Review: ‘Mask of Shadows’

I am so glad I was able to snag this via trade! I’ve been looking for this (and 27 Hours) for a couple of months now and finally was able to get my hands on it.

 

Title: Mask of Shadows

Author: Linsy Miller

Series: Untitled (will be a duology)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

This story follows Sal, who enters a competition in order to be part of the Left Hand, who is the Queen’s assassins crew. They (more on this later!) are fighting to become the Opal as every person in that group is named after a precious stone. Throughout the book, Sal encounters someone from their past, escapes death multiple times and shows everyone what they are made of. It is action-packed, with a love story on the side, and a bigger backstory than I ever saw coming.

Likes

ALRIGHT! There’s going to be a lot in this section because I have a ton to say. Let’s first talk about Sal: Sal is gender-fluid, which means that they can present as a male or a female, depending on how they feel. They say in the book their pronouns are they, but also he or she was acceptable if they are presenting in that specific way. This might be confusing for some but I punched the air a little in excitement when Sal set the characters straight about their gender. Gender is something so highly debated today and it really doesn’t need to be. Sex is what we are born with but gender is what we feel and nobody should tell us that we shouldn’t feel a certain way. It doesn’t need to be this hot topic that is debated: it should just be and people need to realize that. Anyway, I could go on and on but I will say that the representation was on point. It was accurate and portrayed it in the correct way. But let’s talk about Sal as a character: THEY WERE AWESOME. Oh my god, I envy their flirting power, for one. The bada**ery cannot be overstated in this character and they were stronger than anyone expected them to be. The story exploits that strong nature and I definitely can’t wait to see more in the next book. Speaking of the story: it was an easy read but it was so gripping. The contestants were allowed to kill each other if they could do so without being caught and it made the tale that much more interesting. Sal also learned how to read and write in the book, which is where they formed a close relationship with Elise. That relationship was sweet and I really enjoyed reading about it. Sal reminded me a little bit of Arya from Game of Thrones because they didn’t care what it took to get where they needed: they would do whatever it takes to win.

(Dis)likes

Clearly I don’t have many dislikes because I gave this such a high rating! I would say that the side plot, that will become a main plot in the next book I assume, needed a little more expansion. I understand why it was just lightly glossed over so that the second book will have more on it but I needed more to fully understand the situation. I also feel that I needed more of the love story because it was so good!!!! I am excited to see more of Elise and Sal in the second book. I think this book also had a great cliffhanger, well more of a set-up for the next book. It made me excited to pick up the next one but didn’t leave me screaming at the book, which is good.

Recommendation

This book was marketed as for fans of Sarah Maas and Leigh Bardugo: I’d agree with Maas because Sal could be compared to Caleana but I wouldn’t agree with Bardugo. I think it is unique in its story and it kept me interested the entire time!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘Jackaby’

Hello! I saw this book while scrolling through my library’s digital collection and really loved the cover. I thought it was intriguing from the blurb and decided to check it out.
Title: Jackaby

Author: William Ritter

Series: Jackaby

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

Mystery? The supernatural? A zany dude? Check, check and check. This book is a retelling of the classic Sherlock Holmes story, with a female Watson at Sherlock’s side. Sherlock is named Jackaby in this version and Watson is named Abigail, who has recently come to New England in order to escape her parents. She is met with the zany Jackaby on the street one day and finds out he is looking for an investigative assistant, a job which she jumps for because nowhere else in the new town is anyone hiring. Abigail had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Likes

This book was fun. I felt it was a fun read that kept me interested in reading more. I love the show Sherlock and I have read another Sherlock retelling in the past. I find mysteries to be a genre that I am usually not interested in but this book had such a cool mystery! The retelling part of this book was the fact that Jackaby is a seer and he can see paranormal and supernatural beings that commit some of the crimes he investigates. In this story, that is no different, and the two are on a hunt for a serial killer in their small town. The characters all have parallels to Sherlock Holmes, and Jackaby is an unofficial partner with the police. I thought Jackaby’s character was very entertaining. He acted very much like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock portrayal and he was simply hilarious. His deductions were very calculated but sometimes he would just basically talk to himself because his thoughts were going a million miles a minute. He certainly was an interesting part of this story that complimented Abigial very well. She was intelligent and inquisitive, learning both about investigating and the paranormal while assisting Jackaby on the cases at hand.

Dislikes

I didn’t like that this book was a little scatterbrained for me and I really wanted to know more about the supernatural beings. They were touched on slightly but I wanted in-depth descriptions of them in relation to the case. I have to say the twist of the killer did keep me on the edge of my seat and I didn’t guess it until it actually happened in the book. I liked the idea of having paranormal beings being the killer and it was an interesting take on Sherlock. My rating reflects that I was pretty indifferent to the book but I would definitely read the second with how the first one ended.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fans of Sherlock or mysteries. It’s fresh and new and I even think that it has a little bit of Doctor Who elements in it, with the supernatural aspect of it.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Every Last Word’

Hi! Mental health month is in May but I saw this book recommended on Twitter as part of mental health reads. After my month of LGBT reads, I figured that I wanted to try some that deal with mental health. Mental health is something personal for me, both because of my own experience as well as my career as a counselor, which I am studying for.
Title: Every Last Word

Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

This book truly hit me hard. I was lucky that my library had a digital copy and I downloaded it to start reading right away. But wow, this is a really ‘real’ book and it made my heart hurt and soar at the same time. The book follows Samanatha (or Sam), who struggles with anxiety and OCD. She goes through high school with a really terrible group of friends but meets a girl named Caroline, who introduces her to a new group of friends and the art of poetry.

Likes

I think my favorite thing about this book was that it told it like it is. It didn’t sugarcoat what anxiety was like and it showed the everyday manifestations of the mental illness. Additionally, it chronicles Sam’s therapy sessions which I think is so important for young people to read. Many are still plagued by the idea of mental illness being a stigma and that getting help means that they’re crazy. It doesn’t! It means that they’re strong enough to realize they need help to get better and cannot do it on their own. I have recently been shown that anxiety is the root and why I do many things that I do, and why I am the way that I am. For so long, I thought I didn’t have anxiety to that level, but once I accepted I did, I was able to deal with it so much better. I am not on medication or have severe anxiety (I like to call it ‘high functioning anxiety’) but I related to Sam in a way that I really needed to have years ago. Sam’s character truly made this book everything it needed to be for me and I can’t stress enough how beautifully written she is as a character.

(Dis)likes

There isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book. While it is a contemporary, it is told in a way that keeps you intrigued and there are some twists in this book that I wasn’t expecting at all! I also found it interesting that it depicted Sam’s mother a lot in the book and she was trained by Sam’s therapist on how to deal with Sam’s anxiety attacks, when they happen. It made me think about how I want to handle my own mental health practice some day and I feel that this is such an important asset. Parents often don’t know how to deal with their child’s mental illness or developmental disability–not at their own fault, but because some therapists just don’t teach them or think it’s important to. After reading this book, I agree that it is, and I would go on to suggest teaching small things to best friends so that if the parent isn’t there, they can help as well.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to anyone struggling with anxiety, mental illness of any kind, or if someone you know is dealing with mental illness. It gives useful insights into how it really affects a person’s life daily and can help identify warning signs that someone needs some support.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Horizon’

Horizon is a middle-grade book by Scott Westerfeld that was pitched as Hatchet meets Lord of the Flies meets Lost. Now, Scott Westerfeld is one of my all time favorite authors so anything written by him, I’m sold. But throw in something about Lost? I’m instantly double give it to me now sold! I’m a die hard Lostie and I will love the show 4ever, so anything that is similar to it – sign me up.

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: Horizon (7 planned books)
Rating: 4/5 stars

Horizon did not disappoint. I’m not usually a fan of middle grade books – as an ~adult~, they just don’t resonate with me as YA books do. But I could really get into and enjoy Horizon. It is for a younger audience and the writing reflects that, but while it is simpler it is not in any way dumbed down. This is still a story about survival and the writing reflects that.

A plane crashes on a flight from New York to Tokyo as they’re flying over the arctic and the only survivors are a handful of young teenagers. But when they get out of the wreckage, they’re in the jungle, not the arctic as they were when they last looked out the window. …What? Exactly. (Somebody forgot to push the button in the hatch. 4 8 15 16 23 42)

These kids need to be resourceful and combine their unique skills and knowledge to survive. Some of the kids know each other because were on a class trip for a robotics competition – clearly smart kids. One boy was on his way home to Japan to see his father. Two Japanese sisters don’t speak any English. Yet this ragtag team needs to work together if they want to survive. And the jungle has some unexpected surprises for them.

As I said, I loved Lost, so I loved this book! It really felt like elements of Lost with the mysteries and unexplained events and locations. (Polar bear on the Lost island, anyone?) (Side note, if you want to talk about how much you love Lost like I do, please comment below so we can be friends :D)

This was full of action and you even learn a few Japanese words along the way! (Luckily the boy on his way to see his father speaks both English and Japanese. How convenient!)

This is the first of 7 planned books in the series and a different author will write each story. Book 2, Deadzone, is written by Jennifer A. Nielsen and will be released on September 12th, 2017. I would recommend this series for middle-grade readers but older readers can enjoy this as well! If you like stories about survival with some mysteries thrown in, this story is for you.

~Missy

Extra Pages: ‘Sublime Karma’

Iam starting a new series called Extra Pages, that will function as an extra review for the week from books I read the previous week. You can vote in the comments of my Weekly TBR posts for what review you would like to see. My reviews are posted sometimes quite a while after I read them because of the volume of books I am able to get through, which is why I thought this would be a cool series!

I was contacted by the author and asked to review this book. I was so ecstatic to get my first review request and I accepted.

 

Title: Sublime Karma

Author: Peyton Garver

Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5 stars

I was given an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary

This book is about a girl named Brie, who transfers to a new high school. She almost immediately becomes the subject of bullying and she has to deal with this in the best way she thinks she can: through running and some self-harm. She becomes close with Jake, who plays on the high school’s football team, and their stories mesh together to create a typical teen high school love story. There are also mentions of self-harm in my review, so I’d like to address that as a trigger.

Likes

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. From the summary on Goodreads, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it much, but I really wanted to give it a try. I will say that I did like it, but I didn’t love it. The first thing I liked was the reality of the relationship between Brie and Jake. I think at first it started like an instant-love-story kind of thing, but it blossomed into something that was really strong and loyal. I think that what set it apart from love stories in YA was the fact that Jake truly cared for Brie, in a way that was on a different level than infatuation or high school teen love. I admired that characteristic about Jake and he changed throughout the book to become a more wholesome, caring person. In the beginning, he seemed like one of those typical jocks and I just wanted him to leave Brie alone – but by the end, I didn’t know how they couldn’t be together. The ‘mean girls’ in this book were just that: mean. I still am not sure about why they teased Brie the way they did but it was a typical high school kind of bullying.That brings me to Brie’s story: I liked Brie as a main character. She was passionate, innocent, and also came with her own baggage. This baggage included self-harm, which she participated in a few times in the book, even going to a hospital at one point. I think that these events were woven in correctly and they worked for the storyline of the book. This book also addressed overdosing and inappropriate intimate relationships, which are things that could trigger some people. I don’t think that it was as serious as other books I have read in terms of content and I was left with a very uplifting feeling after finishing the book instead of feeling a little sad and despondent.

Dislikes

The major thing that comes to mind is that there were areas in the book that were skipped over. For example, Brie was going to meet Jake’s dad and sister, and then the chapter ends there, picking up after the meeting happened. I would have liked to see that meeting expanded on and not skipped over. This happened in a few other areas and I was disappointed at times because they are scenes that I would have liked to read, to see how the characters interacted together. I also think that this is has many high school trope-y elements to it. For example, the bullying, the boy being mean to the girl and then falling for her, etc. I felt like it wasn’t a book for older YA readers as much because I had trouble relating to those situations as I am a bit older, but they didn’t ruin the book for me because it was the main plot. I also think that some of the darker elements were glossed over in that they weren’t discussed in detail. This might have been the intention, to keep it a little lighter, but if it’s mentioned I feel like it should be told like it is. I didn’t like how there were some parts that were unbelievable: for example, Jake goes to the hospital and leaves his cell phone with Brie so they can text, even when he isn’t supposed to be allowed access. It’s a little far-fetched in that area. Finally, I think I really wanted to know more about Brie’s backstory. She seemed to have some sort of depression or other mental illness going on, as she did detach herself at times from situations that she found too overwhelming. I wanted to know more about how she came to the place that she was at when the book began. I really enjoy character backstories and it was something that left me wanting more.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to those who are looking for a read that encompasses what life is like in high school, with a few added twists thrown in. It reminded me a little of Twilight at times (minus the vampires!) with how Bella & Edward’s relationship blossomed.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘The Queen of the Tearling’

I remember picking this book up when I was a teenager and being so intimidated by the density of the book. I actually didn’t read it back then and I recently saw the new cover and binding at my library so I decided to give it another try.

 
Title: The Queen of the Tearling

Author: Erika Johansen

Series: The Queen of the Tearling

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Summary

I was surprised by this book. I had heard that it was super detailed and dense and very hard to get through. Nevertheless, I decided to read it. The book follows the story of Queen Kelsea, who is the newly appointing queen of the Tearling. Her mother, the previous queen, has died and it is time for her to take her rightful place on the throne as she comes of age. It chronicles her journey to her Keep and all that happens within the walls of her castle.

Likes

I found that I actually really liked Queen Kelsea as a character. I found that she was a strong and just ruler, one that wanted to undo all of the horrible things that her mother did. Of course, these things were only done in order to keep the kingdom safe, but Kelsea is more about being a just and free ruler, and wants to provide the best of care to her citizens. I thought that it was an interesting touch to have her learn sword fighting and realize that there were many threats upon her life. This book also uses a sort of alternate world, where the setting is New Europe and the occupation of land is New London. It wasn’t examined too much but the areas had been renamed and Kelsea’s territory was the Tearling. I also found that this book was a lot like Game of Thrones. I love GoT, so I was pleased with it, but the storyline had similar elements.

Dislikes

Also like Game of Thrones, this book was VERY DENSE. People aren’t lying when they say that. There is a lot of description and there is a lot of added wordiness that kind of makes the novel drag on. I felt like the story moved at a fairly good pace but the ‘dragging on’ I reference is to detailed descriptions of scenes that really don’t make a difference to the book as a whole. I am personally not a fan of this, as I think I mentioned in the past, but it does paint a super clear image. I also found that the threat of the other queen trying to take over wasn’t that… Scary? Pressing? I don’t really know the word to describe it. She was told as this horrible ruler who demands this and that, but when it came to the actual scenes with her, I was let down. I think the second book delves into her a little more (It is called Invasion of the Tearling) and I might read it to find out a little more about this other queen (named the Red Queen).

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fans of Game of Thrones. That is the closest thing I can relate it to and I think that it will please these fans very much. I also heard that once upon a time, Emma Watson was to star in a movie based on this book… But I haven’t heard anything about it lately! I think she would make a fantastic Kelsea!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor