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.

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.

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.

Amanda’s 2020 Reading Statistics (Year End Wrap Up)

Hello, lovelies! I’m here today with one of my favorite posts that I create every year. My year end wrap up, which is where I share all of the fun graphs and charts that I’ve made with the different bookish information I’ve kept track of all year. This year, only one or two of my graphics are different, I’ve added a new one and combined a few others to made more sense. I read a total of 384 books in 2020. I read in all different formats. I borrow some books (mostly audiobooks, but sometimes ebooks and physical books too) from my local library, as well as getting some arc’s from NetGalley. I love both series and standalone books. I do my best to read a wide variety of genres. I read good books and bad books this past year. That is what these charts and graphs will show you. Let’s start with my monthly breakdown.

This one shows how many books I read in each month for 2020. April was obviously my best month, with October not far behind. July was my worst month. This was partly because I was working more hours at my job and partly because this was when my job (working retail) started to seriously effect my mental health. I’m pretty happy with this, but I think next year I want to try to be a bit more consistent across all twelve months.

I’m not great at math, so according to StoryGraph (my favorite new book tracking website), my all-time average rating is 3.95. This seems pretty accurate and it’s a number that I’m pleased with. StoryGraph allows for whatever half or quarter star rating you want when you rate the book, so next year I will have a more specific average for the whole year. This overall average is down from last year which I think is interesting. I think it’s because I’ve been focusing on reading the books I own, rather than just books I’m excited about. So, I’ve read a few that I didn’t rate very highly.

These are the three different formats that I read in this year. I am not at all surprised by the similarity of eBooks and audiobooks, and I’m very impressed with the amount of physical books that I read. My goal at the start of 2020 was to focus mostly on the physical books that I already own, which as this chart shows, I successfully did. I’m going into 2021 with a similar goal. I made a pretty low (for me) reading goal that’s close to the number of books that I already own (physical books and eBooks). I am actually putting myself on a book buying ban until I get my physical TBR down to around twenty books.

This is one of the charts that I consolidated with another. I was keeping track of my arc’s vs finished copies, and separately, I kept track of owned, library borrows, and Kindle Unlimited borrows. So, while technically I am in possession of all the arc’s I read, I don’t think I’m going to mark those as ‘owned’ books anymore. I’m changing this to more accurately track the comparison between the books I do own versus books I get elsewhere. One big goal I have in 2021 is to read mostly books I own, but I also really want to go back to taking advantage of my Kindle Unlimited subscription. I pay monthly for this and this past year it was really a waste of money. There are many authors I really like that have all their books on KU and I want to catch up on the books I’ve missed by them.

This graph is actually pretty similar to the one I had for last year. I read many new releases this year. I bought quite a few and borrow some from my library. This is one of the graphs that I really want to look different when I make this post next year. I don’t want to get so sucked into the hype of new releases. I want to read mostly the backlist books I own, buy the handful of new releases written by my auto-buy authors, and maybe borrow other new releases from the library. I don’t know how successful I will be, but I’m hoping to make it so this chart looks almost opposite what it does here. Do you read more backlist books or new releases?

This graph marks the page numbers for the books I read in 2020. This one also looks pretty similar to the one from last year. Though, I will say that I read one or two bigger books for each category than I did last year. I have little to say about this one, I’m happy with this. I like long books and short books, so I don’t really foresee this one changing in the future.

Wow, I just checked this one compared to last year. It’s almost identical. I think a part of that is because I’ve been working on really buckling down and finishing the series I’ve started. I successfully finished all the series on my list from 2019, and all the series but two on my list from Blogtober that I hoped to finish before 2021. I plan to reread and start quite a few new series in 2021, so I think this chart will look similar again in my next year end wrap up. Do you read more series or standalone?

This is always the graph I am the most excited to see when I create my end of the year wrap up. Every year, I say I’m going to try to read most widely through the genres. I’m going to branch out and try new things. In 2020, I think I managed to do that more than I ever have in the past. I read more adult books than I have in the past (which is something I really fixated on. I discovered so many new adult fantasy, romance, and science fiction books I read (and still have to read) that I’m very excited about. While I did still read a good amount of young adult book (which you’ll see in my next and final chart) I feel really good about the fact that I read more adult books and more middle grade books. I think I did pretty well reading widely, but I’m going to continue to work on this in 2021. What genre did you read the most of in 2020?

This is one of my favorite charts to see at the end of the year. As I said above, I read mostly young adult again, but I did read more of both middle grade and adult books than I did last year. I am planning to continue that trend into 2021. My owned TBR is pretty evenly half adult and half young adult with a spattering of middle grade. I’m already excited to see what this particular chart will look like for my 2021 wrap up. Some people may say that at 27, I shouldn’t be reading so much young adult but I’ve learned so much about myself this year and some of those young adult books had a huge hand in that. What age range did you read the most of?

So, there we have it. My 2020 year end wrap up, with graphs and charts! I look forward to this post every year and even though it is a lot of work to make all of the images, I had so much fun making them and seeing the final results. If you’re interested in comparing this post to my 2019 wrap up, you can find that post here. Let me know if you’ve made a year end wrap up like this one, I’d love to see it!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

GoodReads Summary:
For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…
Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.
Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.
In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #1)Review:
A Crown of Coral and Pearl follows a pair of sisters that live in Varenia. Their village is one that depends on the water. The people dive for pearls in the sea. They fish, but they also value beauty an unreasonable amount. Every time there is a prince of Ilara of age, the girls of this village have a chance to be selected as the prince’s bride. The most beautiful girl in the village is the one that will be chosen. So, no one is surprised when Zadie is chosen to be Prince Ceren’s bride.
The story gets going after Zadie has been chosen and realized that she can’t go through with it and injures herself. Nor takes Zadie’s place and travels to Ilara. I think the world was pretty interesting. The history of why the Ilaran princes marry women from Varenia was interesting, if a little silly. But the way that the people live in Varenia was my favorite. I love world building that involves water.
I think the audiobook was really well done with the narration. I enjoyed the narrator. I think they did a good job of distinguishing between characters and giving the story some emotion.
I mostly liked the characters. Nor was incredibly brave. She just wanted to see the world, but she also wanted to help her people. So, she had all kinds of ideas about ways to do that when she came to Ilara, but was quickly shown that she had more of a challenge ahead of her than she realized. I think the politics that Nor dealt with were pretty interesting. The way that society worked within the mountain castle in Ilara was fascinating.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were a few things I could have done without, like the romance. I think this book would have been even better without any romance. Nor’s love for Verenia would have been enough for me. I liked the world and the characters well enough.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s December Wrap Up

Hello, lovelies! Happy end of December. We’ve finally made it out of the hellscape that was 2020. So, on the final day of the year I’m going to share all the books I read in December.

Physical Books
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelucci & Jim Rugg
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins
The Awakening by Nora Roberts
Every Last Breath by Jennifer L. Armentrout
The Ravens by Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black
Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia & Gabiel Picolo
Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

eBooks
These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Crystal Caged by Elise Kova
First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
The Project by Courtney Summers
Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

Audiobooks
Black Wings Beating by Alex London
All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus
The Lost Book of the White by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Tristan Strong Destroys the World by Kwame Mbalia

These are all of the books I read in the final month of 2020. How many books did you read in December?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s December Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews

Hello, lovelies! Another month that I’ve actually managed to read some of my graphic novels that I already own. I’m going to keep this intro brief so we can get into my thoughts on what I read in the month of December.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg

This is a bind up of three different stories. I don’t know that the stories were ever published separately, but going into this graphic novel I didn’t realize that is was three different stories. I really loved this. These three stories were each wonderful in their own ways. In the first story, The Plain Janes, Jane has just moved to the suburbs from the city after she was in a bomb attack. She has PTSD and despite this happening in the city, she didn’t want to leave. She’s worried that she won’t make new friends. She’s a teen that is having to move during high school. So, her fears and worries are normal. But Jane is also an artist. She finds friends in three girls who are all also named Jane. In the first book, their friendship was focused on P.L.A.I.N. which was their name for the street art that they were doing together. This story was so fun, the girls planning what they were going to do next and basking in a successful execution. But the police are upset about the art and enact curfews, certain that it’s teenagers doing these art attacks. This doesn’t stop the girls, and their friendship grows. Janes in Love, the second book, is focused on Valentine’s Day and the love interests of each of the Janes (and James who is the only gay boy that is out in their school). I thought this story was sweet and fun. I liked that the color scheme of the art changed to a pretty pinks to reflect the theme of the story. Though this story focuses on love and romance and relationships, there’s still a focus on art too. Art saves and I loved that message in all three stories. In the final story, Janes Attack Back, Jane is feeling like her friends are drifting from what brought them together, art. They are all working on college applications, new hobbies and interests, and Jane feels like she’s doing the brunt of the work for P.L.A.I.N. On top of this, there’s a new girl at school and everyone loves her, but Jane can’t seem to anything other than butt heads with her. I think this was a really great story about friends all having their own interesting, but still being friends. It talks about how friends need to be able to tell their friends what they need from them and when. I loved all three of these stories so much. I also want to mention, in the first story, during the bombing, Jane was saved by a man that didn’t have any identification. So, he is in the hospital in a coma as a John Doe afterwards. She visits him often, but after she moves she writes him letters. I won’t say anything further, but this relationship was one of my favorite things about this story. They are two people from different parts of the world connected by a trauma. I think it was a wonderful addition to this story. Okay, I’ve gone on long enough. Long story short, I loved this graphic novel and I highly recommend it.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia & Gabriel Picolo

I absolutely loved this author/illustrator duo’s previous work (Teen Titans: Raven) so, I was super excited to pick up this next installment of the series. Beast Boy follows Gar in his daily life. I liked that this was a slice of life kind of story. It’s Gar’s senior year and he’s upset that he hasn’t completed anything from his list of goals for his final year of high school. The story starts with him reviewing the list and being more determined to tackle any of the items on the list. We also get to see his two best friends, Tank and Stella, try to hype him up when Gar is hyper focused on his insecurities. I think that’s the one thing I didn’t like about this book. Gar is so focused on the fact that he’s short and thin, he craves to be in with the popular crowd. I get this is something many teens feel, but I wish we could have seen him get over this. I loved how supportive Tank and Stella were and I think the little bits we get with them were the best parts. I also am a little disappointed that this book ended similarly to Raven, right when it felt like the story was getting into something exciting. Do graphic novels have cliffhangers? If yes, that’s what this was. I will say, I am extremely excited to read the next installment, Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven.

Technically The Plain Janes was three graphic novels in one bind up. So, I’m counting this month as four total that I read, hah! Now, I only have 8 unread graphic novels left on my shelf. I’m happy with how many/what I’ve read in terms of graphic novels this year. What graphic novels did you read in 2020?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – 2020 Favorites

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 Favorite Books of 2020. This list is hard and I will be making new and more detailed lists next month. To make it easier, this list will only be 2020 releases.

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The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Rules for Being a Girl by Katie Cotugno & Candace Bushnell

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Lobizona by Romina Garber

This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada

The Life Below by Alexandra Monir

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

These are some of my favorite books that were published this year. Quite a few are sequels, so definitely go read the first ones if you haven’t. What books made your list?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

GoodReads Summary:
Reese and David are different now. Surrounded by a web of conspiracies, Reece feels that she must choose between two worlds.
Her choices: David – or Amber? This world – or another? Should they tell the truth, and risk everything?
Inheritance (Adaptation #2)Review:
Inheritance is the conclusion to Adaptation. I loved both of these books. I’m going to keep this review short because most of my thoughts are in my review for the first book and not many of them changed thro ugh this book.
I liked Reese. I liked Amber. I liked David. I didn’t always like Reese’s choices, especially the ones that led to the weird love triangle because she got involved with David before she was over Amber. But I did like how the love triangle turned out. I liked that Amber’s culture showed David and Reese that there was more than one way to live. I really liked that this story ended in a different way than the usual ones, in regards to the love triangle. Other than Reese jumping way too quickly into a relationship with David after her and Amber ended things, I really liked this book.
Overall, I think this was a really fun YA science fiction story. I loved all the twists and turns. I loved seeing Lo’s twist on the ‘aliens have come to Earth’ trope. I will definitely be picking up more books by this author in the future. She did a great job of developing the characters and creating an exciting story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

GoodReads Summary:
Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.
She will reign.
As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.
When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.
But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.
I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.
All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth, #1)Review:
All the Stars and Teeth is the story of a princess that is about to come into her crown, but the night that’s supposed to start everything doesn’t go as planned. Amora loses control of her magic and she’s thrown into the dungeon to await trial to see if she will be given another chance or be put to death. But this does not go as planned either. Bastian comes to her in the dungeon and offers her a chance to prove that she is fit to be the High Animancer, as long as she will help him with something that he needs.
Amora takes Basitan up on his offer and the two flee to his ship. Tagging along on this mission is Amora’s fiancé (in an arranged marriage), Ferrick, and later on in the journey is Vataea (a mermaid). This is the core four that the story focuses on. Amora, Bastian, and Ferrick are traveling to Bastian’s home, somewhere that has been deemed no longer a part of Visidia. I think one of the more interesting parts of this story was Amora realizing that there was so much about her own Kingdom, that she was about to start ruling, that she didn’t know. She mentions that her father must have been keeping secrets and she couldn’t understand why. This is actually mentioned quite a few times and seemed a bit repetitive. Amora’s general lack of knowledge was obvious in her reactions when seeing other parts of Visidia for the first time. I don’t think it needed to be said that her father kept things from her so many times. I really liked Amora. She had a really good heart. She wanted what was best for her kingdom. She just wanted to be a good ruler. But there was more going on than she knew and she didn’t quite know how to handle that. As for Bastien, his past was a bit of a mystery and I think Grace did a really good job of revealing his secrets slowly and at the perfect moment. Bastien was fascinating. He’s a pirate (sort of?) and his ship has magic, but we’re not sure why or how. I liked the mystery of his character, but the more I learned about him, the more I liked him. Then Ferrick, he honestly annoyed me. But I think that’s because the audiobook narrator made him sound like he was twelve-years-old. I think there were definitely issues that Ferrick was not prepared to deal with once he left his home to follow Amora. There were issues with their relationship that got addressed as needed and I liked this part of the story. I liked seeing the pair work through their issues and come to a different sort of understanding. Finally, Vataea. I wish we’d gotten to know more about her. I liked that she was fierce and powerful, but I wanted to know more about what made her tick. I just wanted more.
The magic in this world is incredibly interesting. There’s time magic, soul magic, curse magic, and a few others that we didn’t really get to explore. I think Grace did a great job not dumping the information about the magic into the story. We learn about the different magics as we see them and in bits and pieces. I also thought the world was really interesting in general. There is the island that Amora grew up on, but there are a few others as well. I really hope we will get to see more of the islands in the next book.
Overall, this was a fun book. I listened to the audiobook and I think the narrator did a great job with this story. They gave the story all the right emotions when they were called for. My only complaint about the audio is what I mentioned about Ferrick sounding like a child. Other than that, this story was action packed, filled with secrets, history misremembered (it’s written by the victors as they say), and I am absolutely going to continue the series with the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

GoodReads Summary:
A darkly enchanting reimagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a spirited young woman discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.
Mexican GothicReview:
Mexican Gothic is a dark and atmospheric story that centers around family. Noemi is sent to the Mexican countryside to make sure her cousin Catalina is okay. Noemi’s father received a distressing letter from Catalina, who moved to the countryside to live with her new husband on his family’s estate. Her father sends Noemi to High Place to see Catalina for herself and make sure her cousin is alright. I really liked Noemi. She definitely doesn’t want to say once she sees High Place, but she does what’s right for her cousin. She seeks answers, but doesn’t even know if she’s asking the right questions. I liked that she was persistent and didn’t let this weird ass family push her around, much.
This story is creepy as soon as Noemi gets to High Place. The property and house are neglected and the family members are also creepy. Catalina’s husband, Virgil is immediately unlikable. He’s brash and scary, at times. I immediately didn’t like Virgil and didn’t understand why Catalina married him. I couldn’t help but be as worried about Catalina as Noemi was. Every time Noemi sat with Catalina, there were more questions than answers. That was a theme with this book. There were so many questions, which was a great way to build suspense and lead up to the big reveal. Moreno-Garcia did an excellent job of leaving the reader wondering what the hell was actually going on.
Overall, this was a creepy as hell story that I absolutely devoured. The writing was stunning and descriptive, painting a vivid and horrifying picture. The setting was atmospheric and perfectly spooky. I loved Noemi and Catalina. I hated Virgil and most of his family. I highly recommend this book and I will absolutely be reading more books by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.