Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

Summary:
“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.
Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.
Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.
Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony, #1)Review:
Wings of Ebony was provided to me via NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This is a story about Rue, who, hours after her mother died, her father (who she doesn’t remember) comes to take her to where he is from. He is from a magical place, Ghizon, where she is given magic and trained how to use it. But on the anniversary of her mother’s death, she goes back to her neighborhood to leave a gift for her sister, Tasha. Her visit doesn’t go as expected, no one was supposed to see her. But things in her neighborhood are not good. There’s a crew that’s forcing high school kids to deal drugs and killing them if they refuse. Rue is determined to help her neighborhood, but it isn’t that simple. There’s more going on in both places than she realizes.
I liked Rue. She doesn’t always make the right choices, but she always makes them for the right reasons. She does everything because she wants to protect her family. I didn’t love that it took so long for her to let her father in, but it’s realistic. I can understand why it took so long. But I would have liked to gotten to see them getting to know one another more. I liked that after all Rue has been through, she managed to find one good thing in a place she had no desire to be in. She makes friends with a girl named Bri, who is who is really good with tech. Bri is how Rue gets back to her neighborhood for the anniversary. Their relationship isn’t always perfect, but I really liked them.
Overall, I liked this book. I think the worldbuilding was excellent. It spoke really well about colonization and racism (systemic and otherwise). I think there are so many people that will love this book. It’s full of adventure and love, but it also tackles tough topics in a really accessible way.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Summary:
Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline BoulleyReview:
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for approving me for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Firekeeper’s Daughter, as the summary says, is a young adult thriller about a Native teen who witnesses the murder of her best friend by her boyfriend that was addicted to drugs. Daunis is no stranger to loss. She’s lost her father, her uncle, and her GrandMary isn’t doing very well. She’s lived a hard life. But she’s so strong because of that. She has such a big heart. But I think my favorite thing about Daunis was her brain. She’s so incredibly smart. I liked following her as she put the pieces together of the investigation that she’s helping the FBI with. Seeing her use her knowledge of the tribe and her culture to figure out what and who was bringing drugs into her community. It was a heart wrenching story about a community being changed by drugs, about losing friends you never thought would be involved, and how betrayal can come from those you thought closest.
I loved learning about Daunis’s experiences being Native. It was really interesting to see her life as an outsider that everyone knows isn’t really an outsider. The community she is a part of is one that has issues, like most, but is filled with so much history and culture that I really enjoyed reading about it.
I feel like I’m not accurately explaining how much I loved this book. It was heart wrenching, but I absolutely could not put it down. I definitely recommend this book to anyone that loves a good YA mystery/thriller. I had so many theories about what was happening and was almost never right. The story was complex, with several different things going on in the story. Daunis had family issues, there was the investigation, but there was also the question of her future and college and why she didn’t play hockey anymore. I think this was all tied together wonderfully, it wasn’t too much for one story, it was all connected. I really cannot say enough good things about this book. This is a new release you don’t want to miss.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ravens by Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige

Summary:
Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.
The Ravens (The Ravens, #1)Review:
The Ravens is a story of a sorority that is secretly a coven of witches. I thought this concept was excellent. I think the execution was done well too. There were a few things I didn’t like, but overall, I enjoyed the story. We follow Vivi and Scarlett in alternating chapters. Vivi is about to start at Westerly College and she’s full of excitement. She finds herself at a Kappu Rho Nu party even though she never really thought about joining a sorority. She gets picked to pledge and decides that she should try it out and see what happens. Scarlett is a Junior and she’s hoping to become the next president of the Ravens. There’s more to the Ravens than meets the eye, they’re secretly a coven of witches, a sisterhood with magical abilities through the elements.
So, I liked this book. I liked Vivi and her excitement at moving to a new place, one that she wouldn’t have to leave for four years. After moving around randomly her whole like she’s excited to settle somewhere of her own choosing. I liked seeing her settle into her classes and struggle with Hell week. She was a likable character. My biggest and only issue with her was about the magic. She grew up with her mom, who makes money doing tarot readings for people. She didn’t care for this. She never believed in what her mother did, thinking it was a scam. But when she is accepted into the Ravens she just rolls with the idea that she has magic and barely questions it before diving head first into the whole being a Raven idea. It bothered me that she was so critical of her mother but has no problem going all in when she learns she has actual magic. I still liked Vivi, but this rubbed me the wrong way a bit.
Scarlett has to be perfect. She has the perfect boyfriend. The perfect friends and grades. That perfection will continue as long as she secures her position as the next president of the Ravens. I really liked Scarlett at first, but she’s definitely a bit of the stereotypical stuck up sorority girl. She comes from a well-off family that has high expectations for her. She can never live up to the example of her sister. I wanted to like her, but she was so mean to Vivi over something so stupid. I sort of get it later in the story. But Scarlett was pretty mean to her right from the start. I think she definitely had some great characters growth out of that stuck up girl, but I didn’t care for her for most of the story.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book despite these complaints. I think it was a great story of sisterhood and growth. I loved seeing Vivi go through joining the Ravens and learning her magic. I think there were great developments with her mother too. I think Scarlett has some growing to do, but she’s getting there. I loved the magic. It’s all elemental, but the women can work as a team and do magic from other elements. I think this was a great story and I already can’t wait for the sequel.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

GoodReads Summary:
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
You Have a MatchReview:
I got You Have a Match as an eARC thanks to NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I read Emma Lord’s debut novel, Tweet Cute, also as an ARC. I really loved that one, which is why I hit the request button as fast as I could when I saw You Have a Match. The story follows Abby. She and her two best friends, Connie and Leo, take a 23&me DNA test because Leo is adopted and he’s curious about his history. A part of him was hoping to potentially find family members. Connie and Abby take the test with him to be supportive. When the results come in, Abby is the one that finds a new family member. A full blood sister, meaning they have the same parents, and Savannah (Savvy) has already sent a message to Abby. The two meet and put some pieces together about the fact that their parents (Abby’s parents and Savvy’s adoptive parents). They concoct a plan to go to the same summer camp to figure out what’s going on with their parents.
I didn’t always like Abby, but I really appreciated her as a character. She had some real growth. She reminded me a lot of myself. She’s a ‘don’t make waves’ kind of person. So, instead of telling her parents, she doesn’t need all of the tutoring and extra help they’re making her go to, she just goes. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and that’s the story of my life. She has a lot of feelings that she doesn’t let out, which is never good. It causes lots of hijinks between Abby and Savvy (read: Finn is my favorite instigator).
Savvy is an Instagram influencer. I wish we’d gotten some of this story from Savvy’s point of view. I think that would have been the only thing that would have made this story better. I think it would have been nice to hear how she was feeling about everything and then later how things went with her parents. I liked Savvy. She puts on this image for the internet and that sort of makes her feel like she needs to put on the same image all the time. It was really interesting to see her talk to Abby and share things with one another. I loved seeing Savvy open up and be vulnerable with Abby. The two really had a rocky start, but they worked through it and I loved the sisterly moments they had. Also, Savvy is a lesbian (I don’t remember if it was specifically stated, but she has a girlfriend in this book.)
Overall, I loved all of the characters. I don’t want to make this too long and go over each of them. But I loved Abby and Connie’s relationship. It was realistic, filled with conflict, and a great resolution. I loved Savvy’s best friend Mickey and her food competition with Leo. I loved Finn and how much of an instigator he was, for it only to come out that he was going through some shit. I loved this book. It was filled with diverse characters that I couldn’t help but feel the things that they were feeling. There was family drama and heartwarming resolutions. There was summer camp hilarity. I just had a great time reading this story.

Quotes:

“Poppy had this thing he always said when we were out with our cameras. He’d show me how different lenses captured different perspectives, and how no two photos of the same thing were ever alike, simply because of the person taking them. If you learn to capture a feeling, he told me, it’ll always be louder than words.”

“We are best friends. And being someone’s best friend comes with a responsibility, a lifetime of secrets and promises and shared moments, that were made with a certain understanding. A contract of sorts. This is the person you are to me; these are the things I feel safe to tell you because of it.”

“Brave. It’s a word I’m still getting used to, after a lifetime of ducking from my problems. But maybe I’m growing into it, in my own way. A little less running and a little more talking. A little less wondering and a little more found.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Awakening by Nora Roberts

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

Summary:
For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Closer to NowhereReview:
Hopkins has been a long-time favorite author of mine. So, when I heard that her newest novel was going to be a middle-grade story written in verse, I was very excited. Closer to Nowhere follows two cousins, Hannah and Cal. Cal’s mom died and his dad is in prison, so he’s moved in with his aunt and uncle, and his cousin, Hannah. At it’s heart, this is a story about two kids that are learning how their words and actions effect the people around them.
Cal has had a hard childhood. With an abusive father and the death of his mother, he struggles with PTSD. We see this in many examples of Cal ‘running away’ and walking around the neighborhood for hours, screaming when he’s unable to work through his anger or other emotions. He also is just a kid that likes to play jokes. He pulls all kinds of pranks that are objectively hilarious, but Hannah disagrees. I didn’t come from an abusive home, but I do have family history of substance abuse, so I thought this topic of Cal’s dad’s addiction was discussed thoughtfully and how his addiction effected Cal was also really well done, in my opinion.
Hannah has had a relatively happy childhood. She lives in a nice home with both her mom and dad. Both her parents do all they can to support her by showing up to all of her sporting events. But when Cal moves into her house, things start to change. I think it was interesting to see how Hannah’s life changed after Cal moved in and how Hannah dealt with those changes (read: not well, at first). Hannah has lived a privileged life and she wishes things could go back to how they were before Cal moved in. But Hannah slowly learns about the things that Cal has had to deal with. The more she learns about his past, the more she tries to be more understanding. I really liked this aspect of Hannah’s story. She still wishes that things hadn’t changed with her parents, but she starts to realize that none of those changes are Cal’s fault.
I think telling this story with both Cal and Hannah’s points of view was an excellent idea. We get both first-person perspectives from them and the perspective of another. It was thought-provoking to see how two characters experienced the same events in different ways.
Overall, I loved this book. I truly hope that we will get more middle-grade stories from Hopkins. She did a really great job talking about addiction, PTSD and other mental health topics, death, homelessness, marital problems, alcoholism, and blended families in an accessible way for middle school age children. I highly recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco

Summary:
After a treacherous journey and a life-shattering meeting with a twin neither knew they had, Haidee and Odessa expected to emerge from the Great Abyss to a world set right. But though the planet is turning once again, the creatures of the abyss will not rest until they have tasted another goddess’s sacrifice.
To break the cycle, Haidee and Odessa need answers that lie beyond the seven gates of the underworld, within the Cruel Kingdom itself. The shadows of the underworld may hunger to tear them apart, but these two sisters are determined to heal their world—together.
The Ever Cruel Kingdom  (The Never Tilting World, #2)Review:
I love this series. I’m going to keep this review short because this is a sequel and I don’t want to spoil much. This book is the conclusion to The Never Tilting World, which follows a set of twins, except neither knows that the other exists. They found one another and tried to undo the Breaking that their mothers caused. The Ever Cruel Kingdom is the events after Haidee and Odessa thought they fixed the Breaking. The world has started turning again, so there are days and nights, rain, and other things that many have never experienced. This book was basically chaos and I loved it.
The Ever Cruel Kingdom was very fast-paced. There were many fighting scenes, as well as hastily planned searches to find what is needed to actually fix the Breaking. But there wasn’t a slow moment, aside from a few romantic and sisterly moments that the girls took for themselves. I think the action scenes were so well done. The magical abilities were always well explained when they were using their magic. They were so clearly explained that I could picture Odessa and Haidee using their gates (I’m usually terrible at picturing things from books). I also really appreciated how the characters worked together. There wasn’t anyone that tried to be the hero and take on the more in the fights. The twins worked their magic together and the love interests, Lan and Arjun, work together to fight alongside them.
The romances were excellent. Odessa and Lan were so sweet. I loved the female/female romance between them. Lan was the one that could bring Odessa down when she was struggling with her magic. I loved how this was shown by Lan using things she knew about Odessa (like her love for romance novels) to help Odessa come back to herself. To me, this showed how well Lan and Odessa knew each other. Haidee and Arjun were fierier. I loved the passion between them. I think they were a great bit of levity to the story. While there were serious moments between the two, they brought humor and happiness to a tense story.
Now, the world. We learn so much more about the Breaking and how it happened. Latona and Asteria play a part in this story too. Haidee and Odessa’s mothers make an appearance and I was riveted by their anger toward one another. Their history was so compelling and opened up the reader’s knowledge to why the world is the way it is now. We also learn a bit more about the original Goddess that was unknown to most of those that lived in this world. I think Chupeco did a really great job of sharing this information in small bites as it was relevant to the story.
Overall, I loved this book and I love this series. I adored the characters. The world-building was fascinating. The romances were swoon-worthy. I also really enjoyed that the side characters got their own page time too. There were great new friendships, old relationships that were renewed, and relationships we knew from the first book that were further developed and they were all wonderful. I cannot say enough good things about this book. So, stop what you’re doing and go read it.

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.

Amanda’s December Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews

Hello, lovelies! Another month that I’ve actually managed to read some of my graphic novels that I already own. I’m going to keep this intro brief so we can get into my thoughts on what I read in the month of December.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg

This is a bind up of three different stories. I don’t know that the stories were ever published separately, but going into this graphic novel I didn’t realize that is was three different stories. I really loved this. These three stories were each wonderful in their own ways. In the first story, The Plain Janes, Jane has just moved to the suburbs from the city after she was in a bomb attack. She has PTSD and despite this happening in the city, she didn’t want to leave. She’s worried that she won’t make new friends. She’s a teen that is having to move during high school. So, her fears and worries are normal. But Jane is also an artist. She finds friends in three girls who are all also named Jane. In the first book, their friendship was focused on P.L.A.I.N. which was their name for the street art that they were doing together. This story was so fun, the girls planning what they were going to do next and basking in a successful execution. But the police are upset about the art and enact curfews, certain that it’s teenagers doing these art attacks. This doesn’t stop the girls, and their friendship grows. Janes in Love, the second book, is focused on Valentine’s Day and the love interests of each of the Janes (and James who is the only gay boy that is out in their school). I thought this story was sweet and fun. I liked that the color scheme of the art changed to a pretty pinks to reflect the theme of the story. Though this story focuses on love and romance and relationships, there’s still a focus on art too. Art saves and I loved that message in all three stories. In the final story, Janes Attack Back, Jane is feeling like her friends are drifting from what brought them together, art. They are all working on college applications, new hobbies and interests, and Jane feels like she’s doing the brunt of the work for P.L.A.I.N. On top of this, there’s a new girl at school and everyone loves her, but Jane can’t seem to anything other than butt heads with her. I think this was a really great story about friends all having their own interesting, but still being friends. It talks about how friends need to be able to tell their friends what they need from them and when. I loved all three of these stories so much. I also want to mention, in the first story, during the bombing, Jane was saved by a man that didn’t have any identification. So, he is in the hospital in a coma as a John Doe afterwards. She visits him often, but after she moves she writes him letters. I won’t say anything further, but this relationship was one of my favorite things about this story. They are two people from different parts of the world connected by a trauma. I think it was a wonderful addition to this story. Okay, I’ve gone on long enough. Long story short, I loved this graphic novel and I highly recommend it.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia & Gabriel Picolo

I absolutely loved this author/illustrator duo’s previous work (Teen Titans: Raven) so, I was super excited to pick up this next installment of the series. Beast Boy follows Gar in his daily life. I liked that this was a slice of life kind of story. It’s Gar’s senior year and he’s upset that he hasn’t completed anything from his list of goals for his final year of high school. The story starts with him reviewing the list and being more determined to tackle any of the items on the list. We also get to see his two best friends, Tank and Stella, try to hype him up when Gar is hyper focused on his insecurities. I think that’s the one thing I didn’t like about this book. Gar is so focused on the fact that he’s short and thin, he craves to be in with the popular crowd. I get this is something many teens feel, but I wish we could have seen him get over this. I loved how supportive Tank and Stella were and I think the little bits we get with them were the best parts. I also am a little disappointed that this book ended similarly to Raven, right when it felt like the story was getting into something exciting. Do graphic novels have cliffhangers? If yes, that’s what this was. I will say, I am extremely excited to read the next installment, Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven.

Technically The Plain Janes was three graphic novels in one bind up. So, I’m counting this month as four total that I read, hah! Now, I only have 8 unread graphic novels left on my shelf. I’m happy with how many/what I’ve read in terms of graphic novels this year. What graphic novels did you read in 2020?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

GoodReads Summary:
Reese and David are different now. Surrounded by a web of conspiracies, Reece feels that she must choose between two worlds.
Her choices: David – or Amber? This world – or another? Should they tell the truth, and risk everything?
Inheritance (Adaptation #2)Review:
Inheritance is the conclusion to Adaptation. I loved both of these books. I’m going to keep this review short because most of my thoughts are in my review for the first book and not many of them changed thro ugh this book.
I liked Reese. I liked Amber. I liked David. I didn’t always like Reese’s choices, especially the ones that led to the weird love triangle because she got involved with David before she was over Amber. But I did like how the love triangle turned out. I liked that Amber’s culture showed David and Reese that there was more than one way to live. I really liked that this story ended in a different way than the usual ones, in regards to the love triangle. Other than Reese jumping way too quickly into a relationship with David after her and Amber ended things, I really liked this book.
Overall, I think this was a really fun YA science fiction story. I loved all the twists and turns. I loved seeing Lo’s twist on the ‘aliens have come to Earth’ trope. I will definitely be picking up more books by this author in the future. She did a great job of developing the characters and creating an exciting story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.