Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis

Summary:
The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone, but details about the alien presence on Earth are still being withheld from the public. As the political climate grows more unstable, the world is forced to consider the ramifications of granting human rights to nonhuman persons. How do you define “person” in the first place?
Cora Sabino not only serves as the full-time communication intermediary between the alien entity Ampersand and his government chaperones but also shares a mysterious bond with him that is both painful and intimate in ways neither of them could have anticipated. Despite this, Ampersand is still keen on keeping secrets, even from Cora, which backfires on them both when investigative journalist Kaveh Mazandarani, a close colleague of Cora’s unscrupulous estranged father, witnesses far more of Ampersand’s machinations than anyone was meant to see.
Since Cora has no choice but to trust Kaveh, the two must work together to prove to a fearful world that intelligent, conscious beings should be considered persons, no matter how horrifying, powerful, or malicious they may seem. Making this case is hard enough when the public doesn’t know what it’s dealing with—and it will only become harder when a mysterious flash illuminates the sky, marking the arrival of an agent of chaos that will light an already-unstable world on fire.
With a voice completely her own and more than a million YouTube subscribers, Lindsay Ellis deepens her realistic exploration of the reality of a planet faced with the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence, probing the essential questions of humanity and decency, and the boundaries of the human mind.
While asking the question of what constitutes a “person,” Ellis also examines what makes a monster.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I made the mistake of reading some of the reviews of the first book once I finished reading Axiom’s End. I had a lot of fun reading that book and enjoyed it without taking it too seriously. But since I did read reviews, I couldn’t help but think about the things mentioned while I was reading this sequel.
While we get more of the unique alien situation that I enjoyed from the first book, there’s more than just hinting at a romantic relationship with an alien. Some people may want that, but I do not. Something about the idea of Cora and Ampersand going from friends (potentially family members) to something more romantic made me feel uncomfortable. I was sad about this because I really loved their friendship from the first book. We do get more of that friendship at the start of this book, but it quickly turned into thoughts of more, and then they were both having mental health crises’ for essentially the rest of the book. So, I still liked the aliens in this book. I think they’re unique and seem to be well thought out. I just didn’t like the hinting at a romantic relationship.
The idea of the human/alien romance was nixed when Kaveh came into the picture. He’s a reporter for the New York Times. He’s significantly older than Cora (not my preferred romance trope, but I know many people like that). I really liked Kaveh for the first half of the book, but then things about his and Cora’s romantic relationship started to make me feel uncomfortable. He does thinks like think about how he probably shouldn’t have sex with Cora at the moment because she just had a panic attack. Or that it’s very obvious her body is saying no even when her words are telling him to do it anyway. I get that she’s consenting vocally, but she clearly needs some mental health help, and having sex with her while she’s dealing with that didn’t feel right. Small things like this happened again and again in their relationship. I was sad to feel this way because I really liked Kaveh and I wanted to be able to wholeheartedly root for his romance with Cora, but I just couldn’t with all the red flags.
The final thing I want to mention is the writing. I didn’t really notice it in the first book, but after reading reviews where it was often brought up, I couldn’t help it. The writing was not good. Ellis uses phrases like “veins clogged with vehicular cholesterol” and it totally took me out of the story having to think about these metaphors she was trying and failing to use. The one that took me out of the story the most was seeing the word “carefuller” in the book. Even my iPhone (where I’m typing this review immediately after finishing this book) is telling me that this word is incorrect. I think listening to the audiobook for the first book and the skill of the narrator didn’t make the poor writing as obvious, but I read an eARC of this one and there were so many weird metaphors and clunky sentences that I highlighted that I can’t reasonably include them all.
Overall, I finished this book instead of DNF’ing it, so I would say that I was invested enough to finish the story until the end (which was incredibly unsatisfying). I’m not sure if that says more about this book or the first one. But I liked the concept of the aliens and the conversations of the politics of “what kind of rights would humanity give to an alien species on earth.” I think Ellis did a good job with the political aspect of the idea of aliens on earth. I just don’t think, overall, that this was a very good sequel. I ended up disliking many of the characters I grew to care about in the first book. I’m not sure if there are supposed to be more installments in this series, but if so, I probably won’t continue it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

Summary:
Truth is a human right.
It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.
Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.

Book Cover

Review:
Axiom’s End was an impulse buy a few months ago when I was at Barnes & Nobel looking for new to me science fiction. I figured that Sci-Fi month was the perfect time to pick it up and read it. Plus, I think the sequel is coming out soon.
This story follows Cora, a college drop out that continually disappoints her mother and has a conspiracy theorist father (who abandoned her and her siblings). Her deadbeat dad’s latest conspiracy scoop is that the government has been hiding aliens. The twist is that Cora soon finds out that her father might have actually found something true. One thing leads to another (not sharing too many details here because this part of the story is part of what got me hooked on the story) and Cora finds herself as an interpreter to the aliens that have taken refuge on Earth. She’s the first human that they’ve actually communicated with. It was previously believed that communication wasn’t possible with them until Cora disproved that.
I really enjoyed this story. It takes place in 2007, so I loved all the nods to early 2000s culture like flip phones, a few stores different stores that were mentioned, and President Bush is a part of this story, too. I liked Cora. She had some obvious issues with her father, but she loved her younger siblings and I missed them when they were no longer a main part of the story. She was brave and tried to do the right thing.
Now, the aliens. They were definitely interesting. I thought the parts about their culture were fascinating. I loved learning more about their history, even though it was brutal at times. It was clearly well thought out and very detailed. I’m interested to see what we might learn about them in the next book, but also, I’m curious if we will actually see more of them outside of the ones that have taken refuge on Earth.
Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I think a huge part of the was the audiobook narrator. She did an incredible job telling this story and I will absolutely be seeking out more audiobooks narrated by her. I’m honestly not sure that I would have liked this book as much as I did if I’d read it physically. I also didn’t totally love the romantic feeling I got from Cora and the alien she interpreted for. I think that might just be me though. I still can’t quite tell if their bond is supposed to be more similar to a sibling bond or a romantic one. I guess I will find out in the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

Summary:
The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost.
Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is.
Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities.
The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years…
If they live that long.

Book Cover

Review:
Deal with the Devil follows a pretty large cast of characters as they’re on a mission to find a library of information that’s thought to be lost. Except only half the team knows the truth of their mission. The team is full of genetically modified and highly trained individuals, some smart, some skilled at shooting or fighting.
Going into this book all I really knew was “mercenary librarians” which was totally the selling point. But I was surprised to find that this story was much more of a romance novel than I anticipated. Knox and his team are trying to rescue their friend, Luna, who has been kidnapped. The price for Luna’s freedom is the delivery of Nina to a not yet disclosed location. So, Knox convinces Nina and her team, Dani and Maya, to join with him and the rest of the Silver Devils to try to find the lost Library of Congress. Much of this book is about the two teams traveling together and getting to know one another. And even though it’s a journey filled with stops and challenges, it’s still a pretty fast-paced story. There’s danger and excitement and the occasional fallen log in the road that’s almost definitely a trap.
I genuinely enjoyed getting to know these characters. I really loved learning more about Nina, Dani, and Maya’s relationship and how they came to create their makeshift library in Atlanta. They all have their own history, their own wounds, but I liked how they worked together and how obvious it was that they cared about one another. Knox’s team was similar. They all worked together on a team named the Silver Devils, but they’ve since fled the big tech company that trained them and sent them on missions. They’ve had to do some pretty morally bad stuff, and they’re all dealing with that. But when they start to actually like Nina and her friends, their mission to turn Nina over to whoever kidnapped Luna gets more complicated than they planned for. I thought the banter and development of relationships between Nina and her team and Knox and his team was the highlight of this story. Between the romance with Nina and Knox and the constant threats of murder from Dani, I genuinely had fun reading this book.
Overall, I think this was a quick and fun story. The world was interesting and mildly terrifying because it was incredibly believable as a potential future. The characters were all entertaining and had their own distinct voices. The only thing that I didn’t like, or really just stuck out to me as odd, was the fact that every single member of both teams was incredibly attractive. Which, sure, it’s a romance-ish novel, but it was mentioned so many times that it felt a bit forced. Instead of showing me that these characters were attracted to one another (which did happen too) it was constantly talked about how stunning and beautiful and fit they all were. This sort of stopped happening after the halfway point in the book, but it was something that stood out to me that I thought was a bit odd. I did really like how the story wrapped up and how the reconciliation happened with the main romance. I’m definitely planning to continue the series and see what trouble these characters will find next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.   
However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot. 
Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

Book Cover

Review:
I just finished this book less than an hour ago. So, I think I’ll write this review in the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format while everything is still fresh in my mind.

What I Liked:

I liked Sera. She’s known her destiny her whole life. She’s resigned to it. But when things don’t go as planned, Sera’s life is changed. Her life still isn’t her own, but she lives at the grace of the Queen, her mother. I thought Sera was interesting because she’s a trained killer, but one with moral objections to killing. She doesn’t think very highly of herself. She basically is just trying to make the best of a bad situation, but she believes herself to be a monster. I liked her fire despite that belief. She’s stubborn and doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut. She’s funny and fierce. I really liked her.

The world building was interesting. I had a bit of a hard time putting aside the thought of how everything that was in this book became what it is in From Blood and Ash. But when I did, I was really interested by the world. Especially once Sera goes with Nyktos to his court. I loved the mythology and world building around the gods and Primals and their realm. I already can’t wait to learn more about it in the next book in this series and hopefully in the next FBAA book.

I liked Nyktos. I liked him when we met him as Ash and I liked him when his true identity was revealed. I think he was a bit harsh at times. But I’m very excited to see him fight falling in love with Sera and failing. It’s clear that he has a good heart and does his best to help those that need it. The sad story of his parents was good backstory for him. I just liked him.

I really loved the draken. I loved getting to know some of the characters we met briefly in The Crown of Gilded Bones and I loved seeing the baby draken. This sort of goes with the world building, but learning more about the draken was one of my favorite parts of the story. Baby Jadis and Reaver were definitely one of the highlights of this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t love the similarities between Sera and Nyktos and Poppy and Casteel. There were a few lines and scenes that felt like the couples were mirroring each other. I couldn’t tell if this was intentional, or if it just happened like that. But it totally took me out of the story when it happened.

The ending, oh, the ending. I just wanted more. The place that this story ended left me wondering what the hell. It felt like it didn’t end in a good concluding place. I wouldn’t call it a cliff hanger, but it just ended and I wanted to know more about what the hell they were going to do next.

This book was 650 pages and it still felt like nothing happened. I understand that Armentrout was setting the scene with how Sera’s life had been since things didn’t go as planned, but it felt like that part of the story really dragged on. We got to know all these characters that she loved and hated, but once she goes with Nyktos, I assume we’re not going to see them again because they’re all in the mortal realm. And yet, I wanted the side characters we meet in Nyktos’ court to be more developed. We only learn a little bit about a few of them, but some seemed like they’ll play a bigger role in the story and I wanted to know more about them. At times, it felt like they were just there because it wouldn’t make sense for Sera and Nyktos to be the only characters in the book.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book. The sex scenes were excellent. I did grow to love Sera and Nyktos. I will absolutely be continuing the series. I’m incredibly excited to see how this book will tie into the new FBAA book that’s coming out in March. I’m also excited to see what will happen in the next book (which I believe is the conclusion) in this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Summary:
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Book Cover

Review:
Here are five things I liked about Home Before Dark:

  1. I really liked that the story was told in alternating chapters. We follow Maggie, present day, but we also get excerpts from her father’s book (which is heavily talked about by Maggie in the present-day chapters). I thought this was a creative and interesting way to tell the story. I think it worked right up until the big reveal about the book.
  2. Along with how the story is told in both the present and the past, I thought it was really interesting how things that were happening to Maggie and Maggie’s actions were mirroring and reflecting many of the things that had already happened (or were claimed to happen in her dad’s book) in the past.
  3. I was surprised to find that I actually sort of liked that I had no idea what was the truth and what wasn’t. I don’t usually like books where I don’t actually know what’s going on. But Sager did an excellent job keeping up the mystery and the suspense until the big reveal. I spent most of the book flip-flopping between firmly believing that the ghosts were real or that they were definitely all made up.
  4. I listened to the audiobook which has two narrators. I liked both narrators. The male narrator that read Maggie’s father’s book did a great job and I will absolutely be seeking out more book narrated by him. I liked the narrator for Maggie as well. I think she did a great job telling the story and keeping up the emotion and suspense.
  5. The big reveal. I liked it because like I said above, I went back and forth for the entire book between believing and not believing that the ghosts were real. So, to finally have confirmation one way or another was almost a relief. I liked how things all played out to put it vaguely so that I don’t spoil anything.

Overall, I really liked this book. I’m not surprised since I’ve liked all of Sager’s other books I’ve read. I also discovered (partially because of this book) that I really like the ‘but are the ghosts real or not’ trope for horror and mystery books. I would definitely recommend the audiobook for this one to any audiobook fans, but I’m sure the physical or digital book was just as good.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

Summary:
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Book Cover

Review:
For the Wolf was chosen by my book club for September. I’m so glad that we ended up reading this book because it’s going to be one of my 2021 favorites. This story really pulled me in and spit me out in a way that a book hasn’t in a while. I alternated between the eBook and the audiobook because I just could not story reading this story. I needed to know how it ended. I stayed up until way later than I should have so that I could finish.
There are two daughters. The first, Neve, will become Queen, in time. And the second, Redarys, was to be given over to the Wilderwood, and the Wolf that lived there. There hasn’t been a second daughter in many years, so when it’s finally time for Red to be given to the Wolf, the people hope that the Wolf will finally return their kings to them. But there’s so much in the legends of the Wilderwood that just isn’t true. That’s what the heart of this story really is, learning the truths behind the tales and how to right the wrongs that have been done.
The world really fascinated me. There was just so much of it that it was hard to get a handle on at times. The kings from legend, the ones supposedly trapped by the Wolf, brought all of the kingdoms together under one ruler, the first daughter. So, there are quite a few different places mentioned and once I just sort of ignored everywhere other than the Wilderwood and Red’s home, it was less confusing. This world felt vast, so narrowing it down felt necessary for me to enjoy it rather than get lost in trying to remember all the names that didn’t really need remembering. So, the Wilderwood is incredibly mysterious, but also endlessly fascinating. I was filled with so many questions. I think Whitten did a good job creating suspense and mystery by not answering questions, but I think some of those questions could have been answered a bit sooner and still had the same or a similar effect on the story. But the setting of the Wilderwood was stunning. I could picture it and I’m not usually very good at picturing settings, especially in fantasy stories.
The characters were ones that were easy to love. Red is a fierce woman that willingly goes into the Wilderwood to meet the Wolf because she has magic that she’s kept hidden, a magic that she’s terrified will hurt her sister if she cannot control it. But when she learns the truth of the Wolf, she falls for him, slowly. He tries to protect her, Eammon. But his protection is in the form of keeping secrets (one of my least favorite tropes). I think their romance was a little bit insta-lovey which I don’t usually love. But I think the way that it was set up worked for this story. I still liked them both individually and grew to love them together. By the end, I was definitely invested in their romance. I think the lack of clarity with the way the Wilderwood’s magic worked honestly just added to the story. I usually like well explained magic, but it somehow worked for this story.
Overall, I loved this book even with the few things that I didn’t like. I also might have died a little reading the preview we got of book two. I am beyond excited to learn more about the kings and what will end up happening with Neve. Plus, man is that book cover to die for and the cover for book two is just as stunning. I cannot wait to read more from Whitten in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Holdout by Jeffery Kluger

Summary:
When evil forces are going unchecked on Earth, a principled astronaut makes a spilt-second decision to try to seek justice in the only place she knows how—the International Space Station.
Walli Beckwith is a model astronaut. She graduated at the top of her class from the Naval Academy, had a successful career flying fighter jets, and has spent more than three hundred days in space. So when she refuses to leave her post aboard the International Space Station following an accident that forces her fellow astronauts to evacuate, her American and Russian colleagues are mystified. For Walli, the matter at hand feels all too clear and terrifying for her to be worried about ruining her career. She is stuck in a race against time to save a part of the world that seems to have been forgotten, and also the life of the person she loves the most. She will go to any length necessary, using the only tool she has, to accomplish what she knows is right.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy! Here is my honest review. When I read the synopsis for this book, I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. I thought it might be a science fiction thriller. Had I known more specific details about this book, I probably wouldn’t have read it. But I did really enjoy my reading experience once the story got started.
We follow Walli Beckwith, an astronaut. An accident happens and the three astronauts that are on the space station are required to leave. But Walli refuses and stays behind. The reason? No one knows until a few days later. When Walli finally reveals that she stayed behind on the space station to protest and demand action from the United States, many countries are furious. This is where the story gets way more political than I anticipated. The heart of this story is about Walli pressuring the U.S. government to do the right thing and intervene where another country is committing extreme human right violations.
I liked Walli. I liked that she had the bravery and audacity to take the space station hostage in order to shed light on the atrocities happening in the Amazon. She takes unauthorized photos from the space station and uses her fame as an astronaut to bring awareness to the issue that’s being called the Consolidation. I think the parts with Walli alone on the space station could have been boring, but they weren’t. The author used them well to share backstory and other important details.
I was confused at Sonia’s point of view until I learned of her connection to Walli and all the pieces fell together. I think Sonia’s part of the story was just as important, if not more important, than Walli’s. Sonia’s on the ground in the Amazon, working as a doctor. We see the horrors happening in the forest through Sonia and I have to say, at times, her parts of the story were incredibly hard to read.
Overall, I think this was a great story. It was well written, interesting, detailed, and organized. I think it was a passionate story about people doing the ‘wrong’ thing for the right reasons. I loved the bravery and courage these women showed. I think it puts a hope and positivity on the American government that isn’t really deserved, but I thought it was great for escapism.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Summary:
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

Book Cover

Review:
One Last Stop was another birthday gift (Thanks, Avhlee!). I don’t know if I’m going to be able to really explain my feelings about this book. This book is probably going to make my favorites of 2021 list. It just felt like a deeply personal story to me and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to portray that in this review. So, instead of writing a review in my normal format I’m going to share 5 things I loved about One Last Stop.

  1. I love the way that the past connected with the present. We see it again and again with Jane and August. One example being the pancake diner.
  2. Jane and August meet on the subway and they spend most of their time together on the subway. So, a fun thing that McQuiston added into this book was little blurbs and snippets from various ‘missed connections’ pages. They’re all about Jane because she’s been on the subway for literally years. I thought this was a really fun extra that we got in the story.
  3. The sex scenes were everything I wanted them to be. I give them an enthusiastic chef’s kiss.
  4. I really loved the way that McQuiston included LGBTQIA history. We see it through Jane’s eyes who was a lesbian in the 70s. We also see it with the inclusion of the UpStairs Lounge fire that happened in 1973 (and this connects to another part of the story).
  5. August’s three roommates, Niko, Myla, and Wes, are the found family of my dreams. They’re weird and quirky, but they accept one another and love one another. I love how they came together to help August find a way to be with Jane.

Overall, this book reached into my soul and made a home there. I was constantly laughing out loud and couldn’t stop myself from reading bits and pieces aloud to Antonia. I loved this book with my whole heart and soul and I already cannot wait to reread it in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.
When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.
As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaste

Book Cover

Review:
Tools of Engagement follows Bethany who wants more responsibility when it comes to the family business. She wants to do a whole house, from demolition to decorations. But her father and brother don’t take her seriously. Enter HGTV jumping in and creating a sibling house flipping competition. Bethany is working with Wes while flipping the house and things get busy at the job site.
I still think the second book in this series is my favorite, but I did really enjoy this one. I liked the family aspects that were involved with Wes and his niece. I also liked seeing Bethany make an effort to show and be more herself.
I can totally understand why this series is so popular. I really had a fun time reading all three of these books. I read them back-to-back so I really got to enjoy the friendships and the romantic relationships all together. I will definitely be recommending this series in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be, anyway. Now, Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with 10 years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous – yet surprisingly helpful – assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Book Cover

Review:
Love Her or Lose Her is the second book in the Hot & Hammered series. I really enjoyed Fix Her Up so I was very excited to read the sequel. We follow Rosie and Dominic who are high school sweethearts. The story starts and Rosie is finally leaving Dominic. She doesn’t feel like they have a salvageable relationship, but Dominic doesn’t want to give up and agrees to therapy (which surprises Rosie). I don’t know what it is, but I really love romance novels about already married couples and this one continued that trend. I really liked Rosie. She has goals and dreams that she’s actively working on making reality. She has things that she wants and she’s not going to wait to get them any longer. But when things between her and Dominic start to get better, Rosie’s not sure if leaving him is the right thing to do anymore.
I loved this book. I think it’s my favorite in the series. I loved seeing Rosie and Dominic find their way back to one another emotionally. I think the book was totally steamy, just like the first one. I was easily invested in the chahracters and the romance. I rooted for them and felt the ups and downs alongside them.
Overall, I loved this one. I will be reading move from Tessa Bailey as soon as I get the chance.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Summary:
Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.
Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.
A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations.

Book Cover

Summary:
I read Plain Bad Heroines for book club in June. The consensus seemed to be that everyone liked it, but I really loved it. This book was bizarre and convoluted and complex and I loved everything about it.
The story jumps all over the timeline. So, it’s not an easy one to summarize. There are the characters from 1902 which include some students as well as some teachers at The Brookhants School for Girls. But bad things are happening. People are dying. Then there’s the present-day timeline, which includes, Merritt, Harper, and Audrey (there’s more but these are the most important). But we also get smaller stories from the very beginning. Basically, this story is about yellow jackets killing people because the land is angry. Some say it’s cursed and others are fascinated. Regardless, Merritt wrote a book about Brookhants and it’s being turned into a movie with a focus on Clara and Flo (the first two girls to die at Brookhants). Harper and Merritt develop a flirty friendship before filming starts and when Audrey is cast alongside Harper, jealous starts to show. But the three grow close and the story grows creepy and I loved every page.  
I really loved these characters. They are all so beautifully flawed, it was a true joy to get to know them and follow their stories. I loved Libby and Alex (teachers at Brookhants) and their romance. It was lovely and sweet until it was tragic. Tragic actually fits well to describe a few of the storyline endings. This was not a happy story filled with happy characters. This was a creepy and atmospheric story filled with mystery and queer characters. The growth and personal stories we get to follow for Merritt, Audrey, and Harper was so enjoyable. I loved getting to know them better and see them get to know one another. They were all such well-developed characters with fears and hopes and dreams. I loved these three so much.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved all the different storylines. I loved the creep and mystery. I loved the slow pace of the story, revealing the tiniest bits and pieces at a time. I really loved the different time periods. I loved how gay everyone was. I loved the illustrations. I highly recommend this story for anyone that loves a slow, steady story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Summary:
The Sukai Dynasty has ruled the Phoenix Empire for over a century, their mastery of bone shard magic powering the monstrous constructs that maintain law and order. But now the emperor’s rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, but a mysterious illness has stolen her childhood memories and her status as heir to the empire. Trapped in a palace of locked doors and old secrets, Lin vows to reclaim her birthright by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
But the mysteries behind such power are dark and deep, and wielding her family’s magic carries a great cost. When the revolution reaches the gates of the palace itself, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her throne – and save her people.

Book Cover

Review:
The Bone Shard Daughter follows quite a few different characters. Because of this, it was hard to really get into until a decent way into the book. It felt like it took a really long time to get to know each of the characters because we were following so many different people. Despite that, I did end up really enjoying this book. I did grow to love all of the characters and their individual journeys. I liked how each of the characters played an important role in the overall plot. Stewart really did a great job bringing the story full circle so that all the bits and pieces connected to one another. The plot felt like it was really well done. It was complex and detailed, but still pretty easy to follow. There were some mysteries that I thought I’d totally put together only to find out in later reveals that I was wrong. I love books that surprise me, so I really liked this.
The world building was also really interesting. It felt a little bit out of balance though. So, the Empire has many islands. It says that right in the summary. But because of the characters we follow, we only see maybe three islands total. We don’t really hear very much about the other islands either. It was just a little unbalanced to me because if there really is a full-scale rebellion going on, shouldn’t it be happening on all of these many islands? Aside from that issue that I had, I thought the world building and the setting was great. I could really see in my head what was happening with the island that sank. I thought the setting of the palace was a good one. But I think what interested me the most was the mythology and legends of the people that came before. Those that Lin’s family defeated and supposedly protects the Empire from their return. I’d love to know more about them.
Overall, this was a slow buildup of a story. I think the second book is going to be way more fast paced since so much of the buildup was done in the first book. It has characters that I found myself invested in (some queer!) and eager to know how things will unfold for them. I really liked that the reader got to see and learn things that the characters didn’t know yet. It did a wonderful job of creating suspense and anticipation while we waited for the characters to learn what the reader already knew. I definitely can’t wait for the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Summary:
When MacKayla’s sister was murdered, she left a single clue to her death, a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone. Journeying to Ireland in search of answers, Mac is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed – a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.
As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho…while at the same time, the ruthless V’lane – an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women – closes in on her. As the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: to find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book – because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control both worlds in their hands.

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve had Darkfever on my TBR list for a super long time. So, I finally managed to pick it up thanks to my TBR Jar. I read this one for ‘favorite of a friend’ since my friend Ari loves this series. I’m so glad I finally read this one because I absolutely flew through the story.
Darkfever follows Mac, who has just found out her sister died in Ireland. After finding a weird voicemail on her phone, Mac decides she must travel to Ireland and do some investigating herself, since the police haven’t found anything. But Mac finds herself way in over her head. Enter Jericho. Owner of a bookshop, he helps her with her mission of finding the truth of what happened to her sister. But there are others that pop in and out of the story as well.
I think the mystery really stood out in this story. I went into this book thinking it was going to be a fun paranormal romance (which it sort of was), but the mystery was a huge part of the plot. The plot was actually what kept me interested in the story, more than the romance. This is a slow burn romance for sure as the couple that I anticipate being the romantic focus didn’t even kiss. I am
Overall, I really can’t wait to continue this series. I think it’s going to be a wild ride. the world that Moning has created is a dark and eerie once, but a fascinating one as well. I loved Mac and Jericho and I’m excited to see where things will go next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
After an injury ends Travis Ford’s major league baseball career, he returns home to start over. He just wants to hammer out his frustrations at his new construction gig and forget all about his glory days. But he can’t even walk through town without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his buddy’s little sister, who is definitely not a kid anymore.
Georgette Castle has crushed on her older brother’s best friend for years. The grumpy, bear of a man working for her family’s house flipping business is a far cry from the charming sports star she used to know. But a moody scowl doesn’t scare her and Georgie’s determined to show Travis he’s more than a pretty face and a batting average, even if it means putting her feelings aside to be “just friends.”
Travis wants to brood in peace. But the girl he used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman who makes him feel whole again. And he wants her. So damn bad. Except Georgie’s off limits and he knows he can’t give her what she deserves. But she’s becoming the air he breathes and Travis can’t stay away, no matter how hard he tries…

Book Cover

Review:
Fix Her Up follows Georgie and Travis. Travis is a baseball player whose career ended early due to an injury (though I don’t ever remember being told what the injury was and he never really talked about it). He’s a player, nicknamed ‘Two Bats’ (yes, this is about his penis. Yes, this is a stupid nickname.) But when a new job opportunity arises, he must shed the ‘play boy’ image and show that he can be wholesome and family network approved. Enter Georgie. Georgie has had a huge crush on Travis her whole life. He’s her older brother’s best friend. So, she’s always been Stephen’s kid sister. This is an image she’s trying to shed. She feels like no one takes her seriously (which I mean, she’s a professional clown so…). She and Travis ‘fake date’ to make Travis seem more wholesome and to get people to stop thinking of Georgie as a kid.
I liked Georgie. I could relate to her with her family dynamic. My dad owns his own business and it’s always been planned to be passed on to my older brother. So, I was sort of left to wonder what the heck I wanted to do since my life wasn’t planned for me since birth. I was left to make my own way, like Georgie. Though, I didn’t become a professional clown. I liked how Georgie was persistent and stubborn. She was determined to help Travis at the beginning and she really did help him.
Travis was interesting because we see him pretty down at the beginning of the story. But we also see things turn around for him. His character growth was really enjoyable. I loved being in his head while he can’t seem to stop thinking about Georgie. I thought the struggle of ‘but she’s my best friend’s sister’ was a good one. Especially since he couldn’t ever really manage to stay away from her.
Now, I have to mention this. If you like romance without explicit sex scenes, this series is not for you. Because these books are hot. They’re explicit and incredibly steamy. I loved it. I loved the positive talk about masturbation. I also loved the communication between the two whiles being intimate. Some reviewers have said there’s too much talking, but damn that dirty talk was absolutely excellent.
Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this book. The sex scenes were steamy and the romance was one that I could get behind. I liked the growth and development of the two main characters. I also liked the growth of the side relationships. Georgie betters her relationship with her sister and makes a new friend, Rosie, and I loved these three women together. The only thing that I would have liked to be different was that I wanted more of Georgie expanding her entertainment business. We see her talk a bit about getting more performers, but the story focuses more on the romance and on Travis’s future than Georgie bettering her business.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Summary:
It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for an early copy of this book, here is my honest review. A Psalm for the Wild-Built follows a tea monk, Sibling Dex, who is traveling through Panga to all the towns and villages. Tea monks are there to lend an ear, to be a comfort to people. I loved the concept of this world. Years and years ago, robots gained consciousness and left the world of humans. They decided they wanted to go live in nature, not to be disturbed, and that’s what they did. Many people in the present time think of robots as more legend than actual history. This is also a super diverse world. The monks are referred to as Brother, Sister, and Sibling depending on whether they are male, female or non-binary. The monk we follow, Dex, is non-binary. Dex changed careers early in the story. We see them work really hard to be an excellent tea monk and they really succeed. But being a tea monk doesn’t make them happy. So, in pursuit to feel better, Dex goes on a journey to find a lost monastery in hopes that it will give them the feeling of satisfaction that they’re craving. But as they start their journey, Dex is met by Mosscap, a robot. The two end up traveling together to the monastery and learning about one another on the journey.
I loved this book. I loved Sibling Dex. I adored Mosscap. I loved everything about it. The concept of robots fleeing the human world to live free in the woods is such an excellent one. I loved learning about how the robots have been living since leaving. Mosscap always had the most insightful things to say. I loved all of the wisdom it shared with Dex. Dex was a compelling character too. They are doing something they’re really good at, and yet, they’re still not satisfied with their life. I totally relate to this and I loved following Dex’s emotional journey.
Overall, this was a beautiful slice of life story that followed two characters that will hold a place in my heart for a long time. I absolutely cannot wait for the second book in the series and I hope that we will get more from this series. I definitely recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.