Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve just finished rereading Poison Study for my “Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager” blog post which I will be wrapping up later this month. I read this series back in 2012 when I found it randomly at my local library. I remembered really loving them, so I bought the trilogy when I found them at one of my local used bookstores a year or so ago. But with all the moving I’ve done and will be doing in the future; I’ve been working on rereading books I don’t remember anything about other than the fact that I liked them so I could see if I still liked them or not.
Poison Study follows Yelena who is about to be executed for murder. But when Valek, the Commander’s chief of security, offers Yelena a position as the Commander’s new food taster. After Yelena accepts, Valek teaches her how to sniff out and taste poisons that might be used to kill the Commander. I thought Yelena’s training in poisons was a great part of the story. It was interesting to learn about the poisons but while she’s learning that, we’re also learning about how this world works and the governing of Ixia. We learn a bit about Ixia’s past. The start of the story is pretty slow. We know that Yelena killed the son of someone important. The fact that she’s still alive is something that this man isn’t happy with. Along with learning about how to identify poisons, Yelena is being targeted by several different people. So, not only is she trying not to be poisoned to death, but she’s also on the lookout for anyone trying to physically attack her as well. This is when the story starts to get more complicated and a bit political.
Yelena and Valek are suspicious of the man trying to have Yelena killed, but he’s in a position of leadership, so it’s complicated. I think the political twists and turns of the plot were interesting ones. There were some that were predictable, people that were so obviously ‘bad guys’ but what was interesting was figuring out how they were doing the things they were doing. You could see all of the pieces and it was pretty clear that they were all connected, but finding out how exactly the puzzle pieced together was a compelling story.
This story was way darker than I remember. Yelena’s childhood was filled with trauma, from torture (that’s pretty explicitly described) to rape. She was not treated well. But she seemed like a pretty well-adjusted person for someone that had been through all of that and then spend a year in a dungeon. We’re told about her trauma and shown what she’s been through and it seems that the biggest thing from everything she’s experienced is that she wants to learn to fight so that she’ll never be defenseless again. Also, she has a ghost following her that we don’t really know much about what exactly that means, so I guess we will find out more in the next book.
The romance between Yelena and Valek was one I enjoyed. I’ve read mixed reviews about this as many pictured Valek to me an older gentleman and Yelena is supposed to be only 19. But we learn more about Valek’s history it’s clear he’s not an old man. I think their romance was slowly developed and believable. I really enjoyed it and I’m very excited for the ‘forbidden romance’ aspect of the next book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was way darker than I was anticipating, but I enjoyed it. There is also a trans man in this first book that I believe we will see again later in the series, but I can’t speak to whether it’s good or bad representation, so if you’ve read this and you can speak for the representation, let me know. I’ve seen lots of people compare this to Throne of Glass and I can sort of see the comparison, but this series came first so. I’m eager to continue the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Summary:
With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers, #4)

Review:
I received The Galaxy, and the Ground Within from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I have loved all three of the previous installments of the Wayfarer series. This one was no different. I think The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was more of a slice of life story that the previous three books and I actually really enjoyed that.
The story follows five characters, Speaker, Pei, Roveg, and Ouloo and her child, Tupo. They are all different species. I had a bit of a hard time picturing what they each looked like. But I really liked each of their stories. I really enjoyed them spending time together and learning more about each other’s cultures and lives. I thought there were some really fascinating conversations. The dynamics of the characters and their lack of any kind of relationship is what made this book so good. Five strangers are stuck on Gora, their travel plans delayed when technology fails and communication and travel becomes impossible. So, they hunker down together.
Ouloo and Tupo are the owners of the Five-Hop and they do their best to keep the guests happy. I really liked learning about the Laru species. I think Ouloo was my favorite of the characters. She just wants to create a space that will accommodate the many different species of the galaxy. I think the Five-Hop was a place I would absolutely love to visit.
Then there’s Pei, who we sort of know from a previous book. She’s dating Ashby, who we know from a previous book. She’s dealing with a lot of emotions because she is keeping the secret of her romance with Ashby. Then, her shimmer starts. She needs to find a male of her species or she will likely never have another chance to have a child. But she’s not sure she even wants a child.
Roveg’s story was an interesting one. He’s exiled from his homeworld. While he doesn’t regret what he did to get exiled, he does regret being away from his family. He has a very important appointment that he needs to make. And all of the delays on Gora might just cause him to miss this appointment. I really enjoyed learning about the Quelin culture from someone that doesn’t agree with most of it, but also still values bits and pieces.
Then there’s Speaker. Speaker is an Akarak. This is an alien species that little is known of. I thought it was really interesting seeing Roveg take the time to learn about the Akarak history and develop a friendship. I think Speaker was a fascinating character. She’s outside of what we already know from this series and getting to learn about her species and their struggles was one of the more interesting aspects of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed the slice of life aspect of the book. I think the development of the relationships was really well done. I think it was a slow and enjoyable progression. As always, this book was diverse and unique with the pronouns of the different species and I really appreciate that aspect of this series. I thought this book was a compelling depiction of people with differing lives and differing opinions coming together in an unavoidable way. I would absolutely recommend this book and this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Nature Book Covers

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 the ten books with nature on the book covers. I’ve chosen all books that are on my TBR.

The Electric Kingdom
A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh and Fire, #1)
Twice Shy
The Ones We're Meant to Find
Middlewest, Book Two
Rule of Wolves (King of Scars, #2)
The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance, #2)
The Only Good Indians
The Skinjacker Trilogy: Everlost / Everwild / Everfound (Skinjacker, #1-3)
A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)

What book covers did you pick this week?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s NetGalley Shelf #2

Hey, lovelies! Back in February, I did my first post dedicated specifically to the books I have been approved for on NetGalley. You can find that post here. Today, I’m back with an update on that post and sharing what books I’ve been approved for since then. My reviews for the books that I’ve read will be linked as the titles. I’m going to keep this short and get right into it.

Approvals I’ve Read

Blood Sworn by Scott Reintgen
The story of the phoenix horses is finished in this sequel. This sequel is less about the horses and more of a political fantasy about people at war. But there’s fascinating magic. I highly recommend this one.

Honey Girl

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
I am completely obsessed with this book. It’s an accidental marriage story, but it does so many good things for the conversation of mental health. They writing is lyrical and stunning. There were so many lines of this story that really spoke to me.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
A house that is creepy, but not magical. There’s healing magic and I liked the characters. This wasn’t a super memorable story for me aside from those details and the main character is bisexual.

Namesake by Adrienne Young
I’m in love with this series. This is the sequel to Fable which is the pirate story of my dreams. Namesake opens up the world of Fable so much more. There’s secretes revealed and so many emotional developments with the found family we’ve come to love.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
A modern day Peter Pan retelling. This was way darker than I was anticipating and I really enjoyed it. The plot was a bit slow to start, but I think many will love this one.

The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody
Middle-grade fantasy will forever be one of my favorites. This one will be on that list. This is such a great story about finding your passion. The main character hates everything about what’s happening to him, but it’s only because of the expectations that he thinks are on him.

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1)

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
This one will be making my favorites list of 2021. I loved everything about this story and I don’t even know how to explain why. It’s a unique story filled with diverse characters and an incredible plot.

To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters
I thought this was a fun and quick read. There were a few things that I didn’t love about this, but it was still fun and fluffy to read.

Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders
Anders finally makes it into the YA market with this one. I really enjoyed this story. I loved the found family. I loved the epic space adventure. The galaxy is at war and our main character might just be the last hope to save it.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers
The Wayfarers series is one that I will love forever. This installment is a quieter story. It’s the story of four people that find themselves stuck together. They don’t always get along, but they talk and get to know one another. I loved this series.

Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein
This is the only ARC that I have DNF’d so far in 2021. I just couldn’t stand to read anymore about this main character.

Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores, #3)

Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen
I don’t know how I have two pirate series on one list, but Dark Shores is one of my favorite series. It follows a diverse cast, with to die for romances, and politics galore. I think it’s a fascinating series.

Counting Down with You by Tashi Bhuiyan
This was a fun story, but I had a few issues that I couldn’t help notice. These issues took away from my enjoyment of the story, sadly.

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
I have another favorite of 2021. This one hit parts of my soul that I didn’t know needed to be hit. It follows a bisexual girl that doesn’t know she’s bisexual. She’s figuring things out. But when her long time crush finally shows interest in her, all she can think about is the girl she met over the summer. I wish this book existed when I was younger.

Legacy by Nora Roberts
Roberts’ books are always comfort reads for me. This one was no different. The characters are well developed and even the ones I didn’t like, I knew well and rooted for them. It was a fun read while I was reading it, but not one that I think will stick in my mind.

Approvals on my TBR

The Last Fallen Star (Gifted Clans #1)

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim
Publication date: May 4, 2021
Another Rick Riordan Presents title and they never disappoint. This one is about an adopted Korean-American girl that just wants to have the same magic as the rest of her family. So, she and her sister cast something to make that happen and obviously things don’t go as planned.

Better Together by Christine Riccio
Publication date: June 1, 2021
This is a story about sisters that don’t know about one another, think of Parent Trap. I love sibling relationships. So, I’m hopeful that I’ll enjoy this one even though I didn’t love Riccio’s debut.

Trouble Girls by Julie Lynn Rubin
Publication date: June 1, 2021
A queer YA reimagining of Thelma & Louise is all I need to know about this one.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow
Publication date: June 1, 2021
A Song Below Water was one of my favorite books that I read in 2020. So, I’m very excited for this sequel that follows Naema, who we met in the first book.

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
Publication date: June 8, 2021
This is the story of a young man that impulsively comes out, nine months before graduation and has to deal with living in a small town filled with expectations that represses his true self. I cannot wait to read this one.

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi
Publication date: June 15, 2021
One of the comparison titles is Aru Shah and the End of Time and that’s all I needed to know to be interested.

A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart
Publication date: June 22, 2021
I love Banghart as a human being. I met her at a book festival and I felt like we bonded in a way that I haven’t felt with any other author interaction. So, I will read all of her books until the end of time. The book also sounds good as hell.

What We Devour by Linsey Miller
Publication date: July 6, 2021
A powerful woman trying to keep her power a secret? Sign me up. I’ve seen lots about this book from the author’s twitter and it’s gotten me super excited for this one.

Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries #2)

Flash Fire by T.J. Klune
Publication date: July 13, 2021
I loved the first book in this series. So, I’m dying to get into the second. I loved the way Nick’s ADHD was shown. I liked the superhero aspect as well. Plus, friends to lovers is my favorite.

A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers
Publication date: July 13, 2021
Robots abandoned humanity and escaped into the woods. They agreed to come check in, but when they do, the question of ‘what do people need?’ isn’t an easy one to answer. But it must be answered before the robots can return to the woods.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
Publication date: July 20, 2021
I honestly don’t really know much about this book except something about a spooky house.

The Dating Dare (A Sweet Mess, #2)

The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee
Publication date: August 3, 2021
This is a romance novel by an author I’ve liked before. The romance in this one starts with a game of truth or dare and I’m here for that.

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Publication date: August 3, 2021
A debut novel about ghosts in a small town, things you don’t want to meet in a dark corner, and finding a home. I’m excited for this debut novel. I think it’s going to somehow be both spooky and heartwarming.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publication date: August 17, 2021
I don’t know what this is about but I’ve really enjoyed her books in the past, so I think I’ll probably like this one too.

Cazadora by Romina Garber
Publication date: August 17, 2021
Magical werewolves. I loved the first book and this is the sequel.

A Spindle Splintered

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Publication date: October 5, 2021
I can’t tell if this is actually a Sleeping Beauty retelling or not, but Harrow is one of my favorite authors.

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin
Publication date: October 12, 2021
This seems like it’s going to be a summer camp sort of story but with people going missing and maybe some murder.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
Publication date: October 19, 2021
Anther one that I don’t know much about aside from it’s a gothic horror (which is something I’m trying to dip my toes into) and some friends have read and loves it that I share a similar reading taste to.

You've Reached Sam

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao
Publication date: November 2, 2021
Julie and her boyfriend, Sam, have plans for the future, for their future together. But then Sam dies and Julie tries to act like he never existed so she can move on. But then things take a sci-fi twist when she calls Sam and instead of his voicemail, he answers the phone.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
Publication date: November 9, 2021
The synopsis tagline is that this is an Ethiopian inspired Jane Eyre retelling. It’s also the authors debut fantasy novel.

So, this has been an update on my NetGalley TBR. These are the book since I’ve read since my last post about this and the books I will be reading in the near-ish future. What new books are on your TBR to read soon?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Schusterman

Summary:
Not every child who dies goes on to the afterlife. Some are caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.
Allie and Nick don’t survive the car crash, and end up in Everlost, where coins are more valuable than anyone knows, fortune cookies tell the truth, monsters are real, and the queen of lost souls lives in a once-beloved tower. Nick and Allie have to learn to survive in a world with different rules, and figure out who they can trust – and who they must oppose at all costs. At stake is nothing less than the fate of Everlost and the living world they have left behind.
In this gripping trilogy, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

Book Cover

Review:
The Skinjacker Trilogy is one of Schusterman’s series that I read years and years ago and remember nothing about. Honestly, I think I only ever read the first book. But I’m glad that I reread it and finished the trilogy. I’m going to review the whole trilogy in this one long post because I read them all back-to-back, so I’d rather just talk about it all overall. I managed to reread this whole trilogy over Mother’s Day weekend because it was super interesting and I just needed to know how everything ended. I made notes for each book, so I’ll briefly mention them before I talk about the series as a whole. The first book, Everlost, was interesting mostly because of the concept of this in-between place for lost souls. I liked the characters well enough, but I thought the plot was lacking. It felt like the first book was just world building and set up for the rest of the series. The second book, Everwild, is where things started to get really interesting plot wise. The story moves slowly, but it’s very clear that Shusterman placed building blocks, little bits and pieces, that would come back into the story later. This goes for the third book, Everfound, too. Some of the things we see and learn about in books one and two come back into play for book three. I loved this aspect where we get to see things come full circle. Everwild is where we really see the characters grow and we see what they’re made of. Oh boy, does Schusterman make his characters suffer in this series. I still loved them all though.
There were a few different romances in this series, I liked all but one of them. I just couldn’t get behind Nick and Mary as romantic interests for one another. I think this was really the only thing I didn’t like about the series. It was there through all three books and I just didn’t find it believable. I did, however, really like Allie and Mikey together, as well as the other couples we see get together. I also want to mention the historical sites that are mentioned and some that play a part in this story. In Everlost, we see the Twin Towers, the Hindenburg airship, In Everwild the characters leave the East Coast and move west across the United States. We get to see the World’s Fair in Chicago and Graceland. The final book we get to see the Alamo and the Trinity Vortex (the site of the first atomic bomb). I think the way that Shusterman included these bits and pieces of history was fascinating and thoughtful. I just overall had a fun time reading this series. It was silly and occasionally ridiculous, but it was also way more serious than I anticipated. There were some really dark plotlines that I was not expecting, but then there were things like Nick being named the ‘chocolate ogre’ so the serious and sometimes dark parts of the story were balanced with a bit of silliness and I liked that.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Summary:
A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.
Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.
And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

Victories Greater Than Death (Universal Expansion #1)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Anders’ books have been hit or miss for me, so when I heard she was coming out with a YA science fiction novel, I was very excited. Let me tell you, I was not at all disappointed.
This story follows Tina, who is raised on Earth. She is a clone of a famous space captain that died facing an enemy to the galaxy. Tina has known her whole life that she’s an alien disguised to look like a human. She also knows that one day she will be called back to space to help save the galaxy. When that day comes, she realizes that she isn’t as prepared as she thought she was. Her best friend gets sucked up in the spaceship alongside her and they managed to add a few more humans to their crew.
This is a wonderful and diverse story about found family and all the different ways to be a hero. It’s a story about right versus wrong. I really enjoyed it. It’s filled with great themes and important conversations. One of my favorite things about this book was how it normalized people’s pronouns. Anytime anyone new was introduced they shared their name followed by their pronoun (Hi, I’m Amanda and my pronoun is she). There were the common pronouns, but the more alien species we met the more unique pronouns we learned. I really liked this aspect of the story. There’s also diversity within the main characters. They humans that join Tina and Rachel in space are from all over the world. One of the humans that has been brought up from Earth, Elza, is trans. So, when I say this book is diverse as heck. I mean it and in all the best ways.
Overall, I cannot wait for this series to continue. I didn’t realize it was a series until I was getting close to the ending. I think the ending was good. It gave a solid conclusion for all of the things that were happening during the book, but also left little bits for what to expect in future books. I think this story was well written and filled with characters that you just can’t help but love. I think this book will be a huge hit with many science fiction lovers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen

Summary:
THEIR BATTLES ENDED IN VICTORY
Lydia returns to Mudaire to enter training at the healing temple. But instead of fighting to save lives, she’s convinced she is doing more harm than good. She delves into the history of the gods only to discover a truth that will change her life forever.
His birthright as commander of the Royal Army is finally in his grasp, but Killian feels anything but victorious. Burdened by his past, he embraces the darker side of his mark—and in doing so, risks starting a war.
BUT THE WAR HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN
Having defeated the tyrant Urcon, Marcus struggles to form a lasting alliance with the Arinoquians. But he is plagued by the knowledge that there is a traitor among his friends, and it could cost him everything that he’s fought for.
Torn between her growing allegiance to the Thirty-Seventh legion and her need to liberate her people, Teriana finds herself mired in a web of secrets. She embarks upon a path that will either save everyone she loves—or put them all in their graves.

Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores, #3)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of Gilded Serpents in exchange for complete honesty about how much this book destroyed me. I reread both book one and book two via the audiobooks (which were really great and I recommend them!!) so the world and characters were fresh in my mind when I started this book.
Jensen somehow managed to give me all of the things to make my heart happier than it’s ever been for these characters and yet still rip it still beating right out of my chest. In Gilded Serpents, the four characters that we’ve come to love so very much in the first two books, Teriana, Marcus, Lydia, and Killian, all have their own points of view. And much like how book one and book two paralleled one another with their timelines, book three does that as well. But one of the most interesting things that I noticed was how the events of Marcus and Teriana’s journey paralleled events of Killian and Lydia’s journey. There were times during the story that both pairs were doing the same or similar things, like staying at an inn for example, and I thought that was such a fun aspect of the story. I just want these four to finally all meet up so badly I could scream. I also want to say, there’s a secret that’s finally revealed in this book that I’ve been suspecting since reading Lydia’s book (Dark Skies) and I’m not surprised that I was right but I was happy to have it confirmed. I also really loved that the characters are finally learning things. While Lydia learned where Teriana was in Dark Skies, Teriana has no idea that everyone thinks Lydia dead. So, secrets are revealed in this one and they are juicy.
Now, all four of these characters have grown immensely throughout their journeys so far. Lydia, while no expert swordswoman, has learned to defend herself. She’s also learned an incredible amount about her magic. She’s smart and determined, clever and stubborn, fierce and passionate. I love her so much. She’s grown so much from the timid patrician girl we knew in Dark Shores.
Teriana’s story is filled with inner conflict. She’s in love with her enemy and that has some obvious challenges. She’s done nothing but make hard choices since this series started and that doesn’t change in this book. She’s faced with more hard choices, but I was delighted to see her find some moments of happiness. I think what I love most about Teriana is that she always stays positive. Even when she’s carrying another human being to what could likely be her death. She suffers and struggles, but doesn’t let those challenges win.
Marcus is a tough character for me. I go back and forth between loving him and really disliking him (much like Teriana). He is the Legatus of the 37th legion. But these men are more than just his subordinates, they’re his family. Marcus also faces many challenges in this book. He must make hard choices regarding his men. He’s put in situations where he has to face his fears and others where his internal battle of what’s right versus what’s being ordered. I think I ultimately will love him. But I’ll still probably flip flop back and forth again during the next book.
Killian is my favorite. He’s a Marked warrior, so he’s strong, fast, skilled, and very smart when it comes to battle. But he faces a struggle of heart versus duty. (There is another parallel!) With Killian it’s different though because, as the reader, I know a secret that will change everything. Though once that secret is out, we didn’t get to see much after that. Killian’s dark path isn’t over yet, but he will forever fight to keep his loved ones and his kingdom safe. He’s loyal and full of love, compassionate and intelligent. He’s absolutely someone you’d want on your side.
Overall, I loved this book just as much as the first two. It was nice not to have to wonder as much about what was happening to the other couple because we were getting all of their points of view. I really liked that the chapters are short and still left me wanting more from each character. I also have to mention the world. We see three places, four if you include the ocean, in the first two books. But in this one, we find out more about other kingdoms and we get to see the mysterious Darin. We also get to see more Marked Ones that are marked by different Gods. I love the magic in this series and it was really interesting getting to see more of the abilities bestowed from other Gods. The only thing I didn’t like was the cliff hanger and that’s only because there isn’t even a cover for book four yet. I face the eternal bookworm struggle of suffering to wait for the next book in the series. I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s full of diverse character that you just can’t help falling in love with.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! It’s May and that means its the start of Asian/Pacific Amerircan Heritage month. I highly recommend these books and authors all year round, but I know many specifically seek out these recommendations during the month of May. So, some books and authors for you to read this month.

Middle Grade

Dragon Pearl

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

Young Adult

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

For a Muse of Fire (For a Muse of Fire, #1)

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Adult

Phoenix Extravagant

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

These are all books I’ve read and loved and highly recommend. Some on this list are all time favorites and some are books I read this year that will be making my 2021 favorites lists. What books would you recommend by AAPI authors?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters

Summary:
The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.
After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.
Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.

To Love and to Loathe (The Regency Vows, #2)

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed Waters’ debut novel, To Have and to Hoax. So, I was excited when I was approved for an arc of To Love and to Loathe.
This is an enemies to lovers, friends with benefits story. Diana and Jeremy aren’t really enemies, but they definitely don’t get along. When together, which happens often as Jeremy is good friends with Diana’s brother, all they do is argue. Neither of them can let the other have the last word and they both always need to be right. The banter and arguing (read: flirting!) was the best part of this book. Diana is witty and quick with her rebuttals. I really enjoyed their debates. They were always filled with sexual tension that’s obvious to the reader, but not the characters. I think both Jeremy and Diana were well fleshed out characters. Both had backstories that fit well with why they are the way they are. Their growth felt organic and not at all forced. I just genuinely liked their relationship.
I also want to mention that I really loved Diana’s friends. We know them from Waters’ previous novel. But I liked getting to see Violet and Audley, getting caught flushed and sweaty. I also liked seeing more of Emily and learning a bit more about her romantic prospects.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I liked all the characters. The setting felt like a traditional historical romance, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it felt familiar. It felt like something I’d read before because there’s only so much that can be unique when it comes to these kinds of romances. I don’t think that lessened my enjoyment of the story because the characters were so entertaining and likeable. I will absolutely recommend this one for historical romance fans.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Most Recent Reads

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 the ten books I’ve read most recently.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

On Writing by Stephen King

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

Legacy by Nora Roberts

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Lucky Girl by Jamie Pacton

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

These are the ten books I’ve read most recently starting with the most recent first (I finished Bitterblue on Sunday.) What books have you read recently?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s May TBR Jar Picks

Hi, lovelies! I’ve been wanting to try and be better about making a loose TBR for each month. I think I’ve done okay so far this year without making actual posts about it. But that’s mostly because I’ve been rereading in preparation for new books (rereading the Grishaverse for the Netflix show and for Rule of Wolves for example). I’ve also been doing things like #ARCApril where I spent the month of April reading my NetGalley ARC’s (expect an update on my NetGalley shelf soon!) This month I want to finally use the TBR jar that I made in the end of December 2020. I have tried TBR jars in the past that didn’t work for me because they picked specific books, but this one is much more open. Instead of picking titles out of a jar I’m picking things like ‘most recently purchased’ or ‘science fiction’ so I will get to choose what book I want for each prompt. Let’s get into which prompts I pick out of the jar and which books I picked for them!

Middle-Grade

Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi
This one was obvious for me because if it didn’t fit a TBR jar prompt, I would have added it below to the books I’m reading anyway.

Adult

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
I found this one at one of my local independent bookstores and I couldn’t believe it. I want to make it a priority because I have heard nothing but good things about this author.

5 Star Prediction

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemore
Antonia and I actually just did our next round of 5 star predictions, so I will just borrow from that post.

Sequel

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
I’ve been slowly working my way through this series and it’s been a bit since I finished book five. I think I’m ready to start the next book.

LGBTQIA

Flash Fire by T.J. Klune
I have an eARC of this one and I’m really excited to continue this series.

These are what I’ve picked from my TBR jar this month. So, I will check back in at the end of the month or after I’ve read all of these. I do have a few other books on my TBR as I usually read 10+ books each month and I wanted to start easy with only five picks from my jar. So, here are some of the other books I want to read this month.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
This is the book that’s been chosen for May’s book club. I meet with four local friends each month and we mostly just catch up. But I’m really excited for this one as I’ve heard some good things about it.

King of Scars and Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
I’m still waiting for my preorder of Rule of Wolves to be delivered, so I’m waiting to reread King of Scars until I get shipping information about Rule of Wolves. It might not happen in May, but I’m hopeful.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
I think I’m going to be buddy reading this one with Allison over on bookstagram. I’ve been meaning to read this forever, but I’ve seen so many mixed reviews that I’m nervous to read it.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I’ve been really wanting to reread either this series or the ACOTAR series. I think I’m going to choose this one because it’s completed.

That’s all that I have planned at the moment to read for the month of May. I’m really excited about all of these books. What will you be reading this month?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

Summary:
The powerful and emotional debut novel from Riverdale and Locke and Key actress Asha Bromfield that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.
Hurricane SummerReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Hurricane Summer follows Tilla while she visits Jamaica, where her father lives, for the summer with her younger sisters, Mia. I will say right now, there are explicit scenes of sexual assault, and quite a few other scenes of serious mistreatment that I would call emotional and verbal abuse from family.
Tilla has a really hard relationship with her father. She remembers the good times in Canada when her mom and dad were happy. She remembers the time where they fight and yell and then her dad goes back to Jamaica for periods of time before returning to her family. This time he’s been gone for a while and she doesn’t think he will be coming back. So, her and her sister are going to Jamaica for the summer and Tilla is so angry with her dad. She feels like he forgot about her, like he doesn’t want to be a part of their family anymore. But the moment she sees him at the airport, all that goes away. She’s happy to see him, to be with him. But the plans keep changing and she has to keep reminding herself that her father never sticks to what he says. Tilla and her sister end up at the family home in the country. They’re both excited to meet their family. Tilla is especially excited to reunite with her cousin Andre, one of the few cousins she remembers. The summer doesn’t turn out to be all sunshine and quality family time as she hopes. One of her aunts treats her horribly when her father isn’t around and tells lies when she reports back to Tilla’s father. Every time Tilla finds an afternoon of happiness, it’s torn down by her family, people that are supposed to love her.
This was a really emotional story. From the familial abuse, to the death of a family member, Tilla does her best to hold it together. She was such a strong main character. She always did her best to make the best situation she could for herself. I absolutely loved the moments she spends with her cousins, exploring the country. These were some of my favorite parts of the book. It was really hard to see Tilla just take the abuse from some of her cousins and aunts, and even her father. I was so proud of her when she finally stood up for herself. Even though she didn’t always get the results she wanted, I was so proud of her for speaking up.
Overall, this is not an easy story to read, but it was a stunning story about what it means to be a woman dealing with assault and abuse. It shows what it means to have a father that doesn’t believe in you, one that you feel just doesn’t love you anymore. It talks about racism within the community of Jamaica. I think this book did everything it was trying to do and it did it so well. I highly recommend this book to anyone that can handle these hard topics.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summary:
Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.
When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.
As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.
Westworld meets Warcross in this high-stakes, dizzyingly smart sci-fi about a teen girl navigating an afterlife in which she must defeat an AI entity intent on destroying humanity, from award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman.

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Inifinity Courts is one of my most anticipated 2021 releases. The cover is what drew me in at first, but the summary also sounded like something I would really enjoy. After finishing the aARC, I can confirm that I was absolutely correct.
The story follows Nami during the last hours of her life and then continues after her death once she’s arrived in the afterlife. She learns that instead of Heaven or Hell, souls are sent to a play called Infinity. But all in Infinity is not as it should be. The AI that is commonly known and used on Earth, Ophelia, has found her way into Infinity and taken it over. Humans are treated as servants, their free will wiped away upon their arrival in Infinity with a pill. The Residents, all created by Ophelia, are the ruling class. But some of the humans have an instinct that something isn’t right when they arrive in Infinity, these are the Heroes. Nami is a Hero.
I really liked Nami. I liked her when she was alive and I liked her after she’d died. Even though she’s died, her character continues to grow. She gave her life to save a little girl, so she’s dubbed a Hero. But once she’s among the resistance, she’s not sure that she’s in agreement with their plan to wipe out Ophelia, which would mean wiping out all of the Residents as well. I liked that Nami played a sort of devils advocate. But she didn’t do it to cause trouble. She genuinely believes that there should be a way for the humans and the Residents to live together, to coexist. This brings a lot of really relevant conversations to the table about humanities ability to be peaceful and kind. In the eyes of the Residents, humans bring nothing but hate and war all in the name of love, or religion, or gender. I really appreciate how Bowman thoughtfully addressed the many issues that humans are dealing with today in a fantastical setting. I think she did a really good job with this aspect. The question of right and wrong or good versus evil is a theme in the story and I think that too was done really well. It’s shown that there may be redemption for those who do evil, but it’s not the job of the victims to redeem the villains. The gray area that exists in the question of good versus evil was where Nami stood. She didn’t think it was us versus them. She thought there could be a middle ground. I think this personal conflict of hers was a really compelling aspect of the story.
The world was absolutely fascinating. This afterlife, Infinity, is supposed to be paradise. But it’s been taken over by Ophelia and her four sons. Each of her sons have their own kingdom with Ophelia ruling in the capitol. Each kingdom serves a different purpose. I really would have loved to explore the other kingdoms more (even though they sound absolutely terrifying and awful) but I have a feeling we will be doing that in the next book.
Overall, this book was an incredible ride. It made smart and thoughtful statements about the hatred and prejudice that people deal with everyday. But it also asked the interesting question of whether or not people deserve the chance to learn and do better after making mistakes. I think the writing was excellent. There are so many quotable lines that will be sticking with me after finishing this story. I highly recommend this book and I will be doing so for the foreseeable future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s April Wrap Up

Hello, lovelies! April has come to an end, so I have another month of reading to wrap up for you. This month I want to try something a little different. I’m still going to share how many books, which books, and what format I read them in. But I want to do a bit more with my wrap up posts. I’m going to try it out this month and see how it goes.

What I Read

Physical Books
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria – 3.75 stars
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody – No Rating

eBooks
Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason – 4 stars
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman – 5 stars
To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters – 3.75 stars
Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen – 5 stars
Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders – 4 stars
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers – 4 stars
On This Unworthy Scaffold by Heidi Heilig – 5 stars
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – 3 stars
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – 4.5 stars
Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan – 2.5 stars
Lucky Girl by Jamie Pacton – 4 stars
Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler – 5 stars
The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout – 5 stars
Legacy by Nora Roberts – 3.5 stars

Audiobooks
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – 2.75 stars
Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen – 5 stars
Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen – 5 stars
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman – 3.5 stars
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – 3.5 stars
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour – 3 stars
Mirror’s Edge by Scott Westerfeld – 3.75 stars
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi – 5 stars
Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker – 3 stars

Blogging Highlights

This is one of the new things I want to try this month. Each month I’d light to highlight some of the content I’ve posted that I’m excited about or pleased with. So, I will be doing that here. Since this is new, I’m going to highlight posts from January until now, but in the future, I’d like to just highlight some of my favorite posts and reviews from the month I’m wrapping up.

Amanda’s Thoughts on How Vampire Novels Never Died

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (Book Review)

Amanda’s Underrated Black Author’s Recommendations

Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire (Full Series Review)

21 Young Adult Anticipated Release in 2021

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (Book Review)

2021 Debut Novels Amanda is Anticipating

Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Full Series Review)

Amanda’s 2021 Preorder Book Haul

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (Book Review)

Amanda’s Favorite Audiobook Narrators

Amanda’s Springtime Book Recommendations

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle (Book Review)

Other Bloggers I’m Loving

SEO Basics from Kal @ Reader Voracious
Kal is such a light in this community. She’s always giving us the best content, so follow her if you don’t already.

The Definitive Book Blogger List from A Book. A Thought.
Just imagine how much time this took to put together? Some bloggers really are out there doing the most for us.

Cover Reveal: For All Time by Shanna Miles from CW @ The Quiet Pond
CW & the rest of the crew at The Quiet Pond are always blessing us with amazing cover reveals, reviews, and reading challenges.

Most Anticipated Releases of Q2 2021 from Kate @ Your Tita Kate
If you’re looking for diverse books that are coming out in 2021, look to Kate to guide you.

Saturday Spotlight #10 (showcasing small press and self published books) from Vee @ vee_bookish
Vee does a great job highlighting some books that don’t get the attention they probably deserve.

April TBR – #ARCApril from Skye @ Books in the Skye
Skye is one of my favorite bloggers and I highly recommend you follow her. Check out how she planned to tackle her ARC’s this April.

Spring 2021 TBR from Jess @ Jessica C Writes
I love how Jess doesn’t always stick to strictly bookish content. She shares her life and experiences with college and other tips and tricks. Come see what her spring reading plans are!

That’s it for today. I hope I shared some new bloggers with you all today.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Summary:
Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.
When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single.
But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed.
Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?

Between the Bliss and Me

Review:
Okay, this was not an easy book to read. It centers around mental health and mental illnesses. So, I want to start by saying that because I think this was a really good story but it’s not going to be for anyone. Also, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Sydney just turned eighteen. She’s getting ready to go off to college, except she’s not going to the college that her mom thinks she’s going to. Sydney, with the help of her grandparents, has decided that she wants to go to NYU. This is not what Sydney and her mom discussed and agreed to. Sydney’s mom has always been over protective. And she learns why when she visits her grandparents beach house. She learns that her mom has been keeping information about her father from her. Her father has schizophrenia. She also learns that there is a chance she could develop symptoms over the next few years. While all of this is going on, she meets a boy, Grayson. She has a crush on him and ends up seeing him while she’s staying with her grandparents. The only problem with her crush on Grayson? He has a girlfriend. He also has a really bitchy cousin.
So, I really liked Sydney. She’s anxious all the time, but she doesn’t let her anxiety stop her. She stands up for herself. She has all these doubts about herself, but they don’t really show on the outside. I really liked how Sydney was portrayed and how her emotions and reactions were shown. I don’t have personal experience with schizophrenia so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation, but it seemed it be handled thoughtfully from my outside perspective. I thought it was interesting the way that Mason managed to show how everyone reacts differently to mental illness. We see Sydney’s grandparents come to a slow realization that there’s nothing they can do for their son, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to help him in any way they can again and again. We see Sydney’s mom listen to her husband when he asks her to let him go. There’s also some really good conversation about the lack of support available for people with mental illnesses, about the unfairness of the courts and prison systems when it comes to caring for people with mental illnesses. I think these topics were well done.
Now, the romance with Grayson was the one thing in this story that I didn’t really care for. I think everything that was done could have been left the same, minus Grayson as a romantic interest. I think it could have been a completely platonic relationship and the story would still have had the same effect. I don’t think this needed to be romantic in anyway. I think it would have been an even better story had it just been Sydney’s story about learning to accept herself.
Overall, I think this was a really hard hitting and emotional portrayal about what it’s like to have a family member with a mental illness and feeling helpless to help them. I especially liked Sydney’s friends. Eliot is the light of my life and I loved every moment that he was on the page. I also really loved Magda. Magda reminded me of quite a few of my friends from my hometown, which is a beachy town like the one in parts of this book. So, we also get people from other countries that come over on a student visa and work for the summer. I always loved working with them. They, much like Magda were always so interesting and fun to be around. They also always threw the best parties. I think this will be a book that some will really love and others will not. So, take this review with a grain of salt and read it if the topic is one that you can handle.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.