Fresh by Margot Wood

Summary:
A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experience–and missteps–of a girl’s freshman year of college
Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer–from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.

Fresh by Margot Wood

Review:
I picked this one up at the Barnes and Noble 50% off hardcovers book sale under the influence of my friend Kelly. She recommended this for the 12 challenge that was going around Instagram and Twitter at the start of the year. All she said was it’s about a bisexual girl in her first year of college and I was immediately sold. Plus, when I saw it in the bookstore that book cover really just shines. It’s so simple and yet so stunning at the same time. I already can’t wait to take pictures of it.
Fresh follows Elliot, who is starting her first year of college. She’s from Ohio, but she’s going to Emerson College in Boston. As someone that grew up Boston adjacent, there are so many excellent Boston and Massachusetts references that had me laughing out loud. The thing about this book is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s told in first-person perspective and Elliot “talks” directly to the reader at times. I loved the way this story was told. I think it was incredibly engaging to be following Elliot as if she was sitting next to me, telling me about her experiences. Now, Elliot doesn’t always make the best choices. She’s incredibly flawed and I absolutely loved that about her. She’s bisexual and confident in her sexuality. The first half of the book is mostly (to use Elliot’s phrasing) Elliot being “horny on main.” The second half is Elliot taking the lessons she learned from her first semester of college and making better choices. She learns from her mistakes and doesn’t repeat them. I think that’s a big reason that she was a character I felt I could be invested in. She doesn’t just do stupid things over and over. She learns and makes a point to do better.
I absolutely loved all of the side characters, too. Lucy and Micah were excellent friends. I also loved Elliot’s RA, Rose. I think they made this story even better. Elliot really had amazing friends to support her and to tell her to pull her head out of her ass when she needed it.
Overall, I loved this book. I said earlier that it doesn’t take itself seriously. I think the author did a wonderful job of balancing that feeling while also covering some serious topics. There are conversations of sexual assault and slut-shaming. But it’s also a really sex-positive book. I feel like any words that I write cannot do this story justice. I will be recommending this book in the future very often.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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

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

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Summary:
For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.
For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Review:
This is the sequel to Sky in the Deep. The Girl the Sea Gave Back follows Tova and Halvard in alternating points of view. Tova is Kyrr, more specifically a Truthtongue (she can see read the future from casting special stones she has). Halvard is Fiske’s younger brother (let me tell you how I screamed when I realized he had his own point of view in this book). It’s been 10 years since the events of Sky in the Deep and the Aska and Riki have become one clan, renaming themselves. Tova is living with the Svell clan which is getting ready to wage war again Halvard’s clan. Why? I literally have NO clue and I couldn’t tell you even if my life depended on it. So, we once again have two clans warring for unknown reasons, except this time, Halvard’s clan has known peace for the last ten years.
I’m going to be honest, I pushed through and finished this book only because of Halvard’s point of view. I loved him as a kid in Sky in the deep so I was very excited to see him as an adult in this book. He absolutely didn’t disappoint. I loved him so much. As for Tova, I felt bad for her. She’d been pretty much abused her whole life, lied to about where she came from and used for her Truthtongue abilities. I was absolutely curious as to what we were missing about her backstory. And I was happy to find out the truth when that twist was revealed.
I liked learning more about the world. It was interesting to see the Svell clan and what they knew about the details of the first book as well as other bits we got to learn about the world. My biggest issue with this story is that I didn’t care about the plot literally at all. They’re going to war again? Sure, okay, but why? I didn’t feel like the motivations were clear at all.
Overall, I liked this book. Not as much as Sky in the Deep, but I still had a good time listening to the audiobook.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Summary:
Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield–her brother, fighting with the enemy–the brother she watched die five years ago.
Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.
She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Review:
I have finally managed to pick up Sky in the Deep. I can see why so many people love this book. It has all the popular tropes but most specifically, it’s enemies to lovers.
We follow Eelyn during fighting season. She thinks she’s just seen her brother, except that he’s been dead for five years. But then she sees him again the next day and this time she follows him. That choice leads to her being taken by the Riki, the enemy clan. But once she’s been brought to a Riki village in the mountains, she learns that her brother didn’t die five years ago. She plans to escape and make her way home while grappling with the emotions of her brother’s betrayal. But then Riki villages are being attacked, and not by the Aska. The only chance for survival might be for the two clans to finally put aside their feud and defeat this new enemy together.
I really enjoyed this book. It starts off really exciting and right in the thick of things. Eelyn is in the middle of fighting in the opening pages and she’s taken by her brother and Fiske only a few chapters into the story. I think this made it a little harder to connect with Eelyn and to empathize with her when she’s feeling the betrayal of her brother. But she’s a fierce and fiery main character so it was hard not to like her. I could totally see where things were going between her and Fiske right from the start but I did enjoy the journey of their romance.
I think the world was just as compelling as the characters. We really only learn about the Aska and the Riki as well as a very small bit about the third clan. I thought their gods were interesting and I would have liked to learn more about all of the gods. It’s a story that totally has Viking feels to it, so I wanted to know if the clans believed in all the gods but only served one? How did it all work between the different clans? I also wanted to know more about the history between the Riki and the Aska. Why had they been feuding for so long? Was it just because the two clans served different gods?
Overall, I had a good time reading this one. I think the world was interesting and definitely left me wanting to know more. I really grew to love the characters and their complex relationships. I ended the story being very invested in Fiske and Eelyn’s romance, for sure. Overall, I’m glad I finally picked up this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

Book Cover

Review:
The Bone Houses follows Ryn, who is just trying to keep her family together. Since both her parents died, she’s the oldest and feels like she needs to do whatever it takes to keep her home and her brother and sister with her. To do this, she’s taken up her father’s position of grave digger, but the people in her town have started burning their dead instead of having them buried. Also, the dead don’t always stay dead in this town. The dead that rise again are called bone houses.
The magic of the bone houses was one of the best parts of this book. The magic that brings these bodies back to life was absolutely fascinating. I loved following Ryn’s journey with Ellis to the place of legends. I really enjoyed Ryn telling Ellis of these legends and then getting to see the places she’d been telling him about. There was a mystery about the bone houses that was slowly unraveled and each time we thought we’d gotten to the bottom of it, another layer to the myth and magic was revealed.
Second to the magic was the developing relationship between Ryn and Ellis. I really liked them together. Ellis has an injury that causes him chronic pain. I thought this representation was interesting because I don’t often see disability portrayed as chronic pain from an old injury. We see him struggling, but we also get to see some really great communication about how Ryn can help him and what isn’t actually helpful. I liked the development of their relationship. They start as strangers and slowly become friends before anything romantic even comes into the story. I thought it was a really well-developed romance and I couldn’t help but root for them.
Overall, I liked this story very much. It was so much darker than I was anticipating and I loved that. I guessed a few of the twists right before they were revealed, which was fun for me because I’m not usually good at guessing twists. I also just have to say that this book cover is absolutely stunning.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Summary:
Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.
Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

Book Cover

Review:
This is another audiobook that I read for spooky season. I didn’t get all my reviews written and scheduled in time, so we’re keeping the spooky content into November. The Sun Down Motel was confirmation that I love the ‘are the ghosts real or not’ trope in horror/mystery. Another example of this that I liked this season was Home Before Dark by Riley Sager.
The Sun Down Motel also had another common element with a few other books I read this October. It tells two stories: one in the past and one in the present. In the present, we are following Carly who finds herself in Fell, New York. The same town that her aunt disappeared in 30 years ago, an event that’s haunted her family since. In the past, we follow Carly’s aunt, Viv, and we get to see what really happened to her all those years ago in that same small town. I loved the back and forth between the past and the present. I loved that the events in the present seemed to mirror and reflect those that happened in the past.
I liked Carly and Viv. Both of them made some pretty poor choices, but I liked them anyway. They’re both head strong women that just couldn’t back down from a mystery. Carly’s mystery was her aunt and Viv’s mystery was the serial killer in Fell.
I absolutely adored the Sun Down Motel. It was such a weird setting, but I loved it anyway. I thought the ghosts that were there were completely fascinating and I really loved learning more about them and how they ended up stuck there.
Overall, I loved this book and I’ll be picking up more of St. James’s books in the future. She tells a suspenseful and emotional story that you just cannot put down until you manage to find every last detail and secret. I loved the setting, the characters, the pace of the story. I loved this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Summary:
The Mayan God of Death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore, for readers of The Song of Achilles and Uprooted.
Here we shall begin to tell a story: a tale of a throne lost, of monsters and magic. A tale of gods and of the shadow realm. But this, our story, it begins in our world, in the land of mortals.
It begins with a woman. For this story, it is her story. It begins with her.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty, small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it–and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan God of Death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey, from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City–and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.
Mixing the excitement of the Roaring Twenties with Prehispanic mythology, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a vivid, wildly imaginative historical fantasy.

Book Cover

Review:
Gods of Jade and Shadow follows Casiopea, a young woman who lives in her mother’s childhood home. She’s treated like a servant, tasked with cleaning the house, attending to her grandfather and her cousin, Martin. Everyone, aside from her mother, treat her as less than because of who her father was. He wasn’t ‘good enough’ for Casiopea’s mother, so she is treated like she isn’t good enough for her family. All Casiopea dreams of is escaping the small town she’s stuck in and then suddenly, one night, she must leave. She pricks her hand on a bone shard she finds in her grandfather’s room. A bone shard that turned out to be Hun-Kame, a Mayan death god that was trapped, and now needs Casiopea’s help in reclaiming his throne from his brother.
This really was a beautiful story. The writing was beautiful and almost melodic. The pace of the story wasn’t so slow that I lost focus, but it also wasn’t a super-fast paced story either. I really liked the pacing of the story. It allowed me to feel like I was really getting to know the characters which was good because I could have easily felt left outside this beautiful story because of the world building and mythology. But it’s written in a way that I really felt like I got to know Casiopea, her dreams and wants, and how those things change the more time she spends with Hun-Kame. Casiopea was an incredibly courageous character. She does things that she’s afraid to do, but she does them anyway because she believes they’re the right thing to do. Doing what you believe is the right thing is usually the hard thing to do. I really liked the development of the relationship between Casiopea and Hun-Kame. I feel like we didn’t get to know him as well as we did Casiopea, but I liked him all the same.
The world building and mythology was just as good as the characters. The Mayan mythology was lush and fascinating. It’s not a mythology I know much about, so it felt like a whole new fantastical world for me, but it was incredibly interesting to be immersed in. Moreno-Garcia paints an incredibly vivid picture of all the magic and myths in the story. I just couldn’t get enough.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I had a great time getting to know the characters and getting invested in them and their journey. I really loved the settings and the mythology. I would definitely recommend this one.

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.

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

Suummary:
In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.
Freshman year Jill’s best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.
Now, it’s Jill’s senior year and she’s determined to make it her best yet. After all, she’s a senior and a Player–a member of Gold Coast Prep’s exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill’s year. She’s sure of it.
But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? Jill vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve been really liking the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format that I’ve been using for some of my recent reviews. So, I’m going to continue that with today’s review.

What I Liked:

I liked Jill. She was a main character that I felt I could be invested in. She’s a senior at Gold Coast Prep. She’s a Player (Gold Coast’s ‘secret’ society). But when questions arise about who actually killed her best friend, Shaila, Jill’s point of view changes. I liked that she didn’t just accept the status quo. She thought for herself, even if that meant upsetting her friends.

The mystery of who killed Shaila was a good one, in my opinion. I didn’t guess the twist until just a few pages before it was revealed.

I liked the setting of Gold Coast and all the parts of the story that surrounded the Players.

The story goes back and forth between the past and the present as a way for us to get to know Jill and her friends and the things they’ve been through since Freshman year. I liked this, mostly.

I listened to the audiobook for this one and I’m very glad that I did. I liked the narrator. I think she did a great job telling this story and keeping me engaged.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t like pretty much any of the characters aside from Jill. Other than maybe Graham’s sister (I can’t remember her name). I liked her. But all Jill’s friends at Gold Coast we’re pretty terrible, honestly.

I liked some things about the story going back and forth between the present and the past, but I think because I was listening to the audiobook it wasn’t always clear when these jumps were happened. There were often clues I could pick up on, but I would have preferred a clearer distinction.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I’m looking forward to Goodman’s new release that I’m waiting for from the library. I liked the prep school setting. I think the ‘secret’ society was fun. But really, Jill made this story what it was, I think.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

Summary:
A moving, darkly funny novel about six teens whose magic goes wildly awry from Magic for Liars author Sarah Gailey, who Chuck Wendig calls an “author to watch.”
Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.
Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.
That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.
When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.

Book Cover

Review:
I borrowed When We Were Magic from my library as an audiobook. I bought this book last year because I heard great things about it. A girl gang of queer witches? Hell yes. Now that it’s spooky season, I though what better book is there to read than a book about six friends that can do magic, except someone dies.
What I didn’t expect about this book when starting it was that the boy that died, did so via his penis exploding and bleeding to death. It was a very bizarre way to start what I thought was going to be a murder mystery with a bit of magic. It also wasn’t explained as to why Alexis accidentally killed this boy until most of the way through the book.
So, the six friends (don’t ask me to tell you their names because I think six is too large a cast. I couldn’t remember their names or who was whom even while I was listening to the audiobook. I tried several times to name them all and always forgot at least one.) are on a mission to hide what Alexis has done. I think they were certainly all interesting characters. They were a diverse group and I did like them while I was reading the book. I just think six main characters was too many to keep track of for me. I also really had trouble as to why they were all friends. We’re supposed to believe that these six would, no joke, hide a body together, but we don’t get to see that closeness. We’re told about it. Some of them make sense as we learn about their friendships since childhood and how the others slowly joined in. But the only thing that we’re really shown is that they all have magic. Otherwise, we’re told that they’re all the best of friends.
I liked the story more when the friends decided to try to save this boy that Alexis killed. Please someone tell me why they didn’t try this before they literally hacked his body to pieces and carried him around in backpacks and shit. I spent most of the book just wondering why they weren’t trying harder to save this boy that Alexis accidentally exploded.
Then there was Alexis. I genuinely didn’t like her. So, to be stuck with her as the narrator was not a fun time for me. She spent almost the entire book wishing that she was deserving of her loyalty of her friends. Even when one of her friends calls her out for acting this way, she doubles down on her woe is me thoughts of not being deserving. It was incredibly annoying.
Overall, there were bits and pieces that I really enjoyed and, obviously, some that I really did not like. I think I’m still going to give some of Gailey’s other books a try because I did really like Upright Women Wanting. This one just missed the mark for me.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Summary:
Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Cruel Prince.
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

Book Cover

Review:
I honestly don’t even remember buying this book. It’s made it to my unhaul pile twice and somehow ended up back on my TBR shelf both times. I’m so glad that I didn’t end up giving it away. I picked this book for my June TBR Jar Picks as the Favorite of a Friend prompt. So, thank you Alana for making me finally read this one. As soon as I’m done with this review, I’ll be starting the second book even though it’s not on my actual TBR for this month.
So, we follow Liesl (also called Elizabeth) on the last night of the year. She’s become the one that takes care of her siblings, so on the night that her younger brother has an audition to possibly study as an apprentice musician, that’s supposed to be her focus. But her sister Kathe, goes missing. There’s a lot going on in this first part of the book. We see Elizabeth in her life, taking care of her siblings, thinking about her own passions, but only ever doing things for her family. We see her not choose herself again and again in the first part of this book. Then Kathe is taken, and Elizabeth must make a deal with the Goblin King to get her back. The must complete three tasks to succeed.
Now, I was immediately hooked on this book. Seriously, in the first ten pages, the writing really sucked me in. It’s lyrical without being over the top. It’s beautiful writing that really leaves an impression. I cannot say enough good things about Jae-Jones’s writing. I would say that it’s what made this book as good as it is, but there’s also the characters and the stunning setting of the Underground. So, really everything about this book stands out. I really liked Elizabeth. I liked her when she made sure to care for her siblings. I liked her when she was conflicted between helping her brother or her sister. But I liked her best of all when she finally chose herself.
The romance between Elizabeth and the Goblin King was absolutely to die for. He and Elizabeth were friends when she was a child. She thought the games they used to play were dreams though. I liked how their relationship developed. It wasn’t instant love; they were friends when she was a child and she starts to remember that the longer she’s Underground. I liked seeing Elizabeth push the Goblin King’s buttons and he pushed hers in return. The ending did not go how I expected at all which is why I’m so eager to read the second book.
Overall, Wintersong surprised the heck out of me. I loved the interesting world and magic. The characters were easy to love and really made me feel things. I also thought the plot was easy to follow and well done. I loved all of the creatures in the Underground. I just really enjoyed this book and I would absolutely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Book Cover

Review:
We Hunt the Flame is a book that I’ve heard such mixed reviews about. I know some people that absolutely love it and it’s one of their new favorite series, some that DNF’d it, and others just read the whole thing but just didn’t like it. I fell on the side that liked it. I really enjoyed this book. Now, it wasn’t perfect, but I did really enjoy it. I didn’t really get into it until the first 100 pages or so, but that’s pretty normal for me with new fantasy books or series.
We’re following two main characters, Zafira and Nasir. Zafira is known as the Hunter because she is the only one that can make it back out of the Arz the same as when she went in. She provides most of the meat for her people. But no one knows that the Hunter is a woman. I really liked Zafira and her emotional journey. She’s revealed that the Hunter is a woman as she’s leaving for a quest to find a lost artifact that might be able to restore magic to Arawiya. But even after she leaves, she struggles to really shed the cloak that has disguised her for so long. She also has some other things she’s still working through, grief for her father, her best friend has just gotten married (is it just me or did their friendship feel a little romantic with the way Zafira thought about Yasmine?), she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years despite living in the same house as her. She just has a lot going on. I liked that her identity as the Hunter wasn’t her only personality trait. I didn’t like that much of this book was Zafira struggling with romantic feelings for a man that she thinks murdered her best friend. We as the reader knew that it wasn’t him, but she thought it was and developed feelings for him anyway and I didn’t love that.
Nasir is the Prince of Death. He is the prince of Arawiya, but in reality, he’s the Sultan’s assassin. His father treats him terribly, but Nasir still does his bidding because if he doesn’t, those he cares for will pay the price. Nasir is sent to follow the Hunter and kill them once they’ve found the lost object. Altair is sent along on this mission and Nasir is ordered to come back alone and with the object. Nasir’s emotional journey was a really interesting one too. He doesn’t want to be his father’s killer, but he also wants to gain his father’s love. He remembers a time when his father acted like a different man and he wishes he could see that man again. So, he does as ordered, until he meets Zafira and learns that the legendary Hunter is a woman. Nasir, Altair, and Zafira end up traveling together because there’s safety in numbers. Nasir starts to like both Zafira and Altair. He’s conflicted because he’s been tasked with killing both and they all know it.
Altair was absolutely my favorite character. He’s the comedic relief that the story needed when there were some particularly tense moments. I loved all of his ridiculous comments and additions to the conversation. I think the secrets and twists that involve him were excellently revealed and definitely surprised me. I cannot wait to see what’s going to happen with him in the next book with where he was left at the end of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a bit too much of the romance aspect for my liking. Like I wrote above, Zafira spends a lot of this book feeling romantic things for someone that she thinks murdered her best friend. I do think that I will like this relationship more in the second book depending on how things go. But there was a lot of inner yearning and pining and I would have liked more of a balance between that and the action and adventure of the rest of the story. I really liked the plot and world. I really like the characters. I think the writing was beautiful and lyrical but not so flowery that it took away from the story. I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen in the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda