bullet-point review: mask of shadows by linsey miller

Title: Mask of Shadows33918885

Author: Linsey Miller

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Release Date: August 29th 2017

Pages: 352

Rating:

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what i loved

+ ASSASSINS! Buzzword like heck from me! I love assassin stories, and stories where people are competing to become assassins? Yep, sold. You got me!

+ The worldbuilding was interesting. It’s set in the aftermath of a magical war essentially, and people in the stories survived and are directly affected by events that happened back then. It kept the losses that happened very in the forefront of the story, keeping the tensions and the worry that the characters had very immediate.

+ Sal very openly states that they want to be referred by she/he/they depending on how they’re presenting themselves that day, and the characters just accept this and move on. I haven’t read many fantasy books where the main character is genderfluid and was so pleased by it.

+ QUEERNESS! Sal has a very cute relationship with a girl in the story. It’s told in the most adorable way possible. The issues that arise within the relationship have zero to do with queerness. Again, I didn’t know this book was queer and it just made me so happy to read!

+ I really liked Sal’s voice throughout the story. Miller’s writing was engaging and fast-paced and really fit this person who has quite a complicated history and view of the world that is being challenged during the book.

+ Plot twist that I really didn’t see coming!!

what i didnt love

– Names. Lots of names. Those we are competing are given numbers and there are a lot of numbers. There’s not a lot of distinction between each character and I kept getting two of the numbers confused, which threw me out of the story a little during one of the peak moments.

– Conflict. Sal has conflict within her personal views and, of course, the whole competition is conflict but the stakes didn’t feel super high in moments where I thought they would. It also meant that Sal’s character development seemed quite weak.

– The plot twist that I may not have seen coming because it wasn’t hinted at all

overall

Mask of Shadows was an unsuspected gem. I really enjoyed reading it, really enjoyed the romance and the magic system and the world that these characters exist in. It does have flaws, mostly in execution than in the actual story, but they weren’t enough to make me dislike the story or want to put it down. I read this book so quickly, I was so invested in Sal and her pursuit for the more that I literally couldn’t put the book down.

I found out this was a duology and you bet your butts that I am going to be getting my hands on that book because I really want to see how this ends!


Have you read Mask of Shadows? What did you think? If you haven’t read it, do you think you will pick it up? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


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review: we are blood and thunder by kesia lupo

Title: We Are Blood and Thunder41440204

Author: Kesia Lupo

Release Date: April 4th 2019

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Pages: 400

Rating:

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

We are Blood and Thunder follows two point of view characters: Lena, a societal outcast from an isolated dukedom on the run for the crime of being a mage, and Constance, a woman who has returned to her childhood home to search for a cure for the mysterious storm cloud that has brought nothing but trouble.

I found both characters’ stories had enough intrigue to keep you interested, both weaving together to tell one complete and simple story. Lena, learning about the new parts of the world alongside the reader and Constance, who already knows the world and instead is digging below the surface to uncover its secrets. They were both driven characters, although in unique ways which kept the character voices from blending together.

With Lena learning to embrace who she is and Constance struggling to face the person she used to be in comparison to who she is now, there are a lot of interpersonal conflicts that add to the drama of the whole thing.

I liked a lot of the side characters, all of which had their place and purpose. In particular, Emris stole the show for me – his backstory is definitely something I want to know more about. He legit could carry a fantastic story with just a prequel.

My favourite part was definitely the world building of this land. I loved the magic system and the gods and how the religion interconnects with how magic is viewed in the world. There was the way that more steampunk-y technology is weaved into this world – mechanical devices infused with magic – which really stood out to me as something different in the fantasy world.

The whole mystery around the storm cloud definitely kept my interested peaked. Lupo did a decent job at revealing little bits in both point of view characters and bringing them together. And the plot twist really caught me by surprise!

There were some aspects of the plot I wanted more from – for example, the non-magical conflict in the dukedom was something I would have loved to read in detail. All the political intrigue I feel would have helped build this world even further than it already is. These shortened sections did help keep the pacing at a quick speed but to have them unravel in a slower manner would have helped with some of the trickier character and plot developments.

Some of the characters were also quite forgiving of what both Lena and Constance had chosen to do throughout the story, and that took away some of the stakes when it came to their relationships with other people. These characters also felt one dimensional at times, their personality made up of one particular trait. However, as a lot of these characters are shown basically only in one character’s POV, I am willing to believe that this could just be how she reviews them.

We Are Blood and Thunder is a unique debut with an awesome world and some engaging characters. Lupo’s writing is detailed and easy to read. There are some beautiful descriptions of the world, and the way that magic is shown within the book is done incredibly well. There is so much potential here and I look forward to find out what Lupo writes next!


Have you read We Are Blood and Thunder? If you haven’t, has this review made you want to pick the book up or not? Let me know what you think in the comments!


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review: crown of feathers by nicki pau preto

35715518Title: Crown of Feathers

Author: Nicki Pau Preto

Release Date: February 12th 2019 (US)/April 25th 2019 (UK)

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Ink Road

Pages: 496

Rating:

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Crown of Feathers follows the point of view of three characters in the aftermath of a large bloody civil war that had people with the ability to communicate with animals (animages) villianised and the powerful warriors, Phoenix Riders, to be completely wiped out.

Or so it was thought.

Nicki Pau Preto’s writing is easy to read and wraps you completely in this new world of her creation. The pacing of the plot and the character development was well done, each character seeing the story from completely different parts of life and each twining together to create this detailed story.

The three main characters are Veronkya, a girl who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider; Tristan, part of the resistance, and Sev, a solider for the Empire who has much more to his story than it seems. I adored each of them. Sev was complicated with conflicting thoughts surrounding his current duty and his place in the world. Veronyka is someone who has always been at odds with her much colder twin sister, Val, and her story is one of finding her own footing and deciding on her own future. Tristain is weighed down with expectations and his own ambitions and fear, and over the course of the story, he fights to overcome them.

I loved reading each of their stories and when they overlapped and weaved together when you understood how connected they were, it just made it so much more enjoyable to read.

While this book focuses on current events and how they affect these characters, the importance of the past and how it affects everyone is obvious. The civil war, known as the Blood War in the book, the one of battling sisters sixteen years before and the tragic events that lead to the ending, is incredibly important and influences every event and every character that you meet.

The importance of this is shown at the end of each chapter, where an extract from a book about Phoenix Riders and the history of the world, or a letter from one sister to another, is placed to just enrich this world all the more. It’s such a good way to get worldbuilding and other important information across, without slowing down the pace of the book.

And as for the big reveal at the end of the book? Goddamn, I am excited for the second book in this duology.

I don’t think I had any complaints about this book. There were aspects of the story that had more tell than show, particularly in the characters’ thought processes, but honestly, that didn’t take away anything for me.

Crown of Feathers is a book with a rich world, engaging characters, and fantastic writing. I really enjoyed my time reading this book and I can’t wait to finish reading the story of the Phoenix Riders whenever the second book is released.


Have you read Crown of Feathers? If you haven’t, has this review made you want to pick the book up or not? Let me know what you think in the comments!


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review: small spaces by sarah epstein

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Title: Small Spaces

Author: Sarah Epstein

Publisher: Walker Books

Release Date: 2nd August 2018

Pages: 378

Rating:

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Small Spaces follows Tash Carmody who has been living with childhood trauma – witnessing her grotesque imaginary friend Sparrow lure a young girl, Mallory Fisher, away from a carnival. No one believed her at the time and Tash came to accept that Sparrow was never real.

But years later, memories are resurfacing and Tash is starting to Sparrow again. So the question arises, is Sparrow real? The answer may lie with Mallory Fisher.

Small Spaces was a quick read that is overwhelming in its intensity, its mysteries and its twists. You are never sure if what you are reading is correct, if only because Tash doesn’t know whether she believes it either. The mystery unfolds skillfully, slowing unravelling the past and the present in tandem with each other.

Sarah Epstein’s writing style is incredibly smooth – she transitions between the past and the present, what is real and what may not be, with such ease. These quick changing aspects of the story could have to lead the entire thing to be a muddle but Epstein shows her care for the tale she is telling.

The characters were all understandable, whether you liked them or not. You understood their motivations and it impacted their actions throughout the story. Tash, in particular, was an incredibly sympathetic main character – she spends most of the book questioning what she remembers and what she sees around her, leading her to feel confused and distant to the people around her (something that happens to a lot of people with mental health issues from time to time).

I liked Mallory as well – another character who had been through a traumatic experience but affected by it in a different way from Tash, and yet both found common ground despite their shared history. The friendship between these two is very sweet and powerful at times.

This was definitely a book of strong badass girls with mental health problems, and I am living for it!

I also have a lot of respect for how Epstein showed mental health and therapy – the choice to go, the choice to stop, and all of the things that come along with mental ill health. The treatment of Tash was frustrating and saddening in places, however, when it came to how people reacted to her and what she claims to have seen. So, be prepared for that.

And, as for the question, is Sparrow real?

Well, you’re going to have to read and find out for yourself…


Have you read Small Spaces? What did you think? If you haven’t, has this review made you want to pick the book up or not? Let me know what you think in the comments!


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books i should have reviewed ages ago but didn’t – whoops

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Okay, so, sometimes time runs away from us – it just seemed to happen to me a lot in 2018. I had a long reading slump, I had other commitments (the last submission for my master’s degree especially taking up so much of my time and energy) and as a result, I didn’t review as many books as I had planned to last year.

Since it’s the beginning of 2019, and since most of these reviews were half written anyway, I decided to combine them together into a single post that truly demonstrated my reviewing failure of the year.

So here are six books that I should have reviewed ages ago but didn’t – whoops!


35297394The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Wicked Deep was a wonderfully dramatic and beautifully written novel. It follows Penny Talbot, who lives in a town cursed to have the spirits of three sister witches return to get their revenge – by taking the lives of three boys before the summer is up. It is full of twists and turns, unexpected surprises and some beautifully eloquent writing. I adored this book so much, it may be one of my favourite reads of the year, and if you haven’t checked this out, I would totally advise that you do as soon as possible!

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Legendary by Stephanie Garber36329818

Legendary is the sequel to Caraval (the first book review I ever wrote for this blog) and follows Scarlett’s sister, Donatella (better known as Tella) as she investigates what happened to her mother all those years ago whilst the aftermath of the previous Caraval game complicates matters. I found this book even more enjoyable than Caraval as it expanded the story, answered a lot of the questions I had and gave us insight to a complex character that didn’t get a lot of time in the first book. If you enjoyed Caraval, or perhaps even wanted more than the original story, Legendary does deliver.

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36404186Between The Blade and The Heart by Amanda Hocking

This is a book about valkyries and I love valkyries. Set in a modern world where supernatural creatures live among us, this follows the story of Malin, a valkyrie in training who must deal with the consequences of a choice her mother made decades before. I thoroughly enjoyed this book whilst reading it, although in retrospect it wasn’t as much as a striking tale as it could have been. I liked Amanda Hocking’s writing style, it was fast-paced and easy to read, and the world she wrote about was immersive enough to keep you reading. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but I do have plans to in the future, just to see how this story ends.

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34203592October Is The Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson

A snapshot of a moment after a murder and the teenage girl that gets washed up in it. A really quick read. Attempts to deal with serious issues such as sexual assault and trauma, and has varying degrees of success. Sexualisation of the main character – a young teenage girl – is frequent and uncomfortable in places. Overall, an interesting book that was quick to read and had a decent murder mystery within.

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 9361589

A favourite of many, I finally got to read The Night Circus and it became immediately obvious why this book is so beloved. Morgenstern’s writing is detailed and precise. The world of the circus was incredible and the concept of the game of magic within the circus tent is very well executed. Because of how expansive this world was, it was quite slow going in places and the build-up took a really long time to actually finish building. It took over half of the book for me to actually be invested in what was happening but once I was, I did enjoy what I read. I can see it as the original circus based book that other circus based books have branched from and I appreciate that.

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32604412The Gold-Son by Carrie Anne Noble

Written as if it were a fairytale, The Gold-Son encompasses all the things that make a fairytale something beloved. It’s easy to read and enjoyable most of the way through, A story about Leprechauns is completely unique in the YA Fantasy market and definitely takes all these old ideas about the mythical species and making this something new and yet familiar. There were only two downsides – the tropes of the romance and the fact that the main focus of the book Tommin is overshadowed by second protagonist Eve – she was far more interesting and honestly should have taken the lead in how the story was told. Despite this, if you want something new and simple and fairy tale inspired, this is a book that is worth you trying.

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Have you ever fallen behind in reviewing? Have you read any of the books mentioned above? I’d love to hear what you thought about them (and how you cope when you have a lot of work to do). Leave your comment down below!


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bullet-point review: the twisted tree by rachel burge

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Title: The Twisted Tree

Author: Rachel Burge

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: January 10th 2019

Pages: 180 (Kindle edition)

Rating:

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

what i loved

+ So first off, Rachel Burge’s writing is hella solid. Very descriptive, very emotive. Makes it easy for the reader to picture both the isolated island upon which Martha travels to and the monstrous creatures that reside there.

+ The suspense was definitely the strongest point. Burge kept tensions high and you on the edge of your seat for the majority of this novella. Plus the horrorish nightmare fuel involved here was hecka powerful for such a short piece.

+ The mythology and the world = perfection. I really enjoyed all the Norse mythology and how it connects to Martha’s family.

+ I enjoyed Martha’s character and she had decent character development. She went from a person hiding away to someone who embraces who she is, even questioning some of her past actions. Solid growth for a book that is so short.

+ The ability to feel people’s emotions/see their history through touching cloth is ACE. Completely unique, I’ve never read anything like it. Thought it would be quite weird and pointless but it really wasn’t. Top notch ability!

+ I liked Stig as a character! He was mysterious and contradictory and basically left you with so many questions about who is his and what is in his past. Honestly, I wanted far more about whoever this dude is.

what i didnt love

– Why romance ????? Considering how short it was, a lot of time was focused on this relationship between Martha and Stig but it didn’t seem necessary??? Felt like it was there because it’s something that YA books have, ya know? It could have easily been a platonic relationship and Martha’s development still would have happened exactly as it did.

– Also, far too short. Burge does well to fit as much tension and suspense and action into such a short space but it would have benefitted for even a few more pages

– There’s like a weird cliffhanger about Stig and it just doesn’t go anywhere??? a few more pages could have solved that.

overall

The Twisted Tree was a good read. It was super atmospheric and I really did enjoy Rachel Burge’s writing style. I loved the unique twists on usual mythology YA books and it managed to get a lot of interesting story into few pages. I would recommend it those who enjoy suspensive writing and new takes on mythology.

However, I felt it was a lot shorter than it should have been and when those few pages are focused on a fledgeling relationship that seems kind of pointless and still leaves loads of questions to answer, it does feel like aspects of the story are missing.


Have you read The Twisted Tree? What did you think? If you haven’t, has this review made you want to pick the book up or not? Let me know what you think in the comments!


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www wednesday: january 9th 2019

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Welcome to WWW Wednesday, a weekly bookish meme host by Sam @ Taking On The World Of Words, where I will speak about my reading plans for this week!

I haven’t done one of these in a long time but the new year is the best time to start fresh 🙂


The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve set myself a goal for the new year to try and read as many Brandon Sanderson books as I can manage, and I’m starting strong with The Way of Kings. I’m only a handful of pages with a long way to go but I already enjoy how Sanderson writes. I can see why people enjoy his books and fantasy worlds so much. I’m super excited to see exactly where this book goes as I know very little.


What did you recently finish reading?

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The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burges

So The Twisted Tree was a super short novella I received as an ARC from Netgalley. It’s a mixture of Nordic mythology mixed with a supernatural thriller so expect suspense and drama and violence and a lot of Odin. There will be a review by the end of the week (fingers crossed I keep to my own schedule…) but as a preview – I did enjoy it but it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Nothing But The Truth by Dick Lehr

I received this as an ARC from Walker Books and it was definitely an enjoyable read. Super easy, I sped right through it. Dick Lehr’s writing style was somewhat basic, however, take that as you will. My review of Nothing But The Truth is already up!


What do you think you’ll read next?

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Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes

A friend at work gave this book to read after she’d finished. I had never heard of it until she handed it over, but reading the synopsis I’m honestly really intrigued. I want to know so many things!!! This is quite a short book too (less than 300 pages) so it will be a fast read as well.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu

I received this book as an ARC through Netgalley and, despite the mixed reviews I’ve read, I am super interested in giving it a try. Hopefully, it’s a book I’ll enjoy because I do like Asian inspired stories and I want to read more diverse reads this year.


What book are you reading now? What do you plan on reading next?
Tell me in the comments!


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