Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Summary:
Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.
Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life-or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum guard, Porter Roth-a.k.a her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than in the movies, especially when Bailey discovers those tricky fine lines dividing hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.
And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.
Review:
After hearing nothing but rave reviews for any book that Jenn Bennett writes, I knew I needed to give her books a try. So seeing some of them on BookOutlet, I snapped them up without hesitation. Alex, Approximately is the first one of her books that I’ve picked up from the ones that I bought. It’s a favorite of one of my favorite bookish people, Jess, check out her blog here and her BookTube here.

“Sometimes you have to endure painful things to realize that you’re a whole lot stronger than you think.”

I read this story in one sitting. I was pulled into the story by these characters and they wouldn’t let me go until I hit the last page. I had so much fun reading this book. It was fun and lighthearted and entertaining. There was love to hate romance which I’m always here for. There was just the right amount of cheesy parts, and also just the right amount of serious parts. I want to mention here that I did not read the synopsis before reading this book, so I didn’t know that Porter was Alex going into it. I’m a little upset that the synopsis just drops this tidbit at all. I think the guessing game was one of the best parts. I totally guessed the Porter was Alex about 1/3 of the way into the story, but it wasn’t confirmed until way later in the story.

“It’s hard to think about next week when you’re not sure if you’ll even made it through today.”

I totally loved the characters. I loved their movie obsessions. I loved their sassiness. I loved the friendships that Bailey made with Grace. I loved the love to hate with Porter. I especially loved Bailey’s relationship with her dad. I have a similar relationship with my dad and I really loved seeing it portrayed in this book. On the other side of this, Bailey’s relationship with her mother upset me. I think this was because I can relate to that too. I had a mostly absent mother, so I understand the complex relationship, the disappointment, all of the feelings that come with this dynamic. I think my only complaint is that we didn’t really see any sort of resolution with this or really any sort of explanation aside from her mother being upset that Bailey moved to live with her dad. I didn’t like this because her mother is acting like a child and that made me mad probably because of my own personal experiences.

“We spend our lives trying to find other poeple. Sometimes we get confused and turned around by the distractions.”

Overall, I enjoyed this story. Binge reading it was so fun. It was entertaining and interesting and had all the right amounts of everything I love in a book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Amanda's Adventures · Book Tags & Challenges · Everything & Anything

Contemporary January Recommendations – Romance Edition

Hi, lovelies! In my announcement post for Contemporary January (read here) I mentioned that I would be coming with recommendations all month long! Some of these are favorites of mine and some of them are just books I liked for a quick fun read. This is going to be the first of four recommendation posts and I’m starting with romance because it’s an easy one for me because there are so many choices!

Check out Alana’s recommendations here!

Contemp Jan

Adult Romance

The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy by Nora Roberts & The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts
These are my two favorite series by Nora Roberts, though I’ve never read anything by her that I didn’t like, so really you could pick up any of her books and be happy. But these are my two favorites.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Anything that Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes is a good choice. Her romance novels are fun and quick to read and I’m never disappointed.

The Agreneau’s by Lynsay Sands
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t include at least one sort of vampire romance on this list. Sands writes the Argeneau series and I love the twist she puts on the traditional vampire trope.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Who hasn’t heard of this book at this point? It’s excited and full of drama and diversity. I’ve heard great things about Reid’s other books too, but haven’t picked one up yet.

The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn
For those that love historical romances this series is set in the early 1800s and full of drama, romance, and a bit of smut.

Rose Gardner Mysteries by Denise Grover Swank
I love this series. Rose grows so much in the series and I just enjoyed every page of this series. Plus, she can see the future.

Young Adult Romance

The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks
Would this even be a romance recommendations list without Nicholas Sparks?

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
How can you not love Simon? This book was so great.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Teenage romance with a bit of a mystery thrown in. I loved it. The movie was okay too.

One Small Thing by Erin Watt
The main character is dealing with the loss of her sister and somehow manages to find comfort in the one that caused her sisters death. It was compelling and sweet at the same time.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
I love this book. The characters. The mystery. The interesting family dynamic. Read it. Love it. That is all.

Meant to Be Broken by Brandy Woods Snow
With a bit of a taboo romance, I could not put this book down until I got to the last pages. I was rewarded with so much more than I expected from it.

These are just a few of the ones I’ve read the most recently and really enjoyed. So I hope you will enjoy them too! Have you read any of these? What books are on your romance recommendation list!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ContemporaryJanuary and tag me & Alana if you’re joining in! You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and/or GoodReads to keep up to date with any announcements and see what I’m reading!

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Antonia's Antics · Everything & Anything

Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts

Summary: Sometimes, there is nowhere safe to hide.

It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone–until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait–and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.

Review: This book was amazing, as all of Nora’s are. She’s been an auto-buy author of mine since the first time I picked up one of her books and I’ve never been disappointed. This book was suspenseful, heart-wrenching, funny, and romantic.
I especially loved that it followed these characters over a fourteen year period. It starts with the mall shooting, then shows glimpses of the survivors over the years as they learn to cope with what happened to them, until it reaches present day when most of the story takes place. It was amazing to see the way these characters grew over the years and the different ways they handled (or didn’t) the trauma.
Simone was an awesome character. She goes from a teenager who’s life is ruined because she got dumped to a strong-willed, confident woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone. She tried to bury her feelings after the shooting; if she kept it locked up, it didn’t happen. I enjoyed watching her slowly open up and actually confront what had happened to her. She definitely has flaws but that only made her more relatable. I also loved how she dealt with her emotions through her art. Being a sculptor, she had a unique perspective that I found very interesting.
Reed is the best kind of male MC; he’s sexy, funny, romantic, tough and not afraid of his sensitive side. He’s perfectly comfortable going from the badass cop to chatting about art with Simone and CiCi. I really hate the super macho guys who think if they’re sensitive that makes them less of a man. Reed doesn’t have that hold-up and it made me love him even more.
CiCi is my favorite. She’s Simone’s grandmother, also an artist, and she’s basically the grandma we all wish we could have. She doesn’t act her age and is unapologetic about who she is. She was so quirky and fun that her character was definitely the highlight of the book for me.
The plot was intricate without being confusing. Since we got to follow the villain, Patricia’s, POV as well, we got to see both sides of the conflict. I like when a story does this because I still get the mystery and suspense that I want without being confused because I only have one side of the story. Patricia made an excellent villain. She was cold, violent, intelligent and psychotic, the kind of villain I adore but who still keeps me up at night.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery or romance. Nora blends the different themes perfectly in this book to make an amazing rollercoaster of a read.
I’d love to know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia

Antonia's Antics · Everything & Anything

Earth’s End by Elise Kova

Summary: A woman awoken in air, a soldier forged by fire, a weapon risen from blood.

Vhalla Yarl has made it to the warfront in the North. Forged by blood and fire, she has steeled her heart for the final battle of the Solaris Empire’s conquest. The choices before Vhalla are no longer servitude or freedom, they are servitude or death. The stakes have never been higher as the Emperor maintains his iron grip on her fate, holding everything Vhalla still has left to lose in the balance.

Review: I think this book is my favorite of the series so far. It was really fast paced for one; the first book had all the character and world-building necessary to lead up to all the conflict, and the second mostly consisted of the Imperial Army marching across the world for the first half. In this book, the war is here. The characters’ relationships have formed and you know how the world works so this book was mainly conflict of one type or another.
There’s tons of action; a combination of magical and traditional fighting (my favorite kind). There’s emotional conflict; Vhalla and Aldrik trying to figure out where their relationship is going while simultaneously keeping it a secret, Vhalla trying to come to terms with all the things she’s done and the loss of her close friend, Aldrik fighting his inner demons. And there’s political conflict. This is the type that I usually hate. I find politics so tedious and backhanded. Give me an honest fight any day. However I didn’t hate it as much in this book. Maybe because it was politics specific to the war; they’re in an army camp, there weren’t any courtiers, so it was a very basic form of politics rather than full-blown court intrigue.
Still, I hate the Emperor. Without him, none of this would have happened. He’s the reason the politics are necessary, he’s the reason Vhalla’s considered property of the crown, he’s the reason she and Aldrik have to hide their relationship. He’s the reason for the war. The more I learn about him the more I think he’s a horrible, irredeemable person. I don’t think I could forgive his actions at the end which resulted in something I know most readers are devastated about. (Sorry, no spoilers.)
Vhalla continues to amaze me with her strength. She’s grown so much since the first book. Part of her is twisted and dark, she kills and lies because she’s told to and to try to earn her freedom but she still tries to do the right thing when she can. I found myself sympathizing with her more than I have a character in awhile. I found some parts a little hard to read because her feelings paralleled some of my own recently. It gave this book a really personal connection for me.
Aldrik is amazing. Except when he’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I still love him but I found him frustrating at times too. He tries so hard to be a good prince and to do right by Vhalla but he doesn’t always make good choices. Sometimes his plans backfire and he doesn’t handle negative emotions well. His alcoholism gets brought up in this book as his coping mechanism and I particularly liked seeing it from Vhalla’s perspective. First off it takes her two and a half books to realize it’s a problem. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not just alcoholics who deny they have a problem but their loved ones do as well. They also try to justify it and make excuses because no one wants to believe someone they love is hurting so much they feel the need to self-medicate.
I still want Vhalla and Aldrik to have a happy ever after by the end of the series but there’s definitely some stuff they need to work on first, both individually and as a couple.
Overall I loved this book. I have no idea where the next book will lead because this ending of this one was crazy but I’m so excited for it. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys YA and fantasy. Please tell me what you think in the comments and thanks for reading!
-Antonia

Antonia's Antics · Everything & Anything

Fire Falling by Elise Kova

Summary: Soldier… Sorcerer… Savior… Who is Vhalla Yarl?

Vhalla Yarl marches to war as property of the Solaris Empire. The Emperor counts on her to bring victory, the Senate counts on her death, and the only thing Vhalla can count on is the fight of her life. As she grapples with the ghosts of her past, new challenges in the present threaten to shatter the remnants of her fragile sanity. Will she maintain her humanity? Or will she truly become the Empire’s monster?

Review: I CAN’T HANDLE THAT ENDING. I need to start the next book so badly but I’m making myself review this one first – under protest!
First off, I’m seriously beginning to love Vhalla. She is so broken in this book, traumatized by the events from the first. I’ve mentioned this in many reviews, but I love when authors accurately portray characters with PTSD. So often they show a little to further the story line but then the character is magically cured; Trauma isn’t like that, it’s continuous and debilitating. You don’t know when or what might trigger an episode and it usually gets worse before it gets better. Vhalla has nightmares almost every night which results in her being sleep deprived constantly. She’s never had much of an appetite but now she barely eats. When something happens that reminds her of The Night of Fire and Wind or her imprisonment, she freezes. None of these things further the story line, if anything they’re tedious and redundant; but they’re realistic. This woman is traumatized and having friends who support her or falling in love don’t suddenly make it okay.
That being said, Vhalla is also an extremely strong character. Even when she breaks down she picks herself up again. By the end, I had so much admiration for her determination and growth.

“She had to survive if for no other reason than to spite the world.”

Aldrik. I don’t even know where to start. He’s broken too but in different ways. For him, he started breaking so long ago that he’s more resigned to it than anything. He doesn’t feel worthy because of it and especially feels like he doesn’t deserve Vhalla. He absolutely does. I loved getting to see the real him, the side he shows Vhalla, behind the mask he needs in order to be the Crown Prince. That contrast made it feel like I really got to know him in this book and I love all of it. He’s unapologetically badass, sweet, and cruelly apathetic when he needs to be. I particularly adored the flashbacks of his life we got to see. It helped me to understand some of the mysterious aspects that surrounded him throughout the first book.
I loved Larel. She’s an exceptional friend to Vhalla. She’s the one always picking Vhalla up when she breaks, holding her when she wakes up screaming from her nightmares. She’s simply an amazing human and I loved getting to know her better.
Daniel was a really fun character as well. He was the first person Vhalla meets after her trauma that she feels comfortable with. They both grew up in the East and visited the same places as children which sparks an instant friendship. I was worried for awhile that this was going to turn into a love triangle but luckily it didn’t. They gain that sort of intimate affection that comes from leaning on someone for comfort but they remain just close friends. I’m happy about this because I don’t think we see enough male/female friendships in books that don’t turn into romances.
The Emperor increasingly pissed me off. I expect it’ll only get worse over the rest of the series.
I really enjoyed the plot of this book. I’ve read quite a few reviews from people who didn’t like it, saying it’s just a filler book and nothing happens; and honestly that’s mostly true. But that’s why I liked it. Most of the book the army is just travelling from the capitol to the war in the North. This gave Vhalla a chance to learn who she is now and begin to come to terms with everything that’s happened. It gave her a chance to make new friends. It gave her and Aldrik a chance to actually form a relationship. We always hate when characters fall in love too fast, well this book gave them a chance to do it slowly. By the time they kiss for the first time, it’s months since they first met. That’s practically unheard of in YA world.
Overall I freaking adored this book. I thought it was a significant improvement over the first (and I liked that one too). I’d recommend it to any YA and fantasy readers. I’d love to hear your own thoughts on these books. Thanks for reading.
-Antonia

Antonia's Antics · Everything & Anything

The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

Summary: In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.

Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

Review: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. I’m so glad she reached out to us about it; this book (and the prequel series Solis Invicti) hadn’t been on my radar yet and I’m so excited about them.
The Gilded King is the first book in Jaffrey’s Sovereign series. One thought I had throughout this book was that I really wished I’d read the Solis Invicti series first. The Sovereign series is meant to be standalone but I had so many questions about the history of this world and the way everything worked. Usually I like when world-building is added gradually to a story. I hate when a book starts with a giant chunk to explain the basics of that world to you. It’s frequently tedious and boring. With this book though, those details were added too slowly; I didn’t understand important details about this world until very late in the book. This just left me feeling confused for a lot of it and I kept going back and rereading sections to try to understand.
That being said, once I understood the world better I really enjoyed how unique it was. We’ve all seen enough dystopians that start with terrible plagues and vaccines that have unforeseen consequences but I thought the twist with the paranormal added a lot to it. The fact that the cure for the humans made their blood poisonous to vampires was something I wouldn’t have expected.
Another thing I thought was unique (at least from books I’ve read personally) was that humans have essentially become a slave race in certain parts of the world. There are still human settlements but in places where the Nobles (also called the Silver, depending on who’s talking) live, humans are treated like dirt. They’re called Servants but they have no rights. They’re not paid for their services and they have no choice in what they do. When Julia’s sent to serve Lucas, she’s going so he can drink her blood and she’s not allowed to say no. If they do, they’re exiled from the city which, as far as they know, is a death sentence.
I liked Julia for the most part. She was tough and intelligent. I liked that she questioned what the Nobles told the humans. One of the biggest problems for the humans living in the Blue was that the only information they’ve been given for centuries has been what the Nobles wanted them to think. Julia doesn’t always ask the right questions but at least she keeps asking them. The only thing I didn’t like about Julia was her behavior where Lucas was involved.
Lucas was a good character. He’s sweet, considerate, and tries to be true to himself even if it goes against the way Nobles are supposed to act. I was mildly annoyed that Julia happens to meet the only Noble who’s kind to humans; it’s a trope I’m a little sick of. When you have an entire race of people it’s not logical to think only one of them is morally good.
My main problem with Julia and Lucas though is their romance. First of all, it happens too quickly. Julia’s terrified of Nobles but is instantly attracted to Lucas and vice versa. Their relationship makes the mistake so common in YA, in that it progresses at an unrealistic rate. I also felt that I was being told-not-shown, if that makes sense. For most of the book, the romances (I’ll talk about Cameron and Felix later) felt very forced. I was not emotionally invested in these relationships.
Cameron was a really interesting character. He’s a member of the Solis Invicti, basically the guards of the Blue. For centuries he’s been exploring the Red (anything outside the Blue) looking for the lost queen, his friend Emmy. I found myself sympathizing with him quite a bit. No matter how long it’s been, he never gives up on Emmy or stops looking for her even when everyone else has. I’ve seen other reviews from people saying they were bored during Cameron’s parts but I didn’t have that problem at all. He was my favorite character so far.
I liked Felix for the most part. Seeing the difference between humans of the Blue and humans of the Red was really interesting. His attitude is bitter and resigned because he understands more about this world than others, like Julia. I particularly enjoyed seeing the contrast between them. He was also so mysterious that I just wanted to know more. His relationship with Cameron was also more believable, at least after the beginning. There was a sudden twist at the end about Felix (no spoilers, I swear) that I was extremely frustrated about. It just seemed so unnecessary.
Now to the part I loved: the plot. It was surprisingly intricate for the genre. There were times when I brushed something off as irrelevant or unimportant then it would suddenly tie into something later. It was also really cool watching Julia and Cameron’s opposite journeys. They never meet in this book and a lot of what happens to one sort of parallels the other but they almost always have one-half of certain information and the other has the rest. By the end I was screaming “If they could just have a conversation then everything would be okay”. It was infuriating but in a good way. I always like when I know more than the characters do. The ending also left me with so many questions half answered. It feels like this first book was just an opening for the second; it set the scene for all the craziness that’s going to happen next.
I wasn’t sure how much I liked this book and I definitely had some problems with it, but the ending made me really excited for the rest of the series. I think I’ll read the Solis Invicti series before the next book comes out and hopefully that will solve some of my confusion.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes YA, paranormal, or dystopian, though if you’re a reader who doesn’t like being left with tons of questions, this might not be the book for you. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia

Antonia's Antics · Everything & Anything

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Summary: Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Review: Once again, I hardly know where to start. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this story and characters that I’m overwhelmed by it. In a good way. As soon as I finished I knew I had to get A Court of Frost and Starlight, and I never read novellas. My love for these characters is so great that I’ll take any chance to read more about them.
Let’s start with Feyre. I’ve liked her from the start but that’s somehow continued to increase throughout the books. First from her selfless bravery, then from the way she grew throughout the second book, and now because she’s an absolute badass. I spent the first few chapters just cheering her on while she spied on/ sabotaged Tamlin and the spring court. Later, when she was finally able to be High Lady of the Night Court, I only admired her more. She’s become confident in herself, her love, and her court and I loved watching her interactions with pretty much everyone. (Note: Unless you’ve read at least some of these books, you probably won’t understand what it really means that Feyre has become a High Lady; take it from me, it’s a really big deal.)
I still don’t like Tamlin. Some people think his actions by the end of the book are enough to redeem him at least a little but not for me. I think he’s a complete jerk who builds a “poor me” bubble around himself and how could anyone possibly believe the worst of him? How? Because you literally did everything possible to make everyone think you were the enemy. I don’t know how he could be surprised that people treated him as such.
Rhys is still my favorite book boyfriend. I adore his and Feyre’s relationship. They’re a team; they treat each other as equals and even when one of them goes off on their own or makes a mistake, they respect each others decisions whether they agree with them or not. Their love is what I think everyone should aspire to have.
Mor is amazing. She’s tough and fun and has the most tragic backstory. The one thing I didn’t like is the secret she’s kept from the group for hundreds of years. (Don’t worry, it’s not something that really affects the main storyline.) It just seems like, because the group is so close, that she should trust them not to judge her or to let it change the group’s dynamic. The fact that she doesn’t bothers me a little.
Cassian and Azriel are also fantastic. They have fairly opposite personalities; Cassian’s more in-your-face about pretty much everything while Azriel hides in his shadows and doesn’t really let anyone in. Getting glimpses of the softer side of Azriel is the best though. I just want to wrap him up in a bubble and protect him forever.
Amren is probably my favorite of the Inner Circle. She’s an all powerful being from another world trapped in a High Fae body. Her powers are limited in her current form but you frequently get glimpses of what she is by the way others behave around her. The fact that this tiny little person terrifies everyone she meets just makes me so happy.

**MINOR SPOILER ALERT**

What I don’t get is how anyone can believe Amren would betray them at the end. After seeing the way this family interacts throughout books two and three, I had no doubt that she had a plan and wasn’t actually betraying Feyre. Anyone who thought she would actually do that isn’t giving her enough credit.

**SPOILER ENDED**

I still can’t believe Hybern turned Elain and Nesta into High Fae. Elain just made me sad throughout the entire book. She’s like a tiny puppy being kicked. I really liked Nesta however. She’s still prickly and a little annoying and just mean to everyone but that’s just the shield she wears constantly. I think she grew a lot during this book and is one of the main reasons I want to read ACOFAS, to see how she’s doing after the war.
Lucien I really loved for the first half of this book. Then he disappears on his mission and you don’t see him until the end. I found this part irritating. It felt almost like Maas sent him on a wild goose chase so she wouldn’t have to figure out where he fit in with the rest of the Inner Circle. I would have liked to have seen more of him.
Overall I loved this book to the point where this series is definitely a new favorite of mine. It has the best characters and a really intricate plot. The final battle was intense, bloody and literally had me screaming at my husband to stop interrupting me. I’d recommend this series to everyone. The first book is a little more YA romance but the other two are far more complex and action-based. Tell me what you think in the comments because I could talk about this book for days. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia