All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman

Summary:
The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins.
Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death.
The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world–one thought long depleted.
This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice – accept their fate or rewrite their story.
But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I was a bit disappointed by All of Us Villains, honestly. It’s pitched as “Hunger Games but with magic” which isn’t wrong, but I just didn’t love it.
We meet Alistair first. He’s supposed to be a monster. This is a self-given title as well as one that’s been thrust upon him by his family and the rest of the town. But his actions and feelings don’t support that title at all. We’re told he’s a monster but we’re not shown anything monstrous from him. The same goes for Briony except in the opposite direction. She claims to want to be a hero when she’s wanted a place as one of the seven champions and to win the tournament her whole life. But when she’s not chosen, she does some pretty monstrous things. We’re shown that she’s a monster even if she’s whiney and pathetic about it.
As for the other characters, I just didn’t care about them. I didn’t care about the romance between two of the points of view, I didn’t care about their struggles or any of it. They all knew what they were getting into with being champions of their family and going into the tournament. I was intrigued by what Briony was trying to accomplish, but not enough.
I think the magic could have been really interesting, with the magic that’s stored in stones to be used at a later time. And the stored magic needs to be carefully crafted with the risk of damage to the caster a possibility. But the silly names for the spells really took me out of the story every time they were used.
Overall, I wanted to like this story more than I did. I didn’t really like any of the characters because we’re told they are one thing but they act completely against that. I think the setting was an interesting one that was entirely overlooked. Finally, the ending really put me off. They never finished the tournament one way or the other. So many things were left still up in the air and the story felt like it just cut off before it was actually supposed to be over.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda. 

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Summary:
Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.
The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.
Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to be honest. I only requested this book because of my friend Avhlee over at Tea Cups and Torn Pages. She loves Owen’s books and was fangirling about this one in the group chat for long enough that when I saw it on NetGalley, I had to request it.
I’m so glad that I did because I really, really enjoyed this book. The story follows Vanja, who was given to the Low Gods Death and Fortune when she was just a small child. She was the thirteenth child of the thirteenth child, so her birth mother believed her to be bad luck. Once Vanja got to a certain age, she couldn’t stay with Death and Fortune (titled as godmothers to Vanja) anymore, so they found her a position in a castle where she met more mistreatment. Vanja has led a hard life and because of that she has quite a sizable chip on her shoulder. She steals her mistress’s (Gisele) life while traveling and proceed to steal from the rich people she must be around while playing the role of Gisele. But she crosses the wrong Low God and is cursed for her greed. On top of that, a junior prefect arrives looking for the thief known as the “Red Penny” (who is Vanja).
This is a Goose Girl retelling, but that doesn’t actually mean anything to me because I’m not familiar with the original Goose Girl story. So, I can’t speak to the retelling aspect of the story. But I loved Vanja. She’s been treated poorly her entire life, so who could really blame her for finally taking things into her own hands to secure her future? Certainly not me. But even further, the mystery and magic surrounding the case that Vanja and the junior prefect team up to solve was a fascinating one. Owen did an incredibly job of weaving all the mysteries in the story together. How was Vanja going to break the curse? Who was trying to kill princess Gisele? There were lots of questions and the suspense of finding the answers was really well done. I also just plain liked Vanja. She does whatever she needs to survive. But she’s incredibly clever and resilient.
Without going into too many details because I don’t want to spoil anything, this book really had it all. There was a romance between two women. There was a romance for Vanja. There was a sister-like relationship that was pretty fractured at the start of the story that we got to see slowly mended. There was murder and mystery. There was magic and fascinating world building. I loved the idea of the Low Gods and their magic. I really loved everything about this book. There wasn’t a single moment that I thought, “oh this book would be better if XYZ.” I really loved this book and I highly recommend it.

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.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Summary:
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. I grabbed this one from a ‘read now’ email I got from NetGalley. I saw a few trusted book friends hype it up online and then saw that it was about giant fighting robots and an angry girl. So, that’s really all I knew going into the story. But I was already super interested just from those two things. There was an interesting author’s note before the start of my eARC copy of the book where the author talked a bit about how this story was inspired by the only female Empress that Chima ever had. She mentions that this book is heavily inspired by her own Chinese culture, but that specific woman in history really stuck with her and she wrote this as a retelling of sorts, of how the author thought that Empress might be as a teenage girl in the world that the author created for this story.
We follow Zetian Wu as she’s about to enlist herself as a concubine-pilot for the Chrysalis (the giant fighting robots). This is a position that many families pressure their daughters into singing up for despite knowing that most concubine pilots will die. Zetian isn’t signing up for any reason other than to kill the pilot that murdered her sister and she knows that she will probably die soon after if she succeeds. I’m not explaining the Chrysalis very well, they’re complicated machines that are gifts from the gods, and the actual science behind how they’re built isn’t really explained, but the way that they’re piloted was absolutely fascinating. When Zetian succeeds in her mission, she’s surprised that she isn’t immediately killed afterward. Instead, she’s paired with another pilot: the famous murderer. This is where the story really takes off.
Iron Widow is action-packed and will suck you into the story so quickly. Between the fighting robots and the unlikely team that Zetian finds herself in, it’s hard not to get pulled into the story until you’re spat out at the end left wondering what the heck just happened. The world-building was phenomenal. We see the world through Zetian’s eyes, so it’s easy to be angry about the way women are treated. And when she uncovers some of the military’s secrets that prove this unfair treatment, I raged right alongside the characters. I would have loved to know more about the gods of this world, but I think that’s something we will get in the next book if the ending of this one was giving any hints about what’s to come. I’d also loved to have known more about the nomads that Zetian meets (but it wouldn’t have really made sense in the story if that had happened. I just thought they were really interesting and maybe there was a bit of hinting that we will learn more in the next book.)
The characters were easy to love. Zetian is angry. She’s angry that her sister is dead. She’s angry about how her family treats her. She’s angry about how her mother and grandmother are treated. She’s angry about the way the world treats women. Then she realizes that she just might be able to do something about that unfair treatment. I loved her. I was angry right along with her. The author made it so easy to feel the things that Zetian was feeling. There was a smidge of a polyamorous relationship that I absolutely was rooting for. It starts off between Zetian and her second pilot, but also there’s a romance between Zetian and another character. But both are accepting that she might love them both until they realize that all three have feelings for one another. I wanted more of the three of them. I loved the way the romance was developed. We got to see a slow formation of the dynamic between the three of them, but I wanted more of it. It felt cut short, but I’m hoping that we will get more of that in the next book.
Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was beautiful and enraging, compelling, and fast-paced. It had characters that were easy to root for and love. There was a romance that I couldn’t help but get invested in. Plus the giant fighting robots, of course.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

Summary:
Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.
Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.
But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

Book Cover

Review:
I’m a part of the blog tour for You Can Go Your Own Way. So, thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for this advanced copy to read and review honestly.
This was a fun story full of love and nods to the city of Philadelphia. I’m from New England and I’ve never been to Philly, but Smith’s love for the city definitely shone through. I could, however, absolutely related to the weather problems that the characters had to deal with in the story. Adam and Whitney get ‘trapped’ in Adam’s family arcade during a blizzard. The thing with the weather though is that they had warning, they all knew the snow was coming. I’m not sure what the snow is usually like in PA, but in New England, if there’s a risk of a blizzard, everything is shut down. From what it sounded like, they don’t do a super great job clearing and salting the roads. So, one would assume that they would close everything down as well (which eventually happened, but way too late to be realistic in my experience).
Despite my personal issues with the weather, I liked both Adam and Whitney as individuals. They both have things that they’re dealing with and needing to work through. For Adam, he’s still grieving his father but he also really needs to learn to move on and let things go. He’s letting himself get stuck in the past and unable to look toward the future. Whitney is a people pleaser, specifically her father. She craves his attention and the only way she thinks she can get it is by working for his business (a rival to Adam’s family arcade.) But running the social media and worrying about her father’s business is negatively affecting the rest of her life. Her friends are really not great. Her boyfriend breaks up with her. Adam and Whitney are connected by their past. They’re childhood friends that drifted when they got to high school.
The synopsis was a little misleading since I thought the whole book was going to be the day/night they were trapped in the arcade, but there’s so much more to the story than that. I really enjoyed the book. I think Whitney and Adam were interesting and well-developed characters. I liked them as individuals and how they came back together to be friends again and then more than that. I loved the setting. I especially liked the bits we got to see of the business’s social media interactions with one another. They were really funny at times. I definitely think this will be a hit for fans of YA contemporary books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Summary:
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for an advanced copy of The Death of Jane Lawrence in exchange for an honest review. This story follows Jane, a woman that is seeking a platonic marriage of convenience so that she is no longer the responsibility of her foster family. She meets with Augustine Lawrence, a local doctor, who eventually agrees to her proposal. But she’s never allowed to stay overnight at his family home, Lindrige Hall. As things tend to go in stories, the first night they are married, Jane’s carriage is washed off the road on its way to town by a rain storm, so the only alternative is that Jane walks back and stays the night with Augustine at Lindrige Hall. This is when things start to get creepy.
I really liked Jane. I thought her backstory and character development were well done. We didn’t get her life’s story dumped on us, but instead got to know her as the story developed. We learned that she was a level headed, logical woman. But the things happening at Lindrige Hall were anything but logical. It was really interesting to see Jane in a situation where her brain couldn’t use reason and logic to explain what was going on around her. I liked Augustine, too. He had secrets that he never thought he would have to share with Jane. It was a marriage of convenience, after all. But when his secrets start coming out, the reader isn’t left with a clear idea of whether or not Augustine is a good or bad person. He was a complicated man and Jane’s growing romantic feelings for him didn’t make things any easier.
The mystery and weirdness of Lindrige Hall made this story excellently spooky. There are ghosts, we think. But they might not actually be ghosts. There’s magic, but is magic actually real? I guess it’s only real if you believe that it’s real. There was so much that defied the logic that Jane depended upon and this really added some confusion to the story, in a good way.
Overall, The Death of Jane Lawrence is the perfect book for October. It’s creepy and atmospheric. It’s weird and confusing. It leaves the reader wondering ‘what the heck is actually going on?’ But all the things that the reader learns are wrapped up for the most part by the end of the story. I liked the characters, the setting, and the magic. I would definitely recommend this one and I will be seeking out Starling’s backlist very soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Cazadora by Romina Garber

Summary:
In Cazadora, Romina Garber weaves together Argentine folklore and what it means to be illegal in a timely, intimate, and emotionally powerful narrative.
Werewolves. Witches. Romance. Resistance.
Enter a world straight out of Argentine folklore…
Following the events of Lobizona, Manu and her friends cross the mystical border into Kerana–a cursed realm in Argentina–searching for allies and a hiding place. As they chase down leads about the Coven–a mythical resistance manada that might not even exist–the Cazadores chase down leads about Manu, setting up traps to capture and arrest her.
Just as it seems the Cazadores have Manu and her friends cornered, the Coven answers their call for help. As Manu catches her breath among these non-conforming Septimus, she discovers they need a revolution as much as she does.
But is she the right one to lead them? After all, hybrids aren’t just outlawed. They’re feared and reviled. What happens when the Coven learns of Manu’s dual heritage? Will they still protect her? Or will they betray her?
And after running this far, for this long–how much farther can Manu go before her feet get tired, and she stops to take a stand?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. Cazadora starts off not long after Lobizona ends, which I liked (find my review here!) I prefer books that start right after the events of previous books. I don’t like when books jump a bunch of time and things supposedly happen in that time that the reader is just told about. I also really liked how the author refreshed the readers memory about events from the previous book. I was going to try to read Lobizona again, but I ended up deciding to just jump into Cazadora and see what happened. Garber reminded me of things from the previous book without dumping a bunch of information into the story.
We still follow Manu and friends, but they’re on the run and trying to figure out a plan for what comes next. It felt like there was a bit of aimlessness for the characters where they sort of just ran because they didn’t know what else to do. But when they find the Coven things picked up and I really liked that. Once the friends have a goal and a plan, the story was excellent again. I think once a plan was made the pace really picked up and stayed steady for the rest of the book.
I still liked all of the characters like I did from the first book. Manu, while still uncertain of who she really is, was brave and admirable. She’s had so many titles, but is still trying to figure out who the real Manu is. I liked this part of the story. I also liked that her friends had their own parts of the plot too. Some of them are struggling with their magic and others are working through relationship issues. I liked that they all had their own part to play in the story instead of just being there to support Manu.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I want more from this world and these characters. I’m sad to see that this is only a duology. But I’m hoping that this series does well enough that Garber will write more books set in this same world.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Twin Paradox by Charles Wachter

Summary:
With ten years passing for every three minutes on a remote stretch of Texas coast, planes fall out of the sky, evolved species are on the hunt, and people die inside one of the most vicious ecosystems ever grown—all a result of the government’s efforts to slow down time.
A lot can happen in ten years. That’s the point. Governments are always racing for supremacy, for scientific breakthroughs, for technological advantages—and these things take time.
Until something goes wrong.
With the grounded yet massive world building of READY PLAYER ONE, thrilling scientific questions of JURASSIC PARK, and the time-bending teen drama of BEFORE I FALL, Wachter’s THE TWIN PARADOX is a brilliantly plotted tale that is both intimate and massive, relentless yet deliberate, and explores the themes of self-acceptance, self- confidence, and natural selection in a richly hued and unforgettable world. Ultimately the eternal question of Nature versus Nurture is boiled down into this fast-paced thriller told over the course of five days and culminates in one single question:
Do we get to choose who we are?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I wasn’t sure what to expect when going into this story, but I finished this book with the only thought in my head being, ‘what the fuck did I just read?”
The Twin Paradox follows a group of teenagers that are graduated from their honors program in high school early. The day of their graduation, they find out that they are clones of famous intellectuals like Albert Einstein, Catherine the Great, Martin Luther King Jr., and Leonardo Da Vinci to name a few. They’re invited to do an internship with Gene-E Corp (the company that created them). But this internship comes with few details. When they arrive and start to tour the facility, the teens realize that there’s more too Gene-E Corp than they could have imagined.
This brings me to my biggest issue with this book: the science. There is so much science, math, and physics in this story and most, if not all, of it went right over my head. I had to just skim read and pretend like I knew what any of it meant. I think the science could have been simplified even just a little bit and that would have made my reading experience a little better.
Other than that, I actually liked this book. It surprised me. There was darkness to the story that I wasn’t expecting from the synopsis. But there was also some excellent suspense and mystery that kept the pace of the story moving forward. I also liked all of the characters. And the ones I didn’t like, seemed to be intentionally unlikable. I think the teens were really interesting to follow and acted like teenagers despite being clones of some of the greatest minds in history.
Overall, I liked this book…I think? It really surprised me in a lot of ways. I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out next year.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s NetGalley Shelf #4

Hello, lovelies! I’m back with another NetGalley Shelf update. I didn’t read as many eARC’s as I would have liked. But that’s okay. I will read them all eventually seeing as they’re not going anywhere, hah. Check out my last update here.

Approvals I’ve Read

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The Twin Paradox by Charles Wachter
Publication Date: August 27, 2020
This book was bizarre and way darker than I was expecting. But I did enjoy it. It’s about teen clones of people like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein and the things they’re expected to solve by the company that created them.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Publication date: November 17, 2020
Sadly, I DNF’d this book. I tried reading the eARC that I had several times. I also borrowed the audiobook from my library. I made it about halfway before I gave up.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
Publication date: July 20, 2021
This book was super long. I liked it, but it was a bit of a slow sort of meandering story that had us really get to know the group of characters before getting into the real story.

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Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Publication date: August 3, 2021
Teylor Kay Mejia can do no wrong. I love Paola Santiago and this book just grew that love.

Holdout by Jeffery Kluger
Publication date: August 3, 2021
This was another bizarre story. The synopsis wasn’t very specific about the details of the story, so I was really surprised by much of what happened. It was a pretty political story, but I wasn’t bored or put off by this.

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The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Publication date: August 3, 2021
I really enjoyed this book. It’s queer and spooky and set in a small town. I loved the family dynamics and the existing issues that were brought to light with the events of this book. I think the mystery was really well done, too. I totally didn’t guess the twist.

Approvals on my TBR

We Are Meridians by S. Ghali
Publication date: August 27, 2019
I don’t know why I was approved for this book over a year after it’s publication, but it sounds super good. So, I’m planning to read it soon. It’s about a group of humans that left Earth and traveled into space hundreds of years ago. But now they need to return for something. The people of Earth think that it’s an alien invasion and so obviously it doesn’t go well.

Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg
Publication date: November 1, 2020
I was a part of the blog tour for this book. Find my spotlight post here. I shared a bit of a blurb and other information about the book. Since this has already been released I’ll probably just read it on Kindle Unlimited and share that I read the finished copy in my review. Check out my spotlight post for the full synopsis.

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The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
I honestly don’t know anything about this one except that I’ve heard amazing things about Suri’s books.

The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee
Publication date: August 3, 2021
This is a romance novel by an author I’ve liked before. The romance in this one starts with a game of truth or dare and I’m here for that.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publication date: August 17, 2021
I don’t know what this is about but I’ve really enjoyed her books in the past, so I think I’ll probably like this one too.

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Cazadora by Romina Garber
Publication date: August 17, 2021
Magical werewolves. I loved the first book and this is the sequel.

The Boy with Fire by Aparna Verma
Publication date: August 31, 2021
I honestly don’t know anything about this book but it was up for ‘read now’ on NetGalley. I’ve also seen a few people that really loved this.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
I don’t know anything about this other than the comp titles are Red, White, & Royal Blue and One to Watch which I enjoyed both very much.

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Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Publication date: September 21, 2021
I read ‘giant transforming robots’ in the synopsis and that’s honestly all I needed to know.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
Publication date: September 21, 2021
I really liked some of his previous books and I’m hopeful that I’ll like this one too.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Publication date: September 28, 2021
I didn’t love A Deadly Education, but I liked it enough that I curiously requested the sequel in a requesting binge.

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Tristan Strong Keeps Punching by Kwame Mbalia
Publication date: October 5, 2021
I love this series. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next for Tristan.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Publication date: October 5, 2021
I can’t tell if this is actually a Sleeping Beauty retelling or not, but Harrow is one of my favorite authors.

Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi
Publication date: October 5, 2021
This was published as an audible original but I believe it’s being published elsewhere now. So, you can listen to this on audible right now. I would read Chokshi’s grocery lists. This was an immediate request for me.

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin
Publication date: October 12, 2021
This seems like it’s going to be a summer camp sort of story but with peopple going missing and maybe some murder.

Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis
Publication date: October 12, 2021
I had absolutely no business requesting this book. I own the first book, but I haven’t read it. So, requesting an early copy of the second book was not a smart move. But I did it anyway, so hopefully I like the first book.

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Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
Publication date: October 19, 2021
This is a retelling of The Goose Girl. I honestly don’t know much about that story, but a friend of mine is incredibly excited about this book.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
Publication date: October 19, 2021
Another one that I don’t know much about aside from it’s a gothic horror (which is something I’m trying to dip my toes into) and some friends have read and loves it that I share a similar reading taste to.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao
Publication date: November 2, 2021
Julie and her boyfriend, Sam, have plans for the future, for their future together. But then Sam dies and Julie tries to act like he never existed so she can move on. But then things take a sci-fi twist when she calls Sam and instead of his voicemail, he answers the phone.

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Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
Publication date: November 9, 2021
The synopsis tagline is that this is an Ethiopian inspired Jane Eyre retelling. It’s also the authors debut fantasy novel.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
I really liked both Foody’s and Herman’s books. So, I’m interested to see what they’ve come up with together. I’ve seen bits and pieces from their social medias and I’m excited for it.

No Beauties or Monsters by Tara Goedjen
Publication date: December 7, 2021
I have no recollection of requesting this one. But I’m not surprised since I’ve been trying to read more horror and this one is YA horror.

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich
Publication Date: December 7, 2021
This is another ‘read now’ that I got in an email from NetGalley. It’s about a boy band on tour and I think it will be excellent.

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When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord
Publication date: January 4, 2022
I have no clue what this is about but I loved Tweet Cute and You Have a Match, so I expect to enjoy this one as well.

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long
Publication date: January 11, 2022
The buzz words ‘survival’, ‘found family’, and ‘bond with a wolf’ totally got me.

Full Flight by Ashley Schumacher
Publication date: February 22, 2022
I honestly don’t know what this is about. But I really enjoyed Schumacher’s debut. Also, this cover is totally stunning and I am a sucker sometimes.

The One True Me and You by Remi K. England
Publication date: March 1, 2022
I’ve loved all of England’s books so far, so I have high hopes for this one too.

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A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
Publication date: March 8, 2022
I liked Saft’s first book and this one sounds right up my alley. Mythical creatures and an ancient magic secret? Yes, please.

This May End Badly by Samantha Markum
Publication date: April 12, 2022
The tagline for this book is “When a high stakes boarding school prank war leads to a fake dating scheme, two teens must decide if they are ready to take the ultimate risk — falling in love.” How could I not hit request after reading that?

These are the ARC’s I’ve read since my last update and the ones still on my TBR. Are any of these books ones that you have on your TBR?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart

Summary:
Furyborn meets A Curse So Dark and Lonely in this courtly feminist fantasy from Grace and Fury author Tracy Banghart.
Annalise may be cousin to the prince, but her past isn’t what she claims, and she possesses a magic so powerful it takes all her strength to control it. Evra is a country girl, and has watched as each friend and family member came into their own magic, while hers remains dormant. But everything changes after Annalise loses control of herself and Evra begins experiencing the debilitating visions of a once-in-a-generation clairvoyant meant to serve the crown.
Thrown together at court, Evra and Annalise find that they have the same goal: to protect their kingdom from the powerful men who are slowly destroying it. But neither is quick to trust the other — Evra’s visions suggest a threat to royal rule, and Annalise worries that her darkest secrets will be revealed. Their magic at odds, the young women circle each other, until the truth must come out.
Full of intrigue, romance, and shocking twists, this gorgeously immersive fantasy will keep readers spellbound until the very last page.

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Review:
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read and review an early copy of this book. I love Tracy Banghart. I’ve met her at an author event and we spent like an hour talking, so I love to read and support her work.
A Season of Sinister Dreams follows two main characters, Annalise and Evra. Annalise is the grandniece to the King and cousin to the prince. But she has secrets that she would do anything to protect. Evra is a country girl. She’s worried that she’ll never have any magic and the people in her town are starting to treat her differently. But Evra starts having visions that mean the kingdom is in danger. She’s this generations Clearsee. The Clearsee’s only appear once in a generation, and only when the kingdom is in danger. Evra must travel to court to meet with the king and inform him that she has been revealed as this generations Clearsee.
Evra and Annalise meet at court. But since we’re seeing things from both points of view, we know things that the other characters don’t. I think this fact made the story infinitely better. Knowing that there were secrets to be revealed and knowing what those secrets were kept me engaged into the story. Wondering how each of the characters were going to react when the truth finally came out was a really great way to add some suspense to the story.
Now, I really loved Evra. She’s a girl that loves her family. She loves her kingdom. And she’s willing to do her duty as Clearsee despite the fact that she disagrees with many of the things the king has ordered for the people. She’s taking her responsibility seriously and she does her best to make the right choices, the choices that will help the most people. The author really did her dirty with some of the things that happen, but I really loved Evra.
Annalise was a fascinating character. I wanted to hate her so badly, but I just couldn’t. I liked her. Her backstory pulled on my heartstrings. Because we got to see things from her point of view, we know that some events were complete accidents. We get to see the other side of the story which made it easier to sympathize with Annalise, even though she was in the wrong. I didn’t want to like Annalise at all, but I couldn’t help it.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a short, political fantasy that follows two strong women. I liked the politics. I liked the bits of romance we got. I liked the different kinds of magic there was to see. I just genuinely enjoyed this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt

Summary:
West Finch is one hurricane away from falling into the sea.
Yet sixteen-year-old Harlow Prout is determined to save her small Maine hometown. If only she could stop getting in her own way and find someone, anyone, willing to help. But her best friend Ellis MacQueen “fixes” problems by running away from them―including his broken relationship with his twin brother, Tommy. And Tommy’s depression has hit a new low, so he’s not up for fixing anything.
In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between these three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.

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Summary:
The Sea is Salt and So Am I is an advanced copy that I was given via NetGalley so that I could read and review it. Thank you for that NetGalley and the publishers.
This story follows three points of view, Tommy, Ellis, and Harlow. Tommy and Ellis are twin brothers who both have their issues. The book starts off with Tommy attempting suicide. This is a big focus of the story. Everyone is doing their best to make sure that Tommy is okay after his failed attempt. Harlow and Ellis are best friends. They’ve been best friends since they were kids. So, Tommy is depressed. Ellis is an amputee. And Harlow focuses on all the wrong things to ‘fix’ and just creates more problems for herself.
I had a few problems with this book. The biggest one was that I just genuinely didn’t like any of the characters. I think the depression and amputee representation was a great thing. But I didn’t like Harlow and Ellis was sort of an asshole for most of the book. Harlow starts dating Tommy so that she can make sure he doesn’t try to kill himself again. Like, what? More than one person thought that this was okay for these characters? I just didn’t get it. I understood that eventually there were genuine feelings. But Harlow overall, she just wasn’t a character I could get behind. I didn’t root for her. It doesn’t happen often but I actively didn’t like her and the same goes for Ellis. He couldn’t sympathize with the reasons behind his actions and the more I read about him the less I liked him.
Overall, I just didn’t love this book. I loved the environmental topics. There’s mention of the Piping Plovers which are something that I knew lots about from my hometown, so I definitely laughed about their mention. But I also really liked the topic of erosion and the ocean washing away West Finch. I think this was a really great topic. I also think the author did a great job of showing us the story, the relationships, the settings, and not just telling us. There were things that I liked, but my dislike for the characters really put a damper on those things.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

Summary:
A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self.
Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.
Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.
Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.
Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

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Review:
Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun was provided to me vie NetGalley so that I could read it and write an honest review. This book follows Julain Luna, a teenager that’s in the midst of applying to colleges, his last year of high school, and counting down to the day he leaves Texas so that he can be himself, finally. Julian is gay, but he feels like he can’t tell anyone because of his abusive father. His father knows in that way that isn’t talked about, but he lays hands on Julian, yells at him when Julian does ‘unmanly’ things. The parts of this story where Julian is suffering his fathers verbal and sometimes physical abuse were hard to read. It’s the reality for so many people, but I can’t help but wish that everyone struggling through this would just be loved and accepted by their family. One night, after getting incredibly drunk via the peer pressure of his friends, he comes out on his personal Twitter. This brings a new set of challenges. He’s treated differently at school and by his fellow players on the soccer team. But Julian has a great group of friends on his side and he has his sister. There’s also Mat, the very handsome boy that DM’d Julian after he came out.
I really liked this book. It’s full of heartfelt moments between friends. It’s a lovely story about moving on from high school. But it’s also Julian’s story about coming out and falling in love for the first time. I loved following him as he got to know Mat and then eventually got to meet him. I liked the tense moments of whether or not Julian was going to be able to go to college in California. I absolutely loved the sincere moments between Julian and his sister.
Overall, I really loved this story. I can see how important this story will be to so many people. It’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s sex positive. It’s gay. It has so many good things that I think will really speak to so many teenagers. I absolutely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi

Summary:
It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.
It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.
Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

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Review:
The authors publicist reached out to me to see if I wanted to read an early copy of this book in exchange for a review. I’m so glad that I said yes. I love middle grade books, but I don’t seem to gravitate toward picking them up often. I always enjoy reading them. There’s just something so wholesome about middle grade stories (even the ones with serious topics) that I really love.
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar follows Rea who finds herself on a quest to find her missing brother. While on this quest, she discovers another world, a world where she and her brother are royalty. The story starts with Rea (who lives in India) being an angry young girl. She’s angry when she feels her Amma favoring her brother, Rohan. She’s angry when she feels her brother is distancing himself from her. She’s angry that Rohan doesn’t want to know more about their Baba. She doesn’t really have any friends. She’s really struggling with her negative feelings. I have to say that Rea’s growth away from this anger and her instinct to make selfish choices was so well done. The author did it in a way that was believable and really made the reader care for Rea.
The world building was also really well done. We are learning about this magical world right alongside Rea. I thought this world that had a sort of plant-based magic was so interesting. I think it was well enough explained to understand, but it wasn’t totally clear what the rules or limits of this magic was. We got a bit more clarity about that with the shadow magic that the queen uses. With the way this story ended, I definitely think we will get some clarity about that in the second book.
I loved all of the side characters. I really love Leela and the way she befriended Rea. I also liked Xee. He was a local to the magical world and showed Rea and Leela around. I liked that he was brave, but that didn’t make him impulsive. I think they were great supporting characters and I’m excited to see more of them in future books.
Overall, I really loved this story. I loved the setting of India and the bits of Indian culture we get to see before Rea discovers the magical world. I thought the world and the magic was so interesting and I really felt like I could root for all the characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Legacy by Nora Roberts

Summary:
Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.
Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.
A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.
But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins… 

Legacy

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and publishers for an eARC of Legacy in exchange for an honest review.
This story follows Adrian, who is a fitness/lifestyle influencer. When she was a child, her father showed up to her house and tried to kill her and her mother. He was the one that died instead. This is where the story starts. We follow Adrian as she grows into an adult and eventually come to present day where she’s working from her grandparents’ home and running a successful company that’s under the umbrella of her mother’s fitness company.
Roberts is a comfort author of mine. I think that’s because her stories lean toward predictable and are a bit formulaic. I found myself being reminded of her past books while reading Legacy with the way certain characters speak and just the overall way the story is told. I don’t want this to be taken as a negative thing because Roberts is a comfort author for me, so sometimes I just need those books where I know everything will be okay and there will be lovable characters along the way.
The characters are really what stand out in this book. I don’t know that I actually like Adrian, but she was so well developed and we got to see that development happen so it was hard not to be invested in her story. But there were many great characters. We follow them for such a long period of time, that it’s hard not to care for them. But because we started the story so early in Adrian’s life, the ending felt a bit rushed. The romantic relationship didn’t feel like there was enough time to be as in love as they were.
Overall, I enjoyed this book while I was reading it. The story was well written and interesting. The characters were well developed and lovable. But the plot felt a bit missing. I will always love Roberts books. But this one just fell a bit flat for me.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

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

Cool for the Summer

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.