What We Devour by Linsey Miller

Summary:
Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read an early copy of this book. This is my honest review.
What We Devour follows Lorena Adler as her life is changed. She’s spent her whole life hiding her abilities. But when her father figure is about to be arrested, she reveals herself to make a bargain for his life. The Vile crown prince gets Lorena to travel to the capital with him and join his team of researching ways to prevent the Door from opening. This is where I want to talk about the world building. It was complex and interesting, but still easy to understand for me. I loved the concept of the magic of the vilewroughts and the nobelwroughts. I also loved the conversation of corruption. So much of this book focuses on how unfairly the lower class is treated and I thought that was a really great part of the plot.
Lorena was a fascinating character to follow. She’s incredibly clever and smart. She’s managed to hide from the crown for all this time. The only reason she’s found out is because she chose to do the thing that would protect someone she cared about. I really admired her character.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was dark and twisty. The magic was compelling and I was really interested by seeing the different ways people worked with their wroughts. I loved Lorena and all of the side characters. I think thing was a really fun and well told story. I definitely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt

Summary:
West Finch is one hurricane away from falling into the sea.
Yet sixteen-year-old Harlow Prout is determined to save her small Maine hometown. If only she could stop getting in her own way and find someone, anyone, willing to help. But her best friend Ellis MacQueen “fixes” problems by running away from them―including his broken relationship with his twin brother, Tommy. And Tommy’s depression has hit a new low, so he’s not up for fixing anything.
In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between these three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.

Book Cover

Summary:
The Sea is Salt and So Am I is an advanced copy that I was given via NetGalley so that I could read and review it. Thank you for that NetGalley and the publishers.
This story follows three points of view, Tommy, Ellis, and Harlow. Tommy and Ellis are twin brothers who both have their issues. The book starts off with Tommy attempting suicide. This is a big focus of the story. Everyone is doing their best to make sure that Tommy is okay after his failed attempt. Harlow and Ellis are best friends. They’ve been best friends since they were kids. So, Tommy is depressed. Ellis is an amputee. And Harlow focuses on all the wrong things to ‘fix’ and just creates more problems for herself.
I had a few problems with this book. The biggest one was that I just genuinely didn’t like any of the characters. I think the depression and amputee representation was a great thing. But I didn’t like Harlow and Ellis was sort of an asshole for most of the book. Harlow starts dating Tommy so that she can make sure he doesn’t try to kill himself again. Like, what? More than one person thought that this was okay for these characters? I just didn’t get it. I understood that eventually there were genuine feelings. But Harlow overall, she just wasn’t a character I could get behind. I didn’t root for her. It doesn’t happen often but I actively didn’t like her and the same goes for Ellis. He couldn’t sympathize with the reasons behind his actions and the more I read about him the less I liked him.
Overall, I just didn’t love this book. I loved the environmental topics. There’s mention of the Piping Plovers which are something that I knew lots about from my hometown, so I definitely laughed about their mention. But I also really liked the topic of erosion and the ocean washing away West Finch. I think this was a really great topic. I also think the author did a great job of showing us the story, the relationships, the settings, and not just telling us. There were things that I liked, but my dislike for the characters really put a damper on those things.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

Summary:
A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self.
Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.
Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.
Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.
Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

Book Cover

Review:
Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun was provided to me vie NetGalley so that I could read it and write an honest review. This book follows Julain Luna, a teenager that’s in the midst of applying to colleges, his last year of high school, and counting down to the day he leaves Texas so that he can be himself, finally. Julian is gay, but he feels like he can’t tell anyone because of his abusive father. His father knows in that way that isn’t talked about, but he lays hands on Julian, yells at him when Julian does ‘unmanly’ things. The parts of this story where Julian is suffering his fathers verbal and sometimes physical abuse were hard to read. It’s the reality for so many people, but I can’t help but wish that everyone struggling through this would just be loved and accepted by their family. One night, after getting incredibly drunk via the peer pressure of his friends, he comes out on his personal Twitter. This brings a new set of challenges. He’s treated differently at school and by his fellow players on the soccer team. But Julian has a great group of friends on his side and he has his sister. There’s also Mat, the very handsome boy that DM’d Julian after he came out.
I really liked this book. It’s full of heartfelt moments between friends. It’s a lovely story about moving on from high school. But it’s also Julian’s story about coming out and falling in love for the first time. I loved following him as he got to know Mat and then eventually got to meet him. I liked the tense moments of whether or not Julian was going to be able to go to college in California. I absolutely loved the sincere moments between Julian and his sister.
Overall, I really loved this story. I can see how important this story will be to so many people. It’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s sex positive. It’s gay. It has so many good things that I think will really speak to so many teenagers. I absolutely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

Summary:
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

Book Cover

Review:
The Library of the Dead is a new fantasy novel that I found from my library. I listened to the audiobook and I thought the narrator did a really great job of telling this story. We follow Ropa while she’s doing her job as a ghoststalker. She lives in Scotland and has taken over for her grandmother talking with ghosts, delivering messages, etc. in exchange for money. But she hears rumors of children going missing, some never coming back and others coming back looking like they’ve aged 50 years. She feels obligated to investigate, but what she finds is so much more than she ever expected.
I really enjoyed this story. I listened to it non-stop for hours because I was so easily pulled into the story. I thought Ropa was a great main character. She’s unique and kept the story moving. I liked that she always stood up for herself, but she also knew when to stand down. She’s determined and never gave up, even when she was in a situation where things seemed dire. I also loved the family dynamics of this story. Ropa’s relationship with her sister and grandmother was so nice to see. Ropa feels like all the pressure is on her to provide for the family, but her grandmother doesn’t want her to feel that way.
I thought the magic was interesting. There were a few different kinds of magics. We see Ropa’s ghoststalking up close and I loved how detailed this magic was. But we also learn about other magic when Ropa finds her way into the Library of the Dead. I loved the friends she made there and I’m eager to see where those relationships will go next. I’m also interested to learn more about the other magic that we see.
The only thing I had trouble with was the world building. I think this is because I’m not very familiar with Scotland’s history, so there were things mentioned that I still don’t know if they actually happened or if this is set in a future Scotland. I’m planning to read some other reviews after I finish writing this to see if there’s anyone else that feels this way. I still really liked the setting; I just personally couldn’t tell if it was current or a dystopian Scotland because of my own lack of knowledge.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen in the sequel. I loved the magic and all of the characters. There was action with high stakes, but Ropa also learned and grew from these experiences. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.
As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.
Lush and striking, hopeful and devastating, We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology by New York Times–bestselling author Hafsah Faizal.

Book Cover

Review:
After really enjoying We Hunt the Flame, I tried to dive right into We Free the Stars. But that was right as my reading slump was starting, so I didn’t make it very far trying to read the physical book. I eventually borrowed the audiobook from my local library and managed to finish it through that format. I think the audiobook was really well done. There was more than one narrator and I think they did a great job telling this story.
As for the story, there is so much that happens in this book. It felt like a totally different sort of story from the first book, where they spent most of the book working toward one goal. But in this book, things have gone wrong. They need to plan a rescue. They need to list of impossible things to get done, but they managed to get most of it done. I was impressed by the way this team managed to problem solve for all of their issues.
I think what I liked the most was the changes that Nasir and Zafira go through. They’ve changed and grown so much in the first book, but now that they’re back from Sharr, they’re trying to reconcile those changes when back in their regular worlds. This was more for Nasir than Zafira because the world Zafira knew before she left for Sharr is gone. But Nasir is coming back to his home a changed man. But in the eyes of his people, he’s still the Prince of Death. We get to see this for Zafira through the people that she loves. She reunites with her sister and with Yasmine. We see her changes through their eyes.
Overall, I enjoyed this one just as much as I did the first. It’s a pretty different book because there is just so many things going on. But we get to see Zafira and Nasir grow even more. Altair is still my favorite. He’s really going through it in this book, but I loved him all the same. I also really enjoyed getting to see more of Zafira’s loved ones. The characters travel to other places in this world and I loved that we got to see other Caliphates that were mentioned in the first book. We learn more about the world in general. I’d love to see another book set in a different part of the world. I will definitely be picking up more books by Faizal.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

Summary:
In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.
Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

Book Cover

Review:
I love the Brown Sisters series. Each one is just so much fun to read and Eve’s story is no different. We follow Eve and Jacob as they try to fight the attraction they’re feeling for one another. But the story starts a bit before that. Eve’s just been confronted by her parents and they’ve basically kicked her out in hopes that it would motivate her to finally find a career path and stick with it. So, when Eve comes across a B&B that is hiring a chef, she whorls in, determined the convince Jacob that she’s perfect for the job. When Jacob doesn’t agree with her, she leaves. Except not quite. She hits Jacob with her car and breaks his arm. This story was just as funny as it was heartwarming. I really loved getting to follow along as Eve and Jacob became ‘just friends’ while both being in denial about their attraction to one another. They had some really great banter. Honestly, their whole relationship was just so heartwarming. Eve was such a kind and understanding character. Jacob is autistic, so he prefers some things to be certain ways. He’s clear with communicating his boundaries and what he needs. Eve never judges him or makes him feel other for that and I really loved this aspect of the story. There’s even a moment when someone in town says something offensive and Eve pulls the ‘I don’t get it’ card to make the jerk explain his hurtful ‘joke.’ I loved that they both learned more about themselves while they were learning about one another.
I really liked the bed and breakfast setting of this story. I think it was the perfect place. Away from the rest of Eve’s world. She’s trying to prove herself and she’s found this safe place to do that. Little did she know that she’d also found love.
Overall, I love this whole series. I still think that Dani’s book is my favorite, but I did really enjoy Eve’s story with Jacob. I will definitely be reading more of Hibbert’s backlist until there’s news about new books from her.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Summary:
Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.
Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.
Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.
Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.
Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.
Hilarious, warm, and romantic, Sally Thorne’s novel delivers an irrepressibly joyous celebration of love and community for fans of 99% Mine and The Hating Game

Book Cover

Review:
Second First Impressions was everything I want from a romance novel. It made me laugh. It made me swoon. It had side characters that absolutely made the story better. We follow Ruthie who works at the front desk of a retirement village. But her boss is on vacation, so she’s temporarily in charge. While she’s in charge, she has a temp assistant, Melanie. The slow friendship that developed between Ruthie and Melanie was adorable. I really loved the two women forming a relationship. They are such different people, but they end up good friends despite not having much in common. Melanie has decided that she needs to shake Ruthie out from living like one of the residents of the village. She’s in her twenties, not her eighties. So, Melanie gets Ruthie on a method of her own creation to get back into dating. Enter Teddy. Teddy is the son of the CEO that just bought the retirement village. Ruthie has been tasked with giving him a job. So, she has him interview for the two residents that can’t seem to keep an assistant.
This story was a fun one. I loved all the little details, like how Ruthie cares for the turtles. I liked Ruthie. I can really relate to being stuck in a routine and feeling significantly older than I really am. I think while she wasn’t the most exciting character, sometimes even a little unlikable, she was realistic. I liked seeing her come out of her shell and start having some fun.
Teddy was a good love interest. It was clear from the start that he was going to be the romantic interest. I’ve seen others say that he’s too likable. Which I actually can understand a little, but I liked him. The only thing I didn’t really like was that his interest seemed more like he was interested in chasing Ruthie. He did spend time to get to know her, but he inserted himself in her life. He didn’t ask to spend time with her, he just came into her house. He did things like that a lot. Never asked her, just chose to do things. But I did like how he brought Ruthie out of her shell and I could totally see the attraction between them.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I liked the characters, especially the two old women. I liked that Teddy and Ruthie both had goals that they were working toward. I enjoyed this one and I’m looking forward to reading whatever Thorne comes out with next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

Summary:
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?

Book Cover

Review:
Aru Shah and the City of Gold is the fourth book in the Pandava Quartet. So, I’m going to preface by saying, if you haven’t read the first three books, you shouldn’t read this review. But you can find my spoiler free review for the first book here. I won’t be summarizing this book because so many things happen and also because there is a convenient summary at the beginning of this post.
So, when this book starts, we’ve just met Aru’s sister, her biological sister. This huge twist was revealed in the end of the third book. We get to know her sister, Kara, as the book progresses. I think what I love most about this series is the Aru Shah is decidedly imperfect. She is flawed. She makes mistakes. She upsets her Pandava siblings. I loved this aspect of the story. Aru makes mistakes and she learns from them. We follow along as she makes amends for those mistakes and made sure to do better in the future. I also love the found family aspect of this story. We have the Pandava siblings, who all have the reincarnated souls of the original Pandava’s. They are some of my favorite siblings. I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the twins. I feel like because they’re so young, they’re held back from being a part of the quests that the siblings go on. I’m hopeful that we will see them participate more in the final book.
There are so many things I love about this series. The characters are the number one, but the mythology that we see in this story is fascinating for me. I didn’t know much about Hindu mythology, so I really enjoyed learning all about the well-known figures.
Overall, I loved this book just as much as I’ve loved all the previous books. I think the mythology and the world is so much fun. It’s exciting and full of adventure. The characters are incredibly easy to love and you can’t help but root for them. I also have to say that Chokshi’s writing always stands out and this book is no different. I highly recommend this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

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

Book Cover

Review:
People We Meet on Vacation is the story of Alex and Poppy falling in love. The story starts with them as estranged best friends. But as the story progresses, we see flashbacks of past vacations that Alex and Poppy took together. We get to see the whole history of their friendship starting from when they met in college to the present. Poppy is feeling restless, in her job, in her life. She misses Alex, who she hasn’t really talked to in two years. One late night text turns into one last vacation for Poppy and Alex. One last chance for them to finally be honest with one another.
I really enjoyed this story. I loved the way it was written. The flashbacks we’re super well done and really gave excellent back story for both Poppy and Alex. I feel like their romance was really well built up and was definitely one that I could easily root for. I loved getting to see all of the placed that they’d traveled to. And their final vacation, the vacation from hell, was absolutely hilarious.
Overall, I love Henry’s adult novels and I’m very excited to see what she will be writing next. I loved Poppy and Alex. They reminded me a bit of myself and my husband. I think that’s why I enjoyed this book so much. It was a fun, quick, and entertaining read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

Summary:
Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she’s famous, privileged, has “the good hair”— and she’s an Eloko, a person who’s gifted with a song that woos anyone who hears it. Everyone loves her — well, until she’s cast as the awful person who exposed Tavia’s secret siren powers.
Now, she’s being dragged by the media. No one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, nor her Eloko community. But Naema knows the truth and is determined to build herself back up — no matter what.
When a new, flourishing segment of Naema’s online supporters start targeting black girls, however, Naema must discover the true purpose of her magical voice.

Book Cover

Review:
Thanks, NetGalley for this eARC, in return, here is my honest review. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoy this book. But at the same time, I wasn’t surprised because I absolutely loved A Song Below Water (reviewed here). A Chorus Rises is set in the same urban fantasy world, but in this one we follow Naema, who wasn’t a super nice person from Tavia’s perspective in A Song Below Water.
Despite actively disliking Naema for the first third of this book, I ended up really loving her. Our first look at Naema is in A Song Below Water which is from Tavia and Effie’s perspectives. These three girls do not get along at all. I think it’s important to mention that this is totally okay! Naema mentions often that just because they’re all black, doesn’t mean they all have to be best friends. They can want better for one another and still actively dislike each other. And I totally agree with that. You don’t have to be friends or even like someone to wish that they’re not being discriminated against because they’re a magical or black.
But the further we get into this story, the more I couldn’t help but like Naema. She’s genuinely funny. She has a confidence in herself that most people would love to have. But she’s also still growing. This book takes place about a year after the end of A Song Below Water. So, Naema has had some time to heal, emotionally, from being stoned. But Portland doesn’t feel the same to Naema anymore. She takes a break and goes to visit her family for their yearly reunion in the south. It’s here that Naema discovers that there’s more to being an Eloko than just the popularity she has in Portland. I really enjoyed getting to see Naema spend time with family she never sees and getting to know more about her Eloko abilities. I absolutely loved her cousin, Courtney. He’s hilarious and I think he was a great support system for Naema. Their relationship made me think of my cousins that were my best friends while I was growing up.
This story covers some really interesting topics that I didn’t see coming. There’s discussion of how easily online voices can be weaponized to do real harm to real people. I think the spotlight on “keyboard warriors” was an excellent one because what it takes to go from talking about doing something to actually doing it? It isn’t that much and it’s something that I don’t think is discussed enough or taken seriously enough. I liked how the friend group worked together to stop this aspect of the story. We get to see some unlikely allies and some healing. And we also get to see these teenagers be brave and do the right thing.
I would have liked for this book to have been longer. I think there were definitely some things mentioned in the story that didn’t really get explored. I’m thinking specifically of the Professor that was mentioned so many times. But we never actually meet her, even though what she’s researching aligns with what Naema is learning about herself. I would have liked to see more about Naema getting more of a handle on talking with the Ancestors. We do get a scene toward the end where things sort of click for Naema in regards to listening to the Ancestors and they help Naema realize that what she and her friends have done isn’t enough, that there’s still more to be done. But we didn’t get to see anymore after that.
Overall, I really grew to love Naema. She’s fierce and outspoken in the best ways. She’s brave and so smart. She knows that what she says hold weight because of her online following. She knows that even though she’s black, she has privilege that comes with being an Eloko. But she also talks about how being an Eloko doesn’t negate the struggles she faces as a black woman. As a queer, white woman, I could appreciate that aspect of the story. I think Namea’s voice is what made this story so gripping for me. Her internal voice was so thoughtful, even when she was angry or unsure. She’s funny and smart, caring and loyal, snarky and passionate. I really loved her by the end of the book. If you haven’t read A Song Below Water, please go do that. If you have, I think you’ll love A Chorus Rises just as much as the first book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Summary:
Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Cruel Prince.
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

Book Cover

Review:
I honestly don’t even remember buying this book. It’s made it to my unhaul pile twice and somehow ended up back on my TBR shelf both times. I’m so glad that I didn’t end up giving it away. I picked this book for my June TBR Jar Picks as the Favorite of a Friend prompt. So, thank you Alana for making me finally read this one. As soon as I’m done with this review, I’ll be starting the second book even though it’s not on my actual TBR for this month.
So, we follow Liesl (also called Elizabeth) on the last night of the year. She’s become the one that takes care of her siblings, so on the night that her younger brother has an audition to possibly study as an apprentice musician, that’s supposed to be her focus. But her sister Kathe, goes missing. There’s a lot going on in this first part of the book. We see Elizabeth in her life, taking care of her siblings, thinking about her own passions, but only ever doing things for her family. We see her not choose herself again and again in the first part of this book. Then Kathe is taken, and Elizabeth must make a deal with the Goblin King to get her back. The must complete three tasks to succeed.
Now, I was immediately hooked on this book. Seriously, in the first ten pages, the writing really sucked me in. It’s lyrical without being over the top. It’s beautiful writing that really leaves an impression. I cannot say enough good things about Jae-Jones’s writing. I would say that it’s what made this book as good as it is, but there’s also the characters and the stunning setting of the Underground. So, really everything about this book stands out. I really liked Elizabeth. I liked her when she made sure to care for her siblings. I liked her when she was conflicted between helping her brother or her sister. But I liked her best of all when she finally chose herself.
The romance between Elizabeth and the Goblin King was absolutely to die for. He and Elizabeth were friends when she was a child. She thought the games they used to play were dreams though. I liked how their relationship developed. It wasn’t instant love; they were friends when she was a child and she starts to remember that the longer she’s Underground. I liked seeing Elizabeth push the Goblin King’s buttons and he pushed hers in return. The ending did not go how I expected at all which is why I’m so eager to read the second book.
Overall, Wintersong surprised the heck out of me. I loved the interesting world and magic. The characters were easy to love and really made me feel things. I also thought the plot was easy to follow and well done. I loved all of the creatures in the Underground. I just really enjoyed this book and I would absolutely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Off The Record by Camryn Garrett

Summary:
When Josie, a teen journalist who dreams of life after high school, wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine (think Rolling Stone), her only concern is that her parents insist she bring her sister as a chaperone. But as Josie joins the cast on a multi-city tour and gets to know the subject of her profile, Marius, she senses that something is off. It’s not long before she learns that a celebrated director has been harassing girls on set and apparently getting away with it for a long time. Josie is reluctant to speak up–she’s not sure this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if her big break ends up being the end of her journalistic career? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?

Book Cover

Review:
Off the Record is an eARC I was gifted after attending a virtual event that this author was a part of. Thanks to NetGalley for providing the eARC. We follow Josie, the youngest of three sisters, who is a journalist. She’s done mostly work for her school newspaper, but she’s also done some freelancing work for magazines. She’s waiting to hear about a few things. One is whether or not she won the celebrity profile for Deep Focus and the other is if she’s been accepted to her dream college. I liked getting to see a bit of Josie with her whole family before she and one of her sisters, Alice, goes off to follow along on the press tour for the celebrity profile. We get to see a bit of why Josie feels the way she does about things mentioned later in the story. I really liked Josie. She’s a loner who doesn’t really have friends. She’s a dedicated writer. She’s also bisexual, fat, and has anxiety. Her anxiety is pretty prevalent throughout the book and I really liked how it was portrayed. We see her try different coping methods where some worked sometimes and others worked better another time. I really liked the anxiety representation.
While Josie and Alice are on the press tour, Josie is interviewing the cast and crew of the movie. She ends up making friends with the two younger members, Penny and Marius. Marius is who Josie is writing a profile about, so the two develop a relationship with all of the time they spend together. Penny and Josie end up friends, which leads to Josie learning about a director who has been sexually harassing women he’s worked with. Josie and Penny start working together to get in touch with others who have been harassed by this director and writing a story about it. I really liked this aspect of the story. It didn’t shy away from the details and really talked about how stuff like this is overlooked in the industry.
Overall, I really liked this one. I liked how we got to see Alice and Josie’s relationship change after they managed to communicate better. I liked the little bit of romance that was included. I also liked that when Josie reacted poorly to someone’s story about this director, she was called on it for saying shitty things. I would definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

Summary:
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Graci Kim’s thrilling debut about an adopted Korean-American girl who discovers her heritage and her magic on a perilous journey to save her witch clan family.
Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.
Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!
Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?
As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

Summary:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy and in return here is my honest review. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint has not had a single miss. I’ve read all but three (I think?) of the books published by RRP and each one is more fun and fascinating than the last. I cannot recommend what this imprint publishes enough.
The Last Fallen Star follows Riley who is adopted. Her adoptive parents are part of their local magical community. They are Gom which are the healers of this community. There’s nothing that Riley wants more than to be able to be a Gom alongside her sister, Hattie, and her parents. But when Hattie and Riley try to make that happen using magic, one thing after another goes wrong until things get pretty serious and Riley must find a lost object and save her sisters life.
I absolutely loved this one. The Korean folklore and mythology was so compelling and interesting I just wanted to know more about all of the magical groups. We learn the most about the Gom because that’s what Riley grew up learning about. But we also learn quite a bit about the Horangi, which is an exiled clan that turned corrupt. They play an interesting role in the story and I really enjoyed learning more about them. The world and the magic was absolutely the best part about this book for me. I hope we get to learn more about the other clans in future books. We got a brief overview of what each clans function and focus is and then little bits and pieces here and there, but I thought it was all so interesting that I want one book for each character of the different clans. That would be so fun.
Anyway, Riley and Hattie really made this story. I’m a sucker for good sibling relationships and this definitely had that. We spend enough time getting to see them together and we’re shown how much they care for one another. But then Riley must go off on her own (well, with her best friend Emmett, but not with Hattie) and there were times when she had to make really hard decisions. Her choices showed again and again how much she loves her sister. I loved this relationship so much. Riley feels out of place because she isn’t a Gom. Hattie never makes her fe less than and I loved that. I also loved the messaged shared via Riley’s journey. By the time she finished her quest, she’s learned to love herself as she is. She’s realized that she doesn’t need to change to fit in. She only ever needed to accept herself and go from there.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a really fun and quick read that’s filled with adventure, sacrificing for those we love, challenges to overcome, and incredibly fascinating magic. My one complaint is some of the language used in the dialogue. There were some slang phrases used that just felt so out of place for these kids to be using in casual conversation. It happened a few times in the story when I was just completed pulled out of the story because of reading stuff like that while characters were talking to one another. But this is a small thing, and I really loved every other aspect of this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s June Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews

Hey, lovelies! I finallly picked up a few of my graphic novels this month! There was a readathon that I’ve done before called GraphicsAThon (find them on Twitter here). I felt motivated to try to read one or two graphic novels that I already own. Reading books I own is the theme for 2021 and I’m doing my best to stay on brand.

Middlewest Book One by Scottie Young, Jorge Corona, & Mike Huddleston

I’ve loved what I’ve read of Skottie Young’s graphic novels. So, this was my reasoning for purchasing this one. I have to say before you get into this one, there is a scene where the dad hits his son, Abel (who is our main character). And Abel’s dad definitely has anger issues, so it’s not a super healthy relationship. The story starts with Abel waking up late to his job of delivering newspapers. His dad is screaming at him. One thing lead to another and he and his dad are screaming at each other in the front yard. His dad turns into a giant wind monster and Abel flees for his life. But while he’s running away (with his best friend, a talking fox) he’s hit by the wind monster and this leaves a strange mark on his chest. After escaping, Abel searches for answers about what happened and how to heal this strange mark he now has. So, I enjoyed this. I think the art style was really interesting. There were lots of colors and each panel’s colors did a great job of portraying the mood of the pages. As for the story, I enjoyed it. I have quite a few questions about this world that I feel like weren’t answered. The art shows this world as a steam punk-ish kind of world. There’s lots of machinery with weird jars of green stuff that could be fuel of some sort. But there’s also things like regular doctors and hospitals, so it was unclear if this was supposed to be a realistic world like the one we live in or a fantasy world. There’s magic and many animals that can talk (like Abel’s fox sidekick), so there are definitely some fantasy elements (most of this book is about a wind monster, so). I’m not holding out hope that I will have my questions answered about the world building because it’s mostly shown through the artwork. But I’m still very interesting in reading the next book.

Middlewest Book Two by Scottie Young & Jorge Corona

So, this second volume of the series actually did answer some of my questions that I had. I believe that this is a fantasy world. It’s called Middlewest and there are all sorts of fantasy towns. But there are some elements that are similar to the world we know. We did learn a small detail about the green stuff in jars that seemed to be fuel. There’s also little bits of this worlds history mentioned, like the Great Plain Wars. I liked this second volume. The art was just as good as the first volume. We get to see some mythological and magical creatures that I thought were really cool. We also meet Abel’s grandfather who is a snow monster. I think the theme of controlling your feelings and emotions was a compelling one. We see a bit of Abel’s dad’s history when we meet the grandfather. I liked getting this character backstory. We also see Abel’s dad traveling in search of Abel and he’s having some really great realizations. I still wouldn’t say that I like him, but getting to see the character growth was interesting. Abel is still searching for a way to get rid of the mark, which we learned is called the Heart of a Storm. It’s seeming like there’s no way to actually get rid of it and Abel’s not happy with that. He’s still struggling with his anger and he takes it out on Fox. I loved Fox. He’s such a fun sidekick. Overall, I’m enjoying this series and I’m very interested to see where things go in the third volume. So far, both volumes have left off on a pretty compelling cliffhanger, which leaves me wanting to jump right into the next volume.

Middlewest Book Three by Scottie Young, Jorge Corona, & Jean-François Beaulieu

This is the conclusion to this series. I didn’t know there were only three volumes, but I didn’t mind that much. It was nice that I didn’t have to wait for anymore installments to be released. So, in this final volume, Abel and many other kids have been taken and put to work at an Ethol farm (ethol is the weird green stuff in bottles that we see in the first two volumes). This farm is run by a super not nice guy. Most of this book we are watching Abel and his friends try to figure out a way to escape the farm. But we also get to see other characters, like Maggie and Jeb, as well as Abel’s dad again. We follow what they’re doing as well. Everyone is trying to find Abel, basically. I enjoyed this conclusion. I think it was really fast paced and action packed. The stakes were high for Abel to keep his wind monster powers in check and he mostly succeeded. I think there could definitely be more created from this world, and I hope that we get to see that some day. I liked that there was a reunion between Abel and his father. I think it was really important for Abel to get to say his piece to his dad, finally. Abel’s dad’s growth was really good. I still didn’t like him, but I could appreciate him learning just how wrong he had been. Overall, I really enjoyed this series. It has a great message of breaking patterns, acknowledging and managing your emotions, and found families.

That’s all I read for graphic novels this month. I’m glad I managed to start and finish this series. It was a really enjoyable one with stunning artwork and important themes. What graphic novels did you read this month?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
The wolves are circling. And Ravka’s time is running out.
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.
The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve been sitting here starting at this blank page trying to figure out what to say about Rule of Wolves. But I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how to put my thoughts about this book into words. But I’m going to try my best. I had a hell of a time getting this book into my possession. I preordered from my local independent bookstore and two weeks later I found out I was moving. Apparently, there’s something wonky about this bookstore shipping to my new house because two of the preorders never made it to me. So, it took me almost two months to finally get this book. I do have to say that my local indie store was amazing throughout all of this. Now, Rule of Wolves was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 because I absolutely love the Grishverse. I especially love Nikolai and Zoya, so I think this duology are my favorite books in this world. I loved this book. I started it around 7:30pm and couldn’t put it down until I finished it around 2am. So, I read this 600 page book in about 6 hours, it was that good that I legitimately didn’t get off the couch until I was done.
So, we follow Nina, Nikolai, and Zoya as well as a few other characters here and there after the events of King of Scars. We see Nikolai and Zoya working together and sometimes apart, to prepare Ravka for war with the Fjerdans. But there’s more than the politics and planning of a potential war that’s on the horizon. There’s also the issue of the plot twist that was revealed at the end of King of Scars. That twist, which I won’t spoil, plays a pretty big role in this story’s plot. I liked how this aspect of the plot brought out character we’d already met. We get to see Alina and Mal and that made my heart so happy. We get to see all of the crows at different points. We also follow Nina who has been working undercover in Fjerda. She and Hanne have made it to the capital and are living with Hanne’s parents. They’re working together, to get close to the pretender to Ravka’s throne and other important people in the Fjerdian government so that Nina can get as much information as possible to send back to Ravka.
Nikolai’s journey was a compelling one. He’s still working on how to figure out how to rid himself of the monster inside him. But he might just be starting to accept that he will never be rid of the monster. I loved getting his perspective, getting to see things from his point of view was the best. I love that despite all the darkness that Nikolai has faced, he’s still kept his sense of humor, even if it is just an act sometimes. His jokes and humor really bring a bit of light to the darkness in this story. I just love Nikolai with my whole heart.
It’s Zoya’s part of the story that I loved the most though. Zoya is such a fascinating character to me. I really didn’t like her in Shadow and Bone, but I grew to love her by the end of that trilogy. And now, in the Nikolai duology, she’s grown so much, but still has some growing to do. I felt honored to follow along on her emotional journey. She knows her place is as Nikolai’s general, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting more, from having feelings for her king. Zoya does so much in this book and the way that her story ended had me absolutely screaming. I love Zoya so much. She is fiery and fierce, abrasive and blunt, loyal and dedicated. Zoya is so many things that you wouldn’t know from the way she presents herself. But she also grows so much. I just cannot say enough good things about Zoya in this book.
Finally, there’s Nina. I didn’t love Nina’s storyline in the first book. I loved Nina in Six of Crows, but in this duology she’s grieving. But she’s also working undercover for Ravka. She’s ferreting out Fjerdian secrets to send back to Ravka, to help Nikolai. While all of that is going on, she’s trying to save as many Grisha as she can. But she’s also falling in love again. I thought this was an interesting choice for Nina’s storyline, but I could help but really enjoy it. Especially the character that she fell in love with. Nina is the same fiery, funny woman we know from the Six of Crows duology, but she’s faced even more darkness now. So, it was a joy to get to see her fall in love again. I liked Hanne. I really did. I think they’re well suited and I enjoyed watching them scheme and work together.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I think this duology is my favorite series in the Grishaverse. I love Nikolai and I love Zoya and I love Nina. I think the writing was excellent. The story gripped me from the first page until the last. I loved all of the twists and the turns. The way that everything came together toward the end of the book felt like absolute perfection. After spending so long reading about these characters, it felt like all the choices made were right and natural for the characters we’ve gotten to know over the last six books. I also was really happy with how the book concluded. I think the conclusion was also absolute perfection. I especially loved that Rule of Wolves was wrapped up nicely, not totally neatly, but nice enough for me. But there was a door left open for more, I’m thinking for the rumored third Six of Crows book, but who knows what else Bardugo might be cooking up for the Grishaverse.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda