cheap vacation

Oh, how I would love to go to the beach for a weekend, visit Disney World (my favorite place on the planet), or hop a plane over to Europe to see London, Ireland, and Rome. But sadly, I cannot. Therefore I live vicariously through the characters in the books I read.

And that will have to do for now 🙂

“13 Little Blue Envelopes” –A Book Review


13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson is a sensational summer read! This quirky novel is sure to bring out the adventurous side in everyone.

One day Ginny, a New Jersey native, gets a letter from her Aunt Peg (who died three months ago) containing $1,000 and instructions for her to buy a backpack and a plane ticket to London, then go to a Chinese restaurant in New York to pick up envelope 2.

The instructions for what to bring along to the UK are as follows:

Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in your backpack. Don’t try to fake it out with a purse or a carry-on.

 Rule #2: You may not bring guidebooks, phrase books, or any kind of foreign language aid. And no journals.

 Rule #3: You cannot bring extra money or credit/debit cards, traveler’s checks, etc. I’ll take care of all that.

Rule #4: No electronic crutches. This means no laptop, no cell phone, no music, and no camera. You can’t call home or communicate with people in the U.S. by Internet or telephone. Postcards and letters are acceptable and encouraged.

Now all Ginny has to do is pick up envelope 2, go to London, and see what kind of adventure her (dead) whirlwind aunt has in store for her over the summer vacation. Of course it was hell trying to convince her parents to let her do this, not to mention that it goes against everything well-organized, practical Ginny stands for. But it’s her aunt, and the promise of these 13 little blue envelopes is the last thing on earth Ginny has of her. Thus, she strikes of for the UK.

The premise of this entire Teen novel is for Ginny to travel around the UK in search of these envelopes that her aunt has left for her. With each new envelope comes a new set of instructions: Places to go, people to find, things to do.

Along her journey, the envelopes send Ginny to England, Scotland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Greece, giving her whacky activities to complete throughout her voyage.

And of course, Ginny meets a peculiar artist along the way that she can’t stop thinking about, and who appears throughout her expedition. To give you a taste of the adorableness of this book, here is a quote from a letter she sends to her best friend back home.

“Keith was HERE. In PARIS. And HE FOUND ME. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s true, and it’s really not that magical of an explanation. But what matters is that we made out in a graveyard and slept on a park bench.”

This entire novel is not only charming, and adventurous, but it also gives you a window to the soul of a young girl dealing with grief for the first time. I cannot say enough good things about this tale. I give it five stars!

*And it does have an open ending, but thankfully she decided to go ahead and write a sequel. The Last Little Blue Envelope is equally awesome! 🙂 

“The Name of the Star”—A Book Review


I have mixed feelings about The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, and its sequel, The Madness Underneath. I really enjoyed her book 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and I guess I was comparing this series to that one.

Aurora “Rory” Deveaux is from a swampy town near New Orleans, Louisiana. Both of her parents take a job teaching American Law at the University of Bristol for one year in England. Rory decides to join her parents for the year in England and to attend a boarding school in London called Wexford.

Rory has kind of an awkward personality. She’s a little ditsy and talks ALL THE TIME. About nothing in particular, really. And she makes up stuff a lot just to have a story to tell. Now, I’m not going to lie, some of the shit that comes out of her mouth (or in her thoughts) is quite funny.

Shortly after Rory’s arrival at Wexford, killings start happening around London that mimic those of Jack the Ripper. The weird part: No images are ever caught of the killer on any CCTVs.

Then while at dinner one night, as Rory is rambling on about some dramatic tale, she chokes on a meat pie and nearly dies (yes, by choking on a meat pie…I know, right?!). This (ridiculous) near-death experience gives her “The Sight,” enabling her to see ghosts. She finds out about a team of Secret Ghost Police in London and starts hanging out with them to try to catch the killer ghost, because he keeps hanging around Rory at school and she starts seeing him everywhere—and no else can.

The story is well written and the narration is quite humorous, but the main character kind of got on my nerves. I had a hard time relating to her. The whole “ghost serial killer” thing was well told and pretty creepy…it had the desired effect of making me jumpy. I found the plot to be a bit slow moving, though. And I thought the ending to The Madness Underneath was a bit ludicrous, but I am still intrigued enough in the series to read the next installment when it comes out.

The Name of the Star is on the 2014 Louisiana Teen Readers’ Choice Nominated Title List (LTRC), due to the main character originating from a fictional town in Louisiana (my home state).

All in all, I would give this book (and its sequel) three out of five stars.


Great quotes from the series:


“Where I come from, it’s too hot to run, and it’s generally not encouraged. The joke is, if you see someone running in Benouville, you run in the same direction, because there’s probably something really terrible right behind them.” –The Name of the Star


“Annoy a southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”—The Name of the Star


 “On the way here, I saw someone pissing on a wall,” I said. “It reminded me of you.”

“That was me,” he replied. “I was writing a poem about your beauty.” –The Madness Underneath

“The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight”—A Book Review


The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith is simply a delight! This tale takes place over a twenty-four-hour-hour-period, is fast paced, and nearly impossible to put down.

Hadley is having beyond the worst day. She misses her flight to London, where she is headed to attend her father’s wedding, and she’s never even met the bride! So not only is Hadley already super cranky about having to go to her father’s wedding (when she feels so betrayed by him for being so void in her life and moving to London in the first place), but now she is stuck at the JFK airport, waiting for the next available flight, which will put her arriving in London with not a minute to spare.

While waiting for the next flight, she meets Oliver. He’s British, incredibly cute, and going to college in the U.S. Call it fate, call it happenstance, call it a coincidence, call it whatever you like, but something brought these two together again, putting them sitting next to each other on the long plane ride to the UK.

Over the course of the 7 hour trip, the two strangers get to know one another, talking about everything under the sun, and even divulging things they have never told another soul. Is it completely insane to fall in love with someone you don’t even know? Probably, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

This pulse pounding and heart-wrenching Teen novel with have you believing in the miracle of love and hope again. I guarantee you will be cheering these two young protagonists on, just as I did! I give this quick and fun read four stars!


As Hadley and Oliver are departing the plane and are headed to two separate Customs lines:

 “But before she can move any farther she feels a hand on her elbow, and just like that Oliver is beside her again. He looks down at her with his head tilted, his hand still firmly on her arm, and before she has a chance to be nervous, before she even fully realizes what’s happening, she hears him mummer “What the hell,” and then, to her surprise, he bends to kiss her.”

…seriously, people: Le Sigh, and also, Eeeeeap!


The New York Times Book Review

“A gorgeous, heartwarming reminder of the power of fate… an endearing and lushly written account of how it feels to fall in love, the unique heartbreak of parental disappointment and what it means to forgive those who’ve hurt us deeply.”

“Clockwork Princess”— Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare

infernal devices

I recently completed Clockwork Princess, which is the third and final book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series. All I can say is “Wow, what an ending!” Do you ever get that disappointed feeling when you end a series that you are in love with, and the ending just leaves you feeling empty and unsatisfied? This is so not the case with Clockwork Princess. I don’t know how she did it, but Cassandra Clare ended this series in the most epic way.

I don’t want to spend too much time on Clockwork Princess in case there are some of you out there who have yet to start the Infernal Devices series, so I’ll talk more about Clockwork Angel, the first book in the trilogy:

Taking place in Nineteenth Century London, the world of the Shadowhunters (Nephilim who use their better-than-human abilities to keep humans safe, fighting Downworlders—demons, werewolves, vampires, etc) is in grave danger. On one fateful night, Tessa Gray is rescued from her evil captors by the handsome (and insanely sardonic) Will Herondale.

Tessa isn’t a Mundane (human), but she is not a Shadowhunter either…she’s some kind of shape-changer, never before seen or heard of. Tessa can not only change into the form of another being by holding an individual’s personal possession, she can also locate their memories and desires. And a man named Mortmain has his eye on her, wanting to use Tessa as a weapon against the Nephilim that take her in and care for her.

Mortmain has been working to create an army of Automatons (clockwork creatures of mass destruction, built to vaguely resemble humans). His ultimate goal is to get his hands on Tessa, and somehow use her in his plot against the Nephilim…but exploit her how?

In the mean time, Tessa has been taken to the London Institute—a refuge for all stray Shadowhunters. Orphaned by her family in America, and unable to find her brother in London, Tessa begins to find a family within the stone walls of the institute: There is the Charlotte, the kind but firm head of the Institute; Charlotte’s quirky inventor husband, Henry; the kind maid, Sophie, who came from a brutal past; and lastly there are Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs.

Will and Jem were both arrived at the institute as young boys. Will ran away from his Welsh home (where his family lives in exile from the Nephilim community, because his father married a Mundane) in order to be trained as a Shadowhunter. Jem on the other hand, comes all the way from China. Both of Jem’s parents were murdered by a Greater Demon, leaving young Jem orphaned, and sick, relying on a silvery powdered drug called yin fin to keep him alive. This drug has the side effect of turning Jem’s hair and eyes silver, and he is just barely sustaining his fragile life.

Tessa finds herself inexplicably drawn to both boys. Where Will is cynical and volatile at most times, Tessa discovers the less guarded side of him. She sees the boy who is just as much in love with literature and literary heroes as she is. Jem, on the other hand, is the epitome of a gentleman. Extremely even tempered, and a prodigy violinist, Jem appeals to Tessa’s softer side.

Also while at the institute, she receives training, learning how to fight Downworlders using swords and knives. With the help of the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, Tessa vows to unhinge Mortmain’s plan of mass destruction using the Automatons, and find her missing brother in the process.

This entire series is full of epic combative fight scenes, squeal-inducing romance, superlative supernatural elements, and lessons on learning how not only to love others, but love to yourself as well.  

While I highly recommend that you read Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments” series first, beginning with “The City of Bones,” this prequel series could also make a great stand alone read.


“On the stone floor, lined up in rows, were hundreds of automatons. They wore a motley assortment of military uniforms and were deadly still, their metal eyes closed. Tin soldiers, Cecy thought, grown to human size. The Infernal Devices. Mortmain’s great creation—an army bred to be unstoppable, to slaughter Shadowhunters and to move onward without remorse.”


“There are so many things worse than death,” he said. “Not to be loved or not to be able to love: that is worse. And to go down fighting as a Shadowhunter should, there is no dishonor in that. An honorable death—I have always wanted that.”