Blogmas Day Twenty-One: 2020 Blogging Wrap Up

Hi, friends! Today we are here to do a sort of year-in-review kind of thing. 2020 is coming to a close and we thought it would be interesting to have a quick chat about general thoughts of how we think 2020 went for us in terms of blogging and what our goals might be for next year. We think it’s always good to check in with one another and ourselves to make sure were still enjoying this, because honestly we’re just here to do something fun together. So, let’s chat!

Amanda’s Thoughts:
I’m really happy with blogging this year. I had a baby in 2018, so blogging and reading have become sort of my ‘me time’ and I really enjoy being able to share reviews and lists with people that have the same interest as me. Also, Antonia and I have been FaceTiming to work on Blogtober, Blogmas, and Top Ten Tuesday posts and I’ve really been loving that. I love that even after all these years we still have this connecting us (we’re best friends and that’s never going to change, but I honestly didn’t think we’d still be blogging together). I really enjoy making lists, so getting to spend time with my best friend, talking about something we both love, is always the highlight of my week. Sometimes we even just FaceTime and read together. I just miss her a lot and blogging sometimes feels like a tangible connection to her, now that we don’t live seven minutes down the road from one another.
Going into 2021 one of my goals is to chill a little. Toward the end of this year I was posting reviews literally everyday. I think we’re currently on a 180+ day streak of posting on here. I want to calm down and not get so anxious about making sure I write reviews. Not every book I read needs to be reviewed. I definitely stressed myself a bit and I don’t want to continue that in 2021. I do want to incorporate more non-review posts year round in the new year, instead of saving them all for themed months (Blogtober, SciFi Month, Blogmas). I think Antonia and I have a few planned already that we’re excited about. Honestly, I just want to have fun in 2021. Blogging became a bit too much for me at times this year, so next year I just want it to be all fun again.

Antonia’s Thoughts:
I think this year has been fairly productive for me as far as blogging goes. I still haven’t gone back to writing book reviews but I’ve been a lot more involved with the other posts than I have in recent years, especially the last few months. Like Amanda said, FaceTiming regularly to work on blog stuff has been super fun and helps keep us connected when distance and our busy lives can make that so difficult. One of my struggles in the past has been trying to make time a few days a week to fill out posts right before they’re ready to publish but this way we prepare most of our posts weeks ahead of time. Once a week or two, I can take a couple hours with Amanda to get all the posts ready at once and I find it significantly less stressful.
My main goal for 2021 is to read more. It’s been my goal for the past several years because ever since I got married and moved away from home, I’ve struggled to keep reading a regular part of my routine. To make it even harder, this year I moved from Washington to Virginia and the huge change messed with my already terrible routine. I’d like to get back into the habit of picking up a book to settle down before bed instead of turning on the TV; or keeping my kindle charged so I can keep it in my bag in case I have the chance to pick it up. The fact that I read less than thirty books this year is heartbreaking to me when, for a long time, I’d read at least a hundred without even trying. I’d like to continue being more involved with the blog as I have been recently but also try to start writing the occasional review again as well. I think I’ve finally settled into my new life here enough that I’m excited to be a better book blogger and reader next year.

What are you’re thoughts on this past year of blogging? Do you have any specific plans for 2021?

Blogmas Day Twenty: 10 Most Anticipated Releases of 2021

Hi, bookworms! We talked a little bit about some new books we’re anticipating that come out in January, but today we want to talk about the books we’re most excited about for the whole of 2021. So, without further delay, here are 10 books that we’re most excited about in 2021.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman – Release Date: February 9th, 2021

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas – Release Date: February 16, 2021

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman – Release Date: April 6th, 2021

Legacy by Nora Roberts – Release Date: May 25, 2021

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner – Release Date: August 10th, 2021

The Scratch Daughters by Hannah Abigail Clark – Release Date: September 14th, 2021

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune – Release Date: September 21st, 2021

Crescent City #2 (Untitled) by Sarah J. Maas – Release Date: November 2, 2021

Well Matched by Jen Deluca – Release Date: Unknown Date

Nowhere by Brandon Sanderson – Release Date: Unknown Date

Blogmas Day Nineteen: Unread 2020 Releases

Hello, bookworms! It’s the last few days of blogmas, so today we’re going to talk about the 2020 releases that we bought this year and haven’t read yet. Amanda tries to stay on top of the many new releases (buying or borrowing and eventually, reading them) and Antonia has a list of specific releases to buy and read. But we both are imperfect people, so neither of us read all of the books we buy as quickly as we would like. So, we have here for you a list of our unread 2020 releases (that we already own.)

Amanda’s Unread 2020 Releases

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee
Tristan Strong Destroys the World by Kwame Mbalia
Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemore
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
Set Fire to the Gods by Sara Raasch & Kristen Simmons
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Antonia’s Unread 2020 Releases

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

These are all of the books released this year that we haven’t managed to read yet. But most are high priority for early 2021, so hopefully soon. What 2020 releases did you buy this year, but haven’t picked up and read yet?

Blogmas Day Fourteen: The Anti-TBR Book Tag

Hello, bookworms! As you can tell by the title of this post, this is the Anti-TBR book tag. Amanda saw a few of these on BookTube and thought it would be a fun tag to do here on the blog. So, we’re going to talk about the books we don’t want to read. The original creator is on BookTube and her video is linked here.

A popular book everyone loves but you have no interest in reading?

Amanda- The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu. I love Lu’s books, but this one just doesn’t seem like it’s for me.

Antonia- Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Amanda, my husband and several friends loved this series but I’m just not interested.

A classic book (or author) you don’t have an interest in reading?

Amanda- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’ve seen several adaptations and I’m not big on historical fiction to begin with. Sorry, but it’s a no from me.

Antonia- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

An author whose books you don’t want to read?

Amanda- Kerri Maniscalco. So many people love her Jack the Ripper books and I have no interest in reading them.

Antonia- Kiersten White. I honestly don’t know why I’m so uninterested in her books but Amanda’s recommended a few of them and I just can’t get into them.

A problematic author whose books you don’t want to read?

Amanda- Rainbow Rowell. All I have to say about that is that you need to look up the controversy surrounding Eleanore & Park.

Antonia- I don’t keep up enough with things like this but pretty much all of my books are recommendations from Amanda and she’s good about checking things like this.

An author you’ve read a few books from & have decided their books are not for you?

Amanda- Kevin Kwan. I just didn’t love the Crazy Rich Asians books and I think I’ll probably pass on future books.

Antonia- Bella Forrest. I read like the first five of her Shade of Vampire series before I just had to stop.

A genre you have no interest in or a genre you tried to get into and couldn’t?

Amanda- Does non-fiction count? I occasionally find stuff I like, mainly memoirs, but generally I don’t enjoy it.

Antonia- I have zero interest in horror, thank you very much.

A book you have bought but will never read? (can be a book you have unhauled/returned to the library unread)

Amanda- Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett.

Antonia- The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. I can’t explain this one. I bought it years ago and somehow can’t get myself to start it even though I’ve loved all of his other books.

A series you have no interest in reading OR a series you started & have dnf’d?

Amanda- The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh. It just doesn’t excite me, so I probably won’t read the series.

Antonia- The Origin series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I didn’t hate the first book but definitely didn’t like it enough to continue the series.

A new release you have no interest in reading?

Amanda- House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess.

Antonia- Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer.

If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged. Have fun!

Blogmas Day Thirteen: 2020 Debut Authors

Hello, lovelies! Today I want to talk about some 2020 debut authors that I read this year. I did a similar post last year (2019 Debut Authors) and I thought it would be fun to share the debut authors that I found and definitely plan to read more of their work.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
This science fiction debut about traveling between alternate realities blew me away.

Reverie by Ryan La Sala
A new and unique YA fantasy debut that had great characters development. La Sala’s next novel, Be Dazzled, comes out January 5th, 2021.

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
Probably my favorite novel I read in 2020, angry lesbian witches and the sequel, The Scratch Daughters, comes out September 21st, 2021.

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Berkley’s first ever f/f romance and it was excellent. Work place romance, slow burn, and fun banter. Wilsner’s next novel (which doesn’t yet have a title) comes out May 25th, 2021.

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass
A queer YA thriller that I could not put down until the very last page.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
A sweet and entertaining YA contemporary filled with cupcakes and family dynamics I enjoyed. Kanter’s next novel, As If On Cue, comes out in September 2021.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
A delightful YA contemporary about a queer Black girl running for prom queen as a last ditch effort to get a scholarship for college. This is another book that will make my favorites of 2020 lists. Johnson’s next book, Rise to the Sun, comes out July 6th, 2021.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
This was a YA contemporary that has a science fiction feel to it (because most of the parents are astronauts in training). It has a m/m relationship and depression representation. Stamper’s next novel, As Far As You’ll Take Me, is set to come out February 9th, 2021.

I read a fair amount of debut novels this year, but these are the 2020 debuts that I read and really loved. Have you read any of these or any other 2020 debuts?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Day Six: Series I Won’t Be Continuing

Hello, bookworms! We talk a lot about series we want to start (which yes, we will be talking about later this month) and series we need to finish. Today we’re doing the opposite of those. This post is going to be about series we don’t plan to finish.

Series Amanda Doesn’t Plan to Finish

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – I read the first two books and have no desire to read the third. The second seemed repetitive and had many similar things to the first book and it was just too much for me.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – I read the first two books and most of the third. By the third book, just didn’t care about what any of the characters were doing. All the characters I liked from the first book were terrible in the third. I may eventually revisit the series, but as of now, I don’t plan to finish it.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – I read and (mostly) enjoyed the first book, After starting the eARC for the second book there were some topics that I personally couldn’t read about so I chose to DNF the second book and I don’t plan to continue the series. This is the one series that it’s nothing against the story but I can’t read it because the drug aspect of the second book was honestly upsetting.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin – I enjoyed this first book well enough, but when a friend read and really didn’t like the second book, I decided I probably wouldn’t continue the series. There have been many negative reviews about book two and there’s too many books on my TBR for me to continue a series I probably won’t like.

Series Antonia Doesn’t Plan to Finish

Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout – I’m a little disappointed by this one because I usually love her books but I was very underwhelmed by this one.

Sovereign by Josie Jaffrey – I liked the plot of the first two books and really enjoyed the world building of this series but overall I didn’t love the characters much and that forced me to DNF the series.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – The synopsis had such an interesting concept for this world that I was super excited to read it but unfortunately the execution of the way this monarchy is run ultimately ruined it for me. It just didn’t seem sustainable and I had trouble believing this system could have worked for so long.

Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest – Amanda really enjoyed these and convinced me to try them. I immediately had problems with a lot of different aspects of them but pushed through in the hopes it would get better and I could focus on the story. It didn’t and I had to DNF the fourth book.

These are the series we couldn’t continue reading. What series were you not able to finish?

Blogmas Book Review: Towering by Alex Flinn

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GoodReads Summary:
High in my tower I sit. I watch the birds fly below, the clouds float above, and the tall green forest stretch to places I might never see.
Mama, who isn’t my mother, has kept me hidden away for many years. My only companions, besides Mama, are my books—great adventures, mysteries, and romances that I long to make my reality. But I know that no one will come to save me—my life is not a fairy tale after all.
Well, at least no one has come so far. Recently, my hair has started to grow rapidly and it’s now long enough to reach the bottom of the tower from my window. I’ve also had the strangest dreams of a beautiful green-eyed man.
When Mama isn’t around, I plan my escape, even if it’s just for a little while. There’s something—maybe someone—waiting for me out there and it won’t find me if I’m trapped here Towering above it all.
ToweringReview:
So, I mostly liked this book. But first of all, there was a lot of kissing between characters that had just met (like an hour ago) and I just didn’t like that. This leads me to talk about my least favorite trope: insta-love. There was some sort of communication between Wyatt and Rachel, in a magical sort of way. But nothing that actually lets them get to know one another before meeting. I tried to put that aside, and I did end up liking Wyatt and Rachel together. They were sweet and I liked how they supported one another and managed to figure out what the hell was going on in town.
I liked the fairytale aspect of the story too. Rachel is trapped in a tower because some bad shit (and weird shit) has been happening in this town. I liked how the original story was twisted to be more modern, but I was a little surprised that Rachel was trapped in a literal tower. I think more could have been done with that.
I think the reasoning behind keeping Rachel hidden was the most interesting thing about this story. I don’t want to share too much, but it had to with drugs and it was definitely a twist I didn’t really see coming.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was my favorite of Flinn’s but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I definitely am going to keep going with her retellings to see what else she’s come up with. I’m also really excited to read her Kendra Chronicles because ever since Beastly, I’ve been trying to make little connections to Kendra.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Day Two: WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To play along just answer the three questions!

What are you currently reading?

Amanda- I’m currently reading The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin, and I’m listening to Black Wings Beating by Alex London.

Antonia- I’m currently reading The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco.

What did you recently finish reading?

Amanda- I most recently finished reading The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White.

Antonia- I recently finished The House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas.

What do you think you will read next?

Amanda- I should be continuing on with my TBR for the Clear Your Shit Readathon, but honestly I’m in the mood for some 2021 ARC’s that I just got approved for.

Antonia- Next I’ll continue working through my winter TBR.

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

Kingsbane by Claire Legrand

GoodReads Summary: In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller Furyborn, two queens, separated by a thousand years, connected by secrets and lies, must continue their fight amid deadly plots and unthinkable betrayals that will test their strength—and their hearts.
Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.
Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.

Kingsbane (Empirium, #2)Review: I honestly have no words right now. I can say that I’ve never written a review like this before. I’m still currently listening to the audiobook for Kingsbane. I’ve never started writing a review before actually finishing the book before. But I feel so utterly betrayed by Claire Legrand. I don’t know how she could do me so dirty. Before about five minutes ago, I would have talked about how much I loved Eliana and Simon together, but Simon has done something unforgiveable and I don’t even know how to talk about it. So, I’m just not going to talk about him. I also still really hate Corien and that’s all I’ll say about him too. Eliana really grows in this story. She’s lost so much, but she still feels like she should step up and work to become the Sun Queen that she’s thought to be. I really enjoyed seeing her grow and develop into the good and kind person that I knew she could be. She’s still fierce as hell and will kill you if you look at her wrong, but she has so much love inside of her for others. She lets herself care about these other people (Navi, cough cough). Also, she really loves her brother Remy and that’s been clear this whole time. But I loved the complications of their relationship in this book. Eliana has to do something terrible to save her own life and she hides this from Remy, so when he finds out, things between them are not great. But the bond of siblings is a strong one and it’s the only part of this story that had me in tears. I was literally driving to pick up some food and sobbing. It was a terribly dangerous situation. Eliana’s story was inspiring and heartbreaking throughout the story and I will be physically in pain until I get to read Lightbringer and find out how this story ends. Rielle had an interesting storyline as well. We get to see her descent into darkness. Corien is influencing her, but we see the balance of her trying to resist with her love for Audric. I really loved Rielle and Audric (and really hate Corien). I think they maybe could have had a bit more growth to their relationship because it was basically happy until their wedding when everything fell apart. Rielle had a serious problem with keeping secrets. But I was happy that she had Lu to confide in. I loved Lu. I feel like she was a really good influence on Rielle. Overall, I’m so angry at the last hour or so of this book. I don’t know why Claire Legrand felt like she needed to hurt us like that, but I’m very unhappy about it. Despite this, I fucking loved this book. It was full of action and drama, love and desire, fear and despair. There are diverse characters (Eliana is bisexual and it’s not confirmed I don’t think but I’d love to think Rielle is too). There’s also talk of periods and masturbation (plus a ton of great sex scenes, not too descriptive but still enjoyable). I loved all of the things Legrand included in this story (except the betrayal. I’m still mad about that.) I don’t know why there aren’t more people that love this series because it was amazing and full of kick ass girls I’d love to befriend.

Quotes:

“Like the sun and the moon. Like day and night. I am the shore and you are the sea, my darling. The wild, wild sea – ever-changing and mighty. I need your passion, and you need something steady to come home to. An anchor, warm and sunlit.”

“We are the light against the darkness, and we must continue to burn brightly, so others may find their way out.”

“We are more than what’s been done to us. We are more then our anger.”

“It’s unfair that you should have to bear so much.” “Me? Or women?”

 

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Amanda’s November Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews

Hello, lovelies! I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of regularly reading my graphic novels. I read a bunch last month and wanted to read at least one again this month. Below are the graphic novels I read and some brief thoughts on them.

Skyward, Vol. 1: My Low-G Life by Joe Henderson, Lee Garnett, & Antonia Fabela

I bought this series on a whim while I was at my local comic store. I like science fiction and the cover grabbed my attention. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed this. It was a fun story with diverse characters. Our main character, Willa, never grew up knowing what it was like to have gravity. So, she likes the world the way it is. But her dad wants to fix it. Her dad hasn’t left their apartment in 20 years though, so she doesn’t think it’ll actually happen. I liked that this story was about family, but it also had action and high stakes and other friends too. I think the art was lovely. The colors were vibrant and I really liked it all. I think my only complaint is that I’m left with too many questions. I’m assuming this will all be covered in the next volumes but I think we could have at least learned specifically why gravity stopped working instead of just getting hints about it. Overall, I liked this one and I’m going to go pick the next one up right now.

Skyward, Vol. 2: Here There Be Dragonflies by Joe Henderson, Lee Garnett, & Antonia Fabela

Okay, sadly I’m a bit disappointed by this one. I really liked that we got to see more of the world outside of Chicago. It was super interesting to see how a lack of gravity could change things like bugs. But I didn’t get a single question answered and I was left with even more than before. I still liked the story, but I’m confused about how Earth lost gravity and what exactly Willa is going to do about it. The art was beautiful. The setting of outside the city really allowed for fascinating scenes. I’m going to start the third volume now because I already own it and I really want to know what’s going on.

Skyward, Vol. 3: Fix The World by Joe Henderson, Lee Garnett, & Antonia Fabela

While I still have a few questions, I can say that I was pretty satisfied with this conclusion. This is the final volume in the series and we get some answers. I really liked Willa and her personality. She could have stayed somewhere safe with a loved one she missed dearly, but she put herself at risk to save the city she loves. I really liked that the bad guys pays for his crimes and that there was a happy ending. The art, like the first two volumes, was lovely. I kept forgetting to mention that I really liked that it wasn’t a super gory story. But there was blood and guts, sweat and tears at some points. The interesting thing about this is that there’s no gravity so all of this stuff floats in the air. It was nasty and I loved it. I also like that there’s a diverse cast of characters, Willa is black and there is a female/female relationship that we get to see bits of. My only problem with this volume and the series was that I wanted more! I want to see Willa travel and see the other cities. I want to see what other chaos a lack of gravity has created. I really enjoyed this series. It was fun and quick.

W.I.T.C.H, Part I: The Twelve Portals by Elisabeth Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci, & Barbara Canepa

This was such a fun and nostalgic read. I watched the show (I think it was a Disney show) way back when, but remember little about it. So, it was a ton of fun coming back into this world. I loved the story of girls coming together to be heroes. I also loved that the friendship of these five girls wasn’t a perfect one. They fight and disagree and I liked that this was a part of the story because it made it more realistic. I know this is a super long series, so I’m excited that I finally started it, but also it’s going to take me forever to finish it. I highly recommend it for those that love magical girls with mysterious destinies that get themselves into trouble.

I’m happy that I managed to read a whole series (all books that I already owned) and I’m hoping to finish up my physical TBR of my graphic novels next month. What graphic novels did you read this month?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

#SciFiMonth: If You Liked This, Then Read That

#SciFiMonth: 1-30 November 2020
ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com.

Hey, lovelies! I did this sort of post for Blogtober and I thought it was so much fun to make, so I thought I would try it out for SciFi Month! Today I’m going to be giving book recommendations based on other books. These are all science fiction books that I enjoyed, but they vary in subgenre and age ranges. So, let’s get into my second edition of ‘if you liked this book, then try that one!

If you liked The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer then you should try Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor. The first book in The Lunar Chronicles follows Cinder, a cyborg, in a cinderella retelling of sorts. She finds herself involved with Prince Kai and suddenly she’s involved in intergalactic politics. Tarnished Are the Stars follows Anna who is known as ‘the Technician.’ She has an illegal clockwork heart and she supplies other people with illegal technology. She meets the Commissioner’s son, Nathaniel, who is determined to turn Anna in to his father. But when Nathaniel’s betrothed, Eliza, comes to Earth Adjacent, the three of them might just bring down the local government. These books were both so great. They both follow unlikely heroes that are excellent mechanics and somehow end up in a plot to overthrow the government.

If you liked The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff then you might like The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel. The first book in the series, Illuminae, follows Katy and Ezra after their world has been invaded and they’re forced to flee. Katy is an excellent hacker and manages to figure out what’s going on despite being told nothing. But the only person that she thinks can help her happens to be her ex-boyfriend, Ezra. Sleeping Giants is the first book in the series. It follows Rose, first when she’s a child and finds a giant robot hand, and almost twenty years later she’s a physicist leading a top-secret team that is researching the hand she discovered as a child. I’ve connected these two books for one big reason, they’re both told in a mixed media format. The first book is told in a series of emails, video transcripts, IMs, interviews, and other sorts of documents. The second book is told in mostly interview format with an anonymous interviewer. There are also radio broadcast transcripts and audio journal entries. Both series are told in mixed media. I think they’re similar in another aspect with the way the series progress. All three books The Illuminae Files are following three different couples. All three books in The Themis Files have a significant time jump between each book. Both series are also highly recommended for their audiobook format.

If you liked American Royals by Katharine McGee then you should try The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. American Royals is a reality tv sort of story that is set in modern day, but the twist is that George Washington was made the King of America after the revolution. The story follows his modern day descendants. The Calculating Stars is a bit different. It’s also an alternate reality story. In the 1950s a meteorite falls to the Earth and destroyed a significant amount of the east coast, including Washington, DC. This causes all sorts of environmental issues leading the people to look to the moon as an alternative to live on. We follow Elma York as she realizes that she wants to be on the space mission and not just a calculator for NASA. The common link between these two recommendations are that they are alternate reality stories. But they are also both very much stories that focus on women. Elma wants to be a female astronaut which is unheard of and Beatrice is going to be the first Queen of America.

If you liked Dry by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman then you will probably like Internment by Samira Ahmed. Dry is a story about when California runs out of water. The drought has been an issue for a while, but the taps run dry and the world gets dystopian like very quickly. Internment is set in a near future potential reality where Layla and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim Americans. Both stories are very dark. Dry is dark in a way where peoples survival instincts come out and how it would be to live in a world where it’s every person for themselves. The things people could do for the sake of survival is scary. Internment is a story about hate and how that hate can change the world as we know it. Both stories are filled with characters that aren’t ready to give up. Both stories had tears in my eyes and hope for a better world in my heart.

If you liked The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum you should try The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper. The Weight of the Stars tells the story of Ryann who dreams of being an astronaut. She’s accepted her reality and that this dream isn’t likely to happen. Enter Alexandria, a loner that does everything she can to avoid Ryann’s offer of friendship. Despite this, Alexandra joins Ryann’s chaotic friendship. This is a slow burn romance that focuses on the characters, their dreams, and their growth. The Gravity of Us is about Cal, a successful seventeen-years-old journalist who is forced to move from Brooklyn to Houston because his father was selected for an important NASA mission. Life in Houston is completely different, but when he befriends a fellow astronaut’s son, things start to look up. Just a disclaimer, these are both a bit more contemporary than science fiction, but they both have characters who’s life surrounds people that are currently in space or are about to be in space. Plus I thought it would be okay to have one for those that like the idea of science fiction without most of the sci-fi stuff. These are both that. They both have queer romances and talk about heavy topics in thoughtful and meaningful ways. I loved them both very much.

If you liked Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff you will probably like The Disasters by M.K. England. The tagline for Aurora Rising is “They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.” It follows six misfits as they discover secrets that the government is hiding and do their best to save the universe. The Disasters doesn’t have the same tagline, but it could. “They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.” This book has a cast of five diverse disaster children that are the only ones that know the Academy has been attacked by a terrorist group. They need to stop this group and spread the truth before they can do worse than just take over the Academy. Both stories are a found family group that need to stop a big bad from taking over the universe. Through social media I’ve heard that many people are disappointed in Aurora Rising and it’s sequel, which is why I made this comparison because everything I wanted from Aurora Rising is what I got from The Disasters.

If you liked The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow you might like I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi. The Sound of Stars follows Ellie while she lives in New York City, which is a city controlled by aliens. When one of those aliens, MoRr1S (Morris), finds her hidden (and illegal) library he’s supposed to report her except he doesn’t. The two end up on a road trip, sharing music and books, on their way to try to save humanity. I Hope You Get This Message follows three characters, who are all doing what they need to in what they think may be their final week of life. Earth has received a message from another planet saying that they have one week before they end civilization. Jesse, Cate, and Adeem have only a week to right wrongs and face truths before the world ends. These books are different in the sense that the first had already been invaded by aliens and the second isn’t being invaded but seems to be an expirement of these aliens, one that has been decided a failure and needs to be terminated. The common factors of these books are roadtrips between people that don’t know one another very well, but end up with very strong relationships. Both stories are also filled with diverse and fascinating characters.

If you liked Dune by Frank Herbert you should try Mirage by Somaiya Daud. Dune follows Paul after his father takes him to an ‘inhospitable’ world where the only thing of value is the spice that is produced on this planet. When his family is betrayed, Paul and his mother set out into the desert with one goal, survive, and eventually return and retake the planet that should be under Paul’s rule. Mirage follows Amani after she’s kidnapped so that she can be the body double of the half-Vathek princess, Maram. The Vath have conquered Amani’s planet and with her new place within the palace she wants to see if she can find a way to free her people. I chose these two books because Dune is a really well known book that deals with overtaking planets, learning about the culture of said planet and then Paul trying to do better than those before him. But Mirage is all of those things with a strong female lead written by an author of color who drew from her own heritage. Mirage is an incredible story that more people should read. If you liked the concept of Dune but don’t want to read that huge book, Mirage is only 320 pages and every page is incredibly written, diverse, and filled with an incredible world.

If you liked Renegades by Marissa Meyer you might like The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune. Renegades follows Nova (a villain) while she infiltrates Renegade Headquarters and tries to find weaknesses to bring them down. She lives in a world of prodigies, one much different from our own. Vengeance is her motivation, but things become less and less clear as the series progresses. The Extraordinaries follows Nick, a queer teen with ADHD who is one of the most popular fan fiction writers in the Extraordinary fandom. Nick idolizes one Extraordinary in particular and after he meets this hero, Nick decides he wants to make himself an Extraordinary. These stories are both in the superhero realm of science fiction. They different in the sense of the worlds they take place in. Renegades is in a world where it’s completely changed from our world while The Extraordinaries is mostly our world, but with a few rare individuals that have superpowers. But both stories follow characters that might not be on the best path. I really enjoyed both stories that were filled with interesting abilities and characters I couldn’t help but love.

If you liked Year One by Nora Roberts you will probably like The Fever King by Victoria Lee. Year One follows a cast of characters as the world ends via a sickness that spreads unbelievably fast and those that recover are left with gifts. There are some that are immune, but the world descends into chaos as the world as we know it ends. This cast of characters must figure out a new beginning now that the world has come to an end. In The Fever King, Noam lives in what used to be the U.S. He’s caught the sickness and is the sole survivor of his family. He’s also left with the gift of technopathy. Noam gets recruited into what’s basically a military of people that have survived the sickness and now have abilities. Noam joins with hopes to change the way the world has become. He wants to fight for what is right. Both of these stories deal with how the world can change once it ends. They both have the world ending with some sort of sickness and that sickness results with some people having special abilities. I really enjoyed them both.

I ended up finding way more books than I intended, but I was having too much fun and just sort of went with it. So, here you have it. Ten comparisons and twenty books total. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and agree or disagree with my pairings.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Books & Baking – The Lightning Thief

Hi, lovelies! I chose to do a rather easy one for this installment of Books & Baking just to keep the momentum going for this feature. I tend to forget about things if I don’t do them regularly. So, I think this one will be a fan favorite (because it’s a very beloved book). For this edition, I’ve decided to bake something from The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I’ve always wanted to make a blue food for this blog feature since I first had the idea.

Book: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Read my full review here!

If you don’t know what the Percy Jackson series is about, you must be living under a rock. We follow Percy as he finds out that he’s actually a Demi-god. Lots of wild antics and quests ensue. I really enjoyed this book, and the rest of the series. I love Percy and Annabeth and Grover. I love all of the characters we meet. And I love the representation this story gives.

“Even strength must bow to wisdom sometimes.”

“It’s funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their version of reality.”

“Look, I didnt want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom and dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful nasty ways. If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe none of this ever happened. But if you recognize yourself in these pages-if you feel something stirring inside- stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it’s only a matter of time before THEY sense it too, and they’ll come for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Baking: Chocolate Chip Cookies (but they’re blue!)

So, for this one I actually used my mother-in-laws recipe for chocolate chip cookies and I’m actually not going to share that with you all.

“I guess I should explain the blue food. See, Gabe had once told my mom there was no such thing. They had this fight, which seemed like a really small thing at the time. But ever since, my mom went out of her way to eat blue. She baked blue birthday cakes. She mixed blueberry smoothies. She bought blue-corn tortilla chips and brought home blue candy from the shop. ”

Okay, so here is where I’d usually put the ingredients and baking instructions. But as I said above, I’m not sharing my MIL’s recipe. So, find a chocolate chip cookie recipe of your choice and literally, all I did was add blue food coloring to the dough once it was all mixed together. I’m just going to add some more pictures I took in place of the usual ingredients and instructions.

I got some pictures when they came right out of the oven that really show how blue they are. It seemed when they cooled they lost a bit of the color. But they were not good pictures so I will not be adding them here. I also just have to say that I think these are the best batch I’ve made and I think it’s because of a brown sugar issue where I had to make my own. Have you ever made any blue food in honor of Percy Jackson? Let me know in the comments!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

GoodReads Summary:
They call him the Duke of Ruin.
To an undaunted wallflower, he’s just the beast next door.
Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society—and now he wants to get even.
Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart.
When her imposing—and attractive—new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals, Penny sets him a challenge. She will part with her precious charges, if he can find them loving homes.
Done, Gabriel says. How hard can it be to find homes for a few kittens?
And a two-legged dog.
And a foul-mouthed parrot.
And a goat, an otter, a hedgehog . . .
Easier said than done, for a cold-blooded bastard who wouldn’t know a loving home from a workhouse. Soon he’s covered in cat hair, knee-deep in adorable, and bewitched by a shyly pretty spinster who defies his every attempt to resist. Now she’s set her mind and heart on saving him.
Not if he ruins her first.
The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke, #3)Review:
I just love this series. I immediately loved Gabriel Duke from the moment Penny met him while he was wearing nothing but a towel and she was trying to find her parrot. I already loved Penny from the previous books and I really enjoyed getting to know more about her history that led her to where she is now.
I also really enjoyed getting to know Duke. He’s just like another one of Penny’s strays that just need to be loved. He has a not so great past and I really enjoyed seeing him try to work through that with Penny’s help.
The two make a deal to get rid of all the animals that Penny has rescued. This is not as easy as Duke thinks it will be. I loved this aspect of the story because it keeps pushing the couple together, even though they’ve vowed not to be alone together. Their banter and antics were really the best part of this book.
I also really loved that we still got to see Penny’s friends. I loved that the couples from the two previous books are a part of this one too. I also really enjoyed that things were sort of set up a little bit to get the reader excited for the next book.
Overall, I loved this book. I love this series. These wallflowers are some of my favorite characters to read about. I love seeing them get their happy endings. This book was funny and full of love. I definitely recommend this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Winters

GoodReads Summary:
Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.
Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.
Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?
To Have and to HoaxReview:
This book was fun. We follow James and Violet after they’ve been married five years. But something happened four years ago, something that was supposed to be mysterious and it was because we didn’t find out what the fight was about until about halfway. But it was a bit repetitive. The way both James and Violet talked about their fight, they both said the same things over and over. That was a little annoying, but it’s a small thing.
I was anticipating more hilarity from the premise saying that they were going to go back and forth essentially lying to one another, but it wasn’t as fast-paced as I thought it would be. Though it was slow, I still enjoyed it. The end third of the book was the best. When the couple finally acknowledge that they know what the other has been up to is when things got interesting for me.
Overall, this book was enjoyable. I thought it was fun and silly. I liked James and Violet and I liked them even better once they fixed their issues and got back together.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

GoodReads Summary:
Welcome to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.
JANE (a genuine hero-eene)
Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.
FRANK (*wolf whistle*)
Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .
ANNIE (get your gun!)
Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.
A HAIRY SITUATION
After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.
My Calamity Jane (The Lady Janies, #3)Review:
I absolutely adored the first two books written by the Lady Janies, so I knew I was going to read this one. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction (I do find ones I love now and then) and even further, westerns are not my jam at all. I did find myself enjoying this book despite those things. The narrators really make these books so fun with their little inserts and side notes.
The characters really made this story. I love the found family trope and this book didn’t disappoint in that aspect. We follow Calamity Jane, Wild Bill, Frank, and Annie Oakley. The first three are already a team, traveling the country for their show. But they’re also undercover Garou (read: werewolves) hunters. Annie comes in when she realizes the show is going to be close to where she lives. She travels to see the show and then challenges Frank to a competition to prove that Annie is a better sharpshooter. I really loved Annie. She was such a go-getter. She’s confident in her abilities and never backed down from a challenge. She’s smart and got herself into situations that were just hilarious, but also often helpful. She sees things that the others don’t. But she also has some prejudices from her childhood that she needs to get over. Jane gets herself into some trouble early into their investigation. But rather than sharing with her makeshift family, she tries to figure a way out herself. I hate secret-keeping and there was a lot of it in this story. So, much could have been avoided if only the four had just told the whole truth to one another. Regardless, this found family got up to some real western antics. I mostly enjoyed the action and the drama. I liked that Indigenous people were included in the story as eventual friends of Annie. I thought it was a good part of the story.
Overall, this wasn’t a new favorite, but it was a fun read. I liked the characters. I really enjoyed the way that the Lady Janies tell their stories. There was mystery and drama, action, and suspense. It was enough to keep me interested.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.