The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Summary:
Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

The Midnight Library

Review:
The Midnight Library is a book that I have seen nothing but rave reviews for. It’s the entire reason that I bought it. I ended up getting my book club to choose this book for our March read. I was a bit disappointed by this book, but I can completely understand why so many people love it.
We follow Nora in her life around when she attempts suicide. But instead of whatever is beyond life, she finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place before actual death where every possible version of your life is stored. I thought this concept was really cool. You could have the chance to see what your life would be like had you made another choice at any point during your life. Nora is shown her book of regrets and the story goes from there. She tries out different lives that she could have had, none of them being what she thought they would or making her happy like she thought they might. I thought the idea of being able to see alternate versions of your life was really cool. I didn’t love that once Nora was in these lives, she didn’t have the memories from them. I thought that made things more complicated than they needed to be. But, overall, I liked these parts of the story.
My biggest problem with this book was Nora. She’s just tried to kill herself. So, she obviously is struggling with her mental health. It’s mentioned several times, in several versions of her life, that she takes anti-depressants. I liked this aspect. Normalizing taking medication and seeking help is such an important thing. But Nora just continually worked against herself. She was not a likable character in my opinion. I think this book did some great things, but I found that I couldn’t get myself to actually like Nora.
Overall, I can understand why so many people love this book. But it missed the mark a bit for me. I liked the concept, but with a main character that I didn’t like, the story just wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

Summary:
Blaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn’t plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn’t spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.
From axe throwing (his place) to frosting contests (hers), Blaire and Ronan are constantly trying to one-up each other in a battle to win new customers. But with every clash, there’s also an undeniable chemistry. When an even bigger threat to their business comes to town, they’re forced to call a temporary time-out on their own war and work together. And the more time Blaire spends getting to know the real Ronan, the more she wonders if it’s possible to have her cupcake and eat it too.
Review:Kiss My Cupcake
Kiss My Cupcake
is a romance novel full of sweetness. Buttercream & Booze is Blaire’s dream come true, but now she has to make sure it’s a success. So, when construction starts next door at The Knight Cap, Blaire can’t help but be annoyed. She goes to confront whoever is causing her brand-new glasses to fall off their shelves and smash. This is the start of their rivalry. The pranks and antics of glitter bombs and fake poop ensue. But when a bigger competitor comes along that will affect both of their businesses, they band together to host events and attract new customers. I really loved this part of the story. I liked their rivalry; it was fun and lighthearted even if Blaire took it a little too seriously sometimes. Their relationship developed into more in a way that I really liked. I was easily invested in their romance. I liked their businesses too. Ronan is running his grandfather’s bar, The Knight Cap, and adding some new things like ax throwing and brewing his own beers. I thought the history of the bar was really sweet. I liked that it was a part of his family and that Ronan had a history with it too. I also liked the concept of Buttercream and Booze. Cupcakes and fancy drinks are absolutely something I’d like to do. I would totally show up for one of Blaire’s trivia night.
I think a lot of people will really like this one, but I did have some issues with it. The first is Blaire’s attitude. She has a really complicated family. They’re wealthy because of their own high-end restaurants. But Blaire wants to do her own thing and she wants to do it without their help (because their help usually comes with strings). But she talks about how she’s done all of this on her own, except that she hasn’t. She found her passion for baking while she was schooling in France, a trip funded by her parents. So, while yes, Buttercream and Booze is something she’s doing all on her own, her life and education were all funded by her parents so I wouldn’t really consider her to be ‘doing this all on her own.’ Also, she always has the option to ask her parents for their help or to go work for them. She’s pretty privileged and I don’t think she really acknowledged that. I also want to mention that she’s pretty judgmental. When she first met Ronan, he’s wearing a plaid shirt and she makes a comment about how he’s a ‘flannel-wearing hipster.’ She was quick to judge and sometimes harsh with those judgments.
Overall, I was able to look past the things I didn’t like about Blaire and enjoy the story. She definitely wasn’t my favorite female lead and I ended up enjoying the story well enough. It was sweet and entertaining.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Review:
A hacktivist and a cat café owner decode the friend zone in this romantic comedy from the author of Undercover Bromance.
Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.
Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush.
Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.
Review:Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club, #3)
Crazy Stupid Bromance
is the newest book in the Bromance Bookclub series. I love the concept of this series, where men figure out how to be better to the women they have feelings for by reading and learning from romance novels they read together and discuss. I think this book had a good combination of the romance between Alexis and Noah, and the bromance bookclub gang. I liked that the book club was there for Noah when he knew he’d made a mistake and they helped him figure out what to do next.
Alexis is a character we met in previous books. She’s one of the people that we learned in the last book was sexually harassed by a celebrity chef she used to work for. She spoke out about this harassment along with a few other women. She’s cultivated her car café into a safe space for other women that have been assaulted or harassed. She organized things like yoga classes and such to help others after she learned things that helped her. I liked that this was a part of the story. It wasn’t the whole story, not overtaking anything, but it was there. It wasn’t brushed aside or just mentioned once. It was a part of Alexis, so it was a part of the story.
As for the mysterious sister, and the father that Alexis never met that needs an organ donation, I don’t know how I felt about this. I liked that it was something close to the author’s heart (there’s an author’s note about her reasoning for choosing to write about organ donation). But it felt out of place in a romance novel.
Overall, I still am not totally sure how I felt about this book and that’s very clear in this review. I really liked Noah and Alexis together. Their friends to lovers romance was sweet and I really enjoyed seeing them take that step past friends. I read this book quickly and enjoyed it while I was reading it. I think most that like the friends to lovers trope will enjoy this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Summary:
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever―and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. SchwabReview:
There are some books I just don’t know that I’ll be able to succinctly write my thoughts and feelings about and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of those books. I’m going to do my best, but I’m sorry in advance if this review is mostly nonsense.
Addie LaRue makes a deal with a dark god (or a demon, honestly, I don’t know what the heck Luc is really.) But the deal isn’t what she thought it would be, so the story starts around 300 years later in 2014. Addie cannot be remembered. I think this part of the story was fascinating. The rules of how this worked were given to us slowly over time and I really felt for Addie. She’s lonely, but as we read more, we learn about her history with Luc (the dark god) when the story flashes back to the past. Their relationship is a complicated one and it was absolutely fascinating. But one day, Addie walks into a bookstore and the employee at the counter, Henry, does something odd. He remembers her. The story takes off from here.
Addie was a likable character. It’s easy to feel for her when she’s a young girl in 1714, she wants for so much, and is being offered the small life of being a wife and mother, things she’s never wanted. So, she prays to the gods after dark. Luc answers and grants her wish to be free. Except being ‘free’ has a cost. No one can remember her. Following Addie as she discovers the limits of her ‘freedom’ was heart wrenching but also fascinating. I really loved the contrast of Addie’s life in the past as she’s learning how to survive her new life, to Addie’s life in the present where she’s figured out how to survive. She’s definitely a morally grey character, in the sense of she’s going to do what she needs to survive. Whether that means she steals food and other things to keep her sanity, so be it. I liked Addie. She knew what she wanted from life and she made it happen. When things didn’t go as planned, she made the best she could with what she had. She’s a stubborn woman that didn’t just give up when things got hard, despite Luc offering her many outs.
Henry, the bookseller, was an interesting character too. His connections to Addie and why he can remember her was really well done. I didn’t guess it, but I had many theories until the truth was revealed. I think Henry was a likable character too. He just wants to be enough for the people in his life, but he never is. He struggles with addiction and I thought that was well written. I think Henry was a little bland, but generally a nice guy. But when the competition is a dark god, it’s a tough comparison.
Then there’s Luc. The dark god, or maybe a demon, who knows. He was such a compelling character. We learn more and more about him when the story flashed back to Addie’s past. At first, we’re led to believe that he’s given Addie this ‘gift’ and left on her own. But we see the two develop a relationship. I loved seeing Addie challenge him and their banter was excellent.
Overall, I really loved this book. It was a slow paced, character focused story, so not one that everyone will love. It was a quiet story, but thought provoking with complex characters. The writing was stunning and the magic (if that’s what it’s called) was explained well enough for me to be satisfied. I definitely think this is going to be a book that not everyone loves, but I loved it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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 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 Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

GoodReads Summary:
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
The Once and Future WitchesReview:
Last year, I read Harrow’s debut novel (The Ten Thousand Doors of January) and it was easily one of my absolute favorite books of 2019. Well, Harrow has done it again. I’m glad I picked up The Once and Future Witches before 2020 was over so that I can happily say this book is absolutely one of my top favorite books of 2020.
Harrow created such an incredible story. I first want to talk about the powerful and stunning writing. I don’t often sticky tab my books, but I went through three packs of sticky tabs just marking lines that really stuck out to me. I cannot get enough of Harrow’s writing. I was in awe after her debut, but I am doubly in awe now. She has the ability and creativity to write such stunning prose that really packs a punch. I adored all of the little things too. The chapters starting with each sister and mimicking how they were all introduced, this continuing through the book when the sisters were apart. I just cannot get over how beautifully written this book was.
Now, the plot. It was just as excellent as the writing. We follow three sisters, James Juniper (June, the youngest sister), Agnes Amaranth (Agnes, the middle sister), and Beatrice Belladonna (Bella, the eldest sister). The sisters grew up in the south with a father that was abusive and a mother that died giving birth to June. When June was still just a kid, Agnes and Bella left and June felt abandoned. The two older sisters both had their reasons for leaving (yes, I did absolutely love how this aspect of the story came full circle when the two finally talked about it). Flash forward to present day, somehow, all three sisters have ended up in New Salem. June is hiding from the law, so of course, the first thing she does after arriving in New Salem is join in at a Suffragist protest where women are demanding their right to vote. Agnes is newly pregnant and works in a mill, living in a quiet boarding house. She’s unsure about keeping the baby and knows the father cannot love all of her. She’s walking home from work and also finds herself at this protest. Bella, a librarian, (yes, this is exactly the shit I live for, so thank you Alix Harrow) finds hidden words she remembers her grandmother, Mags, saying to them and she finds herself drawn to the protest and saying the words. Suddenly, there is a link between the sisters and Bella is saying the words. A tower appears and this is where the story starts. I don’t want to go too much into the plot except to say that it was a slow story, but I devoured every page. I loved the meandering story that showed us who these sisters really were and would become. All three have issues from their childhood that they need to overcome, grudges to forgive one another for, and secrets they’re not sure they’re ready to share. I love these three with my whole heart.
I do want to mention that the side characters are just as incredible as the sisters. There are a diverse cast of supporting characters, from black female love interests (yes, there is indeed a female/female romance, thank you again for this), to a trans woman. I love that though this is a historical story, there were still diverse characters that were included. I can’t speak to the representation as I am not trans or black, but from an outside perspective these characters seemed to be portrayed thoughtfully and with purpose. I liked that the female love interest was black because it brought this new perspective of what life in New Salem during this time period was like for people of color, something the sisters might not have thought about.
The magic in The Once and Future Witches was absolutely fascinating. Each chapter was started with a spell. In this story, you must know the words, the ways, and have the will. I thought this was such an interesting way to do magic. I really liked the messages that were shared with the magic. That women are powerful and smart. They know not to write these things down and instead pass them to their daughters in songs, children’s rhymes, and things that men wouldn’t even suspect. I adored the magic and the way that women came together to work this magic and teach one another the few things they’d learned in their lives.
Overall, this is absolutely one of my favorite books of 2020. Harrow is easily a favorite author of mine and I am dying to know what she will publish next. This book and everything about it was nothing short of a stunning master piece and I already cannot wait to reread so I can highlight and underline all of my favorite parts. If you like witches, historical fiction, women empowering other woman, and diverse stories, then this is the book for you.

Quotes:

“One witch you can laugh at. Three you can burn. But what do you do with a hundred?”

“If he peeled back her pretty skin he’d find nothing soft or sweet at all, just busted glass and ashes and the desperate, animal will to stay alive.”

“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”

“A girl is such an easy thing to break: weak and fragile, all alone, all yours. But they aren’t girls anymore, and they don’t belong to anyone. And they aren’t alone.”

“Because it’s easy to ignore a woman.” Juniper’s lips twist in a feral smile. “But a hell of a lot harder to ignore a witch.”

“Seems to me they’re the same thing, more of less. Witching and women’s rights. Suffrage and spells. They’re both…They’re both a kind of power, aren’t they? The kind we aren’t allowed to have.”

“She is a silhouette on the windowsill, an apparition in the alley, a woman there and gone again. She is a pocket full of witch-ways and a voice whispering the right words to the right woman, the clack of a cane against cobbles.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Lightbringer by Claire Legrand

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
In this epic finale to the Empirium Trilogy from New York Timesbestselling author Claire Legrand, two queens, separated by a thousand years must face their ultimate destinies.
Queen Rielle, pushed away from everything she loves, turns to Corien and his promises of glory. Meanwhile, whispers from the empirium slowly drive her mad, urging her to open the Gate. Separated from Audric and Ludivine, she embraces the role of Blood Queen and her place by Corien’s side, determined to become the monster the world believes her to be.
In the future, Eliana arrives in the Empire’s capital as a broken shell of herself. Betrayed and abandoned, she fights to keep her power at bay—and away from Corien, who will stop at nothing to travel back in time to Rielle, even if that means destroying her daughter.
But when the mysterious Prophet reveals themselves at last, everything changes, giving Rielle and Eliana a second chance for salvation—or the destruction their world has been dreading.
Lightbringer (Empirium, #3)Review:
Lightbringer was everything I wanted as a finale for this series and more. It’s been a few weeks since I read it and I still don’t know that I can properly explain how much I loved this book. The story starts not too long after the ending of Kingsbane. This means that things are pretty exciting right from the start. We get to see Rielle start to sort of drown in her own power. I thought it was really interesting to see Rielle’s journey and figure out what was actually going on with her. From the start of the series we’re made to believe that we know exactly how Rielle’s story ends, so the anticipation of what happens up until that moment was so well done.
At the same time, we’re following Eliana’s point of view which was pretty much completely heartbreaking. Eliana was betrayed by someone she loved in the previous book and when Lightbringer starts, she’s being brought to Corien. Eliana’s story was honestly hard to read at times. Corien is trying to get what he wants from her and it’s not pleasant at all. Along with that, she sees the face of her betrayer most days. I loved Eliana so much in this book, even more than I did in the previous ones, because she didn’t falter. Even when she was past her breaking point, she would not give Corien what he wanted.
I guess I’m going to keep this short because I just honestly don’t know how to explain how lost in this world I got. I was so quickly invested in Rielle and Eliana’s characters. So, to reach the finale that was filled with so much development (for Rielle) and so much action (for both) it was such a joy even if the characters I love didn’t have an easy time at all. Legrand’s ability to bring this world, these characters, to life and so completely suck me into the story is incredible. I also have to say that I’m so pleased that I was pretty satisfied with the ending. I was really nervous that I would be devastated and everyone I loved would die (but like I was very lightly devastated for the whole book) but the ending truly picked up the pieces that were previously shattered. There’s more that I want to say, but I don’t want to spoil anything as this is the third and final book in the series. So, quick final thoughts: I loved this book. I love this world and the characters in it. I highly recommend this series to all fantasy lovers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

GoodReads Summary:
Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .
This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
Charming as a VerbReview:
Charming as a Verb is Philippe’s 2020 release and after The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, I was eagerly anticipating it. Charming as a Verb follows Henri as he’s going through his senior year of highs school. He’s applying to colleges and working to save money for said college. He is a dog walker for a reputable company, but what his customers don’t know is that he’s the only employee of this ‘reputable company.’ I think this was an interesting aspect to his character. He didn’t create this fake company to scam people, he did it because he’s a teenager that needs to make money and the people in older generations (that really love their dogs) tend to trust bigger companies. He’s good at his job and great with the dogs. There was also another thing I really liked that Henri explained. His ‘Smile’ that he uses very specifically. I think this was so interesting. It sort of reminds me of my own customer service voice. I worked in retail for many years and my coworkers would sometimes comment on how I’d talk like a completely different person when using my customer service voice. Henri uses his Smile to make people feel comfortable, to see him as a nice young boy that can be trusted. I liked Henri. He’s a high school boy, so he made some mistakes, some he learned from and tried to do better. I liked the conversations surrounding Henri being a black teen going to a private school. I liked seeing him talk with his parents about these things and eventually talks with his friends about how he and his family don’t have the money like many of his friends and classmates do. I liked that while he didn’t want to talk about it, he did, eventually. Henri really showed growth throughout the story and I really liked him.
I liked Corinne even more. She’s a super smart girl that lives in the same building as Henri. She finds out about his dog walking scheme and blackmails him into helping her become better at socializing. I liked Corinne because she was a confident young woman and she knew what she needed to do to grow. I really liked that she didn’t let the blackmail go on very long. Her friendship with Henri developed slowly and naturally and I really enjoyed following them as they went from classmates to friends to a romantic relationship.
I think this was a wonderful contemporary YA novel that will really resonate with many young readers. I liked the diverse characters and all of the conversations they have. I will definitely be reading Philippe’s future books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

GoodReads Summary:
Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.
But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.
A Song Below WaterReview:
I loved everything about this book. A Song Below Water follows Tavia and Effie, two girls that have adopted one another as sisters. I think that was my favorite part of this story. The relationship that Tavia and Effie have was so wonderful. They may not have been sisters by blood, but they were sisters in every way that counts. This was absolutely the highlight of the book. But there were so many other things I loved.
Tavia is a siren. This is something she really struggles with. It’s a part of her identity, just like being a black girl in America is. But her father has always drilled it into her head how dangerous it is to be both of those things. You see, the world knows about the mythological creatures that exist in the world. They know about sirens (and they do not treat them well), but the world also knows about pixies and gargoyles and other myths that we meet in the story. Most of these creatures are accepted, but sirens are not, at all. So, Tavia struggles every day keeping her identity as a siren a secret. She struggles to keep her siren voice inside. This sometimes means that she just can’t speak. She has learned sign language so that she can speak that way. She and Effie are a team, and Effie comes in to translate (with their parents and sometimes even in class). It was heartbreaking to see the anxiety and stress that being a siren causes Tavia, but I really loved all of the things she did to help herself. I loved how Tavia worked through these things and eventually made some really good progress with her family too.
Effie is dealing with different issues. She’s still dealing with the grief of losing her mother. She has moved in with Tavia and her family. But she has other issues. She can’t stop thinking about her dry skin and her head itching. She’s been to doctors and they have not been helpful. But things are getting worse for her. Her grandmother is acting weird and Effie just wants some answers. Faire season is coming up and it’s Effie’s favorite time of year. She plays a mermaid and this year she’s gotten a bigger part. But while Effie’s trying to figure out what secrets are being kept from her, her priorities start to change. Swimming is something she loves and always calms her, but it’s usually been related to the faire. This year is different. Effie is different. I thought the author did a great job keeping the reader guessing as to what exactly was going on with Effie.
Just real quick, also. I totally loved the gargoyle parts of this story. The mystery of why the gargoyle perched on Tavia’s roof every night was great and got even better when Tavia befriended him.
I loved both of these girls so much. They’re both dealing with their own really have shit, but they never fail to be there when the other needs support. They hold each other up and I loved every minute of their relationship. I just really loved this book. The writing was stunning and the story swept me away. I listened to the audiobook which had two narrators and I thought they did a wonderful job telling this story. I cannot wait for this series to continue.

Quotes:

“We should all speak like sirens. Use our voices to make a difference, because all of them matter.”

“What we need isn’t dissuading, or discouragement, or consoling. We don’t need to be told we’re all helpless. What we need is action.”

“I’m not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.”

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 Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

GoodReads Summary:
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
The Space Between WorldsReview:
The Space Between Worlds is a story that completely sucked me in. I was so hooked almost immediately. I think the author did so many things right in this story. Cara is a ‘traverser’ meaning she is one of the people that travel to alternate realities. She’s a pretty valuable asset to the company she works for because in this book you can only travel to alternate realities that your counterpart is no longer living. Cara is only alive in seven other realities. So, she’s able to travel to most of the other realities. She’s also training to become an analyst because there are rumors that the company will be announcing soon that they now have a way to collect the data remotely instead of using their traversers. She needs to be able to stay in the city for a certain amount of time so she can gain residency in the city or she will have to return to a home that isn’t familiar to her.
Things get exciting when Cara is sent to a reality where her counterpart is still alive. This scene where Cara is arriving was so intense. This book excelled at having great action and excitement, but not so much that it was non-stop. When Cara is fighting to stay alive after arriving in a reality she never should have traveled to, I was gripping the book so hard. I’d become so invested in Cara and her secrets. Cara is a really complicated character. She has secrets and I would definitely consider her to be a bit morally grey. She’s had a hard life and she’s doing everything she can to make a better future for herself. She’s done some not great things, but I found that I couldn’t help but really like her anyway. Cara manages to survive the horrible repercussions of traveling to a reality where her other was still alive with the help of someone from her past. But in this universe, he is completely different. Cara learns some valuable secrets while she’s in this reality and she uses them when she returns.
This book was incredible. I think it did a great job of highlighting the inequalities of this world. For example, most of the traversers are people from poor areas because these groups of people are more likely to die in their environments than those that have families who have lives in the cities for generations. This was a really interesting aspect of the story. I also really enjoyed that we got to see some of the other alternate realities or at least hear about them. I thought it was really interesting to see the different potential lives of Cara. I also really enjoyed the romance, if you can call it that. Cara cares for her handler, Dell, but she has all of these things she thinks because Dell has money and her family has lived in the city for generations. But we eventually learn the reason for Dell’s behavior and it was such a great example of people letting assumptions guide their thoughts and actions.
There were some really interesting family dynamics as well. I can’t say too much about it because part of the dynamic has to do with Cara’s biggest secret. But I really liked seeing how her family lived and seeing her relationship with her sister grow.
One last thing I want to mention is the mythology, I don’t know that mythology is the correct word for what I’m talking about but that’s what I’m going to use. This aspect of the story was so interesting. Cara has learned the mythology of a goddess (I think) from her mentor, an analyst that used to be a traverser. He’s told her about his beliefs and she’s taken them as her own. When she is traversing, she feels this goddess holding Cara in her arms and transporting her. I really enjoyed these parts of the story because they were really thoughtful and it was a way for Cara to think about things differently.
I just cannot say enough good things about this book. It might just end up on my 2020 favorites list. I cannot wait to see what Johnson will write next. I really hope to see more from this world.

Quotes:

“I guess it’s easy to be confident when you’re helpless, easy to be fearless when you have nothing left to lose.”

“Because that’s what a sister is: a piece of yourself you can finally love, because it’s in someone else.”

“They say hunting monsters will turn you into one. That isn’t what’s happening now. Sometimes to kill a dragon, you have to remember that you breath fire too. This isn’t a becoming; its a revealing. I’ve been a monster all along”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Seven Devils by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

GoodReads Summary:
This first book in a feminist space opera duology follows seven resistance fighters who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire — or die trying.
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.
Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.
When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.
Seven Devils (Seven Devils, #1)Review:
Seven Devils is a book that Antonia brought to my attention earlier in the fall and I’m so glad that she did. I absolutely devoured this book. The story is told from a few different perspectives. This is something that can either make or break a story. There are many books where the multiple perspectives all blend together, this was not one of those cases. Each character was distinct and I was never confused about whose perspective I was reading. I think the writing was really good. This world they created was so fascinating and well built.
We follow some members of the resistance that have history with one another from before the book starts. Eris and Clo worked together for the resistance in the past. Clo learned Eris’s biggest secret and the two haven’t worked together since. But there is a mission they must work together to fulfill and that’s where this story starts. Clo is angry that she has to work with Eris. I really enjoyed that we got chapters from both the present and the past for many of the characters. We got to see exactly what happened between Eris and Clo. I liked Eris. I liked her even more after learning about her past and her secrets. I just genuinely liked all of the characters. We meet the rest of our squad a little way into the story. I liked that it worked like this because we got to settle into the world and get to know Eris and Clo and figure out what was going on before three more characters were added. I liked the three friends that became a part of the crew. They each added something different, but equally important. I thought all the characters had such an interesting dynamic as a group because the three friends knew one another, but they were unsure about Eris and Clo. There wasn’t much trust, but it was really wonderful seeing these characters learn to trust one another individually and as a group.
Overall, this was such a good story. I loved that the story jumped back and forth between the past and the present (and was clearly labeled when it did this). I loved the group of characters that needed to learn to work together and trust one another. I loved the secrets that eventually came out. There were slower moments, but there were also some pretty high stakes. The representation was also wonderful. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation but I do want to mention what was in this story. One of the leaders of the rebellion is a trans woman. There is a romantic relationship between two women (this was my favorite and the story was so casual about it which I loved). There’s an autistic character. There’s bisexual representation and ace representation. I cannot wait for this series to continue. I will definitely be reading more by both May and Lam.

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.

Blogtober Day Five: October TBR – 2020 Releases

Hello, lovelies! I’m back today with the second half of my October TBR. Today’s just a quick list of books I think want to read in October that were all released in 2020. Some of these I’ve preordered and I’m still waiting for them to arrive and some I already own, so I’m not sure how successful I’ll be with completing this list.

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Lightbringer by Claire Legrand

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass

Seven Devils by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Horrid by Katrina Leno

These are all books I own that were released in 2020 that I am hoping to get to this month. What 2020 releases have you been saving for October?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.