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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!

Currently reading

Amy Plum
Progress: 35%
Cora Carmack
Progress: 45/352pages
The Dovekeepers
Alice Hoffman

Reading progress update: I've read 70%.

Hunted - Meagan Spooner

Bah, this book. It's like... I want to know what happens but also I'm REALLY bored at the same time. Yeva (Beauty) has been with the Beast for almost 3/4 of the book and nothing at all has really happened. The most exciting part, that just occurred, was the first time in this entire read that I actually smiled.




I'm too far to give up now.



Is where I was for the last week and a half! Grim reminded me, as she always does, that I had forgotten to check in here. Sorry all. Since I'm not participating in Booklikes-opoly I keep forgetting to check in.


Anyway we played tourist to the max. We did everything touristy that there is to do. Visited the Bean, went to the top of Willis tower, saw the zoo, etc. etc. We even, much to the delight of the hubby, took a tour of Wrigley field! Here's us sitting in the dugout.



It was a ton of fun. Exhausting, but honestly really enjoyable. It was also a great reset button for all the madness that was happening at work, and I came back a happier and healthier person. So that's always good! I'm super happy we took the time to visit a new city, and I can't wait to go back and eat more food!



Just a heads up for all my friends here that I'm giving an autographed copy of this book away on my blog right now! Miriam Spitzer Franklin, the author, was kind enough to do an interview and also provide a signed copy for giveaway.


Here's the blurb:


Sunny Beringer hates her first name—her real first name—Sunflower. And she hates that her mom has suddenly left behind her dad, Scott, and uprooted their family miles away from New Jersey to North Carolina just so she can pursue some fancy degree. Sunny has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, and she’s had to leave her beloved cat and all her friends behind. And no one else seems to think anything is wrong.

So she creates “Sunny Beringer’s Totally Awesome Plan for Romance”—a list of sure-fire ways to make her mom and Scott fall madly in love again, including:

Send Mom flowers from a “Secret Admirer” to make Scott jealous and make him regret letting them move so far away.
Make a playlist of Scott’s favorite love songs—the mushier the better—and make sure it’s always playing in the car.
Ask them about the good old days when they first fell in love.

But while working on a photo album guaranteed to make Mom change her mind and rush them right back home, Sunny discovers a photo—one that changes everything.

Sunny’s family, the people she thought she could trust most in the world, have been keeping an enormous secret from her. And she’ll have to reconcile her family’s past and present, or she’ll lose everything about their future.


U.S. Only

Enter HERE!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods: A Novel - Neil Gaiman

First, a confession. I confess that I am shamelessly in love with Neil Gaiman. If you are worried that this will sully my unbiased review of this book, worry not. In fact, this was my second read through of American Gods and, truth be told, I wasn't all that in love with it the first time I read it. Maybe it was where I was at in my life, or the current reading mood I had, but despite my love for Gaiman this book and I just didn't click. So, when I was offered the Author's Preferred Text version for review, I was eager to give it another chance. Oh, I am so glad I did. So, so very glad. This book is an experience. Brutal at times, beautiful at others, and full of things that will have you questioning reality. In other words, it's Gaiman. At his finest. I don't know why I ever thought otherwise.

Shadow's journey is a strange, and fascinating one. Whether you're familiar with the Norse Gods or not, Shadow will always be there to stumble right along with you. Here's the thing though, Shadow is infinitely more steady than I expected him to be. He's a character who, despite having done things in the past that he regrets, still believes in the inherent good in people. He walks around partially blinded to the world that he's found himself wrapped up in, and yet he never seems inept. I loved Shadow. Every single messy part of him. The book is long, this is true, but with Shadow as my guide I didn't mind one bit.

Then there are the Gods themselves that slither, flap and saunter through this book as if they own every page. Gaiman's broken world pits the Gods of old against the Gods of new. Odin and Bast against the manifested Gods of technology and progress. It's an intriguing premise. If a God is birthed and sustained through worship, why wouldn't we have birthed new ones that relate to cell phones, internet and music? Simply fascinating. What's more interesting than that though, is all of the underlying lore that is penned into these pages. Stories of Thunderbirds, coins that bring back the dead, and areas that shouldn't exist but do. It's so easy to lose your footing in reality and go crashing, right along with Shadow, into this world.

In an effort not to endlessly ramble on, let me assure you that this book easily made my favorites shelf this time around. As I mentioned, this is the Author's Preferred Text version, and actually contains quite a bit of content that was originally cut out. I think it's perfect. The story, the extras, the whole package is perfect. Pick this up! You won't believe how easily you can get lost in Gaiman's world. American Gods is well worth your time.

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. .