Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Summary:
Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending? And what of Phaedra, the beloved little sister she leaves behind?
Hypnotic, propulsive, and utterly transporting, Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne forges a new epic, outside the traditional narratives of heroism and glory that leave no room for women.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Review:
Ariadne follows the life of Ariadne, from Greek mythology. I didn’t know much about her previous to this book, so I can’t speak to that aspect of this being a retelling. I haven’t read too many Greek mythology retellings in the last few years because I’ve continually been disappointed by them. But I’m happy to say that this wasn’t the case with Ariadne. While I wouldn’t say this was a very happy story (are there any actual happy stories when it comes to Greek myths?), I will say that I enjoyed it.
I really liked Ariadne as the main character. She hears stories of how other women of her time are treated (specifically Medusa) and is enraged. I would have liked to see a little bit more of this rage as actual anger instead of how it manifested mostly as distrust for Dionysus. Ariadne made some poor choices that led to her being abandoned on an island that belonged to Dionysus. He finds her there and the two very slowly develop a relationship. I really liked how their friendship developed and then later on turned into something else. I do think that this being a multiple-perspective story took a bit away from Ariadne and Dionysus’ story, which is what I really cared about. I didn’t care much about Ariadne’s sister and her chapters at all (I just finished this book and I already don’t even remember her name.)
Overall, I think this was a well-written story. I liked most of the characters that were supposed to like and despised the characters that we were obviously supposed to dislike. But I wouldn’t say that I ever felt so strongly about any of them that this story will leave a lasting impression. I think I’ll definitely give more of Saint’s books a try in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Excalibur Curse by Kiersten White

Summary:
While journeying north toward the Dark Queen, Guinevere falls into the hands of her enemies. Behind her are Lancelot, trapped on the other side of the magical barrier they created to protect Camelot, and Arthur, who has been led away from his kingdom, chasing after false promises. But the greatest danger isn’t what lies ahead of Guinevere—it’s what’s been buried inside her.
Vowing to unravel the truth of her past with or without Merlin’s help, Guinevere joins forces with the sorceress Morgana and her son, Mordred—and faces the confusing, forbidden feelings she still harbors for him. When Guinevere makes an agonizing discovery about who she is and how she came to be, she finds herself with an impossible choice: fix a terrible crime, or help prevent war.
Guinevere is determined to set things right, whatever the cost. To defeat a rising evil. To remake a kingdom. To undo the mistakes of the past… even if it means destroying herself.
Guinevere has been a changeling, a witch, a queen—but what does it mean to be just a girl?
The gripping conclusion to the acclaimed Arthurian fantasy trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White finds Guinevere questioning everything—friends and enemies, good and evil, and, most of all, herself.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I’m not usually one for historical fantasy or retellings like these. But I absolutely loved White’s And I Darken trilogy. So, I went into this series knowing that I’d probably like it too because White is an amazing writer. I was not wrong with that assumption at all. This is the third and final book in this series, so I won’t say too much about the actual details of the plot because I like to avoid spoilers in my reviews.
We’re following Guinevere as we have for the past two books. I was honestly a little bit annoyed at how she still hadn’t gotten any answers to the question of who she actually was because she’s been asking and searching for answers for three books at this point. It took most of this book to finally get those answers. I felt a little disappointed that so much of the story was focused on “who is Guinevere” rather than the exciting part of the story about defeating the big bad threat that the first two books were leading up to. I think that’s because I really enjoyed the magical bits that we did get when it came to the big bad threat of this series. I will say though, that I was really satisfied with how everything played out. It felt like the story had a really natural progression and the specific ways that the story unfolded felt like it made sense for the characters.
I still really liked Guinevere, but she was a little whiney in this book. I get that she felt like she was trying to do the right thing by the actual Guinevere, but when literally everyone in your life is telling you something, maybe you should listen to them? I liked how she came into her own and really started to push Arthur and make him see how unfair so many things can be for women. I think that was one of my favorite things about this story, the focus on how women are treated and how much of that treatment isn’t right. I loved the steps that Guinevere took to right those wrongs.
Most of all, I loved the writing. There were so many quotes and lines that I will come back to again and again in this story. White really is a phenomenal writer and her words just come together beautifully to tell this story.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I think it was a really great conclusion to this series. As i believe I mentioned in my review for the first book, I don’t know much about the myths and legends of Arthur and Camelot, which I think allowed me to be more easily swept away by this story and it’s characters. I would definitely recommend this series for fantasy lovers or anyone that likes retellings that have a twist.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Summary:
Ana Dakkar is a freshman at Harding-Pencroft Academy, a five-year high school that graduates the best marine scientists, naval warriors, navigators, and underwater explorers in the world. Ana’s parents died while on a scientific expedition two years ago, and the only family’s she’s got left is her older brother, Dev, also a student at HP. Ana’s freshman year culminates with the class’s weekend trial at sea, the details of which have been kept secret. She only hopes she has what it’ll take to succeed. All her worries are blown out of the water when, on the bus ride to the ship, Ana and her schoolmates witness a terrible tragedy that will change the trajectory of their lives.
But wait, there’s more. The professor accompanying them informs Ana that their rival school, Land Institute, and Harding-Pencroft have been fighting a cold war for a hundred and fifty years. Now that cold war has been turned up to a full broil, and the freshman are in danger of becoming fish food. In a race against deadly enemies, Ana will make amazing friends and astounding discoveries about her heritage as she puts her leadership skills to the test for the first time.

Book Cover

Review:
Daughter of the Deep follows Ana Dakkar who one of the last living descendants of Captain Nemo (not the animated fish, as is pointed out 100 times in this story), one of the characters from Jules Berne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She’s a freshman at the Harding-Pencroft Academy and she’s about to go on her first weekend away for the freshman trials. But tragedy strikes and her school sinks into the ocean. As she and her classmates witness this devastation, she’s also made aware of her linage and many other secrets that involve her school and her family. The stakes are raised even higher when she learns that their rival high school is after her and they are willing to go to lengths that Ana has a hard time imagining.
To say that I loved this book is an understatement. Ana was an amazing main character. I loved her so much. She’s thrown into a situation where she’s way over her head and she handles it incredibly well, but also really realistically. She’s level-headed but still takes time to feel and process her emotions. She takes into consideration the ideas and opinions of those around her. She’s just a genuinely good leader and I really hope that we get more than just this one book because I would love to see Ana grow more into her role as a leader. I also really loved all the supporting characters. They’re an incredibly diverse cast of characters and I think they were all very easy to get emotionally invested in.
The story itself was so much fun. It’s fast-paced but it wasn’t jarring in the sense of going from one action-filled part of the story to the next. So many things happen, but it was paced so well and I couldn’t help but devour the story to see how things turned out. I loved the science fiction bits of the story with all of Captain Nemo’s technology but I especially loved the Nautilus. I think the submarine was one of my favorite characters. I would love another book set in this world to see what else the Nautilus can do and what the characters decide to do with it.
Overall, Riordan has provided us with another hit novel. It’s fast-paced and action-packed. The stakes are high and things are absolutely dire, but it was still so much fun to read. The characters were easy to love and I hope that we get to see more of them.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

Summary:
It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book. But I actually waited too long to read that arc, so, I bought the finished copy and read that because I’ve loved all of Harrow’s writing so far. A Spindle Splintered was no different.
The story follows Zinnia, who isn’t likely going to live past her 21st birthday. She’s not cursed, just dying due to something in the water supply that her mother drank while pregnant with Zinnia. Her whole life, Sleeping Beauty has been her favorite fairytale. She’s read every version of the story she can find. So, on the night of her 21st birthday, she’s celebrating with her best friend, Charm, when she’s transported to another world, to another Sleeping Beauty. Here she meets Primrose and the two work together to try to change their fate.
This was a novella, so it’s super short. I absolutely wanted more of this story. I wanted to know more about the rules that Zin made for herself and more about her experience of leaving high school early and starting college early. I wanted more stories of her and Charm when they were growing up. I absolutely want to know more about the witch that we get to meet. Despite my desire to want more, this still felt like a fully-formed story with world-building and character development that I was happy with.
I really liked Zin. She knows she is dying and, at this point, is just waiting for it to happen. She literally says that she’s waiting out the clock. It was sad to think of her just waiting to die. But it sounded hard to live the way that she did. I really loved Zin getting to know Primrose. I liked that there was more to her than what we could assumed when looking at a princess. She’s brave and clever.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It talks a lot about different versions of the same story. Also there’s a female/female relationship that was so easy to love. I think that all the characters were ones that I got invested in very quickly. I loved the feminist aspect of the story and I absolutely cannot wait to read the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Retellings

Hey, lovelies! I used to read so many retellings, fairytale, folklore, and mythological retellings were a huge favorite genre of mine for a really long time. But I think I’m growing out of that. I’ve noticed that I don’t gravitate toward picking them up anymore. I will say that I do still read mythological retellings, and pretty often, especially now that we’re branching away from the typical Greek and Roman mythologies. I’ve also been discovering retellings other than fairytale and folklore. You will find some of those on this list. So, today I want to share some retellings that I really enjoyed.

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses which was one of my favorite fairytales as a kid. I’d never read a retelling of this one before, and I think this one was excellent. I don’t know if it’s actually considered horror, but it definitely has some horror elements. Annaleigh is one of twelve siblings. But four of her siblings have died, one at a time, and Annaleigh doesn’t think that they were accidents. I really loved this book. It stayed true to the heart of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairytale and added some really cool horror elements. The setting was creepy and atmospheric.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, sort of. This is a four book series that follows Charlotte Homes and Jamie Watson. They are the descendents of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Charlotte and Jamie find themselves at the same boarding school and when a student is found murdered, they obviously must solve the mystery. I loved this whole series. There are a lot of hard hitting topics like mental health and drug use. There’s even a little bit of romance. This is one of the books I was talking about when I said I was finding and enjoying retellings outside of fairytales. This is a retelling of an older book series and I thought it was so interesting and I loved all of the characters.

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The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
We have here a Henry VIII retelling. I actually didn’t know that this was a Shakespeare retelling until after I finished it. I think I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it in the description as I’m not a fan of Shakespeare at all. Despite that, I really enjoyed this modern retelling. I thought the mystery was well done and I really liked the characters. We follow Annie, nicknamed “Cleves”, and Henry. They are best friends, but they also briefly dated. Out of all of Henry’s ex-girlfriends, Cleves is the only one that has remained friends with him. She doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious about that, but after talking to some of his ex’s she might be changing her mind. I liked the mystery in this one because I couldn’t decide whether of not Henry was actually guilty right until the end of the book.

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The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
This one is more inspired by than a true retelling, but I really loved it so I had to add it to this list. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, this is a dark and gritty story of revenge. In a small town in Ohio lives Tress and Felicity, two girls that used to be best friends. When Tress’s parents went missing, Felicity was with them, but she claims not to remember anything about what happened. Tress doesn’t believe her and she’s determined to get the truth out of Felicity, even if that means sealing her up, brick by brick. This book was weird and dark as hell and I cannot wait for the sequel.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This series is a pretty popular one, but this first book is my favorite of the series. It’s a historical retelling with a fantasy twist. This one is a bit less retelling than it is fantasy. We follow Lady Jane Grey as she’s about to become queen. But her cousin is determined to see her married. The only problem is that the love interest, G, turns into a horse everyday at dawn. This added some hilarity to the story. I loved this book because it was funny but it also had an interesting historical feel.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Another popular one, but this is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. We get to see her childhood and the events that led up to the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. There’s lots of baking and love and fun in this book. There’s love and romance, but also betrayal and heartbreak. I thought this was a really great retelling or rather a prequel story.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
This one is more of an after sort of retelling. In this one, we get to see what happens to Cinderella’s stepsisters after Cinderella meets and marries her Prince Charming. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one because the main character that we follow, Isabelle. She’s the stepsister that cut off her toes to try and fit in the glass slipper. Isabelle is a pretty unlikeable character, but the way that this story is told really helped that. Instead of just Isabelle’s perspective, we see a point of view from Fate, who is following the map of Isabelle’s life. They’re watching to see what path Isabelle might take and if she will veer away from the path expected for her. I thought this was a really unique retelling about a character that most people don’t think of in the Cinderella story.

Book Cover

And I Darken by Kiersten White
We have a historical retelling, which surprisingly end up being some of my favorites. I don’t really love historical fiction, but there’s something about a really good historical retelling that keeps me engaged in the story. We follow Lada and Radu. This is a gender bent retelling of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is a vicious and angry girl. She’s determined to prove that she is worthy to her father, but when she and her brother, Radu, are sent as gifts to be raised in the Ottoman courts, she feels nothing but betrayal. This is a really slow moving story, but it’s so worth it. We see Lada grow from a vicious girl into a lethal young woman. I absolutely loved it.

These are some of my favorite retellings. I’ve had so much fun finding new kinds of retellings from alternate historical retellings to retellings of other fiction works, to some more unique fairytale and folklore stories. Do you have any favorite retellings? Leave a comment and share them with me!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson

Summary:
Swinging London, Summer 1967. Sixteen-year-old Estella, gifted with talent, ingenuity, and ambition, dreams of becoming a renowned fashion designer. But life seems intent on making sure her dreams never come true. Having arrived in London as a young girl, Estella now runs wild through the city streets with Jasper and Horace, amateur thieves who double as Estella’s makeshift family and partners-in-(petty)-crime. How can Estella dedicate herself to joining the ranks of the London design elite when she’s sewing endless costumes and disguises for the trio’s heists?
When a chance encounter with Magda and Richard Moresby-Plum, two young scions of high society, vaults Estella into the world of the rich and famous, she begins to wonder whether she might be destined for more after all. Suddenly, Estella’s days are filled with glamorous parties, exclusive eateries, flirtations with an up-and-coming rock star, and, of course, the most cutting-edge fashions money can buy. But what is the true cost of keeping up with the fast crowd-and is it a price Estella is willing to pay? 

Hello, Cruel Heart

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I requested this because it’s a book by Maureen Johnson and I usually love Johnson’s books. Plus, Cruella? Sign me up.
I didn’t end up liking this as much as I thought I was going to. Cruella is actually named Estella. Her mom dies and she ends up all alone in London. She meets two boys that become her family. They survive by stealing. They steal food and money or whatever else they need to survive. I liked the relationship between these three. But I think we could have gotten more from it. I feel like I still know nothing about these two boys that are like brothers to Estella. I don’t know their history. I did like Estella’s backstory. Definitely enough to turn me into a villain.
I also just liked Estella, even when she was kind of being a jerk. She’s sixteen in this book and definitely still a bit naive. I saw the ending coming almost as soon as she made friends with Magda and Richard. Estella is swept up by the wealthy London scene and starts making clothes for everyone. And the whole time I was left thinking: why is she not asking anyone to pay for these clothes she’s hand making?
Overall, I had a tough time with this book. The ending felt rushed. I would have liked to see what her plans for her next steps were after reconciling with her brothers. I also had a hard time because of the eARC. There were weird images that I assume are going to be chapter designs that chopped up and even moved some paragraphs. It was manageable, but annoying enough to affect my reading experience. I will say that I think Johnson did a good job with the writing and the setting. She was consistent with the language used by the characters and while telling the story. London sounds like a blast during this period of time.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Summary:
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

Lost in the Never Woods

Review:
Lost in the Never Woods was provided to me via NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book follows Wendy Darling years after she and her brothers disappeared in the woods. But while Wendy reappeared with no memory of the time she was missing, her brothers did not. Wendy is turning 18. She’s about to go off to college and start life on her own. She volunteers at the hospital with the kids. When kids from her town start disappearing, they’re kids that Wendy knows. So, she feels like she needs to do something to help get them back. But things get weird when Wendy finds Peter Pan late one night near the woods while she’s driving home.
I really liked the retelling aspect of this book. Things took a really dark turn that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve never been a super fan of Peter Pan, so I don’t know if this twist was one from Thomas’s imagination or if it stems from previous Peter Pan stories. But it shocked the heck out of me, so there’s that. I think the plot of the story, Peter and Wendy trying to rescue the missing kids was a good one. But I think the story felt really slow. They meet to brainstorm, try to find the kids, and figure out a general plan of action several times. Some of these times end up with them getting ice cream or doing something completely unrelated to their goal of finding the kids. I just felt like the story was pretty slow and drawn out.
Now, I will say that the writing and the other topics covered in the story made this slow pace a bit more enjoyable. Wendy is suffering from survivor’s guilt. She made it out of the woods with no memory of what happened or where her brothers are now. So, this was a big focus of the story. I liked this aspect. It was hard to read at times, but I think the grief and guilt was really well done. Wendy’s parents are also pretty neglectful. As a parent myself, I felt for them. They lost their two youngest children with no sure knowledge of whether they’re dead or alive. This loss consumes Wendy’s parents and after her return they are not the same parents they were before. I liked the conclusion with Wendy’s parents. As hard as it was to read their suffering and grief, I really liked how their relationship with Wendy changed.
Peter as a character was absolutely fascinating. I saw a review where he’s described as a ‘manic pixie dream boy’ and I think that perfectly explains his character. He’s mysterious, curious, and a bit wild. He’s dealing with losing his magic and growing into an adult, which he isn’t supposed to do. But it’s clear he knows things that he isn’t telling Wendy. They mystery of Peter and his secrets was really well done. Small things were revealed overtime to keep us interested until the big reveal. Wendy however, felt a little bland. She was pretty much only her grief and guilt. We get a little bit other than that with her volunteering and plans to go off to college, but it felt like she had no personality.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I think many will really love this story. It brings heavy conversations to the table and talks about them thoughtfully and with respect. It had characters you want to root for. The writing is beautiful and memorable but still easy to read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Chosen by Kiersten White

Summary:
Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.
And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?
The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.
Review:Chosen (Slayer, #2)
Chosen
is the sequel to Slayer. It’s White’s continuation of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer world. You can find my review for the first book here. I was never huge into the Buffy show, but I’m a sucker for vampire books. I also really enjoy White’s books and this series is no different.
Nina is dealing with a lot when this book opens. Her sister has left, the guy she had a crush on died, and life at the Watcher’s Castle has changed. They have changed their mission of killing demons indiscriminately and instead have been working on making the castle a sanctuary. Now, I feel like that’s all I can say about the plot so that I don’t spoil things.
Nina is struggling emotionally, but also physically because of her Slayer abilities. Much of this book was Nina trying to internally work through her emotions and the things she went through in the first book. I think Nina showed a lot of growth by the end of this book. I don’t know how to get into it without giving anything away. But she doesn’t always make the best choices, she’s reckless, and sometimes that leads to her learning things that will hurt her. But she grows from that and I really liked that.
Overall, this was a fun story, but it also covered important things, like mental health and how family relationships can change. I definitely wanted to watch Buffy again after reading this book. I really enjoyed all the lore and fantasy elements (like the demons). The friendships were also enjoyable. There were a few things that I predicted before they were revealed, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

GoodReads Summary:
The second book in a new fantasy trilogy from New York Timesbestselling author Kiersten White, exploring the nature of self, the inevitable cost of progress, and, of course, magic and romance and betrayal so epic Queen Guinevere remains the most famous queen who never lived.
EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.
Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.
When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?
The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising, #2)Review:
Big thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Camelot Betrayal is the second book in the Camelot Rising trilogy. I loved this book just as much as I loved the first (find my review here!) As I said in the review for the first book, this is a retelling of the myth of King Arthur and Camelot, but it is focused instead on Guinevere. I still know little to nothing about the original mythology, but this was fun for me. I think it was more fun for me because I didn’t know anything about the mythology. I didn’t have anything to compare it to other than the vague idea of the story that Arthur claimed Excalibur.
We follow Guinevere after the events of the first book. She’s trying to figure out who she is. She has little to no memories of her childhood and she’s confused. She’s supposed to be playing the part of Guinevere the Queen and finally feels like she might be figuring out how to do that. I really liked that Guinevere was trying to figure things out for herself. I think this made for a really interesting emotional journey. She has several important relationships, with her lady’s maid, her knight, and with Arthur. Relationships are always changing and growing, and that’s clear in this story. I liked this aspect of the story too. Guinevere’s still trying to figure out the right thing for her and for the people around her. She becomes more aware throughout the story that she might not be doing what’s best for her friends and she tries to change that. I liked Guinevere. She’s kind, but strong. She wants to do the right thing, and tries to, and feels guilt when there are consequences from her actions that she did not expect. I just really liked her.
I also really liked the development of her and Arthur’s relationship. It’s slow and sweet. They both want similar things, but Arthur feels guilt for how and why Guinevere came be to in Camelot. I liked seeing their relationship change from the first book. I don’t like the love triangle aspect. I’m team Arthur all the way, though the other choice is certainly intriguing.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the series so far. I’m very excited for the conclusion. I love all the character, main and supporting. I think my favorite part of the story though is the intrigue of the secrets that Guinevere thinks she is figuring out. I can’t tell what’s true and what isn’t. There’s so much that she doesn’t know and it really kept me wanting more. I loved how little pieces were tied together through the characters. I’m very eager to get all of the answers to the questions that I have from this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Towering by Alex Flinn

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GoodReads Summary:
High in my tower I sit. I watch the birds fly below, the clouds float above, and the tall green forest stretch to places I might never see.
Mama, who isn’t my mother, has kept me hidden away for many years. My only companions, besides Mama, are my books—great adventures, mysteries, and romances that I long to make my reality. But I know that no one will come to save me—my life is not a fairy tale after all.
Well, at least no one has come so far. Recently, my hair has started to grow rapidly and it’s now long enough to reach the bottom of the tower from my window. I’ve also had the strangest dreams of a beautiful green-eyed man.
When Mama isn’t around, I plan my escape, even if it’s just for a little while. There’s something—maybe someone—waiting for me out there and it won’t find me if I’m trapped here Towering above it all.
ToweringReview:
So, I mostly liked this book. But first of all, there was a lot of kissing between characters that had just met (like an hour ago) and I just didn’t like that. This leads me to talk about my least favorite trope: insta-love. There was some sort of communication between Wyatt and Rachel, in a magical sort of way. But nothing that actually lets them get to know one another before meeting. I tried to put that aside, and I did end up liking Wyatt and Rachel together. They were sweet and I liked how they supported one another and managed to figure out what the hell was going on in town.
I liked the fairytale aspect of the story too. Rachel is trapped in a tower because some bad shit (and weird shit) has been happening in this town. I liked how the original story was twisted to be more modern, but I was a little surprised that Rachel was trapped in a literal tower. I think more could have been done with that.
I think the reasoning behind keeping Rachel hidden was the most interesting thing about this story. I don’t want to share too much, but it had to with drugs and it was definitely a twist I didn’t really see coming.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was my favorite of Flinn’s but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I definitely am going to keep going with her retellings to see what else she’s come up with. I’m also really excited to read her Kendra Chronicles because ever since Beastly, I’ve been trying to make little connections to Kendra.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)Review:
This is an alternate historical fiction retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler. In Kiersten White’s story, Vlad is a girl named Lada. And damn is she fierce. She is vicious and unforgiving. She cares for no one and nothing except for her home country Wallachia (and sometimes her younger brother, Radu). But being a girl in the 1400s her father doesn’t care much about her at all. She lives to prove her worth and to get his attention. Her life changes forever when her father leaves Lada and Radu with the Ottoman Empire as a sort of collateral to ensure that he sticks to their treaty.
This story was tough because it follows Lada from her birth to her later teenage years. So, there are slower parts of the story and more fast-paced parts. But throughout, you can’t help but like Lada because she doesn’t want to be just another girl to be used to secure a politically advantageous marriage. She wants to be a ruler. She will be in charge of her life. I liked that she was supposed to be unlikable and ugly. I’m definitely excited to see where the next book in the series will go for her.
Now, sweet Radu. I loved and pitied him. It wasn’t hard to feel sorry for him for the first 100 pages or so. He was horribly bullied for being small and sensitive. Lada and her childhood friend were pretty horrible to him, but Lada occasionally stuck up for him against others. It was a confusing relationship. I liked the sibling aspect of the story even though it was certainly not a traditional sibling dynamic. I really enjoyed Radu’s story once he learned more about Islam. I thought that was a great addition to the story as we got to learn a bit about it alongside him. And it’s obvious how he changes after finding faith.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were diverse characters, Radu is in love with his and Lada’s closest friend in the Ottoman Empire (but Lada loves him too which makes it a little weird) and there is another character that’s friends with Radu that mentions being with both genders. There is also a lesbian couple (in hiding because it’s the 1400s, but it’s there). I liked that even though it’s not a time period that these things were generally accepted, White still included them. These relationships would have existed whether out in the open or not. The story was well written and interesting. The characters were both likable and unlikable at the same time (which was weird for me to flip back and forth so many times). I cannot wait to continue onto the next book in the series.

Quotes:

“The last time she was up here, she had been… staring up at the sky and dreaming of stars. Now, she looked down and plotted flames.”

“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

“And that is why you become a dealer of death. You feed death as many people as you can to keep it full and content so its eye stays off you.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Bewitching by Alex Flinn

GoodReads Summary:
Bewitching can be a beast. . . .
Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn’t.
I go to a new school now—one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I’m not still here because I’m stupid; I just don’t age.
You see, I’m immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years—except for when to take my powers and butt out.
I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don’t even want to think about it.
Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn’t get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl—and it isn’t an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start… bewitching.
Bewitching (Kendra Chronicles, #2)Review:
I’ve been working my way through Flinn’s backlist that I haven’t read yet. So, Bewitching was next up on the list. I really liked parts of this story and not so much some other parts. I think going into this, I assumed it was going to more of Kendra’s story. We do get a bit of Kendra’s history at the beginning, and tidbits of things she’s done in the past, but I wanted more I guess.
The story mostly follows Emma. She lives with her mom and her step-father. Her parents married when she was three, so her step-dad is really the only father she’s ever known and she loves him dearly. But it turns out that he has another daughter around Emma’s age. Lisette’s mom dies and so Lisette comes to live with Emma. Emma is excited to gain a sister, but her mom puts doubts in her head about Lisette’s intentions. And Emma starts to realize that her mom was right all along. I really liked Emma. She was so excited to have a sister. She wanted someone to share things with and really tried to give Lisette the benefit of the doubt until that just wasn’t possible anymore. I liked how her story ended too. She never stooped to Lisette’s level.
Lisette on the other hand was completely horrible. She’s the Cinderella in this retelling, but instead of being kind and sweet, she was conniving and devious. She took away everything from Emma one piece at a time. I understood her backstory, it was sad, but no excuse to be the terrible girl she was.
There were also three stories outside of Emma’s story. In the beginning, we get a bit of Kendra’s story, her family, when she learned she was a witch, and all that. But we also get two stories aside from Emma’s (and a brief mention of Beastly) where Kendra intervened to help people. One is a retelling of The Princess and the Pea and the other was The Little Mermaid and I just didn’t care about either if them at all. They really completely took me out of my enjoyment of Emma’s story. I almost DNF’d this book because the little mermaid story was almost 100 pages and I just didn’t care about it at all.
I’m still going to push through and try to finish this series because I do enjoy Flinn’s fairytale retellings and Kendra is still a pretty interesting character.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Cloaked by Alex Flinn

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GoodReads Summary:
I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.
It all started with the curse. And the frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.
There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys.
Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either. But you’ll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got CLOAKED.
CloakedReview:
I’ve been trying to reread all of Alex Flynn’s retellings. It’s been a while since I’ve read a few of them and there are definitely some that I haven’t read. Cloaked is one that I haven’t read, though I thought I’d read it already for some reason.
Cloaked follows Johnny, who runs the shoe repair business that’s been in his family for many years. It’s located in a well-known hotel, which is how he ends up meeting a princess. This princess asks him to find her brother, who has been turned into a frog. So, it’s a princess and the frog retelling. But one of my favorite things about this book was that there were a bunch of lesser-known fairytales included. I thought they were done well and didn’t overwhelm the overall story.
I also really liked the conclusion of the story. The only thing I didn’t really like was that the princess was trying to motivate Johnny to help her with offering to marry him. There’s something that just didn’t sit right about using marriage as a motivator with a bunch of teenagers. So, I was happy to see the conclusion and how that was handled.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I liked the character growth and thought it was well done. There were definitely some dumb teenage boy moments. But they were actually pretty funny and helped (eventually) Johnny figure out what he really wanted. If you’re a fan of retellings, I think this is one you’ll like.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

GoodReads Summary:
Talia fell under a spell…
Jack broke the curse.
I was told to beware the accursed spindle, but it was so enchanting, so hypnotic…
I was looking for a little adventure the day I ditched my tour group. But finding a comatose town, with a hot-looking chick asleep in it, was so not what I had in mind.
I awakened in the same place but in another time—to a stranger’s soft kiss.
I couldn’t help kissing her. Sometimes you just have to kiss someone. I didn’t know this would happen.
Now I am in dire trouble because my father, the king, says I have brought ruin upon our country. I have no choice but to run away with this commoner!
Now I’m stuck with a bratty princess and a trunk full of her jewels…The good news: My parents will freak!
Think you have dating issues? Try locking lips with a snoozing stunner who turns out to be 316 years old. Can a kiss transcend all—even time?
A Kiss in TimeReview:
Somehow, I hadn’t read this book by Alex Flinn. I’ve read almost all of her books, and actually thought I’d read this one already. The highlight of this story was the character development. At the beginning of the story, Jack and Talia are both pretty awful, but as the story progresses, they teach and learn from one another about what’s really important. They each help the other become better versions of themselves.
I liked the concept of this story. It’s a Snow White retelling, but Flinn’s twist is that the whole kingdom falls asleep with Talia. This was a fun twist because after they sleep for 300 years, they awake in the 21st century and that is more than culture shock for them. I thought this was a really fun way to tell this story and I really liked how Jack’s father came in to help Talia’s kingdom figure out how to function in this new strange world.
Overall, this was a fun retelling with incredible character growth. I went from really disliking Jack and Talia both to being really invested in their relationship.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Nico had warned them. Going through the House of Hades would stir the demigods’ worst memories. Their ghosts would become restless. Nico may actually become a ghost if he has to shadow-travel with Reyna and Coach Hedge one more time. But that might be better than the alternative: allowing someone else to die, as Hades foretold.
Jason’s ghost is his mother, who abandoned him when he was little. He may not know how he is going to prove himself as a leader, but he does know that he will not break promises like she did. He will complete his line of the prophecy: To storm or fire the world must fall.
Reyna fears the ghosts of her ancestors, who radiate anger. But she can’t allow them to distract her from getting the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood before war breaks out between the Romans and Greeks. Will she have enough strength to succeed, especially with a deadly hunter on her trail?
Leo fears that his plan won’t work, that his friends might interfere. But there is no other way. All of them know that one of the Seven has to die in order to defeat Gaea, the Earth Mother.
Piper must learn to give herself over to fear. Only then will she be able to do her part at the end: utter a single word.
Heroes, gods, and monsters all have a role to play in the climactic fulfillment of the prophecy in The Blood of Olympus, the electrifying finale of the best-selling Heroes of Olympus series.
The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)Review:
I cannot start this review any other way besides saying, WHAT THE F WAS THAT ENDING. I’m genuinely upset about the lack of reuniting with a certain friend group. To the point where I had to text Antonia and scream to her about it (with a context text to let me know I wasn’t talking about someone we knew in real life).
I really liked how everything was wrapped up with the big bad in this story. I thought the end result was full of action and drama. I loved the team that came together and ended up really loving one another, despite their many differences. I think Riordan is the king of lovable friend groups. I really liked how each of their stories ended (aside from the lack of the reuniting with on particular character that I mentioned above). They each made life-changing decisions and I really liked these choices.
I’m going to keep this review on the shorter side because I honestly feel like I’ve said everything and more in my previous four reviews. I love this series. I love these characters. I love Rick Riordan. I am very excited to keep reading his books. If you haven’t, start now.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.