The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Summary:
With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers, #4)

Review:
I received The Galaxy, and the Ground Within from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I have loved all three of the previous installments of the Wayfarer series. This one was no different. I think The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was more of a slice of life story that the previous three books and I actually really enjoyed that.
The story follows five characters, Speaker, Pei, Roveg, and Ouloo and her child, Tupo. They are all different species. I had a bit of a hard time picturing what they each looked like. But I really liked each of their stories. I really enjoyed them spending time together and learning more about each other’s cultures and lives. I thought there were some really fascinating conversations. The dynamics of the characters and their lack of any kind of relationship is what made this book so good. Five strangers are stuck on Gora, their travel plans delayed when technology fails and communication and travel becomes impossible. So, they hunker down together.
Ouloo and Tupo are the owners of the Five-Hop and they do their best to keep the guests happy. I really liked learning about the Laru species. I think Ouloo was my favorite of the characters. She just wants to create a space that will accommodate the many different species of the galaxy. I think the Five-Hop was a place I would absolutely love to visit.
Then there’s Pei, who we sort of know from a previous book. She’s dating Ashby, who we know from a previous book. She’s dealing with a lot of emotions because she is keeping the secret of her romance with Ashby. Then, her shimmer starts. She needs to find a male of her species or she will likely never have another chance to have a child. But she’s not sure she even wants a child.
Roveg’s story was an interesting one. He’s exiled from his homeworld. While he doesn’t regret what he did to get exiled, he does regret being away from his family. He has a very important appointment that he needs to make. And all of the delays on Gora might just cause him to miss this appointment. I really enjoyed learning about the Quelin culture from someone that doesn’t agree with most of it, but also still values bits and pieces.
Then there’s Speaker. Speaker is an Akarak. This is an alien species that little is known of. I thought it was really interesting seeing Roveg take the time to learn about the Akarak history and develop a friendship. I think Speaker was a fascinating character. She’s outside of what we already know from this series and getting to learn about her species and their struggles was one of the more interesting aspects of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed the slice of life aspect of the book. I think the development of the relationships was really well done. I think it was a slow and enjoyable progression. As always, this book was diverse and unique with the pronouns of the different species and I really appreciate that aspect of this series. I thought this book was a compelling depiction of people with differing lives and differing opinions coming together in an unavoidable way. I would absolutely recommend this book and this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Summary:
A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.
Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.
And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

Victories Greater Than Death (Universal Expansion #1)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Anders’ books have been hit or miss for me, so when I heard she was coming out with a YA science fiction novel, I was very excited. Let me tell you, I was not at all disappointed.
This story follows Tina, who is raised on Earth. She is a clone of a famous space captain that died facing an enemy to the galaxy. Tina has known her whole life that she’s an alien disguised to look like a human. She also knows that one day she will be called back to space to help save the galaxy. When that day comes, she realizes that she isn’t as prepared as she thought she was. Her best friend gets sucked up in the spaceship alongside her and they managed to add a few more humans to their crew.
This is a wonderful and diverse story about found family and all the different ways to be a hero. It’s a story about right versus wrong. I really enjoyed it. It’s filled with great themes and important conversations. One of my favorite things about this book was how it normalized people’s pronouns. Anytime anyone new was introduced they shared their name followed by their pronoun (Hi, I’m Amanda and my pronoun is she). There were the common pronouns, but the more alien species we met the more unique pronouns we learned. I really liked this aspect of the story. There’s also diversity within the main characters. They humans that join Tina and Rachel in space are from all over the world. One of the humans that has been brought up from Earth, Elza, is trans. So, when I say this book is diverse as heck. I mean it and in all the best ways.
Overall, I cannot wait for this series to continue. I didn’t realize it was a series until I was getting close to the ending. I think the ending was good. It gave a solid conclusion for all of the things that were happening during the book, but also left little bits for what to expect in future books. I think this story was well written and filled with characters that you just can’t help but love. I think this book will be a huge hit with many science fiction lovers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen

Summary:
THEIR BATTLES ENDED IN VICTORY
Lydia returns to Mudaire to enter training at the healing temple. But instead of fighting to save lives, she’s convinced she is doing more harm than good. She delves into the history of the gods only to discover a truth that will change her life forever.
His birthright as commander of the Royal Army is finally in his grasp, but Killian feels anything but victorious. Burdened by his past, he embraces the darker side of his mark—and in doing so, risks starting a war.
BUT THE WAR HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN
Having defeated the tyrant Urcon, Marcus struggles to form a lasting alliance with the Arinoquians. But he is plagued by the knowledge that there is a traitor among his friends, and it could cost him everything that he’s fought for.
Torn between her growing allegiance to the Thirty-Seventh legion and her need to liberate her people, Teriana finds herself mired in a web of secrets. She embarks upon a path that will either save everyone she loves—or put them all in their graves.

Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores, #3)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of Gilded Serpents in exchange for complete honesty about how much this book destroyed me. I reread both book one and book two via the audiobooks (which were really great and I recommend them!!) so the world and characters were fresh in my mind when I started this book.
Jensen somehow managed to give me all of the things to make my heart happier than it’s ever been for these characters and yet still rip it still beating right out of my chest. In Gilded Serpents, the four characters that we’ve come to love so very much in the first two books, Teriana, Marcus, Lydia, and Killian, all have their own points of view. And much like how book one and book two paralleled one another with their timelines, book three does that as well. But one of the most interesting things that I noticed was how the events of Marcus and Teriana’s journey paralleled events of Killian and Lydia’s journey. There were times during the story that both pairs were doing the same or similar things, like staying at an inn for example, and I thought that was such a fun aspect of the story. I just want these four to finally all meet up so badly I could scream. I also want to say, there’s a secret that’s finally revealed in this book that I’ve been suspecting since reading Lydia’s book (Dark Skies) and I’m not surprised that I was right but I was happy to have it confirmed. I also really loved that the characters are finally learning things. While Lydia learned where Teriana was in Dark Skies, Teriana has no idea that everyone thinks Lydia dead. So, secrets are revealed in this one and they are juicy.
Now, all four of these characters have grown immensely throughout their journeys so far. Lydia, while no expert swordswoman, has learned to defend herself. She’s also learned an incredible amount about her magic. She’s smart and determined, clever and stubborn, fierce and passionate. I love her so much. She’s grown so much from the timid patrician girl we knew in Dark Shores.
Teriana’s story is filled with inner conflict. She’s in love with her enemy and that has some obvious challenges. She’s done nothing but make hard choices since this series started and that doesn’t change in this book. She’s faced with more hard choices, but I was delighted to see her find some moments of happiness. I think what I love most about Teriana is that she always stays positive. Even when she’s carrying another human being to what could likely be her death. She suffers and struggles, but doesn’t let those challenges win.
Marcus is a tough character for me. I go back and forth between loving him and really disliking him (much like Teriana). He is the Legatus of the 37th legion. But these men are more than just his subordinates, they’re his family. Marcus also faces many challenges in this book. He must make hard choices regarding his men. He’s put in situations where he has to face his fears and others where his internal battle of what’s right versus what’s being ordered. I think I ultimately will love him. But I’ll still probably flip flop back and forth again during the next book.
Killian is my favorite. He’s a Marked warrior, so he’s strong, fast, skilled, and very smart when it comes to battle. But he faces a struggle of heart versus duty. (There is another parallel!) With Killian it’s different though because, as the reader, I know a secret that will change everything. Though once that secret is out, we didn’t get to see much after that. Killian’s dark path isn’t over yet, but he will forever fight to keep his loved ones and his kingdom safe. He’s loyal and full of love, compassionate and intelligent. He’s absolutely someone you’d want on your side.
Overall, I loved this book just as much as the first two. It was nice not to have to wonder as much about what was happening to the other couple because we were getting all of their points of view. I really liked that the chapters are short and still left me wanting more from each character. I also have to mention the world. We see three places, four if you include the ocean, in the first two books. But in this one, we find out more about other kingdoms and we get to see the mysterious Darin. We also get to see more Marked Ones that are marked by different Gods. I love the magic in this series and it was really interesting getting to see more of the abilities bestowed from other Gods. The only thing I didn’t like was the cliff hanger and that’s only because there isn’t even a cover for book four yet. I face the eternal bookworm struggle of suffering to wait for the next book in the series. I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s full of diverse character that you just can’t help falling in love with.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters

Summary:
The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.
After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.
Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.

To Love and to Loathe (The Regency Vows, #2)

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed Waters’ debut novel, To Have and to Hoax. So, I was excited when I was approved for an arc of To Love and to Loathe.
This is an enemies to lovers, friends with benefits story. Diana and Jeremy aren’t really enemies, but they definitely don’t get along. When together, which happens often as Jeremy is good friends with Diana’s brother, all they do is argue. Neither of them can let the other have the last word and they both always need to be right. The banter and arguing (read: flirting!) was the best part of this book. Diana is witty and quick with her rebuttals. I really enjoyed their debates. They were always filled with sexual tension that’s obvious to the reader, but not the characters. I think both Jeremy and Diana were well fleshed out characters. Both had backstories that fit well with why they are the way they are. Their growth felt organic and not at all forced. I just genuinely liked their relationship.
I also want to mention that I really loved Diana’s friends. We know them from Waters’ previous novel. But I liked getting to see Violet and Audley, getting caught flushed and sweaty. I also liked seeing more of Emily and learning a bit more about her romantic prospects.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I liked all the characters. The setting felt like a traditional historical romance, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it felt familiar. It felt like something I’d read before because there’s only so much that can be unique when it comes to these kinds of romances. I don’t think that lessened my enjoyment of the story because the characters were so entertaining and likeable. I will absolutely recommend this one for historical romance fans.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

Summary:
The powerful and emotional debut novel from Riverdale and Locke and Key actress Asha Bromfield that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.
Hurricane SummerReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Hurricane Summer follows Tilla while she visits Jamaica, where her father lives, for the summer with her younger sisters, Mia. I will say right now, there are explicit scenes of sexual assault, and quite a few other scenes of serious mistreatment that I would call emotional and verbal abuse from family.
Tilla has a really hard relationship with her father. She remembers the good times in Canada when her mom and dad were happy. She remembers the time where they fight and yell and then her dad goes back to Jamaica for periods of time before returning to her family. This time he’s been gone for a while and she doesn’t think he will be coming back. So, her and her sister are going to Jamaica for the summer and Tilla is so angry with her dad. She feels like he forgot about her, like he doesn’t want to be a part of their family anymore. But the moment she sees him at the airport, all that goes away. She’s happy to see him, to be with him. But the plans keep changing and she has to keep reminding herself that her father never sticks to what he says. Tilla and her sister end up at the family home in the country. They’re both excited to meet their family. Tilla is especially excited to reunite with her cousin Andre, one of the few cousins she remembers. The summer doesn’t turn out to be all sunshine and quality family time as she hopes. One of her aunts treats her horribly when her father isn’t around and tells lies when she reports back to Tilla’s father. Every time Tilla finds an afternoon of happiness, it’s torn down by her family, people that are supposed to love her.
This was a really emotional story. From the familial abuse, to the death of a family member, Tilla does her best to hold it together. She was such a strong main character. She always did her best to make the best situation she could for herself. I absolutely loved the moments she spends with her cousins, exploring the country. These were some of my favorite parts of the book. It was really hard to see Tilla just take the abuse from some of her cousins and aunts, and even her father. I was so proud of her when she finally stood up for herself. Even though she didn’t always get the results she wanted, I was so proud of her for speaking up.
Overall, this is not an easy story to read, but it was a stunning story about what it means to be a woman dealing with assault and abuse. It shows what it means to have a father that doesn’t believe in you, one that you feel just doesn’t love you anymore. It talks about racism within the community of Jamaica. I think this book did everything it was trying to do and it did it so well. I highly recommend this book to anyone that can handle these hard topics.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summary:
Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.
When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.
As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.
Westworld meets Warcross in this high-stakes, dizzyingly smart sci-fi about a teen girl navigating an afterlife in which she must defeat an AI entity intent on destroying humanity, from award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman.

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Inifinity Courts is one of my most anticipated 2021 releases. The cover is what drew me in at first, but the summary also sounded like something I would really enjoy. After finishing the aARC, I can confirm that I was absolutely correct.
The story follows Nami during the last hours of her life and then continues after her death once she’s arrived in the afterlife. She learns that instead of Heaven or Hell, souls are sent to a play called Infinity. But all in Infinity is not as it should be. The AI that is commonly known and used on Earth, Ophelia, has found her way into Infinity and taken it over. Humans are treated as servants, their free will wiped away upon their arrival in Infinity with a pill. The Residents, all created by Ophelia, are the ruling class. But some of the humans have an instinct that something isn’t right when they arrive in Infinity, these are the Heroes. Nami is a Hero.
I really liked Nami. I liked her when she was alive and I liked her after she’d died. Even though she’s died, her character continues to grow. She gave her life to save a little girl, so she’s dubbed a Hero. But once she’s among the resistance, she’s not sure that she’s in agreement with their plan to wipe out Ophelia, which would mean wiping out all of the Residents as well. I liked that Nami played a sort of devils advocate. But she didn’t do it to cause trouble. She genuinely believes that there should be a way for the humans and the Residents to live together, to coexist. This brings a lot of really relevant conversations to the table about humanities ability to be peaceful and kind. In the eyes of the Residents, humans bring nothing but hate and war all in the name of love, or religion, or gender. I really appreciate how Bowman thoughtfully addressed the many issues that humans are dealing with today in a fantastical setting. I think she did a really good job with this aspect. The question of right and wrong or good versus evil is a theme in the story and I think that too was done really well. It’s shown that there may be redemption for those who do evil, but it’s not the job of the victims to redeem the villains. The gray area that exists in the question of good versus evil was where Nami stood. She didn’t think it was us versus them. She thought there could be a middle ground. I think this personal conflict of hers was a really compelling aspect of the story.
The world was absolutely fascinating. This afterlife, Infinity, is supposed to be paradise. But it’s been taken over by Ophelia and her four sons. Each of her sons have their own kingdom with Ophelia ruling in the capitol. Each kingdom serves a different purpose. I really would have loved to explore the other kingdoms more (even though they sound absolutely terrifying and awful) but I have a feeling we will be doing that in the next book.
Overall, this book was an incredible ride. It made smart and thoughtful statements about the hatred and prejudice that people deal with everyday. But it also asked the interesting question of whether or not people deserve the chance to learn and do better after making mistakes. I think the writing was excellent. There are so many quotable lines that will be sticking with me after finishing this story. I highly recommend this book and I will be doing so for the foreseeable future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Summary:
Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.
When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single.
But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed.
Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?

Between the Bliss and Me

Review:
Okay, this was not an easy book to read. It centers around mental health and mental illnesses. So, I want to start by saying that because I think this was a really good story but it’s not going to be for anyone. Also, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Sydney just turned eighteen. She’s getting ready to go off to college, except she’s not going to the college that her mom thinks she’s going to. Sydney, with the help of her grandparents, has decided that she wants to go to NYU. This is not what Sydney and her mom discussed and agreed to. Sydney’s mom has always been over protective. And she learns why when she visits her grandparents beach house. She learns that her mom has been keeping information about her father from her. Her father has schizophrenia. She also learns that there is a chance she could develop symptoms over the next few years. While all of this is going on, she meets a boy, Grayson. She has a crush on him and ends up seeing him while she’s staying with her grandparents. The only problem with her crush on Grayson? He has a girlfriend. He also has a really bitchy cousin.
So, I really liked Sydney. She’s anxious all the time, but she doesn’t let her anxiety stop her. She stands up for herself. She has all these doubts about herself, but they don’t really show on the outside. I really liked how Sydney was portrayed and how her emotions and reactions were shown. I don’t have personal experience with schizophrenia so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation, but it seemed it be handled thoughtfully from my outside perspective. I thought it was interesting the way that Mason managed to show how everyone reacts differently to mental illness. We see Sydney’s grandparents come to a slow realization that there’s nothing they can do for their son, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to help him in any way they can again and again. We see Sydney’s mom listen to her husband when he asks her to let him go. There’s also some really good conversation about the lack of support available for people with mental illnesses, about the unfairness of the courts and prison systems when it comes to caring for people with mental illnesses. I think these topics were well done.
Now, the romance with Grayson was the one thing in this story that I didn’t really care for. I think everything that was done could have been left the same, minus Grayson as a romantic interest. I think it could have been a completely platonic relationship and the story would still have had the same effect. I don’t think this needed to be romantic in anyway. I think it would have been an even better story had it just been Sydney’s story about learning to accept herself.
Overall, I think this was a really hard hitting and emotional portrayal about what it’s like to have a family member with a mental illness and feeling helpless to help them. I especially liked Sydney’s friends. Eliot is the light of my life and I loved every moment that he was on the page. I also really loved Magda. Magda reminded me of quite a few of my friends from my hometown, which is a beachy town like the one in parts of this book. So, we also get people from other countries that come over on a student visa and work for the summer. I always loved working with them. They, much like Magda were always so interesting and fun to be around. They also always threw the best parties. I think this will be a book that some will really love and others will not. So, take this review with a grain of salt and read it if the topic is one that you can handle.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson

Summary:
Swinging London, Summer 1967. Sixteen-year-old Estella, gifted with talent, ingenuity, and ambition, dreams of becoming a renowned fashion designer. But life seems intent on making sure her dreams never come true. Having arrived in London as a young girl, Estella now runs wild through the city streets with Jasper and Horace, amateur thieves who double as Estella’s makeshift family and partners-in-(petty)-crime. How can Estella dedicate herself to joining the ranks of the London design elite when she’s sewing endless costumes and disguises for the trio’s heists?
When a chance encounter with Magda and Richard Moresby-Plum, two young scions of high society, vaults Estella into the world of the rich and famous, she begins to wonder whether she might be destined for more after all. Suddenly, Estella’s days are filled with glamorous parties, exclusive eateries, flirtations with an up-and-coming rock star, and, of course, the most cutting-edge fashions money can buy. But what is the true cost of keeping up with the fast crowd-and is it a price Estella is willing to pay? 

Hello, Cruel Heart

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I requested this because it’s a book by Maureen Johnson and I usually love Johnson’s books. Plus, Cruella? Sign me up.
I didn’t end up liking this as much as I thought I was going to. Cruella is actually named Estella. Her mom dies and she ends up all alone in London. She meets two boys that become her family. They survive by stealing. They steal food and money or whatever else they need to survive. I liked the relationship between these three. But I think we could have gotten more from it. I feel like I still know nothing about these two boys that are like brothers to Estella. I don’t know their history. I did like Estella’s backstory. Definitely enough to turn me into a villain.
I also just liked Estella, even when she was kind of being a jerk. She’s sixteen in this book and definitely still a bit naive. I saw the ending coming almost as soon as she made friends with Magda and Richard. Estella is swept up by the wealthy London scene and starts making clothes for everyone. And the whole time I was left thinking: why is she not asking anyone to pay for these clothes she’s hand making?
Overall, I had a tough time with this book. The ending felt rushed. I would have liked to see what her plans for her next steps were after reconciling with her brothers. I also had a hard time because of the eARC. There were weird images that I assume are going to be chapter designs that chopped up and even moved some paragraphs. It was manageable, but annoying enough to affect my reading experience. I will say that I think Johnson did a good job with the writing and the setting. She was consistent with the language used by the characters and while telling the story. London sounds like a blast during this period of time.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody

Summary:
The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.
Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.
To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.
But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.

The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore, #1)

Review:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of The Accidental Apprentice in exchange for an honest review. I love a good middle-grade story. So, when I learned that Foody (who gained my love and admiration with her YA books) was releasing a middle-grade series, I was beyond excited.
The Accidental Apprentice follows Barclay Thorne when his life changes. He’s an orphan that lives in a town full of rules. He’s working as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer and he’s found that he actually enjoys what he’s doing. One day, he’s working with his fellow apprentice when they accidentally break the town’s most important rule: don’t go into the Woods. While breaking that rule, Barclay somehow bonds with a Beast. This changes everything for him. After he’s run out of town, he finds Viola. Viola helps Barclay make it to the Lore Keeper town within the woods. There he searches for a way to remove his Mark and get rid of the Beast that has chosen him.
I thought this book was such a fun read. It was filled with action and adventure, mystery and intrigue. There are so many misconceptions about the Lore Keepers that Barclay was raised to know. So, he spends so much time just unlearning all the things he thought he knew. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Barclay studies and takes tests in hopes to win a competition, so we get to see him as he’s learning all these new things about Lore Keepers and Beasts, as well as, his own Beast. I think the best part of the story was Barclay’s internal struggle. We see him start to realize that he might actually belong with the Lore Keepers, but he’s in fierce denial about this because he still wants to return to his town. He thinks that his parents would have wanted him to stay in his hometown. His slow development out of those thoughts was really enjoyable. I thought it was well done. He didn’t just start having fun with his new friends and give up on his mission. It really was an internal struggle.
I loved Barclay’s new friends. I was shocked at one of the twists involving them. But I also liked how things turned out with the boy that seemed mean. I think the friendships were really interesting. I liked the unexpected bits about them.
Overall, I loved this book. I thought the Beasts and Lore Keepers were interesting and unique. I liked the friendships and the adventures the friends went on. I liked the competition aspects of the story. I also loved the development of Barclay. I think this book will be well loved.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Summary:
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

Lost in the Never Woods

Review:
Lost in the Never Woods was provided to me via NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book follows Wendy Darling years after she and her brothers disappeared in the woods. But while Wendy reappeared with no memory of the time she was missing, her brothers did not. Wendy is turning 18. She’s about to go off to college and start life on her own. She volunteers at the hospital with the kids. When kids from her town start disappearing, they’re kids that Wendy knows. So, she feels like she needs to do something to help get them back. But things get weird when Wendy finds Peter Pan late one night near the woods while she’s driving home.
I really liked the retelling aspect of this book. Things took a really dark turn that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve never been a super fan of Peter Pan, so I don’t know if this twist was one from Thomas’s imagination or if it stems from previous Peter Pan stories. But it shocked the heck out of me, so there’s that. I think the plot of the story, Peter and Wendy trying to rescue the missing kids was a good one. But I think the story felt really slow. They meet to brainstorm, try to find the kids, and figure out a general plan of action several times. Some of these times end up with them getting ice cream or doing something completely unrelated to their goal of finding the kids. I just felt like the story was pretty slow and drawn out.
Now, I will say that the writing and the other topics covered in the story made this slow pace a bit more enjoyable. Wendy is suffering from survivor’s guilt. She made it out of the woods with no memory of what happened or where her brothers are now. So, this was a big focus of the story. I liked this aspect. It was hard to read at times, but I think the grief and guilt was really well done. Wendy’s parents are also pretty neglectful. As a parent myself, I felt for them. They lost their two youngest children with no sure knowledge of whether they’re dead or alive. This loss consumes Wendy’s parents and after her return they are not the same parents they were before. I liked the conclusion with Wendy’s parents. As hard as it was to read their suffering and grief, I really liked how their relationship with Wendy changed.
Peter as a character was absolutely fascinating. I saw a review where he’s described as a ‘manic pixie dream boy’ and I think that perfectly explains his character. He’s mysterious, curious, and a bit wild. He’s dealing with losing his magic and growing into an adult, which he isn’t supposed to do. But it’s clear he knows things that he isn’t telling Wendy. They mystery of Peter and his secrets was really well done. Small things were revealed overtime to keep us interested until the big reveal. Wendy however, felt a little bland. She was pretty much only her grief and guilt. We get a little bit other than that with her volunteering and plans to go off to college, but it felt like she had no personality.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I think many will really love this story. It brings heavy conversations to the table and talks about them thoughtfully and with respect. It had characters you want to root for. The writing is beautiful and memorable but still easy to read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Namesake by Adrienne Young

Summary:
Trader. Fighter. Survivor.
With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.
As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Namesake (Fable, #2)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Namesake is the sequel to Fable (which I reviewed here). I really loved Fable, so I was very excited to get approved to read its sequel. Namesake did not disappoint. I’m just going to say right now that there will be spoilers for Fable, so stop reading now if you haven’t read the first book.
Namesake follows Fable, our main character, after the cliffhanger ending. Fable has been kidnapped and once again separated from her crew. I missed seeing the crew together, but I loved all of the secrets that we learned and getting to see more of this captivating world. We get to see more outside of the Narrows that we learned about in Fable. The mysterious Bastian is finally revealed. We also get to meet the infamous Holland. I really enjoyed seeing this world open up. Young’s writing is so great. It’s detailed enough to give a clear picture of the story and the characters, but not so flowery that it danced around.
Fable is the same badass, intelligent, fierce main character that she was in the first book. She’s faced with a lot of revelations about the past that she’s forced to deal with in her present. I thought these secrets and twists were well done. I didn’t see any of them coming and they really did great things for the overall story.
Now, I’m sad to say that I didn’t love the romance between Fable and West as much in this book. I still liked it and was invested in their happy ending, but there was something about it that I just didn’t like in this book. I think the conflict that was introduced, specifically for the romance, wasn’t needed at all. I didn’t care for the comparisons to Fable’s father and the doubt that it caused for Fable. Especially since I don’t feel like any of that was really worked through.
Overall, this was another action packed, high stakes story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved Fable. I loved seeing her faced with challenges and working through her choices. I liked seeing her try to solve problems and figure out the next steps. I loved seeing more of this world. I especially loved the writing. I will definitely be looking into Young’s backlist soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Summary:
Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.
The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.
With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.
Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Down Comes the Night

Review:
I received Down Comes the Night as an eARC via NetGalley and the publishers. I request this because the cover pulled me in and I had some friends on Twitter that were also excited for it. This book did not end up being what I was anticipating. I thought this was going to be a spooky story about a creepy house but with magic.
This story is actually about Wren, who has magic that can be used to heal. She’s impulsive and compassionate. She’s told again and again that her feelings keep her from being the soldier she is supposed to be. I liked that Wren never let herself change. She wanted to be able to change, if only to please the people in her life that were asking her to, but she made the same choices over and over. I liked this about Wren, even if she didn’t like it about herself. It hurt to read about Wren’s internal thoughts and motivations. She’s motivated by those that want her to change. It was so good to see her finally grow out of that. She learns to appreciate the things about herself that others are always criticizing. I think her growth was well done. I also really liked that Wren is bisexual, but it wasn’t really a part of the plot.
Now, the love interest. I had a really hard time liking him. Hal has done some really terrible things. But somehow, I couldn’t help but liking the relationship between Hal and Wren. I don’t know that I can say I liked Hal. But I liked their romance.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The romance was one that I found myself invested in. The world was interesting. There was a fascinating and creepy villain. The politics of the world was interesting, too. I especially liked the ending. There were consequences for the things that Hal had done, but there was also a happily ever after for the romance. The resolutions between Wren and her loved ones was one that I could get behind. I think many people are going to love this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

Summary:
Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge.
Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.
Review:
Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.
The Blade BetweenReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I requested The Blade Between because a friend of mine was absolutely raving about it. I’m glad that I requested it because I flew through this book. I don’t know that I would say I enjoyed it, but it was definitely an experience.
So, I want to mention first that the writing was incredible. There were so many great lines and fantastic descriptions in this book. I cannot say enough good things about Miller’s writing. He managed to make it a creepy and atmospheric story, but also convinced us to love these very flawed characters. I think there were some really interesting topics covered in a thoughtful way. This story follows Ronan as he returns to his home town of Hudson, a place he has no fond memories of. But his father is dying and it’s time he finally returns. But things escalate and suddenly he’s fighting against the gentrification of a town he grew up hating. I really liked this aspect of the story. Ronan has so many mixed feelings about his hometown, but he still does his damnedest to save it. I also loved all of the antics that Ronan and his friends participate in to ‘save’ the town. I think there were definitely some moments that were a bit extreme, but the author did a really good job showing character motivations that were almost understandable. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with these characters.
I also think the author did a really great job of creating different and interesting characters. Even though the story sort of jumped around with who it was following, I had no issues distinguishing between any of them. They were all unique and interesting. Now, the plot was fascinating. I loved the fantasy elements that were included in the story. The bits about the whales was absolutely creepy but only got creepier with the inclusion of the ghosts that play a role in the story.
Overall, I think this was a horrifying and excellent story. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author. Miller’s writing was exceptional and memorable. I think the characters were easy to love, even when they were doing shitty things. I just couldn’t put this book down. I highly recommend this one for fans of horror or darker fantasy books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

Summary:
Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.
With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.
Review:The Iron Raven (The Iron Fey: Evenfall, #1)
The Iron Raven
is the first book in the new spin-off series, The Iron Fey: Evenfall. I am part of the blog tour hosted by the publisher (InkYard Press) so I received this eARC through NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for promotion and an honest review. Now, onto the review.
The Iron Raven is like jumping right back into the world of the Iron Fey that I know and love (I reread all the previous books in anticipation for this one). Kagawa continues with her ability to provide vivid imagery and a stunning world. I love that with each new Iron Fey story, we get to see familiar creatures, but there are also new creatures that are fascinating. I just genuinely love all of the myths that Kagawa has managed to add to this book (and series). I’m very intrigued to see where this story is going and what the secrets behind the Big Bad are.
Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow, is the main character for this book (and I assume the Evenfall series). I was really excited for Puck to finally have his own series. He’s always been one of my favorites. His storyline is interesting. We get to see the Puck we know and love, but we also get to see the Puck of legends, the Robin Goodfellow whose pranks bordered on cruel. Puck has an inner struggle in this story that was very compelling. I’m definitely interested to see how the rest of this series will play out.
We get to see new characters, like my favorite Nyx, and some old ones as well. We see Kierran, Meghan, and Ash, as well as some other minor characters. I really liked Nyx. I’m dying to know more about her past. I think it was really interesting to have someone that doesn’t know any of the stories about Puck. I liked the bits with Kierran and I did enjoy seeing the whole gang together again, but I sort of wish that it has less of the characters we already knew (aside from Puck of course). I wouldn’t say that I disliked the whole squad being back, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if this had been a new adventure that didn’t need Meghan to come to save the day.
Overall, I still really enjoy this. I’m mostly a fan of authors coming back to their old series and continuing them. Kagawa’s writing is still excellent. With vivid world-building, fascinating creatures and mythology, and characters I already loved, I think many people will love this book.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fable by Adrienne Young

GoodReads Summary:
For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.
But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.
Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.
Fable (Fable, #1)Review:
I received Fable from NetGalley and the publishers and I’m so glad because I loved it. I don’t know that I’ll explain exactly how much I loved it or why. But I’m going to do my best.
Fable lives on an island that is a very dangerous place. She’s working on saving enough money to travel and face her father. The father that left her on said island four years ago. He left her to fend for herself and told her she wasn’t meant for his world. She is ready to prove him wrong. Once she’s finally saved enough money, she begs passage from West, the man she trades gems she finds while diving. As this is a novel, things don’t exactly as planned when Fable finally comes face to face with her father again. I’m going to stop there with the plot details. I loved Fable. She kicked and screamed and clawed her way off the island. She said and did whatever it took to come back to face her father. And when he didn’t respond in the way she wanted she made a new plan. She finds herself a new family in West and his crew. I absolutely adored the whole crew of the Magnolia. I loved their secrets, their hopes and dreams. I am beyond excited to see what the crew will do in the next book. We got to see them work together as a unit, a family, and I loved it. I loved getting to know West and Willa, Paj and Auster. I loved that there were queer characters.
The writing and the world building were stunning. The writing was lyrical and descriptive. The world building was so well done. I could see this world in vivid colors. At times, I felt as if I was somehow in the story alongside Fable. I will absolutely be picking up more books by Young. I was enthralled by this story, by the writing, by Fable’s fire. I couldn’t put it down until the final page. I cannot recommend this book enough for lovers of YA fantasy, or other sorts of ‘pirate’ stories.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.