A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart

Summary:
Furyborn meets A Curse So Dark and Lonely in this courtly feminist fantasy from Grace and Fury author Tracy Banghart.
Annalise may be cousin to the prince, but her past isn’t what she claims, and she possesses a magic so powerful it takes all her strength to control it. Evra is a country girl, and has watched as each friend and family member came into their own magic, while hers remains dormant. But everything changes after Annalise loses control of herself and Evra begins experiencing the debilitating visions of a once-in-a-generation clairvoyant meant to serve the crown.
Thrown together at court, Evra and Annalise find that they have the same goal: to protect their kingdom from the powerful men who are slowly destroying it. But neither is quick to trust the other — Evra’s visions suggest a threat to royal rule, and Annalise worries that her darkest secrets will be revealed. Their magic at odds, the young women circle each other, until the truth must come out.
Full of intrigue, romance, and shocking twists, this gorgeously immersive fantasy will keep readers spellbound until the very last page.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read and review an early copy of this book. I love Tracy Banghart. I’ve met her at an author event and we spent like an hour talking, so I love to read and support her work.
A Season of Sinister Dreams follows two main characters, Annalise and Evra. Annalise is the grandniece to the King and cousin to the prince. But she has secrets that she would do anything to protect. Evra is a country girl. She’s worried that she’ll never have any magic and the people in her town are starting to treat her differently. But Evra starts having visions that mean the kingdom is in danger. She’s this generations Clearsee. The Clearsee’s only appear once in a generation, and only when the kingdom is in danger. Evra must travel to court to meet with the king and inform him that she has been revealed as this generations Clearsee.
Evra and Annalise meet at court. But since we’re seeing things from both points of view, we know things that the other characters don’t. I think this fact made the story infinitely better. Knowing that there were secrets to be revealed and knowing what those secrets were kept me engaged into the story. Wondering how each of the characters were going to react when the truth finally came out was a really great way to add some suspense to the story.
Now, I really loved Evra. She’s a girl that loves her family. She loves her kingdom. And she’s willing to do her duty as Clearsee despite the fact that she disagrees with many of the things the king has ordered for the people. She’s taking her responsibility seriously and she does her best to make the right choices, the choices that will help the most people. The author really did her dirty with some of the things that happen, but I really loved Evra.
Annalise was a fascinating character. I wanted to hate her so badly, but I just couldn’t. I liked her. Her backstory pulled on my heartstrings. Because we got to see things from her point of view, we know that some events were complete accidents. We get to see the other side of the story which made it easier to sympathize with Annalise, even though she was in the wrong. I didn’t want to like Annalise at all, but I couldn’t help it.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a short, political fantasy that follows two strong women. I liked the politics. I liked the bits of romance we got. I liked the different kinds of magic there was to see. I just genuinely enjoyed this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

What We Devour by Linsey Miller

Summary:
Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read an early copy of this book. This is my honest review.
What We Devour follows Lorena Adler as her life is changed. She’s spent her whole life hiding her abilities. But when her father figure is about to be arrested, she reveals herself to make a bargain for his life. The Vile crown prince gets Lorena to travel to the capital with him and join his team of researching ways to prevent the Door from opening. This is where I want to talk about the world building. It was complex and interesting, but still easy to understand for me. I loved the concept of the magic of the vilewroughts and the nobelwroughts. I also loved the conversation of corruption. So much of this book focuses on how unfairly the lower class is treated and I thought that was a really great part of the plot.
Lorena was a fascinating character to follow. She’s incredibly clever and smart. She’s managed to hide from the crown for all this time. The only reason she’s found out is because she chose to do the thing that would protect someone she cared about. I really admired her character.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was dark and twisty. The magic was compelling and I was really interested by seeing the different ways people worked with their wroughts. I loved Lorena and all of the side characters. I think thing was a really fun and well told story. I definitely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

Summary:
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

Book Cover

Review:
The Library of the Dead is a new fantasy novel that I found from my library. I listened to the audiobook and I thought the narrator did a really great job of telling this story. We follow Ropa while she’s doing her job as a ghoststalker. She lives in Scotland and has taken over for her grandmother talking with ghosts, delivering messages, etc. in exchange for money. But she hears rumors of children going missing, some never coming back and others coming back looking like they’ve aged 50 years. She feels obligated to investigate, but what she finds is so much more than she ever expected.
I really enjoyed this story. I listened to it non-stop for hours because I was so easily pulled into the story. I thought Ropa was a great main character. She’s unique and kept the story moving. I liked that she always stood up for herself, but she also knew when to stand down. She’s determined and never gave up, even when she was in a situation where things seemed dire. I also loved the family dynamics of this story. Ropa’s relationship with her sister and grandmother was so nice to see. Ropa feels like all the pressure is on her to provide for the family, but her grandmother doesn’t want her to feel that way.
I thought the magic was interesting. There were a few different kinds of magics. We see Ropa’s ghoststalking up close and I loved how detailed this magic was. But we also learn about other magic when Ropa finds her way into the Library of the Dead. I loved the friends she made there and I’m eager to see where those relationships will go next. I’m also interested to learn more about the other magic that we see.
The only thing I had trouble with was the world building. I think this is because I’m not very familiar with Scotland’s history, so there were things mentioned that I still don’t know if they actually happened or if this is set in a future Scotland. I’m planning to read some other reviews after I finish writing this to see if there’s anyone else that feels this way. I still really liked the setting; I just personally couldn’t tell if it was current or a dystopian Scotland because of my own lack of knowledge.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen in the sequel. I loved the magic and all of the characters. There was action with high stakes, but Ropa also learned and grew from these experiences. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.
As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.
Lush and striking, hopeful and devastating, We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology by New York Times–bestselling author Hafsah Faizal.

Book Cover

Review:
After really enjoying We Hunt the Flame, I tried to dive right into We Free the Stars. But that was right as my reading slump was starting, so I didn’t make it very far trying to read the physical book. I eventually borrowed the audiobook from my local library and managed to finish it through that format. I think the audiobook was really well done. There was more than one narrator and I think they did a great job telling this story.
As for the story, there is so much that happens in this book. It felt like a totally different sort of story from the first book, where they spent most of the book working toward one goal. But in this book, things have gone wrong. They need to plan a rescue. They need to list of impossible things to get done, but they managed to get most of it done. I was impressed by the way this team managed to problem solve for all of their issues.
I think what I liked the most was the changes that Nasir and Zafira go through. They’ve changed and grown so much in the first book, but now that they’re back from Sharr, they’re trying to reconcile those changes when back in their regular worlds. This was more for Nasir than Zafira because the world Zafira knew before she left for Sharr is gone. But Nasir is coming back to his home a changed man. But in the eyes of his people, he’s still the Prince of Death. We get to see this for Zafira through the people that she loves. She reunites with her sister and with Yasmine. We see her changes through their eyes.
Overall, I enjoyed this one just as much as I did the first. It’s a pretty different book because there is just so many things going on. But we get to see Zafira and Nasir grow even more. Altair is still my favorite. He’s really going through it in this book, but I loved him all the same. I also really enjoyed getting to see more of Zafira’s loved ones. The characters travel to other places in this world and I loved that we got to see other Caliphates that were mentioned in the first book. We learn more about the world in general. I’d love to see another book set in a different part of the world. I will definitely be picking up more books by Faizal.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

Summary:
Aru Shah and her sisters–including one who also claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter–must find their mentors Hanuman and Urvashi in Lanka, the city of gold, before war breaks out between the devas and asuras.
Aru has just made a wish on the tree of wishes, but she can’t remember what it was. She’s pretty sure she didn’t wish for a new sister, one who looks strangely familiar and claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter, like her.
Aru also isn’t sure she still wants to fight on behalf of the devas in the war against the Sleeper and his demon army. The gods have been too devious up to now. Case in point: Kubera, ruler of the city of gold, promises to give the Pandavas two powerful weapons, but only if they win his trials. If they lose, they won’t stand a chance against the Sleeper’s troops, which will soon march on Lanka to take over the Otherworld.
Aru’s biggest question, though, is why every adult she has loved and trusted so far has failed her. Will she come to peace with what they’ve done before she has to wage the battle of her life?

Book Cover

Review:
Aru Shah and the City of Gold is the fourth book in the Pandava Quartet. So, I’m going to preface by saying, if you haven’t read the first three books, you shouldn’t read this review. But you can find my spoiler free review for the first book here. I won’t be summarizing this book because so many things happen and also because there is a convenient summary at the beginning of this post.
So, when this book starts, we’ve just met Aru’s sister, her biological sister. This huge twist was revealed in the end of the third book. We get to know her sister, Kara, as the book progresses. I think what I love most about this series is the Aru Shah is decidedly imperfect. She is flawed. She makes mistakes. She upsets her Pandava siblings. I loved this aspect of the story. Aru makes mistakes and she learns from them. We follow along as she makes amends for those mistakes and made sure to do better in the future. I also love the found family aspect of this story. We have the Pandava siblings, who all have the reincarnated souls of the original Pandava’s. They are some of my favorite siblings. I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the twins. I feel like because they’re so young, they’re held back from being a part of the quests that the siblings go on. I’m hopeful that we will see them participate more in the final book.
There are so many things I love about this series. The characters are the number one, but the mythology that we see in this story is fascinating for me. I didn’t know much about Hindu mythology, so I really enjoyed learning all about the well-known figures.
Overall, I loved this book just as much as I’ve loved all the previous books. I think the mythology and the world is so much fun. It’s exciting and full of adventure. The characters are incredibly easy to love and you can’t help but root for them. I also have to say that Chokshi’s writing always stands out and this book is no different. I highly recommend this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

Summary:
Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she’s famous, privileged, has “the good hair”— and she’s an Eloko, a person who’s gifted with a song that woos anyone who hears it. Everyone loves her — well, until she’s cast as the awful person who exposed Tavia’s secret siren powers.
Now, she’s being dragged by the media. No one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, nor her Eloko community. But Naema knows the truth and is determined to build herself back up — no matter what.
When a new, flourishing segment of Naema’s online supporters start targeting black girls, however, Naema must discover the true purpose of her magical voice.

Book Cover

Review:
Thanks, NetGalley for this eARC, in return, here is my honest review. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoy this book. But at the same time, I wasn’t surprised because I absolutely loved A Song Below Water (reviewed here). A Chorus Rises is set in the same urban fantasy world, but in this one we follow Naema, who wasn’t a super nice person from Tavia’s perspective in A Song Below Water.
Despite actively disliking Naema for the first third of this book, I ended up really loving her. Our first look at Naema is in A Song Below Water which is from Tavia and Effie’s perspectives. These three girls do not get along at all. I think it’s important to mention that this is totally okay! Naema mentions often that just because they’re all black, doesn’t mean they all have to be best friends. They can want better for one another and still actively dislike each other. And I totally agree with that. You don’t have to be friends or even like someone to wish that they’re not being discriminated against because they’re a magical or black.
But the further we get into this story, the more I couldn’t help but like Naema. She’s genuinely funny. She has a confidence in herself that most people would love to have. But she’s also still growing. This book takes place about a year after the end of A Song Below Water. So, Naema has had some time to heal, emotionally, from being stoned. But Portland doesn’t feel the same to Naema anymore. She takes a break and goes to visit her family for their yearly reunion in the south. It’s here that Naema discovers that there’s more to being an Eloko than just the popularity she has in Portland. I really enjoyed getting to see Naema spend time with family she never sees and getting to know more about her Eloko abilities. I absolutely loved her cousin, Courtney. He’s hilarious and I think he was a great support system for Naema. Their relationship made me think of my cousins that were my best friends while I was growing up.
This story covers some really interesting topics that I didn’t see coming. There’s discussion of how easily online voices can be weaponized to do real harm to real people. I think the spotlight on “keyboard warriors” was an excellent one because what it takes to go from talking about doing something to actually doing it? It isn’t that much and it’s something that I don’t think is discussed enough or taken seriously enough. I liked how the friend group worked together to stop this aspect of the story. We get to see some unlikely allies and some healing. And we also get to see these teenagers be brave and do the right thing.
I would have liked for this book to have been longer. I think there were definitely some things mentioned in the story that didn’t really get explored. I’m thinking specifically of the Professor that was mentioned so many times. But we never actually meet her, even though what she’s researching aligns with what Naema is learning about herself. I would have liked to see more about Naema getting more of a handle on talking with the Ancestors. We do get a scene toward the end where things sort of click for Naema in regards to listening to the Ancestors and they help Naema realize that what she and her friends have done isn’t enough, that there’s still more to be done. But we didn’t get to see anymore after that.
Overall, I really grew to love Naema. She’s fierce and outspoken in the best ways. She’s brave and so smart. She knows that what she says hold weight because of her online following. She knows that even though she’s black, she has privilege that comes with being an Eloko. But she also talks about how being an Eloko doesn’t negate the struggles she faces as a black woman. As a queer, white woman, I could appreciate that aspect of the story. I think Namea’s voice is what made this story so gripping for me. Her internal voice was so thoughtful, even when she was angry or unsure. She’s funny and smart, caring and loyal, snarky and passionate. I really loved her by the end of the book. If you haven’t read A Song Below Water, please go do that. If you have, I think you’ll love A Chorus Rises just as much as the first book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Summary:
Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Cruel Prince.
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

Book Cover

Review:
I honestly don’t even remember buying this book. It’s made it to my unhaul pile twice and somehow ended up back on my TBR shelf both times. I’m so glad that I didn’t end up giving it away. I picked this book for my June TBR Jar Picks as the Favorite of a Friend prompt. So, thank you Alana for making me finally read this one. As soon as I’m done with this review, I’ll be starting the second book even though it’s not on my actual TBR for this month.
So, we follow Liesl (also called Elizabeth) on the last night of the year. She’s become the one that takes care of her siblings, so on the night that her younger brother has an audition to possibly study as an apprentice musician, that’s supposed to be her focus. But her sister Kathe, goes missing. There’s a lot going on in this first part of the book. We see Elizabeth in her life, taking care of her siblings, thinking about her own passions, but only ever doing things for her family. We see her not choose herself again and again in the first part of this book. Then Kathe is taken, and Elizabeth must make a deal with the Goblin King to get her back. The must complete three tasks to succeed.
Now, I was immediately hooked on this book. Seriously, in the first ten pages, the writing really sucked me in. It’s lyrical without being over the top. It’s beautiful writing that really leaves an impression. I cannot say enough good things about Jae-Jones’s writing. I would say that it’s what made this book as good as it is, but there’s also the characters and the stunning setting of the Underground. So, really everything about this book stands out. I really liked Elizabeth. I liked her when she made sure to care for her siblings. I liked her when she was conflicted between helping her brother or her sister. But I liked her best of all when she finally chose herself.
The romance between Elizabeth and the Goblin King was absolutely to die for. He and Elizabeth were friends when she was a child. She thought the games they used to play were dreams though. I liked how their relationship developed. It wasn’t instant love; they were friends when she was a child and she starts to remember that the longer she’s Underground. I liked seeing Elizabeth push the Goblin King’s buttons and he pushed hers in return. The ending did not go how I expected at all which is why I’m so eager to read the second book.
Overall, Wintersong surprised the heck out of me. I loved the interesting world and magic. The characters were easy to love and really made me feel things. I also thought the plot was easy to follow and well done. I loved all of the creatures in the Underground. I just really enjoyed this book and I would absolutely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
The wolves are circling. And Ravka’s time is running out.
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.
The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve been sitting here starting at this blank page trying to figure out what to say about Rule of Wolves. But I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how to put my thoughts about this book into words. But I’m going to try my best. I had a hell of a time getting this book into my possession. I preordered from my local independent bookstore and two weeks later I found out I was moving. Apparently, there’s something wonky about this bookstore shipping to my new house because two of the preorders never made it to me. So, it took me almost two months to finally get this book. I do have to say that my local indie store was amazing throughout all of this. Now, Rule of Wolves was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 because I absolutely love the Grishverse. I especially love Nikolai and Zoya, so I think this duology are my favorite books in this world. I loved this book. I started it around 7:30pm and couldn’t put it down until I finished it around 2am. So, I read this 600 page book in about 6 hours, it was that good that I legitimately didn’t get off the couch until I was done.
So, we follow Nina, Nikolai, and Zoya as well as a few other characters here and there after the events of King of Scars. We see Nikolai and Zoya working together and sometimes apart, to prepare Ravka for war with the Fjerdans. But there’s more than the politics and planning of a potential war that’s on the horizon. There’s also the issue of the plot twist that was revealed at the end of King of Scars. That twist, which I won’t spoil, plays a pretty big role in this story’s plot. I liked how this aspect of the plot brought out character we’d already met. We get to see Alina and Mal and that made my heart so happy. We get to see all of the crows at different points. We also follow Nina who has been working undercover in Fjerda. She and Hanne have made it to the capital and are living with Hanne’s parents. They’re working together, to get close to the pretender to Ravka’s throne and other important people in the Fjerdian government so that Nina can get as much information as possible to send back to Ravka.
Nikolai’s journey was a compelling one. He’s still working on how to figure out how to rid himself of the monster inside him. But he might just be starting to accept that he will never be rid of the monster. I loved getting his perspective, getting to see things from his point of view was the best. I love that despite all the darkness that Nikolai has faced, he’s still kept his sense of humor, even if it is just an act sometimes. His jokes and humor really bring a bit of light to the darkness in this story. I just love Nikolai with my whole heart.
It’s Zoya’s part of the story that I loved the most though. Zoya is such a fascinating character to me. I really didn’t like her in Shadow and Bone, but I grew to love her by the end of that trilogy. And now, in the Nikolai duology, she’s grown so much, but still has some growing to do. I felt honored to follow along on her emotional journey. She knows her place is as Nikolai’s general, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting more, from having feelings for her king. Zoya does so much in this book and the way that her story ended had me absolutely screaming. I love Zoya so much. She is fiery and fierce, abrasive and blunt, loyal and dedicated. Zoya is so many things that you wouldn’t know from the way she presents herself. But she also grows so much. I just cannot say enough good things about Zoya in this book.
Finally, there’s Nina. I didn’t love Nina’s storyline in the first book. I loved Nina in Six of Crows, but in this duology she’s grieving. But she’s also working undercover for Ravka. She’s ferreting out Fjerdian secrets to send back to Ravka, to help Nikolai. While all of that is going on, she’s trying to save as many Grisha as she can. But she’s also falling in love again. I thought this was an interesting choice for Nina’s storyline, but I could help but really enjoy it. Especially the character that she fell in love with. Nina is the same fiery, funny woman we know from the Six of Crows duology, but she’s faced even more darkness now. So, it was a joy to get to see her fall in love again. I liked Hanne. I really did. I think they’re well suited and I enjoyed watching them scheme and work together.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I think this duology is my favorite series in the Grishaverse. I love Nikolai and I love Zoya and I love Nina. I think the writing was excellent. The story gripped me from the first page until the last. I loved all of the twists and the turns. The way that everything came together toward the end of the book felt like absolute perfection. After spending so long reading about these characters, it felt like all the choices made were right and natural for the characters we’ve gotten to know over the last six books. I also was really happy with how the book concluded. I think the conclusion was also absolute perfection. I especially loved that Rule of Wolves was wrapped up nicely, not totally neatly, but nice enough for me. But there was a door left open for more, I’m thinking for the rumored third Six of Crows book, but who knows what else Bardugo might be cooking up for the Grishaverse.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Book Cover

Review:
We Hunt the Flame is a book that I’ve heard such mixed reviews about. I know some people that absolutely love it and it’s one of their new favorite series, some that DNF’d it, and others just read the whole thing but just didn’t like it. I fell on the side that liked it. I really enjoyed this book. Now, it wasn’t perfect, but I did really enjoy it. I didn’t really get into it until the first 100 pages or so, but that’s pretty normal for me with new fantasy books or series.
We’re following two main characters, Zafira and Nasir. Zafira is known as the Hunter because she is the only one that can make it back out of the Arz the same as when she went in. She provides most of the meat for her people. But no one knows that the Hunter is a woman. I really liked Zafira and her emotional journey. She’s revealed that the Hunter is a woman as she’s leaving for a quest to find a lost artifact that might be able to restore magic to Arawiya. But even after she leaves, she struggles to really shed the cloak that has disguised her for so long. She also has some other things she’s still working through, grief for her father, her best friend has just gotten married (is it just me or did their friendship feel a little romantic with the way Zafira thought about Yasmine?), she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years despite living in the same house as her. She just has a lot going on. I liked that her identity as the Hunter wasn’t her only personality trait. I didn’t like that much of this book was Zafira struggling with romantic feelings for a man that she thinks murdered her best friend. We as the reader knew that it wasn’t him, but she thought it was and developed feelings for him anyway and I didn’t love that.
Nasir is the Prince of Death. He is the prince of Arawiya, but in reality, he’s the Sultan’s assassin. His father treats him terribly, but Nasir still does his bidding because if he doesn’t, those he cares for will pay the price. Nasir is sent to follow the Hunter and kill them once they’ve found the lost object. Altair is sent along on this mission and Nasir is ordered to come back alone and with the object. Nasir’s emotional journey was a really interesting one too. He doesn’t want to be his father’s killer, but he also wants to gain his father’s love. He remembers a time when his father acted like a different man and he wishes he could see that man again. So, he does as ordered, until he meets Zafira and learns that the legendary Hunter is a woman. Nasir, Altair, and Zafira end up traveling together because there’s safety in numbers. Nasir starts to like both Zafira and Altair. He’s conflicted because he’s been tasked with killing both and they all know it.
Altair was absolutely my favorite character. He’s the comedic relief that the story needed when there were some particularly tense moments. I loved all of his ridiculous comments and additions to the conversation. I think the secrets and twists that involve him were excellently revealed and definitely surprised me. I cannot wait to see what’s going to happen with him in the next book with where he was left at the end of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a bit too much of the romance aspect for my liking. Like I wrote above, Zafira spends a lot of this book feeling romantic things for someone that she thinks murdered her best friend. I do think that I will like this relationship more in the second book depending on how things go. But there was a lot of inner yearning and pining and I would have liked more of a balance between that and the action and adventure of the rest of the story. I really liked the plot and world. I really like the characters. I think the writing was beautiful and lyrical but not so flowery that it took away from the story. I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen in the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Amanda’s Favorite Retellings

Hey, lovelies! I used to read so many retellings, fairytale, folklore, and mythological retellings were a huge favorite genre of mine for a really long time. But I think I’m growing out of that. I’ve noticed that I don’t gravitate toward picking them up anymore. I will say that I do still read mythological retellings, and pretty often, especially now that we’re branching away from the typical Greek and Roman mythologies. I’ve also been discovering retellings other than fairytale and folklore. You will find some of those on this list. So, today I want to share some retellings that I really enjoyed.

Book Cover

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses which was one of my favorite fairytales as a kid. I’d never read a retelling of this one before, and I think this one was excellent. I don’t know if it’s actually considered horror, but it definitely has some horror elements. Annaleigh is one of twelve siblings. But four of her siblings have died, one at a time, and Annaleigh doesn’t think that they were accidents. I really loved this book. It stayed true to the heart of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairytale and added some really cool horror elements. The setting was creepy and atmospheric.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, sort of. This is a four book series that follows Charlotte Homes and Jamie Watson. They are the descendents of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Charlotte and Jamie find themselves at the same boarding school and when a student is found murdered, they obviously must solve the mystery. I loved this whole series. There are a lot of hard hitting topics like mental health and drug use. There’s even a little bit of romance. This is one of the books I was talking about when I said I was finding and enjoying retellings outside of fairytales. This is a retelling of an older book series and I thought it was so interesting and I loved all of the characters.

Book Cover

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
We have here a Henry VIII retelling. I actually didn’t know that this was a Shakespeare retelling until after I finished it. I think I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it in the description as I’m not a fan of Shakespeare at all. Despite that, I really enjoyed this modern retelling. I thought the mystery was well done and I really liked the characters. We follow Annie, nicknamed “Cleves”, and Henry. They are best friends, but they also briefly dated. Out of all of Henry’s ex-girlfriends, Cleves is the only one that has remained friends with him. She doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious about that, but after talking to some of his ex’s she might be changing her mind. I liked the mystery in this one because I couldn’t decide whether of not Henry was actually guilty right until the end of the book.

Book Cover

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
This one is more inspired by than a true retelling, but I really loved it so I had to add it to this list. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, this is a dark and gritty story of revenge. In a small town in Ohio lives Tress and Felicity, two girls that used to be best friends. When Tress’s parents went missing, Felicity was with them, but she claims not to remember anything about what happened. Tress doesn’t believe her and she’s determined to get the truth out of Felicity, even if that means sealing her up, brick by brick. This book was weird and dark as hell and I cannot wait for the sequel.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This series is a pretty popular one, but this first book is my favorite of the series. It’s a historical retelling with a fantasy twist. This one is a bit less retelling than it is fantasy. We follow Lady Jane Grey as she’s about to become queen. But her cousin is determined to see her married. The only problem is that the love interest, G, turns into a horse everyday at dawn. This added some hilarity to the story. I loved this book because it was funny but it also had an interesting historical feel.

Book Cover

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Another popular one, but this is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. We get to see her childhood and the events that led up to the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. There’s lots of baking and love and fun in this book. There’s love and romance, but also betrayal and heartbreak. I thought this was a really great retelling or rather a prequel story.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
This one is more of an after sort of retelling. In this one, we get to see what happens to Cinderella’s stepsisters after Cinderella meets and marries her Prince Charming. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one because the main character that we follow, Isabelle. She’s the stepsister that cut off her toes to try and fit in the glass slipper. Isabelle is a pretty unlikeable character, but the way that this story is told really helped that. Instead of just Isabelle’s perspective, we see a point of view from Fate, who is following the map of Isabelle’s life. They’re watching to see what path Isabelle might take and if she will veer away from the path expected for her. I thought this was a really unique retelling about a character that most people don’t think of in the Cinderella story.

Book Cover

And I Darken by Kiersten White
We have a historical retelling, which surprisingly end up being some of my favorites. I don’t really love historical fiction, but there’s something about a really good historical retelling that keeps me engaged in the story. We follow Lada and Radu. This is a gender bent retelling of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is a vicious and angry girl. She’s determined to prove that she is worthy to her father, but when she and her brother, Radu, are sent as gifts to be raised in the Ottoman courts, she feels nothing but betrayal. This is a really slow moving story, but it’s so worth it. We see Lada grow from a vicious girl into a lethal young woman. I absolutely loved it.

These are some of my favorite retellings. I’ve had so much fun finding new kinds of retellings from alternate historical retellings to retellings of other fiction works, to some more unique fairytale and folklore stories. Do you have any favorite retellings? Leave a comment and share them with me!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
After siphoning her own blood to defeat her enemy, Opal Cowan has lost her powers. More, she’s immune to the effects of magic. Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying on those with the powers she once had, powers that make a difference in her world.
Until spying through the glass becomes her new power. Suddenly the beautiful pieces she makes flash in the presence of magic. She also discovers that someone has stolen some of her blood and that finding it might let her regain her powers. Or learn if they’re lost forever.

Book Cover

Review:
I don’t know what happened with this series. I loved the Study trilogy so much, but this companion series just isn’t as good. I really loved Opal as a character in the first two books, but in this finale, she’s not in a good place. She takes risks she shouldn’t. She hurts so many people. And falls in love with someone she used to hate (and not in the fun enemies-to-lovers kind of way) like this dude is really bad. I don’t know, I can’t say only negative things about Spy Glass because I did still enjoy it while I was reading it. It’s got the same dark and gritty feel to the Study trilogy, but it felt way more all over the place. There was too much going on at once to the point where it felt like the story had no plot. But when the pieces did finally start to come together it made a bit more sense. Even then, Opal follows the most winding and convoluted path to the end of this book. It felt like there was so much going on that some things were lost in the story. There were so many litter details from the previous books that had a big impact on this third book, but I never would have guessed because they were made to seem pretty minor in the perilous books.
Anyway, enough griping. I did really enjoy this book and the series overall. There’s action and adventure, danger and high stakes, romance and hatred. I think Snyder knows how to write a story that will keep me compelled until the end even if I don’t like some of the characters. I do have to say though, I loved what we got to see of characters we knew from all of the books in the World of Ixia. Those familiar faces made it a bit easier, especially around the characters I don’t like. It was fascinating to see Opal be put into the one situation she’s been trying to avoid the whole series. I think that specific challenge really brought something extra go the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Summertime Book Recommendations

Hello, lovelies! I had a great time picking books for my Springtime Book Recommendations post that I thought I would continue the trend now that Summer is upon us. I have some books I’m really excited to share with you all. I do have to say that quite a few of these are pirate stories, as I almost always read those in the summertime. But, I do also have some good fantasy and romance of varying age ranges.

Young Adult

Book Cover

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
“Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life. Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers. Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl? Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.”

Book Cover

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield
“Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica. When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him. In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane. Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.”

Book Cover

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
“This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her. Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?”

Book Cover

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
“As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus. Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him. Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.”

Book Cover

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
“Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her. Born in a lab, M0Rr1S was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for the love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does. Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.”

Book Cover

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemore
“There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.”

Book Cover

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
“Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there. When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all. As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.”

Book Cover

Fable by Adrienne Young
“For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father. But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive. Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.”

Book Cover

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
“In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET
Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

Book Cover

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
“At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme. On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?”

Adult

Book Cover

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together. Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since. Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees. Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?”

Book Cover

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
“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…”

Book Cover

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.”

Book Cover

Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker
“Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway. On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus, she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day. Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group Industries, and coincidentally the first love of her life. The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counsellors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name. Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is not only alive but stronger than ever, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.”

Book Cover

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

Book Cover

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
“An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging. Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total. On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security. But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.”

Book Cover

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
“This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.”

These are all books I’ve read and absolutely loved. I think they’d be perfect summertime reads. Let me know if you’ve read any of these in the comments. Feel free to share any books that you think are good to read in the summertime.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

Book Cover

Review:
Winterkeep starts off a few years after the ending of Bitterblue. I thought this was an interesting choice since much of this series has had a focus on Bitterblue. She feels like the heart of this series. But this time, we’re seeing Bitterblue as a fully established Queen. We’re also not only following Bitterblue, but we get Giddon’s point of view as well as a young teenager from Winterkeep. Lovisa Cavenda was my biggest problem with this book. I’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
I really liked getting to see more of this world. I thought it was interesting that instead of seeing more of Monsea or the Dells, we see a whole new part of the world. This book primarily takes place in Winterkeep. A newly discovered place that is a part of Torla. Monsea is Winterkeep’s closest neighbor. I though this new place was interesting. They’re more technologically advanced than Monsea, they have airships which was a fun addition to the story. But not everything is as it seems in Winterkeep. When two of Bitterblue’s envoys die suspiciously, it’s decided that Bitterblue, Giddon, and some advisors are going to travel there.
This is when the story really starts to get going. Like her previous books, this one was a bit slow going. But I still enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook and I really loved the narrator. They did a great job with all the different characters and voices. I would definitely listen to more audiobooks with this narrator. Now, the characters.
Bitterblue is the same girl we came to know and love from the previous books. But at times, it felt like she forgot that she was a literal queen and made herself smaller because of the situation she managed to get into. I still loved her though.
Giddon was interesting because he’s grieving for most of this book. We see him lose control of his emotions again and again. But he’s still the same Giddon from the previous books. I thought it was interesting to see him express himself, we get to see him let his emotions out, but still mostly manage to focus on the goal he came to Winterkeep to achieve.
Now, Lovisa. She’s the daughter of two people in the Winterkeep parliament. But they are both of opposing political parties. There’s a bit of unrest in Winterkeep as an important vote is about to come up. Lovisa made me mad because she could have been an amazing character. But she finds out about things her parents have done and instead of telling literally anyone, she keeps it all to herself. She eventually tries to fix the situation, but things get so much worse before she does that. I just wanted her to do something, anything really. Because of her inaction, people are killed. I also didn’t like how she used people. She has sex with a few different people in this book, which is fine, but she uses sex to get herself out of trouble and that led to others getting in trouble. She almost used it as a weapon, and then felt bad about it. I didn’t like that. I think people should have sex with whoever they want, but Lovisa always knew she wasn’t doing the right thing and felt bad about it afterward. It also seemed like she was attracted to girls, but that wasn’t ever confirmed so it felt like queerbating. I just genuinely didn’t like Lovisa, which was a bummer because she had the potential to be a really interesting character.
Overall, despite not liking one of the main characters, I still enjoyed this book. There’s interesting politics that we see unfold. There’s action, adventure, but there’s also several different emotional journeys that we get to see unfold. I also was very intrigued by the blue foxes that are well known in Winterkeep. I’ll be interested to see if/how they play a part in future books. I liked that we got to see characters we know and already love, but we also got to get to know some new ones. If you liked the first three Graceling books, I think you’ll like this one too.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi

Summary:
It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.
It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.
Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

Book Cover

Review:
The authors publicist reached out to me to see if I wanted to read an early copy of this book in exchange for a review. I’m so glad that I said yes. I love middle grade books, but I don’t seem to gravitate toward picking them up often. I always enjoy reading them. There’s just something so wholesome about middle grade stories (even the ones with serious topics) that I really love.
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar follows Rea who finds herself on a quest to find her missing brother. While on this quest, she discovers another world, a world where she and her brother are royalty. The story starts with Rea (who lives in India) being an angry young girl. She’s angry when she feels her Amma favoring her brother, Rohan. She’s angry when she feels her brother is distancing himself from her. She’s angry that Rohan doesn’t want to know more about their Baba. She doesn’t really have any friends. She’s really struggling with her negative feelings. I have to say that Rea’s growth away from this anger and her instinct to make selfish choices was so well done. The author did it in a way that was believable and really made the reader care for Rea.
The world building was also really well done. We are learning about this magical world right alongside Rea. I thought this world that had a sort of plant-based magic was so interesting. I think it was well enough explained to understand, but it wasn’t totally clear what the rules or limits of this magic was. We got a bit more clarity about that with the shadow magic that the queen uses. With the way this story ended, I definitely think we will get some clarity about that in the second book.
I loved all of the side characters. I really love Leela and the way she befriended Rea. I also liked Xee. He was a local to the magical world and showed Rea and Leela around. I liked that he was brave, but that didn’t make him impulsive. I think they were great supporting characters and I’m excited to see more of them in future books.
Overall, I really loved this story. I loved the setting of India and the bits of Indian culture we get to see before Rea discovers the magical world. I thought the world and the magic was so interesting and I really felt like I could root for all the characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
Like the colorful pieces of sea glass washed up on shore, Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents. But instead of finding a tranquil eddy, Opal is caught in a riptide. Her unique glass messengers which allow instant communication over vast distances have become a vital part of Sitian society. Once used solely by the Councilors and magicians, other powerful factions are now vying for control. Control of the messengers equals control of Sitia. Unfortunately that also means control of Opal. If that isn’t enough of a problem, Opal’s determination to prove blood magic is still being used is met with strong resistance. The Council doubts her, her mentor doubts her, and even her family is concerned. When her world is turned upside down, she begins to doubt herself. In the end, Opal must decide who to believe, who to trust, and who has control—otherwise she will shatter into a million pieces and be swept out by the tide.

Book Cover

Review:
Sea Glass is the second book in the Glass trilogy but the fifth book in the World of Ixia. I’ve grown to love the world and most of the characters and I think this has allowed me to overlook some things about this book that I wouldn’t normally overlook.
I have to say that I did really enjoy this book while I was reading it. But now that I’m finished, I can’t help but ask, “what the hell was Opal thinking?” And obviously we see much of what Opal was thinking and I still have no idea why she thought her ideas were good ones. I think I’m having a hard time because much of what Opal’s gotten herself into is her own fault. So, I guess that says good things about how much of an active protagonist she is. But she also makes some really poor choices that I just don’t really understand. She continually trusts the wrong people, she doesn’t confide in anyone she can actually trust, and those she does trust and confide in often get caught in the crossfire trying to help her.
I think the plot was interesting but I feel like I don’t know where it’s going. A big thing happened at the end of this story and I’m not sure how it’s going to affect where I thought the plot was going. I would say it was a pretty good plot twist, but I won’t be able to say that confidently until I see where things will go in the third book.
I will say that Opal has grown so much in this book. She’s not the timid girl that says yes to everyone and allows herself to get walked all over. She listens to others but ultimately does what she thinks is best. I liked the character development.
Overall, it was a sort of all over the place story. I did enjoy it while I was reading but I feel like I’ve just been left wondering what the heck just happened. I’m going to continue onto the next book and see if things get better for Opal (but honestly, they’ll probably get worse, at least for a little while).

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.