Blogtober Book Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Summary:
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Book Cover

Review:
Cemetery Boys follows Yadriel, a brujo that just wants to prove to his family that he’s a real brujo. He’s transgender and his very traditional family hasn’t really done their best to accept that. His family members are brujos and brujas, the men summoning and banishing ghosts and the women doing healing magic. But Yadriel is determined to prove that he’s a real brujo, so he performs the correct ceremony with his cousin (who is truly my favorite character in the book) and is granted his brujo powers from Lady Death. But then he accidentally summons Julian Diaz while he’s attempting to find out what happened to another cousin that was murdered. But this is a YA book, so obviously things don’t go as planned.
I really liked Yadriel and Julian. I also liked Yadriel’s cousin. I thought that Yadriel’s goal was one I could easily get behind, but it felt like it took forever to do what he needed to. I didn’t really understand why he kept going to school when there were such serious and time sensitive things going on around him. I understand having strict parents. I was raised by a single dad that was incredibly strict. There was a sense of urgency that was talked about, but it wasn’t shown with the character’s behaviors.
I loved the magic. I really liked how the Latinx culture was included and how it was turned magical. I’ve heard of things like the day of the dead, but I really liked the magical elements that were added.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I can absolutely see why so many people have raved about this book. I did the audiobook and the physical copy. So, I liked the narrator, but around halfway found myself losing focus (I think this was me and not the narrator though). Once I picked up the physical copy, I flew through the rest of the story. I’m not sure if I had read the whole thing physically that I still would have felt that sense of urgency from the characters lacking. But overall, I had a great time with the magic and these characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

Summary:
For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, their power from the sun peaking in the season of their birth. But now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic. All hope lies with Clara, an Everwitch whose rare magic is tied to every season.
In Autumn, Clara wants nothing to do with her power. It’s wild and volatile, and the price of her magic―losing the ones she loves―is too high, despite the need to control the increasingly dangerous weather.
In Winter, the world is on the precipice of disaster. Fires burn, storms rage, and Clara accepts that she’s the only one who can make a difference.
In Spring, she falls for Sang, the witch training her. As her magic grows, so do her feelings, until she’s terrified Sang will be the next one she loses.
In Summer, Clara must choose between her power and her happiness, her duty and the people she loves… before she loses Sang, her magic, and thrusts the world into chaos.
Practical Magic meets Twister in this debut contemporary fantasy standalone about heartbreaking power, the terror of our collapsing atmosphere, and the ways we unknowingly change our fate.

Book Cover

Review:
The Nature of Witches is, for sure, going to make my list of 2021 favorite books. I have to admit that I bought this book because it has a stunning cover and it has a beautiful design under the dust jacket. I was also influenced by a friend of mine really loving it. I’m so glad that I gave in to my desires to buy this one because I really loved it.
The story follows Clara, and Everwitch (which means that she has the magic of all four seasons). The way the magic works in this world was one of my favorite kinds of magic systems I’ve ever read about. Witches have seasonal magic. So, they have magic all year round, but it’s significantly diminished outside of their season. I really liked this sense of balance that was a part of this world because there’s no one season of witches that’s most powerful, they all excel at different things, and they each get their turn to be ‘the most powerful.’ But Clara as an Everwitch, her magic changes as the seasons change. But being an Everwitch, there’s more responsibility on her, but also, there hasn’t been an Everwitch in so long that there is little to nothing really known about how they’re really supposed to help others. One of the downsides of the magic of an Everwitch is that their magic attacks those that they love. So, Clara killed her parents and her best friend. This was obviously traumatic, but it’s caused Clara to plan to obliterate her magic with the upcoming solar eclipse. Her plans are in place, so obviously something has to come in and shake things up and that’s when the story gets even better.
I really liked Clara. It could have been easy for her to be a ‘woe is me’ character that just pities herself, complains, and does nothing about it. But she wants things to change and has a plan to make that happen. I really enjoyed following her growth and development. I loved learning her backstory and what’s made her so fearful and cautious. I especially loved seeing Clara test the limits of her powers. I thought the concept of her personality changing with her magic (as the seasons change) was really interesting.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved the setting of a school for witches. I loved that the witches are what keeps natural disasters in check. I even loved the conversations about how humans are killing the Earth. I thought the romance (both past and present) was one I could easily care about. I will absolutely be recommending this book and I cannot wait to read more from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

Summary:
A moving, darkly funny novel about six teens whose magic goes wildly awry from Magic for Liars author Sarah Gailey, who Chuck Wendig calls an “author to watch.”
Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.
Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.
That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.
When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.

Book Cover

Review:
I borrowed When We Were Magic from my library as an audiobook. I bought this book last year because I heard great things about it. A girl gang of queer witches? Hell yes. Now that it’s spooky season, I though what better book is there to read than a book about six friends that can do magic, except someone dies.
What I didn’t expect about this book when starting it was that the boy that died, did so via his penis exploding and bleeding to death. It was a very bizarre way to start what I thought was going to be a murder mystery with a bit of magic. It also wasn’t explained as to why Alexis accidentally killed this boy until most of the way through the book.
So, the six friends (don’t ask me to tell you their names because I think six is too large a cast. I couldn’t remember their names or who was whom even while I was listening to the audiobook. I tried several times to name them all and always forgot at least one.) are on a mission to hide what Alexis has done. I think they were certainly all interesting characters. They were a diverse group and I did like them while I was reading the book. I just think six main characters was too many to keep track of for me. I also really had trouble as to why they were all friends. We’re supposed to believe that these six would, no joke, hide a body together, but we don’t get to see that closeness. We’re told about it. Some of them make sense as we learn about their friendships since childhood and how the others slowly joined in. But the only thing that we’re really shown is that they all have magic. Otherwise, we’re told that they’re all the best of friends.
I liked the story more when the friends decided to try to save this boy that Alexis killed. Please someone tell me why they didn’t try this before they literally hacked his body to pieces and carried him around in backpacks and shit. I spent most of the book just wondering why they weren’t trying harder to save this boy that Alexis accidentally exploded.
Then there was Alexis. I genuinely didn’t like her. So, to be stuck with her as the narrator was not a fun time for me. She spent almost the entire book wishing that she was deserving of her loyalty of her friends. Even when one of her friends calls her out for acting this way, she doubles down on her woe is me thoughts of not being deserving. It was incredibly annoying.
Overall, there were bits and pieces that I really enjoyed and, obviously, some that I really did not like. I think I’m still going to give some of Gailey’s other books a try because I did really like Upright Women Wanting. This one just missed the mark for me.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Summary:
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

Book Cover

Review:
Small Favors is a new release that I was extremely excited about. I got it as a gift for my birthday (Thanks, Antonia!) and I read it during my birthday weekend. This would have been an excellent book to read for spooky season (much like her debut novel, House of Salt and Sorrows). Small Favors follows Ellerie, who lives in a small town. She’s grown-up hearing myths and folklore about the monsters that used to live in the forest around the town. But most within the town never really believed them. When a supply party goes missing, those that believe in the old stories worry that the monsters have returned. The book follows Ellerie for a year, through all four seasons, so, as the seasons pass, strange things continue to happen. Are there really monsters in the woods? Or is there something else going on?
Ellerie was a character that I immediately liked. The only thing that I didn’t like about her was her attraction to Whitaker (a name that she gave him because he wouldn’t tell her his actual name). There was something suspicious about him from the beginning, but Craig managed to tell his part of the story in a way that I felt bad for him and ultimately liked him and how things played out for him and Ellerie. Aside from not liking Whitaker, I really liked Ellerie. She’s the second born child. But her older brother, Samuel, is a bit of a shit. He isn’t following through with his responsibilities to the family and he continues to make selfish choices for most of the book. Ellerie really steps up as the head of her family when something happens to her parents. There were some parts of this story that were slow, following Ellerie just trying to keep herself and family alive. But just because they were slow, doesn’t mean that nothing was happening.  There was something unsettling about this story. All throughout the story, there was an overall creepy feeling. A sense that something more was going on in this town than we were being led to believe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a spooky feel to it, a mystery that was waiting to be unraveled. It’s a story full of questions just waiting to be answered. I really loved the characters. I liked the reveals of what was really happening to this town. I think it’s a fascinating story about how there is darkness in each and every person. I definitely would recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Grace and Glory by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
Trinity Marrow has lost the battle and her beloved Protector. Even with both demons and Wardens on her side, Trin may not win the war against the Harbinger.
Bringing Lucifer back to the world to fight the Harbinger is probably a really, really bad idea, but they’re out of options—and the world’s ultimate fallen angel is the only being powerful enough to impact the outcome.
As Trin and Zayne form a new and more dangerous bond and Lucifer unleashes Hell on earth, the apocalypse looms and the world teeters on the end of forever. Win or lose, one thing is certain—nothing will ever be the same

Book Cover

Review:
Grace and Glory is the third and final book in the Harbinger trilogy. If you haven’t read the first two books, you probably shouldn’t read this review. I’m going to do my best not to share any big spoilers, but as it’s the series finale, it’ll be hard not to mention things from the previous books.
The way that book two ended completely destroyed me. It was unexpected and a huge cliff hanger. So, I was more than eager to get started on book three. Things certainly did not go the way I expected once the story started. I actually kind of liked that things weren’t immediately back to normal with Zayne and Trinity. It was painful, but that pain served a purpose. There were legitimate and logical reasons why things were going the way they went in this book. I liked that the plot seemed to come full circle and all of little bits, pieces, and strings connected. I think Armentrout did an amazing job pulling the plot together by the end of this book. I also love that she always leaves her series mildly open ended so that she has the possibility to revisit them in the future if she chose to do so.
So, I loved this series. But damn this third book was painful. Zayne and Trinity are not all happy and in love like I want them to be. But that’s not really the focus, which I liked. The romance is definitely a big part of the story, but the actual plot isn’t overshadowed by the romance. I loved how action packed this story was. There was fighting and demons and angels and all the good stuff I love.
Overall, this is not a super great review, but I waited too long after finishing the book to write this. So, I love this series. I love this author. I highly recommend this book even if I haven’t shared any specifics or anything. That is all, thank you and goodbye.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart

Summary:
Furyborn meets A Curse So Dark and Lonely in this courtly feminist fantasy from Grace and Fury author Tracy Banghart.
Annalise may be cousin to the prince, but her past isn’t what she claims, and she possesses a magic so powerful it takes all her strength to control it. Evra is a country girl, and has watched as each friend and family member came into their own magic, while hers remains dormant. But everything changes after Annalise loses control of herself and Evra begins experiencing the debilitating visions of a once-in-a-generation clairvoyant meant to serve the crown.
Thrown together at court, Evra and Annalise find that they have the same goal: to protect their kingdom from the powerful men who are slowly destroying it. But neither is quick to trust the other — Evra’s visions suggest a threat to royal rule, and Annalise worries that her darkest secrets will be revealed. Their magic at odds, the young women circle each other, until the truth must come out.
Full of intrigue, romance, and shocking twists, this gorgeously immersive fantasy will keep readers spellbound until the very last page.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read and review an early copy of this book. I love Tracy Banghart. I’ve met her at an author event and we spent like an hour talking, so I love to read and support her work.
A Season of Sinister Dreams follows two main characters, Annalise and Evra. Annalise is the grandniece to the King and cousin to the prince. But she has secrets that she would do anything to protect. Evra is a country girl. She’s worried that she’ll never have any magic and the people in her town are starting to treat her differently. But Evra starts having visions that mean the kingdom is in danger. She’s this generations Clearsee. The Clearsee’s only appear once in a generation, and only when the kingdom is in danger. Evra must travel to court to meet with the king and inform him that she has been revealed as this generations Clearsee.
Evra and Annalise meet at court. But since we’re seeing things from both points of view, we know things that the other characters don’t. I think this fact made the story infinitely better. Knowing that there were secrets to be revealed and knowing what those secrets were kept me engaged into the story. Wondering how each of the characters were going to react when the truth finally came out was a really great way to add some suspense to the story.
Now, I really loved Evra. She’s a girl that loves her family. She loves her kingdom. And she’s willing to do her duty as Clearsee despite the fact that she disagrees with many of the things the king has ordered for the people. She’s taking her responsibility seriously and she does her best to make the right choices, the choices that will help the most people. The author really did her dirty with some of the things that happen, but I really loved Evra.
Annalise was a fascinating character. I wanted to hate her so badly, but I just couldn’t. I liked her. Her backstory pulled on my heartstrings. Because we got to see things from her point of view, we know that some events were complete accidents. We get to see the other side of the story which made it easier to sympathize with Annalise, even though she was in the wrong. I didn’t want to like Annalise at all, but I couldn’t help it.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a short, political fantasy that follows two strong women. I liked the politics. I liked the bits of romance we got. I liked the different kinds of magic there was to see. I just genuinely enjoyed this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

What We Devour by Linsey Miller

Summary:
Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read an early copy of this book. This is my honest review.
What We Devour follows Lorena Adler as her life is changed. She’s spent her whole life hiding her abilities. But when her father figure is about to be arrested, she reveals herself to make a bargain for his life. The Vile crown prince gets Lorena to travel to the capital with him and join his team of researching ways to prevent the Door from opening. This is where I want to talk about the world building. It was complex and interesting, but still easy to understand for me. I loved the concept of the magic of the vilewroughts and the nobelwroughts. I also loved the conversation of corruption. So much of this book focuses on how unfairly the lower class is treated and I thought that was a really great part of the plot.
Lorena was a fascinating character to follow. She’s incredibly clever and smart. She’s managed to hide from the crown for all this time. The only reason she’s found out is because she chose to do the thing that would protect someone she cared about. I really admired her character.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was dark and twisty. The magic was compelling and I was really interested by seeing the different ways people worked with their wroughts. I loved Lorena and all of the side characters. I think thing was a really fun and well told story. I definitely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.
As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.
Lush and striking, hopeful and devastating, We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology by New York Times–bestselling author Hafsah Faizal.

Book Cover

Review:
After really enjoying We Hunt the Flame, I tried to dive right into We Free the Stars. But that was right as my reading slump was starting, so I didn’t make it very far trying to read the physical book. I eventually borrowed the audiobook from my local library and managed to finish it through that format. I think the audiobook was really well done. There was more than one narrator and I think they did a great job telling this story.
As for the story, there is so much that happens in this book. It felt like a totally different sort of story from the first book, where they spent most of the book working toward one goal. But in this book, things have gone wrong. They need to plan a rescue. They need to list of impossible things to get done, but they managed to get most of it done. I was impressed by the way this team managed to problem solve for all of their issues.
I think what I liked the most was the changes that Nasir and Zafira go through. They’ve changed and grown so much in the first book, but now that they’re back from Sharr, they’re trying to reconcile those changes when back in their regular worlds. This was more for Nasir than Zafira because the world Zafira knew before she left for Sharr is gone. But Nasir is coming back to his home a changed man. But in the eyes of his people, he’s still the Prince of Death. We get to see this for Zafira through the people that she loves. She reunites with her sister and with Yasmine. We see her changes through their eyes.
Overall, I enjoyed this one just as much as I did the first. It’s a pretty different book because there is just so many things going on. But we get to see Zafira and Nasir grow even more. Altair is still my favorite. He’s really going through it in this book, but I loved him all the same. I also really enjoyed getting to see more of Zafira’s loved ones. The characters travel to other places in this world and I loved that we got to see other Caliphates that were mentioned in the first book. We learn more about the world in general. I’d love to see another book set in a different part of the world. I will definitely be picking up more books by Faizal.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

Summary:
Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she’s famous, privileged, has “the good hair”— and she’s an Eloko, a person who’s gifted with a song that woos anyone who hears it. Everyone loves her — well, until she’s cast as the awful person who exposed Tavia’s secret siren powers.
Now, she’s being dragged by the media. No one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, nor her Eloko community. But Naema knows the truth and is determined to build herself back up — no matter what.
When a new, flourishing segment of Naema’s online supporters start targeting black girls, however, Naema must discover the true purpose of her magical voice.

Book Cover

Review:
Thanks, NetGalley for this eARC, in return, here is my honest review. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoy this book. But at the same time, I wasn’t surprised because I absolutely loved A Song Below Water (reviewed here). A Chorus Rises is set in the same urban fantasy world, but in this one we follow Naema, who wasn’t a super nice person from Tavia’s perspective in A Song Below Water.
Despite actively disliking Naema for the first third of this book, I ended up really loving her. Our first look at Naema is in A Song Below Water which is from Tavia and Effie’s perspectives. These three girls do not get along at all. I think it’s important to mention that this is totally okay! Naema mentions often that just because they’re all black, doesn’t mean they all have to be best friends. They can want better for one another and still actively dislike each other. And I totally agree with that. You don’t have to be friends or even like someone to wish that they’re not being discriminated against because they’re a magical or black.
But the further we get into this story, the more I couldn’t help but like Naema. She’s genuinely funny. She has a confidence in herself that most people would love to have. But she’s also still growing. This book takes place about a year after the end of A Song Below Water. So, Naema has had some time to heal, emotionally, from being stoned. But Portland doesn’t feel the same to Naema anymore. She takes a break and goes to visit her family for their yearly reunion in the south. It’s here that Naema discovers that there’s more to being an Eloko than just the popularity she has in Portland. I really enjoyed getting to see Naema spend time with family she never sees and getting to know more about her Eloko abilities. I absolutely loved her cousin, Courtney. He’s hilarious and I think he was a great support system for Naema. Their relationship made me think of my cousins that were my best friends while I was growing up.
This story covers some really interesting topics that I didn’t see coming. There’s discussion of how easily online voices can be weaponized to do real harm to real people. I think the spotlight on “keyboard warriors” was an excellent one because what it takes to go from talking about doing something to actually doing it? It isn’t that much and it’s something that I don’t think is discussed enough or taken seriously enough. I liked how the friend group worked together to stop this aspect of the story. We get to see some unlikely allies and some healing. And we also get to see these teenagers be brave and do the right thing.
I would have liked for this book to have been longer. I think there were definitely some things mentioned in the story that didn’t really get explored. I’m thinking specifically of the Professor that was mentioned so many times. But we never actually meet her, even though what she’s researching aligns with what Naema is learning about herself. I would have liked to see more about Naema getting more of a handle on talking with the Ancestors. We do get a scene toward the end where things sort of click for Naema in regards to listening to the Ancestors and they help Naema realize that what she and her friends have done isn’t enough, that there’s still more to be done. But we didn’t get to see anymore after that.
Overall, I really grew to love Naema. She’s fierce and outspoken in the best ways. She’s brave and so smart. She knows that what she says hold weight because of her online following. She knows that even though she’s black, she has privilege that comes with being an Eloko. But she also talks about how being an Eloko doesn’t negate the struggles she faces as a black woman. As a queer, white woman, I could appreciate that aspect of the story. I think Namea’s voice is what made this story so gripping for me. Her internal voice was so thoughtful, even when she was angry or unsure. She’s funny and smart, caring and loyal, snarky and passionate. I really loved her by the end of the book. If you haven’t read A Song Below Water, please go do that. If you have, I think you’ll love A Chorus Rises just as much as the first book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Summary:
Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Cruel Prince.
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

Book Cover

Review:
I honestly don’t even remember buying this book. It’s made it to my unhaul pile twice and somehow ended up back on my TBR shelf both times. I’m so glad that I didn’t end up giving it away. I picked this book for my June TBR Jar Picks as the Favorite of a Friend prompt. So, thank you Alana for making me finally read this one. As soon as I’m done with this review, I’ll be starting the second book even though it’s not on my actual TBR for this month.
So, we follow Liesl (also called Elizabeth) on the last night of the year. She’s become the one that takes care of her siblings, so on the night that her younger brother has an audition to possibly study as an apprentice musician, that’s supposed to be her focus. But her sister Kathe, goes missing. There’s a lot going on in this first part of the book. We see Elizabeth in her life, taking care of her siblings, thinking about her own passions, but only ever doing things for her family. We see her not choose herself again and again in the first part of this book. Then Kathe is taken, and Elizabeth must make a deal with the Goblin King to get her back. The must complete three tasks to succeed.
Now, I was immediately hooked on this book. Seriously, in the first ten pages, the writing really sucked me in. It’s lyrical without being over the top. It’s beautiful writing that really leaves an impression. I cannot say enough good things about Jae-Jones’s writing. I would say that it’s what made this book as good as it is, but there’s also the characters and the stunning setting of the Underground. So, really everything about this book stands out. I really liked Elizabeth. I liked her when she made sure to care for her siblings. I liked her when she was conflicted between helping her brother or her sister. But I liked her best of all when she finally chose herself.
The romance between Elizabeth and the Goblin King was absolutely to die for. He and Elizabeth were friends when she was a child. She thought the games they used to play were dreams though. I liked how their relationship developed. It wasn’t instant love; they were friends when she was a child and she starts to remember that the longer she’s Underground. I liked seeing Elizabeth push the Goblin King’s buttons and he pushed hers in return. The ending did not go how I expected at all which is why I’m so eager to read the second book.
Overall, Wintersong surprised the heck out of me. I loved the interesting world and magic. The characters were easy to love and really made me feel things. I also thought the plot was easy to follow and well done. I loved all of the creatures in the Underground. I just really enjoyed this book and I would absolutely recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
The wolves are circling. And Ravka’s time is running out.
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.
The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve been sitting here starting at this blank page trying to figure out what to say about Rule of Wolves. But I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how to put my thoughts about this book into words. But I’m going to try my best. I had a hell of a time getting this book into my possession. I preordered from my local independent bookstore and two weeks later I found out I was moving. Apparently, there’s something wonky about this bookstore shipping to my new house because two of the preorders never made it to me. So, it took me almost two months to finally get this book. I do have to say that my local indie store was amazing throughout all of this. Now, Rule of Wolves was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 because I absolutely love the Grishverse. I especially love Nikolai and Zoya, so I think this duology are my favorite books in this world. I loved this book. I started it around 7:30pm and couldn’t put it down until I finished it around 2am. So, I read this 600 page book in about 6 hours, it was that good that I legitimately didn’t get off the couch until I was done.
So, we follow Nina, Nikolai, and Zoya as well as a few other characters here and there after the events of King of Scars. We see Nikolai and Zoya working together and sometimes apart, to prepare Ravka for war with the Fjerdans. But there’s more than the politics and planning of a potential war that’s on the horizon. There’s also the issue of the plot twist that was revealed at the end of King of Scars. That twist, which I won’t spoil, plays a pretty big role in this story’s plot. I liked how this aspect of the plot brought out character we’d already met. We get to see Alina and Mal and that made my heart so happy. We get to see all of the crows at different points. We also follow Nina who has been working undercover in Fjerda. She and Hanne have made it to the capital and are living with Hanne’s parents. They’re working together, to get close to the pretender to Ravka’s throne and other important people in the Fjerdian government so that Nina can get as much information as possible to send back to Ravka.
Nikolai’s journey was a compelling one. He’s still working on how to figure out how to rid himself of the monster inside him. But he might just be starting to accept that he will never be rid of the monster. I loved getting his perspective, getting to see things from his point of view was the best. I love that despite all the darkness that Nikolai has faced, he’s still kept his sense of humor, even if it is just an act sometimes. His jokes and humor really bring a bit of light to the darkness in this story. I just love Nikolai with my whole heart.
It’s Zoya’s part of the story that I loved the most though. Zoya is such a fascinating character to me. I really didn’t like her in Shadow and Bone, but I grew to love her by the end of that trilogy. And now, in the Nikolai duology, she’s grown so much, but still has some growing to do. I felt honored to follow along on her emotional journey. She knows her place is as Nikolai’s general, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting more, from having feelings for her king. Zoya does so much in this book and the way that her story ended had me absolutely screaming. I love Zoya so much. She is fiery and fierce, abrasive and blunt, loyal and dedicated. Zoya is so many things that you wouldn’t know from the way she presents herself. But she also grows so much. I just cannot say enough good things about Zoya in this book.
Finally, there’s Nina. I didn’t love Nina’s storyline in the first book. I loved Nina in Six of Crows, but in this duology she’s grieving. But she’s also working undercover for Ravka. She’s ferreting out Fjerdian secrets to send back to Ravka, to help Nikolai. While all of that is going on, she’s trying to save as many Grisha as she can. But she’s also falling in love again. I thought this was an interesting choice for Nina’s storyline, but I could help but really enjoy it. Especially the character that she fell in love with. Nina is the same fiery, funny woman we know from the Six of Crows duology, but she’s faced even more darkness now. So, it was a joy to get to see her fall in love again. I liked Hanne. I really did. I think they’re well suited and I enjoyed watching them scheme and work together.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I think this duology is my favorite series in the Grishaverse. I love Nikolai and I love Zoya and I love Nina. I think the writing was excellent. The story gripped me from the first page until the last. I loved all of the twists and the turns. The way that everything came together toward the end of the book felt like absolute perfection. After spending so long reading about these characters, it felt like all the choices made were right and natural for the characters we’ve gotten to know over the last six books. I also was really happy with how the book concluded. I think the conclusion was also absolute perfection. I especially loved that Rule of Wolves was wrapped up nicely, not totally neatly, but nice enough for me. But there was a door left open for more, I’m thinking for the rumored third Six of Crows book, but who knows what else Bardugo might be cooking up for the Grishaverse.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Summary:
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Book Cover

Review:
We Hunt the Flame is a book that I’ve heard such mixed reviews about. I know some people that absolutely love it and it’s one of their new favorite series, some that DNF’d it, and others just read the whole thing but just didn’t like it. I fell on the side that liked it. I really enjoyed this book. Now, it wasn’t perfect, but I did really enjoy it. I didn’t really get into it until the first 100 pages or so, but that’s pretty normal for me with new fantasy books or series.
We’re following two main characters, Zafira and Nasir. Zafira is known as the Hunter because she is the only one that can make it back out of the Arz the same as when she went in. She provides most of the meat for her people. But no one knows that the Hunter is a woman. I really liked Zafira and her emotional journey. She’s revealed that the Hunter is a woman as she’s leaving for a quest to find a lost artifact that might be able to restore magic to Arawiya. But even after she leaves, she struggles to really shed the cloak that has disguised her for so long. She also has some other things she’s still working through, grief for her father, her best friend has just gotten married (is it just me or did their friendship feel a little romantic with the way Zafira thought about Yasmine?), she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years despite living in the same house as her. She just has a lot going on. I liked that her identity as the Hunter wasn’t her only personality trait. I didn’t like that much of this book was Zafira struggling with romantic feelings for a man that she thinks murdered her best friend. We as the reader knew that it wasn’t him, but she thought it was and developed feelings for him anyway and I didn’t love that.
Nasir is the Prince of Death. He is the prince of Arawiya, but in reality, he’s the Sultan’s assassin. His father treats him terribly, but Nasir still does his bidding because if he doesn’t, those he cares for will pay the price. Nasir is sent to follow the Hunter and kill them once they’ve found the lost object. Altair is sent along on this mission and Nasir is ordered to come back alone and with the object. Nasir’s emotional journey was a really interesting one too. He doesn’t want to be his father’s killer, but he also wants to gain his father’s love. He remembers a time when his father acted like a different man and he wishes he could see that man again. So, he does as ordered, until he meets Zafira and learns that the legendary Hunter is a woman. Nasir, Altair, and Zafira end up traveling together because there’s safety in numbers. Nasir starts to like both Zafira and Altair. He’s conflicted because he’s been tasked with killing both and they all know it.
Altair was absolutely my favorite character. He’s the comedic relief that the story needed when there were some particularly tense moments. I loved all of his ridiculous comments and additions to the conversation. I think the secrets and twists that involve him were excellently revealed and definitely surprised me. I cannot wait to see what’s going to happen with him in the next book with where he was left at the end of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a bit too much of the romance aspect for my liking. Like I wrote above, Zafira spends a lot of this book feeling romantic things for someone that she thinks murdered her best friend. I do think that I will like this relationship more in the second book depending on how things go. But there was a lot of inner yearning and pining and I would have liked more of a balance between that and the action and adventure of the rest of the story. I really liked the plot and world. I really like the characters. I think the writing was beautiful and lyrical but not so flowery that it took away from the story. I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen in the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
After siphoning her own blood to defeat her enemy, Opal Cowan has lost her powers. More, she’s immune to the effects of magic. Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying on those with the powers she once had, powers that make a difference in her world.
Until spying through the glass becomes her new power. Suddenly the beautiful pieces she makes flash in the presence of magic. She also discovers that someone has stolen some of her blood and that finding it might let her regain her powers. Or learn if they’re lost forever.

Book Cover

Review:
I don’t know what happened with this series. I loved the Study trilogy so much, but this companion series just isn’t as good. I really loved Opal as a character in the first two books, but in this finale, she’s not in a good place. She takes risks she shouldn’t. She hurts so many people. And falls in love with someone she used to hate (and not in the fun enemies-to-lovers kind of way) like this dude is really bad. I don’t know, I can’t say only negative things about Spy Glass because I did still enjoy it while I was reading it. It’s got the same dark and gritty feel to the Study trilogy, but it felt way more all over the place. There was too much going on at once to the point where it felt like the story had no plot. But when the pieces did finally start to come together it made a bit more sense. Even then, Opal follows the most winding and convoluted path to the end of this book. It felt like there was so much going on that some things were lost in the story. There were so many litter details from the previous books that had a big impact on this third book, but I never would have guessed because they were made to seem pretty minor in the perilous books.
Anyway, enough griping. I did really enjoy this book and the series overall. There’s action and adventure, danger and high stakes, romance and hatred. I think Snyder knows how to write a story that will keep me compelled until the end even if I don’t like some of the characters. I do have to say though, I loved what we got to see of characters we knew from all of the books in the World of Ixia. Those familiar faces made it a bit easier, especially around the characters I don’t like. It was fascinating to see Opal be put into the one situation she’s been trying to avoid the whole series. I think that specific challenge really brought something extra go the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

Book Cover

Review:
Winterkeep starts off a few years after the ending of Bitterblue. I thought this was an interesting choice since much of this series has had a focus on Bitterblue. She feels like the heart of this series. But this time, we’re seeing Bitterblue as a fully established Queen. We’re also not only following Bitterblue, but we get Giddon’s point of view as well as a young teenager from Winterkeep. Lovisa Cavenda was my biggest problem with this book. I’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
I really liked getting to see more of this world. I thought it was interesting that instead of seeing more of Monsea or the Dells, we see a whole new part of the world. This book primarily takes place in Winterkeep. A newly discovered place that is a part of Torla. Monsea is Winterkeep’s closest neighbor. I though this new place was interesting. They’re more technologically advanced than Monsea, they have airships which was a fun addition to the story. But not everything is as it seems in Winterkeep. When two of Bitterblue’s envoys die suspiciously, it’s decided that Bitterblue, Giddon, and some advisors are going to travel there.
This is when the story really starts to get going. Like her previous books, this one was a bit slow going. But I still enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook and I really loved the narrator. They did a great job with all the different characters and voices. I would definitely listen to more audiobooks with this narrator. Now, the characters.
Bitterblue is the same girl we came to know and love from the previous books. But at times, it felt like she forgot that she was a literal queen and made herself smaller because of the situation she managed to get into. I still loved her though.
Giddon was interesting because he’s grieving for most of this book. We see him lose control of his emotions again and again. But he’s still the same Giddon from the previous books. I thought it was interesting to see him express himself, we get to see him let his emotions out, but still mostly manage to focus on the goal he came to Winterkeep to achieve.
Now, Lovisa. She’s the daughter of two people in the Winterkeep parliament. But they are both of opposing political parties. There’s a bit of unrest in Winterkeep as an important vote is about to come up. Lovisa made me mad because she could have been an amazing character. But she finds out about things her parents have done and instead of telling literally anyone, she keeps it all to herself. She eventually tries to fix the situation, but things get so much worse before she does that. I just wanted her to do something, anything really. Because of her inaction, people are killed. I also didn’t like how she used people. She has sex with a few different people in this book, which is fine, but she uses sex to get herself out of trouble and that led to others getting in trouble. She almost used it as a weapon, and then felt bad about it. I didn’t like that. I think people should have sex with whoever they want, but Lovisa always knew she wasn’t doing the right thing and felt bad about it afterward. It also seemed like she was attracted to girls, but that wasn’t ever confirmed so it felt like queerbating. I just genuinely didn’t like Lovisa, which was a bummer because she had the potential to be a really interesting character.
Overall, despite not liking one of the main characters, I still enjoyed this book. There’s interesting politics that we see unfold. There’s action, adventure, but there’s also several different emotional journeys that we get to see unfold. I also was very intrigued by the blue foxes that are well known in Winterkeep. I’ll be interested to see if/how they play a part in future books. I liked that we got to see characters we know and already love, but we also got to get to know some new ones. If you liked the first three Graceling books, I think you’ll like this one too.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
Like the colorful pieces of sea glass washed up on shore, Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents. But instead of finding a tranquil eddy, Opal is caught in a riptide. Her unique glass messengers which allow instant communication over vast distances have become a vital part of Sitian society. Once used solely by the Councilors and magicians, other powerful factions are now vying for control. Control of the messengers equals control of Sitia. Unfortunately that also means control of Opal. If that isn’t enough of a problem, Opal’s determination to prove blood magic is still being used is met with strong resistance. The Council doubts her, her mentor doubts her, and even her family is concerned. When her world is turned upside down, she begins to doubt herself. In the end, Opal must decide who to believe, who to trust, and who has control—otherwise she will shatter into a million pieces and be swept out by the tide.

Book Cover

Review:
Sea Glass is the second book in the Glass trilogy but the fifth book in the World of Ixia. I’ve grown to love the world and most of the characters and I think this has allowed me to overlook some things about this book that I wouldn’t normally overlook.
I have to say that I did really enjoy this book while I was reading it. But now that I’m finished, I can’t help but ask, “what the hell was Opal thinking?” And obviously we see much of what Opal was thinking and I still have no idea why she thought her ideas were good ones. I think I’m having a hard time because much of what Opal’s gotten herself into is her own fault. So, I guess that says good things about how much of an active protagonist she is. But she also makes some really poor choices that I just don’t really understand. She continually trusts the wrong people, she doesn’t confide in anyone she can actually trust, and those she does trust and confide in often get caught in the crossfire trying to help her.
I think the plot was interesting but I feel like I don’t know where it’s going. A big thing happened at the end of this story and I’m not sure how it’s going to affect where I thought the plot was going. I would say it was a pretty good plot twist, but I won’t be able to say that confidently until I see where things will go in the third book.
I will say that Opal has grown so much in this book. She’s not the timid girl that says yes to everyone and allows herself to get walked all over. She listens to others but ultimately does what she thinks is best. I liked the character development.
Overall, it was a sort of all over the place story. I did enjoy it while I was reading but I feel like I’ve just been left wondering what the heck just happened. I’m going to continue onto the next book and see if things get better for Opal (but honestly, they’ll probably get worse, at least for a little while).

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.