Friday YA: Ruin of Stars (Mask of Shadows #2) by Linsey Miller

When Mask of Shadow ended Sal had won the elite position of Opal, one of the Queen’s assasins. This enabled them to legally bring down and kill those responsible for the demise of Sal’s own country. As Sal investigates, they reveal the truth behind the missing children and uncover a surprising betrayal.

What I liked: Just as in Mask of Shadows, I really enjoyed Sal, a gender fluid individual and his romance with Elise. The battle for their country almost seemed to be about not only equality but also for gender rights. There was one scene where Elise describes how another Elena helped her tell her father that she was attracted to both boys and girls and that her feelings were normal. Sal was offended because they don’t think they’re either boy or girl, and Elise was simplifying the issue. I think this is the first time I had read a POV quite like Sal’s and it was eye opening and interesting.

What I didn’t like: Everything else. I LOVED Mask of Shadows. It was new and fresh, the competition to become Opal kept the story moving forward and the action was exciting. Ruin of Stars is an intrigue filled gloom fest. Too much political machinations and not enough character building emotion. Sal felt really flat! Sal’s PTSD from the childhood horror of losing their family came off as depression, lacked emotional depth, and bogged down the story. There were very few highs for Sal and a ton of lows. I don’t know, this one was really difficult for me to get through and I so wanted to love it!

I know there were a LOT of people who did love Mask of Shadows as much as I did. I gave it a five rating! Unfortunately, I can’t do the same with this sequel. I can only give it a three rating and I may be a little generous with that number. ❤️❤️❤️

Did you read this book? Did you like it? Please let me know because I’m feeling really let down.

I was given an ARC of this book through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest.

Ruin of Stars

Click this link to purchase!*Ruin of Stars (Mask of Shadows)

Copyright 2018 Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

*Amazon Associate

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This Chicks Sunday Commentary: The Thing About Fantasy Novels…

If you are a follower of my blog you know that I have a love for Fantasy novels. Especially if they have a hint of romance, but definitely if the book has some great world building that I can escape away from the realities of my regular world. Hmmm, interesting statement, right? Fantasy novels actually do a great job speaking to hot topics, but when it’s set in a new land, or deals with a magical race does that make it easier to accept the real message? I want to delve into a few examples of how Fantasy authors use their genre to voice an opinion and maybe in small part use their genre to shield them from criticism for tackling difficult topics.

  1.  Love: Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters novels do a great job introducing the subject of all types of romances. The most famous of which is the taboo of love between a brother and sister. Aren’t we glad that turned out ok? Let’s think about how we all reacted to that news. I was seriously distressed, kind of grossed out, and very uncomfortable, as I’m sure most of her readers were. When I look back on the sequence of events in City of Ashes, I realize that not only was that plot point a red herring moment but it happened as Alec was fighting his jealousy and romantic feelings for Jace. It introduced the subject of two men having romantic feelings for each other as safe, rather like Vanilla as a flavor of ice cream. Although to most of us a homosexual romance is quite normal, I’m sure there were some YA readers that may have needed that comparison. I LOVE her Dark Artifices novels the best. The emotional drama between men/men, women/men, trans/men and women/women (did I forget any?) kept my mind occupied and my heart racing. Great books!
  2. Bigotry: Fantasy novels often have multi race universes, however those races aren’t always differentiated by color. They may be humanoid, magical, beast-like, etc. Their relationships within their world are remarkably like ours. Cultures go to war with each other, they look down on each other and they denigrate each other. Our hero or heroine is usually fighting for equality, overcoming a dictator type king, or dealing with the bigotry of a multi-race romance. One of my favorite romantic fantasy novels is by Grace Draven. Radiance is about two species who inhabit the same world and are in neighboring kingdoms. One race, the Gaur is humanoid, awake during the day and sleeps at night, fair skin, etc. The other race, the Kai, is dark, has long pointy teeth, is awake at night and sleeps during the day. Our princess and prince of these two kingdoms must intermarry in order to retain peace between their countries. Brishen, our Kai prince finds Idilko, our Gaur princess, truly ugly, even though in her land she is gorgeous and refined. Idilko also find’s Brishen horrifyingly ugly, and those teeth oh so scary. When they marry Idilko has to move to Kai where she will be the only humanoid person among the Kai race. Of course, eventually they realize that they are both beautiful on the inside and actually find love for each other, but they have to deal with their blooming feelings for each other while also hearing others speak horribly about the person they are falling in love with. It is a really well told bi-racial love story, yet they are in essence two alien races. Brilliant. Small sidenote- I was disappointed that he didn’t have the big teeth in the cover though…Radiance
  3. Gender Equality: In Young Adult Fantasy novels there is a huge empowerment movement. Teenage girls have the power to save their world. I think having these role models for young girls and women are a wonderful thing. It is also wonderful that authors are introducing young people (and adults) to gender neutral characters. I read one novel last year that stood out for me because it was the first in this genre that I could recall reading that had a gender neutral main character. The book was Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. Sal was a thief who wanted to leave that life behind to become a member of the Left Hand. The assasin team of the queen. Sal entered a contest to gain that spot with other characters and they’d all try to kill each other. The last one standing would become a member of the Left Hand. This novel had it all, exciting action, a love story and betrayal – and our hero was gender neutral. Each candidate had a number so Sal was addressed by number which made things easier, but the other characters were curious. Was Sal a boy or girl? How would they like to be addressed? All of these questions were the same that I as a reader was asking. What mattered was that Sal had honor even though they were a thief, developed all types of relationships regardless of Sal’s gender identity and that the story held up. This was one of my top 10 picks for 2017 and if you haven’t read it? You should.Mask of Shadows

These are only a few of the subjects that Fantasy authors have voiced their opinions or come up with their own solution. It is not always done in the correct manner or in ways that are acceptable to the average reader. Most notably Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark took a lot of criticism for portraying racism. Her world was a little too close to ours for some people and their lighter skin, darker skin comparisons may be too obvious. I did read this novel without reading any reviews and was pretty obliviousto those nuances, taking things at face value. Looking back, I can see it. I haven’t read the second novel but I’m going to take a guess that she takes care of some of these criticisms in the plot. I hope so anyway. I also hope it’s a better book. I didn’t love it.

If you are a fan of Fantasy, can you think of another novel you’ve read where a difficult real world topic is handled in a graceful way? Or another book where the topic may have been mishandled?

Have you read one of the above books? What did you think?

Until next Sunday!

Deb

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: My Top 10 Reviewed Young Adult Novels of 2017

As I sifted through my reviews from 2017 for last Sunday’s Commentary of my Top 5 Reviewed Novels of 2017 in the Adult fiction category I realized that I had read a large number of great Young Adult novels too. Because it would’ve turned my list into a Top 25 instead of a Top 5 I decided to create a separate list for Young Adult novels. I will admit that even though I read quickly I know there are several HUGE titles that I didn’t read last year like The Hate You Give, which were highly reviewed. I am only one person and still have a huge list of books I’d like to read and it keeps getting longer!  I do have it sitting on my shelf, as well as many others… I read and reviewed these books in 2017 regardless of the publishing date.

If you’d like to read my entire review of each book, please click the link of the title.

When by Victoria Laurie

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“There were many things I loved about this book. I loved how the author put everyone’s death date next to their name when they were introduced into the storyline. I loved her best friend Stubby (although hated his nickname), and his eternal optimism, even through some pretty horrible circumstances. I loved that Maddie, even against all odds-bullied, picked on and beat up, NEVER stopped going to school. I loved that the people who didn’t believe in her ended up caring for her…”

Warcross by Marie Lu

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“I do not play video games and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get into this book because of that but I shouldn’t have worried. The world Marie Lu created was vivid, had amazing energy, and painted a 3-D picture for me to visualize and engage with. The games themselves were exciting, the action well written and Emika’s thought process as she deconstructed play exciting. I loved the game!”

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

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“This was a great YA fantasy novel. The plot was original and the characters fascinating. All of the men and women who were auditioning as the next Opal wore masks and were given numbers as names creating gender ambiguity. So, even though they were men and women, they became five, four, and in Sal’s case, twenty-three…I liked this unique aspect of the story and started paying more attention to the plot based on the person. Not the sex of them.”

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

After reading Strange the Dreamer I was curious about this older series of Laini Taylor’s and boy was this first novel great!

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“I loved the mythology of this world, the city of Prague is magical in nature and was the perfect setting, and I fell immediately in love with Karou. Her story was pure fantasy and her love for Akiva overflowed. Their’s is a story I will read to the end.”

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

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“This was a beautiful book to read and very easy to go all in emotionally. Who doesn’t want to root for a girl to be honored for her intellect, find true love and fight the bad guys? Right on!”

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

“This book deserved all of the accolades and great reviews. At times the subject matter was horrifying and difficult to read, but there were a lot of great stories about everyday heroes too, and for me that made it a really well balanced book. If you like historical fiction, this is definitely worth your time.”

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J Maas

A Court of Wings Ruins

“It was hard to not read all of the reviews of this book before actually reading it myself. They were everywhere! All of my fellow bloggers gushed and sighed, exclaiming over Feyre and Rhys’s love story. Oh those Tamlin fans quickly became Tamlin haters, much preferring Feyre and Rhys. I don’t disagree, Tamlin has some serious control and anger issues, but I was happy to see that in A Court of Wings and Ruin, he was able to redeem himself, if only slightly. Rhys as Prince Charming is almost too good to be true, but the fairy tale prince continues his reign and can do no wrong in this book.”

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae

“I first listened to the audio book of Illuminae, and I have to say it was one of the best audio books I’ve ever heard. It was produced like a movie with different actors for all of the characters, mood music, sound effects, everything!  It was awesome!… Then I picked up the book. Illuminae takes reading a novel to the next level. It is part book, part graphic novel, and all fun! The story of Kady Grant and Ezra Mason is told through a series of emails, military diaries, memos and narrated videos. Don’t miss out on this one!”

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte

“This book stayed true to the original Holmes and Watson formula. Two people who couldn’t be more different and become great friends, trusting each other over every other person in their lives. This series looks to do the same thing, but with a possible romantic twist. It was incredibly entertaining and at times laugh out loud funny, but at the same time made my heart twang with emotion. This novel hit all of my hot buttons and I loved it.”

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also

“Yes this book was sweet, thoughtful, funny and full of the innocence of young love, but there was a lot of weight to this book too. As an adult, I loved the hope and joy this book made me feel because at times I feel jaded and skeptical, but it also made me appreciate where I am in my own life and happy I am past the struggles of youth although I do still like reading about them.”

I didn’t put numbers next to these books because as I read them I thought, “This is the Best one Yet!” How can you rank each moment next to another?

Have you read any of these novels? Which one was your favorite? Did I miss a great one (Besides the Hate you Give!) that I need to put on my TBR? Let me know!

I’m looking forward to many more fabulous books in 2018!

Keep Reading, Happy New Year!

Deb

This Chick Read: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Sal is a street thief who runs in a gang. One night he robs a lady and finds a pamphlet in her bag. The Queen is holding auditions for Opal, one of an elite group of assasins, all named after gemstones. The previous Opal had recently died, and these auditions were being held on the palace grounds, to the death. Sal, having never killed anyone before but wanting revenge on the people who caused genocide on on their country, thought this a chance that was too good to pass up. Sal kills the gang leader and takes his hand to the auditions as proof of intent to be the next Opal.

This was a great YA fantasy novel. The plot was original and the characters fascinating. All of the men and women who were auditioning as the next Opal wore masks and were given numbers as names creating gender ambiguity. So, even though they were men and women, they became five, four, and in Sal’s case, twenty-three. Sal was also not gender specific. If Sal wore women’s clothes she was to be addressed with the pronouns she/her, etc. Dressed as a man, Sal was addressed as he/him. Sal’s sex was also kept from the reader, so you were developing feelings for this character not caring if it was a boy or girl, if the relationships and feelings they were portraying were the same as your own. I liked this unique aspect of the story and started paying more attention to the plot based on the person. Not the sex of them.

This book also had a lot of action scenes, including knife and sword fights, that were very well written. The contestants were auditioning with their lives at stake, so their feelings were extreme, amd the outcome could be gruesome, but that only added emphasis to the terrific dialog and plot. I really enjoyed this novel and can’t wait to see how Sal will enact their plans in the next novel. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for my honest opinion.


Click link to purchase! Mask of Shadows

Copyright Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

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