The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

Summary:
A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.
For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.
#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:
#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.
The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

Book Cover

Review:
The Girls I’ve Been was exactly what it says in the summary. It was a twisty and slick story that follows Nora. Except before she was Nora, she was Ashley. And before that she was someone else. She was raised by a con woman that trained Nora to behave in a certain way to get money from powerful and wealthy men. We learn slowly about all of these girls that Nora has been (which yes, is where the title comes from. And yes, I loved that.) While we’re not learning about Nora’s past, we’re in the present where Nora, her girlfriend, and her best friend are currently in the middle of a bank robbery.
I really liked Nora. Her backstory was horrible but in a way that you can’t look away from. Learning about her past with her mother and how she ended up living where she was now with her sister was fascinating. But the bank robbery parts of the story were equally compelling. I like how Sharpe managed to make both parts of this story just as interesting. Nora was a character that had been through so much and her past was perfect to get her and her friends out of the situation they were in. But for being in the middle of a bank robbery, the story was surprisingly emotional. Her best friend, Wes, who is also her ex-boyfriend, knows about Nora’s past. But Nora’s girlfriend, Iris, doesn’t know anything about it. Nora and Iris haven’t been together very long. In fact, Wes had only just found out about their relationship (which added some great emotional tension). I honestly loved all three of these friends so much. They each have their own issues, but they all sort of bond over them. They learn so much about one another and their friendship only grows stronger.
Overall, I devoured this story. I listened to the audiobook and I really liked the narrator (who I believe is the author, Tess Sharpe). I loved the chapter headings that shared all of the items they’d collected and potential plans, as well as, plans they’d tried and had failed. I saw a review that talked about this being a story about a morally grey bi girl and I love that so much. I am going to be reading more of Sharpe’s books in the future, for sure.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Mirror’s Edge by Scott Westerfeld

Summary:
The danger rises and the deception grows in the heart-stopping third book in the New York Times bestselling Impostors series!
Frey’s return to the city of her birth isn’t going to be an easy one. She and her love Col must surge on new faces and bodies in order to infiltrate Shreve by dropping from the sky and landing undetected.
Frey’s sister Rafi — no longer a twin in features, but still a twin by birth — is the wild card. Are the sisters on the same side . . . or are they playing to their own agendas? If their father is deposed from Shreve, who will take control? And what other forces may be waiting in the wings?
Mirror’s Edge is another brilliant blockbuster from one of the greatest speculative writers YA fiction has ever seen, set within the world of Uglies . . . and about to converge with Uglies in a spectacular way. 

Mirror's Edge (Impostors, #3)

Review:
Mirror’s Edge starts off with a group of characters that we know from the first two books skydiving into Shreve. This group must infiltrate Shreve to depose Frey and Rafi’s father. This book was action packed and full of twists and turns. I really enjoyed seeing more of the world, seeing the other cities coming together to try to help Shreve. I think there are two things that really make this book and series shine. The first is the characters. Frey is such an interesting main character. All she’s ever wanted to be was her own person, outside of her sister’s shadow. She manages to do that in this book in sort of an extreme way. Frey’s appearance is modified so that she can go undetected in Shreve. She’s fierce and determined to make her home a better place. She gets to see more of what it’s like to actually live in the city. Frey’s growth in this book and the series so far has been such a journey to follow. She’s always been a leader, but in this book, we see her be a part of a team. We see her let go of the leadership position that she’s working toward. I am beyond excited to see what’s going to happen in the next book, especially with the way this one ended.
The second thing that makes this book shine is the politics. I think the twists and turns of the plot are included in the politics because most of the twists are of a political nature. The whole book is leading us toward Frey taking leadership in Shreve, but when the conclusion comes, nothing goes as we’ve been led to expect. I loved this. I think the politics involving the other cities in this world were interesting too. They’ve left Shreve alone for such a long time, but they’re finally stepping in. The things we learn about what Frey and Rafi’s father is doing was wild. Westerfeld gives us little bits and pieces to try to put together (which of course I didn’t) before finally revealing everything.
Overall, I think this series, even though it’s not actually a part of the original Uglies series, will always hold a place in my heart because of nostalgia. The Uglies series is one I’ve read dozens of times and the Impsotors series is just more pieces of that world. A world that I spent so much of my formative years escaping to. So, while this may not be a masterpiece of literature, it’s one dear to my heart. I cannot wait for the next book with the surprise that was dropped in the final pages of this book. On a final note, I listened to the audiobook and I really liked the narrator.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.
But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.
Whatever that past holds.
Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . . 

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)

Review:
Bitterblue is the third book that’s set in the Graceling world. It follows Bitterblue, who we met in Graceling, eight years after the ending of Graceling. Bitterblue is now the queen of Monsea, but everything is not what it seems in Bitterblue’s life. People are lying to her. People that were traumatized by her father. She doesn’t know who to trust. She doesn’t know how she’s feeling and she doesn’t know what to do. so, she sneaks out of the castle and heads into the city. She meets two thieves, who change her life.
I think this might be my favorite book in the series so far. I haven’t read the newest book yet, but I really enjoyed this one. I genuinely liked Bitterblue as a character. It’s clear she’s overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being queen. But she’s trying and that’s really clear. She’s both trying to know her kingdom and people better and having some fun for herself. She can see that she’s failing but she never stops trying to do better. Even though it feels like everything around her is falling apart, she continues to be a mostly thoughtful person. She does have some issues regarding her privilege. She’s wealthy and it’s not something that she really thinks about, but she’s made to think about it and I really liked that conversation being a part of the book. Bitterblue makes friends with characters that aren’t privileged like she is. So, I was glad to see this difference acknowledged and discussed. Another thing that I liked is that Bitterblue doesn’t shy away from the past that is her father. King Leck, who we met in Graceling, was a terrible, cruel person. But Bitterblue’s memories from the time that she lived with her father are hazy. She wants to learn about the things Leck changed and what she might be able to make up for. There are many people close to her that don’t want her looking into the thinks Leck did and made others do. Many are still struggling with the trauma they were put through by Leck. I really appreciated how Bitterblue handled this. She doesn’t dismiss their trauma or ignore it. I think this was done thoughtfully and respectfully. Finally, I loved that we got to see Bitterblue take a moment to feel her feelings. People she loves are dying, she’s been betrayed, and she feels like she is failing her kingdom. But she takes the time she needs to cry, or scream, or just react to her emotion before she tries to think about what she must do next. I really liked this.
This story, like the previous two, was a pretty slow one, but it was so worth it. It builds and builds and builds until finally the story breaks and speeds up. But in that slower part, the characters are developing relationships and themselves. I appreciated this because the relationships felt so well developed. I was invested in them because I felt like I got to know the characters really well. I could sympathize with all of them, even the ones doing not great things. I also liked that we got to see characters that we already knew. We see Katsa and Po again along with a few other familiar faces. I highly recommend this one. I think this series overall is a pretty good one, but especially this one. The way that Cashore manages to make the story so full of emotion is impressive. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry, but this one had me tearing up with what Bitterblue was feeling. I cannot wait to read the newest installment of this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Summary:
Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

The Midnight Library

Review:
The Midnight Library is a book that I have seen nothing but rave reviews for. It’s the entire reason that I bought it. I ended up getting my book club to choose this book for our March read. I was a bit disappointed by this book, but I can completely understand why so many people love it.
We follow Nora in her life around when she attempts suicide. But instead of whatever is beyond life, she finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place before actual death where every possible version of your life is stored. I thought this concept was really cool. You could have the chance to see what your life would be like had you made another choice at any point during your life. Nora is shown her book of regrets and the story goes from there. She tries out different lives that she could have had, none of them being what she thought they would or making her happy like she thought they might. I thought the idea of being able to see alternate versions of your life was really cool. I didn’t love that once Nora was in these lives, she didn’t have the memories from them. I thought that made things more complicated than they needed to be. But, overall, I liked these parts of the story.
My biggest problem with this book was Nora. She’s just tried to kill herself. So, she obviously is struggling with her mental health. It’s mentioned several times, in several versions of her life, that she takes anti-depressants. I liked this aspect. Normalizing taking medication and seeking help is such an important thing. But Nora just continually worked against herself. She was not a likable character in my opinion. I think this book did some great things, but I found that I couldn’t get myself to actually like Nora.
Overall, I can understand why so many people love this book. But it missed the mark a bit for me. I liked the concept, but with a main character that I didn’t like, the story just wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Summary:
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly  Jackson

Review:
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi in her senior year of high school. She’s working on her senior capstone project. She has decided to solve a murder, though that’s not what she tells her school officials. Five years ago, Andie Bell was murdered. Her boyfriend, Sal Singh, committed suicide and confessed to killing Andie. So, case closed, right? Not so much since Andie’s body has never been found. Pippa remembers Sal fondly. He stuck up for her against bullies. He was best friends with Pippa’s best friend’s sister, Naomi. She doesn’t believe that Sal could have done this. So, she decides that she’s going to prove he’s innocent.
I have to mention that I listened to the audiobook. This is relevant because of the format of the story. This book is written with journal entries that Pippa writes for her capstone project. These entries include transcripts from phone and in person interviews that she’s done with people to gather evidence. So, these interviews are narrated with a full cast. There’s one narrator that tells the story, Pippa’s chapters and journal entries. But there are so many other narrators that read parts of interviews and other things. I think this was such a great audiobook. If you liked Sadie by Courtney Summers, you will probably like this audiobook also.
Now, Pippa. She’s an extremely smart girl. School and homework is basically her whole personality. She also is very family oriented. I loved the bits of the story that included her parents and her younger brother. She has a step-father that is Nigerian who she sees has her father. I believe this to be a big influence to why Pippa stands up when she sees racism or other discrimination. I think some may see this as her being a ‘white savior’ which I can understand, but I just didn’t see it that way. I think Pippa was raised to stand up for what is right and that’s what she did in this story. I thought it was really interesting to see Pippa, branded as a ‘good girl’, cross all kinds of lines (blackmail, cat phishing, breaking and entering) to find the truth about what happened to Andie. We see this mystery sort of unravel her and it was fascinating.
I usually liked to read YA mystery/thrillers because they’re easy and usually a bit predictable. This book wasn’t either of those things. It talks about racism (Sal was Indian, so in this small town it’s easy for everyone to think that he killed Andie. There are some pretty racist things said about Sal.) There is the death of an animal, which was upsetting because it didn’t really add anything to the story. I don’t think it needed to happen. There’s talk of drugs and characters being drugged. But the twists and turns were not ones that I expected at all. I think the plot and writing was so well done. Also, I learned just before writing this review, that the US version of the story was changed so that the story took place in Connecticut instead of the UK (where the author is from and where the UK version takes place). I just don’t see why that was necessary and I think the book would have been even better had it not been changed.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I definitely think the audiobook had something to do with that. I think all of the characters were interesting and added something to the story. There were so many little pieces that were put together to make this mystery what it was and I loved it. The suspense and wonder were really well done. I also have to mention Ravi, Sal’s brother, who helps Pippa to solve this mystery. I liked that they worked together. I also liked that Ravi called Pippa out when she was doing too much. I also liked that they had a bit of a romance, but not so much that it took away from anything else in the story. If you like YA mystery/thrillers, you should definitely listen to this audiobook.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Unchosen by Katharyn Blair

Summary:
For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.
The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.
The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.
Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.
When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.
The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.
But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.
Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.

Unchosen

Review:
Unchosen is a 2021 release that I didn’t really know anything about before going into it. I hadn’t heard too much chatter from others on the bookish parts of the internet. But the summary sounded pretty good. So, when the audiobook became available through my library shortly after its release, I thought I’d give it a listen. I liked the narrator and thought they did a great job with this story.
This book follows Charlotte after the world ends. The Crimson (a plague-like curse that spreads through eye contact and turns humans into zombies) is ravaging the world and Charlotte is just trying to survive. But her older sister is part of the leadership where they live and always protects her. Her younger sister is the Chosen One (according to legend, they will break the curse). But when their home is raided, Charlotte claims to be the Chosen One to protect her sister.
This story was full of action and high stakes. I thought the concept of the curse/plague was a really interesting one. The whole world thinks the curse was cast by a woman Anne, who plays a role in this story. I think Anne’s part of the story was excellent. The history and backstory of the curse was one of my favorite parts. I think the way that the world as we know it has changed was also super interesting. The different towns and ‘safe’ places were interesting, but I wish we’d gotten to know a little more about them.
The action was high stakes and really kept the story moving. When lives weren’t in danger, we were learning about the world, the secrets that others were keeping, and getting to know the characters. I think the characters were likeable, easy to care about, but not so much that I want to read the story again and again.
I has a few things I wanted more of. Charlotte has had a crush on her older sister’s boyfriend, Dean. And making sure Dean was safe was one of Charlotte’s big motivators. I didn’t like this. It felt a little icky. I get that Charlotte and Dean are best friends, but she’s been harboring feelings all these years and I didn’t like it. I also just wanted more with the sisters in general. I really liked that the ending had all three of them together. But I wanted to know more about their past. I understand why they weren’t all together. Charlotte was finally out from her sister’s shadow, that’s a big part of what this story is about.
Overall, I liked this book. I think it was well written and really enjoyable. The story kept me interested and engaged. I think it was fast-paced, but not too fast. I think many people will love this book despite being about a plague in a less than pleasant time in the real world.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Summary:
Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.
Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.
Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Review:
Generally, I start my reviews with a bit of a summary of the story in my own words. Well, I can’t do that with this review because I honestly have no idea what just happened. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. I felt like the story itself wasn’t super fast-paced (until the end anyway) but it still felt like I flew through the story. I think part of this is because I was so confused and filled with questions that I just needed to keep going so I could get some answers.
I gave this book 4 stars, but honestly, I’m still so confused. The story follows Eleanor after she flees her boarding school and returns home to a family she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Her family is filled with monsters and she is missing quite a few important pieces of her memory. The things that Eleanor couldn’t remember was one of the more frustrating aspects of this book because it clear that her family remembers more than she does, but because she’s been gone so long with no communication from anyone aside from her grandmother, there’s a lot of distrust between all of them. Eleanor’s grandfather, sister, father, and cousin are werewolves (they’re never called that because their origin is a whole other thing. But they’re basically werewolves). Her paternal grandmother (the one that sent her away in the first place) is a witch of some sort and her mother is hinted to be something, but it’s never really addressed. Now, with all of this, it was easy to assume that Eleanor was also something, but we didn’t know what exactly that was. This was one of the big plot lines of the book. What is Eleanor? Well, we learn that what she is played a big part of everything that’s happened to her.
So, the things that I liked about this story were many. Despite being confused as heck for most of this story, I was interested. The setting was atmospheric and vivid. The author did an excellent job with stunning imagery. I liked seeing Eleanor uncomfortable. I think this was because I didn’t really like Eleanor. She doesn’t make good choices (her grandmother gives her advice on her death bed and Eleanor basically never thinks about it again even though following that advice would have saved her from literally everything in this book). But what compelled me to continue on in this story was that I couldn’t help but understand why Eleanor did the things she did. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with her even though I didn’t really like her. There were some things that were so clear to the reader that Eleanor didn’t want to see them, so she didn’t. But with her backstory, it was easy to understand why she was this way. I loved all of the fantasy/horror elements. The monsters and the magic, the stories that we heard the family tell, it was all so creepy in the best way. I also really loved Margaret. She’s Eleanor’s aunt. I liked the slow development of the relationship from actively disliking one another to finding themselves on the same side and working together. Margaret doesn’t speak and doesn’t like to be spoken to, so we get some fun charades scenes.
I would have liked to have gotten a bit more from some of the other characters though. We got a lot of Arthur (a family friend) because he is a love interest. I think the ‘romance’ was absolutely not needed for this story to work. Romance is in quotes because there was a sort of happily ever after that I didn’t really care for. I would have totally been okay with all the other bits of the ‘romance’ if they hadn’t gotten that HEA moment, especially after learning all the details of Arthur’s backstory. We didn’t get much from Eleanor’s cousin and sister other than the fact that they were spoiled adults that acted like children because they’d been given or had taken anything they had ever wanted or needed.
Overall, this was a wild ride that was spooky, creepy, scary, and a whole bunch of other things. I think it was written well. But sometimes there was just a bit too much going on. I loved all the monsters and magic and mayhem. I will definitely be reading more work by Szabo.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Audiobook Narrators

Hi, lovelies! Audiobooks have been keeping me afloat this year, so far. I’ve not been feeling in the mood to read any of my physical books or any of the books I have on my Kindle. So, obviously I’ve been listening non-stop to audiobooks from my library. If you’re an audiobook lover like me, I highly recommend you see what apps your local library (if you have one) has available for you to listen to books for free! I want to talk about some of my absolute favorite audiobook narrators. I have a few new ones and a few that I’ve listened to almost everything they’ve narrated. I’m going to share the books they’ve narrated that I’ve listened to and the books they’ve narrated that are still on my TBR. I will not be including books that I read in a different format, as I did learn about quite a few books I love were narrated by some of my favorite narrators. Let’s get into it.

Rebecca Soler

Books I’ve Read
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Sadie by Courtney Summers

Books Still on my TBR
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Kate Rudd

Books I’ve Read
Snow Like Ashes trilogy by Sara Raasch
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Books Still on my TBR
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Bahni Turpin

Books I’ve Read
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Books Still on my TBR
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
This is my America by Kim Johnson

Kyla Garcia

Books I’ve Read
We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Puddin’ by Julie Murphy
The Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

Books Still on my TBR
Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Miss Meteor by Anna-Marie McLemore & Tehlor Kay Mejia

Christine Lakin

Books I’ve Read
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Books Still on my TBR
Parasite by Mira Grant
Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez

Michael Crouch

Books I’ve Read
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan
Black Wings Beating by Alex London
Red Skies Falling by Alex London

Books Still on my TBR
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos
Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Shayna Small

Books I’ve Read
All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Books Still on my TBR
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Soneela Nankani

Books I’ve Read
Pandava Quartet by Roshani Chokshi
The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakroborty
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
Internment by Samira Ahmed

Books Still on my TBR
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
The Mother Code by Carole Stivers

Julia Whelan

Books I’ve Read
Educated by Tara Westover
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Vox by Christina Dalcher
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Rules for Being a Girl by Candance Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

Books Still on my TBR
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Muse by Brittany Cavallaro
The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks

Fiona Hardingham

Books I’ve Read
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Furyborn by Claire Legrand
My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

Books Still on my TBR
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
A Treason of Thorns by Laura Weymouth
Anna and the Apocolypse by Katharine Turner

Rasha Zamamiri

Books I’ve Read
Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Elizabeth Acevedo

Books I’ve Read
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Tim Gerard Reynolds

Books I’ve Read
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Morning Star by Pierce Brown
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
Dark Age by Pierce Brown

A.J. Beckles & Preston Butler III

Books I’ve Read
Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

These are the narrators that have read books I’ve really loved. I can absolutely say that these narrators made me love these books even more than I would have if I had read these books in another format. These are also the audiobook I hope to listen to in the near future.

Who are your favorite audiobook narrators?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire (Full Series Review)

Hello, lovelies! I don’t usually do reviews like this, but every now and then I can’t stop reading a series, even just to write a review. The Wayward Children series was one of those. I wrote these reviews for each book while I was listening to the next book in the series. I don’t know why I put off reading this series for so long. But after reading some of McGuire’s other work I found myself excited to try this series since everyone raves about it. I’m going to share the synopsis for each book and then my review of that book following the order of the series. As this series isn’t completed yet, I will add my reviews for future books to this post after I read them.

Book One – Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1)

Summary:
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
Review:
This was a slow story about kids that had found doors and traveled through them to other worlds (think Alice going to Wonderland or Dorothy going to Oz). I like the concept of this one, but found myself bored here and there. I guess it was good that this was shorter otherwise i don’t think i would have lasted. I guess my problem was that this turned into a murder mystery and i wasn’t at all expecting that when i went into the story. I also listened to the audiobook and didn’t really care for the narrator, so i think that affected my enjoyment of the book. Overall, i mostly liked this but i think everyone naming this their favorite in the series gave me higher expectations. I liked all of the characters and I’m hopeful to get more about their stories and travels in the next books. 

Book Two – Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)

Summary:
Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
Review:
This is Jack and Jill’s story and I loved it. This is by no means a happy story. Jack and Jill are twins, but their dad wanted a son and their motherly wanted a perfect little girl. So Jack is made into their mothers idea of a perfect daughter and Jill is made into the closest idea of what their father wanted for a son. Their parents have done a number on the twins, but most of all they’ve not allowed the two to develop their own sisterly relationship. So when Jack and Jill find a staircase inside of a trunk that’s supposed to have dress up clothes in it, obviously they go down the staircase. When they arrive in the Moors they are greeted my the Master (a vampire) and promised safety for the next three days. But the Moors have a history with foundlings and the local mad scientist has claim to the newest foundling, but this time there’s two of them. This is remedied by one twin choosing to go with the scientist and one choosing to stay with the Master. I was a bit sad that the twins grew apart instead of growing together now that they were out of their parents influence, but it’s not a huge surprise because this was not a happy story by any means. I was very happy to see Jack’s relationship with her girlfriend play such a big role in the story (we love female/female representation). Overall, I liked this one way better than the first but I wanted more. I wanted to know more about these Drowned Gods and the werewolves. I think this world was fascinating and i would gladly read another book with this setting. 

Book Three – Beneath the Sugar Sky

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)

Summary:
Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in a standalone contemporary fantasy for fans of all ages. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world. When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.) If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests… A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do. Warning: May contain nuts.
Review:
This one is the story of Rini, who comes to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in search of her mother, Sumi. We know Sumi from the first book in this series. Rini needs her mother, but her mother died years ago. So, the gang from the school go in search of a way to bring Sumi back so that Rini doesn’t cease to exist. But this one isn’t just about Rini and Sumi. First we meet Cora, who struggles with being fat and also with anxiety. I can’t speak to the representation but I’ve seen others say that they liked it. Cora was a mermaid in her world which is talked about but I don’t know the story behind her coming to Eleanor’s. I think my favorite this about this book was that the group travels to several worlds. They visit some characters we know from the first book and we get to see Confection. This book was a bit more whimsical than the first two (probably because the first two were more logical worlds and Rini’s world is a nonsense world). As much as I liked the darkness of the first two books, I really enjoyed the silliness and nonsense that Rini brought to this book. Now, that’s not to say this story is all happiness and butterflies because it definitely has its dark moments. Overall, this was a fun and captivating story full of diverse characters who are all searching for the same thing, but work together to help others find it too. 

Book Four – In an Absent Dream

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)

Summary:
This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should. When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.
Review:
In an Absent Dream follows Lundy, a character we met in the first book at Eleanor West’s. I really enjoyed this one. We get to hear the story of Lundy finding her door and returning home, several times. I really liked the world that Lundy traveled to. It was a fascinating world of logic. I think the idea of always giving fair value for things is a really great one. I like that the Market was something sentient that will take its fair value if you think you can get around it. I think Lundy’s story wasn’t quite as dark as some of the others in this series so far, but it was filled with sadness and life lessons for Lundy. I also really loved the way that the story was told. (Jack and Jill’s story was told in this way too, but I forgot to mention it). The story is told by a narrator that chooses which parts of the story need to be shared. So, there are times when we jump forward and skip whole time periods of the story. I think it was a really captivating way to tell the story. Almost as if the details we’ve skipped aren’t deemed necessary by this narrator to get to the greater point. I am really interested to see more of Lundy now that we’ve heard her story. I almost want to go back and reread the first book over again now that I know some of the character’s backstory. It was so interesting to see Lundy find a home and friends in the Market, but eventually find happiness in her home world as well. The struggle that Lundy faces to stay at the Market or return home was a really heart wrenching one. This installment is definitely one of my favorites. 

Book Five – Come Tumbling Down

Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)

Summary:
The fifth installment in Seanan McGuire’s award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down picks up the threads left dangling by Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones.
When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors. But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.
Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.
Again.
Review:
Come Tumbling Down revisits Jack & Jill and the Moors. While I did enjoy this one, I feel like it didn’t really add anything new to the overarching story of the series. It was nice to see how things played out after the twins left Eleanor’s. I also did really enjoy seeing the whole group go on an adventure together again. But it just felt like it maybe should have been a part of their first book. I think, as usual, the writing kept me interested in the story and I loved the characters. I just wish there was more. I wish we’d gotten to see more about the Drowned Gods, instead of just a tidbit. I feel like there wasn’t anything new here, it was the same bit of the Moors that we visited previously. I guess i just thought there would be more here, but I was interested in the ending of Jack & Jill’s story. 

Book Six – Across the Green Grass Fields

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children, #6)

Summary:
A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.
“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”
Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late. When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes. But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…
Review:
This installment follows Regan, who is intersex, starting when she is a young girl. We get to know her a little in her home world, where she deals with all her friends developing and going through puberty. She sees the cruelty that some girls are capable of. When she learns that she is intersex, she makes the mistake of telling her best friend who reacts horribly to her. Regan flees her school and while walking home, she finds a door. Through this door is the Hooflands. I think this was a really interesting world. There are centaurs and unicorns and kelpies. Regan is taken in by a family of centaurs where she lives and grows up with them. I think what I liked about this one is that it was different than the others in the series. In this one, there’s the same great world building and characters to love, but we get more time to see what is going on with Regan in a day to day sense. I felt more like a full length story when some of the others in the series have felt like they skipped parts of the story to get to the end of the story. I really liked getting to grow up alongside Regan and the centaurs. I think it’s full of great themes and I definitely recommend it. 

Book Seven – Where the Drowned Girls Go

Book Cover

Summary:
Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.
There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
And it isn’t as safe.
When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.
She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming…
Review:
I was approved for an early copy of this book, so huge thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for that. Here’s my honest review. This book follows Cora, who we know from Come Tumbling Down, has come back from her adventure with her friends and her time in The Moors with more issues than when she’d left school. Her experience with the Drowned Gods was not a good one and she’s haunted by them, so much so that she’s even struggling to spend time in the water. Which for a mermaid, is problematic? So, Cora takes extreme measures and requests to be transferred from Eleanor’s school to Whitethorn. But Whitethorn is a very different school and she still hasn’t managed to escape the whispers of the Drowned Gods.
I thought it was really interesting to see a different school from Eleanor’s. Whitethorn was a very different school, one that’s there to make the kids forget that they ever went through a door. They have many rules and Cora doesn’t always do well with them. I liked that we got to see Sumi again and the role that she played in the story. I also was really pleasantly surprised to see Regan from Across the Green Grass Fields. I liked that this is its own story, but also that we still get to see familiar characters and other elements from the rest of the series. I think Cora really struggled with the whispers of the Drowned Gods, but she was also treated incredibly poorly because she’s plus sized (part of the reason she found her door in the first place was because of being bullied about her weight her whole life). I liked Cora. She was abrasive and imperfect, but she knew her worth. It was sad to see her go to such extreme lengths as leaving Eleanor’s, but it was nice to see her do what she thought would help her. I also loved that she  had blue hair. I continue to be a huge fan of this series.

Now, as an overall for the series, I think Down Among the Sticks and Bones and In an Absent Dream are both in the number one spot. I just can’t decide which one I liked better, and also I don’t have to, so I won’t. I think McGuire has done an incredible thing with this series. Between the wide range of diverse characters and the themes and messages within the adventures of these children, there are so many things to love about this series. Thinking about it now that I’ve read all of the books that are currently published, I think certain types of people will like certain books in the series more than others. I think part of that goes right along with the different worlds that we get to see. There are logic worlds and nonsense worlds. I think both kinds of worlds will speak to different people. This series has a book for everyone and I finally understand why there are so many people that have nothing but good things to say about this series.

EDIT: I’ve since added my review of book seven (Where the Drowned Girls Go) to this post. Everything I said above still stands. I love this series and I’ll continue to love it. Where the Drowned Girls Go takes third place in this series. It seems that I prefer the darker stories for these books. With the way book seven ended, I’m incredibly excited to see what will happen in later books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Summary:
Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.
Review:Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1)
Into the Drowning Deep
is a horror novel about mermaids. I’ve always said that I didn’t like the horror genre, but recently I’ve found myself picking up and really enjoying horror novels. Into the Drowning Deep is a book that solidified my interest in the genre.
This story follows Tori and several other characters as they embark on a second voyage to the Mariana Trench and attempt to uncover what happened seven years ago. For Tori, this is a personal mission. Her sister was on that first voyage and not knowing what happened to her is something Tori has never been able to cope with. She’s a graduate student studying marine biology, more specifically she studies the sound waves underneath the ocean. I think the scientific aspect of this story was one of my favorite parts. This second crew is filled with more than 400 marine scientists, most that don’t believe in the myth of mermaids but are eager for the chance to do research fully funded by someone else. There’s quite a bit of science talk that goes on between Tori’s sound waves and other various things that come up once the mermaids have been ‘discovered.’ I don’t want to give too much away about the story, so, I’ll just say that I liked the science. It was detailed but still understandable. It wasn’t so technical that I didn’t understand what the characters were talking about.
Now, this book follows quite a few characters, which isn’t always successful when telling a story, but Grant did it in a way where eventually all of the characters overlapped and I cared about what would happen to all of them, even the ones I didn’t like. Grant created characters that were all compelling and very different from one another. They each had a unique voice and personality. They all had their own motivations for being on that ship.
Grant’s writing is what really pushed this story over the top for me. The suspense and tense mood of the story was excellent. I listened to the audiobook (which had a narrator that I really liked) and I couldn’t help but react to the story. There were times that I froze in fear, gasped in surprise, or relaxed in relief right alongside the characters. But Grant also let the reader know the whole story, so there were things that some of the characters didn’t know that we did, which added even more anxiety and worry for the characters.
Overall, I absolutely devoured this book. I would highly recommend it for any readers that like horror. I think the characters were compelling and interesting. The story itself was unique and made me think (I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean). I actually ended up looking up information about the Marianas Trench. I also think that Grant did a good job of including diverse characters. There was representation with deaf characters, and while I can’t speak to the accuracy, I liked that they were included as scientists. This was an engaging story that balanced between science and a bit of fantasy. I will definitely be picking up more books by Mira Grant in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hannah Alkaf

Summary:
A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle-grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle-grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.
Review:The Girl and the Ghost
I adored The Girl and The Ghost. This book was creepy but in a way that I just couldn’t stop listening. I have to shower this narrator with compliments because they told this story in such an incredible way, filling it with emotion and suspense at all the right moments. I will definitely be looking to see if this narrator has read other books.
This book alternates chapters between the girl and the ghost. It’s a dark and atmospheric story about a young girl named Suraya who is gifted a pelesit (which is a sort of a ghost). This pelesit is eventually named Pink by Suraya. Her mother cares for her in the sense of making sure Suraya is fed and clothed and goes to school. But she’s not a mother that is affectionate. Suraya is a lonely kid, so when Pink comes to find her after her grandmother dies, Suraya is glad to have a friend. She and Pink do everything together. This story starts when Suraya is very young, so not much happens in the beginning aside from Pink finding Suraya and the two bonding deeply. But once Suraya gets a bit older, and makes a new friend, Pink becomes jealous. This is where the story starts to get suspenseful and kind of scary. Pink reacts out of jealousy and starts to do things that Suraya has specifically told him not to do.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. Suraya and Pink’s relationship was sweet at first, it was something that they both needed, a friend. I really appreciated that as things progressed and Suraya realized that she couldn’t handle things with Pink anymore, she asked her mother for help. I think that this book was wholesome as heck despite being a middle-grade horror novel. It had friendship and adventure, pelesit, ghosts, and a few other spooky things. The Girl and the Ghost is a story with heart and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Audiobooks of 2020

Hi, lovelies! I read 85 audiobooks in 2020. Some of them were absolutely incredible and I knew I needed to make a separate list of favorite audiobooks so that I could share and recommend them to you all. Some of them may be on a list I’ve already posted or on one that’s coming later this month, but being on more than one of my lists is how you know it was just that good. Now, I am pretty pick about what kinds of audiobooks I like. I prefer narrators that do different voices for different characters. My favorite thing is full cast audiobooks. But I do sometimes find audiobooks that just have one narrator that does an incredible job telling the story. This list is a combination of those.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

There we have it, friends. These are all of my favorite audiobooks that I listened to in 2020. Now, I did reread a few series via audio but I didn’t include those on here. What audiobooks did you listen to in 2020 that really blew you away?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Summary:
Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again.
Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.
He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.
But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.
Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?
Early Departures by Justin A. ReynoldsReview:
Early Departures is a 2020 release that I didn’t hear about until later in the year. If I’d heard about it earlier, it definitely would have been one of my most anticipated releases. I loved Reynolds’ debut, Opposite of Always. So, I hoped that Early Departures would delight and destroy me as much as that book did. I was not wrong. Reynolds manages to make me fall in love with the characters, to become so invested in them, and then kill them. But this is a contemporary novel with a science fiction twist, so he brings them back to life. In this book, the story follows Jamal. Jamal has dealt with some hardships in his life. His parents died and he lives with his older sister (who is very pregnant). He has a girlfriend, Autumn, who is one of my favorite characters in the book (alongside Jamal’s sister.) We meet Q very early on in the book. But we slowly learn exactly what happened that ended Jamal and Q’s friendship. We also get tidbits from Jamal and Q’s old YouTube videos. I liked this because it gave us a bit of insight into how their friendship was before their falling out.
Jamal is kind of a little shit. But in a sort of understandable way. I think I liked Autumn so much because she never failed to call Jamal out when he was being a shit. Jamal is still dealing with the death of both his parents and he doesn’t really deal with it very well. He blames Q for their death, but never communicates that. He’s a young man that doesn’t know how to share his feeling. He’s also definitely a bit selfish. But he had great character growth. He realized that his actions were wrong and forgiveness helps everyone. I didn’t always like him, but I was always invested in his story.
I listened to the audiobook and it was fantastically narrated. The narrators (I think there were two) really brought this story to life and I highly recommend the audio for anyone that wants to read this book. This was a heartbreaking story about love, friendship, and loss. It’s about forgiveness and grief and it’s beautifully written. I will say that I definitely cried quite a few times while listening to this story, so prepare yourself for this one. It was one of my favorite reads of 2020.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Summary:
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.
Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.
The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
The Cousins by Karen M. McManusReview:
The Cousins is a young adult thriller that follows three mostly estranged cousins that work on their grandmother’s island resort, a grandmother none of them have ever met. I’ve read and loved all of McManus’s other books and The Cousins was no different. The big difference with this book was that all of the theories that I had while reading were completely wrong.
This story takes place on an island off of Cape Cod (which is where I grew up, so I was instantly sold when I started hearing places I knew.) This is the island where their parents grew up, and the place they were disinherited from, with one message, “You know what you did.” So, when the three cousins, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah, are invited to work at the resort for the summer, everyone is surprised.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved watching Milly and Aubrey learn more about one another and develop an actual relationship aside from seeing one another at the family reunion. I thought their friendship was well done and though Milly and Aubrey were very different people, they learned about one another and about themselves. I think the character growth all around was excellent, but the growth came with the developing relationships. Milly learns about herself and grows from her interactions with Aubrey. And it was the same for Aubrey. Being around Milly and their growing friendship, she learned to be more confident. Then there’s Jonah. His part of a story was a little weird and I can’t talk about most of it because of a spoiler. So, all three cousins have secrets, but Jonah’s is the worst for the situation they are in. I liked all three of them and I think they were all distinct and well-developed characters.
As for the story and plot, I did not see the big twist coming. I had many theories as I was reading (well, listening as I read this via the audiobook). I think McManus did an incredible job of leaving the reader wanting more, wanting to know all of the secrets, and keeping them invested in the story with little bits and pieces before the big reveal. I also really liked that we get Milly’s mom’s point of view, Allison, but as a teenager growing up on the island (sort of.) We get the story of what happened that final summer before they were all disowned. I think that added a great element of suspense with the alternating chapters of that final summer.
Overall, this was a slower paced story than her previous books. I really enjoyed it. The suspense and mystery was well done, slowly revealed, but not one that I predicted. I loved the characters. Despite all being related, they were all very different. I just as a whole really liked this book. It’s one I’ll definitely recommend in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

GoodReads Summary:
Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.
She will reign.
As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.
When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.
But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.
I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.
All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth, #1)Review:
All the Stars and Teeth is the story of a princess that is about to come into her crown, but the night that’s supposed to start everything doesn’t go as planned. Amora loses control of her magic and she’s thrown into the dungeon to await trial to see if she will be given another chance or be put to death. But this does not go as planned either. Bastian comes to her in the dungeon and offers her a chance to prove that she is fit to be the High Animancer, as long as she will help him with something that he needs.
Amora takes Basitan up on his offer and the two flee to his ship. Tagging along on this mission is Amora’s fiancé (in an arranged marriage), Ferrick, and later on in the journey is Vataea (a mermaid). This is the core four that the story focuses on. Amora, Bastian, and Ferrick are traveling to Bastian’s home, somewhere that has been deemed no longer a part of Visidia. I think one of the more interesting parts of this story was Amora realizing that there was so much about her own Kingdom, that she was about to start ruling, that she didn’t know. She mentions that her father must have been keeping secrets and she couldn’t understand why. This is actually mentioned quite a few times and seemed a bit repetitive. Amora’s general lack of knowledge was obvious in her reactions when seeing other parts of Visidia for the first time. I don’t think it needed to be said that her father kept things from her so many times. I really liked Amora. She had a really good heart. She wanted what was best for her kingdom. She just wanted to be a good ruler. But there was more going on than she knew and she didn’t quite know how to handle that. As for Bastien, his past was a bit of a mystery and I think Grace did a really good job of revealing his secrets slowly and at the perfect moment. Bastien was fascinating. He’s a pirate (sort of?) and his ship has magic, but we’re not sure why or how. I liked the mystery of his character, but the more I learned about him, the more I liked him. Then Ferrick, he honestly annoyed me. But I think that’s because the audiobook narrator made him sound like he was twelve-years-old. I think there were definitely issues that Ferrick was not prepared to deal with once he left his home to follow Amora. There were issues with their relationship that got addressed as needed and I liked this part of the story. I liked seeing the pair work through their issues and come to a different sort of understanding. Finally, Vataea. I wish we’d gotten to know more about her. I liked that she was fierce and powerful, but I wanted to know more about what made her tick. I just wanted more.
The magic in this world is incredibly interesting. There’s time magic, soul magic, curse magic, and a few others that we didn’t really get to explore. I think Grace did a great job not dumping the information about the magic into the story. We learn about the different magics as we see them and in bits and pieces. I also thought the world was really interesting in general. There is the island that Amora grew up on, but there are a few others as well. I really hope we will get to see more of the islands in the next book.
Overall, this was a fun book. I listened to the audiobook and I think the narrator did a great job with this story. They gave the story all the right emotions when they were called for. My only complaint about the audio is what I mentioned about Ferrick sounding like a child. Other than that, this story was action packed, filled with secrets, history misremembered (it’s written by the victors as they say), and I am absolutely going to continue the series with the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.