The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Summary:
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.
Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)

Review:
I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did. I thought there was going to be some fantasy or magical element, but I wasn’t disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t. The Inheritance Games is a delightfully mysterious story that follows Avery as she learns that she has inherited the fortune of Tobias Hawthorne, a man that she has never met. The only stipulation is that she must live in Hawthorne House for one year before she can receive this inheritance. The downside of moving into a big mysterious mansion? The other people that live in it. This starts the riddles, puzzles, and occasionally, nonsense that Avery must deal with.
Tobias Hawthorne had two daughters. One of his daughters has four sons. These four, Tobias’s grandsons, will be Avery’s biggest challenge. I liked the characters. I think they were all well developed and interesting (even the ones I didn’t like). It was never really clear who was on Avery’s side, or at least, who didn’t completely despise her. I think the mystery of this story was so well done. It’s a series, so there’s definitely some things that didn’t get answered, but I felt like enough of my questions were answered for me to feel satisfied. I think the Hawthorne grandsons were absolutely fascinating. Each of them had such different reactions to Avery’s new place in their lives. I think Barnes did an excellent job of leaving little bits and pieces of the truth for the reader to put together. There’s so much to make theories and guesses for and I really enjoyed this part. At times, it was easy to even doubt Avery.
The one thing I didn’t like was the romance aspect of it. It seemed like insta-love, which isn’t a trope that I care for. I think the romance absolutely was not needed in this book. I think the relationship could have stayed completely platonic, or if anything could have been a one-sided attraction. I don’t think the romance really added anything special to the story and I didn’t care for it.
Overall, I absolutely had a blast reading this book. I read it in one sitting and I could not put it down until I got to the last page. I really enjoyed the characters, even the bad ones. I liked the mystery. It kept me interested and wondering what the truth behind Avery getting the inheritance. I am very eager to get my hands on the sequel later this year.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

Summary:
When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.
Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.
Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.
But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

You Deserve Each Other

Review:
When You Deserve Each Other was first released in 2020, there were so many people talking about it. It made lots of TBR lists, and a few people whose reviews I trust really enjoyed it. So, obviously I bought it because I’m addicted to buying books.
This story follows Naomi and Nicholas, an engaged couple, that have stayed together, pretending to be happy, despite the fact that they both want to break up. Now, I just have to say that for most of this book, I was screaming at them in my head to just break up already! But, honestly, I’m glad they didn’t because damn was this book entertaining. I didn’t like Naomi at first, she was hiding herself, but once she stopped doing that and we really got to see her personality, I started to love her. She’s witty and sassy. She’s creative and devious. I loved the pranks she played on Nicholas. I feel the same about Nicholas. He was a bit of a jerk at first, but part of that was probably because we met him through Naomi’s perspective. But once we got to see his playful side when he and Naomi started to prank and play with each other, I really love him too.
Overall, this was a super fun romance. I liked that it had the twist of the two love interests already being in a relationship. I thought that made the story even more fun. Two people that had already agreed to marry one another and almost completely plan the entire wedding, but they realized that they didn’t even want to get married anymore. I really enjoyed watching them come back together and fall in love again. I think this will be a hit for those that love fun and funny romances.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
Half-angel Trinity and her bonded gargoyle protector, Zayne, have been working with demons to stop the apocalypse while avoiding falling in love. The Harbinger is coming…but who or what is it? All of humankind may fall if Trinity and Zayne can’t win the race against time as dark forces gather.
As tensions rise, they must stay close together and patrol the DC streets at night, seeking signs of the Harbinger, an entity that is killing Wardens and demons with no seeming rhyme or reason. Forbidden to be with each other, Zayne and Trinity fight their feelings and turn to unusual sources for help—the demon Roth and his cohorts. But as deaths pile up and they uncover a sinister plot involving the local high school and endangering someone dear to Zayne, Trin realizes she is being led…herded…played for some unknown end. As anger builds and feelings spiral out of control, it becomes clear that rage may be the ruin of them all.

Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Review:
Rage and Ruin is the second book in the Harbinger series. You can find my review for the first book here. If you haven’t read that book and don’t want spoilers, since this is a sequel, please stop reading now and come back once you’ve read the first book.
So, this book picks up right where the first one left off. Trinity is in D.C. staying with Zayne, trying to figure out what the hell is going on with the Harbinger. I think the mystery behind the Harbinger was pretty well done. I think it was a bit drawn out, but that was more due to Zayne and Trinity constantly managing to get distracted by other issues. I liked the world building that we got. Seeing the witches from the Dark Elements trilogy again was really enjoyable. There were so many things about to book that were new, but there were also some things that we got to see that we already knew from the Dark Elements trilogy. I really enjoyed learning new things about this world filled with gargoyles, angels, and demons. I think the idea of the Trueborns was so interesting, but I wanted to know more about them. I hope we get to learn more about their history in the next book, especially considering some of the plot reveals we got in this book.
Now, Layla and Zayne. It was pretty obvious where their relationship was going in the first book. It was a bit insta-lovey, but I wasn’t mad about it. I didn’t really predict the twists that made their love forbidden, but once that was revealed, it was completely obvious that it was always headed that way. I liked their relationship. I’m a sucker for a forbidden romance. But I didn’t love all of Trinity’s insecurities. There were quite a few moments that I just wanted to shake her and tell her to freaking talk to Zayne. I think these complications in their relationship were done well though. It was hard not to sympathize with Trinity. I can understand why she was feeling insecure and the ways that she reacted. But I also very much think that she was over dramatic. I still liked Trinity a lot. She’s got a degenerative eye disease that causes her to slowly go blind. I thought there were some really great moments of bonding and support surrounding her vision. I liked watching Trinity learn to lean on Zayne and let him help her.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The twists and turns of the story were surprising, sometimes shocking, and always enjoyable. The emotions were high and I think Armentrout did an incredible job getting the reader to feel what the characters were feeling and care about them. I cannot wait for the final installment of this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Summary:
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.
When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
Review:
The Henna Wars follows Nishat after she comes out as a lesbian to her parents. This is really hard for her because her parents “accept” what she says to them, but she knows they really don’t and are hoping she’ll grow out of it. Along with this, her business class has started a project of creating their own business and whatever team wins will get a cash prize. Nishat, with her two best friends, work on an idea that Nishat is excited and passionate about, henna. Except there’s another group doing henna as their business and Nishat is upset about it because they are using something from her culture because they think it’s “cute”.
I really liked this story. It talked about so many good things like cultural appropriation, how hard it is to be queer when you don’t have supportive parents, and being queer while going to a Catholic school. Nishat has dealt with racist rumors and catty girls while growing up, she knows how to keep her head down and ignore people. But I really enjoyed it when she finally stopped doing that and stood up for herself.
Overall, I really liked Nishat. Her relationship with her sister was one of my favorite things about this book. Her sister is so supportive even when Priti was dealing with her own struggles. There were some good and bad moments with Nishat’s two best friends which definitely added to the story. And the romance with Flavia, despite all the bad things between them, was sweet and I grew to like it. This was a great story that talked about so many important things like, race and bullying. I think readers that like YA contemporary will really love this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hannah Alkaf

Summary:
A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle-grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle-grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.
Review:The Girl and the Ghost
I adored The Girl and The Ghost. This book was creepy but in a way that I just couldn’t stop listening. I have to shower this narrator with compliments because they told this story in such an incredible way, filling it with emotion and suspense at all the right moments. I will definitely be looking to see if this narrator has read other books.
This book alternates chapters between the girl and the ghost. It’s a dark and atmospheric story about a young girl named Suraya who is gifted a pelesit (which is a sort of a ghost). This pelesit is eventually named Pink by Suraya. Her mother cares for her in the sense of making sure Suraya is fed and clothed and goes to school. But she’s not a mother that is affectionate. Suraya is a lonely kid, so when Pink comes to find her after her grandmother dies, Suraya is glad to have a friend. She and Pink do everything together. This story starts when Suraya is very young, so not much happens in the beginning aside from Pink finding Suraya and the two bonding deeply. But once Suraya gets a bit older, and makes a new friend, Pink becomes jealous. This is where the story starts to get suspenseful and kind of scary. Pink reacts out of jealousy and starts to do things that Suraya has specifically told him not to do.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. Suraya and Pink’s relationship was sweet at first, it was something that they both needed, a friend. I really appreciated that as things progressed and Suraya realized that she couldn’t handle things with Pink anymore, she asked her mother for help. I think that this book was wholesome as heck despite being a middle-grade horror novel. It had friendship and adventure, pelesit, ghosts, and a few other spooky things. The Girl and the Ghost is a story with heart and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ravens by Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Awakening by Nora Roberts

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

GoodReads Summary:
“To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a brand new epic novel from New York Times bestselling author Christopher Paolini.
Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds.
Now she’s awakened a nightmare.
During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.
As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.
While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .”
To Sleep in a Sea of StarsReview:
I’m going to start by saying that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this book. I didn’t love the Eragon series, but science fiction is my favorite genre, so I knew I was going to read this. When I started the book and realized that this was a man writing a story with a female main character, I texted my friends that I buddy read this with (hey, The Bookish Chick & Books in the Skye) and told them I was wary. But I am happy to say that all of those thoughts and expectations were wrong. I genuinely enjoyed this book so much.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars follows Kira (who I assumed to be Latinx from her last name but I don’t remember if it was ever specifically stated as the human population lives on many different planets now, so I don’t know that this distinction would exist in the same way anymore.) Kira is a xenobiologist which I honestly can’t tell you what that is, so. She finds an alien relic while doing a routine check and her life changes forever when she realizes that part of this relic is alive (sort of? I’m pretty sure it’s alive.) There’s not much about this part of the story in the synopsis so I’m going to stop there so I don’t spoil anything. Kira finds herself on a new path that she never anticipated. Alien life has been discovered again and this time it’s hostile. Two new alien species have revealed themselves and humanity is now at war with them. Kira and her team are the only ones that can stop this and potentially make peace with them. They just have to convince the military of that. With this aspect of the story, there were really great action scenes. I think Paolini did an incredible job of space warfare. There was enough explanation for me to understand what was going on and it wasn’t so much science that I didn’t understand how it worked. There were definitely a few things about space travel that I had questions about, but I think that was more of a ‘you need to accept it at face value and move on Amanda.’
The characters were completely the best part of the story. I easily loved them all. There’s Kira of course, who was well developed and interesting. She’s found herself in a situation unlike any she’s dealt with and she handles it admirably. She does the right thing, even if that means putting herself at risk. She is brave and thoughtful. She makes a point to listen to others and consider opinions and ideas that aren’t her own. I also really liked Falconi. He’s the captain of the Wallfish, the ship that Kira finds herself on not too long after she finds the alien relic. I liked that they crew didn’t immediately take her in as one of their own. Falconi is in it for the payday at first. But as the relationships develop, that changes. Falconi was a caring captain. He did what he thought was best for his crew and always took the crews thoughts into consideration before making decisions. Nielsen is basically the first mate. She was the most wary of Kira and I really liked seeing them develop and friendship and open up to one another. Trig was my favorite and added such excellent humor to the story. I will forever love all of the newt puns. Sparrow was a hard character, but for good reasons. I loved her backstory and that she took time to help Kira even though they weren’t the closest. Hwa-jung was probably one of the more interesting characters. She comes from a planet that has different gravity so her whole body structure is different from most humans. I liked the inclusion of Korean ideas and culture through Hwa-jung. I also liked that there was a romantic relationship between her and Sparrow. The Entropists were absolutely the most compelling characters. They come from a group that is way more technologically advanced than the rest of humanity. I liked that they stayed with the Wallfish crew to learn more and help with everything. I would love to get another book that was focused on the Entropists as a group. I also have to mention the ship mind, Gregorovich. He’s mildly unstable because he spent several years in isolation after an accident where his whole crew died. He was weird and funny and I loved it. I think the concept of the ship minds was fascinating. Gregorovich was once a human with a body, but he chose to become a ship mind and I think that concept is so interesting. Gregorovich is my favorite.
Overall, I really ended up loving this entire book. There were like two scenes that made me cringe. One was a sex scene and it wasn’t cringy because it was a sex scene, it was 100% because of the alien relic. I really loved the characters and all the relationships and different dynamics within the relationships. I think the world building of all the different places that humanity has spread to was really interesting. I wanted to know more about the alien relic and the aliens that created it. We get a bit, but it’s mostly through vague memories from the relic. I also don’t know that I was totally satisfied with the ending. I liked that Kira took responsibility. But the last few pages were honestly confusing. If you like science fiction, you’re probably going to love this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

GoodReads Summary:
Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?
After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.
Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?
Court of Lions (Mirage, #2)Review:
Court of Lions was a 2020 anticipated release I didn’t even know about until August (when I finally read Mirage). Book two starts right where the first left off. I don’t want to spoil the first book because if you haven’t read it you need to stop what you’re doing and go read it now. I listened to audiobooks for the whole series and they were incredible. There were lots of names and worldbuilding things that I would have had trouble pronouncing correctly and the narrator did a wonderful job. She really put emotions into each character and the story. I highly recommend them.
The story starts with Amani being called to Maram for the first time after Maram found some information about Amani’s activities in the first book, and she was not happy about it. This break of trust between the two was so sad for me. They had finally gotten to such a good place. They trusted and confided in one another. I was sad to see that be lost. But on a more positive note, they gained this closeness back. The relationship between Maram and Amani was my favorite thing about this book. The two figured out how to get past Amani’s breaking Maram’s trust and they become as close as sisters. Seeing these two finally work together toward the same goals made me so happy. Seeing them work together to gain allies (and get Nadia out of the way) and work toward a better future for their planet.
Maram had incredible growth. She spends time really learning about her heritage that comes from her mother. I loved seeing her get away from her cold and cruel persona that she wears to prove she is Vathek enough. She’s embracing her mother’s side and it was so great. I loved learning about it as Maram did. I also really loved Maram’s love interest. We really get to know her on a deeper level once the love interest is introduced. Maram shows a completely different side from anything we’ve seen before and I loved it.
Amani’s story focuses on bettering her relationship with Maram. But she also gets a very complicated romance that’s continued from the first book. She battles with her feelings for Idris who is actually Maram’s fiancé (and eventually husband). Pretending to be Maram and Idris’ wife was a difficult task for her because she cared so much for him. It was interesting to see her battle her feelings for him versus what she thought was the right thing to do. I also adored Amani because she has an incredible mind for the politics of the world. We get to follow Maram and Amani as they tour the world after the wedding and I loved getting to see more of this culture. It was beautiful and fascinating. Amani is the mastermind behind all of Maram’s moves, but once the two and Idris start planning together my heart was singing.
This story started with many very unhappy people, but by the end of this book, they are all (mostly) put back together. This is a story of exploring your roots and your history. It’s a story of figuring out who you are and what you want and getting those things that you wanted, that you dreamed of having. I loved every page of these characters finding their way together, to friendship, and to love. I cannot say enough how much these characters and this story weaved its way into my heart. The writing was beautiful and took me right there, into this world, the drama, the politics, and the emotions. This series will definitely be making my 2020 favorites list.

Quotes:

“All of us have suffered one loss of another. All of us live in the shadow of that. And those losses do not absolve us of the choices we make.”

“Sometimes,” she said contemplatively, “all the paths lead where we would rather not go. Sometimes you can’t outrun home or destiny.”

“It’s not about the teller,” I said. “But the fortune. Good or ill, true or false, it haunts the listener.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

GoodReads Summary:
Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.
Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.
As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.
A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.
Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.
The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)Review:
Chokshi is easily one of my favorite authors, so it was no surprise that I really loved The Silvered Serpents. I ended up borrowing the audiobook from my library because my preorder hasn’t arrived yet and I couldn’t wait any longer to get more of these characters and their antics.
This book was tough for me because that found family that I so quickly fell in love with in The Gilded Wolves isn’t very recognizable to the characters in this book. I’m going to try to keep this spoiler free, so if you’ve read The Gilded Wolves, you know the big terrible thing that happens which sort of splinters this group. They’re all dealing with the loss and none of them are dealing very well. It was really sad to see this group so split apart.
Severin is pretty much unrecognizable from who he was in the first book. He’s still very focused on his mission, but his goals have become twists and he will pay any cost to reach that goal. It was really sad to see how his grief had affected him. It was especially hard to see all of the others trying so hard to reach out to him with no positive results. Though I did enjoy learning more about his past.
Laila has secrets, she always has. But now this secret has a time limit that is quickly coming. I think her time limit was an interesting way to set the pace for this story. We see how many days until her birthday toward the beginning and it seemed like so much had happened in such a short number of days because by the end of the book, her birthday still hadn’t come. I love Laila, but it was really sad to see her and Severin’s relationship be so different. It was hard to see them both fight what they were feeling. I absolutely love that she shared her secret with Enrique and Zofia and that sharing this made them closer. I loved that they reacted in a way that she didn’t think they would. They’re true friends and I’m glad that at least stayed the same.
Enrique made me sad because he was struggling with his passion. He’s a historian and was trying to find a new job when the story started. But he was stood up, and then Severin needed him. He has lots of doubts about himself because his potential new job stood him up. It was really hard to hear his inner thoughts about why he wasn’t good enough for this new organization when it wasn’t his fault at all. I also liked learning more about his past. We learn about stories that show how hard it is for Enrique to be both Filipino and Spanish. I love Enrique and Chokshi really did him dirty in this book.
Zofia, who I think is my favorite, tries so hard to not be a burden on any of her friends. She’s just returned from visiting her sister, who has been very sick. But she doesn’t lean on any of her friends. She doesn’t tell them about her worries. It made me sad that Zofia couldn’t see how much her friends want to be there for her, if only she would let them in. I loved Zofia and really enjoyed reading her chapters. She just tries so hard to be helpful and act like those around her.
Finally, Hypnos. He wasn’t originally a part of this found family, but he’s trying so hard to become a part of it. I mostly liked Hypnos (except for his relationship with a certain someone because he was mean and I didn’t like that). I liked that he tried really hard to get thought to Severin, even though that meant he sort of treated someone else badly. I wanted him to be accepted into this family because he’s certainly shown he wants it and that he’s willing to do what needs to be done for them.
After writing all of this I’ve realized that this book just made me really sad. The found family I grew to love so much in book one, isn’t in this story. We see bits and pieces of it between one or two characters occasionally, but it wasn’t there like it was in the first book. I will say that I absolutely loved the plot. I loved getting to see a different part of this world and the ice creatures were absolutely fascinating. I really loved seeing these characters work together despite not being as close as they used to be. There was so much yearning and I loved it. I love these characters. I loved the magic. I love the diversity. I love the world. Roshani Chokshi can do no wrong. Her writing is incredible and I loved this book even though it made me very sad.

Quotes:

“When the devil waged war in the heavens, even angels had to fall.”

“–perhaps monsters were misunderstood gods; deities with plans too grand for humans; a phantom of evil that drank from the roots of good.”

“Enrique had brought her a cookie and made her laugh, and it felt like sitting beside a fire in one’s own home, knowing exactly where everything was and who would come to the door.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.