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.

Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

Summary:
Aru Shah and her sisters–including one who also claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter–must find their mentors Hanuman and Urvashi in Lanka, the city of gold, before war breaks out between the devas and asuras.
Aru has just made a wish on the tree of wishes, but she can’t remember what it was. She’s pretty sure she didn’t wish for a new sister, one who looks strangely familiar and claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter, like her.
Aru also isn’t sure she still wants to fight on behalf of the devas in the war against the Sleeper and his demon army. The gods have been too devious up to now. Case in point: Kubera, ruler of the city of gold, promises to give the Pandavas two powerful weapons, but only if they win his trials. If they lose, they won’t stand a chance against the Sleeper’s troops, which will soon march on Lanka to take over the Otherworld.
Aru’s biggest question, though, is why every adult she has loved and trusted so far has failed her. Will she come to peace with what they’ve done before she has to wage the battle of her life?

Book Cover

Review:
Aru Shah and the City of Gold is the fourth book in the Pandava Quartet. So, I’m going to preface by saying, if you haven’t read the first three books, you shouldn’t read this review. But you can find my spoiler free review for the first book here. I won’t be summarizing this book because so many things happen and also because there is a convenient summary at the beginning of this post.
So, when this book starts, we’ve just met Aru’s sister, her biological sister. This huge twist was revealed in the end of the third book. We get to know her sister, Kara, as the book progresses. I think what I love most about this series is the Aru Shah is decidedly imperfect. She is flawed. She makes mistakes. She upsets her Pandava siblings. I loved this aspect of the story. Aru makes mistakes and she learns from them. We follow along as she makes amends for those mistakes and made sure to do better in the future. I also love the found family aspect of this story. We have the Pandava siblings, who all have the reincarnated souls of the original Pandava’s. They are some of my favorite siblings. I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the twins. I feel like because they’re so young, they’re held back from being a part of the quests that the siblings go on. I’m hopeful that we will see them participate more in the final book.
There are so many things I love about this series. The characters are the number one, but the mythology that we see in this story is fascinating for me. I didn’t know much about Hindu mythology, so I really enjoyed learning all about the well-known figures.
Overall, I loved this book just as much as I’ve loved all the previous books. I think the mythology and the world is so much fun. It’s exciting and full of adventure. The characters are incredibly easy to love and you can’t help but root for them. I also have to say that Chokshi’s writing always stands out and this book is no different. I highly recommend this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

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

Summary:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy and in return here is my honest review. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint has not had a single miss. I’ve read all but three (I think?) of the books published by RRP and each one is more fun and fascinating than the last. I cannot recommend what this imprint publishes enough.
The Last Fallen Star follows Riley who is adopted. Her adoptive parents are part of their local magical community. They are Gom which are the healers of this community. There’s nothing that Riley wants more than to be able to be a Gom alongside her sister, Hattie, and her parents. But when Hattie and Riley try to make that happen using magic, one thing after another goes wrong until things get pretty serious and Riley must find a lost object and save her sisters life.
I absolutely loved this one. The Korean folklore and mythology was so compelling and interesting I just wanted to know more about all of the magical groups. We learn the most about the Gom because that’s what Riley grew up learning about. But we also learn quite a bit about the Horangi, which is an exiled clan that turned corrupt. They play an interesting role in the story and I really enjoyed learning more about them. The world and the magic was absolutely the best part about this book for me. I hope we get to learn more about the other clans in future books. We got a brief overview of what each clans function and focus is and then little bits and pieces here and there, but I thought it was all so interesting that I want one book for each character of the different clans. That would be so fun.
Anyway, Riley and Hattie really made this story. I’m a sucker for good sibling relationships and this definitely had that. We spend enough time getting to see them together and we’re shown how much they care for one another. But then Riley must go off on her own (well, with her best friend Emmett, but not with Hattie) and there were times when she had to make really hard decisions. Her choices showed again and again how much she loves her sister. I loved this relationship so much. Riley feels out of place because she isn’t a Gom. Hattie never makes her fe less than and I loved that. I also loved the messaged shared via Riley’s journey. By the time she finished her quest, she’s learned to love herself as she is. She’s realized that she doesn’t need to change to fit in. She only ever needed to accept herself and go from there.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a really fun and quick read that’s filled with adventure, sacrificing for those we love, challenges to overcome, and incredibly fascinating magic. My one complaint is some of the language used in the dialogue. There were some slang phrases used that just felt so out of place for these kids to be using in casual conversation. It happened a few times in the story when I was just completed pulled out of the story because of reading stuff like that while characters were talking to one another. But this is a small thing, and I really loved every other aspect of this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi

Summary:
It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.
It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.
Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

Book Cover

Review:
The authors publicist reached out to me to see if I wanted to read an early copy of this book in exchange for a review. I’m so glad that I said yes. I love middle grade books, but I don’t seem to gravitate toward picking them up often. I always enjoy reading them. There’s just something so wholesome about middle grade stories (even the ones with serious topics) that I really love.
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar follows Rea who finds herself on a quest to find her missing brother. While on this quest, she discovers another world, a world where she and her brother are royalty. The story starts with Rea (who lives in India) being an angry young girl. She’s angry when she feels her Amma favoring her brother, Rohan. She’s angry when she feels her brother is distancing himself from her. She’s angry that Rohan doesn’t want to know more about their Baba. She doesn’t really have any friends. She’s really struggling with her negative feelings. I have to say that Rea’s growth away from this anger and her instinct to make selfish choices was so well done. The author did it in a way that was believable and really made the reader care for Rea.
The world building was also really well done. We are learning about this magical world right alongside Rea. I thought this world that had a sort of plant-based magic was so interesting. I think it was well enough explained to understand, but it wasn’t totally clear what the rules or limits of this magic was. We got a bit more clarity about that with the shadow magic that the queen uses. With the way this story ended, I definitely think we will get some clarity about that in the second book.
I loved all of the side characters. I really love Leela and the way she befriended Rea. I also liked Xee. He was a local to the magical world and showed Rea and Leela around. I liked that he was brave, but that didn’t make him impulsive. I think they were great supporting characters and I’m excited to see more of them in future books.
Overall, I really loved this story. I loved the setting of India and the bits of Indian culture we get to see before Rea discovers the magical world. I thought the world and the magic was so interesting and I really felt like I could root for all the characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s May Book Haul

Hey, lovelies! May was an unreasonably large haul for me, especially considering that I’m still supposed to be on a book buying ban. But! In my defense, much of these books were gifts. My in-laws came to visit, now that we’re all vaccinated, and they really spoiled me while they were here. I also went a bit overboard with buying books I haven’t read yet. I’ve curbed my buying a bit by limiting myself to books I’ve read and loved, but don’t own yet. So, that didn’t really happen this month. I did buy some books I’ve already read, but I bought or was gifted more that I haven’t read. I will link my reviews for those that I’ve read and reviewed. And then my little to no reasonable rational for why I bought the ones I haven’t read. Let’s get into it!

Books I’ve Already Read

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

New Books on my Owned TBR

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
This was another preorder because I wanted to support the donations that the author was running with the preorder incentive.

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Thank you to my in-laws for this one. It was an impulse target pick.

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson
Another gift from my husband’s amazing parents, that I impulsively picked.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
My final impulse pick/gift from my in-laws. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one. But I could say the same about Red Queen and I really liked those books.

I Would Leave Me If I Could: A Collection of Poetry by Halsey
I barely read poetry so I have no excuse for this other than I have a small infatuation with Halsey.

Share Your Icy Crown by Amanda Lovelace
Seriously, why did I buy this? I have four other collections by Lovelace and I’ve read maybe two of them.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
This one is legitimate because this is my June book club book with my local ladies.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey
Last month, I bought some of Bailey’s other books and this was the only one I was missing.

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
I love this series and I’ve been meaning to buy this newest installment since it came out.

Written in my Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
I didn’t even know this exisisted. I thought I owned all all published books (just the books though, not the novellas) in this series. But now I do, just in time for the release of the final book later this year.

These are the books that I bought or were gifted to me in May. Quite a few of them are on my TBR list for June. So, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to add many of these to my ‘read’ list pretty quickly. Did you buy any books in May? Are any of these books you’ve read or want to read? Let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Beginner Fantasy Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! I did a post a few weeks ago where I recommended books for those that are interested in exploring the science fiction genre (find it here!) I had fun creating that list, so I’m going to do it again, but this time with fantasy books. These are adult and young adult books that I think would be good places to start if you’re new to fantasy.

Middle Grade

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1)

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
“Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again. But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them. The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?”

Furthermore (Furthermore, #1)

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
“Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.”

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
“Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.”

Young Adult

The Scapegracers (Scapegracers, #1)

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
“An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process. Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends. Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent on stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?”

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout
“Layla just wants to fit in at school and go on a date with Zayne, whom she’s crushed on since forever. Trouble is, Zayne treats Layla like a sister–and Layla is a half demon, half gargoyle with abilities no one else possesses. And even though Zayne is a Warden, part of the race of gargoyles tasked with keeping humanity safe, Layla’s kiss will kill anything with a soul–including him. Then she meets Roth–a demon who claims to know her secrets. Though Layla knows she should stay away, it’s tough when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue. Trusting Roth could ruin her chances with Zayne, but as Layla discovers she’s the reason for a violent demon uprising, kissing the enemy suddenly pales in comparison to the looming end of the world.”

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
“It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood. Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.”

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
“Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.”

These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn, #1)

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
“Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica. While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.”

A Song Below Water (A Song Below Water, #1)

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
“Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.”

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even. Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing. But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago. For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.”

Adult

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
“Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. “

The City We Became (Great Cities, #1)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
“Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
“A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn. An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

These are some books that I think would be good for anyone trying out the fantasy genre for the first time. I love all of these books and I highly recommend them. What books would you recommend for someone new to fantasy?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! It’s May and that means its the start of Asian/Pacific Amerircan Heritage month. I highly recommend these books and authors all year round, but I know many specifically seek out these recommendations during the month of May. So, some books and authors for you to read this month.

Middle Grade

Dragon Pearl

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

Young Adult

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

For a Muse of Fire (For a Muse of Fire, #1)

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Adult

Phoenix Extravagant

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

These are all books I’ve read and loved and highly recommend. Some on this list are all time favorites and some are books I read this year that will be making my 2021 favorites lists. What books would you recommend by AAPI authors?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody

Summary:
The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.
Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.
To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.
But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.

The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore, #1)

Review:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of The Accidental Apprentice in exchange for an honest review. I love a good middle-grade story. So, when I learned that Foody (who gained my love and admiration with her YA books) was releasing a middle-grade series, I was beyond excited.
The Accidental Apprentice follows Barclay Thorne when his life changes. He’s an orphan that lives in a town full of rules. He’s working as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer and he’s found that he actually enjoys what he’s doing. One day, he’s working with his fellow apprentice when they accidentally break the town’s most important rule: don’t go into the Woods. While breaking that rule, Barclay somehow bonds with a Beast. This changes everything for him. After he’s run out of town, he finds Viola. Viola helps Barclay make it to the Lore Keeper town within the woods. There he searches for a way to remove his Mark and get rid of the Beast that has chosen him.
I thought this book was such a fun read. It was filled with action and adventure, mystery and intrigue. There are so many misconceptions about the Lore Keepers that Barclay was raised to know. So, he spends so much time just unlearning all the things he thought he knew. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Barclay studies and takes tests in hopes to win a competition, so we get to see him as he’s learning all these new things about Lore Keepers and Beasts, as well as, his own Beast. I think the best part of the story was Barclay’s internal struggle. We see him start to realize that he might actually belong with the Lore Keepers, but he’s in fierce denial about this because he still wants to return to his town. He thinks that his parents would have wanted him to stay in his hometown. His slow development out of those thoughts was really enjoyable. I thought it was well done. He didn’t just start having fun with his new friends and give up on his mission. It really was an internal struggle.
I loved Barclay’s new friends. I was shocked at one of the twists involving them. But I also liked how things turned out with the boy that seemed mean. I think the friendships were really interesting. I liked the unexpected bits about them.
Overall, I loved this book. I thought the Beasts and Lore Keepers were interesting and unique. I liked the friendships and the adventures the friends went on. I liked the competition aspects of the story. I also loved the development of Barclay. I think this book will be well loved.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hannah Alkaf

Summary:
A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle-grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle-grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.
Review:The Girl and the Ghost
I adored The Girl and The Ghost. This book was creepy but in a way that I just couldn’t stop listening. I have to shower this narrator with compliments because they told this story in such an incredible way, filling it with emotion and suspense at all the right moments. I will definitely be looking to see if this narrator has read other books.
This book alternates chapters between the girl and the ghost. It’s a dark and atmospheric story about a young girl named Suraya who is gifted a pelesit (which is a sort of a ghost). This pelesit is eventually named Pink by Suraya. Her mother cares for her in the sense of making sure Suraya is fed and clothed and goes to school. But she’s not a mother that is affectionate. Suraya is a lonely kid, so when Pink comes to find her after her grandmother dies, Suraya is glad to have a friend. She and Pink do everything together. This story starts when Suraya is very young, so not much happens in the beginning aside from Pink finding Suraya and the two bonding deeply. But once Suraya gets a bit older, and makes a new friend, Pink becomes jealous. This is where the story starts to get suspenseful and kind of scary. Pink reacts out of jealousy and starts to do things that Suraya has specifically told him not to do.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. Suraya and Pink’s relationship was sweet at first, it was something that they both needed, a friend. I really appreciated that as things progressed and Suraya realized that she couldn’t handle things with Pink anymore, she asked her mother for help. I think that this book was wholesome as heck despite being a middle-grade horror novel. It had friendship and adventure, pelesit, ghosts, and a few other spooky things. The Girl and the Ghost is a story with heart and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2020

Hi, lovelies! As I said in my top ten favorite books of 2020 post (find that here), I’m going to have a few lists other than that one. Today’s list is my favorite middle-grade books that I read last year. These are not all only 2020 releases, just books I read in 2020. I cannot stop thinking about these books or they really touched me on an emotional level, which is why they’ve made this list. I do also want to mention that there may be repeats on this list from my first favorites post, but it’s just because I really loved them.

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Tristan Strong Destroys the World by Kwame Mbalia

Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

The Deceivers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Looking at this list, I realize I’ve mostly just read all of the books from the Rick Riordan Presents publishing imprint. I do not have a problem with that at all because they’re amazing books and I would shout about them from the rooftops if I could. So, go to your local library, borrow them from a friend, buy the ebooks, however you like to get books, get these and read them.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

Summary:
For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Closer to NowhereReview:
Hopkins has been a long-time favorite author of mine. So, when I heard that her newest novel was going to be a middle-grade story written in verse, I was very excited. Closer to Nowhere follows two cousins, Hannah and Cal. Cal’s mom died and his dad is in prison, so he’s moved in with his aunt and uncle, and his cousin, Hannah. At it’s heart, this is a story about two kids that are learning how their words and actions effect the people around them.
Cal has had a hard childhood. With an abusive father and the death of his mother, he struggles with PTSD. We see this in many examples of Cal ‘running away’ and walking around the neighborhood for hours, screaming when he’s unable to work through his anger or other emotions. He also is just a kid that likes to play jokes. He pulls all kinds of pranks that are objectively hilarious, but Hannah disagrees. I didn’t come from an abusive home, but I do have family history of substance abuse, so I thought this topic of Cal’s dad’s addiction was discussed thoughtfully and how his addiction effected Cal was also really well done, in my opinion.
Hannah has had a relatively happy childhood. She lives in a nice home with both her mom and dad. Both her parents do all they can to support her by showing up to all of her sporting events. But when Cal moves into her house, things start to change. I think it was interesting to see how Hannah’s life changed after Cal moved in and how Hannah dealt with those changes (read: not well, at first). Hannah has lived a privileged life and she wishes things could go back to how they were before Cal moved in. But Hannah slowly learns about the things that Cal has had to deal with. The more she learns about his past, the more she tries to be more understanding. I really liked this aspect of Hannah’s story. She still wishes that things hadn’t changed with her parents, but she starts to realize that none of those changes are Cal’s fault.
I think telling this story with both Cal and Hannah’s points of view was an excellent idea. We get both first-person perspectives from them and the perspective of another. It was thought-provoking to see how two characters experienced the same events in different ways.
Overall, I loved this book. I truly hope that we will get more middle-grade stories from Hopkins. She did a really great job talking about addiction, PTSD and other mental health topics, death, homelessness, marital problems, alcoholism, and blended families in an accessible way for middle school age children. I highly recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy. Lester’s final challenge will be at the Tower of Nero, back in New York. Will Meg have a last showdown with her father? Will this helpless form of Apollo have to face his arch nemesis, Python? Who will be on hand at Camp Half-Blood to assist? These questions and more will be answered in this book that all demigods are eagerly awaiting.
The Tower of Nero (The Trials of Apollo, #5)Review:
The Tower of Nero is the finale of the Trials of Apollo series. I just have to say, wow, how far we have come with this series. In the first and second book, I really didn’t like Apollo. He was vain and completely annoying. It was my biggest problem with the first two books. I loved everything else, but I really didn’t like Apollo. I’m so glad to say that the Apollo in this final book is completely different from who he was in the previous books. His growth is so well done and I’m so happy about that.
In this book, Apollo has one final challenge to complete: defeat Nero. But that’s not as easy as it seems. I really cannot say enough good things about this world that Riordan has created. And this series really solidifies that because we get to see the characters we love from his previous books. Between the mythology that he has brought to life and the characters he’s gotten us invested in, there was no way I wasn’t going to love this book.
I’m going to keep this review short so I don’t just repeat everything from my previous reviews. I loved Apollo’s growth. I loved his friendship with Meg. I especially loved that Meg had her own challenges to face in this book. I think it was just such a well rounded story, filled with loveable characters that learn and grow from one another.
Overall, the audiobook was super good. I was very happy with the way this series ended but it made my heart ache because there’s no news about what books might be coming next. I also just have to say that the last few chapters (or maybe it was the epilogue) were exactly what I wanted. I was so happy to get to see Apollo visit with everyone after the dust settled. I loved this book. I loved this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.
Our story begins on a frosty night…
Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.
But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.
Whichwood (Furthermore, #2)Review:
I absolutely adored Furthermore, but Whichwood just hit something different for me. This is a companion story to Furthermore. We do indeed get to see my beloved Alice and Oliver again, but to story is focused on a new character.
We meet Laylee who lives in the village of Whichwood. It’s another magical town similar to Furthermore. Laylee is Whichwood’s mordeshoor, which means she prepares the bodies of the dead and their souls for the afterlife. This is a very important job. But Laylee is just a girl and it’s too much responsibility for just one young girl. The people in her town either don’t care that they’re neglecting her or don’t realize what their actions are doing. Alice and Oliver travel to Whichwood because Alice has been given a task to help Laylee. But Laylee doesn’t want help from them. She’s pretty unhappy and I didn’t blame her for a moment. Her father just up and left after her mother died and she was left all alone with this huge responsibility. So, Laylee’s anger and frustration was completely justified. I would have felt exactly the same if I were in her position. So, it’s understandable that she isn’t super excited to have Alice and Oliver butt into her life and tell her that she needs their help.
The best part of this story was Laylee getting past her hurt and her anger and letting Alice and Oliver help her. We also get to know another character from Whichwood, Benjamin. He’s Laylee’s closest neighbor and I loved his part in this story.
Overall, I adored Whichwood even more than Furthermore. It was definitely darker than Furthermore, but it was filled with great themes like friendship, forgiveness, persistence, and responsibility. I really enjoyed getting to see more of this magical world. I really hope that Mafi is going to write more books set in this world, maybe in other magical towns. I loved the magic, the setting, and most of all the characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
Furthermore (Furthermore, #1)Review:
Furthermore is the story of Alice finding adventure. She lives in the town of Ferenwood where color is everything. It’s a magical town, where the people care for the land and the land cares for the people. Alice’s father disappeared a few years ago and since then Alice’s life has only gotten worse. Her mother is not outright neglectful, but she’s certainly not super caring and attentive. So, Alice spend much time on her own. She loves her town of Ferenwood, but she longs for adventure.
When Oliver comes to her and asks her to help him, she refuses because when they were in school together, he said something mean about her and she doesn’t want to help him. She is also very focused on her Surrender, a presentation of abilities that the children of Ferenwood participate in. They can be tasked with something. Alice thinks this will be the adventure she’s been waiting for. But when her Surrender doesn’t go the way she’d hoped, she’s left with the possibility of helping Oliver.
The two set off on an adventure outside of Ferenwood. When the two leave is when the story really gets started. I don’t want to talk too much about what they’re actually trying to do because figuring out their journey is most of the fun of this story. I do want to talk about Alice and Oliver. Oliver grows and develops so much in this book and I loved it. He really learned some lessons and did his best to grow from those lessons and do better. I really enjoyed that we got to see that. Alice was so brave. She jumps into this adventure head first, with no regard for the things she doesn’t know. I adore Alice.
I also really enjoyed the magic. It wasn’t super clear what exactly the magic did aside from each person’s special ability. But once Alice and Oliver leave Ferenwood, we see different types of magic and it was fascinating to see all the different ways that magic was used in the place that they travel to.
Overall, I adored this book. I don’t know why I put off reading it for so long. I loved every page and I flew through the story. I loved Alice and eventually loved Oliver. I want more books set in this world please Tahereh Mafi, pretty please.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
In his penultimate adventure, a devastated but determined Apollo travels to Camp Jupiter, where he must learn what it is to be a hero, or die trying.
It’s not easy being Apollo, especially when you’ve been turned into a human and banished from Olympus. On his path to restoring five ancient oracles and reclaiming his godly powers, Apollo (aka Lester Papadopoulos) has faced both triumphs and tragedies. Now his journey takes him to Camp Jupiter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Roman demigods are preparing for a desperate last stand against the evil Triumvirate of Roman emperors. Hazel, Reyna, Frank, Tyson, Ella, and many other old friends will need Apollo’s aid to survive the onslaught. Unfortunately, the answer to their salvation lies in the forgotten tomb of a Roman ruler . . . someone even worse than the emperors Apollo has already faced.
The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo, #4)Review:
The Tyrant’s Tomb is the second to last book in the Trials of Apollo series. I actually had to take a break after the last book (The Burning Maze). I think that’s because I listened to the audiobooks for the first three books all in a row and I just needed a break from audiobooks. So, I took my break and then picked this one up.
I’m not going to lie. I cried several times while listening to this story. This is absolutely my favorite book in the series (unless the last one is even better). Apollo’s growth really shows in these pages. He’s doing things like helping his friends and putting himself in danger because he cares about those around him, rather than avoiding danger because of selfish reasons. I really liked his growth. Part of the reason I didn’t love the first three books was that Apollo was a jerk. He still has some negative qualities, but he’s really grown with his experiences of having to think like mortals do. He’s still incredibly vain and talks way too much about his weak, flabby body.
I really loved getting to see characters from the previous series, like Hazel and Frank. I loved being back at the Roman camp, a familiar place. It was so enjoyable to see new characters in a place I already love.
Overall, this book has it all. It has great character growth, action, and adventure, quests, and the audiobook narrator did an incredible job telling this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.