Review: Master and Apprentice (Star Wars) by Claudia Gray

Master and Apprentice (Star Wars)Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In anticipation of Star Wars: The High Republic releasing the first books this Fall, I have been in such a mood to just devour all of the current canon content I can.

I will tell you that reading Master and Apprentice hot on the heels of Dooku: Jedi Lost was so satisfying!!!

This novel follows Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The events of this book fall after the audiobook, Dooku: Jedi Lost, and prior to the film, The Phantom Menace.

Obi-Wan is Qui-Gon’s first Apprentice. Their relationship is examined closely, both Qui-Gon’s fears of failing his Padawan, and Obi-Wan’s frustrations with his Master who often seems unavailable.

After a secret is revealed, their relationship becomes more fractured and it seems, it may actually be coming to an end.

When Rael Averross contacts his old friend, Qui-Gon, to ask for his assistance with a political issue, Master and Apprentice travel together to the royal court of Pijal to see if they can help.

This may be their last mission together, so both men are silently dealing with a lot of emotions.

Even though Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan view their duties to the Jedi Council differently, each is at their heart battling for what they think is right.

There was quite a bit of political maneuverings in this one, as we see a bit more into how the Jedi Council interacts with the various planets, and governments, within the galaxy.

Prophecies were also revealed on multiple occasions. In short, there was a lot going on! Really great content as far as filling in the backstory of, and providing foundation for, the events in The Phantom Menace.

I could probably read this multiple times and still not pick up on everything.

That’s one great thing about the Star Wars Canon. It’s so vast. You can read, watch, review things over and over and over and the story just keeps on growing and expanding.

It’s like a gift that keeps on giving. Overall, super glad I read this. I think Claudia Gray is such a great author for these stories. You can feel her passion for the whole universe coming off the page.

Really well done. I am pumped to continue on with my 2020 Star Wars binge.

As a side note, also a really great time to have a Disney+ subscription.

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Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

HorrorstörHorrorstör by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I was so excited when my friend, Shannon, and I made a spur of the moment decision to buddy read Horrorstor!!!

I have owned a copy of this book since it was first released and have heard such great things. I would often stop, pick it up, flip through the pages and considering reading it, but for some reason never did.

I’m not sure why. The whole package of the book is unique and fun. Made to resemble an IKEA catalogue, each chapter begins with a picture of a specific furniture piece and its description.

It’s a really special book in regards to that creativity and for that reason alone, I would recommend people give it a shot to see what it’s all about.

Moving on from the engaging format, I was so pleased with the actual story!

Amy has been working at Orsk for a while, but she seems to be stuck in a rut. It’s so monotonous and honestly, it’s sucking the life out of her.

Additionally, her manager, Basil, is always after her. What’s his problem anyway? He’s such a stiff. She just needs him to let her do her thing, her way.

When mysterious things begin happening around the store, including damage to some of the product, the staff has reason to suspect someone is getting in after hours.

Basil approaches Amy and another employee, Ruth Ann, and asks them to work a dusk-til-dawn shift with him to hopefully catch the vandal.

Important people from corporate are arriving in the morning and he wants to have a handle on the issue prior to their arrival.

The two women agree and return to the store at the designated hour. Their plan, to patrol the showroom floor every hour to see if they can find anything.

On their first walk through the eerie, fun house scary showroom, with designated areas per room type, Amy and Ruth Ann stumble upon an unexpected surprise in Bedrooms.

Two fellow employees, Trinity and Matt, have snuck into the store to shoot footage for their prospective ghost hunting show.

They know of the mysterious happenings at Orsk and think supernatural forces may be at work!

The rest of the narrative follows these five employees, locked in the deserted super store for the night, as they discover the true root of the problem. And it is a serious problem.

I loved the set up for this. The brain-draining retail set-up was spectacular. I know they are not all that way, I have worked in multiple retail locations myself, but some are. The corporate speak and repetitive nature of some of the tasks, it rang real true.

I thought all of the characters were so well done. Even though they seem one dimensional to start, over the course of their time together, you learn much more about each of them. I personally began to feel quite attached.

The humor was also spot on for me. The satirical nature of the entire story, plus the witty banter between the characters, made this an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Added on to all of the great things mentioned above, the horror elements were a ton of fun. There were some yucky moments, cringe-worthy moments and creepy moments. It really offered a lot. I felt like the conclusion was a little rushed, but other than that one small thing, fantastic!

This is definitely Horror Comedy though, so if that is not your jam, you may want to steer clear.

This was my first Hendrix book and it seems like a solid place to start. I am glad to have buddy read this because it was fun to have someone to discuss it with while actually reading. I think it added to the overall experience.

I certainly will be picking up more books by Grady Hendrix in the future!

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Review: The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

The New HusbandThe New Husband by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Close to two years after her husband, Glen, goes missing, Nina Garrity is doing her best to put her life back together. She feels betrayed that he would just ditch her and their two children, Connor and Maggie.

In spite of this, when Simon Fitch walks into her life, she is charmed by him and suddenly ready to try love again.

Not everyone is pleased with this development. Particularly, her daughter, Maggie, whose precocious perspective we get throughout the novel, alternating with Nina’s.

Maggie’s perspective was definitely my favorite to read from. Sure, she’s sassy, but she’s thirteen and wise beyond her years. I found her to be an astute judge of character and considering the circumstances, I cherished her defiance.

When Nina and Simon buy a house together, the living environment becomes quite tense. Connor, Maggie’s older brother, really likes Simon. He believes his Father is dead and he is looking to move on, just as Nina is.

However, Maggie believes her Father is still out there and doesn’t understand why her Mother would just give up on him. Allowing Simon into their family seems like a hasty decision, as far as she is concerned, not to mention the fact that the guy is a complete creep. As a result, she’s fairly combative.

As a reader, it doesn’t take long before you begin to notice that Maggie is on to something. Simon’s behavior is definitely far from normal.

He’s clearly manipulating Nina, gaslighting her and distancing her from her friends, but why? Not only are his behaviors bizarre, they’re also dangerous. You start to fear for everyone in that house.

Full of twists, I mean, absolutely full of twists, I really had a fun time with this book. I loved the perspective shifts and seeing the story be pieced together that way was so intense.

I’ll agree with some earlier reviewers that it was a bit far-fetched as far as some of the plot twists went, but who cares? It was a wild ride and a great way to escape from life for a while. That’s always what I am looking for in a book. I want to get swept up in it, and this definitely provided that.

While it wasn’t perfect for me, it was pretty darn close. I find Palmer’s writing to be super compelling. He absolutely knows how to pull you in.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it and look forward to reading more from this author!

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Review: Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost

Elysium GirlsElysium Girls by Kate Pentecost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Ten years ago, the Goddesses of Life and Death decided to play a little game. Their game board, a settlement town called Elysium, set amidst a stark desert landscape.

The inhabitants, the game pieces, scurrying around like the ants in A Bug’s Life, trying to gather up enough sacrificial materials to please the Goddesses once the ten years are up.

Within the settlement, an elder witch, Mother Morvena, seeks her replacement. She is nearing the end of her life, and as the settlement’s unofficial leader, someone needs to take over her duties.

Sal Wilkerson has never quite fit in. She’s different than the other girls and has few friends. She lost her mother to the Dust Sickness and has found it hard trying to make it on her own.

She knows she is meant to be a leader, but getting others to see her as such will be a battle. Her recurring false visions of rain aren’t helping matters.

But when Mother Morvena selects Sal as her successor, things change. Sal begins to see how she can truly contribute and discovers her powers as a witch.

Her new found celebrity is dimmed, however, when a new man arrives in town.

A magician named, Asa, who happens to be a Daemon in disguise! All the townsfolk are completely enamored with him and constantly after him to perform tricks.

When a magical duel between Sal and Asa goes horribly wrong, the entire fate of the game has been ruined. Blamed for the catastrophic result, they face excommunication and Asa disappears.

Now alone, Sal is tossed outside the border wall and forced to survive in the desert, where cannibals are said to lurk.

When all hope seems to be lost, Sal finds her salvation. A badass group of girls, the leader of which was also kicked out of Elysium for bad behavior.

The group takes Sal in, along with Asa, who just couldn’t keep away from those darn humans. They form a beloved found family that was an absolute delight to read.

Together they plan to get back in the game and save all of Elysium from the clutches of Death.

Y’all this book was so much fun to read. Super unique and absolutely full of action. I loved the setting, a sort of magical Deadwood meets Mad Max: Fury Road, and if that isn’t reason enough to pick it up, I’m not sure what is.

I loved both Sal and Asa, as well as many of the side characters. They were full of grit and fun to follow. I really started rooting for this girl gang.

They were smart, tough and never afraid of a fight. The giant mechanical horse on the cover is in the story as well, so there’s that!

The whole way through I was so into it. Thinking all along, this is a 5-star read, but then, the last 20% sort of lost me.

I found it confusing, it was going so fast and there were multiple twists thrown in right at the end. I still don’t really understand the conclusion. I guess if I would have had more information on the world outside of Elysium, it may have solved some of the uncertainties.

With this being said, this is still a highly enjoyable read. One that I can treasure for its magical narrative and captivating setting.

I would urge anyone who finds the synopsis interesting to pick it up. I do not think you will be disappointed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I had so much fun with it and look forward to seeing what Kate Pentecost dreams up next!

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Review: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished BirdsThe Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

This book went so far over my head, it’s in the thermosphere.

Let’s chat about it, shall we?

This is a GREAT book. The quality of the writing is delicious. Absolutely gorgeous storytelling, however, I have to rate the book based on my reading experience.

For me this was a good, to very good, reading experience. If I had the mental capacity to understand it more, I am sure my rating would have been higher.

I think what it boils down to is that this just isn’t my type of book. I am fast reader. Additionally, I am a polygamous reader. I read multiple books at the same time, quite quickly.

As annoying as this character trait is, it is the only way for me to do it. I have tried to take my time, or just read one book at a time, and it puts me into a reading slump.

Therefore, deep books steeped with a lot of philosophical meaning tend to be wasted on my brain.

I just don’t take the time to really sit back and assess the messages that the author is trying to convey. If wish I could. I envy those of you who are able to do that.

The Vanished Birds is a lyrical science fiction story of various relationships connected across space an time.

I think a lot of readers will be able to get so much out of this. Even I can tell that the quality of this story is far above average.

As a character piece, I think this holds a lot of value, and I’m not afraid to admit that it is beyond my comprehension.

I want to encourage everyone to read this synopsis and if it sounds intriguing to you, please pick it up. The synopsis is true to what is in the book, so I think it will draw in the appropriate readers.

With intelligent, subtle narrative, futuristic concepts and beautiful writing, for many scifi readers, I anticipate this being a 4-or 5-stars! Maybe that will be you!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate it so much and look forward to seeing other reviews for this one!

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Review: Conceal, Don’t Feel (Twisted Tales #6) by Jen Calonita

Conceal, Don't Feel (Twisted Tale)Conceal, Don’t Feel by Jen Calonita
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Meg’s ratings for The Twisted Tale series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
5. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
6. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

I was greatly anticipating the release of Conceal, Don’t Feel, the Frozen retelling of my dreams!

I love the story of Anna and Elsa. There’s so much about being true to yourself and being who you are no matter what others think.

The loads and loads of humor and fantastic side characters is another strong selling point for this story.

In this installment of Disney’s Twisted Tale series, we are proposed the twist of Anna and Elsa never knowing one another.

In this version, after Elsa’s magic harms Anna, their parents give Anna away to a family in the village to raise her. The girl’s memories are wiped and they grow up with no knowledge that they even have a sister.

It started out a little slow for me, but did pick up towards the middle and the conclusion was lovely.

Although slightly underwhelming, most likely because I had hyped it up so much for myself, this is still a good book. It was fun to spend some time with all of these dynamic characters again.

After this though, I am very happy the girls grew up the way they did in the movie and not some other version. That was sad enough!

Am I right?!

If you enjoyed the movie version of Frozen, you should definitely give this one a shot! Let Anna, Elsa, Olaf and all the rest, take your mind off the world for a while.

You won’t regret it!

I love the whole concept behind this series. I am always checking to see what tale Disney is going to twist next!

I am looking forward to continuing on with the rest of the books!

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Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

You Are Not AloneYou Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shay Miller is a 30-something data researcher living in New York City. Estranged from her family, with few friends, she spends a good portion of her time on her own.

Sharing an apartment with a cute guy she has an unrequited crush on seems to be the highlight of her existence. That is until he gets a new girlfriend, Jody, who is slowly pushing Shay out.

Shay knows her days in that apartment are numbered, so like her numerous temp jobs, even her living situation is unstable.

As her life seemingly drifts out of her control, Shay witnesses a horrific event on a subway platform that unknowingly sets her on a new course.

Witnessing a young woman’s suicide, Shay is understandably shaken. She feels like she could have done something to stop it.

Compelled to learn more about this tragic girl, she discovers her identity, Amanda Evinger, and ends up attending her memorial service.

Once there, surrounded by Amanda’s friends and loved ones, Shay tries to blend in as well as she can. She makes up a loose acquaintance to Amanda for her cover story.

Everyone is so nice to her, including the glamorous Moore sisters, Cassandra and Jane. Despite herself, Shay gets caught up in the warmth of the service and begins to let her guard down.

After the Moore sisters come into her orbit, things begin to fall into place for Shay. She suddenly finds herself with an alternative living arrangement, a better job, and a potential love life.

When things seem too good too be true, however, they often are.

What happens next is a wild ride through the streets of New York as Shay slowly pieces together the truth of the Moore sisters.

Who is friend? Who is foe? If you don’t read this book, you’ll never know!

Much like previous works by Hendricks and Pekkanen, You Are Not Alone does a great job of building suspense throughout.

Alternating perspectives help to amp up your sense of dread as you rush towards the final conclusion. I was biting my nails, for sure!

It was definitely tense. I really enjoyed Shay and was feeling everything she was feeling.

This is a solid suspense story and it kept me entertained all the way through. At first, I had no clue what was happening and as it was revealed, I thought, how clever.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and will continue to read anything this dynamic duo writes!

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Review: The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray #2) by Christine Lynn Herman

The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray, #2)The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

With the events of The Devouring Gray behind them, and the Beast seemingly subdued, May, Justin, Harper, Violet and Isaac, are left to lick their wounds and repair their relationships.

Old anxieties remain and as the teens move forward, they find themselves continuing to seek solace in one another as the town at large feels hostile, especially for Justin.

Things are far from over, however, as a mysterious corruption beings to seep from the Gray, infecting those citizens it comes in contact with.

The Founder’s children seem to be immune, so again it is up to them to save the fate of Four Paths.

May seems especially tuned in to the changes around her as she continues working on her powers dealing with the Deck of Omens.

As her relationship with her mother, Augusta, remains hella strained, she reaches out to her estranged father for guidance.

Obviously her mother is less than pleased when he arrives, thus deepening the hole May is already in with her.

Speaking of people returning to town, Isaac’s older brother, Gabriel, makes a sudden appearance as well. Thus forcing the Sullivan boys to have it out once and for all.

As the Gray continues to destabilize and the corruption begins to get out of control, the town leaders have no choice. They must evacuate the town’s citizens for their own safety.

The Founding Families remain, preparing themselves for the ultimate showdown.

This second book of The Devouring Gray duology continues the themes of long buried secrets and heartbreaking deceptions.

The truth about the Gray and its early beginnings are revealed and it flips everything you thought you knew on its head.

You may think the most dangerous thing in Four Paths is the Beast, or the Gray, but you’re wrong!

Guys, I enjoyed this story so, so much! Once I started, I absolutely could not put it down.

While with the first book, I felt that a lot of the plot got bogged down in the details, I didn’t feel that at all with this one.

The town of Four Paths has a complex history and there is a lot to learn in regards to the Founding families, their powers, the Gray and the Beast.

I think, for me, I let myself get too caught up with all the details in the first book and it ended up losing some of its fun.

With The Deck of Omens I went in with that foundation and was just able to relax into the story.

I loved the relationships and how they grew and changed as the teens gained more knowledge about their own family histories. At this point, I am so attached to these characters, I can’t believe it is over.

I am so satisfied with the conclusion. If it has to end, I am happy with this result.

The ultimate showdown was pure nail-biting fun, which is another strong selling point, it was fast-paced the WHOLE way through! There was never a lull in the action.

I am beyond happy that I continued on with this duology and send a very hearty thank you to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing with a copy to read and review.

It’s so far one of my favorite reads of the year! Well done, Christine Lynn Herman!

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Review: Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Diamond City (Diamond City, #1)Diamond City by Francesca Flores
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After being orphaned as a young girl, Aina Solis spent a portion of her life living alone on the streets.

It was a rough time for her, one filled with fear, hunger, drugs and no hope.

As she slid toward rock bottom, a guy named Kohl Patel swoops in and provides her with a way out.

Essentially a crime lord, Kohl trains Aina to be an assassin, a trade at which she exceeds all expectations. Overtime, she becomes known as one of his sharpest blades.

On the side, she sells illegal diamonds and harbors ambitions of one day opening her own trade house.

Although he doesn’t appear to know of her peddling diamonds behind his back, Kohl does support her ambitions for her future. He tells her he’ll support her moving on after she performs one more high profile kill for him.

When that kill doesn’t go as planned, she is shocked by Kohl’s reaction and now fears for her life.

Running out of time, Aina and her best friend Teo have one more opportunity to make things right or pay the ultimate price.

Diamond City definitely surprised me and exceeded MY expectations. Francesca Flores has created an interesting world here with some very likable characters.

I enjoyed Aina the most, who reminded me a lot of Celaena Sardothien, and the plot was fast-paced with high stakes.

If you like stories with street gangs, or crime lords, and corrupt politicians, you should definitely check this one out!

It also reminded me a lot of Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody. And like Ace of Shades, I was a little confused by the magic system and slightly disappointed it wasn’t built out more.

There is blood magic in this story, and magic involving the diamonds, but I am not clear on how that works. I am hoping that is something that could be built on in the continuation.

Fortunately, the action was compelling enough that I actually sort of forgot there was suppose to be magic at all.

I really enjoyed Flores examination of different relationships. I thought that aspect was really well done, particularly that of Aina and Kohl.

She definitely has feelings for him that go above the mentor/mentee level and when he turns on her, she feels betrayed. She struggles with having felt so strongly for him and then learning he wasn’t what she thought.

I think many of us can relate to being let down within a significant relationship like that, especially relationships with an age gap. I really felt for her while that whole dynamic played out.

I also was pleased with her growth as a character as she came to grips with that new reality. Even though she was heartbroken, she didn’t let it bring her down. She kept on fighting for a cause greater than herself.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Aina and Teo, her best friend. I always like to see a platonic male/female relationship and this one was strong.

Although Teo is pretty dreamy. How is she not swooning over him?

Leaving off in a great spot for the sequel, I am hoping for all sorts of revenge, as Aina moves forth with new enemies and new allies. I am really looking forward to continuing with this story!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate it so much and had a lot of fun with it.

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A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #1)A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this so much! My new favorite YA Mystery/Thriller of all time. This one will be tough to beat.

For her senior year Capstone Project, Pippa Fitz-Amboi, decides to solve a murder.

The murder in question, that of Andie Bell, happened five years ago. The police, and thus the whole town, say the crime was committed by Andie’s boyfriend, Sal Singh.

Their biggest piece of evidence, a texted confession to his parents, just prior to Sal’s apparent suicide.

In spite of this, Pippa does not believe Sal is guilty. Andie’s body was never recovered and there is no actual physical evidence against him.

Pippa is such a great character. She’s an overachiever who works tirelessly towards her goal.

You can tell, once she sets her sights on something, she does not give up and that’s exactly how she tackles this project.

I think one of the things that connected me so much to this story was Pippa. I found her super relatable and loved reading from her perspective.

She ends up befriending Sal’s younger brother, Ravi, and that additional commitment to him, and clearing Sal’s name, makes her even more steadfast in her project; even in the face of danger.

Additionally, the format of this was creative and engaging. Using mixed media sources, including the transcripts from Pippa’s multiple investigatory interviews, and a present day narrative, made me feel like I was a part of the investigation.

As Pippa is evaluating what she has learned along the way, she recaps things, as you actually would if you were working on this type of project; including a running list of current suspects and a murder board.

The stakes were high and there were times Pippa was very legitimately in danger. Through it all, she stayed true to herself and really fought to find justice for Andie and Sal.

I loved this so much, as I said. I could go on for many more paragraphs of all the positive attributes of this story, but don’t just take my word for it, PICK THIS UP!!!

If you love it even half as much as I did, you’re in for a good time!

Well done by Holly Jackson. I am so excited to get more mysteries from her!!!

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