First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

GoodReads Summary:
Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.
There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.
The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…
When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?
First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)Review:
I was so excited to receive this eARC from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I loved the first two books in this series and was beyond excited to read Jia’s book. I’m happy to say that I loved this one just as much.
Jia is a beauty influencer. She is feeling like her content is stale and she wants something new. Her dream is to have her own make up line, so that is what she’s working toward. I thought it was really interesting to read about someone that was an influencer. I loved it. I loved how it was shown how hard Jia works, and how much work it really is. But despite all the work she does, her family still doesn’t get it and Jia feels the need to prove herself. I love Jia. I can’t speak to the Muslim representation but I love that this book exists for others to see themselves in. So, Jia has been talking online to Dev Dixit for a while. She manages to get invited to a part that he’s going to be at, so they can finally meet. Except, he has no clue who Jia is.
Dev was a great love interest. He is the guardian of his niece since his brother died and he is trying to cultivate an acting career in America. Dev is just all around a nice guy that is trying to do the right thing for the people in his life. I loved how sweet and thoughtful he was. So, when he learns of what has happened with Jia, he wants to meet with her and make amends. It also helps that he can’t stop thinking about her. (The fact that he watched all of her YouTube videos makes my heart melt.)
I loved their romance. The fake dating trope is such an excellent one. I also thought the book overall did a great job talking about religion and grief, class differences and family differences. I think there were so many good things about this book, but the slow burn, emotional development of Jia and Dev’s relationship was absolutely the best part. While I love a steamy romance, I really loved seeing these two fall in love without any of the usual physical intimacies. They don’t even kiss until after they’re married.
Overall, I cannot get enough of Rai’s books. She made me fall in love with both Jia and Dev (and also all of their family members) while they were falling in love with one another. I adored all the family dynamics, with Jia’s big family and Dev’s grandmother, uncle, and niece. I would love to see the next romance in this series to be one of Jia’s sisters. I think the romance was wonderful and at the same time, it did a great job talking about tough topics like grief. I absolutely recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Summary:
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.
When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
Review:
The Henna Wars follows Nishat after she comes out as a lesbian to her parents. This is really hard for her because her parents “accept” what she says to them, but she knows they really don’t and are hoping she’ll grow out of it. Along with this, her business class has started a project of creating their own business and whatever team wins will get a cash prize. Nishat, with her two best friends, work on an idea that Nishat is excited and passionate about, henna. Except there’s another group doing henna as their business and Nishat is upset about it because they are using something from her culture because they think it’s “cute”.
I really liked this story. It talked about so many good things like cultural appropriation, how hard it is to be queer when you don’t have supportive parents, and being queer while going to a Catholic school. Nishat has dealt with racist rumors and catty girls while growing up, she knows how to keep her head down and ignore people. But I really enjoyed it when she finally stopped doing that and stood up for herself.
Overall, I really liked Nishat. Her relationship with her sister was one of my favorite things about this book. Her sister is so supportive even when Priti was dealing with her own struggles. There were some good and bad moments with Nishat’s two best friends which definitely added to the story. And the romance with Flavia, despite all the bad things between them, was sweet and I grew to like it. This was a great story that talked about so many important things like, race and bullying. I think readers that like YA contemporary will really love this one.

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.

Blogmas Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Black Sun was such a detailed and involved fantasy. Just as the synopsis says, it’s an epic adventure that explores power, history, and characters that are not what people assume they are. I think that’s what I liked most about this book. The characters were so well developed and fascinating. They were all people trying to live outside of what they’re ‘supposed’ to be.
The story follows several characters Xiala, Serapio, and Narampa. Xiala is Teek, which is a culture that has many stories surrounding them. This was clear in the way that others treated Xiala. She’s an excellent captain, but her crew still treats her as other because she is Teek. I really liked seeing Xiala and Serapio develop a friendship because while that was happening, we got to learn more about Xiala and the Teek. I just genuinely liked Xiala. She’s fierce and powerful. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit. Serapio was a fascinating character. For him, we got to go back and forth between the present (where he’s traveling with Xiala) and his past to see how he got to be traveling with Xiala. I think the mythology (I don’t know that his character’s story is actually based on real myths, but there’s definitely mythology about him in the story) surrounding him and his destiny was incredibly interesting. I thought it was really interesting to see him learn the things he needed to complete the destiny that his mother set in motion. Serapio is blind, but that doesn’t hinder him in any way. He can see through the eyes of crows, and his other senses are very well developed. I liked Serapio because he knew what his mission was and did his best to follow through. I like his relationship with Xiala and I feel like it developed very naturally. Finally, Narampa (or Nara). She’s the Sun Priest, but she’s also a girl from a not so good part of town. Many were surprised when she was named successor to the last Sun Priest. I liked Nara because she knew she was facing challenges, but she still really wanted to make positive changes to the world she is a part of. But she’s faced with many people that do not agree with her. Her challenges just grow greater as the story progresses. I’m very intrigued with her backstory and her criminal brother. I am eager to see how that will play out in the rest of the series. There is one more character I should mention, he isn’t introduced until something specific happens in the story, but I have a feeling he will play a larger role in the rest of the series. Okoa is the son of someone important. He returns from what is essentially college for warriors and is thrown into the politics of his clan. I wanted to know more about him, mostly where his story will go from here.
Overall, the first half of the book was a bit slower than the second half. The world was so intricate and fascinating. There was so much detail from the setting to the different parts of the world and the politics within each part. The ending absolutely slayed me and I’m dying to know what will happen now that things didn’t go the way Serapio planned or expected. I am definitely a huge fan of this book and highly recommend it for fantasy lovers. I do also want to mention that it’s a really diverse story. It’s inspired by pre-Colombian America’s, so it’s almost exclusively Indigenous peoples. It is also filled with casually queer people. Xiala is bisexual and there are several trans or nonbinary side characters. I am definitely eager for the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.
Our story begins on a frosty night…
Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.
But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.
Whichwood (Furthermore, #2)Review:
I absolutely adored Furthermore, but Whichwood just hit something different for me. This is a companion story to Furthermore. We do indeed get to see my beloved Alice and Oliver again, but to story is focused on a new character.
We meet Laylee who lives in the village of Whichwood. It’s another magical town similar to Furthermore. Laylee is Whichwood’s mordeshoor, which means she prepares the bodies of the dead and their souls for the afterlife. This is a very important job. But Laylee is just a girl and it’s too much responsibility for just one young girl. The people in her town either don’t care that they’re neglecting her or don’t realize what their actions are doing. Alice and Oliver travel to Whichwood because Alice has been given a task to help Laylee. But Laylee doesn’t want help from them. She’s pretty unhappy and I didn’t blame her for a moment. Her father just up and left after her mother died and she was left all alone with this huge responsibility. So, Laylee’s anger and frustration was completely justified. I would have felt exactly the same if I were in her position. So, it’s understandable that she isn’t super excited to have Alice and Oliver butt into her life and tell her that she needs their help.
The best part of this story was Laylee getting past her hurt and her anger and letting Alice and Oliver help her. We also get to know another character from Whichwood, Benjamin. He’s Laylee’s closest neighbor and I loved his part in this story.
Overall, I adored Whichwood even more than Furthermore. It was definitely darker than Furthermore, but it was filled with great themes like friendship, forgiveness, persistence, and responsibility. I really enjoyed getting to see more of this magical world. I really hope that Mafi is going to write more books set in this world, maybe in other magical towns. I loved the magic, the setting, and most of all the characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
Love grows such strange things.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
Wild BeautyReview:
Every time I read a book by McLemore I am completely blown away by their ability to write such stunning prose. The writing was beautiful and lyrical. The setting was stunning and so vivid. I am in awe of this authors ability to tell a story and create such a vivid world.
I feel like I won’t be able to succinctly or accurately explain what this book was about and my feelings about it. So, I think I’m going to keep this review short and sweet. This story focuses on a family of women, three generations, that live on and care for the grounds of La Pradera. These women have power over flowers, each able to grow a different flower or plant (some grow trees and other plants, but it seemed to mainly be flowers). I loved the magical aspect of the story. It was unique and compelling and I wanted to know more. I loved the family dynamic. I thought it was great that the story focused on the youngest generation, but I loved that the mothers and the abuelas were still a big part of the story.
Their world changes when in an attempt to protect their neighbor, Bay, brings a boy, Fel, to La Pradera. This family is cursed with not being able to keep the ones they love. The women either send them away or La Pradera takes them away. So, the girls worry that this is a past lover given back to them, or perhaps it’s something else.
I didn’t realize that this was going to be as much of a mystery as it was. I think aside from the magic and the family, the mystery was my favorite part of the story. The questions of who Fel was, where he came from, why he has no memory, and what his being there meant, were a great way to build suspense in the story.
Overall, McLemore did not disappoint with this book. It was full of beautiful prose, incredible and diverse characters (they are all or mostly Latinx and quite a few of them are bisexual.) The setting was stunning and so vivid I could picture it perfectly (which isn’t something I can usually do.) I’m excited to read more books by McLemore.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

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GoodReads Summary:
Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.
When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?
Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.
Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?
Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2)Review:
Take a Hint, Dani Brown was exactly what I wanted it to be. I loved Chloe’s story so I was very excited to read this one. In this book, Dani, a black, bisexual woman, asks the universe (I don’t know how else to put it, but it involves some witchy things that I enjoyed) for the perfect friends with benefits. Enter Zafir. He’s a security guard in the building she teaches in. They flirt constantly and I adored their banter. When her building has an evacuation drill (she didn’t catch the email saying it was a drill) she gets stuck in an elevator and mildly panics. Zafir, outside and making sure the drill is going as it should, realizes that Dani hasn’t come out of the building yet. He goes back in for her. He comes out of the building carrying her and a student gets a video and they go viral.
Zafir (with a suggestion from his niece) realizes that this could be an opportunity to raise awareness about something he does. He coaches a rugby team of teens and while he teaches them rugby, he also teaches them how to manage their emotions. I loved this aspect of the book. Zafir deals with anxiety (which is a prominent topic in the book) and it’s wonderful to see him talk about his experiences in therapy and managing his own anxiety. So, he asks Dani to be his fake girlfriend.
Dani, on the other hand, sees this as the universe granting her which for the perfect friends with benefits candidate. They have incredible chemistry and when he asks her to fake date him, she thinks it won’t be too hard to get it to go a bit further.
I loved everything about this book. Dani is working toward her Ph.D. and also working on getting ready to go speak at an event alongside one of her idols. She has a tendency to let herself be consumed by her work. This has negatively impacted a relationship in the past, so she has all these ideas of why she can’t be in a relationship. But the progress that she and Zafir make together was so heartwarming. Zafir shows her what a healthy relationship is supposed to be like and Dani gives Zafir the happily ever after that he loves to read about. I totally loved that he was a man who loves to read romance. There’s so much hate on romance as a genre that it was so nice to see this in a book. I cannot wait for the third book and I will recommend this series forever and ever.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

GoodReads Summary:
Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?
After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.
Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?
Court of Lions (Mirage, #2)Review:
Court of Lions was a 2020 anticipated release I didn’t even know about until August (when I finally read Mirage). Book two starts right where the first left off. I don’t want to spoil the first book because if you haven’t read it you need to stop what you’re doing and go read it now. I listened to audiobooks for the whole series and they were incredible. There were lots of names and worldbuilding things that I would have had trouble pronouncing correctly and the narrator did a wonderful job. She really put emotions into each character and the story. I highly recommend them.
The story starts with Amani being called to Maram for the first time after Maram found some information about Amani’s activities in the first book, and she was not happy about it. This break of trust between the two was so sad for me. They had finally gotten to such a good place. They trusted and confided in one another. I was sad to see that be lost. But on a more positive note, they gained this closeness back. The relationship between Maram and Amani was my favorite thing about this book. The two figured out how to get past Amani’s breaking Maram’s trust and they become as close as sisters. Seeing these two finally work together toward the same goals made me so happy. Seeing them work together to gain allies (and get Nadia out of the way) and work toward a better future for their planet.
Maram had incredible growth. She spends time really learning about her heritage that comes from her mother. I loved seeing her get away from her cold and cruel persona that she wears to prove she is Vathek enough. She’s embracing her mother’s side and it was so great. I loved learning about it as Maram did. I also really loved Maram’s love interest. We really get to know her on a deeper level once the love interest is introduced. Maram shows a completely different side from anything we’ve seen before and I loved it.
Amani’s story focuses on bettering her relationship with Maram. But she also gets a very complicated romance that’s continued from the first book. She battles with her feelings for Idris who is actually Maram’s fiancé (and eventually husband). Pretending to be Maram and Idris’ wife was a difficult task for her because she cared so much for him. It was interesting to see her battle her feelings for him versus what she thought was the right thing to do. I also adored Amani because she has an incredible mind for the politics of the world. We get to follow Maram and Amani as they tour the world after the wedding and I loved getting to see more of this culture. It was beautiful and fascinating. Amani is the mastermind behind all of Maram’s moves, but once the two and Idris start planning together my heart was singing.
This story started with many very unhappy people, but by the end of this book, they are all (mostly) put back together. This is a story of exploring your roots and your history. It’s a story of figuring out who you are and what you want and getting those things that you wanted, that you dreamed of having. I loved every page of these characters finding their way together, to friendship, and to love. I cannot say enough how much these characters and this story weaved its way into my heart. The writing was beautiful and took me right there, into this world, the drama, the politics, and the emotions. This series will definitely be making my 2020 favorites list.

Quotes:

“All of us have suffered one loss of another. All of us live in the shadow of that. And those losses do not absolve us of the choices we make.”

“Sometimes,” she said contemplatively, “all the paths lead where we would rather not go. Sometimes you can’t outrun home or destiny.”

“It’s not about the teller,” I said. “But the fortune. Good or ill, true or false, it haunts the listener.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

GoodReads Summary:
The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.
Daevabad has fallen.
After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.
But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.
Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.
As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.
The Empire of Gold (Daevabad Trilogy, #3)Review:
The Empire of Gold was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. It did not disappoint in any way shape or form. It’s going to be really hard to talk about this book without spoiling the previous two books. So, I’m just going to say that it was incredible and I loved every page. It was a wonderful conclusion and I highly recommend it. Now, if you don’t want to be spoiled for the first two books in the series read no further.
This story starts off right where book two ended. Dara and Manizheh are in Deavabad, trying to get everyone under their control. Much to their displeasure, everyone that isn’t daeva is resisting. So, their part of the story is very political. Lots of Dara trying to meet with leaders of each faction and failing. There’s tons of action and political drama. I thought the best parts of Dara’s perspective were when he was starting to realize that maybe Manizheh was going too far.
We jump into Ali and Nahri’s story in Egypt. The two find themselves on the bank of the Nile river. Ali is not doing so great and Nahri’s magic is gone. I absolutely adored the time this two spent together in Cairo. I loved that Nahri got to see the old man that owns the apothecary again. I loved that he’s who she went to for help when she didn’t know what else to do. Ali and Nahri spend a lot of time together while in Cairo. They also travel from Cairo to Ali’s mother. They need to regroup and figure out what they’re going to do to get Daevabad back. Ali is dealing with figuring out his Marid powers, and things get infinitely more complicated with this topic (which I totally loved. I loved the Marid plotline. I thought it was completely fascinating.) And Nahri is just trying to accept that it’s up to her to save her world from her mother. I really liked seeing Ali and Nahri grow closer. Their relationship was always complicated and it was no different in this story. I also really loved Nahri getting to spend time with her brother, once he finally knew he was her brother of course.
Overall, I loved every single thing about this mammoth-sized book. We got to see Nahri visit the person that helped her in Cairo. We got to see relationships strengthen and others end. We got a wonderful conclusion to a world filled with characters that I love so much. I think the way the world was left was a great resolution, the best possible one. I was sad that my time with these characters in this world was over, but I was satisfied with how things were wrapped up.

Quotes:

“She told me to keep myself whole. That there wasn’t any shame in taking care of yourself in order to help those who needed you.”

“Not wanting to be destroyed by despair doesn’t make you a coward. It makes you a survivor.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

#SciFiMonth – Diverse Science Fiction

ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com.

Hi, lovelies! I was inspired by a friends post from last year’s #SciFiMonth and wanted to do my own version. Kal from Reader Voracious did a post about diverse YA science fiction last year and I thought of so many books I could do for my own version. So, thanks to Kal for the inspiration and let’s get right into it. I’m going to list them by age range, starting with middle grade.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee: This story was a mix of Korean folklore, science fiction, and a bit of magic. We follow Min, who has fox-magic (which is thought to no longer be around). She sets out to find her brother and ends up way over her head. I really enjoyed this book. I’ve loved all of the stories that have been published through Rick Riordan Presents. I loved the combination of things that made this story what it was. It’s definitely one I’ll be adding to my daughters library. Also, the audiobook was great.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez: This is my second favorite of the books that have come from Rick Riordan Presents. Sal is a boy who lives in Miami. He has diabetes, but he also has the ability to create holes in the universe. Sal is a little firecracker, but Gabi is even more so. They both come from fascinating families that I couldn’t help but adore. Sal and his father are Cuban and that is a big part of the story too. Sal and Gabi team up to try to fix the holes he’s created in the universe. Sal is also grieving his Mami. I think this is such a great middle grade story.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee: In what used to be the U.S. a magical virus has infected some, leaving them with magical abilities, and most others dead. Noam gets sick and wakes up in the hospital as a technopath. This attracts interest from government officials in ways that Noam isn’t sure he likes. This story gets pretty wild even though the fries 15% or so is pretty slow. Noam is bisexual, Colombian, and Jewish. This story is full of grey morals and I really enjoyed it.

The Disasters by M.K. England: This disastrous found family is one of my all time favorites. Nax is bisexual and comes from a Muslim family. He’s made mistakes and has a lot of self-doubts, but it was really great to see him overcome it. Then there’s Rion who is black, queer, and British. He’s the son of a diplomat, so he always knows exactly what to say. I loved the flirtations and hints of a potential romance between Rion and Nax. It was just enough that it didn’t take center stage over the rest of the story. Case is the third point of the sort of, but not really, love triangle. She’s super smart and struggles with anxiety. Next up is Zee, who is trans, and a kick-ass doctor who will literally kick your ass. Finally, there’s Asra, who is Muslim and we see her wearing a hijab and taking time to pray. She’s also the stepkid of a crime boss that she wants to take down. They essentially have to take down the government and it’s wonderful.

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune: “A queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.” Nick lives in a world where ‘extraordinaries’ exist, people with special abilities. After he meets his idol, he’s decided he needs to do whatever he can to become an extraordinary. This book was so wonderful. It highlights the ADHD experience, friendship, fan fiction writing, and many other important things.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud: Amani is kidnapped to play body double to the cruel half Vathek princess, Maram. Too much happens in this series for me to summarize. Amani is amazing. Her romance is great. Maram is horrible at first but has great development. I ended the series really loving her. They both get romances, one of which is female/female. I believe it’s also inspired from Moroccan culture. This one is going to make my 2020 favorites list (and the audiobooks are great!)

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor: This book is compared to The Lunar Chronicles often, but it’s honestly better (and I really liked that series). Set in a world called Earth Adjacent (because technology destroyed Earth) we follow The Technician who illegally helps people with mechanic work. Then the Commissioner’s son, Nathaniel, finds a lead to the Technician’s identity. Things get a little wild here with overthrowing the government and an arranged marriage. Eliza, the Queen’s spy, comes to Earth Adjacent and things get even more exciting. There’s a romance between two female characters that I completely adored.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: Get ready to be confused. I was confused for the entire series and despite that I enjoyed the shit out of this book. I’m going to talk about all three books. The writing was incredible. There are several perspectives we follow and they are all written so well. There’s one that’s written in second person and it was such an interesting way to tell the story. The characters draw you in and the world is incredible. I just cannot say enough good things about this series. I’m hoping to read the rest of Jemisin’s backlist titles in 2021.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: This series is such a fun one. Each book follows a different set of characters. This universe is so interesting. There are so many different species. It was such a treat to learn about them all. Some are very specific about gender roles and how they change as the species age. I think this book did a wonderful job of showing a unique, interesting, and diverse universe.

These are some of my favorite diverse science fiction books for all different age ranges. They’re all diverse for different reasons and they’re all wonderful books that I highly recommend. What diverse books would you recommend?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin

GoodReads Summary:
Gujaareh, the city of dreams, suffers under the imperial rule of the Kisuati Protectorate. A city where the only law was peace now knows violence and oppression. A mysterious and deadly plague now haunts the citizens of Gujaareh, dooming the infected to die screaming in their sleep. Someone must show them the way.
The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, #2)Review:
The Shadowed Sun is the second book to the Dreamblood duology, but this book is set ten years after the first. I had the same problem that I did with the first book. It took me about 100 pages to actually get into the story and care about what was going on. I think what was weird for me was that I felt like this book could be read completely separate from the first book and the reader wouldn’t really miss much.
In this book, the city we came to know is pretty different. The characters we’re following is also different. Gujaareh is being ruled by the Kisuati Protectorate. One of the Kisuati that’s left in charge of Gujaareh is a character from the first book. I really liked her for this whole book. She stood up for what she thought the right thing was, even when that wasn’t always what she was ‘supposed’ to believe.
In this new Gujaareh, there is a nightmare plague going around that the Hetewa can’t figure out. I really liked that as the reader we got to know what was going on with this aspect of the story. I also liked that we got to see more of the world. Two of the Sharers are sent on a mission to work with the rightful heir to Gujaareh. This was definitely the most interesting part of the story. Getting to see the Shares out of their comfort zone and getting to know a bit more about the desert tribes was really interesting.
Jemisin did such an incredible job building the world for this series. I thought this world was so interesting. I really liked learning about the different customs of the desert tribes but I also still really enjoyed the customs and faith of Gujaareh.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I still had a hard time getting invested in the characters. I think it was definitely easier in this book because I was familiar with the world and a few of the characters. I am very excited to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series, as that’s the only books of Jemisin’s that I haven’t read yet.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

GoodReads Summary:
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
Blanca & RojaReview:
This is the first of McLemore’s books that I’ve read and let me assure you, it won’t be the last. I am eager to read more of their books. Their writing is nothing short of stunning and I was so awed by this story. Blanca & Roja follows two sisters, Blanca and Roja, and then two others, Page and Yearling. I loved all four of these characters. The sisters are part of a family that has been cursed. There are conflicting stories about where it started, but every generation there are two daughters and one of them is chosen by the swans to become one of them and leave their family.
Blanca is a fierce protector of her younger sister, the one everyone thinks will be chosen by the swans. Blanca is the fairer sister, the sweeter sister, the nicer sister. But Blanca isn’t going to just let the swans take Roja. She loves her sister and will do anything, including making a deal so that the swans will take her instead of Roja. But she keeps a secret and this changes their relationship.
Roja is fiery. I adored Roja, always the other sibling. Her hair is dark brown with red in it, she is darker than Blanca. She is full of fire and anger. I loved every second I got to spend with Roja. She’s always expected to be the ones that the swans chose, despite what Blanca tries to tell her. She loves her sister dearly. But she realizes that Blanca is keeping a secret and things sour. But these two girls love each other so much that they are both willing to sacrifice themselves to the swans to save the other.
Then come Page and Yearling. The two boys disappear into the woods one day and aren’t seen again until the swans come for either Blanca or Roja. They are an unlikely set of best friends. They both have issues with their family’s but different sorts of issues. Yearling comes from a wealthy family, but he really doesn’t like how his family acquired that wealth and he wants to get the truth out to the public. Yearling is another person that has anger inside him. He gets in fights often. He’s a conflicted young man. He’s changed after he comes out of the woods. He’s having to figure a lot of things out and I liked his story. Page is a genderqueer boy that uses he/she pronouns but prefers male-gendered language. I loved Page. He was so soft and sweet and full of love. He was struggling with his family because he wasn’t sure they could give him what he needed.
I adored the relationships. The sisters were full of love but complex and interesting. I loved how much they loved one another. Both girls find themselves with feelings for the boys that came to them from the woods. Blanca and Page’s relationship was so sweet, much like the characters. They are both full of softness and love. Yearling and Roja are the opposite, full of spit and fire. Both couples find something of themselves in the other, someone that understands the things they feel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The writing was beautiful. The characters were wonderful. The plot was slow and quiet, but there was so much emotion and love within these pages. There was magic and romance, sacrifice, and mystery. I cannot wait to pick up another one of McLemore’s books.

Quotes:

“I was a girl who would never exist in a fairy tale, not just because of the brown of my body but because of my heart, neither pure enough to be good nor cruel enough to be evil. I was a girl lost in the deep, narrow space between the two forms girls were allowed to take.”

“We find what is beautiful in what is broken. We find what is heartening in what is terrifying. We find the stars in the woods’ deepest shadows.”

“My sister and I had been born fair and dark, her looking like a girl in a fairy tale who would grow up sweet, a princess, and me like one who would grow into a cruel witch. I had seen the pictures in storybooks. I knew what I was, with my bloodstained hair. Girls like me were marked for the swans. How could they ever take a girl like Blanca?”

“Page set her hand on the small of my back. She did it like it was only to guide me around rocks or fallen pinecones. But when she did it, I was that glass jar with a candle set inside. The heart of me was as soft as the wax of the tea light.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer

GoodReads Summary:
Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy and A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.
Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.
With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that’s impossible to put down.
Witches of Ash and RuinReview:
I picked up Witches of Ash and Ruin forever ago when it was a Kindle daily deal. I’m so glad that I finally picked it up. I picked it up for Sapphic September and because I was ready to read some spooky books. This fulfilled both of those desires.
This story follows Dayna and several other characters. I liked that there were a few different points of view. Dayna is from a heavily religious family so she would much rather spend her time with her best friend and her family. It helps also that she’s training to become a witch alongside her best friend. I really loved how much of their friendship was in the book. They were so supportive of one another and that was an excellent dynamic is Dayna’s otherwise chaotic life.
Enter Meiner, more chaos for Dayna’s life. Meiner is a very angry person. She really struggles to control this anger and I thought that was fascinating to read about. I wouldn’t say I liked Meiner, but I liked what she brought to the story. When her and Dayna start flirting I wanted to scream in the best way possible.
This story does so many things. Dayna is bisexual and struggles with OCD. Meiner also struggles with OCD and her best friend (but also nemesis) keeps kissing her without her consent because they sort of dated in the past. There were so many interesting and complicated relationships, from romantic to platonic to familial. This book sucked me in and spit me out in pieces.
Overall, I highly recommend this story. The setting is in a small town in Ireland. So, there are tough conversations about Dayna’s sexuality. But the setting was beautiful and historic and I really felt like I was there, alongside the characters. I definitely will be reading more from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day One: October TBR – Backlist Books

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Happy October, lovelies! It’s finally spooky season again (well, for me it starts in Septemeber because that’s when I start my spooky reads). It’s the spookiest time of the year, and that also means Blogtober. I’m starting off this month with a quick TBR list. I’m making two seperate TBR lists because we love more content. So, this first TBR will be some backlist books I plan to read for the spooky season. These are a few books that I already own and definitely want to make a priority to read this month.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Bewitching by Alex Flinn

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Slayer by Kiersten White

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

These are just a few of my options, but the ones I’m more excited about. I have some mysteries, some thrillers, and some with a bit of magic. What books are on your TBR for October? Any good spooky books I should be adding to mine?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

GoodReads Summary:
Jetta is a prisoner. A prisoner of the armee, a prisoner of fate, and a prisoner of her own madness. Held captive in Hell’s Court—now the workshop of Theodora, the armee engineer and future queen of Chakrana—Jetta knows she needs to escape. But Theodora has the most tempting bait—a daily dose of a medication that treats Jetta’s madness.
But the cost is high. In exchange, Jetta must use her power over dead spirits to trap their souls into flying machines—ones armed with enough firepower to destroy every village in Chakrana. And Theodora and her armee also control Le Trépas—a terrifying necromancer who once had all of Chakrana under his thumb, and Jetta’s biological father. Jetta fears the more she uses her powers, the more she will be like Le Trépas—especially now that she has brought her brother, Akra, back from the dead.
Jetta knows Le Trépas can’t be trusted. But when Akra teams up with Leo, the handsome smuggler who abandoned her, to pull off an incredible escape, they insist on bringing the necromancer along. The rebels are eager to use Le Trépas’s and Jetta’s combined magic against the invading colonists. Soon Jetta will face the choice between saving all of Chakrana or becoming like her father, and she isn’t sure which she’ll choose.
Acclaimed author Heidi Heilig creates a rich world inspired by Southeast Asian cultures and French colonialism. Her characters are equally complex and nuanced, including a bipolar heroine and biracial love interest. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as chapters written as play scripts, and ephemera such as songs, maps, and letters, A Kingdom for a Stage is a vivid, fast-paced journey that weaves magic, simmering romance, and the deep bonds of family with the high stakes of epic adventure. It will thrill fans of Stephanie Garber, Renée Ahdieh, and Sabaa Tahir.
A Kingdom for a Stage (For a Muse of Fire #2)Review:
I fucking love this series. Can that be my whole review? Because really, I just loved everything about this book. Jetta is really coming into her own. She’s still really worried about her madness and that’s prevalent for most of the book. But I think she does really well with it. She’s strong and brave. She uses her abilities to keep her family safe, and that might just mean siding with the rebels. I loved the complexities of the choices she had to make. She learns new things, but also sometimes from people she doesn’t trust and deals with unexpected consequences. Jetta is a complex and fascinating girl. I’d also love to know more about her parent’s history in this world’s past.
Then there’s her brother, Akra. She’s brought him back from the dead and he’s still trying to figure out what that means. I loved how close Jetta and Akra are in this book. It was clear in the last book that Jetta really loved her brother, but in this one, we get to see it and I’m always here for good sibling relationships.
Leo was an interesting character. He’s invested in helping the rebels, but doing that means he’s against his brother and sister. I thought this was a really interesting aspect of the story and I really enjoyed all the complications it brought.
There are so many other characters I could talk about, but there are just too many. I loved them all. They each brought something unique to the story.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved the way it was written and the story itself. I loved the world and all its complications. I love each and every one of the characters. I just loved this book. I cannot wait for the next (and I think the last) book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.