Blogmas Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

GoodReads Summary:
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
The Once and Future WitchesReview:
Last year, I read Harrow’s debut novel (The Ten Thousand Doors of January) and it was easily one of my absolute favorite books of 2019. Well, Harrow has done it again. I’m glad I picked up The Once and Future Witches before 2020 was over so that I can happily say this book is absolutely one of my top favorite books of 2020.
Harrow created such an incredible story. I first want to talk about the powerful and stunning writing. I don’t often sticky tab my books, but I went through three packs of sticky tabs just marking lines that really stuck out to me. I cannot get enough of Harrow’s writing. I was in awe after her debut, but I am doubly in awe now. She has the ability and creativity to write such stunning prose that really packs a punch. I adored all of the little things too. The chapters starting with each sister and mimicking how they were all introduced, this continuing through the book when the sisters were apart. I just cannot get over how beautifully written this book was.
Now, the plot. It was just as excellent as the writing. We follow three sisters, James Juniper (June, the youngest sister), Agnes Amaranth (Agnes, the middle sister), and Beatrice Belladonna (Bella, the eldest sister). The sisters grew up in the south with a father that was abusive and a mother that died giving birth to June. When June was still just a kid, Agnes and Bella left and June felt abandoned. The two older sisters both had their reasons for leaving (yes, I did absolutely love how this aspect of the story came full circle when the two finally talked about it). Flash forward to present day, somehow, all three sisters have ended up in New Salem. June is hiding from the law, so of course, the first thing she does after arriving in New Salem is join in at a Suffragist protest where women are demanding their right to vote. Agnes is newly pregnant and works in a mill, living in a quiet boarding house. She’s unsure about keeping the baby and knows the father cannot love all of her. She’s walking home from work and also finds herself at this protest. Bella, a librarian, (yes, this is exactly the shit I live for, so thank you Alix Harrow) finds hidden words she remembers her grandmother, Mags, saying to them and she finds herself drawn to the protest and saying the words. Suddenly, there is a link between the sisters and Bella is saying the words. A tower appears and this is where the story starts. I don’t want to go too much into the plot except to say that it was a slow story, but I devoured every page. I loved the meandering story that showed us who these sisters really were and would become. All three have issues from their childhood that they need to overcome, grudges to forgive one another for, and secrets they’re not sure they’re ready to share. I love these three with my whole heart.
I do want to mention that the side characters are just as incredible as the sisters. There are a diverse cast of supporting characters, from black female love interests (yes, there is indeed a female/female romance, thank you again for this), to a trans woman. I love that though this is a historical story, there were still diverse characters that were included. I can’t speak to the representation as I am not trans or black, but from an outside perspective these characters seemed to be portrayed thoughtfully and with purpose. I liked that the female love interest was black because it brought this new perspective of what life in New Salem during this time period was like for people of color, something the sisters might not have thought about.
The magic in The Once and Future Witches was absolutely fascinating. Each chapter was started with a spell. In this story, you must know the words, the ways, and have the will. I thought this was such an interesting way to do magic. I really liked the messages that were shared with the magic. That women are powerful and smart. They know not to write these things down and instead pass them to their daughters in songs, children’s rhymes, and things that men wouldn’t even suspect. I adored the magic and the way that women came together to work this magic and teach one another the few things they’d learned in their lives.
Overall, this is absolutely one of my favorite books of 2020. Harrow is easily a favorite author of mine and I am dying to know what she will publish next. This book and everything about it was nothing short of a stunning master piece and I already cannot wait to reread so I can highlight and underline all of my favorite parts. If you like witches, historical fiction, women empowering other woman, and diverse stories, then this is the book for you.

Quotes:

“One witch you can laugh at. Three you can burn. But what do you do with a hundred?”

“If he peeled back her pretty skin he’d find nothing soft or sweet at all, just busted glass and ashes and the desperate, animal will to stay alive.”

“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”

“A girl is such an easy thing to break: weak and fragile, all alone, all yours. But they aren’t girls anymore, and they don’t belong to anyone. And they aren’t alone.”

“Because it’s easy to ignore a woman.” Juniper’s lips twist in a feral smile. “But a hell of a lot harder to ignore a witch.”

“Seems to me they’re the same thing, more of less. Witching and women’s rights. Suffrage and spells. They’re both…They’re both a kind of power, aren’t they? The kind we aren’t allowed to have.”

“She is a silhouette on the windowsill, an apparition in the alley, a woman there and gone again. She is a pocket full of witch-ways and a voice whispering the right words to the right woman, the clack of a cane against cobbles.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

GoodReads Summary:
They call him the Duke of Ruin.
To an undaunted wallflower, he’s just the beast next door.
Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society—and now he wants to get even.
Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart.
When her imposing—and attractive—new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals, Penny sets him a challenge. She will part with her precious charges, if he can find them loving homes.
Done, Gabriel says. How hard can it be to find homes for a few kittens?
And a two-legged dog.
And a foul-mouthed parrot.
And a goat, an otter, a hedgehog . . .
Easier said than done, for a cold-blooded bastard who wouldn’t know a loving home from a workhouse. Soon he’s covered in cat hair, knee-deep in adorable, and bewitched by a shyly pretty spinster who defies his every attempt to resist. Now she’s set her mind and heart on saving him.
Not if he ruins her first.
The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke, #3)Review:
I just love this series. I immediately loved Gabriel Duke from the moment Penny met him while he was wearing nothing but a towel and she was trying to find her parrot. I already loved Penny from the previous books and I really enjoyed getting to know more about her history that led her to where she is now.
I also really enjoyed getting to know Duke. He’s just like another one of Penny’s strays that just need to be loved. He has a not so great past and I really enjoyed seeing him try to work through that with Penny’s help.
The two make a deal to get rid of all the animals that Penny has rescued. This is not as easy as Duke thinks it will be. I loved this aspect of the story because it keeps pushing the couple together, even though they’ve vowed not to be alone together. Their banter and antics were really the best part of this book.
I also really loved that we still got to see Penny’s friends. I loved that the couples from the two previous books are a part of this one too. I also really enjoyed that things were sort of set up a little bit to get the reader excited for the next book.
Overall, I loved this book. I love this series. These wallflowers are some of my favorite characters to read about. I love seeing them get their happy endings. This book was funny and full of love. I definitely recommend this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Winters

GoodReads Summary:
Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.
Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.
Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?
To Have and to HoaxReview:
This book was fun. We follow James and Violet after they’ve been married five years. But something happened four years ago, something that was supposed to be mysterious and it was because we didn’t find out what the fight was about until about halfway. But it was a bit repetitive. The way both James and Violet talked about their fight, they both said the same things over and over. That was a little annoying, but it’s a small thing.
I was anticipating more hilarity from the premise saying that they were going to go back and forth essentially lying to one another, but it wasn’t as fast-paced as I thought it would be. Though it was slow, I still enjoyed it. The end third of the book was the best. When the couple finally acknowledge that they know what the other has been up to is when things got interesting for me.
Overall, this book was enjoyable. I thought it was fun and silly. I liked James and Violet and I liked them even better once they fixed their issues and got back together.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

GoodReads Summary:
Welcome to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.
JANE (a genuine hero-eene)
Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.
FRANK (*wolf whistle*)
Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .
ANNIE (get your gun!)
Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.
A HAIRY SITUATION
After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.
My Calamity Jane (The Lady Janies, #3)Review:
I absolutely adored the first two books written by the Lady Janies, so I knew I was going to read this one. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction (I do find ones I love now and then) and even further, westerns are not my jam at all. I did find myself enjoying this book despite those things. The narrators really make these books so fun with their little inserts and side notes.
The characters really made this story. I love the found family trope and this book didn’t disappoint in that aspect. We follow Calamity Jane, Wild Bill, Frank, and Annie Oakley. The first three are already a team, traveling the country for their show. But they’re also undercover Garou (read: werewolves) hunters. Annie comes in when she realizes the show is going to be close to where she lives. She travels to see the show and then challenges Frank to a competition to prove that Annie is a better sharpshooter. I really loved Annie. She was such a go-getter. She’s confident in her abilities and never backed down from a challenge. She’s smart and got herself into situations that were just hilarious, but also often helpful. She sees things that the others don’t. But she also has some prejudices from her childhood that she needs to get over. Jane gets herself into some trouble early into their investigation. But rather than sharing with her makeshift family, she tries to figure a way out herself. I hate secret-keeping and there was a lot of it in this story. So, much could have been avoided if only the four had just told the whole truth to one another. Regardless, this found family got up to some real western antics. I mostly enjoyed the action and the drama. I liked that Indigenous people were included in the story as eventual friends of Annie. I thought it was a good part of the story.
Overall, this wasn’t a new favorite, but it was a fun read. I liked the characters. I really enjoyed the way that the Lady Janies tell their stories. There was mystery and drama, action, and suspense. It was enough to keep me interested.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

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

Quotes:

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?
Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.
But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.
Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.
Bright We Burn (The Conqueror's Saga, #3)Review:
Wow, this finale was a wild ride. Like the second book, Lada somehow managed to be even more savage. If you read this, the scene where she’s meeting with all the boyars and that’s all I have to say about it. I still loved her. She was fierce and absolutely apologetic about it. Though, I was very sad about all of her friends. I mentioned in my review for book two that her friends and fellow soldiers were some of the best parts of her chapters and that was slowly lost in this book. Knowing Lada as well as we do in this book, I wasn’t surprised by her choices but they definitely made me sad for her.
Radu is the best soft boy there ever was. He really struggles with the choices he’s made in the past, but he’s working toward being better and making more choices for himself rather than for others. I really loved the way that Radu’s story ended. He did the best he could with what he had and he managed to make a beautiful family from it. I’m not sure that I mentioned it in my previous reviews, but Radu is gay. This is something he struggles with within the first two books. But he manages to find another love, after finally making the choice to move on from his feelings for Mehmed. He married a woman who was a lesbian and the three of them lived together, but when Radu’s love finally came to him I was so happy. Radu deserves all the happiness in the world.
Overall, I loved this book and I loved this series. I thought this was a mostly satisfying conclusion to such an incredible series. I’m left with questions that are mostly to do with how Lada’s story played out and the in-between bits we didn’t get to see before jumping to the epilogue, but as a whole, this was an incredible conclusion. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Quotes:

“That is the thing with giving your heart. You never wait for someone to ask. You hold it out and hope they want it.”

“Lada had always known exactly what shape she would take. She had never let it be determined by the people around her. But Radu could not escape the need for love, the need for people in his life to help him see what he should—and could—be. Lada shaped herself in spite of her environment. Radu shaped himself because of it.”

“She drummed her fingers on the arms of the throne, looking out at the empty room. She was not stupid enough to think men would stop trying to take it from her. They would always be there, waiting for weakness, waiting for her to fall. They wanted what she had because she had it. And one day, eventually, someone would defeat her. But until that day she would fight with tooth and nail, with all the fire and blood that had formed her into who she was. She was a dragon. She was a prince. She was a woman. It was the last that scared them most of all.”

“There was something to be said for having his heart broken so many times. Broken things healed thicker and stronger than they were before. Assuming one survived long enough to heal.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.
Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Saga, #2)Review:
Where to start? If I thought Lada was savage and fierce in the first book, she is ten times that in this second book. She basically kills her way to the throne and I loved every single page of it. I love her friends and fellow soldiers that she takes with her on her path back to the Wallachian throne. I love that, while she is their leader, she listens to them and considers them friends. She takes their advice into consideration. She really cares about them and them about her. They make her more likable because it’s clear that she loves them all.
Radu is off in a completely different part of the world than his sister and with his own mission. Radu’s part of the story honestly just made me sad. Both siblings struggle with their feelings for their childhood friend, Mehmed. But with Radu, it’s worse because he’s doing things he never would have if not for Mehmed, while Lada has proven, again and again, she’ll do anything to get her throne. Radu does things he is very ashamed of but continues doing them all because of his love for Mehmed. It made me sad because of the life that he could have had. But he made his choices. It’s made very clear that everything he does is a choice that he’s thought about.
I thought it was very interesting to see how the siblings both handled the struggle that was their love for Mehmed. Honestly, I was hoping Mehmed would die most of the book so they could both be free. I also liked that we got both Radu’s and Lada’s stories even though they were both in different countries. Though it did make me sad they weren’t together. I’m hoping they get to reunite in the final book.
Overall, just like book one, I was blown away by Kiersten White’s writing. The history was fascinating, but the way that White brought these characters to life, made me care about them even though they’re both pretty terrible was amazing. I’m typing this on my phone so that I can continue on to the final book right now and not worry about mixing details up for whichever book. Please go read this series if you like historical fiction, savage female leads, and soft boys doing terrible things for love.

Quotes:

“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge. Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”

“I cannot imagine a god who hates anything that is love, any way we find to take tender care of each other. I want you to find that same love, and I never want you to hate yourself for any love that is in you.”

“I think if you had been born a boy, perhaps you would have been satisfied with what the world offered you. That is how we are alike. We saw everything that was not ours, and we hungered. Do not lose that hunger. You will always have to fight for everything. Even when you already have it, you will have to keep fighting to maintain it. You will have to be more ruthless, more brutal, more everything. Any weakness will undo everything you have accomplished. They will see any crack as evidence that they were right that a woman cannot do what you do.”

“He was no longer a lost little boy in a strange new city. Now he was a lost man in a broken old city, and no amount of prayers and kindness could undo what had been done.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)Review:
This is an alternate historical fiction retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler. In Kiersten White’s story, Vlad is a girl named Lada. And damn is she fierce. She is vicious and unforgiving. She cares for no one and nothing except for her home country Wallachia (and sometimes her younger brother, Radu). But being a girl in the 1400s her father doesn’t care much about her at all. She lives to prove her worth and to get his attention. Her life changes forever when her father leaves Lada and Radu with the Ottoman Empire as a sort of collateral to ensure that he sticks to their treaty.
This story was tough because it follows Lada from her birth to her later teenage years. So, there are slower parts of the story and more fast-paced parts. But throughout, you can’t help but like Lada because she doesn’t want to be just another girl to be used to secure a politically advantageous marriage. She wants to be a ruler. She will be in charge of her life. I liked that she was supposed to be unlikable and ugly. I’m definitely excited to see where the next book in the series will go for her.
Now, sweet Radu. I loved and pitied him. It wasn’t hard to feel sorry for him for the first 100 pages or so. He was horribly bullied for being small and sensitive. Lada and her childhood friend were pretty horrible to him, but Lada occasionally stuck up for him against others. It was a confusing relationship. I liked the sibling aspect of the story even though it was certainly not a traditional sibling dynamic. I really enjoyed Radu’s story once he learned more about Islam. I thought that was a great addition to the story as we got to learn a bit about it alongside him. And it’s obvious how he changes after finding faith.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were diverse characters, Radu is in love with his and Lada’s closest friend in the Ottoman Empire (but Lada loves him too which makes it a little weird) and there is another character that’s friends with Radu that mentions being with both genders. There is also a lesbian couple (in hiding because it’s the 1400s, but it’s there). I liked that even though it’s not a time period that these things were generally accepted, White still included them. These relationships would have existed whether out in the open or not. The story was well written and interesting. The characters were both likable and unlikable at the same time (which was weird for me to flip back and forth so many times). I cannot wait to continue onto the next book in the series.

Quotes:

“The last time she was up here, she had been… staring up at the sky and dreaming of stars. Now, she looked down and plotted flames.”

“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

“And that is why you become a dealer of death. You feed death as many people as you can to keep it full and content so its eye stays off you.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

GoodReads Summary:
Four young ladies at the side of the ballroom make a pact to help each other find husbands… no matter what it takes
Proud and beautiful Annabelle Peyton could have her pick of suitors—if only she had a dowry. Her family is on the brink of disaster, and the only way Annabelle can save them is to marry a wealthy man. Unfortunately her most persistent admirer is the brash Simon Hunt, a handsome and ambitious entrepreneur who wants her as his mistress.
Annabelle is determined to resist Simon’s wicked propositions, but she can’t deny her attraction to the boldly seductive rogue, any more than he can resist the challenge she presents. As they try to outmaneuver each other, they find themselves surrendering to a love more powerful than they could have ever imagined. But fate may have other plans—and it will take all of Annabelle’s courage to face a peril that could destroy everything she holds dear.
Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers, #1)Review:
I used to read Lisa Kleypas in high school. But it’s been many years since I’ve read any of her books. After reading some newer historical romance I decided I wanted to try some of the historical romance that I loved in my younger years. This was one of those.
I thought this story was fun. It was definitely entertaining. I love the concept of the wallflowers befriending one another and coming together to help each other catch husbands. The friendships of these four girls was most definitely my favorite part of the story. These girls are hilarious and outgoing and they make each other more confident. I’m continuing this series 100% for the friendship of the wallflowers.
The romance was actually pretty good in this book too. It’s an enemies to lovers story that follows Annabelle as she’s in her last season and desperate to get a husband to hopefully pull her family out of financial ruin. I think that’s what made me not hate her motivations. She’s only doing this for her mother and her brother. But the romance was pretty good. It was well developed and I really enjoyed seeing the couple fall in love even though they both really didn’t want to. I also enjoyed seeing Annabelle end up in a marriage that is very different from what she’d planned for her entire life. Simon Hunt is a businessman and not a part of the peerage. So, he doesn’t run in the circles that Annabelle’s hoping to become a part of. This was an adjustment for her and I think made the book that much better.
Overall, this was a fun and entertaining read. I liked the romance and the friendships were excellent. There were some great steamy scenes and I just all around had a good time reading this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

GoodReads Summary:
The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times–bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America. Walk on Earth a Stranger begins an epic saga from one of the finest writers of young adult literature.
Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?
Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns series, dazzles with the first book in the Gold Seer Trilogy, introducing a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance, as only she can.
Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)Review:
I have to start by saying that I thought this was a totally different book. I was rereading this because I thought it was a book about something else. Despite going into this expecting a different story, I still liked it. I’m not big on historical fiction but this one was good.
Lee is going west to meet her best friend after her parents were murdered. Her journey was full of action and adventure, loss and love. I thought her ability to sense gold was really interesting.
This cast of characters had so many secrets that were revealed in time. I thought the writing was really well done. I also thought despite the book being kind of slow, it was still interesting.
It’s not my usual genre, but I still enjoyed this book. The characters were complex and interesting. The plot was a bit slow, but there was enough action that it wasn’t boring. Lovers of historical fiction will probably love this book. It talked about some complex topics with the inclusion of slaves and Native Americans. I thought those topics were discussed very well.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

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GoodReads Summary:
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.
Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)Review:
I’ve been thinking about this book for days, unsure of how to go about this review. I have so many thoughts that I’m not sure how to form them into a cohesive post. So, I’m just going to talk about my enjoyment. There were things wrong with this book, yes, but I still had fun reading it. There were things about the setting and the love interests that could have been done better, but despite that, I had a good time reading.
Lou was funny and sassy and I enjoyed every minute of her trying to give Reid a hard time. It was hilarious and I loved it.
Reid was straitlaced and a little annoyingly so, but once Lou got him to loosen up a bit, I could see his appeal.
I thought their feelings for one another were a tad insta-lovey, but I could get past it.
I also thought the author did a really great job with all of the little connections that were revealed at the end of this book. I was blown away at the big reveal of certain identities and I totally did not see them coming.
Overall, I don’t think this was a perfect book by any means, but I really enjoyed it. I liked the characters and their differences. I loved the fake married turning into real love. I enjoyed the heck out of this book, even if there were flaws.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

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GoodReads Summary:
Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.
A Madness So DiscreetReview:
After reading Heroine, McGinnis’ 2019 release, and absolutely loving it, I’ve been trying to make it through the rest of her books. A Madness So Discreet was…different, to say the least. I read in other reviews that it was supposed to be a conversation about madness and also the state of care for those with mental illnesses in the 1800s. But this book was actually pretty fucked up for lack of a better phrase.
I couldn’t help but love the main character, Grace. She as fiery and fierce despite the things she’d had to endure throughout her life. She was smart and clever and made the best of the horrible situation she’d found herself in. She was really the only reason I continued the story.
The doctor, Thornhollow, was odd but in the best ways. I liked that he saved Grace, even if he wasn’t the most personable sort. He was a bizarre character, but I liked him because of that. I especially liked his sister. She just added a bit more to the story that I really liked.
Overall, I’m going to keep this review short because I think I’m still sorting out my thoughts. I finished this book and all I could think to myself was, “What the actual F” I’m still not sure whether I even liked this book or not, so? I read it quickly. McGinnis has a way with words that makes me want more, even if I’m not super invested in the characters. I think my issue with this story was its darkness. I usually love things like that, but this story was all too real in the time period, even though it’s a fictional story, people suffered like this every day. And that’s not something I can enjoy.

Quotes:

“The darkness has long lived inside me, sown if not by my nature then by nurture.”

“I think we’re all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.”

“It’s a madness so discreet that it can walk the streets and be applauded in some circles, but it is madness nonetheless.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

GoodReads Summary:
To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.
As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.
A Piece of the WorldReview:
A Piece of the World was given to me as a gift by my wonderful aunt. She gave it to me because my family is actually in it. I’m related to Christina Olsen. We have a shared ancestor in the Hawethorne’s of Salem. I picked this one up for WitchAThon because it fulfilled the prompt of reading a book featuring my heritage.
I think I probably would have DNF’d this book if it hadn’t been literally about my family. I actually did DNF a book that was eerily similar to this one, but I pushed through to complete the readathon prompt and to learn more about my family history. The thing with historical fiction that gets to me is not knowing which parts are facts from history and which parts were fictionalized.
I’m honestly not sure what to even say. I liked the way this story was told. We flashback and forth between Christina’s past and present and eventually the storylines meet. The author really made it easy to care about Christina and feel her struggles. I was captivated by the story.
Overall, A Piece of the World was a well written and fascinating piece of my own family history, even though I’m still not sure what parts were true and which were not. I enjoyed learning more about my ancestors.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Summary:
Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, she doesn’t believe that her mother killed herself three years ago. And since her father is about to be executed for his crimes, Molly is convinced that her mother will return to her soon. Finally, the hole in her heart will stop hurting.
Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with serious girl problems and the most embarrassing seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer…or fail out of school.
And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.
When Molly and Pepper are tasked with finding Ava’s murderer, they realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.
The ArsonistReview:
I found The Arsonist as my local Ollie’s Bargain Outlet store. I like to go there and check out their selection once in a while. I thought this book sounded interesting and the cover totally drew me in. I actually enjoy the cover even more after reading the book because there’s so much to the story that the cover tries to show.
The Arsonist was told in three perspectives. We follow Molly who is writing letters to an injured Pepper. She’s telling him her side of their adventures and everything she learned after he was injured. Hearing the story from both Molly’s side and from Pepper’s was a really interesting way to tell the story. We hear from Pepper as he writes ‘essays’ in an attempt to still graduate high school instead of just dropping out. So, Molly is writing to Pepper and Pepper is writing to his teacher. The third point of view is Ava Dreyman. She’s a girl that grew up in Germany during the time that the Berlin Wall was still standing. We’re reading her diary, learning about her life as we follow Pepper and Molly’s journey to find out what really happened to Ava.
This story was intricate and complex. There were so many different things going on and I’m awed by Stephanie Oakes ability to weave the different perspectives and timelines. The writing was interesting and authentic to each character. Ava’s chapters were accurate to her time, historically. I also liked how Pepper’s chapters showed errors in grammar and spelling because English was not his first language. I thought this was an interesting way to make the characters more authentic. I also really enjoyed that this was a story about ‘the weird kids.’ Molly was a girl that didn’t have any friends. Her mother killed herself and her father is in jail about to die via the death penalty because he killed six people when he burned down an abandoned house. Pepper was a boy that has a few friends, but is failing his senior year of high school and struggles with the death of his mother. Ava was a resistance fighter trying to take on the whole of Germany. These are kids that are just trying to make a difference.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, but I’m really glad that I picked this one up. It surprised me a little that I’ve never heard anything about this book because it blew me away. I definitely recommend The Arsonist to anyone that likes a good mystery and also to those that like historical fiction. This one won’t disappoint.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Summary:
1777. Albany, New York.
As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.
Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.
Alex and Eliza (Alex & Eliza, #1)Review:
I bought this book when I first discovered BookOutlet. It took me entirely too long to get to it. I found the audiobook through my library. It took me a little while to get invested in the story. But once I was, I couldn’t get enough.
I loved Eliza and her sisters. I’m a sucker for good sibling relationships and this one didn’t disappoint. Eliza was sassy and did her best to stand up for the things she believed in. She tried to be there for her sisters and also respect her parents wishes. I thought she was such a good main character.
Then there’s Alex. I thought he didn’t really have all that much depth in the beginning. But he had goals and dreams and just wanted to fight for what he thought was right.
While I don’t know how historically accurate the story is (because history is one of my least favorite subjects.) I still thought it did well with the language and societal customs.
Overall, I thought this was a sweet romance, with lots of complications. I’m really interested to see where the story will be taken in the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.