Blogtober Book Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

GoodReads Summary:
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
Blanca & RojaReview:
This is the first of McLemore’s books that I’ve read and let me assure you, it won’t be the last. I am eager to read more of their books. Their writing is nothing short of stunning and I was so awed by this story. Blanca & Roja follows two sisters, Blanca and Roja, and then two others, Page and Yearling. I loved all four of these characters. The sisters are part of a family that has been cursed. There are conflicting stories about where it started, but every generation there are two daughters and one of them is chosen by the swans to become one of them and leave their family.
Blanca is a fierce protector of her younger sister, the one everyone thinks will be chosen by the swans. Blanca is the fairer sister, the sweeter sister, the nicer sister. But Blanca isn’t going to just let the swans take Roja. She loves her sister and will do anything, including making a deal so that the swans will take her instead of Roja. But she keeps a secret and this changes their relationship.
Roja is fiery. I adored Roja, always the other sibling. Her hair is dark brown with red in it, she is darker than Blanca. She is full of fire and anger. I loved every second I got to spend with Roja. She’s always expected to be the ones that the swans chose, despite what Blanca tries to tell her. She loves her sister dearly. But she realizes that Blanca is keeping a secret and things sour. But these two girls love each other so much that they are both willing to sacrifice themselves to the swans to save the other.
Then come Page and Yearling. The two boys disappear into the woods one day and aren’t seen again until the swans come for either Blanca or Roja. They are an unlikely set of best friends. They both have issues with their family’s but different sorts of issues. Yearling comes from a wealthy family, but he really doesn’t like how his family acquired that wealth and he wants to get the truth out to the public. Yearling is another person that has anger inside him. He gets in fights often. He’s a conflicted young man. He’s changed after he comes out of the woods. He’s having to figure a lot of things out and I liked his story. Page is a genderqueer boy that uses he/she pronouns but prefers male-gendered language. I loved Page. He was so soft and sweet and full of love. He was struggling with his family because he wasn’t sure they could give him what he needed.
I adored the relationships. The sisters were full of love but complex and interesting. I loved how much they loved one another. Both girls find themselves with feelings for the boys that came to them from the woods. Blanca and Page’s relationship was so sweet, much like the characters. They are both full of softness and love. Yearling and Roja are the opposite, full of spit and fire. Both couples find something of themselves in the other, someone that understands the things they feel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The writing was beautiful. The characters were wonderful. The plot was slow and quiet, but there was so much emotion and love within these pages. There was magic and romance, sacrifice, and mystery. I cannot wait to pick up another one of McLemore’s books.

Quotes:

“I was a girl who would never exist in a fairy tale, not just because of the brown of my body but because of my heart, neither pure enough to be good nor cruel enough to be evil. I was a girl lost in the deep, narrow space between the two forms girls were allowed to take.”

“We find what is beautiful in what is broken. We find what is heartening in what is terrifying. We find the stars in the woods’ deepest shadows.”

“My sister and I had been born fair and dark, her looking like a girl in a fairy tale who would grow up sweet, a princess, and me like one who would grow into a cruel witch. I had seen the pictures in storybooks. I knew what I was, with my bloodstained hair. Girls like me were marked for the swans. How could they ever take a girl like Blanca?”

“Page set her hand on the small of my back. She did it like it was only to guide me around rocks or fallen pinecones. But when she did it, I was that glass jar with a candle set inside. The heart of me was as soft as the wax of the tea light.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman

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GoodReads Summary:
The teenagers of Four Paths must save their home.
Though the Beast is seemingly subdued for now, a new threat looms in Four Paths: a corruption seeping from the Gray into the forest. And with the other Founders preoccupied by their tangled alliances and fraying relationships, only May Hawthorne seems to realize the danger. But saving the town she loves means seeking aid from the person her family despises most–her and Justin’s father.
May’s father isn’t the only newcomer in town–Isaac Sullivan’s older brother has also returned, seeking forgiveness for the role he played in Isaac’s troubled past. But Isaac isn’t ready to let go of his family’s history, especially when that history might hold the key that he and Violet Saunders need to destroy the Gray and the monster within it.
Harper Carlisle isn’t ready to forgive, either. Two devastating betrayals have left her isolated from her family and uncertain who to trust. As the corruption becomes impossible to ignore, Harper must learn to control her newfound powers in order to protect Four Paths. But the only people who can help her do that are the ones who have hurt her the most.
With the veil between the Gray and the town growing ever thinner, all of the Founder descendants must put their grievances with one another aside to stop the corruption and kill the Beast once and for all.
But maybe the monster they truly need to slay has never been the Beast…
The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray, #2)Review:
The Deck of Omens was everything I wanted it to be. Check out my review which talks about how much I loved the first book here. In this second book, the Gray has started to corrupt the rest of Four Paths. Some really weird stuff is going on and no one seems to have noticed other than May. May is a troubled girl. She’s under her mother’s thumb, mostly because there is nothing more May wants than her mother’s approval and praise. Despite that, she’s starting to do things that she knows her mother wouldn’t like. One of those things is to call her father. He comes to town to help May, but there’s so much about May and Justin’s father that we (and they) don’t know. I thought the addition of the Hawthorne dad was a really interesting twist, especially when we learn all of his secrets.
I would still die for Violet and Harper. I thought Harper’s challenge of learning how to manage her abilities was a good one. She is pulled between Violet’s mom and Justin’s mom because they both want to train her. I loved the stand that Harper took in this situation. She made it clear that she was in control of her own life and her own abilities and I really appreciated that. Violet is still my favorite. She’s finally trusting her mom and they have a good relationship. But the more she learns about the history of the town and her ancestors, the more she realizes that she still doesn’t know the whole truth. I loved that Violet and Isaac spent more time together. Seeing Isaac open up to Violet literally set my heart on fire. I loved everything about their relationship. Isaac has had some really terrible things happen in his life. But he’s finally working toward doing better for himself, getting what he actually deserves rather than punishing himself for the past. But his brother, Gideon, comes back to town and that brings up all sorts of emotions for him. I liked seeing Isaac and Gideon because we get a new perspective on Isaac’s past from Gideon that we didn’t have before. I think Isaac had some tremendous character growth and I am so proud of him. I just really didn’t care about Justin at all. Christine Lynn Herman really hurt him, but I still couldn’t find it in myself to care.
Overall, I loved this story. I think it was a great conclusion to this duology. I loved these characters with my whole heart. They all grew so much and ended in a way where they made the best choices for themselves and I thought that was amazing. Please read this and love it as much as I do.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling

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GoodReads Summary:
Hannah Walsh just wants a normal life. It’s her senior year, so she should be focusing on classes, hanging out with her best friend, and flirting with her new girlfriend, Morgan. But it turns out surviving a murderous Witch Hunter doesn’t exactly qualify as a summer vacation, and now the rest of the Hunters seem more intent on destroying her magic than ever.
When Hannah learns the Hunters have gone nationwide, armed with a serum capable of taking out entire covens at once, she’s desperate to help. Now, with witches across the country losing the most important thing they have—their power—Hannah could be their best shot at finally defeating the Hunters. After all, she’s one of the only witches to escape a Hunter with her magic intact.
Or so everyone believes. Because as good as she is at faking it, doing even the smallest bit of magic leaves her in agony. The only person who can bring her comfort, who can make her power flourish, is Morgan. But Morgan’s magic is on the line, too, and if Hannah can’t figure out how to save her—and the rest of the Witches—she’ll lose everything she’s ever known. And as the Hunters get dangerously close to their final target, will all the Witches in Salem be enough to stop an enemy determined to destroy magic for good?
This Coven Won't Break (These Witches Don't Burn, #2)Review:
My job opened back up when I found that my library had this audiobook. So, basically, I listened to it while I was working (which I’m not supposed to do) and listened to it in almost one shift.
I really enjoyed this book. Probably my favorite part about this book was all of the kissing. Morgan and Hannah’s relationship was the best. They were sweet and new, but also made progress to become a more serious relationship. I liked that their relationship also helped others see how the other witches can use their magic together.
Hannah was very brave. She feels a little responsible for what’s going on and she wants to be a part of the team of agents that are working to take the Hunters down. I really liked how Hannah’s grief over her father was present in the story. She lost her father which is part of her motivation to help, but she also let herself feel that grief. I liked that she ended up being a key part of taking down the Hunters. It was nice to see the adults listening to her ideas.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the first one better, but this one was still good. There was a diverse cast with different sexualities and a trans character. I loved the diversity. I loved, even more, the way the story concluded with the three different types of witches learning that they can use their magic together.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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GoodReads Summary:
For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.
Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.
As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.
A Million JunesReview:
This book really surprised me. I actually almost unhauled it two different times. But I’ve since read Emily Henry’s adult romance novel and the novel she co-wrote with Brittany Cavallaro. So, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on A Million Junes. I am so glad I held myself back from unhauling because I gave this book five stars on GoodReads.
We follow June. She goes to the local carnival with her best friend, Hannah. This is when June see’s Saul Angert for the first time in three years. He left town with little explanation and now he’s back. June’s family has one rule, and it’s to stay away from the Angert family. No surprise here that she doesn’t. June finds that she’s sort of attracted to Saul. But Hannah has had a crush on him forever and June wants to respect Hannah’s feelings. I really appreciated this aspect of the story. The fact that June was so thoughtful of her best friend’s feelings really made me love their friendship. I also loved that even when she got Hannah’s okay to act on her feelings for Saul, June didn’t just blow Hannah off. I don’t love girls that blow of their friends once they get interested in a guy.
Now, for the romance. I really liked Saul and June together. I loved the forbidden aspect of their friendship. It definitely led to some funny parts of the story where the pair were trying to keep Saul’s identity a secret. I thought the things that they experienced, the losses that they had in common, were a beautiful part of this story. I also really enjoyed the two sharing their family stories and trying to get to the truth of the two versions.
Overall, this story was beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a story of grief and love and figuring out how to continue living after losing those close to you. I loved the magical aspects of the story. They were beautifully written and the magic was beyond fascinating. I am now a huge fan of Emily Henry and I’ve bought her other backlist titles. If you like magical realism and stories filled with emotion, this is the book for you.

Quotes:

“Letting go is not forgetting. It’s opening your eyes to the good that grew from the bad, the life that blooms from decay.”

“Grief is an unfillable hole in your body. It should be weightless, but it’s heavy. Should be cold, but it burns. Should, over time, close up, but instead it deepens.”

“When people pity you, it’s like they don’t realize that the exact same thing is coming for them. And then I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and have to pity them, because, like, do you not realize that it’s always someone’s turn? You haven’t noticed everyone gets a few blows that seem so big you can’t survive them?”

“Maybe for some people, falling in love is an explosion, fireworks against a black sky and tremors rumbling through the earth. One blazing moment. For me, it’s been happening for months, as quietly as a seed sprouting. Love sneaked through me, spreading roots around my heart, until, in the blink of an eye, the green of it broke the dirt: hidden one moment, there the next.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

GoodReads Summary:
When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.
August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.
The Wicker King by K. AncrumReview:
The Wicker King was incredible and I’m not really sure how to explain why I feel that way. The writing was the first thing that caught my attention that I liked. It wasn’t quite a stream of consciousness but sort of reminded me of that style. I really liked the writing style. It made the story really easy to devour. This was not an easy story to read. We follow August’s perspective as his best friend, Jack, lets his hallucinations get worse and worse. At first, the story seemed like a fun not quite fantastical story where the two boys were going to quest for whatever it was Jack’s other world needed to be saved. But as things got more serious it was clear that the pair were in over their heads, even if they didn’t want to admit it. Both come from not great home lives. August’s mom has depression and he takes care of her more than she does him. Jack’s parents are basically nonexistent. Both Jack and August are basically just doing the best they can.
Despite their struggles, it was really hard not to like both of them. The relationship they share is clearly incredibly special to them both even though it isn’t always a super healthy relationship. I also really enjoyed the side characters (the twins were my favorite). All of the side characters added something important to the story and I liked them all.
Overall, this story blew me away. This review is short and that is intentional because there isn’t a whole lot I can say without spoiling things. I especially liked the color formatting that was done as the story and the character’s progress. I definitely will be reading all of Ancrum’s books in the future.

Quotes:

“If you drop the weight you are carrying, it is okay. You can build yourself back up out of the pieces.”

“Where we are, there is light.” The wind blew hard from the east and the trees rustled their branches. “From where I’m standing… it is warm enough.”

“You deserve to heal and grow, too. You deserve to have someone to talk to about your problem; you deserve unconditional support; you deserve care and safety and all the things you need to thrive. Just because you may not have them doesn’t mean you don’t deserve them.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Bewitching by Alex Flinn

GoodReads Summary:
Bewitching can be a beast. . . .
Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn’t.
I go to a new school now—one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I’m not still here because I’m stupid; I just don’t age.
You see, I’m immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years—except for when to take my powers and butt out.
I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don’t even want to think about it.
Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn’t get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl—and it isn’t an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start… bewitching.
Bewitching (Kendra Chronicles, #2)Review:
I’ve been working my way through Flinn’s backlist that I haven’t read yet. So, Bewitching was next up on the list. I really liked parts of this story and not so much some other parts. I think going into this, I assumed it was going to more of Kendra’s story. We do get a bit of Kendra’s history at the beginning, and tidbits of things she’s done in the past, but I wanted more I guess.
The story mostly follows Emma. She lives with her mom and her step-father. Her parents married when she was three, so her step-dad is really the only father she’s ever known and she loves him dearly. But it turns out that he has another daughter around Emma’s age. Lisette’s mom dies and so Lisette comes to live with Emma. Emma is excited to gain a sister, but her mom puts doubts in her head about Lisette’s intentions. And Emma starts to realize that her mom was right all along. I really liked Emma. She was so excited to have a sister. She wanted someone to share things with and really tried to give Lisette the benefit of the doubt until that just wasn’t possible anymore. I liked how her story ended too. She never stooped to Lisette’s level.
Lisette on the other hand was completely horrible. She’s the Cinderella in this retelling, but instead of being kind and sweet, she was conniving and devious. She took away everything from Emma one piece at a time. I understood her backstory, it was sad, but no excuse to be the terrible girl she was.
There were also three stories outside of Emma’s story. In the beginning, we get a bit of Kendra’s story, her family, when she learned she was a witch, and all that. But we also get two stories aside from Emma’s (and a brief mention of Beastly) where Kendra intervened to help people. One is a retelling of The Princess and the Pea and the other was The Little Mermaid and I just didn’t care about either if them at all. They really completely took me out of my enjoyment of Emma’s story. I almost DNF’d this book because the little mermaid story was almost 100 pages and I just didn’t care about it at all.
I’m still going to push through and try to finish this series because I do enjoy Flinn’s fairytale retellings and Kendra is still a pretty interesting character.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

GoodReads Summary:
There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city’s magicians’ power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.
In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.
Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.
An Unkindness of Magicians (An Unkindness of Magicians, #1)Review:
This book is one I discovered from the bookish community on Twitter. It’s been raved about by so many people that I bought it. I bought it forever ago and it’s been on several TBR’s, but I finally picked it up because my library had the audiobook. I didn’t totally love the audiobook, but I liked it enough to listen to the whole story. I’m really picky about audiobooks, so this says a lot.
An Unkindness of Magicians was a bit confusing at first. There are a handful of characters introduced right from the beginning of the story and it was a little confusing between who was who and when we switched to a new character’s story. I think the audio did a great job of making it clear which was which (I started reading this physically before switching to the audio.)
I ended up really enjoying this story. The characters were diverse and interesting. This was a way darker story than I was anticipating and I loved it. The characters we follow are all dealing with different things, from planning to change everything about the magical world to attempting to keep a hold on power. I really liked the political complexities of the world and that there was more than one character trying to change the way the magical world was run. I liked the way the magic was written about as well. The author used vivid imagery whenever the characters were actively doing magic and I enjoyed that. I also liked that there were physical consequences for magic use and the big goal of the story was to change the fact that some of the more powerful houses had found a terrible way around these consequences.
Overall, this story was way darker than I thought it was going to be, but I still enjoyed it. I ended up really liking that there were so many characters that we followed. It felt like we really got to see all the different aspects of this magical world. The ending was sort of heartbreaking, but I think I’m alright with it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

GoodReads Summary:
An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process.
Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends.
Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent on stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?
Rich with the urgency of feral youth, The Scapegracers explores growing up and complex female friendship with all the rage of a teenage girl. It subverts the trope of competitive mean girls and instead portrays a mercilessly supportive clique of diverse and vivid characters. It is an atmospheric, voice-driven novel of the occult, and the first of a three-book series.
The Scapegracers (Scapegracers, #1)Review:
This is a review that if I could, I would love to just write ‘I loved this book’ a hundred million times. I bought this book because I saw two people that I follow on Twitter that just would not stop talking about how much they loved it. Then I read the synopsis and made it as far as ‘teenage lesbian witch’ and knew I had to have it. I am so happy with my decision because this series (which I didn’t know it was a series until the end of the book, but it’s totally okay because I loved it so much that I’m ecstatic to have two more books to look forward to) might just become one of my new all-time favorites. The story was full of teens that are stuffed full of emotions and trying to figure out who they are. I loved everything about this book.
We follow Sideways while she’s setting up a spell that she’s been paid to perform at the first Halloween party of the season. When things get weird at the party because of her spell she finds herself in with the three most popular girls in the school, Yates, Daisy, and Jing. The three become a foursome after they pull in Sideways. They want to figure out what happened, but they also want to learn how to use magic like Sideways does. While I loved everything about this story, from the magic to the things they do with said magic, and the plot, the characters, and their developing friendships were absolutely the best part of the story. The way that Sideways changes her perception of these girls as well as herself after she gets to know them better was wonderful. I also liked that this was a diverse group of friends. They live in a small town, but they’re still diverse in several ways. There was also a really great discussion about sexuality and some characters not really being ready to share their identities. But what I liked most was that these weren’t nice girls. They are girls that are filled with anger and fire. They are teenage girls who talk about how they aren’t supposed to be powerful and they find a way to change that. I really loved all of these characters.
Overall, I think more people need to read this so they can love it as much as I do. I loved that it was full of angry teen girls wanting to make something change. They want power but also happiness. I loved that they fought for what they wanted. I loved that they loved who they were and one another. I also loved the magic. It wasn’t based on a specific magic spell, but with intent. There were words spoken, but it was about feelings and following what felt right and I really liked that. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Please go read it.

Quotes:

“I used to underline passages in my English books, because certain lines crawled off the page, because those lines were magic and they meant something on a cosmic scale.”

“I guess my point is that teenage girls aren’t supposed to be powerful, you know? Everybody hates teenage girls. They hate our bodies and hate us if we want to change them. They hate the things we’re supposed to like but hate it when we like other things even more because that means we’re ruining their things. Were somehow this great corrupting influence, even though we’ve barely got legal agency of our own. But the three of us the four of us, counting you were powerful.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan

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GoodReads Summary:
In her small town, seventeen-year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago, she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true-crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way. When another little girl goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers, with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much is she willing to reveal about herself in order to uncover the truth? Dee’s about to find out what’s really at stake in unraveling the mystery of the little girls who vanished.
I Hope You're ListeningReview:
I Hope You’re Listening was provided to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book was a ride. I totally thought I had everything figured about what was going on, but boy was I wrong. This story follows Dee ten years after she witnessed her best friend, Sibby, get kidnapped. She was just a child, and powerless to stop her best friend being taken away. In an attempt to try to make a difference in the world (after being unable to help save or find Sibby) she creates a podcast, Radio Silent, that talks about missing persons cases and utilizes the public to help try and solve them. I loved the concept of this podcast. A real-life, true-crime podcast. I thought it was a fascinating idea. I just liked Dee. She never really got over what happened with Sibby. She goes to school and tries to keep a low profile. She has her best friend, Burke, and that’s about it. I liked Burke. He seemed like a good friend to her even though Dee wasn’t always the best to him in this book. I’m happy with how they worked things out toward the end of the book. Now, the romance in the story wasn’t totally necessary. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it. I did like Sarah and Dee together. But I feel like we didn’t get to know Sarah as well as we could have. It was also a bit of insta-love which isn’t my favorite.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It took turns that I wasn’t expecting. It had characters that I was interested to know more about. I think this was a great thriller.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Fell of the Dark by Caleb Roehrig

GoodReads Summary:
The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town. Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it. An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.
The Fell of DarkReview:
The Fell of the Dark is a book that I knew I wanted to read from the cover alone. I also knew I wanted to read it because it’s about a queer teen and vampires. Those are definitely topics I’m always down for. I didn’t really read the synopsis before I went into the story and it so much more than I was expecting. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I was absolutely blown away.
We follow August (or Auggie), who is a gay teen in a very small town that’s close to a Nexus (which is great for magic and not so great for regular humans). So, running into vampires after sundown is a real issue in this town. August runs into one outside of his school one day after staying to work in the art room. Jude tells August that he’s special. Jude tells him about things he knows is happening or will happen to August. But August is very wary of vampires, he’s been trained to be aware of what vampires are capable of. And August doesn’t believe anything that Jude tells him, until a week or so later.
This story moves very quickly, but there’s also a lot of players. I’m not going to talk about all the players and I really don’t want to go into too much detail about what actually happens because I think the best part of this reading experience was not really knowing anything about the story and putting the pieces together as I read. The story had some really interesting historical aspects to it that I enjoyed. I also just genuinely liked all of the characters and the way the story worked out for August.
Overall, this was such a well written and involved story. The only thing I didn’t like was that the rules of magic and vampires weren’t totally clear. There were more than just vampires in this story. People that had the ability to use magic linked to the elements were also a big part of the story, but there were some of these people that were also vampires and it either wasn’t explained or just totally went over my head. Despite this one small thing, I loved this book. I loved the characters, the interesting and unusual romance, the friendships, the supernatural aspects, and I even loved that there was a bit of politics between the different vampire factions. I definitely recommend this book for those looking for spooky queer stories to read this October. I will definitely be picking up more of this author’s books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno

fullsizeoutput_3144GoodReads Summary:
Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?
HorridReview:
Horrid was one of my most anticipated releases for the spooky season. I’m really upset to say that I was very disappointed with this book. This book was another that was completely ruined by the ending. I am going to have a bit of a spoiler rant after the last paragraph. I will clearly label when I start with spoiler complaints.
So, this story follows Jane and her mother Ruth as they move from Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere Maine. This is a huge adjustment for Jane. But she’s also dealing with the grief of losing her father. This grief is a huge part of the story and I really appreciated that. It wasn’t just her father is gone, but it really talked about what that meant for Jane. Her father was the one that could help her calm her rage. Now that he’s gone, she’s fallen back into old coping mechanisms: eating pages out of books. This aspect of her character was weird but I sort of understood it on a comfort level. I liked Jane. I felt bad for her, but I liked her. I didn’t like how she clearly knew something was wrong with North Manor (where she and her mother had just moved into) but she wasn’t willing to ask for any real answers about it. It felt obvious that something was wrong and everyone in town knew it. I liked Jane’s relationship with her mother, Ruth. She was obviously closer to her father, but the love between Jane and Ruth is clear and I appreciated that they were doing their best to be there for one another.
I also really liked the new friends that Jane made. She meets Alana and Susie at school. The three become fast friends. I liked them well enough, but the relationships weren’t too deep. I also like Jane’s friendship with her new boss at the coffee shop/book store, Will (who is also Susie’s older brother). They bond over books and coffee and I liked them even though it wasn’t a very developed relationship.
Overall, I enjoyed most of this book. I really liked the spooky aspects, the possibility of a ghost in North Manor. I thought the suspense and the mystery were interesting (though a little obvious). I didn’t love how oblivious Jane was being. She knew there was something wrong in her house and she never pushed when she asked questions and that really bothered me. The ending is what killed my enjoyment of the book. Without spoilers, the book ended at the climax of the story. We’re finally getting all the answers we’ve been searching for the whole story and then we’re still left with so many questions because of the players that were present in the final pages. I’m just really mad about how the story ended and that anger makes it really hard for me to say I liked this book. I felt similarly about Wilder Girls by Rory Power, so if you liked that book, you might like this one. This book has a pretty decent rating on GoodReads, so don’t let this deter you from picking up this book. But if you don’t like unsatisfying endings, this book might not be for you. Now, I’m going to get to spoilers about the ending in the next paragraph.
The spoilers are starting now. The final pages have Jane letting someone die, which is essentially murder, at the guidance of her sister ghost. But it’s never really clear whether the ghost is real or not. The ghost was pretty convincing, but there were hints here and there that made the reader think that there might never have been a ghost and it all could have been Jane. What I’m mad about is that we never got any sort of answers. The book literally ends in the climax of the story. Someone dies and the story just ends. The synopsis says “Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?” and the way that the synopsis is written makes it seem like we will find out whether it is one of those three things, but we don’t. We don’t find out what really happened or what happened in the aftermath and I’m very annoyed by this. I’m just angry and sad because I had really high hopes for enjoying this book. Okay, rage complaining is over. Thanks for reading!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Three: Books & Baking – Tweet Cute

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Hiii, lovelies! I’m back again for another Books & Baking post! This is another that  baked and photographed forever ago. It was actually right around when everything closed in the U.S. due to Covid. So, like everyone else in the world, did a lot of baking. For this installment of Books & Baking, I attempted one of the bizarre and wildly appealing recipes from Tweet Cute by Emma Lord. I also want to thank the wonderful Jen from Novels and Notions for allowing me to use the photo below. I read this book as an eARC so I didn’t have a copy to take pictures with, but Jen is a good friend of mine and I adore her photos. So, visit her Instagram to see more lovely pictures like the one below!

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Book: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Read my full review here!

I loved this book. It was funny and cheesy (hah!) and so heartwarming. It follows two teens who manage the social media for their parents. These two are as opposite as opposite can be. But they form an unlikely friendship that turns into more. Things get interesting when they both find out the other is behind the social media (which has turned into a viral Twitter rivalry) of their families business. I loved the family aspects of this story. There were good and bad moments, but the end really solidified my love for the story.

“It’s weird, how you have no idea how far you’ve come until suddenly you can’t find the way back.”

“But sometimes even shouting into a void feels better than just staring into it.”

“Do you ever feel like someone just took something from you?” Yes, I want to say. Sometimes it feels like it’s been four years of this place taking and taking, and I’m all out of pieces to give—like I don’t even know the shape of myself anymore.”

“A stolen day. The kind of day that ends too fast but stays with you much longer.”

“These are the things that tether me, the things I’ve always been and just assumed would always be. What she’s saying right now feels a lot like permission to leave it behind, and it scares me every bit as much as it relieves me.”

“I can see it too. That I don’t belong here. That even after all this time and everything I’ve done, the things I’ve pressed and organized and pushed into myself to fit into this place, home is still somewhere a thousand miles away. Farther than that, even. Because that version of home doesn’t exist anymore.”

Baking: Monster Cake 

Find the full recipe on Emma Lord’s website here! (Seriously, read this. It’s hilarious.)

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I chose to make Monster Cake from this book because, as I said at the beginning of this post, I chose to bake when the world started to close down and I was craving something super sweet. This definitely was that.

“But no matter what else happens, this one thing my mom has always had a weakness for–Monster Cake. A perilous invention from childhood, the day Paige and Mom and I decided to test the limits of our rinky-dink oven with a combination of Funfetti cake mixed with brownie batter, cookie dough, Oreos, Reese’s Cups, and Rolos. The result was so simultaneously hideous and delicious that my mom fashioned googly eyes on it out of frosting, and thus, Monster Cake was born.”

Ingredients

A box of Funfetti cake mix (plus the ingredients the box says you need)

A box of chocolate brownie mix (plus the ingredients the box says you need)

Edible cookie dough (or cookie dough you make without eggs)

A tub of vanilla frosting

A bag of Rolos

A bag of Reese’s

A box of Oreos

Googly eyes

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the brownie batter and cake batter in two separate bowls, and set aside. Chop your ingredients. This does not by any means need to be precise (Emma laid out 16 Rolos, chopped 12 Oreos into fourths, and chopped eight Reese’s Cups into fourths.) Divide your candy in half. Mix the first half in the brownie mix, and the second half in the cake mix. Grease baking dish. Put globs of the cake and the brownie mix into the pans. Then take a fork and swirl it around. You want the brownie and the cake batter to be mostly separate. Stick it in the oven for 20 minutes. Pull the Monster Cake out of the oven, and add globs of edible cookie dough on top of it. Stick it back in the oven for another ten minutes. Remove and let cool. Add googly eyes and squiggly mouth as it pleases you.

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This is just as horrifying and just as delicious as it sounds. I made the mistake of overbaking mine. I gave it five more minutes too many times, but it was still delicious. It was way too sweet for my husband, but perfect for me. I had so much fun with the utter ridiculousness of making this also. This would be super fun to make in a few years once my child is a bit older. Does this sound like something you would attempt? Let me know in the comments.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Cloaked by Alex Flinn

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GoodReads Summary:
I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.
It all started with the curse. And the frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.
There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys.
Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either. But you’ll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got CLOAKED.
CloakedReview:
I’ve been trying to reread all of Alex Flynn’s retellings. It’s been a while since I’ve read a few of them and there are definitely some that I haven’t read. Cloaked is one that I haven’t read, though I thought I’d read it already for some reason.
Cloaked follows Johnny, who runs the shoe repair business that’s been in his family for many years. It’s located in a well-known hotel, which is how he ends up meeting a princess. This princess asks him to find her brother, who has been turned into a frog. So, it’s a princess and the frog retelling. But one of my favorite things about this book was that there were a bunch of lesser-known fairytales included. I thought they were done well and didn’t overwhelm the overall story.
I also really liked the conclusion of the story. The only thing I didn’t really like was that the princess was trying to motivate Johnny to help her with offering to marry him. There’s something that just didn’t sit right about using marriage as a motivator with a bunch of teenagers. So, I was happy to see the conclusion and how that was handled.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I liked the character growth and thought it was well done. There were definitely some dumb teenage boy moments. But they were actually pretty funny and helped (eventually) Johnny figure out what he really wanted. If you’re a fan of retellings, I think this is one you’ll like.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Spellbook of the Lost and Found

GoodReads Summary:
One stormy summer in a small Irish town, things begin to disappear. It starts with trivial stuff—hair clips, house keys, socks—but soon it escalates to bigger things: a memory, a heart, a classmate.
Olive can tell that her best friend, Rose, is different all of a sudden. Rose isn’t talking, and Olive starts to worry she’s losing her. Then diary pages written by someone named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing development. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tightly to painful secrets.
When a tattered handwritten spellbook falls into the lives of these six teenagers, it changes everything. The spellbook is full of charms to conjure back that which has been lost, and it lists a part for each of them to play in the calling. It might be their best chance to set everything back to rights, but only if they’re willing to pay the price.
Spellbook of the Lost and FoundReview:
I have to start off by admitting that I almost unhauled this book several times. I also have to say that I am so so glad that I didn’t. Someone on twitter mentioned that this has a bisexual main character and that’s what made me hold onto it and finally pick it up.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found follows several different characters. There are two trios. The first is Laurel, Ash, and Holly. I was honestly so confused by these girls. I liked them. They’re seen as ‘other’ by everyone in their lives. But they find one another and I really liked their friendship (for the most part). As the story goes on, it’s clear that their friendship isn’t the healthiest. They meet a boy named Jude and all three of them love him. But Jude isn’t the best influence. I didn’t like how he got in between the friends. I really thought it was fascinating (but also enjoyable confusing) how the story of these three girls intertwined with the story of the others.
The second group is Olive, her best friend Rose, then the twins, Hazel and Rowan, and their closest friend, Ivy. In the beginning, we get a bit of how close Olive and Rose are, but they grow distant for a while. I liked their friendship. Rose distanced herself from Olive because she’s dealing with something very difficult. I thought Rose’s story was dealt with thoughtfully. I really liked Rose. I also liked Olive. She has a younger sister and brother. I liked how Olive grew closer with her sister toward the end of the story. I’m a sucker for sibling relationships. When Rose and Olive meet the twins and Ivy they start to put the pieces together. Everyone is losing things. But then they find the spellbook that the trio used to find their diaries. But when they cast that spell they didn’t realize it would cause others to lose things. The second group starts finding the trio’s diary pages and are realizing they cast the spell to find lost things.
Honestly, this book was really confusing in the best way possible. Once the second group starts putting the pieces together the story really came together. I spend entirely too long guessing who the trio was from the people that the second group met in their perspectives. I did not predict at all who they really were, but I really enjoyed this twist and how the truth was revealed. I loved the relationships, all of them. This story was full of emotion and I thought the author did such a great job bringing the characters to life.
I also just have to say this book is perfect for the spooky season. It’s full of questions and magic and is a little creepy at times. I think the suspense and confusion really set the tone. I was at the edge of my seat (literally, I read this in the car and I was so tense the whole time.) The mystery of what’s going on combined with the magical elements really makes this book great for the fall.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Books & Baking – What I Like About You

Hey, lovelies! Today on Books & Baking we will be talking about a 2020 release that I purchased specifically for this blog feature. The preorder incentive was a bookmark and (drumroll) a recipe card! So, obviously I couldn’t resist. I also used this recipe for my daughter’s birthday. I was planning to make cupcakes for her birthday anyway, so two birds, one stone and all that. This round of Books & Baking will focus on What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter.

Book: What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

Read my full review here!

This book was full of sweetness (get it? Because of the cupcakes?), but it also dealt with grief and the struggle of having an online identity that’s different from your in person one. I really enjoyed that this book was focused around book blogging. There were a few things I disagreed with, but overall I liked the main characters point of view on what it means to be a book blogger, and a well known one online. The only thing I didn’t like was the secret keeping trope, but I didn’t totally hate it in this instance. I understood why Halle didn’t want to share her online persona with someone she now knew in both worlds. Overall, I enjoyed this story and it’s characters.

“That’s the problem with words. In my head, words are magic. My thoughts are eloquent and fierce. On the page, words are music. In the clicks of my keyboard, in the scratches of pencil meeting paper. In the beauty of the eraser, of the backspace key. On the page, the words in my head sing and dance with the precision of diction and the intricacies of rhythm. Out loud? Words are the worst.” 

“It’s knowing the world might be a trash fire, but it’s less trash when there are people to help navigate the darkness. Friendship is messy. Hard. Infuriating. Awesome. Fragile. Durable. Impossible. Worth it. Always worth it.”

Baking: Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

Above is the wonderful recipe card that I got as my preorder incentive. I love books with food in them and this one was stuffed full of cupcakes and baking. It made me want to bake some cupcakes and eat them while I was reading. This recipe was pretty easy. Though, I’d never zested a lemon before, so that was interesting. The mixing everything together was the easy part, everything after putting them in the oven was hard.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I did wrong, but they did not come out how I expected them to at all. The cupcakes were basically ruined in my attempts to get them out of my pan. I never use the cupcake liners, but I think I should have. I also think I should have baked them a little bit longer, but I almost always overbake things and I didn’t want to do that with these. I also had issues with the frosting. It wasn’t very frosting like. I was expecting it to be thicker, like frostings I have made in the past. I’m not even sure if it was supposed to be thicker, but it definitely didn’t stay where I wanted it to. Despite all of these issues, they still tasted delicious. The combination of lemon in the cupcake and the raspberry in the frosting was weird but so delicious. So, they look terrible but they taste really good and the taste is all I really care about. Do these sound like something you would try? Leave a comment and let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.