The Becoming by Nora Roberts

Summary:
The world of magick and the world of man have long been estranged from one another. But some can walk between the two–including Breen Siobhan Kelly. She has just returned to Talamh, with her friend, Marco, who’s dazzled and disoriented by this realm–a place filled with dragons and faeries and mermaids (but no WiFi, to his chagrin). In Talamh, Breen is not the ordinary young schoolteacher he knew her as. Here she is learning to embrace the powers of her true identity. Marco is welcomed kindly by her people–and by Keegan, leader of the Fey. Keegan has trained Breen as a warrior, and his yearning for her has grown along with his admiration of her strength and skills.
But one member of Breen’s bloodline is not there to embrace her. Her grandfather, the outcast god Odran, plots to destroy Talamh–and now all must unite to defeat his dark forces. There will be losses and sorrows, betrayal and bloodshed. But through it, Breen Siobhan Kelly will take the next step on the journey to becoming all that she was born to be.

Book Cover

Review:
Roberts will always be one of my favorite authors. I think her books are amazing and The Becoming is no different. This is the second book in the series, so I’ll keep my summary a bit vague. In this sequel, we follow the same character, but there are some new players. The story played out in much the same way that the first book did. Breen is still training with Keegan every day to work on fighting. She’s also still training with her Nan to work on her magical abilities. That’s honestly what most of this book was about. It’s a really character-focused story but the world is interesting and the characters are so easy to love.
I think if you’re going into this story expecting something brand new and totally different from Roberts, you’ll be disappointed. This book has the same feel as her previous romance trilogies. But this is mostly set in a fantastical world. That’s the biggest difference. But it still has the same feel as her older series. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that, at all. I really enjoyed that even though it was a story I was reading for the first time, it still felt familiar. I think the world-building is well done. The world is detailed and complex, but not ever confusing or unclear. I like that there’s a huge variety of different magical species and the small bits we learn about the other worlds are incredibly interesting. We get a bigger view into the politics of this world for this book.
The biggest draw for me was the characters. Marco, Breen’s childhood best friend, played a much bigger role in this story and I’m incredibly happy about that. Marco is black and gay. I was really worried he was going to be used as a “token diverse character” but I absolutely don’t think that was the case. Marco was way more of an active member of this story and I loved it. He gets his own romance and he just brings so much joy to the story. I also really loved seeing his friendship with Breen. The love they have for one another is so clear and they’re some of my favorite friends. Breen is really growing into herself in this book. She’s shed her past of being out down and made out as less than and is doing everything in her power to train and learn. But she also still makes time for writing and family. I loved the balance of “I need to save the world” with her other passions.
Overall, I can’t wait for the conclusion to this series. I love these characters and I love the world they’re fighting to protect. I absolutely have some theories about things that will happen in the future, but I guess we’ll find out later this year when the third book is published.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s 12 Favorite Young Adult Books of 2021

Hi, lovelies! I’m back again with more of my favorite reads of 2021! For today’s list, I will be sharing my young adult favorites. Again, these are all books that I read in 2021, not just 2021 releases. I read so many excellent books this year, so the ones that made this list are truly top-tier books, in my opinion.

Mystery/Horror

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Review

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Review

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Review

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
Review

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
Review

Fantasy

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
Review

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
Review

Science Fiction

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Review

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Review

Roxy by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman
Review

Contemporary

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield
Review

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
Review

These are my favorite young adult books that I read in 2021. Are there any on my list that made your list too?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee

Summary:
Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, wants nothing more than to join the Thousand World Space Forces and, like their Uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday. But when Sebin’s acceptance letter finally arrives, it’s accompanied by the shocking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor. Apparently, the captain abandoned his duty to steal a magical artifact, the Dragon Pearl, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Sebin hopes to help clear their hero’s name and restore honour to the clan.
Nothing goes according to plan, however. As soon as Sebin arrives for orientation, they are met by a special investigator named Yi and his assistant, a girl named Min. Yi informs Sebin that they must immediately report to the ship Haetae and await further instructions. Sebin finds this highly unusual, but soon all protocol is forgotten when there’s an explosion on the ship, the crew is knocked out, and the communication system goes down. It’s up to Sebin, three other cadets, and Yi and Min to determine who is sabotaging the battlecruiser. When Sebin is suddenly accused of collaborating with the enemy, the cadet realizes that Min is the most dangerous foe of all…

Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee

Review:
I’ve absolutely loved everything I’ve read that’s come from the Rick Riordan Presents publishing imprint. So, I was incredibly excited when I got the approval email from NetGalley (thank you!) for Tiger Honor.
This is the sequel to Dragon Pearl, which I read in 2020 and really enjoyed. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much. I think a part of that is because it’s been so long since I’ve read Dragon Pearl that I didn’t recognize the characters from that book in Tiger Honor until almost halfway through the story. I think I might have enjoyed it more had I gone into the story knowing the connection between Sebin and their family and Min from Dragon Pearl.
This story follows Sebin, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, just before they have been accepted into the Thousand World Space Forces. They dream of following in their Uncle’s footsteps and becoming a ship’s captain. But on their very first day as a cadet, things go completely wild and the ship they are on comes under attack. The rest of the story is what follows and how Sebin handles this.

My biggest issue with this book was that I had no idea what was going on until more than halfway through the book. Sebin is out onto a ship and they rightfully see all sorts of suspicious things before even getting onto the ship. So, we’re left with a sense of something not being right, but what that something is isn’t shared until a decent way through the story. There’s so much happening in the first half of the story that it feels fast-paced, but I felt like I couldn’t enjoy all the action because I had no clue what was happening. I’m not sure if I would have felt differently had the first book been fresher in my mind.
Now, there were still many things that I liked about this book. I think the fact that this story follows a non-binary main character is absolutely amazing. I also absolutely loved all of the folklore and mythology that was included in the story. I think there was less of it than there was with Dragon Pearl, but I really enjoyed leaving about Sebin’s family and the traditions of Tiger shifters.
Overall, this was still an enjoyable and exciting story that I think will be well received. I really liked Sebin. They were such a different perspective from Min in the first book. I really think they bought something new to the story. And even though I felt like I didn’t know what was happening half the time, I think this was still a really engaging story and I will absolutely be recommending it in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Summary:
Falling in love is the ultimate payback in this delightful romcom about an interior designer who teams up with an enigmatic architect at her firm to get revenge on her ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door
They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their Realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.
That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you also to HarperCollins for inviting me to be on this blog tour.
Love at First Spite follows Dani, who has just been cheated on by her fiancé. The story opens with her destroying her wedding gown in the absolute best way. Dani is an interior designer for a big company, so we get a lot of the details of her work life. But we also get to know her friends. Mia is Dani’s cousin and also her best friend. And there’s Iris who becomes Dani’s landlady/roommate. But most importantly, there’s Wyatt. He’s our love interest. He works with Dani at the same company, but he’s an architect. So, when Dani, Mia, and Iris buy the property right next door to Dani’s ex-fiancé to build a spite house, Wyatt ends up being the architect that helps design said spite house.
I really liked Dani as the main character. I loved her friendship with Iris and Mia. These three women were hilarious. Mia doesn’t hesitate to call Dani on her shit when she needs it. And Iris is delightfully vague and unhelpful when Dani goes to her for advice. The three together were absolutely one of the highlights of this story. Most of all, I enjoyed Dani’s growth and development. She’s learning that she shouldn’t compare things to her past relationships and that maybe building a spite house isn’t the healthiest way to move on from her ex.
The romance was one I was easily engaged in. The chemistry between Dani and Wyatt was obvious right from the start, despite Dani actively disliking Wyatt when the story started. I loved Wyatt more and more as we got to know him better through Dani. The two of them together were a couple that I became invested in right away. I also really liked the way that the third act break up was handled.
Overall, this absolutely was a fun story to read. All of the antics that Iris, Mia, and Dani got up to while planning and building the spite house made me smile and laugh. The romance was enjoyable and easy to root for. I will definitely be recommending this book in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Jade War by Fonda Lee

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

Summary:
Hugo award-nominated author Stina Leicht has created a take on space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop in this high-stakes adventure.
Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds, becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.
Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drink at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who seek to employ them.
Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

Book Cover

Review:
Persephone Station follows a cast of characters that are a team of mercenaries. We follow them while they complete a job, but the job goes wrong and Angel and her team are blamed. So, they retreat to a not very well-known place for two reasons, to hide but also to protect the other people that live there.
I’m really not explaining this very well at all. But if I were to try to explain it more in-depth, I would have to go into a bunch of the world-building and more specific plot details and that’s too much for my brain right now.
So, I really liked the world-building. I think the setting of Persephone was well explained and its history was really interesting. There’s only one city where humans live on Persephone, but there’s much more to the planet than that one city. I thought the native species of Persephone was really compelling and I would have liked to have gotten to know more about them. I think Leicht pained a vivid picture of this planet and those that inhabit it. I liked the way society was portrayed. There was a lot of diversity and none of it was treated as “other.” There are lots of different characters, one of the main cast, Rosie uses they/them and another is bisexual. I’m forgetting something else too. But it was a wonderfully diverse story.
I liked all the characters. They all had different and distinct personalities. I really likes all of them, but I felt a little bit like I didn’t really get to know any of them super well because there were so many main people. I also didn’t see a whole lot of growth and development from the characters. They go through this whole ordeal but remain much the same as they were at the start of the story.
Overall, I had a great time reading this book. The world was interesting and kept my attention. The characters were funny and unique. The story was fast-paced and action packed. It was everything I want from a sci-fi story all packed into one book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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.

Holdout by Jeffery Kluger

Summary:
When evil forces are going unchecked on Earth, a principled astronaut makes a spilt-second decision to try to seek justice in the only place she knows how—the International Space Station.
Walli Beckwith is a model astronaut. She graduated at the top of her class from the Naval Academy, had a successful career flying fighter jets, and has spent more than three hundred days in space. So when she refuses to leave her post aboard the International Space Station following an accident that forces her fellow astronauts to evacuate, her American and Russian colleagues are mystified. For Walli, the matter at hand feels all too clear and terrifying for her to be worried about ruining her career. She is stuck in a race against time to save a part of the world that seems to have been forgotten, and also the life of the person she loves the most. She will go to any length necessary, using the only tool she has, to accomplish what she knows is right.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy! Here is my honest review. When I read the synopsis for this book, I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. I thought it might be a science fiction thriller. Had I known more specific details about this book, I probably wouldn’t have read it. But I did really enjoy my reading experience once the story got started.
We follow Walli Beckwith, an astronaut. An accident happens and the three astronauts that are on the space station are required to leave. But Walli refuses and stays behind. The reason? No one knows until a few days later. When Walli finally reveals that she stayed behind on the space station to protest and demand action from the United States, many countries are furious. This is where the story gets way more political than I anticipated. The heart of this story is about Walli pressuring the U.S. government to do the right thing and intervene where another country is committing extreme human right violations.
I liked Walli. I liked that she had the bravery and audacity to take the space station hostage in order to shed light on the atrocities happening in the Amazon. She takes unauthorized photos from the space station and uses her fame as an astronaut to bring awareness to the issue that’s being called the Consolidation. I think the parts with Walli alone on the space station could have been boring, but they weren’t. The author used them well to share backstory and other important details.
I was confused at Sonia’s point of view until I learned of her connection to Walli and all the pieces fell together. I think Sonia’s part of the story was just as important, if not more important, than Walli’s. Sonia’s on the ground in the Amazon, working as a doctor. We see the horrors happening in the forest through Sonia and I have to say, at times, her parts of the story were incredibly hard to read.
Overall, I think this was a great story. It was well written, interesting, detailed, and organized. I think it was a passionate story about people doing the ‘wrong’ thing for the right reasons. I loved the bravery and courage these women showed. I think it puts a hope and positivity on the American government that isn’t really deserved, but I thought it was great for escapism.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Summary:
A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers.
Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.
Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.
Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.
Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.
And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.
This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you, NetGalley for this review copy. Here is my honest review for The Book of Accidents. This story follows Nathan, Maddie, and Oliver, a family. They are moving back to Nathan’s childhood home because it’s a financially smart choice to make. But things are not alright in this town they’ve moved to. There is something dark living in this town.
Now, I have to start off by saying that this book was weird. I wasn’t sure if the ‘why’ behind it all was supposed to be magical or scientific for way too long. I guess the mystery of ‘why’ was done really well because I was left guessing. This was a dark, creepy story. There were definitely some more gruesome moments than I was expecting. This is a slow and wandering story. There are definitely moments of action and twists and suspense, but this is a slow story that takes its time getting to where things need to go. I liked that at times, and I didn’t like it at other times. I think because it took me so long to read this one, I was only sometimes in the mood for a slow story.
I think the characters were all really well developed. We really get to know them, their histories and the why behind who they are. I liked that we got to know the whole family.
Overall, I think I liked this one. It was definitely a bit weirder than what I usually read, but it was a gripping and well written story. I liked all of the characters. I liked the setting of a small town with a dark history. The magic was bizarre and fascinating. I still don’t know that I totally get it. I definitely think this would be a good one for horror fans.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Hit or Miss Authors

Hello, lovelies! I’ve recently shared authors I love that I will always buy their books. I’ve also shared authors who are new but think have the potential to become an ‘auto-buy author’ of mine. So, I thought I would talk about a few authors that are hit or miss for me. I think it’s interesting how I can love one book by an author and feel differently about their other stories.

Ruth Ware
I really enjoyed The Lying Game, and I thought Turn of the Key was a wild ride, but I haven’t really liked what I’ve read of Ware’s backlist. I’m not sure I’m going to make Ware’s future books a priority.

Mindy McGinnis
This really surprised me when I read more than one book by McGinnis that I didn’t like. I think I will still make an effort to read McGinnis’ books because I really loved The Initial Insult, The Female of the Species, and Heroine.

Tahereh Mafi
I love Mafi’s contemporary books and her middle grade series, but I’m not a part of the Shatter Me series fan club. I’m excited to read more of her books in the future.

Courtney Summers
Sadie was a smash hit for many people I think. I was one of those people for sure. But I haven’t really loved any of her books since that one. I didn’t really like This is Not a Test but I did enjoy The Project. I will probably read more of her books when they come out.

Katrina Leno
This author is on the list solely for Horrid. I absolutely hated the ending. I am worried that she will have a similar ending again in the future. But I did really love Summer of Salt.

So, these are five authors that are hit or miss for me. I tend to wait and read some reviews before I read their new releases. I’ll borrow them from the library instead of buying. What are some hit or miss authors for you?

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be, anyway. Now, Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with 10 years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous – yet surprisingly helpful – assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Book Cover

Review:
Love Her or Lose Her is the second book in the Hot & Hammered series. I really enjoyed Fix Her Up so I was very excited to read the sequel. We follow Rosie and Dominic who are high school sweethearts. The story starts and Rosie is finally leaving Dominic. She doesn’t feel like they have a salvageable relationship, but Dominic doesn’t want to give up and agrees to therapy (which surprises Rosie). I don’t know what it is, but I really love romance novels about already married couples and this one continued that trend. I really liked Rosie. She has goals and dreams that she’s actively working on making reality. She has things that she wants and she’s not going to wait to get them any longer. But when things between her and Dominic start to get better, Rosie’s not sure if leaving him is the right thing to do anymore.
I loved this book. I think it’s my favorite in the series. I loved seeing Rosie and Dominic find their way back to one another emotionally. I think the book was totally steamy, just like the first one. I was easily invested in the chahracters and the romance. I rooted for them and felt the ups and downs alongside them.
Overall, I loved this one. I will be reading move from Tessa Bailey as soon as I get the chance.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Summary:
The Sukai Dynasty has ruled the Phoenix Empire for over a century, their mastery of bone shard magic powering the monstrous constructs that maintain law and order. But now the emperor’s rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, but a mysterious illness has stolen her childhood memories and her status as heir to the empire. Trapped in a palace of locked doors and old secrets, Lin vows to reclaim her birthright by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
But the mysteries behind such power are dark and deep, and wielding her family’s magic carries a great cost. When the revolution reaches the gates of the palace itself, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her throne – and save her people.

Book Cover

Review:
The Bone Shard Daughter follows quite a few different characters. Because of this, it was hard to really get into until a decent way into the book. It felt like it took a really long time to get to know each of the characters because we were following so many different people. Despite that, I did end up really enjoying this book. I did grow to love all of the characters and their individual journeys. I liked how each of the characters played an important role in the overall plot. Stewart really did a great job bringing the story full circle so that all the bits and pieces connected to one another. The plot felt like it was really well done. It was complex and detailed, but still pretty easy to follow. There were some mysteries that I thought I’d totally put together only to find out in later reveals that I was wrong. I love books that surprise me, so I really liked this.
The world building was also really interesting. It felt a little bit out of balance though. So, the Empire has many islands. It says that right in the summary. But because of the characters we follow, we only see maybe three islands total. We don’t really hear very much about the other islands either. It was just a little unbalanced to me because if there really is a full-scale rebellion going on, shouldn’t it be happening on all of these many islands? Aside from that issue that I had, I thought the world building and the setting was great. I could really see in my head what was happening with the island that sank. I thought the setting of the palace was a good one. But I think what interested me the most was the mythology and legends of the people that came before. Those that Lin’s family defeated and supposedly protects the Empire from their return. I’d love to know more about them.
Overall, this was a slow buildup of a story. I think the second book is going to be way more fast paced since so much of the buildup was done in the first book. It has characters that I found myself invested in (some queer!) and eager to know how things will unfold for them. I really liked that the reader got to see and learn things that the characters didn’t know yet. It did a wonderful job of creating suspense and anticipation while we waited for the characters to learn what the reader already knew. I definitely can’t wait for the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.