Thursday, September 14, 2017

Another Round of Mini-Reviews

Once again, I'm behind on my ARCs. I know, I know. I'm working on it. So it's time for another mini-review post! All of these books have been published in the past few weeks, so you can go out and buy copies right now if you're so inclined!

I received all of these books on NetGalley from their respective publishers in exchange for honest reviews.

MASK OF SHADOWS by Linsey Miller
Sourcebooks Fire; August 29, 2017
384 pages

I'll admit that I put this off a bit because I'd seen a few negative reviews out a few months in advance. But I really had nothing to worry about! I was hooked by the end of the first chapter, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Sal and hearing about all of their escapades. And it was so nice to be in a world where the majority of characters just accepted Sal's changing pronouns and their gender with no questions asked except "how can I make you feel more comfortable?" I'd definitely like to see more of that explored in fantasy worlds, because if we can have dragons and fairies, we can certainly have a bit of diversity. Back to this book specifically, though - I loved the idea of an assassin competition, and while I understand why so many people drew parallels between it and THE HUNGER GAMES, I think the vastly different setting really set it apart for me. And the romance was wonderful. It really showed that you can have instant chemistry between two characters without falling into the trap of instalove.
Goodreads summary:
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.

Blink; September 5, 2017
304 pages
This was a really nice contemporary. The thing that made it stick out to me was something you'll know if you've read the summary: the main character has epilepsy. This was the first book I'd read about an epileptic character, and it's still the only one about an epileptic main character. I'm not epileptic myself, so I can't speak to the quality of the representation - if anyone knows of a person with epilepsy who's reviewed the book, please let me know so I can link to their review here - but I thought that seeing that kind of thing in an otherwise typical contemporary novel was very important because it adds a whole new set of obstacles that the disabled community can identify with and that is eye-opening for the abled community. My favorite part of the book was also tied into the disability aspect: the service dog. Just so adorable! And the fact that he was a service dog instead of just a pet meant that he was around a whole lot more, so I got a lot more attached.
Goodreads summary:
Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

WELCOME HOME ed. by Eric Smith
Flux; September 5, 2017
352 pages

Like all anthologies, this one was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some stories I loved, some I really didn't care for, and some I didn't have any strong feelings about one way or the other. The one thing that I thought all of them had in common (besides the overall adoption theme of the anthology) was that they were really short. In so many cases, I didn't think they were fully developed, or I found myself wondering if I could have liked them more if they'd been expanded for a few more pages. I think I would have enjoyed reading this more if I had read a story or maybe two at a time in between reading other novels. That way, they're more spaced out and I don't keep as many plotlines in my head at once.
Goodreads summary:
Welcome Home collects a number of adoption-themed fictional short stories, and brings them together in one anthology from a diverse range of celebrated Young Adult authors. The all-star roster includes Edgar-award winner Mindy McGinnis, New York Times bestselling authors C.J. Redwine (The Shadow Queen) and William Ritter (Jackaby), and acclaimed YA authors across all genres, like Adi Alsaid, Lauren Gibaldi, Sangu Mandanna, Karen Akins, and many more. 

ODD & TRUE by Cat Winters
Amulet Books; September 12, 2017
368 pages

Once again, Cat Winters doesn't disappoint! I was so excited to get this ARC because I'm a huge fan of Cat Winters, and I'm really mad at myself for not getting to this earlier. But I got to it now, and it was really, really good! Od and Tru's relationship was very interesting, and the fact that we got to see things from both sisters' perspectives was a nice surprise. I love having alternating past and present chapters, and I thought that that added a lot to the story. I also really liked the disability and chronic pain representation - as someone who occasionally walks with a cane, though not for the same reason as Tru, there were a few parts I thought it should have been brought up and wasn't, but overall it was done very well and I'm so thrilled to have a character like that. And not only that, but a character who's seen with her cane on the cover of the book! (I'll admit that I thought it was another weapon at first, but I think I just wasn't looking closely enough.) And that ending! Major spoilers, so I won't say anything, but it was perfect.

Goodreads summary:
Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

What are some of your favorite books that you've read recently? Are any of these on your TBR? Any of these that hadn't been on your radar before? Tell me in the comments!