Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Summary:
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.
Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.
The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
The Cousins by Karen M. McManusReview:
The Cousins is a young adult thriller that follows three mostly estranged cousins that work on their grandmother’s island resort, a grandmother none of them have ever met. I’ve read and loved all of McManus’s other books and The Cousins was no different. The big difference with this book was that all of the theories that I had while reading were completely wrong.
This story takes place on an island off of Cape Cod (which is where I grew up, so I was instantly sold when I started hearing places I knew.) This is the island where their parents grew up, and the place they were disinherited from, with one message, “You know what you did.” So, when the three cousins, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah, are invited to work at the resort for the summer, everyone is surprised.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved watching Milly and Aubrey learn more about one another and develop an actual relationship aside from seeing one another at the family reunion. I thought their friendship was well done and though Milly and Aubrey were very different people, they learned about one another and about themselves. I think the character growth all around was excellent, but the growth came with the developing relationships. Milly learns about herself and grows from her interactions with Aubrey. And it was the same for Aubrey. Being around Milly and their growing friendship, she learned to be more confident. Then there’s Jonah. His part of a story was a little weird and I can’t talk about most of it because of a spoiler. So, all three cousins have secrets, but Jonah’s is the worst for the situation they are in. I liked all three of them and I think they were all distinct and well-developed characters.
As for the story and plot, I did not see the big twist coming. I had many theories as I was reading (well, listening as I read this via the audiobook). I think McManus did an incredible job of leaving the reader wanting more, wanting to know all of the secrets, and keeping them invested in the story with little bits and pieces before the big reveal. I also really liked that we get Milly’s mom’s point of view, Allison, but as a teenager growing up on the island (sort of.) We get the story of what happened that final summer before they were all disowned. I think that added a great element of suspense with the alternating chapters of that final summer.
Overall, this was a slower paced story than her previous books. I really enjoyed it. The suspense and mystery was well done, slowly revealed, but not one that I predicted. I loved the characters. Despite all being related, they were all very different. I just as a whole really liked this book. It’s one I’ll definitely recommend in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

GoodReads Summary:
Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.
She will reign.
As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.
When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.
But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.
I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.
All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth, #1)Review:
All the Stars and Teeth is the story of a princess that is about to come into her crown, but the night that’s supposed to start everything doesn’t go as planned. Amora loses control of her magic and she’s thrown into the dungeon to await trial to see if she will be given another chance or be put to death. But this does not go as planned either. Bastian comes to her in the dungeon and offers her a chance to prove that she is fit to be the High Animancer, as long as she will help him with something that he needs.
Amora takes Basitan up on his offer and the two flee to his ship. Tagging along on this mission is Amora’s fiancé (in an arranged marriage), Ferrick, and later on in the journey is Vataea (a mermaid). This is the core four that the story focuses on. Amora, Bastian, and Ferrick are traveling to Bastian’s home, somewhere that has been deemed no longer a part of Visidia. I think one of the more interesting parts of this story was Amora realizing that there was so much about her own Kingdom, that she was about to start ruling, that she didn’t know. She mentions that her father must have been keeping secrets and she couldn’t understand why. This is actually mentioned quite a few times and seemed a bit repetitive. Amora’s general lack of knowledge was obvious in her reactions when seeing other parts of Visidia for the first time. I don’t think it needed to be said that her father kept things from her so many times. I really liked Amora. She had a really good heart. She wanted what was best for her kingdom. She just wanted to be a good ruler. But there was more going on than she knew and she didn’t quite know how to handle that. As for Bastien, his past was a bit of a mystery and I think Grace did a really good job of revealing his secrets slowly and at the perfect moment. Bastien was fascinating. He’s a pirate (sort of?) and his ship has magic, but we’re not sure why or how. I liked the mystery of his character, but the more I learned about him, the more I liked him. Then Ferrick, he honestly annoyed me. But I think that’s because the audiobook narrator made him sound like he was twelve-years-old. I think there were definitely issues that Ferrick was not prepared to deal with once he left his home to follow Amora. There were issues with their relationship that got addressed as needed and I liked this part of the story. I liked seeing the pair work through their issues and come to a different sort of understanding. Finally, Vataea. I wish we’d gotten to know more about her. I liked that she was fierce and powerful, but I wanted to know more about what made her tick. I just wanted more.
The magic in this world is incredibly interesting. There’s time magic, soul magic, curse magic, and a few others that we didn’t really get to explore. I think Grace did a great job not dumping the information about the magic into the story. We learn about the different magics as we see them and in bits and pieces. I also thought the world was really interesting in general. There is the island that Amora grew up on, but there are a few others as well. I really hope we will get to see more of the islands in the next book.
Overall, this was a fun book. I listened to the audiobook and I think the narrator did a great job with this story. They gave the story all the right emotions when they were called for. My only complaint about the audio is what I mentioned about Ferrick sounding like a child. Other than that, this story was action packed, filled with secrets, history misremembered (it’s written by the victors as they say), and I am absolutely going to continue the series with the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Black Wings Beating by Alex London

GoodReads Summary:
The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.
Brysen strives to be a great falconer–while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.
Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.
Black Wings Beating (Skybound, #1)Review:
Black Wings Beating follows two siblings, Brysen and Kylee. The grew up with an abusive father and a mother that never did anything to stop the abuse. After their father dies is when the story starts. This world is focused on birds from hawks to eagles to owls, we see all different kinds of birds play a part of this story. I thought the world built around birds (though there’s another people that are the opposite of the sibling’s people, who believe that the way the people of Uztar work with birds is unnatural) was really interesting. There are all these beliefs about how the people of Uztar came to cross the mountains with the help of birds. I thought it was really interesting even though I’m not someone that’s all that interested in birds in my regular life.
Brysen is gay and his boyfriend has gotten himself into trouble. So, Brysen volunteers to capture the well-known Ghost Eagle. This is seen to be an impossible task, but Brysen takes it on to save the boy he loves. Kylee doesn’t want any part of this, she just wants to get away from falconry. But when she sees how her brother goes up into the mountains with little to no preparations, she knows she must follow him to help or he will not succeed. So, Kylee goes along on this mission for a different kind of love. I liked both of these siblings. Brysen was kind of annoying and I totally saw the twist involving him coming. He had a good heart, but because of the way his father treated him, he felt as if he had something to prove. Kylee was more likeable. She has a rare ancient gift that she despises. But on this journey to capture the Ghost Eagle, both learn more about themselves, about one another, and about secrets they both have been keeping.
Overall, this was a fun and easy to follow story surrounding birds and falconry. There were a few side characters that I really liked too, but I felt like they could have been a bit better developed. I will absolutely be continuing on with the series. I listening to the audiobook, which I recommend. I enjoyed the narrators. I enjoyed this book and I’m glad I finally picked it up.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

GoodReads Summary:
When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.
Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?
A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race.
And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives.
It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong.
And something always goes wrong.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two?Review:
There’s just something I love about teenage astronauts. Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is a story of six teenagers getting ready and setting off on a mission to Terra-Two. I listened to the audiobook and I think it was really well done. I think the narrators did a great job of reading this story. I do have to mention that this is a character focused story. The plot of the story is to successfully get to Terra-Two and honestly it was unclear whether or not they did which was disappointing. But the characters were really well done and the audiobook kept me engaged and interesting in their stories.
These six teens were all so interesting in different ways. They have been studying at Dalton (basically an astronaut academy) for several years and the time has finally come for the six (and there three adult mentors. Yes! There are adults with them in space!) Except the day before the launch, one of the six dies. It’s unclear if she kills herself or if it was an accident. The program decides that the launch must go on as planned, so they call in one of the backup crew members, Jesse. I really liked Jesse. He was sort of an oddball, but he wanted to be an astronaut and go into space so badly. But the way he came to be on the mission made it so that the rest of the crew treat him as ‘other.’ This was obviously hard for him. His part of the story was a tough one. There’s also Henry, who is in training to be the team’s commander. He’s actually kind of a dick and plays some pretty cruel pranks on Jesse. But as the story goes on it’s clear that being pilot and commander is really all he has in life. I wouldn’t say that I liked Henry, but I understood him better by the time the story was over. Poppy is the face of the crew. She’s a language expert with an affinity for learning new languages. She’s also the media person. She does video updates and interviews the crew for the public. I liked Poppy. She grew up with her mother and they never had much. She was ecstatic to be chosen to travel to Terra-Two, but life in space turned out to be harder than she anticipated. She struggles with depression, sometimes spending days in her bunk without getting up. I really liked this inclusion in the story. I’m sure this is something that many real-life astronauts struggle with (not that many of them are traveling for twenty-three years to a new planet, but you know what I mean). Poppy gets help from one of the adults, the medic, traveling with them, and the two figure out a treatment plan involving medication. Next we have Eliot, who also struggles with mental health issues. The original crew member, that Jesse replaced, was Eliot’s girlfriend. He struggles because he’s sure that she killed herself. He hallucinates seeing her floating alongside the ship out in space. Eliot’s chapters were almost hard to listen to because he was struggling so much and I just wanted to give him a hug. Finally, the sisters, Astrid and Juno. These two were fascinating, but also sometimes I had a hard time remembering which sister’s chapter I was listening to. I honestly don’t remember what Astrid’s job was while in space because her story focused on how she got sucked into a sort of religion that’s appeared in the days leading up to the launch. Astrid becomes obsessed with Tessa Dalton (yes, their academy was named after her) who is the woman that discovered Terra-Two. Astrid had vivid dreams about being on Terra-Two. It all honestly gets a little weird, but it was fascinating in the way that watching a car crash is. It was an interesting comment on religion (though that’s just how I took it and I don’t know if that was the intention). Juno is training to become the next medic for the crew. She’s trains alongside the adult medic on board. I really liked this aspect of the story because we got to know one of the adults a bit more. Juno has an eating disorder; she also struggles with feeling like she doesn’t belong because of a secret that I won’t reveal. I liked Juno. She seemed sweet and kind, though I was disappointed that she took so long to befriend Jesse.
Overall, this book definitely had problems. Like, three of these characters have serious issues and I don’t understand how were these not addressed or realized with the intense and comprehensive mental and physical tests that the crew had to go through before the launch. Though there is something that’s revealed that suggests there was reasons for this. I also think it was odd that though there were three adults on board with the crew (an engineer, a commander, and a medic), three adults that trained these kids every day, but they didn’t seem to have a very big presence in the story. I also didn’t like the ending. It was left very open ended and we never got to find out whether or not the crew even made it to Terra-Two. I will say that there was drama and action while the crew was traveling even though there was minimal plot. I did like this book, but the ending damped that enjoyment a bit. I think those that like teenagers in space will like this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

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

Quotes:

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

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The First 7 by Laura Pohl

GoodReads Summary:
Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind…even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.
So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.
Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem…
The First 7 (The Last 8, #2)Review:
I enjoyed The Last 8 so much that I immediately had to start the audiobook for book two, The First 7. I loved The First 7 so much that I listened to the entire audiobook in one afternoon.
I loved this book for the characters. I enjoyed the plot and the whole storyline, but I was so invested in the characters and oh boy, was there drama with this found family. I’ll mention the storyline first and then I can get into what I actually want to talk about today. I was interested in the storyline. At the end of book one, our characters travel into space. At the start of this book, we get to see the characters in space after exploring for several months. There is an altercation toward one of the Last Teenagers and they leave the planet they’re on. When they return to their ship, they receive a distress signal. A distress signal that was coming from Earth. They argue about whether or not to return and see what or who sent this signal.
After returning to Earth, they realize that they weren’t the last humans on Earth. Other people survived. They arrive near the community called Unity. But they soon have more problems to solve than they bargained for. Something happens to one of their friends that they need to figure out and there is this barrier preventing them from going back into space. I will say that I completely saw through one of the smaller twists, but I was stumped about most of what was actually going on. The mystery and suspense of waiting for this found family to find all the answers was really well done.
Now, the characters. Sadly, this friend group has some issues during this book. They’re at odds because some of them aren’t acting like they’re worried about the problems anymore and they just want to stay and live in normal lives in Unity. But the problems that are in this book are ones that really need to be solved. So, the half of the group that’s working on it is mad at the other half for not making any effort. There’s all sorts of issues and hurtful things are said. It was really hard to see this found family that I loved be so at odds with one another. But I was really happy with the resolution and how they all worked the issues out. There were moments of putting their fights aside for bigger issues, but they also talked about what their fights were really about and I liked that a lot.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think the narrator did a really great job with both of these books. I will definitely listen to more books that have this narrator. I really enjoyed getting to see these characters return to Earth and I thought the plot was interesting. I will absolutely be reading more books by Pohl in the future. This was a diverse story that followed characters that weren’t always easy to love, but had wonderful growth and development.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

GoodReads Summary:
A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?
And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:
A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.
An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.
And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.
Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.
Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga, #4)Review:
I was very thrown by the fact that this book doesn’t just follow Darrow like the first three books. I understand that this was originally a trilogy and I did end up really enjoying the multiple perspectives, but it was really had to get used to. I definitely cared more about some perspectives than others (Lyra is my favorite and I will gladly die for her). This book had all of the same things I loved about the first three books. Pierce’s prose is stunning. The universe is at war ten years after the ending of the last book. So, there was lots of violence and gore that was so well written within the action scenes. But the addition of the other characters gave us a wider view of the goings on in the story, which I ended up really enjoying.
I felt bad for Darrow. He seemed lost. It’s been ten years; he has a son and Mustang is his wife. But he’s a military leader and he hasn’t been home in over a year. His son is becoming a man and Darrow is missing it. He just wants to made the world he lives in a better place, but he basically only made things worse in this book. I’m interested to see where his storyline will go in the next book since he embraced the Reaper persona in the end of Iron Gold.
Lyra reminded me a lot of Darrow from book one which I think is why I loved her so much. Reds have been moved from the mines to a place that really isn’t much better. She witnesses an attack on her community and she and one of her nephews are the only survivors of her family. She deals with so much grief and so much anger. Lyra tries to do what’s best for her nephew and manages to get herself employment with a Gold we know from the previous books. I loved Lyra and felt so bad for her. She’s a lonely girl that’s lost her family. She is just lonely and trying to figure out how to not drown in her grief. After the chaos that she went through I’m excited to see what happens with her next.
I had a really hard time caring about Lysander. I have a feeling he’s going to be involved in another big battle and I just can’t bring myself to care. The kids lucky Sevro and Darrow didn’t kill him, so I don’t think he’s making great choices.
Ephraim’s story was interesting and I totally predicted his relevance to the story pretty early on. I think his is the most complex story. He has reasons for the way he lives but I don’t know that they’re super good ones. They’re understandable reasons, but I hope he works through it and starts making better choices. I think he’s going to, but it’s still unclear if he’s only making these choices to save someone or because he’s starting to want to do the right thing. With the way this book left off for him I’m very eager to continue onto the next book.
Overall, I enjoyed this book despite the fact that it’s different from the first three. I ended up really enjoying the new characters. I was a little sad that the same squads weren’t always involved, but I did grow to care about the new members of the Howlers and Darrow’s crew. I think this series is incredible and I’m so excited to see what’s going to happen next. It’s a high stakes story filled with action, gore, and characters that you have to get invested in. There are new perspectives which means that there are also new narrators. I’m super glad that Darrow’s narrator stayed the same and I absolutely loved the narrator for Lyra, the other two for Lysander and Ephraim were pretty good but Darrow and Lyra are my favorite forever. I’m going to start the next book now because I can’t wait.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

GoodReads Summary:
Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.
Finally, the time has come.
But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.
Morning Star (Red Rising Saga, #3)Review:
There are so many incredible things about this book but my favorite was by far Sevro. His friendship with Darrow was absolutely what shined through in this book. Their relationship is so complex and interesting. At one point, I thought it would end because of a leadership struggle but they just ending up beating each other up and then laughing about it. I loved how much Sevro has grown. The person he is now is so strong and he is absolutely my favorite character.
That’s not hard to say, but Darrow is a very close second. Darrow is a complicated person. He’s a Red in the body of a Gold and he means to change the world. But he’s just spent 9 months being tortured. So, he’s not the Reaper everyone knows him to be. He takes time to get back to that person. I loved that Darrow always actively thinks about his choices and his actions. He thinks about how many lives will be lost and if that’s a weight he can bare in his soul. He loses and mourns friends in this book. I really appreciated that this grief was shown. It wasn’t just a page or two, but is talked about throughout the story, well the whole series really. Darrow was a fascinating character and I’m very excited to continue this series.
We get to see more of this universe again and I thought that was really interesting. I liked that a big chunk of this story was traveling through space collecting allies. But it was also working through what all of the colors were raised to believe and feel. There are disagreements and lots of death. The action in this book was incredible. I felt like I was there with Darrow, fists clenched in anticipation of what the outcome would be.
Finally, the narrator. He’s done an absolutely incredible job with this series and I hope he narrates the new books too. He brings this story to life in ways that many other narrators don’t even try to. All of the characters get different voices and the narrator really puts emotions and feeling into what they’re saying or doing. I think I loved this book (and the series) as much as I do because the narrator does such an incredible job telling this story.
I definitely recommend this book for sci-fi lovers that haven’t read it yet. It’s full of action, characters you can’t help but love and then are devastated when they die, boys making boy jokes, and of course a rebel cause worth fighting for.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

GoodReads Summary:
As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.
A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.
He must live for more.
Golden Son (Red Rising Saga, #2)Review:
Golden Son was somehow even more wild than Red Rising. I really didn’t think that was possible, but apparently it was. In this book, it’s two years after the end of Red Rising. Darrow has started working for the man that killed his wife. He’s been sent to the Academy which seems to me like a more relevant version of the Institute. I don’t want to get too much into the plot (and that will probably continue in my reviews for the rest of the series).
Darrow is such an interesting character. He’s born a Red but was carved into a Gold and thrown into their world. He’s still the boy that grew up in the mines, but he’s also now a man that has killed. He’s a Red that’s been turned into a leader. He isn’t with his loyal friends that he made during his time at the Institute at the start of the book, but they do eventually all come together. I didn’t love the start of the book because it felt like I’d missed a bunch of time because I had. There was more than a year of time that we just didn’t get to see. We do get a few memories of that time, but I was confused at first.
I didn’t really start loving this book until the crew got back together. I missed Darrow being with Mustang and Severo and all of the friends. Darrow is completely in his element when he has his friends. I liked that he was still thinking about how it would be hard to do what he was sent to do when that meant betraying the people that were loyal to him.
I really loved that we got to know more about the Sons of Ares. I didn’t like the first meeting with them in this book because who and what we saw wasn’t what the Sons of Ares were supposed to be about. So, when we see other members that we already know, it was exactly what I wanted it to be. I love the plot twists that involved the Sons of Ares because I totally didn’t see them coming. And the ending was absolutely devastating.
Overall, this book was just as violent and gory as the first book. It was excellent. I loved Darrow. I loved getting to see another planet in this universe. I liked the politics. This was a very political story and I really enjoyed that. I love all the characters and their relationships. I liked how thoughtful Darrow was about the things he was doing. I can’t wait to continue the series. I do want to say that I listened to the audiobook for this book and the narrator was incredible. I will absolutely be continuing the rest of the series on audio because I loved the narrator so much.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

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

Quotes:

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

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

GoodReads Summary:
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.
The Gravity of UsReview:
I made the best decision ever and chose to listen to the audiobook for this story. The audiobook was incredible. There is one narrator that tells most of the story. These are the parts of Cal’s story. But there are also some interludes where we get bits and pieces of the TV show that surrounds NASA and this is narrated by several different people. It was so well done and I enjoyed it so much.
I really liked Cal. He knew what he wanted from life and he was doing his best to go get it. But also, he’s still a teenager so he has to listen to his parents. I really liked how passionate he was about being a reporter. He has a large following and pushes the limits of his life to continue giving his loyal followers content.
I also really liked how Cal’s views changed after moving. He was desperate to move back to Brooklyn as soon as he moved. But the longer he was there the more he made friends and ended up liking his new home. I think what it comes down to is Cal really showed growth. He made great new relationships (though he neglected his old one which I didn’t like.) He also eventually took the time to understand his parents more and I loved this aspect. Cal resented his dad a little for uprooting the family, but once Cal realized how important being an astronaut was to his dad, he tried to understand and be more supportive.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Cal. There were great new friendships. I loved the romance. The boys were sweet and I loved how they communicated. There was also anxiety and depression representation. I really liked this story and I will definitely be reading more by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

GoodReads Summary:
A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope.
Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.
For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.
WanderersReview:
Where to even start with this review? So much happens in this book with so many different characters, because of that I’m not going to talk about specific characters too much.
I think this book was incredible. There were so many little things introduced in the beginning that managed to connect in the end. The mystery and suspense of the purpose of the Sleepwalkers was so well done. For a while, I wasn’t sure if it would be a scientific explanation or a magical one. This was interesting for me because I was reading another book of the same genre, at the same time that I was listening to the audiobook for this one. That book was more magical while this one was more science-based. I liked that there was a science behind what was happening.
I also really liked the combination of all the different characters. One was just an ordinary girl following her sleepwalker sister. There were really interesting plotlines for these two with their mom and dad. I loved Benji the CDC doctor. His insatiable desire to help and figure out what was going on was really compelling. But the most interesting character to me personally was Pastor Matthew. His story was the most complicated. He finds himself in over his head with a group of white supremacists. He tries to get out but instead becomes a prisoner and a tool to further their agenda. I thought this was the most interesting because I really hated Matthew for a large portion of this book, but by the end of it, I just felt bad for him and then I was proud of him for managing to do the right thing.
This book was full of political conversations. Military versus scientific intervention for the sleepwalkers. The presidential race between a woman and a man that is a huge bigot. What it means for the world to end and the things people will do when faced with that being the reality.
I don’t want to say I loved or enjoyed this book because it was wild and horrifying. But I did. I was engrossed in the story each time I started listening. I was dying to know what was going to happen, the secrets the characters were keeping from one another, and how things were going to play out. It was an incredible book full of hard topics and discussions. If you’re someone that likes dystopian books, this is one you might want to pick up.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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GoodReads Summary:
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless, she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.
Caraval (Caraval, #1)Review:
In an attempt to read all of the GoodReads Choice Awards Nominees, I am having to catch up on a few series that I have fallen behind on. Caraval is one of those series. I read this when it first came out in 2017. But never managed to pick up the second book when it came out. So, now the series is complete and the third and final book is a nominee, so I’m playing catch up.
I enjoyed this one. I don’t know how much of that was due to my love of the narrator and how much was actually due to the story. My all-time favorite narrator, Rebecca Soler, is really what brings life to this story. I was actually tearing up at one point because of the emotions she portrays.
Garber has created some really interesting characters in this story. Scarlett is annoying, but also, I couldn’t help but feel for her. She comes from a family that is not great. Her dad is abusive, her mother left, and her grandmother died. She’s planning to marry a stranger to escape her father. The one thing she wants most in the world is to protect her younger sister, Tella.
Tella is reckless and just wants to have fun. She doesn’t totally understand what kind of man her father is. I thought she was kind of selfish. I get choosing your own happiness, but at the expense of your sister? A sister that has done nothing but protect you her entire life? That’s selfish. I’ve heard the next book is more focused on her, so we will see if my opinion of her changes.
I really don’t even want to talk about the men. They’re all liars. They’re conniving and, dare I say, evil. I still kind of liked them though. The twist with Julian and Legend was a great one. I wanted to hate them, but…somehow couldn’t?
Overall, I enjoyed this. Though there were somethings I didn’t like, it was still a fun story. I would have liked to know a bit more about the world and the magic. The world wasn’t explained outside of Scarlett’s hometown and the island where Caraval happens. The magic was very undefined. There didn’t seem to be too many limitations and I was just left wanting to know more. I liked the characters well enough, even the ones I didn’t like really made me feel something. I had fun listening to the audiobook and I’m interested to see what’s going to happen next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half-blood​” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment.
In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.
The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)Review:
I don’t know how Riordan does it. I adored this story. Even during the times that I thought Percy was annoying and was doing/saying things I didn’t like I was still so interested and invested in the story. There is so much done right by this author that I don’t know I’ll remember to cover it all.
The characters are interesting and entertaining and learn things during​ their adventures. I loved Percy, even when I didn’t like him. I still love Annabeth. She’s smart and clever and manages to get them out of trouble even when it seems like the worst may happen. I loved Grover’s part in this story. I thought it was super funny. I even kind of liked Clarise. She’s basically the literal worst, but Riordan still managed to make me care about her and root for her to succeed. The only one I don’t like is Luke. He’s annoying and I just want Percy to beat him already.
The story was fun. These characters get into such wild messes and it’s always an exciting time when they try to get out of them. I loved the sea of monsters and the mythological aspects of the story. I thought seeing Circe was so interesting.
I listened to the audiobook for this story and I couldn’t stop listening. I just enjoyed the whole story so much. I’m sad that I didn’t read these when I was growing up because I​ know they would easily have become an absolute favorite of mine. I’m anxious to see what will happen next in the cards for these characters so I will be reading the third sooner rather than later.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.