Tag Archives: 3 stars

Book Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows

Release date: August 29th 2017

3 stars

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 Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.
Except 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. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

I was really excited for this book when I first heard about it. A fantasy book with a gender-fluid main and an assassin competition? Yes please. The idea of the competition to find a new assassin to join the Queen’s group, with the competitors killing each other off, was reminiscent of Throne of Glass and The Hunger Games. I loved both of those books so if felt like I should have fallen in love with this one. But I didn’t.

Sal was an orphan who worked as a thief but when they found a flyer saying there would be a competition looking for a new Opal, part of the Queen’s assassins, they decided to drop everything and hurry to prove themselves. They wanted to serve the Queen. Sal could definitely be likeable. I enjoyed their interactions with Maud, the servant assigned to them during the competition, and their interactions with some of the other competitors. Sal showed how determined they were to become Opal, it was almost all they thought about, but revenge was also on their mind. Revenge against the people they felt had abandoned them and their people during the war, who’d betrayed them and left thousands to die. Becoming Opal would make their revenge easier.

All the competitors were identified by numbers and they all wore masks. It made it more difficult to get attached to any of them and only the ones who Sal either made a connection with or spoke of a lot made any kind of an impact. Very few of them stuck out and were just faceless numbers in the way of Sal’s end goal.

One of my biggest issues with the book was that Sal told everyone that they dress as they are on any given day and to address them as such, which is fine, but when combined with a first person POV, I, as a reader who couldn’t see what they were wearing, had no idea how to think of the character unless it was said how they were dressed. It was also something that was accepted by most of the characters unless the character was a jerk so did that mean gender fluidity was something that was accepted in this universe or did Sal just happen to join a competition with a lot of really accepting people? I did like that gender fluidity did seem like it was accepted as just a part of who Sal was but I would have liked more context in regards to the universe they were in.

I read through the book pretty quickly. The competition and Sal’s quest for revenge felt a little repetitive after a while, almost formulaic. It wasn’t often I felt the need to slow down my reading pace in fear of missing vital information because it didn’t feel like a whole lot was being revealed. I do want to know more about the world, the shadows, and to see what will happen to Sal next, so there was enough interest in the book that I will read the sequel. It’s just not one I can see myself re-reading.

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



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Book Review: The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beatty


The Traitor’s Kiss

Release date: May 9th 2017

3 stars

An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.
With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.
As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

This was one book that I was really excited for when I’d first heard about it so when I found myself having a hard time connecting with the characters and getting into the book as a whole, it was disappointing. It felt very slow, which I’m usually fine with as long as there’s great character dynamics and world building. But both of those elements really felt like they were lacking so there was nothing to make up for the slow pacing.

Sage was not a character who really drew me in to her story. She was a very judgmental girl, especially toward other girls, and I wasn’t a fan of the way she thought she was better than them because she was a tomboy with no interest in boys and they liked things like make-up. I’m not a fan of the heroine continuously putting down other girls just so she stands out as different. It felt like one of those “all the boys like her because she’s so different, which makes all the girls hate her” trope that I really, really dislike.

If I had connected more with Sage, I think there’d be a chance I would have liked the book more, or at least been more forgiving of the slow pace and lack of interesting character dynamics. It ended up being pretty predictable, which could also be because I have read so many fantasy books in the last year or so that it feels like not much surprises me anymore. There were glimpses of potential for some great supporting characters.

I will likely pick up the sequel when it comes out to see where the author takes the story, to see if my theories are right, and because I hate leaving a series unfinished.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*


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Book Review: Just Another Girl by Elizabeth Eulberg


Just Another Girl

Release date: March 28th 2017

3 stars

Hope knows there’s only one thing coming between her and her longtime crush: his girlfriend, Parker. She has to sit on the sidelines and watch as the perfect girl gets the perfect boy . . . because that’s how the universe works, even though it’s so completely wrong.
Parker doesn’t feel perfect. She knows if everyone knew the truth about her, they’d never be able to get past it. So she keeps quiet. She focuses on making it through the day with her secret safe . . . even as this becomes harder and harder to do. And Hope isn’t making it any easier. . . .
In Just Another Girl, Elizabeth Eulberg astutely and affectingly shows us how battle lines get drawn between girls — and how difficult it then becomes to see or understand the girl standing on the other side of the divide.
You think you have an enemy. But she’s just another girl.

This is a book where I really liked the concept of it because it rings very true. There’s so many mediums where the reader or viewer see one girl or a group of girls vilifying another girl for some reason that looks petty in hindsight and without ever really knowing anything about the poor girl. I liked the idea of getting to see both sides. Hope, who had a huge crush on her best friend Brady and hated his girlfriend, and Parker, Brady’s girlfriend who was struggling with a lot of things and really didn’t need Hope’s hatred on top of it all.

The book alternated their POVs to give the reader both sides of the drama. I found myself enjoying Parker’s chapters more than Hope’s for the main character but Hope’s chapters more than Parker’s for the supporting characters. Parker’s parts were more focused on her struggle to keep her secret and her stress that Hope might succeed in stealing Brady from her. Hope’s parts were focused on her plan to steal Brady but also involved her and her club mates in the Rube Goldberg machine group she started. I fell in love with those guys. We also got to see a lot of Hope’s mother and her best friend.

With the book being so short, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of time spent on developing a lot of the characters. The plot stayed pretty straight forward and predictable. I could see where the build up was going but once it got there, it fell a bit flat. It definitely had a lot of potential and there’s an author’s note included that is a must read, but overall it just fell flat for me.

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


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Book Review: Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel


Every Hidden Thing

3 stars

Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.
But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.
As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?

I was really intrigued by the Romeo and Juliet meets Indiana Jones comparison so I thought I would give this one a try. Romeo and Juliet retellings have been hit or miss for me but I am a huge fan of Indiana Jones so I had hope. I definitely appreciated Kenneth Oppel doing something different with this retellings and the historical setting. I don’t have a huge interest in archaeology but it was written in a way that was still interesting to me.

The Romeo and Juliet aspect came into play as the two main characters were the children of rival archaeologists searching for the same dinosaur. Rachel was described as plain and very serious. It took a while for me to feel like I knew her character. Sam was much more open and I liked almost right away. It was interesting to see these two opposites navigate their way around and with each other. There were times when the romance between them felt a little forced but it also made sense because it felt like they wanted it to work between them more than letting it happen naturally or taking a chance that they might not work.

The setting and the rivalry between the families were my favourite parts of this book. I love westerns and historical novels so the setting was perfect for me. The rivalry between the families was fun to read. It wasn’t an easy book to read. The time period meant the characters were exposed to sexism and racism. Rachel’s father especially was not an easy person to read about whenever he appeared but it was realistic for that time period.

Overall, I really enjoyed the way the archaeology was brought into the book in a way where someone with very little knowedge about it could still understand what was going on. I didn’t feel like I got lost in the details and that was something I could appreciate.

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


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Book Review: Pushing Perfect by Michelle Falkoff


Pushing Perfect

Release date: October 25th 2016

3 stars

How far would you go to be perfect?
Kara has the perfect life. She gets perfect grades. She never messes up. Until now. Because perfection is an illusion, and Kara has been struggling to maintain it for as long as she can remember. With so much pressure to succeed, it’s hard not to do whatever it takes.
But when Kara takes a new underground drug to help her ace the SATs, she doesn’t expect to get a text from a blocked sender, telling her to follow a set of mysterious instructions—or risk her dark secret getting out. Soon she finds herself part of a group of teens with secrets of their own, who are all under the thumb of the same anonymous texter. And if they don’t find a way to stop the blackmailer, their perfect futures will go up in flames.

This book caught my interest because I enjoyed the author’s other book I’d read “Playlist for the Dead” and because it seemed like the type of book that could have a lot of twists and turns that would surprise me. The beginning pulled me in but the more I read, the more I found myself able to predict what would be happening.

Kara was an interesting character. The book was told from her POV and we got to see her struggling with maintaining her perfect image. She had a hard time dealing with the pressure of her parents, of high school, and the expectations she had for herself. It caused anxiety and she needed some help in order to get through her SAT test, which led her to taking some pills to calm her nerves and where the main plot of the book started.

I liked the supporting characters that the mystery brought in. It felt like they were going for a bit of a ‘How to get Away with Murder’ vibe, which I will always fully support. I liked the dynamics between them, which pairings could be trusted, which ones were more tentative. Their group and the banter and friendship was my favourite part of the story.

The mystery was a little too predictable for me. Maybe it’s because I watch so many shows that like to throw twists in at every random moment so I’m always expecting it, but I found the whole blackmail and the person behind it to be exactly who I was expecting it to be. The ending seemed a little rushed and maybe a little too easily tied up but I could deal with that since the characters all seemed to learn something from the whole mystery.

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


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Book Review: As I Descended by Robin Talley

as i descended

As I Descended

Release date: September 6th 2016

3 stars

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.
Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.
Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.
But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

I knew going in that this was a modern take on Macbeth and I was excited for it. I did find that I had a hard time getting into it. The modern boarding school setting, the teens with a Ouija board, the taking down the mean girl plot, it all seemed so familiar and I kept waiting for something to draw me in. I was having a hard time connecting with a lot of the characters as well.

The main character was Maria but the story was told in other characters’ POVs as well. Maria was the one with the most POVs and most of the plot centered on her. She was someone was worked very hard to get where she was, top grades, spot on the soccer team, in the running for the elite Kingsley scholarship, but it seemed like all she could focus on was the one girl who kept beating her. She was together with her roommate Lily, and for some reason they both viewed the Kingsley prize as the only way they could be together after high school because the prize was so elite the recipient pretty much got their choice of college and Lily was going to Stanford so Maria needed to go to Stanford. I didn’t really feel a love connection between them so it made it difficult for me to care if Maria got the prize.

We also see the POVs of Lily, of Maria’s best friend Brandon, his boyfriend Mateo. I did find myself liking Brandon and Mateo. Their relationship felt like they had a developing connection that had the potential to grow into something special.

The book started off with a Ouija board scene and got progressively creepier and darker. Robin Talley did a good job at bringing the chills down your spine at a page’s turn. She also did a great job addressing a lot of issues: sexuality, racism, privilege being among them and making them fit into the plot without overcrowding it or taking away from the horror aspect.

I think if I had connected more to Maria and Lily I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. I liked the creepy factor and it almost read like an old urban legend warning tale.

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


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Book Review: Finding Abbey Road by Kevin Emerson

finding abbey road

Finding Abbey Road

Release date: August 2nd 2016

3 stars

Catherine Summer Carlson has hit rock bottom. On the brink of a record deal, her band Dangerheart is in disarray. One member has gone rogue, and another is missing and wanted by the police. On top of that, Summer’s parents are pressuring her to choose a future that doesn’t include the music world she loves so much. She’s torn between wanting to stay with Dangerheart and her soulmate Caleb, and taking off in a different direction at her dream college.
Meanwhile, Summer and Caleb are closer than ever to finally unlocking the mystery of Eli White’s lost songs, but the last clues present an impossible challenge: can they outwit Candy Shell records, stay one step ahead of the police, and find a way to get to London before it’s too late? And if they can get there, will they be ready for what they may find? Summer’s dreams of the future, Dangerheart’s chances of becoming the band they’ve always dreamed of being: it all comes down to these next five days. Summer knows this would be the riskiest thing she’s ever done, that her relationship with her parents may never recover, but she also knows that this might be her last shot at figuring out what her heart really wants.

This was the quickest read of all three books in the series. It also ended up being my least favourite of the three. There was a lot less focus on the band as a whole and on their story together and a lot more attention put on Summer and Caleb, their relationship, and the mystery of the hidden songs. I enjoyed the series more when the focus was more on the band and the mystery of Caleb’s father and his hidden songs were in the background.

Summer was a character I had a hard time connecting with the whole series. I could understand her being unsure of what she wanted to do with her life and her frustration that her parents had a plan for her that she might not want. But she was also very pushy and very inconsiderate of everyone else’s feelings around her. She was supposed to be the manager for the band but she never seemed to actually act in their best interest. She was so stubborn about the way she wanted the band to make it and maybe if she had paid more attention to them as a band instead of just Caleb and his mystery, the band wouldn’t have been on the verge of falling apart by this last book.

Dangerheart, which was my favourite part of the first two books, were barely a blip in this one. All the great supporting cast that we’d met through Exile and Encore to an Empty Room were mostly background noise to a Summer/Caleb duet. Since my main enjoyment came from the band and the supporting characters, I found it harder to get into this book and read it more quickly to get to the end just to get to the end.

I liked the concept of this series but with the lack of connection to the main character and enjoying the band story line that fell to the background, this conclusion wasn’t my favourite of the books.

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


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Book Review: Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

shiny broken pieces

Shiny Broken Pieces

Release date: July 12th 2016

3 stars

June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose…and no one is playing nice.
June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.
After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?

I was really looking forward to this book considering the first book surprised me with how much I ended up enjoying it and which how the first book ended, I had a few theories and really wanted to know if I’d come close. The book was told in the same three POVs as the first and started in the fall again. Gigi had recovered from her accident in the first book, Bette was at home with everyone’s fingers pointing at her, and June was still struggling with weight issues. I actually found myself surprisingly pulled toward Bette in this book even though she was horrible in the first.

Gigi was my favourite in the first book, and as the underdog and bullying victim, she was supposed to be. In this sequel, she quickly became my least favourite. She proved to be no better than the people who tormented her. June, I think if I’d felt a stronger connection to her in the first book I would have enjoyed her storyline more in this one. There were times I felt a connection forming but then the POV would change and it would be lost. Bette was the one I was set to continue disliking but she was the one who was showing that she was growing for the better. There were definitely some stumbles but she was growing.

My biggest problem was that the one theory I had that I didn’t want to be right, ended up being right. I was hoping it would be wrong because it felt cliche and a little bit of an easy way out. Once things starting to head in that direction, my enjoyment started to lessen. After that, it felt like I was reading just to finish it, just to see if there would be something shocking, some twist I wasn’t expecting, but it never came.

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


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Book Review: What Happens Now by Jennifer Castle

what happens now

What Happens Now

3 stars

Ari Logan is battling to win her war against depression and the dark night she hurt herself on purpose. It’s not easy: her best friend is drifting away, her mom’s emotionally checked out, and she spends her days playing caregiver to her handful of a half-sister, Danielle. But it’s summer, and anything is possible…
That’s when Camden Armstrong steps onto the beach of Ari’s local swimming lake.
At first, Ari quietly longs for Camden from afar, seeing in him everything she wants to be. When the two discover a true connection the following summer, Ari lets herself fall not just for the quirky and self-assured Camden but also his friends, tumbling into their world of independence, adventure, and shared sci-fi fandom. As Ari’s romantic dreams come true, she must unlock the mysteries of the very real and troubled boy behind her infatuation, while also struggling with her own demons, obligations, and loyalties.

I went into this book thinking it would be a good choice for a heading into summer type of book. I wasn’t expecting it to be a complete fluffy read but still an easy read that would touch upon some heavier issues. In those ways, it was what I was expecting. What I wasn’t, was my lack of connection to the characters and the main romance of the book. There wasn’t a whole lot about any of it that pulled me right into the story. It was just happening.

I thought Ari was interesting at first. She was relied upon heavily by her parents to watch her little sister, to work at her step-father’s store, to help out around the house. She was also dealing with depression and trying to find a way to fit back into her life before the night she hurt herself. Her crush on Camden was a welcome distraction from everything but it felt like once Camden came into her life as a love interest instead of a crush, her story became more about hanging out with him and getting his friends to like her than it was about her overcoming her past.

There were some great relationship dynamics that were fun to read and I wish we’d gotten more of. The relationship between Ari and her step-father was one of my favourite things about this book. He seemed to get her in a way her mother didn’t and was willing to listen to Ari and give her chances to be a teenager. I mostly liked the friendship between Camden and his two best friends. They were fun together and I could see why they were friends. I did like that Ari’s best friend Kendall and Camden’s best friends, Eliza and Max, didn’t become forgotten the second Ari and Camden got together. The threesome and twosome melted into a fivesome that had problems and I was sure it wouldn’t work out but at least no one was getting shoved aside for the romance.

The ending seemed to be really fast. There were a lot of things to wrap up in not too many pages left to go so it felt like some things were a little glossed over so the major issues would have an ending. Overall, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if I’d gotten into the romance of the book but I enjoyed the dynamics and supporting characters.

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


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Book Review: A Season for Fireflies by Rebecca Maizel

season for fireflies

A Season for Fireflies

Release date: June 28th 2016

3 stars

A year ago, Penny Berne was the star of her high school’s theater department, surrounded by a group of misfit friends and falling in love for the first time. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, her new best friend is the most popular girl in school, and her first love, Wes, ignores her. Penny is revered and hated. Then, in a flash, a near-fatal lightning strike leaves Penny with no memory of the past year—or how she went from drama nerd to queen bee.
As a record number of fireflies light up her town and her life, Penny realizes she may be able to make things right again—and that even if she can’t change the past, she can learn to see the magic where she never could before.

The concept and the cover of this book was what drew me in originally and the characters kept me invested. I liked that we got to see Penny beforehand, before she turned into popular Penny, instead of using flashbacks. I felt more of a connection to her old crowd that way than I think I would have through flashbacks, though there was some flashbacks throughout the book.

There was a lot of focus on Penny and what she was going through, understandable as she was the main character. We saw the cause of her pulling out of the play then the story skipped ahead a year and she was suddenly one of the most popular girls in school with a whole new group of friends. When she was struck by lightning and woke up to having lost a year of her memories, I definitely felt for her. It would be horrible to wake up and find out that your best friends were no longer your best friends by your choice. We got to see Penny try to figure out who she was and what happened to her in that missing year to turn her into someone she didn’t recognize.

I also liked that we got to see her friends and former friends react to Penny’s situation, though it was all through Penny’s POV so it was a little limiting. The plot moved pretty quickly and it was a short book it there were times when it felt like people or issues were getting brushed aside so it could go back to focusing on the main point, Penny dealing with the memory loss and figuring out why she quit theater and her former friends.

It was a good summer read book and I enjoyed the concept of the story.

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


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