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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!

Lemons by Melissa Savage

Lemons - Melissa Savage

Friends, this is an absolutely wonderful story. You all know that I consistently praise Middle Grade books for dealing so well with life lessons, and tough topics. Lemons is a shining example of exactly that. It was fitting, I think, that I was working my way through my own loss right around the time I was in the middle of reading this book. Middle Grade or not, this book really helped me sort things out. As Lemonade learned and grew, I worked my way through my issues right along with her. Which should tell you how wonderfully written Melissa Savage's book really is. Lemons is a wonderful story, no matter what age group you happen to fall in.

Lemonade Liberty Witt is the kind of character that I fall instantly in love with, every time. She's quirky, fiesty, and strong in a way that only young people who have suffered an unexpected loss can be. At the same time, she's every one of us no matter what our age. She's lost, confused, hurt, and feels like she may be drowning in her own sorrow. Tough on the outside, hurting on the inside, and just trying to make it all okay. I felt for her so deeply, and loved her all the more for it.

On the flip side is darling Tobin. Dealing with his own loss, in a completely different way, and just as quirky and original as Lemonade. When these two met, I just knew exciting things were going to happen. The fact that the backdrop of this story includes Bigfoot hunting? Well, that just made it all the more perfect. I wanted to believe in them just as much as Tobin did, and I wasn't at all disappointed.

Honestly though, I could gush about this book for paragraph upon paragraph. I loved the relationships between the characters, the unexpected friendships that were made, and the fact that everyone seemed to care so much for one another. I won't lie, I teared up more than a few times while reading this. It's tough not to when you're remembering the good times about people who have passed. Whether they are happy tears or sad tears, well, I'll let Lemonade school you on that.

I highly recommend this book to any young reader out there, and think it would make an excellent parent-child buddy read. Give it a shot! You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Saying Goodbye

Today we said goodbye to one of the people in our office that was like a mother/grandmother to everyone here. It was only the second non-family funeral that I've attended, but everyone in our department loved her so very much that there was no chance that we wouldn't all go. We wanted to celebrate her life, and listen to stories of how she touched everyone around her. Because that's exactly the type of person that she was. The type of person who you'd meet, even for 5 minutes, and suddenly feel absolutely accepted by. The type of person that, whether you knew her well or not, you felt like you wanted to hug (and trust me she wouldn't mind). She'd been sick since I began working here, but you'd never be able to tell from her demeanor. She was upbeat, impeccably dressed, and full of the sort of kindness that seemed to radiate off of her in waves. She will be so so very missed.


There's been a lot going on lately, not the least of which was the sudden news of her passing. I've been keeping myself together pretty well, if I do say so myself, but haven't really had the energy to keep things outside of that up as I'd like to. The proof is in my blog. I swear, I tried to post this month. But it's the 24th and there are 7 posts up. It just wasn't a thing I wanted to deal with. I had to make so many apologies.


Being at the funeral today made me realize though that it's not even so much about the content I post here. I just miss interacting with all of you. Watching so many people, from all different parts of life, come to celebrate the woman that they felt so loved by, made me smile. Friendships, relationships, memories, those are the things that are important. So if I don't post here, don't fret. I'll just come and comment. Bug you. Leave you notes. I'm not going to let myself be my own worst critic. I'm just going to grieve, eat these comforting papusas I bought, and breathe.

The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1) by Adrienne Kress

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley - Adrienne Kress

So much fun! That was the first coherent thought that raced through my brain as I crossed the finish line of The Door in the Alley. Everyone knows that I love a good middle grade book. Coincidentally, my favorite type of middle grade book though, is the kind that doesn't talk down to its readers. The kind that is smart, funny, and filled with adventure. That, my friends, is exactly what The Door in the Alley is. It is a wonderful ride!

Our story begins with Sebastian, a studious and mild mannered boy who loves to stick to the rules. So, of course, when his path is crossed by a pig in a teeny hat, he's not sure what to make of it. When that same pig then leads him into an adventure that he never expected, that's where things really take off! I loved watching poor Sebastian, with his rigid ideas of the way the world worked, suddenly thrown into the madness that was The Explorer's Society. His personality was the perfect contrast to such an imaginative place, and looking at this new world through his eyes was fascinating.

Then Evie entered the picture, and things got even more exciting. Imagine finding out that you've actually been part of a grand cover up your entire life. That you've always felt that you were ignored, and are now the most important person in the story! That's exactly what happened to Evie, and I warmed to her instantly. She's the type of character who I love, because she isn't quite sure of herself and yet does what needs to be done anyway.

Oh, and the adventure! If you have a young reader (or, like me, are just a young reader at heart) who loves books like A Series of Unfortunate Events, this is the book for you. It's funny, a bit worrisome at times, and full to the brim with courageousness and growth. Both Evie and Sebastian, although completely different in personalities, were absolute perfection in this story. You'll giggle, you'll gasp, and you'll love every minute of it. Pick this up! It's well worth your time. Meanwhile I'll be sitting here, eagerly awaiting their next adventure.

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior

5 Worlds Book 1: The Sand Warrior - Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, Boya Sun

Since you are all well aware of my obsession with Middle Grade fiction at this point, let's go ahead and skip that. Can we instead please focus on the growing existence of Middle Grade graphic novels? I am so pleased that there are more and more of these out there, and I'm determined to champion all of them! Kazu Kibuishi's blurb had me from the moment I saw this book. So I was thrilled when I was asked to join the blog tour. Warning: there's some gushing ahead. Let's go ahead and get the small qualms that I had out of the way first, though.


I think this graphic novel could definitely have benefited from a bit more action. It was heartening to see that the authors weren't afraid to bring the real idea of war alive on these pages. I love when MG readers aren't treated with kid gloves. However I think this book needed to move at a bit quicker of a pace. The illustrations are gorgeous, (I can't wait to actually see them all in color.) but some of the filler panels felt like a bit much. I wanted more of Oona's quest, more of their desperate rush to save the day, and just more tension in general. This first volume was missing that epic feeling that stories like this usually have for me.


That being said, the characters were absolutely lovely. Oona, An Tzu and Jax were all vivid, and easy to fall in love with. I loved how each of them came from a different background. The concept of race is alive and well in this book, and the idea of racism is gently touched upon as well. It makes me happy to see authors putting these things out into the world for readers of this age group to start to digest. Oona overhears people of different worlds talking badly about people of other worlds, and making mean jokes. She sees some people get upset about what others are saying. Young readers can start to get a grasp here on unity, diversity, and especially empathy. It's an amazing thing.


Add in the fact that the ending of this book has a twist I wasn't expecting, complete with a cliffhanger, and you have my complete attention. Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel have started something beautiful and magical with the 5 Worlds series. They've opened up a dialog that I think is important, in a way that is easy to digest and a lot of fun to read! Readers, young and old alike, will love this series. My only regret is that there isn't more of Oona's story to devour yet. I NEED to know what happens next.

The Things They've Taken by Katie McElhenney

The Things They've Taken - Katie McElhenney
Argh, so on the fence about this book. On the one hand, The Things They've Taken has a lot going for it. It's equal parts creepy and humorous, the characters are well fleshed out, and the story itself will keep you reading on well into the night! On the other hand, I'm not a fan of instalove or characters who are overly indecisive. So, again, on the fence! Let me try to break it down for you.
This story starts off at a manic pace, as Lo sets out on her mission to save her mother. I was riveted as she navigated the world of the demons, and learned how to bargain with these terrifying beings. McElhenney does an excellent job of building up the tension and anxiety, even from the beginning, to a point where you're just as worried as Lo is. After all, it's her mom who is missing and she has no idea how to get her back. That in itself is a terrifying thought.
Now let's talk instalove. I know that there are plenty of readers out there who don't mind it, and so I'm here to tell you that this book is definitely well worth your time! Unfortunately, I'm the type of reader who can't stand characters who whine and pine, as I like to call it. So I was a little disappointed that Dolores went that route. She starts out as this amazing character who is tons stronger and I would ever be, in her situation. Then Shaw enters the picture, and suddenly she's an impulsive, jealous and fairly tough to love character. Why is it that hunky paranormal boys tend to do that to YA girls?
The other issue I had, and this honestly bothered me a bit more than the instalove, was the fact that this book ends without tying up all the loose ends. Admittedly, there's a pretty amazing twist towards the end that I didn't see coming, but I really wanted more closure before the story was over. I suppose this means that there will be more of Dolores' story to come, but it's a little frustrating to be left out in the cold like that. Let's hope this isn't over yet!
For the introduction of some great mythos and a paranormal story that hooked me and kept me reading to the end, I'll happily offer up a three star rating to The Things They've Taken. Fans of paranormal romance novels will love this one, and will be pleasantly surprised at how much action actually happens here! If you're a fan of broody and hunky paranormal boys, then this is the book for you.


The Calm Before the Storm

So good news, our very large contract that we've been wrangling through the bureaucracy has finally been approved! That means my days of meetings, meetings and more meetings are finally over. For now...


I say that because as soon as our new contractors are officially on board, my work life will once again descend into madness. We'll have to get them all set up, up to speed, and I'll be slapping some hands for a while. Hahaha. I'm enjoying the temporary calm though. It's the little things.


Now, it's time for Jessica's recent life in pictures!

First off, we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain! The hubby hasn't been able to ride a rollercoaster, due to being too big, since we were in high school. He had a BLAST. He dragged me all over the park, we rode everything twice, and he got to take a picture with his idol. Hahahaha. Guess who is 167 pounds down?



Also that weekend, I ran a glow-in-the-dark 5K for cancer research! It was so darn fun. Wall to wall people, tons of dance music, and a whole mess of glowing glasses, hats and bracelets! There were just about 10,000 people in attendance, and we raised over 400,000 dollars! That's my sister. Our goal this year was to make memories, and I think we're doing a pretty amazing job of it!



I've done a ton of reading too, but not much reviewing. I'm hoping to remedy that this month. I've also gotten back into cross stitching, so expect to see some cute things in a while. I've really gotten into the whole self-care vibe, and it's been good for me. I'm proud of myself. The year is 1/3 gone, and I'm killing it!


I leave you with this adorable photo. Shhh... don't tell my hubby.




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.