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 Day Thirty: Amanda’s December Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews

Hey, lovelies! I haven’t done one of these in what feels like forever. One of my goals for 2021 was to get my physical TBR list down to almost nothing (I’ll be happy with about 20-25 books on it). So, part of that was me wanting to read all of my owned but unread graphic novels. I’d like to go into 2022 with no physical copies of graphic novels on my TBR shelf. I want to make more use of my library when it comes to graphic novels since my library uses Hoopla and Hoopla has a really good selection of graphic novels and comics on there. Let’s get into all the graphic novels I read in December and my thoughts on them!

Lore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe

I think all the hype has let me down for this one. The story is a romance between Hades and Persephone but it’s still in the very beginning stages. I just wanted more. I think if I continue this series it will be via the website where I can read the full webtoon for free. I didn’t love the art style and I just felt like I was left wanting for more.

The Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba, & Dave Stewart

I bought this because I’m a huge My Chemical Romance fan and also because I wanted to read the graphic novels before I watched the show adaptation. I have to be honest, I genuinely have no idea what just happened. This was a quick read but the plot (aside from “save the world” was hard to follow. I didn’t understand what happened to them as kids other than not being treated well or loved. There were so many things references that weren’t elaborated on or explained which I think is why I was so confused. I’m going to combine the series only because I already borrowed them from the library and I still want to read them all before I watch the show.

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls by Hope Nicholson, Marjorie M. Liu, Mariko Tamaki, Marguerite Bennett, Margaret Atwood, Trina Robbins, Noelle Stevenson, Carla Speed McNeil, Sarah Winifred Searle, & Stephanie Cooke

I sadly DNF’d this. It was entirely too much prose for me. This wasn’t what I wanted it to be, though I’m sure it’s still a very good book.

These are my mini-reviews this month. Did you read any graphic novels?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Summary:
The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.
Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.
Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.
But can she trust them?

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can read my review for the first book here.
With the first book, it took me a little while to get into the story because there were a few different points of view that were all in different locations. So, we were learning characters and the world very quickly. I think that was definitely not an issue for this second book. I felt like I was immediately invested in the story since I was familiar with the world and its characters. The first book left all of the characters in pretty tumultuous places, most of them just having come into positions of power and now we’re getting to see what they’re doing with this power. Like the first book, we follow Lin, Jovis, Phalue, and sometimes Ranami. What I thought was really interesting was that Lin and Jovis’ parts of the story almost mirrored Phalue and Ranami’s parts of the story. Both Phalue and Lin have come into positions of power and seeing how they both deal with that was a really compelling part of the story. Lin faces so many challenges and obstacles. I really liked how Stewart didn’t shy away from showing us how Lin was upset and frustrated that things weren’t going her way. She has the best intentions, but the people of the Empire are resistant to accepting her and working with her. The development of all the characters was well done in my opinion. Their motivations were clear and understandable. I felt like it was easy for me to get invested in them.
With the first book, I felt the world building was a little lacking because we only saw a small picture of a larger Empire. But in this one, we get to see more of the island between Lin’s travels and Nisong’s conquests. There were still some things that were left unanswered (hello! The islands are sinking!) but there were so many things going on that the top priority issue kept changing which I feel helped the story feel like it was more fast-paced than it actually was. I was happy to get to see more of the Empire. We also learned way more about the history of the world and of Lin’s father’s backstory. I really liked learning the history and the backstory because it definitely put some pieces together.
Overall, I really liked this book. I liked it more than the first book, I think. Some of my questions from the first book were answered (we learn so much about the Algana which I totally loved and can’t wait to learn even more about) and new questions were raised. I cared about the characters and think their development was reasonable. I loved Phalue and Ranami’s romance. I liked Lin and Jovis’ but it didn’t blow me away. Jovis was honestly my biggest complaint with this book. He was so wishy-washy with whether or not he was going to spy on Lin and then he just kept making poor choices. It was incredibly frustrating. But I adored Memphi and Thrana. Their backstory is something I’m still very curious about and can’t wait to learn more about. This was a pretty good sequel and I can’t wait for book three.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Summary:
Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?
London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted just three things in life:
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.
Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….
When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.
But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything–as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Review:
Portrait of a Scotsman follows Hattie who is the daughter of a wealthy banker. She’s also an artist and a part of the newly allowed females attending Oxford. Hattie has always been the “lovely” sister because she had what we now know as dyslexia and perhaps some ADHD as well. But these aren’t names that exist yet in the regency romance time period, so Hattie is just thought of as not as smart as her siblings. Anyway, she ends up finding herself in a compromising position with Lucian Blackstone. Obviously, the pair must now get married.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the romance between Lucian and Hattie. I liked that we got to see a bit from Lucian side as well as Hattie’s. I thought it was really fun for Hattie to be taken out of town and to a place where life is different from what she is used to. I thought it really gave space to show how smart and kind Hattie is. But it also let us see some of her insecurities come to life too.
I liked Lucian too. He’s explained to be this heartless man. But we learn that he does everything for a reason. It was a genuine joy to see him realize that he’d fallen in love with Hattie.
I also thought this book did a really good thing with showing via these characters (mostly Hattie) how women of means were kept purposefully ignorant about sex and their bodies but also expected to completely overcome that on their wedding night. The taboo that women’s bodies have been made into is still relevant to today and I liked how that was shown in the story.
Overall, another book in this series that I really enjoyed. I will absolutely be continuing any books that are to be published. I liked the romance. The sex scenes were pretty good. We got a main character with a disability that was still shown to be smart and strong and kind. I would definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Day Twenty-Six: 2021 Blogging Wrap Up & 2022 Goals

Hey, bookworms. We’ve almost reached the end of another Blogmas, as well as, the end of 2021. We thought it would be good to wrap up the year with a quick blogging wrap up and some goals for the new year.

Amanda’s 2021 Wrap Up & 2022 Blogging Goals

Wrapping up 2021 will be a bit bittersweet for me. It’s the last year that my daughter will be an only child. It’s also the year I’m the most proud of for blogging. I am incredibly proud of the content that I produced this year. I tried new things and also managed to keep up with the things that we’ve been doing since the beginning. I managed to post for both Blogtober and Blogmas while pregnant and corralling a 3 year old. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to continue this into the new year.

That’s the perfect segway into my goals for the upcoming year. I am due to have a baby in the middle of February, so, I absolutely foresee things slowing down for me a bit after my son is born. But I am hopeful that in the first month of January, I’ll be able to get a decent amount of posts scheduled so I can work when I have time and not have a deadline to meet. I have a few post ideas planned, but I haven’t started working on anything yet.

Antonia’s 2021 Wrap Up & 2022 Blogging Goals

I’m actually really proud of myself for my reading/ blogging for 2021. I’m currently at 28 of 30 books for my yearly goal and think I can make it over these last few days. I’m already past what I read for 2020 so either way I’m pretty happy. I didn’t join Amanda in writing any reviews this year but joined in for a lot of our other posts and was pretty consistent through the whole year.

For 2022, I’d like to continue that for all of our regular posts and hopefully add in the occasional review as well. One of my bad habits is setting really high goals for myself and then being discouraged when I can’t reach it. Next year I’d like to do at least as much/ a little more than this year but I don’t want to give myself specific numbers.

What are your goals for 2022? Any reading or blogging goals?

Blogmas Day Twenty-Five: 22 Most Anticipated Releases of 2022

Hello, bookworms! Today we’re sharing 22 books that we are highly anticipating their publishing in 2022. The upcoming year has some incredible new releases coming and these are just a handful of the books we’re excited about. You can see our full list here.

January
18 Seven Mercies by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

February
1 The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa
15 House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

March
1 The River of Silver: Tales from the Deavabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
1 Youngbloods by Scott Westerfeld
15 The War of Two Queens by Jennifer L. Armentrout
15 The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

April
19 The Genesis Wars by Akemi Dawn Bowman
19 Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

May
3 Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire
3 Book Lovers by Emily Henry
3 I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
24 Nightwork by Nora Roberts
24 The Inadequate Heir by Danielle L. Jensen

June
7 For the Throne by Hannah F. Whitten
7 The Last Fallen Moon by Graci Kim
14 A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow

July
12 A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

August
2 Wayward by Chuck Wendig
30 The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

October
13 Silverborn: The Mystery of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

November
1 Chain of Thorns by Cassandra Clare

What are your most anticipated releases of 2022?

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: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Day Eighteen: New to Me Authors 2021

Hello, bookworms! The last few years we’ve shared authors that we’ve read for the first time in that year and we’ve really enjoyed that. It’s fun to look back and see which authors we loved that were brand new to us this past year. So, this year we will be doing it again. Some of these are debut novels, but we’re going to be making a whole different post for 2021 debut authors, so if there are debut novels on here, they’re backlist titles.

Amanda’s New Authors

Sarah Gailey
Upright Women Wanted
When We Were Magic

Dahlia Adler
Cool for the Summer

Andrea Stewart
The Bone Shard Daughter
The Bone Shard Emperor

Hanna Alkaf
The Girl and the Ghost

Tessa Bailey
Fix Her Up
Love Her or Lose Her
Tools of Engagement

Holly Jackson
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Good Girl, Bad Blood

Akemi Dawn Bowman
The Infinity Courts
Summer Bird Blue

A.K. Larkwood
The Unspoken Name
The Thousand Eyes

Fonda Lee
Jade City
Jade War
Jade Legacy

Emily Lloyd-Jones
The Bone Houses

Simone St. James
The Sun Down Motel
The Broken Girls

Hafsah Faizal
We Hunt the Flame
We Free the Stars

Kameron Hurley
The Light Brigade

Tess Sharpe
Far From You
The Girls I’ve Been

Sarah Hogle
You Deserve Each Other
Twice Shy

Antonia’s New Authors

Elizabeth May
Seven Devils

Laura Lam
Seven Devils

Roshani Chokshi
Aru Shah and the End of Time
Aru Shah and the Song of Death
Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes
The Gilded Wolves

S.A. Chakraborty
The City of Brass

Micaiah Johnson
The Space Between Worlds

Maria V. Snyder
Poison Study

Adalyn Grace
All the Stars and Teeth

These are the authors that we read for the first time in 2021 and loved. These are all authors that we will absolutely be reading more books from in the future.

Who’s books did you read for the first time this year?

Blogmas Book Review: Roxy by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman

Summary:
The freeway is coming.
It will cut the neighborhood in two. Construction has already started, pushing toward this corridor of condemned houses and cracked concrete with the momentum of the inevitable. Yet there you are, in the fifth house on the left, fighting for your life.
Ramey, I.
The victim of the bet between two manufactured gods: the seductive and lethal Roxy (Oxycontin), who is at the top of her game, and the smart, high-achieving Addison (Adderall), who is tired of being the helpful one, and longs for a more dangerous, less wholesome image. The wager—a contest to see who can bring their mark to “the Party” first—is a race to the bottom of a rave that has raged since the beginning of time. And you are only human, dazzled by the lights and music. Drawn by what the drugs offer—tempted to take that step past helpful to harmful…and the troubled places that lie beyond.
But there are two I. Rameys—Isaac, a soccer player thrown into Roxy’s orbit by a bad fall and a bad doctor and Ivy, his older sister, whose increasing frustration with her untreated ADHD leads her to renew her acquaintance with Addy.
Which one are you?

Book Cover

Review:
Roxy follows two siblings, Isaac and Ivy, as they use and eventually abuse drugs. But this book isn’t the usual story where we follow them down the path of addiction, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman have added a very interesting twist to this story. They’ve written the drugs into the story as characters, giving life to these substances. The two main drug personifications that we see are Roxy, who is OxyContin, and Addison, who is Adderall. But we also see morphine, marijuana, heroin, molly, alcohol, cocaine, and a few others. I have to admit that I had to use an embarrassing amount of brainpower to puzzle out what some of the drugs were because they all have names and not all of them are obvious. (Morphine being named Phineas took me way too long to figure out.)
The plot of this story was incredibly well done. The story was fast-paced and never missed a beat even though it wasn’t a super action-filled story, instead, using smaller events to build up the story to its climax. I really liked the interludes that we got from the drugs other than Roxy and Addison. They were almost sweet? By that, I mean that this book didn’t just say “drugs are bad” and try to pound it into your head. In one interlude we see Mary Jane (marijuana) being used by an older gentleman with cancer. There’s still a negative connotation with it because this man doesn’t want to be using drugs, but Mary Jane made him feel better. I think the authors absolutely could have used this book to be preachy about how drugs are bad, but I don’t think that’s what they did.
Let me explain via the two main characters. Ivy has ADHD, but she also just likes to party. But the authors did a really great job showing how much Ivy changed once she finally got on the right medication. Once she started taking Adderall, there’s a stark and obvious improvement in her schoolwork and across many other things in her life. They showed how taking the medicine that she needed helped her. But they didn’t shy away from showing possible negative side effects (loss of appetite leading to losing weight, inability to sleep, and things like that). They showed that Ivy, who had a history of drinking and using other substances, could go from taking her medication how she was supposed to, to abusing it and doubling her doses thinking it will be doubly effective.
Things for Isaac though, it was clear they were only ever going to follow one path, so the authors showed proper use of medication in other ways. Isaac hurts his ankle pretty badly, so his grandmother offers him a pill, and this is how Isaac meets Roxy. He slowly descends into addiction, not really realizing how deep he’s gotten until it’s too late. I really liked that the authors showed him trying to stop taking the drugs and how hard something like that is to do on your own.
Overall, I think this was a really fascinating twist on writing about drugs and substance abuse. I think I could have done without Addison and Roxy making a deal to see who can literally kill one of the siblings first because that didn’t really sit right with me. But I really think it shows how much thought and effort the authors put into this story. I don’t want to say that I liked how the story concluded because someone actually died and it was incredibly sad, but I have to say that I was gripped by this story right from the first page.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Summary:
The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.
King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.
Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.
As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.
Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without… and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future.

Book Cover

Review:
Defy the Night follows Tessa Cade and Prince Corrick who live in the kingdom of Kandala. Their kingdom is overrun with sickness and the people are suffering. We get to see two very different sides of the struggle since Tessa is an orphan, barely making ends meet. But Prince Corrick lives among the elite. He lives in a palace, with unlimited access to the medicine that will help the sickness. But we also get to see that not everything is black and white. Corrick is known to be incredibly cruel and ruthless, but We learn that there’s more to it than that.
I think Kemmerer has a great writing style and the pace of the story never slowed. Once I got to the 100-page mark, I just flew through the story. I was interested in the world and politics. I think sometimes with big worlds like this where we see players from other areas, a lot of the world outside of the main setting can get lost, but I don’t think that happened. I feel like I had a really good understanding of the surrounding areas.
As for our two main characters, I liked them. I liked that there were two sides to Corrick that we got to see. But I would have actually liked to see a bit more of “Cruel Corrick” in action. We see him do things because he HAS to, but from things that other characters say, it’s clear that he doesn’t really have the effect he’s going for. We’re told, often, why the people think of him this way, but we don’t really get to see it. Tessa was easy to love. She’s dealt with hardship. She witnessed her parents killed. But none of that hardened her. She’s still a really nice and sometimes naive girl. I wanted to see more of her apothecary knowledge at work.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked both the main characters. They had backstories that made sense for who they are now. The world was descriptive but still easy to understand. I liked most of the supporting characters too. I also really enjoyed that this book was wrapped up pretty nicely. I think I will continue the series when the next book comes out.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Luminous by Mara Rutherford

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.