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Jessica (HDB)

I'm a bookworm of the highest caliber! If you see me, I'll probably be reading. There's nothing I love more than finding a good book, and then sharing it with the world!

Checking In!


Look at that silly puppers. Did I mention that she thinks she's a lap dog? Either she'll climb on top of you or, if you're strong like my hubby, you'll pick her up and she's perfectly content just sitting there on you. Puppy snuggles forever!


Anyway I thought I'd check in, since it has been about a month! Work has been insanely busy, as we near our new contract, and I've been running around like mad. I've somehow managed to keep up with blogging, and with Instagram, but audiobooks have become my main source of reading and I've neglected to be in here as much. For that, I'm sorry. It's been fun popping back in here occassionally though and seeing everyone slowly trickle back! BookLikes is killing it again, and that means our little community is starting to get solid footing again. I love it.


In upcoming Jessica news, I'm attending the LA Times Festival of Books this weekend. I'll probably spend entirely too much money of signed books, but I don't care. Next weekend is Six Flags, the YALLWEST event, and I'm also running a Glow-In-the-Dark 5K to raise money for Breast Cancer Research! It's going to be a busy end to the month.


The good news is that I've left May open for rest and relaxation. Our new contract will be in place at work, and things should calm down, so I can go back to lazily reading comics in my hammock :).


Know that I miss you all. I'll try to stop in as often as possible to comment and lurk. *big squishy hugs*

Fairy Lights Playlist!

Fairy Lights - Edward Lorn

Come and see the awesome playlist that E. put together for his newest book, Fairy Lights! Bonus, I totally made a YouTube playlist. So you can listen in real time ;).

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

The Forbidden Garden: A Novel - Ellen Herrick

First off, let me say that The Forbidden Garden is both an absolutely enchanting and effortless read. It's the type of story that a reader can easily sink into, and wile away the hours with. To me, it would be the perfect outdoor read. Something to spend those beach days, hammock days, or even camping days with. Ellen Herrick has made something beautiful here, and it's honestly rather intoxicating.

As a reader, I tend to gravitate towards character who feel genuine. If the people I'm reading about attract me, I want to keep reading. Herrick has accomplished that handily. Sorrel and her sisters, despite the fact that I hadn't yet read the book they are featured in, stole my heart. Their love was evident, as was the heartache that Sorrel still harbored. When Sorrel, and I at the same time, met the Kirkwoods I was head over heels in love. This family, despite their secrets kept, were just delightful. The romance that bloomed between Andrew and Sorrel especially stole my heart. It felt genuine, sweet, and honest, which is hard to do.

The story itself, that is the plot portion of it, started out really strong in my opinion. The rambling estate of Kirkwood Manor was just as charming as the people in it, and as the history began to unfold I was intrigued. However, as the book neared the mid-point, I felt like everything was being rushed to the conclusion. I would have loved to see more about the research that Stella was performing into the past, and possibly more about the whole mystery itself. The ending just felt anti-climactic, after all the tension leading up to it.

For a beautifully written setting, wonderful characters, and a rather interesting plot, I'll happily offer this book three stars. As I mentioned, it was an effortless and honestly enjoyable read. If you're looking for something light and airy, with characters who will make you fall in love, this is your next read.

We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson

This isn't even really a review, just a note to say that this book is PERFECT. Seriously, it is. I'm in awe that the author managed to fit so much in one story, and do it so expertly. It deals with love. With marriage. With loss. With friendship. With mental health. With harmful relationships. With self-worth. With rape, even. With everything, and it all just wraps up into this story that made me smile, giggle, tear up and full on sob.


My book hangover is MASSIVE right now. I'm going to need some time away to fully digest this even. All I know is I need a physical copy of this book, so I can mark it up and quote it, and love it forever.


Holy shit.

Reading progress update: I've read 60%.

We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson

This book...



It's SO good. I've laughed, teared up, giggled, full on cried, and I'm not even done yet. GAH. Authors that can do that are my heroes. I'm pretty sure this book is going on my favorites list.

Oh my horror fans.... check this out! E. and Char, I'm looking at you.


From the Nocturnal Reader's Instagram:


Hey Nocturnal Reader's, we are thrilled to announce that we have been working with Cemetery Dance to create an exclusive Nocturnal Reader's Box edition for Stephen King and Richard Chizmar's upcoming "Gwendy's Button Box." .
This will be something that you will not be able to get anywhere else and we are very grateful to the team at Cemetery Dance, D&V agency, Richard Chizmar and of course Stephen King. Which brings us to the Theme of June: All Hail the King. We will have limited boxes and once they are sold, there will never be anymore printed. We will tease the new cover art soon! It's completely different from the trade edition cover. .
It will be a highly collectible box with a very limited run on this cover. Everything in this box is limited to this box for this month On Sale May 1st. They will sell out!!! We can't save any for anyone, first come first serve. .

DNF @ 50%

Spindle Fire - Lexa Hillyer

I tried Spindle Fire. I really did. I gave you 50% to pull me in, which is more than fair, and you just couldn't do it. 


I'll sum that 50% up that I did read for all of you, bookish friends.


Confusing fairy curse.

Teen angst.

Sisterly bonds.

Budding romance??? (Kind of?)

More teen angst.

Random fairies doing things that don't seem to fit with the plot.

More teen angst.


More confusing fairy curse.

More kind of budding romance...


Possible war?



And it was at this point that I gave up. I really did try.

"Sometimes I think gravity may be death in disguise. Other times I think gravity is love, which is why love's only demand is that we fall."
We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson

-- We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Calling all my Horror fans out there!


I found this amazing box called The Nocturnal Reader's Box through Instagram, and I had to subscribe. Instagram is swimming in YA sub boxes, and I was getting kind of tired of seeing the same thing over and over. When this box promised all things thriller, mystery and horror, I was sold.




This is April's "Trapped" theme box. It featured:

* A Lord of the Flies tote bag (the picture cut off but I can take another one if anyone is interested)

* A Cujo enamel pin (it's AMAZING)

* A Shutter Island matchbox

* A Chap Book of creepy poems

* An Overlook Hotel bar glass

* A 3D print (this looks so cool with the glasses on)

* A "Trapped" bookmark

* A copy of Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie (I read this last year and it was GREAT)

* A copy of Little Heaven by Nick Cutter


Honestly, this box had the most value for what I paid for it (roughly $42 with shipping) and I'm so pleased with the curation. I'm hooked, and I'm keeping this subscription. Especially if I keep getting things like that pin and bar glass. *happy sigh*


May's box is already sold out (it literally sold out in 2 hours), but June's sub opens up May 1st. So keep an eye out if you're interested.

Mississippi Blood (Penn Cage #6) by Greg Iles

Mississippi Blood: A Novel (Natchez Burning) - Greg Iles

Friends, I am winded from the epic sprint that Greg Iles sent me on with this book. I tell you, I was already eagerly awaiting this final installment in Penn Cage's family saga. What I wasn't prepared for though, was how much Iles was going to throw at me all at once. This book is a rapid fire rush to the finish the line. It sweeps you off your feet, and all you can do is hang on for dear life as everything that you've been waiting for unfolds in this maniacally beautiful fashion. This book right here, more than anything else, has proven to me what an expert writer Greg Iles is, and I happily bow down to that expertise.

First off, let me say that I was originally a bit put off by courtroom melodrama that started in Mississippi Blood. Admittedly, I wasn't sure I actually wanted to read a whole murder case laid out on the page. I worried that it would slow things down. That is, of course, until I realized that even these portions of the book were utterly riveting. Watching Shad Johnson and Quentin Avery go at it soon became something that I looked forward to. Iles wrote two brilliant lawyers who, despite any flaws they might have otherwise had, were masters of the judiciary art. I felt like a part of the jury, as surprise witnesses were thrown into the mix and tantalizing details were unearthed. I felt like a part of Penn's family, as I watched them struggle to keep themselves together while dealing with what everyone around them was terming the "case of the century". In other words, I was completely engrossed. I've never run through a 700+ page book more quickly in my whole life. If I could have lived without sleeping for the three days I read this, I would have. I needed to know what happened next.

More than that though, was the fact that Iles didn't let go of a bit of the character development that he'd been nursing throughout this whole series. Despite the trial, and all the violence surrounding it, he didn't stop at all in his quest to make the reader actually care about these characters. I admit, I teared up more than a few times during this book. I hadn't realized how much I actually empathized with Penn and his family until everything was ramping up to a conclusion. It amazed me how quickly I fell in step with even the new characters who were put in place, and how much I wanted them to succeed. It's no secret that I was a little angry after the last book, where Iles took something away from Penn that I really thought was unfair and unnecessary. Reading this installment though, I understood. I saw the reason. It didn't mend the hole in my heart, but I saw Penn in a new a light. A man who has been through hell and back, but still has a heart as big as anything. It's tough not to love a man like that, even when his decisions seem insane.

Look, the point of this rambling review is to fairly confess that I started out this book with a bit of doubt as to whether or not I was going to fully enjoy it. I expected over the top courtroom melodrama, and worried that the climax might not be what I expected it to be. I'm happy to report that I was wrong. I was so very wrong. This book is amazing. Mississippi Blood is not only the ending that Penn Cage deserved, but the type of ending that any author should be damn proud of. My heart is still pounding from what happened, even after the epilogue tried to assuage my fears. This is mastery, plain and simple, and Greg Iles quite rightly has my heart.

Am I sad that there won't be anymore Penn Cage? Yes. Will I happily read anything else that Greg Iles puts out into the world? Absolutely. If you haven't started this series yet, please do. This is a genre that I all but never read, and so you can trust me when I say that this is worth your time. 2,100 pages later, and I'm not even the least bit sorry that I put in the time.

Shoutout to Grim for my amazing "Swing Into Spring" box! Ah! Can you believe she sweetly took the time to give me books from her own library AND write a note explaining why she chose each one? I'm still speechless guys. I feel so darn loved.


Which, is exactly why I started this swap group in the first place! To spread all the love! Mission accomplished.

Bits and Bobs

*waves sleepily from under a blanket*


My motivation seems to have left me lately. Hahaha. All I want to do is stay under this blanket, with a snuggly puppy, and nap. Even reading has been a bit slower lately, because I just can't focus. I suppose that happens every now and then. In an effort to make sure that I don't burn myself out, I'm kind of just going with the flow :). I've been binge watching Legion and Love, and enjoying the chill time.


In other news, look who is now 10 months old!

*cries a little*



This puppy child has just grown so dang fast! When we got her at 8 weeks, she was a tiny little 10 pound squish with a head way too big for her body. Now, at 10 months old, she's an 85 pound behemoth who doesn't know how big she really is. Hahaha. If you ask Luna if she's a lap dog, she'll respond by climbing up into your lap. She definitely thinks all the snuggles are in order, even if she's sitting on your chest and you can't breathe. I love this giant squish.


In other, other news, you may remember that my husband had weight loss surgery last summer. I'm happy to report that he's officially down to the smallest he's ever been since high school! He hit the "below 300 lbs" mark last week, and we're celebrating by going to Magic Mountain next month. He's so stoked that he'll be able to fit comfortably on all the roller coasters, and we haven't been since I was 25 so I'm pretty darn excited as well! It's just all around good.


This long rambling is to say that I'm here! I'm lurking a lot, and trying to take it easy while reading. I really promised myself that I wouldn't get to the burn out stage this year, and so far it's going well. Feel free to poke me (I'm looking at you Grim, my awesome friend.) because I'm always around. *HUGS*

Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland and Michael Miller

Shadow Run - AdriAnne Strickland, Michael Miller
I'm not going to lie, I am always so delighted when I find a Science Fiction novel that is accessible and exciting! I had high hopes for Shadow Run, and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. The Kaitan Heritage is a ship after my own heart. Cobbled together, barely holding on, and full of the most loyal and intriguing set of people there ever was! I remember seeing somewhere that this book was likened to Firefly and Dune. Yes, friends, that is entirely accurate. A little bit of love, a dash of danger, and a whole lot of sarcasm and wit. That's what you'll find between these pages.
First off, massive kudos to the authors for crafting as captivating a character as Captain Qole. At just 17 years old, she's the best Shadow fishing captain in the Universe. But that's not where her intrigue ends. Qole is also poisoned by the very thing that both makes up her livelihood, and makes her such an excellent captain. It's a compelling double-edged sword. What I loved most about her character though, was how self-assured and bad-ass she was. Qole doesn't need your admiration. She's strong, loyal, and full of a kind of fierce love that made me fall for her instantly. I love seeing forceful women in positions of power. Qole doesn't disappoint.
Better still, Nev's entrance into this story didn't dim Qole's light one bit. In fact, Nev is a beautiful contrast to Qole's dark and resolute personality. See, Nev is ever the optimist. He's both tough as nails and has a heart that is fit to burst with pride for his family. His quick thinking and kindness make him the perfect opposite to Qole, and watching them interact is honestly a lot of fun. I never felt like the tension brewing between them was overbearing and the little romance that may have existed just felt like it belonged. Color me impressed.
The absolute only reason I wasn't able to give this a full five-star rating is because the climax felt a little rushed. The first three-quarters of this book are perfectly paced. There is world-building galore, time for our characters to grow and understand one another, plus even the perfect amount of action to keep things fresh. As the book neared the end, I felt like it was rushing to push everything still left undone in order. Which, to be honest, I can totally understand. It makes me happy to know that there's another book coming after this one. I absolutely cannot wait to read it! 
You need to meet the ragtag crew of the Kaitan. Plain and simple. If Shadow Run isn't already on  your wishlist, put it there. 

Reading progress update: I've read 55%.

The Invention of Wings: A Novel - Sue Monk Kidd

This book is kicking my all my emotions in the face right now. My annoyance/pity/frustration with Sarah is through the roof, and Handful is breaking my heart into a million and a half pieces. 

The Odds of You and Me by Cecilia Galante

The Odds of You and Me: A Novel - Cecilia Galante

It's a bit unbelievable to me still, how books can sometimes completely blindside you. You'll be going about your daily life, a book will fall into your lap, and suddenly it's the exact story that you need to read at that exact moment. It's like the author knew just who you were, and what was missing, and came along to fill that void. The Odds of You and Me was exactly that. I wasn't expecting this book, it simply showed up for review. I'm honestly so glad that it did. I can't believe I almost missed the opportunity to fall in love with this book.

Bird's story is one of so many layers that it's almost impossible to really touch on them all in this short review. What I can say is that Cecilia Galante isn't afraid to peel back each one of those layers, down to the deepest part of the soul. She allows the reader not even just to crawl into Bird's head, but almost to become her. I felt her pain, her love, her elation, her hate, her confusion, and each bit of it filled in a part of my own soul. I was able to pick her apart, to the point that I was so invested in this story that I sobbed while reading it. My life might not be a mirror to Bird's, lord knows she has it much harder than I do, but just seeing someone else at a place where they still don't feel like they have their footing yet made me whole somehow.

See, Galante doesn't shy away from the parts of life that we all hide from the outside world. Bird has made mistakes, she's grown from them, but she also shows us that there is always growing to do. Her character is one that questions things, examines her feelings, and shuts things away. She's basically any one of us at any given moment. I've never seen such pure emotion laid out on a page, to be honest. As an example, Bird's love for her son Angus is so bright that it's blinding. Yet at the same time she admits that most of the time she struggles to even feel like she mildly knows what she's doing as a parent. Learning, growing, fighting, it's all there in vivid color as Bird simply tries to exist in a world that doesn't always feel hospitable. Nothing here is black and white, everything is up for debate, and I loved that more than I can say.

There are discussions of love here, and the tense relationships that we might have with others. So delicate that they can crack at any moment. There are insights about caring for others, despite their past decisions, and possibly stepping over the boundaries set by society to do good for someone else. As I mentioned above, there is even a discussion on being a parent and feeling like you're constantly floundering. Bird's raw commentary on raising her son, as a single mother, and feeling utterly helpless at times will speak to a lot of readers out there. Or, if you're like me, her battle with religion as an upbringing versus religion as an adult will hit home too. Like I said, there's so much wrapped up here that I can't touch on it all fairly. It simply exists together, in this beautiful web of a story, that will catch you up and likely evoke feelings that you weren't even expecting.

To sum it all up, The Odds of You and Me is absolutely beautiful. It's a raw, emotional, story that isn't afraid to dig deep into the emotions of a woman who is simply trying to navigate life. I recommend you have a box of tissues handy for this book. I really do.

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

Beautiful Broken Girls - Kim  Savage

So, first off, kudos to the designer of this cover because it's a thing of beauty. My heart belonged to this book before I even gazed eyes upon the synopsis. Still, it was ultimately the synopsis that did me in. I love stories that hint at a mystery beyond death. The idea of someone leaving you notes to discover the reason behind their demise has always fascinated me and, quite honestly, is one of the YA concepts that I'll read no matter what. It's not hard to imagine that I was pretty excited to dive in to Beautiful Broken Girls. I only hoped that it would live up to the hype that my brain was already generating for it.

Which is where we come to the difficult part, and that's the fact that I'm still not sure entirely how I feel about this book. I'm a bit on the fence because, well, this story confused me more than I'd like to admit. Beautiful Broken Girls starts out fairly strong. We're introduced to Ben as he's mourning the loss of Mira who, as we slowly uncover, was a much bigger part of his life than he'd like to admit. I liked Ben. He was a little broken, a little angry, but full of the kind of resolve that only exists when you truly cared about someone. His quest to find out what happened to Mira was harsh at the best of times, but he soldiered on despite all of that.

Ben's relationships with the other characters in this story, specifically his family and his group of guy friends, were also pretty well laid out. I understood his frustration that people kept trying to put him in a bubble because of his past trauma. I felt for him that he couldn't express his feelings, because it looked to the outside world that he was overreacting. While I wasn't a huge fan of the majority of the other boys in this story, I liked that they weren't caricatures of what someone believes boys would be. They were raw, and honest, and sometimes kind of obnoxious. Just like real life.

The disconnect for me, came when Mira and Francesca's story began to unfold. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting the reasoning behind their suicide to be, but the choppy and vague story that was laid out for me left me feeling a bit frustrated. I don't want to give anything away, for readers out there who are interested in this book, but I can confidently say that I wanted much more backstory. It drives me mad when characters are given a special trait, or an interesting existence, and there is absolutely no explanation as to where it stemmed from. Since I had no insight into Francesca's past, she simply felt shallow and spoiled to me. I had no empathy for her whatsoever. Which meant, unfortunately, that since Mira kept playing into her delusions I kind of began to hate her as well.

As it stands, Ben ended up being the best part of this story. The ending was okay, although not quite what I was hoping for. I just really feel like the middle of this book needed much more explanation and much less of Ben's flashbacks. It was tough for me to build a relationship with any of the other characters, and it ended up hurting my connection with book. Did I mention that my feelings are all over the place? I can definitely offer this book a three star rating, and say that there's much of it that is going to interest other readers out there. If you're looking for a book that blends mystery with some darker emotions, you'll want to pick this up.