Amanda’s Summertime Book Recommendations

Hello, lovelies! I had a great time picking books for my Springtime Book Recommendations post that I thought I would continue the trend now that Summer is upon us. I have some books I’m really excited to share with you all. I do have to say that quite a few of these are pirate stories, as I almost always read those in the summertime. But, I do also have some good fantasy and romance of varying age ranges.

Young Adult

Book Cover

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
“Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life. Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers. Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl? Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.”

Book Cover

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield
“Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica. When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him. In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane. Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.”

Book Cover

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
“This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her. Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?”

Book Cover

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
“As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus. Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him. Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.”

Book Cover

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
“Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her. Born in a lab, M0Rr1S was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for the love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does. Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.”

Book Cover

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemore
“There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.”

Book Cover

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
“Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there. When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all. As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.”

Book Cover

Fable by Adrienne Young
“For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father. But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive. Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.”

Book Cover

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
“In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET
Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

Book Cover

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
“At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme. On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?”

Adult

Book Cover

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

Book Cover

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
“Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job. Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit. But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…”

Book Cover

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.”

Book Cover

Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker
“Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway. On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus, she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day. Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group Industries, and coincidentally the first love of her life. The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counsellors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name. Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is not only alive but stronger than ever, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.”

Book Cover

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

Book Cover

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
“An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging. 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.”

Book Cover

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
“This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.”

These are all books I’ve read and absolutely loved. I think they’d be perfect summertime reads. Let me know if you’ve read any of these in the comments. Feel free to share any books that you think are good to read in the summertime.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Summary:
They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.
Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.
Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow StationStarship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.

Book Cover

Review:
This is the second time travel/ time loop book I have read recently that I didn’t know was going to be about time travel. So, like that other book, I think I would hugely benefit from reading this book again to see how all of the pieces fit more clearly. As it is, I have a pretty good grasp on the story. A little over halfway is when I really started to see the bigger picture.
The Light Brigade follows Dietz, who has just signed up to join the military. Only, she lives in a futuristic society where corporations run the world. There are bits and pieces of how this came to be shared in the story. But there are the Big Six that are the current controlling corporations. This was a fascinating story. Because while it follows someone that’s a grunt at the frontlines of the war, I feel like at its heart, this story wasn’t about war. It was a story about Dietz. A newer technology has allowed the corporations to actually do something about the problems on Mars. The ability to travel through light had been developed. From my understanding, the tech breaks down a person into light and transports them to their destination and then changes them back from light into a person. But it’s clear in this book that this technology is highly flawed. Just the amount of soldiers lost during the trips is an incredible number.
So, when it comes to Dietz, she isn’t traveling the way that she’s been trained that it will feel/sound/look like. But she’s not sure what to do about it, who she can tell or if she should say anything at all. I think this conflict of whether or not to keep it a secret was a good one. It made learning the truth a bit harder, but it wasn’t the usual secret keeping trope that I dislike. I liked how it was handled because when Dietz finds the right people to confide in and get help from, she does just that.
Overall, this was certainly a wild ride. I feel like there were absolutely some things that I missed and I’m highly looking forward to rereading it in the future. The story was compelling and it felt unique. I was left satisfied with the ending even though not everything was wrapped up nice and neat. I think science fiction readers will really love this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s May Book Haul

Hey, lovelies! May was an unreasonably large haul for me, especially considering that I’m still supposed to be on a book buying ban. But! In my defense, much of these books were gifts. My in-laws came to visit, now that we’re all vaccinated, and they really spoiled me while they were here. I also went a bit overboard with buying books I haven’t read yet. I’ve curbed my buying a bit by limiting myself to books I’ve read and loved, but don’t own yet. So, that didn’t really happen this month. I did buy some books I’ve already read, but I bought or was gifted more that I haven’t read. I will link my reviews for those that I’ve read and reviewed. And then my little to no reasonable rational for why I bought the ones I haven’t read. Let’s get into it!

Books I’ve Already Read

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

New Books on my Owned TBR

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
This was another preorder because I wanted to support the donations that the author was running with the preorder incentive.

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Thank you to my in-laws for this one. It was an impulse target pick.

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson
Another gift from my husband’s amazing parents, that I impulsively picked.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
My final impulse pick/gift from my in-laws. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one. But I could say the same about Red Queen and I really liked those books.

I Would Leave Me If I Could: A Collection of Poetry by Halsey
I barely read poetry so I have no excuse for this other than I have a small infatuation with Halsey.

Share Your Icy Crown by Amanda Lovelace
Seriously, why did I buy this? I have four other collections by Lovelace and I’ve read maybe two of them.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
This one is legitimate because this is my June book club book with my local ladies.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey
Last month, I bought some of Bailey’s other books and this was the only one I was missing.

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
I love this series and I’ve been meaning to buy this newest installment since it came out.

Written in my Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
I didn’t even know this exisisted. I thought I owned all all published books (just the books though, not the novellas) in this series. But now I do, just in time for the release of the final book later this year.

These are the books that I bought or were gifted to me in May. Quite a few of them are on my TBR list for June. So, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to add many of these to my ‘read’ list pretty quickly. Did you buy any books in May? Are any of these books you’ve read or want to read? Let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Beginner Fantasy Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! I did a post a few weeks ago where I recommended books for those that are interested in exploring the science fiction genre (find it here!) I had fun creating that list, so I’m going to do it again, but this time with fantasy books. These are adult and young adult books that I think would be good places to start if you’re new to fantasy.

Middle Grade

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1)

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
“Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again. But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them. The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?”

Furthermore (Furthermore, #1)

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
“Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.”

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
“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.”

Young Adult

The Scapegracers (Scapegracers, #1)

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
“An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process. Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends. Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent on stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?”

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout
“Layla just wants to fit in at school and go on a date with Zayne, whom she’s crushed on since forever. Trouble is, Zayne treats Layla like a sister–and Layla is a half demon, half gargoyle with abilities no one else possesses. And even though Zayne is a Warden, part of the race of gargoyles tasked with keeping humanity safe, Layla’s kiss will kill anything with a soul–including him. Then she meets Roth–a demon who claims to know her secrets. Though Layla knows she should stay away, it’s tough when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue. Trusting Roth could ruin her chances with Zayne, but as Layla discovers she’s the reason for a violent demon uprising, kissing the enemy suddenly pales in comparison to the looming end of the world.”

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
“It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood. Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.”

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
“Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.”

These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn, #1)

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
“Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica. While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.”

A Song Below Water (A Song Below Water, #1)

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
“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.”

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even. Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing. But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago. For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.”

Adult

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
“Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. “

The City We Became (Great Cities, #1)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
“Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
“A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn. An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

These are some books that I think would be good for anyone trying out the fantasy genre for the first time. I love all of these books and I highly recommend them. What books would you recommend for someone new to fantasy?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Summary:
With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers, #4)

Review:
I received The Galaxy, and the Ground Within from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I have loved all three of the previous installments of the Wayfarer series. This one was no different. I think The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was more of a slice of life story that the previous three books and I actually really enjoyed that.
The story follows five characters, Speaker, Pei, Roveg, and Ouloo and her child, Tupo. They are all different species. I had a bit of a hard time picturing what they each looked like. But I really liked each of their stories. I really enjoyed them spending time together and learning more about each other’s cultures and lives. I thought there were some really fascinating conversations. The dynamics of the characters and their lack of any kind of relationship is what made this book so good. Five strangers are stuck on Gora, their travel plans delayed when technology fails and communication and travel becomes impossible. So, they hunker down together.
Ouloo and Tupo are the owners of the Five-Hop and they do their best to keep the guests happy. I really liked learning about the Laru species. I think Ouloo was my favorite of the characters. She just wants to create a space that will accommodate the many different species of the galaxy. I think the Five-Hop was a place I would absolutely love to visit.
Then there’s Pei, who we sort of know from a previous book. She’s dating Ashby, who we know from a previous book. She’s dealing with a lot of emotions because she is keeping the secret of her romance with Ashby. Then, her shimmer starts. She needs to find a male of her species or she will likely never have another chance to have a child. But she’s not sure she even wants a child.
Roveg’s story was an interesting one. He’s exiled from his homeworld. While he doesn’t regret what he did to get exiled, he does regret being away from his family. He has a very important appointment that he needs to make. And all of the delays on Gora might just cause him to miss this appointment. I really enjoyed learning about the Quelin culture from someone that doesn’t agree with most of it, but also still values bits and pieces.
Then there’s Speaker. Speaker is an Akarak. This is an alien species that little is known of. I thought it was really interesting seeing Roveg take the time to learn about the Akarak history and develop a friendship. I think Speaker was a fascinating character. She’s outside of what we already know from this series and getting to learn about her species and their struggles was one of the more interesting aspects of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed the slice of life aspect of the book. I think the development of the relationships was really well done. I think it was a slow and enjoyable progression. As always, this book was diverse and unique with the pronouns of the different species and I really appreciate that aspect of this series. I thought this book was a compelling depiction of people with differing lives and differing opinions coming together in an unavoidable way. I would absolutely recommend this book and this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters

Summary:
The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.
After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.
Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.

To Love and to Loathe (The Regency Vows, #2)

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed Waters’ debut novel, To Have and to Hoax. So, I was excited when I was approved for an arc of To Love and to Loathe.
This is an enemies to lovers, friends with benefits story. Diana and Jeremy aren’t really enemies, but they definitely don’t get along. When together, which happens often as Jeremy is good friends with Diana’s brother, all they do is argue. Neither of them can let the other have the last word and they both always need to be right. The banter and arguing (read: flirting!) was the best part of this book. Diana is witty and quick with her rebuttals. I really enjoyed their debates. They were always filled with sexual tension that’s obvious to the reader, but not the characters. I think both Jeremy and Diana were well fleshed out characters. Both had backstories that fit well with why they are the way they are. Their growth felt organic and not at all forced. I just genuinely liked their relationship.
I also want to mention that I really loved Diana’s friends. We know them from Waters’ previous novel. But I liked getting to see Violet and Audley, getting caught flushed and sweaty. I also liked seeing more of Emily and learning a bit more about her romantic prospects.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I liked all the characters. The setting felt like a traditional historical romance, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it felt familiar. It felt like something I’d read before because there’s only so much that can be unique when it comes to these kinds of romances. I don’t think that lessened my enjoyment of the story because the characters were so entertaining and likeable. I will absolutely recommend this one for historical romance fans.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
She’s been the victim and the survivor…
Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.
The enemy and the warrior…
Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.
A lover and heartmate…
But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.
And now she will become Queen… 

The ​Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash, #3)

Review:
The Crown of Gilded Bones is the third book in the From Blood and Ash series. If you’d like to read my reviews for the first two books, they’re linked here: From Blood and Ash review and A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire review. I’m going to start this review by saying that if you haven’t read the first two books and you plan to, eventually, maybe come back to this review after you’ve done that. I won’t be spoiling anything from The Crown of Gilded Bones, but I will probably be spoiling events from the first two books.
In this third installment of the series, we start right where book two left off. Poppy and Casteel have arrived in Atlantia. There is so much new information being thrown at Poppy. I really liked the way that Armentrout deals with this. Instead of info-dumping, Poppy sort of absorbs everything she’s hearing, maybe asks one or two questions, but saves most of her questions for when there’s actually time for her and Casteel or her and Kieran to sit down and talk about it all. Poppy is the rightful Queen of Atlantia. She has a choice to make whether or not to accept this responsibility. I liked that Poppy wasn’t forced to become the queen just because she is the rightful ruler by blood. Her choice isn’t taken away from her once again, it’s up to her to decide if she wants to be queen. I liked the interactions between Poppy and Casteel and Casteel’s parents. I liked that everything wasn’t just fine and dandy. There was conflict and conversation before being able to actually develop Poppy’s relationship with her mother and father-in-law.
The Wolven come into play often in this book. As Poppy is Queen by blood, the blood of a God, they are loyal to her. I loved this aspect of the story. She’s a little bit uncomfortable with it and her moments spending time with the Wolven definitely added some moments of levity to an action packed and otherwise serious story.  I liked meeting more of the Wolven and even the infamous Gianna. I think Poppy’s bond to the Wolven was a really interesting aspect of the story. She’s exploring what that bond entails (communicating telepathically??) and how it works.
This leads me into Poppy’s godly abilities. There isn’t anyone alive to teach Poppy how to use her abilities. She is a descendent of Nyktos, so she has power over life and death, but as she’s learning in this book, her powers are so much more than that. I really liked seeing Poppy explore her abilities and figure out what she can do and how to do it. I think that it’s another great way that Poppy gains control over her own life. She can do these incredible things, like healing people from the brink of death or the opposite. But she has to choose to learn how and choose to use her powers.
Now, the sex scenes in this book are to die for. There were so many specific sex scenes that I wanted to happen and Armentrout blessed us with them. And not at all surprising, these scenes were even better than what I’d hoped for. I think Armentrout is doing an incredible job showing sex as something natural and fluid thing. Poppy watches someone doing something, because Wolven are very open about their nudity and attraction, and then she tries it with Casteel. I think this is such a great part of the book. There is no shame when it comes to sex for any of the characters and I think that’s such an important thing. I think sex is today’s world can be considered such a taboo and sometimes shameful thing to talk about and I’m so glad that Armentrout only shows it in positive ways.
The world is also opening up so much more. We learn more about the history of the world and we visit new places in Atlantia as well as a secret new place. I think this world is such an interesting one. I have a feeling we will be seeing even more, as there was definitely some foreshadowing of places to come for the rest of the series. It’s here that I also want to mention all the answers we finally get. I was left with so many questions at the end of A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire and almost all of them were answered, though Armentrout certainly left me with an entirely new set of questions. It’s interesting because I had the questions I went into this book with answered but I finished the book and still have so many questions and yet I still feel satisfied with the answers I did get.
Poppy and Casteel are absolutely one of my favorite bookish couples. I think the development of their relationship is so incredibly done. They really are so well suited. Casteel gives Poppy the freedom of choice that she so desperately needs and Poppy gives Casteel the love and support that he needs. They both manage to know exactly what the other needs when they need it. And their sexual chemistry is nothing short of perfection. I loved that even in the most serious of moments, they are joking and being completely inappropriate with one another. It’s just so fitting for who their characters are and how they are together.
Overall, this series just keeps getting better and better. I was absolutely devastated by the events in the final 100 pages of this book and I will be anxiously awaiting book four to see how things play out. I can’t say that I’m not incredibly excited to see a rage filled Poppy take on Solis. It’s going to be glorious and there are so many new things and new information in play. I think the series will just continue to get better and better and I cannot wait.

Quotes:

“I would kill any and all who stood between Casteel and me because we deserved to be together. We deserved a future, a chance to explore each other’s secrets. To love one another. We deserved to simply…live. I would do anything to ensure that.”

“You are the foundation that helps me stand. You are my walls and my roof. My shelter. You are my home.”

“I’d spent the better part of my life clothed from chin to floor, and more than half of my face covered. I knew how to hide. I was only now learning how to be seen.”

“I do not want to be party to forcing you into yet another role you did not ask for nor desire. I will not replace the veil you loathed with a crown you hate. If you do not want to take the Crown, I will support you,” he swore, and the intensity in his words captured me. The irrevocable oath he was making. “And if you decide you want to take what is yours, claim the throne, I will set this entire kingdom on fire and watch it burn if that ensures that the crown sits on your head.”

“Bravery is a fleeting beast, isn’t it? Always there to get you into trouble, but quick to disappear once you’re where you want to be.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

Summary:
Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.
When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.
When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

A Sweet Mess

Review:
A Sweet Mess is a book that I picked up completely randomly at Barnes and Noble because it talks about baking (and I have a blog feature where I bake things I read about in books). So, I thought this would be a fun one to try and see if I could find something in it for Books & Baking (which I did and will eventually attempt).
This story was an interesting one. I’ve never really read a book with some of the tropes that were in here. One of which (the pregnancy trope) is one that I often hear negative things about, but I didn’t hate it. I actually really liked it. I’m not sure if that’s because of my personal experiences or if it’s because it was well done within the story. I enjoyed all the talk of the baked goods and the food. This book certainly made me hungry, but in a good way.
So, we follow Aubrey Choi who owns and runs her own bakery in a small town. I loved seeing Aubrey, in the beginning, just love what she’s doing. By chance, Landon Kim’s borrowed car breaks down in this small town. He is mistakenly given a bizarre cake that was specially made for a child’s birthday party instead of the special of the day, which looks the same on the outside. Later that day, Landon and Aubrey meet in the bar next door to the bakery (which is owned and run by Aubrey’s best friend). They end up having a one-night stand. The two don’t interact again until after Landon’s scathing review is published. Aubrey didn’t know that it was Landon that had been given the incorrect cake until his review. After the small town comes together to try to get Landon to rewrite to retract his review, Landon comes back to Aubrey’s bakery to see if she’s interested in an opportunity to show how great of a baker she really is. This starts Aubrey’s and Landon’s struggle to stay away from one another while prepping and filming a cooking show.
I really liked Aubrey. She was a great problem solver and when things were falling apart, she didn’t just give up. She made a plan to try to make things better. She did her best to keep her head up and push through. She was smart and creative. I just genuinely liked her.
Landon was an interesting love interest. His backstory showed why he was the way he was. I liked that we learned the reasoning behind his actions. I also liked that Landon thought things through. He knew that if he retracted or rewrote his review for Aubrey’s bakery, someone might find out that they slept together, which could damage both their reputations. So, he came up with another creative solution.
The chemistry between these two was the best part of the story. The tension we got to see between them while they’re trying to stay away from one another was so excellent. I think they were a really great couple. I was invested in their romance, even as I understood why they were trying to stay away from one another.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I think A Sweet Mess was a delightfully sweet story filled with diverse and successful characters. I liked the plot and the twists. I will definitely be recommending this one in the future.

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.

A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel

Summary:
Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next.
Always run, never fight.
Preserve the knowledge.
Survive at all costs.
Take them to the stars.
Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race.
But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes.
A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them…

A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars, #1)

Review:
I want to start off by saying that while I was approved for an eARC of this book (three days before it’s release date), I actually read the finished copy that I got from my local library. So, thank you NetGalley, but technically I didn’t read the ARC. Now, 3.5 stars, that makes me a little sad because Neuvel’s previous series, the Themis Files, is one of my all time favorite series, so you could say that I was very excited for this new release. I don’t want to say that I didn’t like it because that would be a lie. I did like it. I enjoyed reading it. I thought it was interesting. But I didn’t completely love it like I thought I was going to (though I will say I didn’t really even know what it was about until after I picked up my copy from the library).
This story follow Mia and her mother, Sarah, and occasionally some bits and pieces about their ancestors. They are the Kibsu and they have been tasked with helping humanity reach the stars and successfully figure out how to travel through space. Why? I literally have no idea. Are they aliens? Time travelers? Why don’t you tell me because I honestly don’t know. (Edited to add: I’ve reread the synopsis and it says it’s a “first contact” story, so they are definitely aliens.) So, the whole time Sarah is training Mia to take over and start the next generation tasked to reach the stars, there is another alien/time traveler/whatever in play. There is the Tracker that is following them. Neither Mia nor Sarah is completely sure that the Tracker even exists. But if he does, he will kill them both if they let him find them. Some parts of the story are told from his point of view as well. I thought this was an interesting choice because it opened up the story a bit more. It gave us more insight into the history of the Kibsu (which I believe I am correct in assuming that the Tracker is also Kibsu).
Now, I think I just didn’t love this book because a lot of the finer details went right over my head. After reading the authors note at the end, it’s clear that Neuvel put so much thought and research into this book. I don’t often pick up historical fiction and that’s what this was. This is a historical fiction book with a sci-fi twist (a few characters that are aliens). I think it’s the extreme amount of detail that is what put me off the story a bit. There’s so much science that Mia is doing to help different people build rockets. But also, I feel like I was left with all of the same questions that I had while I was learning about Mia and Sarah. I feel like we didn’t really learn anything, aside from what we learned from the Tracker, but that dude murder so many people and I don’t trust him. I also think that so much information has been lost or changed through 100 generations. It’s like a game of telephone.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Once I got past the 100 page mark, I was intrigued enough by the story to keep going. But it was dense in history and science, the writing style was a bit odd and took some getting used to, and while I learned a lot about the history of the space race I feel like I didn’t learn anything about the characters. I believe this is a series so I do plan to continue it, but I think I might see how the audiobooks are done. Anyway, if you’re a space or history nerd, you’ll probably love this.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Summary:
Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)

Review:
Okay, after finishing this 700+ page book, I have so many thoughts and feelings. But I think that I am going to write this review similarly to how I reviewed Kingdom of Ash. I am going to break this up into sections of things I liked and didn’t like. Then maybe a few overall thoughts. I want to start that I read this entire book within 24 hours. Once I started, I just could not put it down. I also want to say that I rated this book 4 stars. The things that I didn’t like are specifically what made me lower my rating. So, lets get into it!

What I Liked:

I loved Nesta. I would 100% die for her. I want her to turn her gaze on me and say terribly mean things. I want to sit with her, Gwyn, and Emerie and read in the House of Wind. I think her character growth was really well done. She’s full of anger and self-loathing, but we get to see her pull herself out of that with some help from the other characters.

The House of Wind was my favorite character. As much as I loved Nesta in this one, the House takes the cake for me. I couldn’t help but smile and feel comforted every time the House did or didn’t listen to Nesta. I also loved the why behind the House’s behavior.  

Gwym and Emerie are two women that, like Nesta, have been through some shit. But they don’t know all the details of Nesta’s past and they show her kindness when Nesta doesn’t feel like she deserves it. Seeing the blossoming friendship of these three was absolutely one of the best aspects of this story.

Along with the above point, I really liked that Nesta wasn’t just absorbed into the Inner Circle. She made her own friends, her own found family, her own inner circle. The love they had for one another was wholesome as fuck and I loved it.

The stairs. I feel like I have to mention the stairs. I don’t know who made 10k stairs to get into the House of Wind but it’s fucking illogical and I hate it. But I also couldn’t help but love what those stairs did for Nesta by the end of the book. They became more than the thing trapping her in the House of Wind. She made those stairs her bitch. She down them again and again, making more progress every time she tried. I think they were an interested outlet for her to not think, or to think, or to work out aggression. A friend said “Nest is the true stairmaster” and she’s damn right.

The worldbuilding was another thing I really enjoyed. We get to learn some new things about The Prison. We go back to the Middle and learn some history about that. We learn history about the creatures that were in power before they Fae. I thought all of this was done well and without just dumping new information on us.

Along with the worldbuilding, I was to specifically mention the Valkyrie. I loved the research that Gwyn was doing and how that research was incorporated into the girls’ training. I loved the idea and the history of the Valkyrie and I hope to see more about this.

Nesta’s backstory was filled in some. In the original trilogy, we learn about Nesta and Elain from Feyre’s perspective. But we don’t really learn much about what things were like before they were poor. With Nesta, we learn more about the Archeron’s mother and how horrible she was. I think this backstory for Nesta was so important to her character and really filled in details of why she behaved the way she has for so long.

I’m torn between liking and being disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t really a huge reconciliation between the three Archeron sisters. I liked that there wasn’t because that sort of forgiveness will take time to heal, time for them to figure out a new sort of relationship for them. But also, I just want everyone to love each other.

I also liked that while Feyre and Rhysand are obviously in this story, I feel like we got enough that the story didn’t feel like it was actually about them. (Aside from one thing that a friend pointed out which I will mention in the things that I didn’t like.) Their involvement in the story was mostly minimal, aside from a bit of pushing the plot forward. But these moments where they’re pushing the plot forward by giving orders and what not make sense because Nesta and Cassian are members of the Night Court, which makes Feyre and Rhysand their rulers. So, they obviously must follow the orders of their rulers.

I think the way that Maas showed Nesta struggling was done beautifully. At times, it was almost painful to read through the parts where Nesta is really struggling. At one point, her and Cassian are hiking through the woods and that scene had me sobbing for her. I think Nesta’s internal struggle was so powerful. Seeing her grow and work through all of those feelings was an honor.

Finally, Nesta and Cassian are the couple of my dreams. Maas really stepped up her game in terms of the sex scenes. I liked that they toyed with one another. I liked that at the same time, they were almost toying with themselves. They both were filled with so much lust for one another that they couldn’t control it. But despite that, they didn’t immediately have sex. The blowjob scene was excellent. There was build up to them finally having sex and I think that was done so well.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t like Rhysand. It breaks my heart to write that because I loved him with my whole heart in the first three books. But he was a bit reminiscent of Tamlin at times in this book and I really didn’t like it. There were medical concerns that he (and everyone else) kept from Feyre and that really upset me. The whole shield thing honestly just made me feel a little icky. I also think he was so horrible to Nesta for no good reason. He continues to be horrible even after he sees into her mind, experiences her trauma alongside her. I just didn’t like him and that was very upsetting.

The second thing I didn’t like had to do with the ending. Nesta does something to save someone and it was really reminiscent of another one of her characters. I didn’t like it in that book either. I’m trying not to spoil, so, I’ll just say that I didn’t think it was necessary for her to do this specific thing. I think the choice that Nesta made will have repercussions in the coming books and I’m interested to see what they are but mad about it still.

Nesta learned to train and all of that, but I feel like she never really learned about her magic. She’s filled with Silver Fire which means something but I feel like it was only briefly explained and we didn’t really get to delve into it. I sort of understand because Nesta didn’t want to use her magic. But she did lots of things she didn’t want to in this book. I would have liked to see a bit more exploration of her magic.

Now, I mentioned above about Feyre and Rhysand being involved in this book. I want to say that I didn’t like how they were essentially the only reason there was a plot. It makes sense because they’re the rulers. But I feel like it would have been better for Nesta to be doing all of the things she did for herself (after that initial push for her to train with Cassian and work in the library) but instead she only tried to scry again because Feyre and Rhysand needed her to. I feel like they were in control of everything Nesta did and I didn’t like that. The same friend that pointed this out also mentioned that it could be looked at like Nesta was doing this for her family, but at this point, Nesta didn’t give a shit about her family. She didn’t have the same motivations of protecting Elain because she felt like an outsider. So, I didn’t like that Feyre and Rhys were basically the reason that Nesta did most of the things that she did.

I also didn’t like how little we saw of Mor. Morrigan is one of my favorites and she was basically absent from this book with minimal explanation of what she was doing. I’m sure this was on purpose because I believe she’s getting her own book as well. But I need more Mor content in my life.

Overall Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book. I’ve been in a reading slump, so being able to devour this book in one day felt so good. But also, it made my reading slump worse because what the hell do I read after this that can compare? I think many people were disappointed that the plot in this book was minimal, but I actually liked that. I think it was a great way to build up to whatever is going to happen in the next books. I don’t know how I would place this in my order of favorites for the series, but I definitely would die for Nesta. I love her and understand her so much better after this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Summary:
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her parent’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the constant questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Review:
Going into Honey Girl, I was expecting a fun and humorous romance between two women. That’s not what this story is, for those that, like me, thought this was a romance novel. Don’t get me wrong, there is a romantic relationship (that I would die for) in this book, but at its heart, this is a story about the main character feeling lost after her life plan has come to an end. This is a story about lonely creatures wondering what comes next and of feeling lost underneath all of the expectations of others.
Honey Girl follows Grace Porter as she’s trying to find her way into the career field of astronomy. She’s just graduated with her PhD in astronomy and her first interview was so bad that she walked out on the interviewers. Grace is black and a lesbian, so she not only faces the struggle of being a woman in this scientific field, but also those that come with being black and queer. Grace and her two best friends, Ximena and Agnes, take a vacation to Las Vegas to blow off some steam now that Grace has finished her degree. Grace wakes up the next morning with hazy memories of a girl who smells of sea-salt. With a picture, and a quickly written note, and her memories, Grace realizes she got married the night before to someone whose name she can’t even remember. After returning home, she receives rejection after rejection from jobs she’s interviewed for. She feels lost, but she doesn’t know what to do about it. Her whole life she’s had a plan and she’s followed that plan. But what is she supposed to do when there isn’t a plan to follow any longer?
Grace keeps her marriage a secret until one night, she finally confides in her two best friends. Together the three of them listen to Yuki’s radio show about monsters. These monsters reflect humanity and loneliness. Grace works up the nerve to call Yuki, finding herself intrigued by this girl who smells of flowers and tells stories of monsters. With the pressure of her life and expectations from others, Grace escapes Portland and flees to New York, to Yuki.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I have to start by talking about the writing. This story was written so beautifully. The words were lyrical, emotion-filled, and a tad whimsical. I highlighted so many lines from this story on my Kindle. There was no way I wasn’t going to get pulled into this story. To believe that these monsters Yuki talks about might just be real. Now, Grace, she’s really struggling but she doesn’t know how to talk about it or what to do about it. I really appreciated that because I honestly feel like that’s where I am currently. I finished my degree in 2020 and I know what I want to do next, but unlike Grace, I don’t know how to stick to the plans I make. I loved seeing Grace and Yuki fall in love. Following them as they got to know one another was an honor. They were both such fascinating characters that I couldn’t help but love them individually and together. I love that they got their happy ending.
There are several different kinds of love shown in this story. The obvious one, romantic love, between Yuki and Grace. But there’s also so many amazing friendships. The platonic love between Grace and her two best friends was a joy to read about. All three of them are imperfect humans, but getting to know these three was hard and wonderful. It reminded me of my relationship with Antonia (love you so much it hurts). There is also the love between siblings. Meera and Raj are Grace’s sister and brother by choice rather than by blood. I loved the three of them interact. But even more, I enjoyed seeing Grace’s relationship with them individually. Meera and Grace work together at Meera’s family’s tea shop. Meera knows what to say, when to say it, and when to say nothing at all. Then there’s Raj, Graces older brother. When they see each other in New York it was so hard to read, but their love for one another was so clear. Only those that love you know exactly what to say to hurt you. Finally, Grace’s parents divorced when she was young. She doesn’t have the best relationship with her mother and her father is a Colonel in the military and raised Grace like she was one of his soldiers. It’s his expectations that she’s trying and failing to live up to. I liked the development of Grace’s relationships with them. There’s progress by the end of the book, but everything isn’t suddenly ‘all better.’ This was realistic and I really liked it.
There are some really tough topics covered in this book, including but not limited to: racism, sexism, mental health, self-harm, and homophobia. I think these topics were discussed and included with thoughtfulness and care. (Though I’m not the authority on that for racism, but this is an own voices story.) I think this story was hard to read at times, but it’s such an important one that I hope many people read and love as much as I do. I think the discussion surrounding therapy was so good and so important. There are several characters that talk about going to therapy and talking to their therapists. It’s always discussed in a positive light and I really appreciated that. There’s even a scene of Grace finding the right therapist (meaning she goes to several before she finds one that is right for her).
Finally, the found families. Both Grace and Yuki have created their own families. We get to meet Grace’s while she’s still in Portland and we continue to see them throughout the story. I loved them almost as much as I loved Grace and Yuki. Once Grace gets to New York, we meet Yuki’s roommates, her found family. They are all hilarious and hardworking people. I loved them too.
Overall, Rogers has created a story that will linger in my mind long after I’ve finished reading it. The writing was nothing short of beautiful. The characters were diverse, well developed, so funny, and a genuine pleasure to read about. This is a story about a woman trying to find her place in the world, trying to find out what comes next, and I think it’s such an important story that will speak to so many people. I will be recommending this book until the end of time.

Quotes:

“She is in the stars, bold and bright and beautiful. She is strong and unwavering, and not filled with the sour taste of failure and the weight of unknowns.”

““Tonight, I want to talk about the sea,” she says. “Is that okay?” She pauses, as if waiting for someone, anyone, maybe even Grace, to answer. “Good. I want to talk about the sea and its dark depths and foaming, white tides and its swelling, hungry waves. The sea isn’t inherently supernatural, or even scary. But it holds many unknowns.” Her voice quiets. “Sometimes unknowns are the scariest things of all, aren’t they?””

“Here is the thing about the tar, the sludge, the inky black poison. Once it starts its ascent out of your body, there is nothing you can do to stop it. It tastes like volcano ash and fire, and you must taste it, and gag on it, and ultimately, you must spit it out. There comes a time when you cannot swallow it down any longer. Everything that is buried will be unburied. Everything that is pushed down will find its way out. It iis the way of the universe.”

“There is a small, hollow ache, somewhere deep inside her, but she is learning that she is made up of many small, hollow aches. She will continue the process of exploring them, one by one.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

GoodReads Summary:
Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.
There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.
The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…
When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?
First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)Review:
I was so excited to receive this eARC from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I loved the first two books in this series and was beyond excited to read Jia’s book. I’m happy to say that I loved this one just as much.
Jia is a beauty influencer. She is feeling like her content is stale and she wants something new. Her dream is to have her own make up line, so that is what she’s working toward. I thought it was really interesting to read about someone that was an influencer. I loved it. I loved how it was shown how hard Jia works, and how much work it really is. But despite all the work she does, her family still doesn’t get it and Jia feels the need to prove herself. I love Jia. I can’t speak to the Muslim representation but I love that this book exists for others to see themselves in. So, Jia has been talking online to Dev Dixit for a while. She manages to get invited to a part that he’s going to be at, so they can finally meet. Except, he has no clue who Jia is.
Dev was a great love interest. He is the guardian of his niece since his brother died and he is trying to cultivate an acting career in America. Dev is just all around a nice guy that is trying to do the right thing for the people in his life. I loved how sweet and thoughtful he was. So, when he learns of what has happened with Jia, he wants to meet with her and make amends. It also helps that he can’t stop thinking about her. (The fact that he watched all of her YouTube videos makes my heart melt.)
I loved their romance. The fake dating trope is such an excellent one. I also thought the book overall did a great job talking about religion and grief, class differences and family differences. I think there were so many good things about this book, but the slow burn, emotional development of Jia and Dev’s relationship was absolutely the best part. While I love a steamy romance, I really loved seeing these two fall in love without any of the usual physical intimacies. They don’t even kiss until after they’re married.
Overall, I cannot get enough of Rai’s books. She made me fall in love with both Jia and Dev (and also all of their family members) while they were falling in love with one another. I adored all the family dynamics, with Jia’s big family and Dev’s grandmother, uncle, and niece. I would love to see the next romance in this series to be one of Jia’s sisters. I think the romance was wonderful and at the same time, it did a great job talking about tough topics like grief. I absolutely recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

Summary:
Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge.
Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.
Review:
Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.
The Blade BetweenReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I requested The Blade Between because a friend of mine was absolutely raving about it. I’m glad that I requested it because I flew through this book. I don’t know that I would say I enjoyed it, but it was definitely an experience.
So, I want to mention first that the writing was incredible. There were so many great lines and fantastic descriptions in this book. I cannot say enough good things about Miller’s writing. He managed to make it a creepy and atmospheric story, but also convinced us to love these very flawed characters. I think there were some really interesting topics covered in a thoughtful way. This story follows Ronan as he returns to his home town of Hudson, a place he has no fond memories of. But his father is dying and it’s time he finally returns. But things escalate and suddenly he’s fighting against the gentrification of a town he grew up hating. I really liked this aspect of the story. Ronan has so many mixed feelings about his hometown, but he still does his damnedest to save it. I also loved all of the antics that Ronan and his friends participate in to ‘save’ the town. I think there were definitely some moments that were a bit extreme, but the author did a really good job showing character motivations that were almost understandable. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with these characters.
I also think the author did a really great job of creating different and interesting characters. Even though the story sort of jumped around with who it was following, I had no issues distinguishing between any of them. They were all unique and interesting. Now, the plot was fascinating. I loved the fantasy elements that were included in the story. The bits about the whales was absolutely creepy but only got creepier with the inclusion of the ghosts that play a role in the story.
Overall, I think this was a horrifying and excellent story. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author. Miller’s writing was exceptional and memorable. I think the characters were easy to love, even when they were doing shitty things. I just couldn’t put this book down. I highly recommend this one for fans of horror or darker fantasy books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Books & Baking – Kiss My Cupcake

Hi, lovelies! I read the cutest book that was filled with cupcakes and I knew I just had to try one of them out. I flipped through the book to find all the options where the cupcakes were actually described from the cupcake to the frosting and I came up with five options. Then I showed my partner the options and he chose the ones that I made. So, here are my cupcakes from Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting.

Book: Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

Read my full review here!

This is a romance novel that follows Blaire and Ronan, two business owners that are next to one another. They start off as rivals but decide to team up and host events when a bigger threat comes onto their street. It was a funny and fun story about two bars that are very different but both interesting. I enjoyed it. There were fun pranks, delicious sounding cupcakes, creative events, and a romance I could root for.

“You may have started the war, but I’ll be the one taking you down, one sweet treat at a time.”

“But I think I’d rather have someone to miss than never have the opportunity to witness that kind of devotion.”

Baking: Lemon Drop Cupcakes

Find the full recipe here!

I was torn between the death by chocolate cupcakes and the lemon drop, but my husband asked for the lemon drop ones. So, that’s what I attempted.

“The lemon drop cupcake is a featured special today if you’d like to give it a try.”
“Hmm. Is it sour?” The like you is clearly intimated, though unspoken.
“It has some pucker power, if that’s what you mean. It’s a good balance of sweet and tart.”

Cupcake Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups lemon curd
lemon-cream frosting

Lemon Curd Ingredients
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature

Lemon-Cream Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese frosting, room temperature
1 cup bakers sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup lemon curd
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Cupcake Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees then line muffin tin with paper liners.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
With an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add in sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, on medium/low. Add vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
With mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mix, then half of the milk, and all the sour cream. Add the next 1/3 of the flour mix and the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour mix. Mix until just combined.
Divide the batter into the cupcake tin (about 1/3 cup in each). Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Let them completely cool before decorating.

Lemon Curd Instructions
In a small sauce pan, combine sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and eggs. Add the butter and cook over low heat. Stir continuously until the first bubble appears and the curd is thick enough to hold the marks of the whisk, about 6 minutes.
Strain lemon curd through a fine mesh strainer if you don’t want lemon zest in the curd. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold.

Frosting Instructions
With an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add the lemon curd and mix until fully incorporated.
In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.

Assembly Instructions
Once cupcakes are fully cooled, scoop small hole out of each cupcake (the recipe said to use a melon baller, but I just used a knife to cut a bit of the top out). Fill each hole with a scoop of lemon curd. Frost cupcakes (the recipe says to use a pastry bag with all the fancy tips, but I used a small ziplock bag and cut a small hole in the corner). Refrigerate cupcakes until ready to serve.

And here’s a better picture of my final product. I really liked these. They were, as Blaire said, the perfect combination of sweet and bitter. I think the frosting was absolute perfection and the curd was delicious, but there was something about the actual cupcake was a little bit too bitter. I think I zested a bit too much of the lemon. But I would definitely make these again and I highly recommend you make them too if you think you’ll like them. They were pretty easy to make too. I made these yesterday and they’re already gone, so definitely a hit in my house. Let me know if you try to make these!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.