Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller // Let the Auditions Begin

mask of shadowsSeries: Untitled #1 (Just go ahead and announce it’s called Mask of Shadows #1 lol)

Publication: August 29th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, GLBT

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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Sallot Leon knows what it’s like to fight for what you want. Growing up on the streets and being forced to rob noblemen and street fight by your gang leader will teach you that very quickly. But Sal isn’t like all of the others forced into this behavior—Sal is the last of their race. After a brutal civil war during their childhood, Sal’s entire country is wiped out by a devastating magical force that becomes banned from the continent by the end of the war. But not before Sal lost everything they ever had. When Sal robs a noble girl who has a flyer stating that the new Queen needs a new member of her inner circle that she keeps to do her bidding—and killing—Sal seizes the opportunity for freedom and the chance at revenge for those who left their country to die. But Sal is tested far beyond what they imagined as they and twenty-two other auditioners are put through a series of tests—and are allowed to discreetly kill each other to eliminate the competition. There can only be one Opal…and Sal has to be it to avenge Nacea. Welcome to the Left Hand Auditions.

First things first—am I the only one who thought “Ha, Sallot. Shallot…They’re an onion. Lol”? Just me? Okay.

As I’m sure is the case for many other readers, I saw this book being compared to Sarah J. Maas’s work and I was sold. Was that an accurate description? Not really. If we’re going to compare this book to another well-known fantasy series, I’d go with Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and I would anticipate a similar divide in its receipt with some readers loving it and some hating it.

So let’s just jump right in here to the main reason most readers will probably pick this book up: the main character’s genderfluidity. Firstly, if I had read the entirety of the description on Netgalley, I wouldn’t have requested this book. Simply put, I’m still learning about the different gender spectrums and don’t know enough or can identify with the main character’s identity. But from the little that I know, I don’t think this is the best representation. Sal prefers to identify with whatever gender they’re currently dressed as whether it be male or female (“they” is never used after Sal gives this explanation). I know that this is not valid for all genderfluid people and how they want to be addressed isn’t hinged upon how they chose to dress that day. But, okay, if we’re going with this “address me as I’m dressed” concept, then why doesn’t Sal ever select their clothes themselves? They consistently allow their servant to choose their clothes every day and Sal seemingly just runs with whatever Maud chooses and identifies as that gender for the day. I don’t really think that’s how it works. Maybe Sal simply doesn’t hold their gender that closely to their heart? Nope. Sal repeatedly gets angry at another auditioner for referring to them as “she” when they’re dressed as a “he.” So why doesn’t Sal choose their own clothes and gender for the day??? Furthermore, the only detail we get about Sal’s clothes is that they’re mostly all black so the identifying marker that Sal hinges their gender upon is if they’re wearing a dress, and therefore a girl for the day, or pants, and therefore a guy for the day. Great way to reinforce gender norms and basically imply that girls can’t wear pants?? Beyond all of that, the way that Sal’s gender is represented makes it seem as though genderfluidity is commonplace and widely accepted in their world. However, there are scenes where Sal’s gender is assumed (i.e. when Elise states that she isn’t only attracted to men yet doesn’t ask Sal what they identify as) and scenes as aforementioned when Sal becomes upset at another person for assuming the wrong gender, implying that it is not so commonplace or accepted, especially considering no other characters are ever asked what their gender is. It was all just confusing for me and I definitely can’t say I feel any more educated than before reading this which is truly a shame.

Because of the characters all being referred to as numbers rather than by names, I found it quite difficult to keep all of them straight. The main ones that are focused on eventually became separated in my mind but I often found myself thinking “wait, who’s that again?” when an auditioner would die. I do think the number concept was cool and original but with there being so many it was just too difficult to remember them all. Although admittedly I am not the best at keeping large castings of characters straight as I had the same problem in Throne of Glass, The Hunger Games, and every other book along the same lines as this one. And along with a large cast, usually comes little to no character development which is exactly the case here. Sal did have some development along the way but there isn’t much to say about the other characters, including the Left Hand of the Queen which were the only characters I actually cared about the entire book.

I did like the plot and the pacing of the book mostly. I do hope that when this book is printed a map is included of the world as it was difficult to picture all of the places mentioned by the characters. However the world is fairly well-explained and I enjoyed learning about the history of Igna and how it became a country. I also really enjoyed the twists that were thrown in and didn’t connect the dots myself when reading so they were a cool surprise. I do think that some parts of the plot were a bit clunky, such as Sal seemingly being able to read after two lessons and the characters only having to complete one conditioning class the entire time, but overall I did enjoy the plot and it kept me engaged.

Lastly, the romance was just a little too insta-lovey for me. Insta-love is a fine line for me between loving it and thinking it’s too farfetched. This is the latter. I just cannot picture how a character can go from being robbed by someone to falling in love with the person after one tutoring session. The interactions definitely felt genuine between the characters but a few hour tutoring sessions in a week doesn’t exactly add up to I-would-die-for-you feelings in three lessons.

Overall, this isn’t a remarkable book by any means. If you’ve read Red Queen, The Hunger Games, and by some stretch Throne of Glass, then you have read this. With the unique feature of a genderfluid character being written so muddily, I can’t really even recommend this on that level. But I did find myself entertained by the book and I am invested enough in the storyline at this point that I am going to read the next book when it is released.

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What do YOU think? If you were the last of your people, would you seek revenge on who was responsible? Would you want to do the bidding of your Queen in a fantasy world? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Review: The Lives of Desperate Girls by MacKenzie Common // Two Missing Girls, Nothing in Common, Or So They Thought

the lives of desperate girlsSeries: Standalone

Publication: September 19th 2017 by Penguin Teen

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Jenny Parker doesn’t really fit in anywhere in her tiny town in northern Ontario. About as unremarkable as someone can be, Jenny isn’t particularly pretty, smart, or talented in any way. And her one defining feature that everyone knows is that she’s Chloe Shaughnessy’s best friend. Chloe is pretty, vibrant, and outgoing. With her family well off, Chloe knows she is destined for greater things than what is given in Thunder Creek. But after a terrible incident at a party, Chloe’s life starts to spiral out of control and shifts to the worst year she’s ever experienced. When Chloe disappears, Jenny is suddenly the talk of the town after being the last one to see her. But more is going on in the so-called sleepy town of Thunder Creek when a few weeks later a dead Native girl is found in the woods—and the police don’t seem to care. In this coming-of-age story, Jenny is stretched and challenged as she starts to investigate Helen’s murder and discovers how little she knew about her town. And all the while she is pressured by the police about her silence on Chloe’s whereabouts the night she disappeared. It seems Thunder Creek is a dangerous place for a teenage girl.

This book is focused largely on real issues. Although the plot lends an interesting backdrop, I really feel that Jenny’s experiences and growth is the real feature of this book rather than plot progression (though there is that as well!) Being an American, I honestly had no idea what life is like in the parts of Canada this book is set in and I loved becoming more educated while being able to read a fiction book.

Jenny was a really interesting character for me. Though she wasn’t particularly likeable in any way, I really felt like I got to know her through the writing style and through her actions in the book. Although some readers may find her behavior odd and un-relatable, I like that Jenny portrays that grief doesn’t have to look a certain way. She shows the other side of human reaction in that she decides to take action and stay busy with investigating the other girl’s murder rather than sitting around and worrying about the disappearance of her best friend. Jenny’s denial and many coping mechanisms, including her spontaneous relationship with her brooding classmate Tom, were a large part of the book and I found it to be extremely intriguing. Jenny is a very complex character yet she was kept simplistic in her portrayal throughout the book so she never became overwhelming.

The plot was rather slow but like I mentioned before, I don’t think the plot is really the focus of this book. I certainly enjoyed following Jenny on her journey to investigate Helen’s murder and the people that she met along the way. I personally had no idea that there was a race issue in Canada like there is in America and I like that Helen’s family brings more attention to Canada’s First Nations peoples and their struggles. Although I wish that the book had had more of a solid conclusion, I do understand why the author chose to end the book the way she did. The portrayal of how life really is runs rampant in this book to the end and, just like life, it was just a bit frustrating.

In the wake of 13 Reasons Why, this book continues with hitting the hard issues with teenagers. With themes of bullying, depression, rejection, and racism, this book isn’t shy by any means. If you can handle these themes, along with rape (not depicted), suicide mentions, and murder, you’ll want to pick this book up. Take a look at what it’s like to live in the North, and what it means to be human.

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What do YOU think? How would you react if your best friend suddenly disappeared? Would you ever be brave enough to investigate a murder on your own? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Review: The Things They’ve Taken by Katie McElhenney // When the “What Else” Stares Back at You

the things the've taken graphic


the things they've taken

Series: The Things They’ve Taken #1

Publication: May 1st 2017 by Entangled Teen

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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Dolores is used to her mother searching, always looking for that greater purpose in life. Jumping from one faith to another and subsequently from one state to another has become commonplace in Lo’s life. But she’s had about as much as she can handle by the time her mother joins up with some witches in Kentucky. Lo convinces her mother to stay so she can have more of a normal life and actually make some friends. When her mother agrees, Lo decides to focus on her own life for a change instead of constantly pulling her mom back from the brink when she goes too far in her search. As the months go by, Lo’s relationship with her mother becomes more and more strained as her mother becomes more deeply involved in her new faith and Lo wants nothing to do with it. But when her mother messes with something far more dangerous than she should have and is taken by a supernatural being, Lo is pulled headfirst into the deep end in this new side of life that she never wanted to know about. After enlisting the help of a gorgeous Tracker named Shaw, Lo departs on an adventure to find her mother—and discovers just how much actually goes bump in the night.

I really wanted to love this book. It sounded really cool and I am always down for an adventure with a cute guy. But for many reasons, I just didn’t really care for this.

Firstly, I found the world building to be a bit lacking. While Shaw chooses not to share much information with Lo, it was still difficult to really grasp how big the supernatural world was and how many creatures lurk in it. The creatures we do get to meet were vividly described and, quite frankly, terrifying, but I wish I’d have been able to get a bigger picture of the world.

The characters were okay. I did like Lo, especially her sense of humor. Her sarcasm and jabs added a lot of color to the dialogue and made the book more fun to read. Her determination and bravery were proved over and over again in the book and I like that she chose not to adopt the victim persona. Shaw, however, was hard to get on with for me. He has no personality. He never jokes, never laughs or smiles, and barely speaks. Shaw’s dialogue is probably under 200 words if we’re going to be honest here. I like that he did finally open up a bit about his past and how he became a Tracker, but instead of seeing him as the tragic, brooding hero, I just saw him as a flat, boring character. (I would totally steal his dog though.)

Which brings me to the fact that the main characters had no chemistry. I am totally down for the “I’m just drawn to you and I’m not quite sure why” trope. I normally don’t mind insta-love honestly. But this isn’t really even insta-love, it’s just unbelievable love. Shaw barely speaks. Lo never talks about feeling a connection to him at all, let alone on a deeper level. She basically falls all over Shaw because he is pretty. There are so many awkward encounters between them that I just couldn’t buy in to the progression of their relationship.

Lastly, I felt the book was just too predictable. It’s not stated but this book is obviously the first part in a trilogy. With how slow the plot progression was, I knew we weren’t going to get a real ending to the book and we didn’t. From the first occasion of Shaw disappearing to do things on his own, I knew where the plot twist was going to go. Honestly, this is just a story that I’ve read a dozen times before with different characters. If the romance had been amazing, I may have rated this higher in stars but even that was lacking for me. If you are a very forgiving reader who likes the adventure aspect more than the world building or characters, this may be a book you want to pick up. But it’s not a series that I will personally continue when the second book is released.

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What do YOU think? Would you hire someone to help you rescue a family member? Have you jumped from faith to faith, looking for the “what else”? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Review: Edge of Glory by Magan Vernon // Falling in Love with an Olympian

edge of glorySeries: Friendship, Texas #1

Publication: July 12th 2016, Self-published

Source: I received an ARC copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Imagine if you actually got to meet your idol. The person you have posters on your wall of. The person that you follow religiously on social media and can recite their favorite color, every award they’ve ever won, and maybe even the size of their shoe when they were thirteen, if you’re a super stalker—I mean fan, that is. Well that’s exactly what happens in Edge of Glory. We follow twenty-year-old Lia Conti, the only daughter in a very protective Italian family. And like a lot of young adults, Lia has a fandom: she’s obsessed with the Olympic team of men swimmers, and one swimmer in particular Jay Morningstar. With Morningstar recently getting into a lot of trouble that has affected his career, his coach brings him and his teammates to a tiny Texan town to refocus them; a neighboring town to Lia’s own. When Lia actually comes face to face with her idol in her father’s Italian restaurant, she feels like she has died and gone to heaven, especially when Jay actually shows interest in her. As Jay’s and Lia’s relationship develops, Lia is faced with much more than she anticipated in dating her idol including being thrown into reality TV, dealing with his famous ex-girlfriend, and feeling out-of-place in his rich, polished family compared to her crazy, over-protective one. With all the drama that comes with dating the gorgeous, talented swimmer, Lia has to decide if her heart can keep up or if she will have to go her own way.

Surprisingly I really liked this. Don’t get me wrong, this is full of cheese. But I anticipate a certain level of cheesiness with every new adult romance novel. I normally need to be in a certain mindset to enjoy them and I certainly was when reading this book.

I think I enjoyed this so much because of Lia. She was so incredibly relatable to me, regardless of the fact that I am not Italian in any way. I really enjoy reading about large families, like the ones you get to see in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the like. Perhaps it’s because they are so vastly different from my own but I really, really loved Lia’s family dynamic and felt it brought a lot of fun and character to the book. Lia herself has so many aspects that I feel a lot of readers will be able to relate to. She’s wanting to go to college out of state but her parents want her to stay home; she’s constantly using humor as a defense mechanism; she often doesn’t see her own worth or beauty and puts herself down more often than not. Some of these things may be annoying for some if they are more mature than the average new adult reader, but for someone like me, I found a lot of common ground with Lia. Jay was okay as a love interest. He’s definitely not going down in any book boyfriend list of mine but he was at least real and not one of those ridiculously perfect love interests. I did find the characterization of his Olympic swimmer friends a little cringey to be honest. They’re both so clearly a girl’s attempt at writing typical guy behavior that I got secondhand embarrassment from it.

The plot was okay. Most of what happened was fairly predictable and a little overdramatic. I do wish that we would’ve gotten to see Jay in a competition sooner than we did and with more detail than what was given since his being a swimmer was such a giant part of the book. It was fast-paced enough to keep my interest however and it was a quick read for me. This is definitely more of a character-driven book than plot-driven if that is something that you like in books.

Overall this was just a fun, easy new adult read for me. I did find it a bit cringey knowing that this is basically glorified fan fiction, but I did appreciate the author’s note in the beginning and it was nice to know where the story originated from. I probably will not pick up the other companion novels in this series but I’m glad I finally got around to reading this.

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What do YOU think? Would you ever want to date an Olympian? Do you have a thing for the American Men’s Swimming Team? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Review: Maid of the King’s Court by Lucy Worsley // A New Version of the Story of Katherine Howard

maid of the king's courtSeries: Standalone

Publication: March 14th 2017 by Candlewick

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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Elizabeth Camperdowne has always known her place in the world. As the only daughter of the oldest noble family in Derbyshire, she is destined to marry a man who will bring wealth and title back to her family after her uncle’s treason to the king. After a botched engagement with a local earl’s son, Elizabeth is sent to stay with a relative who runs a school that trains up girls to serve the English court. There Elizabeth meets a cousin she never knew she had, vivacious and flirtatious Katherine Howard. When it comes time for the English court’s need of new maids of honor for the new Queen Anne of Cleves, Katherine and Elizabeth get the chance they’ve been waiting for. While Katherine soon sets her sights on winning the heart of King Henry VIII, Elizabeth endeavors to fulfill her family’s wishes, while constantly being drawn to the king’s page Ned Barsby. What seemed such a simple yet glamorous life in the English court, soon turns dangerous and chaotic as Anne of Cleves loses favor with the king and Elizabeth is drawn into court intrigue more than she ever wanted when her cousin Katherine becomes the new queen. And history knows how that turned out.

This was a confusing read to say the least. When I saw a young adult novel featuring Henry VIII’s court, I was extremely excited. I’m not sure where my fascination of the Tudor time period comes from, but I have been known to watch documentaries on Henry VIII. For fun. So of course when I saw this on the new releases list that I check and found it on NetGalley, I had to request it.

The characters were okay but I didn’t find any of them to be particularly engaging, especially the main character of Elizabeth. She was kind of bland for a main character and didn’t really do anything exciting to liven up her life in the book. Katherine was an interesting character, albeit frustrating at times, and she was certainly known for being lively in real life as well. I did really enjoy the glimpses that we got of King Henry and they definitely seemed to ring true with what is known about his personality.

I think the main issue of this book for me was the plot. Or maybe I should say the lack thereof. It never seemed like the book had any direction and I found myself struggling to figure out what the book was supposed to be about. I initially thought that Elizabeth was eventually going to end up with the earl’s son from the beginning of the book because of the wording used during her botched engagement. Then I thought we were going to follow Elizabeth to where Anne of Cleves spent her life as the king’s sister. It wasn’t until the end of the book and I read the author’s note that I realized this book was supposed to be about Katherine Howard and her possible motives of her betrayal of King Henry. I admit that when Katherine’s confession to Elizabeth was first told, I found myself completely surprised and intrigued with the possibility of what she said. But the plot lacked so much direction that I really feel the theme was done an injustice. The writing style was also nearly middle grade in its simplicity which didn’t do this book any favors either.

Overall I think because this book portrayed one of my favorite periods of history to read and learn about, I enjoyed it more than the average reader. With the writing style being simplistic and the chapters short, it’s definitely a quick read. If you are as intrigued as I am about this time period, this may be worth the read for you. However if you’re looking for something full of intrigue and excitement, this isn’t the book for you.

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What do YOU think? Would you have ever wanted to be involved in court life when it was still a possibility? Would you have set your sights on King Henry VIII? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Author Guest Post: Rebekah L. Purdy // Juggling Family Life, a Day Job, and Writing

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Having a big family is definitely awesome, but as a writer for a long time when we had all 6 of the kids at home it was super hard. Family is always priority, but when you have deadlines looming it sometimes means you can’t go do stuff with everyone else. Like road trips or swimming or to a movie… Luckily my family has been really understanding. Normally I use my lunch hours at work to do writing related stuff and then use my weekends as well, which means me getting up before everyone else to get the quiet writing time. I try not to delve into too many weeknights so I can spend time with my family, but if it’s a huge deadline, then I’ll pull the late nights etc.

My bosses at my day job are usually pretty cool too, and have let me take time off to meet deadlines. But working, juggling a family, and writing can get stressful for sure. There are some days I’m SO drained from the day job that I can’t even focus on writing. Or there are times when the kids have things going on (like sports, band, plays etc) that I don’t want to miss so I’ll set stuff aside to make it to them, which means extra late nights or longer hours on the weekend. I’m getting better at juggling and try to manage my time based on everyone’s schedules. Definitely not a perfect system. Realistically, I’d love to do this full time down the road, but for now, I just cram in the writing whenever I have some free moments.

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About Rebekah L. Purdy:

Rebekah was born and raised in Michigan where she spent many late nights armed with a good book and a flashlight. She’s lived in Michigan most of her life other than the few years she spent in the U.S. Army. At which time she got a chance to experience Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, and California. Rebekah has a business degree from University of Phoenix and currently works full time for the court system. In her free time she writes YA stories, anything from YA Fantasy to YA Contemporary Romance. Rebekah also has a big family (6 kids), she likes to consider her family as the modern day Brady Bunch complete with crazy road trips and game nights. When not hiding at her computer, Rebekah enjoys reading, singing, soccer, swimming, football, camping, playing video games, traveling, and hanging out with her family and gazillion pets.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads

Find her newest release Incriminating Dating here:

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Find my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway for a $30 Amazon gift card here!

 

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Incriminating Dating by Rebekah L. Purdy // What Happens When You Fall for Your Fake Boyfriend?

incriminating datingSeries: Standalone

Publication: April 10th 2017 by Entangled Crush

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Ayla Hawkins knows where she’s going in life. She’s editor-in-chief of her school newspaper; she’s just landed the lead role in her school play; and she’s going to Columbia University as soon as high school is over. So when her best friend Chloe insists on her running as school president, Ayla isn’t so sure she’s up for the task. But when her school’s drama club budget is cut (yet again) along with the threat of the school paper going online-only in order to funnel more funding into sports, Ayla realizes she has to stand up for herself and the other kids in her school who aren’t sports-inclined. Only how is she supposed to win when no one knows who she is and she’s running against the most popular girl in school who has won the presidency the past three years? Ayla’s chance is granted when she stumbles across Luke Pressler, the school’s star basketball player, and his two fellow teammates intoxicated and destroying public property in the local park one night. Ayla captures it all on her cell phone and hatches the perfect plan: to blackmail Luke Pressler into pretending to be her boyfriend and help her win the election. With Luke having the chance at a full-ride to a Big Ten university, he can’t chance his actions getting out and facing criminal charges and the loss of his scholarship. So Luke agrees to Ayla’s terms. But as their fake relationship goes on, Luke finds a solace and a much-needed confidante in his blackmailer and Ayla realizes that Luke is very different from what her past prejudices were. And as the election looms and they grow closer, the lines start to get blurred about what exactly is fake in their relationship…and what might be real.

I instantly fell in love with this cute little contemporary romance. While the premise may sound overdone and clichéd, this book is filled with such fun, relatable characters and just the perfect amount of quirkiness that it completely avoids falling prey to the trope. Contemporary romance is not normally my favorite to read but every so often I find one that is so well-done that I fall in love with it. This is one of them. (And I’ve already read it twice).

I really loved the characters that are featured in this book. Ayla is such a relatable and genuine character that I feel many readers will connect with her. With her nerdy interests that include Doctor Who, Zelda, and Minecraft, and her obsession with her favorite food of pizza, she’s not the typical YA main character. I also love that Ayla is plus-sized and embraces herself for who she is and never lets it hold her back. She is certainly a character that I would find myself friends with. I loved getting to know Luke as he revealed the true circumstances of his life. That he’s not just some jock with an easy life with rich parents, but instead struggles to help feed his divorced mom and brother while keeping his grades up and performing well in basketball. Instead of the typical jock, we get to see someone who is just barely holding it together and feels like they have to put up a façade to fit in, just like so many other high schoolers. While the focus of the story is on the romance, there’s certainly some real issues that are touched on in this book and I really appreciated that.

I also found the writing style and pacing to be extremely engaging and finished this book in two days. While I normally don’t care for alternating points of view in books, Purdy did such an amazing job with it that I loved the alternating chapters between Ayla and Luke. Both characters had unique voices and I loved getting to see how each of their opinions changed about the other as the book went on. The chapters also flowed together seamlessly so I never found myself irritated with being taken from an engaging event to something else in other author’s attempts in creating suspense. Overall, the writing style and plot were just done so well. There’s also a nice small-town feel to the book with the characters going on hayrides and making s’mores by the fire which was a fun aspect. There are definitely some typical YA tropes in this book but overall I loved the romance so much in this that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of it at all.

Basically if you’re looking for the next cute contemporary romance must-read, this is it. While it does come with the disclaimer of adult language and sexual situations, I personally feel that there didn’t need to be a disclaimer for sexual situations since they are very minor. The adult language though? Yeah, that’s fitting. If you get any amount of enjoyment out of contemporary romances, pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

Continue reading “Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Incriminating Dating by Rebekah L. Purdy // What Happens When You Fall for Your Fake Boyfriend?”

Discussion: Thirteen Reasons Why // Realistic or Ridiculous?

thirteen reasons why

At this point, everyone knows what Thirteen Reasons Why is. Maybe you read it when it first came out at the height of the scene/emo days. Maybe you read it when you found out that it was being turned into a Netflix show. Maybe you’ve just seen the show (I haven’t yet). But everyone knows what it is. About how it’s a book about a dead girl telling her thirteen reasons why she killed herself.

I’m not going to write a review for this book. I don’t feel the need or inclination to. There are thousands of reviews for it on Goodreads if that is what you are after. This discussion post may have the flavorings of a review but I’m not writing a post about what I thought about the characters or the pacing of the plot or any of the other literary points I try to hit when writing reviews. I’m writing about the themes. Or just one theme in particular.

To be quite honest, I am mind blown by how many reviewers gave negative reviews saying that Hannah’s thirteen reasons are invalid; that she was overdramatic and unrealistic; that she did not portray a suicidal teen correctly; and you can guess the other reasons that have been given. And, sure, if you do not think deeper into the storyline or if you have never experienced scenarios that were given in the book, I can see where those reviewers are coming from. I can see that fifteen year old me (approximately what I was when this book was released) would’ve thought the same thing. I would’ve thought her to be weak, a coward; I probably would’ve hated her.

But twenty-four year old me disagrees. I wish that the deeper backstory and underlying issues would’ve been explored throughout Hannah’s thirteen sides to her cassette tapes. Because I truly think that many readers are not seeing it at all. Hannah’s depression needed to be discussed. She needed to say that she had it, or at least contemplate the possibility. Instead Hannah’s thirteen reasons come across as petty, vindictive, revenge-fueled on the surface. I’ve seen a couple of reviews mentioning Hannah’s depression but it’s been quickly dismissed and deemed to be unrealistic and insulting to those who suffer with it.

Depression doesn’t have to look a certain way. There are general symptoms, yes. But it doesn’t have to look the way that is acceptable in society’s eyes. It doesn’t have to fit in with how other depressed people look or act in order to be deemed valid. It doesn’t have to have the same reasons that other people do. Some people are just born depressed—there are no reasons. Some people have a major event in their life that changes them forever and leaves them carrying sorrow for the rest of their life which compounds any other disappointing events they experience later. Some people’s bodies just one day don’t work right and cause them to have a chemical imbalance.

My point is that too many readers are focusing on the surface and criticizing Hannah. But if this story were true—and somewhere in this world it is—you cannot discount Hannah’s feelings and motivations. It’s very hard to understand something that you have never experienced. And perhaps it’s even harder when you have but it doesn’t look the same way that yours does. And something that seems so trivial to one person is life-changing for another. Hannah claims her feelings originated with Justin starting rumors about her and how “easy” she was. Maybe it did. And maybe there was something previously that she could never bring herself to say, even in her tapes. But sometimes something as simple as that spirals into something more just as Hannah experienced. She lost her friends. She lost her reputation. She was treated as an object rather than a human being. She lost herself. After years of feeling alone, after years of feeling repeated rejection, Hannah was done.

Yes, she seemed like she pushed herself into it, even to me. She got to the point where she wanted to end it. She didn’t want any help in the end—she wanted to be pushed over the edge. And maybe it seems vindictive and wrong to send those tapes out after she killed herself. But maybe Hannah wanted people to know that she wasn’t just crazy—that she had reasons. Reasons that she needed to tell but couldn’t say when she was alive. So many people suffer in silence because they cannot bring themselves to say it. So many people are passed by every day without anyone asking them if they are okay because they do not look the way you’re supposed to look when you’re depressed. And some people are afraid to say how they feel because others—like those reviewers—will tell them how they feel is invalid, wrong, overdramatic, etc., etc. If Hannah had managed to speak up, if she had told someone her reasons before it was too late, do you think any of them would’ve helped her? Do you think her life would’ve turned out differently? I’m not so sure that it would’ve.

I know that Hannah’s story is fiction. I know that there are many other topics that could be highlighted with this book—but I am not a psychology major. I’m not going to pretend I know a bunch of stuff that I don’t and analyze every aspect of this book. I’m talking about what I felt I could shed some light on. I’m offering another perspective on this polarizing book. One that is perhaps buried if anyone has brought it up at all. Thanks for reading.

Review: The Marble Masquerade: Omnibus Edition by Miriam Rosenbaum // Gargoyles with Style

marble masqueradeSeries: The Marble Masquerade #1-3

Publication: November 29th, 2016 by Amazon Digital Services

Source: I received this for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Miriam!

My Rating: 2.75/5 stars

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Have you ever had a stuffed animal that you told everything to? A pet maybe that you felt was the only one who could understand you? What if one day your life-long confidante came to life? And you fell in love with him.

When we meet sixteen-year-old Clara, she already has a pretty full plate. She’s a student just trying to get through school but she has the added burden of worrying about her little brother who has leukemia. Just her, her mother, and her brother, Clara helps out financially as much as she can to help cover the bills by using her artistic abilities for online art commissions. She has an amazing group of friends and a slightly dramatic ex-boyfriend who all take up most of her free time. Except for the little bits of time she sections out to make the trek through the woods to the abandoned Mansion of her small town where one of her most precious secrets lives: her favorite gargoyle statue that overlooks the garden. Clara’s silent stone companion has always been there for her and knows everything about her from her father’s passing to her struggles with her home life and everything in between. But Clara’s life is turned upside down when the Mansion is suddenly purchased by a wealthy European family that has moved into town and her beautiful brooding friend disappears.

Since this edition has all three novels compiled together, there is a lot to this book! While some of the events and characterizations put me in the mind of Twilight, this book is certainly unique and unlike anything I have read before. Bridging between the paranormal and fantasy genres, the author has built an intricate yet accessible world full of magical creatures, alien dimensions, and an elaborate unknown backstory of human history. While the great bulk of these extra-dimensional worlds are explained through character dialogue, I think the author did a great job in organically building the world the book is set in without it becoming overwhelming or information-dumpy. I also found the world-building to be fairly easily understandable and I didn’t find myself left with hanging questions which is something difficult to achieve with these genres.

Because this edition does have all three novels, the book is very, very long. There is no indication of when one book ended and another began so the plot felt a little slow for me. I definitely think that it could’ve been shorter and faster-paced, but it’s also difficult to say when I do not know what was intended to be within each book. The chapters are long and some scenes were so elaborately detailed that I found myself a bit bored reading page after page of one event, especially in the case of the fight scenes. The book also features some pretty challenging prose. I am certainly not the most well-read person, but I went to a really good school and have a fairly wide vocabulary and knowledge of word meanings. More than once however while reading this book, I had to use the in-house dictionary to define something for me. While it added some color to the prose, I think some of the more difficult words were overused and the writing style isn’t easily accessible for the targeted demographic.

I found the characters to be okay. Clara is probably the most developed character in the series. I liked that she had such a large friend group. Most young adult books feature characters who either don’t have any friends or maybe have one best friend and that is it. It was refreshing to have such a wide-range of personalities showcased; however, they are all quite the typical typecasts—the brainiac friend with a large vocabulary that her friends find difficult to understand, the jokester of the group who never has a joke at the right time, the jock and his popular girlfriend who is beautiful but also sweet and hangs out with whoever she wants instead of being the stuck-up beauty queen, and so on. The majority of the series however features the supernatural characters who all have interesting backstories and more colorful personalities.

I did find myself struggling to connect with any of the characters which I think ultimately affected my star rating on this book. I really wanted to love Clara and some of the other characters but didn’t become attached to any of them, and often found myself confused with some of Clara’s decisions and reactions to different things. Some of the characterizations weren’t consistent either. For instance, Clara is pictured to be an average student with more artistic inclinations, but she uses a large vocabulary while also struggling to understand her brainiac friend and scholarly love interest. The love interest, Max, demonstrates in several scenes and is described multiple times as being quite arrogant, yet he is also pictured as being soft-hearted and self-sacrificing. He is also very intelligent and has a vast academic background but bumbles around when it comes to trying to keep the great family secret from Clara. I did really love some of the characters’ interactions in this book, especially the scenes between Clara and her ex-boyfriend’s eccentric grandfather and some of the more sassy scenes between Clara and Max, but overall the characters just didn’t have a gripping quality for me.

Ultimately, if you love elaborate world-building and heavily-detailed prose, I think this would be a good pick for you. If you’re looking for fantasy characters that are out of the norm, you will find them here. I certainly have a couple friends that I think would love this book. However, for me, I just didn’t feel a connection to the subject matter or characters and overall just got an average enjoyment out of the book.

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What do YOU think? Do you think you’d ever fall in love with a statue-turned-supernatural character? Would you just run away screaming if your silent confidante turned out to be real? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.