Amanda’s Ultimate Favorite Books List

Hello, lovelies! I thought, after my last post, it would be fitting to share a list of my favorite books. This list is honestly subject to change at any point depending on my mood, but this might give you some insight into my reading taste. Also, some of these are 100% on this list for nostalgia reasons.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
This book will always make all of my favorite book lists because it came to me at a time in my life when I needed it. I believe this book had a part in saving my younger self. So, I will always read it with love.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten
This is actually a new favorite. I read it last year and then again just before the sequel was released. I loved it even more after reading it a second time. For the Throne was, somehow, even better.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
There’s something about this series that just gives me exactly the escapism that I’m searching for when diving into a story. Sanderson really brings you into the world and makes you love the characters.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
I just really, really love this series. I cannot wait until my daughter is willing to read longer books with me so that we can read this series together.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
This whole series is my favorite. I love Chokshi’s writing. I would die for these characters.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
I’m total trash for the Grishaverse but the Nikolai duology is by far my favorite of all the books in this universe.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
There’s just something about this series and these characters that live in my brain every day.

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
I feel like this book just really impacted me emotionally. It’s one of the first physical books I read in one sitting after having my first child. It also made me cry.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Speaking of books that made me cry, this book destroyed me. I can’t wait to read it again.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
I got into fantasy with this series. It also still holds up as an excellent YA fantasy series (plus there’s a four-book spin-off series. That’s eight new books to add to your tbr!)

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
I love this series with my whole heart, but this is my favorite book in the series.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
I don’t talk about this series nearly as much as I should. But every time I reread it, I’m reminded of how much I love these characters and their gritty world.

Almost Favorites

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Furyborn by Claire Legrand

I also have these books, listed above as my ‘almost favorites’. These are all books that I’ve only read once, but I think upon a reread they have high potential to move their way onto my favorites list. I do plan to reread a few of these in the next few months, so maybe I’ll do an update of this toward the end of the year.

What are some of your top favorite books?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Underrated Backlist Books

Hey, lovelies! I know we all get excited talking about the newest releases or books that are soon to be published, but I honestly really love sharing backlist recommendations. There are so many books that are already out in the world that I love with my whole heart. I have so much fun sharing those titles with people looking for new books that are already in the world, books that they can go get from most bookstores or their library right now. So, today I have some backlist books that have less than 5,000 ratings on GoodReads. I want to highlight these specifically because, in my opinion, they deserve way more attention.

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The Final Six by Alexandra Monir
4,471 ratings
“When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition. For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk. As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.”

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Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
3,781 ratings
“High seas adventure, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in Dark Shores, a thrilling first novel in a fast-paced new YA fantasy series by USA Today bestselling author Danielle L. Jensen. In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET
Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
3,222 ratings
“Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code. But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches. Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.”

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Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
2,857 ratings
“When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.
Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?

A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race. And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives. It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong.”

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All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
2,788 ratings
“The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true. And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

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The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand
2,515 ratings
“A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand. Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies… Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her. But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for. Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.”

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The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
1,807 ratings
Mean Girls meets The Tudors in Hannah Capin’s The Dead Queens Club, a clever contemporary YA retelling of Henry VIII and his wives (or, in this case, his high school girlfriends). Told from the perspective of Annie Marck (“Cleves”), a 17-year-old aspiring journalist from Cleveland who meets Henry at summer camp, The Dead Queens Club is a fun, snarky read that provides great historical detail in an accessible way for teens while giving the infamous tale of Henry VIII its own unique spin. What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8. Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…”

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The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
1,142 ratings
“An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven and the friends she’s always hoped for hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process. Hannah Abigail Clarke is here and queer, etc. They have been published in the Portland Review and PRISM International. They graduate college at Miami University of Ohio in May.”

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The Fell of the Dark by Caleb Roehrig
999 ratings
“The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town. Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it. An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.”

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The Black Veins by Aisha Monet
505 ratings
“In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for. Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities? She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family. Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.”

These are ten books that I really love with less than 5,000 ratings on GoodReads. I really enjoyed all of these and I highly recommend them. So, I thought I would make this post to hopefully send more readers their way. Let me know if you’ve read any of these!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Summary:
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

All the Bad Apples

Review:
Honestly, I don’t even know how to start this review. I read this book in January and it has not left my brain for a single day since then. I’m going to do my best to explain how this book made me feel but I’m apologizing in advance if this is mostly nonsensical.
All the Bad Apples follows Deena. Deena is the youngest of three sisters, Mandy and Rachel practically raised Deena, but in different ways. Rachel was the one Deena lived with and she made sure Deena went to school, had clothes that fit, fed her and helped with homework. Rachel was the responsible one and Mandy was the fun one. So, no big surprise that Mandy is the favorite. Well, Deena comes out accidentally to her father on her birthday. When Deena goes running to Mandy for comfort, Mandy enlightens Deena about the family curse. Only days later, Mandy disappears. It’s thought that she’s jumped or fallen off a cliff. But Deena doesn’t believe that Mandy is really gone. So, Deena set’s off to find Mandy and break this family curse.
This is where the story really starts. The reader is left with so many questions in those first few chapters. Questions about Mandy, the curse, and how Deena might find her. But as Deena travels, she starts finding letters. In these letters is the family history. The book alternates between following Deena and sharing the family history. I think the combination of these two was so well done. I stayed up reading this way past when I should have gone to sleep because I kept coming to a stopping point at the start of a new bit of family history and I just couldn’t stop reading. Along the way, Deena finds people to accompany her on her journey. Her best friend (who is black and bisexual), a relative that Deena didn’t know existed, and a random girl that the three found in a bar that ends up being connected to the whole story. The way this author connected the characters was so fascinating. I loved learning about why these specific characters had come together for this journey. While these three follow Mandy’s letters they learn of a horrible and devastating history. Deena’s female ancestors were treated horrifically and Deena is determined to break the family curse. She refuses to be another bad apple that’s left to rot on the ground.
Overall, I am obsessed with this book. It was written beautifully. I think Fowley-Doyle did such an amazing job weaving the past with the present in this story. I also really appreciate that this book covers some really tough topics, but it does it so well. It does it in a way that shows the horror, but also in a thoughtful way. It wasn’t for shock value or anything, it mattered to this story. I think this is a feminist masterpiece. It covers everything from being queer to getting safe and legal abortions. It was mysterious and gothic, mythological and all too real. It’s an emotional ride about soul searching and learning to speak up for yourself. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.