Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Summary:
Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.
The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.
The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Jade Legacy is the third and final book in the Green Bone Saga. I’m sad to say that I liked this series less and less with each installment.
This final book spans a period of twenty years and that was just too much for me. I think if it had been done differently, I could have enjoyed it more, but there was no rhyme or reason to the jumps forward in time, so it completely took me out of the story every time it happened and I had to figure out how much time had passed since the previous chapter. I think a part of the reason I disliked these time jumps was that they led to a lot of telling instead of showing. There were so many instances where suddenly we’re reading about things happening a year or more later and the past year is being summarized before starting to share what’s going on in that moment. I felt like it could have been done differently with one big jump forward in time and maybe some flashbacks to share relevant things about the past rather than skipping forward five years every so often. This was something I didn’t like in Jade War as well and it bothered me even more in Jade Legacy.
Now that I’ve ranted a little bit about that, I do was to say that I did still enjoy this book. I’m invested in the characters and their stories (though mostly just the Kaul family because there were so many new characters in this book that they were hard to keep straight in my head). I did really enjoy getting see Hilo and Wen’s children as adults, though I think they should just get their own series so we can actually get to know them. I think because there were so many new characters in this book, some of the characters (like Shea) suffered in the area of growth and development. It almost felt like each character got their own little bit of trauma and then growth before moving on to someone else. We just didn’t get to see the characters grow like we did in Jade City and I was a bit disappointed by that because I’ve grown to love them so much.
The world and the politics and the scheming of the clans were fascinating. I loved seeing how things played out for the clans and I was pretty happy with the conclusion, even though I was absolutely heartbroken. I think it was really interesting to see the results of everything that Shea and Hilo had been working towards. I also loved being able to see Wen take more of a role in the clan because she’s just as clever and scheming as the rest of them.
Overall, I did enjoy this book. The pacing really bothered me and I wish it had been done differently, but that isn’t really a surprise since it bothered me in the previous book too. I loved the characters. I loved the world and the magic of the Jade. I especially loved the politics between the clans, the plotting, and the outcome of said plotting. I think if you didn’t mind the pacing and the weird time jumps in Jade War then you will love this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda. 

Antonia’s Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Didn’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week’s topic is 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To. We actually did a similar post for Blogmas that you can read here. I only had a few and didn’t get to any of them but I’ll add the books I got for Christmas as well.

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

What 2021 releases do you still need to read?

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – 2021 Releases I Didn’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is ten 2021 book releases that I didn’t manage to get to. We actually did this list for Blogmas, so you can find that here. I managed to buy quite a few new 2021 releases since we wrote that post. So, you’ll see some new additions since our Blogmas post.

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
It Had to be You by Georgia Clark
The Messengers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Sistersong by Lucy Holland
As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson
Tarnished Empire by Danielle L. Jensen
The World Gives Way by Marissa Levien
The Helm of Midnight by Marina J. Lostetter
The House of Always by Jenn Lyons
The Serpent’s Curse by Lisa Maxwell
The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel
Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

These are all the 2021 releases that I own and haven’t read yet. They’re all pretty high on my TBR list to read in 2022. What books are on your list this week?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow

Summary:
For all of Emory’s life she’s been told who she is. In town she’s the rich one–the great-great-granddaughter of the mill’s founder. At school she’s hot Maddie Ward’s younger sister. And at home, she’s the good one, her stoner older brother Joey’s babysitter. Everything was turned on its head, though, when she and Joey were in the car accident that killed Candy MontClaire. The car accident that revealed just how bad Joey’s drug habit was.
Four months later, Emmy’s junior year is starting, Joey is home from rehab, and the entire town of Mill Haven is still reeling from the accident. Everyone’s telling Emmy who she is, but so much has changed, how can she be the same person? Or was she ever that person at all?
Mill Haven wants everyone to live one story, but Emmy’s beginning to see that people are more than they appear. Her brother, who might not be cured, the popular guy who lives next door, and most of all, many ghostie addicts who haunt the edges of the town. People spend so much time telling her who she is–it might be time to decide for herself.
Inspired by the American classic Our Town, You’d Be Home Now is Kathleen Glasgow’s glorious modern story of a town and the secret lives people live there. And the story of a girl, figuring out life in all its pain and beauty and struggle and joy.

Book Cover

Review:
You’d Be Home Now is following Emory, who is in a violent car crash after leaving a party. She injures her leg, but in the car with her was her brother, who was overdosing on drugs, his best friend, and a girl that Emory was trying to help get home. After the accident, Emory’s brother, Joey, is sent to rehab, the driver is sent to a juvenile hall, and the girl died. We follow Emory as she recovers over the summer and lives in a quieter than normal house, hooking up with the boy next door in the pool house.
This is a very slow and steady story. It all takes place over the summer and the first few months of the next school year. We get to know Emory while she’s recovering over the summer and then we get to know how things are changing once the new school year starts. We’re told rather than shown these changes because we didn’t even get to see what Emory’s life was like before. But I think Glasgow did a good job of showing how all the changes feel for Emory. I liked seeing how she adapted to these changes and the things and people that encouraged Emory herself to grow and change.
Overall, this was a really tough and hard-hitting story about a girl who loves her brother so much but can do nothing for him while he struggles with addiction and recovery. I could really sympathize with what Emory was feeling but also what Joey was going through. Teenagers can be really cruel and going back to high school after everything they’ve been through would be incredibly hard, but to add trying to stay sober on top of that? No thanks. I would absolutely recommend Glasgow’s newest release for any readers that like hard-hitting contemporary books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Summary:
The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.
Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.
Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.
But can she trust them?

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can read my review for the first book here.
With the first book, it took me a little while to get into the story because there were a few different points of view that were all in different locations. So, we were learning characters and the world very quickly. I think that was definitely not an issue for this second book. I felt like I was immediately invested in the story since I was familiar with the world and its characters. The first book left all of the characters in pretty tumultuous places, most of them just having come into positions of power and now we’re getting to see what they’re doing with this power. Like the first book, we follow Lin, Jovis, Phalue, and sometimes Ranami. What I thought was really interesting was that Lin and Jovis’ parts of the story almost mirrored Phalue and Ranami’s parts of the story. Both Phalue and Lin have come into positions of power and seeing how they both deal with that was a really compelling part of the story. Lin faces so many challenges and obstacles. I really liked how Stewart didn’t shy away from showing us how Lin was upset and frustrated that things weren’t going her way. She has the best intentions, but the people of the Empire are resistant to accepting her and working with her. The development of all the characters was well done in my opinion. Their motivations were clear and understandable. I felt like it was easy for me to get invested in them.
With the first book, I felt the world building was a little lacking because we only saw a small picture of a larger Empire. But in this one, we get to see more of the island between Lin’s travels and Nisong’s conquests. There were still some things that were left unanswered (hello! The islands are sinking!) but there were so many things going on that the top priority issue kept changing which I feel helped the story feel like it was more fast-paced than it actually was. I was happy to get to see more of the Empire. We also learned way more about the history of the world and of Lin’s father’s backstory. I really liked learning the history and the backstory because it definitely put some pieces together.
Overall, I really liked this book. I liked it more than the first book, I think. Some of my questions from the first book were answered (we learn so much about the Algana which I totally loved and can’t wait to learn even more about) and new questions were raised. I cared about the characters and think their development was reasonable. I loved Phalue and Ranami’s romance. I liked Lin and Jovis’ but it didn’t blow me away. Jovis was honestly my biggest complaint with this book. He was so wishy-washy with whether or not he was going to spy on Lin and then he just kept making poor choices. It was incredibly frustrating. But I adored Memphi and Thrana. Their backstory is something I’m still very curious about and can’t wait to learn more about. This was a pretty good sequel and I can’t wait for book three.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Summary:
Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?
London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted just three things in life:
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.
Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….
When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.
But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything–as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Review:
Portrait of a Scotsman follows Hattie who is the daughter of a wealthy banker. She’s also an artist and a part of the newly allowed females attending Oxford. Hattie has always been the “lovely” sister because she had what we now know as dyslexia and perhaps some ADHD as well. But these aren’t names that exist yet in the regency romance time period, so Hattie is just thought of as not as smart as her siblings. Anyway, she ends up finding herself in a compromising position with Lucian Blackstone. Obviously, the pair must now get married.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the romance between Lucian and Hattie. I liked that we got to see a bit from Lucian side as well as Hattie’s. I thought it was really fun for Hattie to be taken out of town and to a place where life is different from what she is used to. I thought it really gave space to show how smart and kind Hattie is. But it also let us see some of her insecurities come to life too.
I liked Lucian too. He’s explained to be this heartless man. But we learn that he does everything for a reason. It was a genuine joy to see him realize that he’d fallen in love with Hattie.
I also thought this book did a really good thing with showing via these characters (mostly Hattie) how women of means were kept purposefully ignorant about sex and their bodies but also expected to completely overcome that on their wedding night. The taboo that women’s bodies have been made into is still relevant to today and I liked how that was shown in the story.
Overall, another book in this series that I really enjoyed. I will absolutely be continuing any books that are to be published. I liked the romance. The sex scenes were pretty good. We got a main character with a disability that was still shown to be smart and strong and kind. I would definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Summary:
Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.
But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.
As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self-preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Book Cover

Review:
Accidentally Engaged follows Reena and Nadim as they fall in love over their shared interest in food and cooking. Reena has been trying to escape her meddling parents for most of her life and even though she’s moved out of their house, they still find ways to try to set her up with men and try to convince her to come work for the family business. She’s sick of being compared to her perfect older brother and has a whole different set of issues with her younger sister. Nadim has a story of his own, one that we don’t really get until the big conflict of the story.
As a romance novel, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the romance between Reena and Nadim. They had great chemistry and hit it off right from the start. I really enjoyed their banter and their shared love of food and culture. I think I especially liked Reena’s friends and family, or the growth and development of her relationships with them. I genuinely was happy for Reena when she started to be more honest with her family, especially her younger sister (that was my favorite of the familial relationships). I thought the irony of everyone keeping secrets that everyone else already knew about was a good twist.
Overall, as a romance novel, I liked this book. I was easily invested in the characters. The cooking show was fun and creative. I cared about the romance and rooted for them to be together. But I do want to mention the Muslim representation because it’s mentioned right in the synopsis. I am not a Muslim, nor am I affiliated with any religions (read this review and this review by Muslim reviewers!) But it’s pretty obvious, even to me, the things that these characters do go against their religion. I’m not here to say whether it’s good or bad representation because it’s not me being represented. But I did want to mention that there’s an excessive amount of drinking mentioned, the characters engage in premarital sex, there’s talk of some of the Muslim characters gambling, which are all things that Islam forbids. So, if you picked this one up for the Muslim representation, just know that much before you read it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee

Summary:
Tara Park doesn’t do serious relationships. Neither does she hop into bed with virtual strangers. Especially when that particular stranger is her best friend’s new brother-in-law. It isn’t an easy decision, though. Seth Kim is temptation personified. His unreasonably handsome looks and charming personality makes him easy on the eyes and good for her ego.
When a friendly game of Truth or Dare leads to an uncomplicated four-date arrangement with Seth, Tara can’t say she minds. But their dates, while sweet and sexy, have a tendency to hit roadblocks. Thankfully, their non-dates and chance meetings get frequent and heated.
Seth is leaving for a new job in Paris in a month and a no-strings attached fling seemed like a nice little distraction for both… But soon Seth realizes that Tara Park doesn’t come in a “nice & little” package–she’s funny and bold, sweet and sexy, and everything he ever wanted and never expected to find. Neither of them are ready for something serious and both have past relationship baggage they’ve been ignoring, but with a shot at forever on the line will they follow their hearts and take a chance on happily-ever-after?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this advanced copy, here is my honest review. The Dating Dare follows Tara (who is the bff from A Sweet)and Seth (the brother of the love interest in A Sweet Mess). The story starts off at the wedding of the couple from A Sweet Mess. Tara tells Seth to stop staring at her and they are immediately flirting and the attraction between them is obvious. The issue is that both Seth and Tara have sworn off of serious relationships because they were both hurt very badly in their first serious relationships in college. So, Seth dares Tara to go on four dates with him and not fall in love with him while he’s house sitting for his brother, before he leaves to move to Paris. Obviously the two fall in love, but not without some bumps in the road.
I liked this book. It was a fun romance that had great sexual tension and flirting. The lead up and tension to the pair finally having sex was excellent. They kept finding themselves out in public or in other places where it wasn’t really appropriate to get naked and I thought that was a funny, but good way to build up the anticipation of them finally getting together. I didn’t love that both Seth and Tara had the same emotional issues. I don’t know why I didn’t like that though. There was just something about it that had me rolling my eyes a little bit. I also didn’t love that they didn’t really talk about any of those things until after they finally mended things after the third act break up.
Overall, I had fun reading this book. Their dates were fun and sweet. It was a bit funny to see them try to keep things between them a secret. I liked the familiar setting of Wheldon. And I was happy to see them end up together at the end of the book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Roxy by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman

Summary:
The freeway is coming.
It will cut the neighborhood in two. Construction has already started, pushing toward this corridor of condemned houses and cracked concrete with the momentum of the inevitable. Yet there you are, in the fifth house on the left, fighting for your life.
Ramey, I.
The victim of the bet between two manufactured gods: the seductive and lethal Roxy (Oxycontin), who is at the top of her game, and the smart, high-achieving Addison (Adderall), who is tired of being the helpful one, and longs for a more dangerous, less wholesome image. The wager—a contest to see who can bring their mark to “the Party” first—is a race to the bottom of a rave that has raged since the beginning of time. And you are only human, dazzled by the lights and music. Drawn by what the drugs offer—tempted to take that step past helpful to harmful…and the troubled places that lie beyond.
But there are two I. Rameys—Isaac, a soccer player thrown into Roxy’s orbit by a bad fall and a bad doctor and Ivy, his older sister, whose increasing frustration with her untreated ADHD leads her to renew her acquaintance with Addy.
Which one are you?

Book Cover

Review:
Roxy follows two siblings, Isaac and Ivy, as they use and eventually abuse drugs. But this book isn’t the usual story where we follow them down the path of addiction, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman have added a very interesting twist to this story. They’ve written the drugs into the story as characters, giving life to these substances. The two main drug personifications that we see are Roxy, who is OxyContin, and Addison, who is Adderall. But we also see morphine, marijuana, heroin, molly, alcohol, cocaine, and a few others. I have to admit that I had to use an embarrassing amount of brainpower to puzzle out what some of the drugs were because they all have names and not all of them are obvious. (Morphine being named Phineas took me way too long to figure out.)
The plot of this story was incredibly well done. The story was fast-paced and never missed a beat even though it wasn’t a super action-filled story, instead, using smaller events to build up the story to its climax. I really liked the interludes that we got from the drugs other than Roxy and Addison. They were almost sweet? By that, I mean that this book didn’t just say “drugs are bad” and try to pound it into your head. In one interlude we see Mary Jane (marijuana) being used by an older gentleman with cancer. There’s still a negative connotation with it because this man doesn’t want to be using drugs, but Mary Jane made him feel better. I think the authors absolutely could have used this book to be preachy about how drugs are bad, but I don’t think that’s what they did.
Let me explain via the two main characters. Ivy has ADHD, but she also just likes to party. But the authors did a really great job showing how much Ivy changed once she finally got on the right medication. Once she started taking Adderall, there’s a stark and obvious improvement in her schoolwork and across many other things in her life. They showed how taking the medicine that she needed helped her. But they didn’t shy away from showing possible negative side effects (loss of appetite leading to losing weight, inability to sleep, and things like that). They showed that Ivy, who had a history of drinking and using other substances, could go from taking her medication how she was supposed to, to abusing it and doubling her doses thinking it will be doubly effective.
Things for Isaac though, it was clear they were only ever going to follow one path, so the authors showed proper use of medication in other ways. Isaac hurts his ankle pretty badly, so his grandmother offers him a pill, and this is how Isaac meets Roxy. He slowly descends into addiction, not really realizing how deep he’s gotten until it’s too late. I really liked that the authors showed him trying to stop taking the drugs and how hard something like that is to do on your own.
Overall, I think this was a really fascinating twist on writing about drugs and substance abuse. I think I could have done without Addison and Roxy making a deal to see who can literally kill one of the siblings first because that didn’t really sit right with me. But I really think it shows how much thought and effort the authors put into this story. I don’t want to say that I liked how the story concluded because someone actually died and it was incredibly sad, but I have to say that I was gripped by this story right from the first page.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Summary:
The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.
King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.
Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.
As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.
Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without… and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future.

Book Cover

Review:
Defy the Night follows Tessa Cade and Prince Corrick who live in the kingdom of Kandala. Their kingdom is overrun with sickness and the people are suffering. We get to see two very different sides of the struggle since Tessa is an orphan, barely making ends meet. But Prince Corrick lives among the elite. He lives in a palace, with unlimited access to the medicine that will help the sickness. But we also get to see that not everything is black and white. Corrick is known to be incredibly cruel and ruthless, but We learn that there’s more to it than that.
I think Kemmerer has a great writing style and the pace of the story never slowed. Once I got to the 100-page mark, I just flew through the story. I was interested in the world and politics. I think sometimes with big worlds like this where we see players from other areas, a lot of the world outside of the main setting can get lost, but I don’t think that happened. I feel like I had a really good understanding of the surrounding areas.
As for our two main characters, I liked them. I liked that there were two sides to Corrick that we got to see. But I would have actually liked to see a bit more of “Cruel Corrick” in action. We see him do things because he HAS to, but from things that other characters say, it’s clear that he doesn’t really have the effect he’s going for. We’re told, often, why the people think of him this way, but we don’t really get to see it. Tessa was easy to love. She’s dealt with hardship. She witnessed her parents killed. But none of that hardened her. She’s still a really nice and sometimes naive girl. I wanted to see more of her apothecary knowledge at work.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked both the main characters. They had backstories that made sense for who they are now. The world was descriptive but still easy to understand. I liked most of the supporting characters too. I also really enjoyed that this book was wrapped up pretty nicely. I think I will continue the series when the next book comes out.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma

Summary:
Dune meets The Poppy War in Aparna Verma’s The Boy with Fire, a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.
Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.
Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.
Leo Ravence is not ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.
The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced review copy. All opinions are my own. The Boy With Fire follows three points of view, for the most part. The king, Leo, his daughter and heir, Elena, and an assassin, Yassen. Yassen is defecting from the assassin organization he’s been a part of since they recruited him as an orphaned child. He’s been made a part of Elena’s guard. It’s almost time for Elena to claim the throne. Elena’s coronation is what most of this book is leading up to. Until the coronation, it’s mostly world-building and character building, as well as, the politics of the kingdom and the potential arrival of someone called the Prophet.
I thought the world-building was interesting enough. I think fantasy is just not my genre lately. I had a really hard time focusing until more than halfway into the story. It wasn’t that the world-building was overly complicated because it wasn’t. It was detailed and complex, but not so much so that it was confusing. It was interesting, I just wasn’t invested. I don’t think it was any fault of the story that I wasn’t invested either. The writing was really good. There were quite a few parts where the writing really stuck out as good and memorable. I think I just personally need to take a break from fantasy.
I felt similarly about the characters. They were all well developed and interesting. But I wasn’t invested. Again, I think this was a me thing and not really the fault of the book. I liked Elena the most because she’s about to become Queen and her father won’t prepare her in the ways that he’s supposed to. So, she takes it upon herself to train from scrolls and literature. She’s stubborn and very obviously loves her kingdom. Yassen was an interesting character too because he’s finally back home in the country he grew up in and that brings some tough memories back up. He’s also is not looked upon very favorably because of the assassin organization he was a part of. But he proves himself loyal. I think the twists involving Yassen were some of the better ones in the story and also the twist at the end with Samson was totally a surprise.
Overall, this was a well-written and well-explained fantasy world with characters that were well developed. I don’t have any negative things to say about the story aside from the fact that I wasn’t really invested in any of it, the world or the characters. But, one last time, I think that’s a personal thing that I’m dealing with for the genre of fantasy at the moment and not the fault of the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Summary:
Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.
Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire — a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.
As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again… something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans — and open her heart — for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

Book Cover

Review:
Well Matched is finally the book where we get April and Mitch falling in love! I had a lot of fun reading this one but I wanted more of it. The story follows April, who is mostly focused on helping her daughter get ready to graduate high school. April’s plan has always been to move out of Willow Creek once Caitlin went off to college. So, she’s doing some things around her house, like painting, to get ready to sell it and move closer to her job in the city. But things get a little complicated when Mitch asks April to be his fake girlfriend and go with him to his grandparent’s anniversary family get-together. As this is a romance novel, obviously hijinks ensue, and the two fall in love. I’m happy to say that we get not only the fake dating trope but also the “there’s only one-bed” trope (which was absolute perfection).
I had a hard time connecting with April for the first half of this book. She’s incredibly defensive, which I might not have noticed if the story wasn’t told from her perspective. She’s been a single mom for almost 18 years, and she’s still living like she’s just arrived in Willow Creek. She’s private and doesn’t allow herself to really connect or develop relationships with anyone. Her sister, Emily (the main character of Well Met), has gotten April a little bit more involved and April has sort of become friends with Emily’s friends. But even after living here for all this time, she’s kept herself pretty distanced. I had a hard time with this until I realized that it wasn’t that April hadn’t changed in the last 15+ years she’d lived in Willow Creek, it was just that she hadn’t *realized* that she’d changed. And once that was pointed out, I liked April a lot more.
Mitch is a total cinnamon roll. I loved every bit that we got to see with him in previous books and this book only made me love him more. His family is incredibly judge mental of his career choice and they dismiss him. So, they’ve never really gotten to know the extent of what he does for the kids he teaches or what he does for the Faire. I thought this was a really interesting aspect of the story and allowed for great development between April and Mitch when April learns of this dynamic in his family.
I really liked April and Mitch as a couple, but I felt a little bit like we didn’t really get to see them fall in love. We did see that, as they worked on painting her house, staining her deck, putting in new carpet. But so many of those scenes felt so similar to one another that when they finally said they loved each other I couldn’t help but think “wait, when did that happen?” I think a part of this was because of April’s desire to deny that anything real was going on between them and her thinking that their relationship needed to be a secret. Everything being kept so quiet and sneaky meant that we didn’t really get to see them doing a lot of the usual things that we might see couples do (like dating, in front of other people). We did get some absolutely excellent scenes of the two of them at the Faire.
Overall, I really had a fun time with this book. It was a fun romance following two characters that had depth and a romantic connection I was easily invested in. I really love this series and I can’t wait to see what other romantic tensions at the Ren Faire DeLuca can come up with. I can’t wait to get to know Lulu more in the next book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Luminous by Mara Rutherford

Summary:
Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.
To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for a review. I was actually supposed to read and review this for a blog tour, but my life is a mess and I completely forgot. So, here we are, better late than never they say, right?
This story follows Liora who is a witch. Her powers include glowing like a star (and more as we follow her journey in this story). She’s been kept hidden her whole life because there is a powerful mage, Darius, that seeks out other mages and kills them or makes them come work for him at the palace. One thing leads to another, and Liora is found out by Darius. But instead of taking Liora to the palace, he takes her younger sister, Mina, as leverage. This also leads to Liora taking an apprenticeship with her neighbor, the mother of the boy that Liora is in love with. Her neighbor is a weaver and she can weave things and make them come to life. This adds some complications to the story.
This was very much a story about Liora finding herself and learning about her power. Everything that happens plot-wise in this book was so that Liora would use her magic in ways she’s never been able to and in turn, learn more about herself. I liked Liora. She was curious but cautious. She cares so much for her friends and family that she’s putting herself in danger for them. She just had a really big heart which we see by how she feels sympathy for Darius after she learns of how he came to be the way he is. Darius was definitely the most interesting character. He’s the villain of the story, and rightfully so, but as we get to know him from his sharing with Liora, his childhood was not an easy one. I thought his ending was a fitting one. But I did end up really liking him.
The magic was absolutely the best part of this story. Every mage has a different ability. Liora is basically a star. We see a mage that controls shadows, one that can teleport, another that can shapeshift, and one that can read minds and speak telepathically. I thought it was really interesting that no two mages had the same ability.
The romance was good. It’s the childhood friends to lovers trope, which is usually one of my favorites. And while I enjoyed them and was happy with how their story ended, I couldn’t help but hope for some romance with the villain.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The writing was good. It kept me interested and the story felt like it was moving right along even though things didn’t really get exciting until about halfway through. The characters were well developed and interesting. I just had a hard time feeling attached to them. This was a really unique and compelling standalone fantasy that I think many people will love.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Summary:
Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.
Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.
Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.
Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved Ernshaw’s two YA novels, so when I heard she was publishing an adult novel, I was incredibly excited. I have to say, it did not disappoint.
The story starts off following Travis who is looking for a missing woman. Travis is grieving the death of his sister who recently committed suicide. He’s not in a super great place. So, when his longtime friend asks him to take on one more case of trying to find a missing woman, it takes some convincing to get him to help. You see, Travis can see memories within objects. So, he follows the path that Maggie took and it leads him to Pastoral. Pastoral is a town in the middle of the woods that most people don’t even know exist. The people in this town live off the land and never leave their town. The story changes a bit from here. We follow Calla, Theo, and Bee who all live in Pastoral and have lived there for many years.
I have to say that the switch from Travis’s point of view to the alternating points of view of Calla, Theo, and Bee was a little jarring. I totally see why the author did this the way that she did. But I liked Travis and I was immediately invested in his story and following him while he searched for Maggie. Though, I think the changing of the points of view did a great job of creating suspense and mystery because it really left me wondering what happened to Travis after he found Pastoral. I liked Theo right away. He pushed the boundaries of what was “acceptable” for their community. And though he kept it a secret, his wife, Calla, knew that something was up with him. I didn’t really like Calla until she and Theo were finally on the same page. I liked her once the two of them were working together. Bee was my favorite. Bee is Calla’s sister and all three of them live together in the farmhouse that Bee and Calla grew up in. Bee is blind, her vision disappeared when she was younger. But because of that, her other senses are heightened. This fact is exaggerated to almost make it seem like Bee has magic. I think I liked Bee the most because she pushed boundaries and spoke her mind. She wasn’t a super likable character, always abrasive and doing what she needed to to help herself with what she was going through.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it. I think if you enjoyed Ernshaw’s previous two books, you’ll like this one too. It’s a winding story that builds and builds before it spills all of its secrets. The setting of Pastoral was a fascinating one and the characters were a group that I easily found myself invested in. I will be looking forward to more adult works from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young

Summary:
When a letter from her uncle Henrik arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.
Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay.
New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with The Last Legacy, a captivating standalone about family and blood ties, reinventing yourself, and controlling your own destiny.

Book Cover

Review:
I absolutely loved the Fable duology, so when I heard that Young was writing another book set in this world, I was beyong excited. I bought it immediately once it was released and I actually ended up borrowing the audiobook from my library so that I could read it sooner. I listened to the audiobook in one day.
This story follows Bryn, who is a part of the Roth family. But after her parents died, she went to live with her aunt. But once Bryn turns eighteen, she’s summoned back to the family home to take her place among the Roths. Bryn isn’t really sure what this means or entails, but she quickly finds out.
I liked Bryn. She was raised outside the Roth family, so, she didn’t always see things in the way that the rest of her family did. This led to some really interesting conflict. I liked this aspect of the story because it really showed the ruthless and sometimes brutal ways of the Roth family. I also thought it was interesting that what her uncle wanted from her was to raise the standing and reputation of the Roth family. Following Bryn teach her family members how to do things the ‘proper’ way was incredibly entertaining.
Overall, I had a good time listening to this book. I liked Bryn. I mostly liked the Roth family. The family dynamics were really compelling. I think seeing a different view into this world was really enjoyable and I hope that Young will give us more stories about this world.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.