Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

29960675Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Expected publication: September 5th 2017

Perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, the first book in this new duology features a compelling gender fluid main character, impressive worldbuilding, and fast-paced action.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class―and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

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The synopsis for Mask of Shadows says “perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo”. I think whoever wrote that set this book up to fail in comparison to those two writer’s books. Comparing a book to the likes of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo is a very bold claim and I feel like because of that claim and the epic sounding synopsis, I was let down by this book.

The plot is kind of boring and unoriginal. It felt a lot like The Hunger Games and by a lot, I mean almost an exact copy. I’m not really into reading books that are very similar so the plot really wasn’t for me.
I liked the writing. It wasn’t Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo level but I liked it. It felt like the writing of a debut novel but I think there’s a lot of potential for the author.
The diversity in the main character is what held this book together for me. I’d never read about a gender fluid character before and to be honest, I don’t know a lot about gender fluidity. I was very interested to learn about Sal and see a new perspective. If the main character wasn’t diverse, this would be a two star book for me.

Overall, Mask of Shadows was okay. I liked it for the most part but whenever I think about this book being compared to Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, I roll my eyes. That line is clearly a marketing ploy and shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you don’t mind books having similar plots, you might really like this book. Or if you’re on the hunt for a gender fluid character, Mask of Shadows would be a good one to pick up. But, if you’re looking for amazing writing and an original plot, you’ll want to skip this book.

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Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

28965131Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Published January 31st 2017

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

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I picked up Behind Her Eyes because of my quest to expand my reading horizons. I don’t read a lot of adult fiction, I read mostly Young Adult, but this book sounded really exciting and I’m always down for a good thriller.

I did find Behind Her Eyes to be fairly addicting, which I wasn’t expecting. I read it in just a couple of days and I even caught myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.
I wasn’t very invested in it though. The characters are good but I wasn’t emotionally invested in them.
I feel like it could have been written a little bit better in some ways. I didn’t really feel the suspense for most of the book. The reader finds out a lot more about David and Adele than Louise and I felt like I was always waiting for Louise to catch up. Speaking of Louise, I found her really annoying and her behavior was odd and she made some really stupid decisions. She was more of a plot device than a useful character.

Overall, this was a decent read. I liked how addicting it was in the moment and I did like it for the most part. The ending was pretty wild but I could easily pick it apart if I spent more thinking about it. If you’re not a critical reader, I think this book will be a lot better to you. If you are a critical, like me, I’m not sure this book will live up to the hype.

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Review: Gardenia by Kelsey Sutton

gardenia_coverlargeGardenia by Kelsey Sutton

Published February 28th 2017

Seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live.

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been able to see countdown clocks over everyone’s heads indicating how long before they will die. She can’t do anything about anyone else’s, nor can she do anything about her own, which will hit the zero hour before she even graduates high school.

A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy does her best to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep love for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister. And she struggles to cope with the murder of her best friend, another life she couldn’t save. Vanessa Donovan was killed in the woods, and everyone in town believes Ivy had something to do with it.

Then more girls start disappearing. Ivy tries to put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa’s. To save lives and for her own sanity.

The clock is always ticking. And Ivy’s only hope is to expose the truth before it runs out completely.

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I really liked the concept of this book (it was very similar to a book I read in 2010, Numbers by Rachel Ward) and I thought the writing was really great. The writing was actually my favorite part about Gardenia. I liked Ivy and even though I wasn’t emotionally invested in her story, I was still interested to see what was going to happen. I believe this is a standalone, so I really liked that aspect as well. I’m a big fan of standalones so if you’re looking for a good mystery but you don’t want to get caught up a long series, Gardenia would be a good one to pick up.

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Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

23447923The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Published March 7th 2017

The first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

 

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I read one of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s other books, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a few years ago and it blew my mind. It was incredible in every possible way. I loved it and I will always recommend it. So I was beyond pumped when I heard about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. It sounded amazing, it had diverse characters, it was written by the same person who wrote Ari and Dante. I knew it would be awesome, I knew I would love it. However, that’s not the case.
I wanted to love this book so much but it just didn’t do it for me like I thought it would.
I was expecting to fall in love and cry and everything that Ari and Dante did for me but The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is pretty basic. It’s okay. I liked it for the most part but I didn’t love it. I might recommend it to some people but I wouldn’t go out of my way to tell people about it.
My main problem with this book is the stereotypes and assumptions. There was a lot of them and it didn’t sit well with me. It felt cheap and thoughtless at times. Things like “one thing about Sam was that she didn’t throw like a girl” just wasn’t okay. I would never have expected things like that in this book so it really surprised me.
One thing I thought was really cool about this book was that the main character is adopted by a gay Mexican man. The main character is white but he identifies with his father’s culture because that’s how he was raised. I hadn’t seen that before in a book (or movie or tv show or anything, to be honest) and I thought that was pretty cool and maybe a lot of people could relate to that and feel a bit of representation.
I did like the main character, Sal, a lot. He was very different from most YA male characters and I thought it was really amazing. I loved his dad the most though. He was such an incredible character. If you’re looking for a book with great family dynamics, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life has it.
I wasn’t a big fan of Sam, Sal’s best friend. She was kind of hurtful to Sal at times and I felt like she was ignorant to a lot of things and was very self-righteous. But she did have really good character development so that was nice.
The plot was kind of… not there. This is a pretty big book, 464 pages, but nothing really happened. If I had to describe the plot of this book to someone, I don’t think I could. There was an awful lot of nothing happening in this book.
I did really appreciate how there wasn’t any romance in The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Most YA contemporaries are romance driven and it can be difficult to find something without romance.

Overall, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life was okay. There was a good deal of things I didn’t like but if my expectations weren’t so high, I might not have been so disappointed. If you’re looking for a book exclusively for diversity or you don’t want any romance, you should check this book out. Or if you’re not that critical of a reader, you might enjoy this book a lot more than I did. But for me personally, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life didn’t do it for me. I think it could have been a lot better and I can’t ignore the thoughtlessness of some of the things in this book.

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Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

27883214Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Published January 31st 2017

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

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This is one of the most interesting and creative books I’ve read in a long time.
I loved the concept of this book so much. Actually, my favorite thing about Caraval is the concept. I thought it was so cool and different from a lot of books I’ve read.
I also was very invested in Scarlett and Tella’s relationship. As the synopsis says, their father is very cruel and abusive so the two girls are very close in a lot of ways and I appreciated that.
Scarlett, however, is not my favorite character in the world. I thought she was really annoying and she drove me crazy for most of the book. I haven’t seen anyone else feel this way so maybe I’m the odd one out on this but Scarlett kept this book from being 5 stars.
Overall, I thought Caraval was a really fun read. I wasn’t really that critical when I was reading because I was so caught up in the plot which is rare for me. If you’re looking for a really cool fantasy book, I’d definitely recommend Caraval. But if you’re easily frustrated with annoying protagonists, you might want to skip this book.

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Review: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron

27508688The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron

Published February 7th 2017

Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true—if the hawthorne trees don’t get you first.

Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what’s inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can’t wait to return, this time with her brother.

But strange things happen at William’s castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there’s William’s warning: Beware the hawthorne trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.

In the end it’s up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns—but will one wish be enough?

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I really liked the writing in this book, the characters, and the plot but I do wish it was longer.
I thought the writing was really nice even though it did seem to get over descriptive in places and sometimes it wouldn’t give enough description. But other than that, I thought the writing was pretty good. I liked the plot a lot. It was fun and the characters were fun as well.
This isn’t the best Middle Grade book I’ve read and I do think it would be better suited for the targeted
age group than more experienced, critical readers. I definitely think this would be a great book for younger readers though.

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ARC Review: 10 Things I Can See from Here by Carrie Mac

3101957110 Things I Can See from Here by Carrie Mac

Expected publication: February 28th 2017

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

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I really liked the writing style of this book and I definitely appreciate Maeve. I’ve never read a book where the main character has anxiety before and I thought it would be great to read about a character who has anxiety (I also have anxiety). But I actually had a hard time reading about Maeve’s anxiety without becoming increasingly anxious myself. Maeve’s anxiety is a little different from my own but she still made me anxious. It got a lot better as the book went on but it still hindered me from enjoying the book.
I do really appreciate the representation of anxiety in YA though. I think this book could help people who don’t have anxiety to understand what it’s like and see things in a new perspective.

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Review: Damaged Goods by Jennifer Bardsley

31950044Damaged Goods by Jennifer Bardsley

Published January 17th 2017

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend and the loving support of her foster father. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions.

Blanca feels abandoned by her boyfriend, who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort which she readily accepts.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals, the Guardians, rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. As Blanca’s life is thrown into chaos once more, she struggles to recognize friend from foe, and one miscalculation can have devastating consequences.

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Damaged Goods started out pretty slow for me. The first book started out pretty fast paced but this sequel felt very much like a sequel. I did really like how this book explored more of the world created in Genesis Girl and I thought the character development was really good.
I still wasn’t connected with Blanca though. She still felt… off. I can’t put on my finger on it but there’s just something about her that I don’t like.
I did like how her abusive upbringing was acknowledged a little bit more and Blanca was actively learning to move forward with her life.
Overall, Damaged Goods was a nice sequel. If you loved Genesis Girl, I think you’ll love this book just as much.

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Review for Genesis Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley

25721439Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley

Published September 27th 2016

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet.

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable.

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.

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This book was such an odd read. The concept is really cool and interesting but I had such a hard time relating to the main character.
I really loved Blanca’s character development. I thought was nearly spot on and I’m curious to see what development she has in the next book. However, she was so… dramatic. She came across as brain washed and plain and boring. I felt bad for hating her because she was brain washed but I couldn’t help disliking her. I couldn’t relate to her at all and because of that, I couldn’t become invested in the story. Tabula Rasa School is very cult like and I don’t remember it being addressed how awful it is. I don’t remember the whole auctioning-people-off-like-property thing being addressed either. Hopefully all that will be addressed in the second book.
The writing style was okay. I feel like it could have been cleaner and edited better.
Overall, Genesis Girl has a really cool concept but troublesome issues weren’t addressed and I wasn’t a fan of the main character. I’m very curious to see what the next book brings to the table.

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Review: The Rising by Heather Graham and Jon Land

26114412The Rising by Heather Graham and Jon Land

Published January 17th 2017

Twenty-four hours. That’s all it takes for the lives of two young people to be changed forever.

Alex Chin has the world on a plate. A football hero and homecoming king with plenty of scholarship offers, his future looks bright. His tutor, Samantha Dixon, is preparing to graduate high school at the top of her class. She plans to turn her NASA internship into a career. When a football accident lands Alex in the hospital, his world is turned upside down. His doctor is murdered. Then, his parents. Death seems to follow him wherever he goes, and now it’s after him.

Alex flees. He tells Samantha not to follow, but she became involved the moment she walked through his door and found Mr. and Mrs. Chin as they lay dying in their home. She cannot abandon the young man she loves. The two race desperately to stay ahead of Alex’s attackers long enough to figure out why they are hunting him in the first place. The answer lies with a secret buried deep in his past, a secret his parents died to protect. Alex always knew he was adopted, but he never knew the real reason his birth parents abandoned him. He never knew where he truly came from. Until now.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Rising when I started it. I loved the synopsis but I’d seen some mixed reviews.
My favorite thing about The Rising is the concept. It was a really fun sci-fi thriller and I liked the two main characters, even though they were made up of stereotypes. I was disappointed in the creation of Alex though. Everything was set up for him to be a diverse character, last name Chin and it was mentioned that his parents are from China, but he’s actually white. He’s adopted and even though I think it’s cool to have a main character that’s adopted (I don’t see that very often in YA) but there was a perfect opportunity to have a diverse main character. I’m sure the authors had the best intentions but it was very disappointing.

I thought the writing was interesting. It was melodramatic at times and it felt like it was written by someone who hadn’t written Young Adult before and was trying too hard. I think this book would have been a lot better if it wasn’t YA. Not because I don’t like YA, quite the opposite, but The Rising just didn’t feel like most YA books I’ve read. It felt like it was written by adults who’ve never read YA or at least, don’t read it often. I don’t know if that makes sense but it just felt… off.
Once I made an effort to not read The Rising as critically, I enjoyed it a lot more.
Overall, if you’re not a critical reader and you’re looking for a fun sci-fi, you might want to pick up The Rising. But if you’re well well versed in YA and tend to read critically, I’d say skip this book.

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