We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.
As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.
Lush and striking, hopeful and devastating, We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology by New York Times–bestselling author Hafsah Faizal.

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Review:
After really enjoying We Hunt the Flame, I tried to dive right into We Free the Stars. But that was right as my reading slump was starting, so I didn’t make it very far trying to read the physical book. I eventually borrowed the audiobook from my local library and managed to finish it through that format. I think the audiobook was really well done. There was more than one narrator and I think they did a great job telling this story.
As for the story, there is so much that happens in this book. It felt like a totally different sort of story from the first book, where they spent most of the book working toward one goal. But in this book, things have gone wrong. They need to plan a rescue. They need to list of impossible things to get done, but they managed to get most of it done. I was impressed by the way this team managed to problem solve for all of their issues.
I think what I liked the most was the changes that Nasir and Zafira go through. They’ve changed and grown so much in the first book, but now that they’re back from Sharr, they’re trying to reconcile those changes when back in their regular worlds. This was more for Nasir than Zafira because the world Zafira knew before she left for Sharr is gone. But Nasir is coming back to his home a changed man. But in the eyes of his people, he’s still the Prince of Death. We get to see this for Zafira through the people that she loves. She reunites with her sister and with Yasmine. We see her changes through their eyes.
Overall, I enjoyed this one just as much as I did the first. It’s a pretty different book because there is just so many things going on. But we get to see Zafira and Nasir grow even more. Altair is still my favorite. He’s really going through it in this book, but I loved him all the same. I also really enjoyed getting to see more of Zafira’s loved ones. The characters travel to other places in this world and I loved that we got to see other Caliphates that were mentioned in the first book. We learn more about the world in general. I’d love to see another book set in a different part of the world. I will definitely be picking up more books by Faizal.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

Summary:
In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.
Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

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Review:
I love the Brown Sisters series. Each one is just so much fun to read and Eve’s story is no different. We follow Eve and Jacob as they try to fight the attraction they’re feeling for one another. But the story starts a bit before that. Eve’s just been confronted by her parents and they’ve basically kicked her out in hopes that it would motivate her to finally find a career path and stick with it. So, when Eve comes across a B&B that is hiring a chef, she whorls in, determined the convince Jacob that she’s perfect for the job. When Jacob doesn’t agree with her, she leaves. Except not quite. She hits Jacob with her car and breaks his arm. This story was just as funny as it was heartwarming. I really loved getting to follow along as Eve and Jacob became ‘just friends’ while both being in denial about their attraction to one another. They had some really great banter. Honestly, their whole relationship was just so heartwarming. Eve was such a kind and understanding character. Jacob is autistic, so he prefers some things to be certain ways. He’s clear with communicating his boundaries and what he needs. Eve never judges him or makes him feel other for that and I really loved this aspect of the story. There’s even a moment when someone in town says something offensive and Eve pulls the ‘I don’t get it’ card to make the jerk explain his hurtful ‘joke.’ I loved that they both learned more about themselves while they were learning about one another.
I really liked the bed and breakfast setting of this story. I think it was the perfect place. Away from the rest of Eve’s world. She’s trying to prove herself and she’s found this safe place to do that. Little did she know that she’d also found love.
Overall, I love this whole series. I still think that Dani’s book is my favorite, but I did really enjoy Eve’s story with Jacob. I will definitely be reading more of Hibbert’s backlist until there’s news about new books from her.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Last 10 Books Tag

Hey, friends! We had fun with our last book tag that we looked for another that would be fun. We saw this one at the Literary Elephant and was originally created on YouTube by Marc Nash. We thought this one sounded different than the ones we’ve done before, so let’s go!

1. The last book you didn’t finish?

Amanda- These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. I’ve been reading this book for like four months and I just can’t seem to finish it.

Antonia- The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco. I’m not sure why for this one because I really liked the first book but I had so much trouble getting into this one.

2. The last book you re-read?

Amanda- I recently reread the first three books in the Pandava Quartet before reading the newly released fourth book in the series.

Antonia- Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. I finally got around to reading the second book but reread this one first to remember everything. I’m so glad I did, these books are so much fun.

3. The last book you bought?

Amanda- Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning.

Antonia- Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chockshi.

4. The last book you said you read but you didnt?

Amanda- I’ve never done this…

Antonia- I’ve also never done this. It’s such a silly thing to lie about.

5. The last book you wrote in the margins of?

Amanda- Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth.

Antonia- Oh it’s been so long. I think the last one was probably Looking for Alaska by John Green.

6. The last book you had signed?

Amanda- In person? The last author event I went to before Covid shut the world down was Neal Schusterman for his book tour after The Toll was published.

Antonia- I’ve never been to a book signing but would love to have the chance.

7. The last book you lost?

Amanda- I don’t lose books. I let people borrow them and never get them back. But I’ve stopped doing that. So, I genuinely can’t remember.

Antonia- I’m really good about keeping track of my books though my husband leaves them in really weird places then forgets about it when he borrows them.

8. The last book you had to replace?

Amanda- I don’t think I’ve ever really had to replace a book, but if I find a cheap hardcover version of a book I own in paperback I’ll buy it and unhaul the paperback version. The last book I did this for was Furyborn by Claire Legrand.

Antonia- I don’t do this often but I have two copies of The Obsidian Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. My originals got so worn that the covers were starting to come apart so I got another set.

9. The last book you had an argument over?

Amanda- I don’t argue over books, hah. I like to have good discussions but if it gets to an argument I will leave the conversation. So, I just had a bookclub meeting where we discussed Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Antonia- I don’t think I really argue about books either. I’m mostly talking to Amanda so we just have crazy in depth discussions that go off on wild tangents constantly.

10. The last book you couldn’t get ahold of?

Amanda- I can’t find the hardcovers of the first two books in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead anywhere.

Antonia- I honestly can’t think of any. But I don’t go out of my way to get special editions or make sure my covers match so it’s a lot easier for me.

We thought this was a fun tag! Consider yourself tagged if you’d like to participate too!

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Summary:
Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.
Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.
Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.
Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.
Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.
Hilarious, warm, and romantic, Sally Thorne’s novel delivers an irrepressibly joyous celebration of love and community for fans of 99% Mine and The Hating Game

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Review:
Second First Impressions was everything I want from a romance novel. It made me laugh. It made me swoon. It had side characters that absolutely made the story better. We follow Ruthie who works at the front desk of a retirement village. But her boss is on vacation, so she’s temporarily in charge. While she’s in charge, she has a temp assistant, Melanie. The slow friendship that developed between Ruthie and Melanie was adorable. I really loved the two women forming a relationship. They are such different people, but they end up good friends despite not having much in common. Melanie has decided that she needs to shake Ruthie out from living like one of the residents of the village. She’s in her twenties, not her eighties. So, Melanie gets Ruthie on a method of her own creation to get back into dating. Enter Teddy. Teddy is the son of the CEO that just bought the retirement village. Ruthie has been tasked with giving him a job. So, she has him interview for the two residents that can’t seem to keep an assistant.
This story was a fun one. I loved all the little details, like how Ruthie cares for the turtles. I liked Ruthie. I can really relate to being stuck in a routine and feeling significantly older than I really am. I think while she wasn’t the most exciting character, sometimes even a little unlikable, she was realistic. I liked seeing her come out of her shell and start having some fun.
Teddy was a good love interest. It was clear from the start that he was going to be the romantic interest. I’ve seen others say that he’s too likable. Which I actually can understand a little, but I liked him. The only thing I didn’t really like was that his interest seemed more like he was interested in chasing Ruthie. He did spend time to get to know her, but he inserted himself in her life. He didn’t ask to spend time with her, he just came into her house. He did things like that a lot. Never asked her, just chose to do things. But I did like how he brought Ruthie out of her shell and I could totally see the attraction between them.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I liked the characters, especially the two old women. I liked that Teddy and Ruthie both had goals that they were working toward. I enjoyed this one and I’m looking forward to reading whatever Thorne comes out with next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

WWW Wednesday

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Hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To play along just answer the three questions!

What are you currently reading?

Amanda- I’m currently reading What We Devour by Linsey Miller.

Antonia- I’m actually in between books but about to start The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi.

What did you read most recently?

Amanda- A few days ago, I finished The Darkness Outside Us by Elliot Schafer.

Antonia- I just finished Starsight by Brandon Sanderson.

What will you read next?

Amanda- I have no clue what I’m going to read next.

Antonia- Next I think I’ll read Legacy by Nora Roberts.

Let us know your W’s for this week in the comments!

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Book Titles That are Questions

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is ten books that have titles phrased as questions.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden

Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

Ain’t She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella

Farewell to the M.B.R.C? by K.M. Shea

That’s all I have this week. This one was tougher than I thought it would be.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Time Travel Books

Hi, lovelies! I recently watched Soleil’s video from The Little Readers Corner where she talks about time travel books that she recommends. Watch it here. Her video inspired me to make a list of my favorite time travel books. So, here are some of my favorite books that have time travel.

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Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
“Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142. Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late. Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember. Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process. A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.”

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Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynold
“When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. But then Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.”

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Vortex Visions by Elise Kova
“A desperate princess, a magical traveler, and a watch that binds them together with the fate of a dying world. Vi Solaris is the heir to an Empire she’s barely seen. Her parents sacrificed a life with her to quell a rebellion and secure peace with a political alliance. Now, three years past when her wardship should’ve ended, Vi will do anything to be reunited with her family. The Empire is faltering beneath the burden of political infighting and a deadly plague. Yet, Vi can’t help but wonder if her inability to control her magic is the true reason her parents haven’t brought her home. Suspicion becomes reality when she unleashes powers she’s not supposed to have. Powers that might well cost her the throne. As Vi fights to get her magic under control, a mysterious stranger appears from across the world. He holds the keys to unlocking her full potential, but the knowledge has an unspeakable price — some truths, once seen, cannot be ignored. All eyes are on her and Vi must make the hardest choice of her life: Play by the rules and claim her throne. Or, break them and save the world.”

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This is How You Lose the Time War by Amir El-Motar & Max Gladstone
“Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future. Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.”

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The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
“Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination. As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix. But the end to it all looms closer every day. Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence. For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters. She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love. Or she could disappear.”

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Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
“Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story. Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet. Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.”

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The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat. Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on. Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference. A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow StationStarship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.”

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The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
“Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense.
For fans of Claire North, and Kate Atkinson, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.”

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The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.
In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives. Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future. But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

These are my favorite time travel stories. Some of them are time loop stories, some have magical reasons for the time travel, and some are more unexplained. I love them all. What time travel stories are your favorites?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

Summary:
Aru Shah and her sisters–including one who also claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter–must find their mentors Hanuman and Urvashi in Lanka, the city of gold, before war breaks out between the devas and asuras.
Aru has just made a wish on the tree of wishes, but she can’t remember what it was. She’s pretty sure she didn’t wish for a new sister, one who looks strangely familiar and claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter, like her.
Aru also isn’t sure she still wants to fight on behalf of the devas in the war against the Sleeper and his demon army. The gods have been too devious up to now. Case in point: Kubera, ruler of the city of gold, promises to give the Pandavas two powerful weapons, but only if they win his trials. If they lose, they won’t stand a chance against the Sleeper’s troops, which will soon march on Lanka to take over the Otherworld.
Aru’s biggest question, though, is why every adult she has loved and trusted so far has failed her. Will she come to peace with what they’ve done before she has to wage the battle of her life?

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Review:
Aru Shah and the City of Gold is the fourth book in the Pandava Quartet. So, I’m going to preface by saying, if you haven’t read the first three books, you shouldn’t read this review. But you can find my spoiler free review for the first book here. I won’t be summarizing this book because so many things happen and also because there is a convenient summary at the beginning of this post.
So, when this book starts, we’ve just met Aru’s sister, her biological sister. This huge twist was revealed in the end of the third book. We get to know her sister, Kara, as the book progresses. I think what I love most about this series is the Aru Shah is decidedly imperfect. She is flawed. She makes mistakes. She upsets her Pandava siblings. I loved this aspect of the story. Aru makes mistakes and she learns from them. We follow along as she makes amends for those mistakes and made sure to do better in the future. I also love the found family aspect of this story. We have the Pandava siblings, who all have the reincarnated souls of the original Pandava’s. They are some of my favorite siblings. I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the twins. I feel like because they’re so young, they’re held back from being a part of the quests that the siblings go on. I’m hopeful that we will see them participate more in the final book.
There are so many things I love about this series. The characters are the number one, but the mythology that we see in this story is fascinating for me. I didn’t know much about Hindu mythology, so I really enjoyed learning all about the well-known figures.
Overall, I loved this book just as much as I’ve loved all the previous books. I think the mythology and the world is so much fun. It’s exciting and full of adventure. The characters are incredibly easy to love and you can’t help but root for them. I also have to say that Chokshi’s writing always stands out and this book is no different. I highly recommend this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Summary:
Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.
Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.
Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
From the New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read, a sparkling new novel that will leave you with the warm, hazy afterglow usually reserved for the best vacations.

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Review:
People We Meet on Vacation is the story of Alex and Poppy falling in love. The story starts with them as estranged best friends. But as the story progresses, we see flashbacks of past vacations that Alex and Poppy took together. We get to see the whole history of their friendship starting from when they met in college to the present. Poppy is feeling restless, in her job, in her life. She misses Alex, who she hasn’t really talked to in two years. One late night text turns into one last vacation for Poppy and Alex. One last chance for them to finally be honest with one another.
I really enjoyed this story. I loved the way it was written. The flashbacks we’re super well done and really gave excellent back story for both Poppy and Alex. I feel like their romance was really well built up and was definitely one that I could easily root for. I loved getting to see all of the placed that they’d traveled to. And their final vacation, the vacation from hell, was absolutely hilarious.
Overall, I love Henry’s adult novels and I’m very excited to see what she will be writing next. I loved Poppy and Alex. They reminded me a bit of myself and my husband. I think that’s why I enjoyed this book so much. It was a fun, quick, and entertaining read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Book Tag – Mid-Year Check-In Book Tag

Hey, bookworms! We’re back with Amanda’s favorite tag of the year. It’s July, so a bit past mid-year, but we’re here to share some best and worsts of 2021 so far.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2021 – 

Amanda: I can never pick just one, so Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler and The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman are both pretty high up there.

Antonia: Seven Devils by Elizabeth May and Laura Lam. This book was seriously amazing. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021 – 

Amanda:  Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo. It was just so good.

Antonia: Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi. These books just get better and better.

New release you haven’t read yet but want to – 

Amanda: The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore. I’ve loved all of McLemore’s books and I’m itching to get to thhis one.

Antonia: Legacy by Nora Roberts.

Most anticipated release for the second half of 2021 – 
(See our full list of anticipated releases here)

Amanda: Into the Dying Light by Katy Rose Pool and The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi. Two series finales to favorite series of mine. I can’t wait to finish both of these series.

Antonia: The Becoming by Nora Roberts coming out in November.

Biggest disappointment – 

Amanda: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Everyone raved about this book and I let the hype get to me because I wasn’t impressed.

Antonia: Luckily I haven’t been disappointed by any books so far this year.

Biggest Surprise – 

Amanda: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant. As a rule, I don’t like horror. But now, maybe I do? I loved this book and that surprised the heck out of me.

Antonia: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. I’d been putting off reading this one for such a long time because I was worried I wouldn’t like Apollo as a narrator but I ended up completely loving it.

Favorite new author – 

Amanda: Akemi Dawn Bowman and Adrienne Young. I still have more of their backlists to read, but I’m hoping to catch up before the end of 2021.

Antonia: Roshani Chokshi for sure. The Aru Shah series has been amazing and I can’t wait to pick up her other books too.

Newest fictional crush – 

Amanda: Casteel from The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I would die for both him and Poppy.

Antonia: Not really a new crush because I loved him from A Court of Thorns and Roses, but I have to pick Cassian from A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas.

Newest favorite character – 

Amanda: Rocky from Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I loved him so much.

Antonia: Aru Shah from Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi. She is definitely one of the funniest narrators I’ve ever read about.

Book that made you cry – 

Amanda: Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield. This book has some really tough subject matter so check out the content warnings before picking this one up.

Antonia: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas.

Book that made you happy – 

Amanda: Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler. I wish I had this book in high school. It really spoke to my soul in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Antonia: Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I’ve loved the movie for years and even though the book obviously had differences, it was still so nice to see all my favorite characters again.

Favorite book to movie adaptation this year – 

Amanda: I’m sure everyones answer is this one but Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo that was adapted by Netflix. I had some issues with it, but I really did enjoy it.

Antonia: I have to agree with Amanda about Shadow and Bone. I think they did a really good job overall.

Favorite review you wrote this year – 

Amanda: Probably my review for Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo. I feel like I came across as clear and said what I wanted to say.

Antonia: I haven’t written any reviews this year.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought this year – 

Amanda: Ohhh, probably a tie between The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He and the Fable duology by Adrienne Young (put them side by side and they are stunning.)

Antonia: I’ve been really good about not buying books this year.

What books do you NEED to read before the end of the year – 

Amanda:

Grace and Glory by Jennifer L. Armentrout
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Antonia: So many. I’m way behind on my reading so I still have a lot from my winter TBR that I haven’t read and a bunch still coming out this year that I’m excited about. I’m definitely going to try to focus on books I already have before buying new though.

Anyone reading this that thinks it would be fun to do, consider yourself tagged, and feel free to tag us in your post.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

Summary:
Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she’s famous, privileged, has “the good hair”— and she’s an Eloko, a person who’s gifted with a song that woos anyone who hears it. Everyone loves her — well, until she’s cast as the awful person who exposed Tavia’s secret siren powers.
Now, she’s being dragged by the media. No one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, nor her Eloko community. But Naema knows the truth and is determined to build herself back up — no matter what.
When a new, flourishing segment of Naema’s online supporters start targeting black girls, however, Naema must discover the true purpose of her magical voice.

Book Cover

Review:
Thanks, NetGalley for this eARC, in return, here is my honest review. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoy this book. But at the same time, I wasn’t surprised because I absolutely loved A Song Below Water (reviewed here). A Chorus Rises is set in the same urban fantasy world, but in this one we follow Naema, who wasn’t a super nice person from Tavia’s perspective in A Song Below Water.
Despite actively disliking Naema for the first third of this book, I ended up really loving her. Our first look at Naema is in A Song Below Water which is from Tavia and Effie’s perspectives. These three girls do not get along at all. I think it’s important to mention that this is totally okay! Naema mentions often that just because they’re all black, doesn’t mean they all have to be best friends. They can want better for one another and still actively dislike each other. And I totally agree with that. You don’t have to be friends or even like someone to wish that they’re not being discriminated against because they’re a magical or black.
But the further we get into this story, the more I couldn’t help but like Naema. She’s genuinely funny. She has a confidence in herself that most people would love to have. But she’s also still growing. This book takes place about a year after the end of A Song Below Water. So, Naema has had some time to heal, emotionally, from being stoned. But Portland doesn’t feel the same to Naema anymore. She takes a break and goes to visit her family for their yearly reunion in the south. It’s here that Naema discovers that there’s more to being an Eloko than just the popularity she has in Portland. I really enjoyed getting to see Naema spend time with family she never sees and getting to know more about her Eloko abilities. I absolutely loved her cousin, Courtney. He’s hilarious and I think he was a great support system for Naema. Their relationship made me think of my cousins that were my best friends while I was growing up.
This story covers some really interesting topics that I didn’t see coming. There’s discussion of how easily online voices can be weaponized to do real harm to real people. I think the spotlight on “keyboard warriors” was an excellent one because what it takes to go from talking about doing something to actually doing it? It isn’t that much and it’s something that I don’t think is discussed enough or taken seriously enough. I liked how the friend group worked together to stop this aspect of the story. We get to see some unlikely allies and some healing. And we also get to see these teenagers be brave and do the right thing.
I would have liked for this book to have been longer. I think there were definitely some things mentioned in the story that didn’t really get explored. I’m thinking specifically of the Professor that was mentioned so many times. But we never actually meet her, even though what she’s researching aligns with what Naema is learning about herself. I would have liked to see more about Naema getting more of a handle on talking with the Ancestors. We do get a scene toward the end where things sort of click for Naema in regards to listening to the Ancestors and they help Naema realize that what she and her friends have done isn’t enough, that there’s still more to be done. But we didn’t get to see anymore after that.
Overall, I really grew to love Naema. She’s fierce and outspoken in the best ways. She’s brave and so smart. She knows that what she says hold weight because of her online following. She knows that even though she’s black, she has privilege that comes with being an Eloko. But she also talks about how being an Eloko doesn’t negate the struggles she faces as a black woman. As a queer, white woman, I could appreciate that aspect of the story. I think Namea’s voice is what made this story so gripping for me. Her internal voice was so thoughtful, even when she was angry or unsure. She’s funny and smart, caring and loyal, snarky and passionate. I really loved her by the end of the book. If you haven’t read A Song Below Water, please go do that. If you have, I think you’ll love A Chorus Rises just as much as the first book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

WWW Wednesday

Hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To play along just answer the three questions!

What are you currently reading?

Amanda- I’m not currently reading anything. I’m in between books and haven’t decided what I’m going to start next.

Antonia- I’m currently reading Starsight by Brandon Sanderson.

What did you read most recently?

Amanda- I most recently finished Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth and it was amazing.

Antonia- I just finished Skyward by Brandon Sanderson.

What will you read next?

Amanda- Next, I think I’ll go for something contemporary and happy maybe.

Antonia- Next I think I’ll read The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi.

Feel free to share what your answers are in the comments.

Antonia’s Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Reading

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week’s topic is Reasons Why I Love Reading.

One. Exploring new worlds. Not even just the amazing sci-fi and fantasy ones but being able to see different parts of the world that I don’t have the means to travel to is so much fun.

Two. Escape. I think this is probably a reason we all have. No matter what’s going on in your life, we all need to escape from the real world sometimes.

Three. Books are so much better than TV. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching TV but I feel like it takes some of the imagination out of it. Everything’s just shown to you whereas with books, you get to imagine most of it yourself.

Four. Memories. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. Most of my favorite memories revolve around books.

Five. The people. Book lovers are just plain awesome.

Six. The characters. I’m a complete introvert so I don’t socialize a lot and books let me meet so many different kinds of people.

Seven. Reading makes me happy, sad, angry. Books can make you feel anything and it’s amazing.

That’s all I could come up with this week. What do you love about reading?

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Why I Love Reading

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is ten reasons I love reading.

One. Escapism is the biggest reason that I love reading. I’ve been reading to escape the world around me for as long as I can remember.

Two. More recently, (in the last five years or so), I’ve started actively reading to broaden my perspective. I’ve always loved to read so I can learn about the experiences of others. But in more recent years, I’ve purposefully sought out books by people that are different from me and I really enjoy experiencing new things via fiction that I wouldn’t encounter in my every day life.

Three. This one is aimed specifically at reading romance. I love to see a happy ending. So, I always love to pick up a romance novel when I need a pick me up.

Four. I love reading because the concept that reading words that came from someones brain and have been printed onto paper is sort of a mind fuck. I love that these words can make me feel so many emotions and really have an effect on me.

Five. This is a newer reason. I love reading because when I’m doing it, I feel like I’m setting a good example for my daughter. She’s almost three now and because she sees me reading so often, she also loves to grab a book and come sit with me so we can read together. I can only hope I’m creating another lifelong bookworm like myself.

Six. I read for nostalgia. What I mean by that is that part of the reason that I’m such a bookworm is because when I was a kid, I would go to my mom’s house for the weekend and my mom, my nana, and I would all sit outside (weather permitting) and read together while my brothers rode bikes or whatever. So, I will always love reading for the fond memories of sharing books with my mom and my nana.

Seven. This sort of goes hand in hand with number six, but, I love reading because of the memories it creates. This one is more about memories with specific books rather than people. Looking for Alaska by John Green will forever be one of my all time favorite books because I read it in high school at a time when I really needed it. I genuinely think that this book saved my life. I have a few books that have some really sentimental meaning like this for me.

Eight. The people that reading brings together is another big reason I love reading. So, similar to my answer for number six, Antonia and I are friends because we bonded over Twilight by Stephenie Meyer when we were 14 years old. I have also made countless friends online that have become so much more than just online friends all because we love reading. I think the connections that fellow readers create is definitely one of my favorite things that I love about reading.

Nine. I love reading because while I’m lost in a book, I can travel to places I likely won’t get to see in my regular life, but I also will be to see places that aren’t real.

Ten. Honestly, when it comes down to it, I love reading because it makes me feel. Sometimes good, sometimes sad, but I can always find a book for what I’m needed at the time.

Why do you love reading?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s July TBR Jar Picks

Hi, lovelies! We’ve made it through another month of 2021. So, I’m back with five more picks from my TBR jar! I did really great with last month’s picks. I read all but one of them. I did start that last book, but a reading slump hit me in the end of June, so I didn’t manage to finish it. Despite the reading slump, I’m pushing through and picking five more books that I hope to read in July.

1st in a Series

We Set the Dark on Fire by Sara Raasch & Kristin Simmons

Standalone

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

LGBTQIA+

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

Middle Grade

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Favorite of a Friend

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

I’m also planning to participate in the next round oof Pop Culture Readathon (find all the information for this readathon on their Twitter). I’m not really going to make a specific TBR for that though. There are so many prompts that I’m just going to fill them in as I read. I do, however, have some NetGalley ARCs that I need to read. So, I’ll add those below with a few books that I want to read in July.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
This was one of the books I didn’t get to last month, but it’s been chosen as the bookclub book for this month. So, I’ve got to actually pick it up this time.

The Sea is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart

That’s all I have this month. I’m trying to keep it smaller this month so that I don’t fall back into the reading slump that came for me in June. What are you planning to read this month?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.