Blogging · TBR

September TBR

September TBR.png

It’s my birthday month, so I’m going to try and not buy myself a ton of new books as a birthday present. But I am going to finish Melissa Grey’s series with it’s final book, The Savage Dawn and finally start Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows (only because I’ve been thinking of writing a heist fantasy).

And I’ve been approved for Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End so expect a review of that soon, either on this site or over at BookedAllNight.blog!

Book Reviews · Reviews

Mask of Shadows – ★★★★☆

29960675Mysterious and tense, Mask of Shadows delivered on almost every promise it had given. I was pulled in by the characters and Linsey Miller’s writing was thrilling and poetic. Plus the representation of genderfluid and other queer identities was everything that fantasy books have been missing. And yet…

I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.

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.

The moment I heard that Mask of Shadows had a genderfluid main character, I knew I needed to get my hands on it, whether for reviewing purposes or just pre-ordering it to have and to hold. Then when I learned Mask of Shadows was a fantasy assassin fight to the death story, I was already in love.

Fantasy is a genre close to my heart, one I’ve always loved, but the lack of representation and diverse characters is glaring. In a world where magic and dragons are real, why shouldn’t there be queer characters? Why is a queer main character so unbelievable? Well, that’s a discussion for another blog topic.

I had some hesitations about Mask of Shadows, in that Sal would have been the only queer character and that the book would have used their identity as a marketing ploy; it wouldn’t be the first time books or movies have tried to garner queer readers, simply because we were starved for representation. But in reading, all my hesitations were thrown out the window at how well the representation was handled.

Sal was never only identified by their genderfluidity; they were a thief and an assassin first, a fierce competitor, clever and flirtatious and had terrible aim. The subject of pronouns was brought up, showing how natural asking or presenting pronouns should be, something we in our modern day world can’t seem to handle. Characters asked, “How should I address you?” and when characters that didn’t respect Sal’s pronouns tried to misgender them, that character was corrected (or punched in the mouth, depending on which character was doing the correcting).

Miller’s writing was lyrical and bright in many places, but sometimes I found certain passages confusing and ended up having to read over those several times. It was never enough to throw me out of the story, but it did slow me down. The only reason I can’t give Mask of Shadows five stars is because of the worldbuilding. The little worldbuilding we got left me wanting more, a little confused and sometimes frustrated.

We get a timeline of the history of the world towards the end of the book, but what I would have loved the most is having a map. A fantasy world is hardly complete without a map for readers to peruse and explore, or to reference when it’s brought up in the story. Especially since Mask of Shadows was rife with politics, a map would have been crucial to have. Barring a map, then there could have been better descriptions regarding the nations and the state of the world around the characters. Miller does a fantastic job of painting an intriguing character, but the setting often felt like a vignette: detailed the closer we were to the character, but fuzzy and empty the further away we got.

Mask of Shadows was still an entertaining read and one I think I’ll come back to again and again. If more fantasy books had the representation this one did, I think we queers would be alright.

Buy it here!

Blogging

August Writing Update

Howdy lovelies!

I’ve been getting into the grove of things again and I’m only panicking a little because my first packet is due next week! Yikes!

I’ve been working on a few different things all summer, namely my YA Fantasy and a YA Paranormal? Urban Fantasy? What would you call a book that happens when Buffy meets Hocus Pocus but with a necromancer cult?

I’ve been working on that mostly this month, since technically my self-appointed deadline to finish this draft was August 16.

I love deadlines and the sound they make when they fly by.

But in all reality, I’ve been struggling with writing anything since July between constantly working at the Day Job and with the loss of my grandmother at the end of the month. So when August came, and residency rolled around, I wanted to get my sh*t together and start writing again.

I was so inspired during residency (as I always am) and broke 30k!

And then when I got home, all I felt was jet lag.

But the best thing about self-appointed deadlines is that I can change them to meet my needs, like focusing on my school deadlines instead.

ARC Roundup · Blogging

ARC Roundup | August 2017

August ARC Roundup.png

Time for round 2 of my ARC Roundup! I want to share the ARCs I’ve requested and my excitement to read them!

Starfish

Akemi Dawn Bowman

September 26th, 2017

29456598.jpgKiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary books. But I was drawn to Starfish for a few reasons: one, the struggle for identity has always been something close to my heart, two, that cover is so pretty and three, I’ve seen people rave about it on Twitter so I wanted to see for myself what they were talking about.

Beasts Made of Night

Tochi Onyebuchi

October 31st, 2017

33395234.jpgIn the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.

When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to

destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.

A gritty Nigerian-influenced fantasy.

Did you read that summary? Cause, yeah, I’m pumped for this one.

Shadow Weaver

MarcyKate Connolly

January 2nd, 2018

31246863.jpgThe shadows that surround us aren’t always as they seem…

Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar.

Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble’s mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.

With the noble’s guards on her trail, Emmeline’s only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline’s not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it’s hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side.

The first in a dark middle-grade fantasy duology, MarcyKate Connolly weaves a tale filled with shadows, danger, and magic that has the feel of a new classic.

I snuck a peek at the opening chapter to this piece and lemme tell you, it’s wonderful. My good friend JM Tuckerman also read this one and she loved it, so I’m already anticipating loving this one too.

Blogging

August Updates

Hello, lovelies.

I’m back from residency, back from spending time with family, and back to the blog. Things have been a little rough, but with time, I feel healed and ready to go again.

Blog Updates

I’ll try to maintain a steady posting schedule, at least twice weekly, with updates, book reviews and more ARC Round Ups, updates on my TBR and writing progress. I’m always putting too much pressure on myself when it comes to this blog and I’d like to try and see it less as a stress factory and more of a place to unwind and open up.

Semester Updates

My semester at SNC started up again and my first packet is due in less than two weeks. Yikes! Reading ten books a month is hard to do, plus I’m trying to get a draft query ready by winter. But I’ve got a great mentor this semester (as if my previous mentors haven’t been great. Pablo and Lisa changed my life.) and I’m ready to get to work.

Reading Updates

I’ve been reading more lately than I have in the past, and not just because of school. Maybe I’ll actually finish ACOWAR this month… But I’ve got plenty of ARCs waiting for me and I’m very excited for many of them. Especially Mask of Shadows!

Writing Updates

During residency, JM Tuckerman and I holed ourselves up in a classroom, took over the whiteboards, and wrote a whole bunch. I broke 30k on this manuscript and I’m getting very close to the end. This might be the first draft I’ve ever written that’s come under my word count goal. Well, revisions are there to help boost that and I love the revision process.

I know, I’m a weirdo.

Reviews

Zero Repeat Forever – ★★★★☆

Pre-order Zero Repeat Forever here!

28945665When the apocalypse comes and the invading Nahx destroy civilization, Raven struggles to survive with her friends in a world that’s slowly burning. A dark and lonely sci-fi story, Zero Repeat Forever was enthralling—but also a little disappointing.

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other…

I will 100% admit that I was drawn to Zero Repeat Forever by its shiny cover. It’s just so pretty. Take a minute to really cherish it.

Now back to this story.

On my list of favorite genres, Sci-fi trails somewhere in the middle of the list; it’s not my favorite, but I don’t dislike it. I find it hard to get into, most of the time. Zero Repeat Forever was half sci-fi, half apocalypse story. I couldn’t even call it a dystopia, since that would mean there was some sort of societal order to the setting, but there was just death and invasion.

I was intrigued by the dual POVs of the story, one of Raven, a human girl lost in the wilderness with some camping friends, trying to survive after the aliens invade, and the other was Eighth, a Nahx boy who’s “defective” and rebels against his people.

The survival plot was intense and definitely the reason I kept reading, but for most of the books, as the characters are traveling to and from certain points, not much happens. As my good friend J.M. Tuckerman likes to put it, “a whole heck of a lot of nothing happens. Twice.”

My biggest gripe with the story was that we didn’t even really get a sense of what the Nahx were doing, even though half of the book is written in one of their perspectives. We don’t know where they really came from, what they were doing on Earth and what their goals were. And I understand not knowing what the characters don’t know, but little hints dropped from Eighth’s perspective, just little bits and pieces we could try to put together would have made the story that much better.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, but the ending was ultimately unsatisfying. Had we known more about what the Nahx were up to and how their process worked, the ending might have had a bit more weight to it. I won’t spoil anything, but I felt like the ending was too abrupt and it’s obvious it’s supposed to be setting up a sequel—but I would have liked at least some loose ends wrapped up, or certain things revealed.

G.S. Prendergast’s Website . Twitter

Zero Repeat Forever releases on August 29th, 2017.