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.

The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell

Summary:
Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.
Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.
To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.
In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.
As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.
The Devil's Thief (The Last Magician, #2)Review:
After reading the first book in this series, The Last Magician, I knew I had found a new favorite. Despite this, it still took me three months to get to The Devil’s Thief and I have no idea why.
I was so happy to be back in this world. It was exciting and magical and I loved every minute of it. I really enjoyed all the different perspectives this story is told it. It jumps around between characters and time periods. I thought this was such an interesting way to tell the story. I was just sad to see the gang broken up.
Esta was still a firecracker. I wish we’d gotten to see her travel in time more and use her ability more but she couldn’t under the circumstances and it was understandable. Harte was infuriating literally the entire book and that’s all I’m going to say about him. Viola was sassy and fierce and mischievous and I cannot wait to see how her story plays out in the end. I loved Cela and Jianyu and mayyyybe I hope we get to see some romance with them.
These characters were the heart of the story and I just adored them all. They’re a diverse cast in the sense of ethnicity and sexuality. I love them all so much and I’m so mad at Lisa Maxwell with the way she ended book two.
I also really enjoyed the timeline. Most of this story takes place during the World’s Fair and Maxwell doesn’t hesitate to have Esta point out all the bad shit that took place there. Though the people of that time period may not think about it, Esta looks around and acknowledges the things that should have been done differently.
Overall, this sequel was a little slow. I still enjoyed it very much. But I was expecting some sort of step toward the resolution of their end goals. Instead they seem to just get themselves into more and more shit. The end up worse off than they were when the story started. I’m really interested to see how Maxwell is going to wrap up all the loose ends in the next book. I’m not sure how many books are supposed to be in the series but I’m already anxiously anticipating the next installment.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

Summary:
After what seems like a lifetime of following her father across the globe and through the centuries, Nix has finally taken the helm of their time-traveling ship. Her future—and the horizon—is bright.
Until she learns she is destined to lose the one she loves. To end up like her father: alone, heartbroken.
Unable to face losing Kashmir—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—Nix sails her crew to a mythical utopia to meet a man who promises he can teach her how to manipulate time, to change history. But no place is perfect, not even paradise. And everything is constantly changing on this utopian island, including reality itself.
If Nix can read the ever-shifting tides, perhaps she will finally harness her abilities. Perhaps she can control her destiny, too.
Or perhaps her time will finally run out.
The Ship Beyond Time (The Girl From Everywhere, #2)Review:
I read the first book in this series (reviewed here) because I was going to an event where this author was going to be. I am very glad I did read that book because I met the author and she was completely wonderful. She was funny and I just adored meeting her. So, after that event I thought I should probably get this book and read it (as well as all her other books but those will be for their own reviews.)
I adored this book just as much as the first. There were times where I thought to myself that Heidi was really going to do this or that to me and then she turned everything around again much to my pleasure. I love the concept behind the magic in this series. Being ‘Navigators’ they can travel through time, but only if they really believe in the place that they are going to, as well as having a map of that time and place. I just find time travel in general so compelling, but this method was so unique and interesting to me. I also really enjoyed how the author incorporated a combination or history and mythology. So, the characters visit real places in history as well as places that cannot be proven to have existed. I just loved it.
Next are the characters. I think there’s a really interesting father/daughter dynamic here that I appreciate, specifically because I was raised by my father in a single parent home. I really felt like her father wasn’t as present as he was in the first book and I think I would have liked just a little bit more insight into his struggles of fighting his addictions for his daughter. Nix was still my favorite. She’s fierce, strong, clever, and unapologetic about who she is. She stands up for what she wants and what she thinks is right. She’s insanely curious and always trying to learn and I really loved that about her. I also adored her love interest. Kashmir was exactly what I wanted him to be. I’m happy we got chapters from his perspective. I felt like it gave a bit more insight into his character. We learned more about his fears and insecurities and I liked that.
The rest of the supporting characters were as enjoyable as they were in the first book, but we didn’t really get any further insight into the familiar characters which I would have liked. Instead, we met new characters and learned all about their struggles and goals.
Overall, this was a great sequel. I enjoyed all of the different aspects of the story and plot. I loved all the dynamics between the characters. Time traveling pirates is all you have to say to me and I’m sold.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.