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.

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.

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

GoodReads Summary:
It starts before you can even remember: You learn the rules for being a girl. . .
Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.
But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?
When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.
But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules.
Rules for Being a GirlReview:
I’ve put off this review for at least two weeks because I don’t know how to put my love for this book into words. I’m going to try but I still feel like I’m not going to do it justice.
This story takes place in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, which I didn’t know, but fucking loved. I grew up in Massachusetts so the second I found this out I was so here for the story. I listened to the audiobook and my only complaint about it was that there weren’t any Boston accents in the adults. I have friends that grew up in Bridgewater and the surrounding areas and they and their parents definitely have Boston accents. But that was a small thing that didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story.
The story follows Marin who is in her last year of high school and she’s getting ready to go off to college. She’s interviewing with Brown University and is expecting nothing other than being accepted. But then her favorite teacher kisses her and her life starts to change. She starts to really see and want to speak out about how girls are treated at her school. She goes to a private school. So, everyone wears uniforms. But only the girls are ever singled out for uniform violations. This really hit home for me because this was an issue at my school too, but we didn’t wear uniforms. It was only ever girls getting in trouble when the boys were also in violation. This is just one small example, but Marin starts to open her eyes and actually react to these things rather than just accepting them as the status quo. I really loved this change in Marin. She’s standing up against things that are wrong, but things that most people just let happen. Marin takes her thoughts to the school newspaper once she’s gone to the school officials and they (surprise) did nothing. I thought Marin’s writing was wonderful and inspiring and her pieces in the paper were some of my favorite parts of this book. Marin really finds her voice and I really loved her. I also really loved the family dynamics. Her parents were great and so supportive. Marin also has a grandmother that is declining that she visits often. The things Marin’s grandmother imparts on her were also some of my favorite parts.
There is a romance still in this story. I didn’t feel like that romance took away from the story at all. Marin was going through some shit and Gray was there for her in ways that she needed. He has all of these things that people think about him, but he shows Marin who he really is. I really liked their friendship and eventual relationship.
Overall, this book was easily a new all-time favorite. I loved literally everything about it. Though Marin’s best friend was a trash bag most of the book, and I knew exactly why the whole time. But I was very happy when they reconciled and started working together. I also loved that there wasn’t a happy, everything was fixed, ending. The ending was good and solid. But all of the problems weren’t magically fixed. I definitely think this is an important story. It talks about all of these ‘rules’ that girls grow up learning. But it also talks about race and other important topics.

Quotes:

“Remember, girl: It’s the best time in the history of the world to be you. You can do anything! You can do everything! You can be whatever you want to be!
Just as long as you follow the rules.”

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.

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.

The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand

GoodReads Review:
A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.
Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…
Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.
But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.
Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.
The How and the WhyReview:
How do I put how much I loved this book into words? This story mostly follows Cass throughout her senior year. She’s a lover of theatre and is working on deciding where to college. She also is dealing with her mother being stuck in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant. She’s since turned eighteen and has become curious about her birth mother. No one could replace her parents, but it’s hard not to wonder about the woman who gave birth to her.
In between chapters, we get to read the letter’s that Cass’s birth mother wrote while pregnant. We learn about the relationship between her birth mother and father. I really loved these. It was fascinating to read about a pregnant sixteen-year-old that lived in a school for pregnant teens. Her experiences and thoughts were interesting but also snarky and entertaining. It was realistic and honest. I loved this aspect of the book.
I also loved that we’d read most of the letters by the time that Cass even finds out they exist. I really enjoyed the adoption topic and learning at the end that the author was adopted made it even better. It was clear that this was a really personal subject for her to write about and I loved every page.
There were wonderful friendships. Cass’s best friend, Nyla, was also adopted, but that’s not why their friends. I loved that they support one another and that their friendship was so realistic. They fought and argued, but always apologized and forgave. They were really a great part of this book. I also completely loved Bastien and didn’t pick up on his secret either. I shipped him and Cass so bad.
Overall, I thought this was an incredible book and I really hope others read and love it too. I haven’t seen many people talking about it and I hope that changes. I think it was realistically diverse (not in an obnoxious way). It was a heartbreaking but also heartwarming story. The ending also totally killed me. I think everyone should read this book.

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.

Jackpot by Nic Stone

GoodReads Summary:
Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?
Nic Stone, the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out, creates two unforgettable characters in one hard-hitting story about class, money–both too little and too much–and how you make your own luck in the world.
JackpotReview:
I loved Stone’s other novel, Dear Martin, so I was excited to read Jackpot when I picked it up at Target. Sadly, I didn’t love it. I liked it well enough, but there were some things that I didn’t enjoy.
Overall, I just really didn’t like Rico. I understand what it’s like to be poor, but she just complained about it and made Zan out to be a bad guy because his parents have money. Sure he doesn’t really get what she’s going through, but there are lots of poor people that don’t automatically dislike people with money just because they have money. She was really judgmental and I just didn’t like her very much.
I did, however, totally adored her little brother. He was so happy all the time despite the fact that his family was poor. He always had a smile on, even when he was sick.
Zan was definitely a little savior-ish, but he had good intentions and that was clear. I liked him right up until the big reveal about the missing lottery ticket. That really made me mad.
I enjoyed reading this book while I was reading it, but there were some things I didn’t like. I did like the diversity in this book. I liked the overarching theme, but Rico annoyed me and so did the ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

GoodReads Summary:
Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.
As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.
With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.
The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)Review:
After a long week of my husband being away at a wedding and taking care of my daughter without him, I was due for some much-needed self-care. So, I picked up The Bride Test and settled into a glorious bubble bath.
While I didn’t love this book as much as I loved The Kiss Quotient, I still really enjoyed it. I liked that Khai, while super-hot, wasn’t your usual male love interest. Nothing about this book was the usual. Khai was annoying at times. I just wanted to shake him. But I think that also made me like him even more.
I felt the same about Esme. At times, mostly in the beginning, I just wanted to shake her. But by the end of the book, I adored her. I really enjoyed how she made a plan to stay in the States that didn’t have to do with Khai. She was going to earn her way and not depend on a man to get the things she wanted. I just loved it. I loved how smart she was and her enthusiasm to just enjoy her time in America.
I really loved the way these two eventually came together. I loved that this wasn’t your typical romance. It still followed the same formula for the most part but the characters and the story was unique and I really enjoyed it. I think any romance lover would enjoy this fun story with a diverse cast of characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

GoodReads Summary:
With her daughter to care for and her Abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
With the Fire on HighReview:
I love Elizabeth Acevedo. I adore The Poet X and I was so excited to see what she was going to do next. With the Fire on High was different from her first novel in the sense that it’s written like a traditional novel. Though, there were these cute recipes that I will definitely be attempting when I get the chance.
In With the Fire on High, we follow the main character Emoni as she navigates the world that is being a teen mother who is about to graduate high school. She’s trying to figure out what the best path for her and her family is all. I really like Emoni. She was a hard worker that didn’t really complain about things she couldn’t change. She did her best to cover it all, being a mother to her daughter, co-parenting, graduating, and working. I really liked her strong values and work ethic. She values family and I absolutely adored her relationship with her grandmother. I thought the challenge of co-parenting was an interesting one, but Emoni doesn’t let anyone push her around. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and I really respected that trait in her.
This story was a more character-driven story with less focus on the plot. We get to know Emoni and what her struggles are. I thought this was a really quick read. I think it talks about a lot of really important topics and it does so really well. I also enjoyed the cooking aspect of the story. All the smells and tastes were sounded so delicious and it added a little something special. I definitely will be recommending this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh

GoodReads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Lacey Burke is the last person on the planet who should be doling out sex advice. For starters, she’s never even kissed anyone, and she hates breaking the rules. Up until now, she’s been a straight-A music geek that no one even notices. All she cares about is jamming out with her best friends, Theo and Evita.
But then everything changes.
When Lacey sees first-hand how much damage the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum of her school can do, she decides to take a stand and starts doling out wisdom and contraception to anyone who seeks her out in the girls’ restroom. But things with Theo become complicated quickly, and Lacey is soon not just keeping everyone else’s secrets, but hers as well.
The Birds, The Bees, and You and MeReview:
This new release had me hooked from the cover. Then I read what it was about. After that, I found out that the author was going to be at the NoVaTeen Book Festival that I’m going to (or probably have already been to by the time this review posts.)
I wish this book had been available to me when I was in high school. I grew up in a single parent household. My dad raised me. Now, he did his best to be everything I needed but sex was not something either of us w comfortable talking about. So, we just didn’t. I learned from books and my friends. I would have loved this book even more than I do now have I been able to read it when I really needed it in my younger years.
Our main character, Lacey is so fierce and passionate about getting the facts out there and making people move away. Her mom has taught her all the right things and she feels that it’s her responsibility to share those things with her classmates. I thought she was a great main character. Even though she didn’t have the experience she had the knowledge and she didn’t hesitate to share that knowledge with everyone and anyone that wanted it. She advocated for all the right things. She spends this book learning while also pushing the limits and standing up for what she knows is right. I really enjoyed her learning to love being a doula and all things nursing.
Then there’s her best friend, Evita, who is on the ace spectrum and isn’t afraid to share what she knows and feels. She is the president of the LGBTQIA group at their school. She was sassy and unapologetic about who she is. She spoke her mind and I really liked her. She called people on their shit, stood up for what she believed in, and stood by her friends.
Theo was honestly my least favorite of the trio. He spent the first half of the book with a girlfriend that no one liked. I did like how he was used as a tool to explain certain things and ideas within the story. Plain and simple, he was a great guy. Considerate and kind and attentive to his friends but I just preferred the girls.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. My only complaint would be that in the beginning of the story the sex-positive stuff was a little heavy-handed and clunky. There was a lot of “my mom taught me” again and again. But as the story progressed it got much better. Really only the first few chapters had a bit of info dumping with the sex conversations.
Overall, I loved the characters. They were entertaining, funny, and passionate. I loved the message the story was sharing. It’s one I really could have used in a book when I was young and learning. I loved all the parental support the kids had from their parents. I only wish this book had been longer. I would have loved to spend more time getting to know these characters and being in their world. I can’t wait to see what this author comes out with next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.