ARC Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

29960675.jpgTitle: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Expected Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
Rating: 3.75ish?

Synopsis: Perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, the first book in this new duology features a compelling gender fluid main character, impressive worldbuilding, and fast-paced action.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class―and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

Please note that I received a free eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: I was really excited about Mask of Shadows as soon as I saw it being talked about on Twitter. I love the cover and as soon as I heard about the main character I immediately went over to Netgalley and requested it because how could I not? A genderfluid main character?? Yes please! I’m always a little weary about reading any books that hit kind of close to home for me. Especially when it comes to diversity in gender, sexuality, or orientation. I’ve had some bad luck (and some good) with books. I mean, most of the time when I read a diverse book, it’s of the contemporary genre and that’s definitely not my most favourite genre. So I had super high hopes for Mask of Shadows, I was finally going to get a character outside the gender norm.

But here I am thinking, I liked this? Parts of it were underwhelming and some parts I really liked. I almost never read a synopsis of a book, I know I know, that’s a little crazy but it’s true. I like the idea of going into a book with a completely open mind and a lot les expectations, you know? Which usually leads to a lot less disappointment most of the time. So I really feel like I’m on the fence about Mask of Shadow. Because I wasn’t disappointed in anyway but I’m not screaming about this book at the top of my lungs for everyone to read it either.

I thought for sure I would connect with Sallot fast but I realized quick that just because I’m non-binary doesn’t mean I feel the same way gender fluid people do. Now something I did love about have a gender fluid main character is that, Sallot being gender fluid had nothing to do or have any affect on the plot. Sure it was brought up here and there but it wasn’t any type of focal point and really, that’s how I like it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book if you’ve read it!

ARC Review: Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

29502065.jpgTitle: Contribute (Holo #2)
Author: Kristy Acevedo
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Expected Publication Date: July 11th 2017

Synopsis: The holograms lied to everyone on Earth and only Alexandra Lucas knows the truth. Now she’s trapped in the year 2359 without family or friends—worse, without her anxiety medication. Alex attempts to reconcile the marvelous scenery, technological advances, and luxurious living with the knowledge that the holograms weren’t being completely honest—what else are they lying about? With a secret that could shatter her society, Alex tries to find her place among strangers, convicts, and a rebellion striving to bring the holograms down. Alex struggles to find the best way to reveal the truth and reunite with those she loves. But when surrounded by beauty and every convenience, Alex wonders if truth becomes irrelevant in a perfect world.

Please note that I received a free eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: I really don’t know how to start this review, I have so many feelings about Contribute and pretty much none of them are bad. I mean, who doesn’t want to read about girl with anxiety running into an alien portal into the complete unknown to find her boyfriend and tell most of the human race the truth about what really happened back on Earth? I really kick myself for not writing a review the first book Consider. Because I definitely really liked the book and I couldn’t wait for it’s sequel. And Contribute I think, really blew Consider out of the water.

“Would you rather contribute to society or destroy it?”

I kept asking myself how would I decide? Would I contribute and live a life of luxury or would I fight against it? Could you imagine living in a world where everything is already provided for you? Amazing immersive technology, no violence, a sustainable environment, and never having to work another day in your life? It sounds amazing, and something that I wonder if I could walk away from or even fight again. But then again, despite all that easy living there’s always a catch.

“My your contribution lead to freedom”

Having an MC with an anxiety disorder definitely hits close to home. I’d really love to see more characters who struggle with anxiety on all different levels and coping techniques. And even though my anxiety is not on Alex’s level, it’s pretty close and I think that really helped me connect with her and her situation. Plus, it’s really cool to see someone with anxiety in a life altering setting and not become a character who knows what to do and who to become immediately.

“I must lose myself to save myself”

That quote alone just blew me away completely. As someone who struggles with asking “who am I?” and “who do I want to become?” and figuring out how to even become myself, this book was a journey not only for characters but for me as well. I just really loved Alex. I felt all of her anxiety, I sympathized with her every step and loved watching her grow and push and still be standing on her feet (kind of) leading the charge at the end. It honestly gave me hope, so much hope that despite all of my anxiety and my struggles, I can still be someone who is worth something. Heroes emerge from many places and Alex can stand with the best of them.

To touch on a few other great things about Contribute, can we talk about the slight romance in this book? I mean, she pretty much jumped through a portal to go after her boyfriend and yet, the romance was not the most important part of the book. Surprised? Me too, in a good way! There’s a time when Alex is trying to come to terms with leading a ‘rebellion’ for the right reasons when the only real reason she came through the portal was to find Dominick (and her best friend, Rita). I feel like this was one of most honest portrayals of a love story within a book of this setting. And let’s not forget that Contribute dropped some of the best plot twists I’ve read in awhile. I love that I didn’t see them coming either, those are the plot twists I live for when it comes to reading.

So please, do yourself a favour and check out these books!

Ten Things I Want to See More of in Books.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Broke and Bookish.
This week’s theme is Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist.

So I obviously haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday post in quite awhile but I was actually really excited for this one because I have plenty of things I would love to see more of in books.

  1. First is a pretty obvious thing, I would love to see more asexuality within books. Main characters who are on the asexual spectrum, relationships between asexual character, friendships, anything really. Because, let’s be real here for a second I’m pretty much over your typical relationship being huge plot devices.
  2. More prominent platonic friendships and even relationships. Because hey, that’s a thing. And those can be so important!
  3. Aliens. Good aliens. Real aliens. Not the disappointing development that was the 5th Wave. I just want more aliens.
  4. LGBTQIA+ main characters in genres beside contemporary. Not that I don’t mind reading contemporary books. But it’s definitely not my favourite genre to read and it really sucks not having those main characters in the genres that I love.
  5. More characters outside of the normal gender spectrum please! I would love love love to have more non-binary characters. As someone who is non-binary I would be nice to have more relatable characters. I know the hardest part of this is that I think its a little different for everyone when it comes to being non-binary. So even when I have read books with characters outside the gender norm I have trouble relating, so please more main characters that aren’t just the norm!
  6. Kind of a continuation of number 4 – less books about coming out and less about them being LGBTQIA+ and more just having those character go through the whole story and them being LGBTQIA+ not be relevant or important to the plot. Maybe I need to delve outside of YA to find this? But still, I’ve been out for 10 years as of this summer and I’m not about the discovery anymore. I’m more about just reading about them in the fantasy + sci-fi worlds that I love.
    • Side note – I know that YA is geared towards teens, which having stories about coming out and discovery can be and is so freaking important. But also reading about LGBTQIA+ characters who are just living (in whatever world) like every other character can also be very encouraging. And like I said earlier maybe I need to look for this elsewhere in the book world but I think it could bring a lot to YA too. (Maybe I should just write a post about this).
  7. Now I don’t read a lot of historical fiction but YA books set during the Renaissance would be really kind of awesome. It’s just one of my favourite time periods for art.
  8. This is a big one for me, more main characters with anxiety. Especially characters with all different levels of anxiety because it’s different for everyone. And again, not just in contemporary either. One of my favourite set of books, Consider and Contribute (which I have an ARC review coming for Contribute soon!) by Kristy Acevedo combines an MC with an anxiety disorder and aliens (+ space and other cool things) beautiful and I JUST WANT MORE OF THAT PLEASE.
  9. Possible unpopular opinion? But seriously, books that chance MC POV’s every book bother me so much. This is me side eyeing you Graceling Realm Trilogy. I can get so invested in characters and then BAM new MC in the book and I’m just usually left like ????? Of course there are a few exceptions, the only reason I finished the 5th Wave books was because of the MC POV change to Ringer.
  10. Last thing here, I would love to see more books writing in the style of Sleeping Giants/Waking Gods and even Illuminae/Gemina! I think it’s super fun and can be a bit of a relief from heavier books. I’m always up for something grabbing my attention and these books do in their crazy cool formatting. So more like them please!

Are any of these things you would also like to see while reading? Let me know!

ARC Review: In Ageless Sleep by Arden Ellis

34218098Title: In Ageless Sleep
Author: Arden Ellis
Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Romance
Publication Date: April 12th 2017

Synopsis: Mal is a spy, a misanthrope, and a coward; growing up in the brutal Reaches has taught her that honor is a quality best left to the dead. Her latest mission: to hijack a cryo-ship carrying the brilliant daughter of the Sovereign King, and deliver her straight into enemy hands.

But when a vital component of the ship’s cryostasis system malfunctions, the only person who can keep the unconscious passengers alive is the woman Mal was sent to kidnap. Alone together on a ship of silent sleepers, Mal must remember that she and Aurora are enemies—or risk them becoming something much more dangerous.

Please note that I received a free eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: What can I even say about this book? It has a beautiful cover which I really loved. It was a fairly short read compared to what I usually read. So I really felt like it lacked a lot of development in characters and even the plot. Which really lead me to feel like this story was more unbelievable with each page. There wasn’t a lot of ways to connect with the characters despite the female/female romance connection.

That all on its own was weird enough. I understand the whole enemies to lovers trope but I feel like that wasn’t what this was. I mean, Mal (the main character) was pretty much holding Aurora hostage the entire time? And being a creep by watching Aurora every time she was put back to sleep. Like??????? How is that not concerning? Maybe I’m just not into the whole enemies to lovers trope that much but still. I feel like there’s a line where it becomes too creep and just not right.

All of this was really disappoint because I mean it had so many elements of a story that I thought I would enjoy. But unfortunately it went down hill real fast. Now, the rest of the plot wasn’t terrible. I like that it was in space and epic space ship battles. That I definitely wanted more of. I feel like for me that the story would have been ugh more success if there was more of that and less of the ‘romance’.

Overall, super disappointing and probably wouldn’t recommend.

Netgalley Review: Black Bead by J.D. Lakey

28869444Title: Black Bead (Black Bead Chronicles #1)
Author: J.D. Lakey
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: June 8th 2011

Synopsis: If you liked Avatar and Ender’s Game, you’ll love Black Bead!

On a savage, outlying planet an enclave of psionically-trained humans have built a utopian, matriarchal society that lives in harmony with all life. Leaving behind the polluted and corrupt world in which they lived, they colonized a new home far from the eyes of the galactic empire. Shielded from the rest of the galaxy by the dangerous beasts that inhabit their lush, forested world, the village lives a simple life under their Home Dome. But their goal was more than just to live in peace – they wanted to create the perfect human who could bring peace to the galaxy. Rather than merely cloning themselves, they began to manipulate genes in order to create a race of mutants with enhanced telepathic powers. Under the direction of the ruling coven, each child of the Windfall Dome is tested at a young age to asses their abilities – a test which is can plot the course for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, Cheobawn – the daughter of the ruling First Mother to the dome – is marked with the Black Bead on her Choosing Day, a symbol of bad luck and shame. It seems the child the village had placed so much hope in would not be the future ruler they had hoped for. Yet there is something powerful about her that the elders don’t understand. Finally of age, Cheobawn is chosen to join a pack to act as the psychic Ear on a foraging mission outside the dome. She knows this is her chance to prove herself. But something sinister stalks them and each member of the pack must draw on their unique strengths and a lifetime of training if they want to survive to see another day. In her visionary new series, The Black Bead Chronicles, author J.D. Lakey invites you to journey along with Cheobawn, Megan, Tam, Connor, and Alain as they use their wits and their Luck to unravel the mysteries of the deceptively bucolic life beneath the dome in this coming of age metaphysical science fiction adventure.

Please note that I received a free eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: This was a book that randomly peaked my interest on NG and was surprised when I actually sat down to read it. Now, usually I feel weird about books that take place in a very short period of time. I like having good development in characters and in settings. So when I start Black Bead and got more invested in it, I realized the entire time line of the book happens in about a day or so. And to be honest, usually that alone deters me from reading a book. I tend to feel like I’m not getting enough from the book but I must say Black Bead surprised me.

I actually really enjoyed the story. Though having such young characters as the main focal point was also something I wasn’t used to. Especially because this was classified as teens & ya but the characters were between the ages of 6 and 10? So at first I was a little ??? when it came to connecting with the characters. But that became less of a factor as I read more. It really made me step back and change the way I usually think when it comes to the characters. Part of me wanted to expect more but at the same time I was blown away by their developments in such a short time.

What I really loved about this book was the world building aspects and an interesting magic system they had established. It definitely had the vibe of some previous dystopian/post-apocalyptic ya books I’ve read. Which I think is really what helped my connection to the story. You have a city within walls and only certain people can go outside those walls. And once you are outside those walls, it’s this luscious untamed wilderness and I fell in love with.

Now the main plot itself, is about a pact of young kids who finally get to go outside the walls. But of course, deviate from their designated path and find themselves on an adventure to stay alive. Now, the main character, she was given a black Bead because of her failure of a test of magic. Now this kind of taints her amongst the community but she is able to go with this group of kids and in the end, they wouldn’t have made it through their crazy adventure without her.

So I definitely really liked the message as the characters grow to accept her and such. And even with my initial surprise over the age of the characters and the way the plot ties timed, I thought this was a really good book. I’ll even probably pick up its sequel.

Have you read this? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!