(Review) Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows by Lindsey Miller
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 1.5-2 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis: 
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.

My Review: 
In theory, Mask of Shadows, is an interesting concept and brings a diverse character into the world of young adult novels. The idea of a gender fluid main character fighting for revenge against the people who killed their entire family and destroyed their homes is definitely something we should all get behind.

In actuality, the execution fell flat. This would have been a great story, had it more originality than simply making the main character gender fluid. To me, that's the only thing that stood out from this book. 

Sal is a thief and one day they steal a flyer from a passing coach and then decide to try and become one of the queen's most loyal assassins. Only until they see the flyer, Sal is only a thief and streetfighter, so the decision seems a bit impulsive considering they've been living this way for years. 

Once Sal makes it to the audition they, and all of the other auditioners, are to be in some sort of a culling. They're supposed to kill each other, but don't get caught killing each other. Which was kind of confusing to me. The game plays like this for several chapters and scenarios as the characters are weeded out. 

While they are auditioners, they are also only known as numbers, so it's a little hard to keep track of who is who. I didn't find myself interested or invested in any of these characters...except maybe Ruby, because he seemed badass. 

This story gets repetitive as the auditioners keep trying to kill each other, the whole time Sal is trying to find their revenge on the elite of society. It just felt like we've seen this story so many times before (The Hunger Games, Divergent, Red Rising) and Sal just didn't fill the shoes of those characters. 

Personally I would have liked the gender fluid aspect of Sal to be more prominent and made more of a main point in the book. To me, it seemed like a way to hook people in and not really focus on the main thing that was supposed to make this book special. 

It was a struggle to get through this one. Even some of the language and dialogue felt stunted and unnatural. I fond myself rereading sentences over and over in order for them to make sense. Part of me is interested in finding out what actually happens with the rest of the series, but most of me is okay with it ending here. 

(Review) The Darkest Part of the Forest

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Publication Date: January 15, 2015
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

My Review: 
I've apparently had this book on my TBR list since 2015 and just realized it. I picked it up recently from the library because I love reading about magic (I've been on a kick this summer) and it sounded like it'd be just right. 

Hazel and Ben are great characters. They have a strong sibling bond that has less do with monsters and more to do with the fact that their parents kind of suck. Growing up in the town of Fairfold isn't easy for anyone really. The Fae are supposed to respect the humans that live there, but it isn't always the case. Case in point: one of their best friends, Jack, is a changeling. 

Weird things start to happen to Hazel with the horned boy in the coffin wakes up after centuries. She loses bits of time, wakes up with a bed filled with dirt, and keeps getting weird messages. All the while she keeps this from Ben and her relationship with Jack begins to blossom. 

I liked this storyline enough, but felt like it could have been more. Though Hazel is a great character, for most of the book she just feels like an impulsive little girl who wants to get her way. There's a whole other side of her that we don't even know about and I would have loved to have had some of those scenes of Sir Hazel. 

The relationships built in this book are great, however. From Jack and Hazel to Ben and Severin. There was always part of me that was guessing if someone was going to turn out to be the bad guy, so the suspense was there. 

All in all, it quenched my magical thirst and I'm glad I finally picked it up. 

(Reread Write Up) The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Publication Date: March 1st, 2006
Pages: 366 (paperback)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads Syonpsis: Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Reread Write Up: 
This is not the first, or even the second time, I've picked up Percy and his friends again. To me, this series is as timeless as Harry Potter is. Some people might disagree, but I feel it deeply. 

Prepare for me to wax poetic about Percy Jackson, okay? 

Percy's just a regular kid with a whole lot of problems. He can't sit still, he can't concentrate, and words move around on the page. Trouble follows him everywhere he goes. He's been kicked out of numerous schools and his life is just rough. 

While he thinks he's just a kid with ADD, he soon learns that's not the case at all. 

Percy is a demigod. He's the son of his mortal mother Sally Jackson and Poseidon, the god of the sea. 

This is, obviously, news to Percy. 

When Percy's mother is taken and he winds up at Camp Half-Blood with Chiron (who Percy thought was his teacher, but is actually a centaur) and Grover (a satyr, not Percy's weird best friend). There's also a whole slew of characters that you will meet and love. There are also some you will hate, despise, and loathe. 

I love this book for so many reasons. I love Percy's wit and charm. He's sarcastic and fun, completely bent on pissing everyone off as he figures out what it means to be a demigod. Percy is powerful. He's the son of  "Big Three" and technically he isn't supposed to exist. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades took a pact to not sire anymore children...only none of them listened. 

The main point of the first book is that Zeus thinks Percy stole his lightning bolt. It's Percy's first quest to find out who actually stole it. 

This books opens us up to an entire series built on magic and mythology, and what it takes to defeat the bad guys. 

I truly wish that the first two movies had been done better, because this series deserves it.

After the initial five Percy-centered books we are introduced to a spin-off series where Greek and Roman demigods come together. Though there are plenty of new characters to love, Percy is still my favorite. His wit and sarcasm keep me going through the whole series. I don't think I've ever rooted for a character more than I did Percy Jackson. 

(Review) Spellbook of the Lost and Found

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Publication Date: June 1, 2017 (August 8, 2017)
Pages: 368 (hardover)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:

The highly anticipated new book from the acclaimed author of The Accident Season is a gorgeous, twisty story about things gone missing, things returned from the past, and a group of teenagers, connected in ways they could never have imagined.

One stormy Irish summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hairclips and jewelry, but soon it's clear that Rose has lost something much bigger, something she won't talk about, and Olive thinks her best friend is slipping away.

Then seductive diary pages written by a girl named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing estate. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they're holding tight to painful secrets.

When they discover the spellbook, it changes everything. Damp, tattered and ancient, it's full of hand-inked charms to conjure back things that have been lost. And it just might be their chance to find what they each need to set everything back to rights.

Unless it's leading them toward things that were never meant to be found...

My Review: 
This book actually cast a spell on me.

Too much?

Well, it did. I've read a few magical realism books this summer and have been quite surprised at how much I loved them. This one was no different.

The story is told from the perspective of three different girls whose stories converge in way that I both expected and did not expect.

Olive is a normal girl with a normal best friend, Rose, who goes to a party and starts to lose things.

Hazel is a runaway living in an abandoned house with her twin brother and their friend.

Laurel has cast a spell with her friends to find their diaries that have been stolen.

When Olive and Hazel start to find pages of Laurel's diary, they begin to think that what she's writing about is real. They are desperate to find out who Laurel is and, though they live in a small town, they can't seem to find her anywhere.

What I loved most about this book was how the author wove these three girls' stories together so well. It's magic and friendship and love, but each of the girls learn something along the way. Each character plays an important part to the story and each page kept me guessing about what was going to happen and how it was all happening.

I also enjoyed the innocence of first loves and the beauty of these characters' friendships. They loved each other so much that they were willing to cast spells and take huge risks for each other.

The way everything came together in the end felt natural and even though I had a feeling that's the way it would happen, I still enjoyed it.

This book was actually enchanting. Check it out.

(Review) Everything We Left Behind

Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale
Publication Date: July 4, 2017
Pages: 350 (kindle)
Genre: Adult Fiction
My Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancĂ©e, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

(This book is the sequel to Everything We Keep.)

My Review: 
I was really excited to get to read this after I read Everything We Keep and was looking forward to hear from James/Carlos, even if I was a little bit worried. I liked how things ended with Aimee and Ian in the first book and was worried that James remembering who he was would mess that up. 

When we meet James (for the first time, really) he's trying to pick up his old life where it left off. Only now he has two sons and his fiancee is married to another man. Oh, and his brother who allegedly tried to kill him is getting out of prison soon. 

That's not complicated or anything. 

Despite these things, this story flows very well. It's told in both James' and Carlos' points of view and, while they are the same person, they are still very different. I loved reading about both men's feelings and ideas about their family and their lives, as well as the safety of their sons. 

I'll admit to being a little annoyed at James for about half of the book, but as he learned more and interacted with his sons more he definitely grew on me. It was great to see how James grew and changed throughout the book and how he was the one who brought everyone together. Even his relationship with Natalya was smooth and lovely to read. I actually enjoyed this book more than the first one and loved reading about James' struggles and triumphs. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the ARC. 
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