Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

GoodReads Summary:
Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?
After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.
Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?
Court of Lions (Mirage, #2)Review:
Court of Lions was a 2020 anticipated release I didn’t even know about until August (when I finally read Mirage). Book two starts right where the first left off. I don’t want to spoil the first book because if you haven’t read it you need to stop what you’re doing and go read it now. I listened to audiobooks for the whole series and they were incredible. There were lots of names and worldbuilding things that I would have had trouble pronouncing correctly and the narrator did a wonderful job. She really put emotions into each character and the story. I highly recommend them.
The story starts with Amani being called to Maram for the first time after Maram found some information about Amani’s activities in the first book, and she was not happy about it. This break of trust between the two was so sad for me. They had finally gotten to such a good place. They trusted and confided in one another. I was sad to see that be lost. But on a more positive note, they gained this closeness back. The relationship between Maram and Amani was my favorite thing about this book. The two figured out how to get past Amani’s breaking Maram’s trust and they become as close as sisters. Seeing these two finally work together toward the same goals made me so happy. Seeing them work together to gain allies (and get Nadia out of the way) and work toward a better future for their planet.
Maram had incredible growth. She spends time really learning about her heritage that comes from her mother. I loved seeing her get away from her cold and cruel persona that she wears to prove she is Vathek enough. She’s embracing her mother’s side and it was so great. I loved learning about it as Maram did. I also really loved Maram’s love interest. We really get to know her on a deeper level once the love interest is introduced. Maram shows a completely different side from anything we’ve seen before and I loved it.
Amani’s story focuses on bettering her relationship with Maram. But she also gets a very complicated romance that’s continued from the first book. She battles with her feelings for Idris who is actually Maram’s fiancé (and eventually husband). Pretending to be Maram and Idris’ wife was a difficult task for her because she cared so much for him. It was interesting to see her battle her feelings for him versus what she thought was the right thing to do. I also adored Amani because she has an incredible mind for the politics of the world. We get to follow Maram and Amani as they tour the world after the wedding and I loved getting to see more of this culture. It was beautiful and fascinating. Amani is the mastermind behind all of Maram’s moves, but once the two and Idris start planning together my heart was singing.
This story started with many very unhappy people, but by the end of this book, they are all (mostly) put back together. This is a story of exploring your roots and your history. It’s a story of figuring out who you are and what you want and getting those things that you wanted, that you dreamed of having. I loved every page of these characters finding their way together, to friendship, and to love. I cannot say enough how much these characters and this story weaved its way into my heart. The writing was beautiful and took me right there, into this world, the drama, the politics, and the emotions. This series will definitely be making my 2020 favorites list.

Quotes:

“All of us have suffered one loss of another. All of us live in the shadow of that. And those losses do not absolve us of the choices we make.”

“Sometimes,” she said contemplatively, “all the paths lead where we would rather not go. Sometimes you can’t outrun home or destiny.”

“It’s not about the teller,” I said. “But the fortune. Good or ill, true or false, it haunts the listener.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

GoodReads Summary:
Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.
The Love That Split the WorldReview:
The Love That Split the World was my last Emily Henry book and I was not disappointed at all. I didn’t realize this was going to be as much of a romance as it was, but I still really loved it. The story follows Nat as she’s trying to figure out who needs to be saved. Natalie has seen Grandmother for most of her life. She sees her late at night and no one really believes that Grandmother is real. Nat tries a certain therapy to stop seeing Grandmother and it works, until one night, Nat sees Grandmother and she tells Nat that there are only three months to save him. Nat has to figure out who Grandmother is talking about. I really liked Nat. She was adopted and her biological mother is an Indigenous woman from a reservation in another state. So, not belonging and trying to figure out who she really is had been a bit part of Nat’s life so far. I really liked this aspect of the story. Nat’s journey to figure things out about herself was one of the best parts of the book. I also really loved all of the stories we got to hear about that Grandmother told her. I really loved all of the Indigenous cultures that was included. I can’t speak to the representation, but as an outside opinion, I thought the stories were beautiful and beautifully written.
Enter Beau. I feel like I only really liked Beau because most of the other people in Nat’s life sucked. Especially her ex-boyfriend. Beau was kind and had some issues, but he was there when Nat needed him and he could understand a bit of what Natalie was dealing with what Grandmother was trying to tell her.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t mind that it was mostly a romance. I loved how much it reminded me of my own high school experience. I liked the characters. But most of all I loved the twists and turns of the story. It was beautifully written and Emily Henry has solidified a place as one of my favorite authors.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

GoodReads Summary:
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.
The Last 8 (The Last 8, #1)Review:
The Last 8 follows Clover as the world is ending because aliens have come to Earth, and they’re not friendly. Everyone Clover has ever known is dead. She travels aimlessly around the United States for many months until she hears a radio broadcast made by another survivor. She travels to what used to be Area 51. This is where she meets seven other survivors. But they’re happily hiding in their military base and aren’t interested in doing anything to fight back against the aliens, until Clover convinces them anyway.
This story was incredible. I wasn’t sure what to expect while I was listening. The plot twists were interesting and kept the story going at a steady pace. I think one of my favorite things about this story was that it’s realistic. The world ends and all of Clover’s loved ones are gone, she really struggles with suicidal thoughts and considers killing herself several times while she’s traveling alone. Most of the ‘end of the world’ stories have these hopeful teenagers that think they’re invincible, but this book has a diverse cast of characters that just want the aliens to go away. They want to hide and not have to be responsible for saving the world.
Clover was a complicated girl. She was raised by her grandparents, grew up as the only Latinx girl in a small town. I really liked that this was addressed even though that small town was soon unrecognizable. I also liked that Clover was sort of a jerk. She pushed people to do things they don’t really want to do. She pushes her new friends to ask questions, to do something, anything. She isn’t the hero they wanted, but she is the one they needed.
Overall, this might be one of my new favorite science fiction stories. There was action and drama. There were interesting relationships that I was easily invested in. There was a diverse cast of characters that each brought something to the story. I loved the twists and turns that the characters went through. They learned things about themselves that they never wanted to know. They learn things about each other too. I think this story was so well done and I’m confused why this book hasn’t been talked about more. I will now go to my rooftop and scream about this book so that others will read it.

Quotes:

“I don’t belong to the sky anymore. Hope is the thing that kills me in the end. Because it doesn’t take my body, but it takes my soul.”

“I’ve learned that there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.”

“My instinct is not to speak, but I’m tired of silence. I’m tired of not knowing how to bridge the gaps between me and the others.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

GoodReads Summary:
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.
But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.
As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.
Mirage (Mirage, #1)Review:
Mirage is a book that I let sit on my bookshelf for entirely too long. I absolutely loved this story. The book follows Amani as she is taken from her home and brought to the royal palace because she looks just like the Princess. Maram is not a very popular princess, so Amani is trained to behave exactly like Maram would and to know everything that Maram knows. It was hard not to feel bad for Amani. She’s been taken from the only life she’s known and thrown into the vicious world of the Vathek. The longer she’s with Princess Maram though, the better she gets to know her. I ended up feeling bad for Maram too. She’s only half-Vathek, so her struggle is that her mother’s people hate her because she’s Vathek and the Vathek people think less of her for her other half. I love Maram because we got to see growth. Though the ending sort of messed that up, but I’m very excited to see what will happen with her in the next book. Amani is thrown into a world where she’s mostly over her head. But she manages to make friends with some of the people in Maram’s life that Amani’s supposed to be fooling. I really liked when Amani visited Maram’s grandmother. That’s really when the story started to get really good. I mean, it was enjoyable the whole time, but the pace of the story really sped up around here.
Overall, I adored this book. It was a diverse story and the only thing that would make it better would be for Maram and Amani to fall in love. I loved the world, but I’m hoping we get to see more of it. There was also a romance and I totally wasn’t as invested in it as I thought I’d be. They were alright together, but I knew it wouldn’t end well as soon as it started. Anyway, definitely go read this book it was great.

Quotes:

“You are lucky”, she said. “Me?” “You know where you belong. You have your family and your traditions, no one is…is screaming at you to be something else.”

“When night falls, come and visit me, For I have seen night keeps secrets best.”

“A cage is a cage even if gilded.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

GoodReads Summary:
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
Tarnished Are the StarsReview:
Tarnished Are the Stars is a story that follows Anna (also known as ‘The Technician’). She is a mechanic that secretly helps people with illegal medical technology. At the beginning of the story, the Commissioner has put out a new law in hopes of finding the Technician. Anna knows what she does is dangerous, but she thinks the risk is worth it because she gets to help people. But when Nathaniel, the Commissioner’s son, finds her booth and gets one of her riddles, her life changes. There’s entirely too much about this world for me to explain. This book takes place on a planet named Earth Adjacent. Earth is no longer habitable due to technology. So, the people that live on Earth Adjacent have technology very heavily controlled. There’s also a sickness on this planet. Anna lives outside of the Settlement and many people in her town are sick for unknown reasons.
When Nathaniel figures out Anna’s riddle and they meet, she realizes that he has the same lifesaving technology that she does. She was told she’s the only one that has this specific tech, as it has evolved since it was put in her. She needs to see him again so she can get to the bottom of it, but she’s realized that he’s the commissioner’s son and that it will be very dangerous for her. When she finds him again, someone very dear to her dies. (I literally sobbed.) This is when the story really gets exciting. There is a third character I need to mention before I get into my thoughts. Eliza, she is the Queen’s Eye (aka her spy). She is engaged to Nathaniel and is sent down to Earth Adjacent on a mission from the Queen.
Okay, my thoughts. I really liked Anna. She’s a smart girl that really cares. She struggles with failing at training to be a surgeon, but she excels at being a mechanic. This is a point of tension between her and her grandfather, Thatcher. I really enjoyed how their relationship developed and improved before the story’s conclusion. Once Anna, Eliza, and Nathaniel finally agree to work together the story gets even more interesting. I liked that they were unlikely allies. They were all working toward the same goal for their own reasons. Eliza and Anna have feelings for one another that they’re trying to deny. I loved this part of the story. I loved Eliza’s struggle between completing her mission for the Queen and helping Anna. Nathaniel is struggling between overthrowing his father and being the child his father has tried to make him.
Overall, I loved this book. If you liked the Lunar Chronicles, you’ll probably love this one. The relationships were complex and interesting. The secrets were surprising and suspenseful. We learn that things are not what we thought they were. I think the world was fascinating. I just loved everything about this story. There are mystery and suspense, romance and betrayal, great worldbuilding, and loveable characters. What else do you need?

Quotes:

“We are made or unmade by our choices.”

“We do not have to use the same words or share the same definitions to be similar, to understand one another.”

“Some secrets are like a blade, their vengeance swift and concentrated. Others are like a pestilence, spreading without prejudice, and I fear not everyone it touches will deserve the affliction.”

“But that was the thing about loss: Death could rip love from life, but those memories stayed behind, burning a hole through the heart.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

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GoodReads Summary:
The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.
Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.
Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….
The Loneliest Girl in the UniverseReview:
I buddy read this book with one of my favorites, Alana @ The Bookish Chick. I think we both felt similarly. This book was a wild ride.
We’re following Romy as she’s traveling alone through space. She was born in outer space to two astronauts that were on a mission to go to a planet thought to be able to support human life. But some mysterious something happened and Romy ended up alone. I think the suspense was done really well. For the first half of the book, I was really interested to find out what had happened to Romy’s parents and the rest of the astronauts on the mission. Sadly, the further into the book I read the less I liked it. I thought the mystery of Romy’s parents and the other astronauts was great, I also liked the representation of anxiety that we get from Romy. But I just really didn’t like the last third of the book.
So, for this last third of the story, we are anticipating another ship joining with Romy’s. Earth has sent another space ship to help her so that she isn’t alone when arriving on the planet she’s headed for. J is the astronaut from the other ship. J and Romy exchange messages while they’re waiting to meet. I liked this at first, but then it sort of felt icky. Romy is only sixteen and she’s falling in love with a 20-something-year-old. It just got worse when they finally met. I won’t go into too much detail because of spoilers, but I didn’t like it.
Overall, I wanted to like this book more than I did. I think Romy was a great representation of anxiety, but that and the mystery of how Romy ended up alone were the only things I liked about the story and they weren’t the main focus of the book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

H2O by Virginia Bergin

GoodReads Summary:
.27 IS A NUMBER RUBY HATES.
It’s a number that marks the percentage of the population that survived. It’s a number that means she’s one of the “lucky” few still standing. And it’s a number that says her father is probably dead.
Against all odds, Ruby has survived the catastrophic onset of the killer rain. Two weeks after the radio started broadcasting the warning “It’s in the rain. It’s fatal, it’s contagious, and there’s no cure,” the drinkable water is running out. Ruby’s left with two options: persevere on her own, or embark on a treacherous journey across the country to find her father–If he’s even still alive.
H2O (The Rain, #1)Review:
My biggest issue with this book was that the main character, Ruby, was honestly so annoying. There’s literally no way she should have survived. She only did because of her step-dad who she was a huge jerk to until the world was ending. If Ruby had been a more likable main character, I probably would have really loved this book. It had all of the things I love: the world ending via spooky alien things, acid rain (it’s not really acid but whatever), nerdy boys who take in children. There were so many good things that were overshadowed by Ruby being the one telling the story. She’s just so rude and selfish. She also continually made really poor choices. I wanted to love this book, but Ruby made that hard.
So, I didn’t love it. I read reviews for the second book that said this aspect of the story (Ruby) is much better in the second book, so, I’m going to check out the ebook from my library and give it a go.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Aurora Burning by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman

GoodReads Summary:
First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.
Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.
And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.
Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.
When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.
Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.
Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2)Review:
I really wanted to like this book I swear I tried. But I just was more disappointed the further I read. I didn’t love the first book (Aurora Rising) but I enjoyed it a lot. I thought it was creative and interesting. But many of the things I loved about the first book didn’t seem to be in this one.
I liked the characters, but they seemed to have gotten less mature somehow. I think what the authors were trying to add as ‘lightheartedness’ really just made them seem immature and childish. There was literally a whole chapter where Scarlett talks about her boobs. Normally, I’d love this, but they’re supposed to be saving the galaxy and it just seemed out of place. There just wasn’t any sense of urgency or seriousness about the task they’re supposed to be working toward and I didn’t like that.
I also didn’t really care for this book because not much happened. There was action and adventure, but it didn’t really seem like all of the events were especially important toward their larger mission.
Overall, I wanted to love this book but it just didn’t do it for me. I wanted to like this book so much, but I just didn’t. To top it all off, the ending of this book made me so mad. I get a cliff hanger but this ending was just ridiculous. I think I’ll probably continue the series, but I hope the next book is better than this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Internment by Samira Ahmed

GoodReads Summary:
Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
InternmentReview:
What a horrifying potential future this story was. I cried for most of the beginning of this book. I chose to read this via audiobook and I just have to mention that it was incredibly well produced. Though there’s only one narrator, there were all sorts of interesting effects included. I don’t want to say that I enjoyed this story because it was terribly hard to listen to and it was a very hard topic, but it was a fascinating story.
We follow Layla as her family is removed from their home and forced into an internment camp. This was the hardest part of the story. Samira Ahmed did an incredible job of filling Layla’s experience and internal thoughts with emotions. I couldn’t help but cry at the things that Layla was made to see and experience. The hardest thing for me about this story was how easily this “five minutes in the future” could come to pass. As someone who was born and raised as a white girl in America, I kept saying to myself, “this could never happen because of xyz.” Then, minutes later, Layla would say the same thing to her parents. I think that was the worst part for me. Layla was born in America, she was a citizen, and yet all of these horrible things were happening to her because her family wouldn’t hide their religion.
I really loved Layla’s spirit. She refused to be beaten down while in the internment camp. Surrounded by horrible things, seeing people speak out getting taken away or literally beaten didn’t stop her from plotting a rebellion. I really liked this aspect of the story. Hope in the face of something so hopeless was the highlight. Along with this, I really liked that this wasn’t an “I hate America” story. There were guards that were on the side of those imprisoned. There were protests all over the country. The people that weren’t hateful and horribly racist stood up for the Muslims that were being taken from their homes. I liked that all of the people came together to change what was happening.
Overall, this was a hard story to read, but an important one. It’s a story sure to make you cry, but by the end of it you will see that hope and resisting those with hateful beliefs will not win.

Quotes:

“What’s that thing people always say about history? Unless we know our history, we’re doomed to repeat it? Never forget? Isn’t that the lesson? But we always forget. Forgetting is in the American grain.”

“But it’s also a reminder that being quiet doesn’t always signify weakness. Sometimes it takes great strength to find that silence. Sometimes it takes incredible strength to survive.”

“It’s not about danger. It’s about fear. People are willing to trade their freedom, even for a false sense of protection”
“Then I glance beyond the fence at the sea of people. In this place where I thought I was lost, the world has found me. Hope courses through my veins.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune

GoodReads Summary:
Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.
Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?
After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).
The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)Review:
Huge thanks to NetGalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I have to say that I 100% requested this book because of the cover and the comparison to Marissa Meyer’s Renegades series. I didn’t really have very high expectations going into this book. I think that’s because the summary of the book really doesn’t cover the awesomeness inside. It’s interesting because it does cover all the things that make this book wonderful, but it’s a case of the summary telling and the book showing these things that really makes the difference.
This book follows Nick, who is a queer boy in high school that has ADHD. I absolutely loved him right from the start. I have people very close to me in my life that have ADHD, so it was really interesting to see Nick’s experiences with it and get his thoughts and feelings. He manages to get in trouble in and out of school very often. Nick doesn’t have it easy, but he really tries so hard and I think that’s what I liked so much about him. He really makes the effort to do and be better. I thought the portrayal of his ADHD was really thoughtful. He also takes medication to help him, which I thought was a great addition. While Nick is the most cinnamon-y of all the cinnamon rolls out there, he was also quite oblivious. He really had a problem getting stuck in his head and hyper-focusing on his problems. So, I totally predicted the end of this book around the 50% mark, but I had the secret identities mixed around.
Nick’s friend group was the best. He is a misfit, as are his friends. Seth and Nick have been best friends since elementary school. Gibby joined them in middle school. She’s a lesbian and will literally kick your ass. I loved Gibby. She calls Nick out when he needs it, but is a loyal friend to Seth at the same time. Then there’s Jaz, Gibby’s girlfriend. She was last to the friend group, but no less loved. I really enjoyed getting the history of their friendships and their banter and interactions literally had me laughing out loud.
I laughed so hard during this book, but this author didn’t hesitate to turn it all around. I also balled my eyes out once or twice. Another really great part of the story was Nick’s dad. The relationship that these two have was nothing short of wonderful. But it’s also realistic. It’s hard to be a single dad and Nick’s dad was certainly not perfect. But it was clear how much he loved Nick and how hard he was trying. I can’t imagine trying to grieve the death of my wife while also still having a child to take care of. I loved how accepting his dad was, but also their open communication. They talked about Nick’s sexuality. They talked about his ADHD. His dad was there for him as much as he could be as a cop that had to work nights. Nick and his dad also made me laugh so much.
Overall, this book surpassed all expectations I had for it. The writing was fantastic. The characters were incredible and I love each of them so very much (even the villain). The world was really interesting (with a history I’m dying to know more of). And the book left of leaving me wanting so much more. I’m so glad this is a series, but so sad I will have to wait who knows how long for the next book. Please do yourself a favor and read this fabulously queer and heartwarming book.

Quotes:

“Sometimes, people do things just because they can. There doesn’t have to be a reason. It’s all chaos.”

“Nick knew the power of words. He knew that sometimes when they landed, they exploded with the force of a carelessly tossed grenade.”

“We’re teenagers. Everything is unnecessarily complicated. We’re told that we have to be a certain way, even if we know it’s wrong. We’re not taken seriously. Our ideas are cast aside as though they’re without merit. Sometimes we need to act out so that people pay attention to us. So that people know we mean what we say. That we’re capable. That we shouldn’t be dismissed.”

“They’re brave,” Mary said. “But we are too. Because while they’re out there, saving the world, we’re the ones they come home to. And it may not always be fair, and there are times when you know they’re in harm’s way, but they’ll always fight like the dickens to get back where they belong.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Life Below by Alexandra Monir

GoodReads Summary:
As Naomi lifts off into space and away from a rapidly deteriorating Earth, she watches the world fade away, and along with it Leo, a Final Six contestant she grew close to during training. Leaving Earth behind is hard, but what’s ahead, on Europa, could be worse. The International Space Training Camp continues to hide the truth about what happened to the last group of astronauts who attempted a similar colonization but failed mysteriously. With one shot—at this mission and to Europa—Naomi is determined to find out if there is alien life on Europa before she and her crew get there.
Leo, back on Earth, has been working with renegade scientist Dr. Greta Wagner, who promises to fly him to space where he can essentially latch on to Naomi’s ship. And if Wagner’s hypothesis is right, it isn’t a possibility of coming in contact with extraterrestrial life on Europa—it’s a definite. With Naomi unaware of what awaits, it’s up to Leo to find and warn her and the others.
With all the pieces of their journey finally clicking into place, everything else starts to fall apart. A storm threatens to interfere with Leo’s takeoff, a deadly entity makes itself known to the Final Six, and the questions the ISTC has been avoiding about the previous failed mission get answered in the worst way possible. If the dream was to establish a habitable domain on Europa… the Final Six are about to enter a nightmare.
The Life Below (The Final Six, #2)Review:
I loved this book. I really loved the first book, The Final Six, but honestly, I think I somehow loved this second installment even more. I really adore series that have books that just keep getting better. This seems like it’s definitely going to be one of those.
I loved everything about this book. The crew has officially left the Earth and things are getting real. We follow the crew through the perspective of Naomi and Leo, as we did in the first book. Traveling through outer space is fascinating, but sad for some of them. Naomi will likely never see her family again. There are some losses and they totally took me by surprise. I thought the author did such a good job of showing what happens to these characters rather than just telling us the events. Naomi feels alone now that Leo is not with her, but she does her job and manages to make friends. Leo, however, is doing whatever he needs to get back to her. I loved their love story more and more with every page. Getting to see them reunite what literally my favorite part.
Now, science fiction is one of my favorite genres. This book had some really excellent science parts. The crew is flying through space. They need to make a pit stop near Mars before continuing onto Europa. I thought the Mars bits were horrifying and fascinating. Then we get to get to Europa and things get even more horrifying and fascinating. I liked that the science was well explained so that I could understand it but not overly dumbed down for me. The creatures and their reactions, as well as the crew’s reactions, were all so realistic.
Overall, I feel like I’m not doing this book justice. So, if you’re a science fiction lover like me, please just go buy or borrow The Final Six so that you can read this incredible sequel.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Bonds of Brass by Emily Strutskie

GoodReads Summary:
A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.
Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.
But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?
Bonds of Brass (The Bloodright Trilogy #1)Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Bonds of Brass was immediately interesting. I love stories that take place in schools, which this was essentially a school in space. There were many things I love about this book, the characters, the world-building, the secrets, the romance. I loved it all.
We follow Ettain as his whole world changes. He’s found out that his roommate, best friend, and crush is actually the heir to literally everything. A secret that’s been kept for years. He figures out that things aren’t going how their supposed to and rescues him. I loved and laughed during these pages. The pair manage to escape and find themselves on a planet outside of the empire that Gal is intended to inherit. Things were a little slow at times when they were in this other world. But they make friends with a local and she becomes a part of their little run-away crew. All of them are pilots, some more trained than others.
As I mentioned, there were lots of secrets. One in particular toward the end that I legitimately said “no fucking way” out loud and my husband definitely gave me the side-eye. I think the suspense and drama leading up to this secret was so well done.
Overall, I loved this. I loved all the piloting, all the antics, and banter. I love the different parts of the world, the action, and drama. But that ending was a killer. We’re left with a cliffhanger that may or may not has actually torn out a piece of my heart. A definite must-read for science fiction lovers. Also, a side note. I’ve read this is Star Wars related, but I’m not a big part of that fandom so I don’t know much about those connections, but not knowing didn’t make me enjoy this any less.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

GoodReads Summary:
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
The Sound of StarsReview:
Thank you to NetGalley and the applicable publishers for providing me an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I had to wait a few days to write this review because I had to talk with a friend who also read it and gather my full thoughts. I know I say this a lot but, which any book there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I think it’s pretty even on what I liked and what I didn’t.
This story follows Ellie who is a human living in a distant future where the world has been taken over by aliens. I really liked Ellie. She’s an avid reader and managed to hide her books and lend them out to others that living in her building. She lends books and follows the motions to get through the day. I believe she’s pansexual, though that word is never actually used. But she does say that gender doesn’t matter if she feels a deep connection to a person.
We also follow Morris, which is spelled with numbers in his language. He’s an alien that’s developed the “vaccine” that his superiors plan to use on the human race. He has a secret too. He loves music, though he’s not supposed to. I liked Morris because he wanted better for his people. He wasn’t in agreement with the things they were making him do and he was working toward dismantling the system.
I thought the concept of the aliens was really interesting. But there was a lot I didn’t understand about them. They seemed almost like cyborgs but I feel like it wasn’t very well explained. There were also other aliens that we met and their species (?) wasn’t explained very well either. Though I did see the identity of the other aliens coming from a mile away.
Another problem I had with this book was that it was a bit repetitive and over political. Our main character is black and lived in the Upper East Side before the alien invasion so she dealt with a lot of racism. I’m all about these sorts of topics because they’re real and relevant, but she mentioned it about a hundred times. I think it would have been okay to mention a few different events. But she thought about and talked about the same events over and over.
Overall, I had a good time reading this book. Right up until the ending. If there’s going to be another book (I’ve not seen it announced anywhere or anything) I’m more okay with the ending, but the final action scene seemed rushed and the events after were even more rushed. There wasn’t really a resolution either. I’m really hoping it has a sequel because if not, the whole goal they were working toward was never achieved. So if there will be another (which I will be asking when I see this author at the NoVaTeen Book Festival) I can accept the ending but if not then I will definitely be lowering my rating. This was a fun science fiction book, but it has a few issues.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

GoodReads Summary:
In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.
The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make a change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
The Fever King (Feverwake, #1)Review:
I have to be honest here, as I am with all of my reviews. I almost chose not to finish this book because for the first twenty percent or so I was just bored. Things didn’t really get interesting until after Noam and Dara finally started talking. I loved Dara immediately. He’s precious and needs to be protected at all costs. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen with him in the next book. I thought he was so complex and interesting. It was clear that there was more going on than was shown on the page and I loved learning his secrets.
Noam annoyed me a little because it was so clear who was really the villain, but also I could see things from his perspective and why he felt the way he did. I learned to love Noam and respect his choices. I’m very interested to see how things will play out with where this first book was concluded.
I really enjoyed the world-building of this futuristic America but I would have liked to see a bit more of it. We’re only told a bit about the different areas but I would have liked to actually see some of the other places.
Overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. It was a little slow in the beginning but definitely picked up as the story went along. I’m definitely excited to see what is going to happen in book two, which I will be picking up in the next few days as I’m lucky enough to get an ARC.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.