Book Review: Text, Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life by Aaron Caycedo-Kimura (AKA INFJoe)

An illustrated guide to the challenges and pleasures of the introverted life
Introversion is "in." But there are still many misconceptions about introverts in the world. They're shy. Anti-social. They don't want to have close relationships. They're all cat people. They don't like big parties (okay, that last one might be true).
INFJoe, the cartoon persona of artist and introvert Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, is here to set the record straight. Filled with charming comic book style illustrations, this book provides invaluable insights into the introverted life with plenty of humor and wit. Full of moments that will make introverts say, "That's so me!" as well as helpful tips on surviving at parties and in the workplace, Text, Don't Call is the perfect gift for your quiet friends, or the extroverted ones who could use some help to better understand the introverts in their lives.

Release Date: August 2017
Age Group: YA/Adult Humor, Illustrated Guide
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Text, Don't Call popped up in my mail box just before Hurricane Harvey hit and it couldn't have come at a better time. I really needed a fun, light read! This hit the spot.

By nature I am a full blown extrovert that was born into a family of complete introverts (extended family included). For example, when my extended family gathered at the holidays they would literally choose starvation before saying a prayer over the meal. There would be 25 of us hanging out making small talk just waiting for that one uncle to get there because he was the designated Pray-ee. True story. They would choose death over praying in front of one another.

I've glanced at some of the reviews on Text, Don't Call and wasn't surprised that most were from introverts relating. After all, most bookworms fall into the introvert category but you know I like to stand out and cause myself trouble, I blame it on my extrovert nature.

INFJoe did a fantastic job of illustrating the situations and thought processes of both introverts and extroverts. I was cracking up and running back and forth to my bedroom shoeing my husband different pages. There were so many that I could relate too and even more that had me naming names!

"Hey, that's Miriam! I am so sending her this picture" 
"Oh my gosh that is what Nick says all the time, huh."
"... yep, that's what she does, hides behind her phone and blocks us all out."

This fun book is perfect for book exchanges, gifts and for those that just need a good, relatable laugh.

Book Review: You're Weird: A Creative Journal for Misfits, Oddballs, and Anyone Else Who's Uniquely Awesome by Kate Peterson

Summary: Part journal, part activity book, and all fun, You're Weird is a valentine for the inner weirdo in everyone--that part of us that doesn't quite fit in, and secretly isn't even trying. Filled with hand-drawn creatures that are a bit...different...along with lists, writing prompts, activities, and more, it's a delightful and affirming book for creative oddballs everywhere.

In our mass-produced world that wants everyone to fit in and fall in line, this quirky book give us permission to celebrate what makes us each unique--and amazing. It's the perfect gift for the creative teen, journal-loving best friend, or indie artist in your life...or for your own weird self.

Release Date: July 2017
Age Group: Everyone
Source:  Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

If you don't think you're weird then chances are you are super, duper weird. This journal/doodle/prompt book is a lot of fun! It's not something that you sit down and try to complete. Rather you sit back and really think about what quirks you have and reflect a bit on yourself.

I wouldn't suggest this journal for children or even middle school-age children. Some of the prompts wouldn't mean much to them at their age. For instance, "What kinds of weirdness are most important to you in a partner?" or "Craziest things I've ever done for love, work, friendship, etc." My younger kids better not have done anything for love... ya feel me.

This is best suited for junior high and older, I just think they will get more out of it and beginning in Jr. High you start to see kids want to explore life a bit more (aka they become tween monsters).

Overall, I really enjoyed You're Weird and I plan to fill mine up and give it to my kids as a journal of all my weirdness without apology. The prompts allow for stories and experiences to be recorded and I think it will justify a lot of my quirks or it may just further confuse them but hey, it will be fun!

I would suggest this as a gift for a new graduate, doodlers, and adolescents who are having a hard time accepting their inner awesome. It could also be used as an anti-bullying prompt book in the classroom. 

For a young audience (middle grade and below) I would pick-up a Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith. There are over a dozen different versions and all the prompts are ridiculous and kid approved. My least favorite was when my daughter brought it to the dinner table and ate spaghetti off the book... good times.

Series Review: The Young Royals by Emma Lea

Despite being the second child of the King and Queen of Merveille, Alyssabeth thought that if she kept a low profile she could stay out of the media’s glaring spotlight and live a relatively normal life. That was until her father, the King, and her brother, the Crown Prince, are both killed in a hunting accident.

Her dream of joining the UN is no more and instead she needs to return to the small European country of her birth to pick up where her father and brother left off. Her Harvard degree in International Relations is forfeit and in it’s place she must become Queen, that is if the misogynistic Parliament can see past their prejudices.

Not much has changed in the small country in her four year absence, but there are two noticeable differences. Her brother’s two best friends Will Darkly and Jordan Wicks have grown up into two very intriguing men. Jordan practically sweeps her off her feet from the moment she steps off the plane, but Will’s more reserved, darkly intense interest in her gives her tingles.

Release Date: June 2016
Age Group: YA, Contemporary, Romance (Clean)
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Reviewed By:  Nat

The Young Royals series was a Kindle Unlimited recommendation... I was on a bit of a royal bender... no matter my age I still enjoy a princess.

A Royal Engagement felt like a modern day Pride & Prejudice but with the twist that the girl wasn't going to be destitute, in fact it was the opposite, she was going to be Queen. Naturally I was hooked. I loved the MC Alyssabeth, Will and I loved to hate Jordan! A jerk is always a good ingredient when mapping out a love story and Jordan was totally Wickham material. All the characters are fleshed out so well and have their own struggles and story, which I find is hard in a contemporary series. Sometimes I feel like I am re-reading the same story just with another characters name.

I sped right from one book to the next. Initially I thought there might be a theme of "re-telling" but each book had a unique story and no other had the P&P feel.  {As it shouldn't because there is only room for one Darcy!}

Emma Lea does a great job of keeping it fresh and exciting throughout the series. I love that each subsequent story follows one of Alyssa's Ladies in Waiting ( and begins with an "E").

A Royal Engagement introduces Queen Alyssa and her Ladies in Waiting.
A Royal Entanglement is Lady Alexandra's story.
A Royal Entrapment is Lady Priscilla's Story.
A Royal Expectation is Lady Jeanette's story.

You need to read them in order because you get little bits and pieces of each Lady and you will probably make the wrong judgments, I did. That made me love them more when I read their story! If I had to choose a favorite it would be between Lady Alex and Lord FrΓ©dΓ©ric's story {A Royal Entanglement} & Lady Jeanette and her Aussie {A Royal Expectation}.

Lady Jeanette and her Aussie, Drew, were really fun to follow. I kept thinking of the strong Australian accent he must have had and then that led to Thor and well.... he looks like Thor... #winning

I know this can't be the end of the series because there are still Ladies and I am waiting Emma... these are like my Hallmark movies, I gotta have my fix!

*This is a clean contemporary romance series. If you like Emma Lea's writing style, she has loads of other series but they are not G rated like these.

Merriest of Days Friends!

We hope your day is perfect! Whether that be snuggled in a book, gathered with family & friends or saddled up on a motorcycle heading into the horizon! 

Make it Merry!

Book Review: First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski

Summary: Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’ epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove: for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.

Game. On.

Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: YA, Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By:  Nat

When it comes to contemporary fiction I like it Hallmark style! I rate them like I do my previously recorded Hallmark movies:
  • Did I get the warm fuzzys? 
  • Was I a bit tortured by their love arc? 
  • Did it end in a nicely wrapped bow? (Don't come at me with no sad, tragic "no winners in this life" kind of story).

With that said, A LOT of contemporary literature is predictable. Sometimes I even think I am re-reading something and that is a major turn-off.

I know.

First, I ask for all the feels and "the formula of Hallmark" and then I throw in "originality". I am a complicated woman.

The First Kiss Hypothesis was a raving win for contemporary YA! I'll admit I went in on a TV high and maybe a bit amped up with all the holiday feels but once I started I did not stop. FKH had such an easy flow and there wasn't anytime wasted on story lines that didn't matter.

I loved the alternating POV's of Nora and Eli. At one point I woke up Sweet Stuff from laughing so hard (I really tried to muffle with the blankets). I blame the kitten in the story. The banter between the two was comfortable & witty and blind love is just so fun to read.

What I really enjoyed about this story was that the characters weren't torn between their ambitions and dreams because of love. It was refreshing to read a love story that allowed both characters to be in love and still have their sights on their future goals.

I am especially happy to report that FKH was pretty darn clean! Like I said, it was really like reading a Hallmark movie!

First Kiss Hypothesis is a win for contemporary YA fans and Hallmark connoisseurs.

Book to Movie Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio

There is nothing that can be said about this book or movie that will do it justice. It is simply WONDERful and a must-see for all humans. The themes throughout Wonder are so beautiful, I related to so much as a mother. 

If Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson never act in another blockbuster hit, that will be just fine because this was a story worth sharing and this is what they should be remembered for giving society- KINDNESS & unconditional love. I could feel the natural motherly love from Julia Roberts and it was so tender, what an ode to the true love of a mother.

And Jacob Tremblay... Oh man kid, you just moved mountains!!! 

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Book Review: I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent #1) by Barry Lyga

What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

Release Date: April 2012
Age Group: YA, Psychological Thriller
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Nat

This was darrkkkk, a dark psychological thriller. I Hunt Killers is classified as YA because of the age of the characters BUT I think it is better suited as New Adult or Adult lit. because of the themes throughout: implication of rape, contains graphic violence and brutal murders. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under 16. With that said, I am 100% confident that all Dexter fans will love this series!

Do you believe violent offenders are the product of nature or nurture?   

Every aspect of this story leads back to this question. Is Jasper Dent a killer? It's something he can't answer yet. As sadistic as it gets in the mind of a serial killer, I was surprised at the sprinkles of humor throughout. I think I felt every possible emotion when reading I Hunt Killers. I sent several texts to the librarian telling her I thought I might have homicidal tendencies! Barry Lyga does such a fantastic job of warping your thoughts and blurring the lines of humanity that it was a bit scary at times. When I went to the store if anyone looked at me for longer than half a second I started to assume they were prospecting (specifically me, I fit the profile of an easy target)!

I sat in shock half the time I read this book. I wasn't shocked by what I was reading because I've been desensitized from all the Criminal Minds I've watched, but more shocked at how I was so passive to the demented thoughts Jasper was having!

This series is for fans of crime shows and psychological thrillers. If this is your cup of tea, then get ready to drink a gallon!

PS. I'm a visual learner by nature and I stumbled upon this awesome graphic guide on GoodReads and had to share. Shout out to Flannery at The Adventurer for sharing!

Vlog Review: Greek Gods #squadgoals (OMG Classics) by Courtney Carbone

OMG Classics, the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts. Imagine: What if Mount Olympus got WiFi and the gods and goddesses had smartphones? The classic Greek myths get new life in irreverent and hilarious texts and posts!

Zeus, a king of the gods always in search of a new bae.
A squad of goddesses who can't resist stirring the pot.
And the selfie-obsessed heroes out for all the likes.
If you have trouble telling Perseus from Theseus (#Greek2Me) or have ever wondered about Oedipus's tragic dating profile or why Medusa's Instagram never got traction--this satirical book of Greek myths retold for the Internet age is for you!
tl;dr D'Aulaires' and Homer's Greek myths told through characters texting with emojis, posting photos, checking in at locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for any reader--young or old--with a sense of humor! 

A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it. For example: tl;dr means too long; didn't read.

Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: Middle Grade, πŸ“šπŸ“±πŸ™ŒπŸΌ
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Vlog Review By: Macy Kate

I read Greek Gods while waiting in the parent pick-up line for my daughter & Macy Kate and it was hilarious! The modern day spin of texting & social media combined with the historical personalities of these God/Goddesses was really fun. I mean who doesn't like a good #hashtag or funny emoji? πŸ€“πŸ“±πŸ“š

There are several books in this series, OMG Classics, and I actually want them all. They are such a fun way to introduce classics, in this specific case mythology. My daughter knows I L.O.V.E. Pride & Prejudice (all versions, class and modern day) but she just doesn't get the Darcy vibe BUT I feel that an OMG Classic might peak her interests! Looks like I've found the perfect stocking stuffers for my graphic-novel-loving girl. πŸ˜ŽπŸ’ƒπŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

Book Review: Offsetting Penalties by Ally Matthews

Summary: Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: YA, Contemporary (clean)
Source: Review Copy from Publisher (Entangled Teen Crush)
Reviewed By:  Nat

Offsetting Penalties was a lighthearted contemporary read that was just perfect to binge on my porch swing. I didn't have to work real hard to follow the plot and it was just relaxing and had an easy flow. I've come to realize that I like sports romances and am a sucker for them! 

The POV changes between the two lead characters and I always love when the male POV gets a voice because let's face it, men are weird and it's interesting to get a peek into their thought process. 

Izzy and Garret are very relateable characters and I think teens will find it easy to connect with them. They are both flawed and come from very different backgrounds. The stark differences in their family dynamics is what I think will make it so relateable to a wide range of teens. The banter between Izzy & Garret was witty and I especially loved his reaction to ballet lessons. I was especially happy that the blackmail scenario ended pretty quick and was not strung throughout the entire story; it ended and the plot matured.

I'll be honest, it was a complete shock to me to learn that some professional football players take ballet to improve their game! I was so intrigued by it that when I finished reading I went online and researched it further. I even brought it up to my husband and got to act all superior with my newfound knowledge. He did look at me a little crazy because we are typical Texas football fans: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. We go on Friday night to watch our local high school play but know nothing of what is happening in professional football... I can't name a single pro... WAIT! Payton Manning! I have no idea what he does but he looks pretty.

Offsetting Penalties is sure to be loved by YA contemporary fans, especially individuals in ballet. In fact, I think this might puff-up a ballet dancer's pride a bit.


Book Review: Haven by Mary Lindsey

"We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed."

Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere, He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.

Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.

Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: YA, Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Haven arrived as a book-mail surprise! I knew nothing about it, didn't read the synopsis and just dove right in simply based on the cover and the Godiva chocolate that accompanied the book (and was sent as a temptress). I can be bought with chocolate... well played Entangled Teen, well played.

Turns out that Haven was just as sweet as the chocolate!

Let me start off by saying it was a real treat to have the boy chasing after the girl! Haven was a true original YA paranormal. There are parallels to Beauty & the Beast mixed with the eternal love of a Twilight romance (in more of a Jacob Black sort of way) but with ALL the feels of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver series! It is no secret that Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors and I couldn't help but think I was reading one of her novels as I sped through Haven.

Whatever the right formula is for a shape-shifter novel, Mary Lindsey got the memo!

I sat and read Haven straight through because there wasn't a good place to just simply break. The story pace was slow in the beginning as it built-up and fleshed everyone & everything out, but midway it was full steam ahead and the pacing was fast and furious!

I enjoyed the mystery & history behind the little Texas town of New Wurzburg and at times I was reminded of Friedricksburg, Texas. Now when I visit there, I am going to be looking for a winery run by wolves... we can wish right?

The characters were nice and flawed too. I hate reading #instalove. Rain & Freddie's story is loaded with crazy and there's nothing insta about it. I do have a warning, there is a scene on the porch that I could have lived without (maybe page 281). When I gave it to my teen reviewer I warned her about the scene and told her to skip that page and that "they smooch hard". She giggled and thanked me for the heads-up. Because of the porch scene and a few violent episodes, I would suggest this book for older teens.

Simply put, Mary Lindsey has a talent for YA Paranormal and she must be forced to write book two! Here's why, it's a bit spoiler'ish so {highlight} the text below to read. Cool trick right?

{WHAT HAPPENED TO MOTH?! He was bitten and lived.} Book two is waiting Miss Mary (that's how we do it in the South, everyone is a "Miss" & it is typically effective in getting you what you want because you are acting like such a polite person). Soooo Miss Mary, get to it!