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.

The Twin Paradox by Charles Wachter

Summary:
With ten years passing for every three minutes on a remote stretch of Texas coast, planes fall out of the sky, evolved species are on the hunt, and people die inside one of the most vicious ecosystems ever grown—all a result of the government’s efforts to slow down time.
A lot can happen in ten years. That’s the point. Governments are always racing for supremacy, for scientific breakthroughs, for technological advantages—and these things take time.
Until something goes wrong.
With the grounded yet massive world building of READY PLAYER ONE, thrilling scientific questions of JURASSIC PARK, and the time-bending teen drama of BEFORE I FALL, Wachter’s THE TWIN PARADOX is a brilliantly plotted tale that is both intimate and massive, relentless yet deliberate, and explores the themes of self-acceptance, self- confidence, and natural selection in a richly hued and unforgettable world. Ultimately the eternal question of Nature versus Nurture is boiled down into this fast-paced thriller told over the course of five days and culminates in one single question:
Do we get to choose who we are?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I wasn’t sure what to expect when going into this story, but I finished this book with the only thought in my head being, ‘what the fuck did I just read?”
The Twin Paradox follows a group of teenagers that are graduated from their honors program in high school early. The day of their graduation, they find out that they are clones of famous intellectuals like Albert Einstein, Catherine the Great, Martin Luther King Jr., and Leonardo Da Vinci to name a few. They’re invited to do an internship with Gene-E Corp (the company that created them). But this internship comes with few details. When they arrive and start to tour the facility, the teens realize that there’s more too Gene-E Corp than they could have imagined.
This brings me to my biggest issue with this book: the science. There is so much science, math, and physics in this story and most, if not all, of it went right over my head. I had to just skim read and pretend like I knew what any of it meant. I think the science could have been simplified even just a little bit and that would have made my reading experience a little better.
Other than that, I actually liked this book. It surprised me. There was darkness to the story that I wasn’t expecting from the synopsis. But there was also some excellent suspense and mystery that kept the pace of the story moving forward. I also liked all of the characters. And the ones I didn’t like, seemed to be intentionally unlikable. I think the teens were really interesting to follow and acted like teenagers despite being clones of some of the greatest minds in history.
Overall, I liked this book…I think? It really surprised me in a lot of ways. I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out next year.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Summary:
Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.
Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.
Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.
It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.
And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

Book Cover

Review:
A Lesson in Vengeance follows Felicity Morrow as she’s returns to the Dalloway School for her senior year. She’s been gone for a year after the death of her girlfriend, Alex. She’s been to the appropriate mental health professionals and is on a new medication to help her. When she starts back at Dalloway, she’s in the same dorm house as she was before, but everything is different. Most notably is her new roommate, Ellis. Ellis is an author and befriends Felicity because of Felicity’s knowledge of the Dalloway Five.
The Dalloway School has a supernatural history. There are rumors that five previous Dalloway girls haunt the Godwin House (where Felicity and Ellis dorm). Witchcraft and the supernatural are a part of the school’s history, but it’s not one the school really liked to acknowledge despite their large collection of books and documentation they keep in their library. I liked the setting of the school. I think a fancy boarding school in the middle of the woods is one of my favorite settings. I didn’t really love how pretentious all the girls were. There were two that weren’t horrible, and it’s because while they were rich, they were also the only two characters of color.
Felicity, while I felt bad for the things she’s been through, purposefully flushed her medication down the toilet and acted proud of it. She also suggested that another one of her dormmates do the same with her medication. None of that sat right with me. Then there’s Ellis, who was basically just nuts. She really could have benefited from some therapy.
Overall, I really wanted to like this book. But I spent most of it confused, and then when the confusion cleared, I was mad. I didn’t like the big twist or how the ending was. I had high hopes for this book, but I didn’t like it. It had so many things that usually work for me, but they didn’t work together in this particular story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

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

Book Cover

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

What I Liked:

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

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

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

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

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

That Weekend by Kara Thomas

Summary:
Three best friends, a lake house, a secret trip – what could go wrong?
It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours.
Three went up the mountain, but only one came back.
Now everyone wants answers – most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that… nothing. And now Kat and Jesse – her best friends – are missing.
That weekend changes everything.
What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory, but as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.

Book Cover

Review:
I honestly remember little to nothing about this book. So, after refreshing my memory a bit by reading some reviews, I’m going to share what I liked and what I didn’t.

What I Liked:

I liked the pacing. I read this book in an afternoon while I was on vacation and it was wonderful. I wasn’t bored or easily distracted. I was interested in the story and it kept my attention.

I enjoyed the suspense. Claire doesn’t have any memory of what happened ‘that weekend’ and the suspense of not knowing, getting small details slowly revealed, was really well done in my opinion.

I actually liked Claire. Her friends were pretty awful. But I liked Claire.

That Weekend covered some heavy topics (such as domestic violence, death, and abuse.) I think these topics were all covered thoughtfully and with care, all except for that horrible twist at the end.  

What I Didn’t Like:

This book was incredibly forgettable. I’m writing this review about two weeks after having read the book and I had to go and read other reviews to remember anything about this book (aside from the fact that I really didn’t like the twist, but I still don’t remember what that twist was?)

Okay, I just read reviews until I found a really detailed one that jogged my memory about the twists. I liked most of them. But right at the end, there’s a horrible incest twist that is completely unnecessary and just awful. I would have liked this book so much more had that bit just not been included.

Claire’s “friends” Kat and Jesse were awful. The two are dating, but Claire’s been in love with Jesse for years. Kat is a horrible best friend and I just didn’t really like either of them.

Overall, I wanted to like this book more than I did. There were some twists that felt like they were purely for shock value and others that I thought were pretty good. I would say that I have mixed feeling about this book, but I don’t really remember it enough to actually care.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

Summary:
With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad took up the pen to write a novel the Bromance Book Club would swoon over.
Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared after speaking out against government corruption, she escaped danger the only way she knew how. She agreed to marry her childhood friend, Vladimir, and move to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.
Vlad, aka The Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But after four years, it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance–both on and off the page.
The Bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love–and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s senior citizen neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves The Loners. Just when things finally look promising, the danger from Elena’s past life intrudes, and the book club will face their first-ever life-or-death grand gesture as they race to a happy ever after.

Book Cover

Review:
I’m going to do this review in the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format because I think that’s going to be the best way to get my thoughts across.

What I Liked:

I genuinely liked Vlad. He’s very obviously a good dude. He’s a good friend to his fellow book club members. He’s kind and thoughtful. He’s sweet and romantic. He’s a little dense when it comes to Elena, but I liked him anyway.

I liked that he wanted to write a book. I thought it was a bit on the nose that he realized what he needed to do in order to be with Elena from writing his own book.

The book club guys will always be the highlight of these books. The way they come in and pick their friends up, brush them off, and tell them to pull their heads out of their asses every book really is wonderful.

I liked the childhood friends to lovers peak that we got with Elena and Vlad. We see glimpses of it, but I liked it.

What I Didn’t Like:

The whole reason that Elena and Vlad were in a marriage of convenience was not enough for me. I couldn’t get behind it. I didn’t think that after four years, neither one of them would have had any sort of conversation about their relationship. If they were childhood friends, they should have been able to talk to one another. I married my childhood best friend and we certainly went through times where we didn’t talk because of dumb stuff, but we always eventually talked about it or moved past it.

I didn’t like that there wasn’t really any book club content. They sort of used Vlad’s book for the book club, but I didn’t love that like I loved the guys learning from their book club books in the other books in this series.

I didn’t love Vlad’s writing being included. We only got a small bit of it and it felt a bit convenient to the story instead of natural like it felt with the book club books in the earlier books.

Overall, I liked this book, but it wasn’t my favorite. I was disappointed I think because I was super excited to read ‘The Russian’s’ story and it wasn’t what I wanted. I will probably continue the series if there’s going to be more books, but I think I’ll lower my expectations for future books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary:
Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.
Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.
Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.
And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.
By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.
Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

Book Cover

Review:
Malibu Rising is Reid’s latest novel. The story follows the four Riva siblings, Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. It’s the night before the annual Riva party, a night that generally gets out of control. Except this year, all the siblings have a plan for the party this year. Nina doesn’t even want to be in attendance. Jay is planning on meeting a girl there. Hud must tell Jay the truth about a secret he’s been keeping. And Kit is determined to stop being seen as a little kid.
I liked the Riva siblings in this book. They were all interesting, with their own problems. They were a bit shallowly developed, but I liked them nonetheless. I love stories that focus on siblings and this was exactly that. They’re not perfect siblings, but the love one another and they have stuck together. I really liked learning about the history of their parents, even though it was sad.
I think the best part of this book was the secrets that each of the characters were keeping. I liked the internal struggle that each Riva faced in the hours leading up to the party.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a pretty fast paced story despite there being a minimal plot aside from the personal goings on of the Riva siblings. It didn’t feel like there was a ton happening, but the story still went by quickly. I enjoyed it, but I think I prefer Reid’s previous two novels.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Why Everyone Should Read Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

Hey, lovelies! I’ve had this post idea on my list of ideas for what feels like forever. I’m here today to finally attempt it. I’m not sure how this post will do, but I’m excited to share some of the reasons that I adore the Dark Shores series. Just as a disclaimer, I will not be sharing anything that is a spoiler. I will be talking about all three published books in the series, but nothing with spoilers.

First off, a bit about this book and series. There are currently three published books in this series. Dark Shores, Dark Skies, and Gilded Serpent. I’ve read the first two books more than once. I also was lucky enough to read all three books when they were advanced copies. These books easily became favorites by the time I finished them. I gave all three books 5 stars and I don’t foresee that changing with the fourth and final book, Scorched Earth, which is coming December 2022.

Book Cover

“In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON. Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET. Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST. When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

A fun fact about this series: the first two books in this series can be read in two ways. The first book follows Teriana and Marcus. The second book follows Lydia and Killian. But both of these books are happening at the same time. So, you could start reading this series with either Dark Shores or Dark Skies before moving onto whichever you didn’t start with. I’ve never seen this done with any other books, so, I think that’s such an interesting thing about the series.

Book Cover

“A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST. Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.
A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE. Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.
A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE. With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.”

I think you should read this series because if you don’t love Teriana and Marcus (which you absolutely will), then you will definitely love Lydia and Killian. Or the other way around. I think Teriana is my favorite character in the series with Killian as a close second. Teriana is essentially a princess. She’s the Maarin heir. I very easily fell in love with the Maarin culture and people. These people are the only ones that know about both the Celendor Empire and Mudamora. Seeing her internal battle of keeping the secrets of her people and saving the lives of her crew and mother was such an emotional journey.

Book Cover

“THEIR BATTLES ENDED IN VICTORY. Lydia returns to Mudaire to enter training at the healing temple. But instead of fighting to save lives, she’s convinced she is doing more harm than good. She delves into the history of the gods only to discover a truth that will change her life forever. His birthright as commander of the Royal Army is finally in his grasp, but Killian feels anything but victorious. Burdened by his past, he embraces the darker side of his mark—and in doing so, risks starting a war.
BUT THE WAR HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN. Having defeated the tyrant Urcon, Marcus struggles to form a lasting alliance with the Arinoquians. But he is plagued by the knowledge that there is a traitor among his friends, and it could cost him everything that he’s fought for. Torn between her growing allegiance to the Thirty-Seventh legion and her need to liberate her people, Teriana finds herself mired in a web of secrets. She embarks upon a path that will either save everyone she loves—or put them all in their graves.”

Killian is from Mudamora, so we learn most of what we know about their culture and people from him. We learn about the mythology of their gods (which is another one of my favorite things about this series.) Killian is Marked by the God of War. But things aren’t going so well for him. He’s disappointing his family. He’s letting the Corrupter win, or that’s what it feels like to him anyway. Killian is a character that feels as if every responsibility is on his shoulders. Everything is his burden to bare and no one else’s. I really liked that even though Killian was Marked by the God of War, he showed us that he was more than that. After losing an important battle, he’s assigned to guard the princess and it’s there that he shows his cleverness for politics. But once he’s living in the city, we also see how incredibly kind he is.

Book Cover

The covers for this series are absolutely incredible. I remember seeing Dark Shores and thinking ‘wow, what a beautiful cover’ and now we have one for book four (pictured to the right) which I didn’t know had been revealed. It literally took my breath away for a second when I first saw it. All four covers for this series are stunning. They just keep getting better and better. My library has the whole series, but I love the books and the covers so much that I had to buy physical copies for my bookshelves so that I could display them. I know I should talk more about the content of the series, but I just really had to mention my infatuation with these covers. Let me know what you think of them!

This is a fantasy series, but there is some excellent romance included. It’s a little obvious that the romantic interests are Teriana with Marcus and Lydia with Killian (though there are plot twists with Lydia and Killian that make it even better.) It took a bit longer for me to get invested in the romance between Teriana and Marcus because Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh legion. So, this was sort of a romance between a soldier and a prisoner of his government, which I didn’t always love. But once the 37th legion is out of the Celendor Empire, we really get to know them as people. They are more than unwilling soldiers trying to do their job. It was definitely easier to like Lydia and Killian together (I think they are my favorite couple from the series), but I did really love Teriana and Marcus by the end of the first book and again when we see them in book three.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for sticking with me and my love for these books. I want to mention that there isn’t yet a synopsis for the fourth book. But that cover, oh boy. I also want to mention the prequel book, Tarnished Empire. This is a full length novel that’s marked as Dark Shores 0.5, but on Jensen’s website, she’s said to read it before Gilded Serpent, but if you’re new to this series, you could start with this book as it’s set a few years before Dark Shores and follows Marcus. But you should read it before Gilded Serpent because it follows a character we meet in the third book.

Book Cover

“A siege is laid against the last resistance to the Senate’s rule. As the battle rages, a commander, a soldier, and a rebel will decide how far they are willing to go for victory.
THE COMMANDER. Marcus is forced to choose between destroying the rebel forces and liberating his legion. He must face the true cost of being a leader. And an oppressor.
THE SOLDIER. Agrippa sets his sights on glory to fill the deepening void within him. He discovers that the price of fame might not just be paid in blood, it might be paid by his heart.
THE REBEL. Silvara joins the rebel forces to fight against the legions who would see her family dead. While she dreams of being a warrior, she finds her sharpest weapon is seduction. But to defeat the Empire, she’ll have to betray the young man who now has her heart.
DEFIANCE IS TREASON. TREASON IS DEATH. Inspired by the harsh world of ancient Rome, readers are obsessed with this martial tale of fiery romance, friendship, and enmity. Told from three points of view, Tarnished Empire is filled with twists you’ll never see coming but will keep you turning the pages all night.
Tarnished Empire is set in the world of Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores. But readers new to the world can begin here.”

I actually haven’t read Tarnished Empire yet because I found it after I’d already reread the first two books and read Gilded Serpent. I was in a bit of a reading slump at the time, so I saved it. I’m glad I did because now I can read it this fall. It says in the synopsis that it has three points of view, which is one of the other things I loved and wanted to talk about with the other books. Dark Shores and Dark Skies both follow two points of view. Teriana and Marcus for the first book. Lydia and Killian for the second book. But when we get to Gilded Serpent, we are following all four perspectives. I was excited about this but mildly worried that it would be too many. I’m happy to report that it absolutely wasn’t. The four perspectives worked really well for the third book, especially since the four characters hadn’t all come together yet. So, we get to see all the things that have to happen for them to finally come together toward the end of Gilded Serpent. I think there was enough build up and anticipation to keep me from getting bored with any one point of view. I’m very excited to read the final book with the four points of view, as well as, Tarnished Empire, which has three points of view.

Alright, that’s what I have for you all. Some of the reasons that I love this series. The world is fascinating. The romance is to die for. The characters are well developed and (mostly) easy to love. And I still can’t get over those covers. Please let me know your thoughts on this post. I’ve never done a ‘review’ like this before, so I’m interested to see what you all think of it! Have you read this series or any books by this author?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

Summary:
The Truly Devious series continues as Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery.
Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.
But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.
Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.
But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

Book Cover

Review:
The Box in the Woods is a standalone Truly Devious mystery. I really loved the Truly Devious trilogy, so I was beyond excited to read this one. I chose to listen to the audiobook. I was going to save it for an 8-hour drive that I had coming up, but I started listening to it the day before my drive while I was packing. I ended up listening to more than 50% of the book before I even got in the car. I just couldn’t put it down. Being back with Stevie and some of her friends, it was really such a joy.
Stevie is spending her summer working at a grocery store and studying dollhouse crime scene replicas. Sounds thrilling, right? Yeah, Stevie didn’t think so either. When she gets an email from the CEO of Box Box (a company that sells…boxes) asking her to come be a summer camp counselor at the camp where the Box in the Woods murders took place, how could she say no? She has Nate and Janelle tag along with her for the summer. She’s supposed to be working with the camp’s owner to create a podcast about the Box in the Woods murders. But as she talks to the owner and to some of the locals, she starts working on her own. I liked Stevie, Janelle, and Nate just as much as I did in the trilogy. It’s a murder mystery so, there’s obviously high stakes and suspense. I think this was well done, just as it was in the trilogy. I think Stevie did a great job finding new details and putting the pieces together.
Overall, I really liked this book. I wasn’t at all surprised by that. I want a million more standalone Truly Devious mysteries, please and thank you. I loved the summer camp setting and the bits of the small-town setting that we got. I just really had a good time listening to this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.