The Masked Truth Review

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for. Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal. The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues”. But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage. The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree. Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next–but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

This book is basically a suspense movie in written format which means you have to suspend a lot of disbelief. If you can, it’s a great ride. The action starts slow, but as the book progresses, so does the body count. Riley and Max are the most developed characters of the story. Riley is traumatized by experiencing the murder and Max has his own demons to fight, which the reader earns about before any of the characters do.

It takes a while before the true motivation for the killing spree is revealed, but it’s a doozy. The identities of the masked men is also another twist. I admit that I skipped ahead because I had to know who the bad guys were. There isn’t much depth to the plot, but the action was so good that it didn’t matter. This was a really good suspense book. I kept wondering who was going to get killed next and how. The secret Max keeps adds a depth to what would otherwise be a slight novel. His and Riley’s mental status are big part of how they handle the situation and what they do to survive.

Rating: 3.5/5

Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Review

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” Th is book is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up. Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better.

Here are the quotes that stood out for me:

**There is little that is unique special about your problems. Don’t be special. Don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.

If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really you versus yourself.

The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.

Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Being wrong opens up to the possibility for growth.

**Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things.

**Popularity is a bad value. The value/metric isn’t based on reality: you may feel popular/unpopular, when in fact you have no fucking clue what anybody else thinks about you. (Side note: As a rule, people who are terrified of what others think of them are actually terrified of all the shitty things they think about themselves being reflected back at them.)

I starred the three that really hit me. I mean REALLY hit me. I spoke about them in therapy. I am still processing what I got out of that session. The last chapter of the book about death was a bit too mundane and anxiety inducing for me, but I truly enjoyed the rest. Even though there was some repetition, I didn’t care. Manson writes in a style that made me laugh and then think all in a span of a paragraph. What he says isn’t groundbreaking or new, but how he says it made the difference for me. I paused so many times as I read this book to reflect on what I just read. I don’t know if I will ever perfect not giving a f*ck, but this book helped me start down a path that I haven’t travelled before and that’s exciting.

Rating: 4.5/5

Undefeated Review

Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American
Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League grad

Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called “the team that invented football,” they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work.

I am a huge fan of Steve Sheinkin and he did not disappoint with this book. He writes non-fiction in a way that’s interesting and captivating. He writes the story almost like a novel. I admit, there have been times I’ve forgotten I’m reading about actual people.

There are a few stories in this book: a short one about Pop Warner himself, one about the Carlisle Indian School, and the one about Jim Thorpe. I had heard of the Carlisle Indian School, but I admit to not knowing very much about it. It was supposed to be a way to give Native American children some sort of skill training so they could find work. While it did train the students there, it also have a very negative impact on them all. All students were forced to wear the same uniform and have their haircut, which for some, was an important part of their Native American identities. Lastly, they were forbidden to speak their Native language while at school.

Most of the story centered on the football team. Football had just been invented when the team began to play and reading about how the game used to be played was eye-opening. At one point, players were allowed to punch each other in the face! The team itself is the epitome of inspiration. A movie could (and should) be made about their rise. They began with a horrible record, but ended up beating some of the most elite college football teams around.

I also learned a lot about Jim Thorpe. I knew about his Olympic victory, but little else. Sheinkin shines a light on his background, personality, and life beautifully. I had admired Jim Thorpe before reading this, but I admire him even more after. He was an interesting figure: determined, athletic, quiet, fierce. There are so many adjectives that can be ascribed to him.

Rating: 4.5/5

Rosemary and Rue Review

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas. The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.

This book sounded like a great read-alike Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. October Daye had it all, a high position in the faerie court, a family, and then lost it for fourteen years while under a spell. She has cut off all her ties to faerie and works the night-shift at a grocery store. She is sucked back in when a good friend dies and places a curse on her to solve her murder. What happens next should be a great mystery/fantasy, but it doesn’t quite do it for me. I liked the book, it was an easy and quick read. I didn’t love the book. October is suffering from her lost time and the portrayal of her anger and despair over that are what kept me reading the story.

It bothered me that she cut ties with everyone, even people she called friends. She learns a lot of what she missed out on during the course of the novel and regrets not keeping up with the people she cared about. She never really gives any explanation for why she shunned the community; but that didn’t bother me as much. October has to talk to a lot of people in the course of her investigation seemed more of a way for the author to introduce the various characters and places in faerie than actually help with solving the murder. I liked seeing the various characters and the different worlds; I just wish the world-building had been done differently than it was.

After stumbling her way through the entire novel and a few deaths, October is able to solve the case and takes her place back in Court. This is the first in an ongoing series with this character. While I enjoyed the book, I don’t have any plans to read all 12 books in the series. I may pick up a later book to see if the writing and character improve over time. It wasn’t the greatest book, but it wasn’t the worst.

Rating: 3/5

Everything Everything

Madeline Whittier has to watch the world from the inside of a bubble—literally. Her diagnosed condition of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency is a life sentence that limits her to a world of two people: her mother, who is a doctor, and her nurse. Everything changes when Olly and his family move into the house next door. Olly is the kind of inventive guy who figures out a way to communicate with Madeline, and over the course of the next few months Madeline becomes Maddy, a young woman who takes potentially deadly risks to protect Olly emotionally, if not physically.

 

Madeline is as content with her life as she could be. She isn’t allowed outside, she’s never been outside. Despite that, she mostly is happy with her life and her insulated world. That all changes when Olly and his family move next door. What starts as a brief conversation turns into a wonderful love story. Madeline is a great heroine. She doesn’t get too angry over her fate too much, choosing to see the good things in her world instead of all the bad. Her perspective definitely got me thinking about how I view my chronic ailments.

When a new family moves next door, Madeline tries not to be interested, not to be attached. She didn’t count on Olly. Olly barrels into her life and makes her start wanting things she’s never wanted before. Olly has demons of his own and their connection is immediate. He handles her illness surprisingly well. Because of Olly, Madeline starts wanting more and takes a very drastic risk in her desire to be normal.

There aren’t many adults in this book. We see the most of Madeline’s mom and her nurse, both who are very different. Her Mom also happens to be her doctor and is very protective of Madeline. Her nurse feels she should have a little more freedom and allows Madeline a little more leeway in her actions.

The twist at the end was completely and utterly unexpected. I can’t talk much about it without spoiling what happens, but it was definitely a shocker!

Rating: 4.5/5

History is All You Left Me

25014114

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson.  But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

I liked Adam Silvera’s first book, but this is truly an exceptional work of literature. The exploration of first love, friendships, family, and grief are heartbreakingly written. The novel is broken up into two time periods: the first being the story of Griffon and Theo’s relationship from beginning to its end and the second about Griffin trying to process his grief over Theo’s unexpected and sudden death.

Plagued by compulsions and ticks, Griffin’s grip on sanity loosens when he learns about Theo’s death. Unable to control himself, he slips into a downward spiral and makes some unexpected and not necessarily always healthy life choices. His decision to follow Jackson back to California is both a healing and heartbreaking trip. I don’t want to spoil the secret he is keeping, but I thought it was going to be worse than it was. The secret is enough to have Griffin feeling responsible for Theo’s death and his guilt is palpable, especially when reading the story of their relationship. It seemed totally conceivable that Griffin would expect that he and Theo would one day get back together given the circumstances of their breakup.

Griffin is a character that is hard to say goodbye to when the book ends. His voice is so raw and authentic that he leaps off the pages and into your heart. I am not sure if Adam Silvera put any of himself in Griffin, but it would make complete sense if he did. I got very protective of Griffin, wanting to sit him down, put an arm around him, and let him know that eventually things would be okay with time and a little bit of therapy. It also made sense that he and Jackson would be in different places in the healing process and their thoughts on dating again.

Griffin and Jackson share many similarities, but enough differences to know that Jackson was not simply a replacement for Griffin. The book ended on a slightly hopeful note, but I knew that both Griffin and Jackson had a long road ahead of them. What made it work was somehow knowing that they would find their way out of their grief one day and live again.

Rating: 5/5

Enter Title Here

 

22060619

Summary:  Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending.

My Review: I had a hard time liking this book at first. Reshma is a very unlikable character. She is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her top spot in school, including cheating, plagiarizing, and even suing the school. It was difficult to connect to someone like this, but eventually, I began to be intrigued by someone so vastly different than I am. Reshma has no friends and has a very skewed opinion about her fellow students, her teachers, and schooling in general. Her parents are not much better. Her dad lets her do whatever she wants and while her mom disapproves, she doesn’t do anything to stop Reshma.

It was truly fascinating to see the lengths that Reshma is willing to go to get what she feels she deserves. She definitely thinks very well of herself, and though she is obnoxious and I didn’t like her, it was refreshing to read about a teenager so sure of themselves and what they want for themselves. Her friendship, for the lack of a better word, with Alex was very entertaining. Alex is a great characters and I would have liked to get in her brain more. The book is written almost like a diary in first person narration, so you only see the other characters as Reshma sees them. It’s a shame too, because I would love to know some of their stories as well, especially why Alex lets Reshma hang out with her.

Reshma changes slightly toward the middle and end of the book. There isn’t a reason given for why, even she can’t explain it. She backs off on a few things and it bothered me because it seemed very sudden. She didn’t gradually grow and change through the book, so her change of heart seemed too pat for me.

 

Rating: 3.5/5