The One True Me and You by Remi K. England

Summary:
Up and coming fanfic author Kaylee Beaumont is internally screaming at the chance to finally meet her fandom friends in real life and spend a weekend at GreatCon. She also has a side quest for the weekend:
Try out they/them pronouns to see how it feels
Wear more masculine-presenting cosplay
Kiss a girl for the first time
It’s… a lot, and Kay mostly wants to lie face down on the hotel floor. Especially when her hometown bully, Miss North Carolina, shows up in the very same hotel. But there’s this con-sponsored publishing contest, and the chance to meet her fandom idols… and then, there’s Teagan.
Pageant queen Teagan Miller (Miss Virginia) has her eye on the much-needed prize: the $25,000 scholarship awarded to the winner of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA pageant. She also has secrets:
She loves the dresses but hates the tiaras
She’s a giant nerd for everything GreatCon
She’s gay af
If Teagan can just keep herself wrapped up tight for one more weekend, she can claim the scholarship and go off to college out and proud. If she’s caught, she could lose everything she’s worked for. If her rival, Miss North Carolina, has anything to do with it, that’s exactly how it’ll go down.
When Teagan and Kay bump into one another the first night, sparks fly. Their connection is intense—as is their shared enemy. If they’re spotted, the safe space of the con will be shattered, and all their secrets will follow them home. The risks are great… but could the reward of embracing their true selves be worth it?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
The One True Me and You follows two queer characters, Teagan who is a lesbian but not out because she also competes in beauty pageants, and Kay who is non-binary. These two meet at a hotel that is hosting both a beauty pageant and a fandom convention. Teagan is secretly also very into the fandom of this convention. So she and Kay meet when she sneaks out of her room to see some of the convention. From there, their romance blossoms.
I really liked Teagan. She’s driven and thoughtful. She knows who she is and what she must do to reach her goals. I didn’t love how she was to her friend Jess, who is supposed to be one of her best friends, who she blew off most of the weekend to see Kay. But I really actually enjoyed the behind the scenes of beauty pageant stuff. I felt like we got enough backstory to know who she was a character even though we weren’t seeing her in her day-to-day life.
Kay, on the other hand, is still figuring themselves out. They are trying on they/them pronouns for the first time. They want to kiss a girl for the first time. And they feel that this fandom convention is the best place for that. Being a part of the fandom feels like a safe place for them and I can absolutely appreciate this. I enjoyed following Kay as they learned so much about themself.
I think there were some really great comments about things that are wrong with beauty pageants. I think it did a great job with that. But I felt like the book was clearly biased in favor of fandom. I think there were some real chances to talk about the ways that fandom can be harmful (the amount of times I see people sending death threats to strangers because of fandoms is gross). But being a part of this fan base is only really ever described as a happy and safe place when I think in reality that isn’t always the case.
Overall, I think this was a wonderful story about a girl who competes in pageants to promote charity and win some money for college. And about a person finding themselves in a place where they truly feel safe. I think this book will definitely be well-loved.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Devil in the Device by Lora Beth Johnson

Summary:
Zhade’s power might be going to his head.
He’s still getting used to wearing Maret’s face, but he can’t deny that the influence it affords him has its perks. But when the magic of Eerensed starts to turn deadly, Zhade must master the Crown if he’s going to save his people, and Tsurina’s destructive plans for Eerensed aren’t going to make that easy. Worse, he’s starting to see her point.
Meanwhile, Andra is in hiding.
Assumed dead by the people of Eerensed, she must stay underground if she’s going to live long enough to build the rocket that will finally save the colonists from this dying planet. But when Andra hears voices urging her to destroy everything, she starts to dig deeper into her subconcious. What she finds leads her to question whether she’s destined to be a savior after all.
Battling the dangerous forces buried within their minds, can Andra and Zhade truly decide their own fates? They must find a way to work together before two power-hungry leaders and a deadly swarm of rogue technology destroy humanity for good.

Devil in the Device by Lora Beth Johnson

Review:
I am so glad that my library had this ebook so that I could devour this sequel. I really loved Goddess in the Machine but I think I liked Devil in the Device even more.
Devil in the Device starts off after everything basically blows up at the end of the first book. This sequel picks up right where we left off. Zhade is thinking that everything is going according to his plan while Andra is trying to figure out what the hell she is supposed to do next. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything from the first book. Let’s just say that things go from “according to plan” to hell in a handbasket incredibly quickly.
Because we’re already familiar with the world, this book felt like it had a way faster pace. I think maybe that’s why I liked it more. I wouldn’t say there was non-stop action, but there were twists and turns and all kinds of things that made it feel like these characters never really had a moment to catch their breaths. There were a few twists that I had suspected, but even more that had me totally shocked. I think the plot of the story was clearly well executed. I liked that the stakes were high and you could never quite tell how things were going to play out.
As I said in my review for the first book, the characters were really what made the story. Zhade is slowly realizing that what he thought he wanted isn’t going to satisfy him because it’s not what he really needed. He’s realizing that his plan might not actually be working out how he thought it was. Andra was basically floundering (which isn’t all that different from the first book) but she’s doing the best she can and that’s what really matters. She truly learns and adapts to all the things that are thrown at her. I really enjoyed seeing her fight against the negative influences and choose the right side of the conflicts.
The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was that for the first third of the book Zhade and Andra stay away from each other for literally made-up reasons. Zhade has ideas in his head about why Andra couldn’t possibly feel the same, romantically, about him as she did before he did certain things. While Andra is doing the same thing, making up ideas that Zhade couldn’t possibly still care about her now that he knows the secrets about her that we’re revealed in the first book. But if they had just talked to each other (which they ended up doing about a third of the way into the story) they would have realized they were both being dumb. And then, once they did finally talk and resolve this issue, everything was amazing for them again, for about a day. I was so frustrated when almost immediately after their reconciliation, another conflict was created to keep them apart. It took entirely too long for them to both get it together long enough to finally work things out.
Overall, I loved this book. The world is absolutely fascinating and I loved learning more about how the planet ended up the way that it is. I think the way humanity grew and developed and changed was incredibly compelling. The characters were engaging and I couldn’t help but love them. I just wanted more of Andra and Zhade together. Also, did I see hints of a spin-off for Zhade’s brother in the epilogue, I’m absolutely all about that.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Summary:
When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.
Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists–including her family and friends–are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.
Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne–if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.
With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Review:
Oh man, I’m so glad I impulsively bought this book. Goddess in the Machine follows main characters Andra and Zhade. Zhade is a prince of the world that Andra has awoken on. Andra is the third goddess. She’s been frozen in a cryogenic pod for 1,000 years. Except, it was supposed to only be 100 years. So, while Zhade is trying to use the goddess for his own ends, Andra is trying to figure out what the hell went wrong and what to do next.
This book was a wild ride. The story goes all over, but not in a way that made it seem like there was too much going on. There absolutely was a lot going on, but it was balanced really well and made sense for the story. I think the pacing of the story was well done as well. The author lets us get our bearings as we get to know the world and the characters and then incrementally turns things up with a well-placed twist here and there. I think the story was incredibly well written.
The characters were really what made the book though. Andra is the daughter that never made the cut. She was always the disappointment of her family. And she’s still dealing with these feelings. So, she’s not the most confident of main characters, but honestly, she’s doing the best she can and that’s actually pretty damn good. I loved following her growth and progression and the way the story ended! Oh, my goodness, I am going to start the second book immediately after finishing this review. Zhade was not hard to love. He was funny and charming. But also, the guy that you know you can’t trust for anything, but you can’t help but trust him anyway eventually being completely unsurprised when he betrays you. I think his plan was so dumb, but I am incredibly excited to see where it leads.
Overall, I loved this book. There were twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all. A few that had my jaw-dropping. The story was well-paced, engaging, and kept me interested the entire time. The characters were, mostly, easy to root for and I can’t wait to see how they develop further in the sequel.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

Summary:
Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it–even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her.
Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted–perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

Review:
Dustborn is another book that I read for the 12 Challenge from instagram, but also, I bought it impulsively at the Barnes and Nobel 50% off hardcovers sale. I have absolutely no regrets.
Dustborn follows Delta of Dead River as she fucks shit up. That’s it, end of summary. Just kidding. The story starts with Delta rushing to save her sisters life. Things get messy and when she returns to where her people have settled, she learns that they’ve been attacked and kidnapped. While on her way to rescue them, things go from bad to worse when she’s kidnapped and brought to be sold as a slave. The issue is that Delta has a map of the Verdant branded onto her back that no one is supposed to know about. So, when instead of being sold as a slave, she’s brought to the General (who is the person that had her people kidnapped), and he already knows about her brand, things get complicated very quickly.
I liked Delta. She’s just a girl that makes an incredible number of mistakes and missteps. But she’s trying her hardest to save the lives of the people she cares about. She was all heart and minimal brains. That’s mostly a joke. She just is impulsive and often reckless. But I think that’s why I liked her so much. She doesn’t always think things through, but that just made the story that much more interesting.
The world was compelling and learning more about this mysterious Verdant really kept me interested in the story. I wanted to know if they were going to make it there and what the whole Verdant myth was really about. The politics of the world were easy to understand. Survival is everything and those that have the power determine how you survive, or don’t. I absolutely loved when we finally started to get some answers about this world and its history. I think the mythology (religion?) of the gods in the stars was super interesting, but even more so once we learned where it came from.
Overall, this was an engaging story that was full of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. It’s set on a planet that’s not terribly easy to live on, which created some high stakes. And the characters were interesting and entertaining. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

Summary:
Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.
But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

Review:
In the Wild Light is an emotional story that follows Cash as he tries to find his place in the world. Cash and his best friend, Delaney, have been a dynamic duo for years. So, when Delaney makes a scientific discovery and she’s offered a spot at a prestigious school in Connecticut, she asks that Cash be considered for a place as well. They’re both accepted and Cash must make the difficult choice of whether to leave his sick grandfather and go off to school. Once at school, Cash faces obstacles that he’d never considered before. This was very much a slice of life story of a boy who is, for the most part, on his own for the very first time.
I liked Cash most of the time. It was easy to empathize with his feelings about leaving his grandparents and his feelings of inadequacy. He’s a kind and caring human being that I liked. His friendship with Delaney dominated this story. I didn’t always like Delaney. I don’t think she always treated him very nicely. Sometimes she treated him poorly in an attempt to tell him to get his shit together, but I think she absolutely could have been nicer about it sometimes. I really enjoyed seeing Cash flourish at his new school and I especially enjoyed seeing his new love for reading and writing poetry. It was a little funny to me at times because we’re reading the story from Cash’s point of view, so it’s all supposed to be his thoughts and feelings. Some of the writing where he’s talking about the setting and the new places he’s seeing are incredibly poetically and lyrically described, but he really struggled writing his own poetry. It made me chuckle a few times that his inner thoughts were so beautiful and full of imagery but that wasn’t always translated into the poetry he was attempting to write.
Overall, this was a beautiful story of a boy that’s doing new things, things that will be good for his future, and getting out of the small town he’s lived in his whole life. It’s a story of making new friendships and trying new things, even though those new things might be scary. Zentner has once again written a a beautiful and sad story that somehow leaves you feeling hopeful.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Summary:
Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.
Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.
Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.
The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.
To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Review:
Cytonic is the third installment in the Skyward series. So, I won’t go into too much detail with the summary considering that there would be major spoilers for the first two books.
We’re once again following Spensa, who sort of disappeared at the end of the Starsight. We follow her to where she disappeared and in this place, we discover lots of secrets. Considering this is the third book in the series, it felt like it was mostly a build-up for the fourth and final book. While we did get to see Spensa reappear, and we got to see some familiar faces while she was disappeared, it felt like this book was a fact-finding mission all to work toward the final whatever it may be in the final book. I’m certainly not upset about that, but I still missed the crew from the first book being all together. Spensa is mainly on her own, aside from M-Bot (who I still love with my whole heart even though he was mildly annoying in this book), while she’s on her mission. I definitely think there was so much character growth for her in this story because of the things she experienced. Part of that is also absolutely because she’s on this particular mission by herself. She learns more about her cytonic abilities as well as details about the enemy, but most of all, she really dives deep at times and learns more about who she is and what kind of person she wants to be.
Overall, this was another stellar installment of this series. I love Spensa and M-Bot. I love Doomslug. I liked the new characters well enough, but like I said above, I miss the original Skyward Flightcrew being all together. Even though this book felt like it was all leading up to the big resolution that has to be coming to the conclusion, I really appreciated the way this story took the time to develop Spensa on her own as a character. I think because her mission was solo, it really allowed for some focused character development. But I’m incredibly eager to see the team back together again in book four.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Skyward Flight: The Collection by Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson

Sunreach (Skyward 2.1)

Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson, Janci Patterson

Summary:
Read FM’s story between Starsight and Cytonic.
When a planet-destroying Delver suddenly appears in the sky of Detritus and vanishes just as suddenly, FM knows that the last free human society got lucky. Her Skyward Flight companion, Spensa, figured out how to draw this Delver away, but it won’t be so easy next time.
The forces of the Galactic Superiority will be back—and if the Defiant Defense Force can’t figure out a way to escape the planet, humanity’s destruction is only a matter of time. Spensa’s mission to infiltrate the Superiority unveiled the secret to their hyperdrives—a cytonic slug species called the Taynix. Now FM’s flightleader, Jorgen, has found a large group of Taynix hiding in the caverns far below Detritus’s surface.
FM and Jorgen must work together with the engineer Rig to awaken the mysterious alien Alanik and unlock the powers of the Taynix, or humanity will be trapped. With Spensa’s friend Minister Cuna of the Superiority stranded at the outpost of Sunreach, they need to figure out how to rescue her—or the Superiority government will be in the sole clutches of those who want to wipe out Detritus once and for all.
Review:
Sunreach follows FM alongside the ending of Starsight. I really liked this insight to another character in the Skyward world. FM was always an interesting supporting character, but I really enjoyed being in her head. I really felt like we got to know her better. I also especially liked that we got a bit of romance in this novella. There are little bits and pieces taken from the first two books that push the plot forward in this story and I really enjoyed seeing those pieces finally come together.

ReDawn (Skyward 2.5)

ReDawn by Brandon Sanderson, Janci Patterson

Summary:
Read Alanik’s story between Starsight and Cytonic.
“Don’t trust their lies. Don’t trust their false peace.” That is the warning that Alanik of the planet ReDawn gave the human pilot Spensa after Alanik’s ship crash-landed on Detritus. While accepting an invitation to meet with her people’s enemy, the Galactic Superiority, Alanik heard Spensa’s cry for help across the vastness of space, and she used her cytonic powers to hyperjump her ship to the source of that cry. What she found there was a shock—a whole planet of free humans fighting against the Superiority. Were they the allies her people desperately needed?
When she recovered from her injuries and met the friendly humans Jorgen and FM of Skyward Flight, she found that her warning to Spensa had gone unheeded by the government of Detritus, and they were considering a peace overture from the Superiority. Now having returned to ReDawn, Alanik is dismayed to learn that her own people are falling into the exact same trap.
The faction in ReDawn’s government that wants to appease the Superiority has gained the upper hand. With Alanik’s mentor, Renakin captured, she has no one to turn to but Jorgen, FM, and their friend Rig. An ancient technology may have the power to save both of their planets from disaster, but can they discover its secrets before it’s too late?
Review:
This one was a little bit harder to get into because we’re following the alien, Alanik, that we met in Starsight. So, we’re mostly unfamiliar with her world. I thought the world building was well done. I could only sort of picture her world considering she’s from a gas planet and some of it just didn’t make any sense to my brain. I did really appreciate this new perspective though. We’re seeing another species and how they’ve been treated by the Superiority and the things that are happening politically because of that treatment. I liked, much like the first novella, how the plot tied together with the wider series. I thought it was interesting and engaging.

Evershore (Skyward 3.5)

Evershore by Brandon Sanderson, Janci Patterson

Summary:
Read Jorgen’s story along with Cytonic.
With the government of Detritus in disarray because of Superiority treachery, and with Spensa still away on her mission in the Nowhere, Jorgen must work together with the alien Alanik to pick up the pieces. They intercept a strange transmission from the planet Evershore and its Kitsen inhabitants, who say they have some of Jorgen’s people and want to return them—but can the Kitsen be trusted? And can Jorgen learn to master his increasingly erratic cytonic powers before they spiral out of control and destroy all hope of forming an alliance against the Superiority?
Review:
Jorgen’s story was probably my favorite of the three novellas. I love Jorgen and I really liked being in his head. It was interesting to see inside his head after seeing him through Spensa’s eyes for two full books. I think he’s an excellent leader and this novella only showed that further. Like the first two novellas, I especially enjoyed how the plot tied to the rest of the series. I liked being on another new planet and seeing Jorgen learn about things I won’t specify because of spoilers. I am absolutely excited to see how these three novellas will be tied into the events of books three and four in the Skyward series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

Summary:
In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.
In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

Book Cover

Review:
Beneath the Citadel follows a cast of six characters: Alys, Cassa, Vesper, Evander, Newt, and occasionally the Chancellor. The story takes place in a fantasy world where the city is ruled by a group of incredibly corrupt councilors. They do what suits themselves and the high class, leaving the lower class to fend for themselves. Obviously, this leads to a rebellion. But what was interesting about this story is that the rebellion was in the past. It failed and we are following the next generation, children of well know rebel leaders and other interesting characters, as they try to solve the smaller mystery of why people are getting sick and losing their memories within the citadel.
I devoured this book. Once I started reading, I just couldn’t stop. I loved the cast of characters. They all had well-developed and interesting backstories. Their motivations were clear and easy to sympathize with. They were all really easy to become invested in. They were also diverse as hell. There was BIPOC representation, asexual representation, and bisexual representation. I can’t speak to all of these, but I was absolutely living for the bisexual representation that we got. Even though most of this story was action-packed and plot-focused, I absolutely loved the smaller bits of romance that we got.
The story itself was so engaging. It was unique and creative. There were little mysteries that pulled me in. It was compelling because I genuinely didn’t know which of the “bad guys” were the actual bad guys. I think the writing was also absolutely beautiful. There were so many lines I wanted to highlight and save. Also, a small thing that I noticed, but the story was paced really well and I really loved that the author obviously made a point to include the characters figuring out what time it was in the story. This gave us a guideline of what events happened in a certain time span. I think this was such a great way to show the pacing of the story.
Overall, I will absolutely be recommending this book in the future and reading more by this author. Soria managed to write a compelling fantasy filled with characters that were diverse and so easy to love. I’ve had a hard time getting invested in YA fantasy lately, but that didn’t happen at all with this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Summary:
A strange darkness grows in Allward.
Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.
She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:
A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.
Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.

Book Cover

Review:
Despite my trouble with YA books (most specifically YA fantasy) lately, Realm Breaker really had the potential to blow me away. I really liked most of the characters right away. I thought the world was interesting and I was excited to learn more about its history Amanda how things were in the present day. But then the book went on for almost 600 pages and Perry much nothing happened until the final pages of the story.
We follow a wide cast of characters. So many that for the first 200 pages I had trouble remembering who they all were. Things got easier once the whole group was together but the story is multi-perspective, so it took me a bit longer than I’d usually like. I thought the characters were interesting. They were absolutely the best part of this book. A ragtag group of people that have no business saving the world together makes for an interesting story. Except that they didn’t do anything. They traveled and found more people for almost the entire book.
The world was the other thing I liked. I think it’s obvious that Aveyard spent ample time building this world and all its various kingdoms. The settings were interesting. Each kingdom they visited was unique and interesting. I’d love to learn more about the history of this world. I’d also love to know more about these other worlds that are mentioned as bad places. There are a few other worlds mentioned that have to do with the plot that I thought had the potential to be incredibly fascinating.
Overall, this didn’t hit the mark for me. While I liked the characters and I thought the world was interesting, the plot leaves a lot to be desired. When I’m reading a story about an unlikely group of heroes saving the world, I’d like to actually see them do some world-saving.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

Summary:
As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…
Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey.
Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.

The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is a part of the promotional blog tour for The Iron Sword’s release.
The Iron Sword follows Ash’s point of view. I was mistaken in my assumption (which I mentioned in my review of the first book) that this spin-off series was all going to be from Puck’s perspective. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bummed when I realized that this book wasn’t from Puck’s perspective, but I absolutely see and appreciate what Kagawa seems to be going for here with each book being from a different character’s point of view. It makes me very curious as to who we will be experiencing the third book through.
I think the plot of the story was compelling and engaging. We’re solving the mystery of “where did Kierran disappear to?” But that mystery brings up quite a few other questions and all of these things roll together into the plot of this book. I think it was engaging enough to keep my interest. But also, I had enough questions answered along the way that I never felt frustrated that getting the answers was taking too long. I do have to say, holy cliffhanger (also, like, literally, hahah.)
Overall, I thought this was a quick read and I really enjoyed being back with a cast of characters that I know and love. But, like I said in my review for the first book, I would have liked some new characters to follow and root for in this world. It felt like I was plopped right back into the original series aside from the fact that Ash emphasized that Kierran was his son, and brought up all the things they’d been through and struggled with in the previous books as reminders that this series now spans many, many years. We did get to see some other familiar faces (like Ethan and Kenzie) which was an absolute joy. I will forever love this world. So, I cannot wait to see how this trilogy will end.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fresh by Margot Wood

Summary:
A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experience–and missteps–of a girl’s freshman year of college
Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer–from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.

Fresh by Margot Wood

Review:
I picked this one up at the Barnes and Noble 50% off hardcovers book sale under the influence of my friend Kelly. She recommended this for the 12 challenge that was going around Instagram and Twitter at the start of the year. All she said was it’s about a bisexual girl in her first year of college and I was immediately sold. Plus, when I saw it in the bookstore that book cover really just shines. It’s so simple and yet so stunning at the same time. I already can’t wait to take pictures of it.
Fresh follows Elliot, who is starting her first year of college. She’s from Ohio, but she’s going to Emerson College in Boston. As someone that grew up Boston adjacent, there are so many excellent Boston and Massachusetts references that had me laughing out loud. The thing about this book is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s told in first-person perspective and Elliot “talks” directly to the reader at times. I loved the way this story was told. I think it was incredibly engaging to be following Elliot as if she was sitting next to me, telling me about her experiences. Now, Elliot doesn’t always make the best choices. She’s incredibly flawed and I absolutely loved that about her. She’s bisexual and confident in her sexuality. The first half of the book is mostly (to use Elliot’s phrasing) Elliot being “horny on main.” The second half is Elliot taking the lessons she learned from her first semester of college and making better choices. She learns from her mistakes and doesn’t repeat them. I think that’s a big reason that she was a character I felt I could be invested in. She doesn’t just do stupid things over and over. She learns and makes a point to do better.
I absolutely loved all of the side characters, too. Lucy and Micah were excellent friends. I also loved Elliot’s RA, Rose. I think they made this story even better. Elliot really had amazing friends to support her and to tell her to pull her head out of her ass when she needed it.
Overall, I loved this book. I said earlier that it doesn’t take itself seriously. I think the author did a wonderful job of balancing that feeling while also covering some serious topics. There are conversations of sexual assault and slut-shaming. But it’s also a really sex-positive book. I feel like any words that I write cannot do this story justice. I will be recommending this book in the future very often.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s 12 Favorite Young Adult Books of 2021

Hi, lovelies! I’m back again with more of my favorite reads of 2021! For today’s list, I will be sharing my young adult favorites. Again, these are all books that I read in 2021, not just 2021 releases. I read so many excellent books this year, so the ones that made this list are truly top-tier books, in my opinion.

Mystery/Horror

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Review

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Review

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Review

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
Review

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
Review

Fantasy

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
Review

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
Review

Science Fiction

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Review

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Review

Roxy by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman
Review

Contemporary

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield
Review

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
Review

These are my favorite young adult books that I read in 2021. Are there any on my list that made your list too?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: The Kindred by Alechia Dow

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

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.