Title: Mask of Shadows Author: Linsey Miller Type: Fiction Genre: Fantasy Length: 352 Published By: Sourcebooks Pub Date: August 29, 2017 Format: e-book Source: A digital copy of this book was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: ★★⭑☆☆ (I was torn between 2 and 3 stars…)
Title: The Valiant Author: Lesley Livingston Type: Fiction Genre: YA; Historical Fiction Length: 372 pages Published by: Razorbill (Penguin Random House) Pub Date: Feb 14, 2017 Format: Hardcover Source: I purchased this book from Amazon
The short version: While a little predictable, I really enjoyed this book! I had been hoping for a little more out of it, but I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in strong lady leads and/or historical fiction!Read More »
Title: With Paper for Feet Author: Jennifer A. McGowan Type: Poetry Length: 96 pages Published by: Arachne Press Pub date: Feb 23, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The short version: If you enjoy poetic re-imaginings of folklore, Shakespeare, and religion, I would recommend this book.
The long version: Jennifer McGowan’s With Paper for Feet challenges the way we have viewed people, specifically women, in our stories, religion, and history. Broken up into five sections, this book deals with women in folklore, Greek mythology, Shakesperean plays, history, and Christianity. In short, this was a book that I really, really wanted to love.
Instead, I didn’t really know how to rate this book. It was difficult for me to read it all the way through to the end, but not because of poor writing.
The poems in this collection are actually pretty well-written; there is a lot of musicality within each line, so that the poems themselves are easy to read and enjoyable. I appreciated the way the sections were broken up by context; a section for folklore, one for Shakespeare, one for religion, etc. I think, more than anything else, I loved the feminine re-imaginings of traditionally male perspectives; the re-writings of Helen of Troy and Lady Macbeth were among my favorites.
That being said, I had a difficult time finishing the whole book. You could probably say my biggest issue stemmed from myself: I didn’t know where about a third of the references came from. I would have a rough idea of, “Yeah, this is Shakespeare,” or “I’m pretty sure this has something to do with Greek mythology,” but there were so many times when I had to stop reading so I could look up who I was even reading about, it took a lot of the fun out of it for me. There were so many that I had to look up that I finally just gave up and hoped for the best without the context. Which is unfortunate, because, with a lot of the poems, they lose a lot of significance if you don’t understand their context. I would have loved to see some epigraphs or something with some of the poems just to help situate the reader with the speaker. Make it possible for me to still enjoy the poem, and then sate my curiosity later.
A perfect place for context would have been at the division between the sections, which, at the risk of sounding petty, is one place I was hoping for more creativity. Instead of just “With Paper for Feet: Section Three,” I was expecting something like “Section Three: With Ink for Ears” (I’m bad at this, I know) or anything other than a robotic “Section Three” to signal we were changing perspectives, and to help situate us in that new perspective.
Long story short, this book is full of some great poems! It didn’t work well for me, but if you know a lot of literary women (or are willing to put in the time to do some research), I would definitely recommend this book.
Title: Final Girls Aunthor: Mira Grant Type: Fiction Genre: Sci-fi; Novella Length: 112 pages Published by: Subterranean Press Pub Date: April 30, 2017 Format: Digital Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
If you’re looking for a quick sci-fi read, I would keep an eye out for this book. It isn’t going to be my next favorite, but it was definitely a fun read!
The long version:
I won’t lie, I kind of judged this book by its cover. I’m usually more of a fantasy girl, but with a cover like that, this sci-fi drew me right in.
My summary: Esther Hoffman is a reporter who lost her father because phony regression therapy brought false charges against him and ruined his life. Because of this, she has made it her life’s work to find and debunk anything she deems “pseudo-science.” So, when she hears that Dr. Jennifer Webb has created a company that uses Virtual Reality to heal relationships, resolve emotional trauma, and even cure phobias by essentially placing patients in horror stories, Esther is skeptical to say the least. But at Dr. Webb’s request, she agrees to try this virtual reality therapy in the hopes that it will end up being just another scientific fraud she can disprove. Soon, the things in her reality, both virtual and real, take a turn for the worse, and she may be forced to depend on the very person whose work she came to discredit.
Despite the fact that this is such a short book, the pacing is almost perfect. Aside from the ending, which I feel went by a little too quickly, nothing in the story drags on or feels too rushed, whether we’re in the “real world” learning about the VR process or in the very heart of the simulation watching Esther’s “therapy” unfold.
The difference between the real world and the virtual world is one of my favorite aspects of the novella. The VR scenarios are told in a present tense, and the real world is told in the past tense, which makes the virtual world seem that much more vivid and intense and, at times, almost more real than the real world.
On top of that, while the characters are in the virtual reality, the language is quite poetic. The VR sections are full of lines like, “Massachusetts has trees, but they’re wrong, more like bushes with delusions of grandeur than the comfortable, towering eucalyptus trees of her homeland. These are trees that show their bones. She doesn’t trust them. She would be a fool to trust them.” Lines like these work to simultaneously remind the reader that the scenario isn’t real, while the near-musicality of the language also lulls them into a false sense of security even within that lie. Outside the VR, the language is very clinical, focusing more on science and explanations, which can be a little jarring, but that shock reflects what the characters themselves face, and enhances certain aspects of the story.
Unfortunately, not every aspect of the story worked as well for me; I found myself wanting more. The novella is very plot-driven, and it was the intensity of the plot that kept me reading until the end. But I had a hard time really feeling for the characters because I just didn’t have enough time or information to grow attached to them. Even the villain(s) didn’t seem so intimidating because they felt like faceless actions instead of people with schemes and agendas. As I mentioned, I also wanted a little bit more from the end; I felt that I didn’t really get to see the full impact of the experience on the characters and finished with a half-completed resolution. As someone who is such a huge sucker for great characters, this was the main reason I couldn’t give this novella the full 4 stars.
One other disclaimer I feel I should make: there are elements of horror in this novella. The scenes didn’t go super in-depth and didn’t bother me much, but I know there are people who are vehemently against any kind of blood or gore. If you are one of these people, this book is probably not for you.
That being said, this book was still a fun read, so much so that I stayed up waaaay past my bedtime (till 3:30 am, in fact) to finish it. Long story short, if you like sci-fi, I would recommend reading Final Girls.
Overall, I gave Final Girls 3 Stars:
Thanks for reading! If you plan on reading or have already read this book, let me know why and what you think in the comments below!
Title: Three Dark Crowns Author: Kendare Blake Type: Fiction Genre: YA; Fantasy Length: 398 pages Published by: Harper Teen Pub Date: Sept 20, 2016 Format: Hardcover Source: I bought this book for my own library from Barnes and Noble
As this awesome tagline suggests, Three Dark Crowns deals with some darker ideas and themes, which is why I knew I just had to read it. The basic rundown: Every queen gives birth to three daughters, each with a specific gift. Mirabella is an elemental, the most powerful of this set of triplets, able to summon fire, storms, earthquake, etc. at will. Katharine is a poisoner; she can consume poisons and be unharmed, and she’s also been trained to concoct some crazy painful (or merciful) deaths for others. Arsinoe is a naturalist, a person who can control animals and convince plants to bloom. EpicReads has created this great chart for each of the sisters.
As born queens, these three are destined for the crown… once they kill the other two sisters. When I first cracked open the cover, I was expecting a book full of dark secrets, political intrigue, and some good old fashioned battles to the death. And that’s what I got… sort of.
Let me start by saying this book is well-written; Kendare Blake is a master at structuring her novel. Despite the fact that each chapter tells the story of a different sister, they all flow together pretty seamlessly. At the end of each one, something would happen that made me feel like I had to keep reading.
I enjoyed reading Katharine’s sections; she’s all-around interesting, and I am dying to know in which direction her character will go in future books, and how her relationship with Pietyr will develop. The romance between Pietyr and Katharine seemed a little forced; I like the two as individual characters, but they fall in love after two or three chapters. I think Blake just needed to take some time developing the relationship. Because of some events that happen later in the novel, I think she had a major character shift at the end, and while I’ll still be super interested in her character in the next book, I’ll also be a little afraid of her, too.
Arsinoe’s sections were probably my favorite. I might be a little biased because I’m a bit of an outdoorsy girl myself, but her storyline seemed the most believable to me (and the naturalist powers are probably the ones I would choose for myself if I could). The actions she took because of her frustrations with her gift lined up with her character and the setting, and her friendship with Jules was the most natural, believable, and well-developed friendship in the story.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my appreciation of the characters ends. To me, Mirabella just seemed a little flat. The only thing that interest me about her was that she still had memories about her early life an her sisters. Because she’s the most powerful sister, there weren’t really a lot of conflicts for her to overcome, and instead just caused a lot of unnecessary problems. Although I did enjoy her friendship with Elizabeth, it seemed like all of her friendships needed to be more fleshed out.
To be honest, all the relationships, with maybe the exception of Arsinoe and Jules, need some work. (**SPOILERS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN! SEVERAL SPOILERS**) For example, the whole thing with Joseph and Mirabella. It just turned me off to both of their characters, and just didn’t fit in with the story. I get that you can try to blame it on Arsinoe’s magic use, but it still just seemed really forced to me. And the friendship between Mirabella and Elizabeth also didn’t make a whole lot of sense. During their first or second meeting, the priestess reveals some information that could get her kicked out of the temple, then offers to help Mirabella escape, loses her hand for it, and then still puts herself at risk for the queen. A friendship like that needed WAY more development than it was given, and just puled me out of the story a bit.
*These are kind of spoilers, but they’re super non-specific* Overall, I think my biggest issue with the book stems from the fact that there isn’t really a villain. Kendare Blake talks about her decisions about villains and characters a little in this interview, but honestly, I don’t think it paid off. I was expecting this big showdown between the queens, but they don’t even meet in any meaningful way until about the last third of the book.Because of this, a lot of the Game of Thrones-like espionage I was hoping for was mostly turned into boy drama for the sake of creating movement in the story. For me, this made the story move so slowly until group finally meets up for the festival that prepares the queens for their fight to the death.
Despite the fact that the story moves pretty slowly up until the end, the last third of the book was AMAZING! I’m pretty sure I flew through it in about an hour because I couldn’t put it down. (***SPOILERS, QUESTIONS, AND SPECULATION AHEAD***) I can’t wait to see how the queens and the Council deal with Arsinoe and Katharine being placed with the wrong families; there’s some great espionage opportunities there. And what Katharine is going to do to Pietyr; I’m ready for that girl to show her bad-assery. Maybe Pietyr knew Arsinoe was the poisoner and tried to help her by pushing Katharine off the cliff? But two of my biggest questions are 1) What is this religion; what do they believe? Because there was a lot of killing/sacrificing/maiming going on for your typical priestesses. What is it that they believe that justifies all this? 2) It’s mentioned several times that the mainland is forgetting about the island. Is the island self-sufficient enough to handle this? How do people forget about an entire island? What are they going to do when they don’t have king-consorts because the mainland has completely forgotten?
Three Dark Crowns kind of read like a prequel, and while a lot of it was uninteresting at first, I am SOOO ready to see where the story goes now that the queens are going all out; I will definitely be preordering the next book. There’s a small part of me that hope Mira will somehow use her memories to convince the other two not to hurt each other, because I’ve grown rather attached to them and don’t know who to root for, but at the same time, I am ready to see each of the gifts used to their fullest potential. Let me know who you are rooting for in the comments!