WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?

Amanda- I’m currently reading The Red Maze by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Matt Rockefeller, Xianthe Bouma & Boya Sun which is a super fun middle grade graphic novel series. I’m also listening to the audiobook for Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon and Educated by Tara Westover. Both are books I need a break from so I’ve been going back and forth between them.

Antonia- I’m currently reading The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Run Chupeco.

What did you recently finish reading?

Amanda- I most recently finished The Cobalt Prince by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Matt Rockefeller, Xianthe Bouma & Boya Sun.

Antonia- I most recently read The Awakening by Nora Roberts.

What do you think you will read next?

Amanda- I don’t know what I’m going to pick up next from my book shelf, but I definitely plan to continue the 5 Worlds graphic novels from my library.

Antonia- Next I’ll read Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May.

Thanks for reading. Let us know what you’re reading in the comments!

Antonia’s Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Resolutions

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 Resolutions/Hopes for 2021 (bookish or not!) I’m don’t usually make resolutions so I’ll stick with my top five.

Read at least 50 books

Exercise more

Write reviews again

Take more time for mental health

Visit family more

What resolutions do you have for 2021?

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – 2021 Resolutions & Hopes

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 resolutions and hopes I have for 2021, bookish or otherwise.

Getting my owned TBR under 25 books

Writing my reviews soon after finishing a book

Stressing less about reviewing every book

Creating more creative posts that aren’t reviews

Eating healthier

Exercising more regularly

Spending more quality time with my daughter and husband

Being better about staying in touch with friends and family

Writing more consistently

Finishing my WIP first draft

These are some goals and resolutions that I have for 2021. What are yours?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s 2020 Superlative Awards (Book Tag)

Hello, lovelies! I created this original book tag last year (find it here) when people on twitter were talking about how the bookish world should have an end of the year superlatives like our yearbooks did in high school. I loved the idea, so I made a book tag based on that and ran with it. I thought it would be fun to do it again this year!

Rules: 

  1. Tag me as the original creator
  2. Choose from either all the books you read in 2020 or only 2020 releases.
  3. Most importantly, have fun!

Best All Around: Your number one favorite book of the year.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, a story of sisters reconciling, magic, and a female/female romance. I loved it.

Biggest Flirt: Newest or favorite book boyfriend of 2020.

Casteel from From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout (I know many will agree with this one, hah!)

Class Clown: Sillest/most goofy/funniest book of 2020.

I didn’t read many ‘funny’ books this year but I think The Martian by Andy Weir fits the bill for this one.

Cutest Couple: Favorite bookish couple of the year. 

This is technically two couples but in The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco both Haidee & Arjun and Odessa & Lan were definitely my favorites this year.

Most Likely to Succeed: Most hyped book you read in 2020. 

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Best Celebrity Lookalike: Favorite book based off of another story (fairytale/mythological/classics, etc.)

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Best Dressed: Most appealing book cover of the year.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Tallest & Shortest: Share the longest & the shortest books you read this year. 

Shortest: Skyward, Vol. 2: Here There Be Dragonflies by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, & Antonia Fabela (104 pages)
Longest: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (963 pages)

Best Clique: Share your favorite friend squad you read about.

Okay, I’m going to try to pick a book I haven’t already mentioned, so the crew from To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini.

Most Likely to Survive the Hunger Games: Share the character(s) you read about this year that you think would do well in the world of the Hunger Games. 

The crew from the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown basically have their own version of the Hunger Games and I loved it, but I also think that Xiala and Serapio from Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse would totally win together.

Best/Worst Plot Twist: What did you read that had a really great or really horrible plot twist?

Best: The Final Six by Alexandra. Aliens are my favorite.
Worst: This is more of a lack of a plot but, The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker.

Series: Best/worst second or concluding book in a series. 

Best: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (this is only sort of a sequel).
Worst: A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

Most likely to become a classic: What book has the potential to become a modern classic?

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab or The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

Tagging to play:

Alana @ The Bookish Chick

Avhlee @ Tea Cups and Torn Pages

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Summary:
Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again.
Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.
He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.
But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.
Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?
Early Departures by Justin A. ReynoldsReview:
Early Departures is a 2020 release that I didn’t hear about until later in the year. If I’d heard about it earlier, it definitely would have been one of my most anticipated releases. I loved Reynolds’ debut, Opposite of Always. So, I hoped that Early Departures would delight and destroy me as much as that book did. I was not wrong. Reynolds manages to make me fall in love with the characters, to become so invested in them, and then kill them. But this is a contemporary novel with a science fiction twist, so he brings them back to life. In this book, the story follows Jamal. Jamal has dealt with some hardships in his life. His parents died and he lives with his older sister (who is very pregnant). He has a girlfriend, Autumn, who is one of my favorite characters in the book (alongside Jamal’s sister.) We meet Q very early on in the book. But we slowly learn exactly what happened that ended Jamal and Q’s friendship. We also get tidbits from Jamal and Q’s old YouTube videos. I liked this because it gave us a bit of insight into how their friendship was before their falling out.
Jamal is kind of a little shit. But in a sort of understandable way. I think I liked Autumn so much because she never failed to call Jamal out when he was being a shit. Jamal is still dealing with the death of both his parents and he doesn’t really deal with it very well. He blames Q for their death, but never communicates that. He’s a young man that doesn’t know how to share his feeling. He’s also definitely a bit selfish. But he had great character growth. He realized that his actions were wrong and forgiveness helps everyone. I didn’t always like him, but I was always invested in his story.
I listened to the audiobook and it was fantastically narrated. The narrators (I think there were two) really brought this story to life and I highly recommend the audio for anyone that wants to read this book. This was a heartbreaking story about love, friendship, and loss. It’s about forgiveness and grief and it’s beautifully written. I will say that I definitely cried quite a few times while listening to this story, so prepare yourself for this one. It was one of my favorite reads of 2020.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ravens by Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige

Summary:
Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.
The Ravens (The Ravens, #1)Review:
The Ravens is a story of a sorority that is secretly a coven of witches. I thought this concept was excellent. I think the execution was done well too. There were a few things I didn’t like, but overall, I enjoyed the story. We follow Vivi and Scarlett in alternating chapters. Vivi is about to start at Westerly College and she’s full of excitement. She finds herself at a Kappu Rho Nu party even though she never really thought about joining a sorority. She gets picked to pledge and decides that she should try it out and see what happens. Scarlett is a Junior and she’s hoping to become the next president of the Ravens. There’s more to the Ravens than meets the eye, they’re secretly a coven of witches, a sisterhood with magical abilities through the elements.
So, I liked this book. I liked Vivi and her excitement at moving to a new place, one that she wouldn’t have to leave for four years. After moving around randomly her whole like she’s excited to settle somewhere of her own choosing. I liked seeing her settle into her classes and struggle with Hell week. She was a likable character. My biggest and only issue with her was about the magic. She grew up with her mom, who makes money doing tarot readings for people. She didn’t care for this. She never believed in what her mother did, thinking it was a scam. But when she is accepted into the Ravens she just rolls with the idea that she has magic and barely questions it before diving head first into the whole being a Raven idea. It bothered me that she was so critical of her mother but has no problem going all in when she learns she has actual magic. I still liked Vivi, but this rubbed me the wrong way a bit.
Scarlett has to be perfect. She has the perfect boyfriend. The perfect friends and grades. That perfection will continue as long as she secures her position as the next president of the Ravens. I really liked Scarlett at first, but she’s definitely a bit of the stereotypical stuck up sorority girl. She comes from a well-off family that has high expectations for her. She can never live up to the example of her sister. I wanted to like her, but she was so mean to Vivi over something so stupid. I sort of get it later in the story. But Scarlett was pretty mean to her right from the start. I think she definitely had some great characters growth out of that stuck up girl, but I didn’t care for her for most of the story.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book despite these complaints. I think it was a great story of sisterhood and growth. I loved seeing Vivi go through joining the Ravens and learning her magic. I think there were great developments with her mother too. I think Scarlett has some growing to do, but she’s getting there. I loved the magic. It’s all elemental, but the women can work as a team and do magic from other elements. I think this was a great story and I already can’t wait for the sequel.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s 10 Favorite Books of 2020

Hello, lovelies! Today, as you can see from the title of this post, I am here to share with you all 10 of my favorite books that I read in 2020. I will be doing my favorites a bit differently than I did last year. Last year, I made a few lists of my favorite books organized by genre. This year, I’m going to make a few lists but they will be my favorites organized by age range. So, today’s post will be my top twenty favorite (but not in any specific order because I’m a creature filled with indecision), and then over the next few weeks I’ll have more posts with my favorite books for each age range (middle-grade, young adult, and adult) and maybe some based on format (like audiobooks and graphic novels). Let’s get into today’s post! I’ll be linking my reviews, if I have one, so feel free to click through and see my full (spoiler free!) review of my favorite books.

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

The How & the Why by Cynthia Hand

These are my top ten favorite books of 2020. Now, these are not all 2020 releases, but I read them all in 2020. These are some of the books that I just can’t stop thinking about even though I read them forever ago. Also, these are by no means my only favorite books I read last year, which is why I have more lists coming for each age range that I read. What books were your favorites of 2020?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Summary:
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.
Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.
The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
The Cousins by Karen M. McManusReview:
The Cousins is a young adult thriller that follows three mostly estranged cousins that work on their grandmother’s island resort, a grandmother none of them have ever met. I’ve read and loved all of McManus’s other books and The Cousins was no different. The big difference with this book was that all of the theories that I had while reading were completely wrong.
This story takes place on an island off of Cape Cod (which is where I grew up, so I was instantly sold when I started hearing places I knew.) This is the island where their parents grew up, and the place they were disinherited from, with one message, “You know what you did.” So, when the three cousins, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah, are invited to work at the resort for the summer, everyone is surprised.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved watching Milly and Aubrey learn more about one another and develop an actual relationship aside from seeing one another at the family reunion. I thought their friendship was well done and though Milly and Aubrey were very different people, they learned about one another and about themselves. I think the character growth all around was excellent, but the growth came with the developing relationships. Milly learns about herself and grows from her interactions with Aubrey. And it was the same for Aubrey. Being around Milly and their growing friendship, she learned to be more confident. Then there’s Jonah. His part of a story was a little weird and I can’t talk about most of it because of a spoiler. So, all three cousins have secrets, but Jonah’s is the worst for the situation they are in. I liked all three of them and I think they were all distinct and well-developed characters.
As for the story and plot, I did not see the big twist coming. I had many theories as I was reading (well, listening as I read this via the audiobook). I think McManus did an incredible job of leaving the reader wanting more, wanting to know all of the secrets, and keeping them invested in the story with little bits and pieces before the big reveal. I also really liked that we get Milly’s mom’s point of view, Allison, but as a teenager growing up on the island (sort of.) We get the story of what happened that final summer before they were all disowned. I think that added a great element of suspense with the alternating chapters of that final summer.
Overall, this was a slower paced story than her previous books. I really enjoyed it. The suspense and mystery was well done, slowly revealed, but not one that I predicted. I loved the characters. Despite all being related, they were all very different. I just as a whole really liked this book. It’s one I’ll definitely recommend in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?

Amanda- I’m currently reading The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar and I’m listening to the audiobook for Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.

Antonia- I’m currently reading The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco.

What did you recently finish reading?

Amanda- I have to mention my two most recently read because reasons. Monday I finished Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center and the audiobook (which was incredible) for Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant.

Antonia- I most recently read The Awakening by Nora Roberts.

What do you think you will read next?

Amanda- Next, I’m going to try to work on the arc’s I have from NetGalley because I keep getting approved for new ones and they’re piling up.

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

Thanks for reading. Let us know what you’re reading in the comments!

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

GoodReads Summary:
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
You Have a MatchReview:
I got You Have a Match as an eARC thanks to NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I read Emma Lord’s debut novel, Tweet Cute, also as an ARC. I really loved that one, which is why I hit the request button as fast as I could when I saw You Have a Match. The story follows Abby. She and her two best friends, Connie and Leo, take a 23&me DNA test because Leo is adopted and he’s curious about his history. A part of him was hoping to potentially find family members. Connie and Abby take the test with him to be supportive. When the results come in, Abby is the one that finds a new family member. A full blood sister, meaning they have the same parents, and Savannah (Savvy) has already sent a message to Abby. The two meet and put some pieces together about the fact that their parents (Abby’s parents and Savvy’s adoptive parents). They concoct a plan to go to the same summer camp to figure out what’s going on with their parents.
I didn’t always like Abby, but I really appreciated her as a character. She had some real growth. She reminded me a lot of myself. She’s a ‘don’t make waves’ kind of person. So, instead of telling her parents, she doesn’t need all of the tutoring and extra help they’re making her go to, she just goes. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and that’s the story of my life. She has a lot of feelings that she doesn’t let out, which is never good. It causes lots of hijinks between Abby and Savvy (read: Finn is my favorite instigator).
Savvy is an Instagram influencer. I wish we’d gotten some of this story from Savvy’s point of view. I think that would have been the only thing that would have made this story better. I think it would have been nice to hear how she was feeling about everything and then later how things went with her parents. I liked Savvy. She puts on this image for the internet and that sort of makes her feel like she needs to put on the same image all the time. It was really interesting to see her talk to Abby and share things with one another. I loved seeing Savvy open up and be vulnerable with Abby. The two really had a rocky start, but they worked through it and I loved the sisterly moments they had. Also, Savvy is a lesbian (I don’t remember if it was specifically stated, but she has a girlfriend in this book.)
Overall, I loved all of the characters. I don’t want to make this too long and go over each of them. But I loved Abby and Connie’s relationship. It was realistic, filled with conflict, and a great resolution. I loved Savvy’s best friend Mickey and her food competition with Leo. I loved Finn and how much of an instigator he was, for it only to come out that he was going through some shit. I loved this book. It was filled with diverse characters that I couldn’t help but feel the things that they were feeling. There was family drama and heartwarming resolutions. There was summer camp hilarity. I just had a great time reading this story.

Quotes:

“Poppy had this thing he always said when we were out with our cameras. He’d show me how different lenses captured different perspectives, and how no two photos of the same thing were ever alike, simply because of the person taking them. If you learn to capture a feeling, he told me, it’ll always be louder than words.”

“We are best friends. And being someone’s best friend comes with a responsibility, a lifetime of secrets and promises and shared moments, that were made with a certain understanding. A contract of sorts. This is the person you are to me; these are the things I feel safe to tell you because of it.”

“Brave. It’s a word I’m still getting used to, after a lifetime of ducking from my problems. But maybe I’m growing into it, in my own way. A little less running and a little more talking. A little less wondering and a little more found.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Anticipated Releases for Early 2021

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 my anticipated releases for the first half of 2021.

19 January
This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry

9 February
Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

9 February
The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

16 February
Blood Sworn by Scott Reintgen

9 March
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

16 March
On This Unworthy Scaffold by Heidi Heilig

6 April
Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

25 May
Legacy by Nora Roberts

1 June
A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

22 June
Darling by K. Ancrum

This was such a hard list to make. But we have over 150 books on our 2021 anticipated releases list, which you can find here.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Antonia’s Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated 2021 Releases

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 Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021.

19 January
Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

16 February
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

6 April
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

13 April
The Serpent’s Curse by Lisa Maxwell

4 May
Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

25 May
Legacy by Nora Roberts

8 June
Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

15 June
Sisters of the Snake by Sasha Nanua and Sarena Nanua

15 June
For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten

What books are you most looking forward to in the next few months?

The Awakening by Nora Roberts

Summary:
In the realm of Talamh, a teenage warrior named Keegan emerges from a lake holding a sword—representing both power and the terrifying responsibility to protect the Fey. In another realm known as Philadelphia, a young woman has just discovered she possesses a treasure of her own…
When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father—and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.
This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies—through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…
The Awakening (The Dragon Heart Legacy, #1)Review:
The Awakening is Roberts newest trilogy and I was not disappointed. I’m going to keep this review short because no one is surprised that I loved this book.
I think it’s been really interesting to see Roberts delve more into fantasy books. She has quite a few series that have a bit of light fantasy in them, but this series has a whole new world within it. I think the world was very interesting and vividly written.
Breen Kelly was kind of an annoying character, but as we learn more about her childhood, her annoying behaviors are more understandable. She grew up with a mother that belittled her most of her life, left her feeling like she shouldn’t or couldn’t try new things that she might love. She works a job she doesn’t love to pay her bills. But when she finds out her mother has been keeping money that Breen’s father sent for Breen, her life changes. I think Breen had some growth. It was great to see her try new things and realize that she might actually good at these things. The only thing I didn’t like about this aspect of the story is the process of getting a book published. Breen starts writing a novel while she’s vacationing in Ireland. And by summer’s end she’s finished her novel, queried and found and agent, and gotten a book deal. This is so incredibly unrealistic that it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was full of adventure and magic with a hint of romance. I liked that we got to see Breen learning the magic and training with swords. I think the new world she discovered was fascinating. I am definitely excited for the next book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

Summary:
For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Closer to NowhereReview:
Hopkins has been a long-time favorite author of mine. So, when I heard that her newest novel was going to be a middle-grade story written in verse, I was very excited. Closer to Nowhere follows two cousins, Hannah and Cal. Cal’s mom died and his dad is in prison, so he’s moved in with his aunt and uncle, and his cousin, Hannah. At it’s heart, this is a story about two kids that are learning how their words and actions effect the people around them.
Cal has had a hard childhood. With an abusive father and the death of his mother, he struggles with PTSD. We see this in many examples of Cal ‘running away’ and walking around the neighborhood for hours, screaming when he’s unable to work through his anger or other emotions. He also is just a kid that likes to play jokes. He pulls all kinds of pranks that are objectively hilarious, but Hannah disagrees. I didn’t come from an abusive home, but I do have family history of substance abuse, so I thought this topic of Cal’s dad’s addiction was discussed thoughtfully and how his addiction effected Cal was also really well done, in my opinion.
Hannah has had a relatively happy childhood. She lives in a nice home with both her mom and dad. Both her parents do all they can to support her by showing up to all of her sporting events. But when Cal moves into her house, things start to change. I think it was interesting to see how Hannah’s life changed after Cal moved in and how Hannah dealt with those changes (read: not well, at first). Hannah has lived a privileged life and she wishes things could go back to how they were before Cal moved in. But Hannah slowly learns about the things that Cal has had to deal with. The more she learns about his past, the more she tries to be more understanding. I really liked this aspect of Hannah’s story. She still wishes that things hadn’t changed with her parents, but she starts to realize that none of those changes are Cal’s fault.
I think telling this story with both Cal and Hannah’s points of view was an excellent idea. We get both first-person perspectives from them and the perspective of another. It was thought-provoking to see how two characters experienced the same events in different ways.
Overall, I loved this book. I truly hope that we will get more middle-grade stories from Hopkins. She did a really great job talking about addiction, PTSD and other mental health topics, death, homelessness, marital problems, alcoholism, and blended families in an accessible way for middle school age children. I highly recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco

Summary:
After a treacherous journey and a life-shattering meeting with a twin neither knew they had, Haidee and Odessa expected to emerge from the Great Abyss to a world set right. But though the planet is turning once again, the creatures of the abyss will not rest until they have tasted another goddess’s sacrifice.
To break the cycle, Haidee and Odessa need answers that lie beyond the seven gates of the underworld, within the Cruel Kingdom itself. The shadows of the underworld may hunger to tear them apart, but these two sisters are determined to heal their world—together.
The Ever Cruel Kingdom  (The Never Tilting World, #2)Review:
I love this series. I’m going to keep this review short because this is a sequel and I don’t want to spoil much. This book is the conclusion to The Never Tilting World, which follows a set of twins, except neither knows that the other exists. They found one another and tried to undo the Breaking that their mothers caused. The Ever Cruel Kingdom is the events after Haidee and Odessa thought they fixed the Breaking. The world has started turning again, so there are days and nights, rain, and other things that many have never experienced. This book was basically chaos and I loved it.
The Ever Cruel Kingdom was very fast-paced. There were many fighting scenes, as well as hastily planned searches to find what is needed to actually fix the Breaking. But there wasn’t a slow moment, aside from a few romantic and sisterly moments that the girls took for themselves. I think the action scenes were so well done. The magical abilities were always well explained when they were using their magic. They were so clearly explained that I could picture Odessa and Haidee using their gates (I’m usually terrible at picturing things from books). I also really appreciated how the characters worked together. There wasn’t anyone that tried to be the hero and take on the more in the fights. The twins worked their magic together and the love interests, Lan and Arjun, work together to fight alongside them.
The romances were excellent. Odessa and Lan were so sweet. I loved the female/female romance between them. Lan was the one that could bring Odessa down when she was struggling with her magic. I loved how this was shown by Lan using things she knew about Odessa (like her love for romance novels) to help Odessa come back to herself. To me, this showed how well Lan and Odessa knew each other. Haidee and Arjun were fierier. I loved the passion between them. I think they were a great bit of levity to the story. While there were serious moments between the two, they brought humor and happiness to a tense story.
Now, the world. We learn so much more about the Breaking and how it happened. Latona and Asteria play a part in this story too. Haidee and Odessa’s mothers make an appearance and I was riveted by their anger toward one another. Their history was so compelling and opened up the reader’s knowledge to why the world is the way it is now. We also learn a bit more about the original Goddess that was unknown to most of those that lived in this world. I think Chupeco did a really great job of sharing this information in small bites as it was relevant to the story.
Overall, I loved this book and I love this series. I adored the characters. The world-building was fascinating. The romances were swoon-worthy. I also really enjoyed that the side characters got their own page time too. There were great new friendships, old relationships that were renewed, and relationships we knew from the first book that were further developed and they were all wonderful. I cannot say enough good things about this book. So, stop what you’re doing and go read it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.