Fire by Kristin Cashore

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

Fire (Graceling Realm, #2)

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Book Titles as Crayola Crayons

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is books with titles that could be a Crayola crayon name.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
I could see this as a deep dark red.

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi
Maybe a pretty brown?

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
Gold, like a yellow/red of a fire.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
A deep blue, like the sea.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Grey like tv static.

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin
What’s a good color for revenge?

The Shadow Glass by Rin Chupeco
Something dark, like a deep blue or dark purple.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Deep blue, like the night sky.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Black or grey.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Green, definitely.

What names did you pick this week?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Summary:
Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

The Midnight Library

Review:
The Midnight Library is a book that I have seen nothing but rave reviews for. It’s the entire reason that I bought it. I ended up getting my book club to choose this book for our March read. I was a bit disappointed by this book, but I can completely understand why so many people love it.
We follow Nora in her life around when she attempts suicide. But instead of whatever is beyond life, she finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place before actual death where every possible version of your life is stored. I thought this concept was really cool. You could have the chance to see what your life would be like had you made another choice at any point during your life. Nora is shown her book of regrets and the story goes from there. She tries out different lives that she could have had, none of them being what she thought they would or making her happy like she thought they might. I thought the idea of being able to see alternate versions of your life was really cool. I didn’t love that once Nora was in these lives, she didn’t have the memories from them. I thought that made things more complicated than they needed to be. But, overall, I liked these parts of the story.
My biggest problem with this book was Nora. She’s just tried to kill herself. So, she obviously is struggling with her mental health. It’s mentioned several times, in several versions of her life, that she takes anti-depressants. I liked this aspect. Normalizing taking medication and seeking help is such an important thing. But Nora just continually worked against herself. She was not a likable character in my opinion. I think this book did some great things, but I found that I couldn’t get myself to actually like Nora.
Overall, I can understand why so many people love this book. But it missed the mark a bit for me. I liked the concept, but with a main character that I didn’t like, the story just wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody

Summary:
The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.
Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.
To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.
But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.

The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore, #1)

Review:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of The Accidental Apprentice in exchange for an honest review. I love a good middle-grade story. So, when I learned that Foody (who gained my love and admiration with her YA books) was releasing a middle-grade series, I was beyond excited.
The Accidental Apprentice follows Barclay Thorne when his life changes. He’s an orphan that lives in a town full of rules. He’s working as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer and he’s found that he actually enjoys what he’s doing. One day, he’s working with his fellow apprentice when they accidentally break the town’s most important rule: don’t go into the Woods. While breaking that rule, Barclay somehow bonds with a Beast. This changes everything for him. After he’s run out of town, he finds Viola. Viola helps Barclay make it to the Lore Keeper town within the woods. There he searches for a way to remove his Mark and get rid of the Beast that has chosen him.
I thought this book was such a fun read. It was filled with action and adventure, mystery and intrigue. There are so many misconceptions about the Lore Keepers that Barclay was raised to know. So, he spends so much time just unlearning all the things he thought he knew. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Barclay studies and takes tests in hopes to win a competition, so we get to see him as he’s learning all these new things about Lore Keepers and Beasts, as well as, his own Beast. I think the best part of the story was Barclay’s internal struggle. We see him start to realize that he might actually belong with the Lore Keepers, but he’s in fierce denial about this because he still wants to return to his town. He thinks that his parents would have wanted him to stay in his hometown. His slow development out of those thoughts was really enjoyable. I thought it was well done. He didn’t just start having fun with his new friends and give up on his mission. It really was an internal struggle.
I loved Barclay’s new friends. I was shocked at one of the twists involving them. But I also liked how things turned out with the boy that seemed mean. I think the friendships were really interesting. I liked the unexpected bits about them.
Overall, I loved this book. I thought the Beasts and Lore Keepers were interesting and unique. I liked the friendships and the adventures the friends went on. I liked the competition aspects of the story. I also loved the development of Barclay. I think this book will be well loved.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Summary:
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

Lost in the Never Woods

Review:
Lost in the Never Woods was provided to me via NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book follows Wendy Darling years after she and her brothers disappeared in the woods. But while Wendy reappeared with no memory of the time she was missing, her brothers did not. Wendy is turning 18. She’s about to go off to college and start life on her own. She volunteers at the hospital with the kids. When kids from her town start disappearing, they’re kids that Wendy knows. So, she feels like she needs to do something to help get them back. But things get weird when Wendy finds Peter Pan late one night near the woods while she’s driving home.
I really liked the retelling aspect of this book. Things took a really dark turn that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve never been a super fan of Peter Pan, so I don’t know if this twist was one from Thomas’s imagination or if it stems from previous Peter Pan stories. But it shocked the heck out of me, so there’s that. I think the plot of the story, Peter and Wendy trying to rescue the missing kids was a good one. But I think the story felt really slow. They meet to brainstorm, try to find the kids, and figure out a general plan of action several times. Some of these times end up with them getting ice cream or doing something completely unrelated to their goal of finding the kids. I just felt like the story was pretty slow and drawn out.
Now, I will say that the writing and the other topics covered in the story made this slow pace a bit more enjoyable. Wendy is suffering from survivor’s guilt. She made it out of the woods with no memory of what happened or where her brothers are now. So, this was a big focus of the story. I liked this aspect. It was hard to read at times, but I think the grief and guilt was really well done. Wendy’s parents are also pretty neglectful. As a parent myself, I felt for them. They lost their two youngest children with no sure knowledge of whether they’re dead or alive. This loss consumes Wendy’s parents and after her return they are not the same parents they were before. I liked the conclusion with Wendy’s parents. As hard as it was to read their suffering and grief, I really liked how their relationship with Wendy changed.
Peter as a character was absolutely fascinating. I saw a review where he’s described as a ‘manic pixie dream boy’ and I think that perfectly explains his character. He’s mysterious, curious, and a bit wild. He’s dealing with losing his magic and growing into an adult, which he isn’t supposed to do. But it’s clear he knows things that he isn’t telling Wendy. They mystery of Peter and his secrets was really well done. Small things were revealed overtime to keep us interested until the big reveal. Wendy however, felt a little bland. She was pretty much only her grief and guilt. We get a little bit other than that with her volunteering and plans to go off to college, but it felt like she had no personality.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I think many will really love this story. It brings heavy conversations to the table and talks about them thoughtfully and with respect. It had characters you want to root for. The writing is beautiful and memorable but still easy to read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Summary:
Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.
Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.
Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.
But she’ll have to.
Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.
In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship… forevermore. 

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Review:
McGinnis’ books have been hit or miss for me. I either absolutely love them or I don’t really like them very much at all. The Initial Insult was one I really, really enjoyed. It was dark and gritty. It was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and that absolutely comes through in the story. It follows Tress and Felicity in alternating chapters.
Tress and Felicity were best friends, but then Tress’s parents disappear late one night while they were giving Felicity a ride home. Felicity doesn’t remember what happened. She didn’t see anything, but vaguely remembers being carried away from the car. Since then, she’s become one of the popular girls in high school. She also has seizures that she doesn’t let anyone know about. I thought it was really interesting to see how Felicity deals with this. She uses drugs and drinks to excess. While I didn’t like Felicity for most of the book, especially after we flashback to story after story of her not handling things with Tress well, it was hard not to feel for her. She’s been pushed this way and that by her mother, her friends, even by Tress. The way her story ended was definitely shocking and I am very eager to see what will happen with her in the next book.
Tress was a very unlikable character as well. But in a different way. Her parents went missing and she was sent to live with her grandfather. Her grandfather owns an exotic animal zoo (think Tiger King). It’s certainly an adjustment for her, moving from a stable home with two parents to a trailer on land with incredible dangerous animals that she’s now been enlisted to help take care of. To say that Tress is unhappy doesn’t accurately explain her feelings. She has never gotten over her parent’s disappearance. This is what fuels Tress to trick Felicity into the basement and question her about what Felicity remembers from that night.
I think this story was a wild ride. It had so many different things going on, but it wasn’t too much. None of the plotlines took away from any of the others. I loved how dark this story was. Tress was a really dark character. She did illegal things to make money. She essentially tortures Felicity, who used to be her best friend. But also, I sort of loved her.
The way the story was told was really well done. We start in present day, leading up to the Halloween party where most of this story happens. But while Tress is questioning Felicity, we get flashbacks into the past that show us both Tress and Felicity’s points of view in these moments. I thought McGinnis did an incredible job getting me to like both of these terrible girls. They’re so different from one another, but they’re both terrible.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. I think anyone that likes dark books will like this one. I loved the way the story was told, the characters, the mood and tone of the story. I loved it all. The ending matched the rest of the story by being totally wild. Also, I just have to mention the chapters from the panther’s point of view. They were weird and I completely loved them. I definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Summary:
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly  Jackson

Review:
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi in her senior year of high school. She’s working on her senior capstone project. She has decided to solve a murder, though that’s not what she tells her school officials. Five years ago, Andie Bell was murdered. Her boyfriend, Sal Singh, committed suicide and confessed to killing Andie. So, case closed, right? Not so much since Andie’s body has never been found. Pippa remembers Sal fondly. He stuck up for her against bullies. He was best friends with Pippa’s best friend’s sister, Naomi. She doesn’t believe that Sal could have done this. So, she decides that she’s going to prove he’s innocent.
I have to mention that I listened to the audiobook. This is relevant because of the format of the story. This book is written with journal entries that Pippa writes for her capstone project. These entries include transcripts from phone and in person interviews that she’s done with people to gather evidence. So, these interviews are narrated with a full cast. There’s one narrator that tells the story, Pippa’s chapters and journal entries. But there are so many other narrators that read parts of interviews and other things. I think this was such a great audiobook. If you liked Sadie by Courtney Summers, you will probably like this audiobook also.
Now, Pippa. She’s an extremely smart girl. School and homework is basically her whole personality. She also is very family oriented. I loved the bits of the story that included her parents and her younger brother. She has a step-father that is Nigerian who she sees has her father. I believe this to be a big influence to why Pippa stands up when she sees racism or other discrimination. I think some may see this as her being a ‘white savior’ which I can understand, but I just didn’t see it that way. I think Pippa was raised to stand up for what is right and that’s what she did in this story. I thought it was really interesting to see Pippa, branded as a ‘good girl’, cross all kinds of lines (blackmail, cat phishing, breaking and entering) to find the truth about what happened to Andie. We see this mystery sort of unravel her and it was fascinating.
I usually liked to read YA mystery/thrillers because they’re easy and usually a bit predictable. This book wasn’t either of those things. It talks about racism (Sal was Indian, so in this small town it’s easy for everyone to think that he killed Andie. There are some pretty racist things said about Sal.) There is the death of an animal, which was upsetting because it didn’t really add anything to the story. I don’t think it needed to happen. There’s talk of drugs and characters being drugged. But the twists and turns were not ones that I expected at all. I think the plot and writing was so well done. Also, I learned just before writing this review, that the US version of the story was changed so that the story took place in Connecticut instead of the UK (where the author is from and where the UK version takes place). I just don’t see why that was necessary and I think the book would have been even better had it not been changed.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I definitely think the audiobook had something to do with that. I think all of the characters were interesting and added something to the story. There were so many little pieces that were put together to make this mystery what it was and I loved it. The suspense and wonder were really well done. I also have to mention Ravi, Sal’s brother, who helps Pippa to solve this mystery. I liked that they worked together. I also liked that Ravi called Pippa out when she was doing too much. I also liked that they had a bit of a romance, but not so much that it took away from anything else in the story. If you like YA mystery/thrillers, you should definitely listen to this audiobook.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Namesake by Adrienne Young

Summary:
Trader. Fighter. Survivor.
With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.
As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Namesake (Fable, #2)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Namesake is the sequel to Fable (which I reviewed here). I really loved Fable, so I was very excited to get approved to read its sequel. Namesake did not disappoint. I’m just going to say right now that there will be spoilers for Fable, so stop reading now if you haven’t read the first book.
Namesake follows Fable, our main character, after the cliffhanger ending. Fable has been kidnapped and once again separated from her crew. I missed seeing the crew together, but I loved all of the secrets that we learned and getting to see more of this captivating world. We get to see more outside of the Narrows that we learned about in Fable. The mysterious Bastian is finally revealed. We also get to meet the infamous Holland. I really enjoyed seeing this world open up. Young’s writing is so great. It’s detailed enough to give a clear picture of the story and the characters, but not so flowery that it danced around.
Fable is the same badass, intelligent, fierce main character that she was in the first book. She’s faced with a lot of revelations about the past that she’s forced to deal with in her present. I thought these secrets and twists were well done. I didn’t see any of them coming and they really did great things for the overall story.
Now, I’m sad to say that I didn’t love the romance between Fable and West as much in this book. I still liked it and was invested in their happy ending, but there was something about it that I just didn’t like in this book. I think the conflict that was introduced, specifically for the romance, wasn’t needed at all. I didn’t care for the comparisons to Fable’s father and the doubt that it caused for Fable. Especially since I don’t feel like any of that was really worked through.
Overall, this was another action packed, high stakes story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved Fable. I loved seeing her faced with challenges and working through her choices. I liked seeing her try to solve problems and figure out the next steps. I loved seeing more of this world. I especially loved the writing. I will definitely be looking into Young’s backlist soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Summary:
Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.
The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.
With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.
Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Down Comes the Night

Review:
I received Down Comes the Night as an eARC via NetGalley and the publishers. I request this because the cover pulled me in and I had some friends on Twitter that were also excited for it. This book did not end up being what I was anticipating. I thought this was going to be a spooky story about a creepy house but with magic.
This story is actually about Wren, who has magic that can be used to heal. She’s impulsive and compassionate. She’s told again and again that her feelings keep her from being the soldier she is supposed to be. I liked that Wren never let herself change. She wanted to be able to change, if only to please the people in her life that were asking her to, but she made the same choices over and over. I liked this about Wren, even if she didn’t like it about herself. It hurt to read about Wren’s internal thoughts and motivations. She’s motivated by those that want her to change. It was so good to see her finally grow out of that. She learns to appreciate the things about herself that others are always criticizing. I think her growth was well done. I also really liked that Wren is bisexual, but it wasn’t really a part of the plot.
Now, the love interest. I had a really hard time liking him. Hal has done some really terrible things. But somehow, I couldn’t help but liking the relationship between Hal and Wren. I don’t know that I can say I liked Hal. But I liked their romance.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The romance was one that I found myself invested in. The world was interesting. There was a fascinating and creepy villain. The politics of the world was interesting, too. I especially liked the ending. There were consequences for the things that Hal had done, but there was also a happily ever after for the romance. The resolutions between Wren and her loved ones was one that I could get behind. I think many people are going to love this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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

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

Book One – Shadow and Bone

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

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone, #1)

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

Book Two – Siege and Storm

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

Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone, #2)

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

Book Three – Ruin and Rising

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

Ruin and Rising (Shadow and Bone, #3)

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Blood Sworn by Scott Reintgen

Summary:
Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes.
The Races are over. War has begun.
Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death.
Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods.
Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?

Blood Sworn (Ashlords, #2)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Blood Sworn is the sequel to Ashlord (which I reviewed here.) In this book, we follow the same three characters, Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda. The way the first book ended left me wanting to know more. I wanted to know so much more about this world, the gods, and where the story is going. I got everything that I wanted from this book. Once again, the story is told in first person for Imelda and Adrian, but Pippa’s story is told in second person. I think Pippa’s story being told in this way was such a creative choice and it really does something to the story.
Pippa’s chapters were absolutely my favorite parts of this book. She has the most growth and change in this series. She starts off so loyal to her people, the Ashlords, but slowly she realizes that everything isn’t as it seems. She finally learns the truth from one of the gods and that’s where this story gets really interesting. I think Pippa is so incredibly smart. I am awed by the plans that her brain manages to create. I think she’s an incredible character and I loved her. I also really enjoyed the way that Pippa’s relationship with Adrian changed over time.
Adrian was an interesting character as well. But I feel like he sort of just went along with Pippa’s plans. I know this isn’t the case, but we didn’t actually see Adrian and Pippa make their plans so, it’s not hard to assume that Pippa (the master strategist) is the one that came up with the majority of their plans. I liked that Adrian did his part to show the Longhands that things could be different if everyone worked together to make a change.
Finally, Imelda. I wanted more phoenix horse stuff, but we got enough that I wasn’t terribly upset about it. I like that Imelda is also super smart, but in different ways than what we see from Pippa. I think Imelda’s part of the story was interesting because the Dividian’s are the underrepresented group of the story, despite having a large population. I liked following Imelda because with Pippa and Adrian working together, their stories were similar, but Imelda’s path is so different from the others. She stumbles into something she doesn’t totally understand, but manages to find herself working toward the same goals as Pippa and Adrian.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I loved this duology. I will recommend this series forever. Phoenix horses, political drama, characters that are complex and loveable, and a fascinating world and interesting gods, there is everything you could possibly want in a fantasy story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Unchosen by Katharyn Blair

Summary:
For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.
The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.
The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.
Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.
When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.
The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.
But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.
Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.

Unchosen

Review:
Unchosen is a 2021 release that I didn’t really know anything about before going into it. I hadn’t heard too much chatter from others on the bookish parts of the internet. But the summary sounded pretty good. So, when the audiobook became available through my library shortly after its release, I thought I’d give it a listen. I liked the narrator and thought they did a great job with this story.
This book follows Charlotte after the world ends. The Crimson (a plague-like curse that spreads through eye contact and turns humans into zombies) is ravaging the world and Charlotte is just trying to survive. But her older sister is part of the leadership where they live and always protects her. Her younger sister is the Chosen One (according to legend, they will break the curse). But when their home is raided, Charlotte claims to be the Chosen One to protect her sister.
This story was full of action and high stakes. I thought the concept of the curse/plague was a really interesting one. The whole world thinks the curse was cast by a woman Anne, who plays a role in this story. I think Anne’s part of the story was excellent. The history and backstory of the curse was one of my favorite parts. I think the way that the world as we know it has changed was also super interesting. The different towns and ‘safe’ places were interesting, but I wish we’d gotten to know a little more about them.
The action was high stakes and really kept the story moving. When lives weren’t in danger, we were learning about the world, the secrets that others were keeping, and getting to know the characters. I think the characters were likeable, easy to care about, but not so much that I want to read the story again and again.
I has a few things I wanted more of. Charlotte has had a crush on her older sister’s boyfriend, Dean. And making sure Dean was safe was one of Charlotte’s big motivators. I didn’t like this. It felt a little icky. I get that Charlotte and Dean are best friends, but she’s been harboring feelings all these years and I didn’t like it. I also just wanted more with the sisters in general. I really liked that the ending had all three of them together. But I wanted to know more about their past. I understand why they weren’t all together. Charlotte was finally out from her sister’s shadow, that’s a big part of what this story is about.
Overall, I liked this book. I think it was well written and really enjoyable. The story kept me interested and engaged. I think it was fast-paced, but not too fast. I think many people will love this book despite being about a plague in a less than pleasant time in the real world.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Chosen by Kiersten White

Summary:
Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.
And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?
The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.
Review:Chosen (Slayer, #2)
Chosen
is the sequel to Slayer. It’s White’s continuation of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer world. You can find my review for the first book here. I was never huge into the Buffy show, but I’m a sucker for vampire books. I also really enjoy White’s books and this series is no different.
Nina is dealing with a lot when this book opens. Her sister has left, the guy she had a crush on died, and life at the Watcher’s Castle has changed. They have changed their mission of killing demons indiscriminately and instead have been working on making the castle a sanctuary. Now, I feel like that’s all I can say about the plot so that I don’t spoil things.
Nina is struggling emotionally, but also physically because of her Slayer abilities. Much of this book was Nina trying to internally work through her emotions and the things she went through in the first book. I think Nina showed a lot of growth by the end of this book. I don’t know how to get into it without giving anything away. But she doesn’t always make the best choices, she’s reckless, and sometimes that leads to her learning things that will hurt her. But she grows from that and I really liked that.
Overall, this was a fun story, but it also covered important things, like mental health and how family relationships can change. I definitely wanted to watch Buffy again after reading this book. I really enjoyed all the lore and fantasy elements (like the demons). The friendships were also enjoyable. There were a few things that I predicted before they were revealed, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Evermore by Alyson Noel

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

Evermore (The Immortals, #1)

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.