Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This” YA Books

It seems lately whenever I bring up one of my favorite books/series, people respond with a blank stare, a careless shrug, or, worst of all, an “I’ve never heard of it” type of comment. AHHH! So, I decided it’s time for me to give you the heads up on some books you MUST read if you haven’t.

Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This?” YA Books

1. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112On average, I read a book a week. AKA, I read a lot. However, no matter how many pages I turn, or how many stories I finish, Daughter of Smoke & Bone remains one of my favorites of all time. And it’s troubling how few people are even aware of it. No offense to Hunger Games  or Twilight, or even Divergent, but I wish the mass population would revere this story. Simply put, it’s awesome. Daughter of Smoke & Bone has everything a reader craves: intrigue, romance, humor, and, of course, adventure.

So go read it! And be sure to spread the word how awesome it is.

Check out my full review here!

2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

11235712Sighhhhh…Just…God, just go read this series, okay? I can’t even begin…I can’t even tell you…AHHH! Just read it. Goooo.

Check out my full review here!

3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

136251Believe it or not, there are still people in the world who haven’t read Harry Potter. *cue gasps* Every time I encounter one of these rare beings, they usually tell me, “Well, I tried watching the movies, but I just wasn’t into them.”

…That’s all I have to say about that.

*clears throat*


4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

19063-1When people ask me, “What’s your favorite book?” I first glare at them, and then I tell them I don’t have a favorite (what book nerd does?). Then, when they still won’t leave me alone, I spout off a handful of memorable titles. The Book Thief is always on the list. Always. And it should be on yours!  I promise, it’s a tale you’ll never forget.

Check out my full review here!

5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

6050678Barking spiders! You haven’t read the Leviathan series? Are you mad? What’s not to like? A round-the-world adventure? A would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne? A commoner girl disguised as a boy? Daring deeds? Fun? AMAZINGNESS!

Hey, all you sods, I can fly and you can’t! A natural airman, in case you haven’t noticed. And in conclusion, I’d like to add that I’m a girl and you can all get stuffed!

…Hmmm, I think even I need to go read this–again. So much fun!

Check out more about Leviathan here!

6. Legend by Marie Lu

9275658Amongst all the dystopian books out there, Legend is my favorite. Think Les Miserables set in the future with a deadly virus, two badass protagonists, and lots of rip-roaring action.

In a nutshell, Legend is…

Read more about Legend here!

7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

16101128Have you ever read a book as slow as possible? Because you’re dreading the end? Because you know when you turn that last page, the story will be over and you’ll be sad for days and days? Well, that’s how I felt while reading The 5th Wave. Although I’m not a huge fan of stories revolving around aliens, this one is both awesome and terrifying. It actually made me stop and think, “Oh crap. What if this actually happened?”

Dun, dun, dun…

I dare you to read it…Okay, forget the dare. I’m telling you to read it. Scoot, scoot.

Check out my full review here!

8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Rainbow Rowell is officially one of my favorite authors of all time. In fact, I had a difficult time choosing which of her novels to recommend. The truth is, I recommend all of them (Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, and Attachments). Rowell is a master at character development and writing stories that have meaning and relevance. Trust me, you won’t be the same after experiencing one–or all–of her books.

Check out my full review for Fangirl here!

9. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

7171637Adventure. Wit. Tears. Mystery. Romance…The Infernal Devices has it all! This prequel series to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments is a MUST-READ! Especially if you’re looking for a new giddy book crush.

Oh, Will Herondale

“How rude. Many who have gazed upon me have compared it to gazing at the radiance of the sun.”

Jem still had his eyes closed. “If they mean that it gives you a headache, they aren’t wrong.”

Read more about The Infernal Devices here!

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

1217100I could easily list thirteen reasons why you should read this book, but I’ll only give you one: it’s life changing. So read it!

Check out my full review here!

Okay, I have about a hundred more books/series I could list, but I’ll end things here. Just take my word for it, these are books you MUST read! You won’t regret it.

What about you? What books make your “How Have You NOT Read This” YA book list?

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Confession: I love when books are made into movies

It’s true. I love it when a book gets adapted for the big screen. Gasp! Ugh! WHAT? Yeah, yeah. I know, I know! But, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Whenever I find out one of my favorite novels has made it to Hollywood, my heart does a giddy leap and my feet do a happy dance.

Oh, and, er, I like Katy Perry, too…

*throat clear*

Yeah…Apparently, this is gonna be “one of those” confessions (brutally honest and slightly shameful). You better prepare yourselves…

On Sunday night, I watched the Golden Globe Awards (wow, two seconds in and already another confession: I love Awards Season; love the glitz and glam, the Red Carpets, the golden trophies, all of it!). Anyways, as I watched Sunday’s show, I realized how many of the films nominated this year are based off books (12 Years a SlaveCaptain Phillips, Philomena, Labor Day). How cool is that? Well, it was cool enough to prompt me to write about this debatable topic.

The moment I hear one of my favorite books is going to be adapted to screen, I think, “Yes! At last, I get to see this awesome story brought to life!” Then I proceed to tell everyone in the world about it. Like, everyone. Example: When I discovered The Book Thief was going to be made into a movie, I almost peed my pants (almost!), and then I went on to blog and Tweet about it, and share the news on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest…


I admit, I went a little crazy with the news. But, I couldn’t help it. The Book Thief is one of my favorite books of all time…Of course, it’s not the only book I’ve ever shouted, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” for. I’ve done this with countless novels, including The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesBeautiful Creatures, Catching Fire, Divergent, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, The Help, If I Stay, The Maze Runner…Sheesh, there have been/will be a lot of quality books put on the big screen. And, yes, I plan on seeing them all (if I haven’t seen them already).

Unfortunately, not all book-to-film projects succeed. Far, far from it (don’t even get me started on Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief or Eragon). That’s why I always try and keep a level head when I enter a theater to watch these adapted films. As I sit down and dig into my popcorn and Peanut M&Ms, I give myself a firm mental slap and tell myself, “Jenna, this isn’t the book. It’s the movie version of the book. Things are going to be changed and slashed and rotated and implanted and screwed up! So don’t get your hopes up.” And, thanks to that personal pep talk, I’ve saved myself from innumerable broken hearts and shattered dreams.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking right: A bad movie means bad press for the book, which means the book will lose readers in the long run. On some level, I agree with you. If a movie bombs at the box office, there will surely be people–many people–who’ll never read its book. But, if you think about it, even if a movie does an amazing job, there’s a good chance people still won’t read its book. It’s sad, but there are (and probably always will be) more people in this world who’d rather watch a two-hour movie than read a 400-page book.

So sad. So disappointing…

Okay, let’s move away from the negative and look at these positive facts:

First, movies raise awareness. How many people would even know about certain books if they didn’t have a movie made for them? We’re not all book nerds. Heck, I AM a book nerd and even I don’t always get the memo, not even for big blockbusters like Harry Potter (yeah, go ahead and mark that down as shameful confession #500 in this post). Movies help draw attention to good (and not so good) books and promote them to the non-reading masses. And, more and more often, they seem to spark an interest in books, especially in younger audiences.

Second, movies can make books more likeable. I can’t tell you how many I’ve read that I just didn’t like and/or didn’t get.

Then I saw their movie version and was like, “Ohhh. Got it!”, followed by, “Ohhh, I like it!” Sometimes, you just need to “see” a plot unfold, or “watch” a character develop, or “hear” a story told. And thanks to movie magic, those things can happen and book epiphanies can take place. Stories that didn’t translate so well on paper can be appreciated on screen (same story, different format).

Look, there are plenty of reasons to love or hate Hollywood for adapting our favorite books. Perhaps you think movie versions discourage people from reading? Perhaps you think a book should be left in its purest, most natural form; it’s a piece of art that shouldn’t be tainted with brutal editing and iffy casting? Perhaps you just don’t like movies?

Or perhaps you’re like me and you think movies honor books? Perhaps you think they take the characters you loved so much on a black and white page and give them life–moving, breathing, colorful life? Perhaps you think movies are a celebration–a giant congratulatory pat on the back to the author who wrote a great book–a double thumbs up for a job well done?

Okay, go for it: tell me what you think. Are you pro-adaptations? Or do you think it’s a crime against nature when Hollywood gets their hands on your favorite book?

Don’t forget to “Like” Jen’s Pen Den on Facebook!

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Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

Okay, I’m breaking my rule of no blogging until I’m done with my vacation, but I wanted to share with you the top ten books I read in 2013. I was surprised to discover I read over 60 (I assumed it was closer to 40, maybe 50). And I was even more surprised as I scrolled through the titles how many outstanding stories I experienced. It was difficult for me to narrow it down to ten.

But, I did! So here we go…

10. The Selection by Kiera Cass

10507293I had very low expectations for this book, but within the first chapter, my low expectations were shattered. The Selection is light, fanciful and truly entertaining. Give it a try!

Read my full review here.

9. Champion by Marie Lu

14290364 Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this final book in the Legend series. It was a fitting ending to an outstanding story. I highly, highly recommend it to one and all!

Read my full review here.

8. Just One Day & Just One Year by Gayle Forman

1284211512842134Okay, I’m cheating on this one. But it’s hard to separate these two books because they go hand-in-hand, and they’re equally amazing. They’re moving, eye-opening, and one hundred percent entertaining.

Read my full reviews here and here.

7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

11870085This was the first book I read in 2013, and it stuck with me throughout the whole year. Now, normally I’m not into stories about cancer and sickness and whatnot. They’re just too sad. But this is a special story everyone should read. Plus, the movie is coming out in 2014, and you know my rule of thumb: read the book before you see the movie. So go read it!

Read more about The Fault in Our Stars here.

6. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

17237214Two Boys Kissing is more than a story about two boys kissing. It’s a story about love. And life. And appreciating love and life. It’s a story that has the power to change minds–hearts–lives.

Read my full review here.

5. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

7315573I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this one was awesome! Fall of Giants kept me hooked from page one all the way to page 960! I’m planning on diving into its sequel, Winter of the World, early in the new year.

Read my full review here.

4. Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer


13206760Okay, okay! I’m cheating again. But, you know what? This is my blog and I can do what I want, so there! 😉 I just finished these first two books in the Lunar Chronicles, and I’m in love! In fact, I’ve been dealing with a massive book hangover the past few days because I can’t get over them. So. Good.

I’ll  be doing full reviews for these books soon, so check back later for my complete feedback. Or, better yet, take my word for it, and go read them. You won’t be able to put them down.

3.  Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

18335634There aren’t many books, let alone series, that I want to read more than once. But The Infernal Devices is one of them. This prequel series to Clare’s Mortal Instruments shares the same fun, rip-roaring action and smart humor, but it feels richer and more endearing. And by the last page of its final book, Clockwork Princess, I was crying (and I’m not a crier) and wishing a thousand times it wasn’t over.

Read more about Clockwork Princess here.

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Few books have touched my heart–my soul–the way Fangirl did. If you’re looking for a story that’s a perfect combination of funny and serious, and has a dash of fantasy to it, this is it!

Read my full review here.

1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

16101128I can’t believe I’m saying this, but of all the books I read in 2013, this aliens-take-over-the-world tale was my favorite. And, trust me, I’m not a fan of alien stories. But The 5th Wave was crazy good. It was addicting, terrifying and action-packed. And it made me truly believe an alien invasion could actually happen. I’m counting down the days to the release of its sequel, The Infinite Sea, due out in May 2014.

Read my full review here.

Well, that’s it, folks! I’m so excited for 2014 and all the great books I’m sure to read. I already have a nice lineup set to go, starting with Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Happy New Year!

Book Review: The Fall of the Hotel Dumort (The Bane Chronicles Part #7)


“Magnus Bane watches the once-glamorous Hotel Dumort become something else altogether in 1970s New York City. Fifty years after the Jazz Age rise of the Hotel Dumort, immortal warlock Magnus Bane knows the Manhattan landmark is on the decline. The once-beautiful Hotel Dumort has fallen into a decayed thing, a ruin, as dead as a place can be. But the vampires don’t mind…”

Jen’s Review

In Part 7 of the Bane Chronicles, we find ourselves on the darkest path yet with Magnus Bane. This short story revolves around the Hotel Dumort’s vampires, including Magnus’s ex-love, Camille Belcourt, as well as formidable real-life issues, like drug addiction.

As in the previous Bane Chronicles, I enjoyed how Cassandra Clare and her co-author, Maureen Johnson, used an actual historical event to help build the story around (1977 New York Blackout). And, as always, I loved the writing itself, including the smooth dialogue and vivid descriptives. But, to be honest, I can’t say this was my favorite Magnus Bane adventure. With it being such a grim tale, his lighthearted wit, rueful charm and casual persona had to be put on a back burner (which, unfortunately, are always my favorite things when reading these short stories). “What would you want me to say to her? It’s hard to walk in after that long and just say ‘Stop attacking people. Also, how have you been since the turn of the century?’”

However, I liked the way Magnus’s kindness and compassion were highlighted throughout The Fall of the Hotel Dumort, and as sad as it was, I liked seeing his more “human” side come out at the end (I won’t go beyond that as you know how much I resent spoilers).

Go ahead and check out this next saga in Magnus Bane’s tumultuous tale!

Jen’s Rating

3 StarRead more about The Bane Chronicles here!

Book Review – The Bane Chronicles – Part 1

At last! I have finally read the first six stories released in The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. And I’m in love with Magnus Bane more than ever. He is, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining character’s I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

I can’t get enough adventure. And adventure cannot get enough of me.” – Magnus Bane


Jen’s Review

Although humor remains a key element of the The Bane Chronicles (because humor is a key element of Magnus Bane’s personality), the stories themselves grow deeper and more serious as we read along. The first, What Really Happened in Peru, was by far the most lighthearted of the bunch, with line after line of clever wit and LOL moments. “Wallowing was for elephants, depressing people and depressing elephants.” By the sixth tale, Saving Raphael Santiago, Magnus is dealing with stickier topics, such as damned souls and shunned love. “Love did not overcome everything. Love did not always endure. All you had could be taken away, love could be the last thing you had, and then love could be taken too.”

I think this gradual progression of seriousness is because Magnus himself becomes more serious (though not too serious because then he wouldn’t be Magnus Bane). As the years of his immortal life passes, it’s clear he hardens up, grows more cautious and learns countless lessons from his countless adventures and affairs and tragedies.


I have very few rules in life, but one of them is to never decline an adventure. The others are: to avoid becoming romantically entangled with sea creatures; to always ask for what you want, because the worst thing that can happen is embarrassment but the best thing that can happen is nudity; to demand ready money up front; and to never play cards with Catarina Loss.

After reading these, I’ve decided Magnus Bane is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. So you should think about reading them (especially if you enjoyed The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments). But take heed: These are stories about Magnus. If you’re expecting to discover all the unsolved mysteries from The Infernal Devices or The Mortal Instruments, then think again. Although we encounter characters from those series (including Will and Tessa and their children), they’re not the focus of these chronicles. Magnus is. Personally, I like that. I believe Magnus deserves to have his story told. He’s a great character with plenty of wit, excitement and heart.

Currently, The Bane Chronicles are only available via e-book, but rumor has it that once all ten are released, they will be printed and bound into one book. Fingers crossed that’s true!

Jen’s Rating
4 Star

Read more about The Bane Chronicles here!

Jen’s Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Loved it! Two thumbs up! High five! Gold star! Home run!

Mortal-Instruments-City-of-Bones-Movie-Logo-wide-560x282Okay, I wanted to make my opinion clear right off the bat, because I’ve been seeing a lot of negative reviews for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and I’m annoyed and frustrated by them. From a moviegoers standpoint, I thought City of Bones was entertaining, well paced and filled with plenty of eye candy (and I’m not just talking about Jamie Campbell Bower). And from a book nerd’s perspective, I felt the movie did a great job transporting Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter tale to the big screen. Even more impressively, it tempted me to go back and re-read the entire Mortal Instrument series.

MORTAL-INSTRUMENTS-GUIDE_612x380Before I go any further, let me say two things: 1) I’m not a die-hard fan of The Mortal Instruments. I enjoyed the books, but they’re not my favorite YA series out there. I much prefer Cassandra Clare’s prequel series, The Infernal Devices. And 2) I had very, very low expectations for this movie. In fact, before the the lights went down and the opening credits began rolling, I leaned over to my sister and said, “Don’t hold your breath. I think this is going to suck.”

But it didn’t. And I was SHOCKED!

-The-Mortal-Instruments-City-of-Bones-stills-shadowhunter-chronicles-34441022-2048-1365Overall, I thought the acting was superb, the plot nicely adapted and the casting near perfect. Lily Collins was beautiful, alluring and believable as Clary, and Jamie Campbell Bower was sexy, witty and, well, Jace (I’m not ashamed to admit that I totally have a goo-goo-gaga crush on him now). These two leads were wonderfully supported by Jemima West as Isabelle, Kevin Zegers as Alec, and Lena Headey as Jocelyn. And nobody could’ve played the role of Simon better than Robert Sheehan. He was funny, endearing and mundane-ishly heroic.

In my opinion, the only miscast was Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane. Physically, he was great. Acting wise, he was stiff, dull and not at all flouncy, eccentric or magical like I imagined his character to be.

Luckily, he wasn’t in the film that much, so he didn’t ruin the whole thing for me.

As far as the actual adaption went, I thought it was well done. I know lovers of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones are probably complaining about things that were changed, added or dropped. Personally, I was a little sad I didn’t get to see Jace’s demon flying motorcycle after the battle at Hotel Dumort. However, as a book fanatic, I’ve learned a hard lesson over the years: movies are not books. They don’t have the luxury of time to cover every single detail of a 485-page book. So as long as the adaptation captures the essence of the story, hits upon the major plot points and includes the main characters, I’m happy.

And City of Bones did all of those things.


Now, is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones the best movie ever? Uh, no. Will it rack up a bunch of Oscars in the spring? Nooo. BUT was it fun, engaging and witty like the books? Hell yes! In fact, my sister (clueless to most YA book series like this one, and quickly bored by movies in general) was leaning forward in her seat the whole time and constantly whispering questions at me (my favorite being, “Oh God, is Simon a demon?” Ha!). And when we walked out of the theater, she admitted she had a ridiculous crush on Jace. I believe her exact words were, “Ohhh, yeahhh.”

the-mortal-instrumentsYeah…I totally agree with her 😉

I truly hope City of Bones does well enough at the box office so that its sequel, City of Asheswill be brought to life for fans too. And I really hope people don’t listen to all the negative reviews out there. Because. They. Are. WRONG!

Look, just remember when you walk into the theater with your candy and popcorn, this movie isn’t going to be exactly like the book. They never are. So get over it, sit down and enjoy it! I mean, seriously, if you can stomach the cheesy Twilight films and the nasty adaption of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, then The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is going to be like a slice of yummy, delicious, ooey gooey chocolate cake!

Jen’s Rating:


Summer Reads – Part 1

Happy Monday! As summer slowly draws to a close (so sad!), I’ve decided to go back and reflect upon the books I read this season. Some were great, some were not so great. I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re willing to give anything a shot, right? So, without further ado, here are my Summer Reads, Part 1.

Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire

If you’re looking for an entertaining romantic read about a dysfunctional couple, then here you go! Walking Disaster is the sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Beautiful Disaster. Well, it’s not really a sequel. It’s the same story as before, only this time it’s told from Travis’s, not Abby’s, perspective.

To be honest, I enjoyed this version of the turbulent love story a lot more. I liked living inside Travis’s head and seeing things from his POV. It also helped me understand his crazy mood swings and violent, put-a-restraining-order-on-him behavior. The only downside was I didn’t like Abby in this version. Even more than the original, she came across as a heartless you-know-what.

Jen’s Rating:

3 Star

For a fully synopsis, click here.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
I finally read the fifth installment of The Mortal Instruments series after purchasing it back in October 2012. After eagerly buying it, I set it aside so I could first finish my pile of library books (because, heaven forbid, I take any of them back unread!). Well, before I knew it, six months had passed and I still hadn’t read City of Lost Souls. Oops!

Well, I’m happy to announce I read it and I liked it! Just like the first four books in The Mortal Instrument series, City of Lost Souls kept me turning pages faster than Camille Belcourt can blink. I’m still creeped out by Clary’s brother’s incestuous infatuation with her, but then, who wouldn’t be? So, if you enjoy witty banter, fast-paced action and memorable characters, this is a great book/series to pick up.

I look forward to finishing the series when City of Heavenly Fire is released on May 27th, 2014. And don’t forget! The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones hits the big screen on August 21st!

Jen’s Rating:
3 Star

For a full synopsis, click here.

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

Okay, so back in March, during the NCAA’s March Madness craze, I came across a “YA Swoon Madness” bracket. Yeah, I know. Score! My friend Kelsey and I were giggling and laughing like two high school girls, debating which YA beau should win this awesome tournament. (All of you Delirium fans should be happy to know it was Alex that took home the big prize). Anyways, I decided to use this bracket as a resource and marked down all of the books I hadn’t read, including Blue Bloods.

As luck would have it, I found Blue Bloods at a garage sale a couple of weeks later. I even bought its sequel, figuring the risk was worth the 50 cents. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. This vampire tale was…boring. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m officially over vampires, or if the story itself was a snooze, or if I felt like I needed to be a 14-year old to really enjoy it. Whatever the case, I don’t plan on continuing the Blue Bloods series. Its sequel will simply have to accept its grim, dusty fate on my bookshelf…Or, more likely, in a box at yet another garage sale.

Jen’s Rating:

1 Star

For a full synopsis, click here.

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

This YA novel came upon the trusty recommendation of a co-worker. And, as expected, her suggestion paid off. Defiance was an adventurous combination of The Hunger Games, Legend and Enclave. You have a kick-ass female protagonist, a cute boy, and a monster that bursts from the ground and scorches everything and anything in its path. It doesn’t get much better than that! My only complaint would be the ending. I know that in the genre of YA, series are practically expected. But this felt like it could’ve ended after one. Nonetheless, I’m planning on checking out Defiance’s sequel, Deception, which can be purchased on August 27th.

Jen’s Rating:

3 Star

For a full synopsis, click here.

I’ll be posting Part 2 of my Summer Reads soon! Stay tuned!