The Becoming by Nora Roberts

Summary:
The world of magick and the world of man have long been estranged from one another. But some can walk between the two–including Breen Siobhan Kelly. She has just returned to Talamh, with her friend, Marco, who’s dazzled and disoriented by this realm–a place filled with dragons and faeries and mermaids (but no WiFi, to his chagrin). In Talamh, Breen is not the ordinary young schoolteacher he knew her as. Here she is learning to embrace the powers of her true identity. Marco is welcomed kindly by her people–and by Keegan, leader of the Fey. Keegan has trained Breen as a warrior, and his yearning for her has grown along with his admiration of her strength and skills.
But one member of Breen’s bloodline is not there to embrace her. Her grandfather, the outcast god Odran, plots to destroy Talamh–and now all must unite to defeat his dark forces. There will be losses and sorrows, betrayal and bloodshed. But through it, Breen Siobhan Kelly will take the next step on the journey to becoming all that she was born to be.

Book Cover

Review:
Roberts will always be one of my favorite authors. I think her books are amazing and The Becoming is no different. This is the second book in the series, so I’ll keep my summary a bit vague. In this sequel, we follow the same character, but there are some new players. The story played out in much the same way that the first book did. Breen is still training with Keegan every day to work on fighting. She’s also still training with her Nan to work on her magical abilities. That’s honestly what most of this book was about. It’s a really character-focused story but the world is interesting and the characters are so easy to love.
I think if you’re going into this story expecting something brand new and totally different from Roberts, you’ll be disappointed. This book has the same feel as her previous romance trilogies. But this is mostly set in a fantastical world. That’s the biggest difference. But it still has the same feel as her older series. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that, at all. I really enjoyed that even though it was a story I was reading for the first time, it still felt familiar. I think the world-building is well done. The world is detailed and complex, but not ever confusing or unclear. I like that there’s a huge variety of different magical species and the small bits we learn about the other worlds are incredibly interesting. We get a bigger view into the politics of this world for this book.
The biggest draw for me was the characters. Marco, Breen’s childhood best friend, played a much bigger role in this story and I’m incredibly happy about that. Marco is black and gay. I was really worried he was going to be used as a “token diverse character” but I absolutely don’t think that was the case. Marco was way more of an active member of this story and I loved it. He gets his own romance and he just brings so much joy to the story. I also really loved seeing his friendship with Breen. The love they have for one another is so clear and they’re some of my favorite friends. Breen is really growing into herself in this book. She’s shed her past of being out down and made out as less than and is doing everything in her power to train and learn. But she also still makes time for writing and family. I loved the balance of “I need to save the world” with her other passions.
Overall, I can’t wait for the conclusion to this series. I love these characters and I love the world they’re fighting to protect. I absolutely have some theories about things that will happen in the future, but I guess we’ll find out later this year when the third book is published.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Are Meridians by S. Ghali

Summary:
Two human Civilizations
One will rise
One will fall
300 years ago, A small group of human left behind their violent past and human counterpart on Earth to create the most advanced civilisation in history.
Until now, when mercenaries steal a deadly artefact, the meridians have no choice but to send a military expedition back to Earth to retrieve it. However, the mission is compromised upon arrival and the crew members get separated on the surface of the hostile planet Earth that has never experienced alien contact.
Elmyra Conrad, a disgraced cadet; Effra Jones, a spineless xenoanthropologist and Zayn, a dangerous Antharian prince must work together to survive and find the other survivors before their demise…

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
We Are Meridians follows a cast of characters that are trying to stop a group of criminals who have stolen a very deadly object. The story takes so long to pull itself together to get to that aspect of the plot. I think there was a bit of info-dumping at the start of the story. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t push through, but it was noticeable. There were so many characters and things that had to be introduced before the story could really get going. I feel like the author took a bit too much time letting us get to know the characters and the world before pulling the actual plot of the story into play. But somehow, at the same time, I feel like there was so much that happened and we didn’t get enough of any of it.
I’d say there were three main characters: Elmyra, Effra, and Zayn. Much of Elmyra’s story is still a mystery. We get to know her and her backstory pretty well except one big secret. And when that secret was finally revealed, it wasn’t elaborated on all that much because the person that knows all the details was dying. So, there’s answers, but still a bit of mystery surrounding that particular twist in the story. I really liked Zayn. I wasn’t sure if he was going to turn on the humans or end up deciding to truly join them and help with their mission. I think he was the best developed character and I look forward to reading more about him. Finally, Effra. I feel like we got to know him the least because he’s not really introduced until way into the story. We don’t spend that first third of the story getting to know him. So, his backstory is dumped when he’s introduced. He also spent much of the story needing to be saved, so I guess that’s all we need to know about him.
Overall, this was way more of a science fiction thriller/mystery then I thought it was going to be. I actually really enjoyed it. The author’s writing was good. It was descriptive but still easy to follow. The characters were well developed and not hard to get invested in. The world was my favorite part, I think. The world building and history of the humans that live in space was really well done. I don’t see any news about a sequel but I would definitely read it if/when one is released.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Adult SFF Backlist Book Reading Challenge TBR

Hello, lovelies! I’m here today to share with you a wonderful and fun reading challenge that my friend Ari over at Bookish Valhalla is hosting (her announcement post is linked for anyone that wants to read it). For the last few months, I’ve really been trying to focus on moving away from YA fantasy and science fiction and exploring more adult SFF stories. I just haven’t been connecting with YA stories as much and I’ve really loved the adult SFF that I have read recently.

So! To say that I was excited when Ari shared this reading challenge is an understatement. This challenge focuses on reading backlist adult books that are fantasy and science fiction. Each month has a loose theme, so I’ve picked some books that I think will work for each month. I’m going to share all the options that I have on my TBR for each of these because I’m not sure which book I’ll end up reading for the months that have more than one option to choose from. Also, this TBR will only be the books that I own, I may end up reading books I don’t own for this challenge but as of now my goal is to focus on the adult SFF series that I already own.

January // Winter

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

February // Time

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

March // Oaths

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

April // Hidden Places

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

May // Starlight

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

June // To Sea

July // To Sky

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

August // Sacrifice

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

September // Fire

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

October // Ritual

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

November // Forest

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

December // Omens

I have some ideas about recommendations for this reading challenge, too. So, you can expect to see a post about that eventually. Share some recommendations for the themes that I didn’t list anything for please! What adult science fiction and fantasy books are you hoping to read in 2022?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Summary:
Falling in love is the ultimate payback in this delightful romcom about an interior designer who teams up with an enigmatic architect at her firm to get revenge on her ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door
They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their Realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.
That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you also to HarperCollins for inviting me to be on this blog tour.
Love at First Spite follows Dani, who has just been cheated on by her fiancé. The story opens with her destroying her wedding gown in the absolute best way. Dani is an interior designer for a big company, so we get a lot of the details of her work life. But we also get to know her friends. Mia is Dani’s cousin and also her best friend. And there’s Iris who becomes Dani’s landlady/roommate. But most importantly, there’s Wyatt. He’s our love interest. He works with Dani at the same company, but he’s an architect. So, when Dani, Mia, and Iris buy the property right next door to Dani’s ex-fiancé to build a spite house, Wyatt ends up being the architect that helps design said spite house.
I really liked Dani as the main character. I loved her friendship with Iris and Mia. These three women were hilarious. Mia doesn’t hesitate to call Dani on her shit when she needs it. And Iris is delightfully vague and unhelpful when Dani goes to her for advice. The three together were absolutely one of the highlights of this story. Most of all, I enjoyed Dani’s growth and development. She’s learning that she shouldn’t compare things to her past relationships and that maybe building a spite house isn’t the healthiest way to move on from her ex.
The romance was one I was easily engaged in. The chemistry between Dani and Wyatt was obvious right from the start, despite Dani actively disliking Wyatt when the story started. I loved Wyatt more and more as we got to know him better through Dani. The two of them together were a couple that I became invested in right away. I also really liked the way that the third act break up was handled.
Overall, this absolutely was a fun story to read. All of the antics that Iris, Mia, and Dani got up to while planning and building the spite house made me smile and laugh. The romance was enjoyable and easy to root for. I will definitely be recommending this book in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Summary:
What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Review:
Shout out to whoever recommended that I buy this over on Twitter. I picked up The Unspoken Name for the Clear Your Shit Readathon because I bought this book sometime last year only knowing that it was a queer, adult fantasy. I’m so glad I finally picked it up because I think it’s going to be making my 2021 favorites list.
The story is a winding path down which we follow our main character, Csorwe (pronounced like doorway but with a ks sound like in the word books). Csorwe is meant to be the next bride for the Unspoken God. But what if she wasn’t? She runs away from the path her life has been on with Sethennai, a wizard that visits where she lives. We see them go from place to place and work toward completing Sethennai’s goals. But we don’t really get to know Csorwe until she realizes that she hasn’t been living for herself.
I loved all of the characters. The three most important are Csorwe, who really grows and develops. She realizes that she’s just replaced the Unspoken God with Sethennai and what he wants. She’s made his goals her whole life. So, getting to see her fall into that trap and then get herself out of it was really a ride. Then there’s Tal. Csorwe and Tal are the frenemies that I didn’t know I needed in my life. I laughed out loud so many times at the way they talk to and behave toward each other. I’m very interested to see how or if we will get more of them in the second book. Even though I understood why Csorwe hated Tal, I really liked him. He and Csorwe had more in common than they would ever admit. I liked seeing how differently he handled come out of making his whole life about Sethennai. Finally, there’s Shuthmili (our love interest). Like Csorwe, Shuthmili has a path planned for her because of her culture and her connection with a god. But she doesn’t have to choose that path and with Csorwe’s influence, she runs. I mostly loved Shuthmili because of how absolutely brainless Csorwe gets around her. Their interactions gave me so much joy. It took me a lot longer to actually care about Shuthmili because she was a little boring having accepted and seemed excited about the path that had been planned for her. But she definitely grew on me.
The world building was absolutely fascinating. We get to see Csorwe travel through these gates that take her all over for her travels, but I’m still not really sure if they’re going to other planets, or what the specifics are with that. But the places that we do see are wonderfully described from the settings to the culture. Each new place has a unique and interesting way of living (usually based on what god their people serve). I can’t wait to learn more about the gods outside of the three that this book sort of focused on.
Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this book. The world was compelling and kept my interest. I never really felt confused or overwhelmed with information. The characters were likable. The romance was swoon worthy. The yearning was absolutely top tier. The plot sort of meandered about, but I found that I didn’t really mind that. I am incredibly excited to read the second book (which I have an eARC of, so I’m going to go do that now!)

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: The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen

Summary:
A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter.
And it is bait she fully intends to take.
Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father’s clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared. But not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she’s trying to free – the husband she betrayed.
With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who – and what – she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or herself.

Book Cover

Review:
I really enjoyed The Bridge Kingdom, but holy shit I absolutely loved The Traitor Queen. This book starts off right where The Bridge Kingdom ended, which I was happy about. I don’t love when books skip a bunch of time and start six months after the end of the first book. We’re immediately thrown back into the world, and this is a world at war. Lara’s father had invaded and taken over the Bridge. He’s holding Aren captive and even though Aren has sworn to kill Lara if he ever sees her again, she’s determined to find a way to rescue him. From there, the story unfolds and chaos ensues.
Lara is still pretty similar to the cunning and ruthless main character that I loved from the first book. But with the growth that she had from learning of her father’s lies and deception, she’s feeling guilt and a need for penance. I thought this was really interesting for her character because it wasn’t how we knew her to act in the first book. Also, we really get to see her fight and use the skills that she’d been trained in for most of her life and I absolutely loved seeing that.
Aren is dealing with an internal struggle that’s ironically similar to Lara’s from the first book. He loves Lara, but she’s now known as the Traitor Queen, so they cannot be together. Despite knowing all this, he can’t stop loving her and he can’t seem to let her go. I still liked Aren in this book. He was a bit colder, but understandably so since he’d been betrayed after opening the secrets of his kingdom to his wife. I really enjoyed his personal struggle of not being able to let Lara go, even though his people would likely never accept her.
I didn’t have the same issue of predictability with The Traitor Queen that I did for the first book. As I predicted, there were lots of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. The storyline wasn’t nearly as easy to guess and while there were a few things that I saw coming, there were way more that I didn’t. We also got to see more of the world, which was something I was hoping for. We see Lara’s country while they’re trying to rescue Aren and then afterward, they travel to another kingdom to seek an alliance before returning to Aden’s kingdom (I’m not naming any of these places only because I couldn’t spell them to save my life and I’m typing this review on my phone while the story is still fresh in my mind.)
Overall, I absolutely loved and devoured this story. There were some scenes of a romantic nature that had me absolutely screaming. I also enjoyed the way the story wrapped up. It seemed as if this was a nice ending for Aren and Lara. And even though things were rather smoothly wrapped up, Jensen made the characters work for that satisfying ending. I’m wondering if the future books in the series are going to be following other characters because this felt like a conclusion to Aren and Lara’s story. But I could be wrong about that. Either way, I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment of the series.

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: Jade City by Fonda Lee

Summary:
The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.
The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.
When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

Book Cover

Review:
Wow, I am so glad I finally read this book. I don’t think I can actually tell you about what happened in this book, but to keep it short and sweet, I’ll try. This is a book about family and loyalty. It’s about politics and culture. It’s also a book about magic.
The world building was excellent. I felt like I knew what was going on and I understood it. It was a complex world, with lots of different pieces that make up the whole, but it was well explained and easy to understand without just dumping the information on the reader. The magic was also incredibly interesting. The magic in this story comes from Jade but only very few people, called Green Bones, can use it successfully. For most others, it will make them incredibly sick, and a rare few people that it doesn’t have any effect on at all. I thought the ways that this magic was used were fascinating. I loved seeing it incorporated into the fighting scenes and the training. I can’t wait to see more of it later in the series.
The characters were equally as interesting as the world and the magic. We mostly follow three siblings, Lan, Hilo, and Shae. Shae was my favorite. I was just waiting for her to come back into the family operation, but I definitely didn’t predict it happening the way it did. I loved that Hilo was all fire and Lan was mostly calm. The balance between the two brothers was a really great dynamic. I thought the familial aspects of the story were really interesting because we got to see all sides of it with how the story was told. I also really enjoyed most of the supporting character, except for Bero. Someone please just kill him already?
The politics of this world were the main focus of the story, I think. The biggest conflict in the story is that the two strongest clans are on the brink of war. But we learn a lot about how the clans interact and try to effect the local government. How they run their operations and how they plot against one another. It was this part of the story that made the book feel like it had a slow start. Mostly because compared to the end, where we get to see all the magical fighting, it was a slow start. But it was just a build-up, before things completely exploded and chaos took over.
Overall, I had a great time with this book. The world was intricate and still easy to understand. The characters were flawed but compelling. I definitely understand why so many people love this series.

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.

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.