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.

Blogmas Book Review: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

fullsizeoutput_3401

GoodReads Summary:
Go west. Capture Apollo before he can find the next oracle.
If you cannot bring him to me alive, kill him.
Those were the orders my old enemy Nero had given to Meg McCaffrey. But why would an ancient Roman emperor zero in on Indianapolis? And now that I have made it here (still in the embarrassing form of Lester Papadopoulos), where is Meg?
Meg, my demigod master, is a cantankerous street urchin. She betrayed me to Nero back at Camp Half-Blood. And while I’m mortal, she can order me to do anything . . . even kill myself. Despite all this, if I have a chance of prying her away from her villainous stepfather, I have to try.
But I’m new at this heroic-quest business, and my father, Zeus, stripped me of all my godly powers. Oh, the indignities and pain I have already suffered! Untold humiliation, impossible time limits, life-threatening danger . . . Shouldn’t there be a reward at the end of each completed task? Not just more deadly quests?
I vow that if I ever regain my godhood, I will never again send a poor mortal on a quest. Unless it is really important. And unless I am sure the mortal can handle it. And unless I am pressed for time . . . or I really just don’t feel like doing it myself. I will be much kinder and more generous than everyone is being to me—especially that sorceress Calypso. What does Leo see in her, anyway?
The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, #2)Review:
In this book, Apollo is on another task toward his ultimate mission of collecting all of the known oracles. He had two so far and is dreading this third. He travels with two characters we’ve met before (that I totally love!!) to Indianapolis. They run into new creatures I’ve not met before and people Apollo knows from his past.
I think what I most enjoyed about this book was all of the side characters. I really enjoyed getting to know them and how they knew Apollo. He can’t remember much because his mortal brain just can’t remember 4,000 years of memories. So, this allowed for some entertaining and occasionally dangerous antics. I liked learning about the things that he did remember. It was interesting to get to know him better, to see whim reflect on his past choices when he was different now. I still didn’t love Apollo. Despite all he’s been through as a mortal he’s still pretty conceited and I didn’t love that. He is growing, but now enough for my liking. It seems almost like he’s just going to write all this off as soon as he becomes a god again and that leaves a bad taste.
I really liked that Meg was back for this one. She disappeared at the end of the first book. We find her again in this one and I was glad for that. But we got little to no explanation and I wanted more. I wanted to know her thoughts and what happened while she was gone.
Overall, this is filled with all the best things we’ve come to know from Rick Riordan. I liked meeting new characters and spending time with ones we already know. I enjoyed meeting new creatures and battling new villains. I’ve already started the third book, so hopefully, Apollo gets better in that one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
How do you punish an immortal?
By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.
But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go… an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.
The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, #1)Review:
Okay, I’m going to be honest here. I was pretty excited about the concept of Apollo being stuck in a mortal body but it actually was my least favorite thing about this book.
I loved getting to see all my old favorites like Percy and his mom. I also loved that this story actually mostly takes place at camp half-blood. It was so fun for me to get to explore more of the camp. I loved everything that happened in the woods.
But Apollo was pretty insufferable. He’s a God trapped in the body of a teenager named Lester. First of all, is this some sort of possession kind of thing? Because if so, poor Lester. If not, I’d like some more explanation. Apollo is coming to terms with the fact that he’s a sixteen-year-old mortal boy. One with acne, which is commented on at least ten times. I get that he’s supposed to be growing, but every time he made progress, he then took five steps back. That was frustrating because it felt like he’d have these huge revelations then just go back to complaining about how he wasn’t an all-powerful god anymore. He was so selfish and conceited it was hard to like him when he kept regressing. Though I’m hoping he will make more actual progress in the next books.
Overall, this was still a fun story. I loved how the plot is connected to things that happened in the previous series. I also love that we got to see characters from those series that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to yet. But I also liked that there’s a whole new cast of characters for the reader to learn about and love (read: the characters in the Apollo cabin). I also enjoyed the twists. I definitely saw a few of them coming but they were still good and pulled at my emotions. Finally, I loved that Apollo was so casual about his bisexuality. He talks about flirting and loving both men and women and it was basically the only thing I liked about him. I’m definitely going to continue the series; I’m just really hoping Apollo gets less annoying.

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.

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.

Blogmas Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

fullsizeoutput_238b

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.

Blogtober Book Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

fullsizeoutput_20a2

Summary:
Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.
When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.
Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.
Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.
StepsisterReview:
I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Donnelly while she was doing the book tour for Stepsister. She was honestly so inspiring. I’ve been so excited to read Stepsister since that event. I finally managed to listen to the audiobook for the NEWTs.
Stepsister is the story of Cinderella’s sisters and what happens to them after Ella marries the prince and becomes Queen. I am in awe of Donnelly with the complexities of this story. Isabelle is being guided by two characters, Fate and Chance. It took me way too long to realize the significance of Chance other than it just being his name. Chance steals Isabelle’s life map from the Fate’s, and does everything in his power to change her path.
Isabelle was a really unlikable character. Which I’m pretty sure was the intention. This wasn’t a happy story. It was a story about growth. How to find the pieces of your heart and escape the title of ‘ugly step-sister.’
I am really not sure how to explain this story. But it was one of loss and regret and learning to love yourself. The things that Isabelle and her family endure could break anyone. But she doesn’t let it. She tries and tries, again and again, to do the right things, to be a better person. But she learns that it’s not that easy. Isabelle’s path is not an easy one, but despite the forces trying to hinder her, she finds her way.
Overall, this was a fascinating story. It was filled with unlikeable characters that learned how to be better, how to change their ways before it was too late, and how to love themselves even though they may not be traditionally pretty. Fate and Chance pulled the path in countless directions, keeping things interesting. If you’re a lover of fairytales, this is the story for you.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Eighteen: Audiobook Edition

fullsizeoutput_209d

Hi, lovelies! Let’s talk about audiobooks. I know not everyone listens to them, but I thought Spooktober would be the perfect time to talk about some really well-done audiobooks that would be perfect for this time of year. I’ve listened to a fair share of them in the past year, some good, some bad, but today I’ll talk about the best of them.

Sadie by Courtney Summers
If you haven’t heard about this book, specifically the audiobook, you must live in a closet. This full-cast audiobook follows two storylines and I just could not stop listening. The story is just brought to life in this format.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
I loved this book, no matter the format. The story was fascinating and full of mystery and adventure. The audiobook really brought the characters out.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Kate Rudd is an incredible narrator. I loved this book physically, but even more so on audio. This is a must-read for the fall season.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
With multiple narrators, this was another one that I just didn’t want to stop listening to until I got to the end. One of Us is Lying was also good on audio, but this one was better.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Though the narrator took a bit of getting used to, I really enjoyed the audiobooks for this one. It’s such an atmospheric story, and audio really enhanced that.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
A throwback for some YA paranormal, the audiobook was fun and slightly cheesy, there were sound effects and songs and I just had fun with it.

Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts
This mystery was a wild one. I cried in the first chapter and was trapped on the edge of my seat for the rest.

Let me your audiobook recommendations in the comments! I’m always looking for the next one to listen to. Have you read any of these?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Twitter
Instagram
GoodReads

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interface has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.
Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.
But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Review:
I have been wanting to reread this series for years. I remember reading these books years ago when they first came out but it’s been so long, I barely remember anything from them. The audiobooks have been repeatedly recommended to me so I thought I’d give them a try. Cinder is the book I chose to fill the spot for Ancient Runes – Retelling in the Magical Readathon (read my whole TBR here.)
I really enjoyed the audiobook version of this story. I think the narrator did an excellent job of telling the story. The characters were easily identifiable, their voice was enjoyable. I thought it was a great listening experience over all.
As for the story itself, I remembered a few of the bigger plot twists so the story seemed almost predictable but that was just because I’d read it before. Regardless, this didn’t take away from the story at all, in my opinion. I think a science fiction Cinderella retelling is one of the more creative things I’ve heard of. I also think that the retelling aspect of the story is pretty good. Cinder’s backstory is the typical father figure dying and being left with awful stepmother/sisters. I really liked that in this retelling Cinder is actually friends with one of her stepsisters.
There was so much going on in this book, but I think it was paced well and each new aspect of the mystery and plot were introduced nicely and without seeming rushed or too much. Knowing the little bit that I know about the series already; it was interesting to see how some of the ideas shared in this book were going to play a part in later books in the series.
I really liked Cinder. She was sassy but awkward. She was extremely insecure about her cyborg parts which was sad but makes me excited to see her grow more confident and happier with who she is. There’s so much potential for character growth and I know it’s coming after learning what we did in the minutes of the book. The things we learned about Cinder have me so excited to finish rereading the series.
Overall, I had a fun time with this audiobook. I’m happy to have found another series that I like the audiobooks for. I can easily get sucked into this series and I can’t wait to reread the rest of the books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.