a button that will take them to their greatest love story ever. *facepalm*

3. These Historians really aren’t supposed to change anything about the past because it could have detrimental effects on the future. But that doesn’t mean they don’t change EVERYTHING. They just secretly change things and go home, hoping the world and the people and the life they’ve always known still exist. Again, too much rests on a very flimsy system.

4. So… we know that too-stupid-to-live Kaia goes to visit her man, Oz, in Egypt. And of course she forces the instalove because science told her he’s The One. Oz is awkward and weird, and I don’t think that people in ancient Egypt talked like he talks in this book. They immediately fall in love because of some unseen reason, and he immediately understands and accepts that she’s a time traveler even though he’s never even heard of electricity, much less a time machine. It all just felt so wrong and forced.

5. I didn’t even care about the other characters. I just remember a lot of judging and moral grey areas.

6. You’ve got characters trying to play God, and I hate that. He’s doing fine on His own, thank you.

7. There is so much more that I hated about this book, but I’m getting tired of writing about it. You know how you hate something more the more you think about it? That’s me right now.

So… bottom line: don’t read this. lol. I just looked at Goodreads and saw how highly rated this book is and made that emoji face that has the big eyes and no mouth. I don’t feel like we read the same book. lol. There’s better options out there for time travel romance. This one was just depressing.

0.5 Stars

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted October 11, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 8 Comments

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 3, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

I’ve become quite the Jenn Bennett fangirl this year (starting with Starry Eyes), so I’d been eager to read her oldest YA title, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, to see where it all began. One thing I really love about Jenn is that she comes up with unique story lines that don’t include the typical cookie cutter characters and the typical tropes and themes. She really thinks outside the box, and I appreciate that so much because I’ve been feeling lately that I’m losing interest in YA contemporary romance. It’s all so similar, and the stories have all been told over and over again. This one is different, though, and in a very wonderful way. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Beatrix (Bex) is a medical artist. Basically, her dream is to draw extremely accurate drawings of bodies for medical publications. Interesting, right? Many teens sneak away at night to go to parties or movies, but Bex sneaks away to the hospital to draw cadavers. She’s doing this in the hopes of winning an art scholarship. I love slightly nerdy, unique heroines because they are so accepting and easy to relate to. Bex was so much fun to read about. She’s determined to get what she wants, and pushes back in the face of opposition.

2. Jack is the absolute cutest. He’s immediately interested in Bex, even though she’s not even interested in giving him the time of day. Puking in the bushes after drawing her first cadaver didn’t even chase him away. This is the kind of guy a girl needs. He’s one of San Francisco’s most wanted criminals, and he’s also the mayor’s son. Interesting, right!? He’s a very talented graffiti artist, and when you find out his motivation behind his art you’ll pretty much melt. He admires Bex’s creativity, and they bond over art, family troubles, and the excitement of being rebellious together. They are just way too cute.

3. There’s a lot of heavy themes in this story, that are nicely balanced by the silliness of two teens falling in love. Bex’s dad walked out on his family for another one. Now she and her mom and older brother live in a small place together. Bex’s room is in the dining room and her brother lives in the cement covered basement. They love each other, but have heir problems. Jack’s family has covered up mental illness to protect his dad’s image, and I love the sensitivity and realness of how mental illness is portrayed. Bex and Jack both struggle with life, and have both had to grow up quicker than many other teens. This made their relationship feel deeper to me. They have some of the best banter!

4. The romance is so sweet. In the very beginning neither of them knew much of anything about the other. Jack didn’t even know Bex’s name at first, and got to know her through her online portfolio. Then he stalked her on social media (in a cute, non-creepy way of course), and started strategically bumping into her. Things simmered for a while and built up to something really great. Their feelings felt so real and genuine to me. I love how relentlessly he pursued her.

All in all, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is a swoony little package of happy. I love this bookish couple, the family dynamics, the unique subject matter, and the feelings. I highly recommend this sweet story to anyone who is looking for a little something different from their contemporary YA.


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book Review

Posted September 27, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book ReviewRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Children's Books on March 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Simply put, I loved everything about Rebel of the Sands, from the beautiful cover to the amazingly fitting title to the words inside. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. THE COVER. Moving on.

2. The story is this awesome middle eastern, wild west, Aladdin, mystic conglomeration with magic and mythical horses and sand and a sultan and a secret world of magical and powerful beings. It’s just so unique and exciting. It grabbed me from the first page.

3. The world feels both modern and historic. There’s djinni and ghouls and traversing the desert by horse, but there’s also modern technology like gun factories and trains. This hybrid of various world building elements felt very fresh. So often we see fantasies pulling elements from fairytales or other tried and true fantasy novels, but Rebel of the Sands feels very original and authentic.

4. Amani is a wonderful heroine. She’s smart, sassy, and filled with quick wit and the perfect amount of paranoia to make her someone you can really get behind, rather than a dumb damsel in distress. There’s no Bella complex going on here. I really love heroines that start out at rock bottom because they have nothing to lose and make quick decisions that have the power to change their lives. That’s Amani. When we meet her, her life is the epitome of misery. She’s an orphan living with her uncle who might force her to marry him, and she’s scrimping and saving so she can escape before it’s too late. You’d think she’d be submissive and quiet living under these circumstances, but she has this fire and will not be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

5. Jin is so perfect. He’s so mysterious and caring and he gave me the swoons. I loved the chemistry between him and Amani because there’s this intrigue underneath a strongly developing friendship. They look out for each other and have some of the sweetest moments.

6. This book isn’t really romancey, and I liked that a lot. So often the world and the important details sit in the back seat while the romance drives the entire story. There are hints of romance, and those hang out in the trunk. Or the luggage rack. This story is about so much more than a possible romance. However, that’s not to say things won’t get swoonier in the next book.

7. The secondary characters are just as perfect. Alwyn’s debut taught me that if she’s going to write in a detail she’s going to flesh it out. Every thing, person, and event is in this book for an important reason. There’s no filler here.

8. I can’t say anything bad about this book. I loved the writing, the details, the imagery. everything. I can’t wait for book 2!

Basically, you should read this. I mean, you have to at least be a LITTLE curious to see how an author can successfully combine the Wild West and the Middle East right? I highly recommend Rebel of the Sands.

This review was originally posted on May 13, 2016.

5 Stars