Amanda’s Summertime Book Recommendations

Hello, lovelies! I had a great time picking books for my Springtime Book Recommendations post that I thought I would continue the trend now that Summer is upon us. I have some books I’m really excited to share with you all. I do have to say that quite a few of these are pirate stories, as I almost always read those in the summertime. But, I do also have some good fantasy and romance of varying age ranges.

Young Adult

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Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
“Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life. Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers. Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl? Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.”

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Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield
“Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica. When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him. In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane. Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.”

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I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
“This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her. Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?”

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The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
“As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus. Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him. Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.”

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The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
“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. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books 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 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 the 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 creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.”

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Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemore
“There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.”

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The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
“Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there. When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all. As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.”

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Fable by Adrienne Young
“For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father. But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive. Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.”

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Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
“In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET
Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

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We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
“At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme. On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?”

Adult

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People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together. Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since. Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees. Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?”

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Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
“Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job. Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit. But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…”

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Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.”

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Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker
“Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway. On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus, she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day. Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group Industries, and coincidentally the first love of her life. The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counsellors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name. Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is not only alive but stronger than ever, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.”

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

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The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
“An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging. Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total. On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security. But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.”

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The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
“This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.”

These are all books I’ve read and absolutely loved. I think they’d be perfect summertime reads. Let me know if you’ve read any of these in the comments. Feel free to share any books that you think are good to read in the summertime.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

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Review:
Winterkeep starts off a few years after the ending of Bitterblue. I thought this was an interesting choice since much of this series has had a focus on Bitterblue. She feels like the heart of this series. But this time, we’re seeing Bitterblue as a fully established Queen. We’re also not only following Bitterblue, but we get Giddon’s point of view as well as a young teenager from Winterkeep. Lovisa Cavenda was my biggest problem with this book. I’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
I really liked getting to see more of this world. I thought it was interesting that instead of seeing more of Monsea or the Dells, we see a whole new part of the world. This book primarily takes place in Winterkeep. A newly discovered place that is a part of Torla. Monsea is Winterkeep’s closest neighbor. I though this new place was interesting. They’re more technologically advanced than Monsea, they have airships which was a fun addition to the story. But not everything is as it seems in Winterkeep. When two of Bitterblue’s envoys die suspiciously, it’s decided that Bitterblue, Giddon, and some advisors are going to travel there.
This is when the story really starts to get going. Like her previous books, this one was a bit slow going. But I still enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook and I really loved the narrator. They did a great job with all the different characters and voices. I would definitely listen to more audiobooks with this narrator. Now, the characters.
Bitterblue is the same girl we came to know and love from the previous books. But at times, it felt like she forgot that she was a literal queen and made herself smaller because of the situation she managed to get into. I still loved her though.
Giddon was interesting because he’s grieving for most of this book. We see him lose control of his emotions again and again. But he’s still the same Giddon from the previous books. I thought it was interesting to see him express himself, we get to see him let his emotions out, but still mostly manage to focus on the goal he came to Winterkeep to achieve.
Now, Lovisa. She’s the daughter of two people in the Winterkeep parliament. But they are both of opposing political parties. There’s a bit of unrest in Winterkeep as an important vote is about to come up. Lovisa made me mad because she could have been an amazing character. But she finds out about things her parents have done and instead of telling literally anyone, she keeps it all to herself. She eventually tries to fix the situation, but things get so much worse before she does that. I just wanted her to do something, anything really. Because of her inaction, people are killed. I also didn’t like how she used people. She has sex with a few different people in this book, which is fine, but she uses sex to get herself out of trouble and that led to others getting in trouble. She almost used it as a weapon, and then felt bad about it. I didn’t like that. I think people should have sex with whoever they want, but Lovisa always knew she wasn’t doing the right thing and felt bad about it afterward. It also seemed like she was attracted to girls, but that wasn’t ever confirmed so it felt like queerbating. I just genuinely didn’t like Lovisa, which was a bummer because she had the potential to be a really interesting character.
Overall, despite not liking one of the main characters, I still enjoyed this book. There’s interesting politics that we see unfold. There’s action, adventure, but there’s also several different emotional journeys that we get to see unfold. I also was very intrigued by the blue foxes that are well known in Winterkeep. I’ll be interested to see if/how they play a part in future books. I liked that we got to see characters we know and already love, but we also got to get to know some new ones. If you liked the first three Graceling books, I think you’ll like this one too.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

5 Books Featuring Grief Amanda Recommends

Hey, lovelies! I seem to read a lot of books that have the topic of grief. This is completely by accident, but I think this is a common topic in books because it’s something that every person has to deal with in their life at some point. I think it’s also often used in books because everyone grieves differently, so there are so many different ways to portray a characters grief in a book. Most of these books have other plot lines that go hand in hand with the grieving characters, but the books I’m going to mention today are all books that I really loved and would recommend to anyone.

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Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
“Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish. Aching, powerful, and unflinchingly honest, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.”

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Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.
That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered. Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer—but can she track them down before they come for her?”

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
“In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.”

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The Year They Fell by David Kreizman
“When a horrible tragedy unites five very different high school seniors, they discover the worst moment of your life can help determine who you really are in the powerful YA novel, The Year They Fell. Josie, Jack, Archie, Harrison, and Dayana were inseparable as preschoolers. But that was before high school, before parties and football and getting into the right college. Now, as senior year approaches, they’re basically strangers to each other. Until they’re pulled back together when their parents die in a plane crash. These former friends are suddenly on their own. And they’re the only people who can really understand how that feels. To survive, the group must face the issues that drove them apart, reveal secrets they’ve kept since childhood, and discover who they’re meant to be. And in the face of public scrutiny, they’ll confront mysteries their parents left behind–betrayals that threaten to break the friendships apart again. A new family is forged in this heartbreaking, funny, and surprising book from award-winning storyteller David Kreizman. It’s a deeply felt, complex journey into adulthood, exploring issues of grief, sexual assault, racism, and trauma.”

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
“Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life. Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”

Out of all of these books my favorite was probably Clap When You Land, specifically the audiobook. I also listened to the audio for Far From You and Summer Bird Blue, so I can recommend those on audio as well. I really loved all five of these books. I want to highlight The Year They Fell because I really loved it, but I’ve never seen anyone talking about it on any bookish social media. Don’t be surprised if you see me featuring that one more. As always, my reviews are linked (if I’ve reviewed it) if you just click on the title of the book. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or if you’ve added any of these to your TBR list because of this post!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

Summary:
When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are eighteen-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico’s father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post-apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and love in a world gone dark. The Electric Kingdom is a sweeping exploration of art, storytelling, eternal life, and above all, a testament to the notion that even in an exterminated world, one person might find beauty in another.

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Review:
The Electric Kingdom was the book for my book club in May. This is a post-apocolyptic pandemic story so I thought it was going to be tough to read at times, but thankfully, the story didn’t go too much into detail about the illness that comes from the Flies. Also, it’s a much more vicious story. There are genetically engineered Flies that swarm and devour anything, and we get to see it a few times. But this story was more about survival than the actual Flies and accompanying sickness. It’s a story of loss and grief, survival and found family.
We get to follow a few different points of view. I will say that I was confused for most of this book. There also wasn’t one moment where all of the pieces finally come together. It’s confusing for a number of reasons. One is that there are jumps in time all over the place. Each point of view often spends time remembering things, so there’s little to no warning that we are reading about the past. While these flashbacks did share meaningful information, they were a bit confusing at times. But they did add to the overall story, they just took some getting used to. We are also missing a lot of pieces in the beginning of the story. I spent a lot of time guessing how everything was connected.
I liked the characters and the overall plot, but I was dissatisfied with the ending. There wasn’t any real resolution, more of just hope for the future. But I don’t like that. I can be satisfied with open ended conclusions, but there wasn’t enough for me to be happy with this one. Now, all of this makes it sound like I didn’t like this book. But that’s not the case. I flew through this book. It was compelling and I couldn’t put it down. There were characters I could easily root for and so many questions that I needed answers to.
Overall, nothing I thought was going to happen or connected in the way I thought it would. The Electric Kingdom kept me guessing right up until the final pages. I had fun reading this even though things got pretty dark at times. The story twists and turns, and ends in a way that I never would have guessed. I really enjoyed it and my only big complaint would be the unsatisfying ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
Like the colorful pieces of sea glass washed up on shore, Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents. But instead of finding a tranquil eddy, Opal is caught in a riptide. Her unique glass messengers which allow instant communication over vast distances have become a vital part of Sitian society. Once used solely by the Councilors and magicians, other powerful factions are now vying for control. Control of the messengers equals control of Sitia. Unfortunately that also means control of Opal. If that isn’t enough of a problem, Opal’s determination to prove blood magic is still being used is met with strong resistance. The Council doubts her, her mentor doubts her, and even her family is concerned. When her world is turned upside down, she begins to doubt herself. In the end, Opal must decide who to believe, who to trust, and who has control—otherwise she will shatter into a million pieces and be swept out by the tide.

Book Cover

Review:
Sea Glass is the second book in the Glass trilogy but the fifth book in the World of Ixia. I’ve grown to love the world and most of the characters and I think this has allowed me to overlook some things about this book that I wouldn’t normally overlook.
I have to say that I did really enjoy this book while I was reading it. But now that I’m finished, I can’t help but ask, “what the hell was Opal thinking?” And obviously we see much of what Opal was thinking and I still have no idea why she thought her ideas were good ones. I think I’m having a hard time because much of what Opal’s gotten herself into is her own fault. So, I guess that says good things about how much of an active protagonist she is. But she also makes some really poor choices that I just don’t really understand. She continually trusts the wrong people, she doesn’t confide in anyone she can actually trust, and those she does trust and confide in often get caught in the crossfire trying to help her.
I think the plot was interesting but I feel like I don’t know where it’s going. A big thing happened at the end of this story and I’m not sure how it’s going to affect where I thought the plot was going. I would say it was a pretty good plot twist, but I won’t be able to say that confidently until I see where things will go in the third book.
I will say that Opal has grown so much in this book. She’s not the timid girl that says yes to everyone and allows herself to get walked all over. She listens to others but ultimately does what she thinks is best. I liked the character development.
Overall, it was a sort of all over the place story. I did enjoy it while I was reading but I feel like I’ve just been left wondering what the heck just happened. I’m going to continue onto the next book and see if things get better for Opal (but honestly, they’ll probably get worse, at least for a little while).

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s May Book Haul

Hey, lovelies! May was an unreasonably large haul for me, especially considering that I’m still supposed to be on a book buying ban. But! In my defense, much of these books were gifts. My in-laws came to visit, now that we’re all vaccinated, and they really spoiled me while they were here. I also went a bit overboard with buying books I haven’t read yet. I’ve curbed my buying a bit by limiting myself to books I’ve read and loved, but don’t own yet. So, that didn’t really happen this month. I did buy some books I’ve already read, but I bought or was gifted more that I haven’t read. I will link my reviews for those that I’ve read and reviewed. And then my little to no reasonable rational for why I bought the ones I haven’t read. Let’s get into it!

Books I’ve Already Read

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

New Books on my Owned TBR

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
This was another preorder because I wanted to support the donations that the author was running with the preorder incentive.

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Thank you to my in-laws for this one. It was an impulse target pick.

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson
Another gift from my husband’s amazing parents, that I impulsively picked.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
My final impulse pick/gift from my in-laws. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one. But I could say the same about Red Queen and I really liked those books.

I Would Leave Me If I Could: A Collection of Poetry by Halsey
I barely read poetry so I have no excuse for this other than I have a small infatuation with Halsey.

Share Your Icy Crown by Amanda Lovelace
Seriously, why did I buy this? I have four other collections by Lovelace and I’ve read maybe two of them.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
This one is legitimate because this is my June book club book with my local ladies.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey
Last month, I bought some of Bailey’s other books and this was the only one I was missing.

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
I love this series and I’ve been meaning to buy this newest installment since it came out.

Written in my Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
I didn’t even know this exisisted. I thought I owned all all published books (just the books though, not the novellas) in this series. But now I do, just in time for the release of the final book later this year.

These are the books that I bought or were gifted to me in May. Quite a few of them are on my TBR list for June. So, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to add many of these to my ‘read’ list pretty quickly. Did you buy any books in May? Are any of these books you’ve read or want to read? Let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before…
Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

Book Cover

Review:
I absolutely love this series. Yelena is such an interesting main character. I mentioned in my review for the second book that it felt like the overarching series plot was getting a little lost, it felt a bit slow. But Fire Study really pulled it all together. There were a few things I didn’t totally love, like Yelena has gone through all this stuff. But she doesn’t seem to learn anything or improve until the final third of this book. It’s been almost three books, she should have grown and developed some right? It felt like she regressed in book two and so in this book she worked to get all that back. And then, we didn’t really even get to see that growth because it all happened so quickly. I still love her though. My other issue with Yelena was that she didn’t take the time to feel things. At one point, someone she loves dies and we don’t see or feel any of that grief. I get that she’s just pushing it all away because there’s a lot of other things going on at the same time, but it would have been nice to see her take a moment for herself to feel that loss.
That’s really all that I didn’t like. I loved the revealing of all the secrets. I said this in my review for the first book, but some of the plot twists were predictable and others took me by surprise. I don’t mind this as I always feel smart when I predict things that are going to happen. I think the finale of this series was pulled together so nicely with all of the bits and pieces wrapped up in a satisfying way. I really enjoyed the world and seeing people from both Ixia and Sitia come together to overcome the big bad. I felt like we got more of the characters I love from the first book which made me happy.
Overall, this was an enjoyable conclusion. I love this world. I think the magic system is complex and fascinating. Yelena is a main character I could get behind (most of the time since she runs full on into danger entirely too often). I loved the romance and would have loved to get more of that. I think the world is compelling and I’m excited to read the companion series that follows someone we met in book two. I absolutely recommend this series to any fantasy lovers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
You know your life is complicated when you miss your days as a poison taster…
With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be united with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But although she has gained her freedom, she once again finds herself alone – separated from her lover Valek and suspected as a spy for her reluctance to conform to Sitian ways.
Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training – especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes embroiled in a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince – and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.

Book Cover

Review:
Magic Study is very similar to the first book. It follows the same sort of journey as Poison Study. Yelena is now in Sitia where she’s come to the magicians keep to be trained in magic. Yelena is reunited with her family that she was taken from as a child. She has a lot to deal with emotionally. She’s meeting a family she doesn’t know. She’s now living in a territory she doesn’t remember. She must learn to control her magic. She’s always adjusting to a completely different culture than what she’s grown up knowing.
But then, because it’s Yelena, several someone’s want to kill her. So, she’s still not fully trained and once again on edge constantly looking over her shoulder. But she’s growing. She working on trusting others and not just taking matters into her own hands. She’s not always succeeding at this, but she’s trying. She’s trying to see the bigger picture, starting to think about what the future can hold for her.
The characters are really what made this story. We get to see characters we loved from the first book like Valek, Ari, and Janco. I loved getting to see Ari and Janco again. They are such good friends to Yelena. I liked seeing them outside of Ixia. But we also have some new characters like, Leif, Dax, and Irys. Irys we met in the last book, but we get to know her a little bit better in this one. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, I feel like we didn’t ever actually learn anything about her. Not like we did with the Commander in the first book anyway. I really liked Dax. His was a bit of a superficial friendship, but he added some humor and levity to the story which I liked. Leif was a really interesting character and the more we learned about him the more I wanted to learn even more. I’m already very excited to see him again in the third book.
Overall, this story was similar to Poison Study because it follows the same plot line of Yelena learning something knew and getting taught about that as well as training and learning to ride horses. Side note, Kiki was absolutely my favorite character in this series. But once she’s learning magic, she realizes there are political things going on around her that she just can’t help but get involved in. So, there’s lots of issues in the world and Yelena always manages to make it her problem. But she learns a lot about herself and her abilities. I liked that we got to see a bit of her and Valek together again. I’m also very intrigued to read the third book and see where this is all going. So far, the first two books have had their own contained plots with mysteries to be solved. But the overarching series plot seems a bit slow so I’m interested to see where all of this is going.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson

Summary:
Weeks ago, Andre Cobb received a much-needed liver transplant.
He’s ready for his life to finally begin, until one night, when he passes out and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…in 1969, where he connects with a magnetic boy named Michael.
And then, just as suddenly as he arrived, he slips back to present-day Boston, where the family of his donor is waiting to explain that his new liver came with a side effect—the ability to time travel. And they’ve tasked their youngest son, Blake, with teaching Andre how to use his unexpected new gift.
Andre splits his time bouncing between the past and future. Between Michael and Blake. Michael is everything Andre wishes he could be, and Blake, still reeling from the death of his brother, Andre’s donor, keeps him at arm’s length despite their obvious attraction to each other.
Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs—and more importantly who he wants to be—before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and change his future for good.

Yesterday Is History

Review:
Yesterday is History follows Andre Cobb. Andre has survived cancer, but needed a liver transplant to do so. But his new liver comes with a secret, time travel. Obviously, Andre is not expecting to travel back to 1969 when he tries to lay down in his bed. It’s then that he meets Michael. Andre and Michael quickly develop feelings for one another. I think this was the downfall of this book. The concept was a really interesting one, but I just think it fell short. The romance between Andre and Michael felt really under developed. They’re supposed to be super in love, but they’ve only spent a totally of less than a week together. I get that it was more time than that to Michael, but only saw things from Andre’s point of view. We only saw a few days. But I was really invested in Andre’s romance with Blake. Blake was kind of an asshole, but Andre called him on it every time, going as far as explaining how to give an acceptable apology. I liked how their characters both developed both as individuals and as a couple.
I think the time travel love triangle was a really interesting concept. But I think it fell flat for me because it felt under developed. I wanted to see more. It all happened too fast. I think if we had gotten more time to see Michael and Andre together, I could have been invested. The potential was there for me to really love this, but there just wasn’t enough of the story to get me there.
Overall, I think this story was a quick and fun read. I just wanted more from it. I liked Andre a lot. He was quick to call out problematic things that others said to him or around him. But he also made it clear that it wasn’t his responsibility to educate them on their wrong doings. I liked the concept, but the execution fell a bit flat for me. I will be checking out Jackson’s future books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.
But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.
Whatever that past holds.
Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . . 

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)

Review:
Bitterblue is the third book that’s set in the Graceling world. It follows Bitterblue, who we met in Graceling, eight years after the ending of Graceling. Bitterblue is now the queen of Monsea, but everything is not what it seems in Bitterblue’s life. People are lying to her. People that were traumatized by her father. She doesn’t know who to trust. She doesn’t know how she’s feeling and she doesn’t know what to do. so, she sneaks out of the castle and heads into the city. She meets two thieves, who change her life.
I think this might be my favorite book in the series so far. I haven’t read the newest book yet, but I really enjoyed this one. I genuinely liked Bitterblue as a character. It’s clear she’s overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being queen. But she’s trying and that’s really clear. She’s both trying to know her kingdom and people better and having some fun for herself. She can see that she’s failing but she never stops trying to do better. Even though it feels like everything around her is falling apart, she continues to be a mostly thoughtful person. She does have some issues regarding her privilege. She’s wealthy and it’s not something that she really thinks about, but she’s made to think about it and I really liked that conversation being a part of the book. Bitterblue makes friends with characters that aren’t privileged like she is. So, I was glad to see this difference acknowledged and discussed. Another thing that I liked is that Bitterblue doesn’t shy away from the past that is her father. King Leck, who we met in Graceling, was a terrible, cruel person. But Bitterblue’s memories from the time that she lived with her father are hazy. She wants to learn about the things Leck changed and what she might be able to make up for. There are many people close to her that don’t want her looking into the thinks Leck did and made others do. Many are still struggling with the trauma they were put through by Leck. I really appreciated how Bitterblue handled this. She doesn’t dismiss their trauma or ignore it. I think this was done thoughtfully and respectfully. Finally, I loved that we got to see Bitterblue take a moment to feel her feelings. People she loves are dying, she’s been betrayed, and she feels like she is failing her kingdom. But she takes the time she needs to cry, or scream, or just react to her emotion before she tries to think about what she must do next. I really liked this.
This story, like the previous two, was a pretty slow one, but it was so worth it. It builds and builds and builds until finally the story breaks and speeds up. But in that slower part, the characters are developing relationships and themselves. I appreciated this because the relationships felt so well developed. I was invested in them because I felt like I got to know the characters really well. I could sympathize with all of them, even the ones doing not great things. I also liked that we got to see characters that we already knew. We see Katsa and Po again along with a few other familiar faces. I highly recommend this one. I think this series overall is a pretty good one, but especially this one. The way that Cashore manages to make the story so full of emotion is impressive. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry, but this one had me tearing up with what Bitterblue was feeling. I cannot wait to read the newest installment of this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

Summary:
Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.
Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.
Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?
Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.

Cool for the Summer

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Cool for the Summer is the book I never knew I needed. This book spoke to my soul in a way that no book has for a long time. I firmly believe that is Cool for the Summer had been published 10 years ago, when I was in high school, I would have realized I was bisexual much sooner.
Cool for the Summer follows Larissa in the past and the present. It starts on her first day of her senior year in high school. She’s just had an amazing summer and really gained some confidence in herself. That confidence shows and the boy she’s been crushing on for years notices. Chase is finally noticing her and it’s like all of her fantasies are coming true, so why isn’t she happy? This is where the flashbacks come in. Over the summer, Larissa spends her time in the Outer Banks staying at her mom’s boss’s house. It’s here that she meets Jasmine. Everything gets more complicated when Jasmine shows up as a new student at Larissa’s high school.
I loved this book so much. As I said above, this book spoke to my soul in a way that hasn’t happened with any other book in a long time. Larissa is trying figure out what she’s feeling. She really likes Chase. He’s a genuinely nice guy and she doesn’t understand why she isn’t happier. She also has no idea what the problem with Jasmine is. Jasmine hasn’t really even tried to talk to her and suddenly she’s best friends with Shannon, one of Larissa’s best friends. This story did an incredible job of making me feel Larissa’s emotions and confusion. It’s written in the first person. So, we’re getting all of Larissa’s thoughts as she’s thinking them. I think telling the story this way was a really great way to get the reader to feel and experience Larissa’s emotions alongside her, which is exactly what I did.
I loved that even though Larissa felt like there wasn’t anyone she could talk to, she still had friends (Kiki) that saw through her and could see what she was going through. The best kind of friends are friends that support you and manage to say the right thing even though they don’t know exactly what the problem might be. And once Larissa didn’t finally talk to her friends and her mom, their reactions were so positive and I loved that for Larissa. I definitely shed a tear or two when she finally started talking to her loved ones about her feelings for Jasmine.
Overall, I feel like this review is absolutely incoherent but this book changed me. I wish this book existed ten years ago so that I could have had my moment of self-discovery alongside Larissa. Please read this book. It’s full of diverse characters, self-discovery, and friends that don’t always say the right thing at first. I’m going to go now because I feel like I’m getting more incoherent the longer I type this.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Lucky Girl by Jamie Pacton

Summary:
A hilarious and poignant reflection on what money can and cannot fix
58,643,129. That’s how many dollars seventeen-year-old Fortuna Jane Belleweather just won in the lotto jackpot. It’s also about how many reasons she has for not coming forward to claim her prize.
Problem #1: Jane is still a minor, and if anyone discovers she bought the ticket underage, she’ll either have to forfeit the ticket, or worse…
Problem #2: Let her hoarder mother cash it. The last thing Jane’s mom needs is millions of dollars to buy more junk. Then…
Problem #3: Jane’s best friend, aspiring journalist Brandon Kim, declares on the news that he’s going to find the lucky winner. It’s one thing to keep her secret from the town, it’s another thing entirely to lie to her best friend. Especially when…
Problem #4: Jane’s ex-boyfriend, Holden, is suddenly back in her life, and he has big ideas about what he’d do with the prize money.
As suspicion and jealousy turn neighbor against neighbor, and no good options for cashing the ticket come forward, Jane begins to wonder: Could this much money actually be a bad thing?

Lucky Girl

Review:
I am part of Jamie Pacton’s street team, so I was given an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I really enjoyed Pacton’s debut, so I was excited to have the chance to read Lucky Girl early. I really enjoyed this one. It’s a really quick read. It’s filled with character that don’t always make the best choices, but you can’t help but empathize with them and root for them. The story follows Fortuna Jane, who goes by Jane. Jane buys a lottery ticket on a whim and then finds out that she’s won 58 million dollars. The only problem? Jane is only 17 so she could actually get in trouble if anyone finds out she’s the one that bought it. Most of the story is Jane trying to figure out the best option for how to get her winnings cashed. As she researched past winners, she becomes less sure that she even wants this money despite the fact that it could change her life in so many ways. I really liked Jane. She was a likable character. It was easy to empathize with her with the choice she needed to make.
One of the things I thought was interesting about this book was Jane’s mother. Jane’s mom is a hoarder. She collects things that people once loved. It’s clear that it’s become out of control. I think Pacton did a really good job of showing how this was negatively effecting Jane while still being thoughtful and respectful about the fact that Jane’s mom is clearly dealing with some sort of mental illness. I liked how their relationship changed in the end of the book when Jane finally brought some honesty to the table. I really enjoyed when Jane finally sat down and had a good and open conversation with her mom.
Bran was one of the highlights of this book. He’s Jane’s best friend and an aspiring journalist. So, he’s searching for whoever won the lottery, only Jane hasn’t told him that she won. He asks her to help him interview people in hopes that he will find whoever won. I thought the conflict of Jane feeling unable to tell her best friend this huge thing was a compelling one. It’s clear from their relationship and from the way he reacts when he does learn she’s the winner that she could have told him right from the start.
Overall, I think this was a really fun and quick read. I liked all of the characters (even Holden occasionally). I thought the conversation about what to do with that much money and greed was done really well. The story itself was a little slow but the way it’s written made it an easy and quick read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Beginner Fantasy Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! I did a post a few weeks ago where I recommended books for those that are interested in exploring the science fiction genre (find it here!) I had fun creating that list, so I’m going to do it again, but this time with fantasy books. These are adult and young adult books that I think would be good places to start if you’re new to fantasy.

Middle Grade

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1)

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
“Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again. But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them. The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?”

Furthermore (Furthermore, #1)

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
“Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.”

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
“Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.”

Young Adult

The Scapegracers (Scapegracers, #1)

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
“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?”

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout
“Layla just wants to fit in at school and go on a date with Zayne, whom she’s crushed on since forever. Trouble is, Zayne treats Layla like a sister–and Layla is a half demon, half gargoyle with abilities no one else possesses. And even though Zayne is a Warden, part of the race of gargoyles tasked with keeping humanity safe, Layla’s kiss will kill anything with a soul–including him. Then she meets Roth–a demon who claims to know her secrets. Though Layla knows she should stay away, it’s tough when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue. Trusting Roth could ruin her chances with Zayne, but as Layla discovers she’s the reason for a violent demon uprising, kissing the enemy suddenly pales in comparison to the looming end of the world.”

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
“It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood. Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.”

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
“Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.”

These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn, #1)

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
“Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica. While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.”

A Song Below Water (A Song Below Water, #1)

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
“Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.”

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even. Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing. But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago. For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.”

Adult

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
“Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. “

The City We Became (Great Cities, #1)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
“Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
“A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn. An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

These are some books that I think would be good for anyone trying out the fantasy genre for the first time. I love all of these books and I highly recommend them. What books would you recommend for someone new to fantasy?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

Summary:
Cordelia Carstairs seems to have everything she ever wanted. She’s engaged to marry James Herondale, the boy she has loved since childhood. She has a new life in London with her best friend Lucie Herondale and James’s charming companions, the Merry Thieves. She is about to be reunited with her beloved father. And she bears the sword Cortana, a legendary hero’s blade.
But the truth is far grimmer. James and Cordelia’s marriage is a lie, arranged to save Cordelia’s reputation. James is in love with the mysterious Grace Blackthorn whose brother, Jesse, died years ago in a terrible accident. Cortana burns Cordelia’s hand when she touches it, while her father has grown bitter and angry. And a serial murderer is targeting the Shadowhunters of London, killing under cover of darkness, then vanishing without a trace.
Together with the Merry Thieves, Cordelia, James, and Lucie must follow the trail of the knife-wielding killer through the city’s most dangerous streets. All the while, each is keeping a shocking secret: Lucie, that she plans to raise Jesse from the dead; Cordelia, that she has sworn a dangerous oath of loyalty to a mysterious power; and James, that he is being drawn further each night into the dark web of his grandfather, the arch-demon Belial. And that he himself may be the killer they seek.

Chain of Iron (The Last Hours, #2)

Review:
If you don’t already know, Chain of Iron is the second book in The Last Hours trilogy. This is a sort of follow up series to The Infernal Devices. I think what’s interesting about The Last Hours is that I really love this series so far, but I didn’t really care for The Infernal Devices. Anyway, you can find my review for Chain of Gold here.
Chain of Iron begins a few months after the ending of Chain of Gold. I didn’t love this, as I wanted to see James and Cordelia out in Shadowhunter society as an engaged couple, not just after they’re already married. But that was a small thing and didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the story. I think the overall plot was interesting, but it’s absolutely not what kept me invested in this story. This is a character focused series, much like Clare’s other books, and oh boy, have I fallen in love with these characters.
I talked mostly about why I liked the characters in my review for Chain of Gold, which I linked above, so in this review I don’t want to do that. I think their relationships are so intricate and wonderful. The Merry Thieves are James, Christopher, Thomas, and Matthew. These four are the best of friends, some of them even cousins. I loved that we get to see them all together, but I especially liked seeing when they were one on one. Matthew and James are complicated. They’re parabatai, but Matthew is struggling. It’s very obvious that he drinks too much, but no one knows how to address that without causing problems. So, they just don’t address it. I think Matthew is still my favorite. We learn why he is so unhappy and drinks so much. Clare did a really great job of filling out each character’s development with more backstory for each of them. I love how odd Christopher is considered in the Shadowhunter society and I love that the Merry Thieves accept and love him for exactly who he is. Thomas, my whole heart, has a really interesting plotline that involves romantic relationships and I really loved it. I absolutely ship him and that character. Then there’s Cordelia and Lucie. Lucie, James’s sister, is going to be Cordelia’s parabatai. But Lucie has her own shit going on. I love that Lucie is a writer. It’s believed that Shadowhunters cannot create art, but I adored the bits and pieces of Lucie’s writing that we get to see. I think her plotline is going to take her on a very compelling path and I cannot wait to see where it goes. Cordelia has become such an integral part of this friend group and I loved it. I really liked how easily accepted she was into the Merry Thieves. I liked that it felt like she was friends with everyone too rather than them just humoring her because she’s getting married to James or because she’s Lucie’s friend.
Now, Alistair isn’t painted in a very nice light in this book or in the first book. But I still just really loved him. I think his growth has been nothing short of excellent. I really like how he knows that he’s done hurtful things, but he isn’t asking anyone to forget that. He’s working on his growth and only asking that others see that he’s growing and somehow work to maybe forgive him. His love for his sister, Cordelia, is one of my favorite parts of this story. I love a good sibling relationship and this book is full of that.
I still hate Grace. I think Clare was maybe trying to get readers to sympathize with her, but I just couldn’t.
There are so many other characters and relationships I could mention, but I feel like this review is already super long. So, really quick. I love Anna. I liked Ariadne and I think her part in the story will play out interestingly. I adore that we get to see Magnus and that Jem is such a big part of the story. I still hate Tatiana.
Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about this book. I love the setting, the clothing, the descriptions, but most of all I love these characters with my whole heart. I love how diverse the characters are. We get lots of sexual identity diversity and I love that. Some are gay, some are lesbians, some are bisexual. I appreciate all of it. I’ll have to reread The Dark Artifices, but The Last Hours might become my favorite of the Shadowhunter series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve just finished rereading Poison Study for my “Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager” blog post which I will be wrapping up later this month. I read this series back in 2012 when I found it randomly at my local library. I remembered really loving them, so I bought the trilogy when I found them at one of my local used bookstores a year or so ago. But with all the moving I’ve done and will be doing in the future; I’ve been working on rereading books I don’t remember anything about other than the fact that I liked them so I could see if I still liked them or not.
Poison Study follows Yelena who is about to be executed for murder. But when Valek, the Commander’s chief of security, offers Yelena a position as the Commander’s new food taster. After Yelena accepts, Valek teaches her how to sniff out and taste poisons that might be used to kill the Commander. I thought Yelena’s training in poisons was a great part of the story. It was interesting to learn about the poisons but while she’s learning that, we’re also learning about how this world works and the governing of Ixia. We learn a bit about Ixia’s past. The start of the story is pretty slow. We know that Yelena killed the son of someone important. The fact that she’s still alive is something that this man isn’t happy with. Along with learning about how to identify poisons, Yelena is being targeted by several different people. So, not only is she trying not to be poisoned to death, but she’s also on the lookout for anyone trying to physically attack her as well. This is when the story starts to get more complicated and a bit political.
Yelena and Valek are suspicious of the man trying to have Yelena killed, but he’s in a position of leadership, so it’s complicated. I think the political twists and turns of the plot were interesting ones. There were some that were predictable, people that were so obviously ‘bad guys’ but what was interesting was figuring out how they were doing the things they were doing. You could see all of the pieces and it was pretty clear that they were all connected, but finding out how exactly the puzzle pieced together was a compelling story.
This story was way darker than I remember. Yelena’s childhood was filled with trauma, from torture (that’s pretty explicitly described) to rape. She was not treated well. But she seemed like a pretty well-adjusted person for someone that had been through all of that and then spend a year in a dungeon. We’re told about her trauma and shown what she’s been through and it seems that the biggest thing from everything she’s experienced is that she wants to learn to fight so that she’ll never be defenseless again. Also, she has a ghost following her that we don’t really know much about what exactly that means, so I guess we will find out more in the next book.
The romance between Yelena and Valek was one I enjoyed. I’ve read mixed reviews about this as many pictured Valek to me an older gentleman and Yelena is supposed to be only 19. But we learn more about Valek’s history it’s clear he’s not an old man. I think their romance was slowly developed and believable. I really enjoyed it and I’m very excited for the ‘forbidden romance’ aspect of the next book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was way darker than I was anticipating, but I enjoyed it. There is also a trans man in this first book that I believe we will see again later in the series, but I can’t speak to whether it’s good or bad representation, so if you’ve read this and you can speak for the representation, let me know. I’ve seen lots of people compare this to Throne of Glass and I can sort of see the comparison, but this series came first so. I’m eager to continue the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda