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.

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

GoodReads Summary:
One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for.
With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…
Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love, #2)Review:
I am now a huge fan of Alisha Rai. I loved the first book in this series. And I totally loved this one too. I was dying to know more about Katrina at the end of the last book, so I was so happy to be able to immediately order this book.
We’re following Katrina as she goes viral (her worst nightmare). She’s a very private person so when a stranger takes her picture and puts it on the internet, she escapes to her bodyguard’s family farm. I really loved getting to know more about Katrina and meeting Jas.
I think my favorite part about this book was the mental health representation. Katrina deals with panic attacks. I thought this was a really thoughtful representation. It was great to see a character that deals with an issue like this that so many people in the world deal with. I also liked Jas and what he represented. I would have liked to get more of his story in the after, but I still really appreciated the representation of PTSD with him. I also loved seeing him work toward being a better communicator, specifically to his family, but also just overall.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I will definitely be picking up some of Alisha Rai’s backlist books. I cannot wait for the next book in this series. I love these characters so much.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

GoodReads Summary:
Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:
– Nude pics are by invitation only
– If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice
– Protect your heart
Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and disappears.
Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…
The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)Review:
I absolutely adored The Right Swipe. I’ve seen a few mixed reviews and that’s why I didn’t pick this book up all of the times it tempted me at Target. But I wanted some romance books and I keep seeing people talk about the second book in this series. So, I finally bought this book. I’m so glad that I did. This book was so good. The writing was wonderful. The characters were great. The story covered important topics, but it was also fun and weirdly informative about what being single is for this married lady.
Rhi is a woman that carved her own place in the world. I really liked her because she’s a woman in the business world and she’s learned from her past not to take shit from anyone. I liked that in the beginning she didn’t let herself open up to anyone outside her inner circle, but as the story goes along, she learns more about herself and her flaws and starts to open up again. I loved the aspect of her past and how she came to create her own company after leaving an important position with another company. I didn’t love the subject matter, but rather how it was handled. I really enjoyed the outcome of her history.
This part of her causes conflict with Samson. I thought their relationship was such a good one. They have a history. One where Samson unintentionally ghosted Rhi. I really liked how Rhi got past this despite her strong opinions about never giving second chances to anyone that ghosts her. They really push one another out of their comfort zones and I love books that do this. All the best parts of my own relationship are that my husband pushes me to try new things that I might not do without his encouragement.
Overall, this book was so freaking good and I’ve already ordered Alisha Rai’s next book in this series. I liked that it talked about important topics like men using nude pictures against someone they used to be in a relationship with, ghosting, fuckboys, the relationship between football and health issues later in life. I thought these topics were covered well and thoughtfully. I just loved this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

GoodReads Summary:
The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.
At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.
Final DraftReview:
I’m going to be honest here. I almost DNF’d this book. Laila, the main character, was pretty unlikeable at first. I think that’s because I am also someone who really enjoys writing. But she seems to take it a bit too far. Writing seems to almost be problematic for her. She doesn’t do much other than writing and occasionally see her friends outside of school. But I pushed through because it’s a short book and I was reading it for the weekend edition of the ContemporaryAThon.
We follow Laila as she’s dealing with a new creative writing teacher. Her last teacher is out sick for the rest of the year and he was the only person she’d ever shared her writing with. And as I mentioned above, Laila’s sort of obsessive about her writing. So, getting a new teacher (mind you, she’s an award-winning author) really rocked her world. The best part about this book was the character development of Laila. Dr. Nazarenko’s feedback really pushes Laila to get outside of her comfort zone and experience new things to make her writing better. I liked this, but she went too far at times (which she realized and dialed back, but also, she’s a teenager and from my experience, I always took things a step too far.) I really loved Laila’s exploration of sex and attraction. It was really well discussed and things like this just aren’t in enough books. She identifies herself as pansexual and kisses both guys and girls on her journey to experience more things. She also gets drunk and even does molly once. I also really liked that we got to see bits and pieces of her writing as she developed. It was interesting to see how these new things were changing her writing.
Overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. I really related to Laila in the sense of being on the outside (because we put ourselves there) and then getting outside of our box to try new things. I didn’t really write much in high school, but I was a huge book nerd like Laila. I also really appreciated the exploration of her sexuality because it’s something I’m going through right now. I definitely think this is a book that’s going to stick with me.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Books & Baking – The Truth About Twinkie Pie

Hello, lovelies! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted another installment of Books & Baking. That’s not because of a lack of baking, but rather a very busy life with a two-year-old. My child takes up lots of time and energy which I’ve been focusing on keeping up with my reviews and other usual posts. But I’m bake today with something I baked back in April. This was a fun and pretty easy recipe (tasty too!) For this edition of Books & Baking, I’ve decided to make a recipe from The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh.

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Book: The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

Read my full review here!

This story is about two sisters that move to New York. GiGi is attending a new school (and a rather fancy one), so she’s trying to adjust to her new life. While all of this is going on, she learns some secrets about her family. I thought this book was so sweet and full of all the family goodness I could ever ask for. I definitely recommend this to those that love to read family centered, middle-grade stories.

“Now ya’ll stop sitting around wishing you were something you’re not and just get on out there and be.”

Baking: Impossible Pie

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This was a recipe I pulled right out of the book. So, I’m going to type it up here for you all. I picked this one because I had all the ingredients for it and I was in a baking mood, but didn’t want to run to the store for things I was missing.

“This is the thing. Sometimes you think something is impossible, but it turns out it’s completely possible. You just need to look. Seriously, in your pantry this whole time you’ve had the ingredients to make pie. Just look at this list. I will bet it’s all in there right now!”

Ingredients

2 cups milk

1/2 cup Mayflower baking mix (or Bisquick works fine, too)

1/2 stick butter, softened

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups sugar

7 ounce bag of sweetened flaked coconut

Instructions

“Put the first 6 ingredients into a blender in the order listed. Blend for 3 minutes. Add the coconut, and give it another quick blen till mixed. Pour into a greased 9-inch pie pan and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Put a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done. See? You had it the whole time. You just never knew.”

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Here’s my final product! I liked it becasue it was sweet (thanks to the coconut) but not overwhelmingly so. I also added a bit of green food coloring for a bit of Earth Day festiveness. This was super easy to make. And fun becasue I got to use my blender to make it. If you like coconut, this is the recipe for you. I do also want to mention, all of this was taken directly from the book. Is this something you would make or enjoy? Leave a comment and let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

GoodReads Summary:
Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
Heidi Heilig creates a world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism.
For a Muse of Fire (For a Muse of Fire, #1)Review:
I loved this book. I put it off for so long because it’s a pretty thick book. But I’m mad at myself for waiting. I enjoyed the hell out of this story.
Jetta is a shadow player. But she’s more than that. She has a magical ability that is forbidden. She’s trying to help her family get a better life by showcasing their talent as shadow players to gain a place on a ship. I loved Jetta. She wanted to do more. But she was scared because her mother trained her that she’s never to show or tell about her abilities. But when they’re present when the rebels attack, she chooses to help instead of hiding. I liked her because she almost always tried to do what was best for her family, even if that meant defying them and making hard choices.
I loved all the other characters too. They were complicated and not a single one of them was one thing. They were so complex and well developed. I am dying for the next book to see what’s going to happen in this world.
The world was so interesting. There’s an author’s note in the back of the book that explains it’s not supposed to be historical. But it’s drawn from both Asian and French culture. I really thought this was so interesting. The French was a bit tough only because I don’t speak it, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story at all. The world was so interesting and well developed. The world is large but has many issues. The politics were fascinating and took turns I wouldn’t have seen coming a million miles away. I loved that I was surprised and I loved the intricacies of the world and politics.
Overall, I was easily sucked into this world. I’m craving to know more about the magic and the history. I also am dying to know what will happen with all the chaos that Jetta has created. I love this book and I wish more people were talking about it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

GoodReads Summary:
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Clap When You LandReview:
I’m forever a fan of Elizabeth Acevedo. So, when I saw her newest release, Clap When You Land, available as an audiobook I threw my TBR right out the window and listened to it all day. I love Acevedo’s audiobooks because she narrates them. Clap When You Land is her second novel written in verse. Though unlike The Poet X, this story follows two perspectives, two sisters that don’t know the other exists. But when their father dies in a plane crash, both their lives change.
I was blown away by this story. We follow Camino who lived in the Dominican Republic. Her father spends the summers with her, working in New York City for the rest of the year. He sends money back so that she can go to the best private school available. Her life is small but full of love. Her mother died when she was young which she struggles with but she has others that care for and about her. The aunt she lives with loves her and teaches her all of the spiritual things she knows. I loved this aspect of the story because it’s a part of Camino’s culture that I didn’t know anything about. I also loved Camino’s best friend, who was extremely pregnant and constantly worrying about the kind of future she was going to be able to provide for her child. When Camino finds out that her father had another daughter and wife in New York City, her world is turned upside down. She questions everything she ever knew about her father. She harshly judges her sister from the little she knows about her.
Yahaira is taken out of class and informed that her father’s plane had crashed. She spends the first few days caring for her mother who is practically catatonic. I liked that Yahaira has this relationship with her mom, but it’s clear that she idolized her father for most of her life, right up until she found the marriage certificate that stated her father was married to another woman in the Dominican Republic. Once we learn that Yahaira knows about Camino’s mother I assumed that she knew about Camino too. I loved Yahaira’s girlfriend. Yahaira is a lesbian dating a girl that loves to garden on her balcony. They fell into the childhood friends to lover’s trope and I loved every minute of their familiarity.
When the girls find out about one another, contact is inevitable. The hardest part about this for me was Yahaira’s mother insisting that Yahaira was not going to the Dominican Republic and she would certainly not have anything to do with her father’s other daughter. But of course, teenagers do whatever they want. So, Yahaira messages her sister and even video chats with her before sneaking off to the Dominican Republic so that she can be there when what’s left of her father’s body was returned to where he grew up. The girls first meeting and the few days after were awkward for both of them. Neither sure how to be a sister. I absolutely adored their meeting and Camino showing Yahaira around her home. I loved everything about the ending of this book.
Overall, this story was an incredible tale about two girls that lost a father but managed to gain a sister. Two girls with wildly different upbringings came together to deal with the hardest thing most children ever have to go through. This was a heartbreaking story full of extraordinary relationships, diverse and well-developed characters. The writing was beautiful, as was the narration by the two women that brought this audiobook to life. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

GoodReads Summary:
For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared.
All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. As chaos takes hold, five souls are set on a collision course:
A prince exiled from his kingdom.
A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand.
A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart.
A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone.
And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.
One of them―or all of them―could break the world. Will they be savior or destroyer?
There Will Come a Darkness (The Age of Darkness, #1)Review:
There Will Come a Darkness became a new favorite book of mine immediately after I finished it. I am blown away by all of the different aspects of this story.
Let’s start with the world, which leads to the plot. A hundred years ago, the Prophets disappeared. This is something I still want to know more about. Why did they disappear? Where did they go? Will they be coming back? They left behind one final (secret) prophecy that tells of the Age of Darkness. This prophecy is what brings our five characters together. I loved the magic system and the concept of the Graces. I thought it was unique and interesting. I have to say, I am in awe of Katy Rose Pool’s ability to tell this story in five different perspectives and still give each of them a very distinct voice and personality.
The Pale Hand or Ephyra is a mysterious killer that leaves behind the mark of a pale hand on her victims. We learn why she is killing people and it makes me feel for her. She has a younger sister, Beru, that is sick. So Ephyra kills terrible people for their esha and gives it to Beru to heal her. This moral gray aspect of her story made her that much more interesting. I went back and forth between hating her and feeling bad for her and the struggles she’s faced.
Beru is horrified by her sister’s actions to keep her alive. She’s at the point where she’s just ready to die. I was blown away by the secret that these sisters are keeping and what that secret means for the world. I loved the inclusion of the sibling relationship, especially since it was a complex and morally grey one.
Hassan was probably the character I cared about the least, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like him. I just loved all the others so much that he takes the bottom spot. Hassan is the heir to a kingdom taken over by a terrible, terrible person. He wants to take action to save his kingdom from the Hierophant (who is trying to rid the world of the Graced.) When he is convinced that he is the last Prophet that was named in the secret prophecy, things start to speed up. He gathers an army to take back their country and this is when things go wrong. I won’t go into detail about what exactly goes wrong, but it was exciting and full of action. The stakes were high and I loved every page of the climax of this story.
Now, for my favorite character, Anton. Anton is my little bean. He is running from his older brother, who was horribly cruel to him in their childhood. He lives life on the run, never getting close to anyone. He also can’t seem to use his Grace without being taken back to the moment when his brother tried to drown him (which is when he left home and has been running ever since.) I loved the mystery that surrounded Anton. We’re not sure why he’s running or what the problem is with using his Grace for quite a while. He teams up with the Pale Hand because she thinks Anton can find an object that will save Beru. His involvement with these two is how he gets dragged into everything else going on with Jude and Hassan. When Ephyra and Anton get arrested, Jude comes to save the day, sort of.
Jude was my second favorite. Jude is the Keeper of the Word, meaning it is his duty to protect the Last Prophet and help them prevent the Age of Darkness. Jude struggles with the duty he knows he has to fulfill and his doubting his ability to do this duty. I loved Jude. I was a little mad at him a few times when he did things that I really didn’t want him to do. But he came back around in the end and saved the Last Prophet. I loved Jude and his journey to figuring out what really mattered.
The characters were really what made this story. But the plot was exciting and surprising. There were several different times where I said out loud to myself, “WHAT” because Katy Rose Pool made me care and believe in all of these characters (even the bad ones) so I was floored by the betrayals and screaming with happiness for the characters that I so easily fell in love with. The development of each of these characters was so well done. The world was creative and so interesting. I’m left with questions, a fierce desire to want more, but not so many questions that I’m upset with a lack of answers. We were given enough to be satisfying but also left craving more of the world, more answers, more character interactions. I’m so invested in the romantic relationships and the friendships. I loved this interesting world and the diverse cast of characters.
Overall, this is a new favorite and I cannot wait for the second book in September. I will be picking it up immediately and devouring it because I need more of this world and the characters that live in it.

Quotes:

“Those who cannot own their choices will always be mastered by fate.”

“There was nothing to be frightened of when you were the most dangerous thing that stalked the streets”

“Those who abused their power would only continue the cycle, rewarding the ones who enabled them.”

“I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know about duty and purpose. But I know what people want. You may think you’re different, that you live by some special code that sets you apart, but everyone wants something Jude. Even you.”

“You can spend your entire life looking over your shoulder, waiting for your past to catch up to you. Or you can stop running and finally face it.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

GoodReads Summary:
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)Review:
Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a book that I’ve seen all over twitter being raved about. So, when I saw it sitting on the new releases shelf, I had to pick it up. I’m glad that I did because shortly after I grabbed it the whole world closed down. I’ve been on a romance binge since all of the virus stuff started. I just want to read happy books. This book was perfect for that. As with most romance, there was conflict and unhappy parts, but I just enjoyed this story so damn much.
We follow Chloe Brown who has a chronic illness. I thought it was wonderful to have that representation because it’s not something I see very often. I mostly liked Chloe. She didn’t want to need help from anyone. She was strong despite the pain she felt every day. I also totally adored her sisters. I loved that they were included in this because sibling relationships are totally my jam. Chloe was stubborn but sensitive. Not that she ever let people see that sensitive side.
Enter the love interest, Red. I loved him too. He’s struggling to heal after a damaging relationship. He’s trying to get back into painting. But he keeps thinking that he needs to become who he was before his terrible relationship rather than letting himself become someone new. This was an interesting battle because everyone goes through periods of growth so I thought it was interesting that he didn’t see it that way and instead tried to find his old self.
These two were so good for one another. They pushed the boundaries of the other, they made each other better (even if the characters didn’t realize that’s what was going on.) I thought their conflicts were natural and well done as well as their resolutions.
Overall, I totally adored this book and I’m beyond excited for the next one in the series that will be coming out later this year. If you’re a romance lover, this is definitely a book you should pick up. You will not be disappointed.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

GoodReads Summary:
Take two sisters making it on their own: brainy twelve-year-old GiGi and junior-high-dropout-turned-hairstylist DiDi. Add a million dollars in prize money from a national cooking contest and a move from the trailer parks of South Carolina to the North Shore of Long Island. Mix in a fancy new school, new friends and enemies, a first crush, and a generous sprinkling of family secrets.
That’s the recipe for The Truth About Twinkie Pie, a voice-driven middle-grade debut about the true meaning of family and friendship.
The Truth About Twinkie PieReview:
This book was so much more emotional than I anticipated. While GiGi was kind of a little terror, I liked it anyway. GiGi is a twelve-year-old that has just moved to a new school. Her mom died and she’s being raised by her older sister, DiDi. I loved the sister relationship when it was good. It’s hard to have a sister that’s is also your parents, so I could understand GiGi’s attitude. But also, being the adult that I am, I just wanted GiGi to open up to her sister and talk to her.
GiGi’s biggest worry is that he’s not going to make friends at her new school. I loved that this was the smallest problem in the book. She quickly made friends and I loved these relationships. They were sweet and I could see them lasting long into adulthood. I liked that even the girl GiGi was ‘frenemies’ had an interesting outcome. Mace and GiGi butted heads a lot, but I thought it was an interesting and necessary relationship.
Overall, this story was sweet and heartbreaking. It made me feel so many things I was not expecting. I loved the characters and this story had so much heart. I loved the family values and friendships. Also, this book had recipes in it and I totally loved how they were tied into the story. So, keep an eye out for a books & baking post related to this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

GoodReads Summary:
Nate never imagined that he would be attacked by his best friend, Cam.
Now, Nate is being called to deliver a sworn statement that will get Cam convicted. The problem is, the real story isn’t that easy or convenient—just like Nate and Cam’s friendship. Cam challenged Nate on every level from the day the boys met. He pushed him to break the rules, to dream, and to accept himself. But Nate—armed with a fierce moral code and conflicted by his own beliefs—started to push back. With each push, Nate and Cam moved closer to each other—but also spiraled closer to their breaking points.
Deposing NathanReview:
I picked this book up because the author will be at the NoVaTeen Book Festival in March, which will likely have already happened by the time this review is posted.
I read this book so quickly. I honestly just couldn’t put it down. I was sucked into the story of the friendship between Nate and Cam. The wondering of how these two best friends ended up fighting to the point of a stabbing and ensuing court drama almost killed me. I had to know what happened. The suspense was so well done. The story flashes back and forth between the present, where Nate is giving a deposition, and the past, which is the story that he is telling for the deposition. We also get bits in between where Cam and Nate talk a few times in the present.
I was completely blown away by the plot twist at the end with what really happened that night. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author when he publishes them. The conversation of sexuality and religion was captivating and horrifying at the same time. I thought it discussed these ideas in a well thought out way. It wasn’t condemning religion or any sexuality.
I loved Cam and Nate as friends. I totally held out hope for them even though their relationship turned pretty toxic. I really loved the way things ended in the final pages.
Overall, I don’t know why people aren’t talking about this book because it’s absolutely one that should be shouted about. It’s full of conflict and mystery. It pulls at the heartstrings while also managing to infuriate. I loved every page.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

GoodReads Summary:
Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…
The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)Review:
As I’ve mentioned (mostly on Twitter) I’ve been having some trouble with the fantasy genre lately. I haven’t been able to get into any of the ones I’ve tried to pick up. But for Tome Topple I went in trying to force myself to read some of my backlist books and love them. I’m happy to say that it worked.
The City of Brass was amazing. I immediately was interested in the world. I liked Nahri as soon as I started. She was funny and clever and in over her head. I loved that she was strong and stubborn even if she was taking a stand against something she knew was good for her. I loved it. It was a great step up for hilarity. Little did she know what she was in for. I liked seeing her learn about who she really was. I am dying to know how things will play out in the next book.
Dara was my favorite. I just wanted him to spill all his secrets. I loved his relationship with Nahri and how protective he was. He did what was best for her even if it wasn’t the best thing for him. He was always scheming and I just wanted a better ending for him. I hope we learn more about him in the next book.
Ali, I could never tell with him whether we were supposed to like him or not? I liked that he tried to fight for his beliefs. His storyline was the most compelling in the sense of his inner conflict between fighting for what he believed in and supporting his family loyalties. I loved his relationships with his siblings. They didn’t always (or ever) get along but their love for one another still shown through.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved the world, the magic, the setting. I adored the characters and conflicts. I enjoyed the relationships and the drama between them. I cannot wait to get into the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.