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.

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord

Summary:
Nothing will get in the way of Millie Price’s dream to become a Broadway star. Not her lovable but super-introverted dad, who after raising Millie alone, doesn’t want to watch her leave home to pursue her dream. Not her pesky and ongoing drama club rival, Oliver, who is the very definition of Simmering Romantic Tension. And not the “Millie Moods,” the feelings of intense emotion that threaten to overwhelm, always at maddeningly inconvenient times. Millie needs an ally. And when a left-open browser brings Millie to her dad’s embarrassingly moody LiveJournal from 2003, Millie knows just what to do. She’s going to find her mom.
There’s Steph, a still-aspiring stage actress and receptionist at a talent agency. There’s Farrah, ethereal dance teacher who clearly doesn’t have the two left feet Millie has. And Beth, the chipper and sweet stage enthusiast with an equally exuberant fifteen-year-old daughter (A possible sister?! This is getting out of hand). But how can you find a new part of your life and expect it to fit into your old one, without leaving any marks? And why is it that when you go looking for the past, it somehow keeps bringing you back to what you’ve had all along?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
When You Get the Chance follows Millie, a theatre kid, who is doing quite a few things. She’s looking for her mom (after narrowing it down to three possible women), trying to convince her dad to let her go to a super-selective theatre program that she’s been accepted to (except it’s across the country), and also, she’s falling in love.
I was not a theatre kid. They didn’t have any sort of drama program at my high school, so that aspect of this story went right over my head. Though I could totally feel the energy and excitement and passion that Millie had for acting from this book. My favorite part was the mom drama. I have to say that once you get past a certain point about the mystery moms, I absolutely guessed who Millie’s mom was before it was revealed. Growing up with a single dad, I really liked this aspect of the story. Millie’s family dynamic was an interesting one. I loved Millie’s dad and it was so clear that he loved her. He obviously did his best to raise her and love her and I loved that. But I also could understand Millie’s complicated emotions about her mom. I think this part was really well done. Because it’s not that Millie is unhappy with her dad and her aunt, but there’s nothing really that can replace the mom that birthed you, even if she gave you up.
Now, the romance. I was absolutely here for the rivals to friends to lover’s romance between Oliver and Millie. I think they were so fun to follow as they figured out what a great team they can be. I liked learning about the ways that they helped one another and didn’t even know it. I think their journey from grudging respect to friends to lovers was absolutely to die for. I devoured it.
Overall, this was a fun and easy to read story about Millie who is just trying to find herself (but what else are we going to do at age seventeen), and instead finds more of a mystery, love, and possibility. I think this will be a hit among YA readers, for sure.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.
Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.
And Sam picks up the phone.
In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
You’ve Reached Sam follows Julie during her senior year of high school. There are only a few months before graduation and she and her boyfriend, Sam, have made so many exciting plans for their future together. But then Sam dies suddenly in a car accident and Julie’s future has changed forever. But then things get a little weird and Julie calls Sam’s phone one day and he answers. So, instead of trying to move on and figure out what she’s going to do now, she spends all of her time on the phone talking to Sam.
I’ve seen basically nothing but rave reviews for this book, so I was pretty excited to read it and be emotionally destroyed by it. But that did happen for me and it’s absolutely because I think Julie was pretty terrible. The story opens with her getting rid of all of Sam’s things less than a week after he’s died. I just couldn’t reason that away in my mind. I wear a ring that belonged to my grandfather every single day and he died ten years ago. I totally understand that everyone grieves differently but that was just the first of many things that Julie did that just made me feel really disconnected from her. I couldn’t reason away her behavior or feel attached to her as a character. I will say that Julie really does the work to make up for her incredibly crappy behavior. She’s hurt most of her friends and it was really good to see her do the work to make it up to them. But my initial reaction to her just stuck with me.
I loved the concept of the story. I loved the idea that Julie was talking to Sam on the phone even though he was gone. I liked the cast of characters (except Julie). I think they absolutely made the story better and more enjoyable.
Overall, I liked this book but I didn’t love it. It’s entirely Julie’s fault that I didn’t love this book. She was kind of terrible for the beginning of this book and even though she really grew and had some great character development, I just never felt like I could really get invested in her. I can absolutely see why so many people love this book and I will definitely be recommending it in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Are Meridians by S. Ghali

Summary:
Two human Civilizations
One will rise
One will fall
300 years ago, A small group of human left behind their violent past and human counterpart on Earth to create the most advanced civilisation in history.
Until now, when mercenaries steal a deadly artefact, the meridians have no choice but to send a military expedition back to Earth to retrieve it. However, the mission is compromised upon arrival and the crew members get separated on the surface of the hostile planet Earth that has never experienced alien contact.
Elmyra Conrad, a disgraced cadet; Effra Jones, a spineless xenoanthropologist and Zayn, a dangerous Antharian prince must work together to survive and find the other survivors before their demise…

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
We Are Meridians follows a cast of characters that are trying to stop a group of criminals who have stolen a very deadly object. The story takes so long to pull itself together to get to that aspect of the plot. I think there was a bit of info-dumping at the start of the story. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t push through, but it was noticeable. There were so many characters and things that had to be introduced before the story could really get going. I feel like the author took a bit too much time letting us get to know the characters and the world before pulling the actual plot of the story into play. But somehow, at the same time, I feel like there was so much that happened and we didn’t get enough of any of it.
I’d say there were three main characters: Elmyra, Effra, and Zayn. Much of Elmyra’s story is still a mystery. We get to know her and her backstory pretty well except one big secret. And when that secret was finally revealed, it wasn’t elaborated on all that much because the person that knows all the details was dying. So, there’s answers, but still a bit of mystery surrounding that particular twist in the story. I really liked Zayn. I wasn’t sure if he was going to turn on the humans or end up deciding to truly join them and help with their mission. I think he was the best developed character and I look forward to reading more about him. Finally, Effra. I feel like we got to know him the least because he’s not really introduced until way into the story. We don’t spend that first third of the story getting to know him. So, his backstory is dumped when he’s introduced. He also spent much of the story needing to be saved, so I guess that’s all we need to know about him.
Overall, this was way more of a science fiction thriller/mystery then I thought it was going to be. I actually really enjoyed it. The author’s writing was good. It was descriptive but still easy to follow. The characters were well developed and not hard to get invested in. The world was my favorite part, I think. The world building and history of the humans that live in space was really well done. I don’t see any news about a sequel but I would definitely read it if/when one is released.

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.

Blog Tour: The Kindred by Alechia Dow

Summary:
To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…
Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.
Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.
Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

Review:
Thank you, NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I was invited to be a part of the blog tour for this book by HarperCollins and I’m so glad. I absolutely adored The Sound of Stars and I had high hopes for Dow’s sophomore novel. I absolutely was not disappointed.
The Kindred follows Felix and Joy in alternating perspectives with the occasional memory included. Felix is a duke, but he shies away from any sort of responsibility. He wants to play music and travel. Joy is a poor girl that is about to marry Maxon (a huge jerk) because it’s what she’s “supposed” to do. But Felix and Joy are one another’s Kindred. In this society, everyone is paired with another, their Kindred, at birth. But due to the political maneuvering of others, Felix and Joy are not allowed to meet. They’re not allowed to love one another the way that many other Kindred do. And then all hell breaks loose when the rulers of this society are assassinated. Secrets are revealed and Joy and Felix must meet and flee to keep themselves safe.
I really liked both Joy and Felix. Joy really struggles with her sense of self. She doesn’t think very highly of herself. So, her gaining confidence and finally disregarding the things she’s believed about her body was incredibly satisfying to follow. Her emotional growth was one of my favorite things. I also enjoyed Felix starting to take things more seriously. He seems like a party boy when the story starts, but as the story picks up, we see him take charge and responsibility. I think both characters had really well-done development.
My favorite thing about this book was the world and the ways that it connected to The Sound of Stars. I think the world was incredibly well built. It’s clear that Dow put a lot of work into creating this universe and its history. The history and culture of this book were so interesting. I loved how intricate and detailed the story was about the settings and religions.
The plot of the story was engaging and compelling. We find Joy and Felix, two aliens, crash landing on earth and that’s when the connections to The Sound of Stars being to reveal. I didn’t realize that this book was going to be related to her previous book in any way, but this was almost a prequel and I absolutely loved it. I think the story was really fast-paced and I really liked that. It was a quick read or felt like it because of the pacing of the story.
Overall, I cannot wait for more books from Dow. I hope there’s another set in the same universe that includes all these characters that I’ve come to love. I think the characters were easy to care about. I think the world and culture were fascinating. I loved the outcome of the story. I also really loved the messages of the story. It’s a story that speaks to the necessity of compassion and love. We need these things in the world and this story is all about that. I absolutely recommend this book and I think it will be a very loved story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Thousand Eyes by A.K. Larkwood

Summary:
Two years ago, Csorwe and Shuthmili defied the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and stole his gauntlets. The gauntlets have made Shuthmili extraordinarily powerful, but they’re beginning to take a sinister toll on her. She and Csorwe travel to a distant world to discover how to use the gauntlets safely, but when an old enemy arrives on the scene, Shuthmili finds herself torn between clinging to her humanity and embracing eldritch power.
Meanwhile, Tal Charossa returns to Tlaanthothe to find that Sethennai has gone missing. As well as being a wizard of unimaginable power, Sethennai is Tal’s old boss and former lover, and Tal wants nothing to do with him. When a magical catastrophe befalls the city, Tal tries to run rather than face his past, but soon learns that something even worse may lurk in the future. Throughout the worlds of the Echo Maze, fragments of an undead goddess begin to awaken, and not all confrontations can be put off forever…

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Thousand Eyes starts off pretty soon after The Unspoken Name, meaning that everything seems like it’s all okay for once, but everything is actually about to go to shit. And that is indeed what happens. Csorwe, Shuthmili, and Tal are living and working together. I absolutely love these three and I would do anything for them. But things quickly take a turn when the three are on a job and they wake someone that they shouldn’t have. I don’t want to go into too much detail with the summary because quite a lot happens.
The plot of the story wasn’t as slow-moving as it was in the first book. I still haven’t decided if I like that or not because I loved the slower pace of the first installment. This one had so much more action and higher stakes. But it definitely made me read the story with more urgency because I needed to know what was going to happen. I’ve had an issue recently with other stories that do weird time jumps, but The Thousand Eyes made a fifteen-year time jump feel like it was a natural progression of the story. I liked how it was handled and I felt like it made total sense for the story.
Now, the characters. I grew quickly attached to them in the first book. I was very upset when the happily ever after that Tal, Csorwe, and Shuthmili got was completely upended. Larkwood absolutely created chaos for these characters in the most painful ways possible. All three of them are tested in different ways. I really loved them. My only complaint about the characters would be that I wanted smaller-scale interaction. I grew to love them in the first book, but in this one, it felt like they spend little to no time together so we didn’t really get to see them interacting with each other, mostly with other new characters. We mostly see Tal and Csorwe as the ‘frenemies’ that we’ve known from the first book. I wanted more of their banter but I also wanted them to reconcile and actually be friends. I think this was probably because they all ended up on different paths and there were new characters that were with the three main casts and where we’re getting to know them. But my favorite parts were still with Tal, Csorwe, and Shuthmili.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I devoured it as quickly as I could, falling asleep holding my kindle most nights until I finished it. I hope that we get to see more in this series but the conclusion was pretty well wrapped up and I would say I’m really satisfied with the way the story ended both plot-wise and for the characters. But I absolutely wouldn’t be mad about a companion with some of the immortal characters. I will be recommending this series often in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

No Beauties or Monsters by Tara Goedjen

Summary:
A mystery about a girl whose family secrets are as threatening as the desert that surrounds her—but whose quest to expose the truth may tear apart reality itself.
Rylie hasn’t been back to Twentynine Palms since her dad died. She left a lot of memories out there, buried in the sand of the Mojave Desert. Memories about her dad, her old friends Nathan and Lily, and most of all, her enigmatic grandfather, a man who cut ties with Rylie’s family before he passed away. But her mom’s new work assignment means their family has to move, and now Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to, living in the house of a grandfather she barely knew.
At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. And Twentynine Palms is so much stranger than Rylie remembers. There are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose, but it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels off—there’s something wrong with Rylie, too. She’s seeing things she can’t explain. Visions of monstrous creatures that stalk the night.
Somehow, it all seems to be tied to her grandfather and the family cabin he left behind. Rylie wants the truth, but she doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Are the monsters in her head really out there? Or could it be that the deadliest thing in the desert . . . is Rylie herself?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I have to say, this book was freaking weird, but in a good way, I think. The story follows Rylie just after her family has moved back to Twentynine Palms (a military base in California). Weird things are happening here and Rylie can’t be sure if she’s remembering things from the summers she spent staying with her grandfather, or if she’s just losing her mind.
I want to say that the mystery of this story was a good one, but I don’t know that it was. I was incredibly confused for most of this story and not in a fun, slowly putting the pieces together kind of way. I just genuinely had no clue what was going on. Rylie is having weird gaps in her memory, trying to remember with hypnosis, but remembering even weirder things that just don’t make any sense. I will say that when we find out what the big twist is, all of the confusion and weird puzzle pieces absolutely make sense. So, it’s a well-constructed mystery, I was just incredibly confused until the absolute last piece was revealed to the reader.
I think the setting of the desert was an interesting one. I feel like I don’t see much outside of the fantasy genre with a desert setting. But I think it worked really well for this story.
Overall, this story was absolutely bizarre. But I found myself unable to put it down until I learned what the heck was actually happening to these characters. Despite my confusion for most of the book, I was compelled to continue. The pace of the story felt quick even though things happened pretty slowly. The characters were interesting, but I didn’t feel any special attachment to them. I do think they were well developed with interesting personalities. I believe this is labeled as a horror story, but I don’t think it totally fits there. I think if anything this would be more science fiction than horror. But I want to know if anyone else has read this.  If you have, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Summary:
The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.
Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.
Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.
But can she trust them?

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can read my review for the first book here.
With the first book, it took me a little while to get into the story because there were a few different points of view that were all in different locations. So, we were learning characters and the world very quickly. I think that was definitely not an issue for this second book. I felt like I was immediately invested in the story since I was familiar with the world and its characters. The first book left all of the characters in pretty tumultuous places, most of them just having come into positions of power and now we’re getting to see what they’re doing with this power. Like the first book, we follow Lin, Jovis, Phalue, and sometimes Ranami. What I thought was really interesting was that Lin and Jovis’ parts of the story almost mirrored Phalue and Ranami’s parts of the story. Both Phalue and Lin have come into positions of power and seeing how they both deal with that was a really compelling part of the story. Lin faces so many challenges and obstacles. I really liked how Stewart didn’t shy away from showing us how Lin was upset and frustrated that things weren’t going her way. She has the best intentions, but the people of the Empire are resistant to accepting her and working with her. The development of all the characters was well done in my opinion. Their motivations were clear and understandable. I felt like it was easy for me to get invested in them.
With the first book, I felt the world building was a little lacking because we only saw a small picture of a larger Empire. But in this one, we get to see more of the island between Lin’s travels and Nisong’s conquests. There were still some things that were left unanswered (hello! The islands are sinking!) but there were so many things going on that the top priority issue kept changing which I feel helped the story feel like it was more fast-paced than it actually was. I was happy to get to see more of the Empire. We also learned way more about the history of the world and of Lin’s father’s backstory. I really liked learning the history and the backstory because it definitely put some pieces together.
Overall, I really liked this book. I liked it more than the first book, I think. Some of my questions from the first book were answered (we learn so much about the Algana which I totally loved and can’t wait to learn even more about) and new questions were raised. I cared about the characters and think their development was reasonable. I loved Phalue and Ranami’s romance. I liked Lin and Jovis’ but it didn’t blow me away. Jovis was honestly my biggest complaint with this book. He was so wishy-washy with whether or not he was going to spy on Lin and then he just kept making poor choices. It was incredibly frustrating. But I adored Memphi and Thrana. Their backstory is something I’m still very curious about and can’t wait to learn more about. This was a pretty good sequel and I can’t wait for book three.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma

Summary:
Dune meets The Poppy War in Aparna Verma’s The Boy with Fire, a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.
Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.
Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.
Leo Ravence is not ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.
The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced review copy. All opinions are my own. The Boy With Fire follows three points of view, for the most part. The king, Leo, his daughter and heir, Elena, and an assassin, Yassen. Yassen is defecting from the assassin organization he’s been a part of since they recruited him as an orphaned child. He’s been made a part of Elena’s guard. It’s almost time for Elena to claim the throne. Elena’s coronation is what most of this book is leading up to. Until the coronation, it’s mostly world-building and character building, as well as, the politics of the kingdom and the potential arrival of someone called the Prophet.
I thought the world-building was interesting enough. I think fantasy is just not my genre lately. I had a really hard time focusing until more than halfway into the story. It wasn’t that the world-building was overly complicated because it wasn’t. It was detailed and complex, but not so much so that it was confusing. It was interesting, I just wasn’t invested. I don’t think it was any fault of the story that I wasn’t invested either. The writing was really good. There were quite a few parts where the writing really stuck out as good and memorable. I think I just personally need to take a break from fantasy.
I felt similarly about the characters. They were all well developed and interesting. But I wasn’t invested. Again, I think this was a me thing and not really the fault of the book. I liked Elena the most because she’s about to become Queen and her father won’t prepare her in the ways that he’s supposed to. So, she takes it upon herself to train from scrolls and literature. She’s stubborn and very obviously loves her kingdom. Yassen was an interesting character too because he’s finally back home in the country he grew up in and that brings some tough memories back up. He’s also is not looked upon very favorably because of the assassin organization he was a part of. But he proves himself loyal. I think the twists involving Yassen were some of the better ones in the story and also the twist at the end with Samson was totally a surprise.
Overall, this was a well-written and well-explained fantasy world with characters that were well developed. I don’t have any negative things to say about the story aside from the fact that I wasn’t really invested in any of it, the world or the characters. But, one last time, I think that’s a personal thing that I’m dealing with for the genre of fantasy at the moment and not the fault of the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Summary:
Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.
Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.
Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.
Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved Ernshaw’s two YA novels, so when I heard she was publishing an adult novel, I was incredibly excited. I have to say, it did not disappoint.
The story starts off following Travis who is looking for a missing woman. Travis is grieving the death of his sister who recently committed suicide. He’s not in a super great place. So, when his longtime friend asks him to take on one more case of trying to find a missing woman, it takes some convincing to get him to help. You see, Travis can see memories within objects. So, he follows the path that Maggie took and it leads him to Pastoral. Pastoral is a town in the middle of the woods that most people don’t even know exist. The people in this town live off the land and never leave their town. The story changes a bit from here. We follow Calla, Theo, and Bee who all live in Pastoral and have lived there for many years.
I have to say that the switch from Travis’s point of view to the alternating points of view of Calla, Theo, and Bee was a little jarring. I totally see why the author did this the way that she did. But I liked Travis and I was immediately invested in his story and following him while he searched for Maggie. Though, I think the changing of the points of view did a great job of creating suspense and mystery because it really left me wondering what happened to Travis after he found Pastoral. I liked Theo right away. He pushed the boundaries of what was “acceptable” for their community. And though he kept it a secret, his wife, Calla, knew that something was up with him. I didn’t really like Calla until she and Theo were finally on the same page. I liked her once the two of them were working together. Bee was my favorite. Bee is Calla’s sister and all three of them live together in the farmhouse that Bee and Calla grew up in. Bee is blind, her vision disappeared when she was younger. But because of that, her other senses are heightened. This fact is exaggerated to almost make it seem like Bee has magic. I think I liked Bee the most because she pushed boundaries and spoke her mind. She wasn’t a super likable character, always abrasive and doing what she needed to to help herself with what she was going through.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it. I think if you enjoyed Ernshaw’s previous two books, you’ll like this one too. It’s a winding story that builds and builds before it spills all of its secrets. The setting of Pastoral was a fascinating one and the characters were a group that I easily found myself invested in. I will be looking forward to more adult works from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Summary:
Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.
The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.
Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to be honest. I only requested this book because of my friend Avhlee over at Tea Cups and Torn Pages. She loves Owen’s books and was fangirling about this one in the group chat for long enough that when I saw it on NetGalley, I had to request it.
I’m so glad that I did because I really, really enjoyed this book. The story follows Vanja, who was given to the Low Gods Death and Fortune when she was just a small child. She was the thirteenth child of the thirteenth child, so her birth mother believed her to be bad luck. Once Vanja got to a certain age, she couldn’t stay with Death and Fortune (titled as godmothers to Vanja) anymore, so they found her a position in a castle where she met more mistreatment. Vanja has led a hard life and because of that she has quite a sizable chip on her shoulder. She steals her mistress’s (Gisele) life while traveling and proceed to steal from the rich people she must be around while playing the role of Gisele. But she crosses the wrong Low God and is cursed for her greed. On top of that, a junior prefect arrives looking for the thief known as the “Red Penny” (who is Vanja).
This is a Goose Girl retelling, but that doesn’t actually mean anything to me because I’m not familiar with the original Goose Girl story. So, I can’t speak to the retelling aspect of the story. But I loved Vanja. She’s been treated poorly her entire life, so who could really blame her for finally taking things into her own hands to secure her future? Certainly not me. But even further, the mystery and magic surrounding the case that Vanja and the junior prefect team up to solve was a fascinating one. Owen did an incredibly job of weaving all the mysteries in the story together. How was Vanja going to break the curse? Who was trying to kill princess Gisele? There were lots of questions and the suspense of finding the answers was really well done. I also just plain liked Vanja. She does whatever she needs to survive. But she’s incredibly clever and resilient.
Without going into too many details because I don’t want to spoil anything, this book really had it all. There was a romance between two women. There was a romance for Vanja. There was a sister-like relationship that was pretty fractured at the start of the story that we got to see slowly mended. There was murder and mystery. There was magic and fascinating world building. I loved the idea of the Low Gods and their magic. I really loved everything about this book. There wasn’t a single moment that I thought, “oh this book would be better if XYZ.” I really loved this book and I highly recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis

Summary:
The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone, but details about the alien presence on Earth are still being withheld from the public. As the political climate grows more unstable, the world is forced to consider the ramifications of granting human rights to nonhuman persons. How do you define “person” in the first place?
Cora Sabino not only serves as the full-time communication intermediary between the alien entity Ampersand and his government chaperones but also shares a mysterious bond with him that is both painful and intimate in ways neither of them could have anticipated. Despite this, Ampersand is still keen on keeping secrets, even from Cora, which backfires on them both when investigative journalist Kaveh Mazandarani, a close colleague of Cora’s unscrupulous estranged father, witnesses far more of Ampersand’s machinations than anyone was meant to see.
Since Cora has no choice but to trust Kaveh, the two must work together to prove to a fearful world that intelligent, conscious beings should be considered persons, no matter how horrifying, powerful, or malicious they may seem. Making this case is hard enough when the public doesn’t know what it’s dealing with—and it will only become harder when a mysterious flash illuminates the sky, marking the arrival of an agent of chaos that will light an already-unstable world on fire.
With a voice completely her own and more than a million YouTube subscribers, Lindsay Ellis deepens her realistic exploration of the reality of a planet faced with the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence, probing the essential questions of humanity and decency, and the boundaries of the human mind.
While asking the question of what constitutes a “person,” Ellis also examines what makes a monster.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I made the mistake of reading some of the reviews of the first book once I finished reading Axiom’s End. I had a lot of fun reading that book and enjoyed it without taking it too seriously. But since I did read reviews, I couldn’t help but think about the things mentioned while I was reading this sequel.
While we get more of the unique alien situation that I enjoyed from the first book, there’s more than just hinting at a romantic relationship with an alien. Some people may want that, but I do not. Something about the idea of Cora and Ampersand going from friends (potentially family members) to something more romantic made me feel uncomfortable. I was sad about this because I really loved their friendship from the first book. We do get more of that friendship at the start of this book, but it quickly turned into thoughts of more, and then they were both having mental health crises’ for essentially the rest of the book. So, I still liked the aliens in this book. I think they’re unique and seem to be well thought out. I just didn’t like the hinting at a romantic relationship.
The idea of the human/alien romance was nixed when Kaveh came into the picture. He’s a reporter for the New York Times. He’s significantly older than Cora (not my preferred romance trope, but I know many people like that). I really liked Kaveh for the first half of the book, but then things about his and Cora’s romantic relationship started to make me feel uncomfortable. He does thinks like think about how he probably shouldn’t have sex with Cora at the moment because she just had a panic attack. Or that it’s very obvious her body is saying no even when her words are telling him to do it anyway. I get that she’s consenting vocally, but she clearly needs some mental health help, and having sex with her while she’s dealing with that didn’t feel right. Small things like this happened again and again in their relationship. I was sad to feel this way because I really liked Kaveh and I wanted to be able to wholeheartedly root for his romance with Cora, but I just couldn’t with all the red flags.
The final thing I want to mention is the writing. I didn’t really notice it in the first book, but after reading reviews where it was often brought up, I couldn’t help it. The writing was not good. Ellis uses phrases like “veins clogged with vehicular cholesterol” and it totally took me out of the story having to think about these metaphors she was trying and failing to use. The one that took me out of the story the most was seeing the word “carefuller” in the book. Even my iPhone (where I’m typing this review immediately after finishing this book) is telling me that this word is incorrect. I think listening to the audiobook for the first book and the skill of the narrator didn’t make the poor writing as obvious, but I read an eARC of this one and there were so many weird metaphors and clunky sentences that I highlighted that I can’t reasonably include them all.
Overall, I finished this book instead of DNF’ing it, so I would say that I was invested enough to finish the story until the end (which was incredibly unsatisfying). I’m not sure if that says more about this book or the first one. But I liked the concept of the aliens and the conversations of the politics of “what kind of rights would humanity give to an alien species on earth.” I think Ellis did a good job with the political aspect of the idea of aliens on earth. I just don’t think, overall, that this was a very good sequel. I ended up disliking many of the characters I grew to care about in the first book. I’m not sure if there are supposed to be more installments in this series, but if so, I probably won’t continue it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Summary:
What the heart desires, the house destroys
Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.
Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy. Here is my honest review. Within These Wicked Walls is pitched as an Ethiopian-inspired fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre. I haven’t read Jane Eyre, so I won’t be sharing anything regarding that aspect of this story. I’m going to review it more as a regular fantasy story.
The story follows Andromeda, or Andi, a debtera that’s been hired to exorcise the Evil Eye in Magnus Rochester’s house. She creates different amulets to get rid of the Manifestations. But it’s a dangerous job. She must seek out her old mentor for help, which he might not give, if she wants to succeed in removing the Evil Eye from Magnus’ house.
There were some aspects of this story that I really loved and others that I didn’t like at all. So, I’m going to start with what I liked. The world building and the magic were really well done. The setting of the Rochester house was a really good one. It’s huge, and creepy as hell because each room has its own weird magical issues because of the Evil Eye. But the weird magical things were fascinating. The library had a ghost that would communicate with passages from books. There was one room that was covered in ghost spiders. I was fascinated by all the different Manifestations. The debtera aspect of the story was really interesting too. I liked learning about her past and her training with Jember (the previously mentioned mentor).
I liked Andi. She had an interesting backstory. She was amazing because despite all of the bad in that backstory, she was still mostly an optimist. There were some really well-done emotional parts of this story involving Jember. I loved their relationship. It wasn’t traditional and they both had their issues, but they loved each other. I really liked Andi, right up until she and Magnus pledged their love to one another.
The romance is the only thing I didn’t like about this book. I was coming up on 40% of the way through the story and thought their relationship was developing really well and naturally when all of a sudden, they’re making out in the hall and pledging their love to one another and that just came out of nowhere. It didn’t feel like they were anywhere near that point in their relationship, when suddenly, it happened. And in the next chapter after they’ve pledged themselves to one another, there’s a huge betrayal revealed. I felt like I was getting emotional whip lash and I didn’t care for it at all. I felt like I couldn’t get invested in their romance again after all of that because it genuinely made me mad.
Overall, I really did enjoy parts of this story. I loved the setting and the magic. I liked the relationship between Andromeda and Jember. I liked all of the characters as individuals. I just really didn’t care for the romance between Andi and Magnus after the halfway point.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Summary:
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for an advanced copy of The Death of Jane Lawrence in exchange for an honest review. This story follows Jane, a woman that is seeking a platonic marriage of convenience so that she is no longer the responsibility of her foster family. She meets with Augustine Lawrence, a local doctor, who eventually agrees to her proposal. But she’s never allowed to stay overnight at his family home, Lindrige Hall. As things tend to go in stories, the first night they are married, Jane’s carriage is washed off the road on its way to town by a rain storm, so the only alternative is that Jane walks back and stays the night with Augustine at Lindrige Hall. This is when things start to get creepy.
I really liked Jane. I thought her backstory and character development were well done. We didn’t get her life’s story dumped on us, but instead got to know her as the story developed. We learned that she was a level headed, logical woman. But the things happening at Lindrige Hall were anything but logical. It was really interesting to see Jane in a situation where her brain couldn’t use reason and logic to explain what was going on around her. I liked Augustine, too. He had secrets that he never thought he would have to share with Jane. It was a marriage of convenience, after all. But when his secrets start coming out, the reader isn’t left with a clear idea of whether or not Augustine is a good or bad person. He was a complicated man and Jane’s growing romantic feelings for him didn’t make things any easier.
The mystery and weirdness of Lindrige Hall made this story excellently spooky. There are ghosts, we think. But they might not actually be ghosts. There’s magic, but is magic actually real? I guess it’s only real if you believe that it’s real. There was so much that defied the logic that Jane depended upon and this really added some confusion to the story, in a good way.
Overall, The Death of Jane Lawrence is the perfect book for October. It’s creepy and atmospheric. It’s weird and confusing. It leaves the reader wondering ‘what the heck is actually going on?’ But all the things that the reader learns are wrapped up for the most part by the end of the story. I liked the characters, the setting, and the magic. I would definitely recommend this one and I will be seeking out Starling’s backlist very soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.