Blogtober Book Review: Cazadora by Romina Garber

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

Summary:
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 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.

Book Cover

Review:
For the Wolf was chosen by my book club for September. I’m so glad that we ended up reading this book because it’s going to be one of my 2021 favorites. This story really pulled me in and spit me out in a way that a book hasn’t in a while. I alternated between the eBook and the audiobook because I just could not story reading this story. I needed to know how it ended. I stayed up until way later than I should have so that I could finish.
There are two daughters. The first, Neve, will become Queen, in time. And the second, Redarys, was to be given over to the Wilderwood, and the Wolf that lived there. There hasn’t been a second daughter in many years, so when it’s finally time for Red to be given to the Wolf, the people hope that the Wolf will finally return their kings to them. But there’s so much in the legends of the Wilderwood that just isn’t true. That’s what the heart of this story really is, learning the truths behind the tales and how to right the wrongs that have been done.
The world really fascinated me. There was just so much of it that it was hard to get a handle on at times. The kings from legend, the ones supposedly trapped by the Wolf, brought all of the kingdoms together under one ruler, the first daughter. So, there are quite a few different places mentioned and once I just sort of ignored everywhere other than the Wilderwood and Red’s home, it was less confusing. This world felt vast, so narrowing it down felt necessary for me to enjoy it rather than get lost in trying to remember all the names that didn’t really need remembering. So, the Wilderwood is incredibly mysterious, but also endlessly fascinating. I was filled with so many questions. I think Whitten did a good job creating suspense and mystery by not answering questions, but I think some of those questions could have been answered a bit sooner and still had the same or a similar effect on the story. But the setting of the Wilderwood was stunning. I could picture it and I’m not usually very good at picturing settings, especially in fantasy stories.
The characters were ones that were easy to love. Red is a fierce woman that willingly goes into the Wilderwood to meet the Wolf because she has magic that she’s kept hidden, a magic that she’s terrified will hurt her sister if she cannot control it. But when she learns the truth of the Wolf, she falls for him, slowly. He tries to protect her, Eammon. But his protection is in the form of keeping secrets (one of my least favorite tropes). I think their romance was a little bit insta-lovey which I don’t usually love. But I think the way that it was set up worked for this story. I still liked them both individually and grew to love them together. By the end, I was definitely invested in their romance. I think the lack of clarity with the way the Wilderwood’s magic worked honestly just added to the story. I usually like well explained magic, but it somehow worked for this story.
Overall, I loved this book even with the few things that I didn’t like. I also might have died a little reading the preview we got of book two. I am beyond excited to learn more about the kings and what will end up happening with Neve. Plus, man is that book cover to die for and the cover for book two is just as stunning. I cannot wait to read more from Whitten in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Summary:
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Book Cover

Review:
Cemetery Boys follows Yadriel, a brujo that just wants to prove to his family that he’s a real brujo. He’s transgender and his very traditional family hasn’t really done their best to accept that. His family members are brujos and brujas, the men summoning and banishing ghosts and the women doing healing magic. But Yadriel is determined to prove that he’s a real brujo, so he performs the correct ceremony with his cousin (who is truly my favorite character in the book) and is granted his brujo powers from Lady Death. But then he accidentally summons Julian Diaz while he’s attempting to find out what happened to another cousin that was murdered. But this is a YA book, so obviously things don’t go as planned.
I really liked Yadriel and Julian. I also liked Yadriel’s cousin. I thought that Yadriel’s goal was one I could easily get behind, but it felt like it took forever to do what he needed to. I didn’t really understand why he kept going to school when there were such serious and time sensitive things going on around him. I understand having strict parents. I was raised by a single dad that was incredibly strict. There was a sense of urgency that was talked about, but it wasn’t shown with the character’s behaviors.
I loved the magic. I really liked how the Latinx culture was included and how it was turned magical. I’ve heard of things like the day of the dead, but I really liked the magical elements that were added.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I can absolutely see why so many people have raved about this book. I did the audiobook and the physical copy. So, I liked the narrator, but around halfway found myself losing focus (I think this was me and not the narrator though). Once I picked up the physical copy, I flew through the rest of the story. I’m not sure if I had read the whole thing physically that I still would have felt that sense of urgency from the characters lacking. But overall, I had a great time with the magic and these characters.

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.

Blogtober Book Review: The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

Summary:
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.
Practical Magic meets Twister in this debut contemporary fantasy standalone about heartbreaking power, the terror of our collapsing atmosphere, and the ways we unknowingly change our fate.

Book Cover

Review:
The Nature of Witches is, for sure, going to make my list of 2021 favorite books. I have to admit that I bought this book because it has a stunning cover and it has a beautiful design under the dust jacket. I was also influenced by a friend of mine really loving it. I’m so glad that I gave in to my desires to buy this one because I really loved it.
The story follows Clara, and Everwitch (which means that she has the magic of all four seasons). The way the magic works in this world was one of my favorite kinds of magic systems I’ve ever read about. Witches have seasonal magic. So, they have magic all year round, but it’s significantly diminished outside of their season. I really liked this sense of balance that was a part of this world because there’s no one season of witches that’s most powerful, they all excel at different things, and they each get their turn to be ‘the most powerful.’ But Clara as an Everwitch, her magic changes as the seasons change. But being an Everwitch, there’s more responsibility on her, but also, there hasn’t been an Everwitch in so long that there is little to nothing really known about how they’re really supposed to help others. One of the downsides of the magic of an Everwitch is that their magic attacks those that they love. So, Clara killed her parents and her best friend. This was obviously traumatic, but it’s caused Clara to plan to obliterate her magic with the upcoming solar eclipse. Her plans are in place, so obviously something has to come in and shake things up and that’s when the story gets even better.
I really liked Clara. It could have been easy for her to be a ‘woe is me’ character that just pities herself, complains, and does nothing about it. But she wants things to change and has a plan to make that happen. I really enjoyed following her growth and development. I loved learning her backstory and what’s made her so fearful and cautious. I especially loved seeing Clara test the limits of her powers. I thought the concept of her personality changing with her magic (as the seasons change) was really interesting.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved the setting of a school for witches. I loved that the witches are what keeps natural disasters in check. I even loved the conversations about how humans are killing the Earth. I thought the romance (both past and present) was one I could easily care about. I will absolutely be recommending this book and I cannot wait to read more from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Summary:
Six months after Paola Santiago confronted the legendary La Llorona, life is nothing like she’d expected it to be. She is barely speaking to her best friends, Dante and Emma, and what’s worse, her mom has a totally annoying boyfriend. Even with her chupacabra puppy, Bruto, around, Pao can’t escape the feeling that she’s all alone in the world.
Pao has no one to tell that she’s having nightmares again, this time set in a terrifying forest. Even more troubling? At their center is her estranged father, an enigma of a man she barely remembers. And when Dante’s abuela falls mysteriously ill, it seems that the dad Pao never knew just might be the key to healing the eccentric old woman.
Pao’s search for her father will send her far from home, where she will encounter new monsters and ghosts, a devastating betrayal, and finally, the forest of her nightmares. Will the truths her father has been hiding save the people Pao loves, or destroy them?
Once again Tehlor Kay Mejia draws on her Mexican heritage to tell a wild and wondrous story that combines creatures from folklore with modern-day challenges.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an early copy to read and review. I read this what feels like 100 years ago and forgot to write my review. So, this is going to be short and to the point. I really enjoyed this book. There’s really no surprise there. I loved all of Mejia’s other books and I’ve really enjoyed all of the Rick Riordan Presents books.
Paola is really struggling in this second book, so when she thinks that she needs to find her father, she gets the gang back together again.
I think the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that there was so much conflict between the three friends. Dante was just plain mean to Paola at times for reasons that we never got to see. All of the conflict happened off the page after the end of the first book and before this book started. I would have liked to have gotten to see that conflict rather than been told about it because it takes such a large amount of this book for Paola to work through these issues with her friends. So, this book was really missing the wonderful friendship aspect that we got from the first book.
Aside from that, I really liked this. Paola must stand up and face danger and adventure on her own this time. We get to see some familiar faces from the first book, which is always fun. I love the mythology and the world building that we get to see. I don’t know much about Mexican folklore, so all of the monsters and creatures were unique to me and so interesting to read about. I will absolutely be continuing this series and recommending it to others.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?
Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.
But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.
Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.
Bright We Burn (The Conqueror's Saga, #3)Review:
Wow, this finale was a wild ride. Like the second book, Lada somehow managed to be even more savage. If you read this, the scene where she’s meeting with all the boyars and that’s all I have to say about it. I still loved her. She was fierce and absolutely apologetic about it. Though, I was very sad about all of her friends. I mentioned in my review for book two that her friends and fellow soldiers were some of the best parts of her chapters and that was slowly lost in this book. Knowing Lada as well as we do in this book, I wasn’t surprised by her choices but they definitely made me sad for her.
Radu is the best soft boy there ever was. He really struggles with the choices he’s made in the past, but he’s working toward being better and making more choices for himself rather than for others. I really loved the way that Radu’s story ended. He did the best he could with what he had and he managed to make a beautiful family from it. I’m not sure that I mentioned it in my previous reviews, but Radu is gay. This is something he struggles with within the first two books. But he manages to find another love, after finally making the choice to move on from his feelings for Mehmed. He married a woman who was a lesbian and the three of them lived together, but when Radu’s love finally came to him I was so happy. Radu deserves all the happiness in the world.
Overall, I loved this book and I loved this series. I thought this was a mostly satisfying conclusion to such an incredible series. I’m left with questions that are mostly to do with how Lada’s story played out and the in-between bits we didn’t get to see before jumping to the epilogue, but as a whole, this was an incredible conclusion. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Quotes:

“That is the thing with giving your heart. You never wait for someone to ask. You hold it out and hope they want it.”

“Lada had always known exactly what shape she would take. She had never let it be determined by the people around her. But Radu could not escape the need for love, the need for people in his life to help him see what he should—and could—be. Lada shaped herself in spite of her environment. Radu shaped himself because of it.”

“She drummed her fingers on the arms of the throne, looking out at the empty room. She was not stupid enough to think men would stop trying to take it from her. They would always be there, waiting for weakness, waiting for her to fall. They wanted what she had because she had it. And one day, eventually, someone would defeat her. But until that day she would fight with tooth and nail, with all the fire and blood that had formed her into who she was. She was a dragon. She was a prince. She was a woman. It was the last that scared them most of all.”

“There was something to be said for having his heart broken so many times. Broken things healed thicker and stronger than they were before. Assuming one survived long enough to heal.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.
Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Saga, #2)Review:
Where to start? If I thought Lada was savage and fierce in the first book, she is ten times that in this second book. She basically kills her way to the throne and I loved every single page of it. I love her friends and fellow soldiers that she takes with her on her path back to the Wallachian throne. I love that, while she is their leader, she listens to them and considers them friends. She takes their advice into consideration. She really cares about them and them about her. They make her more likable because it’s clear that she loves them all.
Radu is off in a completely different part of the world than his sister and with his own mission. Radu’s part of the story honestly just made me sad. Both siblings struggle with their feelings for their childhood friend, Mehmed. But with Radu, it’s worse because he’s doing things he never would have if not for Mehmed, while Lada has proven, again and again, she’ll do anything to get her throne. Radu does things he is very ashamed of but continues doing them all because of his love for Mehmed. It made me sad because of the life that he could have had. But he made his choices. It’s made very clear that everything he does is a choice that he’s thought about.
I thought it was very interesting to see how the siblings both handled the struggle that was their love for Mehmed. Honestly, I was hoping Mehmed would die most of the book so they could both be free. I also liked that we got both Radu’s and Lada’s stories even though they were both in different countries. Though it did make me sad they weren’t together. I’m hoping they get to reunite in the final book.
Overall, just like book one, I was blown away by Kiersten White’s writing. The history was fascinating, but the way that White brought these characters to life, made me care about them even though they’re both pretty terrible was amazing. I’m typing this on my phone so that I can continue on to the final book right now and not worry about mixing details up for whichever book. Please go read this series if you like historical fiction, savage female leads, and soft boys doing terrible things for love.

Quotes:

“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge. Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”

“I cannot imagine a god who hates anything that is love, any way we find to take tender care of each other. I want you to find that same love, and I never want you to hate yourself for any love that is in you.”

“I think if you had been born a boy, perhaps you would have been satisfied with what the world offered you. That is how we are alike. We saw everything that was not ours, and we hungered. Do not lose that hunger. You will always have to fight for everything. Even when you already have it, you will have to keep fighting to maintain it. You will have to be more ruthless, more brutal, more everything. Any weakness will undo everything you have accomplished. They will see any crack as evidence that they were right that a woman cannot do what you do.”

“He was no longer a lost little boy in a strange new city. Now he was a lost man in a broken old city, and no amount of prayers and kindness could undo what had been done.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

GoodReads Summary:
Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
The Woman in Cabin 10Review:
Ware’s books have been pretty hit or miss for me, but I enjoyed this one. It was interestingly formatted. The story starts with our main character, Lo, experiencing a break-in and assault (she’s hit by the intruder with her bedroom door) in her own apartment. This leaves her really unsettled. Her significant other is out of town and she doesn’t really have any other sort of support system. So, she’s obviously struggling after this event, but just days later she sets off for a week on a luxury cruise for her job. She’s not as excited about this cruise as she should be. Especially when she hasn’t slept more than a few hours at a time since the break-in.
The first night she spends aboard this luxury (but small!) cruise ship, she thinks she hears the guest in the next room (that she met before dinner) thrown overboard sometime during the night. She calls the head of security and they work together to try and figure out who went overboard. But when all the staff and guests are accounted for, the mystery remains. Instead of doing the job Lo was sent on this cruise to do, she becomes a little obsessed with solving the mystery of what she heard and saw.
While this story progresses following Lo, we also get a bit of outside information in the form of emails sent to Lo that she never received. We also, once the story gets going, start getting news articles that up the suspense of the story and bits and pieces of social media from Lo’s loved ones. I really liked this method of storytelling. We’re getting the beginning of the story and what we think is the end of Lo’s story, but the middle is a mystery. I think telling the story this way was a really effective way of keeping the reader in suspense and really wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was mysterious and suspenseful. The main character was one that I had a lot of empathy for. I really enjoyed the creativity of the story too.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)Review:
This is an alternate historical fiction retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler. In Kiersten White’s story, Vlad is a girl named Lada. And damn is she fierce. She is vicious and unforgiving. She cares for no one and nothing except for her home country Wallachia (and sometimes her younger brother, Radu). But being a girl in the 1400s her father doesn’t care much about her at all. She lives to prove her worth and to get his attention. Her life changes forever when her father leaves Lada and Radu with the Ottoman Empire as a sort of collateral to ensure that he sticks to their treaty.
This story was tough because it follows Lada from her birth to her later teenage years. So, there are slower parts of the story and more fast-paced parts. But throughout, you can’t help but like Lada because she doesn’t want to be just another girl to be used to secure a politically advantageous marriage. She wants to be a ruler. She will be in charge of her life. I liked that she was supposed to be unlikable and ugly. I’m definitely excited to see where the next book in the series will go for her.
Now, sweet Radu. I loved and pitied him. It wasn’t hard to feel sorry for him for the first 100 pages or so. He was horribly bullied for being small and sensitive. Lada and her childhood friend were pretty horrible to him, but Lada occasionally stuck up for him against others. It was a confusing relationship. I liked the sibling aspect of the story even though it was certainly not a traditional sibling dynamic. I really enjoyed Radu’s story once he learned more about Islam. I thought that was a great addition to the story as we got to learn a bit about it alongside him. And it’s obvious how he changes after finding faith.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were diverse characters, Radu is in love with his and Lada’s closest friend in the Ottoman Empire (but Lada loves him too which makes it a little weird) and there is another character that’s friends with Radu that mentions being with both genders. There is also a lesbian couple (in hiding because it’s the 1400s, but it’s there). I liked that even though it’s not a time period that these things were generally accepted, White still included them. These relationships would have existed whether out in the open or not. The story was well written and interesting. The characters were both likable and unlikable at the same time (which was weird for me to flip back and forth so many times). I cannot wait to continue onto the next book in the series.

Quotes:

“The last time she was up here, she had been… staring up at the sky and dreaming of stars. Now, she looked down and plotted flames.”

“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

“And that is why you become a dealer of death. You feed death as many people as you can to keep it full and content so its eye stays off you.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

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GoodReads Summary:
A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
Girl, Serpent, ThornReview:
I have to shout a huge thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an advanced audio copy of Girl, Serpent, Thorn. It was my first advanced audiobook and I really enjoyed being able to listen to it via the new NetGalley app.
This story, I really don’t even know how to put my thoughts into words. I was a bit disappointed by the last book I read by this author, but this synopsis sounded too good to pass up. So, I didn’t have super high hopes about loving this one. I definitely thought I would enjoy it, but I liked it way more than that.
The story follows Soraya as she’s trying to figure out a way to rid herself of the curse she’s had since she was a baby. She is poisonous. Her skin has the power to kill. Her family hides her away. Her only happiness is when her mother visits and her gardens. But this year, when her family arrives, they bring a demon with them and keep her in the dungeons. This is when Soraya’s life starts to change. She meets a soldier that comes into town with her brother and they become friends. She opens up to him in a way she’s never been able to before. He helps her go to visit the demon, then to figure out how to get rid of her curse.
There’s so much I can’t talk about because I don’t want to give anything away. So, I’ll say that I really loved this soldier. He’s a very complex character and I thought he was a great addition to the story. But even more, I loved how dark the story was. A poisonous girl? Hell yes. A poisonous girl falling in love with a demon? Even more hell yes. I loved the mythology and the Persian folklore. The author talks a bit about the stories she drew inspiration from and the things that she changed in an author’s note after the story ends and I really enjoyed getting to know more about the inspiration.
Overall, I loved this book. The narrator was incredible. She really inserted emotion into the characters and told the story beautifully. This story was dark and twisted and complex. There were characters that had so much love for others, but were also extremely selfish which I thought was just fascinating. I’m sorry that this review is sort of nonsense, but as I said at the beginning, I really don’t know how to put my thoughts for this story into words other than saying that I loved it.

Quotes:

“Stories always begin the same way: There was and there was not. There is possibility in those words, the chance for hope or despair.”

“I was always afraid the poison would make me a monster, but what if trying to get rid of it makes me more of a monster than I was before?”

“She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.”

“Beautiful yet deadly, he had called her. Somehow, he made one sound as sweet as the other.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

GoodReads Summary:
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.
Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?
I Killed Zoe SpanosReview:
If you need a mystery/thriller for spooky season, this is the one you need to pick up. This book is almost 400 pages but I had to keep reading until it was finished. I needed to know what really happened and how the story ended. I didn’t love how it concluded, but I loved everything else.
I Killed Zoe Spanos follows a few different perspectives. We get to see ‘now’ and ‘then’ chapters. The story starts with our main character Anna in a juvenile detention center. But then we go back and see her spending her summer in Herron Mills working as a nanny. I think this was of storytelling was so effective. We get to know a bit of the present and a bit of the past and are left wondering the details of what happened in the middle. Frick did an amazing job of giving little bits of the relevant details here and there, just enough to leave the reader wanting more. I don’t usually come up with theories or predictions, but with this book, I had so many that were constantly changing. My first theory that I was so sure was right was completely wrong, but I did have a second one that turned out to be true.
I really liked Anna. She’s a girl that’s let her life get a little out of control. She parties too much and has more nights that she can’t remember than she would like to admit. This is something I can relate to because parts of high school were like this for me as well. So, she moves to Herron Mills for the summer to try to get away from it all. She needs a break and this is her chance. But while she’s there she gets a weird sense of déjà vu, like she’s remembering things that she shouldn’t know. I thought she was an interesting character. She wanted to do the right thing, which led her to get arrested for Zoe’s murder.
We also sort of follow Martina who is best friends with Zoe’s younger sister, Aster. Martina has a podcast all about what happened to Zoe. We get some chapters that are transcripts of the podcast, which I really enjoyed. Martina interviewed people and gave a new perspective to the mystery of what really happened to Zoe. I liked Martina too. She’s Aster’s best friend, but they have issues about the podcast, especially in the later episodes. We also get to see Martina and Aster in the past when they meet Anna for the first time and hang out with her at other points.
Overall, I liked this book so much. It was so good. The different aspects of the story kept me sucked in. I also thought it was interesting that the story for Anna’s ‘then’ chapters were in the first person, but all of the chapters for ‘now’ were in the third person (until the past catches up with the present of course. I am just so impressed by this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

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GoodReads Summary:
Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.
In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.
Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurdling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.
When the Sky Fell on SplendorReview:
I am officially a huge fan of Emily Henry’s books. I’ve read three of her books now, and one that she co-wrote with Brittany Cavallaro. When the Sky Fell on Splendor is a story that may or may not be about aliens, but it also might be about ghosts and I still really don’t even know. So, if you’ve read this, please let me know. We follow The Ordinary while they investigate small town things like ghost stories and legends. I loved this premise. The Ordinary’s are a weird found family. They’re 100% dysfunctional and not always in a good way. I think that’s what I liked most about them though. Franny and her brother have a complicated relationship. Their older brother is in a coma and their mother walked out on them. Their dad isn’t really a dad, just an adult that lives with them. So, they’ve been through some hard things. But the love they have for one another is so obvious. The rest of the gang has also each been through their own hardships. I’m not going to get into the details of each of them, but this is a found family for a reason. They’ve all had their share of grief, and that’s what keeps them together but not in a way where they talk about their past. They are a family that avoids, which was so relatable.
What I loved about this story was that I really had no idea what was going on most of the time. Something crashes nearby while The Ordinary’s are working on their next ghost story documentary for their YouTube channel. Obviously, they go to investigate. They encounter something weird and electrical and wake up with several missing hours. Things sort of just get weirder from here. There are some ghost story mysteries, but also maybe some alien intervention. There’s also a murderous neighbor that gave the story a thriller vibe. It really just kept me guessing and once I got to end and everything was revealed it was sad and wonderful.
Overall, I’m very excited to read the one last book by Emily Henry that I haven’t gotten to. I loved the characters. I loved how bizarre this story was. I loved the dysfunctional and hurting found family. There was such a heartwarming talk about grief and what it means to lose people, whether they die or just leave. I loved this book.

Quotes:

“How many billions of things had to happen just right to give me this ordinary life.”

“There were still pieces of us we so badly wished each other could see and yet couldn’t make ourselves ask for, and there was anger and resentment and it still all hurt, but right now, we were here, and if we stayed long enough, things might start to heal, even a little bit.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

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GoodReads Summary:
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
Burn Our Bodies DownReview:
First, I want to say a huge thank you to my wonderful friend over at Books in the Skye for gifting me the audiobook for Burn Our Bodies Down for my birthday. I found a new narrator that I really enjoy and this story was wonderfully weird. The story follows Margot as she’s searching for answers. She lives with her mother and has never known any other family. She wants to know who her family is and what her mother is hiding. She absolutely gets more than she bargained for.
Margot was a really interesting character. Her drive was just to find her family, to find someone that would show that they loved her. She just wanted her mother to choose her. I don’t think I really understood her though. When she finds and goes to her grandmother, she gets almost the same treatment as she did when she was with her mother. Her mother and grandmother both lied and hid things from her. I understood her desire to ferret out the secrets that she knew were hiding in her grandmother’s home, but I personally would have gotten the hell out of there and written off the whole family.
Overall, this book was spectacularly creepy. I didn’t see the end coming and it was absolutely disturbing. The mystery and suspense kept me going. I loved that Margot was a lesbian, but there wasn’t really any romance in the story. She made a friend, but there wasn’t a romance plotline and I appreciated that. I definitely cannot wait to see what Rory Power comes out with next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

GoodReads Summary:
In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.
When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?
Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?
The Night Olivia FellReview:
I’m having a hard time while thinking about this book. I don’t think I would say that I enjoyed it, but I really needed to know what happened. I think the author did a good job writing this story. The twists and turns were not ones I predicted. I think I would have liked this book if Olivia had just died. But her being in the hospital with no brain activity, but being kept alive because she was pregnant made me uncomfortable. I think that’s because I have a daughter and since having her, I have a tough time with bad things happening to kids.
I liked that the story went back and forth between Olivia’s perspective in the past and Abi’s perspective in the present. I thought this was a good way to create more suspense. We follow Abi as she tries to figure out what happened to Olivia, but we also get to see the events from Olivia’s point of view leading up to that night.
Overall, this was a well written and interesting story. Certain parts didn’t sit well with me, but that’s a personal thing for me. The book was suspenseful and I couldn’t put it down until I knew exactly what had happened. I was also really happy with the ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.