Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
Like the colorful pieces of sea glass washed up on shore, Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents. But instead of finding a tranquil eddy, Opal is caught in a riptide. Her unique glass messengers which allow instant communication over vast distances have become a vital part of Sitian society. Once used solely by the Councilors and magicians, other powerful factions are now vying for control. Control of the messengers equals control of Sitia. Unfortunately that also means control of Opal. If that isn’t enough of a problem, Opal’s determination to prove blood magic is still being used is met with strong resistance. The Council doubts her, her mentor doubts her, and even her family is concerned. When her world is turned upside down, she begins to doubt herself. In the end, Opal must decide who to believe, who to trust, and who has control—otherwise she will shatter into a million pieces and be swept out by the tide.

Book Cover

Review:
Sea Glass is the second book in the Glass trilogy but the fifth book in the World of Ixia. I’ve grown to love the world and most of the characters and I think this has allowed me to overlook some things about this book that I wouldn’t normally overlook.
I have to say that I did really enjoy this book while I was reading it. But now that I’m finished, I can’t help but ask, “what the hell was Opal thinking?” And obviously we see much of what Opal was thinking and I still have no idea why she thought her ideas were good ones. I think I’m having a hard time because much of what Opal’s gotten herself into is her own fault. So, I guess that says good things about how much of an active protagonist she is. But she also makes some really poor choices that I just don’t really understand. She continually trusts the wrong people, she doesn’t confide in anyone she can actually trust, and those she does trust and confide in often get caught in the crossfire trying to help her.
I think the plot was interesting but I feel like I don’t know where it’s going. A big thing happened at the end of this story and I’m not sure how it’s going to affect where I thought the plot was going. I would say it was a pretty good plot twist, but I won’t be able to say that confidently until I see where things will go in the third book.
I will say that Opal has grown so much in this book. She’s not the timid girl that says yes to everyone and allows herself to get walked all over. She listens to others but ultimately does what she thinks is best. I liked the character development.
Overall, it was a sort of all over the place story. I did enjoy it while I was reading but I feel like I’ve just been left wondering what the heck just happened. I’m going to continue onto the next book and see if things get better for Opal (but honestly, they’ll probably get worse, at least for a little while).

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
Award-winning author Maria V. Snyder brings readers into a world of molten magic, where storms can be captured within a glass orb and a magician’s powers can remain hidden…until challenged by enemy forces. 
As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowan understands trial by fire. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it from happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic. Yet the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control her powers…powers that could lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.

Book Cover

Review:
Storm Glass starts somewhere we’re familiar with. We’re following Opal at the magicians keep. Opal is the only glass magician. You might remember her from the Study series because she helped Yelena defeat the big bad and still get her happy ending. But in this series we focus on Opal.
I thought that the concept of Opal’s magic was really interesting. She can create glass messengers and only magicians can see the spark inside her glass pieces. But while she’s visiting the storm dancers with one of the master magicians, she does something knew. She’s still learning about her magic. All of Sitia is learning that magic might not always take the forms that they’ve grown used to expecting. So, Opal is allowed to take time outside of her regular classes to see what other things she might be able to do. But it turns out to be more than she bargained for when she realizes her new ability can be seen as a threat.
I liked Opal. She was a little annoying at times because she was lonely, but it was her own fault that she was lonely even if she didn’t realize that at first. But Opal does her best to stay positive and focus on the mission.
I think the plot was interesting for this one. It felt a bit more coherent than the previous series. It felt like things progressed naturally and Opal wasn’t kidnapped ten times. And she wasn’t think super strong, highly trained person. She relied on her intelligence to get her out of bad situations and I liked that. She didn’t have magic to just rescue her from the trouble she found.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I’m excited to see where the rest of the series goes as some of the series plot lines were clear. I didn’t feel strongly over the romance, but the twist that involved one of the romantic interests totally took me by surprise. I definitely preferred one love interest over the other and I’m really hoping this doesn’t turn into a love triangle thing because it was clear that Opal also preferred one of them over the other. So far, I think I like the Study series better, but this book was interesting and enjoyable. We got to see more of Sitia and new kinds of magic which was pretty cool.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before…
Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

Book Cover

Review:
I absolutely love this series. Yelena is such an interesting main character. I mentioned in my review for the second book that it felt like the overarching series plot was getting a little lost, it felt a bit slow. But Fire Study really pulled it all together. There were a few things I didn’t totally love, like Yelena has gone through all this stuff. But she doesn’t seem to learn anything or improve until the final third of this book. It’s been almost three books, she should have grown and developed some right? It felt like she regressed in book two and so in this book she worked to get all that back. And then, we didn’t really even get to see that growth because it all happened so quickly. I still love her though. My other issue with Yelena was that she didn’t take the time to feel things. At one point, someone she loves dies and we don’t see or feel any of that grief. I get that she’s just pushing it all away because there’s a lot of other things going on at the same time, but it would have been nice to see her take a moment for herself to feel that loss.
That’s really all that I didn’t like. I loved the revealing of all the secrets. I said this in my review for the first book, but some of the plot twists were predictable and others took me by surprise. I don’t mind this as I always feel smart when I predict things that are going to happen. I think the finale of this series was pulled together so nicely with all of the bits and pieces wrapped up in a satisfying way. I really enjoyed the world and seeing people from both Ixia and Sitia come together to overcome the big bad. I felt like we got more of the characters I love from the first book which made me happy.
Overall, this was an enjoyable conclusion. I love this world. I think the magic system is complex and fascinating. Yelena is a main character I could get behind (most of the time since she runs full on into danger entirely too often). I loved the romance and would have loved to get more of that. I think the world is compelling and I’m excited to read the companion series that follows someone we met in book two. I absolutely recommend this series to any fantasy lovers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
You know your life is complicated when you miss your days as a poison taster…
With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be united with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But although she has gained her freedom, she once again finds herself alone – separated from her lover Valek and suspected as a spy for her reluctance to conform to Sitian ways.
Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training – especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes embroiled in a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince – and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.

Book Cover

Review:
Magic Study is very similar to the first book. It follows the same sort of journey as Poison Study. Yelena is now in Sitia where she’s come to the magicians keep to be trained in magic. Yelena is reunited with her family that she was taken from as a child. She has a lot to deal with emotionally. She’s meeting a family she doesn’t know. She’s now living in a territory she doesn’t remember. She must learn to control her magic. She’s always adjusting to a completely different culture than what she’s grown up knowing.
But then, because it’s Yelena, several someone’s want to kill her. So, she’s still not fully trained and once again on edge constantly looking over her shoulder. But she’s growing. She working on trusting others and not just taking matters into her own hands. She’s not always succeeding at this, but she’s trying. She’s trying to see the bigger picture, starting to think about what the future can hold for her.
The characters are really what made this story. We get to see characters we loved from the first book like Valek, Ari, and Janco. I loved getting to see Ari and Janco again. They are such good friends to Yelena. I liked seeing them outside of Ixia. But we also have some new characters like, Leif, Dax, and Irys. Irys we met in the last book, but we get to know her a little bit better in this one. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, I feel like we didn’t ever actually learn anything about her. Not like we did with the Commander in the first book anyway. I really liked Dax. His was a bit of a superficial friendship, but he added some humor and levity to the story which I liked. Leif was a really interesting character and the more we learned about him the more I wanted to learn even more. I’m already very excited to see him again in the third book.
Overall, this story was similar to Poison Study because it follows the same plot line of Yelena learning something knew and getting taught about that as well as training and learning to ride horses. Side note, Kiki was absolutely my favorite character in this series. But once she’s learning magic, she realizes there are political things going on around her that she just can’t help but get involved in. So, there’s lots of issues in the world and Yelena always manages to make it her problem. But she learns a lot about herself and her abilities. I liked that we got to see a bit of her and Valek together again. I’m also very intrigued to read the third book and see where this is all going. So far, the first two books have had their own contained plots with mysteries to be solved. But the overarching series plot seems a bit slow so I’m interested to see where all of this is going.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.
But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.
Whatever that past holds.
Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . . 

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)

Review:
Bitterblue is the third book that’s set in the Graceling world. It follows Bitterblue, who we met in Graceling, eight years after the ending of Graceling. Bitterblue is now the queen of Monsea, but everything is not what it seems in Bitterblue’s life. People are lying to her. People that were traumatized by her father. She doesn’t know who to trust. She doesn’t know how she’s feeling and she doesn’t know what to do. so, she sneaks out of the castle and heads into the city. She meets two thieves, who change her life.
I think this might be my favorite book in the series so far. I haven’t read the newest book yet, but I really enjoyed this one. I genuinely liked Bitterblue as a character. It’s clear she’s overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being queen. But she’s trying and that’s really clear. She’s both trying to know her kingdom and people better and having some fun for herself. She can see that she’s failing but she never stops trying to do better. Even though it feels like everything around her is falling apart, she continues to be a mostly thoughtful person. She does have some issues regarding her privilege. She’s wealthy and it’s not something that she really thinks about, but she’s made to think about it and I really liked that conversation being a part of the book. Bitterblue makes friends with characters that aren’t privileged like she is. So, I was glad to see this difference acknowledged and discussed. Another thing that I liked is that Bitterblue doesn’t shy away from the past that is her father. King Leck, who we met in Graceling, was a terrible, cruel person. But Bitterblue’s memories from the time that she lived with her father are hazy. She wants to learn about the things Leck changed and what she might be able to make up for. There are many people close to her that don’t want her looking into the thinks Leck did and made others do. Many are still struggling with the trauma they were put through by Leck. I really appreciated how Bitterblue handled this. She doesn’t dismiss their trauma or ignore it. I think this was done thoughtfully and respectfully. Finally, I loved that we got to see Bitterblue take a moment to feel her feelings. People she loves are dying, she’s been betrayed, and she feels like she is failing her kingdom. But she takes the time she needs to cry, or scream, or just react to her emotion before she tries to think about what she must do next. I really liked this.
This story, like the previous two, was a pretty slow one, but it was so worth it. It builds and builds and builds until finally the story breaks and speeds up. But in that slower part, the characters are developing relationships and themselves. I appreciated this because the relationships felt so well developed. I was invested in them because I felt like I got to know the characters really well. I could sympathize with all of them, even the ones doing not great things. I also liked that we got to see characters that we already knew. We see Katsa and Po again along with a few other familiar faces. I highly recommend this one. I think this series overall is a pretty good one, but especially this one. The way that Cashore manages to make the story so full of emotion is impressive. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry, but this one had me tearing up with what Bitterblue was feeling. I cannot wait to read the newest installment of this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager – Wrap Up

Hi, lovelies! I’m back to wrap up my rereads! If you didn’t see my announcement/TBR post (which you can find here) I have been rereading books that I loved when I was a teenager. On that post, I have a list of the books that will be in this post, but I also listed books I probably won’t ever reread again. I also have books that I reread relatively recently, but before I had the idea for this post, so I shared thoughts on those books in that post. Now, lets get into my thoughts on how my rereading went! There were definitely some surprising hits and some not so surprising misses.

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
This is the only book that was on my original TBR post that I didn’t reread. That’s mostly because I couldn’t find this book at my local library and I wasn’t going to spend money and buy it.

Shadow Falls series by C.C. Hunter
I just reread this entire series. I’ve owned all the books since I read them the first time in 2013. I remember loving them so much because of the creative variety of supernatural species. This follows Kylie who finds out she’s a supernatural. She sees ghosts. She gets sent to a summer camp for ‘troubled kids.’ What her mother doesn’t know is that this is a summer camp for supernaturals, a place for them to learn how to navigate the human world. I liked the concept behind the story and seeing as I read the whole series, I must have enjoyed it a little at least. But there were things I didn’t like. The girls were so catty and bitchy, even the ones that were supposedly best friends. There was growth with this and I appreciated that. I wouldn’t say this is the best supernatural series, but it was definitely entertaining. My review for the first book, Born at Midnight, is linked here.

The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
I reread this via audiobook in February. I think the only reason I made it all the way through the book is because the narrator is Evan Rachel Wood (who I have a huge crush on after watching her in Middlewest). The writing is pretty bad. And somehow, I still remember some of the bigger plot twists from later in the series, so there wasn’t really any mystery for me. I think I might finally be too old for this series. I didn’t have the same emotional connection to the characters. But I will say that I didn’t realize that this series actually has a pretty diverse cast, which was a pleasant surprise.

Evermore by Alyson Noel
This one was a surprise for me. I actually found myself genuinely enjoying this book. I liked Ever. She’s grieving the death of both her parents and her younger sister. But ever since the accident that killed them, she is psychic. She can see auras, hear thoughts, and see her sister’s ghost. She hides underneath oversized hoodies and blocks out the world with her iPod (lol). I think the concept of Ever’s abilities are super cool. She’d found a way to cope that worked for the most part. I did not like Damen at all. Even Ever had bad feelings about their ‘relationship’ but found that she couldn’t say no to him? There was just a lot of icky stuff. I liked the story and the magic aspect, and Ever, but I couldn’t get invested in the relationship at all. I actually did try to continue the series. But at the start of the second book, it’s all about how in love Ever and Damen are and I just couldn’t stay interested in it because I don’t care about their relationship at all.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
This book was…not good. I didn’t really remember anything about it. I think I was remembering a different book. Hush Hush is full of fat shaming, horrible diet culture, dated references (myspace, dial up internet, etc.), and completely unnecessary girl hate. I really believe that we’ve moved past the need for high school girls hating each other and being cruel and vicious. I know from experience that these people exist, but I think we’re at a point in time that we don’t need to continually see this in fiction. At least, not in the way that it was done in this book. As for the story, I did like that the romance wasn’t insta-love. There was some actual friendship development before anything romantic started. I don’t think I will continue the series. This book wasn’t completely terrible, but it definitely wasn’t good.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I still really enjoyed this one. I chose to listen to the audiobook, which was certainly an experience. The audiobook is an older one. This is clear with all of the musical sound effects. It took me a bit, but I came to enjoy this narration of the story. I think the story as a whole has held up pretty well for a book that’s 13 years old. I definitely think I liked it less than I did when I read it originally. I think it could more clearly see the the negative things about Katsa, rather than just loving her because she’s strong and has a powerful Grace. I adored Po though. He was my favorite. I liked the politics of the different kingdoms, but the world itself was pretty bland. I’m definitely interested to continue rereading the series. I think the idea of the Graces is an interesting one. I also want to say that I’ve continued rereading the rest of the series and have enjoyed both books two and three. I think Bitterblue is and was my favorite in this series and I’m excited to read the newly published installment.

Evernight by Claudia Gray
According to GoodReads, I rated this book 4 stars. If I were to rate this now, I would probably go with 2.75 stars. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like it, or that it was a bad book. Because I did enjoy it while I was reading it. I think this book was one of the few that I wasn’t all that excited to reread. I ended being a bit surprised because I honestly was expecting to actively dislike this book. But that wasn’t the case. I don’t totally understand why the author chose to act like the main character (who is our narrator) didn’t know that she was going to a school full of vampires. I think this was a weird choice considering what Bianca is. Even the synopsis makes it seem like Bianca doesn’t know why the school and the students are so intimidating. This felt like a weird choice because when we did find out Bianca’s truth, it felt a bit info-dumpy as she tried to share all of the things she knew about vampires in a few pages. Aside from that, I genuinely had fun reading this one. There were definitely some eye-roll moments. And I am just as much Team Balthazar as I was back in 2009 when I read this for the first time. I just didn’t believe the romance with Lucas because it was a bit of insta-love. Then we got to see her become friends with Balthazar and that was more believable. I’m not sure that I care enough to reread the whole series, but this was a fun experience.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Green has been a favorite author of mine for many years. I read Looking for Alaska in high school and it’s a book that changed me. But I haven’t reread this one since 2013, so I honestly didn’t know how I was going to feel about it. I will say that the review linked with the title of TFIOS is the review I wrote back in 2013, so if you want to see my thoughts from when I was actually still a teenager, it’s there. Now, I’m currently 27 years old, so this book has a pretty different effect on me now. I still really loved this story. I still was easily invested in the romance between Hazel and Augustus. I think the big thing that’s changed for me is that when it comes to YA books I don’t really self insert into the story anymore. So, while I still enjoyed the romance aspect of the story, it wasn’t what I appreciated the most this time. I loved the writing. The banter between Hazel and Gus. But most of all, I liked the the journey. I think because I’m in a different place in my life than I was almost ten years ago, I can appreciate all the things that Hazel learns and experiences in this story. I may not be fangirling over Hazel falling in love, but I can still appreciate the things she goes through. This is still a beautiful story.

Everlost by Neal Shusterman (The Skinjacker Trilogy)
So, to preface, I mistakenly called this book Unwind in my TBR post. The series that I had on my kindle and planned to reread for this is actually the Skinjacker trilogy, which starts with the book titled Everlost. I managed to reread this whole trilogy over Mother’s Day weekend because it was super interesting and I just needed to know how everything ended. I made notes for each book, so I’ll briefly mention them before I talk about the series as a whole. The first book was interesting mostly because of the concept of this in-between place for lost souls. I liked the characters well enough, but I thought the plot was lacking. It felt like the first book was just world building and set up for the rest of the series. The second book is where things started to get really interesting plot wise. The story moves slowly, but it’s very clear that Shusterman placed building blocks, little bits and pieces, that would come back into the story later. This goes for the third book, too. Some of the things we see and learn about in books one and two come back into play for book three. I loved this aspect where we get to see things come full circle. There were a few different romances in this series, I liked all but one of them. I just couldn’t get behind Nick and Mary as romantic interests for one another. I think this was really the only thing I didn’t like about the series. It was there through all three books and I just didn’t find it believable. I did, however, really like Allie and Mikey together, as well as the other couples we see get together. I also want to mention the historical sites that are mentioned and some that play a part in this story. In Everlost, we see the Twin Towers, the Hindenburg airship, In Everwild the characters leave the East Coast and move west across the United States. We get to see the World’s Fair in Chicago and Graceland. The final book we get to see the Alamo and the Trinity Vortex (the site of the first atomic bomb). I think the way that Shusterman included these bits and pieces of history was fascinating and thoughtful. I just overall had a fun time reading this series. It was silly and occasionally ridiculous, but it was also way more serious than I anticipated.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
When I read this book in 2012, I rated it 4 stars. I am standing by that rating. I’ve seen people compare this book to Throne of Glass, which I can see, except that Poison Study came first. We follow Yelena who is made the Commander’s new food taster rather than being executed. Yelena is a character that has some trauma in her past. But she seems pretty well adjusted. I am also totally here for the romance that develops later in the book between Yelena and the Commander’s chief of security. A good chunk of this book s Yelena learning how to detect poisons and I liked that. I love seeing characters learn new things. But once we’re past this part of the book, things get a lot more political. I also really enjoyed that part of the book. We see Yelena get involved in so many things that she just doesn’t need to be involved in. But also, it’s understandable because of the players that are involved. The Commander of Ixia is a trans man. I cannot speak to this representation, but if you can and you’ve read this, let me know about if you think this is good or bad representation. I enjoyed this book and I’m planning to continue my reread as soon as I’m finished writing this mini-review.

So, that’s all my thoughts on the books I picked up to reread. I’ve read all of these years ago, but it was really fun to revisit them. I was surprised to still actually enjoy some of them and not so surprised about the few that I didn’t enjoy. What books did you love as a teenager that you would consider rereading now?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Underrated Backlist Books

Hey, lovelies! I know we all get excited talking about the newest releases or books that are soon to be published, but I honestly really love sharing backlist recommendations. There are so many books that are already out in the world that I love with my whole heart. I have so much fun sharing those titles with people looking for new books that are already in the world, books that they can go get from most bookstores or their library right now. So, today I have some backlist books that have less than 5,000 ratings on GoodReads. I want to highlight these specifically because, in my opinion, they deserve way more attention.

Book Cover

The Final Six by Alexandra Monir
4,471 ratings
“When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition. For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk. As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.”

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Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
3,781 ratings
“High seas adventure, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in Dark Shores, a thrilling first novel in a fast-paced new YA fantasy series by USA Today bestselling author Danielle L. Jensen. In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET
Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
3,222 ratings
“Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code. But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches. Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.”

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Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
2,857 ratings
“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.”

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All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
2,788 ratings
“The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true. And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

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The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand
2,515 ratings
“A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand. Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies… Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her. But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for. Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.”

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The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
1,807 ratings
Mean Girls meets The Tudors in Hannah Capin’s The Dead Queens Club, a clever contemporary YA retelling of Henry VIII and his wives (or, in this case, his high school girlfriends). Told from the perspective of Annie Marck (“Cleves”), a 17-year-old aspiring journalist from Cleveland who meets Henry at summer camp, The Dead Queens Club is a fun, snarky read that provides great historical detail in an accessible way for teens while giving the infamous tale of Henry VIII its own unique spin. What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8. Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…”

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The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
1,142 ratings
“An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven and the friends she’s always hoped for hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process. Hannah Abigail Clarke is here and queer, etc. They have been published in the Portland Review and PRISM International. They graduate college at Miami University of Ohio in May.”

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The Fell of the Dark by Caleb Roehrig
999 ratings
“The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town. Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it. An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.”

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The Black Veins by Aisha Monet
505 ratings
“In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for. Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities? She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family. Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.”

These are ten books that I really love with less than 5,000 ratings on GoodReads. I really enjoyed all of these and I highly recommend them. So, I thought I would make this post to hopefully send more readers their way. Let me know if you’ve read any of these!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

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Review:
I’ve just finished rereading Poison Study for my “Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager” blog post which I will be wrapping up later this month. I read this series back in 2012 when I found it randomly at my local library. I remembered really loving them, so I bought the trilogy when I found them at one of my local used bookstores a year or so ago. But with all the moving I’ve done and will be doing in the future; I’ve been working on rereading books I don’t remember anything about other than the fact that I liked them so I could see if I still liked them or not.
Poison Study follows Yelena who is about to be executed for murder. But when Valek, the Commander’s chief of security, offers Yelena a position as the Commander’s new food taster. After Yelena accepts, Valek teaches her how to sniff out and taste poisons that might be used to kill the Commander. I thought Yelena’s training in poisons was a great part of the story. It was interesting to learn about the poisons but while she’s learning that, we’re also learning about how this world works and the governing of Ixia. We learn a bit about Ixia’s past. The start of the story is pretty slow. We know that Yelena killed the son of someone important. The fact that she’s still alive is something that this man isn’t happy with. Along with learning about how to identify poisons, Yelena is being targeted by several different people. So, not only is she trying not to be poisoned to death, but she’s also on the lookout for anyone trying to physically attack her as well. This is when the story starts to get more complicated and a bit political.
Yelena and Valek are suspicious of the man trying to have Yelena killed, but he’s in a position of leadership, so it’s complicated. I think the political twists and turns of the plot were interesting ones. There were some that were predictable, people that were so obviously ‘bad guys’ but what was interesting was figuring out how they were doing the things they were doing. You could see all of the pieces and it was pretty clear that they were all connected, but finding out how exactly the puzzle pieced together was a compelling story.
This story was way darker than I remember. Yelena’s childhood was filled with trauma, from torture (that’s pretty explicitly described) to rape. She was not treated well. But she seemed like a pretty well-adjusted person for someone that had been through all of that and then spend a year in a dungeon. We’re told about her trauma and shown what she’s been through and it seems that the biggest thing from everything she’s experienced is that she wants to learn to fight so that she’ll never be defenseless again. Also, she has a ghost following her that we don’t really know much about what exactly that means, so I guess we will find out more in the next book.
The romance between Yelena and Valek was one I enjoyed. I’ve read mixed reviews about this as many pictured Valek to me an older gentleman and Yelena is supposed to be only 19. But we learn more about Valek’s history it’s clear he’s not an old man. I think their romance was slowly developed and believable. I really enjoyed it and I’m very excited for the ‘forbidden romance’ aspect of the next book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was way darker than I was anticipating, but I enjoyed it. There is also a trans man in this first book that I believe we will see again later in the series, but I can’t speak to whether it’s good or bad representation, so if you’ve read this and you can speak for the representation, let me know. I’ve seen lots of people compare this to Throne of Glass and I can sort of see the comparison, but this series came first so. I’m eager to continue the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Amanda’s April 2021 Book Haul

Hey, lovelies! It’s been a pretty good month for new releases. I’ve had a good time with catching up on eARC’s from NetGalley and other audiobooks. But I did finally do some book shopping. I’ve been trying to stop myself when I want to buy new books. I did some preordering at the beginning of 2021 and I’ve been trying to focus on getting my owned TBR down (so of course, this means that I only want to reread books). But, I ended up grabbing quite a few books when I made a Target trip for some new clothes. I also planned a trip to the bookstore to buy my next book club, but ended up grabbing some new and backlist books that caught my eye. So, I want to share all the new titles that I bought this month with you.

Aru Shah and the City of Gold (Pandava, #4)

Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi
“Aru Shah and her sisters–including one who also claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter–must find their mentors Hanuman and Urvashi in Lanka, the city of gold, before war breaks out between the devas and asuras. Aru has just made a wish on the tree of wishes, but she can’t remember what it was. She’s pretty sure she didn’t wish for a new sister, one who looks strangely familiar and claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter, like her. Aru also isn’t sure she still wants to fight on behalf of the devas in the war against the Sleeper and his demon army. The gods have been too devious up to now. Case in point: Kubera, ruler of the city of gold, promises to give the Pandavas two powerful weapons, but only if they win his trials. If they lose, they won’t stand a chance against the Sleeper’s troops, which will soon march on Lanka to take over the Otherworld. Aru’s biggest question, though, is why every adult she has loved and trusted so far has failed her. Will she come to peace with what they’ve done before she has to wage the battle of her life?”

Float Plan

Float Plan by Trish Doller
“Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone. But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course. In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn’t mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future.”

First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
“Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast. There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is. The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her… When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?”

Life's Too Short (The Friend Zone, #3)

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez
“Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment. But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element. The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all…”

The Electric Kingdom

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
“When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are eighteen-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico’s father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post-apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and love in a world gone dark. The Electric Kingdom is a sweeping exploration of art, storytelling, eternal life, and above all, a testament to the notion that even in an exterminated world, one person might find beauty in another.”

The Serpent's Curse (The Last Magician, #3)

The Serpent’s Curse by Lisa Maxwell
Evade the serpent. Heed the curse. Rewrite the present. Esta isn’t a stranger to high-stakes heists. She’s a seasoned thief who has no reservations about using her affinity for time to give her an edge, and she’s trained her whole life for one mission: travel back to 1902 New York, steal the ancient Book of Mysteries, and use its power to destroy the Brink and free the Mageus from the Order’s control. But the Book held a danger that no one anticipated—Seshat, an angry goddess was trapped within its pages. Now that terrible power lives within Harte, and if given the chance, Seshat will use Esta to destroy the world and take her revenge. Only Esta and Harte stand in her way. Yet in their search to recover the elemental stones needed to bind Seshat’s power, Esta and Harte have found themselves stranded in time with a continent between them. As Esta fights to get back to Harte, the Order is no longer the only obstacle standing in her way. Saving Harte—and magic itself—will put even Esta’s skills to the test. And all the while, another danger grows, one more terrible than both Seshat and the Order combined…”

Plain Bad Heroines

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
“Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way. Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins. A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations.”

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1)

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

Axiom's End (Noumena, #1)

Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
“Truth is a human right. It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades. Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.”

Twice Shy

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
“Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start. Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous—and it turns out he has very different vision for the property’s future. Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.”

Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered, #1)

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
“Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means. Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?) Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.) Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?) Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!) Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite? Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…”

Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered, #2)

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey
“Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be, anyway. Now, Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with 10 years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp. Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous – yet surprisingly helpful – assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.”

These are the books that I bought in the month of April. I’ve been trying to combat my book buying addiction by buying books I’ve already read. So, some of these are books that I’ve read rather than just more books for my TBR. Some of these were completely planned and some of these were spontaneous buys while I was browsing. I’m really excited to add all of these to my TBR and to read them, hopefully soon. Did you buy any books this month?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.
Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Fire (Graceling Realm, #2)

Review:
Fire is a part of the Graceling series. From my understanding, these are all just companion stories. I’ve been rereading them since there has been another installment in this series released this year. It’s been years since I’ve read any of the Graceling books, so I thought I’d reread before getting to the newest one. You can find my recent review for Graceling here.
Fire follows the main character, named Fire, in the kingdom of the Dells. This is a different part of the world than what we learned of in Graceling. So, it felt like I was learning the world all over again, because I was. I think it was easier to become familiar with this world. The magic was interesting with the monsters that live in this part of the world. They have an irresistible magic about them. I thought that was really interesting to see how it worked with all the different kinds of monsters, from monster insects to Fire, the last human monster. I think the world was, like Graceling, a bit confusing to keep track of which leaders where who and where they ruled. Add on to that, some of them are forming alliances and there is a war brewing. I liked the political aspect of the story. At times, it was a bit drawn out, but overall, I enjoyed it.
Fire was a really compelling character. She was the best part of this story. I enjoyed learning about her past, her struggles, and her secrets. She was a great choice of main character for this story. She really kept me interested in the story when I felt that it was dragging.
Overall, I liked Graceling better than Fire, but I still liked this one. It was an interesting story that shared more of the world we didn’t get to see in Graceling. I thought Fire was a great character (that I believe we see again in the future?) I’m eager to continue onto Bitterblue so that I can get to the newest story in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.
She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)

Review:
Graceling tells the story of Katsa, the niece of a king. She has the Grace of killing. She has been trained to be the king’s weapon, doing his bidding. But one day, Prince Po comes to court and Katsa finally finds a challenge. The two end up on an adventure they did not expect.
I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about what happened. So, I’m going to get into my thoughts on the things I liked about this book. Katsa was raised to be the king’s enforcer. Despite this, she finds ways to rebel against the things she’s made to do. She and her friends have created the Council. This Council helps those in need. I really liked that while Katsa mostly did what the king ordered, she found ways to do good things too. I mostly liked Katsa. She’s angry, abrasive, and stubborn. She can be selfish at times, but when it counts, she does the right thing.
Then there’s Po. I loved Po. He does his best to find ways in the cracks of Katsa’s armor. He gets to know her, even though she doesn’t really want that. I loved learning about the other kingdoms through Po and his experiences. I think Po was a well-developed character. I liked his family connections. I think Po’s personality was a really good balance for Katsa. They’re basically opposites, so things were really interesting when their relationship turned romantic.
I think the world building was alright. It wasn’t anything to call home about, but it was interesting. There was a bit of information dumping at the beginning. I think the politics of this world were one of the more interesting aspects of the story. The different kings were all pretty horrible, but it was interesting to see their differences.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. The plot is super interesting and the characters, while imperfect, kept my interest and I found myself easily invested in their story. I am very excited to continue onto Fire. I also forgot to mention at the start of this review that this was a reread. I read this series years ago, but with the release of Winterkeep, I wanted to reread all the books in the Graceling Realm before diving into the new one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Full Series Review)

Hi, lovelies! Today I have a full series review for you all. With the new Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone coming out in April, I decided that I wanted to reread all of the books in the Grishaverse. Soon after, I realized I’d never reviewed the original trilogy. So, this past week I binge read the three books in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Instead of giving each book its own review, I thought it would be easier to just review the whole series in one post. So, that’s what I have here for you. (I’ve already reviewed Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom if you want to check out those reviews when you’re done reading this one.)

Book One – Shadow and Bone

Summary:
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart. 

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone, #1)

Review:
I enjoyed Shadow and Bone but I think because I’ve read it before it felt lackluster. There were some things I didn’t remember, but nothing that really surprised me (maybe because I haven’t waited long enough to forget). I feel like so much happened in this book but at the same time, it felt like nothing happened the whole time. There were also some things that bothered me that I don’t think I noticed the previous times I read this book. One of those things is how quickly Alina accepts her power as Sun Summoner. I think this is supposed to be because it made sense to her, but I would have liked a bit more internal conversation about her acceptance of this. She goes from disbelief to throwing herself into her new studies too quickly for my liking. Another thing is her ‘friendship’ with Marie and Nadia. We’re supposed to care about these two girls that have befriended Alina, right? Because we know next to nothing about them in this book and I didn’t care about them at all.
It was easy to read, aside from remembering what Grisha had which power. It felt like a simple story (especially compared to her other books). Alina had one goal, well two if you count finding Mal, and she didn’t reach it. Which I think that’s why it feels like nothing happened. She was trained with her ability and then ran away. But when she got her courage together and tried to do the right thing she failed. So, it’s almost like the whole story was pointless. I know there’s two more books and I am picking up the second one tonight. I don’t know, I just feel like I remember liking this series so much more than the reading experience I just had.
As for Mal and Alina, their ‘romance’ wasn’t very easy for me to get invested in. It seemed like Alina was the one that cared more. I made a note while reading that said, “Alina shows Mal a lot of loyalty, but does Mal show the same thing back?” I think maybe eventually, but I didn’t see that in this book.

Book Two – Siege and Storm

Summary:
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. 

Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone, #2)

Review:
There were a few things that managed to surprise me in this book. I forgot about a certain plot point that happens with Genya (who I still love with my whole heart). Alina starts to gain confidence in herself and we see that when she speaks up a few times. Though, she is still in denial about that fact that she needs to save the world which was annoying.
I definitely see why everyone says this suffers from second book syndrome. Beacuse it does. They plan and plan and plan, and literally everything fails. I understand why some of the stuff needed to be in there, but I feel like there was so much unnecessary story. Mal pissed me off the whole time, they found literally nothing on the firebird and Alina almost died. I think this could have been a much shorter story. And while I understand that things needed to happen, like meeting Sturmhond (the only good part of this book), there was so much telling and barley and showing because nothing is really happening. Alina is being paraded around, and people are preparing but nothing is happening. That’s really my biggest complaint. This was almost 500 pages and almost nothing happened. But I will say, despite nothing really happening, I was, surprisingly, never bored.

Book Three – Ruin and Rising

Summary:
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Ruin and Rising (Shadow and Bone, #3)

Review:
The first thing I want to mention about this book is the setting and the writing. I probably could have mentioned it for the previous books, but it stood out the most for me in this one. Bardugo’s writing is stunning. She really knows how to set a scene and describe the setting these characters are in. It stood out the most to me while the gang is traveling through the tunnels.
This book is my favorite out of all three. This was the book where I found myself finally invested in the relationships. Where we’re seeing all of these characters together and how they’ve grown after all the trials they’ve faced together. Zoya is my Queen and favorite. I liked that Alina and Zoya managed to find a sort of friendship when they started out hating one another. There were quite a few things that I completely forgot about in this story. I found myself surprised by twists I should have remembered more than once. I really enjoyed being surprised and I thought all of these twists were well done.
Overall, I enjoyed this one the most. There were plot twists that I’d totally forgotten about. I grew to love characters I didn’t like when I started my reread. I even ended up really liking Mal and Alina together. So many people say that he’s controlling and boring and blah blah, but I didn’t see any of that. I thought the almost constant nods to his tracking abilities were a little over the top, but after finishing the book I realize that it’s done that way on purpose. I love Nikolai with my whole heart. Genya, Zoya, David, and the twins are my favorites. I think overall this series was really well done. I know many don’t like the way this book ended, but I did. I think it was a satisfying ending that brought things to a full circle, ending where they began. Alina never wanted to be special, so I liked that she got her quiet life back.

Now, this series as a whole stands up against time, I think. I think individually each book has its issues. But if you look at all three books together, they are really great books. When I was reading the first and second books, I was considering unhauling my copies after I finished my reread. Now, that I’ve finished I remember why I loved this series so much. I may not have liked all of the choices the characters made, or even liked all of the characters, I think this was an incredible adventure. I think this series will find fans for many years to come.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Summary:
After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people’s auras, hear their thoughts, and know someone’s entire life story by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact to suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste.
Damen is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. He’s the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head—wielding a magic so intense, it’s as though he can peer straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she’s left with more questions than answers. And she has no idea just who he really is—or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is that she’s falling deeply and helplessly in love with him. 

Evermore (The Immortals, #1)

Review:
Evermore is the start of a series that I remember really loving when I was a teenager (hence why I reread it since I’m doing a themed thing for the blog). I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually interesting when I started the audiobook. I really liked the narrator. She did a good job telling the story without leaving me confused about which characters were talking and all that.
Ever is dealing with the grief of losing both her parents and her younger sister in a car accident. A car accident that Ever was the only survivor of. Since the accident, she’s able to see auras, read thoughts, and see the ghost of her younger sister, Riley. She copes the best she can in the form of oversized hoodies and by blocking the world out by listening to her iPod (it even mentions her having an iPod pocket. Anyone else remember these?) Things change for Ever when the new kid, Damen, shows up at school. For some reason, when he’s around, everything else goes silent. She doesn’t have to hear everyone else’s thoughts. But the more time she spends with him the more suspicious of him she gets. Once she’s away from him, she can see that he’s keeping secrets and there’s something about their interactions that just doesn’t sit right with her. I liked that she could see the red flags, but I didn’t like that she pretty much ignored them and “fell in love” with him anyway. Their relationship was the biggest issue with this book for me. Their relationship never felt like it followed a natural progression. I feel like Ever never really got to know him and I feel like Damen never took the time to get to know her either. If they did do this, it was brushed over and we were told about it instead of shown. Then, the big reveal shares all of Damen’s actual secrets and that’s supposed to make all of the uncomfortable things he did okay? Not for me.
Overall, I thought the magic was interesting. I liked Ever and her two best friends. But I couldn’t make myself care about the relationship. I can totally understand why I liked this book when I was younger. The dated music and other references also definitely made me chuckle.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Summary:
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

All the Bad Apples

Review:
Honestly, I don’t even know how to start this review. I read this book in January and it has not left my brain for a single day since then. I’m going to do my best to explain how this book made me feel but I’m apologizing in advance if this is mostly nonsensical.
All the Bad Apples follows Deena. Deena is the youngest of three sisters, Mandy and Rachel practically raised Deena, but in different ways. Rachel was the one Deena lived with and she made sure Deena went to school, had clothes that fit, fed her and helped with homework. Rachel was the responsible one and Mandy was the fun one. So, no big surprise that Mandy is the favorite. Well, Deena comes out accidentally to her father on her birthday. When Deena goes running to Mandy for comfort, Mandy enlightens Deena about the family curse. Only days later, Mandy disappears. It’s thought that she’s jumped or fallen off a cliff. But Deena doesn’t believe that Mandy is really gone. So, Deena set’s off to find Mandy and break this family curse.
This is where the story really starts. The reader is left with so many questions in those first few chapters. Questions about Mandy, the curse, and how Deena might find her. But as Deena travels, she starts finding letters. In these letters is the family history. The book alternates between following Deena and sharing the family history. I think the combination of these two was so well done. I stayed up reading this way past when I should have gone to sleep because I kept coming to a stopping point at the start of a new bit of family history and I just couldn’t stop reading. Along the way, Deena finds people to accompany her on her journey. Her best friend (who is black and bisexual), a relative that Deena didn’t know existed, and a random girl that the three found in a bar that ends up being connected to the whole story. The way this author connected the characters was so fascinating. I loved learning about why these specific characters had come together for this journey. While these three follow Mandy’s letters they learn of a horrible and devastating history. Deena’s female ancestors were treated horrifically and Deena is determined to break the family curse. She refuses to be another bad apple that’s left to rot on the ground.
Overall, I am obsessed with this book. It was written beautifully. I think Fowley-Doyle did such an amazing job weaving the past with the present in this story. I also really appreciate that this book covers some really tough topics, but it does it so well. It does it in a way that shows the horror, but also in a thoughtful way. It wasn’t for shock value or anything, it mattered to this story. I think this is a feminist masterpiece. It covers everything from being queer to getting safe and legal abortions. It was mysterious and gothic, mythological and all too real. It’s an emotional ride about soul searching and learning to speak up for yourself. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

GoodReads Summary:
For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…
Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.
Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.
In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #1)Review:
A Crown of Coral and Pearl follows a pair of sisters that live in Varenia. Their village is one that depends on the water. The people dive for pearls in the sea. They fish, but they also value beauty an unreasonable amount. Every time there is a prince of Ilara of age, the girls of this village have a chance to be selected as the prince’s bride. The most beautiful girl in the village is the one that will be chosen. So, no one is surprised when Zadie is chosen to be Prince Ceren’s bride.
The story gets going after Zadie has been chosen and realized that she can’t go through with it and injures herself. Nor takes Zadie’s place and travels to Ilara. I think the world was pretty interesting. The history of why the Ilaran princes marry women from Varenia was interesting, if a little silly. But the way that the people live in Varenia was my favorite. I love world building that involves water.
I think the audiobook was really well done with the narration. I enjoyed the narrator. I think they did a good job of distinguishing between characters and giving the story some emotion.
I mostly liked the characters. Nor was incredibly brave. She just wanted to see the world, but she also wanted to help her people. So, she had all kinds of ideas about ways to do that when she came to Ilara, but was quickly shown that she had more of a challenge ahead of her than she realized. I think the politics that Nor dealt with were pretty interesting. The way that society worked within the mountain castle in Ilara was fascinating.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were a few things I could have done without, like the romance. I think this book would have been even better without any romance. Nor’s love for Verenia would have been enough for me. I liked the world and the characters well enough.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.