Seven Mercies by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

Summary:
The second book in a feminist space opera duology that follows the team of seven rebels who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire–or die trying.
After an ambush leaves the Novantae resistance in tatters, the survivors scatter across the galaxy. Wanted by two great empires, the bounty on any rebel’s head is enough to make a captor filthy rich. And the seven devils? Biggest score of them all. To avoid attacks, the crew of Zelus scavenge for supplies on long-abandoned Tholosian outposts.
Not long after the remnants of the rebellion settle briefly on Fortuna, Ariadne gets a message with unimaginable consequences: the Oracle has gone rogue. In a planned coup against the Empire’s new ruler, the AI has developed a way of mass programming citizens into mindless drones. The Oracle’s demand is simple: the AI wants One’s daughter back at any cost.
Time for an Impossible to Infiltrate mission: high chance of death, low chance of success. The devils will have to use their unique skills, no matter the sacrifice, and pair up with old enemies. Their plan? Get to the heart of the Empire. Destroy the Oracle. Burn it all to the ground.

Seven Mercies by Laura Lam, Elizabeth May

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Seven Mercies follows the same cast of characters that we followed in the first book. But in this one, we get a lot more of the present day and less of the past. There were still bits and pieces of the past, but I liked that it was more focused on the current mission. When the story starts, it feels like all is lost for the rebellion and that there is little that can be done to move forward. But the Seven Devils aren’t going to let that get them down. They’re going on supply runs and just trying to stay hidden and alive at this point. But then, there’s news and half the team is sent on a mission to discover more while the rest of the team ends up going on a mission or two of their own.
I think this was a story that was more character-focused than plot-focused, but I really enjoyed it. There’s action and risk, politics and secrets, high stakes and recklessness. The cast of characters was easy to root for. Eris has been through so much and still, she chooses to do the right thing (which isn’t always easy). I loved Eris and loved seeing her relationships with the rest of the Devils grow and mend. Rhea and Clo end up going off on a mission of their own. I loved them in the first book, but their parts of the story were the least exciting for me. I still liked them, but not as much as I did in the first book. Nyx had an interesting storyline. She battled with thinking she was dying and trying to keep that secret from everyone else. It was so nice to see her finally open up and lean on her friends. I loved how supported she was and the way that things played out for her. Cato’s story was interesting as well. We get. A few flashback chapters for him and I was absolutely fascinated by his history and how that affected the present for him. Ariadne is still the absolute sweetest bean and I hated to see how much guilt she felt for things she’d done as a child. She had so much responsibility and seeing her overcome that really warmed my heart. Our fearless leader, Kyla, was the other character that we got some flashback chapters for. I think Kyla was one of the more interesting characters for me. Her journey from the past we see to the present was certainly not an easy one. But she holds responsibility well.
Overall, I liked this book. I honestly cannot wait to reread the first book and then reread this one. I think this story was compelling and engaging. I think the authors did a great job taking time for us to know the characters in between the action and adventure. I would love to see more books set in this universe in the future. I think there was so much potential for things that went unexplored. I loved this crew and their missions. I loved the way the story ended, but I’m absolutely still hoping for more, eventually.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: Light Years From Home by Mike Chen

Summary:
Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials.
Evie Shao and her sister, Kass, aren’t on speaking terms. Fifteen years ago on a family camping trip, their father and brother vanished. Their dad turned up days later, dehydrated and confused—and convinced he’d been abducted by aliens. Their brother, Jakob, remained missing. The women dealt with it very differently. Kass, suspecting her college-dropout twin simply ran off, became the rock of the family. Evie traded academics to pursue alien conspiracy theories, always looking for Jakob.
When Evie’s UFO network uncovers a new event, she goes to investigate. And discovers Jakob is back. He’s different—older, stranger, and talking of an intergalactic war—but the tensions between the siblings haven’t changed at all. If the family is going to come together to help Jakob, then Kass and Evie are going to have to fix their issues, and fast. Because the FBI is after Jakob, and if their brother is telling the truth, possibly an entire space armada, too.
The perfect combination of action, imagination and heart, Light Years From Home is a touching drama about a challenge as difficult as saving the galaxy: making peace with your family…and yourself.

Light Years from Home by Mike Chen

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I am a part of the blog tour for this book so thank you to MIRA books for the opportunity to share my thoughts about this one!
I’ve read all of Chen’s previous novels and while they are all technically science fiction stories, they are all so different from one another that I never really know what to expect going into them. That was accurate for this story as well. I sort of thought I was getting into a hard sci-fi story full of action and adventure and space wars. But this is really the story of three siblings: Jakob, Evie, and Kass. Jakob’s disappearance fifteen years earlier fractured this family so much that when the three are finally reunited fifteen years later, it might not be possible for them to mend what’s been broken. Especially considering that Jakob has returned with stories of a war that’s raging between aliens and while Evie absolutely believes him, Kass thinks it’s more likely that Jakob is suffering from a mental illness. I definitely didn’t think this was going to turn into an “is it really aliens or is it actually mental illness” story, but the author totally had me convinced when I was reading the chapters from Kass’ perspective.
Since we get three points of view, one from each sibling, it felt like we really got the whole story. We really got to know each of these siblings. I really enjoyed that. I think having all three voices really made the story what it was because if it had just been from Jakob’s perspective it would have been a totally different story. Each sibling brought something different to the story. I liked all three of the main characters. It was interesting because when I was reading Evie’s chapters, I totally agreed with her resentment of her older sister, but when I was reading Kass’ chapters, I also totally agreed with her disdain toward her siblings. I think Chen did an excellent job with these characters.
Overall, I loved the blend of family drama with the science fiction genre. The threat of an alien war coming to earth unless Jakob can get certain information to them raised the stakes of the story and set the pace. But the characters were absolutely what made this book what it was. The family dynamics were compelling and the issues between the siblings weren’t resolved with a nice neat bow, which I appreciated. I think there will be some mixed reviews on this one from those that are expecting more of a sci-fi story. But I will definitely be continuing to recommend Chen’s work.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda. 

Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee

Summary:
Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, wants nothing more than to join the Thousand World Space Forces and, like their Uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday. But when Sebin’s acceptance letter finally arrives, it’s accompanied by the shocking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor. Apparently, the captain abandoned his duty to steal a magical artifact, the Dragon Pearl, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Sebin hopes to help clear their hero’s name and restore honour to the clan.
Nothing goes according to plan, however. As soon as Sebin arrives for orientation, they are met by a special investigator named Yi and his assistant, a girl named Min. Yi informs Sebin that they must immediately report to the ship Haetae and await further instructions. Sebin finds this highly unusual, but soon all protocol is forgotten when there’s an explosion on the ship, the crew is knocked out, and the communication system goes down. It’s up to Sebin, three other cadets, and Yi and Min to determine who is sabotaging the battlecruiser. When Sebin is suddenly accused of collaborating with the enemy, the cadet realizes that Min is the most dangerous foe of all…

Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee

Review:
I’ve absolutely loved everything I’ve read that’s come from the Rick Riordan Presents publishing imprint. So, I was incredibly excited when I got the approval email from NetGalley (thank you!) for Tiger Honor.
This is the sequel to Dragon Pearl, which I read in 2020 and really enjoyed. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much. I think a part of that is because it’s been so long since I’ve read Dragon Pearl that I didn’t recognize the characters from that book in Tiger Honor until almost halfway through the story. I think I might have enjoyed it more had I gone into the story knowing the connection between Sebin and their family and Min from Dragon Pearl.
This story follows Sebin, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, just before they have been accepted into the Thousand World Space Forces. They dream of following in their Uncle’s footsteps and becoming a ship’s captain. But on their very first day as a cadet, things go completely wild and the ship they are on comes under attack. The rest of the story is what follows and how Sebin handles this.

My biggest issue with this book was that I had no idea what was going on until more than halfway through the book. Sebin is out onto a ship and they rightfully see all sorts of suspicious things before even getting onto the ship. So, we’re left with a sense of something not being right, but what that something is isn’t shared until a decent way through the story. There’s so much happening in the first half of the story that it feels fast-paced, but I felt like I couldn’t enjoy all the action because I had no clue what was happening. I’m not sure if I would have felt differently had the first book been fresher in my mind.
Now, there were still many things that I liked about this book. I think the fact that this story follows a non-binary main character is absolutely amazing. I also absolutely loved all of the folklore and mythology that was included in the story. I think there was less of it than there was with Dragon Pearl, but I really enjoyed leaving about Sebin’s family and the traditions of Tiger shifters.
Overall, this was still an enjoyable and exciting story that I think will be well received. I really liked Sebin. They were such a different perspective from Min in the first book. I really think they bought something new to the story. And even though I felt like I didn’t know what was happening half the time, I think this was still a really engaging story and I will absolutely be recommending it in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord

Summary:
Nothing will get in the way of Millie Price’s dream to become a Broadway star. Not her lovable but super-introverted dad, who after raising Millie alone, doesn’t want to watch her leave home to pursue her dream. Not her pesky and ongoing drama club rival, Oliver, who is the very definition of Simmering Romantic Tension. And not the “Millie Moods,” the feelings of intense emotion that threaten to overwhelm, always at maddeningly inconvenient times. Millie needs an ally. And when a left-open browser brings Millie to her dad’s embarrassingly moody LiveJournal from 2003, Millie knows just what to do. She’s going to find her mom.
There’s Steph, a still-aspiring stage actress and receptionist at a talent agency. There’s Farrah, ethereal dance teacher who clearly doesn’t have the two left feet Millie has. And Beth, the chipper and sweet stage enthusiast with an equally exuberant fifteen-year-old daughter (A possible sister?! This is getting out of hand). But how can you find a new part of your life and expect it to fit into your old one, without leaving any marks? And why is it that when you go looking for the past, it somehow keeps bringing you back to what you’ve had all along?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
When You Get the Chance follows Millie, a theatre kid, who is doing quite a few things. She’s looking for her mom (after narrowing it down to three possible women), trying to convince her dad to let her go to a super-selective theatre program that she’s been accepted to (except it’s across the country), and also, she’s falling in love.
I was not a theatre kid. They didn’t have any sort of drama program at my high school, so that aspect of this story went right over my head. Though I could totally feel the energy and excitement and passion that Millie had for acting from this book. My favorite part was the mom drama. I have to say that once you get past a certain point about the mystery moms, I absolutely guessed who Millie’s mom was before it was revealed. Growing up with a single dad, I really liked this aspect of the story. Millie’s family dynamic was an interesting one. I loved Millie’s dad and it was so clear that he loved her. He obviously did his best to raise her and love her and I loved that. But I also could understand Millie’s complicated emotions about her mom. I think this part was really well done. Because it’s not that Millie is unhappy with her dad and her aunt, but there’s nothing really that can replace the mom that birthed you, even if she gave you up.
Now, the romance. I was absolutely here for the rivals to friends to lover’s romance between Oliver and Millie. I think they were so fun to follow as they figured out what a great team they can be. I liked learning about the ways that they helped one another and didn’t even know it. I think their journey from grudging respect to friends to lovers was absolutely to die for. I devoured it.
Overall, this was a fun and easy to read story about Millie who is just trying to find herself (but what else are we going to do at age seventeen), and instead finds more of a mystery, love, and possibility. I think this will be a hit among YA readers, for sure.

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.

Blog Tour: The Kindred by Alechia Dow

Summary:
To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…
Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.
Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.
Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

Review:
Thank you, NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I was invited to be a part of the blog tour for this book by HarperCollins and I’m so glad. I absolutely adored The Sound of Stars and I had high hopes for Dow’s sophomore novel. I absolutely was not disappointed.
The Kindred follows Felix and Joy in alternating perspectives with the occasional memory included. Felix is a duke, but he shies away from any sort of responsibility. He wants to play music and travel. Joy is a poor girl that is about to marry Maxon (a huge jerk) because it’s what she’s “supposed” to do. But Felix and Joy are one another’s Kindred. In this society, everyone is paired with another, their Kindred, at birth. But due to the political maneuvering of others, Felix and Joy are not allowed to meet. They’re not allowed to love one another the way that many other Kindred do. And then all hell breaks loose when the rulers of this society are assassinated. Secrets are revealed and Joy and Felix must meet and flee to keep themselves safe.
I really liked both Joy and Felix. Joy really struggles with her sense of self. She doesn’t think very highly of herself. So, her gaining confidence and finally disregarding the things she’s believed about her body was incredibly satisfying to follow. Her emotional growth was one of my favorite things. I also enjoyed Felix starting to take things more seriously. He seems like a party boy when the story starts, but as the story picks up, we see him take charge and responsibility. I think both characters had really well-done development.
My favorite thing about this book was the world and the ways that it connected to The Sound of Stars. I think the world was incredibly well built. It’s clear that Dow put a lot of work into creating this universe and its history. The history and culture of this book were so interesting. I loved how intricate and detailed the story was about the settings and religions.
The plot of the story was engaging and compelling. We find Joy and Felix, two aliens, crash landing on earth and that’s when the connections to The Sound of Stars being to reveal. I didn’t realize that this book was going to be related to her previous book in any way, but this was almost a prequel and I absolutely loved it. I think the story was really fast-paced and I really liked that. It was a quick read or felt like it because of the pacing of the story.
Overall, I cannot wait for more books from Dow. I hope there’s another set in the same universe that includes all these characters that I’ve come to love. I think the characters were easy to care about. I think the world and culture were fascinating. I loved the outcome of the story. I also really loved the messages of the story. It’s a story that speaks to the necessity of compassion and love. We need these things in the world and this story is all about that. I absolutely recommend this book and I think it will be a very loved story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Thousand Eyes by A.K. Larkwood

Summary:
Two years ago, Csorwe and Shuthmili defied the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and stole his gauntlets. The gauntlets have made Shuthmili extraordinarily powerful, but they’re beginning to take a sinister toll on her. She and Csorwe travel to a distant world to discover how to use the gauntlets safely, but when an old enemy arrives on the scene, Shuthmili finds herself torn between clinging to her humanity and embracing eldritch power.
Meanwhile, Tal Charossa returns to Tlaanthothe to find that Sethennai has gone missing. As well as being a wizard of unimaginable power, Sethennai is Tal’s old boss and former lover, and Tal wants nothing to do with him. When a magical catastrophe befalls the city, Tal tries to run rather than face his past, but soon learns that something even worse may lurk in the future. Throughout the worlds of the Echo Maze, fragments of an undead goddess begin to awaken, and not all confrontations can be put off forever…

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Thousand Eyes starts off pretty soon after The Unspoken Name, meaning that everything seems like it’s all okay for once, but everything is actually about to go to shit. And that is indeed what happens. Csorwe, Shuthmili, and Tal are living and working together. I absolutely love these three and I would do anything for them. But things quickly take a turn when the three are on a job and they wake someone that they shouldn’t have. I don’t want to go into too much detail with the summary because quite a lot happens.
The plot of the story wasn’t as slow-moving as it was in the first book. I still haven’t decided if I like that or not because I loved the slower pace of the first installment. This one had so much more action and higher stakes. But it definitely made me read the story with more urgency because I needed to know what was going to happen. I’ve had an issue recently with other stories that do weird time jumps, but The Thousand Eyes made a fifteen-year time jump feel like it was a natural progression of the story. I liked how it was handled and I felt like it made total sense for the story.
Now, the characters. I grew quickly attached to them in the first book. I was very upset when the happily ever after that Tal, Csorwe, and Shuthmili got was completely upended. Larkwood absolutely created chaos for these characters in the most painful ways possible. All three of them are tested in different ways. I really loved them. My only complaint about the characters would be that I wanted smaller-scale interaction. I grew to love them in the first book, but in this one, it felt like they spend little to no time together so we didn’t really get to see them interacting with each other, mostly with other new characters. We mostly see Tal and Csorwe as the ‘frenemies’ that we’ve known from the first book. I wanted more of their banter but I also wanted them to reconcile and actually be friends. I think this was probably because they all ended up on different paths and there were new characters that were with the three main casts and where we’re getting to know them. But my favorite parts were still with Tal, Csorwe, and Shuthmili.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I devoured it as quickly as I could, falling asleep holding my kindle most nights until I finished it. I hope that we get to see more in this series but the conclusion was pretty well wrapped up and I would say I’m really satisfied with the way the story ended both plot-wise and for the characters. But I absolutely wouldn’t be mad about a companion with some of the immortal characters. I will be recommending this series often in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

No Beauties or Monsters by Tara Goedjen

Summary:
A mystery about a girl whose family secrets are as threatening as the desert that surrounds her—but whose quest to expose the truth may tear apart reality itself.
Rylie hasn’t been back to Twentynine Palms since her dad died. She left a lot of memories out there, buried in the sand of the Mojave Desert. Memories about her dad, her old friends Nathan and Lily, and most of all, her enigmatic grandfather, a man who cut ties with Rylie’s family before he passed away. But her mom’s new work assignment means their family has to move, and now Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to, living in the house of a grandfather she barely knew.
At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. And Twentynine Palms is so much stranger than Rylie remembers. There are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose, but it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels off—there’s something wrong with Rylie, too. She’s seeing things she can’t explain. Visions of monstrous creatures that stalk the night.
Somehow, it all seems to be tied to her grandfather and the family cabin he left behind. Rylie wants the truth, but she doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Are the monsters in her head really out there? Or could it be that the deadliest thing in the desert . . . is Rylie herself?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I have to say, this book was freaking weird, but in a good way, I think. The story follows Rylie just after her family has moved back to Twentynine Palms (a military base in California). Weird things are happening here and Rylie can’t be sure if she’s remembering things from the summers she spent staying with her grandfather, or if she’s just losing her mind.
I want to say that the mystery of this story was a good one, but I don’t know that it was. I was incredibly confused for most of this story and not in a fun, slowly putting the pieces together kind of way. I just genuinely had no clue what was going on. Rylie is having weird gaps in her memory, trying to remember with hypnosis, but remembering even weirder things that just don’t make any sense. I will say that when we find out what the big twist is, all of the confusion and weird puzzle pieces absolutely make sense. So, it’s a well-constructed mystery, I was just incredibly confused until the absolute last piece was revealed to the reader.
I think the setting of the desert was an interesting one. I feel like I don’t see much outside of the fantasy genre with a desert setting. But I think it worked really well for this story.
Overall, this story was absolutely bizarre. But I found myself unable to put it down until I learned what the heck was actually happening to these characters. Despite my confusion for most of the book, I was compelled to continue. The pace of the story felt quick even though things happened pretty slowly. The characters were interesting, but I didn’t feel any special attachment to them. I do think they were well developed with interesting personalities. I believe this is labeled as a horror story, but I don’t think it totally fits there. I think if anything this would be more science fiction than horror. But I want to know if anyone else has read this.  If you have, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.

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: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

Summary:
After angering a local gangster, seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen must flee with her prize fighting wolf, Iska, in tow. A team of scientists offer to pay her way off her frozen planet on one condition: she gets them to the finish line of the planet’s infamous sled race. Though Sena always swore she’d never race after it claimed both her mothers’ lives, it’s now her only option.
But the tundra is a treacherous place, and as the race unfolds and their lives are threatened at every turn, Sena starts to question her own abilities. She must discover whether she’s strong enough to survive the wild – whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive.
A captivating debut about survival, found family, and the bond between a girl and a wolf that delivers a fresh twist on classic survival stories and frontier myths.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves follows Sena, a girl that’s just trying to earn enough money to escape the ice-covered planet she grew up on. I don’t know that I can say I liked or disliked Sena. I think I liked her by the of the story but she did so many self-destructive and just plain dumb things. Her story was compelling for sure though. So, even when I was rolling my eyes at her actions, I was interested to see what she would try next. I liked the supporting characters as well but I felt like we didn’t really get to know them very well.
The world was fascinating. Sena lives on a frozen planet where mining and the yearly races attract the wealthy and other corporations. The draw of the planet’s natural resources and the money to be made from them was a really interesting one. I think the negative light the corps were painted in was very much compared to modern society and I liked that. Aside from these, the setting was stunning with the frozen rivers and lakes and the woods full of deadly predators. But most of all, I was interested in the culture of Sena’s ama. One of Sena’s mothers left her home of the native population to be with Sena’s mom. But she still taught Sena about the culture she was raised in and I liked learning about that culture the most.
Overall, this was a pretty nicely paced story. Long did a great job of showing things instead of telling them to the reader (though there were things told, mostly bits of backstory here and there). I think I will probably read more by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochran

Summary:
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. This story is basically what would happen if the star of the bachelor fell in love with one of the crew members instead of one of the fellow contestants. But also, make it gay and bring some really great conversations in about mental health.
I loved this. I thought the forbidden romance between the star of the show, Charlie, and his producer, Dev, was really well done. We see them make excuses for their actions, but there’s still an ‘oh no, what if we get caught’ element to the story and that’s a trope that I totally eat up. I liked both Charlie and Dev. They both struggle with different mental illnesses. Charlie has OCD and anxiety and Dev has clinical depression. It was so heartwarming to see them interact when they were struggling with their mental illnesses and they simply asked what the other one needed. Saying “what do you need from me?” is such a simple way to show someone you love that you’re listening and that you’re there for them. I also think this book did a great job showing lots of different aspects of having a mental illness. The stigma is shown and talked about with how people with mental illness are treated in the workplace. I think the representation was so great.
Overall, I liked this book. I was easily invested in the romance. I didn’t totally hate the third act break up. I had a lot of fun with the reality tv aspect of the story too. I really loved how things turned out with the reality show. I really loved all of the characters. Dev and Charlie were a very lovable couple, but their friends were also such great additions to the story. I definitely think this one is going to be a hit with romance readers.

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: The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Luminous by Mara Rutherford

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.