Blogmas Book Review: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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GoodReads Review:
On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…
Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.
When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?
The Devouring Gray (The Devouring Gray, #1)Review:
Can my review for this book just say, “I loved this book” five hundred times? I don’t know why I took so long to pick up The Devouring Gray. I started this late last night and couldn’t put it down until I reached the last page. I am so beyond excited for the sequel.
I would die for Violet and Harper. Violet’s story was full of grief. She’s lost her father and her sister and losing her sister is not something she’s handling well. She and her mom move back to the town her mom grew up in, but her mom doesn’t remember the truth about this small town, Four Paths. So, Violet has to figure it out alone. I admired her strength and courage. She’s thrown into an age-old battle between good and evil with barely any knowledge, but she, with the help of some new friends, manages to figure out her powers.
Harper is my favorite and I would die for her as well. Harper lost her hand in The Gray. She was performing her ritual when things went very wrong. But the secrets of what really happened that night is horrifying. I hated and loved learning the truth. Despite the things Harper has had to deal with, she powers through and helps take care of her many siblings. Harper is brave and stubborn and I loved her.
Then there’s Isaac, the fandom favorite. I loved him, but not as much as everyone else seems to. There’s something about his poor little damaged soul that just makes me want to give him a hug. He’s unflinchingly loyal, to a point that may be damaging him more. I really liked his new friendship with Violet. My two little damages babies becoming friends was so sweet.
Finally, there’s the Hawthorne siblings, Justin and May. At the beginning of the story, I hated one and loved the other, but by the end of the book, my feelings flipped. I loved the one I first hated and hated the one I first loved. Talk about mommy issues with these two. Their mother was a nightmare. She was horrible and drunk on her power, convinced she was doing the right thing for the town. But she has her kids trained to follow her orders without questions until Violet comes to town. Violet changes everything. I liked seeing Justin learn that there was more going on than what he first knew. I’m very interested to see how things develop with the siblings in the next book.
Overall, I’m obsessed with this book. I want to reread it again right now. I loved the characters. I loved the town. It was atmospheric and creepy. I loved the mystery and suspense. I loved the diversity of the characters, the friendships they made, and even the weird love square. We don’t know love triangles in this book, it’s a square of unrequited love, which made for lots of great drama. I loved everything about this book so please go read it right now.

Quotes:

“People could hurt each other without being monsters. And they could love each other without being saints.”

“This was hurt it would never understand. This was hurt made from love. And she immersed herself in grief, embraced it, the parts of her that had been so lost and broken, so long her enemy, were now her savior.”

“She thought about heroes, and villains, and legends, and monsters. And decided that whoever told the story was more powerful than all of them. Harper would never let someone else tell her story again.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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GoodReads Summary:
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1)Review:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a slice of life story about my new favorite cinnamon rolls. Ari is a teenager that feels he has an unknowable father. This was something I related to because for a long time I felt the same way. I loved this part of the story. Ari trying to get to know his father was my favorite. I really enjoyed all the family aspects of this book. Ari’s relationship with his mother, his curiosity about his brother, and his interesting relationship with is sisters.
Then there’s Dante who openly adores his parents. It’s a hope that every mother wants, including myself. Dante was the sweetest of cinnamon rolls. I adored just wholly himself he is. He is who he is and he isn’t ashamed or trying to hide any of it.
The relationship between these two boys is a hard one to explain. They are the best of friends, but even best friends can be complicated. I loved it. I loved the good times and the bad. The things they bring out in one another and the realizations they come to together.
I’m going to keep this review on the shorter side because I don’t know how to put my feelings into words about this story. I can see how it’s an important one for so many people. I fell in love, easily, with these two boys and I understand now why so many shout about this story from the rooftops.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

GoodReads Summary:
Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.
But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.
While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.
These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn, #1)Review:
Hello, I loved every single thing about this book. That is all. Goodbye.
Just kidding, friends. The cover is what drew me to this book. Then I saw the synopsis. Salem and witches? Sign me the F up. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this one because it was everything I wanted and more.
I loved the magic that Sterling has created. It was very clear and had well defined limits. I really love a well explained magic system and that’s what we were given in this one. I also really loved that there isn’t just one kind of magic. I thought that was really interesting. I loved the family aspect of the magic and of course, the setting. I would have liked to see a bit more of Salem, aside from the woods and the store Hannah works in, but it’s not the end of the world. Just something I hope to see more of in the next book.
Hannah was an interesting main character. She’s not really afraid to speak her mind which is something I want in all my main characters. She stands up for herself when her ex-girlfriend, Veronica, continues to try to get her back. This part was really relatable for me because I’ve been with people like Veronica and it was nice to see Hannah stand up for herself.
Gemma, Hannah’s best friend, was adorable. I adored her. She’s a dancer (which I’m super jealous of) and meet’s Morgan when she moves to town. She introduces Morgan to Hannah, as a good best friend does. I really liked Gemma. She’s was everything a best friend was supposed to be. Supportive when Hannah wanted to rant about her ex. But not letting Hannah do something she might regret later on. I’m really glad certain things were revealed, and I’m interested to see what kind of a role she will play in the next book.
Morgan was the new girl. I was pretty suspicious of her at first, but once Morgan shared her secrets, I was really happy for the two to be together. I really enjoyed seeing their new love blossom despite all the craziness going on around them. Morgan also brings a whole new aspect to the story with her secret. I’m interested to learn more about her.
The mystery in this book was one that had me guessing. I thought I knew who the big bad was several different times, but each time I thought I had it figured out someone else became even more suspicious. Toward the end of the book enough hints were dropped that I had a good feeling of who the big bad was before it was revealed.
Overall, I loved this book. It challenged characters when they did or said shitty thigns. There were a wide cast of diverse characters. The magic was well defined and fascinating. I just loved it.

Quotes:

“It’s hard when the people we loved move on without us.”

“What must it be like, to pray to a god you believe can hear you, a god who could answer your prayers is only you tried hard enough?”

“Would you want to be constantly punished for something your creator did thousands of years ago?”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Summary:
Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.
AutoboyographyReview:
Autoboyography is the first book I have received in a bookish exchange that I am doing with a few of my closest book friends. This is a favorite of my friend Jenny @ So She Tries. It’s a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while and even more so after reading The Unhoneymooners. (What’s up with these book titles?)
I loved so many things about this book. Let’s start with Tanner. I love his family and their relationship. Despite moving to a not so queer-friendly town, they’ve made their home a safe and welcoming place for him to be himself. They support him in every way that they can. I loved that his parents were present and involved in his life, always giving their opinions and trying to guide him in the right direction, but still mostly letting him make his own decisions.
The next relationship I really loved was between Tanner and his best friend Autumn. I didn’t love that he took so long to come out to her, but I also don’t know what it’s like to be in that kind of situation. I was happy when he finally told her the truth and loved her reaction. He and Autumn reminded me so much of myself and my husband when we were in high school. They made me laugh and the nostalgia was real. I loved the way things were left with them at the end of Autoboyography.
Finally, the love interest. I had a love/hate relationship with Sebastian. I loved him and Tanner together, but I didn’t love how his religion got in the way. I think some really interesting conversations were brought to the table. I liked the way that things worked out in the end, but I struggled with their relationship. It was hard because Tanner knew exactly who he was and what he felt and Sebastian was in a different place. He wanted to be someone that his family wouldn’t accept and that was hard to digest at times.
Overall, I adored this story. I am so happy that I was able to finally read it and I definitely will be reading more by Christina Lauren. I cannot wait to see what else they come up with for their young adult readers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

Summary:
Magic passed down through generations…
Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has touched every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.
An island where strange things happen…
No one on the island of By-the-Sea would ever call the Fernweh’s what they really are, but if you need the odd bit of help—say, a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight—they are the ones to ask.
No one questions the weather, as moody and erratic as a summer storm.
No one questions the (allegedly) three-hundred-year-old bird who comes to roost on the island every year.
One summer that will become legend…
When tragedy strikes, what make the Fernweh women suddenly casts them in suspicion. Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, of love, of salt—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms.
Summer of SaltReview:
The only thing wrong with this book was that there wasn’t more of it. Summer of Salt was the group book for the Witch-A-Thon. I’ve had it on my TBR shelf ever since I saw Chelsea Dolling Reads talk about it on her channel. I didn’t really even know what it was about before I picked it up. Queer beachy and witchy? Sign me up.
So, being honest. I was slightly disappointed when I learned that most of this book centers around a bird. I know that the story is more than that. But it just seemed so silly to me. But as the story progressed and certain things happened, I came to appreciate this little bird.
I loved the characters. They were all so vibrant and interesting. The relationship between Georgina and her twin, Mary, was absolutely my favorite part of Summer of Salt. I have two sisters and sibling stories always seem to hit me in the feels. They were a realistic pair of sisters and I adored the family dynamic.
Right along with the family dynamic is the atmosphere of By-the-Sea. I want to live on this spooky and atmospheric island. Witchy and beachy is my preferred environment. I loved the way that the weather was brought into the story. I could help but smile at the tugboat scene.
Overall, I would have liked to learn more about the magic, more about the Fernweh family and their history, more about the island, just more. I also really liked the representation. Georgina acknowledged that the environment she’s in is likely more accepting than what others might experience. I liked that she was aware of the privileged she has growing up on a close-knit island with a family that isn’t totally normal themselves. I definitely will be reading more work by Katrina Leno and soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Summary:
Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.
But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
Heretics AnonymousReview:
Heretics Anonymous has been so well-loved by so many people that I trust to the point where I had nothing but really high hopes for this story. I knew that I was going to love it. I did exactly that. I read this in one sitting because I just couldn’t stop.
I loved the setting of a Catholic school. It’s not something I’m overly familiar with so it was something different and unique. I thought the whole book brought up a really interesting discussion about religion. I’ve never been an overly religious person. I’m on the border of agnostic, but I’ve always wanted to be able to have faith and believe as strongly as the Catholics. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the beliefs of the other characters.
I adored this squad. I thought their friendship was fun and realistic. I really liked that they formed their ‘club’ and tried to do things to change some of the more ridiculous rules of their school. But I also thought it was really interesting that they considered the effects of their actions. They made choices to do certain things, but they also tried to think about what those things were doing to the students outside of Heretics Anonymous. I’m not going to go into the things I liked about each character but I will say that it was a diverse cast of friends. Diverse in the sense of sexual orientation, race, religious beliefs, and from an outsider’s perspective, it was done well.
I’ve seen people complain about the romance, that it didn’t need to be included. But I don’t feel that way. I really liked the romance between two members of this squad. It was complicated and sweet and sometimes dramatic. I really liked how things ended. It wasn’t the usual happily ever after, it was more complicated than that and I think that made the story all the more realistic.
Overall, I adored this book and everything about it. Heretics Anonymous was everything I wanted it to be. I cannot wait to read Katie Henry’s newest book. I will definitely be recommending Heretics Anonymous to anyone and everyone that will listen.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.
Daughter of the Burning CityReview:
Daughter of the Burning City was not at all what I expected. I really enjoyed it, but I was not expecting a murder mystery set in a carnival, which is what we got. I really liked so many things about this story. First, I’d like to say that there’s a hugely diverse cast of characters from those that are bisexual, gay, and I believe one of them was somewhere one the ace spectrum. There are characters of all sort of race and even one that is a giant tree.
Next, I’d like to mention the world-building. I loved the setting of the Gommorah festival. It was complex and dark in some places and bright in others. Then we learn about the rest of the world, full of strict religion and hatred for those that are a part of the festival. We learn that Sorina’s adoptive father and the festival’s proprietors play more of a part in history than we’d previously known.
The mystery of those that are being murdered was not at all what I predicted. There were several theories that I had along the way and none of them were correct. I love mysteries that keep me guessing and then leaving me spinning when we finally find out the truth.
I really enjoyed the characters and their abilities. I loved Sorina and the family she created for herself. They were really such a sweet family with such good family dynamics despite the fact that they are technically illusions.
I also really enjoyed the magic that we learned about, but I would have liked to know just a little bit more.
Overall, I really enjoyed Daughter of the Burning City. It was a complex world filled with mystery and drama and love. I adore Amanda Foody and her writing and I cannot read what she comes up with in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.