Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Awakening by Nora Roberts

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

GoodReads Summary:
A darkly enchanting reimagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a spirited young woman discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.
Mexican GothicReview:
Mexican Gothic is a dark and atmospheric story that centers around family. Noemi is sent to the Mexican countryside to make sure her cousin Catalina is okay. Noemi’s father received a distressing letter from Catalina, who moved to the countryside to live with her new husband on his family’s estate. Her father sends Noemi to High Place to see Catalina for herself and make sure her cousin is alright. I really liked Noemi. She definitely doesn’t want to say once she sees High Place, but she does what’s right for her cousin. She seeks answers, but doesn’t even know if she’s asking the right questions. I liked that she was persistent and didn’t let this weird ass family push her around, much.
This story is creepy as soon as Noemi gets to High Place. The property and house are neglected and the family members are also creepy. Catalina’s husband, Virgil is immediately unlikable. He’s brash and scary, at times. I immediately didn’t like Virgil and didn’t understand why Catalina married him. I couldn’t help but be as worried about Catalina as Noemi was. Every time Noemi sat with Catalina, there were more questions than answers. That was a theme with this book. There were so many questions, which was a great way to build suspense and lead up to the big reveal. Moreno-Garcia did an excellent job of leaving the reader wondering what the hell was actually going on.
Overall, this was a creepy as hell story that I absolutely devoured. The writing was stunning and descriptive, painting a vivid and horrifying picture. The setting was atmospheric and perfectly spooky. I loved Noemi and Catalina. I hated Virgil and most of his family. I highly recommend this book and I will absolutely be reading more books by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

GoodReads Summary:
A Betrayal…
Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.
A Choice…
Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.
A Secret…
But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash, #2)Review:
Is this a new favorite series of mine? Yes. Was Armentrout already a favorite author of mine? Yes. So, was this totally a surprise? No, not really.
I’m not going to go too deep into a summary like I do in some reviews because this is the second book in a series and I don’t want to spoil anything. So, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire follows Poppy and Casteel as Poppy has had the world she knows completely upended. She’s learned things about the kingdom she grew up in that are horrifying and change everything for her. That’s about all you’re getting because most of the details of this are spoilers for book one.
Poppy is my queen. I love her with my whole heart. She’s been hurt many times. In her childhood, she witnessed her parents killed. She learned to fight so that she would never be defenseless again. This was a huge asset in this book because she proves again and again that she’s not someone to be fucked with. I want to reread this book again just to count how many times she stabbed Casteel or threatened to stab him. I thought it was really interesting that Poppy escaped the confinement of being the Maiden only to find herself confined once again in a completely different situation. I loved the development of her new confinement. She proved herself a useful ally and I loved seeing Poppy finally take her life into her own hands. Seeing her finally get to make choices for herself and what she wanted made me so happy.
Now, Casteel. I love him. I understand why Poppy is so mad at him, but I love him. I think it was really interesting that Armentrout used the secret keeping trope (which I usually hate) to create a huge conflict between Poppy and Casteel and then have them work through the lies and the deceptions. I was fascinated seeing Poppy figure out how to trust Casteel again after the lies he told her. I loved how determined Casteel was. He wanted Poppy. He wanted to save his brother. He wanted to save his kingdom. But his plans all change when he actually meets Poppy. He figures out a potential way to get all of the things that he wants. And I think that really spoke to who Casteel is as a person and a leader. I just love him with my whole heart.
Overall, I’m obsessed with this series. I think the world building is so well done and Armentrout has built a world that I’m infatuated with. I think this history of the world and how that history has been changed in the minds of the people is so interesting. I think the Gods are also very interesting. The fact that they’re all ‘sleeping’ is so intriguing and I cannot deal with how this story ended. I also have to mention there are a handful of steamy sex scenes and they were exactly what I wanted them to be. I think it was all around an excellent book and as I said in my review for the first book, if you like fantasy romance you will love this.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Well Played by Jen DeLuca

GoodReads Summary:
Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.
When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.
Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.
Well Played (Well Met, #2)Review:
I went into this book with pretty low expectations because when it was first released (not too long ago) all I saw were negative reviews. This was upsetting because I adored the first book in this series, but I knew I was going to read it anyway. I’m actually glad I went into the book this way because I think it made me enjoy it even more. I really liked Well Played.
The story follows Stacey who has lived in Willow Creek for her whole life, except for a short period of time for college. She always planned to leave and live somewhere else. She had goals and dreams. She even had a plan and a job lined up, but then her mother got sick. Stacey returned home to help care for her mother. Even though her mother is doing much better, Stacey is still scared that something will happen if she leaves again. But that doesn’t stop her from wanting more than Willow Creek. She is happiest during Faire season. For the past few summers, she’s had a fling with Dex, one of the members of The Dueling Kilts (a band that comes to the Faire every summer). After Simon and Emily get engaged, Stacey can’t help but feel lonely, like she wants more. The theme of this book is really just Stacey wanting more from her life, more than Willow Creek, more in her love life, just more. So, we follow her as she tries to find that more.
I didn’t love the catfishing aspect of the story, but I think it was better that the reader knew Stacey wasn’t really emailing and texting with Dex. I think it would have been more upsetting if the reader had been surprised alongside Stacey. I also think it was super obvious who it was that Stacey was really talking to and, again, I liked this. I think it was a good way to get the reader invested because we knew who it was that she was really falling for. It gave the reader a chance to get invested in their relationship, even though there were secrets. I usually don’t like the secret keeping trope, but I didn’t mind it so much in this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am so excited to read the third book (Mitch!!) when it comes out. I enjoyed the ups and downs of Stacey’s romance. I liked how her friendship with Emily, Simon, and Mitch were included. I liked that we got to see the family dynamics with her parents. I also absolutely loved the sex scenes. They were super good. I basically liked everything about this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

GoodReads Summary:
A Maiden…
Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.
A Duty…
The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.
A Kingdom…
Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.
From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)Review:
How am I supposed to succinctly explain why and how much I loved this book? Armentrout is one of my favorite authors and has been for many years. So, I bought this immediately after it came out, but waited until the second book came out so I could binge read them.
From Blood and Ash follows Poppy. Poppy is the Maiden, which means there are many restrictions on the things she’s allowed to do. This includes who she’s allowed to speak to, touch, and many other medieval ideas. Poppy does her best to follow all of the rules set for her, but she wants more from her life. She has wants and desires. One of the biggest is that she wants to help defend herr kingdom. One of her guards, Vikter, has spent years teaching her how to fight. When Poppy was a child her parents were killed and she never wants to be defenseless like that again. So, she learns to fight and she can’t always stop herself from doing things she probably shouldn’t. When her close friend and guard is killed defending her, she gets a new guard, Hawke. The time she spends with Hawke and the things they talk about lead Poppy to start questioning he role as Maiden and her whole life.
I’m going to stop my summary there because things get pretty complicated after Poppy and Hawke meet. I loved this book. I adored Poppy and I want to reread this book already. Poppy is a fighter. She fights for others before she will fight for herself. She accepts punishments she doesn’t deserve so that others she cares for won’t face punishments. She has a huge heart despite having been treated so poorly by so many people. I love Poppy so much. I also love Hawke. I thought the secrets he was keeping were so interesting. I just wanted to know more about what he knew. Hawke was just all around a fascinating character. There were so many clues about who he really was and I think Armentrout did such a great job of giving us clues and slowly revealing the truth.
Overall, this world and its politics were absolutely fascinating. I just wanted to learn more. I loved the characters. I think Armentrout did such a great job of giving the reader characters we could easily be invested in, and developing relationships, both platonic and romantic, that we would die for. I am very excited to have read this book and I immediately jumped into the second book, so I will have a review for the second book shortly. I also am eagerly awaiting book three. If you like fantasy romance, this will not disappoint.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Dark Age by Pierce Brown

GoodReads Summary:
For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?
Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.
But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.
On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?
Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies.
Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.
As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.
Dark Age (Red Rising Saga, #5)Review:
I listened to the audiobook for Dark Age like I have for most of this series. As there are more perspectives in this book, there were some new narrators (and some for characters that were in the last book that had different narrators I think). I really ended up liking all of the narrators. I think they all did a great job of reading the story and filling their narration with emotion.
I’m going to keep this review shorter than my reviews for the previous books. I don’t want to keep saying the same things about each book. I think so far, this was my least favorite of the series. I think a big part of that was the confusion that followed me of a significant amount of the story. In Red Rising, we learn of the Golds that ae Olympic Knights. There are several of them. But book four and this fifth book take place thirty years after book three, so there are no Olympic Knights in Darrow and Mustang’s new government, but in the two opposing governments there are. So, these two opposing governments both have their own sets of Knights, all of which go by their actual names as well as which Knight they are. One of the Knights (I think it’s the Fear Knight) plays a large role in certain parts of this story. I had a really hard time when they were talking about him because I couldn’t remember his name, but also couldn’t quite tell if the name I thought was his was correct. There are just so many newer characters that I’ve had to learn in this book that it got a bit confusing for me. I also didn’t love the way the points of view were. Usually when there’s multiple character perspectives, the chapters will alternate every few chapters between the different characters. That wasn’t the case in this book (which was weird to me because Brown did this well in the previous book.) I felt like the story would follow one character for an unreasonable amount of time. Also, sort of on the same topic as that, it seemed to take forever for Lyria’s point of view to come into the book for the first time. This was upsetting because she’s definitely my favorite. Thought I will say that Mustang finally got her own chapters and I adored them.
Overall, I still feel all of the good things that I’ve said in previous reviews. I loved most of the characters, the world and politics are fascinating, the action scenes are completely intense and leave me on the edge of my seat. This book was a really good one. I highly recommend this series with my whole heart.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.
One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.
But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.
What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…
Phoenix ExtravagantReview:
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Phoenix Extravagant is a story about Jebi, who is nonbinary (there’s a specific term for it that I can’t remember, but they use they/them pronouns), who finds a dragon. That’s basically it. Just kidding.
Jebi is an artist and lives with their sister. But they need to find better work, so they took an exam to try to get a job with the government of the Razanei (who took over their country and killed his sister-in-law). Jebi knows their sister wouldn’t approve, so they do it behind their back. But when their sister finds out Jebi has gotten a Razanei name certificate (to change their name) she is so mad that she kicks them out. This leads Jebi to contemplate applying for a job with the Ministry of Armor. This is where the story gets really interesting.
Jebi’s new job at the Ministry of Armor is not anything like what they expected. Jebi meets Arazi, the dragon that the Ranazei is trying to figure out how to use for war. But Jebi figures out how to speak with Arazi and realizes that Arazi doesn’t want to be used to war. So, the plot for them to escape the Ministry of Armor is born.
I think the world in this story was so interesting. I liked learning about the two different cultures, how they were so very different in the things they value. Jebi was also a very interesting main character in the sense that they were never much of rebel. They accepted the fact that their country had been conquered and went on with their daily life. They never even thought about finding people that wanted to fight back against the Ranazei. Jebi was such a fun choice to get involved in the politics of the world. They didn’t want any part of it, but to save Arazi, they didn’t really have a choice. I also really enjoyed following Jebi as they learned about how the Ranazei’s automatons were powers and what magics made that happen. The magics were mildly horrifying, but still very interesting in how they worked and how they were created.
Overall, I think this is a wonderful story full of different kinds of representation. There is a polyamorous relationship, there are lots of nonbinary people. I can’t speak to the accuracy, but it’s there. I think the world was well built and very interesting. I don’t know if this is a series, but I want to learn more about what Jebi does after something that was revealed in the final pages of the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Black Sun was such a detailed and involved fantasy. Just as the synopsis says, it’s an epic adventure that explores power, history, and characters that are not what people assume they are. I think that’s what I liked most about this book. The characters were so well developed and fascinating. They were all people trying to live outside of what they’re ‘supposed’ to be.
The story follows several characters Xiala, Serapio, and Narampa. Xiala is Teek, which is a culture that has many stories surrounding them. This was clear in the way that others treated Xiala. She’s an excellent captain, but her crew still treats her as other because she is Teek. I really liked seeing Xiala and Serapio develop a friendship because while that was happening, we got to learn more about Xiala and the Teek. I just genuinely liked Xiala. She’s fierce and powerful. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit. Serapio was a fascinating character. For him, we got to go back and forth between the present (where he’s traveling with Xiala) and his past to see how he got to be traveling with Xiala. I think the mythology (I don’t know that his character’s story is actually based on real myths, but there’s definitely mythology about him in the story) surrounding him and his destiny was incredibly interesting. I thought it was really interesting to see him learn the things he needed to complete the destiny that his mother set in motion. Serapio is blind, but that doesn’t hinder him in any way. He can see through the eyes of crows, and his other senses are very well developed. I liked Serapio because he knew what his mission was and did his best to follow through. I like his relationship with Xiala and I feel like it developed very naturally. Finally, Narampa (or Nara). She’s the Sun Priest, but she’s also a girl from a not so good part of town. Many were surprised when she was named successor to the last Sun Priest. I liked Nara because she knew she was facing challenges, but she still really wanted to make positive changes to the world she is a part of. But she’s faced with many people that do not agree with her. Her challenges just grow greater as the story progresses. I’m very intrigued with her backstory and her criminal brother. I am eager to see how that will play out in the rest of the series. There is one more character I should mention, he isn’t introduced until something specific happens in the story, but I have a feeling he will play a larger role in the rest of the series. Okoa is the son of someone important. He returns from what is essentially college for warriors and is thrown into the politics of his clan. I wanted to know more about him, mostly where his story will go from here.
Overall, the first half of the book was a bit slower than the second half. The world was so intricate and fascinating. There was so much detail from the setting to the different parts of the world and the politics within each part. The ending absolutely slayed me and I’m dying to know what will happen now that things didn’t go the way Serapio planned or expected. I am definitely a huge fan of this book and highly recommend it for fantasy lovers. I do also want to mention that it’s a really diverse story. It’s inspired by pre-Colombian America’s, so it’s almost exclusively Indigenous peoples. It is also filled with casually queer people. Xiala is bisexual and there are several trans or nonbinary side characters. I am definitely eager for the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

GoodReads Summary:
Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.
In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.
How to Walk AwayReview:
How to Walk Away was a beautiful story. Margaret has a fear of flying. So, her boyfriend surprising her with a plane ride shortly before he was supposed to test for his pilot’s license is like her worst nightmare. She agrees to the ride despite her fears. He proposes while flying, but instead of a happy celebration they had planned, the plane crashes as they’re trying to land.
This story focuses on Margaret’s time in the hospital after the plane crash as she’s recovering. Everything she had planned for her life has changed. I can’t speak to the accuracy of what Margaret goes through as I’ve never been through a traumatic life altering event like her. But as an outside observer all of the things Margaret was thinking and feeling seemed realistic. She has ups and downs, feels good some days and despairs others. I think the writing was well done and really made me feel what Margaret was feeling.
I didn’t expect this to turn into a romance, but I’m not mad about it. I really liked that this story continued after her time in the hospital. We learned about the plan she had for herself, but then we got to watch her figure out what to do next, to think about what she really wants from her life. I liked seeing her get as better as she was going to get and doing what she needed to do to create a new plan for her future.
Overall, I enjoyed this story was more than I thought I was going to. It was a beautiful story about finding a new path, and maybe finding love on that path. I will definitely be reading more books by Center.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

GoodReads Summary:
Would you give up everything to change the world?
Humanity clings to life on January–a colonized planet divided between permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other.
Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization–but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.
Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives–with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.
Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge–and they are running out of time.
Welcome to the City in the Middle of the Night.
The City in the Middle of the NightReview:
The City in the Middle of the Night was an impulse buy for me. I was at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2019 and I got to meet Charlie Jane Anders and see her give a talk on science fiction. I really enjoyed what she had to say, so I impulse bought this book and even got her to sign it! I don’t know why it took me so long to pick it up because I really love science fiction, but I’m an imperfect human so sue me.
I really loved this book for most of the time that I read it. The story follows two different points of view, Sophie and Mouth.
Sophie is a poor girl that got the opportunity to go to a better school. But not too long into her schooling, she makes the mistake of covering for her friend, Bianca, (who she is infatuated with). Sophie is exiled, but she survived and comes back into the city, hiding with an old friend of her mothers. We get this brief introduction to Sophie and the story really starts after Sophie is exiled. While she’s out there, she comes in contact with aliens that the humans call crocodiles, but their actually called the Gelet. Sophie realizes that they can be communicated with and develops a friendship of sorts with this Gelet that she names Rose.
Mouth is a smuggler that still struggles with the death of her entire tribe that happened years ago. I liked Mouth, a character that very clearly has issues. Mouth goes through this story and eventually learns more about their (I’m not sure that this is the right pronoun because Mouth is literally just referred to as Mouth the whole book. I don’t think there was a single pronoun for them) tribe and learns that all of these ideas that they had might not be accurate. I thought this was a really interesting addition to the story. Mouth was such a different character from Sophie, from personality to history, the two were both very different.
There are two side characters that should be mentioned. I already named Bianca, who I thought I was going to like, but her story ended up going in a really different direction. I think Anders did a great job making me like Bianca, only for her character development to go somewhere I didn’t expect. Bianca is motivated by the loss of Sophie, but she connects with Mouth not too long into the story. Then there’s Alyssa, Mouth’s sleepmate. The don’t seem to be friends when the story starts, but as it goes on, it’s clear they are friends, just not very good ones. I liked Alyssa. She was fierce and clear about what she needed from those in her life. She didn’t hesitate to call Mouth out and I liked that.
The biggest problem that I had with this book was the ending. The book just ended. It felt like there were a few chapters missing and I assume that was done on purpose, but I was not happy about it at all. There were so many things left unresolved and so many questions left unanswered. Sophie’s path led her on a mission and we never found out what the results were. I was very frustrated by the ending and it really dampened my enjoyment of the book.
Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of this book right up until it ended with little to no conclusion. I will probably be reading more of Anders work in the future, but I’m hoping for better endings. I will say that the world and the characters were so vivid (except the Gelet. I could quite grasp an image of them in my mind). The different cultures of the humans and the Gelet’s culture were so interesting. This book probably would have been a five star read if not for the hugely disappointing ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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

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

Quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

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GoodReads Summary:
Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time–threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.
As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.
With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?
Something to Talk AboutReview:
Something to Talk About follows Jo and Emma who work together. Emma is Jo’s assistant. After Jo invites Emma to an awards show and they’re seen on the red carpet together. From there the rumors are relentless. Jo is a pretty well-known woman, but she’s never commented on her love life before and doesn’t plan to do so now. Emma doesn’t totally understand this, but she goes with it.
I think what I loved most about this book was the slow burn. It’s not totally clear if they have feelings for one another, even to themselves. I think I just really enjoyed Jo and Emma figuring out their feelings they hadn’t realized were there until the rumors started. I also loved their passion for work. Jo is a writer (I think also a producer) and Emma is her assistant. Emma loves her job, which complicates her feelings.
I also really loved the family aspects of the story. Emma’s sister was great. I loved that both Emma and Jo made sure to make time for their nieces and nephews. I loved that they all got together to watch the kid’s sports games.
Overall, this was a really fun romance. I really liked both Jo and Emma, as a couple and as individuals. I liked that they knew one another so well. I enjoyed their banter and the fact that they just liked to be around one another before either of them even realized they had feelings. I just all around enjoyed this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.