Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Why I Love Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you love reading?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s July TBR Jar Picks

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

1st in a Series

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

Standalone

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

LGBTQIA+

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

Middle Grade

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Favorite of a Friend

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

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

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

The Sea is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Summary:
Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Cruel Prince.
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

Book Cover

Review:
I honestly don’t even remember buying this book. It’s made it to my unhaul pile twice and somehow ended up back on my TBR shelf both times. I’m so glad that I didn’t end up giving it away. I picked this book for my June TBR Jar Picks as the Favorite of a Friend prompt. So, thank you Alana for making me finally read this one. As soon as I’m done with this review, I’ll be starting the second book even though it’s not on my actual TBR for this month.
So, we follow Liesl (also called Elizabeth) on the last night of the year. She’s become the one that takes care of her siblings, so on the night that her younger brother has an audition to possibly study as an apprentice musician, that’s supposed to be her focus. But her sister Kathe, goes missing. There’s a lot going on in this first part of the book. We see Elizabeth in her life, taking care of her siblings, thinking about her own passions, but only ever doing things for her family. We see her not choose herself again and again in the first part of this book. Then Kathe is taken, and Elizabeth must make a deal with the Goblin King to get her back. The must complete three tasks to succeed.
Now, I was immediately hooked on this book. Seriously, in the first ten pages, the writing really sucked me in. It’s lyrical without being over the top. It’s beautiful writing that really leaves an impression. I cannot say enough good things about Jae-Jones’s writing. I would say that it’s what made this book as good as it is, but there’s also the characters and the stunning setting of the Underground. So, really everything about this book stands out. I really liked Elizabeth. I liked her when she made sure to care for her siblings. I liked her when she was conflicted between helping her brother or her sister. But I liked her best of all when she finally chose herself.
The romance between Elizabeth and the Goblin King was absolutely to die for. He and Elizabeth were friends when she was a child. She thought the games they used to play were dreams though. I liked how their relationship developed. It wasn’t instant love; they were friends when she was a child and she starts to remember that the longer she’s Underground. I liked seeing Elizabeth push the Goblin King’s buttons and he pushed hers in return. The ending did not go how I expected at all which is why I’m so eager to read the second book.
Overall, Wintersong surprised the heck out of me. I loved the interesting world and magic. The characters were easy to love and really made me feel things. I also thought the plot was easy to follow and well done. I loved all of the creatures in the Underground. I just really enjoyed this book and I would absolutely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Off The Record by Camryn Garrett

Summary:
When Josie, a teen journalist who dreams of life after high school, wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine (think Rolling Stone), her only concern is that her parents insist she bring her sister as a chaperone. But as Josie joins the cast on a multi-city tour and gets to know the subject of her profile, Marius, she senses that something is off. It’s not long before she learns that a celebrated director has been harassing girls on set and apparently getting away with it for a long time. Josie is reluctant to speak up–she’s not sure this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if her big break ends up being the end of her journalistic career? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?

Book Cover

Review:
Off the Record is an eARC I was gifted after attending a virtual event that this author was a part of. Thanks to NetGalley for providing the eARC. We follow Josie, the youngest of three sisters, who is a journalist. She’s done mostly work for her school newspaper, but she’s also done some freelancing work for magazines. She’s waiting to hear about a few things. One is whether or not she won the celebrity profile for Deep Focus and the other is if she’s been accepted to her dream college. I liked getting to see a bit of Josie with her whole family before she and one of her sisters, Alice, goes off to follow along on the press tour for the celebrity profile. We get to see a bit of why Josie feels the way she does about things mentioned later in the story. I really liked Josie. She’s a loner who doesn’t really have friends. She’s a dedicated writer. She’s also bisexual, fat, and has anxiety. Her anxiety is pretty prevalent throughout the book and I really liked how it was portrayed. We see her try different coping methods where some worked sometimes and others worked better another time. I really liked the anxiety representation.
While Josie and Alice are on the press tour, Josie is interviewing the cast and crew of the movie. She ends up making friends with the two younger members, Penny and Marius. Marius is who Josie is writing a profile about, so the two develop a relationship with all of the time they spend together. Penny and Josie end up friends, which leads to Josie learning about a director who has been sexually harassing women he’s worked with. Josie and Penny start working together to get in touch with others who have been harassed by this director and writing a story about it. I really liked this aspect of the story. It didn’t shy away from the details and really talked about how stuff like this is overlooked in the industry.
Overall, I really liked this one. I liked how we got to see Alice and Josie’s relationship change after they managed to communicate better. I liked the little bit of romance that was included. I also liked that when Josie reacted poorly to someone’s story about this director, she was called on it for saying shitty things. I would definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

Summary:
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Graci Kim’s thrilling debut about an adopted Korean-American girl who discovers her heritage and her magic on a perilous journey to save her witch clan family.
Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.
Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!
Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?
As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

Summary:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy and in return here is my honest review. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint has not had a single miss. I’ve read all but three (I think?) of the books published by RRP and each one is more fun and fascinating than the last. I cannot recommend what this imprint publishes enough.
The Last Fallen Star follows Riley who is adopted. Her adoptive parents are part of their local magical community. They are Gom which are the healers of this community. There’s nothing that Riley wants more than to be able to be a Gom alongside her sister, Hattie, and her parents. But when Hattie and Riley try to make that happen using magic, one thing after another goes wrong until things get pretty serious and Riley must find a lost object and save her sisters life.
I absolutely loved this one. The Korean folklore and mythology was so compelling and interesting I just wanted to know more about all of the magical groups. We learn the most about the Gom because that’s what Riley grew up learning about. But we also learn quite a bit about the Horangi, which is an exiled clan that turned corrupt. They play an interesting role in the story and I really enjoyed learning more about them. The world and the magic was absolutely the best part about this book for me. I hope we get to learn more about the other clans in future books. We got a brief overview of what each clans function and focus is and then little bits and pieces here and there, but I thought it was all so interesting that I want one book for each character of the different clans. That would be so fun.
Anyway, Riley and Hattie really made this story. I’m a sucker for good sibling relationships and this definitely had that. We spend enough time getting to see them together and we’re shown how much they care for one another. But then Riley must go off on her own (well, with her best friend Emmett, but not with Hattie) and there were times when she had to make really hard decisions. Her choices showed again and again how much she loves her sister. I loved this relationship so much. Riley feels out of place because she isn’t a Gom. Hattie never makes her fe less than and I loved that. I also loved the messaged shared via Riley’s journey. By the time she finished her quest, she’s learned to love herself as she is. She’s realized that she doesn’t need to change to fit in. She only ever needed to accept herself and go from there.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a really fun and quick read that’s filled with adventure, sacrificing for those we love, challenges to overcome, and incredibly fascinating magic. My one complaint is some of the language used in the dialogue. There were some slang phrases used that just felt so out of place for these kids to be using in casual conversation. It happened a few times in the story when I was just completed pulled out of the story because of reading stuff like that while characters were talking to one another. But this is a small thing, and I really loved every other aspect of this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – 2021 Anticipated Releases

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is the ten books I’m anticipating in the second half of 2021.

22 June
My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

29 June
That Weekend by Kara Thomas

27 July
Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

10 August
In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

24 August 
Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston

14 September 
The Scratch Daughters by Hannah Abigail Clarke

21 September 
The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi

21 September 
Into the Dying Light by Katy Rose Pool

2 November 
The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl

7 December 
The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling

What books are you excited for in the second half of 2021?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s June Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews

Hey, lovelies! I finallly picked up a few of my graphic novels this month! There was a readathon that I’ve done before called GraphicsAThon (find them on Twitter here). I felt motivated to try to read one or two graphic novels that I already own. Reading books I own is the theme for 2021 and I’m doing my best to stay on brand.

Middlewest Book One by Scottie Young, Jorge Corona, & Mike Huddleston

I’ve loved what I’ve read of Skottie Young’s graphic novels. So, this was my reasoning for purchasing this one. I have to say before you get into this one, there is a scene where the dad hits his son, Abel (who is our main character). And Abel’s dad definitely has anger issues, so it’s not a super healthy relationship. The story starts with Abel waking up late to his job of delivering newspapers. His dad is screaming at him. One thing lead to another and he and his dad are screaming at each other in the front yard. His dad turns into a giant wind monster and Abel flees for his life. But while he’s running away (with his best friend, a talking fox) he’s hit by the wind monster and this leaves a strange mark on his chest. After escaping, Abel searches for answers about what happened and how to heal this strange mark he now has. So, I enjoyed this. I think the art style was really interesting. There were lots of colors and each panel’s colors did a great job of portraying the mood of the pages. As for the story, I enjoyed it. I have quite a few questions about this world that I feel like weren’t answered. The art shows this world as a steam punk-ish kind of world. There’s lots of machinery with weird jars of green stuff that could be fuel of some sort. But there’s also things like regular doctors and hospitals, so it was unclear if this was supposed to be a realistic world like the one we live in or a fantasy world. There’s magic and many animals that can talk (like Abel’s fox sidekick), so there are definitely some fantasy elements (most of this book is about a wind monster, so). I’m not holding out hope that I will have my questions answered about the world building because it’s mostly shown through the artwork. But I’m still very interesting in reading the next book.

Middlewest Book Two by Scottie Young & Jorge Corona

So, this second volume of the series actually did answer some of my questions that I had. I believe that this is a fantasy world. It’s called Middlewest and there are all sorts of fantasy towns. But there are some elements that are similar to the world we know. We did learn a small detail about the green stuff in jars that seemed to be fuel. There’s also little bits of this worlds history mentioned, like the Great Plain Wars. I liked this second volume. The art was just as good as the first volume. We get to see some mythological and magical creatures that I thought were really cool. We also meet Abel’s grandfather who is a snow monster. I think the theme of controlling your feelings and emotions was a compelling one. We see a bit of Abel’s dad’s history when we meet the grandfather. I liked getting this character backstory. We also see Abel’s dad traveling in search of Abel and he’s having some really great realizations. I still wouldn’t say that I like him, but getting to see the character growth was interesting. Abel is still searching for a way to get rid of the mark, which we learned is called the Heart of a Storm. It’s seeming like there’s no way to actually get rid of it and Abel’s not happy with that. He’s still struggling with his anger and he takes it out on Fox. I loved Fox. He’s such a fun sidekick. Overall, I’m enjoying this series and I’m very interested to see where things go in the third volume. So far, both volumes have left off on a pretty compelling cliffhanger, which leaves me wanting to jump right into the next volume.

Middlewest Book Three by Scottie Young, Jorge Corona, & Jean-François Beaulieu

This is the conclusion to this series. I didn’t know there were only three volumes, but I didn’t mind that much. It was nice that I didn’t have to wait for anymore installments to be released. So, in this final volume, Abel and many other kids have been taken and put to work at an Ethol farm (ethol is the weird green stuff in bottles that we see in the first two volumes). This farm is run by a super not nice guy. Most of this book we are watching Abel and his friends try to figure out a way to escape the farm. But we also get to see other characters, like Maggie and Jeb, as well as Abel’s dad again. We follow what they’re doing as well. Everyone is trying to find Abel, basically. I enjoyed this conclusion. I think it was really fast paced and action packed. The stakes were high for Abel to keep his wind monster powers in check and he mostly succeeded. I think there could definitely be more created from this world, and I hope that we get to see that some day. I liked that there was a reunion between Abel and his father. I think it was really important for Abel to get to say his piece to his dad, finally. Abel’s dad’s growth was really good. I still didn’t like him, but I could appreciate him learning just how wrong he had been. Overall, I really enjoyed this series. It has a great message of breaking patterns, acknowledging and managing your emotions, and found families.

That’s all I read for graphic novels this month. I’m glad I managed to start and finish this series. It was a really enjoyable one with stunning artwork and important themes. What graphic novels did you read this month?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
The wolves are circling. And Ravka’s time is running out.
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.
The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve been sitting here starting at this blank page trying to figure out what to say about Rule of Wolves. But I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how to put my thoughts about this book into words. But I’m going to try my best. I had a hell of a time getting this book into my possession. I preordered from my local independent bookstore and two weeks later I found out I was moving. Apparently, there’s something wonky about this bookstore shipping to my new house because two of the preorders never made it to me. So, it took me almost two months to finally get this book. I do have to say that my local indie store was amazing throughout all of this. Now, Rule of Wolves was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 because I absolutely love the Grishverse. I especially love Nikolai and Zoya, so I think this duology are my favorite books in this world. I loved this book. I started it around 7:30pm and couldn’t put it down until I finished it around 2am. So, I read this 600 page book in about 6 hours, it was that good that I legitimately didn’t get off the couch until I was done.
So, we follow Nina, Nikolai, and Zoya as well as a few other characters here and there after the events of King of Scars. We see Nikolai and Zoya working together and sometimes apart, to prepare Ravka for war with the Fjerdans. But there’s more than the politics and planning of a potential war that’s on the horizon. There’s also the issue of the plot twist that was revealed at the end of King of Scars. That twist, which I won’t spoil, plays a pretty big role in this story’s plot. I liked how this aspect of the plot brought out character we’d already met. We get to see Alina and Mal and that made my heart so happy. We get to see all of the crows at different points. We also follow Nina who has been working undercover in Fjerda. She and Hanne have made it to the capital and are living with Hanne’s parents. They’re working together, to get close to the pretender to Ravka’s throne and other important people in the Fjerdian government so that Nina can get as much information as possible to send back to Ravka.
Nikolai’s journey was a compelling one. He’s still working on how to figure out how to rid himself of the monster inside him. But he might just be starting to accept that he will never be rid of the monster. I loved getting his perspective, getting to see things from his point of view was the best. I love that despite all the darkness that Nikolai has faced, he’s still kept his sense of humor, even if it is just an act sometimes. His jokes and humor really bring a bit of light to the darkness in this story. I just love Nikolai with my whole heart.
It’s Zoya’s part of the story that I loved the most though. Zoya is such a fascinating character to me. I really didn’t like her in Shadow and Bone, but I grew to love her by the end of that trilogy. And now, in the Nikolai duology, she’s grown so much, but still has some growing to do. I felt honored to follow along on her emotional journey. She knows her place is as Nikolai’s general, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting more, from having feelings for her king. Zoya does so much in this book and the way that her story ended had me absolutely screaming. I love Zoya so much. She is fiery and fierce, abrasive and blunt, loyal and dedicated. Zoya is so many things that you wouldn’t know from the way she presents herself. But she also grows so much. I just cannot say enough good things about Zoya in this book.
Finally, there’s Nina. I didn’t love Nina’s storyline in the first book. I loved Nina in Six of Crows, but in this duology she’s grieving. But she’s also working undercover for Ravka. She’s ferreting out Fjerdian secrets to send back to Ravka, to help Nikolai. While all of that is going on, she’s trying to save as many Grisha as she can. But she’s also falling in love again. I thought this was an interesting choice for Nina’s storyline, but I could help but really enjoy it. Especially the character that she fell in love with. Nina is the same fiery, funny woman we know from the Six of Crows duology, but she’s faced even more darkness now. So, it was a joy to get to see her fall in love again. I liked Hanne. I really did. I think they’re well suited and I enjoyed watching them scheme and work together.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I think this duology is my favorite series in the Grishaverse. I love Nikolai and I love Zoya and I love Nina. I think the writing was excellent. The story gripped me from the first page until the last. I loved all of the twists and the turns. The way that everything came together toward the end of the book felt like absolute perfection. After spending so long reading about these characters, it felt like all the choices made were right and natural for the characters we’ve gotten to know over the last six books. I also was really happy with how the book concluded. I think the conclusion was also absolute perfection. I especially loved that Rule of Wolves was wrapped up nicely, not totally neatly, but nice enough for me. But there was a door left open for more, I’m thinking for the rumored third Six of Crows book, but who knows what else Bardugo might be cooking up for the Grishaverse.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Book Cover

Review:
We Hunt the Flame is a book that I’ve heard such mixed reviews about. I know some people that absolutely love it and it’s one of their new favorite series, some that DNF’d it, and others just read the whole thing but just didn’t like it. I fell on the side that liked it. I really enjoyed this book. Now, it wasn’t perfect, but I did really enjoy it. I didn’t really get into it until the first 100 pages or so, but that’s pretty normal for me with new fantasy books or series.
We’re following two main characters, Zafira and Nasir. Zafira is known as the Hunter because she is the only one that can make it back out of the Arz the same as when she went in. She provides most of the meat for her people. But no one knows that the Hunter is a woman. I really liked Zafira and her emotional journey. She’s revealed that the Hunter is a woman as she’s leaving for a quest to find a lost artifact that might be able to restore magic to Arawiya. But even after she leaves, she struggles to really shed the cloak that has disguised her for so long. She also has some other things she’s still working through, grief for her father, her best friend has just gotten married (is it just me or did their friendship feel a little romantic with the way Zafira thought about Yasmine?), she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years despite living in the same house as her. She just has a lot going on. I liked that her identity as the Hunter wasn’t her only personality trait. I didn’t like that much of this book was Zafira struggling with romantic feelings for a man that she thinks murdered her best friend. We as the reader knew that it wasn’t him, but she thought it was and developed feelings for him anyway and I didn’t love that.
Nasir is the Prince of Death. He is the prince of Arawiya, but in reality, he’s the Sultan’s assassin. His father treats him terribly, but Nasir still does his bidding because if he doesn’t, those he cares for will pay the price. Nasir is sent to follow the Hunter and kill them once they’ve found the lost object. Altair is sent along on this mission and Nasir is ordered to come back alone and with the object. Nasir’s emotional journey was a really interesting one too. He doesn’t want to be his father’s killer, but he also wants to gain his father’s love. He remembers a time when his father acted like a different man and he wishes he could see that man again. So, he does as ordered, until he meets Zafira and learns that the legendary Hunter is a woman. Nasir, Altair, and Zafira end up traveling together because there’s safety in numbers. Nasir starts to like both Zafira and Altair. He’s conflicted because he’s been tasked with killing both and they all know it.
Altair was absolutely my favorite character. He’s the comedic relief that the story needed when there were some particularly tense moments. I loved all of his ridiculous comments and additions to the conversation. I think the secrets and twists that involve him were excellently revealed and definitely surprised me. I cannot wait to see what’s going to happen with him in the next book with where he was left at the end of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a bit too much of the romance aspect for my liking. Like I wrote above, Zafira spends a lot of this book feeling romantic things for someone that she thinks murdered her best friend. I do think that I will like this relationship more in the second book depending on how things go. But there was a lot of inner yearning and pining and I would have liked more of a balance between that and the action and adventure of the rest of the story. I really liked the plot and world. I really like the characters. I think the writing was beautiful and lyrical but not so flowery that it took away from the story. I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen in the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Amanda’s Favorite Retellings

Hey, lovelies! I used to read so many retellings, fairytale, folklore, and mythological retellings were a huge favorite genre of mine for a really long time. But I think I’m growing out of that. I’ve noticed that I don’t gravitate toward picking them up anymore. I will say that I do still read mythological retellings, and pretty often, especially now that we’re branching away from the typical Greek and Roman mythologies. I’ve also been discovering retellings other than fairytale and folklore. You will find some of those on this list. So, today I want to share some retellings that I really enjoyed.

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses which was one of my favorite fairytales as a kid. I’d never read a retelling of this one before, and I think this one was excellent. I don’t know if it’s actually considered horror, but it definitely has some horror elements. Annaleigh is one of twelve siblings. But four of her siblings have died, one at a time, and Annaleigh doesn’t think that they were accidents. I really loved this book. It stayed true to the heart of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairytale and added some really cool horror elements. The setting was creepy and atmospheric.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, sort of. This is a four book series that follows Charlotte Homes and Jamie Watson. They are the descendents of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Charlotte and Jamie find themselves at the same boarding school and when a student is found murdered, they obviously must solve the mystery. I loved this whole series. There are a lot of hard hitting topics like mental health and drug use. There’s even a little bit of romance. This is one of the books I was talking about when I said I was finding and enjoying retellings outside of fairytales. This is a retelling of an older book series and I thought it was so interesting and I loved all of the characters.

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The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
We have here a Henry VIII retelling. I actually didn’t know that this was a Shakespeare retelling until after I finished it. I think I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it in the description as I’m not a fan of Shakespeare at all. Despite that, I really enjoyed this modern retelling. I thought the mystery was well done and I really liked the characters. We follow Annie, nicknamed “Cleves”, and Henry. They are best friends, but they also briefly dated. Out of all of Henry’s ex-girlfriends, Cleves is the only one that has remained friends with him. She doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious about that, but after talking to some of his ex’s she might be changing her mind. I liked the mystery in this one because I couldn’t decide whether of not Henry was actually guilty right until the end of the book.

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The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
This one is more inspired by than a true retelling, but I really loved it so I had to add it to this list. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, this is a dark and gritty story of revenge. In a small town in Ohio lives Tress and Felicity, two girls that used to be best friends. When Tress’s parents went missing, Felicity was with them, but she claims not to remember anything about what happened. Tress doesn’t believe her and she’s determined to get the truth out of Felicity, even if that means sealing her up, brick by brick. This book was weird and dark as hell and I cannot wait for the sequel.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This series is a pretty popular one, but this first book is my favorite of the series. It’s a historical retelling with a fantasy twist. This one is a bit less retelling than it is fantasy. We follow Lady Jane Grey as she’s about to become queen. But her cousin is determined to see her married. The only problem is that the love interest, G, turns into a horse everyday at dawn. This added some hilarity to the story. I loved this book because it was funny but it also had an interesting historical feel.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Another popular one, but this is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. We get to see her childhood and the events that led up to the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. There’s lots of baking and love and fun in this book. There’s love and romance, but also betrayal and heartbreak. I thought this was a really great retelling or rather a prequel story.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
This one is more of an after sort of retelling. In this one, we get to see what happens to Cinderella’s stepsisters after Cinderella meets and marries her Prince Charming. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one because the main character that we follow, Isabelle. She’s the stepsister that cut off her toes to try and fit in the glass slipper. Isabelle is a pretty unlikeable character, but the way that this story is told really helped that. Instead of just Isabelle’s perspective, we see a point of view from Fate, who is following the map of Isabelle’s life. They’re watching to see what path Isabelle might take and if she will veer away from the path expected for her. I thought this was a really unique retelling about a character that most people don’t think of in the Cinderella story.

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And I Darken by Kiersten White
We have a historical retelling, which surprisingly end up being some of my favorites. I don’t really love historical fiction, but there’s something about a really good historical retelling that keeps me engaged in the story. We follow Lada and Radu. This is a gender bent retelling of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is a vicious and angry girl. She’s determined to prove that she is worthy to her father, but when she and her brother, Radu, are sent as gifts to be raised in the Ottoman courts, she feels nothing but betrayal. This is a really slow moving story, but it’s so worth it. We see Lada grow from a vicious girl into a lethal young woman. I absolutely loved it.

These are some of my favorite retellings. I’ve had so much fun finding new kinds of retellings from alternate historical retellings to retellings of other fiction works, to some more unique fairytale and folklore stories. Do you have any favorite retellings? Leave a comment and share them with me!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
After siphoning her own blood to defeat her enemy, Opal Cowan has lost her powers. More, she’s immune to the effects of magic. Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying on those with the powers she once had, powers that make a difference in her world.
Until spying through the glass becomes her new power. Suddenly the beautiful pieces she makes flash in the presence of magic. She also discovers that someone has stolen some of her blood and that finding it might let her regain her powers. Or learn if they’re lost forever.

Book Cover

Review:
I don’t know what happened with this series. I loved the Study trilogy so much, but this companion series just isn’t as good. I really loved Opal as a character in the first two books, but in this finale, she’s not in a good place. She takes risks she shouldn’t. She hurts so many people. And falls in love with someone she used to hate (and not in the fun enemies-to-lovers kind of way) like this dude is really bad. I don’t know, I can’t say only negative things about Spy Glass because I did still enjoy it while I was reading it. It’s got the same dark and gritty feel to the Study trilogy, but it felt way more all over the place. There was too much going on at once to the point where it felt like the story had no plot. But when the pieces did finally start to come together it made a bit more sense. Even then, Opal follows the most winding and convoluted path to the end of this book. It felt like there was so much going on that some things were lost in the story. There were so many litter details from the previous books that had a big impact on this third book, but I never would have guessed because they were made to seem pretty minor in the perilous books.
Anyway, enough griping. I did really enjoy this book and the series overall. There’s action and adventure, danger and high stakes, romance and hatred. I think Snyder knows how to write a story that will keep me compelled until the end even if I don’t like some of the characters. I do have to say though, I loved what we got to see of characters we knew from all of the books in the World of Ixia. Those familiar faces made it a bit easier, especially around the characters I don’t like. It was fascinating to see Opal be put into the one situation she’s been trying to avoid the whole series. I think that specific challenge really brought something extra go the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Book Wishes

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 on my wishlist.

It was suggested to share your amazon wishlist, so mine is here. But I’m still going to list my top ten picks from that list. Most of these are so I can own completed series for my collection.

Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Blood Sworn by Scott Reintgen

The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter

Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuuchi

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

These are ten books I have on my wishlist. Most of these are finales or part of series I want to have in my collection. What’s on your list this week?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.