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 Day Twenty-Four: Amanda’s End of Year-A-Thon TBR

Hello, lovelies! End of Year-A-Thon has arrived! Check out my announcement post or Vicky’s announcement post for all the details. This readathon starts the day after Christmas, the 26th, and will run right up until 11:59pm on the 31st. We have some totally optional prompts if you like to have prompts to create a TBR list. That’s what I’m going to be sharing with you all today. I like to have prompts to pick options from my unread books, so let’s get into the books I’ve picked to go with our five prompts.

A book that was published in 2021

Float Plan by Trish Doller

A book from a series you’ve already started, but haven’t finished

Tarnished Empire by Danielle L. Jensen

A book by an own voices author

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Your most recently acquired book (bought, borrowed, gifted, etc.)

The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities by Rick Riordan & other authors

A book with gold on the cover

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

There we have it. These are the five books that I’m hoping to read in this final week of 2021. Are you participating in my readathon? If you are, share your TBR list in the comments so I can see them!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Day Twenty-Three: 2021 Debut Authors

Hello, lovelies! Today I wanted to share with you some authors that published their debut novels in 2021 that I absolutely loved and have been raving about since I read them. A few of these are authors that debuted in a new age range or genre, but I still wanted to highlight their work because I really loved it. Let’s go!

Middle Grade

Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee
“Pahua Moua has a bit of a reputation for being a weirdo. A lonely eleven-year-old Hmong girl with the unique ability to see spirits, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother and playing with her best friend, a cat spirit no one else can see. One day Pahua accidentally untethers an angry spirit from the haunted bridge in her neighborhood–whoops. When her brother suddenly falls sick and can’t be awoken, Pahua fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. She returns to the scene of the crime with her aunt’s old shaman tools, hoping to confront the spirit and demand her brother’s return. Instead, she summons a demon. Thankfully, a warrior shaman with a bit of an attitude problem shows up at the last minute and saves her butt. With the help of this guide, Pahua will have to find her way through the spirit worlds and rescue her brother’s soul before it’s too late. Little does she know she’ll have her own discoveries to make along the way. . . . With its unforgettable characters, unique nature-based magic system, breathtaking twists and reveals, and climactic boss battle, this story based on Hmong oral tradition offers everything a fantasy lover could want.”

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim
“Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan—a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram—a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community. Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spellbook, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan! Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it? As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures, and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.”

Young Adult

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
“For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, their power from the sun peaking in the season of their birth. But now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic. All hope lies with Clara, an Everwitch whose rare magic is tied to every season.
In Autumn, Clara wants nothing to do with her power. It’s wild and volatile, and the price of her magic–losing the ones she loves–is too high, despite the need to control the increasingly dangerous weather.
In Winter, the world is on the precipice of disaster. Fires burn, storms rage, and Clara accepts that she’s the only one who can make a difference.
In Spring, she falls for Sang, the witch training her. As her magic grows, so do her feelings, until she’s terrified Sang will be the next one she loses.
In Summer, Clara must choose between her power and her happiness, her duty and the people she loves…before she loses Sang, her magic, and thrusts the world into chaos.”

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

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

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
“As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine. But the deceptions–and deaths–keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.”

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield
“Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But, like clockwork, every six months since she was a girl, he’s left their home in Canada for his true home, the island of Jamaica. When she’s sent there to live with him for the summer, there’s a big part of Tilla that dreads having to deal with this taciturn and mysterious man, yet she longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him. What is it about this place that is more important than being home with their family? What could possibly mean more to him than her? When she gets to Jamaica, the pull of the island is immediately apparent, but so too are the cracks in the family she hasn’t seen in years. In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face a storm that threatens to unravel her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise, just as an actual storm, Hurricane Gustav, threatens the lives of those she loves.Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, sexism, and explores how the father-daughter relationship can shape the course of a young woman’s life. At its core, this debut takes the reader on a riveting journey that explores what it means to discover your own voice, in the center of complete destruction.”

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
What the heart desires, the house destroys…
Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.”

The Valley and the Flood by Rebecca Mahoney

The Valley and the Flood by Rebecca Mahoney
“Rose Colter is almost home, but she can’t go back there yet. When her car breaks down in the Nevada desert, the silence of the night is broken by a radio broadcast of a voicemail message from her best friend, Gaby. A message Rose has listened to countless times over the past year. The last one Gaby left before she died. So Rose follows the lights from the closest radio tower to Lotus Valley, a small town where prophets are a dime a dozen, secrets lurk in every shadow, and the diner pie is legendary. And according to Cassie Cyrene, the town’s third most accurate prophet, they’ve been waiting for her. Because Rose’s arrival is part of a looming prophecy, one that says a flood will destroy Lotus Valley in just three days’ time. Rose believes if the prophecy comes true then it will confirm her worst fear–the PTSD she was diagnosed with after Gaby’s death has changed her in ways she can’t face. So with help from new friends, Rose sets out to stop the flood, but her connection to it, and to this strange little town, runs deeper than she could’ve imagined.”

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo
“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 fantasy novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls. This exquisitely terrifying and beautiful tale will sink its teeth into you and never let go.”

Adult

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her parent’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. In New York, she’s able to ignore all the constant questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.”

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten
The first daughter is for the Throne. The second daughter is for the Wolf.
For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark, sweeping debut fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood. As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods. Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again. But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.”

These are some of the 2021 debut novels that I absolutely loved. Many of these will be making appearances on my 2021 favorite books lists that I will be sharing in January. Have you read any of these debuts? Did you love any of these books too?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

Summary:
It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book. But I actually waited too long to read that arc, so, I bought the finished copy and read that because I’ve loved all of Harrow’s writing so far. A Spindle Splintered was no different.
The story follows Zinnia, who isn’t likely going to live past her 21st birthday. She’s not cursed, just dying due to something in the water supply that her mother drank while pregnant with Zinnia. Her whole life, Sleeping Beauty has been her favorite fairytale. She’s read every version of the story she can find. So, on the night of her 21st birthday, she’s celebrating with her best friend, Charm, when she’s transported to another world, to another Sleeping Beauty. Here she meets Primrose and the two work together to try to change their fate.
This was a novella, so it’s super short. I absolutely wanted more of this story. I wanted to know more about the rules that Zin made for herself and more about her experience of leaving high school early and starting college early. I wanted more stories of her and Charm when they were growing up. I absolutely want to know more about the witch that we get to meet. Despite my desire to want more, this still felt like a fully-formed story with world-building and character development that I was happy with.
I really liked Zin. She knows she is dying and, at this point, is just waiting for it to happen. She literally says that she’s waiting out the clock. It was sad to think of her just waiting to die. But it sounded hard to live the way that she did. I really loved Zin getting to know Primrose. I liked that there was more to her than what we could assumed when looking at a princess. She’s brave and clever.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It talks a lot about different versions of the same story. Also there’s a female/female relationship that was so easy to love. I think that all the characters were ones that I got invested in very quickly. I loved the feminist aspect of the story and I absolutely cannot wait to read the second book.

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 Day Twenty-Two: WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To play along just answer the three questions!

What are you currently reading?

Amanda- According to my GoodReads currently reading shelf, I am currently reading The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (physical book), Spellbreaker by Charlie M. Holmberg (eBook), The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet (audiobook), Lauren’s Barbarian by Ruby Dixon (eBook), and Gilded by Marissa Meyer (my library hold for the audiobook for this expired when I was only 77% through, so I’m waiting for that to come in again).

Antonia- I’m currently reading All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace.

What did you read most recently?

Amanda- I most recently finished Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan and it was even better than I expected.

Antonia- I most recently read Winterkeep by Kristen Cashore.

What will you be reading next?

Amanda- Up next, I have Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard on my TBR.

Antonia- I don’t have a specific book in mind because it’ll probably be one of the ones I get for Christmas and I’m super excited for all of them.

What are your answers this week? Leave a comment and let us know!

Blogmas Day Twenty-One (Part Two): Antonia’s Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wishes

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week’s topic is Books I Hope Santa Brings/Bookish Wishes (This was so popular when I did it in June that we’re doing it again for the holidays! List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to your wishlist so that Santa can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader in the list description so people know how to get the book to you. After you post, jump around the Linky and grant a wish or two if you’d like. You can make your identity known or be someone’s secret Santa! Please don’t feel obligated to send anything to anyone! If you would rather not include your wish list, just share the books you hope you find under your tree on Christmas morning.)

The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

The Becoming by Nora Roberts

Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

What books do you want for Christmas?

Blogmas Day Twenty-One (Part One): Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Bookish Wishes

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana.

This week’s topic is ten books I hope Santa brings/bookish wishes (This was so popular when I did it in June that we’re doing it again for the holidays! List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to your wishlist so that Santa can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader in the list description so people know how to get the book to you. After you post, jump around the Linky and grant a wish or two if you’d like. You can make your identity known or be someone’s secret Santa! Please don’t feel obligated to send anything to anyone! If you would rather not include your wish list, just share the books you hope you find under your tree on Christmas morning.)

If you feel so inclined, here’s my amazon wishlist.

Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter

Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody

The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

The Cursed Carnival by Rick Riordan

Sentinel by Jennifer L. Armentrout

What books are on your holiday wishlist?

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 Nineteen: Amanda’s 2021 DNF’s

Hi, lovelies! I haven’t done this in a while, but that’s mostly because I didn’t really have a significant list of books that I DNF’d last year. But this year, I’ve been pretty ruthless with my DNF’ing and I actually have a long list to share. I don’t really like to talk trash about books, but I thought it would be fun to share what books I started and chose not to finish. These books won’t really be on any other lists or any of my stats, so I thought I’d give one post of books I didn’t like in 2021.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
I was really bored by this story. After loving his 2020 release, I was excited about this book. The premise sounded interesting, but I was bored and genuinely didn’t like the main character.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
I honestly tried so hard to read this one. I got an eARC from NetGalley and tried to read it three separate times. I also tried to listen to the audiobook after the book was published and I just wasn’t invested in the story.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
After only sort of liking the first book, I thought I’d give this one a try because I did actually really like the audiobook narrator. But this story felt almost identical to the first book and I definitely didn’t like that book enough to essentially read it twice.

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones
After loving the first book in this duology, I was pretty surprised to find that I just didn’t care at all about anything that was happening in the sequel.

Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston
I really wanted to love this book but it just wasn’t holding my interest. I borrowed it from my library and ran out of time to finish it. I didn’t care enough to renew it. I might pick it up again for spooky season next year, but this year it just wasn’t holding my interest.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I hated both of the main characters a surprising amount. I wasn’t going to suffer through a story about characters I didn’t care about at all.

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin
I made it like 30% into this eARC from NetGalley and I just had no clue what was going on. After reading some reviews and seeing that many readers felt the same way and that it never got less confusing, I chose not to finish the book.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

I DNF’d this book around the 200 pages mark. There’s a scene where a baby dies and it was horrible. But we live the mothers grief and that was just too much for me. I’m currently pregnant, so the story overall was having a negative impact on my mental health and I made the choice to DNF even thought the story and writing absolutely had me hooked. Shout out to my sister in law who gave me all the spoilers about the rest of the book and answering all my questions that I still had.

These are the books that I DNF’d that stand out the most to me. There are a few others that I DNF’d but they were mostly because I wasn’t interested in the first couple of chapters and I’d gotten the books for free from a family member so I wasn’t super worried about DNF’ing and unhauling. Did you DNF any books this year? Share which ones in the comments!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee

Summary:
Tara Park doesn’t do serious relationships. Neither does she hop into bed with virtual strangers. Especially when that particular stranger is her best friend’s new brother-in-law. It isn’t an easy decision, though. Seth Kim is temptation personified. His unreasonably handsome looks and charming personality makes him easy on the eyes and good for her ego.
When a friendly game of Truth or Dare leads to an uncomplicated four-date arrangement with Seth, Tara can’t say she minds. But their dates, while sweet and sexy, have a tendency to hit roadblocks. Thankfully, their non-dates and chance meetings get frequent and heated.
Seth is leaving for a new job in Paris in a month and a no-strings attached fling seemed like a nice little distraction for both… But soon Seth realizes that Tara Park doesn’t come in a “nice & little” package–she’s funny and bold, sweet and sexy, and everything he ever wanted and never expected to find. Neither of them are ready for something serious and both have past relationship baggage they’ve been ignoring, but with a shot at forever on the line will they follow their hearts and take a chance on happily-ever-after?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this advanced copy, here is my honest review. The Dating Dare follows Tara (who is the bff from A Sweet)and Seth (the brother of the love interest in A Sweet Mess). The story starts off at the wedding of the couple from A Sweet Mess. Tara tells Seth to stop staring at her and they are immediately flirting and the attraction between them is obvious. The issue is that both Seth and Tara have sworn off of serious relationships because they were both hurt very badly in their first serious relationships in college. So, Seth dares Tara to go on four dates with him and not fall in love with him while he’s house sitting for his brother, before he leaves to move to Paris. Obviously the two fall in love, but not without some bumps in the road.
I liked this book. It was a fun romance that had great sexual tension and flirting. The lead up and tension to the pair finally having sex was excellent. They kept finding themselves out in public or in other places where it wasn’t really appropriate to get naked and I thought that was a funny, but good way to build up the anticipation of them finally getting together. I didn’t love that both Seth and Tara had the same emotional issues. I don’t know why I didn’t like that though. There was just something about it that had me rolling my eyes a little bit. I also didn’t love that they didn’t really talk about any of those things until after they finally mended things after the third act break up.
Overall, I had fun reading this book. Their dates were fun and sweet. It was a bit funny to see them try to keep things between them a secret. I liked the familiar setting of Wheldon. And I was happy to see them end up together at the end of the book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas 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: Jade War by Fonda Lee

Summary:
In Jade War, the sequel to the Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-nominated Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.
On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.
Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.
Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.
Jade War is the second book of the Green Bone Saga, an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.

Book Cover

Review:
Jade War is the second book in the Green Bone Saga. The story picks up a few months after the end of Jade City. So much happens that I don’t think I could do any sort of summary any justice. Basically, the goal for the characters is still a vague sort of “take down the Mountain clan.” Except there’s more to it than that since we’re following all the smaller things that are done to work toward that goal.
The world is expanding a bit because Anden is living in Espania going to school. I thought his part of the story was really interesting. He deals with finding his first love, but also with being separated from his family and feeling like he’s disappointed them. I really enjoyed the part of the story when he has visitors. I thought the conflict and goings-on in his small neighborhood were just as interesting as the much bigger conflicts going on in Kekon. We follow a lot of what Shae does as well in her position as the Weather Man. She’s trying to make No Peak more profitable but it’s coming at the expense of her personal life and her reputation. Hilo spends most of the book showing how he’s grown. He’s a family man now and he’s really settled into the position of the pillar. I liked his character growth the most. Especially getting to seeing him become a father. But I did enjoy that we still got to see the Hilo we first met come out now and then.
My biggest issue with this book was the pacing. This whole book spawned something like three years? I would start a new chapter and somehow it would be nine months after the previous chapter ended. Hilo’s wife birthed two children in this book and most of the second was skipped over. We’re told that Wen has the baby and then suddenly, a few pages later, said baby is six months old. It happened over and over for the whole book and I really didn’t care for that. I think it really threw off the pacing of the story. It could have been a shorter time period and it just would have felt like a fast paced and action-packed book. But instead, it felt like it was trying to be that, but it wasn’t because of all the random and out of nowhere jumps forward in time.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. I loved these characters and oh man did Lee really put them through the wringer in this book. I still don’t feel like I have a firm grasp on the plot, but I’m interested to see how things are tied together for the third and final book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

Summary:
The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.
The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.
When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

Book Cover

Review:
Wow, I am so glad I finally read this book. I don’t think I can actually tell you about what happened in this book, but to keep it short and sweet, I’ll try. This is a book about family and loyalty. It’s about politics and culture. It’s also a book about magic.
The world building was excellent. I felt like I knew what was going on and I understood it. It was a complex world, with lots of different pieces that make up the whole, but it was well explained and easy to understand without just dumping the information on the reader. The magic was also incredibly interesting. The magic in this story comes from Jade but only very few people, called Green Bones, can use it successfully. For most others, it will make them incredibly sick, and a rare few people that it doesn’t have any effect on at all. I thought the ways that this magic was used were fascinating. I loved seeing it incorporated into the fighting scenes and the training. I can’t wait to see more of it later in the series.
The characters were equally as interesting as the world and the magic. We mostly follow three siblings, Lan, Hilo, and Shae. Shae was my favorite. I was just waiting for her to come back into the family operation, but I definitely didn’t predict it happening the way it did. I loved that Hilo was all fire and Lan was mostly calm. The balance between the two brothers was a really great dynamic. I thought the familial aspects of the story were really interesting because we got to see all sides of it with how the story was told. I also really enjoyed most of the supporting character, except for Bero. Someone please just kill him already?
The politics of this world were the main focus of the story, I think. The biggest conflict in the story is that the two strongest clans are on the brink of war. But we learn a lot about how the clans interact and try to effect the local government. How they run their operations and how they plot against one another. It was this part of the story that made the book feel like it had a slow start. Mostly because compared to the end, where we get to see all the magical fighting, it was a slow start. But it was just a build-up, before things completely exploded and chaos took over.
Overall, I had a great time with this book. The world was intricate and still easy to understand. The characters were flawed but compelling. I definitely understand why so many people love this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.